« PreviousContinue »
church, and ruled the same with the ministers of the word: for Paul, Rom. chap. 12. having spoke of the ministry of the word, and also of the office of distribution or deaconship, speaketh afterwards particularly of this office, saying: “ he that ruleth, let him do it with diligence :" likewise, in another place, he counts government among the gifts and offices which God hath instituted in the church : 1 Cor. 12. Thus we see that these sorts of ministers are added to the others who preach the gospel, to aid and assist them, as in the old testament the common Levites were to the priests in the service of the tabernacle, in those things which they could not perform alone: notwithstanding the offices always remained distinct one from the other. Moreover it is proper that such men should be joined to the ministers of the word in the government of the church, to the end, that thereby all tyranny and Jording may be kept out of the church of God, which may soon
creep in, when the government is placed in the hands of one alone, or of a very few. And thus the ministers of the word, together with the elders, form a boily or assembly, being as a council of the church, representing the whole church; to which Christ alludes when he saith, 6. Tell the church”—which can in no wise be understood of all and every member of the church in particular, but very properly of those who govern the church, out of which they are chosen.
Therefore, in the first place, the office of the elders is, together with the ministers of the word, to take the oversight of the church, which is committed to them, and diligently to look, whether every one properly deports himsell in his confession and conversation ; to admonish those, who behave themselves disorderly, and to prevent, as much as possible, the sacraments from being profaned : also to act (according to the christian discipline) against the impenitent, and to receive the penitent again into the bosom of the church, as doth not only appear from the ahovementioned saying of Christ, but also from many other places of holy writ, as I Cor. chap. 5. and 2 Cor. chap. 2. that these things are not alone intrusted to one or two persons, but to many who are ordained thereto.
Secondly. Since the apostle enjoineth, that all things shall be done decently and in order, amongst christians, and that no other persons ought to serve in the church of Christ, but those who are lawfully called, according to the chri: tian ordinance, therefore it is also the duty of the elders t
pay regard to it, and in all occurrences, which relate to the welfare and good order of the church, to be assistant with their good counsel and advice, to the ministers of the word, yea, also to serve all christians with advice and consolation.
Thirdly. It is also their duty particularly to have regard unto the doctrine and conversation of the ministers of the word, to the end that all things may be directed to the edification of the church; and that no strange doctrine be taught, according to that which we read, Acts 20, where the apostle exhorteth to watch diligently against the wolves, which might come into the sheep-fold of Christ; for the performance of which, the elders are in duty bound diligently to search the word of God, and continually to be meditating on the mysteries of faith.
Concerning the Deacons; of the origin and institution of their office we may read, Acts, 6. where we find that the apostles themselves did in the beginning serve the poor, “ At whose feet was brought the price of the things that were sold : and distribution was made unto every man, according as he had need. But afterwards, when & murmuring arose, because the widows of the Grecians were neglected in the daily ministration :” men were chosen (by the advice of the apostles) who should make the service of the poor their peculiar business, to the end that the apostles might continually give themselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And this has been continued from that time forward in the church, as appears from Rom. 12. Where the apostle, speaking of this office, saith,“ he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.” And 1 Cor. 12. 28, speaking of helps, he means those, who are appointed in the church to help and assist the poor and indigent in time of need; from which passages we may easily gather, what the deacon's office is, namely, that they in the first place collect and preserve with the greatest fidelity and diligence, the alms and goods which are given to the poor: yea, to do their utmost endeavours, that many good means be procured for the relief of the poor.
The second part of their office consists in distribution, wherein are not only required discretion and prudence to bestow the alıns only on objects of charity, but also cheerfulness and simplicity to assist the poor with compassion and hearty affection: as the apostle requires, Rom. chap. 12, and 2 Cor. chap. 9. For which end it is very beneficial, that they do not only administer relief to the poor aul
indigent with external gifts, but also with comfortable words from scripture.
To the end therefore, beloved brethren, N. N. that every one may hear, that you are willing to take your respective offices upon you, ye shall answer to the following questions.
And in the first place I ask you, both elders and deacons, whether ye do not feel in your hearts, that ye are lawfully called of God's church, and consequently of God himself, to these your respective holy offices ?
Secondly. Whether ye believe the books of the old and new testament to be the only word of God, and the perfect doctrine of salvation, and do reject all doctrines repugnant thereto ?
Thirdly. Whether ye promise, agreeably to said doctrine, faithfully, according to your ability, to discharge your respective offices, as they are here described : ye elders in the government of the church together with the ministers of the word : and ye deacons in the ministration to
the poor? Do ye also jointly promise to walk in all godliAr ness, and to submit yourselves, in case ye should become .
remiss in your duty, to the admonitions of the chnrch ?Upon which they shall answer. Yes.
