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that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, espe. cially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” í Tím. v. 17.
One Elder, travelling as an Evangelist, may organize particular churches, and ordain Elders. Titus was authorized to do this; and each Elder he was to ordain is called a Bishop, whether he was to labour in word and doctrine habitually or not. “ I left thee in Crete, that THOU SHOULDST ORDAIN ELDERS,-if any be blameless for a BISHOP must be blameless." Tit. i. 5, 6, 7. A bishop is an overseer, or ruler in the church. The bishop of a particular church is the chief Elder; one who de. votes himself to the work of overseeing and feeding the flock.
Two or more Elders may conjointly ordain other Elders. Paul and Barnabas did this. Acts xiv. 23. “Neg. lect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presby. tery.” To make a Presbytery it is requisite that there should be at least two presbyters, that is Elders, present. Paul and Barnabas, in any place, and at any time, at which they chose to meet for the transaction of ecclesiastical business, constituted A BIBLICAL PRESBYTERY.
Those Elders who statedly labour in the word and doctrine are styled in the holy scriptures, Ministers, Pastors, Ambassadors, Teachers, and the Angels of the churches
. “ Ministers of the word.” Luke i. 2. " Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed.” 1 Cor. iii. 5. We read also of the ministers of Christ," and of “able ministers of the new testament.” 1 Cor. iv. 1, and 2 Cor. iii. 6. They are
the ministers of God," and " Ambassadors for Christ.” 2 Cor. vi. 4, and 2 Cor. v. 20. In Rev. ii. 1, 8, 12, 18, &c. we read of the angels of the churches, in such a manner as to convince us, that while all Elders are Bishops or Overseers, all Bishops are not Angels, Messengers
, Heralds, or Preachers. In Ephesians iv. 11, these same officers in the church are called Pastors, and are distinguished from Apostles and Prophets, who were not only Elders, but extraordinary officers, miraculously qualified; and from Evangelists, who were Elders that devoted
themselves to the preaching of the gospel, without hav. ing the pastoral charge of any particular congregation.
Any Elder, when occasion offered, might administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper. The officiating pastor in a congregation usually dispensed the sacraments; but we frequently read of single, travelling Elders who baptized suitable candidates; and the right of administering baptism and the Lord's Supper is not restricted in the Bible to any one class of Elders. Each Elder may feed, by administering the word and sacraments, the flock of God.
We lay it down as a proposition, which we defy any one to disprove, from the word of God, that there is but one kind of ordination for Elders, whether they merely rule in conjunction with a minister of the gospel, or be. sides ruling, labour in the word and doctrine. This one kind is by prayer, and the laying on of the hands of an Elder, or of a Presbytery.
The system of Presbyterianism now in practice, allows a minister, or teaching Elder, to ordain a ruling Elder, but not to ordain an Elder who shall be devoted to the work of the ministry. It allows too, of the ordination of a Ruling Elder without the imposition of any one's hands, for which no scripture warrant is produced. It requires the imposition of the hands of a Presbytery to ordain a teaching Elder in every case; and would thereby invalidate the ordination of a teaching Elder by Titus.
In the Presbyterian Church, would we follow the Bible implicitly, we ought to ordain teaching and ruling Elders alike; and it may be by the hands of an Evangelist like Titus, or by a Presbytery, like that which ordained Timothy.
We now admit Ruling Elders to sit in Presbytery, to examine candidates, and vote on the question whether they shall be ordained or not, and yet we absurdly enough deny them the privilege of ordaining either a Ruling or a Ministerial Elder. Yet all must allow, that the mere imposition of hands as a token of the transmission of authority, is something inferior to the vote by which it is decided that one shall be clothed with the power of an Elder. A case may occur in one of our presbyteries, as they are at present organized, that all the ministers, or a majority of them, may be opposed to the ordination of a candidate; and yet the Ruling Elders may constitute a majority of the whole Presbytery in favour of his ordination. In such a case his clerical authority would be derived from men, who, according to the Pres. byterianism now in force, have no power to transmit such authority.
Every Elder in a Presbytery really has power, from the scriptures, to lay on hands in ordination; and this should be acknowledged; or else the Ruling Elders should be excluded from voting on the question, whether a candidate shall be created a Presbyter or not, as well as from the ceremonies of ordination. Let us own them to be complete Presbyters, or else exclude them altogether from our Presbyteries.
