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execute their orders. These first deacons of the church, being chosen from among the Jews, who were born in Palestine, were suspected of partiality in distributing the offerings which were presented for the support of the poor. To remedy, therefore, this disorder, seven other deacons were chosen, by order of the apostles, and employed in the service of that part of the church at Jerusalem, which was composed of the foreign Jews converted to Christianity. Of these new ministers, six were foreigners, as appears by their names; the seventh was chosen out of the proselytes, of whom there were a certain number among the first Christians at Jerusalem, and to whom it was reasonable that some regard should be shown, in the election of the deacons, as well as to the foreign Jews. All the other christian churches followed the example of that at Jerusalem in whatever related to the choice and office of the deacons.”
Dr. M. adds, “Some, particularly the eastern churches, elected deaconesses, and chose for that purpose matrons, or widows of eminent sanctity, who also ministered to the necessities of the poor, and performed several other offices that tended to the maintenance of order and decency in the church.”
Ecclesiastical writers, labouring to defend the establishment of a hierarchy, and the sacerdotal character of deacons, as an inferior order of the priesthood, have offered various speculations concerning the election of the deacons by the members of the christian church at Jerusalem. They have objected to the account in the sixth chapter of the Acts, as relating to that class of officers, saying, " they are never called deacons in the whole Acts of the Apostles.” To such objectors, even Dr.Whitby replies by asking, “ Now if they were not instituted here by the Apostles, I desire to know when, where, and by whom they were instituted, and what other record we have left us of such an institution of them ?”
Passing over the learned strife of opposing ecclesiastics, we partieularly intreat the serious attention of our readers to the inspired history. Luke says, “And in those days, when the number of the disciples were multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” Acts vi. 1. The Greek word for ministration is diakova, or deaconship, “ Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God and serve tables." ver. 2. The word translated “serve," elakoveiv, to minister, or, literally, to deaconise. “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” ver. 3, 4. The word here rendered ministry, is dla kovia, deaconship, the same as in the first verse, where it is translated ministration.” “ And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch, whom they set before the Apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them." ver. 5, 6.
Luke's inspired narrative is perspicuous, and the appointment rational, and practicable by all the churches of Christ. Preaching the gospel, we perceive, was no part of the immediate duty of deacons ; they were neither chosen nor ordained for that service. But it has been observed that Stephen preached; and of the preaching of Philip the fruit was manifested in the conversion of many souls to Christ, in Samaria. Acts viii. 5-12. We joyfully acknowledge that the primitive deacons did preach, and that the fruits of their divinely honoured ministry are recorded for our instruction. Still we maintain, that preaching the gospel was no part of their appointed duty as deacons : that was a peculiar service of mercy and charity, as declared by the apostles. As it was in the primitive church at Jerusalem, so it is in many of our churches, some of whose worthy deacons occasionally or frequently exercise their talents in preaching the gospel. Founded on the apostolic model, our churches glory in possessing such deacons ; men “ full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom," endowed with gifts qualifying them to lead the deyotions of a christian assembly, and in case of emergency or difficulty, to preach the gospel also, to the edification of their brethren, and to the promotion of the kingdom of Christ their Lord.
Mr. Scott, with his usual candour, states, “ If then the office of deacons was instituted on this occasion, it seems undeniable, that they were appointed solely to take care of the temporal concerns of the church ; and not, as deacons, to preach or to administer sacred ordinances. And it appears to me very likely, that, both at this and future periods, many, who were appointed deacons in the first instance, afterwards became evangelists or pastors; and when they were fully employed, other deacons were appointed.”
Deacons of churches are not absolutely required to be rich, or to occupy elevated stations in the world : but nothing can be more obviously desirable than that they should be men of practical wisdom, and of some standing in life, possessing influence in society, as well as sterling piety and spiritual gifts. May all our deacons be persons of eminent grace and of useful endowments, so as to be blessings to their less experienced fellow-christians; and may all our churches possess such men of God.
