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Of Church Officers.


Of Church Officers.

James Dodson

44. What is a Church Ruler?

An officer or ruler in the Christian Church, is a person invested with authority by Jesus Christ, to act in his name, in the discharge of certain specified duties, for the maintenance of truth, the edification of the saints, and the glory of God.

2 Cor. 13. 10. “The power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.”

45. How many kinds of officers did Christ appoint in his Church?

Christ has appointed in his Church two kinds of officers; the one, extraordinary—and the other, ordinary.

46. What is an extraordinary officer?

An extraordinary officer is appointed by God, without the intervention of the stated and ordinary human agency, to answer an occasional important end, endowed with supernatural gifts, and attested by a miraculous power as the evidence of his appointment.

47. Were there any extraordinary officers appointed under the Old Testament dispensation of grace?

Under the Old Testament, the canon of scripture was not complete, and extraordinary revelations were frequently necessary—The patriarchs generally, and Moses, and the subsequent prophets, as distinct from the stated ministers of religion in the Jewish Church, were extraordinary officers.

48. Was there an ordinary stated ministry authorized to officiate in the Jewish Church?

The management of religious institutions, connected at first with the tabernacle, and afterwards with the temple, was committed into the hands of a stated ministry, and the various synagogues were also governed by a regular class of officers.

49. What officers did the Head of the Church appoint to officiate in the temple service?

The ministry of the tabernacle and temple was conducted by the High Priest [a], the Priests [b], and Levites [c].

[a] Lev. 21. 10. “The High Priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured.” [b] Mal. 2. 7. “For the Priests’ lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts.” [c] Numb. 8. 14, 15. “Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel; and the Levites shall be mine, And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.”

50 Is the social and public worship, conducted in the Jewish synagogue, to be considered as of divine appointment?

It is incredible, that there should be but one place of public social worship in the whole nation of Israel; the scriptures mention synagogues as of God’s appointment [a]; the worship proper to the synagogue is mentioned with approbation [b]; Christ with his disciples attended the synagogues, as the places of ordinary social worship [c]; and he even took a part in the public service [d].

[a] Psalm 74. 8. “All the synagogues [מועדי][See NOTE E.] of God in the land.” [b] Nehem. 8. 4-6. “And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood—and Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord.” [c] Mark 1. 21. “And they went into Capernaum, and straightway, on the Sabbath-day, he entered into the synagogue.” [d] Luke 4. 16. 21. “And as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath-day—and there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias—and he began to say unto them, This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

51. What public officers ministered ordinarily in the Jewish Synagogue?

In the Jewish synagogue there were several officers; and these were authorized to conduct the public worship, preserve the order, and manage the finances of the congregation.

Mat. 1. 22. “Behold there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name.”

52. Whether does the external order of the Church resemble more, that of the temple or of the synagogue?

The temple and the temple service were local and typical; and are, together with the priesthood, abolished in the death of Christ. The constitution and order of the synagogue being more simple, and adapted to the edification of the saints, not in Judea only, but in every nation under heaven, the synagogue is the model upon which the Church, with some appropriate variations, is constituted; and in the apostolic age, the name Synagogue was applied to a Christian Church.

James, 2. 2. “For if there come unto your assembly—synagogue, [Συναγωγην.] a man with a gold ring.”

53. Is it intimated in the New Testament, that the government of the church is similar to that of the synagogue?

Intimation was early given, that all that was typical, and merely ceremonial in the order of the Jewish Church, must be given up [a]; that the Christian mode of worship should be adapted to the situation of the Church in every nation, not by its undeterminateness, but by its unalterable simplicity [b]; familiar and simple customs were selected, and positively appointed as the Christian sacraments [c]; the disciples were habituated to the order and worship of the synagogue by Christ and his apostles [d]; Jesus himself refers us to the forms of judgment in the synagogue for our imitation [e]; and the very names of the Christian Church officers are taken from the ancient synagogue [f]: all this could not have taken place, without a design to make the order of the Church similar to that of the synagogue.

[a] Gal. 5. 1. “Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” [b] John 4. 21. 23. “The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, not yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father: the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” [c] Matt. 26. 26. “And as they were eating Jesus took bread and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples.” [d] Luke 4. 16. “And as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.” [e] 1 Cor. 6. 2.[See NOTE F.] “Are ye unwilling to judge smallest matters?” [f] Acts 20. 17. “He sent to Ephesus and called the elders [Πρεσβυτερους.] of the church.”

