THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.
I. "HE gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists,
some pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints for the work
of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all
come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto
the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," etc. For the setting
up of the Christian institution officers extraordinary were needed. So was
it in the Jewish, and so is it every institution, human and divine. But when
an institution is set up, it only requires an ordinary ministry or administration
of its affairs. All the extraordinary gifts vouchsafed to Moses, and to the
Apostles and Prophets of the gospel institution, ceased when these institutions
were fully developed and established. Still a regular and constant ministry
was needed among the Jews, and is yet needed among the Christians; and both
of these by divine authority.
II. Natural gifts for a natural state of things, and supernatural gifts for
a supernatural state of things, are, in the wisdom of both God and man, apposite
and needful. Hence, even in the apostolic age, there were officers without,
as well as with, miraculous endowments. "Having, then, gifts differing according
to the office, or grace that is given to us - if prophecy, let us prophesy
according to the measure of our faith; or ministry, let us attend on our
ministering; he that teacheth, on teaching; he that exhorteth, on exhortation;
he that distributeth, with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence." God
has therefore conferred various gifts on the church for the effectual
administration of its affairs. He has placed in it "helps and
governments," as well as Apostles and Prophets.
III. The standing and immutable ministry of the Christian community is composed
of Bishops, Deacons, and Evangelists. Of each of these is but one order,
though possessing great diversities of gifts. There have been bishops, deacons,
and evangelists, with both ordinary and extraordinary gifts. Still the office
is now, and ever was, the same. In ancient times official and unofficial
persons sometimes possessed miraculous gifts. Those in high office were also
generally of those most eminently gifted with extraordinary powers. Superficial
readers have, therefore, sometimes concluded that, inasmuch as bishops, deacons
and especially evangelists, frequently possessed these manifestations of
the Holy Spirit, with the ceasing of those gifts, the offices themselves
also expired. This is a great mistake. Officers there must be while there
are offices, or services to be performed. So long as the human system needs
sight, hearing, and feeling, there will be eyes, ears, and hands. So long
also as the Christian body is an organized body, having many services to
perform, it must have organs or officers by which to enjoy itself and operate
IV. There are, indeed, necessarily as many offices in ever body as there
are services to be performed to it, or by it. This is the root and reason
of all the offices in all the universe of God. Our planet needs diverse celestial
services to be performed to it. Hence, the sun, moon, and stars are celestial
officers ministering to it. The eye, the ear, the tongue, the hand, the foot,
are, for the same reason, officers in the human body, essentially serving
it in its vital interests and enjoyments; and by means of these organs, it
performs important functions to other bodies.
V. Experience, as well as observation, has taught us that "practice makes
perfect," and that "whatever is every person's business is no person's business."
Hence arose the custom among men of communicating certain offices to particular
individuals. The philosophy of such elections and ordinances is found in
the fact, that special services are best performed by special organs or agents,
whose special province and duty is to attend to them.
VI. As the Christian system is a perfect system, it wisely provides for its
own perpetuity and prosperity by creating all necessary offices and filling
them with suitable persons. We have said these offices are three, and of
perpetual, because of necessary existence. Bishops, whose office it
is to preside over, to instruct, and to edify the community - to feed the
church of the Lord with knowledge and understanding - and to watch for their
souls as those that must give account to the Lord at his appearing and his
kingdom, compose the first class. Deacons, or servants - whether called
treasurers, almoners, stewards, door-keepers, or messengers, constitute the
second. For the term deacon originally included all public servants
whatever, though now most commonly confined to one or two classes; and
improperly, no doubt, to those only who attend to the mere temporal interests
of the community. They are distinguished persons, called and commissioned
by the church, (and consequently are always responsible to it,) to serve
in any of these capacities. Evangelists, however, though a class of public
functionaries created by the church, do not serve it directly; but are by
it sent out into the world, and constitute the third class of functionaries
belonging to the Christian system.
