« PreviousContinue »
fellowship, or the privilege of communion.'* Their separaration from the National Church, Mr. Turnbull will not impute to them as an offence. These instances of inaccuracy in the outset of his work, we confess, surprised us.
Chap. IV. treats of the officers of the Church ;' it is divided into three sections, which are headed by the following titles: 16 How many kinds ?"; "The authority of Elders ;' By wborn • chosen.'- In the New Testament, the offices of bishop and deacon are explicitly described, and the appropriate qualifications for these offices are distinctly enumerated. From a comparison of the passages which relate to these offices, it would seemn to be an obvious conclusion, that the duties of the former class were of a higher kind than those of the latter: the qualification of being “ apt to teach” (didaxtixos), is required in the one case, but not in the other. The bishops (TITUOTO) are invariably distinguished from the deacons (draxomou); and as nothing is said in those portions of the Christian Scriptures which specify the qualifications of the bishops and deacoos, of any other office, it would appear that these two are the only classes to whom official designation belongs in societies formed on the principles of the apostolical churches. There is, too, direct proof, that bishops (ETITXOTO) and elders (Tere Buregos) are correlative terms, applied to the same persons; but no distinct example can be produced in which deacons are spoken of as being elders. There is, however, one passage in which the term is Butegor, elders, is used, the precise import of which has been inuch disputed. In 1 Tim. v. 17. St. Paul says: “Let the " elders that rule well, be accounted worthy of double honour, “ especially they who labour in the word aud doctrine.” Mr. Turnbull is disposed to consider the term elder as generic, apply. ing both to the pastors and the deacous; and he would, therefore, interpret the passage as referring, in its first inember, to deacons as assistants to the pastors, and, in its second, to the bishops as occupying the superior station.
• If we find," he says, that the term deacon was applied to the same persons as the term elder, there is nothing improbable in the supposition that deacon and elder were convertible terms; and, therefore, that a ruling elder might have been a deacon, and a deacon a ruling elder. I think we shall find this supposition confirmed by fact: and if we can shew that bishops are elders bearing rule, and that deacons are assistants to them, it will follow that deacons may not improperly be termed ruling elders. And, moreover, if there were but two kinds of officers in the church, vir. bishops and deacons ; then, that the deacons must have been actually ruling elders, together with the bishops. pp. 33–4.
* Neal. Vol. I. p. 331. Toulmin's Ed.
On this question, the only admissible testimony is the evidence of the New Testament, and to this we might suppose that Mr. T. had limited bis inquiries, especially from the manner in which he has stated the following not very harmonious conclusions. .: The third distinct office of ruling elder did not find its way into the Church of Christ, by the appointment of the Apostles, in modelling the church after the synagogue.'— There is no difficulty then in admitting that the Scripture speaks of ruling elders; but whether it be a third distinct office may well be doubted.' pp. 43, 51.
From these passages it would seem that, in the inquiry which die Author bas engaged to prosecute, the authority of the New TesLament is, in his own view, the only proper means of determining the question at issue. Yet, strange to say, from the New Testament, Mir. T. bas produced no testimonies, but, with an exception whicha we sball immediately notice, has thought proper to satisfy himself and his readers with extracts from Vitringa and quotations from the Fathers. These, however, are testimonies which can by no means be allowed to settle the import of terms relating to the ministers and offices of the primitive Church. On this point, the opinions or customs of later times, or the analogies, real or imaginary, of the synagogue, cannot be allowed to rule our judgements. But not only bas Mr. T. introduced inadmissible testimonies; he bas shewn himself not a very skilful examiner of those witnesses whom be has cited into court; and he has committed himself in respect to the identity of one of them, whose evidence, were it uniform, has no reference to the question under examination, unless as it is directly opposed to the Author's purpose. The exception referred to is found in the following scriptural proof or illustration.
