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proach, with reverence, to this sublime mystery; to these emblems of death; of that death that gives life:—the death of Jesus? Shall we, like his trembling attendants, stand afar off from Calvary? Shall we not rather, through the mocking crowd, or through the thick darkness that shrouds the earth, approach the cross, that we may behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world? Shall we not draw near to him, that we may be sprinkled with his blood that speaketh better things than that of Abel; and that we, too, may ask, like his penitent fellow-sufferer, to be remembered when he cometh to his kingdom?
DISCIPLINE-No. VI. The absence of any thing like a connected and perfect system of church organization, formally and topically set forth in the New Testament, we believe, has been as generally acknowledged as felt. The apostolic style is more allusory than didactic: they speak of things as already existing and understood, rather than as to be created and ordained by themselves; and are more particular in prescribing the qualifications of officers than in determining the sphere either of their duties or authority. They speak of “the church,” “the elders,” “the deacons,” &c., without stopping to explain to us the meaning of these terms, and introduce to us a narrative of combined action on the part of the converts to Christianity, efficient and orderly, without the least note or comment upon the origin or adoption of any “Book of Discipline” or “Church Liturgy” whatever. When we study the history of any system, either of politics or religion, we find i äriüessary, in order to understand its structure, to look at its constitution. Presbyterianism nor Methodism, for instance, can be understood from the New Testament nor Old, nor yet from the history of any institution antecedent to, and coeval with, the origin of the Christian church. We must look to their Confession of Faith and Book of Discipline to understand their terms, comprehend their system, or discover the functionaries and functions. of their organization. Paul himself would not be able to conduct a process legally, through a modern ecclesiastic court, till he had first taken lessons in the newly invented pleadings; nor to distinguish rightly between a “Sy nod” and a "General Assembly," a “Class-Leader” and a “Circuit-Rider," till he had first set at the feet of the Westminster Divines, or been drilled in the method of the Father of Methodism. These systems are very orderly,
however, SERIES 111.-VOL. V.
and are not only capable of being easily understood, but are actualiy in operation widely throughout Christendom, working with great efficiency and harmony in the various parts. No person will pretend to say, however, that this state of things ever could have been induced by employing the New Testament alone; in short, if there had not been some guide-book or system of ecclesiastic tactics, methodized and detailed in propria forma, by and according to which, the party might be modeled and moulded into unity and strength.
Now it must be admitted that the primitive churches possessed a perfect system of organization, distinguished by its exact similarity in every congregation—the same offices, the same duties, the same laws, the same order, and the same objects. Nor can it be denied with any show either of reason or history that all these, though many, were really one, jointly, the body of Christ-having but one foundation and one head. Ep. i. 22; 1 Cor. iii. 11; and xii. 12, 12. Wonderful in wisdom and power is the church of God! Ramifying in its various congregations into myriads of streams, and purifying and refreshing every region of the earth, yet drawing always from the same great ocean and flowing ever back to the fountain whence it springs; infinitely divided, yet no where separated; multiplied without number, yet always one! 'Tis the great spiritual circulation of the universe, every where present, but always for the same great purpose; working independently, and yet always co-operating; pursuing its ends in some cases differently, yet always with a unity that marks it as the same!
The question naturally arises, How could this have been? How could the different congregations, so remote from each other and in an age when the facilities for diffusing information were so few, so uniformly and at once adopt the same order and submit to the same discipline? Had the Apostles all assembled immediately after the day of Pentecost, and in general assembly, like the good old Divines at Westminster, composed a creed and ordained a church order, there might have been nothing singular in the case; but we have no mention of any such proceeding, either in the writings of Evangelists and Apostles, or of inspired historians. The unsatisfactory nature of the scriptural directions on this subject has led some students of the New Testament to conclude that Bishops and Deacons were only appointed in the early ages of Christianity, because of the then uninstructed state of the church; but now, that the full revelation of God is made known, they are no longer of divine authority. Now, we not only dissent entirely from this view of the subject,
baxt believe there can be found a solution to this difficulty, both convincing and satisfactory; and that, too, without sacrificing one jot or tittle of that great principle of reformation, that the Bible alone is the sufficient rule, both of faith and practice.
There are some things we always take for granted. In speaking to our fellow-creatures upon any subject, we presume that they understand the language in which we address them; and if we present any terms, either new or employed in a new sense, it is expected that we shall explain them; otherwise our language is unintelligible.' Again-when we adopt or fall into any system already in practice and well understood, we do not think it necessary to explain or expound it, unless we should wish to change it. In this case, we are at pains only to particularize those things that are new, either by addition or alteration. It is presumed also, that in interpreting the revelations of God, we will avail ourselves of all those collateral aids, which he has, in his providence, provided us with. In walking supremely by the sun, we must not shut our eyes altogether to the light of the moon and stars. Because we cannot read the holy scriptures as they were penned by the fingers of Inspiration, we must not discard the translations which have come to us through. much vexation of uninspired criticism. When Paul descants upon, the law, he speaks to those who know the law; and if others would comprehend his discourse, he expects them, of course, to study the law. It is not saying too much to affirm, that unless we understand the terms and allusions of our revelation, we cannot learn the lessons intended to be taught by them. How mueh confusion has been introduced into the professed Christian. denominations by the neglect to translate the word baptize! Before the error had been so widely adopted and so sacredly canonized, a good Lexicon would have settled the whole matter; but now scarcely any authority is sufficient to shake off this mighty incubus of tradition, which weighs so heavily upon the consciences of men. Still we are compelled to look for the meaning of this word, boti: in the Lexicons and in the allosions made to it, before we can know what we must do when we are bidden to be baptized. So with faith and repentance: these were prescribed as duties long before Paul defined them; and must, therefore, have been terms generally understood; and unless we can find the modern distinctions of faith among the prevalent uses of this term when it was first preached as a duty, they are not worth a button in apostolic theology.
Let us apply these principles a little farther. Elder, or Presbyter and Bishop, (presbuteros and episcopos,) are terms of frequent nc
currence in the scriptures; and so with the term Deacon, (diakonos.) Like other words, they have a common or radical and literal meaning. This may be ascertained, and must be ascertained, by the same method as we employ in determining the signification of any other word. But besides the common meaning, these terms have a technical import, and are used evidently to indicate an officer or officers. In this use they have a more comprehensive meaning than when employed literally; and it becomes an important object rightly to determine what this is. How shall this be done? Evidently by the scriptures, if possible; but if they do not explain, then by the usual sources to which we appeal in similar cases. When we read of the Roman Consuls, Tribunes, or Decemviri, a Latin scholar can tell us that “Consul” means one to consult with; that "Tribune” signifies one placed over a tribe; and “Decemviri,” simply ten men. But what idea would this give us of these official ranks in the administration of the Roman government? Clearly but a very imperfect and unsatisfactory one. So with the Greek terms Presbuteros, Episcopos, and Diakonos. A Greek scholar could tell us at once that.“Presbuteros” is an adjective, the comparative of presbus, and signifies more ancient or venerablemelder, senior, &c.; that “Episcopos” is one who oversees and protects-a president or a guardian; and that “Diakonos" is a servant or minister one who attends on or acts for another. Yet with all this literal definition, what right conception can we form of these officers in the Christian church? Surely only a very unsatisfactory one.
Whither shall we turn for fuller information in both these cases? In the first, we would at once seek in Roman history for the origin of the officers alluded to, the constitution by which they were created, and their duties defined, or some statement from it; and if this could not be found, we would then inquire into thei actions, and by a careful induction of all they did, form a schedule of the duties properly connected with their official station. The President of the United States is an officer created by the Constitution and elected by the people. In the Constitution his duties are defined; but if this and all account of it were lost, a diligent inquiry into his actions as President, lawfully performed, would enable us to specify and collate his duties. Would not a similar course be not only proper, but necessary, in regard to the second class of words we have introduced, and which we are more particularly considering? To this, all must answer, Yes. Without further reasoning, then, let us commence the task.
That we may proceed the more orderly, let us discover all that
the New Testament teaches us concerning the origin, relations, and duties of these officers; and if this prove unsatisfactory, then examine into whatever other sources of information Providence may -have delivered to us.
In the writings of the Evangelists we have, of course, no allusion to either elder or deacon as an officer of the Christian church, since it had not then been established, and, unless by way of anticipation, could not have had its officers designated; still the word elder frequently occurs as an official title, used evidently to signify some officer among the Jews; but how he was appointed, what the exact nature of his duties, and extent of his authority, are questions to which these books do not furnish us with any satisfactory answer. That they were of great influence with the people is evident, and that they had besides, certain official power, is equally clear. By their traditions they swayed the minds, and by their authority ruled the actions of the people. But frequently as they appear in the great drama of redemption, and important as is the part they play in the development of the plot, even to the consummation in the resurreetion of the Saviour, we cannot gather from it all any perfect and complete description of their official relations and duties as officers in the Jewish polity."
As regards the terms Bishop and Deacon, they do not appear ever to have been used previous to the day of Pentecost, by any writer in the New Testament, in an official sense. The term we translate Deacon, is indeed of frequent occurrence in its common signification of minister, and, in New Testament usage, refers as well to the Apostles as to ministers in the common affairs of life. Our Saviour, when teaching humility, says, Whoever will be great among you, let him be your diakonos, (minister.) Paul to the Romans calls the civil magistrate diakonos Theou, (the minister of God.) Ep. iii. 7., he speaks of himself as a minister of the gospel to the Gentiles; and even our Saviour is called a minister of circumcision,” &c. In these places, however, there is reference only to the performance of some specific service, without any idea of a stated office.
In the 2d chapter of Acts, 201h verse, the place of Judas is, indeed, called episcopee, (bishopric;) but this appears to have had no reference to the office afterwards regularly designated by this term. We come, then, to the allusions made to these officers after the establishment of the kingdom of Christ on the day of Pentecost, and especially to those passages which appear to speak of them as the constituted functionaries in the polity of the church. As in the writings of the Evangelists, so in Acts of Apostles, the term Elder