VII. As there is more scrupulosity on some minds concerning the third class
of Evangelists, than concerning either Bishops or Deacons, we shall take
occasion to speak more explicitly and fully upon the nature and necessity,
as well as upon the authority of this office. Evangelists, as the term indicates,
are persons devoted to the preaching of the word, to the making of converts,
and the planting of churches. It is, indeed, found but three times in the
New Covenant; but the verb from which it comes - viz. to evangelise,
is in some of its branches found almost sixty times in that volume. "To
evangelise" and "to do the work of an evangelist" are phrases of equal import,
and indicate the same duties, rights, and privileges.
VIII. Among the offices which were comprehended in the apostleship, none
required more varied endowments than that of the Evangelist. The gift of
tongues was amongst the qualifications necessary to those who, after the
ascension, first undertook this work. But the qualifications for this office,
so far as the gift of tongues or the knowledge of language is concerned,
are not immutably fixed. It depends upon the field of labour which the Evangelist
is to occupy, whether he must speak on language or more. His work is to proclaim
the word intelligibly and persuasively - to immerse all the believers, or
converts of his ministry - and to plant and organize churches wherever he
may have occasion; and then teach them to keep the commandments and ordinances
of the Lord.
IX. Take, for example, the sketch given us by Luke of the labours of Philip
the Evangelist, one of the first who wore that designation. One of the seven
ministers of the Jerusalem church, after his diaconate was vacated by the
dispersion of that community, he commenced his evangelical labours. He turned
his face towards Samaria, and preached and baptized amongst the Samaritans:
for, we are told, when the Samaritans believed Philip preaching the things
concerning the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus, they were baptized, both
men and women. He also converted the Ethiopian Eunuch; and then, passing
from Azotus, he "preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea,"
where he afterwards resided. The next notice we have of him is found in Acts
xxi. 8. "We," says Luke, "who were of Paul's company, departed, and came
into Caesarea, and entered into the house of Philip the Evangelist, one of
the seven, and abode with him. He had four virgin daughters that did prophesy."
Evident, then, it is that he obtained the title Evangelist from his
itinerant labours in the gospel and in the converting of men. His possession
of the gift of the Holy Spirit was no more peculiar to him as an evangelist,
than as deacon of the church in Jerusalem; for while in the diaconate of
that church he seems to have been as full of the Holy Spirit as when visiting
all the cities from Azotus to Caesarea.
X. Convening converts into societies, and organizing
them into worshipping assemblies, are inseparably connected with the right
of converting them. Casually, in his letters to Timothy, Paul seems to define
the work of an Evangelist. He says, "Preach the word; be instant in season,
and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and teaching;
endure affliction; do the work of an Evangelist; fulfil thy ministry."
"Let no man despise thy youth. Till I come give attendance to reading, to
exhortation, to teaching. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, [or cultivate
and exercise the office conferred upon thee, according to prophecy - by the
laying on the hands of the presbytery [or eldership]." "Meditate upon these
things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all:
take heed to thyself and to thy teaching; continue in them: for in doing
this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear
thee."1 This seems to be the office of an Evangelist
which the Lord gave the church after his ascension.
XI. Setting things in order in the churches - the committing the same office
to faithful men, who shall be able to instruct others - the ordaining of
elders, and a general superintendence of the affairs of churches, seem to
have been also lodged in the hands of Timothy and Titus as agents of the
Apostles. How far these works are yet necessary, and how far the superintendence
of them may be safely lodged in the hands of select Evangelists as respects
infant communities, may be, with many a question of dubious interpretation.
But that Evangelists are to separate into communities their own converts,
teach and superintend them till they are in a condition to take care of
themselves, is as unquestionably a part of the office of an Evangelist as
praying, or preaching, or baptizing.
XII. But we shall be asked, "Is not preaching and baptizing, and even teaching,
the common privilege of all disciples, as they have opportunity?" And we
also ask in answer, "Is it not the privilege of all fathers to teach their
own children, and to preside over their own families?" But who will thence
infer, that all fathers are teachers and presidents, does not more shock
common sense, than he who infers that all disciples, as such, are evangelists,
pastors, and teachers, because we concede that in certain cases it is the
privilege of all citizens of Christ's kingdom to preach, baptize, and teach.
