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thought, to meet and provide for a temporary emergency; and was laid down when the disciples ceased to have all things common. Now it must be admitted that, in the service which the seven were required to perform, there were specialties not to be found in that of the deacon in the present day. Still I apprehend that the office of the latter, as to spirit at least, must be conceived to have originated at the time to which we now refer. There is substantially the same cause for it now as then. The poor, said our Lord, ye have always with you; their wants must be carefully supplied; and, it is in entire harmony with what we should have ex. pected from the grace of Him who came to preach the Gospel to the poor, to appoint a distinct office-bearer in the church, who shall have it in charge to minister the fruits of the church's love to them, for the sake of their common Lord. Is there not something exceedingly delightful and touching in this appointment? How strikingly does it exhibit the benign spirit of Christianity! When and where did paganism thus practically care for the poor? It becomes, on this account, more important for churches not to suffer, where it can possibly be avoided, this office to remain in practical abeyance; since, while this is the case, they cease to give this visible and strong demonstration of their love to the poor of the Lord's people, and of their regard to his authority. We would not be understood as blaming any particular church. Circumstances, we are well aware, may render it impossible in many cases to fill up the deacon's office; yet a church, while destitute of deacons, should regard itself as in an imperfectly organized state; and should fervently implore the church's Head to supply to them that which is lacking.
The preceding statements have taken it for granted that the deacon is not a spiritual officer--that his specific work is to serve tables ; the table of the Lord, as is generally supposed, the table of the minister, and the table of the poor. Now there is no one, certainly, who
ought 'to hold himself so immediately answerable for the supply of the minister's table as the deacon. Much of the comfort of the pastor, of the success of his ministrations, of the moral influence which the church should exert in its vicinity, depends upon the affectionate and efficient manner in which this duty is discharged ; yet I cannot withhold the opinion that it is the table of the poor, constituting a prominent part of the Lord's kanpos, or clergy, that the deacon is specifically appointed to observe and supply. No church, no deacon, must neglect this ; or will not the Master address them hereafter, “ Because ye did it not to one of them, ye did it not to me?”
It is contended by many, however, that the deacon is not appointed to manage the temporalities of the church merely,—that he is, in part at least, a spiritual officer ; being chosen, not, indeed, to preach, as the Episcopalians contend, but to aid the pastor in the discharge of his spiritual duties. The argument mainly relied on, in support of this view of the deacon's office, is the description given by Paul to Timothy of the necessary qualifications for that office. The deacons “must be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.” They must be the “husbands of one wife, ruling their children, and their own houses well.” 1 Tim. iii. 8-12. Why should these qualifications be required, if the deacon be called to nothing, by virtue of office, but to serve tables ? The argument appears to me completely neutralized by the qualifications required, in the case of the seven elected by the church at Jerusalem. They were unquestionably not spiritual office-bearers. They were chosen specifically and exclusively to serve tables. Yet it was required that they should be full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom, or faith. Should it be objected, that these qualifications were needed for the preaching of the word, in which they afterwards engaged, I answer, that the apostle's language represents them as indispensable to their election to the deacon's office ; and, again, that they did not preach the word by any authority derived from their ordination as deacons, but in consequence of being filled with the Holy Ghost and wisdom ; i. e., being possessed of supernatural qualifications for preaching the Gospel. The edification of the church, and the diffusion of the Gospel, were necessarily committed, in the first instance, to the first fruits, or first converts to the Christian faith; who without an exception, perhaps, were endowed with the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit : yet, though thus employed in pastoral and ministerial work, they were not formally ordained to it, the spiritual gifts which they possessed rendering such ordination unnecessary. The great reason for the requisition of the qualifications mentioned in Timothy, is, I apprehend, that as the deacon is a prominent man in a church, on whom even the eyes of those who are without will be fixed, it is necessary that, neither in reference to his personal conduct, nor to the management of his domestic concerns, should the adversary have any evil thing to say of him. Besides, the deacon, having obtained the confidence of his pastor and brethren, will, on that very account, be frequently employed in the spiritual concerns of the church,-in conversing with applicants for church-fellowship,--in investigating cases which require the discipline of the church, &c. It is necessary, therefore, that he possess the spiritual qualifications required, since he will be called upon, being the deacon, though not as deacon—the work being extra-official—to these important spiritual services.
It is a point of considerable practical importance to fix the precise nature and extent of the office now under consideration. Some having entered upon it with little knowledge of its nature, conceiving that it gave them a certain power in the church, without being very well able to say what power, have assumed, either through ignorance, or a desire of pre-eminence, an authority which neither belongs to them, nor to the office. The church has, accordingly, sunk into a state of lay despotism-worse even than priestly despotism; or much vigorous and painful effort has been required to repress assumed authority; while the body has lost, at the same time, all the substantial benefit which it would have derived from a careful discharge of the specific duties of the office.
To guard against evils of this kind, some churches have resorted to the expedient of an annual election of deacons. Many powerful reasons may, however, be urged against this mode of proceeding : for, first, it removes us from the ground of Scripture to that of expediency ;---a ground on which we do not wish to see Dissenters take up their position, though the enemy would not, we believe, be able to dislodge them from it. Secondly, it appears an unauthorised and unwise mode of attempting to remove evils from a church. “How easily,” say its advocates, “ do we, by this mode, get rid of an unsuitable deacon !” Now, suppose this were admitted, it would fail to prove that it is the best mode. If the deacon prove inattentive or negligent, ought he not to be admonished, as was Archippus, the pastor of the church at Colosse ? Can the church, not frankly and honestly apprising him of their dissatisfaction, (as it seems to become Christians,) fully discharge their duty by merely not re-electing him ? If the deacon more seriously misconduct himself, he ought surely to be brought under the discipline of the church; and then its members would receive the very important lesson, that no one neglecting duty, or committing sin, be his station, or office, or respectability what it may, can escape the censure and discipline which the body is authorised to administer. Thirdly, if this mode of proceeding may be adopted in the case of the deacon, why restrict it to him? It might be urged, perhaps, with equal truth, that an annual election of members, or rather, an annual re-formation of the church, would free it from the encumbrance of useless and unworthy communicants. But would cutting down the tree be the right method of getting rid of the dead branches ? And, further, if the principle of annual election to one office in the church be admitted, some will be disposed to say, “Why should we not apply it to the other?” On the ground of expediency, an annual election to the pastorate may seem, to many, even more desirable than an annual election to the deaconship. An incompetent and negligent pastor is a greater nuisance than an incompetent and negligent deacon.