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The word diakove, which is used of the office of a deacon, signifies to minister to the wants of others, or to serve. A deacon was a servant; but it does not follow that the application of the word, servant, to other persons as well as deacons is improper, or unscriptural. A deacon was a servant of a particular kind; and such is the idea which the word conveys; but the term servant is more generic, and therefore is properly applied to persons who serve in other capacities as well as this. Every deacon was a servant, but every servant was not a deacon.
It should seem that the same may be said of αποστολος, the term used to express the office of an apostle. It signifies a messenger, or missionary; but it does not follow that the application of either of these terms to other persons as well as apostles, is improper or unscriptural. An apostle was a messenger, or missionary, of a particular kind; and such is the idea which the word conveys; but the terms messenger and missionary are more generic, and therefore are properly applied to any persons who are sent with a message to a distance. Every apostle was a messenger and a missionary, but every messenger and missionary was not an apostle. Epaphroditus was the aπоσтolos, or messenger of the Philippians to Paul; (Phil. ii. 25) and those who are called in our translation 'the messengers of the churches,' (2 Cor. viii. 23) are denominated by the same name, ажоσтоλοι. The word also that is. used for the sending out of ordinary preachers of the gospel among the heathen, properly means to send on a mission; and is the same (with only the difference of the verb and the noun) as that which is rendered an apostle. 'How shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed; and how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard; and how shall they hear without a preacher; and how shall they preach except, awooтadwoi, they be sent. Rom, x. 15.
Upon the whole, I hope EUBULUS will consider his censure of the translators, for naturalizing the term aroσтoλo, when applied to those messengers immediately commis
sioned by Christ, by rendering it apostles, rather than translating it messengers, or missionaries. The naturalization complained of resembles, in this instance at least, that of the common name by which we denominate the holy scriptures, calling them the bible, from Bißos, the book. To have translated this, and called it the book, would not have distinguished it from certain parts of it, which also bear that name. (Matt. i. 1.) But to call it the bible, suggests the very idea required; that is, the book by way of eminence, the book of books. So aroσтoλOL, if translated messengers, or missionaries, would not have distinguished the tewlve disciples from other messengers, or missionaries; but rendered apostles, it conveys the true idea; namely, that of messengers of an extraordinary kind, or messengers by way of eminence.
THOUGHTS ON THE PRINCIPLES ON WHICH THE APOSTLES PROCEEDED, IN FORMING AND ORGANISING CHRISTIAN CHURCHES, AND REGULATING VARIOUS RELIGIOUS DUTIES.
Written in April 1804, for the use of the Brethren at Serampore.
VARIOUS disputes have arisen among christians, respecting the form, the order, and the organization of the church of Christ. It is from different apprehensions on these subjects, that most of our religious denominations have arisen. Having been often called upon to give advice in certain cases, and to ground it on scriptural authority, I have been led to examine with some attention, what the scriptures teach us concerning them.
It has appeared to me, that some, in looking for scriptural authority for whatever is done in christian churches, expect too much; while on the contrary, others expect
too little. It is a fact, which must strike every attentive reader, that the manner in which the greater part of the worship and forms of the new testament is prescribed, is different from that of the old testament. Moses was very commanded to do all things according to the pattern' showed him in the mount: but no such pattern is given us in the gospel, respecting the form and order of christian worship. All, or nearly all, we know of the matter is from the narrative of facts, as stated in the Acts of the apostles, and from certain counsels addressed to ministers and churches, in the apostolic epistles.
In each of these, several things are incidentally brought to light; but express injunctions, like those under the law, are rarely to be found. We have no particular account, for instance, of the original formation of a single church, nor of an ordination service, nor in what order the primitive worship was generally conducted. What then shall we say to these things? Shall we infer that all forms of worship and church government are indifferent, and left to be accommodated to time, place, and other circumstances? This would open a door to human inventions, and to all the corruptions which have defaced the church of Christ. Nevertheless, this we may infer, that to attempt to draw up a formula of church government, worship and discipline, which shall include any thing more than general outlines, and to establish it expressly on new-testament authority, is to attempt what is utterly impracticable.
The general outlines, or principles of things, may be collected, and these will apply to particular cases. This, I apprehend, is all that we are warranted to expect. If, for example, we look for either precept or precedent for the removal of a christian pastor from one situation to another, we shall find none. But we are taught, that for the church to grow unto a holy temple in the Lord,' it 'fitly framed together.'* The want of
requires to be
* Ephes. ii. 21.
fitness therefore in a connection, especially if it impede the growth of the spiritual temple, may justify the removal of a minister. Or if there be no want of fitness, yet if the material be adapted to occupy a more important station in the building, this may also justify its removal. Such a principle may be misapplied to ambitious and interested purposes; but if the encrease of the temple be kept in view, it is lawful, and in many cases attended with great and good effects.
This example, instead of a hundred, may suffice to show, if I mistake not, that the form and order of the christian church, much more than that of the jewish church, are founded in the reason and fitness of things. Under the former dispensation, the duties of religion were mostly positive; and were of course prescribed with the nicest precision, and the most exact minuteness. Under the gospel they are chiefly moral, and consequently, require only the suggestion of general principles. In conforming to the one, it was necessary that men should keep their eye incessantly upon the rule: but in complying with the other, there is more occasion for fixing it upon the end.
The form and order of the christian church appear to be no other than what men, possessed of 'the wisdom which is from above,' would at any time very naturally 'fall into, even though no other direction were afforded them. That the apostles were supernaturally directed, is true; but that direction consisted not in their being furnished with a 'pattern,' in the manner of that given to Moses; but in enduing them with holy wisdom, to discern and pursue on all occasions what was good and right. The jewish church was an army of soldiers, under preparatory discipline: the christian church is an army going forth to battle. The members of the one were taught punctilious obedience, and led with great formality through a variety of religious evolutions. Those of the other, though they also must keep their ranks and act in obedience to command; yet are not required to be so attentive to the mechanical as to the mental, not so much to the minute
observance of forms as to their spirit and design. The obedience of the former was that of children; the latter that of sons arrived at maturer age.
I have said, that the form and order of the christian church are chiefly moral, or founded in the fitness of things, as those of the jewish church were chiefly positive: for neither the one nor the other will hold true universally. Some things pertaining to the organization of the latter, were settled on the same principles as those of the former. The seventy elders, ordained to assist Moses, bore a near resemblance to the seven deacons, chosen to assist the apostles:* both originated in the necessity of the case, and as such were approved of God. On the other hand, there are some things pertaining to the christian church, which are entirely positive; and being clearly revealed, require to be obeyed with the same punctilious regard to the 'pattern' given, as was observed by Moses in constructing the tabernacle. Such are Baptism and the Lord's supper. They were ordinances' of God, and required to be kept as they were delivered.'+ But in many things pertaining to order and discipline, though we are furnished with nothing more than general outlines, and are obliged to keep within them, yet in the filling up there is room left for the exercise of discretion and forbearance.
But it may be asked, will not the considering of these things as moral, rather than positive, open a way for the introduction of human inventions into the church of God. Why should it? Though the greater part of what belongs to the organization and discipline of the church be founded in the fitness of things, yet the human mind in its present imperfect and depraved state is not of itself, and without divine direction, sufficient to perceive it. We have so much of the wisdom that is 'from beneath' dwelling in us, that we should be continually erring, if left to ourselves. It is not necessary indeed, in things of this nature, that * Num. xi. Acts vi.
+ Matt, iii, 15. Luke i. 6. 1 Cor. xi, 2.