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Who were the presbyters or elders, for the Greek word is the
same ? They were the ordinary ministers of the Church. Paul and Barnabas ordained presbyters in every church. Acts
xiv. 23. And from Miletus Paul sent to Ephesus, and called the presby
ters of the Church. Acts xx. 17. Paul left Titus in Crete, to ordain elders in every city. Tit.
i. 5. What was their office ?
To rule and teach the flock of Christ. Let the presbyters that rule well be counted worthy of double
honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
1 Tim. v. 17. Are presbyters ever called bishops?
1. When Paul sent from Miletus for the presbyters of Ephesus, he commanded them, Take heed to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, (or bishops, as the Greek word signifies.) Acts xx. 28. 2. St. Paul says to Titus, For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest ordain
presbyters in every city-If any be blameless, &c. For a bishop must be blameless. Tit. 1. 5—7. 3. St. Paul addressed his epistle to the Philippians. To all the saints, with the bishops and deacons. Phil. i. 1, It is very unlikely there would be many bishops, and no
* It is admitted by Episcopalians that the esclusive appropriation of the term Bishop to the first order of the ministry had not taken place when the passages here quoted were written. The first order of the ministry commenced with the Apostles, was continued in Timothy and Titus, &c., and in the Angels and Bishops of the Churches. From the extraordinary reverence which was justly thought due to the first Apostles the use of this name was discontinued, although all the ordinary funcLions of their office were retained in the Church. “In the process of time," says Theodoret, a writer of the fourth century, “the name of Apostles was appropriated to them who were Apostles in the strict sense, and the rest who had formerly the name of Apostles were styled Bishops. In this sense Epaphroditus is called the Apostle of the
Philippians, (Phil. ii. 25;) Titus was the Apostle of the Cretans, and Timothy of Asia.” From this explanation it will be seen that the occasional application of the name of Bishops to Presbyters proves nothing against Episcopacy: "They do but waste their own and other people's time," says the learned and candid Grotius, himself a Presbyterian, "who when they undertake to treat this question laboriously, prove that the name of Bishop was common to all Pastors.” If this prove any thing, it is only that the Primi. tive Church erred in appropriating a name of general signification to a particular office-a mere matter of expediency, which may be approved or disapproved without at all affecting the merits of the question.
presbyters, or if there were, that Paul would omit mentioning them; therefore bishops must be here used for presbyter.
4. St. Paul (1 Tim. iii.) gives particular directions respecting the character of those bishops and deacons, without mentioning presbyters in the whole chapter. Now, as Timothy was left at Ephesus for this purpose among others, of ordaining presbyters, the omission would be unaccountable, unless by bishops are here meant presbyters.
5. St. Peter says, The presbyters who are among you I exhort, who am also a
presbyter; feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof;
(that is, executing the office of a bishop.) 1 Pet. v. 1, 2. What difference was there then between the office of a presby
ter, and of one who was to act as superintendent over the presbyters and people, and who was after the death of the apostles, called a bishop in the Christian Church ? They were both overseers or overlookers, which the Greek word means. The presbyters overlooked the flock, (Acts XX. 28. 1 Pet. v. 1, 2,) but the superintendents, as the apostles, and by their order Timothy and Titus were overseers or bishops of other pastors, as the epistles to Timothy and Titus fully prove. What is the peculiar office of a bishop ?
1. To ordain presbyters and deacons. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in
order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee. Tit. i. 5. 2. To superintend the doctrine of these ministers. As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into
Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach
no other doctrine. 1 Tim. i. 3. 3. To superintend their conduct. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or
three witnesses. 1 Tim. v. 19. 4. To regulate those matters in the Church, which are not settled by divine authority. That thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting,
(or left undone.] Tit, i, 5. To whom were these duties of a superintendent or bishop
committed by the apostles ? To Timothy and Titus.
What was the method of appointing presbyters and deacons ?
