Ignatius of Antioch

YOUR OBEDIENCE to your bishop, as though he were Jesus Christ, shows me plainly enough that yours is no worldly manner of life, but that of Jesus Christ himself, who gave his life for us so that faith in his death might save you from death. At the same time, however, essential as it is that you should never act independently of the bishop – as evidently you do not – you must also be no less submissive to your clergy, and regard them as apostles of Jesus Christ our Hope, in who we shall all one day be found if our lives are live in Him. The deacons too, who serve the mysteries of Jesus Christ, must be men universally approved in every way; since they are not mere dispensers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God, and therefore under obligation to guard themselves against any slur or imputation as strictly as they would against fire itself.

Equally, it is for the rest of you to hold the deacons in as great respect as Jesus Christ; just as you should look on the bishop as the type of the Father, and the clergy as the Apostolic circle forming his council; for without these orders no church has any right to the name. I am sure these are your own feelings too, for I have had with me, and still have and example of your affection in the person of your bishop himself, whose grave demeanour is a notable lesson in itself, and whose very gentleness is power. I cannot doubt that even the heathen have a respect for him. I am measuring my words here, out of love for you, for I could well write more forcibly on his behalf, if it were not that as a concerned prisoner I have not thought myself entitled to use the peremptory tone of an Apostle.

Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Trallians