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tine, up to the establishment of Popery. All that we shall have room to say in a brief article may be ranged under some one of these heads. The subjects of ordination, succession, and kindred topics may be taken up in future numbers, if the discussion of them shall seem necessary.
We will begin by examining the government of the Church as it is exhibited in the New Testament, and as it existed during the lives of the apostles.
1. The first organization of the Christian Church may be refersed to as preparatory to what follows. In regard to this, our information is principally derived from the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles. From these we learn that the apostles regularly established Churches, and appointed proper officers and pastors whereever there was any number of believers sufficient to hold religious meetings. The newly collected Churches were, in the absence of the apostles, instructed by those among them who were best qualified for that purpose ; and who afterward were duly appointed by the apostles to fill up offices in the Churches; with the consent, however, of those over whom they were placed.
The great commission of Christ was, Disciple, baptize, and teach all nations. And whether this commission was exclusively intended for the apostles or not, which is doubtful, it is certain that private Christians made proselytes to the Christian faith, and then baptized and taught them. Philip, though no apostle, and probably no more than a deacon, that is, a steward, church warden, or almoner, did all to the Ethiopian eunuch which the apostles had in charge to do to all nations. He made a proselyte of him, baptized, and taught him. Ananias, a disciple or private member of the Church, was employed to baptize and teach Paul.
The disciples who were scattered abroad, after the persecution at the death of Stephen, went everywhere preaching the word. Our Lord himself made proselytes, and instructed them ; but left their baptism to be performed by his disciples. Though Peter was sent to open the door of faith to the Gentiles, by the conversion of Cornelius and his house, he left the charge of baptizing them to the Christian brethren who attended them. Paul says of his mission, that Christ sent him not to baptize but to preach; meaning thereby, according to the Hebrew idiom, that baptizing, though a part of his duty, compared with preaching, was but an inferior part. Nothing here advanced is opposed to the propriety of limiting, for the sake of discipline, the power of baptizing and public teaching to fewer hands, when once a fixed ministry is settled in the Church, and regulations are made for its government. No reasonable man can doubt that any private Christian was then, and is now, warranted to convert an infidel to Christianity, and to teach him its principles: yet in the primitive Church there was much more liberty given to private Christians to exercise their gifts, than what most modern Churches see fit to allow.
The foregoing practice prepared the way for the establishment of a usage which generally prevailed in the days of the apostles, which is the following:- That a plurality of teachers was given to every Church. In the Church of Jerusalem there were several elders. The same may be said of Ephesus and other Churches,
Indeed, the general usage seems to have been, to ordain or appoint elders in every city, or Church, or congregation. St. James instructs the sick person to send for the elders of the Church. (James v, 14.) In all congregations, or at least in most, there will be more than one endowed with gifts and qualifications proper for instructing others in some degree; and the primitive usage was to leave no gift unemployed; and this will afford a strong reason for the custom. Besides, the gifts of one man will rarely meet the wants of any one congregation ; as some are sons of thunder, and qualified to alarm and rouse; others are sons of consolation, and there: fore suited to soothe and comfort; some are eloquent, and so are fitted to persuade. Indeed, one is Paul, another is Apollos, and another is Cephas; and so are endowed with various gists, all of which are given for edification. Add to this, that there are wants in the people corresponding to the gifts of the ministry. Some need to be awakened, some comforted, and some built up in faith. Some require the benefit of one gift, and others of another. These were strong reasons why there were so many teachers in the primitive Church; and these reasons still remain in full force, so as to require their continuance. We may farther add, that as Christianity was then to be propagated everywhere, the increase of instructers was necessary for the purpose of extending it to every country. To all this we may subjoin, that in these times of persecution, in which the pastors were sure to fall first; it was necessary to have a sufficient supply, so that when one fell, there might always be another to fill his place. But the various wants of the people, both then and now, and the corresponding gifts of some to supply them, furnish the strongest reasons for the plurality of teachers.