Řeviewing the history of the election of deacons in the primitive church, and comparing their scriptural office with that assigned to them in most countries of Christendom, we perceive how its benevolent design has been frustrated by ecclesiastical ambition. Deacons in the Roman, Greek, or English hierarchy, bear but little resemblance to those appointed by the apostles.
Dr. Owen, describing the subversion of this institution, expresses himself in the following terms: “ Those who utterly perverted all church order, took out of the hands of the deacons that work which was committed to them by the apostles, and for which end alone their office was instituted in the church, and assigned other work unto them, whereunto they were not called and appointed: yet thought meet to continue the name and the pretence of the office, because of the evident institution of it, unto a continuation. And
whereas, when all things were swelling with pride and ambition in the church, no sort of its officers contenting themselves with their primitive institution, but striving by various degrees to be somewhat in name and thing, that was high and aloft, there arose from the name of this office the meteor of an archdeacon, with strange power and authority never heard of in the church for many ages. But this belongs to the mystery of iniquity, 2 Thess. ii. 7, whereunto neither the Scripture nor the practice of the primitive churches do give the least countenance."
Reflecting upon the institution and office of deacons in the primitive church of Christ, as designed for the practice of all ages, it is impossible for a benevolent mind to refrain from unmingled admiration. “What a lovely and attractive view does it give us of Christianity ; and how strikingly characteristic of its merciful genius, to behold it solemnly instituting an office, the chief design of which is the comfort of its poor followers! Where," asks the Rev. J. A. James, “shall we find any thing analogous to this in the other systems ? Paganism and Mahometanism have nothing like it !” Charity itself, inspired by the Spirit of God, originated the office, demonstrating the divinity of the Christianity of the New Testament!
EXPOSURE OF A PERVERSION IN “THE INQUIRER.”
(To the Editor.) DEAR SIR,_When a writer's statements refute himself, it may be thought supererogatory to undertake the task of refuting him. As, however, through the medium of a few sentences of mine, a heavy charge has been brought against “a select number of the London ministers,” it is incumbent on me to repel the charge.
In the February number of “ The Inquirer," there is a paper entitled “ Episcopal ordination recommended in the Congregational Magazine.” The following are the introductory paragraphs.
"RESERVE.'— This is at present the guard-word of the Oxford Jesuits. We are going too fast ;- we must not gallop yet ;—the people are not ready for our startling revelations ;-we must go gently, lest they drive us back. This, in other words, has been plainly inculcated in one of the lately published Tracts for the Times.
“Would it not be prudent if certain dissenting ministers were to appropriate the same motto? “Reserve,” in our opinion, ought to be adopted by them; and our readers, we think, will agree with us, when they read the following most extraordinary extract from the Congregational Magazine, No. xxi., Sept. 1838.
"Of late years nonconformists have sometimes betrayed a suspicion of the efficacy of their own principles in the accomplishment of God's gracions purposes towards mankind; while at other times they have held a language which has induced the inquiry, Why do you not conform ? The object of this inquiry would reply, BeN.S, VOL. III.
cause the episcopacy of England is established. But then all episcopacy is not established. There is a poor and an unestablished episcopacy in America ; and there is a poor, a very poor, and an unestablished episcopacy in Scotland. There are, too, bishops of the Greek Church, whose orders would give admittance to the pulpits of England, which the orders of the American Episcopal Church, magnificent as they are in the estimation of their holders, -nor yet, we believe, those of the Scottish Episcopacy-would not* do. Mr. Matthew Henry, though he had no intention of ministering in the Established Church, unless a change should take place in the terms of conformity, deliberated solemnly, when entering into the ministry, whether he should receive episcopal ordination, provided he could do it withont subscription; a deliberation which was terminated by the conviction that ordination by presbyters is, though not the only valid, yet the best, most scripturally regular, and therefore the most eligible ordination. And although we are no friends to episcopacy, we should have been glad to see some congregational ministers episcopally ordained, since they would thereby have acquired the consistency which is an essential element of goodness.' (Page 531.)