• Arguing from the general meaning of the term, and from the language used by Paul and Timothy, we should infer, that the deacons had some ruling power. The apostle requires of deacons to rule their own houses well. Just before he had required the same of a bishop, and then he gives this reason for the qualification : “ for if he know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of a church of God ?”(*ws txxindias teou tousa noetas.) The same reason may naturally be supposed to operate in the case of deacons; they are not required to be ** apt to teach," but they are required to be apt to rule.' p. 36.
Now, passing by the error with respect to 'Timothy, it is quite clear, we apprehend, that the Apostle does not require in deacons that they should possess the qualification of being “ apt to "rule.”. The language of the Apostle is correctly and fully in. terpreted when explained in its obvious meaning, as directing that persons ought not to be selected for the offices of the Church, who were remiss in the moral culture of their own households : it shews, as Macknight remarks, and it shews nothing more, how anxious the Apostle was, that all who bare sacred offices, Vol. XVI. N.S.
should be unblameable in every respect; knowing that the dis
orderly behaviour of the members of their family, might give 6 occasion to suspect that they had been careless of their
morals.' The direction is one of great importance; and a strict regard to it would be a most salutary and efficient means of promoting the interests of true religion in Christian societies. It must but too readily occur to every reader, bow much the qualification in question is overlooked as an essential requisite in those who hold office in the churches of Christ. Deacons, as well as pastors, should be examples to the flock; and therefore, nothing could be more proper than that directions given to the primitive churches respecting their office, should include, in the enumeration of qualifications essential to eligibility, the laudable conduct of the candidate in regard to domestic obligations. The Apostle requires in bishops, that they be“ apt to teach,” because teaching was a part of their official duty; but he does not require that a deacon should be apt to rule, and the natural conclusion would seem to be, that ruling was not a part of the deacon's office. Domestic good conduct is determined by the Apostle's instruction to be an essential consideration in the selection of the officers of the Church; but it applies to both classes precisely in the same manner, and affords no argument whatever in favour of the distinction which Mr. Turnbull would establish. We consider, therefore, that he completely fails in his attempt to shew, that the term deacon was applied to the same persons as the term elder, so far as the authority of Scripture is the medium of proof. And this being the case, whatever may be the import of the passage 1 Tim. v. 17., it must be explained in conformity to the uniform evidence of the New Testainent, that the only two offices of the Christian Church are those of Bishop and Deacon. “Let the " elders (or Ministers) who preside honourably in the churches, “ be regarded as worthy of ample respect and recompense, es“ pecially those who are laborious (os xowytes) in their office of “ instructors”-is, we conceive, the fair construction and meaning of the passage: it directs that they who are the most correct and assiduous Christian teachers, should be most esteemed and best rewarded.
To what purpose the Author has cited Clemens Romanus, Polycarp, Ignatius, &c. is really incomprehensible ; nothing being plainer than the evidence of these witnesses to the distinct appropriation of the terms elder and deacon to separate classes of officers in the Church. Mr. T., indeed, professedly. cites those authorities as proving that, in the primitive Church, there were but two offices. But if they prove this, we cannot perceive what elucidation is derived from the proof, in favour of the position, that the term elder is applied to the same persons as the term deacon: they prove just the contrary; that they are distinct terms, referring to different offices.
• There is,' says the Author, a letter of Ignatius to leron, "a deacon of the church at Antioch, which confirms the opinion,
that deacons were assistants to the pastors, and did not confine • their labours to pecuniary atfairs. After giving some extracts from this epistle, be reinarks, these duties seem to bespeak the ' ruling elder.' It is truly surprising, that Mr. Turnbull should think that this kind of testimony could avail bim in attempting to establish the identity of elders and deacons in the primitive churches. We can hardly suppose hiin to have been ignorant that the Epistle to Heron is spurious, the fabrication of an age long posterior to the time of Ignatius; and yet, be quotes it largely, as if he had not the slightest suspicion of its not being genuine.
