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will find that presbyters were the pastors of the churches, and might even ordain; that he quotes the fourth Council of Carthage as decreeing that the seniors of the churches should be esteemed worthy of great honor,** that they were anciently called senatus pauper in the church of Romett—that in Africa all the officers of the church, of whatever degree, who were associated with the bishop in the government of the church, were called his senate ;ff and that if these officers undertook to ordain, they were punished. Such also is the undoubted opinion of the schoolmen, who recognize only the two orders of presbyters or bishops, and deacons;* of all the Oriental churches;of many prelatists ;I and of the universal church.88 Nothing, therefore, can be more certain, as it appears to our minds, than the fact that THE TERM PRESBYTER (πρεσβυτερος) IS EVERY WHERE THROUGHOUT The New TESTAMENT, AND IN THE WRITINGS OF THE FATHERS, TO BE UNDERSTOOD OF THE TEACHERS OR PRESBYTERS, AND NEVER OF THE RULING ELDERS OR REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE-nor can we see any weight in any reason which has been assigned for the opposite opinion, nor any necessity for adopting it in order to sustain the scriptural claims and character of the ruling elder. On the contrary, the application of the titles of presbyter and bishop to these officers obscures the whole question of the polity of the apostolic churches; renders ambiguous and general the very title upon which the order of the ministry rests; weakens, and in some measure nullifies, our arguments for one order of ministers against the pretensions of prelacy; leaves the distinction between ministers and ruling elders altogether indefinite; leads to wrong and misconceived views of the nature and duties of ruling elders; gives origin to the whole controversy now agitating the church respecting the rights of elders to ordain; and would eventually DESTROY either the separate order of ministers or the separate order of ruling elders, since, if both are to be understood by the same terms, both must possess the qualifications required by those to whom these terms are given, and both, therefore, must be required to discharge all the duties of the officers thus qualified and named.
Before leaving this branch of our subject it may be proper to support our views by one or two authorities. Mr. Boyce in his very able and learned work, "A Clear Account of the
Binii Concilia Generalia, tom. iv. p. 558 ; vii. 731 ; i. 742, 415, 539, 734, 573, 400; ix. 406 ; vii. 731 and 887 ; iii. 835. See also Morinus de Sacr. Eccl. Ordinationibus, pt. iii. p. 276, § 5, &c. **Tom. I. p. 730, Can. 83.
htTom. I. p. 85. 1 See tom. ix. Index “Seves." *Tom. i. p. 731. See do. do. pp. 409-414. See do. do. p. 415, &c. $ $ See do. do. p. 223, &c.
Ancient Episcopacy,” says,** “I confess many of the reformed churches have a sort of elders that are not the same with the presbyters of the primitive church, because the latter were properly ordained to the sacred office of the ministry, and empowered thereby to baptize, preach, and administer the sacraments, when desired by the parochial bishops, whose curates they were. But even these very elders in the reformed churches do very well answer to the seniores plebis, that were distinct from the presbyters, and were of laudable use in the primitive church, (as Blondel has fully shown in his book, De Jure Plebis in regimine Ecclesiastico.")
Grotius says, "that the perpetual offices in the church are two, that of presbyters and deacons. Those I call presbyters, with all the ancient church, who fed the church with the preaching of the gospel, the sacraments, and the keys." (De Imperio, c. x. p. 267; in ibid. p. 39.) “By all which," say the authors of Smectymnuus, who were members of the Westminster Assembly, “it is apparent, first, that in the ancient church there were some called seniors; secondly, that these seniors were not clergymen; thirdly, that they had a stake in governing the church and managing the affairs thereof; and fourthly, that seniors were distinguished from the rest of the
It will be interesting to illustrate the subject from the history of the church of England. Among the Culdees we know that there was always a number of lay brethren associated with the presbyters in the government of their communities. Many of the Culdees were laymen. Bede himself admits, says Jame son,† that of the many who daily came from the country of the Scots into the province of the Angles over which Oswald reigned, only some were presbyters, where he limits the term presbyter to those who could preach and baptize.
Every member of the fraternity or college had a right, whether lay or clerical, "to sit, speak, and reason in their Synodical assemblies.”Ị Boece says that before the time of Palladius "the people by their suffrages chose Bishops from the Monks and Culdees."$ Sir James Dalrymple says that "in electing the bishop they must have the consensus religiosorum virorum civitatis, which must be meant of the laics and its like, also the laics had the same share in settling the Culdees, who were their pastors."It
"And herein also of questmen,” says Burns in his Ecclesias**London, 1712, p. 208. *See also Vitringa de Syn. pp. 479, 482, 484, and Fleury's Hist. Eccl. tom. viii., in Luing, p. 314.
Hist. p. 66, 67.
tical Laws, “sidesmen, or assistants. Note, the office of church-wardens, so far as it relates to the repairs or other matters concerning the church, is treated of under the title Church; their cognizance of crimes and offences, falleth in under the title Visitation, and other branches of their duty, under divers other titles respectively; here it is treated only concerning their office in general, or such other particulars as do not fall in more properly elsewhere.
"In ancient Episcopal Synods, the bishops were wont to summon divers creditable persons out of every parish, to give information of, and to attest the disorders of clergy and people. These were called testes synodales; and were in after times a kind of impanelled jury, consisting of two or three or more persons in every parish, who were upon oath to present all heretics and other irregular persons. Ken. Par. Ant. 649.
