Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government
Touching The Power Of Ordination.
Ordination is the act of a presbytery. The power of ordering the whole work of ordination is in the whole presbytery, which, when it is over more congregations than one, whether these congregations be fixed or not fixed, in regard of officers or members, it is indifferent as to the point of ordination. It is very requisite, that no single congregation, that can conveniently associate, do assume to itself all and sole power in ordination: 1. Because there is no example in scripture that any single congregation, which might conveniently associate, did assume to itself all and sole power in ordination; neither is there any rule which may warrant such a practice. 2. Because there is in scripture example of an ordination in a presbytery over divers congregations; as in the church of Jerusalem, where were many congregations: these many congregations were under one presbytery, and this presbytery did ordain. The preaching presbyters orderly associated, either in cities or neighbouring villages, are those to whom the imposition of hands doth appertain, for those congregations within their bounds respectively.
Question 1.—Is ordination an act of a presbytery? Answer.—Yes. 1 Tim. 4:14. Thus do the Papists and Prelatists err maintaining that ordination is the act of a bishop. Now we know that in Scripture the bishop and the presbyter is all one, Acts 20:17, 28, wherein we see the same persons called elders (πρεσβυτέρους-presbuterous) in verse 17, that are called overseers or bishops (ἐπισκόπους-episkopous) in verse 28. Next, by this word presbytery is not meant the office of a presbyter, but a college or company of presbyters. This word is used but in two other places, Luke 22:66; Acts 22:5. In both which it must necessarily be taken for the officers, and not for the office. The office of elders could not meet together, as in that place of Luke; nor could the office of elders bear witness to Paul, as in that place of the Acts. Nor does the place forecited bear such an unsuitable sense, Neglect not the gift which is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the office of presbyter.Question 2.—Is the power of ordering the whole work of ordination in the whole presbytery? Answer.—Yes. 1 Tim. 4:14. The power of ordering the whole work of ordination belongs to the whole presbytery—both teaching and ruling elders. That is belongs also to the ruling elders appears from the following considerations: 1.) Paul refers to them as governments set in the church, 1 Cor. 12:28; which word in the Greek is a metaphor from pilots, or ship-masters, governing their ships. Therefore, it is noted that such officers must govern or guide the church in spiritual matters, according to the mind of Christ. 2.) They are expressly called presbyters, 1 Tim. 5:17; but if presbyters, or elders, then are they contemplated as the constituents of presbyteries, 1 Tim. 4:14. 3.) Because in the Old 11 Tim. 4:14. 21 Tim. 4:14.
Testament there were elders of priests and elders of people, suitable to our teaching and ruling elders, Jer. 19:1; and they were constituent members of the great Sanhedrim, 2 Chron. 19:8. 4.) Even in the days of Christ and the apostles, the elders of the people sat and voiced in the council with the priests, Matt. 26:57, 59; 27:1, 12; 16:21; 21:23; Mark 14:43; Luke 22:66. 5.) Those who are to stand for ordination are to be tried and proved, that no man be ordained who is unqualified, 1 Tim. 3:7, 10; 5:22. But this trial being a proper matter of governing oversight, to order the whole work of ordination, belongs as well to ruling as to teaching elders—for it belongs to both to bear rule and order the affairs of the church. 6.) If the college of presbyters represent the church, then it must be made up of ruling elders, as well as ministers. For ministers alone cannot represent the church, the church not consisting of ministers alone, but of ministers and people, who are part of the church as well as ministers, and are so called, Acts 15:3, 4. Question 3.—Is it indifferent as to the point of ordination when it is over more congregations than one, whether these congregations be fixed or not fixed, in regard of officers or members? Answer.—Yes. 1 Tim. 4:14. Ordination being essentially an act of a presbytery, a man may exercise pastoral acts of preaching toward those who are most unwilling to receive his ministry. The Holy Ghost has made him an overseer to feed indefinitely, and as God’s providence shall offer occasion, as many as God hath purchased by his blood,Acts 20:28; and as many as are the Lord’s heritage, 1 Pet. 5:2, 3. Thus, we hold that a pastor may officiate, as a pastor without his own congregation. Question 4.—Is it very requisite, that no single congregation, that can conveniently associate, do assume to itself all and sole power in ordination? Answer.—Yes. Acts 13:3. The example of the church at Antioch bears witness to this apostolic practice. Although we deny not that a congregation sufficiently presbyterated, that is, where there is a plurality of ministers, may ordain; however, this being seldom the case, and because it belongs to the classical and not congregational assembly most properly to order the common affairs of the church, we think it very requisite, that those congregations which may conveniently associate forbear assuming all and sole power in ordination. These are the reasons: 1.) Because there is no example in scripture that any single congregation, which might conveniently associate, did assume to itself all and sole power in ordination; neither is there any rule which may warrant such a practice. In the texts where mention is made of the laying on of hands in order to set apart to ministry, the word χεῖρας [cheiras] (hands), Acts 6:6; 13:3; or χειρῶν [cheiron] (hands), Heb. 6:2; 1 Tim. 4:14, is used. These texts do not use χειρός [cheiros] (hand) or even χειροιν(two hands), in the singular or dual number, which might have provided some semblance of cover for the prelatist. Additionally, the contexts, wherein we have actual examples, presuppose pluralities involved in the ordinations. Thus, there must of necessity be more than one imposer of hands—and, therefore, a plurality of ministers of the word. 2.) Because there is in scripture example of an ordination in a presbytery over divers congregations; as in the church of Jerusalem, where were many congregations: these many congregations were under one presbytery, and this presbytery did ordain, Acts 6:6, 7. Question 5.—Are the preaching presbyters orderly associated, either in cities or neighboring villages, those to whom the imposition of hands doth appertain, for those congregations within their bounds respectively?
Answer.—Yes. Acts 13:1-3. Imposition of hands is to be always by preaching or teaching presbyters, because it is accompanied with prayer and exhortation, both before, in, and after, which is the proper work of the teaching elder, Acts 6:2-4; 20:36; 1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Tit. 1:9. So we see the apostles, not one alone but a company laid hands in the ordination of deacons, Acts 6:6. Also, when Paul and Barnabas were separated unto their work, prophets and teachers laid hands on them, Acts 13:1-3. Likewise their subsequent practice, Acts 14:23, wherein they “appoint by hands” χειροτονήσαντες [cheirotonesantes].