Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

teach; patient (under injuries); in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. 2 Tim. 2: 24–25. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 1 Cor. 3: 5. They disowned personal authority over the church, verses 14, 15; and instructed the elders not to lord it over God's heritage, but to be examples to the flock. 1 Pet. 5: 3. If, in the discharge of his ministry, one has occasion to reprove sin in an elder, this he is charged, before God and the elect angels, to do with all circumspection, without prejudice or partiality. 1 Tim. 5: 21.

(c) With their example. This is the best comment upon their instructions, and the clearest indication of that organization which the church received at their hands. They exercised, indeed, a controlling influence over the several churches which they established, just as an American missionary does in organizing his Christian converts into a church, while he constitutes them a popular assembly under a Congregational or Presbyterian form. In like manner, it is observable, that the apostles studiously declined the exercise of prelatical or Episcopal authority.6 But the control which they at first exercised in managing the affairs of the church was no part of their office. It was only a temporary expedient, resulting from the necessity of the case. Accordingly, they carefully disclaimed the official exercise of all clerical authority, and as soon as the circumstances of the churches would admit, they submitted to each the administration of its own government. In this manner, they gave to the churches the character of voluntary, deliberative assemblies, invested with the rights

6 Planck, Gesellschafts-verfass., 1, p. 39. Spittlers, Can. Recht, c. 1, § 3. Pertsch, Can. Recht, c. 1, § 5-8. Siegel, Kirchliche Verfassungsformen, in Handbuch, II, p. 455. Pertsch, Kirch., Hist., Vol. I. pp. 156—170, 362 -370.

388

32

THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH.

and privileges of religious liberty. This important fact is manifest in the following particulars.

(a) They addressed the members of the church as brethren and sisters, and fellow-laborers. I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes, I purposed to come unto you. Rom. 1: 13. And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not in excellency of speech. 1 Cor. 2: 1. I commend unto you Phebe, our sister. Rom. 16: 1. The same familiar, affectionate style of address runs through all the epistles, showing in what consideration the apostles held all the members of the church. "The apostles severally were very far from placing themselves in a relation that bore any analogy to a mediating priesthood. In this respect they always placed themselves on a footing of equality. If Paul assured them of his intercessory prayers for them, he in return requested their prayers for himself."

(B) The apostles remonstrate with the church as with brethren, instead of rebuking them authoritatively. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you. 1 Cor. 1: 10. Furthermore, then, we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you. 1 Thess. 4: 1. My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. James 2: 1. They spoke not by commandment, but in the language of mutual counsellors. 1 Cor. 11: 13-16.8

(7) They treated with the church as an independent body, competent to judge and act for themselves. They appealed to their judgment personally. 1 Cor. 11: 13-16. 1 Thess. 5: 21. They reported their own doings to the

7 Neander, Apostol. Kirch., I, p. 161, 3d edit.; and in the sequel much more to the same effect.

8 Comp. Socrates, Hist. Eccl., Lib. 5, c. 22.

church, as if amenable to that body, Acts 11: 1-18. 14: 26, 27, and exhorted the brethren to hold their teachers under their watch and discipline. Rom. 16: 17.

(5) They exhorted the churches to deeds of charity and benevolence; but submitted to each the disposal of his goods and his charities. Acts 5: 4. 11: 29, 30, &c. 1 Cor. 16: 1, seq. 2 Cor. 9, 1, seq.

(ε) They addressed their epistles, not to the pastors of the churches, but to the churches, or to the churches and pastors collectively, giving precedence even in some instances to the church. Phil. 1: 1. Even the epistles which treat of controverted ecclesiastical matters, are addressed, not to the bishops and presbyters, but to the whole body of believers, indicating that the decision belonged to them. Had it been otherwise, would not such instructions and advice have been given to the ministers of the churches? 9

(5) They recognize the right of the church to send out their own religious teachers and messengers, as they might have occasion. Acts. 11: 19-24; 15: 32, 33. 2 Cor. 8: 23. Phil. 2: 25. 1 Cor. 16: 3, 4. These deputations, and the power of sending them, indicate the independent authority of the church.

(7) They united with the church in mutual consultation upon doubtful questions. The brethren took part in the dissension with Peter, for having preached unto the Gentiles. Acts 11: 1-18. The apostles united with them in the discussion of the question respecting circumcision, which was submitted to them by the delegation from Antioch, and the result was published in the name of the apostles and the brethren, jointly. Acts 15: 1, seq.

(0) They submitted to the church the settlement of their own difficulties. The appointment of the seven

9 Comp. Ep. Clem. and Euseb., h. e. Lib. 4, c. 15. Lib. 5, c. 1, c. 24.

deacons, to obviate the murmurs of the Greeks, was made at the suggestion of the apostles, but the election was wholly the act of the church. Acts 6: 1-6. The apostles refused any authoritative arbitration in the case, and required them to choose arbitrators among themselves to settle their own litigations. 1 Cor. 6: 1.

() They entrusted the church, also, with the important right of electing their own officers. As in the case of the seven deacons, which we have just stated; the apostles refused even the responsibility of supplying, in their own number, the place of the traitor Judas, but submitted the choice to the assembly of the disciples. Acts 1: 15, seq. In this connection should the appointment of elders, Acts, 14: 23, also be mentioned, as may hereafter

appear.

(*) The apostles submitted to the church the discipline of its members; as in the case of the incestuous person, who was excommunicated and afterwards restored to the church by that body. "The relations of presbyters to the church was not that of rulers with monarchical powers, but of the officers of an ecclesiastical republic. In all things they were to act in connection with the church, and to perform their duties as the servants, and not the lords of the church. The apostles recognized the same relation. They addressed their epistles, not to the officers of the church, but to the whole body, when treating not merely of doctrinal points, but of moral. duties and of church discipline. The apostle Paul, when speaking of the excommunication of the incestuous person at Corinth, regards himself as united in spirit with the whole church, 1 Cor. 5:4; thus indicating the principle, that their co-operation was required in all such cases of general interest." 10

10 Neander's Allgem. Gesch., I, p. 324, 2d ed.

The churches, therefore, which were planted by the.. apostles, were under their sanction organized as independent popular assemblies, with power to elect officers, adopt rules, administer discipline, and to do all those acts which belong to such deliberative bodies.

[ocr errors]

7. The popular government of the primitive church is apparent from its analogy to the Jewish synagogue.

This and each of the following articles, under this head, will be the subjects of consideration in another place. They are assumed as so many separate heads of argumentation, so far as they may appear to be founded in truth. Comp. Chap. II.

8. The primitive churches were severally independent bodies, in Christian fellowship, but having no confederate relations one toward another.

"The power of enacting laws," says Mosheim, "of appointing teachers and ministers, and of determining controversies, was lodged in the people at large; nor did the apostles, though invested with divine authority, either resolve or sanction any thing whatever, without the knowledge and concurrence of the general body of Christians, of which the church was composed."11 Comp. Chap. III.

9.

These churches each enjoyed the inherent right of every independent body, that of choosing their own officers.

This right, which, as we have seen, belonged to the apos tolical churches, was perpetuated in the churches through the ages immediately following. Comp. Chap. IV.

11 De Rebus Christ., &c., § 1, 37. To the same effect, also, is the authority of Neander, Apost. Kirch., pp. 1, 161, 201, 214, 3d cd.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »