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some length from Jerusalem, returned to that city, and on the day after his arrival went into the house of James, who is represented as having all the elders about him ; but, as is evident from what passed, with not so much as one of the multitude of laymen in the company. When St. Paul had declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry, James and the elders glorified the Lord, and said unto him, “ Thou seest, brother, how many 6 thousands of Jews there are who believe; and they “ are all zealous of the law; and they are informed “ of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews who are
among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying, that
they ought not to circumcise their children, neither “ to walk after the customs. What is it (what is to be “ done) therefore? The multitude must needs come
together, (it cannot be but they will come toge“ther,) for they will hear that thou art come. Do “ therefore this that we say unto thee: we have four
men which have a vow on them; them take, and
purify thyself with them, and be at charges with “ them, that they may shave their heads : and all may “ know (think or judge 5) that those things whereof
they were informed concerning thee are nothing, “ but that thou thyself also walkest orderly and keepest the law.” (Acts xxi. 19-24.)
This advice St. Paul followed, not however in obedience to the people as possessing in his opinion the supreme authority in the church of Jerusalem, but to humor a harmless prejudice, upon that principle which induced him, as he declares to the Corinthians h, “ to become unto the Jews as a Jew, that “ he might gain the Jews; to them that were under
8 In Stephens' Thesaurus, and even in Scapula's Lexicon, the reader will find a number of extracts from Xenophon, Plutarch, and other Greek writers, in which ywvwokw is of the same import with censeo, existimo, and judico in Latin. That it is used in that sense by St. Luke is obvious, since the multitude could not know that to be false, which was undoubtedly true.
h 1 Cor. ix. 20—28. VOL. VI.
" the law, as under the law, that he might gain " them that were under the law; to them that were “ without the law, as without the law, that he might “ gain them that were without the law;" and, even in matters indifferent, “ to become all things to all “ men, that he might by all means save some.” Had the multitude possessed the supreme power in the church of Jerusalem, St. James and the elders would undoubtedly have called them together to hear St. Paul's declaration of the things which God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry, and not have left them to be drawn together by their own curiosity and zeal, when they should hear of his arrival. At any rate St. James and the elders could not have proposed, nor would St. Paul have agreed, to impose on the people by even an innocent deception, had those people in the church of Jerusalem been the first in authority ; for, in that case, it would have been the duty of the two apostles and elders to give a full and fair account of their own conduct to their superiors.
It was certainly known to St. Paul and St. James, and probably to the elders, that from the moment when the veil of the temple was rent in twain, the ceremonies of the Mosaic law were no longer obligatory on the disciples of their master. This, however, it appears, was not known to the great body of Jewish Christians dwelling at Jerusalem, who still continued zealous for the law as well as for the faith, and strongly attached to the customs of their fathers. Were men laboring under prejudices so inveterate, and in truth so inconsistent with the final object of the Gospel, fit to be intrusted with sovereign power in the Christian church; with authority to excommunicate unworthy members, or even with the privilege of choosing their own teachers ? What should we think of the constitution of a great school, in which the sovereign power was committed to the scholars, with aụthority to expel every member whom they might deem unworthy, and even to dismiss the
masters, and choose teachers for themselves out of their own number? Could such a school be reasonably expected to prove a seminary of learning, science, virtue, or truth? Surely not; and yet Dr. Mosheim supposes that the Christian church, founded by the Son of God himself for the purpose of training up mankind in the faith, piety, and virtue necessary to render. them“ meet to be partakers of the inheri“ tance of the saints in light,” was thus constituted. That he is in an error, no man can doubt, who reflects that the doctrines to be taught in the church were, till the manifestation of Christ, unknown in the world, and such as human reason could never have discovered; that of such doctrines half-converted Jews and Heathens were incompetent to judge; that these doctrines were therefore revealed, not to every individual in the church, but to those who were
given for the perfecting of the saints, for the work “ of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of “ Christ;” and that by those inspired teachers they were" committed only to faithful men, whom they
(not the multitude at large) judged able to teach “ others also." How this was done, we shall endeavour to shew, when we come to give a view of the rise, progress, constitution, and object of the Christian church, from the infallible records of the New Testament, illustrated, where they seem obscure, by primitive practice; but, before we enter on that detail, it will be proper to analyse our author's account of the officers or ministers of the church, and of their different privileges, about which he seems to have fallen into mistakes as great as those which led him to attribute the supreme authority in each church to the people.
