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from our own views as entertained or expressed in former years, we trust we will not be found reluctant to submit to the stronger reason and to change to the side of truth. We conclude, then, that the question at present under discussion is to be decided upon its own merits, and not by what may have been formerly taught or said upon it, even by our own periodical; yet as our brother, whilst insisting that we shall dispense with argument and confine ourself to scripture proof only, thinks proper to make his chief propositions rest upon the opinions of our beloved father Campbell, it is proper to notice the quotations made so far as to show that they do not fully represent his sentiments on this subject. To do this, we shall only quote a few passages from the Millennial Harbinger for 1840, vol. iv, new series. From page 35 et seq. we extract as follows:
“The Baptist church government has been far-famed for its democracy. Jefferson is said to have got his BEAU IDEAL of the American Republic from a visit which, in his youth, he is said to have made to a Saturday mecting in a case of discipline, for which a Baptist church in his vicinity had assembled. The meeting of the late Congress might be appealed to as proof of it. But fierce as our democracy is, it has been tamed by an old
There is no Senate in the Baptist church, and therefore it is preposterous to assume that the sage of Monticello learned the frame-work of our government from a hundred and ten men, women, and children, meeting to try a delinquent for an offence against the Lord. In that assembly there was a Moderator, a very shrewd title, considering the elements to be governed; and the whole congregation was a Court of Oyer and Terminer. When the question was put, sixty-one, out of one hundred and ten, only voted-thirty for the delinquent's acquittal, and thirty-one against him.Forty-nine voted not at all. Thirty-one, then, was the governing vote. But in WEIGHING the names after they were COUNTED, eleven names of the thirty-one were under age-actual minors, boys and girls; and of the remaining twenty, ELEVEN were females. Of the minority THIRTEEN had the age, experience, and wisdom of the church; while the remainder of the thirty were persons of full age and reason, and equal to the wisest on the other side. In weight, the names were as one hundred to ten; but in count, they were as thirty-one to thirty; and so President Numbers triumphed over Presidents Age, Experience, and Moral Excellence; and the delinquent was accordingly excluded.”
A.C. Again, page 216, et seq: -
“As a sovereign preventive of difficulties in churches we have shown that an able, discreet, and righteous senate or eldership is one of heaven's own ordination-an indispensable prerequisite to the good order, peace, health, and prosperity of a community. This senate must be devoted ia heart, and set apart to this business under the solemn vows of fidelity to the King and his kingdom, and with a proper feeling of responsibility to
571 the Lord at his coming; else it will degenerate into an ANNUAL THING—a PRO TEMPORE and preparatory measure—a sinecure-a nothing.
But even when this senate is in full and harmonious discharge of its duties to the Lord and his people, it must be submitted to in all its righteous decisions on the part of the community that appointed it, else it will prove utterly useless and unavailing in the grand object of its selection and ordination. The election to rule is, on the part of the electors, an engagement to submit to the elected. On any other hypothesis an election or ordination is a farce. No discreet and devoted servant of Christ would accept of an office in the discharge of which he would not be sustained by the brethren. All that promote to any office a brother, are obliged by every principle of piety and congruity to submit to the administration of that person so long as he exhibits himself faithful to the Lord and the brethren.
It was in this view of the subject that Paul commanded the Jewish brethren to "obey" and "submit" themselves to those who presided over them. His language to the Thessalonians is remarkable: “Consider those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and who admonish you." “Over YOU, UNDER THE LORD.” The Lord, then, has placed over them rulers or elders to whom they were to submit, and whom they were "highly to esteem in love for their work's sake.”
Now this submission, obedience, and esteem on the part of the brethren, had respect to matters of discipline in the administration of the laws of the kingdoin much more than simply to their teaching. It was not to them as commentators on the text that submission or obedience was due; but as rulers in the discipline and adjustment of all difficulties that might occur in the family of God.
This is a very decisive proof that discipline was not administered by the whole communities in their public assemblies, but by the elders of the church in virtue of their office. There never was a community that got along peaceably and profitably for any length of time that presumed to settle all matters of discipline by a public vote in a public assembly. Such societies as have advocated this wild democracy have either broken themselves to pieces, or greatly dishonored and injured the profession. No family, church, or state could be long kept in order, in harmony, and love under such an economy.
Now if it be no disparagement to our rank as citizens of the state, that we submit to the officers whom we ourselves have created; can it be any diminution of our Christian dignity to obey our own ecclesiastic rulers, who, under the Lord, are over us for our good.
To prevent difficulties in churches these two things are, in my judgment, first in importance--viz. an efficient presbytery in every congregation, and a rational and scriptural submission to them in the capacity of rulers on the part of the whole brotherhood. The difficulty in obtaining a competent presbytery is not greater than the difficulty in obtaining that spirit of subordination, without which confusion, tumult, and schism will inevitably
This difficulty beset the apostolic churches even under the imperis
al government of Rome and the despotic military tyrannies of her provin
How much more may we expect to encounter it under the popular notions of republican equality and right, which generally distinguish the English people in Europe and in America.”
A. C. These passages need no comment. They speak for themselves with the usual force and clearness of their author. Even in the article from which brother Chinn last quoted, (M. H. for 1839, page 339,) the curit us reader will find language against the whole church voting in cases of discipline, quite as conclusive as any thing quoted above-for in speaking of the composition of a church, it says
"The Christian community is composed of persons old and young, in years and in experience; of old men, young men, and little children in Christ Jesus--a majority of whom, like a majority of a borough, a parish, a city, or a county, are not always competent judges of either law or fact. They are not, -in one word, competent judges of all questions of controversy; and of course it would be a defect in any institution to demand of all its members that which all its members seldom or ever have hitherto attained."
