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any Elder, of any kind, not sound according to our con. fession. By celebrating in love, the death of our common Lord with those pious persons who are erroneous, we should not yield one tittle of the truth. Let others show if they can, that their rejection of a Christian whom the Lord has accepted, and the repulsion of him from the communion table, is likely to convince him of the truth on certain doctrines about which he and they may differ. Let them show their warrant for making the eucharist a rod, for whipping false theories out of Christians, and true ones into them.
Were all the denominations of professors, who acknowledge each other to be members of the visible. Church of God in the world, to celebrate the Supper together, as they have opportunity, it would be a public recognition of their essential unity; would stop the mouths of many infidels; and would promote such a spirit among themselves as is best calculated to discover and receive the truth. It would by no means follow from such communion of saints, that our different forms of ecclesiastical government are to be demolished, before we are convinced that they are unscriptural; or that any one deno. mination should make him a Pastor, elder, or other officer, whom they should deem incompetent, from any cause.
In what way the Baptists may consistently acknowledge other denominations that maintain the gospel, and substantially, at least, the ordinances of Jesus, their own celebrated brother, the Rev. Robert Hall, has already shown.
Next to the Baptists, it seems most difficult to convince the Protestant Episcopalians, that they are in duty bound, to our common Head, to receive other sections of the visible church as members with themselves of one body. Others have comparatively few obstructions to be removed in their progress to a visible union and communion. Others deny not the validity of every other mi. nistry and of their ministrations, except their own, as the high churchmen now do; and thereby unchurch all professors but themselves. The Methodists are Episcopalians in their doctrines of government, but, so far as we have learned, are not prepared to deny the validity of Presbyterian ordination.
It must be granted, however, that differences about go. vernment have done much to promote the disjointing of the body of Christ, among all its members; and could we all come to an agreement on this subject, it would be comparatively easy to effect a reconciliation about the essentials of a Christian profession.
With a view to promote the great design which occasioned the Plea before us, we beg the attention of our readers to what we shall denominate A Scriptural Form of Government. Should it in their judgment prove to be such, it will tend to harmonize the jarring Episcopalians and Presbyterians. We verily think it the form autho. rized by apostolical example.
The Church was found in being by Christ and his apostles. It was first organized by an ecclesiastical covenant made with Abraham. It comprehended him with all his circumcised domestics and posterity, not specially rejected. It included all who made a credible profession of the religion of Abraham, together with their families. Abraham was the first Elder, or Presbyter, in the visible church, by special appointment of God; and he officiated as a minister of religion, offering sacrifices and prayers, performing circumcision, and instructing the Church. He was a Pastor and a Presbyter; he was both a Teaching and a Ruling Elder. He received his ordination to office immediately from the great God.
During the patriarchal age of the church, this office ordinarily descended from the father to the first born son, who was a Ruling and a Teaching Elder in the family, in the absence of his senior, and after his death. Through the special blessing of the father, however, the honour and privileges of the birth-right might be transmitted to a younger son; as it happened in the case of Jacob, whose Bishop, Isaac, ordained him by prayer and the im. position of hands, instead of Esau, who sold his birth. right.
This course of things was pursued until the members of the visible church became numerous; when several families, that were neighbours, assembled themselves on
the sabbath in one place, for social worship. This collection of people was called a synagogue, and the place in which they convened soon after received the same name; just as we use Church, a word of the same import, for a company of people called together for worship, and for the house of their religious solemnitics.
In each synagogue were several Elders or Presbyters, (for these are two English terms answering to one word in the original,) and a plurality of them, convened to lead in the worship of the synagogue of which they were members, or to transact other ecclesiastical business, constituted A Presbytery. This Presbytery ruled, and taught, in the concerns of religion, the synagogue of which it was a constituent part. To the visible Church, consisting of a multitude of such synagogues and their Presbyteries, Christ came, and called it “his own;” but “ his own” Church, as a body, "received him not.'
Of the existence of such synagogues, and Presbyteries in each of them, (for a plurality of presbyters, convened for ecclesiastical purposes, make a presbytery,) we have abundant proof in the New Testament. Paul and Barnabas “came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and of the prophets, The RulERS of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Men, Brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. Then Paul stood up," and preached. Acts xiii. 14. “Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach hin, being read in the synagogue every sabbath day.” Acts. xv. 21. By whom the law was read in the synagogue, we may learn from attending one in our own day; for modern synagogues are fashioned after the pattern of the ancient ones. The Elders occupy the highest seat, and the chief of them, who is devoted to the duties of a Minister, reads, and expounds the scriptures. In his absence, one of the other elders reads the word of God, and leads the people in their devotions; or at the request of the presbytery, a travelling elder, or visitant, may do the same. Hence Christ, and the apostles, being recognized as Jews and public teachers, were commonly invited by the chief ruler, or the presbytery, to speak in Vol. I.
the synagogues to which they resorted. “As his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias.” Having read a porrion, “he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister," that is to the teaching Presbyter, who had given it to him: after which he sat down and preached the gospel, until his apparently religious hearers were filled with wrath.” Luke iv. 16, 20, 28. In Corinth, Paul “reasoned in the synagogue, every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.” “And Crispus
, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house." We learn too, that Sosthenes was the chief ruler of a synagogue. Acts xviii. 4, 8, 17. We are told, Mark v. 22, that Jairus was one of the rulers of the synagogue." If each synagogue had a chief Pres
. byter; and if it was proper to speak of one of the rulers, as if there were others beside him, then we infer, that each synagogue had a plurality of Presbyters; and that among their number some one was, in some respects, chief.
How these elders or presbyters were ordained, before the incarnation, the Bible has not particularly informed us. We find, however, that Elders were continued in the church, after the introduction of the Christian dispensation of the covenant of redemption.
The Apostle Peter, informs us, that notwithstanding his apostleship, he was “ also an Elder.” 1 Pet. v. 1.
In commencing his second and third epistles, the Apostle John styles himself “the Elder.”
That every particular Christian synagogue, or congre. gation, organized by the apostles, had a plurality of Elders, may be argued from the following passages, “When they,” Paul and Barnabas,“ had ordained them Elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." Acts xiv. 23. “For this cause,” says Paul, “I left thee,” Titus,“ in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.”
The existence of Elders in the Church under the present dispensation, will be manifest also, from a citation of passages to show what were the duties of Elders.
They were required to pray with the sick. “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the Elders of the Church; and let them pray over him." James v. 14.
Elders may act as the almoners of the church. “The disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea: which also they did, and sent it to the Elders.” Acts xi. 29, 30.
Elders may publicly instruct the church, and superintend her spiritual concerns. “The Elders which are among you I exhort,”-to “ feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof." 1 Pet. v. 1, 2. “And from Miletus,” Paul “ sent to Ephesus, and called for the Elders of the Church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them,--Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God.” Acts xx. 17, 18, 28.
Elders may hear, consult, and decide in ecclesiastical councils. “The Apostles and Elders came together for to consider of this matter.” After hearing Peter, it pleased" the Apostles and Elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch;” with a copy of their decision on the case referred to them. Acts xv. 6, 22, 23. “And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the Apostles and Elders.” Acts. xvi. 4.
Elders are to examine the credentials of itinerant teachers, and to receive or to reject them. “And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the Apostles and Elders.” Acts xv. 4.
Elders are to exercise Christian discipline in the church. This is implied in overseeing the church; and is taught in the exhortation, “Let the Elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour." 1 Tim. v. 17.
In a particular church, one or more of the elders may be called in providence to public preaching, while the others, for the time being, are not required to devote themselves exclusively to this work. * Let the Elders