Images de page


Showing their duty to the Ruling Elders. And now, Christian friends, the members of the church, I turn myself, in closing, to you. You have heard the nature, ends and duties of the office of ruling elder expounded in your hearing; you have heard these brethren solemnly devote themselves to this high and holy calling, and promise and covenant, as God shall give them ability, faithfully to attempt the discharge of its high functions; and having freely elected these your brethren and thus constituted them your spiritual delegates and representatives, you have now as solemnly promised with uplifted hands, “to acknowledge and receive them as your ruling elders,” and to yield them all that "honor, encouragement, and obedience," in the Lord, to which their office, according to the word of God, the constitution of our church, and the very nature of the relation itself, entitles them.

YOU ARE TO GIVE THEM HONOR. This Christianity requires. It dignifies every office, whether in the state or in the church, in the household or in society; and it requires its disciples to render to every man that honor which is his due. “Let every soul," is its voice, "be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no power but of God, the powers that be, having been instituted by God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves condemnation. Wherefore, ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. Render, therefore, to all their dues, and honor to whom honor is due.” This rule is universal, but in reference to spiritual office, receives the sanction of solemn and superadded claims. "Obey," says God to Christians, "them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for THEY watch for your souls,” and your spiritual and everlasting interests, "as they that must give account," and this you are to do, "that they may give this account with joy and not with grief, for this,” adds the Apostle, “would be as unprofitable for you as it would be distressing to them.” It is therefore as true in religion as in the family, in every social association, and in the state, that by honoring those that are in authority we honor ourselves, and secure our own good. For as they stand as our representatives, and as the visible types and exponents of our character and laws—by honoring them we dignify those laws, give them weight and authority and power; carry them out into efficient and universal operation, and thus secure their beneficial results in the elevation of our own character, and that of our country, family, society, or church; and in the peace, harmony, integrity, and happiness, which will be thus promoted.

Give to your elders, therefore, the honor which is THEIR DUE. Hold their persons,-because you hold their office,-in reverence. Treat them with that deference and submission which will show your high estimate of those spiritual functions which they sustain, as office-bearers in THE HOLIEST AND MOST ExALTED SOCIETY WHICH EXISTS AMONG MEN.

In honor prefer them above others, and esteem them very highly. Consider them through the light thrown over them by the office to which you yourselves have elevated them. Cultivate, therefore, towards them in your own minds, and in the minds of your children, the feelings of love and respect, and ever treat them with a correspondent deference and regard. Thus will you exalt their office; elevate your own conceptions of the dignity of your Christian citizenship; and ennoble the character of our common Christianity.

BUT YOU ARE NOT ONLY TO GIVE THEM HONOR, BUT ENCOURAGEMENT ALSO. You are well aware how reluctantly these brethren have yielded to your and my solicitations to accept of this appointment and to enter upon this office. There is not one of them, I bear them record,—who does not shrink from the undertaking, and enter upon it with fear and trembling, and in much conscious weakness. There is not one of them who would not gladly have remained in the ranks of private citizenship. But they have yielded as much to your importunity as to the sense of duty, and they now throw themselves, (and they are well entitled to it,) upon your most kind and hearty encouragement.

And how can you encourage them? You can do this, first, and above all other ways, by constantly commending them to Him who can give them courage, who can take away their fearful and timid hearts, and give them great boldness and confidence through the strength and power of his almighty grace. You can do this by giving, in your kind and respectful treatment, in your willing co-operation, and in your readiness to overlook any deficiencies, increased confidence of success and greater zeal in aiming at higher attainments. And by your Christian humility, consistency, and growth in holiness; and your steadfast attendance upon every means of grace, you can inspire them with courage, spirit, and strength of mind. You can, in these and other ways, by your union and co-operation, your concurrence in their decisions, and your support when opposition would be made against the enforcements of the truth and order of God's house, embolden and animate their hearts, and inspirit them to go forward with untiring zeal.

And should any of you differ in opinion from the plans they may recommend, or the judgments they may decree, remember that they are set over you in the Lord, and that unless they have acted clearly contrary to the divine law, or delivered an opinion in opposition to the mind of Christ, or adopted a course of policy derogatory to the heavenly institute; you are under obligation to submit, and not to embroil the peace and harmony of the church by contending for your private interpretations and your personal preferences. And should any of you, which may God forbid, ever become the subjects of their righteous condemnation, either on the ground of heresy, or immorality, or smearing, or Sabbath-breaking, or neglect of the worship and ordinances of the church, or failure to observe family and secret worship, or penurious and covetous refusal to give of your substance and according to your ability, to the cause of Christ, or for any other sufficient reason—I CHARGE YOU TO REMEMBER THAT IT WILL BE AT YOUR PERIL TO RESIST AND DISOBEY. For they bear not rule in vain. The sword of spiritual authority has been freely and lawfully put into their hands, and they will, and cannot but be a terror to evil-doers." For just so far as they carry out the laws of Christ, they are sustained by the power and authority of Christ, so that "what they bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whomsoever they condemn on earth shall be condemned in heaven.” They are the ministers of Christ. They act in his name. They enforce his laws. They pronounce sentence according to his immutable decrees. And in doing so he is with them, and he will fully sustain them. And unless the condemned violator of Christ's law shall humble his soul in penitence and sorrow, and shall turn from his evil and wicked way, Christ will frown upon him, and write bitter things against him; and if he continue obstinate and obdurate, will finally smite him with his iron sceptre, and dash him in pieces like a potter's vessel. But rather, O thou divine Redeemer, so work in the hearts and minds of this people, that they shall ever serve thee in uprightness and sincerity all the days of their life, “until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."