2. Whether Christ appointed three orders of clergy, viz., bishops, elders, and deacons, has been warmly controverted, as has been already remarked. We may readily allow that such grades as nearly correspond to these may justly enough be looked for in the body of ministers; without running the sentiment into that of the three orders, in such a sense as the violent advocates for succession maintain. That there are these three orders, according to the doc. trine of the Church of Rome, which makes the union of them a sacrament, under the imposing name of holy orders, cannot be admitted. That there are three orders, in the sense in which the Protestant Episcopal Church and the English Church contend for, cannot be proved by Scripture. That there are grades of difference in the one order of clergy,—the first serving as an initiatory process to the full ministry; the second embracing the pastorship of the flock; and the third exercising a general supervision of both flock and pastor, we think can be fully shown both from Scripture and antiquity. But the advocates of the three orders, as they are termed, maintain that their distinctions are founded in Scripture, and authorized by the example of the primitive Church. Let us see how this is supported by Scripture.
We are told by high churchmen, that the apostles, the seventy disciples, and the deacons correspond with diocesan bishops, presbyters, and deacons in their Church. We shall now speak of the seventy disciples. From Luke x, it is evident our Lord sent them, as he did the apostles, to preach the Gospel. Their commission ended at the death of Christ, or was resolved into the common ministry, by the appointment of others; as there was no renewal of their authority, and they are not mentioned in the Acts or the epistles. They can never be considered as constituting an order, as is maintained by those who adduce them for this purpose. The seventy received not their mission from the apostles, as presbyters do from bishops, but immediately from Christ, as the apostles themselves. They were plainly sent on the same errand, and with the same power with the apostles.
In order to support the theory in question, there are two parallel passages of Scripture quoted. The first is, (1 Cor. xii,) “ And God hath set some in the Church; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” The other is as follows, (Eph. iv,) " And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” It is certainly out of place to quote these passages to establish three orders of ministers, composed of bishops, presbyters, and deacons ; when there are five grades, distinctions, or orders mentioned, viz., apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, and pastors, to say nothing of miracles, gifts of healing, &c. But the real truth seems to be this, that there was one great work to be accomplished, the work of the ministry, and the design of it was to edify and perfect the saints. To accomplish this, various gifts were bestowed on ministers, so as to qualify them to teach and feed the Church of God. A subordination of some, and a precedency of others, to maintain good government, were equally necessary for the good of the Church. But the technical division of the three orders on the one hand, and of perfect equality of station on the other, have no real support from these passages.
The truth seems to lie between both these extremes, and will be found in a far less artificial composition of the Gospel ministry than any of these favorite systems. If we consider the various grades or steps by which candidates proceed in arriving at the full exercise of the pastoral charge, according to the regulations of any well ordered Church-if we consider the various gifts possessed by different ministers—if we attend to the stations which eminent talents, piety, experience, and age, enable some to fill; and if we look at the need which some have of control, and others to be brought out to more extensive usefulness; perhaps we may find a better solution of these two passages of Scripture than the strong adherents to exact parity, or to the three distinct orders, will furnish us from their systems. The right solution of the passage seems to be the following: some of these distinctions, from their nature, must have ceased with the apostolic age ; while others of them must be kept up as long as good ecclesiastical rule will be observed.
3. The deacons made mention of in the New Testament were not a distinct order of clergy; nor did they, as deacons, belong to the clergy at all.
That the deacons are not an order of clergy at all, is evident from the original institution of their office, as well as the Scripture statements of their qualifications. The account of their institution
is in the following words: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch, whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them,” (Acts vi, 1-6.) On this we may remark, 1. The manner in which they were appointed. They were chosen by a vote of the Church, and ordained by the imposition of the apostles' hands, and by prayer. 2. Their character as exhibited here and in 1 Tim. iii, they should be men of good report, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith; grave, sincere, temperate, &c. ' 3. The purpose for which the office was established, was to serve tables, so as to relieve the apostles from this work, and enable them to attend to the ministry of the word. There was diakovla Tpanetwv, the deaconship, or ministry of tables, which the apostles formerly filled, in connection with the dlakovia Toyov, ministry, or deaconship, or service of the word. The ministry of tabļes had for its sphere the care of the poor and widows. The ministry of the word was preaching the Gospel. The apostles performed the duties of each. Both services became too onerous for them, and they could not leave the word, in order to serve tables, therefore the deacons were appointed, not to preach, but to take care of the poor, and attend to such business as was connected with the temporal concerns of the Church.
