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Of the rule of the church, or of ruling elders.
1. The rule, and government of the church, or the execution of the authority of Christ therein, is in the hand of the elders in office have rule, and none have rule in the church but elders. As such, rule doth belong unto them. The apostles, by virtue of their especial office, were intrusted, with all church-power; but therefore they were elders also, 1 Pet. v. 1; 2 John 1, 3 John 1. See Acts xxi. 18; 1 Tim. v. 17. There are some of them, on other accounts, called “bishops, pastors, teachers, ministers, guides;” but what belongs unto any of them in point of rule, or what interest they have therein, it belongs unto them as elders, and not otherwise, Acts xx. 17, 28.
So under the old testament, where the word doth not signify a difference in age, but is used in a moral sense, elders are the same with rulers or governors, whether in offices civil or ecclesiastical; especially the rulers of the church were constantly called its elders. And the use of the word, with the abuse of the power or office intended by it, is traduced to signify men in authority (“seniores, aldermanni”) in all places.
2. Church-power, acted in its rule, is called “The keys of the kingdom of heaven,” by an expression derived from the keys that were a sign of office-power in the families of kings, Isa. xxii. 22; and it is used by our Saviour himself to denote the communication of church-power unto others, which is absolutely and universally vested in himself, under the name of “The key of David,” Rev. iii. 7; Matt. xvi. 19.
3. These keys are usually referred unto two heads, — namely, the one of order, the other of jurisdiction.
4. By the “key of order,” the spiritual right, power, and authority of bishops or pastors to preach the word, to administer the sacraments, and doctrinally to bind and loose the consciences of men, are intended.
5. By “jurisdiction,” the rule, government, or discipline of the church is designed; though it was never so called or esteemed in the Scripture, or the primitive church until the whole nature of church rule or discipline was depraved and changed. Therefore, neither the word, nor any thing that is signified by it or which it is applied unto, ought to be admitted unto any consideration in the things that 107belong unto the church or its rule, it being expressive of and directing unto that corrupt administration of things ecclesiastical, according unto the canon law, by which all church rule and order is destroyed. I do therefore at once dismiss all disputes about it, as of things foreign to the gospel and Christian religion; I mean as unto the institutions of Christ in his church. The civil jurisdiction of supreme magistrates about the externals of religion is of another consideration; but that these keys do include the twofold distinct powers of teaching and rule, of doctrine and discipline, is freely granted.
6. In the church of England (as in that of Rome) there is a peculiar distribution made of these keys. Unto some, — that is, unto one special sort or order of men, — they are both granted, both the key of order and of jurisdiction; which is unto diocesan bishops, with some others, under various canonical restrictions and limitations, as deans and archdeacons. Unto some is granted the key of order only, without the least interest in jurisdiction or rule by virtue of their office; which are the parochial ministers, or mere presbyters, without any additional title or power, as of commissary surrogates, or the like. And unto a third sort there is granted the key of rule or jurisdiction almost plenipotent, who have no share in the key of order, — that is, were never ordained, separated, dedicated unto any office in the church, — such as are the chancellors, etc.
7. These chancellors are the only lay elders that I know anywhere in any church; that is, persons intrusted with the rule of the church and the disposition of its censures, who are not ordained unto any church-office, but in all other things continue in the order of the laity or the people. All church-rulers by institution are elders; to be an elder of the church and a ruler in it is all one: wherefore these persons being rulers in the church, and yet thus continuing in the order of the people, are lay elders; whom I wonder how so many of the church came so seriously to oppose, seeing this order of men is owned by none but themselves. The truth is, and it must be acknowledged, that there is no known church in the world (I mean, whose order is known unto us, and is of any public consideration) but they do dispose the rule of the church, in part, into the hands of persons who have not the power of authoritative preaching of the word and administration of the sacraments committed unto them; for even those who place the whole external rule of the church in the civil magistrate do it as they judge him an officer of the church, intrusted by Christ with church-power. And those who deny any such officers as are usually called “ruling elders” in the reformed churches to be of divine institution, yet maintain that it is very necessary that there should be such officers in the church, either appointed by the magistrate or chosen by the people, and that with cogent arguments. See Imp. Sum. Pot. circ. sacra.
1088. But this distribution mentioned of church-power is unscriptural, nor is there any footsteps of it in antiquity. It is so as unto the two latter branches of it. That any one should have the power of order to preach the word, to administer the seals, to bind and loose the conscience doctrinally, or ministerially to bind and loose in the court of conscience, and yet by the virtue’ of that office which gives him this power not to have a right and power of rule or discipline, to bind and loose in the court of the church, is that which neither the Scripture nor any example of the primitive church doth give countenance unto. And as by this means those are abridged and deprived of their power to whom it is granted by the institution and law of Christ (as it is with all elders duly called unto their office), so in the third branch there is a grant of church-power unto such as by the law of Christ are excluded from any interest therein; the enormity of which constitution I shall not at present insist upon.
But inquiry must be made what the Scripture directs unto herein. And, —
1. There is a work and duty of rule in the church distinct from the work and duty of pastoral feeding by the preaching of the word and administration of the sacraments. All agree herein, unless it be Erastus and those that follow him, who seem to oppose it; but their arguments lie not against rule in general, which were brutish, but only a rule by external jurisdiction in the elders of the church. So they grant the general assertion of the necessity of rule, for who can deny it? only they contend about the subject of power required thereunto. A spiritual rule, by virtue of mutual voluntary confederation, for the preservation of peace, purity, and order in the church, few of that opinion deny, at least it is not that which they do oppose; for to deny all rule and discipline in the church, with all administration of censures, in the exercise of a spiritual power internally inherent in the church, is to deny the church to be a spiritual political society, overthrow its nature, and frustrate its institution, in direct opposition unto the Scripture. That there is such a rule in the Christian church, see Acts xx. 28; Rom. xii. 8; 1 Cor. xii. 28; 1 Tim. iii. 5, v. 17; Heb. xiii. 7, 17; Rev. ii., iii..
2. Different and distinct gifts are required unto the discharge of these distinct works and duties. This belongs unto the harmony of the dispensation of the gospel. Gifts are bestowed to answer all duties prescribed. Hence they are the first foundation of all power, work, and duty in the church: “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ;” that is, ability for duty according to the measure wherein Christ is pleased to grant it, Eph. iv. 7. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; … but the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal,” 1 Cor. xii. 4, 7–10. “Having then gifts differing according 109to the grace that is given to us,” etc., Rom. xii. 6–8. “As every man hath received the gift, so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” 1 Pet. iv. 10. Hence are they called “The powers of the world to come,” Heb. vi. 4, 5. Wherefore, differing gifts are the first foundation of differing offices and duties.
