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the power of ordination of their ministers within themselves, nave generally thought it most regular and proper to have them ordained by other ordained ministers, when and where this was practicable. And there have been very few instances of ordinations performed without the assistance of one or more who had been before ordained in this way; and if there have been any such, they have had no influence to interrupt a general and almost universal succession of ordinations by the hands of presbyters, from the apostles down to this time.
When all this is well considered, will it not be evident that every minister of the gospel, who has been ordained by the hands of presbyters, or bishops, or at least of one, by whatever name they or he may be called, has good warrant to consider himself and act as a visible minister of Christ, who has received his commission and authority for this from Christ by an uninterrupted succession, unless there be good, positive evidence that this cannot be true with respect to himself
, he being a known exception from what has generally, and almost universally, taken place ?
It has been objected to the doctrine of an uninterrupted succession, as necessary to continue this order of officers in the church, that this will, in many instances, put it beyond the power
of Christians to obtain ministers or pastors, so as to be a regular church, and have the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper administered to them. A number of Christians may be cast away on a desolate island, and be obliged to live there, where they cannot obtain a pastor, unless they can ordain him themselves, and give him authority to perform all the business of this office. And a number of true Christians may live in a country, and at a time, where no ministers can be found who will ordain any one to be their minister, whom they shall choose, or think to be fit, for that office. Must those be deprived of ministers and the ordinances of the gospel?
A reply to such an objection has been already suggested. It is really begging the question; for, if Christ has made such a constitution, and ordained that those officers in his church shall be continued by an uninterrupted succession, he will not only see that it does take place, and that it shall not be interrupted, but will always put it in the power of his people to be supplied with ministers in this way; and there never has been an instance to contradict this, and never will be. The supposition, therefore, which is made in the objection, is a groundless one, and impossible. Christ will not suffer such an instance to take place, unless it be for his glory, the good of his church in general, and best for the individual Christians, who are deprived, in this way, of gospel ministers and ordinances; and if there be any such instances, they can be no objection to this institution of Christ.
These ministers and officers in the church are to be devoted to the business of their station and office, and to give themselves to this work which they have undertaken, in preaching the gospel and administering the ordinances of Christ - in taking care of the church, and presiding in all the public transactions of it, acting with the concurrence and consent of the church; for they have no authority to dictate to the church, and control it in any matter, contrary to their judgment and consent. They are, indeed, said to have the rule over the churches, (Heb. xü. 7, 17, 24,) but this means only to take the lead or preside
rches in their public devotions and transactions, as the word in the original signifies. The churches, and every particular member of them, are obliged to submit to them and obey them, so far as they preach the doctrines of the gospel, and urge the commands of Christ; for, so far as they do this, they have all the authority of Christ; and disobedience to them, when they declare the will of Christ and urge obedience to his laws, is disobedience to Christ, and rejecting him. But of this the members of the church are to judge for themselves, whether what they preach and dictate be agreeable to the revealed will of Christ; and if they judge it to be contrary to revealed truth, they will consider the minister as having no anthority, and themselves under no obligation to regard him in those things; and he has no authority to compel them to obedience to his dictates, or to inflict any punishment upon them, or subject them to any worldly inconvenience on this account. They are, indeed, accountable to Christ for their
. judgment and conduct in such cases, and to him alone, as he has commanded them to judge and act right, and will condern every thing that is not so, and is the final Judge to whom all appeals are to be made.* Thus the elders of the
* churches are not to be lords over them, but to lead them, and be examples to them, while they preside as overseers, or bishops, feeding them by preaching the truths of the gospel to ther, and declaring the whole counsel of God. (1 Pet. v. 2, 3. Acts xx. 28.)
This is said with reference to the whole, or the majority, of a church. If particular members, or the minor part of a church, reject the doctrines, and refuse to practise the duties, which the pastor inculcates as prescribed by Christ, and the majority of the church approve of them, the former are so far accountable to the church as to be the proper subjects of discipline, and may be rejected by the church as those who, in their judgment, refuse to obey the truth, and walk disorderly.
There are other officers in the church, called deacons, who have the care of the temporal, worldly concerns of the church. The church, when regulated according to the laws of Christ, makes provision for the support of public religion — for a decent and convenient place in which they may attend public worship, the support of the ministers of the gospel, and furnishing the table of the Lord. They are, also, to provide for the relief and comfort of the poor members of the church. The care and oversight of this provision is committed to the deacons. And they are, more especially, to distribute to the poor, out of the common stock of the church, and take care that no one may suffer for want of the necessaries and comforts of life. We have a particular account of the institution of those officers in the church, in the beginning of the sixth chapter of the Acts. The church pointed out and chose those whom they thought best qualified for this office, and presented them to the apostles, who ordained them to this office by laying their hands on them and praying.
