Images de page

And had the spiritual qualifications of their eldership been enforced, and their election retained in the hands of the members of the church; had they been admitted upon credible evidence of their piety, and the efficiency of church discipline been sustained; then, and in that case, we think the temporary character of the office would have given life, and zeal, and continued energy to the church.


Of the Ordination of Ruling Elders by imposition of hands; and their

coöperation in ordination. The determination of both these questions depends in a great degree, as a matter of right and propriety, upon the questions already considered—and as the office of the eldership has been invariably regarded as temporary in its character until comparatively recent times, and still is so in the largest part of Reformed Christendom, and in the private judgment of a growing number even within those churches which have made it permanent,—the inference seems plain that the weight of opinion is against the propriety of ordaining them by imposition of hands. The fact therefore is, that they never have been so ordained except in this country, where the practice, though not sanctioned by our Standards, has been introduced by Dr. Miller, in accordance with his view of the nature and origin of the office. The same writer consulted by Dr. Miller, and already quoted, says:* "On this point the evidence I think is equally clear that ruling elders were not then, and never have been set apart to their office by imposition of hands." In a treatise formerly mentioned, Alexander Henderson, when treating of elders and deacons, says, “When the day of their admission cometh, the pastor having framed his doctrine to the purpose, calleth them up and remembering both them of their duty in their charge, and the people of their submitting themselves unto them, they are solemnly received with lifted up hands, giving their promise to be faithful.” Mr. James Guthrie in his treatise says, “Their admission is to be by the minister of the congregation, or one appointed by the presbytery, in the presence of the whole congregation, with the preaching of the word,” &c. On this subject Dr. Miller himself is very candid. “And yet,” says he,† "nothing is more certain than that, since the Reformation from Popery, when the use of this office was almost universally revived, the mode of conducting its investiture by the imposition of hands has been almost every where omitted. When this formality began to be omitted, and for what reason, are questions for the solution of which we do not possess definite information. What the practice of the Waldenses, and other pious witnesses of the truth during the dark ages, who uniformly maintained the office of Ruling Elder, during all their hardships and persecutions, was, cannot now, so far as I know, be certainly determined.” At what period in the history of the Church of Scotland it was that the annual election of elders was laid aside and the office made permanent, is not with absolute certainty known. The Rev. Mr. Lorimer, in his late valuable treatise on the Eldership in the Church of Scotland, supposes it to have been about the year 1642, a short time before the meeting of the Westminster Assembly. But so great was the force of habit, that notwithstanding this change in the tenure of the office, the old method of ordination has been continued in Scotland to this day, and was brought by our fathers to this country, where it continued without change until 1809, when for the first time it is believed, in the Presbyterian world, the practice of laying on hands in the ordination of elders was introduced, but has not yet become general in our church; and so far as the present writer knows, is entirely confined to the United States.

t Office of the Ruling Elder, p. 114. Gov't, p. 270, Quick's Synodicon, vol. i. p. 229.

*Office of the Ruling Elder, p. 114.

If, therefore, ruling elders never have been ordained by imposition of hands, and the tenure of the office has been so universally temporary, how can it enter into the heart of any man to conceive that they could properly impose hands in the ordination of ministers? This is one of Baxter's arguments: “And how came they,” says he, "to have power to ordain others," as the Independents, against whom he reasons, alleged, "and are not ordained themselves, but are admitted upon bare election?"* The evidence on this subject drawn from Scripture and the testimony of the fathers and reformers has been already given at length, and is, we think, sufficient to prove that they confined the terms bishop and presbyter, at least in their strict and official character as titles of office, to the pastor; and that they also limited to them the power of ordination as well as of preaching, administering sacraments, and presiding in the church and in its councils. We will only therefore add in this place one or two additional testimonies which have occurred to us in our reading.

Calderwood in his "Pastor and Prelate," published in 1628, says, “The Pastor findeth it to be so far against the word of God to claim any authority over his brethren, that albeit there be a divine order in the Kirk, whereby there is one kind of ministry, both ordinary and extraordinary, in degree and dignity before another, as the apostle before all others, the pastor before the elder and deacon, yet he can find no minister, ordinary or extraordinary, that hath any majority of power over other inferior ministers of another kind, -as the pastor over the elder and deason, far less over other ministers of the same kind, as the pastor or bishop over the pastor. I

*Dissert. on Ch. Gov't, p. 167. The First Part, $8 6 and 8.