3. That differing gifts are required unto the different works of pastoral teaching on the one hand, and practical rule on the other, is evident, — (1.) From the light of reason, and the nature of the works themselves being so different; and, (2.) From experience. Some men are fitted by gifts for the dispensation of the word and doctrine in a way of pastoral feeding who have no useful ability for the work of rule, and some are fitted for rule who have no gifts for the discharge of the pastoral work in preaching; yea, it is very seldom that both these sorts of gifts do concur in any eminency in the same person, or without some notable defect. Those who are ready to assume all things unto themselves are, for the most part fit for nothing at all. And hence it is that most of those who esteem both these works to belong principally unto themselves do almost totally decline the one, or that of pastoral preaching, under a pretence of attending unto the other, that is, rule, in a very preposterous way; for they omit that which is incomparably the greater and more worthy for that which is less and inferior unto it, although it should be attended unto in a due manner.
But this, and sundry other things of the like nature, proceed from the corruption of that traditional notion, which is true in itself and continued among all sorts of Christians, namely, that there ought to be some on whom the rule of the church is in an especial manner incumbent, and whose principal work it is to attend thereunto; for the great depravations of all church-government proceed from the corruption and abuse of this notion, which in itself and its original is true and sacred. Herein also, “Malum habitat in alieno fundo;” there is no corruption in church order or rule but is corruptly derived from or set up as an image of some divine institution.
4. The work of rule, as distinct from teaching, is in general to watch over the walking or conversation of the members of the church with authority, exhorting, comforting, admonishing reproving, encouraging, directing of them, as occasion shall require. The gifts necessary hereunto are diligence, wisdom, courage, and gravity; as we shall see afterward. The pastoral work is principally to “declare the whole counsel of God,” to “divide the word aright,” or to “labour in the word and doctrine,” both as unto the general dispensation and particular application of it, in all seasons and on all occasions. Hereunto spiritual wisdom, knowledge, sound judgment, experience, and utterance, are required, all to be improved by continual 110study of the word and prayer. But this difference of gifts unto these distinct works doth not of itself constitute distinct offices, because the same persons may be meetly furnished with those of both sorts.
5. Yet distinct works and duties, though some were furnished with gifts for both, were a ground, in the wisdom of the Holy Ghost, for distinct offices in the church, where one sort of them was as much as those of one office could ordinarily attend unto, Acts vi. 2–4. Ministration unto the poor of the church for the supply of their temporal necessities is an ordinance of Christ. For the administration hereof the apostles were furnished with gifts and wisdom above all others; but yet, because there was another part of their work and duty superior hereunto, and of greater necessity unto the propagation of the gospel and edification of the church, — namely, a diligent attendance unto the word and prayer, — the wisdom of the Holy Ghost in them thought meet to erect a new office in the church for the discharge of that part of the ministerial duty, which was to be attended unto, yet not so as to be any obstruction unto the other. I do not observe this as if it were lawful for any others after them to do the same, — namely, upon a supposition of an especial work to erect an especial office. Only, I would demonstrate from hence the equity and reasonable ground of that institution, which we shall afterward evince.
6. The work of the ministry in prayer and preaching of the word, or labour in the word and doctrine, whereunto the administration of the seals of the covenant is annexed, with all the duties that belong unto the especial application of these things (before insisted on) unto the flock, are ordinarily sufficient to take up the whole man, and the utmost of their endowments who are called unto the pastoral office in the church. The very nature of the work in itself is such as that the apostle, giving a short description of it, adds, as an intimation of its greatness and excellency, “Who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Cor. ii. 16. And the manner of its performance adds unto its weight; for, — not to mention that intension of mind, in the exercise of faith, love, zeal, and compassion, which is required of them in the discharge of their whole office, — the diligent consideration of the state of the flock, so as to provide spiritual food convenient for them, with a constant attendance unto the issues and effects of the word in the consciences and lives of men, is enough, for the most part, to take up their whole time and strength.
It is gross ignorance or negligence that occasioneth any to be otherwise minded. As the work of the ministry is generally discharged, as consisting only in a weekly provision of sermons and the performance of some stated offices by reading, men may have time and liberty enough to attend unto other occasions; hut in such persons we are not at present concerned. Our rule is plain, 1 Tim. iv. 12–16.
1117. It doth not hence follow that those who are called unto the ministry of the word, as pastors and teachers, who are elders also, are divested of the right of rule in the church, or discharged from the exercise of it, because others not called unto their office are appointed to be assistant unto them, that is, helps in the government; for the right and duty of rule is inseparable from the office of elders, which all bishops or pastors are. The right is still in them, and the exercise of it, consistently with their more excellent work, is required of them. So was it in the first institution of the sanhedrim in the church of Israel, Exod. xviii. 17–23. Moses had before the sole rule and government of the people. In the addition that was made of an eldership for his assistance, there was no diminution of his right or the exercise of it according to his precedent power. And the apostles, in the constitution of elders in every church, derogated nothing from their own authority, nor discharged themselves of their care. So when they appointed deacons to take care of supplies for the poor, they did not forego their own right nor the exercise of their duty, as their other work would permit them, Gal. ii. 9, 10; and in particular, the apostle Paul manifested his concernment herein in the care he took about a collection for the poor in all churches.
8. As we observed at the entrance of this chapter, the whole work of the church, as unto authoritative teaching and rule, is committed unto the elders; for authoritative teaching and ruling is teaching and ruling by virtue of office, and this office whereunto they do belong is that of elders, as it is undeniably attested, Acts xx. 17, etc. All that belongs unto the care, inspection, oversight, rule, and instruction of the church, is committed unto the elders of it expressly; for “elders” is a name derived from the Jews, denoting them that have authority in the church. The first signification of the word, in all languages, respects age. Elders are old men, well stricken in years; unto whom respect and reverence is due by the law of nature and Scripture command, unless they forfeit their privilege by levity or wickedness, — which they often do. Now, ancient men were originally judged, if not the only, yet the most meet for rule, and were before others constantly called thereunto. Hence the name of “elders” was appropriated unto them who did preside and rule over others in any kind.
Only, it may be observed that there is in the Scripture no mention of rulers that are called elders, but such as are in a subordinate power and authority only. Those who were in supreme, absolute power, as kings and princes, are never called “elders;” but elders by office were such only as had ministerial power under others. Wherefore, the highest officers in the Christian church being called elders, even the apostles themselves, and Peter in particular, 1 Epist. v. 1, 2, it is evident that they have only a ministerial power; and so 112it is declared, verse 4. The pope would now scarce take it well to be esteemed only an elder of the church of Rome, unless it be in the same sense wherein the Turkish monarch is called the Grand Seignior. But those who could be in the church above elders have no office in it, whatever usurpation they may make over it.
9. To the complete constitution of any particular church, or the protection of its organical state, it is required that there be many elders in it, at least more than one. In this proposition is the next foundation of the truth which we plead for; and therefore it must be distinctly considered. I do not determine what their number ought to be, nor is it determinable, as unto all churches; for the light of nature sufficiently directs that it is to be proportioned unto the work and end desired. Where a church is numerous, there is a necessity of increasing their number proportionably unto their work. In the days of Cyprian there were in the church of Carthage ten or twelve of them, that are mentioned by name; and at the same time there were a great many in the church of Rome, under Cornelius. Where the churches are small, the number of elders may be so also; for no office is appointed in the church for pomp or show, but for labour only, and so many are necessary in each office as are able to discharge the work which is allotted unto them. But that church, be it small or great, is not complete in its state, is defective, which hath not more elders than one, which hath not so many as are sufficient for their work.
