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ponded with their appointment, and is to us explanatory of their commission. I think I might stop here, but the concessions of our Congregationalist brethren encourage me to go farther.
III. In the primitive churches some elders were appointed simply to rule and not to preach.
The best authorities are agreed, that, in the first instance, the office of the eldership had respect only to superintendence. Thus, Neander says of elders, "They were originally chosen, as in the synagogue, not so much for the instruction and edification of the church as for taking the lead in its general manage
I might state at length the grounds of this opinion, and cite other high names by which it has been countenanced. But as Dr Davidson admits the fact, I need not spend time in proving admissions. He quotes with approbation the saying of Neander, that • the προστήναι and the κυβερνάν (ruling and governing) evidently exhaust what belonged from the beginning to the office of presbyter or bishop, and for which it was originally instituted.' † Here Dr Davidson concedes that there were elders who were appointed not to preach but to rule and govern, and whose office was exhausted by these characteristics. He thinks that some having
Planting of the Christian Church, p. 42.
† Ecclesiastical Polity, p. 193. In various passages of his work, Dr Davidson expresses the same sentiment qualifiedly. Thus, he says, p. 149, ‘All the circumstances that have relation to the point, conspire to show that they (elders) were chosen, in the first instance, mainly for government.'
the gift of teaching, came afterwards to be admitted among the ruling eldership, and then, in the case of these persons, teaching and ruling were conjoined in the office. "When the charism (of teaching), he
says, became an ordinary gift, such as might be attained by many christians in the exercise of their abilities, it is probable that these teachers were often taken into the college of elders, and thus formally constituted officers.'*
Here is an admission that at one period of the apostolic age there were ruling elders, strictly so called ; and some introduced among them who both ruled and taught officially. In other words, the primitive churches were then in the same condition, in respect to officers, as presbyterian churches are now, having ruling elders, and among them teaching elders. If Dr Davidson insist that none shall be appointed to rule without being appointed also to preach, we are entitled, on his own admission, to say, 'From the beginning it was not so;' and since he confesses that, under the direction of the apostles, elders were appointed simply to superintend, we are entitled to ask what has made this practice, which was lawful once, unlawful now? Where have the apostles forbidden, in this particular province, a perseverance in their own church order ?
IV. The elders of the primitive churches had among them a president.
In like manner, the elders of our churches have
* Ecclesiastical Polity, p. 148.
their moderator. Here is another feature of identity between primitive and presbyterian practice. I am spared the necessity of lengthened proof in this case, as in others, by the concessions of Independent writers. The Rev. Dr Halley, in his Congregational Lecture, ** says, “There were in the synagogues certain men of reputation entrusted with the direction of the assembly, and called rulers. [So,] in the christian churches, officers were appointed who had the rule over them.
The presiding officer, or the person who publicly officiated, was called the legate or angel of the synagogue : [sc] each church of Asia Minor had its angel.' It is here admitted that the primitive churches had each a board of rulers, who were entrusted with direction, and that there was a presiding officer, who publicly officiated. This account perfectly accords with our sessional system, under which we have a company of elders for each church, and among these a presiding officer,' who publicly officiates ;' but how it can be reconciled with the present state of Congregational churches, I am unable to comprehend.
Dr Wardlaw says, after discussing various opinions about the angels of the seven Asiatic churches, “There remain two suppositions, in one or other of which it appears we must acquiesce. The first is that of those who hold that at that time there was only one pastor, elder, overseer, or bishop, in each of the seven churches of Asia. The second is, that in the eldership of these churches there was at that early period in the church's history a president-a primus inter pares—to whom it
* Page 63.
is that the epistles respectively are addressed.'* But Dr Wardlaw gives up with the one-elder explanation, and therefore, in his own language, he must acquiesce' in the conclusion that the elders of a primitive church had a president among them. Dr Davidson attaches little consequence to the matter; but he is willing that
one person among the elders be invested with perpetual presidency, by a voluntary arrangement on the part of all.' f Our Congregational brethren are very liberal to us. They have given us for each church a company of elders. They have given us ruling elders and teaching elders. They have given us elders expressly appointed to rule only. And, finally, they have supplied us with a moderator for each of our sessions. I do not perceive how these concessions can be explained away; and they leave little to be demanded or established by us on behalf of our sessional system.
V. The practice of churches shows that there is e felt necessity for ruling elders.
Even those who speak against them cannot dispense with them; they will transform nominal deacons into actual elders, rather than want them. • It belongs to the duty of the deacon,' says Dr Wardlaw, 'to accompany the supply of the means of comfortable subsistence with such words of soothing consolation and encouragement, or of salutary admonition, as the poverty supplied, or the affliction relieved, or the cir
Congregational Independency, pp. 174, 175.
+ Ecclesiastical Polity, page 38.
cumstances and character of the individual or the family may require, and, at the same time, by prayer and thanksgiving, to draw out the gratitude,'* etc. Here we have the sick calling for the deacons, instead of the elders of the church, and we have deacons, in lieu of elders, praying over the sick.
But surely Dr Wardlaw does not mean to say, that his description bounds the spiritual duties actually assigned to deacons. Is it not the case, that they visit the sick just as elders do, whether alms are to be given or not? Is it not the fact, that they prepare matters of judgment for the final sentence of the church-a duty which Drs Wardlaw and Davidson assign expressly to ministers? Is it not so, that they examine applicants for admission into church fellowship, and announce hours of meeting for that object ? And if deacons do all this, what can elders do more? We have seen deacons of late discharging still higher functions in Scotland. Congregationalists in England make no secret of the fact, that in many instances their deacons get all the work of elders, at least.
• It is true,' says the Rev. J. A. James of Birmingham, that by the usages of our churches many things have been added to the duties of the office (of deacon) beyond its original design; but this is mere matter of expediency.’t What, then, are some of the things which have been added to the deacon's proper functions ? "A multitude of duties,' says Dr Campbell, of the Tabernacle, London,
* Page 143.
† Christian Fellowship, p. 130.