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THE observations on church government, in the PANOPLIST and MISSIONARY MAGAZINE, August, 1808, which were an swered April and May 1809, may be reduced to a single point. Christ has given certain powers to the church, of a particular description as to its extent ? Is this church limited to one pastor and brotherhood of believers ; or does it contain all the Christians of a city, or district, comprising several congregations for hearing the word, and a plurality of elders?
"Whether Christ has committed the judicial power in the church to the eldership, to the exclusion of the brotherhood?" is no part of the question. The brethren are not excluded. In the only example in the New Testament, the church meeting at Jerusalem, the apostles and elders, and the brethren are each distinct ly named, as uniting to give authority to the letter of the church. And whatever was the subject of the letter, it exemplifies the form of expressing an act of the church; and its being done under the influence of the Holy Ghost, confirms it with a divine sanction.
The New Testament exhibits the form of the church as respects a plurality of elders, in a num. ber of instances. It is asked, "Are numerous instances the only things to be taken into the account? Are not the churches of which we have a particular his. tory very few"-and "these few the churches of great cities ?". "If the inspired writers had giv. en a particular history of all the churches; and, in respect of those in the country, had spoken of one pastor only in a church; would it be proper to call this a contradiction in the account? But, admitting, that in a history of all the churches, each might appear to have enjoyed a plurality of elders; yet, even in this case should we be obliged to conclude that they were ordinary pastors and teachers ?"
Example in ascertaining a fact is particularly important; and, when supported by every other species of testimony to be expected, is satisfactory. The circumcision of Isaac, at eight days old,
is undeniable proof of infant cir. cumcision in the family of Abra. ham.
The examples of a plurality of elders in a church are several: and uniformity in this character of the church, as far as appears, was universal. If the city was large and contained thousands of Christians, the argument is strengthened by its being the more certain, that they formed a number of religious societies, by meeting in different places for prayer and hearing the word, while notwithstanding they were one church. Whether each elder had his congregation to which he dispensed the word, or whether the elders preached in different houses by turns; and whether they depended on their respective congregations for their support, or received it out of the common treasury of the church, are questions which, if they are not determined in the Scriptures, are left to the decision of christian prudence. To any supposition of facts, not contained in the gospel history, it is not needful to attend, till a more particular account shall be found to have been given by the inspired writers; the word of God, and not any imagination of man being the believer's guide.
The elders of the church were all of one character; they were known by one name of office, were united in the exercise of the same authority, were jointly exhorted to the same duty, were all bishops, and were to be obeyed by Christians, as those that had the rule over them and had spoken to them the word of God. What more was requisite to constitute them pastors and teachers?
Deacons have their appropriate office, distinct from that of elders, and in the exercise of church authority acted as brethren. Prophets and others in the apostolic age, endowed with miraculous gifts, do not appear to have formed a separate order, affecting the government of the church. All, it would seem, were then included in the terms, apostles, elders, and brethren; as the ordinary authorities of the church are now in those of the elders and brethren.
John, in his letters in the Revelation, addressed the angel of the church. Was the angel the pastor of the church? The NewTestament mentions no example of a church with only one pastor, nor any person as holding an office, answering in character to the angel; and the word being used figurativelymay mean a court of the church, as naturally as an individual officer. The letters of John in using the words ye and you as well as thou, in speaking to the angel, seem to address a collective body rather than a single person. There is no authority for the supposition,
that John addressed the church. es through their pastors ;" neither is it probable. Did he address the angel, meaning the church exclusive of the angel; or did he use the word thou, meaning both the angel and the church? Beside, if the word you intend both the angel and the church, who are "the rest" in the declar. ation, ❝ Unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira." An. other consideration is, that the powers attributed to the angel, to try those that say they are apostles and find them liars, are such as no single pastor and
brotherhood are authorized to exercise.
The angel therefore must have been the presbytery, or fraternity of bishops of the church, forming an ecclesiastical court, either including the brethren, or acting in concurrence with them. Such a court would be competent to try persons, that falsely called themselves apostles. And we do not want evidence of their being in the church a plurality of elders to constitute this court, or presbytery. They are mentioned expressly as belonging to the church of Ephesus, to the angel of which one of John's letters was written. The powers attributed to the angel, and its being addressed as a collective body, connected with the fact that in a number of churches, and as far as appears in all, certainly in one, of which the angel is mentioned, a plurality of elders belonged to a church, are strong circumstances in proof that the angel was the court of elders, or presbytery of the church. The supposition that after Paul addressed the elders of Ephesus, they were reduced to a single pastor, implying a transfer of their authority to the brotherhood, before John wrote to the angel of the church, has no countenance in Scripture, nor color of probability.
What is then the evidence that the church, which has the power of discipline, is a single pastor and brotherhood? Christ commanded"Tell it to the church;" and Paul wrote, "Unto the church of God in Corinth. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together-purge out the old leaven-put away from among your
selves-mark them-withdraw yourselves." He gives like directions in several epistles, and uses the terms brethren, and inflicted by many." But what form is ascribed to the church in these passages? Has it one pastor only, or a plurality of elders forming a presbytery? They say nothing about it. In anoth. er passage Paul tells the Corin. thians, "Let your women keep silence in the churches,' " which seems to imply that for religious instruction, they had a number of churches, a number of houses or congregations, though they were all the church of God which was in Corinth.