10. The government of the church, in the judgment and practice of some, is absolutely democratical or popular. They judge that all church power or authority is seated and settled in the community of the brethren, or body of the people; and they look on elders or ministers only as secants of the church, not only materially in the duties they perform, and finally for their edification, serving for the good of the church in the things of the church, but formally also, as acting the authority of the church by a mere delegation, and not any of their own received directly from Christ by virtue of his law and institution. Hence they do occasionally appoint persons among themselves, not called unto, not vested with any office, to administer the supper of the Lord, or any other solemn office of worship. On this principle and supposition I see no necessity for any elders at all though usually they do confer this office on some with solemnity. But as among them there is no direct necessity of any elders for role, so we treat not at present concerning them.
11. Some place the government of many particular churches in a diocesan bishop, with those that act under him and by his authority, according unto the rule of the canon law and the civil constitution of the land. These are so far from judging it necessary that 113there should be many elders for rule in every particular church, as that they allow no rule in them at all, but only assert a rule over them. But a church where there is no rule in itself, to be exercised in the name of Christ by its own rulers, officers, guides, immediately presiding in it, is unknown to Scripture and antiquity. Wherefore with these we deal not in this discourse, nor have any apprehension that the power of presenting men, for any pretended disorder, unto the bishop’s or chancellor’s court is any part of church power or rule.
12. Others place the rule of particular churches, especially in cases of greatest moment, in an association, conjunction, or combination of all the elders of them in one society; which is commonly called a classis. So in all acts of rule there will be a conjunct acting of many elders. And no doubt it is the best provision that can be made, on a supposition of the continuance of the present parochial distribution. But those also of this judgment who have most weighed and considered the nature of these things, do assert the necessity of many elders in every particular church; which is the common judgment and practice of the reformed churches in all places.
13. And some there are who begin to maintain that there is no need of any more, but one pastor, bishop, or elder in a particular church, which hath its rule in itself, other elders for rule being unnecessary. This is a novel opinion, contradictory to the sense and practice of the church in all ages; and I shall prove the contrary.
(1.) The pattern of the first churches constituted by the apostles, which it is our duty to imitate and follow as our rule, constantly expresseth and declares that many elders were appointed by them in every church, Acts xi. 30, xiv. 23, xv. 2, 4, 6, 22, xvi. 4, xx. 17, etc.; 1 Tim. v. 17; Phil. i. 1; Tit. i. 5; 1 Pet. v. 1. There is no mention in the Scripture, no mention in antiquity, of any church wherein there were not more elders than one; nor doth that church answer the original pattern where it is otherwise.
(2.) Where there is but one elder in a church, there cannot be an eldership or presbytery, as there cannot be a senate where there is but one senator; which is contrary unto 1 Tim. iv. 14.
(3.) The continuation of every church in its original state and constitution is, since the ceasing of extraordinary offices and powers, committed to the care and power of the church itself. Hereunto the calling and ordaining of ordinary officers, pastors, rulers, elders, teachers, do belong; and therein, as we have proved, both the election of the people, submitting themselves unto them in the Lord, and the solemn setting of them apart by imposition of hands, do concur. But if there be but one elder only in a church, upon his death or removal, this imposition of hands must either be left unto the people, or be supplied by elders of other churches, or be wholly 114omitted; all which are irregular: and that church-order is defective which wants the symbol of authoritative ordination.
(4.) It is difficult, if not impossible, on a supposition of one elder only in a church, to preserve the rule of the church from being prelatical or popular. There is nothing more frequently objected unto those who dissent from diocesan bishops, than that they would every one be bishops in their own parishes and unto their own people. All such pretences are excluded on our principles, of the liberty of the people, of the necessity of many elders in the same church in an equality of power, and the communion of other churches in association; but practically, where there is but one elder, one of the extremes can hardly be avoided. If he rule by himself, without the previous advice, in some cases, as well as the subsequent consent of the church, it hath an eye of unwarrantable prelacy in it. If every thing be to be originally transacted, disposed, ordered by the whole society, the authority of the elder will quickly be insignificant, and he will be little more, in point of rule, than any other brother of the society. But all these inconveniencies are prevented by the fixing of many elders in each church, which may maintain the authority of the presbytery, and free the church from the despotical rule of any Diotrephes. But in case there be but one in any church, unless he have wisdom to maintain the authority of the eldership in his own person and actings, there is no rule, but confusion.
(5.) The nature of the work whereunto they are called requires that, in every church consisting of any considerable number of members, there should be more elders than one (when God first appointed rule in the church under the old testament, he assigned unto every ten persons or families a distinct ruler, Deut. i. 15); for the elders are to take care of the walk or conversation of all the members of the church, that it be according unto the rule of the gospel This rule is eminent, as unto the holiness that it requires, above all other rules of moral conversation whatever; and there is, in all the members of the church, great accuracy and circumspection required in their walking after it and according unto it. The order also and decency which is required in all church-assemblies stands in need of exact care and inspection. That all these things can be attended unto and discharged in a due manner in any church, by one elder, is for them only to suppose who know nothing of them. And although there may be an appearance for a season of all these things in such churches, yet, there being not therein a due compliance with the wisdom and institution of Christ, they have no present beauty, nor will be of any long continuance.
These considerations, as also those that follow, may seem jejune and contemptible unto such as have another frame of church rule and order drawn in their minds and interests. A government vested 115in some few persons, with titles of pre-eminence, and legal power, exercised in courts with coercive jurisdiction, by the methods and processes of canons of their own framing, is that which they suppose doth better become the grandeur of church-rulers and the state of the church than these creeping elders with their congregations. But whereas our present inquiry after these things is only in and out of the Scripture, wherein there is neither shadow nor appearance of any of these practices, I beg their pardon if at present I consider them not.
We shall now make application of these things unto our present purpose. I say, then, — 1. Whereas there is a work of rule in the church distinct from that of pastoral feeding; and, 2. Whereas this work is to be attended unto with diligence, which includes the whole duty of him that attends unto it; and, 3. Whereas the ministry of the word and prayer, with all those duties that accompany it, is a full employment for any man, and so, consequently, his principal and proper work, which it is unlawful for him to be remiss in by attending on another with diligence; and, 4. Whereas there ought to be many elders in every church, that both the works of teaching and ruling may be constantly attended unto; and, 5. Whereas, in the wisdom of the Holy Ghost, distinct works did require distinct offices for their discharge (all which we have proved already), our inquiry hereon is, —
Whether the same Holy Spirit hath not distinguished this office of elders into these two sorts, — namely, those who are called unto teaching and rule also, and those who are called unto rule only? which we affirm.
The testimonies whereby the truth of this assertion is confirmed are generally known and pleaded. I shall insist on some of them only, beginning with that which is of uncontrollable evidence, if it had any thing to conflict withal but prejudices and interest; and this is 1 Tim. v. 17: Οἱ καλῶς προεστῶτες πρεσβύτεροι διπλῆς τιμῆς ἀξιούσθωσαν, μάλιστα οἱ κοπιῶντες ἐν λόγῳ καὶ διδασκαλίᾳ. Προΐστημι, or προΐταμαι, is “præsum, præsideo,” to preside, to rule: “Præsident probati seniores,” Tertul. And the bishop or pastor in Justin Martyr is ὁ προεστώς. So is the word constantly used in the New Testament: Rom. xii. 8, Ὁ προϊστάμενος, — “That ruleth;” 1 Thess. v. 12, Προϊσταμένους ὑμῶν, — “That are over you,” that is, in place of rule; 1 Tim. iii. 4, 5, 12, it is applied unto family rule and government; as it is also unto care and diligence about good works, Tit. iii. 8, 14. Προστασία is the whole presidency in the church, with respect unto its rule. Translators agree in the reading of these words: so the Hebrew of Munster, זִקְנֵי־הָעֵדָה אֲשֶׁר טֵיטִיבִים לִנִהֹג — “The elders of the congregation who well discharge their rule or conduct;” so the Syriac, קִשּׁיְשֵׁא אִילֵין, — “Those elders;” “Qui bene præsunt presbyteri,” 116Vulg. Lat.; “Seniori che governano bene,” Ital. All agree that it is the governors and government of the church in general that are here intended. Μάλιστα is the word most controverted; all translators esteem it distinctive: Heb. וְעָלֹה, “eminently;” Syr. יַתִירָאִית “chiefly, principally;” “maxime;” οἱ κοπιῶντες· הַיּוֹגֵעִים, — “who labour painfully,” labour to weariness, travail in the word and doctrine.
“The elders, or presbyters in office, elders of the church, that rule well, or discharge their presidency for rule in due manner, are to be counted worthy, or ought to be reputed worthy, of double honour, especially those of them who labour or are engaged in the great labour and travail of the word and doctrine.”
And some things may be observed in general concerning these words:—
1. This testimony relates directly unto the rules and principles before laid down, directing unto the practice of them. According unto the analogy of those principles these words are to be interpreted; and unless they are overthrown, it is to no purpose to put in exceptions against the sense of this or that word. The interpretation of them is to be suited unto the analogy of the things which they relate unto. If we consider not what is spoken here in consent with other scriptures treating of the same matter, we depart from all sober rules of interpretation.
2. On this supposition, the words of the text have a plain and obvious signification, which at first view presents itself unto the common sense and understanding of all men; and where there is nothing contrary unto any other divine testimony or evident reason, such a sense is constantly to be embraced. There is nothing here of any spiritual mystery, but only a direction concerning outward order in the church. In such cases the literal sense of the words, rationally apprehended, is all that we are concerned in. But on the first proposal of this text, “That the elders that rule well are worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine,” a rational man who is unprejudiced, who never heard of the controversy about ruling elders, can hardly avoid an apprehension that there are two sorts of elders, some that labour in the word and doctrine, and some who do not so do. The truth is, it was interest and prejudice that first caused some learned men to strain their wits to find out evasions from the evidence of this testimony. Being so found out, some others of meaner abilities have been entangled by them; for there is not one new argument advanced in this cause, not one exception given in unto the sense of the place which we plead for, but what was long since coined by Papists and Prelatists, and managed with better colours than some now are able to lay on them who pretend unto the same judgment.
3. This is the substance of the truth in the text:— There are 117elders in the church; there are or ought to be so in every church. With these elders the whole rule of the church is intrusted; all these, and only they, do rule in it. Of these elders there are two sorts; for a description is given of one sort distinctive from the other, and comparative with it. The first sort doth rule and also labour in the word and doctrine. That these works are distinct and different was before declared; yet as distinct works they are not incompatible, but are committed unto the same person. They are so unto them who axe not elders only, but moreover pastors or teachers. Unto pastors and teachers, as such, there belongs no rule; although by the institution of Christ the right of rule be inseparable from their office, for all that are rightfully called thereunto are elders also, which gives them an interest in rule. They are elders, with the addition of pastoral or teaching authority. But there are elders which are not pastors or teachers; for there are some who rule well, but labour not in the word and doctrine, — that is, who are not pastors or teachers.
Elders that rule well, but labour not in the word and doctrine, are ruling elders only; and such are they in the text.
The most learned of our protestant adversaries in this case are Erastus, Bilson, Saravia, Downham, Scultetus, Mede, Grotius, Hammond; who agree not at all among themselves about the sense of the words: for, —
1. Their whole design and endeavour is to put in exceptions against the obvious sense and interpretation of the words, not fixing on any determinate exposition of it themselves, such as they will abide by in opposition unto any other sense of the place. Now, this is a most sophistical way of arguing upon testimonies, and suited only to make controversies endless. Whose wit is so barren as not to be able to raise one exception or other against the plainest and most evident testimony? So the Socinians deal with us in all the testimonies we produce to prove the deity or satisfaction of Christ. They suppose it enough to evade their force if they can but pretend that the words are capable of another sense, although they will not abide by it that this or that is their sense; for if they would do so, when that is overthrown, the truth would be established. But every testimony of the Scripture hath one determinate sense. When this is contended about, it is equal that those at difference do express their apprehensions of the mind of the Holy Spirit in the words which they will abide by. When this is done, let it be examined and tried whether of the two senses pretended unto doth best comply with the signification and use of the words, the context or scope of the place, other Scripture testimonies, and the analogy of faith. No such rule is attended unto in this case by our adversaries. They think it enough to oppose our sense of the words, but will not fix upon any of their own, which if it be disproved, ours ought to take place. And hence, —
1182. They do not in the least agree among themselves, scarce any two of them, on what is the most probable sense of the words, nor are any of them singly well resolved what application to make of them, nor unto what persons, but only propose things as their conjecture. But of very many opinions or conjectures that are advanced in this case, all of them but one are accompanied with the modesty of granting that divers sorts of elders are here intended; which, without more than ordinary confidence, cannot be denied. But, —
Some, by “elders that rule well,” do understand bishops that are diocesans; and by “those that labour in the word and doctrine,” ordinary preaching presbyters; which plainly gives them the advantage of pre-eminence, reverence, and maintenance, above the others!
Some, by “elders that rule well,” understand ordinary bishops and presbyters; and by “those that labour in the word and doctrine,” evangelists; so carrying the text out of the present concernment of the church. Deacons are esteemed by some to have an interest in the rule of the church, and so to be intended, in the first place, and preaching ministers in the latter.
Some speak of two sorts of elders, both of the same order, or ministers; some that preach the word and administer the sacraments; and others that are employed about inferior offices, as reading and the like: which is the conceit of Scultetus.
Mr Mede weighs most of these conjectures, and at length prefers one of his own before them all, — namely, that by “elders that rule well” civil magistrates are intended, and by “those that labour in the word and doctrine” the ministers of the gospel.