The only passage in the bible which makes a distinc. tion between Elders, is that recorded in 1 Tim. v. 17, from which it appears, that some Elders in the same church rule, and do not labour in the word and doctrine; that is, do not give themselves habitually to the study of the truth and the public preaching of the gospel; whereas some others do both. It will not hence follow, that they were differently ordained; or that one received more power to teach, ordain Elders, administer the sacra. ments, and exercise discipline, than another. It merely follows, that there were in the church a plurality of elders, and that some of them were called to officiate stat. edly as ministers of the gospel, while the others were not. Such cases occur in our day; for we have known churches that contained several ordained Elders, of the clerical order, as Ministers are styled, all of whom were acknowledged rulers, while one only, by the invitation of the people, actually fed the flock, or preached the word, and administered the other ordinances of religion. Had this Pastor died, or been removed, any one of his fellow Elders might have been called by the people to exercise the chief pastoral care, and might have succeeded to the office of chief ruler of the church, without any new ordination.
From what has been said, it will be evident, that every
duly organized particular church should contain within itself a presbytery, competent for the ordination of other elders, and the government of the church over which they are overseers. This is the smallest presbytery which can exist, if it is constituted by no more than two elders; and it is the body for which the Reformed Dutch Church has substituted her Consistory; the Episcopal Church, her Vestry; the Congregational churches their Committee of the communicants; and the Presbyterian Church, her Session.
A presbyterian church session is really the presbytery of that church, unless the omission of a part of the common ceremony of ordination, the laying on of hands, be judged sufficient to invalidate the ordination of those of ficers called Ruling Elders.
Although the Presbytery of a particular church has the right of ordination, and although cach Presbyter of that Presbytery has the same right, yet all things that are law. ful are not expedient, at all times, and under all circumstances. Were there but one single congregation of Presbyterians in this country, the Presbytery, or the individual Presbyters of that congregation, would be under indispensable obligations to ordain successors to themselves, and elders for any new congregation that might be formed in connexion with the first.
There are many presbyterian congregations that exist contiguous to each other. We must therefore apply to them the general principles, that the visible church of God is one; and that all the different sections of it ought, as far as possible, to harmonize, and express their unity. These congregations ought, by their own agreement and profession, to be united in government, as they are in doctrine; and no one should needlessly act in any matter of general concern without the concurrence of all; or if any difference arises, the majority of the whole church, consisting of the united congregations, is the last resort
The Elders of all these congregations being convened for the purpose of consulting and deciding in any matter touching the welfare of the congregations to which they belong, according to the scriptures, constitute the Pres
bytery of those united congregations. This might be called a larger, as the first described was a particular Presbytery.
Should all the Presbyterian Churches in a State or Province, by the convocation of all their Elders, thus form a judicatory of the church, it would be a Provincial Presbytery, answering to one of our present Synods; and the Presbytery of all the united presbyterian congregations in our country, would be the Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the United States; which might be called national; as a presbytery thus composed from all the Churches of Christ in the world would constitute the Catholic Presbytery.
It may be objected, that a convocation of all the Elders of all the separate congregations of the true Zion is utterly impracticable; and this but prepares the way for the introduction of another principle, which God has justified in relation to his own government, the dispensation of his justice and mercy, the families of the earth in their domestic relations, civil governments, and his church. We mean the principle of representation.
A provincial presbytery might be formed by a delegation from all the larger presbyteries within its bounds; a national presbytery, by a representation from the provincial presbyteries; and a Catholic, from all the national judicatories.
The principle of representation is already admitted and acted upon, in the formation of the General Assembly; of the State, and General Conventions of the Episcopalian Clergy; of the General Associations, Councils and Con. sociations of the Congregationalists; and indeed of the larger judicatories of all denominations of Christians.
Each larger, provincial, national or Catholic, presbytery possesses, by scriptural right, all the power over the section of the church represented in it, that a particular presbytery has over the congregation of which it is a constituent part. Of course, each presbytery has both original and appellate jurisdiction, in all matters with which they have scriptural warrant to concern themselves.
Such is the Presbyterianism which appears to us to be authorized by the Bible. Such is the Presbyterianism