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English of the word church ; and some of these it seems, had the public management, or superintendance of the people, while others of them, were its public teachers.
Mer. Why don't you think that all these elders, or bishops, were teachers ? Loveg. By no means. That passage evidences the
“Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word, and doctrine;" and we hear the word of direction given to the people respecting these ; " to know them who labor among them, and are them in the Lord, and admonish them : and to esteem them very highly in love, for their works' sake;" or, as we have it elsewhere, “ obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account. It is strange, that from such simple rules, different parties should have formed such various conclusions, and then act with such anathematizing severity, towards each other.
Mer. Why, it appears to me impossible, that a precise mode of discipline, could have ever been fixed in the New Testament, circumstances as they then were, being soon afterwards exceedingly altered. We cannot suppose that the ministry of the twelve apostles, or of the seventy disciples, was meant as a standing order for the church, otherwise every preacher inust continue a perpetual itinerant. Though the same need of an apostolical spirit, will ever remain, because, from the corrupted state of the human race, the Church is continually apt to decline ; and without such revivals, we should be in a wretched state indeed.
Loveg. It is evident from the epistle to the Corinthians, that the mode of worship among the primitive Christians, was very different from that, which in after ages was necessarily adopted. While the extraordinary influences of the Holy Spirit, rested
upon the church, full liberty of speaking was aliowed to all, even to the
limitation. Mer. Do you then think that some of the women, 'vere public preachers in those days?
Loveg. They certainly were; for the apostle directs them how to preach, with their heads veiled, or covered, in the public assembly. “Every woman that prayeth or prophecieth, with her head uncovered, dishonoreth her head,” for that it was “ uncomely, that
woman pray unto God uncovered.” However, this general permission, for all to speak, was attended with some disorder, even in the purest ages of the church. And indeed it should appear, from the directions given in St. Paul's epistle to Timothy, and Titus, that somewhat more like a standing ministry, would be wanted, when the immediate, and supernatural influences of the divine Spirit, should be withdrawn. We know indeed, that an attempt to revive this mode of public worship, has been made among the people called Quakers, as though the same divine power still existed, supposing that the immediate influences of the blessed Spirit, are still to be expected, in order to qualify their public teachers, for their public work. But alas ! they also prove, that while one sect runs into one extreme, another can run into that which is directly the reverse ; and thus they naturally prove the weakness of each other's pretensions.---]t appears therefore to me, that many things must naturally have been left to future circumstances Still we should follow the general outlines of the word of God, and see that “all things be done decently, and in order."*
Slapd. When Mr. Stiff was ordained, it seems there was a great talk among them, that the right to the ininistry entirely depended upon the election of the people. As to myself, I cannot recollect in what place of scripture, that sentiment is revealed, as being a part of the discipline of the New Testament church.
See 1 Cor. xi, ud hin,
Loveg. No more can I. And what is more extraordinary, I never could find out, that any one pastor was ordained as the settled teacher over any particular church ;* and yet I most readily admit, that it is a very good human regulation, that people should have their stated ministers, and that proper means should be made use of, to provide a pure, and holy ministry, for the edification of the Christian church, and that the people's choice, so far as they are fit to choose, should be properly consulted. It is astonishing that such disputants, cannot discover upon what a slight foundation, they ground their contentions against each other.
Slapd. O, huw Mr. Stiff railed against our church episcopacy, though I believe, other dissenters, milder than he, are much ashamed of him for his vehement spirit; and what a dressing Mr. Steepleman gave him in return, on the following Sunday, as one of a set of schismatics, insisting, that it was impossible there could be a Christian church, without a Bishop at the head of it! How the devil must have been delighted at this!