But some, discerning the weakness and improbability of all these conjectures, and how easily they may be disproved, betake themselves unto a direct denial of that which seems to be plainly asserted in the text, namely, that there are two sorts of elders here intended and described; which they countenance themselves in by exception unto the application of some terms in the text, which we shall immediately consider.
Grotius, as was before intimated, disputes against the divine institution of such temporary, lay-elders as are made use of in sundry of the reformed churches: but when he hath done, he affirms that it is highly necessary that such conjunct associates in ride from among the people should be in every church; which he proves by sundry arguments. And these he would have either nominated by the magistrate or chosen by the people.
Wherefore, emitting all contests about the forementioned conceits, or any other of the like nature, I shall propose one argument from these words, and vindicate it from the exceptions of those of the latter sort.
Preaching elders, although they rule well, are not worthy of double honour, unless they labour in the word and doctrine;
119But there are elders who rule well that are worthy of double honour, though they do not labour in the word and doctrine:
Therefore there are elders that rule well who are not teaching or preaching elders, — that is, who are ruling elders only.
The proposition is evident in its own light, from the very terms of it; for to preach is to “labour in the word and doctrine.” Preaching or teaching elders, that do not labour in the word and doctrine, are preaching or teaching elders that do not preach or teach. And to say that preachers, whose office and duty it is to preach, are worthy of that double honour which is due on the account of preaching, though they do not preach, is uncouth and irrational. It is contrary to the Scripture and the light of nature, as implying a contradiction, that a man whose office it is to teach and preach should be esteemed worthy of double honour on the account of his office, who doth not as an officer teach or preach.
The assumption consists upon the matter in the very words of the apostle; for he who says, “The elders who rule well are worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine,” saith there are, or may be, elders who rule well who do not labour in the word and doctrine, — that is, who are not obliged so to do.
The argument from these words may be otherwise framed, but this contains the plain sense of this testimony.
Sundry things are excepted unto this testimony and our application of it. Those which are of any weight consist in a contest about two words in the text, μάλιστα and κοπιῶντες. Some place their confidence of evasion in one of them, and some in another, the argument from both being inconsistent. If that sense of one of these words which is pleaded as a relief against this testimony be embraced, that which unto the same purpose is pretended to be the sense of the other must be rejected. Such shifts doth an opposition unto the truth put men to.
Some say that μάλιστα, “especially,” is not distinctive, but descriptive only; that is, it doth not distinguish one sort of elders from another, but only describes that single sort of them by an adjunct of their office, whereof the apostle speaks. The meaning of it, they say, is, as much as, or seeing that: “The elders that rule well are worthy of double honour, seeing that they also labour,” or “especially considering that they labour,” etc.
That this is the sense of the word, that it is thus to be interpreted, must be proved from the authority of ancient translations, or the use of it in other places of the New Testament, or from its precise signification and application in other authors learned in this language, or that it is enforced from the context or matter treated of.
But none of these can be pretended.
1. The rendering of the word in old translations we have before 120considered. They agree in “maxime illi qui,” which is distinctive.
2. The use of it in other places of the New Testament is constantly distinctive, whether applied to things or persons: Acts xx. 38, Ὀδυνώμενοι μάλιστα ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ, — “Sorrowing chiefly at the word” of seeing his face no more. Their sorrow herein was distinct from their other trouble. Gal. vi. 10, “Let us do good unto all, μάλιστα δὲ πρὸς τοὺς οἰκείους τῆς πίστεως,” — “but chiefly,” especially, “unto the household of faith.” It puts a distinction between the household of faith and all other, by virtue of their especial privilege; which the direct use of the word in that place of the same apostle, Phil. iv. 22, “All the saints salute you, μάλιστα δὲ οἱ ἐκ τῆς Καίσαρος οἰκίας, — “especially they that are of Cæsar’s house.” Two sorts of saints are plainly expressed, — first, such as were so in general; such were so also, but under this especial privilege and circumstance, that they were of Cæsar’s house, which the others were not. So it is here with respect unto elders: all “rule well,” but some moreover “labour in the word and doctrine.” 1 Tim. v. 8, Εἰ δέ τις τῶν ἱδίων, καὶ μάλιστα τῶν οἰκείων οὐ προνοεῖ· — “If a man provide not for his own, especially those of his own house,” especially children or servants, which live in his own house, and are thereby distinguished from others of a more remote relation. 2 Tim. iv. 13, “Bring the books, μάλιστα τὰς μεμβράνας,” — “especially the parchments;” not bemuse they are parchment, but among the books, the parchments in particular and in an especial manner. 2 Pet. ii. 9, 10, “The Lord knoweth how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punched, μάλιστα δὲ τοὺς ὀπίσω σαρκός,” etc., — “especially thee that walk after the flesh,” who shall be singled out to exemplary punishment. It is but once more used in the New Testament, namely, Acts xxvi. 3, where it includes a distinction in the thing under consideration.
Whereas this is the constant use of the word in the Scripture (being principally used by this apostle in his writings), wherein it is distinctive and comparative of the things and persons that respect is had unto, it is to no purpose to pretend that it is here used in other sense or is otherwise applied, unless they can prove from the context that there is a necessity of their peculiar interpretation of it.
3. The use of the word in other authors is concurrent with that of it in the Scripture: Herodian, lib. ii., cap. xxviii., Φιλέορτοι δὲ φύσει Σύροι· ὧν μάλιστα οἱ τὴν Ἀντιόχειαν κατοικοῦντες, κ. τ. λ. — “The Syrians are naturally lovers of festivals, especially they that dwell at Antioch.” It is the same phrase of speech with that here used; for all they that dwelt at Antioch were Syrians, but all the Syrians dwelt not at Antioch. There is a distinction and distribution made of the Syrians into two sorts, — such as were Syrians only, and such as, being Syrians, 121dwelt at Antioch, the metropolis of the country. If a man should say that all Englishmen were stout and courageous, especially the Londoners, he would both affirm the Londoners to be Englishmen and distinguish them from the rest of their countrymen. So, all that labour in the word and doctrine are elders. But all elders do not labour in the word and doctrine, nor is it their duty so to do; these we call “ruling elders,” and, as I judge, rightly.
4. The sense which the words will give, being so interpreted as that a distinction of elders is not made in them, is absurd, the subject and predicate of the proposition being terms convertible. It must be so if the proposition be not allowed to have a distinction in it. “One sort of elders only,” it is said, “is here intended.” I ask who they are, and of what sort? It is said, “The same with pastors and teachers, or ministers of the gospel;” for if the one sort of elders intended be of another sort, we obtain what we plead for as fully as if two sorts were allowed. Who, then, are these elders, these pastors and teachers, these ministers of the church? are they not those who labour in the word and doctrine? “Yes,” it will be said,” it is they, and no other.” Then this is the sense of the words, “Those who labour in the word and doctrine, that rule well, are worthy of double honour, especially if they labour in the word and doctrine;” for if there be but one sort of elders, then “elders” and “those that labour in the word and doctrine” are terms convertible. But “elders” and “labour in the word and doctrine” are subject and predicate in this proposition.
