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ordinary office-bearers ; i. e., those who became qualified for the work by God's blessing upon ordinary means, and who were to remain to the end of the world. These consist of two classes.
THE FIRST CLASS CONTAINS THOSE THAT HAVE THE CHARGE OF THE SPIRITUAL CONCERNS OF THE CHURCH. Different names, such as pastors, teachers, elders, bishops, &c., are applied to them in the New Testament; and a question has accordingly arisen, whether these names denote different orders of office-bearers in the same class, or different branches of the duty of the same office-bearer, i. e., the bishop or pastor. Congregationalists, for the most part, adopt the latter opinion; Episcopalians and Presbyterians, the former.
Episcopalians contend for the existence of three distinct orders of spiritual office-bearers, viz. — bishops, priests or presbyters, and deacons. The system, as it exists in this country, does not seem to admit of any order of officers whose especial duty it is to provide for the wants of the poor. Probably, having shifted the burden of supporting the poor from its own shoulders to those of the nation at large, it sees no longer need for the election of secular deacons. In the Established Church of England, the deacon is a spiritual officer, having authority to preach the word, but not to administer sacraments. The priest, or presbyter, has a right to do both; having derived it, not from the election of the Christian people among whom he is placed, but from the bishop of the diocese, in whom, and not in the presbyters, all right to rule is supposed to be vested ; and to whom paramount ecclesiastical power, within certain geographical boundaries, has been given, not by Jesus Christ, but by the civil government. The bishop may preach, but it is not a part of his office : his duty is to rule; yet, though the law of the apostle appropriates the “ double honour,"—the higher salaryto those elders who “ labour in the word and doctrine,” the bishop, who is not a labourer, in the sense of the apostle, gets the lion's share ; while, in some cases, the working clergy scarcely receive what is adequate to their support.
The precise nature of the deacon's office we shall endeavour hereafter to explain. The only point to which it is necessary now to advert, is, the effort of Episcopalians to prove that there exists a radical difference between the office of the bishop, and that of the presbyter;
the former being elevated in rank and authority over the latter, and having all ecclesiastical power intrusted to his hands. On the two following grounds we consider this an unscriptural distinction :
First. The terms, bishops, and presbyters, or priests, are used convertibly in the New Testament. In Paul's epistle to Titus, we find the following words: “For this cause I left thee in Crete,"" that thou shouldst ordain elders (presbyters, or priests, as the endowed church calls them,) in every city. If any be blameless,” &c. -"For a bishop must be blameless,” &c. Titus i. 5—7. Now, how could the apostle have urged, as a reason for electing a blameless elder, that a bishop must be blameless, if the office of the two were different? Again, we read, Acts xx. 17, that Paul sent from Miletus to Ephesus, and called the elders,—presbyters of the church
-whom, on their arrival, he thus addressed : “ Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers,” literally, bishops. What can be clearer, then, than that elders and bishops are convertible terms ?
Peter also writes in the following manner :-" The elders who are among you, I exhort,”-“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof,” &c., i. e., exercising the office of a bishop. 1 Peter v. 1, 2. The elders must, then, have held the office of a bishop, or they could not have been called upon to discharge its duties.
In the second place, the Apostle Paul, when enumerating the officers of a church, and describing their qualifications, mentions only bishops and deacons. It is not to be conceived that he would have taken no notice of a third, had there existed a third. The rational conclusion surely is, that bishops, i. e., pastors and deacons, are the only standing officers of the church.
Presbyterians deny, with Congregationalists, that bishops constitute a class of spiritual officers possessed of higher rank and authority than ordinary pastors or elders; but they break down the class of elders into two separate orders, viz., preaching and ruling elders; the former being clergymen, the latter laymen : and thus they virtually contend—those at least who elect deacons
-for the existence of three classes of office-bearers in the Christian church. We deem the fact that two officers only are described by the apostle, to be as directly opposed to the Presbyterian as the Episcopalian hypothesis.
