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Of the four instances, in which this phraseology denotes Ecclesiastical Ordination, it is, in two, attributed to the Apostles generally. In the third, Timothy is commanded to lay hands suddenly on no man. That is, not hastily to Ordain, or be concerned in Ordaining, any man; lest he should prove an unsuitable person for the Ministry. In the fourth, the Ordination of Timothy is attributed to the whole body of Presbyters, or Elders, who united in his Ordination. Of these instances, the only ones of this nature in the Bible, it is perfectly plain, that there is but one in which Ordination can possibly be ascribed by any construction to persons, who were Bishops in the modern sense: viz. the passage, in which Timothy is commanded to lay hands suddenly on no man. Here the ascription depends wholly on the fact, that Timothy was such a Bishop, and Bishop of Ephesus: a fact, which it is presumed cannot be established. Leaving this, however, for the present, I observe, that, were it to be granted, still, as Timothy's own Ordination is directly ascribed to the Presbytery only, the Scriptures attribute Ordination, at least as evidently, and as extensively, to Presbyters, as to Bishops.
Of this power, also, as well as that of ruling, it is to be observed, when compared with preaching, very little stress is laid on it in the Scriptures. It is mentioned but nine times, even if we adopt the utmost latitude of construction; and in all these, except two, is mentioned incidentally. In one of these two, St. Paul commands Timothy to lay hands suddenly on no man. 1 Tim. vi. 16. In the other, he mentions, that he had left Titus in Crete, to ordain Elders in every City. Preaching the Gospel on the contrary, is, throughout the New Testament, and often in the Old, exhibited as the great duty of a Christian Minister; as his chief, most useful, and most honourable, destination. From this state of the subject the conclusion is, therefore, warrantably drawn, that, in the view of the Scriptures, Ordaining is an employment, wholly inferior in its nature and importance. Of course, the powers, claimed by the Bishop as peculiar to his office, are inferior to those, confessedly attributed to the Elder, and can, in no Scriptural sense, become means of raising the former above the latter.
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.-OFFICERS OF THE CHURCH.-MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL.-WHO ARE MIN
1 PETER V. 1-3.-The Elders, which are among you, I exhort, who am also an Elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God, which is among you; taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
IN the preceding discourse, I mentioned it as being, in my own opinion, the doctrine of the Scriptures,
That there are but Two kinds of permanent Officers in the Church of Christ.
In support of this doctrine, I allege the following things. 1. The Text.
2. Acts xx. 17, 28.
3. Philippians i. 1.
4. The fact, that, except in this passage, no mention is made of Bishops by way of address, direction, or salutation.
5. The Commission, originally given to Ministers of the Gospel. 6. The fact, that the same duties are assigned to all such Minis
I shall now proceed to support the same doctrine by exhibiting, at some length, the manner in which Ministers are spoken of in the Gospel. This very general head, which I could not conveniently make less general, I shall illustrate from the following
1. The address of Christ to his Apostles, Mark x. 42—45, with the parallel passage. Luke xxii. 25.
Ye know, that they, who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles, exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them: but it shall not be so among you. For whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever will be the chiefest shall be servant of all. For the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.
The Apostles, James and John, as we are informed in the context, had solicited Christ, that they might be exalted to peculiar distinction and authority in his kingdom. The other Apostles were offended at this scheme of ambition on the part of their companions, as being themselves desirous of the same elevation. To
repress every such feeling in them all, Christ utters the words, which have been quoted. These words certainly discouraged ali wishes for peculiar authority in the minds of the Apostles, as Ministers of Christ; and informed them, that the proper destination of the ambitious among them was the place of a servant, or minister, to the rest. In other words, Christ required them to be, and to feel themselves to be, equals; and forbade them to assume any authority over each other. The conduct, which Christ required of them, must, it would seem, be the proper conduct of all succeeding ministers. An absolute equality is plainly here commanded, so far as the Apostles were concerned. It ought to be shown, that the case is not directly, and entirely, applicable to their followers in the sacred office. Let us suppose, that Christ had given the converse directions. Let us suppose, that he had directed James and Peter to be rulers over their brethren. Would not this fact have been pleaded, as decisive authority for the same distinction among succeeding ministers? The mere shadow of such a distinction in favour of Peter, easily shown to have no substance, has actually been relied on by the Church of Rome, as a solid foundation of the high pre-eminence, assumed by the bishop of that city over all other ministers of the Gospel.
Correspondent with this address, and pointing to the same object, is the instruction given by Christ in Matt. xxiii. 6—12; while observing the conduct of the Scribes and Pharisees. Concerning these men our Saviour observes, They love greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But, he adds, be ye not called rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ. And call no man father upon the earth: for one is your Father, who is in Heaven. Neither be ye called masters : for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant : and whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abascd : and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.
