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greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he (hat r* chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Gal. xxv. to the end.) But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster; for ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you aJ&fcave been baptized into Christ (Christianity), have put on Christ (Christianity); there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male or female, for ye are all one (or equal) in Christ Jesus."
Here then we see, accordingto this constitution, all dis? tinctions are destroyed, all form one family, of whom God is the Father, and Jesus the king. But the kingdom of God is not of this world; though in the world it is not of it; it has nothing to do with its maxims, its politics, or its wars and pursuits; its members can by no means go to war or assist in any of the bloody schemes of the rulers of this world; they must<uniformly be the friends of peace and of the hap* piness of man. Jesus said to Pilate," my kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight." Paul also, in all his epistles, inculcates the same principle. See 2 Cor. to end. " Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath light with darkness? &c. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean person; and I will receive yon, and will be a father unto you, and he shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Phil. iii. 20. For our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for the saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Col i. 12. 13. Giving thanks unto the father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance ofthe saints in light, who hath delivered us from the power ofdarkness (the world), and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear son. Ephes. ii.to end. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with his saints, and ofthe household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto ail holy temple in the Lord. In whom y& also are builded tog€therforan habitation of God through the spirit." Thi» church, so constituted, is the little leaven that is to leaTen the whole lump; this is the Messiah's kingdom, prophecied of by Daniel vii. 22, 24. I saw in the night visions, and behold one like the son of man came with the clouds ofheaven, and came to the ancient of days, and they brought
the right of altering them in the smallest degree. Our en-» quiry then is not whether zee would have formed such ; whether they are the most wise or the most useful; but if they are such as we are willing to place ourselves under? No man is compelled to become or continue to be a subject of this kingdom ; it must be his own voluntary act ; but as long as he continues to claim the privilege of it, he is bound to obey its lawsj in every respect. He is not born a subject of it, and therefore bound by the absurd law which exists in all other kingdoms, viz. that whether he approves or disap* proves of its institutions, he must always support them, or he hanged as a traitor! No; he cannot become a subject of this kingdom till he is capable of judging for himself; and even then it is a matter of choice willi himself to become a member of it or not: and even after he has become a member, should he alter his mind, there are no penal laws to bind him to continue. He has only to renounce the privileges of the society, and the laws immediately cease to operate upou him; and the society from which he withdraws can do no I more than declare he is cut oft' from them, that they may no j longer be considered responsible for his character and con[duct.
As the terms bishop and elder have been the subject of much controversy, I will endeavour to give their true meaning; and, first, I would most earnestly entreat, wheu I use the word bishop, not to be understood as having any reference to those men called bishops in the present day, but characters as much the reverse of them as light is to darkness. By a bishop I mean not a man perjured by his first entrance into office—a man pufted up with pride and luxury, possessed of prinoely revenue, and dressed in a large ,wig and lawn sleeves, who pays his adoration to princes and little to his God—who exercies dominion, and has his spiritual courts—in fact 1 do not mean a lord bishop—neither do I mean such a man as the Rev. Mr. Belsham, in his canonicals, nor such men as the Rev. Mr. Aspland, Vidler, Nightingale, or Huntingdon, in their black coats—the bishop I speak of is a scriptural bishop, and no other.
The words bishop and elder, it appears to me, were not intended as titles, but merely descriptive of the duties they had to perform; the same as if any persons were appointed to manage the affairs ofa nation who were not distinguished by any particular title, and I were addressing a letter to them, I should say of course, if their names were not mentioned," To the rulers, the overseers, or the managers of «ucli a uation;" neither of which terms would be the title of of their office, but merely descriptive of the business they had to perforin ; and this will I think be found to be the case in the terms bishop, &c.
The Greek word from which the name bishop or bishops is derived, occurs nine times in the New Testament, in our received version, and is translated as follows, Luke xix. 44, visitation; Acts i. 20, bishopric; Wakefield translates it, office; Acts xx. 28, overseers; Phil. i. 1, bishops; Wakefield, overseer; 1 Tim. iii. 1,2, bishop; Wakefield, overseer; Titus i. 7, bishop; Wakefield, overseer; I Peter ii. 8, 12, visitation; 1 Peter ii. 25, bishop; Wakefield, shepherd. From all these passages it will be seen that the word does not necessarily imply title; nor is there any need of its being translated bishop in any one place. It is evident, that it would appear very absurd, were it so translated in all; but if we take it as overseeing, or being overseen, it will do in every place: and I have generally found it to be a good criterion, where a word must be translated in some particular way in many places, and may be so in all, that that is the true and genuine meaning of it.
The term elder, or eiders, has also been as much the subject of dispute as that of bishop, and from the same cause, that of being taken as a title, instead of being descriptive of the business he had to perform. The word itself occurs fifty-five times in the New Testament, exclusive of the Revelations; thirty of which relate to the rulers of the Jewish people; eleven to elders, as it respects age; twelve times to officers of the Christian church; once to Peter; and once is translated presbytery, though in this place, Wakefield properly translates it elders, as it is the same word so translated elsewhere, and there is no word for presbyter or presbytery in the New Testament. Now that the word elder, must be synonimous to bishop or overseer, when it refers to men in office, is clear; because they are used indifferently respecting the same persons. See Titus i. 5, 6. "Ordain elders in every city, as I had ap-» pointed. If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot or unruly, For a bishop," &c. that is, the persons he had before spoken of as the elders; and if properly translated, it would have been appoint elders of such a character; for he that is an overseer, &c.: so that the term overseer explains to us decidedly what the apostle meant by bishop or elder.
But it is contended, that elder and bishop cannot be synonimous ; because Peter calls himself an elder, when, it is said, he was no bishop: but if the word bishop means only VOL. m. L
overseer, and should be so translated, then it follow* that Peter, and all the apostles, were elders or overseers, though holding no stationary office in any particular branch of the church. The whole difficulty arises from making the word mean a title attached to a particular office in tho church.
If those who were appointed as stationary presidents or rulers, were called elders or overseers, on account of their presiding and overseeing the affairs of the particular branch of which they were members, with equal propriety might they be so called who watched over the affairs of the whole Christian church; and I apprehend that the terra elder originated either from the circumstance of the apostles being Jews (and they were habituated to use it of those who ruled the Jewish people, and conducted their concerns); or else that in the first planting of the Christian church, before it was organized, and regular officers appointed, that the earliest converts or the oldest men among them took upon themselves the management of its concerns, and either from age or earlier conversion were called elders: and when a proper organization took place, and proper officer* were appointed, not for their long standing in life orjiu the church, but for their fitness, those who were appointed in their place succeeded to the name as well as the office. The latter appears to me the most likely, though probably both circumstances might have contributed towards it. One thing however is clear, that bishops, overseers, and elders, ate the same officers, and consequently a character or characters holding such office or offices as they did, formed a part of the government of the Christian church.
In my next I shall shew the ^qualifications and duties of these officers, their number, mode of election, &c.
And am, Sir, your's, &c.
A Freethimjing Christian; K)j