Imatges de pÓgina

sons, I know not. Mr. Carlile knows little of the value of an effective eldership, or he would not have spoken slightingly of it. He has called it "an empty name, an unmeaning title, a sinecure place." And with modesty he informs the public, "we have no such custom, neither the church of Christ." I do not trust myself with any remarks upon such application of the inspired language, but proceed to prove that there is in every church, duly constituted, an office of ruling distinct from the membership of the church, andthat this office is composed of two distinct classes of elders. The former part of this position is proved by all those passages in the Scriptures, which represent ruling as a distinct office in the church, "He that ruleth," Rom. xii. 28. "Helps, governments," 1 Cor. xii. 28. "Them that have the rule over you," Heb. xiii. 17. No fair interpretation can be put on such passages as these, without admitting that they suppose an office of ruling in the church distinct from its membership. Now I ask, how is this provided for in an Independent Church? Ruling belongs equally to all the members. There are either no rulers, or all are rulers. Even the pastor has no authority in ruling. Indeed he is commonly the best ruled man in the assembly. He is at the caprice of the people to do with him as they please. They are both the accusers and the judge. Hence it is not uncommon, when he grows old and feeble in their service, to inform him his services are no longer needed. I have heard of many such cases, and known some. Lately a worthy minister came to this country to see his friends during his absence a young man supplied his place when he returned, he found the young man had gained the affections of his people-and, in a few weeks, he felt it necessary to withdraw from the place where he had spent the vigour of his days, and been a most faithful and useful minister. This is Independent government. How wise the institution of Christ to appoint a court of common appeal in his church, where both parties can have justice, and the accuser is not the judge! Again, that this office of ruling is committed not merely to the pastor, but to him in connexion with others in the church, associated with him for the purpose of ruling, I prove from Tit. i. 5: "Ordain elders in every city;" and Acts xiv. 23, "They ordained elders in every church." These passages testify that there was a plurality of elders in each church. And for what purpose ? Not for preaching, certainly, but for its government, And that these were called by the common name of elders, while distinguished into those who ruled merely, and those who both ruled and

preached, is plain from 1 Tim. v. 17: "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." A plain reader would suppose this should settle the question for ever. Mr. Carlile is obviously perplexed by it; and in order to evade its force, raises two difficulties. The first is, "that those who labour ought not to rule." But how does this follow? It is a mere gratuitous assumption. If it were said, let the students who exercise diligence be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who study in divinity, would it follow that they who studied in divinity applied themselves to no other subject? Would not the common-sense interpretation be, that while some were engaged with the ordinary course of education, others, in addition to that, studied divinity? And exactly so in this quotation: there is one elder who merely rules, while the other both teaches and rules. The other difficulty raised against this interpretation is, that "Elders should devote their time to the church, and receive, in consequence, adequate support." It is enough to ask, in reply, is it necessary to ruling well that the whole time be given to it? to which we answer, no; and because Paul thought proper, in some instances, not to receive payment, did he thereby forfeit his eldership? Is the payment of the pastor deemed essential to the validity of his office by Independents? The reasoning of Mr. Carlile on this subject is too puerile to deserve farther notice. I will not detain your readers longer with it, but relieve them by quoting the opinion of the great Dr. Owen, who was himself an Independent, but who felt that the view of the eldership entertained by Presbyterians, was so completely established by this passage, that it was vain to resist it.

"Some there are, who begin to maintain, that there is no need of any more but one pastor, bishop, or elder, in a particular church, which hath its rule in itself; other elders for rule being unnecessary. This is a novel opinion, contradictory to the sense and practice of the church in all ages. And I shall prove the contrary.

"1. The pattern of the first churches constituted by the apostles, which it is our duty to imitate and follow as our rule, constantly expresseth and declares, that many elders were appointed by them in every church; Acts xi. 30. xiv. 23. xv. 2. 4. 6. 22. xvi. 4. xx. 17, &c. 1 Tim. v. 17. Phil. i. 1. Tit. i. 5. 1. Pet. v. 1. There is no mention in the Scripture, no mention in antiquity, of any church wherein there was not more elders than one, nor doth that church answer the original pattern where it is otherwise.

