The Ruling Elder

by Samuel Miller

CHAPTER VIII.

RULING ELDERS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY
IN THE CHURCH.

By this is meant, that the laws which Christ has appointed for the government and edification of his people, cannot possibly be executed without such a class of officers in fact, whatever name they may bear. But that which is the necessary result of a divine institution, is of equal authority with the institution itself. All powers or instruments really indispensable to the faithful and plenary execution of laws which an infinitely wise Governor has enacted must be considered as implied in those laws, even should they not be formally specified.

Now, all serious impartial readers of the Bible believe, that besides the preaching of the gospel, and the administration of the sacraments, there is very much to be done for promoting the order, purity, and edification of the Church, by the maintenance of a scriptural discipline. They believe that the best interest of every ecclesiastical community requires, that there be a constant and faithful inspection of all the members and families of the Church; that the negligent be admonished; that wanderers be reclaimed; that scandals be removed; that irregularities be corrected; that differences be reconciled; and every proper measure adopted to bind the whole body together by the ties of Christian purity and charity. They consider it as vitally important that there be added to the labors of the Pulpit, those of teaching "from house to house," visiting the sick, conversing with serious inquirers, catechising children, learning as far as possible the character and state of every member, even the poorest and most obscure, of the flock, and endeavoring, by all scriptural means, to promote the knowledge, holiness, comfort and spiritual welfare of every individual. They believe, in fine, that none ought to be admitted to the communiion of the Church, without a careful examination in reference to their knowledge, orthodoxy, good moral character, and hopeful piety; that none ouoht to be permitted to remain in the bosom of the Church, without maintaining, in some tolerable degree, a character proper for professing Christians; that none ought to be suspended from the enjoyment of Church privileges but after a fair trial; and that none should be finally excommunicated from the covenanted family of Christ, without the most patient inquiry, and every suitable effort to bring them to repentance and reformation.

It is no doubt true, that the very suggestion of the necessity and importance of discipline in the Church is odious to many who bear the Christian name. The worldly and careless portion of every Church consider the interposition of ecclesiastical inspection and authority in reference to the lives and conversation of its members, as officious and offensive meddling with private concerns. They would much rather retain their external standing, as proffesors of religion, and, at the same time, pursue their unhallowed pleasures without control. They never wish to see a minister, as such, but in the Pulpit; or any Church officer in any other place than his seat in the sanctuary. To such persons, the entire absence of the class of officers for which we are pleading, together with the exercise of all their appropriate functions, would be matter rather of felicitation than regret. Hence the violent opposition made to the introduction of Ruling Elders into the Church of Geneva, by the wordly and licentious part of her members. And hence the insuperable repugnance to the establishment of sound and scriptural discipline manifested so repeatedly, and to this day, by some of the largest national Churches of Europe.

But I need not say to those who take their views of the Christian Church and its real prosperity, from the Bible, and from the best experience, that enlightened, and faithful discipline is, not only important, but absolutely essential to the purity and edification of the body of Christ. It ought to be regarded as one of the most precious means of grace, by which offenders are humbled, softened, and brought to repentance; the Church purged of unworthy members; offences removed; the honor of Christ promoted; real Christians stimulated and improved in their spiritual course, faithful testimony borne against error and crime and the professing family of Christ made to appear holy and beautiful in the view of the world. Without wholesome discipline, for removing offences, and excluding the corrupt and profane, there may be an assembly, but there cannot be a Church. The truth is, the exercise of a faithful watch and care over the purity of each other in doctrine, worship, and life, is one of the principal purposes for which the Christian Church was established, and on account of which it is highly prized. by every enlightened believer. And, I have no doubt, it may be safely affirmed, that a large part of all that is holy in the Church, at the present day, either in faith or practice, may be ascribed, under God, as much to sound ecclesiastical discipline, as to the faithful preaching of the gospel.

And if the maintenance of discipline be all important to the interests of true religion, it is a matter of no less importance that it be conducted with mildness, prudence, and wisdom. Rashness, precipitancy, undue severity, malice, partiality, popular fury, and attempting to enforce rules which Christ never gave, are among the many evils which have too often marked the dispensation of authority in the Church, and not unfrequently defeated the great purpose of discipline. To conduct it aright, is, undoubtedly, one of the most delicate and arduous parts of ecclesiastical administration; requiring all the piety, judgment, patience, gentleness, maturity of counsel, and prayerfulness which can be brought to bear upon the subject.