"THE PASTOR with his fellow presbyters, as he is put in trust with the preaching of the word and ministration of the sacraments, HATH RECEIVED ALSO OF CHRIST THE POWER OF ORDINATION OF PASTORS, where presbytery,ß never used in the New Testament to signify the office of priesthood or order of a presbyter, can be no other thing but the persons or company of pastors laying on their hands, and that not only for consent, but for consecration, of which number any one may pronounce the words of blessing. We will now introduce a quotation which will be at the same time an argument. It is from that celebrated work, “Jus Divinum Ministerii Evangelici," written by "the Provincial Assembly of London" in the year 1654, and directed principally against the Independents. They ask,* “What part hath the Ruling Elder in ordination? Supposing that there is such an officer in the church, (for the proof of which we refer the reader to our vindication,) we answer that the power of ordering of the whole work of ordination belongs to the whole presbytery, that is, to the teaching and ruling

Elders. But imposition of hands is to be always by preaching presbyters, and the rather because it is accompanied with prayer and exhortation, both before, in, and after, which is the proper work of the teaching Elder;" and in Part Second they argue this question still more at length.†

We might multiply quotations, but cannot avoid presenting one other. It is from a very curious and able work by the Rev. Thomas Ball, "sometime fellow of Emmanuel College in Cambridge, now minister of the gospel in Northampton, at the request and by the advice of very many of his neighbor ministers," entitled “Pastorum Propugnaculum, or the Pulpit's Patronage against the force of unordained usurpation and invasion," printed at London in 1656. After discussing at length the nature of ordination, and who should administer it, he adds, I "They should be 'head officers;' Paul was a head officer, yet hath a hand in Timothy's ordination, as we have showed before. The lowest that we read of were prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch; in that Presbytery that Paul speaks of, it is very like there were Apostles; for Peter, none of the meanest, thinks not himself too good to be a Presbyter“The elders which are among you, I exhort, who am also an elder'—that is, a Presbyter, and it is no wonder that the highest did attend it, for it is the highest work, a consecrating or devoting one unto the highest honor and employment in the church, the matching and espousing one to Jesus Christ, the putting of one's hand unto the plow, from which he never must look back again; that there are orders and degrees of officers appears, because the well using of the office of a deacon was to procure to himself a good degree or step unto another place, as the Apostle speaks; and the Apostles were the first or highest order or degree, as appears from that enumeration that is set down, yet they think not themselves too good to ordain the meanest officer, for so the deacons always were accounted, and that in a busy time, when they had renounced secular employments, as below them, and confined themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. So Paul and Barnabas were the great apostles of the Gentiles, yet thought it not enough to preach the Gospel and convert men to the truth, but did also carefully ordain them elders in every church; good people therefore must not think much to leave this unto preaching elders that was never practised by any of God's people, either in the Scripture or after ages of the church, and which is really above their sphere, even a great deal more than they can manage, or tell how to wield, and be content those should perform it, that are by God deputed thereunto."

By Scripture, no apostle hath power over another apostle, nor evangelist over another evangelist, nor elder over another elder, nor deacon over another deacon ; but all are equal.

$1 Tim. 4: 14. Neither doth the apostle deny that_to presbyters which he did himself with them, and which he ascribeth to Timothy. 1 Tim. 5: 22. 2 Tim. 1: 6. Neither the prelate himself denieth the power of ordination to the presbyter, but the exercise of the power which he arrogateth to himself. Ordinat. Deus per ecclesiam ,ordinat, ecclesia per presbyterium per episcopos, et pastores suos; singuli conferunt in unum quae sua sunt.Jun. animad. 1187.

*Part I. p. 182.
+ Part II. pp. 96-98.
ILond. 4to.


344. See p. 234, 235.

Thus much we have added on this question in this place, by way of supplement to the previous discussion, in which it is more fully considered. If in Scripture and the Fathers the terms presbyter and bishop are limited in their official sense to preachers, and if such alone united in the act of ordination, as has we think been made apparent, then, of course, there can be no question as to the right of ruling elders to ordain. And if the practice of reformed churches, including our own, have been invariably opposed to such a practice, there can be as little question as to the expediency or propriety of introducing such an innovation into the order of our church. We cannot therefore but hope that a question so fruitless and unprofitable will be allowed to rest, and that the energies of the church will be devoted to the upbuilding of her waste places and the extension of the kingdom of Christ.*

*Brown in his Vindication of the Presbyterian Form of Church Gov't, Edinb. 1812, 2d ed., occupies from p. 64 to p. 66, and again at pp. 188, 169, in proving that “ministers alone can ordain ministers," and he shows that this was admitted by many Independents.

« PrécédentContinuer »