of Church Discipline
OF RULING ELDERS
1. Concerning the divine right of the office of ruling elders, there has been considerable doubt and much disputation. We, therefore, had a thought of passing it over in silence; but, on farther consideration, concluded to state briefly the arguments on both sides, then subjoin a few general observations, and so let the churches judge for themselves, and practice as they shall see fit.
2. The scriptures usually adduced to prove the right are the following:
(1.) He that ruleth, let him do it with diligence, Rom. 12. 8.
(2.) God has set in the church governments, I Cor. xii. 28.
(3.) Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in word and doctrine, I Tim. v. 17.
(4.) Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, Heb. xiii. 7, 17.
From the two first scriptures it is argued, that the ruler mentioned must be an officer, because he is mentioned with the other officers, and in contradistinction from them.
And from the last two it is observed, that there must be two kinds of elders, one that rules only, and another who, besides ruling, does also labour in word and doctrine.
3. But it is objected,
(1.) That there is nothing in the two first scriptures but may be accommodated to ministers.
(2.) That the two last may mean the same officer, i. e. a minister, who is said to be worthy of double honour, especially if he labours in his work.
(3.) There is no description given of the qualifications of persons for the office of ruling elders, as there is of bishops and deacons.
(4.) There are no directions how they are to be put in the office.
(5.) It would seem there were no such officers in the church of Ephesus, Acts xx. 19, 28. and of Philippi. i. 1. nor in those of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. I Pet. i. compared with Chap. v. i. ii.
The observations we meant to make are these:
1. It must be confessed there are some appearances in scripture favourable to the office.
2. If there were none it would stand on a footing with some other things left to human prudence.
3. There is the same necessity for the office, as for that of a deacon, namely, to ease the minister of part of his burden.
4. By means of the office, the minister may avoid some hard thoughts and ill-will, which is very desirable.
5. It is of material advantage to a church, to have at least one among them, capable of bringing matters forward, stating them clearly for consideration, summing up the arguments on both sides in order for a vote, and presiding and maintaining order through the whole.
6. All ministers have not a turn or talents for it, in the degree that might be wished.
7. Some that are not ministers have, in a good degree.
8. Appointing such to this service, will not only invite them to come forward by making it their business, but will also give them a more particular right, and enable them to do more good, by cloathing them with a measure of authority.
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