Now the question is, by whom shall all these multiplied, weighty and indispensable services be performed? Besides the arduous work of public instruction and exhortation, who shall attend to all the numberless and ever-recurring details of inspection, warning and visitation, which are so needful in every Christian community? Will any say, it is the duty of the pastor of each Church to perform them all? The very suggestion is absurd. It is physically impossible for him to do it. He cannot be every where, and know every thing. He cannot perform what is expected from him, and at the same time so watch over his whole flock as to fulfil every duty which the interest of the Church demands. He must "give himself to reading;" he must prepare for the services of the pulpit; he must discharge his various public labors; he must employ much time in private, in instructing and counselling those who apply to him for instruction and advice; and he must act his part in the concerns of the whole Church with which he is connected. Now, is it practicible for anyman, however diligent and active, to do all this, and at the same time to perform the whole work of inspection and government over a congregation of the ordinary size! We might as well expect and demand any impossibility; and impossibilities the great and merciful Head of the Church requires of no man.

But even if it were reasonable or possible that a Pastor should, alone, perform all these duties, ought he to be willing to undertake them; or ought the Church to be willing to commit them to him alone? We know that ministers are subject to the same frailties and imperfections with other men. We know, too, that a lovc, of pre-eminence and of power is not only natural to them, in common with others; but that this principle, very early after the days of the Apostles, began to manifest itself as the reigning sin of ecclesiastics, and produced first Prelacy, and afterwards Popery, which has so long and so ignobly enslaved the Church of Christ. Does not this plainly show the folly and danger of yielding undefined power to Pastors alone? Is it wise or safe to constitute one man a despot over a whole Church? Is it proper to intrust to a single individual the weighty and complicated work of inspecting, trying, judging, admitting, condemning, excluding and restoring, without control? Ought the members of a Church to consent that all their rights and privileges in reference to Christian communion, should be subject to the will of a single man, as his partiality, kindness, and favoritism, on the one hand; or his caprice, prejudice, or passion, on the other, might dictate? Such a mode of conducting the government of the Church, to say nothing of its unscriptural character, is, in the highest degree, unreasonable and dangerous. It can hardly fail to exert an influence of the most injurious character, both on the clergy and laity. It tends to nurture in the former, a spirit of selfishness, pride and ambition; and instead of ministers of holiness, love and mercy, to transform them into ecclesiastical tyrants. While its tendency, with regard to the latter, is gradually to beget in them a blind, implicit submission to clerical domination. The ecdesiastical encroachments and despotism of former times, already alluded to, read us a most instructive lesson on this subject. The fact is, committing the whole government of the Church to the hands of Pastors alone, may, be affirmed to carry in it some of the worst seeds of Popery; which, though under the administration of good men, they may not at once lead to palpable mischief, will seldom fail in producing, in the end, the most serious evils, both to those who govern, and those who obey.

Accordingly, as was intimated in a preceding chapter, we have no example in Scripture of a Church being comniitted to the government of a single individual. Such a thing was unknown in the Jewish Synagogue. It was unknown in the apostolic age. And it continued to be unknown, until ecclesiastical pride and ambition introduced it, and with it a host of mischiefs to the body of Christ. In all the primitive Churches we find a plurality of "Elders" and we read enough in the early records, in some particular cases, to perceive that these "Elders" were not only chosen by the members of the Church, out of their own number, as their representatatives, to exercise over them the functions of inspection and ruling; but that, whenever they ceased to discharge the duties of their office acceptably, they might be removed from its actual exercise at the pleasure of those by whom they were chosen. Thus plainly evincing, that the constitution of the primitive Church was eminently adapted to guard against ecclesiastical tyranny; and that if that constitution had been preserved, the evils of clerical encroachment would have been avoided. Accordingly, it is remarkable that the pious Ambrose, a venerable Father of the fourth century, quoted in a former chapter, expressly conveys an intimation of this kind, when speaking of the gradual disuse of the office of Ruling Elder. "Which order," says he, "by what negligence it grew into disuse, I know not, unless, perhaps, by the sloth, or rather by the pride of the teachers WHO ALONE WISHED TO APPEAR SOMETHING."