« The writer evidently felt a little embarrassment in bringing out the secret wish of his heart; but, nevertheless, after some tortuosity of sentiment, this at last is clearly stated,-1. That some congregational ministers ought to be ordained by bishops. 2. That ordination by bishops has in it an element of goodness!”
I could scarcely have thought that the dullness of the most obtuse, or the torsion of the most perverse, could have mis-interpreted the passage which is the subject of our writer's censure. I had been combating the arguments of an Independent deacon in favour of episcopacy, and recollecting a few ministers who were tinctured with the same views, I wrote the passage which has offended the correspondent of “ The Inquirer.” His first deduction from my statement is legitimate ; but the second is a gross perversion. I did not say, and had he used his eyes, he must have seen that I did not say, that “ordination by bishops has in it an element of goodness,” but that “ consistency is an essential element of goodness."
Our writer proceeds :-“ But how sad it is to find the congregational teachers, in the fourth century of their existence, thus vacillating in their opinions; and, after all that they have said and done against prelacy, now evidently exhibiting a tendency to close with the episcopal heresy and the three orders. What! if certain dissenting ministers were ordained by bishops, they would have acquired the consistency which is an essential element of goodness. We ask, then, what does “consistency' mean in this passage? Obviously not an adherence to principle, for the context would require a sense exactly opposite to such an interpretation : no, it must be taken in a material, not in a moral sense; and is to
* The writer has copied an unfortunate press error, which, by the insertion of a needless negative, destroys the meaning of the sentence. This and some other errors were corrected in the October number.
be interpreted as firm cohesion, compactness, solidity, closeness of constituent parts; and this, in the opinion of the writer, may peradventure be an essential element of goodness in the mystery of clerical government."
Charges of falsehood are so abhorrent to every good feeling, that a correct mind will be very reluctant to make them: but when a man's own lips pronounce his want of veracity, we can but pause and listen to the declaration. The writer in his last cited passage unwarily lets out the secret, that he did understand what, for party purposes, he had previously perverted, that he did understand, that not ordination by bishops, but consistency, was the essential element of goodness to which I referred. His language is, “ they would have acquired the consistency which is an essential element of goodness.' ” But to understand my meaning does not suit the writer's purpose: he therefore proceeds to ask, “What does consistency mean in this passage ? Obviously not an adherence to principle.” Yes, it does obviously inean an adherence to principle, as approvers of episcopacy: and in this adherence I would commend the parties, though quite as sensible as my reprover of their inconsistency in other respects. It should be recollected that I was not elevating these parties as paragons of excellence, or as models of propriety, though it may suit the writer's purpose to suppose that I was so doing. Our “ Inquirer” proceeds, “it (i. e. the word consistency) must be taken in a material, not in a moral sense.” “It must be,” is a logic which admits of no reply. If a writer uses a term in one sense, and that the only applicable sense on the subject to which the term refers, and an objector asserts that the term must be understood in another sense, there is no help for it, he must be left to his understanding. Sober men will, however, ask, “Is he who perverts the plainest terms to suit his purpose, a person who is fit to be regarded as a christian reformer?"
A happy thought now strikes our “ Inquirer.” He jumps up, and goes to his book-shelves. He takes down an account of the rites and ceremonies of the Greek Church; and then, with a glee, on the fertility of his invention, which almost capers on his page, he writes about a fumigated virgin vessel, conveying a select number of the dissenting ministers of London (and you, Mr. Editor, no doubt among the rest,) to Constantinople for ordination : he writes of the ceremonies of ordination, and of the triumph of the return. But did he never hear of the visit of Erasmus to England in 1763 ? Did he never hear of the feats of ordination, which, much to the annoyance of our prelates, he performed? And should the writer, in the course of a few years, desire episcopal ordination, (which, in a man of his extreme opinions, is by no means unlikely,) he will probably encounter no great difficulty in finding a poor Greek bishop who will suit the ceremony to his mind.
The gross injustice of the writer, in representing the paper in view as the apology of a select number of the dissenting ministers in London, 'for the episcopal ordination which is the object of their desire, is evident from the fact, that the first part of my remarks on episcopacy, are in opposition to some of the episcopalian arguments