Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government
Of The Officers Of A Particular Congregation.
For officers in a single congregation, there ought to be one at the least, both to labour in the word and doctrine, and to rule. It is also requisite that there should be others to join in government. And likewise it is requisite that there be others to take special care for the relief of the poor. The number of each of which is to be proportioned according to the condition of the congregation. These officers are to meet together at convenient and set times, for the well ordering of the affairs of that congregation, each according to his office. It is most expedient that, in these meetings, one whose office is to labour in the word and doctrine, do moderate in their proceedings.
Question 1.—For officers in a single congregation, ought there to be one at the least, both to labour in the word and doctrine, and to rule? Answer.—Yes. Prov. 29:18. Thus do the Quakers and certain Anabaptists err denying that church officers are requisite for the well being of the church. They are confuted because: 1.) The apostle commends such officers as both labor in word and doctrine and rule to the remembrance and honor of the assembly, 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7. 2.) The well being of the church requires elders for the better ordering of the government of the church, Tit. 1:5. Christ commissioned the apostles and their successors (i.e., teaching elders) to disciple (μαθητεύσατε-matheteusate) the nations, by baptizing and teaching (διδάσκοντες-didaskontes), Matt. 28:19, 20; which belongs not to those elders who only bear the rule. Therefore, it is most conducive to the good of the church and people of God that this elder be a teaching elder. Question 2.—Is it also requisite that there should be others to join in government? Answer.—Yes. 1 Cor. 12:28. Thus do the Papists and Prelates err maintaining that the government belongs to the hierarchical bishop. They are confuted for the following reasons: 1.) At God’s instruction, Moses, who was gifted above all prophets, took to himself a plurality of elders to assist in the government of the people of God, Num. 11:16-18, 24, 25. 2.) We see that pattern repeated throughout the history of Israel; in each parish there were elders to assist in the government of the people of God, 1 Sam. 16:4,5; Ps. 107:32. 3.) We see the Jews still maintaining this system of joint governing in the days of Christ and the apostles, Matt. 26:57-60; 27:1; Acts 4:15, 18, 23. 4.) So, we see the apostles ordaining elders in all the churches, from whom counsel is taken together with a joining in the government of the churches, Acts 14:23; 15:2, 6; 16:4. The pastor of a congregation must employ a great part of his time in studying the oracles of God—in composing sermons—in qualifying himself with various literature for 1Prov. 29:18; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7. 21 Cor. 12:28. 3Acts 6:2,3. 41 Tim. 5:17.
the defense of the gospel—in attending to the general concerns of the church, and of the world, as far as it respects the church: he cannot be intimately acquainted with the disposition and behavior of every member of a congregation: he may be young and inexperienced, or aged and infirm: nothing can be more reasonable, therefore, than that some of the most grave and judicious members be deputed by the church to co-operate with their pastor; and this expedient is absolutely necessary to the proper exercise of discipline in any congregation. Question 3.—Is it likewise requisite that there be others to take special care for the relief of the poor? Answer.—Yes. Acts 6:2, 3. The sole design of appointing deacons in the church, is to remove the burden of attention to its temporal concerns from the ministers and elders, when it becomes embarrassing to them: deacons are appointed to manage the funds, inspect the state, and serve the tables of the poor. Christian congregations should maintain such persons as are incapable of providing for themselves the necessaries of life; discreet officers are, of course, necessary to manage the funds which may be raised for that purpose, 1 Cor. 16:1-3. Paul, in 1 Cor. 12:28, enumerates deacons, with the other officers “set in the church,” under the denomination of “helps,” for they were originally instituted, as we learn from the account of the choice of the first deacons, in Acts 6, to be helps, or assistants to the apostles in the work of distributing the Church’s stock. Question 4.—Is the number of each to be proportioned according to the condition of the congregation? Answer.—Yes. Tit. 1:5; Acts 6:1. Both the light of nature and reason, as well as Christian prudence, instruct us to this principle of proportionality, Ex. 18:21-25; Deut. 1:15; 1 Cor. 14:26, 33, 40. There is no proportionality in a body that is all head or hands or feet; neither is there in the church when such confusion reigns so that all or none do exercise church office, 1 Cor. 12:4, 5, 14-26. Question 5.—Are these officers to meet together at convenient and set times, for the well ordering of the affairs of that congregation, each according to his office? Answer.—Yes. 1 Cor. 14:40; Acts 15:4, 6. Again both the light of nature and reason, as well as Christian prudence, dictate that these officers must meet together at convenient and set times, in order to deliberate and adjudicate matters for the well ordering of the affairs of each congregation, Mark 14:53, 55; and that each officer exercise himself, in these sessional meetings, in the gift of his respective office for the benefit of the church is also made clear, Rom. 12:4-8. Question 6.—Is it most expedient that, in these meetings, one whose office is to labour in the word and doctrine, do moderate in their proceedings? Answer.—Yes. 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Cor. 14:33. It is most convenient for that officer whose office is concerned with most broad responsibilities in the church to moderate these sessional meetings; but those whose office it is to labor in word and doctrine are also concerned in matters of government and deaconship; ergo, it is most convenient for such to moderate. Thus we see, in the meeting of the greater synod at Jerusalem, the moderator was one who was an apostle, Acts 15:13.