"It is a vain apprehension," says the venerable Dr. Owen, "to suppose that one or two teaching officers in a Church, who are obliged to give themselves unto the word and prayer, to labor in the word and doctrine, to preach in and out of season-would be able to take care of, and attend with diligence unto, all those things that do evidently belong unto the rule of theChurch. And hence it is, that Churches at this day do live on the preaching of the word, and are very little sensible of the wisdom, goodness, love and care of Christ in the institution of this rule in the Church, nor are partakers of the benefits of it untot their edification. And the supply which many have hitherto made herein, by persons either unacquainted with their duty, or insensible of their own authority, or cold, if not negligent in their work, doth not answer the end of their institution. And hence it is, that the authority of government, and the benefit of it, are ready to be lost in most Churches. And it is both vainly and presumptuously pleaded, to give countenance unto a neglect of their order, that some Churches do walk in love and peace, and are edified without it; supplying some defects by the prudent aid of some members of them. For it is nothing but a preference of our own wisdom, unto the wisdom and authority of Christ; or at best an unwillingness to make a venture on the warranty of his rule, for fear of some disadvantages that may ensue thereon."[1]

If, in order to avoid the evils of the Pastor standing alone in the inspection and government of his Church, it be alledged that the whole body of the Church rnembers may be his auxiliaries in this arduous work; still the diffici.ilties are neither removed nor diminished.

For, in the first place, a great majority of all Church members, we may confidently say, are altogether unqualified for rendering the aid to the Pastor which is here contemplated. They have neither the knowledge, the wisdom, nor the prudence necessary for the purpose and to imagine a case of ecclesiastical regimen, in which every weak, childish, and indiscreet individual, who, though serious and well-meaning enough to enjoy the privilege of Christian communion, is wholly unfit to be an inspector and ruler of others, should be associated with the Pastor, in conducting the delicate and arduous work of parochial regulation, is too preposterous to be regarded with favor, by any judicious mind. Can it be believed for a moment, that the all-wise Head of the Church has appointed a form of government for his people in which ignorance, weakness, and total unfitness for the duty assigned them, should always, and almost necessarily, characterize a great majority of those to whom the oversight, and guidance of the Church were committed? Surely this is altogether incredible.

And if this consideration possess weight in regard to old and settled Churches, established in countries which have been long favored with the light and order of the Gospel,; how much more to Pagan lands, and to Churches recently gathered from the wilds of Africa, the degraded inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands, or the miserable devotees of Hindoo idolatry? If in the best instructed and best regulated Churches in Christendom, a majority of the members are utterly unqualified to participate in the government of the sacred family; what can be expected of those recent, and necessarily dubious converts from blind heathenism, who must, of course, be babes in knowledge and experience, who are surrounded with ignorance and brutality, and have just been snatched themselves from the same degradation? Surely, if we may say, with propriety, of some nations, who have recently thrown off the chains of slavery, to which they had long been accustomed, that they were not prepared for a republican form of government; with still more confidence can we maintain, that, whoever may be prepared to take part in the government of the Church, the poor novices, in the situation supposed, are totally unqualified. Even if the popular form of ecclesiastical polity could be considered as well adapted to the case of a people of more enlightened and elevated character, which may well be questioned;-it must be pronounced altogether unfit for a Church made up of such materials. Now it is the glory of the Gospel, that it is adapted to all people, and all states of society. Of course, that form of ecclesiastical government which is not of a similar stamp, affords much ground of suspicion that it is not of God, and ought to be rejected.

But further; if the greater part of the members of the Church were much better qualified than they commonly are, for co-operating in its government, would their co-operation be likely to be really obtained in a prompt, steady, and faithful manner? All experience. pronounces that it would not. We know that there are few things, in the government and regulation of the Church, more irksome to our natural feelings, than doing what fidelity requires in cases of discipline. When the ministers of religion are called upon to dispense truth, to instruct, to exhort, and to administer sacraments, they engage in that in which we may suppose pious men habitually to delight, and to be always ready to proceed with alacrity. But we may say of the business of ecclesiastical discipline, that it is the "strange work," even of the pious and faithful. It is, in its own nature, an unacceptable and unwelcome employment. To take cognizance of delinquencies in faith or practice; to admonish offenders: to call them, when necessary, before the proper tribunal; to seek out and array proof with fidelity; to drag insidious error, and artful wickedness from their hiding places; and to suspend, or excommunicate from the privileges of the Church, when the honor of religion, and the best interests of the body of Christ, call for these measures;-is painful work to every benevolent mind. It is work in which no man is willing to engage, unless constrained by a sense of duty. Even those who are bound by official obligation to undertake the task are too apt to shrink from it; but where there is no particular obligation lying on any one member of the Church more than another to take an active interest in this work-tbe consequence will probably be, that few will be disposed to engage in the self-denying duty. Where all are equally bound, all may be equally backward, or negligent, without feeling themselves chargeable with any special delinquency. And, what is worthy of notice, those who will be most apt to go forward in this work, and proffer their aid with most readiness, will generally be the bold, the vain, the ardent, the rash, the impetuous;-precisely those who are, of all persons living, the most unfit for such an employment. But even if it were otherwise; if all the members of the Church were equallv forward and active, what might be expected in a religious community, when every member of that community was equally a ruler; and when the most ignorant and childish busy-body among them, might be continually tampering with its government, and fomenting disturbances, with as much potency as the most intelligent and wise? The truth is, in such a community, tranquillity, order and peace could scarcely be expected, long together, to have any place.