54. Are the transactions of Jewish synagogues to be considered as precedents obligatory on the Church?

It is an instance of both the wisdom and kindness of the Redeemer, to establish appropriate institutions, familiar to his disciples [a]; and the history of the synagogue is useful to illustrate the principles of church government; but no further are its transactions obligatory precedents, than Christ himself refers us to them. Divine appointment alone constitutes a divine ordinance [b].

[a] Math. 11. 30. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [b] Isa. 8. 20. “If they speak not according to this words it is because there is no light in them.”

55. Did Christ ordain any officers with extraordinary authority, in the New Testament Church?

The change of external dispensation, required a series of miracles to attest its divine origin: Christ, upon his exaltation, did therefore appoint persons endowed with supernatural gifts, and extraordinary authority; such as apostles, evangelists, prophets, and interpreters of tongues, to settle the constitution of the church agreeably to his will [a], and to commit the administration of it into the hands of the ordinary and permanent officers [b].

[a] Eph. 4. 10-13. “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers: for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ—till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” [b] Acts 14. 21-23. “They returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith,—and when they had ordained them presbyters [Elders.] in every church, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had believed.”

56. Wherein did the office of an apostle differ from that of an ordinary christian minister?

The apostles often take the name, and act in the character, of ordinary ministers [a]; but the apostolic office was temporary and extraordinary. The apostle must have personally seen the Lord [b]; must have obtained, immediately from Christ, his commission [c]; must have the power of communicating miraculous powers to others [d]; and possess authority, not limited in its exercise to a particular parish or diocese, but extending equally over all the churches [e].

[a] 1 Pet. 5. 1. “The presbyters which are among you I exhort, who am also a presbyter [Elders.].” [b] 1 Cor. 9. 1. “Am I not an apostle?[See NOTE G.] Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” [c] Gal. 1. 12. “I neither received it of man, nor was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” [d] Acts 19. 6. “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied.” [e] 1 Cor. 7. 17. “So ordain I in all the churches.”

57. What is the nature of the evangelists’ office?

The evangelists were commissioned to travel under the direction of the apostles among the infant churches, ordaining ministers and settling congregations according to all the parts of church order.

Acts 21. 8. “We entered into the house of Philip the evangelist.”[See NOTE H.] 2 Tim. 4. 5. “Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

58. Did the other extraordinary officers take an active part in the government of the Church?

All those who had the power of working miracles conferred upon them, may have also been engaged in the ordinary duties of the ministry; but so far as they acted with miraculous powers, they cannot be imitated, nor is their office any department of the stated and ordinary government of the church.

1 Cor. 12. 29. “Are all apostles? are all prophets?” Chap. 13. 8. “But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease.”

59. What are the ordinary officers of the Christian Church?

The ordinary and permanent officers of the church, are Presbyters and Deacons—and of the presbyters there are two distinct kinds: teaching elders or pastors, and ruling elders.

60. Is there any warrant in the New Testament for such an officer as the Pastor to continue in the Church?

While the church continues on earth, and Christians must be busied in worldly occupations, nothing is more reasonable than that there should be certain persons appointed to devote their time to the study and exposition of the holy scriptures, in order to conduct the public worship, reprove sinners, and edify the saints: It is also scriptural: such officers were in every organized church [a]: the apostles and evangelists settled them as the stated ministry of every church [b]: God hath appointed them [c]; Christ gave them as a fruit of his exaltation [d]; and the Holy Ghost made them bishops, to feed the church of God on earth [e].

[a] Acts 14. 23.They had ordained them elders in every church.” [b] Tit. 1. 5. “And ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.” [c] 1 Cor. 12. 28. “And God hath set some in the church: first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers.” [d] Eph. 4. 11. “And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” [e] Acts 20. 28. “Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the HOLY GHOST hath made you BISHOPS, [Επισκοπους.][See NOTE I.] overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

61. What are the duties of the Pastor?

The teaching elder, or pastor, is authorized to explain the scriptures to the church assembled for public worship [a]; to conduct the different parts of public devotion [b]; to dispense the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper [c]; to administer church discipline [d]; to inspect the religious state of persons and families [e]; and so rule in the church according to Christ’s law [f].

[a] 2 Tim. 4. 2. “Preach the word.” [b] Acts 13. 15. “And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and. brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” [c] 1 Cor. 10. 16. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” [d] 1 Tim. 5. 20. “Them that sin, rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” [e] Acts 20. 28. “Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock.” [f] 1 Tim. 5. 17. “The elders that rule well.”

62. Are the names by which christian ministers are designated in scripture, expressive of different grades of ecclesiastical authority?

The names pastor, presbyter, bishop, angel [Αγγελος της Εκκλησῖας.][See NOTE K.] of the church, and teacher, are descriptive of the various duties of the same office, and are indiscriminately applied, in the scriptures, to the same officers [a]: Among the ministers of the gospel there is no superiority, except what influence age, and piety, and learning, and talents; and zeal, may give to one above another [b].

