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EXTRACT FROM DR. S. CLARKE's SERMONS.
whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant ; even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many,” Matt. xx. 25. So long, and so far as Christianity was planted according to this standard of its great Author-in plainness and simplicity of incorrupt doctrine, and in meekness and humility, love and charity, in practice-when Christians "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayer”-“continuing daily with one accord in the temple-eating their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people”-when “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul, and great grace was upon them all”—then did their light shine forth indeed before men, and cause them to praise and glorify the God of heaven—then were they in reality and indeed “acceptable to God and approved of men”-then was the Gospel truly and conspicuously like a city upon a hill, “ a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of God's people, Israel :" it was the praise and wonder of those who beheld its blessed effects, and might have been the joy of the whole earth. Had Christians continued “to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they were called; with all lowliness and mekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace—had they considered the argument he urges (for this unity], viz. that there could be but“ one Body and one Spirit, even as they were called in one Hope of their Calling ; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all”—had they continued to “speak the truth in love, that they might grow up into Him in all things who is the Head, even Christ ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love”-the church of God established upon this foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone, might in its whole building, fitly framed together, have grown up into one “holy temple in the Lord.”
“ But an enemy soon sowed tares among this wheat, and con tentious men very easily began to build wood, hay, and stubble,
upon the foundation of Christ. Not content with the simplicity and plainness of the Gospel, which could not possibly furnish materials for strife and contention, vain men soon began to mix their own uncertain opinions with the doctrines of Christ, and had no other way to give them weight and authority, but by endeavouring to force them upon the faith of others. And out of this bramble, as Jotham foretold the men of Shechem, “a fire proceeded, which hath devoured the cedars of Lebanon :” or, as the prophet Ezekiel expresses himself concerning the vine of Israel, “A fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit." For, from a desire of being “many masters"-from a desire of forcing mutually our own opinions upon others, instead of exhorting them to study and obey the Gospel of Christ have arisen strifes and contentions, hatred and uncharitableness, schisms and divisions without end. From a zeal for the religion and commands of Christ--a concern for the promotion of truth, righteousness, and charity, it is evident, in the nature of things, and the experience of all ages, that wars and fightings, hatred and animosities, never have nor ever can proceed. These precious fruits have always sprung from that root of bitterness, a zeal for the doctrines and commandments of men, a striving for temporal power and dominion.*
Long as this quotation is, I shall offer no apology for it, because I could not possibly state my own views of the matter in language more pertinent, appropriate, and pointed, than that which the author has used. It is sometimes asked, why are we dissenters from the church of Rome—the church of Englandthe church of Scotland, &c. ? We reply, because all these (so named) churches are unscripturally constituted; they are not according to the primitive model; they are not founded in the concurrence of its members in the faith of the doctrine and the observance of the precepts of Christ; nor are they cemented by brotherly affection one to another. They, one and all, admit the interference of human authority, expressed in acts of parliament, the decision of councils, church-courts, kirk-sessions, or the. sword of the civil magistrate, all of which the kingdom or church of Christ renounces as being Antichristian. Hence we
* Sermons by Dr. Samuel Clarke, Vol. III. Sorm. XIV.
ORIGIN OF CHURCH POWER AND AUTHORITY.
dissent, and return to first principles--the original constitution of the churches of Christ. *
It is always a difficult thing to trace error to its real source, to ascertain its first risings, and mark its gradual developments. The apostles inform us that the mystery of iniquity began to work even in their day—no doubt insidiously, and scarcely perceptible to such as had not the supernatural gift of discerning spirits. But we all now know to what an awful height it advanced in the course of a few centuries wlien “the man of sin, the son of perdition, opposing himself to the King of Zion, and exalting himself above all that is called God or is worshipped, came to sit in the church or temple of God, impiously arrogating divine honours,” 2 Thess. ii. A consideration of this subject naturally leads us to look back to what the New Testament teaches respecting the pastoral office—the ends for which it was instituted—the spirit that is essential to the right discharge of its functions—the duties which pertain to it--and the perfect equality which at first reigned among those who were invested with it. A due attention to these things will assist us materially in tracing the rise and reign of Antichrist---and the present appears to be the proper place for taking up the subject.