Every citizen of Christ's kingdom has, in virtue of his citizenship, equal
rights, privileges and immunities. So has every citizen of the United States.
Yet all citizens are not legislators, magistrates, judges, governors, etc.
Before any community, civil or religious, is organized, every man has equal
rights to do what seemeth good in his own eyes. But when organized, and persons
appointed to office, then whatever rights, duties, privileges are conferred
on particular persons, cannot of right belong to those who have transferred
them; any more than a person cannot both give and keep the same thing.
XIII. But there are some duties and privileges we cannot wholly communicate
to others. Parents cannot wholly transfer the education of their children
to others; neither can a master transfer all his duties to a steward or overseer.
No more can the citizens of Christ's kingdom wholly transfer their duties
to preach and teach Christ. To enlighten the ignorant, to persuade the
unbelieving, to exhort the disobedient when they fall in our way and we have
the ability or the opportunity, is an intransferable duty. Even the church
of Rome, with all her clerical pride, commands and authorized lay
baptism, when a Priest is not convenient. A Christian is by profession
a preacher of truth and righteousness, both by precept and example. He
may of right preach, baptize, and dispense the supper, as well as pray for
all men, when circumstances demand it. This concession does not, however,
either dispense with the necessity of having evangelists, bishops, and deacons;
not, having them, does it authorized any individual to assume to do what
has been given in charge to them. Liberty without licentiousness, and government
without tyranny, is the true genius of the Christian institution.
XIV. While, then, the Christian system allows every man "as he has received
a gift to minister as a good steward of the manifold grace of God," it makes
provision for choosing and setting apart qualified persons for all its peculiar
services, necessary to its own edification and comfort, as well as to its
usefulness in the world. It provides for its own perpetuity and its growth
in the wisest and most practical manner. Its whole wisdom consists in four
points: - 1st. It establishes the necessary offices for its perpetuity and
growth. 2nd. It selects the best-qualified persons for those offices. 3rd.
It consecrates or sets those persons apart to those offices. 4th. It commands
them to give themselves wholly to the work, that their improvement may keep
pace with the growth of the body, and be apparent to all. Can any person
point out an imperfection in this plan?
XV. All its officers, whether for its services at home or abroad, when fully
proved, are to be formally and solemnly set apart by the imposition of the
hands of the presbytery or eldership of the church. The whole community chooses
- the seniors ordain. This is the apostolic tradition. Let those
unacquainted with the volume examine the apostolic law and usage; Acts vi.
2-6. So the Christian system in its elections and ordinations began. It
is immutable. Therefore this system obtains in all cases. The qualifications
for any office are always founded in the nature of the office. They are generally
detailed, but not always, because the work to be done is the best
guide in ascertaining the qualifications of the doer of it.
XVI. We say the seniors of elders always ordain. Popery says, "None but those
on whom the apostolic hands have been laid can of right ordain." Such
an idea is not in the Christian system. The seniors always lay on hands,
whether hands have been laid on them or not. This is true Protestantism.
Better still, it is true Bibleism. Nay, it is the Christian System.
The Apostles laid on hands because seniors, and not because
apostles. This is the jet of a controversy of fifteen hundred years'
standing. It has been very generally, almost universally misstated and
overlooked. Protestants are as much Papists in this, as the Papists are
Protestants in disowning Protestantism. It is assumed by Romanists, and conceded
by Protestants, that "holy hands" are official hands by a jure
Divino. They are sometimes, but not always. But Christian elders,
(for I do not mean mere old men,) who have long walked in the ways of the
Lord, have holy hands, and much more power with and from the Lord, then ever
dwelt in any pontiff or pretended vicar of Christ, in twelve hundred and
XVII. In proof that seniors lay on hands, we appeal to the fact, Acts vi,
for the Apostles were the oldest converts in Jerusalem. We appeal also to
the fact that the presbytery or eldership laid hands on Timothy, and gave
him the gift or office of an evangelist. And are there two rules of ordination
in one system! Paul and Barnabas, though Apostles, were themselves
ordained by the church of Antioch by its presbytery. Consequently, seniors
in Christ, as such, can, of divine warrant, lay hands on any persons,
for any office to which the church has elected them. It must be done also
by prayer and fasting. See Acts vi. 6; xiii. 3; xiv. 23.
