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Church become so corrupt, in a little more than three centuries from its commencement, as to thrust all aged persons out of its communion? Or if the more venerable and aged were suffered to remain, were they never more consulted in cases of difficulty and danger? Besides, if there was no intention to distinguish between Teaching and Ruling Elders, why is it said that these Seniors or Elders were laid aside "6 on account of the sloth, "or rather the pride of the Teachers, who alone "wished to be something?" I can very well conceive that both the pride and the sloth of the Teaching Elders, should render them willing to get rid of a bench of officers, of equal power with themselves in the government of the Church, and able to control their wishes in cases of discipline; but I cannot conceive why either sloth or pride should prefer consulting the young, rather than the aged, on the affairs of the Church. But you will scarcely pardon me for detaining you so long with the refutation of reasonings so totally unworthy of notice.
Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, who also lived in the fourth century, often refers to this class of officers in his writings. Thus, in his work, Contra Crescon. lib. iii. cap. 56. he speaks of Peregrinus, Presbyter, et Seniores Musticana regionis, i. e.
Peregrine, the Presbyter, and the Elders of the "Mustacan district." And again, he addresses one of his Epistles to his Church at Hippo, [Epist. 137,] Dilectissimis fratribus, Clero, Senioribus et
universæ plebi ecclesia Hipponensis. i. e. "To the "beloved brethren, the Clergyman, the Elders, "and all the people of the Church at Hippo." There were some Elders, then, in the days of Augustine, who were not Clergymen, i. e. Lay-Elders. It would be easy to produce, from the same writer, a number of other quotations equally to our purpose. But Dr. Bowden has rendered this unnecessary, by making an explicit acknowledgment, that Augustine repeatedly mentions these Seniors or Elders as belonging to other Churches as well as his own. And to what expedient do you suppose the Doctor resorts to avoid the consequence of this acknowledgment? Why, he gravely tells us, that he fully believes, with the "learned Bing"ham," that there were, within the first three or four centuries, a class of aged and respectable men in the Church, who were styled Seniors or Elders, and whose official duty it was to assist in promoting the interests of the Church: That some of these were called Seniores Ecclesiæ, i. e. Elders of the Church, who were chosen to assist the Bishop, with their advice and counsel in the weighty affairs of the Church: and that another class were called Seniores Ecclesiastici, i. e. Ecclesiastical Elders, who were sometimes entrusted with the utensils, treasures, and outward affairs of the Church; but had no share in the administration of discipline. These he compares with the Vestrymen and Church Wardens, which are generally found in Episcopal Churches. Vol. 1. p. 205-207. Now, I ask,
what material difference can any man see between the Seniores Ecclesia, the Lay Elders, which Dr. Bowden acknowledges to have existed in the Primitive Church, and the Lay Elders of the Presbyterian Church? Our Elders are appointed to assist the Bishop of each particular Church with their counsel, in conducting the spiritual concerns of the Church. And is not this precisely the duty which he assigns to the Seniores Ecclesiæ of the Primitive Church? It is really laughable to find Dr. B. conceding, in substance, all that we desire; and yet, on account of some petty points of difference, which are too frivolous to be noticed, and which do not affect the main question, insisting that there is nothing like our Lay Elders to be found in primitive times!
Though the readers of my former volume, know that I have no great respect for the authority of the work generally styled Apostolic Constitutions; yet many Episcopal writers have expressed very high regard for this work, and entire confidence in its authenticity. And, although, when it claims Apostolic origin, it is to be rejected as an
impudent forgery;" yet there is a high degree of probability that it was composed, by different hands, between the second and fifth centuries. The following quotation from it will, therefore, have some weight. "To Presbyters also, when they "labour in teaching, let a double portion be 66 assigned." 11. 28. Here is, obviously, a dis tinction between Elders who are employed in
teaching, and those who are not so employed. How the others were employed, indeed, is not said; but teaching made no part of their official duty. We may take for granted their duty was to assist in the other spiritual concerns of the Church, viz. in maintaining good order and discipline. This is precisely the distinction which we make, and which we are confident was made in the Primitive Church.
It would be easy to produce many more quota. tions from other early writers, which ascertain the existence of these Elders, within the first three or four centuries of the Christian æra. But it is needless. Our opponents acknowledge the fact. Bishop Taylor, a great authority with them, among others, explicitly grants *, that a class of men, under the name of Seniors or Elders, distinguished from Clergymen, are mentioned by a number of early writers, as having existed in the Church at an early period, and as holding in it some kind of official station. The only question is, what kind of Elders they were? These gentlemen exceedingly dislike the idea of their being such Lay-Elders as are found in the Presbyterian Church, and assert that they were not; but really they offer nothing against it that deserves the name even of a plausible argument.
I think this concession is to be found in his Episcopacy Asserted. That it is to be found in one of his works, I am certain.
In my former Letters, in exhibiting the testimony usually produced from Ignatius, I spoke of the Presbyters or Elders so frequently mentioned "Some by that Father, in the following terms. " of these Elders were probably ordained to the "work of the ministry, and of course, empowered (6 to preach and administer ordinances: but this " is not certain. They might all have been Ru"ling Elders for aught that appears to the contrary. For in all these Epistles, it is no where "said that they either preached or dispensed the (6 sacraments. It cannot be shown, then, that Ig"natius, by his Presbyters and Presbytery, or El"dership, means any thing else than a bench of This "Ruling Elders in each Church." p. 147. suggestion Dr. Bowden not only opposes with much zeal, but he also endeavours to cover it with ridicule, as perfectly frivolous and improbable. So far as he reasons on the point, the arguments which he employs are two. The first is that "there is no proof whatever that there ever was such an order of men in the Church as Ruling Elders." Of the force of this argument you will be able to judge, after reading what has been advanced, and what is yet to come in proof of the Apostolic inThe second arstitution of this class of officers. gument, is that "the Epistles of Ignatius are totally inconsistent with such a notion." Now, I think, in direct opposition to Dr. B. that the Epistles of Ignatius are strongly in favour of this "notion." When that Father says, "It is not lawful, without