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"Confession of their faith in the year 1535, with a preface by Luther, and who almost alone pre"served in the world the purity of the doctrine, "and the vigour of the discipline of Christ, ob"served an excellent rule, for which we are compelled to give them credit, and especially to 6 praise that God who thus wrought by them; "notwithstanding those brethren are preposte"rously despised by some learned men. The "rule which they observed was this: besides "ministers of the word and sacraments, they had, " in each Church, a bench or college of men ex"celling in gravity and prudence, who performed "the duties of admonishing and correcting of"fenders, composing differences, and judicially "deciding in cases of dispute. Of this kind of "Elders, Hilary (Ambrose) wrote, when he "said, "Therefore the Synagogue, and after"wards the Church had Elders, without whose "counsel nothing was done *.”
The celebrated Peter Martyr, a Protestant Divine of Italy, whose high reputation induced Edward VI. to invite him into England, where he was made Professor of Divinity at Oxford, and Canon of Christ Church, speaks of Ruling Elders in the following decisive terms: "The Church," (speaking of the Primitive Church) "had its "Elders, or if I may so speak, its Senate, who
Scripta duo Adversaria Latomi, &c. in Cap. De Eccles Authoritat. p. 159.
"consulted about things that were for edification "for the time being. Paul describes this kind of "ministry, not only in the 12th Chapter of the "Epistle to the Romans, but also in the first Epis"tle to Timothy, where he thus writes, Let the "Elders that rule well be counted worthy of dou"ble honour, especially those that labour in the "word and doctrine. Which words appear to me "to signify, that there were then some Elders "who taught and preached the word of God; "and another class of Elders who did not teach, "but only ruled in the Church. Concerning these "Ambrose speaks, when he expounds this passage "in Timothy. Nay, he inquires whether it was "owing to the pride or the sloth of the sacerdotal "order that they had then almost ceased in the "Church *."
In the Confession of Saxony, drawn up by Melancthon, in 1551, and subscribed by a large number of Lutheran Churches, we find this class of Church Officers, recognized, and represented as in use in those Churches. Speaking of the exercise of discipline, in its various parts, they say-" That "these things may be done orderly, there be also "Consistories appointed in our Churches." Of these Consistories, the principal members, it is well known, were Ruling Elders.
That there were Ruling Elders in the Primitive Church, is also explicitly granted by Archbishop
P. Martyris Loci Communes. Class iv. Cap.1. Sect. 2.
Whitgift, a warm and learned friend of Diocesan Episcopacy. "I know," says he, “ that in the Pri"mitive Church, they had in every Church certain "Seniors, to whom the government of the Congre"gation was committed; but that was before there (6 was any Christian Prince or Magistrate that open"ly professed the Gospel; and before there was (6 any Church by public authority established." And again, "Both the names and offices of Seniors were extinguished before Ambrose his time, as "he himself doth testify, writing upon the fifth of "the first Epistle to Timothy. Indeed, as Am“brose saith, the Synagogue, and after the Church, "had Seniors, without whose counsel nothing was "done in the Church; but that was before his "time, and before there was any Christian Ma"gistrate, or any Church established *."
Szegedin, a very eminent Lutheran Divine, of Hungary, contemporary with Luther, also speaks decidedly of the Apostolic institution of Ruling Elders. The following passage is sufficient to exhibit his sentiments. "The ancient Church had "Presbyters or Elders, of which the Apostle "speaks, 1 Corinth. 5. 4. And these Elders were of two kinds. One class of them preach"ed the Gospel, administered the Sacraments, " and governed the Church, the same as Bishops; "for Bishops and Presbyters are the same order. "But another class of Elders consisted of grave
* Defence against Cartwright. p. 638. 651.
"and upright men, taken from among the Laity, "who, together with the Preaching Elders be"fore mentioned, consulted respecting the affairs "of the Church, and devoted their labour to ad"monishing, correcting, and taking care of the "flock of Christ *."
Hieronymus Kromayer, a learned Lutheran Divine, and Professor of Divinity in the University of Leipsic, who lived in the age immediately following that of Luther, bears decided testimony to the Apostolic institution of Ruling Elders. "The "title of Bishop," says he, "takes its name from "a Greek word, which signifies an Overseer. "This title differs from that of Presbyter, be66 cause the latter is taken from age. Of Presby 66 ters or Elders there were formerly two kinds, "those who taught, and those who exercised the "office of Rulers in the Church. This is taught "in 1 Timothy v. 17. Let the Elders that rule well "be accounted worthy of double honour, especially "those who labour in the word and doctrine. The lat66 ter were the same as our Ministers, at present; the "former were like the members of our consistories "Jerome tells us that the practice of choosing one "to preside over the rest, was brought in as a re"medy for schism; so that a Bishop is nothing "more than the first Presbyter. This doctrine "is very offensive to the Papists; but we have the
• Szegedini Loci Communes, p. 197. Edit. quint. folioBasil, 1608.
"word of God going before us, as a light and a "guide, and this plainly represents Presbyters "and Bishops as the same thing*."
The learned Voetius, a German Divine of great eminence, also contends for the Apostolic institution of Ruling Elders. He speaks of a number of Popish writers, as particularly warm and zealous in their opposition to this class of Church officers; "Nor is this," says he, "any wonder, since no"thing is more opposite to the Papal monarchy, "and anti-Christian tyranny, than is the institu"tion of Ruling Elders." Voetius is of the opinion that the Church Wardens in the Church of England are the "vestiges" of these "Ruling "Seniorst."
Ursinus, an eminent German Divine, who lived about the same time with Luther, in enumerating the officers of the Church, as laid down in the word of God, speaks of Ruling Elders and Deacons. The former he defines to be officers "elect"ed by the voice of the Church, to assist in conducting discipline, and to order a variety of ne66 cessary matters in the Church." And the latter as officers, "elected by the Church, to take care of "the poor, and to distribute alms ‡.”
After this view of the opinions of some of the most distinguished Reformers and others, in fa
* Historia Ecclesiastica Autore Hieronymo Kromayero, D. D. & S. S. T. P. in Acad. Lips. 4to. p. 59.
† Polit. Eccles. Par. 11. Lib. ii. Tract. 3. Cap. 4. Sect. 1. 2. Corpus Doctrinæ. Par. iii. p. 721.