According to Dr. Mosheim, “ the rulers of the “ church were called either presbyters, or bishops, “ which two titles are, in the New Testament, “ undoubtedly applied to the same order of men, and s such as had distinguished themselves by their supe" rior sanctity and merit. Their particular functions
were not always the same ; for, while some of “ them confined their labors to the instruction of the
people, others contributed in different ways to the “ edification of the church. Among the first pro“ fessors of Christianity, there were few men of
learning; few who had capacity enough to insi“ nuate, into the minds of a gross and ignorant mul“ titude, the knowlege of divine things. God, there“fore, in his infinite wisdom, judged it necessary to “ raise up, in many churches, extraordinary teachers, “ who were to discourse, in the public assemblies, upon " the various points of the Christian doctrine, and to “ treat with the people in the name of God, as " guided by his direction, and clothed with his au“ thority. Such were the prophets of the New “ Testament, an order of men which ceased, when “the want of teachers, which gave rise to it, was “ abundantly supplied.
“ The church was undoubtedly provided from the “ beginning with inferior ministers or deacons. No “society can be without its servants, and still less 66 such societies as those of the first Christians were ; "and it appears not only probable, but evident, that “ the young men, who carried away the dead bodies “ of Ananias and Sapphira, were the subordinate “ ministers or deacons of the church of Jerusalem, “ who attended the apostles to execute their orders. “ All the other Christian churches followed the “ example of that of Jerusalem, in whatever related “ to the choice and office of the deacons. Some, “ particularly the eastern churches, elected dea“conesses, and chose, for that purpose, matrons or " widows of eminent sanctity, who also ministered to “ the necessities of the poor, and performed several “other offices, that tended to the maintenance of “ order and decency in the church.
66 Such was the constitution of the Christian “ church in its infancy, when its assemblies were “ neither numerous nor splendid. Three or four
presbyters, men of remarkable piety and wisdom,
" ruled these small congregations in perfect harmony;
nor did they stand in need of any president or
superior to maintain concord and order where no 6 dissensions were known. But the number of “ presbyters and deacons increasing with that of the “ churches, and the sacred work of the ministry “ growing more painful and weighty, by a number " of additional duties, these new circumstances re
quired new regulations. It was then judged “ necessary that a man of distinguished gravity and “ wisdom should preside in the council of presbyters, « in order to distribute among his colleagues their “ several tasks, and to be a centre of union to the “ whole society. This person was at first styled the “ angel of the church to which he belonged, but was “ afterwards distinguished by the name of bishop, or
inspector ; a name borrowed from the Greek language, and expressing the principal part of the episco“pal function, which was to inspect and superintend “ the affairs of the church. It is highly probable, that “ the church of Jerusalem, grown considerably nume“ 'rous, and deprived of the ministry of the apostles, “ who were gone to instruct the other nations, was the “ first which chose a president or bishop; and it is no “ less probable, that the other churches followed by degrees such a respectable example.
“ A bishop, during the first and second centuries, was a person who had the care of one Christian “ assembly, which, at that time, was, generally “ speaking, small enough to be contained in a private “ house. In this assembly he acted, not so much “ with the authority of a master, as with the zeal “ and diligence of a faithful servant. He charged, “ indeed, the presbyters with the performance of « those duties and services, which the multiplicity of “ his engagements rendered it impossible for him to “ fulfil ; but he had not the power to decide or enact “ any thing without the consent of the presbyters “ and people; and, though the episcopal office was “ both laborious and singularly dangerous, yet its