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tkrns, and reprooss, as particular circumstance*'' may render needful. "Take heed (laid ont "apostle) to yourselves, and to all the flock over "which the holy Ghost hath made you overseers^ "to feed the church of Cod, which he hath pur"chased with his own blood," Acts xx. 28* "And feed the flock of God, which is among "jou, (laid another apostle) taking the oversight "thereof; not by constraint, but willingly; not "for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind j neither as "being lords over God's heritage, but being en** samples to the flock," 1 Pet. v. 2,— 5.
Both these exhortaticns are addressed expressly to elders. And, to show how much the addrels.ir^ made to them exclusively, the brethren are all strong denominated the chunk and flock of God.
Church'officers, again, have a right to receive, hear, and judge in, every accusation, preferred *• gainst a brother or an elder, whether by a private person,, or a society of Christians; for, to Timothy and other office-bearers, the apostle laid, "Against "an elder.leceive not an accusation, but oefore "two or three witnesses," 1 T im. v. 19. Plainly intimating, that such accusation could only be tabled before them, and cognosced by them.
Having received the accusation, church-officers are likewise authorised to inflict such censures as may be most for edification, according to the prescriptions of Jesus Christ; they being answerable to him. "Them (jays the apottle) that sin, rebuhf "before all; that others alio may fear," vers. 20. And again, "a man that is an heretic, after the "first and second admonition, reject" Tit. Hi. to,
In both thele passages, the power of discipline is committed to the elders; and the degrees of censure condescended on. As there is no room left for ihe brethren to claim any sliare in the power of
4J!seipUne; so, there is no room for ministers elders arbitrarily to chuse such kinds or degrees bi censure, as cannot be supported by the word of truth.
Moreover, church-officers are warranted to ordain and set apart proper persons to the work of the ministry. "Lay hands suddenly on no man," i Tim v. xt. was Paul's caution to Timothy. And "ordain elders in every city," Tit. i. 5 was his appo:ntment to Titus. Than all which hints taken together, I can scarce think, that words are capable of expressing more fully, the power,—the Exclusive power, of church-officers in these matters.
that though the Prejhyters at Antioch were a court of Christ properly constituted, they seem to have considered their decisions, especially if contravened, as allfubjetl to a court of review; and, for that reason, unanimoujlv agreed to refer the whole cause, as it flood, to the venerable Symd of Judea.
This judicious and healing measure is narrated, by the historian, in the following terms
"They," i. e. the men which came down from .Judea, on the one hmi, and Pan! and Barnabas, -#ith their adherents, on the other, "determined "that Paul and Barnabas," to represent one fide of the question, "and certain others of them," i. e. the pre<byters at Antioch, to represent the other,
should go up to Jerusalem," in the quality of delegates or commissioners, "unto the apostles and * elders," as constituting a court to which they stood in subordination, "about this question,"
Acts Acts xv. 2.—i. e. To have a judgment concerning it, from whence th«re might ly no appeal.
In this deliverance, you will readily see, that' (here was a reference,—-a. reserence by an inferior^ to a superior court of judicature; and a reserence,' in order to obtain such decision, as might be effectuallybinding on all concerned. "•.
Wt lay. there was a reference. Had the disciples at Antioch appeared, as parties, against any member of that piesbyteiy for his doctrine concerning circumcision, the cause might have been transserred Upon the footing of an appeal. Or, had the presbyters themselves given a judgment, the minority might have carried the cause to Jerusalem, upod the sooting of a complaint.
But, rightly judging that impressions, hurtful so* the interests of true godliness, might remain among the private Christians within their bounds, making One lay " 1 am of Paul and Barnabas," and another, •' I am of the men which came down from Judea ;'* the whole members of that court laid restraints upon their respective ze:il, suspended any motion sor a sentence, and, with one heart and mind, came to an in tire reference of the cause.
There was a reserence, by an inferior to afuperitr court of judicature. At hath already appeared, that the church-ossicers referring, constituted one court of judicature; and we propose to make it now appear, That the referees constituted another, to which the presbytery of Antioch was subordinate. To mention nothing else,
The very reference itself amounts to a proof that the prophets and teachers, in that church, considered the synod at Jerusalem, as their superiors in the Lord.
Had nor this been the case, their resolution, with respect to the present cause, would have been manisestly •Isestly improper and absurd.— Improper, as practically biinging themselves under a yoke, to whicli they were no ways bound by the laws of Christ.— And absurd, as the synod of Judea could never have sustained themselves judges in the matter, unless they had been possessed of an authority, for that purpose, from their Lord and master.
Upon these principles, either the presbyters at Antioch were intirely ignorant of church affairs; 9r else, they stood in subordination to their brethren at Jerusilem: but the former cannot, with the least decency, be suppoled; and, therefore, the latter may, without impropriety, be admitted. , It is oblervable, as an evidence that none but Office-bearers were considered as competent judges, that the court, to which this reference was made, Consisted only of the apostles and elders, Acts xv, Z.
Nor, in this apprehension, were the presbyters at Antioch singular; for, in church affairs elsewhere, the apostles sustained themselves, exclusive of-all the brethren or disciples, as judges only competent.
One instance, as a specimen, is transmitted by the historian;—and transmitted, as for other reasons, so, particularly for our learning.
When overseers for the poor, at Jerusalem, were needed, the brethern, indeed, or disciples, were warranted to make the choice: but, in'-any other capacity, they-had no allowance to act.
The .Apostles con vened the church; authorized that election; and restritled the multitude to the choice of men particularly qualified; reserving to themselves the power of vesting them, when chosen,' with proper authority. They, sarther, gave the multitude an opportunity of making a report; and then expressed thur approbation of it, and concurehce with it, by prayer, and the imposition of their trun hands, as the alone method of setting the mea apart to the office, proposed, Acts vi. 5, 6.
The Jirst kind of officers, to whom the reference Was made, were the literal apostles, whose office, as immediately derived from Christ in person, was peculiar to themselves. Accordingly, we area/Tin ed, that the twelve, whom he chose, from among his disciples, " He named Apostles," Luke. vi. 13.
By the other referees, again, two different classes of officers are to be understood ;—teaching, namely, and ruling elders. •
TS» jormer were set apart to dispense gospel ordinances in general; -wete such as Paul and Barnabas ordained, wherever they found a church ) Acts xiv. 23. and Inch as Titus was appointed to ordain in every city through Crete, T it. i. 5. And,
1 he latter were such as assisted, only, in the government of the churches. accordingly, we read of God's having set in the church, govern* tnentj, as well as apostles, prophets, aud teachers, 1 Cor. xii. 28. He that ruleth is called to exercise that gift with diligence, as well as other officers their respective gifts, Rom. xii 8\ And churchmembers are commanded, to remember, obey, and Julmit themselves to such, in the Lord, Heb. xiK.
Though the latter of these classes be thus distinguished from the former, it is included in it. Governors and rulers do not alwavs dispense gospelcrdir.ances in the church; but those who dispense gospel-ordinances are rulers, alib, over their particular flocks.
Thus, we find the coalition of these offices in the teaching elder, as well as the distinction between them, expressly taught by the apostle of the Gentiles.—" Let the elders (lays ht) that rule vr*ll, be