XVIII. Persons may be juniors in years and seniors in Christ. Timothy, says
Paul, "lay hands suddenly on no man." This implies that the ordained
were juniors in the Lord; and until they had attained some character and
standing as seniors, (even Timothy himself,) were not to consent to their
ordination. Perhaps it may be necessary to say that classic presbytery and
the presbytery of a single church are very different institutions. The Apostles
ordained elders (a presbytery) in every church. They did not make
young men old, but set apart those that were seniors in the Lord to the office
of overseers. They did not make juniors seniors, but they made elders
XIX. The community, the church, the multitude of the faithful, are the fountain
of official power. This power descends from the body itself - not from its
servants. Servants made by servants are servants of servants; and such are
all the clergy of the Man of Sin. But the body of Christ, under him as its
head, animated and led by his spirit, is the fountain and spring of all official
power and privilege. How much surer and purer is ecclesiastic authority thus
derived from Christ the head, immediately through his body, that when derived
through a long, doubtful, corrupt dynasty of bishops or pontiffs! The church
is the mother of all the sons and priests of God; and to look for authority
to her servants or creatures, as do all sorts of Papists, whether Catholic
or Protestant, is to worship and serve the creature more than the Creator
- a species of idolatry worthy only of the darkest night of the darkest day
of the dark ages.
XX. But the church needs messengers for special occasions - not only her
stated deacons and ministers, but ministers extraordinary. These too are
selected by the church or churches in a given district, and commissioned
by their letters. They are not consecrated by imposition of hands, but
approved by letters from the community. Are we asked for authority?
We produce it with pleasure. 1 Cor. xvi. 3, is just to the point: "And,"
says Paul to the saints in Corinth, "when I come whomsoever you shall
approve by letters, them will I send to bring your liberality to Jerusalem."
This is the apostolic usage in such cases. In the second epistle Paul says,
"We have sent Titus the brother (Luke, we opine) whose praise is in the gospel,
(written by him,) throughout all the churches - who was also chosen by
the churches to travel with us this bounty," etc.
XXI. The Christian system demands for its perpetuity and for its prosperity
at home and abroad, bishops, deacons, and evangelists. Its bishops teach,
preside, and execute the laws of Christ in all its convocations. The deacons,
a large and diverse class of functionaries, composed of stewards, treasurers,
almoners, door-keepers, etc., as the case may require, wait continually upon
its various services. Its evangelists, possessed of proper qualifications,
ordained and consecrated to the work of the Lord in converting sinners and
planting churches, by a presbytery, or a board of seniors competent to the
prudent discharge of the duty, are constantly engaged in multiplying its
members. These ministers of the word are commanded to be wholly engrossed
in this work, and consequently to be fully sustained by their brethren in
it. They are held responsible to all the holy brethren, and to the Lord at
his appearing and his kingdom, for the faithful discharge of that sacred
trust confided in them.
XXII. What an efficient institution is that over which Christ presides, when
well understood and fully carried out in all its details! With its bishops
and deacons at home, and its evangelists abroad, wholly devoted to the faithful
discharge of their respective trusts; men of experience, faith, piety, morality,
full of zeal, energy, benevolence, co-operating with all similar institutions,
supported by the prayers and free-will offerings of all the united people,
having the love of God in their hearts, and heaven in their eye, what may
they not achieve of glory to God, of good to men, and honour to themselves!
Of such an army of the faith, in full operation and concert, it might indeed
be asked, "Who is this that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon,
bright as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners!"
1 1 Timothy
iv. 2 Timothy iv.