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Sermons & Study Guides

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government Pt. 18 - Touching The Power Of Ordination.

James Dodson

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].