The Scribes and Pharisees loved, and sought, external distinctions, uppermost rooms, chief seats in the Synagogues, greetings in the markets, and titles of honour. Against this spirit, and its consequences, Christ here warns his Apostles. As their only final security against the disposition, he forbids the Distinctions, and Titles, to the acquisition of which its efforts were peculiarly directed. Succeeding ministers are certainly no less interested in being secured against this temptation, danger and sin, than the Apostles were : and what was the means of their safety must be equally necessary, and equally useful, to their followers. Had the assumption of these titles and distinctions been enjoined upon the Apostles; the injunction would have been pleaded by succeeding ministers, as an ample warrant to themselves for assuming the same titles, and aiming at the same distinctions. To the Apostles they were prohibited. Why, according to the same mode of infer
ence, they are not prohibited to succeeding ministers, I confess myself unable to explain.
2. The fact, that, wherever the Officers of the Church are mentioned together, no more than two classes are ever mentioned.
In the former discourse, I made several observations concerning the address of the Epistle to the Philippians, which, as specified in the first chapter and first verse, is to all the Saints, that are in Philippi, with the Bishops and Deacons. It will be unnecessary to add any thing, here, to what was then observed concerning this passage.
In 1 Tim. iji. ; St. Paul instructs him, at large, in the qualifica. tions of Ecclesiastical Officers ; and discusses this subject in form, and more extensively, than we find done in any other part of the Scriptures. But even here we find no other officers mentioned, beside the Eri0xOTOS ; Bishop, or Overseer; and the diaxovos, Deacon. Is it not strange, if there had been an intermediate Officer, distinguished both from the Bishop and the Deacon, and known by the title of Elder, that there should be here no mention of such an Officer? The character and duties of an Elder are on all hands acknowledged to be more important than those of a Deacon. Yet these are particularly pointed out; while of those not a hint is given. It is further to be remarked, that the office and duties of an Elder, as distinguished from a Bishop, are no where exhibited to us in the New Testament. The text, certainly, is not such an exhibition. The Elders, here mentioned, were, plainly, all such, as of right, and by divine authority, exercised the office of a Bishop. For this silence on a subject, confessedly of serious importance to the Church, it is believed, no reason can be given.
When certain men came down from Judea to Antioch, and distressed the church in that city, by teaching, that the Gentiles ought to be circumcised in order to their salvation ; Paul and Barnabas, with certain others, were sent up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and Elders, about this question. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the Church, and of the Apostles and Elders. And they declared all things, which God had done with them. And the Apostles and Elders came together, for to consider of this matter. After the deliberation was ended, we are told, that it pleased the Apostles and Elders, with the whole Church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch, with Paul and Barnabas. They wrote letters by them after this manner: The Apostles, Elders, and Brethren, send greeting unto the Brethren, who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia. See Acts xv. particularly verses 3, 4, 6, 22, 23.
Concerning this interesting recital I observe,
First. That the Church of Antioch sent their messengers to Jerusalem, to obtain a decision concerning a question, incomparably more important than any other, which agitated the Christian world during the first century.
Secondly. Under the immediate instruction of Paul and Barnabas, it is impossible, that this church should not have known the proper tribunal, to which their messengers were to be sent, for the purpose of obtaining this decision.
Thirdly. They actually sent them to the Apostles, and Elders, at Jerusalem.
Fourthly. When these messengers were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the whole Church, and of the Apostles and Elders.
Fifthly. All the observations, made on this occasion, were addressed to the body just specified. The messengers propounded their communications to this body. Peter and James began their speeches on this occasion, with Men and Brethren.
Sixthly. This body sent chosen men of their own company authoritatively, with Paul and Barnabas: viz. Judas and Silas, chief men among the brethren.
Seventhly. The letters, carried by these messengers to Antioch, were written in the name of this body, after this manner: The Apostles, and Elders, and Brethren, send greeting unto the Brethren, and Disciples, who are in Antioch, &c.
Eighthly. This body decided the question submitted to them; and the Holy Ghost approved of their decision. Their language is, Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain, who went out from us, have troubled you with words, &c.; saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law; to whom we gave no such commandment. It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you. We have sent, therefore, Judas and Silas, &c. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden, than these necessary things: that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, &c. The slightest attention will convince any man, that the authoritative determination of the great question concerning circumcision was accomplished, with the approbation of the Holy Ghost, by the Apostles, Elders, and Brethren: not by the Apostles; not by the Elders; not by both; not by the Brethren; but by the united voice of the whole body. This, the language already recited irresistibly declares.
Ninthly. There was no Bishop in this assembly: that is, in the Prelatical sense. James, whatever was the fact afterwards, was not now such a Bishop, The Letter does not go in his name, nor with any authority whatever, attributed to him, except as an Apostle, and as a member of that deliberative body; and in neither character any farther, than that he had one voice in the decision of the Assembly. As no such Bishop, or Bishops, are mentioned in any part of the transaction; it is impossible, that any person, possessed of modern Episcopal authority, should have been present at this meeting.
Tenthly. This Church had, at this time, existed fifteen, or sixteen years; and for about twelve, was the only Christian Church in the world. One would suppose, it must have been established in the