We could scarcely have a more instructive comment on these remarks than the practice of those Churches which reject Ruling Elders. Our Episcopal brethren reject them. But they are obliged to have their Vestrymen and Church Wardens, who, though no divine warrant is claimed for them, and they are not set apart in the same manner, or formally invested with the same powers with our Ruling Elders, yet they perform many of the same functions, in substance, and are, in fact, official counsellors and helps. True, indeed, these officers are not clothed with the power, and seldom perform any acts, of ecclesiastical discipline, properly so called, yet they may be, and sometimes, perhaps, are, consulted on subjects of this nature. And, where this is not the case, we may say, without impropriety, that, in Churches of that denomination, no discipline is exercised. In the Church of England, as is confessed on all hands, no scriptural discipline exists. The most profligate and vile are not excluded from the communion of the establishment. This is deeply lamented by many of the pious members of that establishment; and at an early period, after the commencement of the Reformation in that country, it was earnestly wished and proposed, as we have seen in a preceding chapter, to introduce Ruling Elders, as a principal means of restoring and maintaining discipline. And although the absence of discipline does not exist, to the same extent, in the Churches of the Protestant Episcopal denomination in the United States; yet, it may be altogether wanting, as to any pure and efficient exercise, in all those Episcopal Churches in which some leading, pious laymen are not habitually consulted and employed in maintaining it. A pious minister, indeed, if that denomination, may and does, conform to his rubrics, in giving the people proper instruction and warning, as to a suitable approach to the communion which he dispenses. But here he is commonly obliged to stop; or, at any rate, does, in practice, usually stop. All efficient inspection of the moral condition of the whole Church, admonishing the careless, bringing back the wanderers, and causing those who persist in error or in vice, to feel the discipline of ecclesiastical correction, is, notoriously, almost unknown in the Churches of the denomination to which we refer. And this deficiency is, manifestly, not owing to the want of intelligent and conscientious piety in many of the ministers of those Churches; but, beyond all doubt, to the entire want of an organization which alone renders the exercise of a faithful and impartial discipline at all practicable. Our Congregational brethren also reject Ruling Elders. Yet it is well known that, while they adopt a form of government which, in theory, allows to every member of the Church an equal share in the exercise of discipline; their most judicious Pastors, warned by painful experience of the troublesome character, and uncertain issues, of popular management, in delicate and difficult cases which involve Christian character,- are careful to have a Committee of the most pious, intelligent and prudent of their Church members, who consider each case of discipline before-hand in private, and prepare it for a public decision; and thus perform, in fact, some of the most important of the duties of Ruling Elders. This is what the venerable Dr. Cotton Mather, doubtless, means when he says, as quoted in a preceding chapter, that "there are few DISCREET Pastors but what make many occasional Ruling Elders every year;" and when he gives it as his opinion, in the same connexion, that without something of this kind, Churches must suffer unspeakably with respect to, discipline. And, where, nothing of this kind is done, the experience of Independent and Congregational Churches, in conducting discipline, it is well known, is often such as is calculated to, give deep and lasting pain to those who love the peace and order of the Church. Strife, tumult and division of the most distressing kind, are often the consequence of attempting to rid the Church of one corrupt member.

But perhaps it will be said, let the Pastor habitually call to his aid, in conducting the discipline of the Church, a few of the most judicious and pious of his communicants; those whom he knows to be most conscientious and wise in counsel. But neither is this an adequate remedy. The Pastor may consult such if he please. But he may choose to omit it, and be governed entirely by his own counsels, Or, if he consult any, he may always select his particular friends, who he knows, will encourage and support him in his favorite measures; thus furnishing no real relief in the end. How much better to have a bench of assistant Rulers, regularly chosen by the people, and with whom he shall be bound to take counsel in all important measures.