The authority of elders' is the next subject of discussion, and it is treated in a very desultory manner. We regret that we cannot praise the Author for either the perspicuity of his statements, or the cogency of his reasonings. There is nothing definite and conclusive throughout the entire section. The reader will find the words · elders and authority' frequently occurring, but he will look in vain for the means of connecting them. Mr. T. would seem to take high ground in offering his proposition to our notice. He laments the licentious paroxysm
which spurns all lawful and salutary restraint;' and this ex! treme,' he remarks, 'is particularly observable in the strict In
dependents, or Brownists of the present day. At their ordinations, we are told, all idea of office-power and authority is usually protested against, very distinctly, and often with warinth.'
It might seem rather uncourteous to meet this statement with what we believe to be the fact, that the strictest Independents of the present day do not spurn all lawful and salutary restraint,' and .tbat, at their ordinations, all idea of office-power and authority' is not usually protested against. We can scarcely imagine, indeed, that Mr. Turnbull means to assert what his expressions certainly convey, that, in the particular denomination of Chris
tians' which is the subject of reference, there is a total absence of discipline, accoinpanied with the absolute denial of pastoral attributes in their ministers. From a writer who thus directs his censure against a whole denomination of Christians for the supposed defects of their polity, the least that we have a right tu expect is, that he shall furnish us with an intelligible definition of authority as applied to elders, and a perspicuous exposition of office-power. And so much the more reasonable is this expectation, as the Author, after perusing what is advanced by
the great Dr. Owen on this subject, declares that to him the Dr.'s ideas' appear to be very confused, and his statements
contradictory!!' How then does Mr. Turnbull proceed with his subject
:61. Elders have some kind of authority. Their generic and specific names necessarily imply it. The name elder carries with it the authority of wisdom and experience. The names pastor or shepherd, bishop or overseer, leader or captain, (“youjeevos) all import some kind and degree of authority.
• Beside, we have several places in the New Testament, where this authority is unequivocally expressed. The elders of Ephesus are said by the Apostle to have been made overseers over the flock by the Holy Ghost. (Acts xx. '28.) The Corinthians are enjoined to submit themselves to such as had addicted themselves to the ministry (Saxongo) of the saints. (1 Cor. xvi. 16.) This may relate to the deacon's office. The Hebrews are charged to obey and submit themselves to their leaders, as being watchers over their souls, and accountable for them. (Heb. xiii. 17.) pp. 53, 4.
Now, what do we learn from these paragraphs ? So far as the name "elder" imports the authority of wisdom and experience, it denotes an authority which exists apart from the offices of the Church. And the passages quoted, though they may be explained as enjoining practical regard to the instructions of Christian pastors, and the obligations of Christian pastors themselves to be faithful to their trust as overseers of the flock, supply no elucidation of office-power.' They define nothing as to the kind or the extent of it. We are not, therefore, prepared by any considerations which the Author bas as yet advanced, to receive his next proposition ; viz.: '2. That this authority does not flow from the Church. What is this authority which does not flow from the Church? The paragraphs of the Essay, which follow this proposition, will afford the reader but little aid in ascertaining this point. The office-power of elders, Mr. T. never explains; but he asserts that their authority flows to them * from Christ, through the medium of those already in office:
a doctrine which we can view in no other light than as commiting us to all the errors and delusions of the primary tenet of High-Churchism and Popery.
The phrase "office-power,' is frequently occurring in these pages; but the Autbor seems to employ it somewhat in the manner of a charm, investing it with an obscurity from wbich he appears afraid that it should escape; and therefore he prudently abstains from an explanation of the mysterious authority' which he challenges. And yet, after all, we shrewdly suspect that were Mr. T. to communicate bis opinions of the nature and extent of the pastoral relation in an intelligible form, they would be found in agreement with the judgement and practice of the very persons whose sentiments he denounces.
We now come to Mr. Turnbull's third proposition, that • this authority is not legislative, but ministerial.'
We concur with him in opinion, that were we to derive our ideas of the
authority of Christ's ministers from Ecclesiastical History in general, we should certainly be disposed to take the converse