« AnteriorContinuar »
office, but receive the gift Christ is exalted to bestow in terms of what is recorded in Eph. iv. 8–12. Hence it is said of pastors that the “ Holy Ghost hath made them overseers” (Acts xx. 28), because he first forins them by grace for the work of the ministry—then induces them to “ desire the office of a bishop,”-and finally disposes the church to call them to that office. Those who are thus made overseers, are not made so by the church, otherwise than as the instruments of calling them to office. It is by the grace of Christ that they are what they are and where they are, prepared and appointed by him, and only received from him by the church to hold the office he hath ordained, and all that pertains to that office. As by becoming a son of God, every believer obtains from God what pertains to children,-even so, by being placed in office, the pastor holds his right to all that pertains to that office, as Christ hath appointed, -responsible to him, depending on him, and subject to him in all things. The position of a pastor in a church, therefore, is very different from that of the chairman of a free society, who is at once the agent and object of democratic power. The standing and authority of the pastor are of heaven, and not of men. He is “ under" Christ, but “over” the church,—the “servant” of Christ, but the “ ruler” of the people—the “gift” of Christ to the church,-not, however, to be disposed of by them according to their pleasure, but a star in Christ's right hand, as the instrument of his ruling power.
This scriptural view of pastoral authority and power, is necessary for preparing a church to render the obedience of faith to“ them that have the rule over them.” They must regard the instructions of Bible truth, the authority of Christ, and the pastoral rule, in every act of social obedience. It would not be enough for members to follow Bible prescriptions without bowing to the authority of Christ,-so neither is it enough to regard both without "obeying them that have the rule over them.” Christ commands obedience to the rulers in the same acts in which he himself is obeyed, obedience to his own authority, first and chiefly, and obedience to the pastoral instrument of his government, in subordination to him. As there would be great sin in obeying the pastor without obeying Christ, so there would be some sin in obeying Christ without obeying the pastor,--sin consisting in violating the law requiring obedience to his servant as the instrument of his ruling power-Heb. xiii. 7. It will not do to say, that the pastor may be obeyed in the lesser, and Christ in the greater matters. The church must be
subject to Christ “in every thing”-Eph. v. 24. And it is not less evident, that the church is commanded “to obey them that have the rule over them” in every thing. It is not enough that men conform to scripture law irrespectively of the ruler who applies the law. A man pretending to obey law, while setting aside the authority of the magistrate, would be punished for contempt of court. Nor will those, who, under cover of pretence of obeying scripture law, despise their pastors, be held guiltless by him who hath said, “He that despiseth you despiseth me, and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.” There can be no wholesome working of the energies of a church, and no reasonable hope of Christ working in them and by them, unless the hearts of the members are right with God in all that relates to obedience, whether to Christ, apostles, or pastors.
But the authority and power of pastors consist wholly in the application of divine truth. Any thing in name of personal, official, or discretionary power, apart from the laws of Christ, they are appointed to teach and apply, is anti-christian. Authority to act in any matter rests in Christ's appointment to do so,-and the power which they employ is that of persuasion, and therefore “a power for edification, and not for destruction”-2nd Cor. x. 8.
A pastor, as the ruling guide of the church, has power to maintain order by rejecting all improper communications to the church. In 1st Tim. vi. 20; 2nd Tim. ii. 14, 23; Titus i. 10, 11, there is notice of “profane and vain babblings,” “striving about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers,”—“ foolish and untaught questions ” of bad tendency, which rulers are commanded to “ avoid,” or, as some render the word, reject. And it was required that “ the mouths of unruly and vain talkers should be stopped," --not surely from speaking in the world, which could not be done, but stopped from speaking in the church. In every well ordered society, the president has power to prevent the intrusion of what has no proper relation to the business of the meeting, and to call to order or silence those who introduce irrelative matter ; and the peace and order of churches would be at great hazard if their pastors had not similar powers. It should be remembered, also, that, in supporting the authority of the pastor, a church promotes its own true interest; as, by failing to sustain the organ of authority and power, confusion would follow. As the most skilful navigator could not preserve a ship from going adrift, or from foundering or shipwreck, without the seamen doing their duty, so the
best pastoral administration could not profit a church without “ the effectual working in the measure of every part of the body."
This naturally suggests a more particular consideration of the constitution of a church as adapted to its government, comprehending Christ, “the apostles and elders, with the whole church,” (Acts xv. 22), having-1. Christ himself as supreme ruler in their midst, 1st Cor. v. 4. Rev. ii. 1. 2. The apostles, whose writings are the laws of government to the churches in all ages-1st Cor. xiv. 37. 3. Elders who are pastors, or a pastor to teach the laws of the kingdom for government-Ieb. xiii. 17. 4. And “the whole church” to execute the law, understanding it to be the will of Christ 1st Cor. v. 4,5 ; 2nd Cor. ii. 6.
The right of the church to execute the laws, by receiving or putting away, has been long neglected and much disputed by many, but is established by the following evidence :
1. Such was the practice, by divine law, among the Jews -Levit. xxiv. 14 ; Num. xv. 35, 36–xxxv. 12 ; Deut. xiii. 6—11; xvii. 2-13 ; xix. 15-21; Josh. vii. 25; xx. 6.
