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PART I.

BRIEF STATEMENT OF THE ARGUMENT FOI IBK

OFFICE OF RULING ELDER.

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The language now in use makes a wide dittérence between a bishop and an elder. In scriptural phraseology, these terms are applied to one class of officebearers. Paul sent for the ELDERS of Ephesus, and he exhorted them to take heed to all the flock of which the Holy Ghost had made them BISHOPS,' rendered in our version orerseers.' * Thus the identical persons were called elders and bishops. The apostle also, after instructing Titus as to the qualifications needed by ELDERS, adds, "For a BISHOP must be blameless.'t The term elder, used in the first instance, is immediately exchanged for the term bishop, while the same office-bearer is described.

It must be understood then and kept in mind, that by elders and bishops scripture denotes one order of functionaries,

Scripture very explicitly represents these elders or bishops as invested with authority over the churches.

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This is admitted by the most eminent advocates of Independency. We have pastors,' says Dr Wardlaw, *

over our churches, and we regard them, in scripture phrase, as having the rule over them.'* • The titles of ruler and president,' says Dr Davidson, imply that the pastors or elders of a church govern, rule, or exerci e authority over it; which is farther evident, because the people are required to obey, to submit themselves to them that have the rule.'t •There is authority,' says Mr James, 'belonging to the pastor, for office without authority is a solecism. “Remember them that have the rule over you;” u

obey them that have the rule over you;" “ submit yourselves," etc. These are inspired injunctions, and they enjoin obedience and submission, on christian churches, to their pastors. 'I

* Cong. Independency, p. 311. Eccles. Polity, p. 269.

Christian Fellowship, pp. 56, 57. Congregationalists sometimes go farther than Presbyterians are able to follow them in claiming power for pastors. Dr Davidson says: 'In meetings of the church, no member should speak without permission of the elders, nor continue to do so when they impose silence. The elders give and withhoid liberty of speech when the church is assembled. In such meetings no member should

oppose the judgment of the presiding elder.'—Ecclesiastical Polity, p. 274.

Mr James says: "All the proceedings at a church meeting should either emanate directly from the pastor, or from others by his previous knowledge and consent.' He gives the minister an absolute negative on the admission of members to the church, and says: "No member should presume to bring forward a candidate in opposition to the opinion of the pastor.'—Christian Fellowship, p. 172.

Dr Campbell goes further, and not only lodges with the minis

Since all elders rule, they might all, in this sense, be called ruling elders. So a minister rules, and he is officially a ruling elder. But it is the doctrine of Presbyterian churches that some elders are properly, and by scriptural warrant, appointed only to rule; while others combine in their appointment both ruling and teaching. He who both rules and teaches is called by us the minister or the pastor, while they who are charged only with superintendence are the ruling elders. It will be understood, then, that by ruling elders are meant all the members of session who are not ministers. I am now to present very briefly the argument for a Ruling Eldership.

I. Each of the primitive churches had a plurality of elders.

Independents were wont to dispute this position ; and both Mr Greville Ewing and Dr Bennet laboured to show that scripture favcurs a one-elder system, and thus countenances the prevailing form of Independency, which assigns to each church a single elder, who both rules and teaches. Primitive practice and

ter a negative on the admission of members, but makes the whole matter of admission rest with himself, maintaining that the commission of Christ to his apostles clothes the evangelist or pastor at once with the authority and responsibility of administering the ordinance of baptism, and consequently of admitting members.Church Fellowship, 2. 19. No person will suspect these able and excellent writers of any personal disposition to tyrannise over the church. They would sacrifice life itself for the church's good. Their language develops only the necessities of a system.

Independent practice were in this manner harmonised, But there is no point which can be more clearly proved from scripture than that a company of elders presided over each of the primitive churches. Numerous statements show that this was the rule; and no exceptions are recorded. Paul, in addressing the Hebrews, says, Obey them that have the rule over you.”

James exhorts him who is sick to call for the elders of the church.'t These are individual instances, but we have also comprehensive examples. Paul says to Titus: · For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.' $ We read of Paul and Barnabas, that they ordained elders in every

church.'§ Our leading Congregationalists now admit that a plurality of elders for each church is the primitive system. My friend Dr Wardlaw quotes from me these sentences : Whenever a number of persons were converted under the preaching of the apostles or their fellow-labourers, these converts were formed into a society, and obtained for their stated and proper officers, bishops and deacons. Only some churches were favoured with the ministrations of apostles and evangelists, and these churches enjoyed that distinction only for limited periods and at remote intervals; but every church, no matter when planted or by whom watered, or to what country belonging, bad bishops

* Heb. xii. 17.

* Titus i. 5.

+ James v. 14. § Acts xiv. 23.

and deacons for its fixed and abiding office-bearers.'* Dr Wardlaw says that he could not wish his sentiments more clearly expressed than in these sentences;' and it will be observed that they declare every

church to have had bishops, and not a bishop merely. Dr Vaughan says, “The existence of such a practice in all the early churches whose usage in this respect has become known to us, is a remarkable fact, and enough to justify suspicion as to the wisdom of our own prevalent usage.'+ 'Nothing seems to us more certain,' says Dr Davidson, than that there was a plurality of elders in the primitive churches. The fact is admitted by the ablest historians.' $

Since then every church in the apostolic age had a company of elders, the same usage should still prevail ; for as Dr Wardlaw observes, “What was actually done under apostolic direction, has the same force of authority with an express command to do it the force, that is, of the authority of Christ.'§ Not a little still remains to be proved as to the scriptural character of.our elders ; but the proof already offered establishes this much, that a church having a plurality of elders

may be in the right; while a church with one elder, like our Independent churches, must be in the wrong.

Dr Davidson admits and urges that Independents are in the wrong; but contends that we err too, be

* Congregational Independency, pp. 177, 178. + Congregationalism,

| Eccles. Polity, p. 357. & Congregational Independency, p. 4,

p. 183.

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