Thus it is that those Churches which reject the class of officers which it is the object of this Essay to recommend, do practically bear witness that it is impossible to conduct discipline in a satisfactory manner, without having a set of individuals, virtually, if not formally, vested with similar powers. Where no such efficient substitute is employed, discipline is either in a great measure neglected; or its maintenance is attended with inconveniencies of the most serious kind. In other words, the opponents of Ruling Elders are obliged either to neglect discipline altogether, or, for maintaining it, to have recourse to auxiliaries of similar character and power, while they deny that there is any divine warrant for them. Now, is it probable, is it credible, that our blessed Lord, and all-wise King and Head of his Church, and his Apostles, guided by his own Spirit, should entirely overlook this necessity, and make no provision for it? It is not credible. We must, then, either suppose, that some such officers as those in question, were divinely appointed; or that means, acknowledged by the practice of all to be indispensable in conducting the best interests of the Church were forgotten or neglected by her divine Head and Lord. Surely the latter cannot be imputed to infinite Wisdom.

There are some, however. who acknowledge that there ought to be, and must be, in every Church, in order to the efficient maintenance of discipline, a plurality of Elders. They confess that such a body or bench of Elders was found in the Jewish Synagogue; that a similar Eldership existed in the primitive Church, and that the scriptural government of a Christian congregation cannot be conducted to advantage without it. But they contend that these Presbyters, or Elders, ought all to be of the teaching class; that there is no ground for the distinction between Teaching and Ruling Elders; that every Church ought to be furnished with three or more ministers, all equally authorized to preach, to administer the sacraments and to bear rule.

It requires little discernment to see that this plan is wholly impracticable; and that if attempted to be carried into execution, the effect must be, either to destroy the Church, or to degrade, and ultimately to prostrate the ministry. It is with no small difficulty that most Churches are enabled to procure and support one qualified and acceptable minister. Very few would be able to afford a suitable support to two; and none but those of extraordinary wealth, could think seriously of undertaking to sustain three or more. If, therefore, the principle of a plurality of Teaching Elders in each Church were deemed indispensable; and if a regular and adequate training for the sacred office, were also, as now insisted on; and if it were, at the same time, considered as necessary that every minister should receive a competent pecuniary support;-the consequence, as is perfectly manifest, would be, that nineteen out of twenty of our Churches would be utterly unable to maintain the requisite organization, and must, of course, become extinct. Nay, the regular establishment of Gospel ordinance, in Pastoral churches, would be physically possible only in a very few great citiet, or wealthy neighborhoods. Surely this cannot be the system enjoined by that Saviour who said-"to the poor the Gospel is preached."

The only remedy for this difficulty would be to reduce the preparation and acquirements for the ministry; to make choice of plain, illiterate men for this office; men of small intellectual and theological furniture; dependant on secular employments for a subsistence; and, therefore, needing little or no support from the Churches which they serve. This is the plan upon which several sects of Christians proceed; and it is easy to see that, upon this plan, the feeblest Churches may have a plurality of such ministers as these, and, indeed, any number of them without being burdened by their pecuniary support. But then, it is equally evident, that the execution of this plan must result in degrading the ministerial character-and in finally banishing all well qualified ministers from the Church. They could no longer be "able ministers of the New Testament-workmen that need not be ashamed." They could no longer "give themselves whollv" to the labors of the sacred office. They could no longer "give themselves to reading," as well as to exhortation and teaching. In short, the inevitable consequence of maintaining, as some do, that there must be a bench, that is, a plurality of Elders, in every Church, for the purpose of inspection and government, as well as of teaching; and, at the same time, that all these Elders must be of the same class,that is, that they must all be equally set apart for teaching and ruling;-cannot fail to be, to bring the ministerial character, and, of course, ultimately, the religion which the ministry is destined to explain and recommend, into general contempt. The Sandemanians, and a few other sects, have, substantially, held the opinion, and made the experiment here stated: and invariably, it is believed, with the result which has been represented as unavoidable.

