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10. As in the apostolical, so in the primitive churches, the right of discipline was vested, not in the clergy, but in each church collectively.12

Even the officers of the church were subject to the authority of the same. Clement recognizes this authority in his epistle to the Corinthians.13 Comp. Chap. V.

11. The appropriate officers were two-fold, deacons, and pastors. These pastors were denominated indiscriminately bishops, overseers, and elders, presbyters, and were at first identical and equal. Comp. Chap. VI.

The government of the church was the peculiar office of such overseers, the bishops or presbyters. It was their business to watch over the general order, to maintain the purity of the Christian doctrine and of Christian practice, — to guard against abuses, to admonish the faulty, and to guide the public deliberations; as appears from the passages in the New Testament where their functions are described. But their government by no means excluded the participation of the whole church in the management of their common concerns, as may be inferred from what we have already remarked respecting the nature of Christian communion, and is also evident from many individual examples in the apostolical churches. The whole church at Jerusalem took part in the deliberations respecting the relation of the Jewish and Gentile Christians to each other, and the epistle drawn up after these deliberations was likewise in

12 Primo omnibus ecclesiae membris jus eligendi pastores et diaconos erat. Communicatio erat quaedam inter varios coetus christianos vel ecclesias; literae quas altera acceperat alteri legendae mittebantur. Pecunias ad pauperes sublevandos ecclesia ecclesiae donabat. De rebus fidei disciplinae jam apostoli deliberaverunt. Quaequae ecclesia exercebat jus excommunicandi eos qui doctrinae et vitae christianae renunciaverant, eosque recipiendi quorum poenitentia et mentis mutatio constabat. Sic prima christianorum ecclesia libertate, concordia, sanctitate floruit. Sack Comment, ad Theol. Inst., p. 141.

13 Epist. § 54, comp. 44. Also Pertsch. Kirch., Hist. I, 362.


the name of the whole church. The epistles of the apostle Paul, which treat of various controverted ecclesiastical matters, are addressed to whole churches, and he assumes that the decision belonged to the whole body. Had it been otherwise, would he not have addressed his instructions and advice, principally at least, to the overseers of the church? When a licentious person belonging to the church at Corinth is to be excommunicated, the apostle treats it as a measure that ought to proceed from the whole society; and places himself, therefore, in spirit among them, to unite with them in passing judgment; 1 Cor. 5: 3—5. Also, when discoursing of the settlement of litigations, the apostle does not affirm that it properly belonged to the overseers of the church; but if this had been the prevalent custom, he would no doubt have referred to it; what he says seems rather to imply that it was usual, in particular instances, to select arbitrators from among the members of the church, 1 Cor. 6: 5.14

Greiling, after going through with an examination of the government of the apostolical churches, gives the following summary. "In the age of the apostles, there was no primate of the churches, but the entire equality of brethren prevailed. They themselves exercised no kind of authority or power over the churches; but styled themselves their helpers and servants. The settlement of controverted points, the adoption of new rites, the discipline of the church, the election. of presbyters, and even the election of an apostle, was submitted to the church, and done with their concurrence, and in their name. The principle on which the apostles proceeded was, that the church, that is, the elders and the members of the church unitedly, were the depositaries of all their social rights, and that no others could exercise this right but those to whom the church might entrust it, and who

14 Neander, Apost. Kirch., I, pp. 1, 201. Comp. also, p. 214.

were accordingly amenable to the church. Even the apostles, though next to Christ himself, invested with the highest authority, assumed no superiority over the presbyters, but treated them as brethren, and styled themselves fellowpresbyters, thus recognizing them as associates in office."15

Finally, the worship of the primitive churches was remarkable for its freedom and simplicity. Their religious rites were few and simple; and restrained by no complicated ritual, or prescribed ceremonials. This point is considered, at length, in a subsequent part of the work.

The government was throughout wholly popular. Every church adopted its own regulations, and enacted its own laws. These laws were administered by officers elected by the church. No one church was dependent upon another. They were represented in synod by their own delegates. Their discipline was administered, not by the clergy, but by the people or the church collectively. And even after ordination became the exclusive right of the bishop, no one was permitted to preach to any congregation, who was not sufficiently approved, and duly accepted by the congregation; and all their religious worship was conducted on the same principles of freedom and equality.

Such was the organization of the Christian church in its primitive simplicity and purity. The national peculiarities of the Jewish and Gentile converts, in some degree, modified individual churches, but the form of government was substantially the same in all. We claim not, indeed, for it authority absolutely imperative and divine, to the exclusion of every other system, but it has, we must believe, enough of precept, of precedent, and of principle, to give it a sanction truly apostolic. Its advantages and practical results justly claim an attentive consideration.

15 Apostol. Christengemeinen. Halberstadt, 1819.



THE apostles and the first disciples were Jews, who, after their conversion, retained all the prejudices and partialities of their nation. They observed still all the rites of their religion; and, firmly believing that salvation by Christ belonged only to the circumcision, they refused the ministry of reconciliation to the Gentiles. All their national peculiarities led them to conform the Christian to the Jewish church.

With the temple service and the Mosaic ritual, however, Christianity had no affinity. The sacrificial offerings of the temple, and the Levitical priesthood, it abolished. But in the synagogue worship, the followers of Christ found a more congenial institution. It invited them to the reading of the Scriptures, and to prayer. It gave them liberty of speech in exhortation, and in worshipping and praising God. The rules and government of the synagogue, while they offered little, comparatively, to excite the pride of office and of power, commended themselves the more to the humble believer in Christ. The synagogue was endeared to the devout Jew by sacred associations and tender recollections. It was near at hand, and not, like the temple, afar off. He went but seldom up to Jerusalem, and only on great occasions joined in the rites of the temple

service. But in the synagogue he paid his constant devotions to the God of his fathers. It met his eye in every place. It was constantly before him, and from infancy to hoary age, he was accustomed to repair to that hallowed place of worship, to listen to the reading of his sacred books, to pray and sing praises unto the God of Israel. In accordance with pious usage, therefore, the apostles continued to frequent the synagogues of the Jews. Wherever they went, they resorted to these places of worship, and strove to convert their brethren to faith in Christ, not as a new religion, but as a modification of their own.

In their own religious assemblies they also conformed, as far as was consistent with the spirit of the Christian religion, to the same rites, and gradually settled upon a church organization which harmonized, in a remarkable manner, with that of the Jewish synagogue. They even retained the same name, as the appellation of their Christian assemblies. "If there come into your assembly, odrazayn, if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, &c." James 2: 2. Compare also novvaɣoziv. Heb. 10: 25. Their modes of worship were, substantially, the as those of the synagogue. The titles of their officers they also borrowed from the same source. The titles, Bishop, Pastor, Presbyter, &c., were all familiar to them as synonymous terms, denoting the same class of officers in the synagogue. Their duties and prerogatives remained, in substance, the same in the Christian church as in that of the Jews.


So great was this similarity between the primitive Christian churches and the Jewish synagogues, that by the Pagan nations they were mistaken for the same institutions. Pagan historians uniformly treated the primitive Christians as Jews. As such, they suffered under the

1 Vitringa De Synagog.,Vet. Prolegom., pp. 3, 4.

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