So much for the judgment of Father Campbell, to whom few persons are more indebted for instruction in things pertaining to the kingdom of Christ, than I am, and for whose judgment or opinion few entertain a more just appreciation and respect.
Brother Chinn would, perhaps, think it discourteous in us, were we to animadvert upon the rather dogmatical character of his communication, which pronounces, against my essays on Discipline, five distinct propositions,-upon at least four of which he has not even attempted to offer any kind of proof. We have seen how the proof of his first proposition fails, when presented in all its connections, and instead of the jugdment of father Campbell sustaining it, how completely, so far as it goes, it refutes it. The second assertion is, that the views I have presented are “contrary to the word of God.” This is an affirmative proposition, and we logically look for the affirmant to produce the scripture that is opposed to us; but, strange to tell, reither in the passages quoted from the Millennial Harbinger, nor in the comments of brother Chinn, is to be found one single quotation from Holy Writ. Not having been able myself to find the scripture that condemus my views, and our correspondent having neglected to refer us to it, we must wait for mure light be. fore we concede the justness of this very grave and serious charge. As to the third assertion, that my views are “subversive of the independence of the church,” it appears to me, not only wanting in proof, but to contain an assumption, which, to say the least, is very
ambiguous. What does brother Chinn mean by the “independence of the church?” Does he mean that an eldership, by requiring a church to submit to the laws of Jesus Christ, restrains her liberty, and thus subverts her independence:—if so, then, we say, this is an independence which the King and head of the church has never conceded to her. No church has liberty to live in insubordination to the laws of the kingdom,--and if it be a law of the kingdom that Elders shall“rule," and that disciples shall "submit;" the claim of a church to be independent of her constitutionally appointed rulers, and to refuse submission to them that are in authority over her, is unwarranted by law, and, therefore, in its very nature, subversive of that kingdom of which she is a constituted part. Let us not fall into the sophism of considering a church and her Elders as two totally distinct and independent bodies. The Elders are the representatives, chosen of the church over which they preside, and are underlaw just as much as is the church, and if they “lord it over God's heritage” they are responsible to their brethren, whom they serve. There is no such thing as unrestricted independence on either side;-on the contrary, a church is an organized body, subject to the laws of its constitution, and the various parts have no independence, that is not in harmony with the relations of the whole. Our correspondent will, therefore, discover that before he pushes this proposition any farther, it will be necessary for him to prove, from the scriptures, that a church is independent of her Elders. She may choose them, and she may depose them; but while they act under constitutional appointment they must be submitted to. In saying thus much, we confine ourself to the ideas of scripture--and employ the terms rule and submit just as we find them used by an Apostle. If it be hard doctrine to some, complain not of us, for we are not the author of it.
In the fourth place, it is affirmed that we "do away with the necessity of the disciples qualifying themselves to understand the will of God.” Our brother will not think me disposed to file captious objections when I tell him, that in this proposition, also, there is an assumption, which we cannot allow to pass unchallenged. It assumes that the only necessity a disciple is under, to understand the will of the Lord, is that he may qualify himself to vote in cases of discipline! for, says the objection, if you take away from the disciple the right to vote, when a brother is under trial, what need is there of his understanding the will of the Lord at all! But is it the only use of the scriptures that they fit and qualify us to judge the case of our neighbors? Are they.not rather given that the man of
God may be perfect --competely fitted for every good work? We must search them, not to be able to take the mote out of our brother's eye, but that we may extract the beam out of our own eye:-and as God has not qualified all his disciples to act as judges in the delicate and difficult affair of adjusting differences between brethren and of attending to discipline, so he does not require that they should study the scriptures particularly to this end, but chiefly to their edification in their own personal and relative duties, privileges and hopes. The necessity of keeping the word always in remembrance, in order that we may live and walk with God, I can appeal to the experience of brother Chinn himself, is one that every Christian daily feels, and when he reads it to his family, morning and evening, or meditates upon it during the day and the night, a qualification to perform the duties of discipline is, perhaps, the last motive that presents itself to him. But as we deem it altogether useless further to notice this position, we shall proceed to say a few words on the fifth objection.
Were we, in the scriptural sense of the phrase, to make the Elders “lords over God's heritage,” we should most unquestionably violate an express command of the word of God, for the Apostle Peter, 1 Ep. v. 2, speaking to the Elders in the churches of the dispersion, says: "Feed the flock of God, which is with you; exercising the Bishop's office, not by constraint, but willingly; neither for the sake of sordid gain, but from good disposition; neither as lording it over the heritage of God, but being patterns to the flock," &c. We have never learned, however, that an injunction to an officer, not to abuse the powers of his office, is the same thing as to take away those powers. These Elders were to exercise the Overseer's office, but in doing so they were not to tyrannize over their breth. ren, nor in a proud, haughty and insolent manner govern the churches, (i. e. lord it over them, but in such a manner as to make themselves patterns of Christian excellence, justice and moderation, to their flocks. This, we understand, to be the true meaning of this passage, and so far from divesting the Elders of the authority to rule, it concedes the whole matter, by prescribing the spirit in which they must perform the duty. None will deny that there must be power of governing some where, and even if we place it in a majority, there is the same necessity for this caution of the Apostle; for the most absolutely tyrannical administrations on earth have been democracies, where the people met in masses and decided by their suffrages, questions involving both the policy of the State and the fates of individuals;—so that both from the history of such govern.