It does not appear, from the Scripture, that there are more distinct orders of men and officers appointed in the church than these two, viz., elders or bishops, and deacons. Both of these are repeatedly mentioned together as being the only officers in the church, as nothing is said of any other. The apostle Paul, when he is directing Timothy in his regulating the churches in which he had a particular concern, and ordaining officers, mentions only elders or bishops, and deacons, and particularly describes the qualifications of these. And he directs his letter to the church at Philippi in the following words: “ To all the saints which are in Christ Jesus, at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” Had there been any other order of officers in that church, it may be presumed he would have mentioned them when he directs so particularly to these. This same apostle says, that, when Christ ascended to heaven, “ he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” (Eph. iv. 11.) Some have supposed there are more than two orders of ministers mentioned here; but there does not appear to be any evidence of this. By apostles and prophets are intended the extraordinary gifts and officers in the primitive church, who were not to continue, but ceased when those miraculous gifts, with which they were endowed, ceased, the church having no further need of them. And if evangelists were not also extraordinary officers, and, accordingly, ceased with the others mentioned before, they were ordinary ministers of the gospel, ordained to travel and preach at large, not being confined to a particular church, city, or country. Pastors and teachers were the same office, which every elder in particular churches sustained, so that, by evangelists, pastors, and teachers, but one sort and degree of officers is meant, viz., ministers of the gospel.
Public Institutions, Ordinances, and Worship of the Church.
Social and public worship, consisting in prayer, singing psalms or hymns, and in preaching and hearing the gospel, appears to be an institution of Christ, from what is recorded in Scripture. The disciples of Christ, after his ascension, met together, and continued with one accord in prayer and suppli cation, being about an hundred and twenty. (Acts i. 14, 15.) And when converts were multiplied, and a church was formed at Jerusalem, “they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and prayers. And continued daily with one accord in the temple, praising God." (Acts ii. 42, 46, 47.) At Antioch, Barnabas and Saul assembled themselves with the church a whole year, and taught much people. (Acts xi. 26.) It appears that the church at Corinth often came together into one place, to attend on the preaching of the gospel, prayer, singing psalms, and the ad. ministration of the Lord's supper. (1 Cor. xi. 18, etc., and chap. xiv. throughout.) Christians had places convenient for them to convene in public assemblies, and attend on public worship. (Jam. ii. 1-10.) And they were commanded “not to forsake the assembling themselves together" for public exhortation and mutual edification, etc. (Heb. x. 24, 25.)
Public worship being an institution of Christ, this necessarily implies a place where this may be attended decently, and with the greatest convenience to the members of the church, which is to be agreed upon and provided by the church, using all such help and assistance as the head of the church shall, in his providence, afford them. They are to assemble on the first day of the week for public worship, and at any other time which the church shall judge is agreeable to the will of Christ, as best suited to promote his cause and their edification. And there may be special calls in divine providence, to public fasting and prayer, or thanksgiving; and particular circumstances may render it proper and important to meet oftener, and to spend more time in public worship, at some times than at others.
It has been observed that the bishops, or overseers of the church, are to preach the word, and to preside and lead in public prayers, to which they are to devote themselves; and they are on this account to be counted worthy of double honor, and be decently supported with the necessaries and comforts of life. For Christ has ordained that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel. (1 Cor. ix. 14. Gal. vi. 6. 1 Tim. v. 17, 18.)
The stated time for public worship is the first day of the week, which the apostles, under the inspiration and particular direction from Christ, fixed upon, and appointed to be the Christian Sabbath. The Jewish seventh-day Sabbath, which was a type and shadow of that redemption which was in a peculiar sense and degree effected by the sufferings and death of Christ, from which he rose on the first day of the week, and of the rest into which the Christian church entered, upon this ceased and was abolished, when the substance and the things typified by it took place. With reference to this, the apostle Paul says to Christians, “Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ." (Col. ii. 16, 17.) The apostle has respect to the Jewish rites respecting meat and drink, and to their feast days, new moons, and their weekly Sabbaths, and declares that Christians, especially those who were Gentiles, were not under any obligation to observe them. This has no respect to the Christian Sabbath. This was observed by the apostles and Christian churches in their day. Christ having risen on the first day of the week, he appeared repeatedly to his disciples, while they were together on this first day. And on this first day of the week, “when the day of Pentecost was fully come, and they were all with one accord in one place,” the Holy Spirit was poured out on them, and they spake with tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And Peter preached to the multitude who were collected on that occasion, and great numbers were converted. (Acts ii. 1, etc.) The day of Pentecost was always on the first day of the week. (Lev. xxiii. 15-21.) And this day of the week was honored by this remarkable event, and not the seventh day of the week, which was the Jewish Sabbath. And no reason can be given why the church were together in one place on that day, but that it was the day of the week on which they were directed, and used to assemble for instruction and worship.
Accordingly, we find that, on the first day of the week, Christian churches used to assemble for public worship, with the apostles' approbation. When the apostle Paul, and his companions in travelling, came to Troas, they continued there