The persons chosen were set apart by prayer, and the laying on of the apostles' or bishops' hands, in which, in the case of Timothy, the presbyters joined, Neglect not the gift-given thee with the laying on of the
hands of the presbytery. 1 Tim. iv. 14. Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee, by tie putting on of
my hands. 2 Tim. i. 6. No mention is made in the New Testament, of any ordi. nation to the ministry by presbyters, without the presence of one of the apostles, or of some superintendent appointed by them. There can be no period fixed on before the Reformation, when ordination to the ministry belonged to any other minister than a bishop. To whom was committed the choice of persons to fill the
office of presbyter or deacon? Not to the people, but to those whom the apostles appointed as superintendents or bishops. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many wit
nesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 2 Tim. ii. 2. Besides, Timothy and Titus would not have had such minute directions about the character of persons proper to fill these offices, except to guide their choice: and the former is commanded to use great caution in his choice, and To lay hands suddenly on no man. 1 Tim. v. 22.
But if the bishop was to ordain only those who had been set apart by the election of the people, no matter how suddenly he laid his hands upon them. And St. Paul tells him, that these directions were given, that if he tarried, He might know how to behave himself in the house of God,
which is the Church of the living God. 1 Tim. iii. 14, 15. What was the office of a deacon?
The Scriptures have not informed us; but it must have been perfectly understood by Timothy and the Church of that period. In 1 Tim. iii. 8—13, the same character for piety and good conduct, is required in deacons as in presbyters. Let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of
deacon, being found blameless. 1 Tim. iii. 10.
And the deacons were to look forward to a higher office ; for They that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to
themselves a good degree. 1 Tim. lii. 13.
Were the seven persons mentioned in Acts vi. deacons ?
It is generally thought so. They are not, however, called deacons in the Acts of the apostles, but only in the title of the chapter. What account have we of the order of the Church, after the
death of the apostle Paul ? The seven churches in the Revelation, addressed by St. John, had each an officer called an angel, who presided over both the presbyters and the flock, and was therefore a superintendent or bishop.* What reason have we for thinking that these angels were
bishops? Because we find, that during St. Paul's stay at Ephesus, Not only at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, he had
persuaded and turned away much people. Acts xix. 8. 10.26. So that the number of Christians
would require the care of several presbyters. And when St. Paul passed by this city in his way to Jerusalem, He sent to Ephesus, and called the presbyters of the Church.
Acts xx. 17. So that the angel was the person presiding over them all. What proof have we that the angel of the Church at Ephesus
ežercised the authority of a bishop ? Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are
not, &c. Rev. 2. And he received approbation for his conduct from the Lord Jesus, through St. John. What proof have we that the angel of the Church at Thyatira
was a bishop? He is blamed for suffering. Jezebel, who called herself a pro
phetess, to teach. Rev. ii. 20.
Now he could not have been the subject of blame, unless he had had the power to silence her, which is the office of a bishop. Is there any reason to think that the government of the
Churches of Asia, mentioned in the Revelation, was different from that of other Christian Churches ? No: there is great reason to believe, that the Church of Christ was governed everywhere by superintendents or
The word Angel literally means one sent, which is also the meaning of Apostle.
bishops, each presiding over his own district, though subject to a general synod of bishops and presbyters. The apostles and elders came together for to consider of this
matter. Acts xv. 6. They delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordain
ed of the apostles and elders. Acts xvi. 4. What further account have we of the order of the Church
after the death of the apostles ? We learn from the writings of men who lived in the times of the apostles, Clement, afterwards Bishop of Rome, who is mentioned in Phil. iv. 3; Polycarp, who was Bishop of Smyrna, and a disciple of St. John; and Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, that immediately after the death of the apostles, there was, in every Church, a superior officer, called a bishop, and other two orders of priests and dea
Was this order generally received in the primitive Church ?
The threefold distinction of bishops, priests, and deacons, was acknowledged, and was scarcely called in question for one thousand five hundred years after the death of Christ; nor was there any Christian church without a bishop during that time. Besides, if this order was not established by the apostles, it could not have been afterwards introduced without being noticed in history. Is the personal holiness of a man a sufficient warrant for
his taking the office of a minister of Christ ? The minute directions which the apostle Paul gave to Timothy and Titus, to enable them to make a right choice of the persons whom they were commissioned to ordain for the ministry, must have been unnecessary, if persons, upon presumption of their own holiness, or other qualifications, might, consistently with the appointed order of the Christian Church, take upon themselves the office of ministers. But are we not informed, that after the martyrdom of Ste
phen, Saul made havoc of the Church, entering into every house, and
haling men and women, committed them to prison. Therefore, they that were scattered abroad, went everywhere preaching the word ? Acts viii. 1. 4.
This example would undoubtedly be a warrant to private Christians to act in like manner, under severe perse