« PreviousContinue »
should be unblameable in every respect; knowing that the disorderly behaviour of the members of their family, might give • 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, how 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 Testament, 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 ( xoTes) in their office of "instructors"-is, we conceive, the fair construction and meauing 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 Heron, 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 affairs.' After giving some extracts from this epistle, he remarks, these duties seem to bespeak the ruling elder. It is truly surprising, that Mr. Turnbull should think that this kind of testimony could avail him in attempting to establish the identity of elders and deacons in the primitive churches. We can hardly suppose him 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, he 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 elder' 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 extreme,' he remarks, is particularly observable in the strict Independents, 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 warmth." 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 that, 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 Christians' which is the subject of reference, there is a total absence of discipline, accompanied 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 to 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?
1. 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, (youμeos) 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 (SaxenXT) 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 has 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 Author seems to employ it somewhat in the manner of a charm, investing it with an obscurity from which 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 his 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
of this proposition as the truth. But, restricting the relation of Christian Pastors to principles and acts which are definitely ministerial, and excluding them from all proceedings which are legislative, agreeably to Mr. T.'s description, let us examine its practical bearings. The authority of elders, he states, consists,
First, In stating, explaining, and enforcing, by argument and persuasion, the known will of Christ. Secondly, In taking the sense of the church on any doubtful point, after mature deliberation, (wherein their opinion and advice have their proper influence,) and acting as the organ of the church, in executing its decisions.'
These are, in fact, the whole of Mr. Turnbull's explications of his proposition. And having done him the justice of extracting them in his own words, we would ask him, whether he is acquainted with any Independents of the present day who do not go, in their opinions of the office of Pastor, to all the extent of this statement of its privileges and duties? But, if the strictest Independents of the present day go thus far, if they regard their ministers as sustaining a relation which connects these obligations with their office, in what manner are we to understand Mr. Turnbull's statements, that, at their ordinations, all idea of office-power and authority is protested against?" Either Mr. T. is prepared to include strict Independents' among the persons who correctly estimate and apply the principle of ministerial authority,' as he himself states its obligations and its extent; or, he has in reserve other measures and proceedings, as being included in his notions of office-power.' But let us proceed.
In the first case, if a majority be against the declared will of Christ, after it be made known to them, that will give occasion for expostulation or reproof, which, if not attended to, will naturally oblige a faithful minister to withdraw. In the second case, as it refers to the subject of prudence and expediency, a minister may, generally, have reason to suppose, that, in the collective wisdom of the church, there may be, at least, as much as is equal to his own: and unless he be infallible in judgement, or imagine that his will is to be the law, and his individual opinion the only measure of either judgement or conduct, he will be disposed rather to yield, in a doubtful point, to the sense of the majority, supposing it respectable. To yield in such a case, will not lessen his authority: he is still the organ of the church in executing its decisions, even supposing them contrary to his own views.' pp. 59, 60,
By a minister's authority not being lessened in the case supposed, Mr. T. must mean, that the influence of his instruction and example will not be diminished; and this we agree with him in deeming a probable case. But, after reading the above paragraph, our readers will, we apprehend, be at a still greater loss than before, to understand Mr. Turnbull's attributing to an entire denomination of Christians, whose principles and practice
accord most exactly with his own declared opinions, the licentious paroxysm which spurns all lawful and salutary restraint,' Less, we will venture to say, than his own allowance of officepower,' he never heard attributed to Christian Pastors by strict Independents at any of their ordinations. More than this, he possibly may have heard included in their protests against authority;' and more than this, we shall find in the sequel, is necessary to satisfy Mr. T.'s demands.
In Chap. V. on the relation of the churches to each other," occurs the following passage.
The question is, Under what form does this union subsist, and what are the duties arising out of it.
In answer to the first inquiry, we reply, There is a local and neighbourly association of churches, uniting, by common consent, for the ends proposed.
This appears clear from the Epistle to the Galatians, wherein the Apostle seems to incorporate them into a local association, united by common interests and common ties, by denominating them "the churches of Galatia," as he does, elsewhere, by speaking of "the churches of Judea," and " the churches of Macedonia." The brethren were addressed in this local incorporated character, and in this they acted. Let us view, for a moment, the instance of the churches of Galatia. There had been among them a general defection from the truth of the gospel. We do not know that all the churches without exception had been tainted with the error: from the language used, we should rather think not: the apostle intimates that some had not fallen from the doctrines of grace. "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law."Yet this admonitory epistle was addressed to them all.
A practical epistle of this nature was surely intended to be followed up by some practical effects. A letter addressed to all, naturally required an answer from all. But in order to do this, the local association must come into exercise, the churches of Galatia must somehow meet together, and arrange the contents of their answer :they must come to some united determination, as to what they believed, and what they would do. One thing they were to do was, to "cut off those who troubled them." When they had done so, they would inform the Apostle that his intimation and advice had been complied with. To do so in a common letter, was to do a common act. It was the act of the ASSOCIATED CHURCHES OF GALATIA.' pp. 70, 71.
This passage with its musts and its woulds, is really a curious specimen of hypothetical logic. We could almost imagine that the Author had been rummaging among some unknown parcel of Greek manuscripts, in which he had discovered the various readings," to the united churches of Galatia," or, "the asso
ciated churches;" for to us there seems to be nothing about associated churches in the Epistle, and we have taken the precaution of looking into Griesbach to secure us from error in the We should suppose that the Apostle had reference to