The notion, however, that ruling elders constitute a distinct class of officers, having right or power to aid the bishop or pastor in ruling, though not in teaching the church, must be a little further examined. Dr. Dick, the latest and most respectable advocate of this scheme, has adduced the following passages in support of it: first, Romans xii. 6—8, “Having, then, gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching ; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation : he that giveth, let him do it with simpli. city,” or without partiality, &c. “Here,” adds Dr. Dick, “ruling is distinguished from teaching, exhorting, and giving; i. e., from the peculiar work of the pastor, the doctor, and the deacon.
Secondly:- 1 Cor. xii. 28, “ And God hath set some in the church, first, apostles ; secondarily, prophets ; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then gifts of healing, helps, governments, &c.” “Helps,” we are told, are deacons ; “governments,” governors. These governors, being distinguished from prophets, apostles, and teachers, must be ruling elders.
Thirdly : 1 Tim. v. 17. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” In common with Presbyterians in general, Dr. Dick relies upon this passage as conclusive proof that the class of elders is broken down into the two divisions to which we have already adverted, viz., preaching and ruling elders.
On these arguments, I would call the reader's attention to the following remarks :
First. That the reasoning is inconclusive, proving, as it most assuredly does, too much; for if ruling, in Romans xii. 6-8, is so distinguished from the peculiar work of the pastor, as that the ruler is not a pastor,the argument of Dr. Dick,—then it follows that the pastor is not a ruler. Again : if governments are an order of office-bearers distinct from pastors, then pastors are not governors; but Presbyterianism makes the pastor a ruler or governor.
The language of Paul, again, 1 Tim. v. 17, mainly relied upon by Presbyterians, fails to prove that there should exist, in every church, a class of ruling, distinct from preaching, elders ; for his words necessarily imply that they who ruled, and they who laboured in the word and doctrine, sustained the same office, though they might habitually discharge different branches of the office,) and do not permit us to suppose, with the Presbyterians, that the former were laymen merely, and the latter clergymen. The mistake of our opponents results from referring the word “especially,” not to the whole of the previous phrase, but to the term “elders” exclusively. They interpret the passage as if its true reading were, “Let the ‘elders' be counted worthy of double honour, especially they that labour,” &c. Now, if such had been the reading, it might have been concluded that “elders” is here a general term, comprehending both lay and clerical elders. Such is not, however, the reading. The apostle says, “Let the elders that rule well, be counted, &c. &c., especially they that,” &c. The word ' especially’ refers to the whole of the preceding clause, and, consequently, the elders that labour in the word and doctrine must be understood as included in the class of good ruling elders ; while presbyterianism takes them from it, and makes them clergymen. Let the reader examine the following illustrations :-Suppose the command were addressed to a church, “ Let those men who have grown old be supported by the church, and especially those who have laboured in its service;" would the word ' especially’ he understood as referring to men merely, or to the whole clause, “men that have grown old ?” and would any one regard the whole as an injunction to support all who had laboured for the church's benefit ? Surely not. The obvious command is, to support the old who have laboured. Add to this the following illustration from Scripture, occurring in the eighth verse of the same chapter : “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house,” &c. &c. Here those of his own house are manifestly included in his own. How can it, then, be doubted that the elders who labour in the word and doctrine are comprehended in, or form a part, of the same class with those elders that rule well ? i. e., in other words, that preaching and lay elders are not different classes of officers, (as presbyterianism contends,) the two clauses of the verse merely pointing to different departments and duties of the same office.
Secondly. If the mention of ruling as well as teaching proves that ruling and teaching are distinct offices, the argument of Dr. Dick,—then it follows that the mention of teaching and exhorting would prove that they also are distinct,—which no one believes.
Thirdly. The supposition of the division of labour among the pastors, to which reference has been made, each addicting himself to that particular branch of the pastoral office for which his talents most eminently fitted