"2. Where there is but one elder in a church, there cannot be an eldership or presbytery; as there cannot be a senate where there is but one senator; which is contrary unto 1 Tim, iv. 14.

"9. It is difficult, if not impossible, on a supposition of one elder only in a church, to preserve the rule of the church from being prelatical or popular. There is nothing more frequently objected unto those who dissent from diocesan bishops, than that they would every one be bishops in their own parishes, and unto their own people. All such pretences are excluded on our principles, of the liberty of the people, of the necessity of many elders in the same church in an equality of power, and the com. munion of other churches in association; but practically where there is but one elder, one of the extremes can hardly be avoided. If he rule by himself, without the previous advice in some cases, as well as the subsequent consent of the church, it hath an eye of unwarrantable prelacy in it; if every thing be to be originally transacted, disposed, ordered by the whole society, the authority of the elder will quickly be insignificant, and he will be little more in point of rule, than any other brother of the society. But all these conveniences are prevented by the fixing of many elders in each church, which may maintain the authority of the presbytery, and free the church from the despotical rule of any Diotrephes. But in case there be but one in any church, unless he have wisdom to maintain the authority of the eldership in his own person and actings, there is no rule but confusion.

❝4. The nature of the work whereupon they are called, requires, that in every church consisting in any considerable number of members, there should be more elders than one. When God first appointed rule in the church under the Old Testament, he assigned unto every ten persons, or families, a distinct ruler; Deut. i. 15. For the elders are to take care of the walk or conversation of all the members of the church, that it be according unto the rule of the Gospel. This rule is eminent as unto the holiness that it requires, above all other rules of moral conversation whatever. And there is in all the members of the church great accuracy and circumspection required in their walking after it and according unto it. The order also and decency which is required in all church assemblies, stands in need of exact care and inspection. That all these things can be attended unto, and discharged in a due manner in any church by one elder, is for them only to suppose who know nothing of them. And although there may be an appearance for a season of all these things in such churches, yet there being not therein a due compliance with the wisdom and institution of Christ, they have no present beauty, nor will be of any long continuance.

"The testimonies whereby the truth of this assertion is confirmed, are generally known and pleaded; I shall insist on some of them only, beginning with that which is of uncontrollable evidence, if it had any thing to conflict withal but prejudices and interest; and this is 1 Tim. v. 17.

"The elders or presbyters in office, elders of the church that rule well, or discharge their presidency for rule in due manner, are worthy, or ought to be reputed worthy, of double honour; especially those of them that labour, or are engaged in the great labour and travail of the word and doctrine.

"And some things may be observed in general concerning these words.


1. This testimony relates directly unto the rules and principles before laid down, directing unto the practice of them. According unto the analogy of those principles, these words are to be interpreted. And unless they are overthrown, it is to no purpose to put in exceptions against the sense of this or that word; the interpretation of them is to be suited unto

the analogy of the things which they relate unto. If we consider not what is spoken here in consent with other Scriptures treating of the same matter, we depart from all sober rules of interpretation.

"2. On this supposition, the words of the text have a plain and obvious signification, which at first view presents itself unto the common sense and understanding of all men. And where there is nothing contrary unto any other divine testimony, or evident reason, such a sense is constantly to be embraced. There is nothing here of any spiritual mystery; but only a direction concerning outward order in the church. In such cases the literal sense of the words rationally apprehended, is all that we are concerned in. But on the first proposal of this text, 'that the elders that rule well, are worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine;' a rational man who is unprejudiced, who never heard of the controversy about ruling elders, oan hardly avoid an apprehension that there are two sorts of elders, some that labour in the word and doctrine, and some who do not so do. The truth is, it was interest and prejudice that first caused some learned men to strain their wits to find out evasions from the evidence of this testimony: being so found out, some others of meaner abilities have been entangled by them. For there is no one new argument advanced in this cause, not one exception given in unto the sense of the place which we plead for, but what was long since coined by Papists and prelatists, and managed with better colours than some now are able to lay on them, who pretend unto the same judgment.

