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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 or. dain 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 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, anless 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
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 un
. đertaken, 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 ;* but this means only to take the lead or preside in the churches, 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 agrecable 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 authority, 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 condemn 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 them, and declaring the whole counsel of God.”I
• Heb. xiii. 7, 17, 24. + 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 disci. pline, and may be rejected by the church, as those who, in their judgment, refuse to obey the truth, and walk disorderly.
# 1 Pet. v. 2, a. Acts xx. 28.
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 cominitteil to the deacons. And they are more especially to distribute to the poor out of the cominon 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 dea.
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 fol. lowing 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 thein, 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.»* Some have supposed, there are more than two orders of minis. ters mentioned here ; but there does not appear to be
• Eph. iv. 11.
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 farther 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..
On the 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 supplication ; being about an hundred and twenty.* And when converts were multiplied, and a church was formed at Jerusalem, “they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and prayers. And continued daily with one accord in the temple, praising God.”+ At Antioch, Barnabas and Saul assembled themselves with the church a whole year, and taught much people. f 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 administration of the Lord's supper.ỹ Christians had places convenient for them to convene in public assemblies, and attend on public worship.ll And they were • Acts i. 14, 15. Acts ii. 42, 46, 47. Acts xi. 26. Si Cor. xi. 18, &c. and Chap. xiy, throughout. Il Jam, ü. 1-10.
commanded, “Not to forsake the assembling themselves together," for public exhortation and mutual edification, &c. *
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 provi. dence, 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 count. ed worthy of double honour, 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.
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 an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath
• Heb. 2. 24, 25. # 1 Cor. ix. 14. Gal. vi. 6. 1 Tim. v. 17, 18!