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the episcopate or oversight of the flock. So charges Paul the presbyters of Ephesus: Feed the flock of God, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops i.e. overseers, or inspectors. So charges Peter the presbyters of the dispersion: Feed the flock of God— taking the oversight thereof; the word is roorowsis, which signifies, “exercising the Episcopal office.” If then, the term presbyter or elder, had been so long settled; if it denoted an officer as unlike a modern bishop as can well be conceived : and if it was admitted universally into the Christian church, as thus understood, (for there is no intimation of its sense having been changed,) then the allegation of the Hierarchy, that it is an indefinite term, signifying merely a ruler, without reference to his station, is altogether false, and the objection founded upon this allegation is altogether frivolous. On the other hand, the argument founded upon it for the identity of the scriptural bishops and presbyters as rulers in the church, to the exclusion of prelates, is solid and strong; the flings of “good for nothing,” and “miserable sophistry,” to the contrary notwithstanding. We have derived some amusement from remarking, that while our Episcopal friends pertinaciously deny that any official name in the New Testament is so appropriated to a particular of fice as to designate the kind of officer, they cannot render their own reasoning intelligible without the aid of the very principle which they reject.
“The apostles,” says the Layman, “are called presbyters. This proves conclusively that no argument can be drawn, by the advocate of parity, from the promiscuous use of the terms presbyter, bishop, in the sacred writings. If it proves that there is now but one order in the ministry, it proves equally that Paul was upon a perfect level with the elders of Ephesus.” Again,
* “Christ is called diaconos, which is translated deacon, or
minister. Therefore Christ was on a level with the deacons of Jerusalem.”
Does not every reader perceive, at the first glance, that the whole force of this objection, which is to put down the advocates of ministerial parity, depends upon the supposition, that presbyter and deacon are titles appropriated to particular grades of office P For if they are not, if they denote only office in general; what will the objection say? To try it fairly—substitute officers, in the room of elders; and the proposition will stand thus: the apostles are called elders ; therefore, the apostles are on a level with officers in the church. This is not likely to fill the “advocates of parity,” with any great alarm. Again,
“The apostle addresses Timothy and him alone, as the supreme governor of the church, [of Ephesus] calling upon him to see that his presbyters preach no strange doctrine.”f
Here the Layman uses presbyter as a precise term, for a particular grade of officers; and so does the apostle in the epistle referred to, or else the Layman's argument, to quote his own words, “is literally good for nothing.” Nay, he even con
* No. 1. Collec. p. 8. LAYMAN, No. v. Collec. p. 55. Vol. III. 7
cedes that the term presbuteros, elder, is “ordinarily appropriated in the New Testament, to the second grade of ministers;” although, “it is capable of being applied to all the grades.” But how we are to discover when it is applied in one Way, and when in the other; i. e. when it has a particular, and when a general signification, neither this gentleman nor his reverend associates have been pleased to tell us. If we are to judge from facts, which they recommend as an excellent way of judging, and if we collect facts from their own conduct in the debate, the rule is this, Presbyter is always a DEFINITE term of office when it makes For the prelates, and always an INDEFINITE one, when it makes AGAINST them. For example: When Timothy is to be proved a bishop, in the genuine prelatical sense of the word, presbyter infallibly signifies the second grade of ministers. This is sober, solid logic, which no man who can put a syllogism together must venture to dispute. On the other side, when Paul, addressing these same presbyters, seems to identify them with bishops; then presbyter is nothing more than a general term of office : and the argument drawn from its being convertible with episcopos, or bishop, is “ literally good for nothing,” “the old and miserable sophistry of names." All this, to be sure, is vastly ingenious, and infinitely removed from sophistry and quibble! But * No. 1. Collec. p. 7.
as imagination is apt now and then to be unruly,
we fancied that it is not unlike the Socinian me
thod of defending the inspiration of the scriptures. Let those greatluminaries of wisdom, Dr. Priestley and his compeers, patch up the “lame accounts” of Moses; refute the “inconclusive” reasonings of Paul; and otherwise alter and amend the Bible, as their philosophy shall dictate; and, then, the sacred writings will be inspired to some purpose! Let the abettors of prelacy interpret terms now one way, and then the contrary way, as it shall suit their convenience, and they will, no doubt, convert the New Testament into a forge for the Hierarchy, and swear in an apostle to superintend the manufacture. But still, how are we to repel the consequence with which they press us P. If presbyter and deacon are definite terms of office, and the apostles are called presbyters, and their Lord a deacon, (jaxovos) we certainly, by our argument, confound all distinctions: and put the apostles, and their master too, on a level with the ordinary and even lowest officers in the church. No such thing. The conclusion is vain, because the premises are false. The objection overlooks a distinction which its authors themselves are compelled to observe every hour of their lives; and that is, the distinction between the absolute and relative use of terms. By the absolute use of terms, we mean their being applied to certain subjects in such a manner as to sink their general sense in a particular one. By their relative use, we mean their being coupled with other terms which permit them to be understood in their general sense only. To the former class belong all names which, however general in their primary ideas, have become appropriated to particular objects. To the latter belong the innumerable applications which may be made of the very same terms, when not thus appropriated. Examples will best illustrate the distinction. Congress, judge, assembly, are terms of great latitude, and their applications may be varied without end. When we say a congress of bodies, of waters, of people—a judge of music, of sculpture, of painting—an assembly of citizens, of clergy, of delegates; all the world perceives that these terms are used in their general sense, and can be used in no other. But when we speak of the United States, and say, the congress, the judges ; or of the state of New-York, and say, the judges, the assembly, all the world perceives that the terms are used in a particular sense, and designate precisely certain public of. ficers to whom, and to whom alone, every man, woman, and child, in the country will refer them. Now supposing that certain individuals should remit a litigated point to one of the judges, and we should insist that this may mean the Lieut. Governour, because the term judge may be applied to him, when he sits in the court of errours: and