To obviate these difficulties, some have said, Let Deacons, whom all agree to be scriptural officers, be employed to assist the Pastor in conducting the government and discipline of the Church. This profit together with some principles connected with it, will be considered in a subsequent chapter. All that it is deemed necessary or proper to say in this place, is, that an entirely different sphere of duty is assigned to Deacons in the New Testament. No hint is given of their being employed in the government of the Church. For this proposal, therefore, there is not the shadow of a divine warrant. Besides, if we assign to Deacons the real office, in other words, the appropriate functions of Ruling Elders, what is this but granting the thing, and only disputing about the title? If it be granted. that there ought to be a plurality of officers in every Church, whose appropriate duty it is to assist the Pastor in inspecting and ruling the flock of Christ, it is the essence of what is contended for. Their proper title is not worth a contest, except so far as it may be proper to imitate the language of Scripture. If, then, the maintenance of discipline be essential to the purity and edification of the Church; if enlightened, impartial, and efficient inspection and discipline, especially over a large congregation, cannot possibly be maintained by the Pastor alone; if it would be unsafe, and probaby mischievous in its influence on all concerned, to devolve the whole authority and responsibility of conducting the government of a Church on a single individual; if it would, especially, in all probability, essentially injure the clerical character to be thus systematicaUy, made the depository of so much power, without control, and without appeal; if every other mode of furnishing each Church with a plurality of rulers, besides that for which we contend, would either deprive a great majority of our Churches of the means of grace altogether; or, by bringing ministers within their reach, reduce and degrade the ministerial office far below the standard which the Scriptures require:-If these things be so-then we are conducted unavoidably to the conclusion, that such officers as those for which we contend, are absolutely necessary: that, although a Church may exist, and, for a time, may flourish without them; yet, that the best interests of the Church cannot be systematically and steadfastly pursued without those or some other officers of equivalent powers and duties.

But all the difficulties which have been supposed, are obviated, and all the advantages referred to, attained, by the plan of employing a judicious class of Ruling Elders in each Church, to assist in counsel and in government. In this plan we have provided a body of grave, pious and prudent men, associated with the Pastor; chosen out of the body of the Church members; carrying with them, in some measure, the feelings and views of their constituents; capable of counselling the Pastor in all delicate and doubtful cases; counteracting any undue influence, or course of measures into which his partiality, prejudice, or want of information might betray him; exonerating him at once from the odium, and the temptation of having all the power of the Church in his own hands; conducting the difficult cases which often arise in the exercise of discipline with the intelligence, calmness, and wisdom, which cannot be expected to prevail in a promiscuous body of communicants; and, in a word, securing to each Church all the principal advantages which might be expected to result from being under the pastoral care of four or five ministers, vested with plenary preaching as well as ruling power; without, at the same time burdening the Church with the pecuniary support of such a number of ordinary Pastors. In a word, the insuperable difficulty of doing without this class of officers, on the one hand; the great and manifest advantages of having them, on the other; and the perfect accordance, of the plan which includes them, with that great representative system, which has pervaded all well regulated society, from its earliest existence, and received the stamp of divine approbation-form a mass of testimony in favor of the office before us, which, independently of other considerations, seems amply sufficient to support its claims.

I shall close this chapter with the following extract from Dr. Owen, when speaking of the importance and necessity of the office of Ruling Elders in the Church. "It is evident. " says he, "that neither the purity nor the order, nor the beauty or glory of the Churches of Christ, nor the representation of his own majesty and authority in the government of them, can long be preserved without A MULTIPLICATION OF ELDERS IN THEM, according to the proportion of their respective members, for their rule and guidance. And for want hereof have Churches of old, and of late, either degenerated into anarchy and confusion, their self-rule being managed with vain disputes and jangling, unto their division and ruin; or else given up themselves unto the domination of some prelatical teachers, to rule them at their pleasure, which proved the bane and poison of all the primitive Churches; and they will and must do so in the neglect of this order for the future."[2]

We have thus completed our view of the first part of the inquiry before us, viz.: our WARRANT for the office of Ruling Elders. If this office were found in the Old Testament economy;-if it plainly had a place in the apostolic Church;-if a number of the early Fathers evidently recognize its existence in their day;-if the Witnesses for the truth, in the, darkest times, and the great body of the Reformers, sanctioned and retained it as of divine appointment;-if some of the most learned Episcopal and Independent divines, since the Reformation, have borne decisive testimony to this office, as of apostolical authority;-and if some such office be manifestly indispensable to the purity and order of the Church;-we may confidently conclude that our warrant for it is complete.

FOOTNOTES

1.True Nature of a Gospel Church, p. 177, 178. [back]

2.OWEN's True Nature of a Gospel Church, 4to. p. 178, [back]

END OF CHAPTER EIGHT



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