[a] Mat. 20. 26. “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister.” [b] 1 Tim. 5. 17. “Let the elders that RULE WELL, be counted worthy of DOUBLE honour.”

63. How is the pastor invested with authority?

The Head of the church did lodge in the hands of his extraordinary messengers all ministerial authority to put the constitution of the church in full operation [a]; and this having been done, the pastor, according to that constitution, is ordained to office by a presbyter, acting in the name of Christ, and by his authority [b].

[a] Mat. 16. 19. “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be hound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” [b] 1 Tim. 4. 14. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the LAYING on of the HANDS[See NOTE L.] of the presbytery.”

64. Is the pastoral office a permanent institution?

The end of the institution—The conversion of sinners, the edification of saints, and the conviction of gainsayers, is not peculiar to any age [a]: Christ has promised his presence with his ministers, continued to the end of the world by succession [b]; the pastoral office is not a temporary expedient, but a permanent institution.

[a] Acts 26. 18. “I send thee to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified.” [b] Mat. 28. 20. “And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

65. What qualifications are necessary in a candidate for the ministry?

An office of so much importance to the declarative glory of God, and to the salvation of immortal souls, is not to be rashly committed into the hands of any man [a]: No man may lawfully be ordained to the gospel ministry, without previously giving satisfactory evidence of soundness in the faith, good talents for public teaching, sincere piety, and a blameless walk and conversation [b].

[a] 1 Tim.. 5. 22. “Lay hands suddenly on no man.” [b] 2 Tim. 2. 2. “And the things that thou hast heard of me, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Tit. 1. 7-9. “For an overseer [Επισκοπος.], a bishop, must be blameless as the steward of God—a lover of hospitality—sober, just, holy, holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught.”

66. What are the advantages of the presbyterian mode of ordination?

It is of divine appointment, and usually accompanied with God’s blessing; besides, it is so reasonable, and even necessary to decency and order, that those who vehemently oppose it in argument, are obliged to adopt it in fact: All the churches which have any pretensions to christian order in supporting a standing ministry, are in the habit of ordaining men to preach the gospel, with laying on the hands of a plurality of ordained ministers.

67. Is he, who, without regular ordination, takes it upon himself to exercise the power of a gospel minister, to be recognized as an officer of Jesus Christ?

A person who is not ordained to office by a presbytery, has no right to be received as a minister of Christ [a]: His administration of ordinances is invalid [b]: no divine blessing is promised upon his labours [c]: it is rebellion against the Head of the church to support him in his pretensions [d]: Christ has excluded him in his providence from admission through the ordinary door [e]; and if he has no evidence of miraculous power to testify his extraordinary mission, he is an impostor [f].

[a] Rom. 10. 15. “How shall they preach, except they be sent?” [b] Heb. 5. 4. “And no man taketh this honour unto himself.” [c] Jer. 23. 32. “Yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore, they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.” [d] 2 John ver. 11. “He that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds.” [e] Rev. 9. 7. “He that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, shutteth, and no man openeth.” [f] John 10. 1. “He that entereth not by the door, the same is a thief and a robber.”

68. Is it necessary to consider all professed Christians, except those who are called presbyterians, as in no sense belonging to the christian church?

Mere names are of little real value [a]: The gospel, in whatever manner made known, offers Christ as a Saviour [b]: and he that believeth, is a member of Christ’s church [c]: presbyterial order is, indeed, divinely appointed for the perfecting of the saints, and all are bound to submit to it [d]: but such is the imperfection of the virtuous, and the influence of carnal men even in church affairs, that many real Christians, to their own loss, and the injury of religion, are opposed to the true order of the visible church; and unsanctified men may call themselves presbyterians.

[a] Rom. 9. 6. “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” [b] Phil. 1. 15. “Whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice.” [c] Mark 16. 16. “He that believeth—shall be saved.” [d] Rev. 3. 22. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches.”

69. Are we to esteem, as valid, the administrations of episcopal and independent ministers?

It is improper to countenance the usurpations of prelacy, or the irregularities of independency; but since the bishop who claims exclusively the right of ordination, does, in fact, relinquish it, by associating other ministers with him in the imposition of hands; and seeing independents also relinquish their claim of right of ordaining, each congregation its own pastor, by giving up the work into the hands of those who are ordained, the ordinances administered in the episcopal and independent churches are held valid: the ministry is essentially presbyterian, and upon this principle there is no necessity for re-ordaining or re-baptizing any who have had these ordinances in the communion of the independent or episcopal churches.

