Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

fulness, attention, discretion. To rule with diligence, is to watch over the principles, and practice of members, admonish those who are ready to halt, and censure those who backslide. Unless rulers, in this connexion, are distinct from the other officers of the church, Paul uses language calculated to produce uncertainty and confusion.

Prophesying, belonged to one class of extraordinary officers, under the gospel, which were temporary.

« Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering.” Ministering is a translation of darovíay, and leads us to the office of deacons, who were to pay particular attention to the poor, and relieve their wants from the funds of the church. Deacons were the first ordinary officers appointed in the church, and here they are the first mentioned, though no stress is to be laid on their location among other officers.

“He that teacheth, on teaching." Aldaoraria signifies doctrine. The doctrines of the gospel were to be taught. By teachers, in this catalogue, pastors seem to be intended, who were to teach gospel doctrines authoritatively. Here is a second order of officers that was to be perpetual.

“ He that exhorteth, on exhortation.” Though pastors both taught and preached, yet there appears to have been a subordinate class of teachers, whose office was simply to teach young converts the first principles of religion. These needed much instruction, and exhortation to be diligent students of the word, and to remain steadfast in their profession of Christianity.

The word rendered exhortation signifies also to comfort. To teach the first elements of the Christian religion to young converts, to exhort and comfort them, may well be combined. They needed much of this kind of teaching, and much exhortation and consolation, in the persecutions and tribulations of that period. Here is a third class of officers, who were occasional, and to be employed to assist pastors as circumstances required.

“He that giveth,” and “ he that sheweth mercy," do not appear to belong to any particular class of officers. To give and to show mercy were duties incumbent upon all the members of the church without discrimination.

In this catalogue there are found deacons, pastors, and lay rulers, prophets and occasional teachers.

To establish the doctrine of lay rulers, I adduce 1 Cor. xii. 28. Here are expressly mentioned “apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” These, said Paul, “ God hath set in the church,” for her edification, and comfort. Some of these were extraordinary, and to be of short duration; others were ordinary, and to be permanent. “ Miracles, gifts of healing, and diversities of tongues,” are evidently abstract terms, used instead of the concrete, which was a very common mode of speech among the Hebrews. By the terms here used we are to understand persons who had the power of performing miracles, healing obstinate and inveterate diseases, and speaking different languages with which they were before unacquainted.

“ Helps and governments,” are also abstract terms, evidently intended to designate a particular class of helpers and of governors. Paul uses the same phraseology in regard to civil magistrates. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” By powers he intends magistrates who were invested with civil authority. For, those persons, who were possessed of this authority he expressly calls rulers. Rom. xiii. 1, 3. Hence it is obvious that powers are abstract terms, to be taken for rulers. And so by helps are intended helpers. In a large sense all Christians are helpers, and in various ways afford each other assistance. But helps, in this connexion, must be taken for a special class of men. And I have no doubt that the apostle intended deacons, whose special and appropriate office was to relieve the indigent from the common funds of the church. Seven men were, by the direction of the apostles, chosen for this express purpose. They were to serve tables, not sacramental tables, but to distribute, from the common stock, to the necessities of the poor. In this service they were helps both to the church and to the apostles. They relieved the indigent, and afforded the apostles more leisure for their own peculiar functions. And these men have generally been considered as sustaining the name of deacons.

By governments, we are, unquestionably, to understand governors, or rulers. Peter speaks of some who “despise government,” that is, the men who administer the government. And by governments, Paul evidently intended those to whom the administration of the government of the church was committed. And these rulers are manifestly a class distinct from teachers, prophets and apostles, or language has no meaning.

The apostles bore rule in the church, and so did those teachers who preached authoritatively. The apostles, though extraordinary officers, and possessed of extraordinary powers, ordained deacons as helpers to themselves, and to the church. And the ordinary pastors needed the same kind of helpers. And, as in the multitude of counsellors there is safety, so pastors needed lay elders to assist them in the government of the church.

And hence I conclude, that, on the soundest principles of interpretation, by teachers, must be understood, in this place, pastors; by helps, deacons; and by governments, lay ruling elders.

Thus it appears to my mind, after mature investigation, that in some of the fullest accounts of the officers of the church,

pastors, ruling lay elders, and deacons, are recognised. In some accounts one order, and in others, two orders are discovered. In Philippians i. 1, we read of bishops and deacons.” If there were ruling lay elders, it may be asked, why did Paul omit to mention them? I answer, that, from this omission, we can no more conclude, that there were no lay elders in the Philippian church, than we can argue, that there were no deacons in the Ephesian church, because, in chap. iv. v. 11, Paul omits to mention them among other officers.

Paul left Titus in Črete to “ ordain elders in every city." These elders are called bishops. Now, because deacons are not here mentioned, can we conclude there were none of this order in the churches of Crete? We may just as fairly deny that there were deacons in these churches, because they are not mentioned, as to deny that there were lay elders in Philippi, because the mention of them is omitted.