Wherefore there are few of any learning or judgment that make use of this evasion; but, allowing a distinction to be made, they say that it is as to work and employment, and not as unto of office, — those who, in the discharge of their office as elders, do so labour as is intended and included in the word κοπιῶντες, which denotes a peculiar kind of work in the ministry. Yea, say some, “This word denotes the work of an evangelist, who was not confined unto any one place, but travelled up and down the world to preach the gospel.” And those of this mind do allow that two sorts of elders are intended in the words. Let us see whether they have any better success in this their conjecture than the others had in the former answer.
1. I grant that κοπιᾶν, the word here used, signifies to labour with pains and diligence, “ad ultimum virium, usque ad fatigationem,” — unto the utmost of men’s strength, and unto weariness. But, —
2. So to labour in the word and doctrine is the duty of all pastors and teachers, and whosoever doth not so labour is negligent in his office, and worthy of severe blame instead of double honour: for, —
(1.) Κόπος, whence is κοπιάω, is the labour of a minister, and so of any minister in his work of teaching and preaching the gospel: 1 Cor. iii. 8, Ἕκαστος δὲ τὸν ἴδιον μισθὸν λήψεται κατὰ τὸν ἴδιον κόπον· — “Every one” (that is, every one employed in the ministry, whether 122to plant or to water, to convert men or to edify the church) “shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour.” He that doth not strive, κοπιᾶν, in the ministry, shall never receive a reward κατὰ τὸν ἴδιον κόπον, according to his own labour, and so is not worthy of double honour.
(2.) It is a general word, used to express the work of any in the service of God; whereon it is applied unto the prophets and teachers under the old testament: John iv. 38, “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: ἄλλοι κεκοπιάκασι, καὶ ὑμεῖς εἰς τὸν κόπον αὐτῶν εἶσεληλύθατε,” — “others have laboured, and ye have entered into their labours;” that is, of the prophets and John the Baptist. Yea, it is so unto the labour that Women may take in the serving of the church: Rom. xvi. 6, “Salute Mary, ἥτις πολλὰ ἐκοπίασε,” — “who laboured much;” which is more than simply κοπιᾶν. Verse 12, “Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, τὰς κοπιώσας ἐν Κυρίῳ,” — “who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, ἥτις πολλὰ ἐκοπίασεν ἐν Κυρίῳ,” — “who laboured much in the Lord.” So wide from truth is it that this word should signify a labour peculiar to some sorts of ministers, which all are not in common obliged unto.
3. If the labour of evangelists, or of them who travelled up and down to preach the word, be intended, then it is so either because this is the proper signification of the word, or because it is constantly used elsewhere to express that kind of labour; but the contrary unto both of these is evident from all places wherein it is used. So is it expressly applied to fixed elders, 1 Thess. v. 12, “We exhort you, brethren, to know τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν,” — “ them that labour among you,” who are the rulers and instructors.
It is therefore evident that this word expresseth no more but what is the ordinary, indispensable duty of every teaching elder, pastor, or minister; and if it be so, then those elders, — that is, pastors or teachers, — that do not perform and discharge it are not worthy of double honour, nor would the apostle give any countenance unto them who were any way remiss or negligent, in comparison of others, in the discharge of their duty. See 1 Thess. v. 12.
There are, therefore, two sorts of duties confessedly here mentioned and commanded; — the first is, ruling well; the other, labouring in the word and doctrine. Suppose that both these, ruling and teaching, are committed to one sort of persons only, having one and the same office absolutely, then are some commended who do not discharge their whole duty, at least not comparatively unto others; which is a vain imagination. That both of them are committed unto one sort of elders, and one of them only unto another, each discharging its duty with respect unto its work, and so both worthy of honour, is the mind of the apostle.
[To] that which is objected from the following verse, namely, “That 123maintenance belongs unto this double honour, and so, consequently, that if there be elders that are employed in the work of rule only, maintenance is due unto them from the church,” I answer, It is so, no doubt, if, — 1. The church be able to make them an allowance; 2. If their work be such as to take up the whole or the greatest part of their industry; and, 3. If they stand in need of it; — without which considerations it may be dispensed withal, not only in them, but in teaching elders also.
Our next testimony is from the same apostle: Rom. xii. 6–8, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministry: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Our argument from hence is this: There is in the church ὁ προϊστάμενος, “one that ruleth.” Προΐστημι, is “to rule with authority by virtue of office;” whence is προεστώς and προϊστάμενος, one that presides over others with authority. For the discharge of their office, there is χάρισμα διάφορον, a “differing peculiar gift,” bestowed on some: Ἔχοντες χαρίσματα διάφορα, verse 6. And there is the especial manner prescribed for the discharge of this especial office, by virtue of that especial gift; ἐν σπουδῇ, it is to be done with peculiar “diligence.” And this ruler is distinguished from “him that exhorteth” and “him that teacheth,” with whose especial work, as such, he hath nothing to do; even as they are distinguished from those who “give” and “show mercy;” — that is, there is an elder by office in the church, whose work and duty it is to rule, not to exhort nor teach ministerially; which is our ruling elder.
It is answered, “That the apostle doth not treat in this place of offices, functions, or distinct officers, but of differing gifts in all the members of the church, which they are to exercise according as their different nature doth require.”
Sundry things I shall return hereunto, which will both explain the context and vindicate our argument:—
1. Those with whom we have to do principally allow no exercise of spiritual gifts in the church but by virtue of office. Wherefore, a distinct exercise of them is here placed in distinct officers, one, as we shall see, being expressly distinguished from another.
2. Give such a probable enumeration of the distinct offices in the church, which they assert, namely, of archbishops, bishops, presbyters, and chancellors, etc., and we shall yield the cause.
3. Gifts alone do no more, give no other warranty nor authority, but only render men meet for their exercise as they are called, and as occasion doth require. If a man hath received a gift of 124teaching, but is not called to office, he is not obliged nor warranted thereby to attend on public teaching, nor is it required of him in way of duty, nor given in charge unto him, as here it is.
4. There is in one “rule” required “with diligence.” He is ὁ προϊστάμενος, a “ruler;” and it is required of him that he attend unto his work with diligence. And there are but two things required unto the confirmation of our thesis, — (1.) That this rule is an act of office-power; (2.) That he unto whom it is ascribed is distinguished from them unto whom the pastoral and other offices in the church are committed.