Christ's ministry was under the law. If he had respect to the then existing church it was that of Moses, which had elders in every city. But if his commaud looked forward to the days of christianity, it respected either no particular form of the church, or the form which the apostles were to establish; which of con. sequence is to be learned from their writings and the history of their ministry. Viewed in whatever light any may choose, it is no authority for saying, "The breth. ren hear, judge, and decide."
That the brethren have a voice with the elders, is not denied ; but it is in such manner, that the elders act as rulers or bishops. In this character it is believed they belong to the church, and, under Christ, are its head. "God hath set some in the church first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers." And Chris. tians are exhorted to remember them that have the rule over them, who have spoken to them the word of God.
Christ is the chief shepherd;
his ministers have authority, as shepherds under him; and their office is described by expressions which are declarative of his. Of Bethlehem it was predicted of Christ, "Out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel." The origi. nal words rendered Governor, and shall rule are applied to his ministers in the exhortations of Paul and Peter, "Remember obey them that have the rule over you ;" and "Feed the church--the flock of God." "Remember them which have the rule over you," translated as the same original word is translated in reference to Christ, is "Re. member your governors." And feed, in like manner, is Rule the church. Compare Mat. ii. 6. with Heb. xiii. 7, 17. Acts xx. 28, and 1 Peter v. 2.
The business of a shepherd, in Judea, was not so much to deliver food to their flocks, as to guide their movements, protect and govern them, while grazing or lying in their fold. Accordingly the word rendered feed or rule, as expressive of the duty of a shepherd, naturally implies the exercise of authority, as appears in a number of instances in the Bible. Connected with a rod of iron, it several times expresses Christ's rule over the nations; without that instrument of destruction, as applied to his ministers, it signifies their more mild rule in the church.
enjoins the two duties of pastor and teacher toward the adult; rule and teach them.
Directions are often given to a collective body, which apply to a part only of the individuals included in it. Paul wrote to a whole church, when he said "Children obey your parents; Husbands love your wives; Ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath."
Moses delivered his
law to all Israel, when God commanded by him, "Thou shalt not wrest judgment, thou shalt not respect persons, neither shalt thou take a gift." Paul did not mean, that the members of the church were all children, all husbands, and all fathers: neither did Moses that all the indivídu. als of the nation were to sit on the bench of judgment; on the contrary, in connexion with his precepts on this point, he gave another command, Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates." Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, men, women, and children, but did not intend that every individual was to act in casting out a wicked person. All were to conform to the proceedings of the church, but were not all vested with authority. Neither does the apostle point out those, who were particularly to execute his command. It was not necessary, for they knew the form of their own church. To say that his direction was to the brethren and them only, is not warranted by the term which he uses. A. bout a fifth of the members might be adult brethren, by what rule of interpretation are these the church?
The word brethren, as a friendly appellation, is addressed to the church, including the elders, and 2H
the women and children. The exhortation, "Wives submit yourselves to your own hus. bands," is written "to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ;" so is Children obey your parents; and Paul, Timothy, Titus, and Apollos, are severally spoken of in the word brother.
Whoever may assert that, "There are in the New-Testament only two original senses of the word church ;" it is not easy to believe, that the church in Jerusalem, or in Ephesus, was exactly like the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, or of Nymphas ; or that the church, in either of these cities, made only a single congregation in assembling to hear the word. It is certain it was not under a single pastor, for in both Jerusalem and Ephesus the elders of the church are expressly men. tioned and they seem to be examples of the form of the church, which was established by the apostles.
THOUGHTS ON THE MEANS OF
In all the works of God, there is a harmony and wise adjust. ment of parts, which cannot but strike the eye of the attentive observer. Every thing is in its place. We behold not a disjointed world; but the cause is so disposed as most certainly to produce the effect designed, and the means are perfectly adapted to the end. If at the close of a dreary winter it is the intention of the Author of nature to renew the face of the earth, every thing is wisely arranged for the purpose. The earth presents itself more directly to the rays of the
sun, and receives them in greater abundance; the snows melt away; the vivifying warmth penetrates the ground; the once lifeless roots shoot forth; the flowers appear in the field; and beauty and verdure and plenty evince the perfect adaptation of arrange. ments to the object in view.
The same wisdom is exhibited in the scheme of redemption. The design proposed is the salvation of the sinner, and the disposition of the means is exactly such as is necessary to the end. The darkened mind is first to be enlightened, and truths are presented; the conscience is to be impressed, and it is plainly addressed; the heart is to be melted, and affecting considerations are applied. These are the means of religion, but they are not always efficacious, or rather it is not always the will of God, by the influence of his Spirit, to give them effect. It is in those instances only which are deter. mined upon by himself, that they are successful. The suns and the rains of spring may leave many a root unquickened. Though Paul may plant and Apollos water, it is God only, who giv eth the increase.
In what light are the means of religion to be regarded? are they to be viewed as instruments, by the use of which the impeni. tent sinner may procure for him. self a new heart and a new spirit? or are they to be considered as forming a part of the merciful system of God, and as used by him for the purpose of redeeming those, whom he has chosen for himself?
Many of the disputes, which call forth much zeal, and distract the minds of the ignorant, origi