Then the Minister shall say, The Almighty God and Father, replenish you all with his grace, that ye may faithfully and fruitfully discharge
your respective offices. Amen. TE The Minister shall further exhort them, and the whole congregation, in the
following manner : Therefore, ye elders, be diligent in the government of ;** the church, which is committed to you, and the ministers
of the word. Be also, as watchmen over the house and m: city of God, faithful to admonish and to caution every one s against his ruin. Take heed that purity of doctrine and e: igodliness of life be maintained in the church of God. And, giye deacons, be diligent in collecting the alms, prudent and za acheerful in the distribution of the same: assist the oppress
ed, provide for the true widows and orphans, show liberurality unto all men, but especially to the household of
Be ye all with one accord faithful in your offices, and rhold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, being 2. Ch.good examples unto all the people. In so doing you vene will purchase to yourselves a good degree, and great boldness
in the faith, which is in Christ Jesus, and hereafter enter into the joy of your Lord. On the other hand, beloved christians, receive these men as servants of God: count the elders that rule well worthy of double honour, give yourselves willingly to their inspection and government. Provide the deacons with good means to assist the indigent. Be charitable, ye rich, give liberally, and contribute willingly. And, ye poor, be poor in spirit, and deport yourselves respectfully towards your benefactors, be thankful to them, and avoid murmuring: follow Christ, for the food of your souls, but not for bread. Let him that hath stolen (or who hath been burthensome to his neighbours) steal no more ; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the things which are good, that he may give to him that needeth. Each of you, doing these things in your respective callings, shall receive of the Lord, the reward of righteous.
But since we are unable of ourselves, let us call upon the name of the Lord, saying,
thee, for the better edification of thy church, to ordain in it, besides the ministers of the word, rulers and assistants, by whom thy church may be preserved in peace and prosperity, and the indigent assisted; and that thou hast at present granted us in this place, men, who are of good testimony, and we hope endowed with thy spirit. We beseech thee, replenish them more and more with such gifts, as are necessary for them in their ministration; with the gifts of wisdom, courage, discretion, and benevolence, to the end that every one may, in his respective office, acquit himself as is becoming; the elders in taking diligent heed unto the doctrine and conversation, in keeping out the wolves from the sheep-fold of thy beloved Son; and in admonishing and reproving disorderly persons. In like manner, the deacons in carefully receiving, and liberally and prudently distributing of the alms to the poor, and in comforting them with thy holy word. Give grace both to the elders and deacons, that they may persevere in their faithful labour, and never become weary by reason of any trouble, pain or persecution of the world. Grant also especially thy divine grace to this people, over whom they are placed, that they may willingly submit themselves to the good exhortations of the elders, counting them worthy of honour for their work's sake; give also unto the rich, liberal hearts towards the poor, and to the poor grateful hearts towards those, who help and serve them; to the end that every one acquiting himself of his duty, thy holy name may therehy he jpagnified, and the kingdom of thy Son Jesus Christ, enlarged, in whose name we conclude our prayers, &c.
BEFORE THE CHURCH.
of sin, subject to many troubles and afflictions; to the end that you N. and N. who desire to have your marriage-bond publicly confirmed, here in the name of God, before this church, may also be assured in your hearts of the certain assistance of God in your afflictions, hear therefore from the word of God, how honourable the marriage state is, and that it is an institution of God, which is pleasing to him. Wherefore he also will (as he hath promised) bless and assist the married persons, and on the contrary, judge and punish whoremorigerers and adulterers.
In the first place you are to know, that God our Father, after he had created heaven and earth, and all that in them is, made man in his own image and likeness, that he should have dominion over the beasts of the field, over the fish of the sell, and over the fouls of the air. And after he had created man, he said, “ It is not good that man should be alone, I will make him an help-meet for him.” And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a women, and brought her unto the man. And Adan said, this is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my ficsh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man, leave his father, and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they two shall he one flesh.” Therofore ye are not to doubt, but that the married state is pleasing to the Lord, since he made unto Adam his wife, brought and gave her himself to him to be his wife; witnessing therely that he doth yet as with his hand bring unto every man his wife. For this reason the Lord Jesus Christ did also highly honour it with his presence, gifts and miracles in Cana of Galilee, to show thereby that this holy state ought to be kept honourably by all, and that he will aid and protect married persons, even when thụy are teast deserving it. But that you may live godly in this state, you must know the reasons, wherefore God hath instituted the same. The first reason is, that each faithfully assist the other, in all things that belong to this life, and a better.