"And these in process of time became standing officers in several places, especially in great cities, and from hence were called Synod's men, and by corruption sidesmen; they are also sometimes called questmen, from the nature of their office, in making inquiry concerning offences.
“But for the most part this whole office is now devolved upon the churchwardens, together with that other office which their name more properly importeth, of taking care of the church and of the goods thereof, which they had of very ancient time."*
"By Can. 118. The churchwardens and sidesmen shall be chosen the first week after Easter, or some week following, according to the direction of the ordinary.
“And by Can. 89. All churchwardens or questmen in every parish, shall be chosen by the joint consent of the minister and the parishioners, if it may be; but if they cannot agree upon such a choice, then the minister shall choose one, and the parishioners another; and without such a joint or several choice none shall take upon them to be churchwardens.”+
“Again," says Burns, “the ancient method was not only for the clergy, but the body of the people within such a district, to appear at Synods, or (as we now call them) general visitations; (for what we now call visitations were really the annual synods, the laws of the church by visitations always being visitations parochial;) the way was, to select a certain number, at the discretion of the ordinary, to give information upon oath concerning the manners of the people within the district; which persons the rule of the canon law upon this head supposes to have been selected, while the synod was sitting; but afterwards, when the body of the people began to be excused from attend
*Burns' Eccl. Law, vol. i. p. 398. Do. do. p. 401.
ance, it was directed in the citation, that four, six, or eight, according to the proportion of the district, should appear together with the clergy, to represent the rest, and to be the testes synodales, as the canon law elsewhere styles them. But all this while, we find nothing of churchwardens presenting, till a little before the reformation, when we find the churchwardens began to present, either by themselves, or with two or three more credible parishioners joined with them; and this (as was before observed) seemeth evidently to be the original of that office which our canons call the office of sidesmen or assistants. Id. 59, 60, 61."*
"Every churchwarden," he adds, "is also an overseer of the poor by the statute of the 43 el. c. 2, and as such is joined with the overseer appointed by the justices of the peace in all matters relating to the poor; and indeed the churchwardens were the original overseers long before there were any others specially appointed by act of parliament.
“By Can. 89. The churchwardens or questmen shall not continue any longer than one year in that office, except perhaps they be chosen in like manner.”
The Rev. William Jones, in his Churchman's Catechism, in reference to the same subject, says, “What lay-officers have authority to act for the discipline of the church?
"The churchwardens, chancellors, officials and officers of the court should be laymen.
"Why so ?
"That the people when they are corrected for their offences may not think themselves hardly dealt with; the persons to whom they are committed being of their own order.
“How long have lay officers acted in the affairs of the church?
"Almost ever since the conversion of the Roman empire, for 1300 years; when persons learned in the laws were granted to the Christians for settling their differences.”+
*Burns' Eccl. Law, vol. i. p. 405.
*Works, vol. xi. p. 421. See also Conder's View of Religions, p. 185. Bernard, in his work on the Synagogue, says, the seniors were “somewhat analogous to our churchwardens.'
The views of the Reformers on the subject of the Eldership, and on the
application to it of the term Presbyter.
We deem it altogether unnecessary to adduce any proof that the reformed churches generally adopted the principle that the laity had a right to participate in the government of the church; and that as generally they carried out this belief by the appointment of delegated representatives, chosen by the people, and most commonly called seniors, elders, assistants, commissioners, or by some similar and analogous name. Dr. Miller has left every one without excuse who doubts either of these positions. And the fact that the laity were so represented in the ancient British churches, in the Waldensian churches, and also in the Syrian churches in the distant East, where lay representatives of the people continue to exist to the present day, is very strong presumption of its apostolic origin and practice.
From these ancient churches, Calvin and the other reformers adopted their principles of ecclesiastical polity and discipline. Now besides ministers of the word and sacraments, the Waldenses always had, and held to be necessary, "a certain college of men,” to use the words of Bucer concerning them, "excelling in prudence and gravity of spirit, whose office it is to admonish and correct offending brethren." In their ancient discipline, which dates back to the twelfth century, after treating of ministers or pastors, it goes on to say, that “God has given to his people to choose from themselves guides (or pastors) of the people, and ancients in their charges according to the diversity of the work in the unity of Christ."* In the Confession of Faith, now in use among them, these officers are called “les anciens,” that is, ancients, seniors, or elders :ř "selon la pratique de l'Eglise Ancienne," "according to the practice of the ancient church,” where the same word is used. It is hence apparent that among the Waldenses the term presbyter, which is in Spanish, presbytero, and in French, presbtre, or prestre, was not applied by them to the representatives who sit in their assemblies, but the words "regidors del poble et
8 See his work on the Ruling Elder, and Letters on the Christian Ministry, 2d ed.
*This is the translation given in Perrin's History of the Waldenses, translated by Lennard. Lond. 1624. p. 54. And that these mean the ruling elders appears from p. 73, where he calls them “the pastors and ancients, and in reference to their synods. See the original in Moreland, and quoted in Plea for Presbytery, p. 350, and given also in Blair's Hist. vol. i. p. 533, and Presbytery and Prelacy, p. 511.
See Le Livre de Famille, &c. Geneve, 1830. Conf. of F. art. XXXI. p.