70. For what end is the office of the ruling elder instituted?

As there existed in each synagogue a court composed of elders, after the manner of the sanhedrim, the supreme council of the Jews, so there are representatives of a christian congregation, under the name of ruling elders or presbyters, associated with the pastor in the exercise of ecclesiastic authority, whose duty it is to watch over the, flock, assist in the admission or exclusion of members, warn and censure the unruly, visit and comfort the afflicted.

71. Is it reasonable that such officers should be associated with the pastor, in the management of the affairs of a congregation?

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 the defence 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 behaviour of every member of a congregation: he may be young and unexperienced, 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.

72. How does it appear that ruling elders are of divine right?

That which is really necessary Christ’s care must have provided for his church, for he distributes different gifts to profit withal [a]: Christian assemblies have courts similar to those Jewish ones, which had the power of excommunication [b]: the primitive churches had, under divine inspiration, several presbyters settled in them, and the zeal and faithfulness of that period forbid the idea of their having many inactive preachers for every congregation [c]; and the scriptures manifestly distinguish those presbyters who only rule, from those who also labour in word and doctrine [d].

[a] Rom. 12. 6. 8. “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us—He that ruleth, (let him do it) with diligence.” 1 Cor. 12. 7. “The manifestation of the spirit is given to every one, to profit withal.” [b] Exod. 18. 21. “Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men; and place such over them to be rulers.” Acts 13. 15. “The rulers of the synagogue sent unto them.” Mat. 18. 15-17. “If thy brother trespass against thee—and if he neglect to hear—tell it to the church.” [c] Acts 14. 23. “They had ordained them elders in every church.” 2 Tim. 4. 1, 2. “I charge thee, therefore, before God—preach the word; be instant in season, out of season.” [d] 1 Tim. 5. 17. “Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour; especially, they who labour in the word and doctrine.”

73. What are the qualifications necessary for the ruling elder?

The qualifications for the office of ruler, are sincere piety [a]; sound principles [b]; a capacity for judging [c]; prudence; zeal; and an unblemished reputation.

[a] 2 Tim. 2. 21. “A vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master’s use.” [b] 1 Chr. 12. 32. “Men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” [c] 1 Tim. 5. 4-7. “One that ruleth well his own house,—for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?—Moreover, he must have a good report of them which are without.”

74. How is the ruling elder invested with authority?

The ruling elder is called to his office by the church, inclined to accept of it by the holy spirit., and solemnly set apart for it, with prayer, by a court regularly constituted in the name of the Head of the church.

Acts 14. 23. “And when they had ordained—with lifting up of hands had chosen them [Χειροτονησαντες.][See NOTE M.] elders in every church, and. had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”

75. What is the object of the deacon’s office?

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.

Acts 6. 2,3. “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables—look ye out men; whom we may appoint over this business.”

76. What need has the church for such an office?

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.

77. Is there any scripture warrant for this office?

The scriptures declare the need of the church for such officers [a]; their qualifications [b]; the manner of appointing them [c]; and the fact of their existence in organized churches [d].

[a] Acts 6. 1. “When the number of disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring—because their widows were neglected in the daily ministrations.” [b] 1 Tim. 3. 8. “Likewise must the deacons[See NOTE N.] be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre.” [c] Acts 6. 5. “And the saying pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen.” &c. [d] Phil. 1. 1. “To all the saints which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”

78. What are the qualifications necessary for a christian deacon?

The necessary qualifications are piety, integrity, diligence, and respectability.

1 Tim. 3. 8-12. “Not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience—being found blameless—ruling their children and their own houses well.”

79. Has the deacon any power to exercise church discipline?

The deacon has no authority to preach the word, or exercise church discipline: as a deacon, his official duty entirely respects temporal affairs.

Rom. 12. 8. “He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.”

80. Is the sole right of managing the pecuniary affairs of the congregation, lodged in the deacon’s hands?

The apostles were the primary depositaries of power, and after them, teaching elders are competent to the management of all ecclesiastical concerns; ruling elders are their helps; and the deacons the help of both: the apostles and elders had in trust the collections made for the poor.

Acts 11. 30. “And sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”

81. Do the officers of the church possess any authority over its members?

Some power is necessarily implied in every office; and distinct officers must be accompanied with distinct powers.

82. Of what kind is the power of ecclesiastical officers?

There is no physical compulsion connected with the exercise of ecclesiastical authority: although it respects persons in this world, it is not concerned about their principles, their conversation, their conduct, or their property, any further than is necessary for the spiritual welfare of the church; the power of church officers is entirely spiritual, and addressed to the consciences of those who are subject to it.

Heb. 13. 17. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account.”