The appointment of office-bearers in the Christian church is traced by the apostle Paul to the highest possible authority, the good pleasure of our risen and ascended Lord. For, treating of his ascension into heaven, and of his exaltation as head of his body, the church, he connects with it his giving gifts unto men, which gifts he explains to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, the work of
• “The history of the first or purest ages of Christianity furnishes accounts of churches which were not only constituted according to the plain and simple rules of the Gospel, but were governed by the laws of Christ alone. The authority of even the most venerable persons found no place in them. The apostles themselves were not LORDS over the faith of their members; they were only HELPERS of their joy. Strict regard to the laws of Christ was then equally the characteristic of the minister and the Christian of every rank. There were indeed rulers and ruled. But the first were no less governed by the authority of their common Master in all their administrations, than the last were in all their ordinary acts of religion. It was then accounted necessary that the divine character of every office and of every institution should be ascertained and acknowledged. Without this, ministers could not conscientiously be invested with the first, nor Christians regulate their worship by the last."-Review of Ecclesiastical Establishments, 8c., by W. Graham, 1792.
the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, Eph. iv. 84 12. Of the gifts here enumerated, we know from other parts of Scripture, that the former three were extraordinary and ceased with the apostolic age; for the apostles had no successors in their office-prophecies were to cease when the canon of revelation was completed-and the evangelists, who were assistants to the apostles in establishing the kingdom of Christ at the beginning, ceased to be necessary when the apostles were no more. The only stated office-bearers in all the primitive churches were elders and deacons. The work assigned to the elder is clearly and acurately defined in the New Testament, namely, to oversee and to rule the church of God-to labour in the word and doctrine, and thus to feed the flock of God.* Sometimes their office and duties are expressed by other terms than the word elder, such as bishops, pastors, teachers; but these different terms denote one and the same office. There was no difference between them in the apostolic age; for an elder was a bishop, and the bishop was an elder. The following passages clearly prove this fact. Paul sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus, and exhorted them to take heed unto themselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit had made them bishops, en LOKOTOUS, Acts xx, 17, 28. Titus was left in Crete, to ordain elders in every city; and when the apostle proceeds to describe their qualifications for the office, he does it in this way, “ a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre ;" Titus i. 5,7. Peter exhorts the elders to feed the flock of God, discharging the office of a bishop, ET LOKOTTHVTEC, not by constraint, 1 Pet. v. 2. The identity of the office of bishop and elder will be obvious to every one who duly compares these texts of Scripture, and properly considers them.
I mentioned in a former Lecture that there appear to have been a plurality of elders, bishops, or pastors, in all the primitive churches. The church at Jerusalem had its elders, Acts xv. 2, 4. Paul, when at Miletus, sent for the elders of the church at Ephesus, Acts xx. 17. In ch. xiv. 23, we read that Paul and Barnanabas ordained elders in every church. Titus was left in Crete
* 1 Tim. v. 17; Acts xx. 28 ; 1 Pet, v. 1-5.
AUTHORITY OF THE PASTORAL OFFICE.
that he might ordain elders in every city, Tit. i. 5. Paul addresses his epistle to the church at Philippi,“ with the bishops and deacons,” ch. i. 1; yet that church was a single congregation as indeed were all the first churches, Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica, Ephesus, Colosse, &c. &c. We certainly read of the churches of Galatia ; but then Galatia was a province, not a city or town. In short, whenever they are spoken of in the apostolic writings, it is in the plural number.* In this, indeed, the divine wisdom is apparent ; for, as the duties of the pastoral office are various, such as teaching, ruling, guiding, feeding, &c., and it being a rare thing to find the same individual excelling in each of these, provision is made by the appointment of a plurality of elders or bishops for the supply of all the church's necessities. It is manifest from what the apostle says, 1 Tim. v. 17, that an elder may excel in teaching who is deficient in his qualifications for ruling, and vice versa; for, his direction, or doctrine-to“ let the elder who rules well be accounted worthy of double honour or support, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine" --while it implies that both ruling and teaching are different branches of the same office, nevertheless supposes that the capacity for discharging them is not possessed by all, at least, is not possessed in an equal proportion: and this fact is too fully demonstrated, by daily observation and experience in the churches of Christ, to require any formal proof.
It must be obvious to every one who reads the apostolic writings with attention, that the pastoral office in a church involves in it a degree of rule and authority over those who enjoy the benefit of the office. If that were not the case, there could be no meaning in such texts as the following :-“ Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account,” &c., Heb. xiii. 17. But then it is not the authority of a despot over his slaves; it is that of a mild and considerate parent over his children. Neither is it the authority of a magistrate who can avail himself of the power of the sword to punish the refractory. “The great engine of the magistrate,” as one well observes, “is terror-that of the pastor is love. The advancement of one is the destruction of the
* See 1 Pet. v, 1; James v. 14; 1 Thess. v, 12; Heb. xiii. 17.