« EelmineJätka »
comport with the spirit of this commission, to represent the former functions, which are mentioned with so much distinctness and solemnity, as pertaining to the lowest order in the Church ; and the latter, which is only included by inference, as reserved for a higher order? Those who are confessed to have the most important and distinguished powers conveyed by a commission, must be considered as possessing the whole. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
There seems to be no method of evading the force of this argument, but by supposing, that the ministerial powers conveyed by this commission, were afterwards divided ; and that, while some retained the whole, others were invested with only a part of these powers. In other words, that the same commission, since the days of the apostles, makes some Bishops, clothed with the highest powers, and other Presbyters, with powers of a subordinate kind. But does not this supposition carry with it its own refutation ? Can one form of investiture constitute different orders ? Formal reasoning cannot be necessary to set aside such an absurdity. But were
the supposition which has been stated ever so legitimate on the score of reasoning, it is altogether unsupported in point of fact. Where is the evidence of this pretended division of ministerial powers ? When was it made ? By whom? Jo what manner were the powers in question divided ? The commission itself gives no hint of such a division. No subsequent passage of scripture suggests any thing of the kind. Nothing that so much as seems to warrant such a supposition, is to be found in all the book of God. Nay, the contrary most manifestly appears. For when, after our Lord's ascension, we find the apostle Paul, and other inspired writers, giving instructions concerning the ministerial office and duties, they always speak in the spirit of the original commission ; and represent teaching men the way of salvation, edifying the Church, and administering the seals of the covenant, as the highest functions belonging to this office. These are ever the principal objects to which their precepts and exhortations are directed, and which they evidently regard as paramount to all questions of precedence and privilege.
Until, then, the friends of three orders in the Christian ministry produce, from Scripture, some other commission than that which we have seen ; or find some explicit warrant for a threefold
division of the powers which this one commission conveys, we are compelled to conclude, that our Lord contemplated but one standing order of Gospel ministers in his Church ; and that all who are empowered to preach his Word, and administer his sacraments, belong to this order.
11. That Bishops are not, by divine right, different from, or superior to, Presbyters, is further evident, because the terms Bishop and Presbyter are uniformly used in the New Testament, as convertible titles for the same office.
The Greek word (EXITXOTOS) which we translate Bishop, literally signifies an Overseer. This word appears to have been adopted by the apostles from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (generally called the Septuagint) which was in common use among the Christians of that day. In this celebrated version, the word is employed frequently, and to designate officers of various grades and characters, civil, military, and ecclesiastical. The inspired writers of the New Testament, observing that this word, as a title of office, was much in use, and familiarly understood anong those who had the scriptures in the popular language in their hands, thought proper to adopt and apply it to the officers of Christ's spiritual kingdom.
The word (TgEO Eutegos) which the translators of the New Testament render Elder, and which precisely answers to the word Presbyter, literally signifies an aged person. But as among the Jews, and the eastern nations generally, persons advanced in age were commonly selected to fill stations of dignity and authority, the word Presbyter, or Elder, became, in process of time, an established title of office. The Jews had rulers called by this name, not only over their nation, but also over every city, and
every synagogue. To a Jew, therefore, no term could be addressed more perfectly intelligible and familiar. The apostles finding this to be the case with most of those among whom they ministered, gave the name of Elder to the pastors and rulers of the Churches which they organized; and the rather because these pastors were generally in fact taken from among the more grave and aged converts to the Christian faith.
From this statement it will appear, that Presbyter, if we attend to its original meaning, is a word of more honourable import than Bishop. Presbyter is expressive of authority, Bishop of duty.
The former implies the dignity and power of a ruler ; the latter conveys the idea of work, or of executing a prescribed task. But whatever may be the comparative degrees of honour expressed by these terms, it is certain that they are uniformly employed, in the New Testament, as convertible titles for the same office. An attentive consideration of the following passages will establish this position beyond all doubt.
