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GOVERNMENT OF THE CAURCH.
even the Lord's people than that of church government; and, without giving any judgment upon this important question, I would just remark that the difficulty first arose when want of subjection to the rule of the Holy Ghost arose, owing to the rebellion or self-will of human nature. Persons who were not walking after the Spirit themselves, could not, or would not, own the gifts proceeding from the Head of the Church ; and as even Paul's apostleship was disputed by such, so the ability of all who have since been sent by Christ has been disputed more or less. We must believe that God in his love would never have left his people without pastors according to his own heart, if they had been willing to receive and submit to them. But whilst those who were apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, pastors or overseers, were often rejected by the rebellion of man, carnal usurpers of these offices have been set up by the self-will of man, and established in all the power that human authority can bestow. Nothing can more clearly prove the perverseness of human nature than these well-known facts.
The history of the abuse of power in the Church is even more terrible than the history of the abuse of power in the world, inasmuch as the former is the highest and holiest thing. In the apostolical churches we find there were several overseers or elders, or, at least, more than one (see Acts xiv. 23; xx. 17-28; Phil. i. 1): a collective ministry. And this was probably according to the word of God, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward of their labour,” and according to the grace of Christ, who sent out his disciples two and two, and thus put them in a situation to plead his own promise, “ If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” Even the apostles had fellowlabourers; and Barnabas accompanied Paul, though Paul was the chief speaker. It seems, however, that all who ruled did not teach publicly* (1 Tim. v. 17). The second epistle of John is most important as establishing the right of private Christian LAST WITNESS OF JOHN.
* It may be remarked with regard to the wide difference now made between an Episcopalian and Presbyterian mode of government, that both were one in these early times; for the Episcopos (literally overseer) and the Presbyter (elder) are terms often interchanged and used indifferently in the word of God. All the elders at Ephesus are called overseers (Acts xx. 17-28).
judgment; or rather the solemn responsibility laid on every individual believer, male or female, not to receive any one who does not bring the doctrine of Christ, whoever he may be, or with whatever authority he may come. Those who are walking in the truth are not only able to distinguish the doctrine of Christ, but also bound to reject that which is contrary to it.
The third epistle of John is as important in establishing it as the duty of every individual believer to receive such as go forth for Christ's name's sake, and not for the sake of gain, (ver. 7,8). And this last epistle is, also, most important, as it contains the first record of that usurpation of power in the Church which, in its after progress, led to such evil consequences. Here is a description of one who had so far departed from the mind and law of Christ (Mark x. 42—45), that, in his love of pre-eminence, he despises the apostle's letter; speaks evil of him, does not himself receive the brethren, and forbids those who were disposed to do so, casting them out of the Church. Thus the closing epistles of the apostles end with a sorrowful description of decline in the Church; and the last of all actually speaks of a church in which one man ruled so despotically, that he cast out those who received the brethren from other churches. John as an apostle, as also Paul with the same authority, had power to correct; but after their decease such evils grew and multiplied.
It only remains for me to speak of the book of the Revelation, which was probably written in A.D. 97, the year in which Domitian was killed; or, in the year following, when John was set free with all other Christian prisoners and exiles by. the direction of Nerva. I intend merely to notice very briefly the epistles to the seven churches, as they belong to the province of the historian ; observing, with regard to the prophetical part of this book, that the various and opposite interpretations of it seem to prove that its contents have never yet been rightly understood by the Church, and, what is still more important, that they remain still to be fulfilled, as to their final intention.
These seven epistles give us some idea of the state of the churches at the close of the first century from the birth of Christ, for it is generally supposed that the churches addressed were the fittest samples of the state of the Church at large then, and it may be through all succeeding ages.
It will be easily perceived that the churches at Ephesus and Laodicea were in a very different state from the time at which the epistles of Paul were written ; for that apostle did not speak of declension, or rebuke lukewarmness (see Ephesians and Col. i. 1; iv. 13, 16). And there was also a marked change since Peter wrote his general address to the elect of God scattered throughout Asia (1 Peter i. 1). It is very instructive to get these successive epistles of three of the most eminent apostles to the same churches, as we may thus learn the changes that are to be expected through the failure and infirmity of man. The faithful brethren, for whose love Paul gives thanks, have either themselves declined, or are succeeded by others who have not the first love, and, consequently, do not the first works. Moreover, the same errors alluded to by Paul and Peter, and Jude, in their last epistles, are now abound. ing in these Asiatic churches, and the only church that is without blame, namely, Philadelphia, is that which had obeyed former exhortations in keeping the word of Christ (Rev. iii. 8—10); and its little strength flowed from this obedience to the word.
