NOTE A. Referred to from Question 11.
THE word Church is of Greek derivation. Κυριακον is used by ancient authors for the place of public worship. The old word Kyroike, contracted into Kirk, and softened into church, is a compound of Κυριου οικος. It is of very extensive signification. Church is used generally in our version of the New Testaments for the Greek Εκκλησια. It is of some importance to ascertain the scriptural use of this word. It will assist in discovering the nature and form of a scriptural Church. We cannot explain doctrines, if we are ignorant of the words in which the doctrines are contained. And the generic meaning of every important word which is used in a variety of acceptations, must be carefully sought for by the critic. Philology is essential to sound criticism.
The words Εκκλησια in the New, and קהל in the Old Testament, are synonymous. They both proceed from the same root קל, the voice. The meaning of each is assembly—any number of persons met, by previous appointment. The verb, in each language, from which the noun immediately proceeds, is, to call out, to call together, and the noun is that which is so called.
It is, of course, no abuse of language to apply the word to any assembly, great or small, which meets for social or judiciary purposes. The character of the assembly is known from the connexion in which the word is used, and not from the word itself. In this latitude of application, the inspired writers of both Testaments made use of the words קהל and Εκκλησια.
In the Old Testaments the former of these words is applied to a number of idolatrous women—bands of soldiers—the commonwealth of Israel—distinct worshipping congregations—a representative assembly—a council, and, I may add, to other assemblies of every description.
1. The word קהל used in Jer. 44:15. It is applied to a great number of idolatrous women, who, together with their husbands, persisted in their opposition to the command of God by the prophet Jeremiah. It is worthy of being remarked, that the Septuagint, in this instance, renders the word by Συναγωγη. Our translation renders it multitude.
2. It signifies bands of soldiers. Ezek. 26:7. These marched against Tyrus, under the direction of the tyrant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. The Septuagint renders it, as above, (synagogues,) and the English translator’s, companies.
3. The word (which, for the sake of the English reader, I shall write KEL,) is used for the whole commonwealth of Israel. That people, called by God were bound together by a sacred ritual, and all were commanded to keep the passover. Exod. 12:6. Our translation renders it the whole assembly, and in Septuagint it is Παν το πληθος.
4. It signifies distinct worshipping societies. Ps. 26:12. In this verse, the Psalmist professes his resolution to honour the institutions of social worship. He had rather accompany the saints to the congregation, than sit in the society of the wicked, verse 5. In both cases the same Hebrew word is used; the Septuagint use Εκκλησια, and the English translators, congregation. KEL, and Ecclesia, are, with equal propriety, applied to the hateful clubs of the wicked, and to the worshipping assemblies of the saints.
5. The word is also applied to a representative assembly.
The principle of representation pervades all the social concerns of men. Without acting upon it, society never could exist beyond the limits of a family. The intercourse of nations, the government of every society, the agent in commercial transactions, the temporary chairman of an occasional meeting, all proceed upon this principle, so natural to man. The principle is, moreover, fully recognized in all the dispensations of God. The covenant of innocency, and the system of grace, alike proceed upon it. It was perfectly familiar to the Jews. God’s merciful transactions with Noah, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, are all founded upon the principle of representation. Upon this principle the venerable Jacob acted, when he blessed the two sons of Joseph, and when shortly thereafter he gathered his own sons around him, prophesying what should befall them in time to come. Moses is directed also to act upon it. Upon his entrance into Egypt, as the deliverer of the Hebrew tribes from bondage, he is ordered to assemble the elders of Israel. Exod. 3:16. He is ordered to address the elders, as if they were the whole assembly of the Israelites, and they are to accompany him to the presence of Pharaoh, and in the name of all the seed of Jacob, ask for liberty. After the regular organization of the Israelitish commonwealth, although Moses transacted all public business with the chiefs, he is uniformly represented as speaking unto all Israel. This form of speech was not to be misunderstood by the Jews. They had not yet learned to deny that principle upon which the represented identify with the representative. Deut. 29:14,15,25. When Moses was about to give his last advice to the Hebrews, he summoned the KEL before him. Deut. 31:30. In this instance, the word unquestionably signifies a representative body. My reasons for considering it so, are,
1. The obvious meaning of the passage. Ver. 29. “Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes—that I may speak these words in their ears”—ver. 30. “And Moses spake in the ears of all the קהל—the words of this song.” The KEL of Israel are the elders and officers met together.
2. It is impossible it can be otherwise. Moses could not speak in the ears of all Israel, except by representation. No human voice can extend over two millions of men.
3. Upon the principle of representation Moses uniformly acted. He instructed the elders, and the elders commanded the people. Deut. 27:1. “And Moses with all the elders of Israel, commanded the people.” Without multiplying texts, I refer the reader to Exod. 15:3. “Speak unto all the congregation of Israel”—verse 21. “Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel.” Even in the most solemn acts of religion, the elders represented the whole congregation. Their hands were placed upon the head of the bullock which was offered to make atonement for the whole congregation. Lev. 4:16. And that the reader may not be without an instance of the use of the word KEL, in the most abstract form which can exist upon the representative principle itself, I refer him to Gen. 28:3. Here it is applied to a single individual. Higher than this, representation cannot be carried. Ver. 1, “Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him”—ver. 3. “That thou mayest be a KEL.” Jacob was a KEL, as the representative of a very numerous posterity.
6. The word is used to signify a council—an assembly for deliberation and judgment. Gen. 49:6. The patriarch speaks of Simeon and Levi, these two are a KEL. It is, indeed, a representative one. Verse 7. “I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” This could have been said of the two sons of Jacob, only as including their posterity.
This KEL was however a council. They consulted and determined to destroy the Shechemites. The assembly was a conspiracy. The Septuagint renders the word by Συστασις.
The KEL in which Job cried for redress, could not have been the church of Israel, but a court of Judicature. Job 30:28.
Solomon, acquainted with the laws of Israel, must have referred to the power of Judicatories, in detecting crimes, when he spoke of the KEL, in Prov. 26:26. and 5:14.
The KEL; to which Ezekiel refers, 16:40. and 23:45-47. cannot be mistaken. The prophet himself expressly says this KEL would sit in judgment, try and decide, and execute the sentence, upon those who came before them. In these verses, the Septuagint renders the word by Οχλος, and our translation of it is company.
By the law of God, regular courts of jurisprudence were established among the Israelites. In no instance was the whole body of the people to be judges. Deut. 16:18. The rulers in each city, the officers of justice, are uniformly called elders, and unto these elders met in council, is every case referred. He must be, indeed, little acquainted with the law given by Moses, who is ignorant of this fact. See Deut. 21,22, and 25 chapters.
These elders met in council. To them the name Presbytery was applied in latter times. Moses and the prophets use the names KEL and OD-EH. These words are used indiscriminately in the Old Testament. It is to be observed, that they are translated in the Septuagint, generally by ecclesia and synagoga. This phraseology is adopted in the New Testament. The New Testament writers use the Septuagint translation of the scriptures in their quotations from the Old Testament.
Nehemiah summoned before the council the nobles and rulers who transgressed the law. Neh. 5:7. They exacted usury for their money, and are to be tried by the competent authorities. The word קהל, in this verse, we translate assembly, and the Septuagint reads Εκκλησια. Compare Numb. 35:24, with Deut. 19:12, and it will appear, that the congregation which judicially tried the man-slayer, is the Ecclesia of elders. See also Josh. 20:4. “He shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders”—ver. 6. “And stand before the congregation for judgment.”
The word Εκκλησια, in the New Testament, is not, any more than its correspondents in the Old, confined in its application to a popular assembly. It signifies a tumultuous mob, Acts 19:32, and the city council, Acts 19:39. This sense of the word is justified by the best Greek authors. Consult Passor, who quotes Demosthenes and Suidas, in defence of this application. Hence, the verb Επικαλεω is, in the middle and passive voices, to appeal from an inferior to a superior Judicatory. “Plutarch,” says Parkhurst, “several times applies the verb in the same view.” Acts 25:11,12,21,25. See also Chap. 26:32. and 28:19.
In the application of Ecclesia to the christian church, which is the most common use of it in the New Testament, it signifies the whole church militant—all the elect of God—private societies of believers—single organized congregations—several congregations united under a Presbytery—and church rulers met in Judicatory.
1. The church militant is an Ecclesia. Mat. 16:18. and Acts 2:47. “The Lord added to the church daily.”
2. The whole body of elect and redeemed sinners. Eph. 5:25. “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”—ver. 27. “That he might present it to himself a glorious church.”
3. Two or three private Christians, met for prayer and conference, or living together in a family, are an Εκκλησια. Acts 14:23. “They had ordained them elders in every church.” The Ecclesia, or Church, existed prior to its organization, by the election and ordination of rulers. It existed, in this sensed even in private houses. Rom. 16:5. and Col. 4:15.
4. The word signifies an organized congregation. Acts 14:23. The Ecclesia did not cease to be one, when presbyters were ordained to teach and to rule in the congregation.
5. The word is applied to several congregations regularly presbyterated. There is nothing to render this application improper. It is no abuse, in any language, of a generic term, to apply it to any collection of the individuals belonging to that genus, in a connexion which manifests the restriction. The church of Christ in Philadelphia, is all Christians in that city, although there should be one hundred congregations in it. The church in Corinth, is as intelligible a phrase as the church in the house of Nymphas—The church on earth, or, the church in glory. This application is not only just, but scriptural. The saints in Corinth were one Ecclesia, 1 Cor. 1:2. But in Corinth were several congregations. There were more Ecclesias than one, 14:34. Corinth was a city of great extent, wealth, and population. In it were several heathen temples, dedicated to different pagan divinities. There were upwards of a thousand prostitutes attending at the temple of Venus. In this city, Paul met with uncommon success in preaching the gospel. Here he abode nearly two years. Considering the rapidity with which the gospel was then spreading, attended with miraculous power, is it reasonable, that in Corinth there was yet but one congregation of professed Christians? In the present day, without any supernatural, or even uncommon success, it is not singular for a preacher, in a large city, to collect in a few years a congregation of religious professors. At the first sermon of Paul, numbers were converted. After this, the Lord informs him, he has “much people in this city.” Here were several pastors—public officers with a diversity of tongues, suited to the wants of the church; yet, when Paul wrote his epistle, all the congregations, although differing about the merits of their respective founders, are called one Ecclesia. In a similar sense is the word applied to the church at Ephesus, at Antioch, and Jerusalem.
6. Εκκλησια is applied to an assembly of elders. Mat. 18:17. The constitution of the Jewish courts is known. Each synagogue had its elders and officers. The inferior courts were subordinate to the Sanhedrim. Never were cases decided by the populace. Our Redeemer spoke in the common language of Judea. He referred to the synagogue court. When translated into Greek, what other name should be given to this Judicatory, than the one given, Ecclesia? There is no misunderstanding of this text, by one who impartially considers the connexion. There are in the church authorized rulers, distinct from the ruled. The rulers, and not the ruled, must ultimately determine controversies. To officers, was committed the power of the keys—the power of binding and loosing; and this Ecclesia, ver. 17, has the power of binding and loosing, ver. 18.—and it may consist even of two or three persons, ver. 20. The whole passage is a directory for the application of ecclesiastic power conferred upon church officers. Ch. 16:19. I shall close this note, by a quotation from the lectures of Dr. Campbell, of Aberdeen. It must appear extraordinary from the pen of such a scholar. “But in any intermediate sense between a single congregation and the whole community of Christians, not one instance can be brought of the application of the word Εκκλησια, in sacred writ. If any impartial hearer is not satisfied on this point, let him examine every passage in the New Testament, wherein the word we render church is to be found; let him canvas in the writings of the Old Testament every sentence wherein the correspondent word occurs, and if he find a single passage, wherein it clearly means either the priesthood, or the rulers of the nation, or any thing that can be called a church representative, let him fairly admit the distinction as scriptural and proper.” Camp. Lec. Vol. I. Pages 204-326.
After all that has been said by the superficial editor of these lectures, they must sink the reputation of Dr. Campbell. That an illiterate independent should write in this manner, would not at all be surprising: but that the author of the philosophy of rhetoric should scribble so inadvertently, I shall not say, ignorantly, about so very important a subject, is indeed astonishing. He did humble at his feet the apostle of infidelity, by his dissertation on miracles; but it was presumption, even after such a victory, to attempt, with a dash of his pen, to demolish the fabric of Presbyterianism, founded upon the scriptures, and erected by the learning of our fathers.
The officers of the visible church must act according to law. They sit in judgment, not upon the state of a person in the sight of God, but upon his profession, and his character, in the sight of men. The pastor should, privately and publicly, deal faithfully and plainly with men’s consciences. He should endeavour to discover their religious state, and their progress, in order to divide tightly the word of truth. But when, in common with his elders, he sits in judgment upon the admission of an applicant to church privileges, or upon the exclusion of a member from the fellowship of the visible church, he acts not upon private suspicions, but upon the evidence of overt acts. We are not to receive a man to communion, merely because he is regenerate, nor are we to reject him, merely because he is unregenerate.
1. We are not officers of the invisible church. Saintship is, in it, the criterion of membership.
2, It is impossible that regeneration is the criterion of membership in the visible church: no mere man can judge the heart. Upon this principle, we never could associate in the church with confidence. We cannot be certain of one another’s regeneration.
3. It is presumption to say that saintship is the criterion of visible membership. It condemns the conduct of Christ, and of the apostles. Christ admitted as a member, and ordained as a minister, Judas, whom he knew to be unregenerate. Simon the sorcerer was a baptized church member, while in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity. Here is our example, that private suspicions, yea, certain knowledge, unless founded upon some overt acts capable of proof, is not the rule of judgment.
4. By a divine constitution, the church of the Jews included some unregenerate men. The holiness of God is the same at all times. “Holiness becometh his house for ever.”
5. The christian visible church, according to Christ’s account of it, embraces some unregenerate men.
Is it a vine? It has barren branches. Is it a field of growing corn? The tares must grow with the wheat until the harvest. These tares are the children of the wicked one. This is not to be denied. It is the devil that brings hypocrites and self-deceivers to make application for church membership. But the vigilance of Christ’s servants cannot keep them always without. We warn all of danger. We deal plainly with their consciences. If they deceive us by a false profession, their blood be upon their own heads. But no general law, by which the tares should be rooted up, could preserve the wheat unhurt.
6. The principle, that regeneration is the criterion of membership, is pregnant with mischief. 1. It encourages ignorance in ministers. Why should they labour to understand the constitution, laws, and history, of the visible church, seeing they have only to judge whether such a man have grace or not, in forming a church? 2. It is an engine of tyranny. There is no rule to be prescribed for him who erects his metaphysical apparatus to judge of my heart. 3. It encourages spiritual pride. “Stand by,” says this discerner of spirits, “I am holier than thou.” 4. It is destructive to piety. The church, upon my admission, has pronounced me regenerate. I have no need of self-examination. My joy, instead of a thirst for holiness, will hereafter be fed by repetitions of experience. 5. It encourages licentiousness. If a saint is not to be excommunicated, he may indulge in scandals, even in murder and adultery, with impunity. 6. It is a certain method of banishing saints from the church, and of receiving hypocrites. The sincere Christian is more inclined to do what he ought, than to proclaim what he feels. The libertine, who lived without God, having, some how, believed the doctrines of grace, and immediately conceived himself a remarkable monument of divine grace, while he is in heart a libertine still, is the most suitable member for such a communion. Under pretence of being strict, such terms of communion are in fact the most latitudinarian.
Let none be induced by these remarks, to consider as a church member any person, merely because he is respectable in the world, is partial to a certain system, or holds a pew in a place of worship. The qualifications for church membership are expressed in answer to Question 26.
No external form of church policy is inseparably connected with the conversion of the soul to God. There may be hypocrites in the best regulated churches, And there may be Christians who have never seen any officer of the visible church. Family education, yea, the Bible has been the mean of conversion, even where there is no organized church. The doctrines of grace, in whatever method exhibited, are the means of conquering the enemies of God, and reducing them into the obedience of Christ. Church government is the mean of maintaining and improving the conquest. This is also appointed by Christ, and is, of course, of divine right.
When the extraordinary ministers of the New Testament church, like a conquering army, made any acquisitions to the Redeemer’s kingdom, they provided for their new converts a regular government. The disciples at first associated in private fellowship, for prayer and conference. These societies were visited, with public ordinances, as convenience admitted, by the apostles and evangelists. When their numbers increased, they were, with all convenient speed, regularly organized; and presbyters were ordained over them. Acts 14:23. That certain external model of government, which was originally adopted for the preservation of the evangelical doctrines and institutions, and for the careful transmission of them to after ages, is of divine authority. A jus divinum is supported by any one of the five articles mentioned in the answer to Question 39.
Πρεσβυτερος is a term of official authority. The Jewish זקנים are rendered by the Septuagint Πρεσβυτεροι, These words, our translation renders by elders. They might be rendered Eldermen, or Aldermen. See Parkhurst’s Lexicon. Such officers were appointed in every city of Israel. Ezra 10:14. The magistracy of Egypt, as well as the rulers of Israel, bore this name. Gen. 50:7. In the language of the New Testament, the Jewish rulers are presbyters, and the council of rulers a presbytery. Luke 22:66. All Christian ecclesiastical rulers are presbyters. The name points out, from its Old Testament usage, that the person who bears it, is a governor, and may sit in a representative KEL, or ecclesiastical Judicatory. All who bear any spiritual authority, are comprehended under this term. Deacons bear no such power. Their office is to serve the tables of the poor. The apostles, in the exercise of ordinary power, are no more than elders 1 Pet. 5:1. All the presbyters are ordained to office by a presbytery—by a plurality of elders, Acts 14:23. Every organized church has several elders to govern it. The office is honourable, and is entitled to the respectful obedience of Christians. Some of the elders rule only. Others rule, and also labour in word and doctrine. 1 Tim. 5:17. The teaching presbyter is the same with the pastor. And all these presbyters are bishops of divine right. According to the infallible decision of the Holy Ghost, the presbyters are bishops, and they feed a particular flock committed to their charge. Acts 20:28.
Public social worship is as old as religious society. Jehovah, as mediator, familiarly conversed with men, since the fall. God received sacrifices from them. The sabbath must have been sanctified by prayer and conference. Men must speak about what is interesting to them, and pious men must pray.
When divine revelation began to be read, and written, a change must have been introduced in the forms of public worship.
Reading and applying the scriptures would then become a part of public devotion. When literature began to extend, and copies of the scriptures to multiply, the Jewish Proseucha is converted into a synagogue. After the time of Ezra, the synagogues became common. Congregations were regularly formed, and appropriate officers appointed to conduct the devotion, and inspect the morals of the church. As, in the earliest times, the name KEL was common to the congregation and its rulers, so, in the later times of the Jews, the term ODEH was used to designate those who worshipped in the synagogues, the place of worship, or the officers of religion who ruled in the congregation.
In each synagogue there were ten officers, במלנים. One was the minister, known also by the names angel, or bishop of the church. He conducted the public devotion. With him were associated, in government, three rulers, who had the management of the finances of the church, and judged in all cases of offence among the members. Three were deacons, who had special care of the poor. The eighth was an interpreter of the Hebrew into the language commonly spoken. The ninth and tenth were sacred critics, who were appointed for the study of the scriptures, in order to assist the interpreter. A very useful institution, when there were no translations or commentaries to be had.
The BAMELNIM were the synagogue representative. Some learned men have mistaken them as constituting the whole congregation, because they are sometimes called the synagogue. Take away from this institution what was peculiar to the state of the Jews, and you have the christian consistory, or congregational session. From the decisions of the elders of the synagogue an appeal might be made to the Sanhedrim, the supreme council of presbyters. See Maimon. in Synhed. Lightfoot de Synag. and compare Num. 35:24,25, with Deut. 19:12, and Josh. 20:4, in the Septuagint.
The Jews had five kinds of courts. 1. The great sanhedrim. 2. The inferior sanhedrim. It consisted of 23 presbyters, and sat in the principal cities. 3. The session of the synagogue. 4. The authorized session, appointed occasionally by the sanhedrim, to try special causes. 5. The unauthorized session. This court was composed of arbitrators chosen by the contending parties. The Jews enjoyed their own laws throughout the Roman empire. Christians had the same liberty, until Nero became a persecutor. Until this time, the Romans made no difference between the church and the synagogue. Acts 18:15.
The apostle Paul reproves the Corinthians for going to law before heathen magistrates. Taking for granted that the church has its authorized courts, superior and subordinate, to judge in spiritual concerns, he orders them to imitate the Jews, in referring disputes about temporalities to unauthorized courts.
The Τους εξουθενημενους are the session of voluntary arbitrators appointed by the parties. Let these judge of the Βιωτικα. 1 Cor. 6:4. Maimon. in Synhed.
The Αποστολος is an extraordinary ambassador of Christ. He was commissioned for extraordinary purposes, Like the generals of a victorious army, the apostles exercised, in the name of their King, authority throughout all parts of the vanquished empires until the regular magistracy was organized and fully settled. They have no successors in this respect. The presbyter is fully competent to all ordinary administrations. In relation to such cases, the apostles themselves are no more than presbyters. 1 Pet. 5:1.
Church government is subordinate to evangelic doctrine. The power given to the apostles, was intended solely for subserviency to their preaching. 2 Cor. 13:8. Teaching is the highest dignity in the church, became it is the most useful and laborious service. Preaching was the principal work of the apostles The ambition of prelates has inverted this divine older. Preaching is the meanest service in the popish and episcopal churches. It is merely subservient to the government of bishops and of popes. The bishops exalt the mean above the end. Government is, with them, the principal part of religion. To be in power is more dignified than to edify.
Apostolic authority was founded upon apostolic gifts. God was the author of both, and both were subservient to teaching. None can pretend to a succession of apostolic power, without a succession of the gifts which qualified for it; and ambition could alone make dignity consist more in bearing rule than in teaching. The scripture says, “Let the presbyters who rule well, be counted worthy of double honour; especially, they who labour in word and doctrine.” Episcopalians say, let the preacher be honoured, but especially the bishop who rules over him. This is not the only instance in which they pervert the words of truth. 1 Tim. 5:17.
The evangelists were extraordinary ministers. As ordained presbyters, they exercised the ordinary power of the pastor. 1 Tim. 4:14. Their principal work was teaching, and organizing churches, by apostolic direction. The ordinary ministers stood in need of this assistance. They had not, as yet, the New Testament revelation in writing. The evangelists, in part, supplied this defect. Timothy would have been, to the churches which he visited, what the epistles sent to him by Paul, are to us—a directory upon which we may depend. The evangelists have been transformed into prelates, by the churches of Rome and England. These churches can canonize saints, and consecrate bishops, at pleasure. It is remarkable, that they are always for increasing the power; but never for appreciating the labour of the teacher.
Επισκοποι is a name of office. It is borrowed from the synagogue חזן. Maimonides de Sanhed. Cap. 4. describes him, as “the presbyter who labours in word and doctrine.” Bishop and presbytery or, as our translation sometimes reads, overseers and elders, are different names of the same officer. Acts 20:17-28. Presbyter is expressive of the authority, and episcopos, of the duty, of the pastor. Is it ignorance that has transposed these expressive titles? or how is it come to pass, that the bishop should be a superior ruler, when presbyter is the word really expressive of ecclesiastical power! The presbyter is appointed a bishop by the Holy Ghost. Acts 20:28. The diocesan bishop is consecrated by man. He is, in fact, no creature of God.
The angel of the church is analogous to the SELIH-JEBUR of the synagogue. The שליה צבור was the minister whose office it was publicly to read and explain the law and the prophets. The duties of the christian minister may be known, by the names given to him in the scriptures. The names which are divinely given to men, are always expressive of some important article of their conduct and character. Presbyter is a term of power, and points out the ruler; pastor points out a public purveyor of spiritual provisions for the church; bishop, the spiritual instructor of the state of the congregation; teacher, the public instructor of the congregation; and angel, the messenger of God to men. All these characters unite in the minister of the gospel. By each of these names is he known in the scriptures.
Sometimes the scriptures make use of a definite number for an indefinite, and even of an individual for all who belong to the same genus. This mode of speech is common in every language. It is a picture of the mind in the exercise of abstraction. Deut. 32:30. and 1 Tim. 3:2. The number seven is often used in an indefinite sense, or rather to express perfection. Rev. 1:4. And although the seven candlesticks have immediate respect to the churches of Asia, the expression represents all christian congregations, verse 13. Christ is present in all his churches. The seven stars which he held in his right hand, 16, represent all his ministers. These are called angels, verse 20. And although immediately applied to the ministers of the seven churches of Asia, the name belongs to all ministers, as well as the epistles to all churches. The angel of the church of Ephesus has undergone many transformations. Rev. 2:1. The church of Rome and the church of England have consecrated him a diocesan. The independents are unwilling to find in Ephesus any more than one congregation of Christians; and the angel is only the gifted brother who exhorts the church—something of a lay-preacher. Dr. Campbell invents another hypothesis. He confesses, indeed, that it is an invention. Vol. I. Page 168. This learned writer takes very often the liberty of inventing articles of ecclesiastical history. Every congregation had, in primitive times, Dr. Campbell conjectures, a college of pastors. This college had a constant president. This president is the angel of the church. [This is the amount of Lecture V., Article, Angel of the Church.] Dr. Campbell himself was principal of a college. With the independents, he considers Ephesus as containing only one congregation; and with the episcopalians, he considers the angel a superior minister. Both these opinions are without foundation.
1. Ephesus had several congregations of professed christians, 30 years before the date of the epistle directed to the Αγγελος. Rev. 2:1. The city of Ephesus was one of the most famous of Asia Minor. The population was very great. The temple of Diana is an evidence of this. It was upwards of 400 feet in length, and 220 in breadth. In this city, the “word of God grew mightily and prevailed.” “Multitudes heard it.” The name of “Jesus was magnified.” Acts 19:8,10. “A great and effectual door was opened.” Multitudes confessed their sinful deeds. Many others “burnt their books to the value of fifty thousand pieces of silver.” Encouraged by such a rich harvest, the apostle Paul remained in Ephesus above two years.
Is it possible, then, that these converts, who, together with their families, were received into the church, would form but one congregation? If so, they who serve the modern tabernacle, have been more successful than the apostles. Upon this principle, small indeed must have been the success of the gospel during the first century.
2. In Ephesus, at a very early periods twelve extraordinary ministers—prophets, having the miraculous gifts of tongues, were employed. Unless they had many congregations, the gifts of tongues would not have been necessary for so many. And some years thereafter, there were in Ephesus, not a number of priests, and one bishop—not a college of pastors, and one president—but several church officers, each one of whom was a presbyter, to rule, a bishop, to inspect, and a pastor, to feed his own congregation—his special charge. Acts 19:17-20. and Chap. 20:17-28.
In every organized church there were indeed several presbyters—rulers. Acts 14:23. Were all these rulers pastors? No.—The primitive preachers were not indolent. They did not remain inactive. One was sufficient to conduct the public worship of the Lord’s day. Each pastor had a flock over which the Holy Ghost made him overseer. The pastoral connexion is formed by the blessed Spirit. Acts 20:28. For what other purposes then were elders ordained in every congregation? As helps for government. The church has several rulers—some of these labour in word and doctrine. 1 Tim. 5:17. Others only rule.
But in the city of Ephesus there were many congregations regularly organized, each having its pastor and its elders. These several congregations were nevetheless, one church. They were presbyterated. Each pastor is an angel. In Ephesus, of course, there were many angels. Why then is the angel of the church of Ephesus addressed in the singular number? To maintain correctness of figure and of thought. As many churches are one church, many angels are one angel. The letter, Rev. 2.:1-7, is, in fact, addressed to the ministry of the Ephesian church. I have not found in the New Testament an instance of several ministers in one congregation. The congregations were small. They had no houses in which a large body could assemble. To erect small congregations, having each its proper pastor, is a better plan for edification, than to establish large collegiate churches.
The hand is the instrument of power. Χειρ is used in scripture for ministerial action. Acts 14:3. Luke 4:11.
Hence, imposition of hands is a communication of power. This significant action was known to the patriarchs. Gen. 48:14.
The presbyters of the synagogue were ordained by the laying on of hands. In its scriptural usage, this action is universally expressive of some communication from him who lays on the hand, to him upon whom it is laid. In any other sense, it is a common, and not a religious action.
1. It is a mean of communicating bodily vigour. Mark 6:5.
2. It is a communication of special blessing. Gen. 48:14. Mark 10:16.
3. It is a mean of imparting the power of miracles—the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Acts 8:17.
4. And it is a communication of ministerial authority. Numb. 27:18,23. Deut. 34:9. 1 Tim. 5:22. Physical strength, special blessing, miraculous power, and moral authority, have, according to divine appointment been communicated by the laying on of hands. Those things have also been otherwise communicated. God selects means adequate to the end.
All the communications mentioned in scripture as made by the imposition of hands, are of an extraordinary kind, except one--that of authority. This is alone capable of being regulated by ordinary agency.
Episcopalians have mistaken the use of laying on of hands,
1. In what they call confirmation. The bishop pretends to give the Holy Ghost. Has he that Spirit really to bestow? No. Extraordinary gifts are not communicable by man, without extraordinary power. Miracles are ceased.
2. Presbyters lay on their hands along with the bishops, in ordinations to the ministry. They intend no more by this, than to signify assent. This is a profanation of a divine ordinance. There is not an instance in the whole Bible, of imposition of hands, as a token of assent. The whole congregation might lay on hands, in this sense of the phrases or deed. Episcopalians are, however, in the right, even against their will, in this instance. The ordination would otherwise be void. They oppose presbyterianism: but necessity compels them to adopt, in practice, presbyterial measures. This, by the providence of God, rescues his visible church from much confusion. Episcopal ordination is valid.
The apostles, as extraordinary ministers, communicated the Holy Spirit both to officers and private Christians. They, in this sensed laid their hands upon the deacons. Acts 6:6. As ordinary church rulers, they, in common with others, communicated ecclesiastic authority, ordaining to the christian ministry. 1 Tim. 4:14. and 2 Tim. 1:6. No one can communicate that which he does not himself possess from God.
The prelates of England, during the reign of Henry, and of Elizabeth, were obliged to defend the hierarchy. They had learning, and from the ancient fathers they selected mutilated passages in defence of prelacy. These same passages have been quoted from writer to writer, among them, few recurring to the original authorities. Is it this practice that has deceived Mr. Hobart, a minister of Trinity church? It is hoped, a little more learning and experience will correct the extravagance of a vigorous mind. This gentleman, if consistent with himself, doctrinally, excludes from the hope of happiness hereafter, all who are not episcopalians; and even all episcopalians, who do not receive the Lord’s supper. His words are, “The devout participation of the holy Eucharist will appear indispensably necessary to our salvation.” Companion for the Altar, Page 182. “None can possess authority to administer the sacraments but those who received a commission from the bishops of the church. It must be essential, therefore, to the efficacy of the Lord’s supper—that it be administered by those who have received lawful authority.” Page 200.
These sentiments were committed to writing, in the beginning of the 19th century, by an American. What system can have produced such infatuation in such a country, and in such a period? No soul to be saved, that has not participated of the Eucharist. No benefit in sacraments, except those administered by persons who have received episcopal ordination.
“Laying on the hands of the presbytery,” is to Mr. Hobart of no value. I shall quote the words of a celebrated prelate. Let episcopalians determine which authority is greater, that of a presbyter of Trinity church, or that of the archbishop of Canterbury. The quotation is from a licence granted to the Rev. John Morison, a presbyterian minister. It is dated 6th April, 1582. “You were admitted and ordained to sacred orders, and the holy ministry, by the imposition of hands, according to the laudable form and rite of the Reformed Church of Scotland: We, therefore, as much as lies in us, and as by right we may, approving and ratifying the form of your ordination, grant unto you a licence—that in such orders by you taken, you may, and have power, in any convenient places, in and throughout the whole province of Canterbury, to celebrate divine offices, and to minister the sacraments.”
The doctrine of ministerial parity is not altogether unsupported by the authority of dignified clergymen. It has higher authority. It is the institution of Christ. Mark 10:42-44.
Χειροτονεω signifies, to hold out the hand. It is compounded of Χειρ, the hand, and Τεινω, to extend. The action, holding out the hand, is expressive of choice and resolution. It marks a decision of the will, whether intimated or executed.
The word is used to signify divine appointment. Acts 10:41. Human choice, however expressed. 2 Cor. 8:19. And 3dly, it signifies to elect to office, by holding up the right hand. "At Athens, some of the magistrates were called Χειροτονητοι, because they were elected by the people in this manner." Parkhurst.
The right of choosing spiritual rulers, is in the christian people; the power of ordination, in those who are already ordained. Χειροτονησαντες, Acts 14:23, embraces election and consequent ordination of elders in the church.
The mode of election, provided the congregation do in fact elect, is a matter of expediency. It should be done with judgment and decorum. The nomination of a candidate must begin somewhere. In a popular assembly some one must preside. The session and the congregation are equally interested in the ordination of a ruler.
The session is, moreover, the authorized representation of the whole church. It is proper, therefore, that when rulers are to be chosen, the members of session, or the senior members of the church, should consult together, and nominate candidates.
The power of election, and even of a counter nomination, is in the adult members of the church. Females should observe delicacy in the exercise of this right. They should not be forward, or, unconcerned. They who are not represented by parent, or husbands should appear and give their suffrages.
Διακονος, and its parent Greek verb, are derived from the Hebrew גחן, to minister. Diaconos, is one who renders a service. It is applied, in the New Testament, to the Redeemer himself. Rom. 15:8.—To any religious worshipper. John 12:26.—To women useful in religious concerns. Rom. 16:l.—To civil rulers. Rom. 13:4.—To all ministers of religion, whether extraordinary as apostles, or ordinary pastors, 1 Cor. 3:5. Acts 1:14. Col. 1:7.
Every person, public or private, male or female, who renders any service to another, is a deacon. But, besides this general use of the word, it is a term of office, in the church. The name is given emphatically to him, who is ordained to serve officially the tables of the poor. Deacons are not, necessary to the regular organization of a christian church. They are founded upon the circumstance of a class of paupers belonging to the church. When the concerns of the poor demand particular managers, the ordination of deacons for that office, is a matter of divine right. Ordained deaconesses are not known in the church. Every female, who renders any service to a christian ministers or member of a congregation, is a deacon in the general sense of the word. The first deacons, Acts 6:1-6, were not officers of a particular congregation. At Jerusalem, there could not, at the time of their election, be less than twelve thousand Christians. There could not, by any means, be more than one deacon for a congregation. These deacons were, in fact, officers for managing the temporalities of the whole presbytery of Jerusalem. All collections were delivered into the hands of the apostles and elders, the presbytery. Acts 11:30. The deacons were the official distributers of the sums collected. Although the twelve apostles, besides other ministers, were yet at Jerusalem, so great was the number of congregations, and so much business of a more important nature had they to transact, that they could not attend to the temporalities of the church. Had there really been but a single congregation at Jerusalem, twelve inspired apostles might have managed all its affairs.
The Διακονος, is not, any more than the Πρεσβυτερος who rules only, ordained by the imposition of hands. The ministry of the word and sacraments is not committed to them. They are set apart, by prayer, to their office. Upon the first deacons, after their ordination, the apostles laid their hands, in order to communicate the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost. Acts 6:6. Ruling elders are the constitutional assistants of the ministry, in government, and deacons the assistants of both ministers and elders, in managing the affairs of the poor.
The success of the gospel, in the first century, was remarkably rapid. Thousands were converted, at single sermons. Nothing has equalled it since the creation of the world. The commencement of the millennium will alone afford such another rapid diffusion of light and life. Jerusalem was the principal theatre upon which these wonders were displayed. And yet, even at Jerusalem, some christian divines inform us, there was, during the apostolic age, only one single congregation of Christians. These writers are certainly beside themselves. Prejudice and inadvertence are not sufficient to account for such misrepresentations. Professor Campbell is more inexcusable than those who serve the tabernacle. When an error is connected with the interest, the pride, and the ministerial standing of a person, we are not surprised, if he appears to cherish that error. This is the case, in relation to the independents, but not in relation to Dr. Campbell.
Εκκλησια, in the singular number, is repeatedly applied to all Christians in Jerusalem. Acts 8:1, and 11:22, and 15:4. “But in any intermediate sense, between a single congregation and the whole community of Christians, not one instance can be brought of the application of the word in sacred writ. The plural number is invariably used, when more congregations than one are spoken of, unless the subject be of the whole commonwealth of Christ.” Camp. Lec. Vol. I. 204. There is, of course, at Jerusalem, during the apostolic age, no more than one single congregation. This argument is the corner stone of independency. Remove it, and the tabernacle tumbles.
There were at Jerusalem several congregations in one church.
1. The apostles, prophets, and elders, would not have remained at Jerusalem, to preach to one congregation.
2. Diversity of languages did then as well as now require different places of worship. Miracles were performed, to confer on ministers the gift of tongues. There must have been different congregations, that the ordinary worship of the sabbath might be intelligibly conducted.
3. They had not in Jerusalem large places of worship, in which very large congregations could meet on the Lord’s day, for the stated worship. They usually assembled in private houses, chambers, and upper rooms.
4. There were in Jerusalem at least fifty thousand Christians.
Jerusalem was a city of vast extent. Its population exceeded a million of inhabitants. When besieged and destroyed by the Roman army, it contained upwards of two millions. The Jews were then assembled to keep the passover. The ordinary worship of the Jews was conducted in the synagogues. These were their parish churches. There were nearly 500 of them in the capital of Judea.
In this great city did the Lord begin his great work. Three thousand, on one day, five thousand, upon another, and, after this, multitudes, men and women, were repeatedly added to the church. Acts 2, 3, 4 chapters. Still the number of disciples at Jerusalem greatly increased. Even after this, vast multitudes were added to the Lord, and they remained in peace at Jerusalem, until the persecution commenced. Acts 8. Ch. Again, however, “the churches had rest throughout all Judea.” The word of the Lord increased and multiplied. There were in Jerusalem several myriads. Acts 21:20. Πεντε μυριαδας, is translated in Acts 19:19, fifty thousand. A myriad is, without dispute, ten thousand. At the time alluded to in this verse, there is every reason to believe, that there were in Jerusalem no less than twenty organized congregations belonging to that presbytery. He who carefully consults the sacred history will find the absurdity of limiting the number of Christians in Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, and Corinth, to a single congregation in each place. These very large cities, however, appear to the principal of Marischal college, as villages, quite inferior to Aberdeen. During the triumphs of the gospel, they contained but a single Εκκλησια in each of them.
The XV. chapter of Acts has been tortured by ecclesiastical disputants. The Roman imagines that it establishes the papal power of Peter. It is, to the episcopalian, a demonstration of the diocesan authority of James, as bishop of Jerusalem. The independents see nothing more in it, than a meeting of all Christians to consult and advise.
There are also some commentators, who conceive that this part of divine revelation makes nothing for any particular form of government. They say it merely announces a decision of the apostles, acting in their extraordinary character, as inspired men.
I propose to show in this note, that we have in this chapter, an authoritative decree, enacted by a representative assembly, exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction over churches and presbyteries.
1. It is an authoritative decree. Δογματα κεκριμενα. The word dogma never conveys the idea of advice. It is uniformly expressive of a decree which must be obeyed. It is used in the New Testament only in four places, besides its application to the decree of the meeting at Jerusalem. In two of these, it is applied to the decrees of the Roman emperor. Acts 17:7. Luke 2:1. The decrees of Caesar are not a simple advice. He compelled his subjects to pay tribute. In the other two places, the word is applied to the positive ordinances of God. Col. 2:14. Eph. 2:15. The dogmas of the Lord are not an advice, but statutes which bind the conscience. The Septuagint uses the word for laws and decrees. Dan. 2:13, and 3:10, and 4:3, and 6:8. It is a burden—a necessary thing—not a simple advice. Acts 15:28. It is a decree ordained—not a mere recommendation. Acts 16:4.
2. It was enacted by a representative assembly—church—Εκκλησια. This will appear, if we consider the subject with impartiality.
1. The apostles did not determine the question as inspired extraordinary teachers and rulers. When inspired, they “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” This excludes disputation. 2 Pet. 1:21. But about this question there was much disputation. Acts 15:7. As inspired, any one apostle might have decided the question. It must have been the design, of God, in not ordering one to do so, to set us an example of ordinary ecclesiastical proceedings. Besides, the apostles were not alone in forming the decision. The elders, verse 6, the whole church, verse 22, the brethren, verse 23, were associated with the apostles, in the discussion, framing, and execution, of this decree.
2. The whole church, literally, was not the enacting authority. The whole church, literally speaking, includes all the disciples of Christ then on earth, man, woman, and child. These were not at Jerusalem. If it is said, that the whole church means only believers at Jerusalem, this use of the term, whole church, ὁλη τη εκκλησια, is contrary to the whole system of independency itself. What right had the congregation at Jerusalem to enact a decree to bind the churches of Syria? Popery itself is not more despotic than this kind of independency. But where would the whole body of Christians in Jerusalem, amounting to the number of several thousands, nay, myriads, meet? How could they discuss and determine? Supposing that they were present, how long must it have taken them to express their opinions? or is it probable, there would have been no dissenting voice, considering they were so zealous of the law, and long after this, attached to its forms? What instrument did they use to speak with, so that a body of fifty thousand men could hear the arguments? Enough, however, has been said, to show that the body of christian people was not the enacting authority in the present case. The hypothesis is absurd. Dr. Campbell, in a work which does him much more honour than his lectures on ecclesiastical history, the philosophy of rhetoric, has a very able discussion, which I would recommend to the careful perusal of all who read his lectures, and are partial to the independent plan of church government. Phil. of Rhet. Book II. Chap. VII. The title of the chapter is, “What is the cause that nonsense so often escapes being detected, both by the writer and by the reader?” This chapter contains very judicious reflections. But I return to my subject.
If the reader is satisfied that the decree was not enacted by the apostles, as apostles, nor by the whole church, literally speaking, he must embrace the opinion, that a representative assembly was the enacting authority. There is no alternative. upon this principle, and upon this alone, the whole chapter is consistent and intelligible. Every textual difficulty vanishes.
The assembly is composed of presbyters. The apostles are expressly mentioned, not because they acted in superiority to the elders, in this instance, but in order to secure the whole confidence of the church, in the decision of a question so very interesting to every Christian. The confidence of the church, even in this day, in a decree of its courts, is increased, upon hearing that the most intelligent and faithful men in the church were present, and gave their assent to the measure. The apostolic name, although acting in an ordinary capacity, was justly influential. In this first council, it is therefore expressly mentioned. Verse 6. This assembly is called all the multitude, παν το πληθος, Verse 12. This was not the whole mass of Christians. Let the historian Luke explain his own phrase. The παν το πληθος, whole multitude, led Jesus to Pilate. Luke 23:1. Matthew tells us, Chap. 27:1,2, that this whole multitude was the chief priests and the elders of the people—that is, the Jewish sanhedrim, the supreme council of Judea. Nay, Mark, chap. 15:1, expressly says it was the sanhedrim, the whole councils, ολον το συνεδριον. Since, consequently, this name pan to plethos, was given to the supreme council of the Jews, it is not difficult to ascertain its meaning, in relation to a christian representative assembly. The christian παν το πληθος, is the general synod—the ὁλη τη εκκλησια, verse 22. There is not a class of persons distinct from the apostles and elders, held up to our view in this verse. It only informs us, that the apostles and elders acted in a collective capacity, and that the enacting assembly was a proper representation of the whole church. Indeed, the whole church could not possibly, otherwise than by representation, be present at Jerusalem, A similar phraseology occurs, Mark 15:1. No one, however, supposes that the sanhedrim was quite distinct from the priests, the scribes, and the elders who composed it. It pleased the apostles and elders with the unanimous voice of the whole church representative, to send commissioners from this court to Antioch, along with Paul and Barnabas. See verse 22. The commissioners are sent to the brethren in the ministry. The decree of the synod is inscribed to the subordinate judicatories of the church. The brethren, αδελφοι, verses 22 and 25, are not distinct from the church officers met in the synod. They are ministers. They are also members of the assembly—all the delegates from the churches which were not of Judea. These are distinctly mentioned, in order to show to the churches more immediately interested in this decision, that their own delegates consented to the measure. These Αδελφοι, cannot have been laymen; Barsabas and Silas were the leading men among them. They were “Ανδρας ηγουμενους.” But Barsabas and Silas were ministers. Their brethren were so also. Their were also members of the enacting assembly. The commissioners were selected from among the brethren who enacted the law, verse 22.