2. This ancient law was not abrogated but modified under the new dispensation, from death to putting away by the voice of the people-Mat. xviii. 17; 1st Cor. v. 13.
3. The right and obligation of a church to try and treat all connected with them as causc may require, was clearly shewn on the occasion of evil reports having been circulated against Paul at Jerusalem, when James and the elders, in reference to the case, said—“ What is it therefore ? the multitude must needs come together : for they will hear that thou art come”- Acts xxi. 22. It is here plainly admitted that even apostles were held amenable to the church, as commanded to “try the spirits whether they are of God.” And, accordingly, Peter was tried on one occasion and ac. quitted. Acts xi, 1–18; and on another occasion he was rebuked before all the brethren, when found faulty ; Gal. ii. 11-14. And Christ commended the church at Ephesus because they had “ tried them who said they were apostles, and were not,” &c.--Rev. ii. 2.
4. This is further evident in the church at Corinth, and some of the churches in Asia, being found faulty in having neglected to put away improper characters from among them
1st Cor. v. 2 ; Rev. ii. 14, 20. The Lord could not have charged them with sin in such matters, had they not been commanded to do what they had neglected.
5. This privilege is the essential element in the voluntary
character of churches. No society can be voluntary, sustaining freedom from compulsory power, and enjoying the bless. ings of christian liberty, without power in themselves, independently of foreign control, to choose or refuse, to retain or put away, as they understand Christ requires, Gal. ii, 1–5.
6. This is also required by the great interests sustaining the unity and communion of a church. In a joint-stock interest, each of the partners holds in his interest, a right to place and part in the management of its concerns, which, if neglected, is generally followed with loss and insolvency. Even so in a church : “ The effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body," &c.—Eph. iv. 16.
7. Power to take part in purging the church, is also a necessary preparative for performance of the duties, and enjoyment of the privileges, of christian fellowship. There is in all the laws requiring that certain duties should be performed to or with christians only, a right and obligation to provide that such only should have part in that fellowship. And without acting on that right, there can be no confidence, no sympathy, no proper enjoyment, no profit, but loss and corruption in all social services-1st Cor. v. 7,8 ; 2nd Cor. vi. 14-18.
8. The right and obligation of a church to execute the laws of Christ, stand also on their relation to him as their Head. As in the natural body all the members act in concord with the head as the seat of intelligence and effective influence,-so, in a scriptural church, all the members act in union and communion with Christ their head, serving him and reigning with him in executing his laws-1st Cor. v. 4, 5 ; Rev. xx. 4-6. How will those, who have never taken part in receiving or putting away, be able to account for this neglect at the last day?
But, in the constitution of a church, there is also a special relation of its members one to another, which must be well understood, in order to be prepared for the wholesome working of the administration.
THE UNITY OF A CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
While the Scriptures treat largely of the kingdom of Christ as comprehending all its members on the face of the earth, it is also shewn, that it is only in separate churches that its principles are developed by each church representing the whole kingdom, and having access to all that pertains to it. This accounts for one church being spoken of definitely
as the whole, as where it is said to one church, “Now, ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” Thus évery scriptural church represents the unity, as well as faith and obedience, of the whole family of God. This suggests the consideration of the nature of church unity,-how it is formed.-the interests by which it is sustained, its perfect bond.-its manifestation -and the advantages afforded b
1. With regard to the nature of this relation, it has been customary to speak of the union of a church in reference to
mbination of its members; and there is nothing but union in the relation of any society in which relation to Christ does not form the tie of the compact. But the spiritual relation of a christian church is unity,—“one body," -"one new man,"--one as Christ and the Father are one,-essential oneness in Christ-indissoluble unity. There is, no doubt, real unity among all who are one in Christ throughout the world, though known only to God. But the unity of a church is visible and practical, consisting in “ dwelling together in unity,” “ endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” and “ striving together for the faith of the Gospel.” Ideal unity with all, without fellowship with some in the resident locality, would be no better than
ith without profession and without works. But the thing required is unity without uniformity, as difference of opinion on secondary matters, arising from difference of attainment in knowledge among the weak and the strong, requiring the forbearance of love, consists perfectly with all being “one in Christ Jesus." And any terms of communion, in addition to that of relation to Christ, would form sectarian union, instead of the “unity of the Spirit.”
2. The formation of this unity is the work of God, in which, by the influence of the truth, “believers are added to the Lord,” and “ added to the church,” in which “God hath set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him"-Acts v. 14-ii. 47; 1st Cor. xii. 18. It originates in all connected, whether Jews or Gentiles, being “reconciled unto God in one body by the cross”—Eph. ii. 16. It is by the atonement of Christ that they are brought at-one. By receiving Christ and ranking with him as “ dead with him," “buried with him,” “risen with him,” and “ liv. ing with him,” they become one with him and one in him ; and being reconciled to God by pardon through the death of his Son, they are inspired with love one to another, produced and sustained by the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.