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God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." That the elder and bishop are the same in office, is further evident from what Paul said to Titus.
66 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city. If any man be blameless. For a bishop must be blameless." Here we find, that elders and bishops sustain one and the same office in the church. The Apostles, Paul and Peter, called themselves elders, as well as apostles ; and the exhortation of Peter to his fellow elders was, 56 Feed the flock of God that is among you,
This is the pastoral duty; “ taking the oversight,” or bishoprick over them. Thus we find, that the titles, elder, pastor, bishop, and minister, are titles of the same officers in the church. Among all these titles, perhaps, minister of the gospel is the most appropriate, and the most in common
the epistle to the Ephesians, where the various gifts of Christ to men are enumerated, there is a seeming difference expressed between “ apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers." The apostles we have considered as elders divinely inspired, not only to preach the gospel; but to complete the book of divine revelation. In these respects, they had no successors in office. The same is true, with respect to prophets. None have appeared in the church, vested with any authority, as prophets, since the canon of divine revelation was completed. With respect to evangelists, it appears, from the signification of the name, that they were considered, by the Apostles, as a class of elders and bishops in office, whose more particular business it was, to preach the gospel as itinerants, and missionaries; and to evangelize those who had been heathen, or heretics. Paul was the most distinguished cvangelist. Philip was called the evangelist; and probably, he never had the charge of a particular church. Timothy, who appears to have been somewhat of an itinerant and missionating elder, was exhorted to do the work of an evangelist. As to pastors and teachers, we have found them to be the same in office,
as elders or bishops. These titles are most appropriate to settled, and stationary ministers of the churches.
Thus we find most plenary and abundant evidence, from the inspired Apostles, that among the ministers of Christ, and officers of his church, no different grades of office are to be found. All the ministering servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, stand on a level with one another. No one, more than another, is to be called Rabbi. And the followers of Christ are expressly forbidden to call any man Rabbi.
So far was the blessed Saviour from tolerating dignities and powers, among the officers of his church, that when the question was proposed,“ Who should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven" He immediately called a little believing child, as small a child, perhaps, as was capable of expressing faith in him. This child he produced as a sample of those who should he most distinguished in his kingdom. The idea was, that humility and meekness, and a renunciation of all worldly power and dignity, should constitute the highest dignity and honor in his kingdom. 66 He that exalteth himself shall be abased ; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
So far are the ministers of Christ from having the government and control, one of another, in any case ; that they have no government and control of the church, nor of an individual member of the church. They are utterly forbidden to 6 Lord it over God's heritage." They have no power to admit, nor to reject members, nor to interfere at all, any farther than to serve as moderators, in the discipline, and other transactions of the church. All this has been substantially proved ; and how astonishing it is, that in the face of all this light, the officers of the church, from age to age, have been loaded with honors and dignities and armed with next to omnipotent power ! How surprising, that even a Scott, can in any measure, countenance the British Hierarchy ! But the best of men have their imperfections.
The only other office in the church, is that of Deacons. The word, Deacon, as well as the word, Minister, signi
fies a servant. The duty of a deacon is, not only to exhibit an example of gravity, and undissembled piety and godliness; but, in particular, to serre tables. To them it belongs, to provide for the holy communion ; to attend to the daily ministrations to the poor and afflicted. In short, all the temporal concerns of the church devolve on the deacons. And considering the character whicla is requisite to this office, it is natural to conclude, that deacons are, in many cases, required to serve as leaders of the church ; leaders in prayer, in exhortation, in reproof, in instruction. For it is to be remembered, that their institution at first was for the express purpose of alleviating the burdens of the ministers of the word. So far as they can do this, without infringing on the ministerial office, they are bound to do it.
The number to be appointed as deacons of the church, depends on circumstances. At Jerusalem, there were several thousand christian professors, organized in one church, probably consisting of seven branches, with their elders. In this great body of christians, seven deacons were appointed. This is recorded as a general sample on the subject. Churches destitute of pastors, and in no way to obtain them, should, if circumstances permit, increase the number of deacons ; that the pastoral duty may, in some respects, be supplied. For it is highly important, that people assemble for social worship, every Lord's day, and in every society.
These are some of the leading thoughts, respecting the church of Christ, organized according to the gospel plan ; with its officers, and their several duties. That Christ has thus instituted his church, is evident from the practice of the apostles and elders, and their great success, under the noted commission of their Lord ; “ Go, teach all nations, baptizing them, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Under this coinmission, they soon established churches all over Judea, and throughout the vast empire of Rome. These churches were owned and blessed of Christ, and were edified together in love, under the influences of the Holy Spirit.
The next thing that claims our attention is, what are the proper qualifications for admission as members of the church? From scripture and reason, it clearly appears, that the most important, and necessary qualification for membership in the christian church, is real christianity; real and unfeigned faith in Jesus Christ. This is necessary to salvation; and without this, it is impossible to please God. But the object of uniting with the church is nothing short of salvation. It is to cultivate the christian graces,
and to cherish that faith which is 6 the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” To unite consistently with the church of Christ, we must be able, in some good measure, to satisfy ourselves, and to satisfy the church, that we are real christians, having, in a spiritual sense, passed from death unto life. While absolute assurance is hardly to be expectedl, we must proceed on other ground; the ground of a prevailing and comfortable hope. To prove this point, we observe, that faith in Christ is necessary to the Christian baptism. The eunuch being anxious to receive the Christian baptism, Philip said to him, “ If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” On the day of Pentecost, “ They that gladly received the word were baptized.” Gladly receiving the word, was receiving it
“ With the heart man believeth unto righteousness :" and then follows the Christian profession. 66 With the mouth confession is made unto salvation." No one can, on bible ground, receive the Christian baptism, without a credible profession of the Christian faith. But baptism is an indispensable condition of membership in the visible church. The consequence is, that the Christian faith is a necessary qualification for admission as a member of the visible church.
This principle is necessary to Christian fellowship. " For, what fellowship hath righteousness with unrightcousness ? and what communion hath light with darkness? What part hath he that believeth with an infidel." To the church it is said, “ Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my
people." How can all this be ? if unbelievers may be admitted as members of the church. Would they con stitute a holy temple ? In another place, the Apostle gives to ministers, and those who are employed as builders of the church, a solemn charge, respecting the materials, with which they build this sacred temple. The foundation is Christ. Other foundation can no man lay. Now if any man build on this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest.” The materials which every builder has added to the temple will appear, of what sort they are. Let every man, therefore, take heed how he builds on such a foundation as Christ. “ If any man defile the temple of God,” which is the church of Christ'; “ him shall God destroy: for the temple of God is holy.” Thus it appears, that the essential qualification for membership in the church, is real religion. With precious materials must the spiritual house be built; and if, on trial, any of the inaterials prove corrupt; they must be rejected. But notwithstanding all the care and strictness of the builders of the church; hypocrites will sometimes gain admission. Christians must wait and labor till the Millenium, before it can be said, that there is no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord.”... AMEN.
The ordinance of Baptism.
No part of the system of divine truth is more instructive, interesting, and important, than the sealing ordinances of Christ. They are full of gospel instruction. While they are peculiarly expressive of the native pollution and depravity of man; and of his condemned state, under the covenant of works; they are a seal of a new covenant relation to Christ, and of his precious promises to all true believers. In short, the whole plan