"3. This is the substance of the truth in the text. There are elders in the church; there are or ought to be so in every church. With these elders the whole rule of the church is intrusted; all these, and only they, do rule in it. Of these elders there are two sorts, for a description is given of one sort distinctive from the other, and comparative with it. The first sort doth rule, and also labour in the word and doctrine. That these works are distinct and different was before declared. Yet, as distinct works, they are not incompatible, but are committed unto the same person. They are so unto them, who are not elders only, but moreover pastors or teachers. Unto pastors and teachers, as such, there belong no rule; although, by the institution of Christ, the right of rule be inseparable from their office. For all that are rightfully called thereunto are elders also, which gives them an interest in rule. They are elders with the addition of pastoral or teaching authority. But there are elders which are not pastors or teachers. For there are some who rule well, but labour not in the word and doctrine; that is, who are not pastors or teachers.”Owen's Works, vol. XX. P. p. 481-486.

To these sentiments of Dr. Owen I cannot but add those of the late venerable Dr. Bogue, another Independent.

"If for a moment I glance at the practice of the three great bodies of Christians on this head, Episcopacy, it will be seen, alters, obscures, and confounds their offices: Congregational churches in general employ Deacons, to perform in part the office of the Elders who were ordained by apostolical authority to rule: Presbytery here comes nearest to the primitive pattern, though some difference still remains. Besides the Pastor, it has both ruling Elders and Deacons: the Elders, in conjunction with the Minister, attend to the spiritual concerns of the congregation: Deacons, agreeably to the original designation, have the charge of the society's temporal affairs, which they manage in union with the other officers of the church."Discourse at Ordination of Rev. T. Reynolds,

Let Mr. Carlile settle the question with these Independents. Their reasoning he cannot answer. Let him duly consider it, and be not blinded by prejudice.

I have already trespassed too long on your columns, yet I must claim your indulgence while I offer a few remarks on Mr. Carlile's sixth principle, which is, "that each congregation is complete in itself-competent to manage its own affairs-and amenable, in matters of religion, to no earthly tribunal." He maintains this principle from the use of the word church in Scripture, alleging that it never signifies any other thing than either the whole church of Christ or a particular congregation. It is sufficient to reply, it is used in other senses. For example, in Rev. ii. 1, "The church of Ephesus." At that time Ephesus was one of the chief cities in the world. The Gospel had made considerable progress in it. This is plain from Acts xix. The spread of truth there was such that there must have been in it many congregations, and yet they are called by the name of church, just as we would say the church in Ireland, meaning the several congregations in it. Mr. Carlile's assertion, therefore, though supported by Dr. Campbell, is unfounded. The term is also used in another acceptation in Mat. xviii. 17, "Tell it unto the church." This passage, indeed, Mr. Carlile quotes to prove there is no other court of jurisdiction than the entire membership of the church, whereas, rightly interpreted, it proves the very reverse. The language must be interpreted as it would have been understood by a Jew. He then would have understood it of the elders of the synagogue, those who ruled in it, distinct from the members. It was on the model of the synagogue the Christian church was established; and a Jew would have understood the command, "tell it unto the church," not of the members, but of the elders who ruled. This is the fair interpretation still; and thus the term church signifies those who represented it, and ruled in it, and for it. No argument, therefore, can be drawn, for the independence of each congregation of all others, from the use of the term church in the Scriptures. On this subject I cannot forbear quoting the irresistible reasoning of Dr. M'Leod, in his "Ecclesiastical Catechism."

"The success of the Gospel, in the first century, was remarkably rapid. Thousands were converted, at single sermons. Nothing has equalled it 'since the creation of the world. The commencement of the millennium will alone afford such another rapid diffusion of light and life. Jerusalem was the principal theatre upon which these wonders were displayed. And

« AnteriorContinua »