In the address to the first church there is a warning that, unless there was recovery, the candlestick, that is, the power of bearing the light of Christ would be taken away: and in the address to the last, we have these solemn words, “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth ;” in other words, Christ could not speak through such a channel. And after this period we have no reason to hope there was any general recovery or restoration from lukewarmness : far otherwise. Consequently, the Church at large has never since been, as it once was, the complete representative of Christ, as the light, or His mouth-piece to the world, any more than Israel after its failure was the complete representative of Jehovah, or His faithful witness to the nations. The abundant proof that we have in the close of the New Testament that the collective testimony of believers was marred by the general unfaithfulness, is confirmed by all subsequent church history; and, as in the former dispensation, so in this, the energy of the Spirit, the faithful witness, and the full blessing, can only be found in individuals, and not in the mass, or outward profession. The reception of this truth is most necessary to the understanding of all that follows. MEANINGS OF THE WORD CHURCH.
Throughout our future history we shall find here and there, he that hath an ear, hears and obeys what the Spirit says, but the mass do not: we shall also find here and there, him that overcometh the world, the flesh and the devil, but the major part are themselves overcome by one kind of temptation or the other.
In a previous chapter I have noticed that the original Greek word expressed in English, Church, or Assembly, is used by the Holy Ghost either to signify the whole assembly of the redeemed, purchased by the blood of Christ (Eph. v. 25, and elsewhere), or any number of the Lord's people gathered together in any place in His name (Rom. xvi. 4, 5; Gal. i. 2, and elsewhere). But in process of time this word Church obtained those two very different and distinct meanings which are now in common use; first, signifying the whole outward profession, or any body of people who bear the same outward sign of baptism, profess the same belief, and use the same forms: thus we say the Church of Rome, &c.: secondly, the Church signifies the building where such persons assemble together.
For the sake of clearness, I shall take up the apostle's expression (1 Cor. xiv. 33), and speak of the first gatherings in different places as “ the churches of the saints ;" for this term seems to be applicable as long as there was pains taken to keep up the distinction between the church and the world which we shall see in some measure continued during the first three centuries.
The Apostle John, after his deliverance from the isle of Patmos, spent his remaining days in visiting the different churches of the saints. It is said that he became very infirm, and was not able to speak much, so that he used just to repeat these words in the Christian assemblies, “ Little children, love one another;" and when asked why he only told them one thing, he replied, this alone was needed. He was probably more than a hundred years old when he fell asleep. The gospel is supposed to have been written soon after his return from exile. It was utterly impossible that such a book could have been written except by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, according to the promise, bringing all things to this faithful disciple's remembrance, whatsoever the Lord had said (John xiv. 26).
I have made this remark, because one of my young friends once expressed to me a very natural wonder, how any man
could write down facts and conversations, and especially the words that were spoken so long before. It could only be, as Moses and all the inspired writers were enabled to write, by being “moved by the Holy Ghost.”
TRAJAN, EMPEROR.-HIS CHARACTER.-CONQUEST OF DACIA.
CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN TRAJAN AND PLINY.-TRAJAN'S EASTERN EXPEDITION.-INTERCOURSE WITH IGNATIUS.—THE JEWS IN EGYPT AND CYPRUS.
IN A.D. 98, Trajan hastened to Rome as soon as he heard of the death of Nerva, and was received there with great gladness. Historians speak of him as the best of the emperors; and, it is supposed, he owed much to the instructions of Plutarch, the most celebrated of the Roman moralists, and the author of a well-known work, entitled “ Lives of Illustrious Men.” A letter, which he wrote to his pupil when he succeeded to the empire, contained very suitable advice, and sufficiently proved that if Trajan acted wrongly it was not by his counsel. Being naturally docile, he was anxious to obey his master's precepts, and was so cautious in pronouncing sentence against any one, that he used to say it was better for a thousand guilty persons to escape, than for one innocent person to suffer. Again, on presenting a sword to the officer who was appointed prefect of the Prætorians, he said, “ Use this for me, or against me if I deserve it.” It is in such characters as Trajan that we cannot fail to acknowledge the hand of God in restraining evil, and drawing the moral virtues into exercise: as it is written, “ By me kings reign, and princes decree justice" (Prov. viii. 5).
Trajan was remarkable for his diligence and modesty, for his liberality to others and frugality in his own expenses ; and in war he was equal to the best generals of whom we have read, and distinguished for his willing endurance of fatigue. In his reign, Decebalus again invaded the empire; but he was so far overcome by Trajan as to consent to pay him a yearly tribute. In a battle fought at this period, the emperor was seen tearing