The deacons, by virtue of their office as deacons, were not authorized to preach and baptize. It is true, we learn that Philip preached to the eunuch, and Stephen did the same to the Jews; but this does not prove that preaching was a part of their office as deacons, because,' 1. Stephen and Philip may have preached like all other qualified persons in the primitive Church, such as those who were scattered abroad after the persecution, on the death of Stephen ; Ananias, who instructed Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, who taught Apollos, or such as any well instructed Christian in our days, many of whom occasionally may deliver religious instructions to great advantage. 2. Stephen and Philip may have been authorized evangelists previous to their being appointed deacons, and there was no more inconsistency in their becoming deacons, than there was in the apostles' filling that office before the appointment of the deacons. 3. These two deacons may have been appointed to the office of evangelist after their induction into the office of deacon. Accordingly Philip is, at a subsequent period, called an evangelist. (Acts xxi, 8.)
There were, also, deaconesses in the primitive Church. That the office of female deacons was of apostolic institution, though we are not informed of the occasion and manner of their appointment, there is no reason to doubt, since mention is made of it in the New Testament. Phebe is denominated by Paul, (Rom. xvi, 1,) “a deaconess, soav dlakovov, of the Church of Cenchrea.” And the directions given in the fifth chapter of the First Epistle to Timothy have always been considered as regarding those women who were appointed to this office. Like that of deacons, it did not belong to the ministry of the word, but to that of tables. The duty of these females' was to visit those of their own sex who were sick, in distress, or in prison ; to instruct female catechumens, and assist at their baptism; and perform for females those offices which could not be done by men. They were mostly widows who had been mothers, usually of forty, fisty, or sixty years of age. They were ordained to their office by the imposition of the hands of the bishops; as the apostolic constitutions mention the ordination of deacons, and the form of prayer used on the occasion. (Lib. viii
, c. 19, 20.) Pliny also, in his celebrated epistle to Trajan, (xcvii,) is thought to refer to them when speaking of two female Christians put to torture,
quæ ministræ dicebantur," who were called deaconesses. In the tenth or eleventh century the order became extinct in the Latin Church; and in the Greek Church about the end of the twelfth century. The argument which we deduce from the order of deaconess is the following :-It certainly did not embrace a ministry of the word. This is allowed on almost all hands. We infer, therefore, from its identity with the order of deacons, that the latter was also confined to the service of tables, as well as that of dea
In the primitive Church, the deacons had the charge of the poor and the distribution of the alms of the Church. They also assisted in administering the eucharist, and performed the rite of baptism; but both by the authority of their bishops. (See authorities on the office of deacons in Miller, p. 55. Bangs on Episcopacy, p. 14.)
The office of deacon seems to form a novitiate or preparatory step toward the presbyterate or episcopate. This seems to be taught by St. Paul. They that have exercised the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. iii, 13.) 'The good degree, kahov Baðuov, seems to refer to a higher grade of office, and of course that of the eldership. The great boldness, or Toaamu Trapp olav, great liberty of speech, seems to refer to the office of teaching the great doctrines of Christianity, and in expounding the Scriptures and preaching. It seems to have been a practice of the primitive Church to select the most grave and steady of the believers. to be employed as deacons; the most experienced and best qualified of the deacons, to the rank of elders; and the most able and pious of the elders, to the office of bishops. Besides, as all were to be proved in an inferior station before they were advanced to the superior ; so the private members were eligible to the deaconship ; and the deacons were permitted to exercise in some of the functions of the eldership preparatory to their occupying that office, in order to afford the Church some evidence of their qualifications for that office. Stewards and class leaders in the Methodist Episcopal Church, deacons in the Baptist, elders in the Presbyterian Church, and church wardens in the Protestant Episcopal Church, perform