Loveg. Well, but according to Mr. Stiffs plan of government, he needs not to have been alarmed at the name of Bishop, for his notions of equality in their
* I have heard, that some have supposed this matter, from the allusion made to the Angels of the seven Asiatic churches; but in my humble opinion, prophetic allusions, fall exceedingly short of positive proof. Others have also supposed, that the word xrigotovew proves the point, from its derivation, to choose by the holding up of the hand ; but scarcely
terms at all times abide by their original derivation. We find this word twice in the New Testament. In 2 Cor. viii. 19, we are told of Titus, and another brother, who was chosen by the churches in Corinth, to take their alms to the Macedonians. This might have appeared to the po had it been to choose a minister! The other place is in Acts xiv. 23. where Paul, and Barnabas, first travelled through different cities, confirming the churches, and then left them, after they had ordained or chosen them elders in every city. It appears here then, the reverse to what might be expected. The Elders were ordainer, not by the people, but by the Apostles.
Church discipline, render the whole body of them a set of Bishops, or overseers among themselves, as the rule equally belongs to all : such are the clashings between Mr. Steepleman, and Mr. Stiff. No wonder at the terrible confusion created on every side of the question, by such extremes ; but with the leave of Mr. Stiff, and Mr. Steepleman, something more moderate, might have been the discipline of the primitive Church. I never could see the great improbability, or impropriety in the idea, that when the Church began to be considerably enlarged, the presbyters, that they might make their government more compact among themselves, should think it necessary to appoint a superintendant over their body; as we have it in civil matters, a Mayor in a corpcration, presiding among his brethren, the elders, eldermen, or aldermen of the City : and what is there in all this, that is either despicable, or absurd ? and yet this might have existed, without the least affinity to that strange, wordly government, afterwards adopted in the times of darkness, by the Church of Rome.
Slapd. But what a wonderful piece of work Mr. Stiff made, in ordaining what he called his seven Deacons.
Loveg. Why seven ?
Slapd. I suppose that he might closely imitate the conduct of the apostles, who ordained seven Deacons, as we find in the Acts.
Loveg. Deacons! wiere are they called Deacons ? not in that chapter, but in the translator's preface, and that will not stand for inspiration; though the summary they have given to each Chapter, is generally very correct, and good.
Slapd. What must we call them then ?
Loveg. Seven men of good report, as the Scriptúres call them ;--and I suppose, their office was to attend to the proper distribution of the estates, sold in the times of persecution, when it was necessary,
that people should have all things common, that they might take that burden off the Apostles' hands, whose
office it was, to go about every where, preaching that men should repent.
Slapd. Mr. Stiff has not adopted that into his primitive discipline, though that might turn to his advantage.
Loveg. Nor does he wash his disciples feet I sappose; and yet these were scripture precedents, as well as the seven Deacons, as he supposes them to be. If it be necessary that we should follow them in one point of view, I think we should in all ; or else at once admit, that each body of Christians should act for itself, as it judges best, only secluding the wicked from their communion, and still manifest towards each other, all that candour, and moderation, which the cause evidently demands.
Slapd. Nay, but do not we hear of Bishops, and Deacons in the epistle to the Philippians ?
Loveg. Put the word in plain English, and it only means overseers, and servants ; and this accounts for it, why presbyters, or elders, are not mentioned on the same list, because they are the same characters.
Slapd. But is there not a particular account, how a set of people called deacons should act?
Loveg. That is how the servants should act, and in all other places in scripture, the same expression is translated servant, or minister ; and this point hy a little attention, might easily be proved if we had leisure.*
* I lay before the reader an abridged criticism on this subject, printed on a former occasion.
The word Alexovos, though in very frequent use, is only translated deacon, in two places in the New Testament; once in 1 Tim. iii. where the word is carried through the chapter; and in Paul's dedicatory address to the Philippian church. Now I really conceive, strange as it may appear, that the mistake arose from a Popish original; that communion being over fond of garnishing their church, by a multiplicity of officers, and pretended mystical ideas, adopted, in their vulgate Latin translation, abstruse expressions, only calculated to mislead. Hence the word I Izpoxantos must be by them translated Paracletus, so they have endered it in English Paraclete; in our translation, by the