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Delivered May 1848.
CONSISTING OF STRICTURES UPON THE PRESENT PRACTICES OF
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
« Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain that are ready to die,
The three points specified in these Lectures as corruptions are not produced as a synopsis of the fundamental principles of church order, but only as instances by which the dominant power of the system at present followed by the churches may be demonstrated. The One-Man System is neither consonant to the acknowledged principles of Congregationalists nor to those of Inspiration, but because it has been so long, so generally, and so implicitly followed, it constitutes, in the opinion of the greater number of the present members of this denomination, a necessary and essential feature of their church order. Such may feel inclined to designate the alteration proposed in this particular a modern innoration, or a new sectarian distinction. For the benefit of those parties, I have prefixed some extracts from the works of Owen. Were our church order founded upon the opinions of men, extracts of this nature might be very much increased; but as we can go to the same fountain from which such writers derived their ideas, we can, in general, dispense with their assistance. As for Seat Rents, they are an introduction of recent times, the fruit of that deference to a vitiated public taste which continues still to make rapid strides, and before which the greater portion of the people of God seem willing to bow. I hope shortly to send forth to the world the details of that church order which are to be found in the New Testament.
THE ONE-MAN SYSTEM UNSCRIPTURAL.
EXTRACTS FROM THE WORKS OF
JOHN OWEN, D.D.
“ For whereas for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.”—(Heb. v. 12.)
“ You ought to be. He doth not only say, that they had enjoyed such a time and season of instruction as that they might have been able to teach and instruct others. But this, he declares, was expected from them as their duty. And the right understanding hereof depends on the consideration of the state and condition of the churches in those days. For this reproof would now seem uncouth and unreasonable. Our hearers do not look upon it as their duty to learn to be teachers, at least not in the church, and by the means of knowledge to be attained therein. They think it enough for them, if at best they can hear with some profit to themselves. But this was not the state of things in primitive times. Every church was then a seminary, wherein provision and preparation was made, not only for the continuation of the preaching of the gospel in itself, but for the calling, gathering, and teaching other churches also. When, therefore, a church was first planted by the ministry of the apostles, it was for a while continued under their own immediate care and inspection, and then usually committed by them unto the ministry of some evangelists. By them were they instructed more and more in the mysteries of religion, and directed in the use of all means whereby they might grow in grace and knowledge. And in this state were they continued, until some were found meet among themselves to be made overseers and instructors of the rest.-(2 Tim. ii. 2 ; Acts xiv. 23; Tit. i. 5.) Upon their decease, others were to be called and chosen from among themselves to the same work by the church, and
thus was the preservation and successive propagation of the church provided for—it being suited to the nature and law of all societies, as also to the institution and love of Christ unto his churches, that, in compliance with his appointments, they should be able to continue and preserve their being and order. And this course, namely, that teachers of the church should be educated thereunto in the church, continued inviolate until the public school al Alexandria, which became a precedent unto other places for a mixed learning of philosophy and religion, which after a while corrupted both, and at length the whole church itself.”—Exposition upon the Epistle to the Ilebrews, A.D. 1674.
" It is true that in the first churches not only some, but all who had received spiritual light in the gifts of knowledge and utterance did teach and instruct others as they had opportunity.-(1 Pet. v. 8-11.) Hence the heathen philosophers, as Celsus in particular, objected to the Christians of old, that they suffered sutlers, and weavers, and coblers to teach among them, which, they who knew that Paul himself, their great apostle, wrought at a trade not much better, were not offunded at. Of this sort were the disciples mentioned Acts viii. 4; so was Aquila, Acts xviii. 26, and the many prophets in the church of Corinth, 1 Cor. xiv."
“Some there are who begin to maintain that there is no need of any more but one pastor, bishop, or elder in a particular church, which hath its rule in itself, other elders for rule being unnecessary. This is a NOVEL OPINION, contradictory to the sense and practice of the church in all ages ; and I shall prove the contrary. The pattern of the first churches constituted by the apostles, which it is our duty to imitate and follow as our rule, constantly expresseth and declares, that many elders were appointed by them in every church.—(Acts xi. 30; xiv. 23 ; xv. 2, 4, 6, 22 ; xvi. 4; xx. 17, &c.; 1 Tim. v. 17; Phil. i. l; Tit. i. 5; 1 Pet. v. 1.) There is no mention in the Scripture, no mention in antiquity of any church wherein there was not more elders than one, nor doth that church answer the original pattern where it is otherwise."— True Nature of a Gospel Church, A.D. 1689, pp. 119, 138.