The first which I shall quote is found in Acts xx. 17. 28. And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the Elders (or Presbyters, resolutsgous) of the Church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Gh hath made you overseers (or Bishops, ETIXOTOUS) to feed the Church of God which he purchased with his own blood. - In this passage it is evident, that the same persons who, in the 17th verse are styled Elders or Presbyters, are in the 28th called Bishops. This, indeed, is so incontestible, that the most zealous Episcopalian, so far as I know, has never called it in question. It is further observable, that in the city of Ephesus there were a number of Bishops, who governed the Church in that city as co-ordinate rulers, or in common council. This is wholly irreconcilable with the principles of modern episcopacy; but perfectly coincides with the Presbyterian doctrine, that scriptural Bishops are the Pastors of single congregations.*
• It has been much controverted whether, in each of the larger cities, in which Christianity was first planted, such as Jerusalem, Ephesus, Antioch, Corinth, &c. there was more than one congregation of Christians. In other words, whether by the Church at Ephesus we are to understand, a single congregation, or several separate societies, as the Presbyterian Church in New-York comprehends several congregations?-- From the multitudes that are said to have believed in those cities, it is probable there were several thousands of Christians in each of them; and as the places in which they assembled for public worship were small, perhaps most of them apartments in private dwellings, we cannot suppose that they were all able to assemble at the same time and place. The expedient, therefore, of dividing themselves into small associations, would seem natural, and even unavoidable. We know that in the days of the apostles there were a number of Bishops in each of the cities of Ephesus and Philippi. "It is most probable that these were pastors of so many different congregations. We are by no means to suppose,
The next passage to our purpose is the address of the apostle Paul to the Philippians, in the introduction of his Epistle to that Church. Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus, which are at Philippi, with the Bishops and Deacons. Here, as well, as in the case of Ephesus, just mentioned, we find the inspired writer speaking of a number of Bishops in a single city. It is true, Dr. Hammond, an eminent Episcopal writer, to avoid the force of this fact, so unfriendly to modern Episcopacy, would persuade us that Philippi was a Metropolitan city, and that the Bishops here spoken of, did not all belong to that city, but also included those of the neighbouring cities, under that Metropolis. But this supposition is not in the least degree courtenanced by the apostle's language; the plain, unsophisticated meaning of which evidently refers us to the Bishops and Deacons which were at Philippi, and there only. Besides, Dr. Whitby, a later, and equally eminent Episcopal divine, assures us, that Philippi was not, at that time, a Metropolitan city, but under Thessalonica, which was the Metropolis of all Macedonia. Dr. Stilling fleet has also clearly shown, that there are no traces to be found within the first six centuries, of the Church at Philippi being a Metropolitan Church. Dr. Maurice, another zealous and able writer in favour of diocesan episcopacy goes further. He acknowledges that Dr. Hammond stands alone, in the solution of the difficulty above mentioned ; that he cannot undertake to defend it; and that “ he could never find sufficient “reason to believe these Bishops any other than Presbyters, as “the generality of the Fathers, and of the Church of England “ have done."'*
The third passage to be adduced is in Titus i. It is as follows. For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain Elders, (Presbyters) in every city, as I had appointed thee. If any be blameless, the
however, that in those days of persecution and peril, when Christians were almost afraid of appearing in public, and when their meetings were often held under the cover of midnight, that their division into parishes, or even into congregations, was as regular and as precisely defined as at present; or that the same principles of reasoning in all cases apply to those small house-churches, as to modern congregations.
* Defence of Diocesan Episcopacy, p. 29.
husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly. For a Bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre, &c. Here the apostle, in directing Titus to ordain Elders, enjoins upon him to choose those officers from among the most temperate, blameless, and faithful believers ; and the reason he assigns for this injunction is, that a Bishop must be blameless ; evidently meaning, that Presbyter and Bishop are the same office. On any other construction, the different parts of the address are unconnected, and the whole destitute of fórce. But these are charges which no man who is conversant with the writings of Paul, would ever think of bringing against them.
This passage also establishes another point. It not only shows that the Elders here to be ordained, were considered and denominated Bishops, thereby proving the identity of the office designated by these names; but it likewise proves, beyond controversy, that, in apostolic times, it was customary to have a plurality of these Bishops in a single city. We have before seen that there were a number of Bishops in the city of Ephesus, and a number more in the city of Philippi: but in the passage before us we find Titus directed to ordain a plurality of them in every city. This perfectly agrees with the Presbyterian doctrine, that scriptural Bishops were the pastors of single congregations, or Presbyters, invested, either separately or conjointly, as the case might be, with pastoral charges; but it is impossible to reconcile it with the modern notions of diocesan episcopacy.
There is one more passage, equally conclusive in this argument. It is that which is found in 1 Peter y. 1, 2. The Elders (or Presbyters) which are among you, I exhort, who am also an Elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof (STIO XO TOUTES, that is, exercising the office, or performing the duties of Bishops over them), not by restraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. The construction of this passage is obvious. It expressly represents Presbyters as . Bishops of the flock, and solemnly exhorts them to exercise the powers, and perform the duties of this office.
In short, the title of Bishop, as applied to ministers of the Gospel,