For the first, it is evident that rule is an act of office or of office-power: for it requires, — [1.] An especial relation; there is so between him that ruleth and them that are ruled; and this is the relation of office, or all confusion will ensue. [2.] Especial prelation. He that rules is over, is above them that axe ruled: “Obey them that are over you in the Lord.” This, in the church, cannot be in any but by virtue of office. [3.] Especial authority. All lawful rule is an act of authority; and there is no authority in the church but by virtue of office. Secondly, That this officer is distinct from all others in the church we shall immediately demonstrate, when we have a little farther cleared the context. Wherefore, —
5. It is confessed that respect is had unto gifts, — “Having differing gifts,” verse 6, — as all office-power in the church is founded in them, Eph. iv. 7, 8, 11, 12. But gifts absolutely, with reference unto common use, are not intended, as in some other places; but they axe spoken of with respect unto offices or functions, and the communication of them unto officers for the discharge of their office. This is evident from the text and context, with the whole design of the place; for, —
(1.) The analysis of the place directs unto this interpretation. Three sorts of duties are prescribed unto the church in this chapter, — [1.] Such as are universal, belonging absolutely unto all and every one that appertains unto it; which are declared, Rom. xii. 1, 2. [2.] Such as are peculiar unto some, by virtue of that especial place which they have in the church, verses 3–8. This can be nothing but office. [3.] Such as are general or common, with respect unto occasions, from verse 8 to the end of the chapter. Hence the same duty is doubly prescribed, — to some in way of especial office, to others in the way of a gracious duty in general. So here, “He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity,” verse 8, is the same duty or work, for the substance of it, with “Distributing to the necessity of saints,” verse 13. And the apostle doth not repeat his charge of the same duty, in so few words, as required in the same manner and of the same persons; but in the first place, he speaks of the manner of its performance by virtue of office, and in the latter of its discharge, as to the substance 125of it, as a grace in all believers. The design of the apostle lies plain in the analysis of this discourse.
(2.) The context makes the same truth evident; for, —
[1.] The whole ordinary public work of the church is distributed into προφητεία and διακονία, — “prophecy and ministry;” for the extraordinary gift of prophecy is not here intended, but only that of the interpretation of the Scripture, whose rule is the “analogy of faith:” Εἴτε προφητείαν, κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως. It is such prophecy as is to be regulated by the Scripture itself, which gives the “proportion of faith.” And there is not any thing in any or both of these, prophecy and ministry, but it belongs unto office in the church; neither is there any thing belonging unto office in the church but may be reduced unto one of these, as they are all of them here by the apostle.
[2.] The gifts spoken of are, in general, referred unto all them who are intended. Now, these are either the whole church and all the members of it, or all the officers of the church only. Hence it is expressed in the plural number, Ἔχοντες χαρίσματα, “We having;” that is, all we that are concerned herein. This cannot be “all of the church,” for all the church have not received the gifts of prophecy and ministry; nor can any distinction be made of who doth receive them and who doth not but with respect unto office. And therefore, —
[3.] In the distribution which ensues of prophecy into exhorting and teaching, and of ministry into showing mercy, rule, and giving, having stated these gifts in general, in the officers in general, making distinct application of them unto distinct officers, he speaks in the singular number: Ὁ διδάσκων, ὁ παρακαλῶν, ὁ προϊστάμενος· — “He that teacheth, he that exhorteth, he that ruleth.”
6. It is, then, evident that offices are intended, and it is no less evident that distinct offices are so, which was to, be proved in the second place: for, — (1.) The distributive particle εἴτε, and the indicative article ὁ, prefixed unto each office in particular, do show them [to be] distinct, so far as words can do it. As by the particle εἴτε, “whether,” they are distinguished in their nature, whether the y be of this or that kind; so by the article prefixed to each of them in exercise, they are distinguished in their subjects. (2.) The operations, works, and effects ascribed unto these gifts, require distinct offices and functions in their exercise. And if the distribution be made unto all promiscuously, without respect unto distinct offices, it were the only way to bring confusion into the church, whereas, indeed, here is an accurate order in all church-administrations represented to us. And it is further evident that distinct offices are intended, — (1.) From the comparison made unto the members of the body, verse 4, “All members have not the same office;” the eye hath one, the ear hath 126another. (2.) Each of the duties mentioned and given in charge is sufficient for a distinct officer, as is declared Acts vi. 1–4.
7. In particular, “He that ruleth” is a distinct officer, — an officer, because rule is an act of office or office-power; and he is expressly distinguished from all others. But say some, “ ‘He that ruleth’ is he that doth so, be who he will, — that is, the pastor or teacher, the teaching elder.” But the contrary is evident:— (l.) He that says, “He that exhorteth,” and then adds, “He that ruleth,” having distinguished before between prophecy, whereunto exhortation doth belong, and ministry, whereof rule is a part, and prefixing the prepositive indicative article to each of them, doth as plainly put a difference between them as can be done by words. (2.) Rule is the principal work of him that ruleth, for he is to attend unto it ἐν σπουδῇ, “with diligence,” — that is, such as is peculiar unto rule, in contradistinction unto what is principally required in other administrations. But rule is not the principal work of the pastor, requiring constant and continual attendance; for his labour in the word and doctrine is ordinarily sufficient for the utmost of his diligence and abilities.
8. We have, therefore, in this context, a beautiful order of things in and of the church, — all the duties of it, with respect unto its edification, derived from distinct differing spiritual gifts, exercised in and by distinct officers unto their peculiar ends, the distinction that is in the nature of those gifts, their use and end, being provided for in distinct subjects. The mind of no one man, at least ordinarily, is meet to be the seat and subject of all those differing gifts in any eminent degree. The person of no man being sufficient, meet, or able, to exercise them in a way of office towards the whole church, especially, “those who labour in the word and doctrine” being obliged to “give themselves wholly thereunto,” and those that “rule” to attend thereto with “diligence,” so many distinct works, duties, and operations, with the qualifications required in their discharge, being inconsistent in the same subject, all things are here distributed into their proper order and tendency unto the edification of the church. Every distinct gift, required to be exercised in a peculiar manner, unto the public edification of the church, is distributed unto peculiar officers, unto whom an especial work is assigned, to be discharged by virtue of the gifts received, unto the edification of the whole body. No man alive is able to fix on any thing which is necessary unto the edification of the church that is not contained in these distributions, under some of the heads of them; nor can any man find out any thing in these assignations of distinct duties unto distinct offices that is superfluous, redundant, or not directly necessary unto the edification of the whole, with all the parts and members of it; nor do I know any wise and sober man, who knows any thing how the duties enjoined are to be performed, with what care, diligence, circumspection, 127prayer, and wisdom, suited unto the nature, ends, and objects of them who can ever imagine that they can all of them belong unto one and the same office, or be discharged by one and the same person.
Let men advance any other church-order in the room of that here declared; so suited unto the principles of natural light, operations and duties of diverse natures, being distributed and assigned to such distinct gifts, acted in distinct offices, as renders those unto whom they are prescribed meet and able for them; so correspondent to all institutions, rules, and examples of church-order in other places of Scripture; so suited unto the edification of the church, wherein nothing which is necessary thereunto is omitted, nor any thing added above what is necessary, — and it shall be cheerfully embraced.