On the whole, it appears manifest from analogy, from the government of the Jewish church, and from several passages in the New Testament, that there were appointed in the church ruling lay elders, as distinct from those who preach the gospel and administer the sacraments; and that the government of the church, was not designed to be committed to the whole body of her members, nor to ministers alone, but to pastors, and lay elders selected for that purpose.

But it is necessary to examine several passages which are produced to support a different form of government.

In some churches, all the male and female members, and in others, all the male members of adult age, sit in judgment upon cases of an ecclesiastical nature. In support of their form of government, the well known passage is produced with no small degree of triumph, “ If he neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church.” Matt. xviii. 17. This passage is unhappily chosen to support the doctrine that cases for judgment should be laid before all the members of the church. It will, properly understood, establish the form of government for which I contend. Christ expressly declares that the kingdom of God, or visible church, includes infants. Luke xviii. 15, 16. Infants, therefore, must be excluded, when we “tell it unto the church,” as they are incapable of sitting in judgment.

Women are members of the church. But they are neither permitted to speak, nor exercise any authority in the church. Some imagine they may act as rulers, though they are not allowed to preach. But the imagination is erroneous.

Said Paul, “ I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” 1 Tim. ii. 12.

Teaching and ruling are here connected, and both are forbidden.

The expression “to usurp authority over the man,” consists of but two words in the original, αυθεντειν ανδρος. Αυθεντειν signifes to usurp jurisdiction over any one. But, with the genitive, it signifies a person's offering himself as a leader or ruler. Aubertetv is here connected with the genitive, and is therefore properly rendered, “ I suffer not a woman to offer herself as a leader or ruler over the man."

And as there is no article before avdeos, it may be translated man, indefinitely, and taken in its utmost latitude to include all men. If, therefore, women exercise any authority over men, in the church, it is usurped authority, and prohibited by the apostle. But Paul speaks, perhaps, more expressly to this point: “Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience.” 1 Cor. xiv. 34. If they are to be in subjection in the churches, they cannot exercise any authority as rulers. They cannot sit in judgment, nor speak, nor vote, on any case that comes before the church.

Women must, therefore, be excluded from exercising any rule, when a matter is to be “ told to the church.” In the most of churches a majority are women, and of course a majority of her members must be excluded when a cause, for adjudication, is laid before the church, as Christ directs.

This passage then does not countenance a congregational form of government, more than a presbyterian, nor so much, as I shall make appear.

If the minister and elders do not properly constitute the church, neither do the male members. Neither are the male and female members properly the church without their infant children. And I believe the ministers of religion, alone, are never called the church in the scriptures. To tell a matter to the church, therefore, is not to tell it to ministers as the sole judges.

But the rulers of the church are called the church. And therefore a case may be told to the church, when laid, for consideration, before those who are appointed to be her rulers.

It is common to say a man is condemned by his country, when he is condemned by a court, authorized by the constitution of his country. In such a case we speak, by a very common figure, of the community, instead of its officers. In the same sense we are to understand the passage under examination. « Tell it to the church;" i. e. lay the subject of complaint before the proper officers of the church, for judgment, and not before the whole congregation. That Christ could not intend all the members of the church is evident, because there was then no church government in existence but that of the Jews. Christ himself was a member of that church, and submitted to her laws. No congregational form of government had ever been known in the church of God. And hence we cannot suppose the disciples would have understood any thing else, by “ telling it to the church,” than laying the subject before the rulers of the church, who were appointed to decide in all cases of controversy. And it is evident that these rulers are repeatedly called the congregation, or church, of the Lord, in the Old Testament. The congregation and church are interchangeable terms, or in other words they are precisely the same thing. The congregation of the Lord, under the former dispensation of mercy, was the same body as the church of God, under the present dispensation.

The rulers were called the congregation, because they represented the congregation. Moses commanded the Levites, “ Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears—and Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel.” Deut. xxxi. 28, 30. Here the elders and officers, and the latter seem exegetical of the former, are evidently called all the congregation of Israel. These rulers were assembled to receive the address of Moses. And having delivered his address to them, it is said, that he spake in the ears of all the congregation, or church, of Israel. He spake to none except their rulers, and they are called all the congregation, because they represented all the congregation. And this seems to be the general, if not universal, sense of the expression, which so often occurs, that Moses spake to all, or in the ears of all, the congregation, what the Lord commanded. I cite one instance out of many :

“ Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel.” Exod. xii. 3. By all the congregation, we must understand the elders, as representatives of all the congregation, as it is evident from the 21st verse: “ Then Moses called”_not all the individuals of the Israelites, but for all the elders of Israel.” So that to speak unto all the elders, is what was intended by speaking to all the congregation. “ They shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.” v. 3. “And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it.” v. 6. The Passover was to be observed in the individual families, and these, collectively considered, are called “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel.” It is hence evident, that all the elders are called all the congregation, and all the individual houses, the whole assembly of the congregation. All the elders are called all the congregation, because they represented all the congregation. So, to “ tell it to the church,” is to tell it to the elders as her representatives.

It cannot be supposed that the whole church assembled to receive a message from Moses on any occasion. According to

« PoprzedniaDalej »