Images de page
PDF
ePub

order, so nature suggests that the most venerable, respected, and efficient, should be called to this position. Thus both in the nature and necessity of things, a presbytery composed of a plurality of officers, no matter though perfectly equal in official rank, will and must have a President or Chairman, who, from superior wisdom age, or influence, will be looked up to, as, not of higher official, but moral authority, and respected, not because he wears a more imperial costume and sways a wider official sceptre, but because he is adorned with more of the graces of the Spirit and wields the word of truth, the sword of the Spirit, with a more practised and skilful hand.

That this arrangement of things, so natural and necessary, obtained in the primitive churches, and therefore by apostolic sanction, we think may be made extremely probable. The principle is discovered in the relations of the Apostles to one another and to the church, and these were ordered by the Saviour himself. Peter was but an Apostle, endued with no more power or authority than the rest; yet to him was given the honor of taking the lead in the opening of the kingdom both to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, and to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius. Into his hands were committed the keys of the kingdom; and Matthew, in enumerating the Apostles, calls him,-“Simon, the first,not first chosen, for Andrew was chosen before him, but first in prominence. From some peculiar fittedness in his character, or other reason sufficient to the Saviour, he was honored with this distinction among his compeers; but this did not make him either a Lord Archbishop or Pope. He was still no more than an Apostle, exercising equally with his co-ordinates his office, and neither possessing nor claiming any supremacy over them. This is most manifest in all the history we have of him, especially in his relations to Paul. Yet, though only an Apostle, equal to the rest, he had a distinction not in office, but in respect; and a precedence not in rank, but in prominence. This was conferred upon him by the Saviour, and conceded to him by the other Apostles.

A like principle seems to be indicated in the instructions which Paul gives Timothy in his first epistle, chap. V., ver. 17. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in word and doctrine.” This passage is quoted by the Calvinian advocates of presbytery to prove that there were different orders of presbyters; but it very clearly refers not to two different ranks of officers, but to a distinction in the relative merits of officers in the same rank. It does not teach us that all may not

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

rule, but that some may rule better than others; and, from their superior natural gifts, labor more abundantly in word and doctrine than their associate presbyters. That this will, and, from the very nature of things, must be so, in every eldership,—we needed not an Apostle to tell us; but as to the regard in which those are to be held, whom nature has more fully fitted for these important functions in the eldership, it is wisely revealed to us that they must be more highly honored by those over whom they are called to take the oversight, and a certain distinction given to them over their fellows, not of a different rank, but as of higher influence and usefulnessin the same rank.

What seems here clearly indicated by a general principle, will still more fully appear from other considerations, to which we beg leave very briefly to call the attention of our readers. It will be remembered that in our article No. V., page 163, on the officers of the Jewish synagogue, we showed there was one called angel or messenger, whose duty it was to preside over the proceedings of the synagogue worship, to labor in word and doctrine, and to look after the religious welfare of the congregation. This officer was not distinct from the elders, but one of them put forward in these duties, and, in the exercise of his function, subject equally with the rest to the joint control of the presbytery. From the fact that the first Christian congregations were composed of Jews and formed out of the synagogues, and the evident coincidence in the official titles used in the two institutions, we cannot entertain a doubt that these titles were adopted in the Christian organization for the order of the synagogue; and as they were used as terms already of familiar meaning, and therefore not needing a definition, we can as little hesitate to admit that they were used in the same sense in which they were employed in the synagogue discipline. Adopting thus the greater and more essential elements of this order, the presumption is almost unquestionable, that the first Christian churches would likewise follow the order of the Jewish synagogue in the most natural and necessary custom of app uting from the eldership an angel or president, to take the lead in their public proceedings, and upon whom would devolve the more public and prominent duties of the eldership. Thus we see not only nature and convenience suggest this arrangement, but the model in Jewish worship, evidently so exactly copied in other respects, makes it almost certain that this custom was introduced into the Christian organization and by apostolic authority.

When we add to all this, the fact that this term messenger or

angel of the congregation (shelih hetselur) is employed by the Saviour in this very sense, in the book of Revelation, our conclusion stands upon the basis of moral demonstration. The letters to the seven Asiatic churches are all addressed to the angels or messengers of these churches. The style is, Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus, write;Unto the angel of the church of Smyrna, write,” &c.; yet the letters are substantively to the congregations, as appears both from their contents and the style of their conclusion-each of them ending with the exhortation, "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” As the angel of the synagogue kept the book of the law, appointed the readers, desig. nated the portions to be read, and stood by the readers to overlook them while reading, what could be more apposite than that the Saviour should address these letters to this officer in the Christian church, and through him to the whole congregation?

While, then, we hold with full conviction the position that every church, according to primitive usage, should have a plurality of elders, and that these should all be of the same official rank, we are equally persuaded that good order, scriptural principles, and the indications of sacred history, require in every presbytery the appointment of a president, whose duty it is to take the lead in public and official meetings, keep order in their proceedings and exercises, and, in short, act as the prominent public organ, both of the church and the presbytery; and that such should be counted worthy of double honor, by which we understand not only greater reverence and deference, but, as a more arduous laborer, deserving also a more liberal remuneration.

It is easy to see how this distinction in the simple and reverential days of primitive Christianity might be extended beyond its original intention and the honor of being first and foremost in labor and danger, when the Christian elder was emphatically and in truth a man of God, and the duties of his office no sinecure,* but always perilous and sometimes leading to death, became, when the arm of persecution was relaxed, a sweet morsel for hungry ambition to greed over, and the occasion of those angry contentions about supremacy and rank, that have so long agitated the church and disturbed its simple and unambitious order. Respect prepares the heart of him who feels it for submission, and a habitual prominence

* Those benefices where the pastor did not reside in the parish, nor perform the duties of pastor, were said to be sina cura animarum, and hence our English word sinecure.

lays the foundation for a claim to relative supremacy. To the one: ever-wakeful ambition looks for indulgence in its innovations; and upon the other, stays itself against resistance. Thus we apprehend first arose the distinction of Bishop from Presbyter or Elder; thus crept into power the lords spiritual and hierarchs supreme, who have enslaved piety, martyred conscience, darkened in inquisitorial dungeons the light of truth, and committed to purgatorial fires the fearless foeman for the faith. The steps were gradual, but firm; the aspirants were few, but artful; zealous, but ambitious; so the assumption of mere parochial episcopacy swelled itself by degrees into prelacy or diocesan episcopacy, and thence again into metropolitical primacy, until by the time of the first æcumenical council, convened by Constantine at Nice, or not more than fifty years after, the whole church was divided off into five great prefectures, over eaeh of which presided, as supreme, a new style of officer, known under the titular distinction of Patriarch. A universal Pope consummated this arrogance; and the people who should have called no man master, passively enslaved themselves to a wide spiritual despotism.

W. K. P.

AN APPEAL TO THE CHURCHES IN BEHALF OF

SUNDAY SCHOOLS. The unsophisticated child believes every thing. Suspicious of no deception, he reposes with entire confidence on every thing he hears. Until deceived, he never doubts. The constitution of our nature is in harmony with itself. If the ear had never heard any thing but what is true, and good, and pleasing, the thoughts of the heart would always have been just, and benevolent, and joyful.Nothing that belongs to the kingdom of darkness, no sentiments of hesitating distrust, nor feelings of painful disappointment would ever have awaked the soul to evil, or lashed the calm deep of the heart into wildness and commotion.

Man is made for happiness; but happiness is peace; and peace is the composure of the soul produced by unleigned faith. All unhappiness is disorder—that disorder which reigns in the heart that knows none of the peace and rapturous bliss of confidence in the Lord. Happy, thrice happy, the person who always believesconfides—obeys! If, then, the path of faith conducts to bliss; and if, as a condition of faith, the truth, unmingled truth must be laid in the mind; how important if parents would promote the welfare and eternal happiness of children and youth, that they should furnish to the young mind and heart, the only means to the end-the truth, the righteousness, the love of Christ! In a word, that they should

"frain them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.And if they expect to be successful in the effort, equally important it is that they seize and improve the only period that will insure success.

For this work, parents, you have the highest possible encouragement:

1. Notwithstanding all the mischief wrought by sin, the constitution of the inoral world is yet in your favor.

Your son, your daughter, is yet under your own control. Your child yet believes you. Tell him what you please, and if sincerity and kindness speak in your eye, he receives it with as pure and vigorous a trust as ever possessed the heart of Adam in Paradise. "Father told me," or Mother said so," is the first and strongest reason assigned by the child for its first faith. Early instructions, and early impressions, received from the counsels of affectionate parents, remain when all others are forgotten. How wise, then, for the Lord to bind it on Israel: “These words that I command this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deut. vi., 6, 7. In this work no time is to be lost. Human life, it may be, runs through all its changes, takes the bias and character of all its fortunes, and receives on its entablature, like the engraving of a signet, the principles that guide its destiny, during its first climacteric. Neglect this period, therefore, and your child is lost.

2. Moreover, your children are hungering and thirsting for truth. The desire in the child you have not to create. God has planted that desire in his nature. See how inquisitive he is! If you heed not his first call, he asks again. Hear! A score of questions is proposed in rapid succession. The parent becomes impatient of his importunity, and chides him; and if this serves not to quiet the irrepressible longings of his heart for knowledge, probably a more effectual reply is given, not in gentle words sparkling with the intelligence for which his soul is panting, but in a smart box on the ears that makes his “hall of audience” ring! He turns away shocked at this ruthless invasion of the rights and constitution of his nature, wondering what ails;

* father. Now the child is bound to believe his own nature; he cannot believe it wrong for him to ask questions; and he is compelled to see and to feel the discrepancy between such a course and that which nature and religion alike approve. How cruel not to satisfy docile childhood! God makes them ask questions. And when they ask for food, shall we give them poison? “If your son ask bread, will you give him a stone? If he ask a fish, will you give him a scorpion?” If they ask for light, shall we abandon them to darkness? If they seek for truth, shall we give them up to falsehood, in the form of tales, novels, and romances, which fret the soul and paralize its power? Why, O why, when they are asking wine from the clusters of En-gedi, do we give them wormwood and gall? But your child will soon cease to propound these inquiries. He will become either satisfied or stultified. “What thou doest, do quickly.”

3. Farther: precious promises and encouragements, like stars, in

« PrécédentContinuer »