The truth is, the ground of the different interpretations and applications of this [text and] context of the apostle ariseth merely from the prejudicate apprehensions that men have concerning the state of the church and its rule; for if the state of it be national or diocesan, if the rule of it be by arbitrary rules and canons, from an authority exerting itself in courts ecclesiastical, legal or illegal, the order of things here described by the apostle doth no way belong nor can be accommodated thereunto. To suppose that we have a full description and account in these words of all the offices and officers of the church, of their duty and authority, of all they have to do, and the manner how they are to do it, is altogether Unreasonable and senseless, unto them who have another idea of church affairs and rule conceived in their minds, or received by tradition, and riveted by interest. And, on the other hand, those who know little or nothing of what belongs unto the due edification of the church beyond preaching the word and reaping the advantage that is obtained thereby, cannot see any necessity of the distribution of these several works and duties unto several officers, but suppose all may be done well enough by one or two in the same office. Wherefore, it will be necessary that we treat briefly of the nature of the rule of the church in particular, and of what is required thereunto; which shall be done in the close of this discourse.
9. The exceptions which are usually put in unto this testimony have not the least countenance from the text or context, or the matter treated of, nor confirmation from any other divine testimony. It is therefore in vain to contend about them, being such as any man may multiply at his pleasure on the like occasion; and they are used by those who, on other considerations, are not willing that things should be as they are here declared to be by the apostle. Yet we may take a brief specimen of them. Some say it is gifts absolutely, without respect unto distinct offices, that the apostle treats of; which hath been disproved from the text and context before. Some say that rule is 128included in the pastoral office, so as that the pastor only is here intended. But, — (1.) Rule is not his principal work, which he is to attend unto in a peculiar manner, with diligence above other parts of his duty. (2.) The care of the poor of the flock belongs also to the pastoral office, yet is there another officer appointed to attend unto it in a peculiar manner, Acts vi. 1–6. (3.) “He that ruleth” is in this place expressly distinguished from “him that exhorteth” and “him that teacheth.” Some say that “He that ruleth” is he that ruleth his family; but this is disproved by the analysis of the chapter before declared; and this duty, which is common unto all that have families, and confined unto their families, is ill placed among those public duties which are designed unto the edification of the whole church. It is objected that “He that ruleth” is here placed after “Him that giveth,” that is, the deacon; I say, then, it cannot be the pastor that is intended, if we may prescribe methods of expressing himself unto the apostle. But he useth his liberty, and doth not oblige himself unto any order in the annumeration of the offices of the church. See 1 Cor. xii. 8–10, 28. And some other exceptions are insisted on of the same nature and importance, which indeed deserve not our consideration.
10. There is the same evidence given unto the truth argued for in another testimony of the same apostle: 1 Cor. xii. 28, “God hath set some in, the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” I shall not insist on this testimony and its vindication in particular, seeing many things would be required thereunto which have been treated of already. Some things may be briefly observed concerning it. That there is here annumeration of officers and offices in the church, both extraordinary, for that season, and ordinary, for continuance, is beyond exception. Unto them is added the present exercise of some extraordinary gifts, as “miracles, healings, tongues.” That by “helps” the deacons of the church are intended, most do agree, because their original institution was as helpers in the affairs of the church. “Governments” are governors or rulers, the abstract for the concrete, — that is, such as are distinct from “teachers;” such hath God placed in the church, and such there ought to be. But it is said “That gifts, not offices, are intended, — the gift of government, or gift for government.” If so, then these gifts are either ordinary or extraordinary. If ordinary, how come they to be reckoned among “miracles, healings, and tongues”? if extraordinary, what extraordinary gifts for government were then given distinct from those of the apostles, and what instance is anywhere given of them in the Scripture? Again: if God hath given gifts for government to abide in the church, distinct from those given unto teachers, and unto other persons than the teachers, then is there a 129distinct office of rule or government in the church; which is all we plead for.
11. The original order of these things is plain in the Scripture. The apostles had all church-power and church-office in themselves, with authority to exercise all acts of them everywhere on all occasions: but considering the nature of the church, with that of the rule appointed by the Lord Christ in it or over it, they did not, they would not, ordinarily exercise their power by themselves or in their own persons alone; and therefore, when the first church consisted of a small number, the apostles acted all things in it by the consent of the whole multitude, or the fraternity, as we have proved from Acts i. 15–26. And when the number of believers increased, so as that the apostles themselves could not in their own persons attend unto all the duties that were to be performed towards the church by virtue of office, they added, by the direction of the Holy Ghost, the office of the deacons, for the especial discharge of the duty which the church oweth unto its poor members. Whereas, therefore, it is evident that the apostles could no more personally attend unto the rule of the church, with all that belongs thereunto, without an intrenchment on that labour in the word and prayer which was incumbent on them, than they could attend unto the relief of the poor, they appointed elders to help and assist in that part of office-work, as the deacons did in the other.
These elders are first mentioned Acts xi. 30 where they are spoken of as those which were well known, and bad now been of some time in the church. Afterward they are still mentioned in conjunction with the apostles, and in distinction from the church itself, Acts xv. 2, 4, 6, 22, xvi. 4, xxi. 18. Now, the apostles themselves were teaching elders, — that is, such as had the work of teaching and rule committed to them, 1 Pet. v. 1, 2 John 1, — and these elders are constantly distinguished from them; which makes it evident that they were not teaching elders: and therefore, in all the mention that is made of them, the work of teaching or preaching is nowhere ascribed unto them, which, at Jerusalem, the apostles reserved to themselves, Acts vi. 2–4; but they are everywhere introduced as joining with the apostles in the rule of the church, and that in distinction from the church itself, or the brethren of it. Yea, it is altogether improbable that whilst the apostles were at Jerusalem, giving themselves wholly unto the word and prayer, they should appoint in the same church many more teaching elders, though it is plain that the elders intended were many.
I shall add, for a close of all, that there is no sort of churches in being but are of this persuasion, that there ought to be rulers in the church that are not in “sacred orders,” as some call them, or have no interest in the pastoral or ministerial office, as unto the dispensation 130of the word and administration of the sacraments; for as the government of the Roman church is in the hands of such persons in a great measure, so in the church of England much of the rule of it is managed by chancellors, officials, commissaries, and the like officers, who are absolutely laymen, and not at all in their holy orders. Some would place the rule of the church in the civil magistrate, who is the only ruling elder, as they suppose. But the generality of all Protestant churches throughout the world, both Lutheran and Reformed, do, both in their judgment and practice, assert the necessity of the ruling elders which we plead for; and their office lies at the foundation of all their order and discipline, which they cannot forego without extreme confusion, yea, without the ruin of their churches. And although some among us, considering particular churches only as small societies, may think there is no need of any such office or officers for rule in them, yet when such churches consist of some thousands, without any opportunity of distributing themselves into several congregations, as at Charenton in France, it is a weak imagination that the rule of Christ can be observed in them by two or three ministers alone. Hence, in the primitive times, we have instances often, twenty, yea, forty elders, in a particular church; wherein they had respect unto the institution under the old testament, whereby each ten families were to have a peculiar ruler. However, it is certain that there is such a reformation in all sorts of churches, that there ought to be some attending unto rule that are not called to labour in the word and doctrine.
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