Images de page

vour of the office of Ruling Elders, you will not be surprised to hear, that the great body of the Reformed Churches adopted, and have always maintained, this class of officers. Instead of being confined, as Dr. Bowden and his friends seem to imagine, to Geneva and Scotland, they were generally introduced, with the Reformation, by Lutherans as well as Calvinists; and are generally retained to the present day, in almost all the Protestant Churches, excepting that of England. We have seen that the Waldenses, the Hussites, and the Bohemian Brethren had them long before Calvin was born. It is notorious that the Reformed Churches of Germany, France, Holland, &c. received this class of Elders early, and expressly represented them in their public Confessions, as founded on the word of God. And it is a fact equally notorious, that the Lutherans, as well as the Presbyterians in our own country, have, at this hour, Lay Elders to assist in the government and discipline of the Church. The truth is, that at the period of the Reformation, three fourths of the whole Protestant world declared in favour of this class of Elders; not merely as expedient, but as appointed in the Apostolic Church, and as necessary to be restored. And to the present time a decided majority of Protestants maintain the same opinion and practice.

Many of the objections against Ruling Elders, on which my opponents lay the greatest stress, are entirely groundless, and arise from a total want of acquaintance with the nature and duties of the office. Mr. How speaks of them as officers invested with "

mere temporal functions.” Now this is so far from being the case, that they are not invested with “temporal functions" at all. Their office and duties are purely spiritual. Dr. Kemp represents them as “ unordained" officers, and expresses much astonishment that I should insist on the Church having been organized after the model of the Synagogue, since the Elders of the Synagogue were ordained, while he asserts that those of the Presbyterian Church are not. This gentleman gives us to understand that he was bred a Presbyterian, and speaks of it as one of the advantages which he enjoys in conducting the controversy. But, truly, he discovers, on a variety of occasions, that he left our Church without being acquainted with even the elementary principles of its government. To prove this I need not go further than the case under consideration. The fact is, that in every regular Presbyterian Church, Ruling Elders are always ordained; sometimes with the imposition of hands, and sometimes without it. Both methods are in use, in different parts of Europe, as well as our own country. But an ordination, of some kind, is never omitted by those who act regularly. Perhaps Dr. Kemp would say, that the imposition of hands is essential to every ordination; and that, as we ordain our Ruling Elders more frequently without this ceremony than with it, he is warranted in representing them generally as

6 unordained.” If so, he is of a different mind from some of the most learned and pious bi. shops of the Church of England, who have deci. ded that it is not the formality of laying on hands which constitutes the essence of a lawful vocation to office in the Church ; but the election and appointment to the office *.

Dr. Bowden makes an objection to the office of Ruling Elder, as it exists in the Presbyterian Church, which I scarcely expected from so grave a reasoner. It is this: That if the office be such as we represent it, and the Scriptural warrant for it such as we are in the habit of quoting, especially if 1 Tim. v. 17. be considered as pointing out this class of Elders, that then there ought to be a salary or some kind of temporal support annexed to the office. * But," he adds, “to put a Ruling Elder in this respect, upon a footing with a mi$ nister of the word, is altogether preposterous.

. When I began these sheets, it was my intention to take notice of all the material points in the Letters of Dr. Kemp, as well as in the writings of my other opponents ; and ac. cordingly I made a kind of engagement to do so, in a former Letter. But I had not gone far on this plan, before it became apparent that fulfilling my engagement would be equally useless and irksome. The fact is, that the “Rector of Great

Choptank,” has scarcely stated a single objection or argu. ment, but what has been exhibited with more plausibility and strength by Dr. Bowden. In refuting the latter, there. fore, the former is, of course, refuted. On this account I beg to be excused in future, for passing over the attack of Dr. Kemp in silence.


“ And I am convinced that your Congregations 4 would think it so, were it proposed to allow the Ruling Elders as ample a salary as they do their “ ministers, or any salary at all. Let the experi“ ment be made universally in your Churches, and “ I will commit myself, that we shall never see the “ face of a Ruling Elder again.” 1. 201. But what has this to do with the Apostolic institution of the Ruling Elder's office? Suppose it conceded, that a compensation ought to be made to this class of of. ficers, for their services; and suppose it also con. ceded, that no such compensation is ever, in fact, made; will it follow that such officers cannot be of divine appointment? Dr. B. would think it strange reasoning in any man to infer, that, because the labourer is worthy of his hire, his clerical commis. sion depends on the payment of his salary; and that if the one should be withdrawn, the other would cease with it. Did the Apostle Paul cease to be a Minister of Jesus Christ because he laboured, working with his own hands, that he might not be chargeable to any; while, at the same time, he declared, that they who serve at the altar, should live by the altar? Nothing can be more absurd than to suppose it. Yet this, even conceding the fact for which Dr. B. contends, is the amount of his whole argument.

But the fact cannot be conceded. If Dr. Bow. den had been as well acquainted with the Presbyte. rian Church, as a discreet man would have taken care to be, before he suffered himself to speak so

confidently on the subject, he would have known, that a compensation for their services has often been made to Ruling Elders; and that the nature and amount of this compensation, depend on the circumstances of the Elders themselves, and of the Church which they serve.

But, leaving this collateral inquiry, it is time that we should return to the main question; which shall be resumed in the next Letter.

« PrécédentContinuer »