CHAPTER II. In which it is shown that in Scripture the term Presbyter is always applied

to the Preacher, and not to the Ruling Elder ; with an examination of

1 Timothy 5: 17. It is unquestionably true, as has been already shown, that there is both principle and precedent in Scripture to warrant the election, by every church, of representatives of the people, to act with the bishop or pastor in conducting the government and discipline of the church. We found that such officers sat with the apostles and presbyters in the councils of the church as delegated commissioners, under the title of "THE BRETHREN, (Acts 1: 15-26, 6: 1-6, and 15,*)—and they may also very probably be referred to in other passages.

That such a class of officers were also recognized in the primitive church, and by many of the fathers, cannot, we think, be doubted by any impartial reader, and has been often satisfactorily proved.** And that the churches very early adopted the plan of having such representatives of the people, is rendered still more certain by the existence of such officers among the Waldenses and the Syrian Christians.

Thus far we agree in opinion with the standard authorities of our church, in believing in THE SCRIPTURAL CHARACTER AND CLAIMS of such officers in the church. But in regard to the application of the term PRESBYTER in Scripture and in the fathers to the ruling elder, we are obliged to dissent from the commonly received opinions. We are still persuaded that both in Scripture and in the fathers the term PRESBYTER is confined to the teachers or bishops of the church.

*In none of these cases can we suppose that all the Christians were present, for Christ we know appeared to five hundred brethren, and at the time of the council at Jerusalem there were about 8,000 believers. These BRETHREN, therefore, represented all, and acted in their name. See Neander's Hist. of the Chr. Rel. and Ch. vol. 1, p. 205, and note, English edition.

te. g. 1 Cor. 12: 28, Rom. 12: 8, and Matt. 18: 15-17. That the word church here means an assembly of rulers meeting together in one ecclesiastical judicatory, see largely proved in Dr. Ayton's Orig. Constit. of the Church. ch. ii. Š 3, pp. 63, 64. Cartwright's Confut. of the Rhemists on Matt. 18: 15-17. In the Form of Gov't of the Waldenses, this passage is rendered, "tell to the guides whereby the church is ruled.' Dr. Miller on Eldership, p. 108, Am. ed. Coleman's Primitive Church, pp. 62, 63. Brown's Dict. of the Bible, Art. Church. Livingstone's Theology, p. 251. Rutherford's Due Right of Presbyteries, &c. 4to. London, 1644, at pp. 309, 314, 322, 489-491. See also, pp. 316, 348. See also his plea for Paul's Presbyterie, 4to. London, 1642, p. 85, &c. Gillespie's Aaron's Rod Blossoming, 4to. London, 1646, pp. 294-297, and 350-467. See further Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici. by the London ministers, 4to. London, 1654, 208, &c. See also many authorities produced in Paget's Def. of Pres. Ch. Gov't. London, 1641, pp. 50, 51. See also the author's Ecclesiastical Catechism, p. 8, &c. Burnet on the XXXIX Art. p. 281.

**See Dr. Miller's work on the Ruling Elders, and also his Letters on the Christian Ministry, and all the works on Presbyterianism.


That such is the case in Scripture, we infer from the fact that the word PRESBYTER is there used synonymously with the term BISHOP, as is now admitted by all writers, both prelatical and Presbyterian.t Now the characteristic function and duty of THE BISHOP, as laid down in Scripture, is, the preaching of the gospel and the instruction of the Christian people. This indeed has been most strangely questioned, but in manifest contradiction to the express and pointed declaration of the Word of God. No words can be used by which the office of public teaching could be more clearly defined, than are found in those several passages, in which the terms presblyter and bishop are interchangeably employed. Such also was the duty imposed by the Apostle Paul upon the ministers of Ephesus, whom he in the same breath calls both bishops and presbyters.* In exhorting the Hebrew Christians to "remember them that have the rule over them,” (i. e. their presbyters,) he explains his meaning by adding, "who have spoken unto you, that is, preached to you, "the word of God.”it This point is to our minds plain and palpable, for as the great duty enjoined by Christ in his commission was the preaching of the gospel; and presbyters or bishops are, as we believe, the only ministers under that commission, it follows that preaching is their chief and distinguishing function. It

But if preaching, including the duties of presiding in the church, of conducting the public worship of God, of baptizing and administering the Lord's Supper,$8-if these are the work and duty of the bishop or presbyter, and are admitted by all parties not to be the functions of the ruling elder, then the presumption is very strong against the modern assumption that the terms presbyter and

bishop are applied in Scripture both to the teachers of the church and to a class of officers who did not teach. Nor is this presumption weakened by an appeal to the usages of the Jewish synagogue; for while it is true that there

See Presbytery and Prelacy, p. 108, &c.

See 1 Tim. 3: 1-8, Titus 1: 5-9, and 1 Peter 5: 1-5, and 1 Tim. 5: 17, and Vitringa, p. 484.

$Neander in his Preface to Coleman's Primitive Church, p. 16, says, "And yet a distinction is also made between these pastors and teachers, inasmuch as the qualifications for the outward government of the church, κυβερνησις, were different from those which were requisite for the guidance of the church by the preaching of the word, didaoralia. The first belonged especially to the presbyters or bishops who stood at the head of the organization for the outward government of the church. Certain it is, at least, that they did not all possess the gift of teaching as didao kaloi, teachers."

*See Acts 20: 28-31. it Hebrews 13: 7, 17.

1 See full on this point in the author's work on Presbytery and Prelacy, ch. v., and also ch. iv., and in the Divine Right of the Gospel Ministry, by the London Ministers.

SS See do. do. ch. v.

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »