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Sermons & Study Guides

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government Pt. 14 - Of Classical Assemblies.

James Dodson

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government

Of Classical Assemblies. 

The scripture doth hold out a presbytery in a church. A  presbytery  consisteth  of  ministers  of  the  word,  and  such  publick  officers  as  are agreeable to and warranted by the word of God to be church-governors, to join with the ministers in the government of the church. The scripture doth hold forth, that many particular congregations may be under one presbyterial government. This proposition is proved by instances: I. First, Of  the  church  of  Jerusalem,  which  consisted  of  more  congregations  than one, and all these congregations were under one presbyterial government. This appeareth thus: First,  The  church  of  Jerusalem  consisted  of  more  congregations  than  one,  as  is manifest: 1st,  By  the  multitude  of  believers  mentioned,  in  divers  [places],  both  before  the dispersion  of  the  believers  there,  by  means  of  the  persecution,  and  also  after  the dispersion. By the many apostles and other preachers in the church of Jerusalem.  And if there were but one congregation there, then each apostle preached but seldom; which will not consist with Acts vi. 2. The diversity of languages among the believers, mentioned both in the second and sixth chapters of the Acts, doth argue more congregations than one in that church. Secondly,   All   those   congregations   were   under   one   presbyterial   government; because, They were one church. The elders of the church are mentioned. The  apostles  did  the  ordinary  acts  of  presbyters,  as  presbyters  in  that  kirk; which proveth a presbyterial church before the dispersion, Acts vi. The  several  congregations  in  Jerusalem  being  one  church,  the  elders  of  that church are mentioned as meeting together for acts of government; which proves those several congregations were under one presbyterial government. And  whether  these  congregations  were  fixed  or  not  fixed,  in  regard  of  officers  or members, it is all one as to the truth of the proposition. Nor  doth  there  appear  any  material  difference  betwixt  the  several  congregations  in Jerusalem, and the many congregations now in the ordinary condition of the church, as to the point of fixedness required of officers or members. Thirdly,  Therefore  the  scripture  doth  hold  forth,  that  many  congregations  may  be under one presbyterial government. Secondly, By the instance of the church of Ephesus; for, First,  That  there  were  more  congregations  than  one  in  the  church  of  Ephesus, appears  by  Acts  xx.31,  where  is  mention  of  Paul’s  continuance  at  Ephesus  in preaching for the space of three years; and Acts xix.18, 19, 20, where the special effect of  the  word  is  mentioned;  and  ver.  10  and  17  of  the  same  chapter,  where  is  a distinction of Jews and Greeks;  and 1 Cor. xvi. 8, 9, where is a reason of Paul’s stay at Ephesus  until  Pentecost;  and  ver.  19,  where  is  mention  of  a  particular  church in  the house of Aquila and Priscilla, then at Ephesus, as appears, Acts xviii.19, 24, 26. All which   laid   together,   doth   prove   that   the   multitude   of   believers   did   make   more congregations than one in the church of Ephesus. Secondly,  That  there  were  many  elders  over  many  congregations,  as  one  flock, appeareth. That these many congregations were one church, and that they were under one presbyterial government, appeareth.

Question 1.—Does the Scripture hold out a presbytery in the church? Answer.—Yes. 1 Tim. 4:14; Acts 15:2, 4, 6.  Thus do the Papists and Prelatists err who  deny  there  to  be  a  presbytery in  the  church.    They  are  confuted  for  the  following reasons: 1.) Scripture mentions a plurality of presbyters or elders associated together in presbyterial churches, both in Jerusalem, Acts 11:30; 21:17, 18; and at Ephesus, Acts 20:17, 18.  2.) Scripture expressly mentions the very name of presbytery, 1 Tim. 4:14.  It is not said in this place “the hands of presbyters”, but “the hands of the presbytery.”—plainly denoting the whole body of presbyters associated together.  The word used here πρεσβυτέριον  [presbuterion]  is  used  only  three  times  in  the  New  Testament—once in this place and twice for the Jewish presbytery, Luke 22:66; Acts 22:5. Question  2.—Does  apresbytery  consist  of  ministers  of  the  word,  and  such  public officers as are agreeable to and warranted by the word of God to be church-governors, to join with the ministers in the government of the church? Answer.—Yes. Rom. 12:7, 8; 1 Cor. 12:28.  By the word presbytery, we understand a  meeting  of  the  presbyters  or  elders  met  together  for the  purpose  of  exercising  the government of the church.  Pastors and other elders were necessarily present therein, and  did,  by  virtue  of  their  particular  vocation,  1  Thess.  5:12,  13,  meet  together presbyterially for exercising acts of government, 1 Cor. 5:4. Question 3.—Does the scripture hold forth, that many particular congregations may be under one presbyterial government? Answer.—Yes.  Acts  15:2,  4,  6.    Thus  do  the  Independents,  some  Anabaptists  and others err who deny that many particular congregations may be under one presbyterial government.    They  are  confuted  because:  1.)  The  church  at  Antioch,  consisted  of  a great  number  of  believers,  Acts  11:21,  24—so  many  as  to  be first  denominated 9Acts 20:31. 10Acts 19:18-20. 11Acts 19:10, 17. 121 Cor. 16:8, 9. 131 Cor. 16:19. 14Acts 18:19, 24, 26. 15Acts 20:17, 25, 28, 30, 36, 37. 16Rev. 2:1-6 joined with Acts 20:17, 28. 
“Christians”  in  that  place,  Acts  11:25,  26.    That  there was  a  multitude  of  preachers appears  in  the  fact  that  there  were  several  preachers  from  Cyprus  and  Cyrene,  Acts 11:20; unto this number Barnabas is added, Acts 11:22-24; additionally, prophets come from Jerusalem, Acts 11:27, 28; and other preachers are named later, Acts 13:1-3.  In fact,  it  is  noted  that  Paul  and  Barnabas  preached  in  Antioch  with  many  others,  Acts 15:35.    How  is  it  possible  that  all  these  preachers  should  busy  themselves  about  one congregation? or how could so many members meet in one single congregation at once ordinarily  to  partake  of  all  the  ordinances?    Yet,  though  there  were  evidently  many congregations,  it  was  known  as the  Church  at  Antioch—signifying  its  unity  under  one government,  Acts  13:1.    2.)  The  church  at  Corinth  was  composed  of  a  multitude  of believers, Acts 18:1, 7-10.  It was so great a number that Paul was constrained to spend a long time among them teaching and establishing them, Acts 18:11.  Apparently, there were numerous ministers and preachers among them, 1 Cor. 1:12; 4:15; 14:29, 31.  The apostle,  regulating  their  public  assemblies,  refers  to  the  fact  that  there  were  multiple congregations, 1 Cor. 14:34; yet, he addresses his epistles to the Church at Corinth, 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1. Question  4.—Wherein does it appear that the church of Jerusalem consisted of more than one congregation? Answer.—This appears from the following considerations: 1.) From the multitude of believers at Jerusalem, Acts 8:1; 1:15; 2:41, 46, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 9:31; 12:24; 21:20.  2.) From the multitude of church officers at Jerusalem, Acts 6:2; 8:14; 11:27.  3.) From the  variety  of  languages  among  the  disciples  at  Jerusalem,  Acts  2:5,  8-12;  6:1.    4.) From the  manner of the public meetings in those primitive times,  Acts 2:46.  All which proves there were many congregations amongst those who dwelt at Jerusalem. Question  5.—Wherein  does  it  appear  that  all  these  congregations  were  under  one presbyterial government? Answer.—This is made evident because the elders of that church are mentioned as meeting  together  for  acts  of  government;  which  proves  those  several  congregations were under one presbyterial government, Acts 11:30; 15:4, 6, 22; 21:17, 18. Question  6.—Wherein does it appear that the church of Ephesus consisted of more than one congregation? Answer.—This appears from the following considerations: 1.) There were numerous prophets and preachers at Ephesus, established by Paul, Acts 19:1, 6-8, 10; 20:17, 28, 36, 37.  2.) These prophets were endued with the gift of tongues, which implies several congregations  of  several  languages,  Acts  19:6,  7.    3.)  There  was  a  multitude  of believers, Acts 19:10, 17-20.  Paul testifies to this fact, 1 Cor. 16:8, 9.  All which proves there were many congregations amongst the Ephesians. Question 7.—Wherein does it appear that these many congregations had many elders, as one flock? Answer.—The  apostle  makes  this  very  clear  in  his  gathering  the elders  before  his departure from Ephesus, Acts 20:17, 25, 28, 30, 36, 37.Question  8.—Wherein  does  it  appear  that  all  these  congregations  were  under  one presbyterial government? Answer.—Clearly, the apostle admonishes the elders to exercise a single governing over  this flock,  Acts  20:17, 28.   Additionally, Christ  addresses the  Church  at  Ephesus, Rev. 2:1-6.