3. This assembly exercised jurisdiction over different presbyteries.
1. The decision respects all the churches. 2. The question is referred from the presbytery of Antioch. This presbytery consisted of probably twelve ministers and congregations. We can reckon eight with certainty. There were men of Cyprus, and men of Cyrene, preaching at Antioch. Acts 11:20. These could not have been less, in all, than four. Paul, and other teachers, verses 27,28, must be at least three added to the four. To these seven we may add Barnabas, verses 22-24.
In the assembly of ministers at Antioch, the dispute about the law of Moses became so serious, that it is referred for decision to the highest authority of the church. And 3dly, all the churches cheerfully submitted to the decree. Acts 15:31,41, and 16:4,5. It must have, therefore, been enacted by a competent authority.
This theory is supported by experience. Those who do not “like to retain God in their knowledge,” are given over to “strong delusions.” Such also as invent forms of worship, not satisfied with the simplicity of the scripture modes, are often by the judgments of a just God given over to their own idols. Let any man of piety consider the state of religion in the popish and episcopal churches—Let a man of spiritual discernment inquire into the state of vital godliness in them, and he will find that little of it is left. They groan under a load of superstition which has been accumulating for ages. Let their experience warn others to abstain from every act of will worship.
An appeal to matter of fact is in this case necessary. It has always been the national character of every country in which the observance of holy days prevailed, that they do not strictly observe the sabbath. Those countries, upon the contrary, in which holy days were abolished at the reformation, have been exemplary for sabbath sanctification. The very same remark will apply to churches. I appeal to the observation of every reader. Let him judge for himself.
Are not those churches who observe no holy days, the most attentive to the duties of the christian sabbath?
The heathens used certain forms of prayers before their idols. The Jews were beginning to conform to their superstitious practice. As the spirit of prayer departs from men, the practice of prayer will be relinquished, or mere forms adopted. The disciples of Christ were in danger from the prevailing practice. Μη βαττολογησητε, “use not vain repetitions,” was, therefore, the admonition of Christ to his followers.
The 18 prayers, which Maimonides says were used in the synagogue, and upon which the churches of Rome and England build their liturgies, are no more than vain repetitions. Whoever takes the trouble of reading the translation which Dr. Prideaux, Con. Vol. II. page 126, gives of these prayers, will acquiesce in this remark.
The Lord’s prayer lays no foundation for episcopal liturgies. If it is a form from which we are not to deviate, it effectually excludes all other forms. If it is a model, it is our duty to use it as such. We do so in extempore prayer. The saints, in the Old and New Testaments, have left us many valuable instances of their prayers to God, but not the smallest evidence of their having been repeating or reading the words of any certain form composed by some other person.
The superstition of Rome, and the tyranny of Henry the eighth, is the true foundation of the episcopal liturgy. Obliged to conform to the measure, attempts have been made to justify it. Arguments which at first tended to palliate an evil which the bishops had not power to remedy, are at last thought sufficient to establish a divine right. Such are the gradations of human folly.
Βαπτιζω signifies, to wash. A thing may be washed, by dipping it in water, by pouring water upon it, or by rubbing it effectually, with some wet substance. Without rubbing, nothing can be washed, even by dipping. It is absurd to think of, literally, washing a man with his clothes on.
The christian ordinance of baptism, is the symbol of a spiritual washing. It never was intended to cleanse the substance to which the water is applied. It is not intended to wash the body. All disputes about the quantity of water to be applied would cease, were men to recollect this fact.
It is necessary that there be a sensible representation of an inward spiritual, application. There is nothing else necessary. A few drops are as effectual a symbol as the whole ocean. Alas, how fond men are to sensualize religion! The Hudson is not more effectual for spiritual washing, than a bason. The Redeemer knows this. He has at no time determined the quantity of water with which a disciple is to be baptized.
Some episcopalians consider baptism as synonymous with regeneration. This is more absurd than the anabaptist conceit. There are, however, masters in Israel, who know as little about the new birth as Nicodemus did. John 3:1-6.
To be baptized by a priest who has received episcopalian ordination, is to be born again. Miserable episcopalians, if this be all your regeneration! But I reject the ungenerous, the infamous thought. No. I would not believe it upon the authority of one of your own bishops. This is not the only regeneration of your articles, and your homilies, of your Herveys, your Romaines, your Newtons, and your Scots.
Οσακις occurs three times in the New Testament. 1 Cor. 11:25 and 26, and Rev. 11:6. It is translated by “as often as.” It is compounded of ὁσος, how many, and the numeral termination κις, times. It simply signifies, how many times—whensoever. The use of the adverb whensoever in speech, or in writing, does not convey the idea of great frequency. It affords no warrant for a weekly celebration of the Lord’s supper. The Redeemer has not specified the number of times on which we should commemorate his death. There is no evidence that he intended that his church should “do this,” every sabbath day. It is left to be regulated by circumstances. And the nature and use of this solemn ordinance, as a mean of grace, and the most distinguishing part of our external profession of being in covenant with God, if duly considered in connexion with the state of the congregation will enable the faithful pastor to determine how often this sacrament is to be administered.
The radical principles of presbyterianism are essential to society. In this system of divine appointment, representation is so managed, as effectually to secure the liberty of the subject, and the energy of the government. No system can preserve order in may society, civil or ecclesiastic, except so far as it proceeds upon the principles of presbyterianism. The reason is obvious, these are the principles which the author of human nature hath rendered essential to human society. No tyrant can govern without assistance: no community can govern themselves but by representatives. The associations, the consultations, and the committees, of independents, are imitations of presbyterianism, which its enemies are compelled to adopt; and the convocations and conventions of the episcopalians, are no more than very disorderly presbyterian synods.
The convention of the episcopal church, in the United States, is their supreme court. It admits of lay delegates as members. They must have a mock ruling elder, and a mock synod; and yet, it is this very inconsistent imitation of a presbyterian representative judicatory, that preserves their unity and order. To crown the absurdity, this convention, the visible head of their church, (for they have in America no king or pope,) is not an affair of divine right: but a human contrivance more fit for the purpose of governing the church, than the ordinance of God. In this convention, the “successors of the apostles,” share their power with unauthorized lay-men. Let presbyterians rejoice. Every thing testifies the divine authority of their religion. Both the committee and the vestry testify that every other system is both inadequate and impossible. The boast of episcopacy—the number of her sons—is proof of her own connexion with Antichrist. “All the world wondered after the beast.” Rev. 13:3. The universal prevalence of consistent Presbyterianism, can alone render Jerusalem a quiet habitation, her officers peace, and her exactors righteousness.