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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 kanpoç, 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.
THE GOVERNMENT OF A CHURCH.
EVERY one is aware that no society can exist without government. Observation, testimony, our knowledge of human nature, combine to assure us that if a number of men, set loose from all control, were brought together, the cunning would overreach the simple, the strong would oppress the weak,—the wise would triumph over the ignorant ; — yea, all would bite and devour one another. The members of a Christian church must, then, be subjected to government. Now, as this is the case, there arises the following very interesting and important inquiry, viz., “ Have we a divinelyinstituted form of government or not?”
There are not a few who maintain the negative side of this question. They contend, that the government of the church is what has been called ambulatory; or, in other words, that it is left to the wisdom of men to vary the form of government, or, rather, to select and adopt any form which may appear most congruous with the previous customs, habits, opinions, or prejudices of those among whom the church is planted. Others maintain, on the other hand, that at least the great outlines of a form of church government are laid down in the New Testament; and that we are acccordingly bound to establish every Christian church, in the present day, on this prescribed plan.
Against the first opinion, the à priori and the à posteriori arguments have been employed.
First. The statements in the à priori argument are to