By Amos Binney and Daniel Steele
By the government and discipline of the Church are meant the form and order by which its spiritual concerns are managed.
The exact form of ecclesiastical government and discipline, in all particulars and for all occasions, is to be determined by Christians from the general rules and principles established in the word of God, and from considerations of expediency.
Any particular form of ecclesiastical government, agreed on by the governors of the Church, consonant to the general rules of Scripture, may be considered as scriptural. Hence, though one form of government be agreeable to the word, it does not follow that another is not, or, because one is lawful, another is unlawful.
In all cases that form of government is to be settled which is best calculated to promote the welfare of the Church in its present state. (176. What are meant by the government and discipline of the Church? How are we to determine the exact from of ecclesiastical government and discipline? What of any particular form? If one form is lawful, does it follow that all others are unlawful? What from of government is to be settled in all cases?)
The proper officers of the Church are called in the Scriptures by different names, probably for the purpose of representing the various and important duties of their office.
They are called bishops or elders, from the oversight they are to take, and from the grave and prudent example they are to set; pastors from the spiritual food they are to administer; ministers, from the service they are to render; watchmen, from the vigilance they are to exercise; teachers, from the instructions they are to give; ambassadors, from the treaty of reconciliation and peace they are sent to effect. I Tim. 3:1 . Acts 20:28; Jer. 3:15; I Cor. 4:1; Ezek. 3:17; I Peter 5:1; Eph. 4:11; II Cor. 5:20.
Paul recognizes but two orders in the Christian ministry after the apostles: that of Deacon, and that of Elder or Bishop. I Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-7; Phil. 1:1.
These officers are to be invested with their office by ordination, or by prayer and imposition of hands from regular ministers of the Gospel. I Tim. 4:14; Acts 13:2-3. (177. What are the officers of the Church called? Why so? Define the different terms? How are these officers to be invested?)
The officers of the Church can, from among themselves, constitute an officer, who, as an officer, shall be superior to any of those by whom he was constituted.
The officers of the Church are entitled to a maintenance from the people who share in their labors. This should not be viewed as a matter of alms and free gift, but as a debt justly and honorably due. Matt. 10:9-10; I Cor. 9:7, 11, 14; I Tim. 5:18; Gal. 6:6.
The power of executing the temporal economy of the Church belongs either to the Church as a body, or to those whom the Church shall delegate for that purpose. Acts 6:2-6.
The proper discipline of the Church is to be gathered from those passages of Scripture relating to this subject which are found scattered throughout the sacred volume.
Every particular Church should collect, arrange, and explain these texts in written form, for the purpose of informing its members, and also that there may be uniformity in administration. (178. Can these officers create yet others? Are they entitled to maintenance? How should this be viewed? Who should attend to the temporal economy of the Church? Whence should the proper discipline of the Church be gathered? What is the duty of each particular Church? Why?)
The design of Church discipline is, the reclaiming of offenders, delivering the Church from reproach, and inspiring all with the fear of offense. Every Church should judge of the qualifications of those who offer themselves for membership, and should admit or reject, as they may think proper. Matt. 16:19.
All persons, before admittance to the Church, should be examined in respect to their doctrinal views and religious experience. And none should be admitted but such as are found evangelical in both respects. Nevertheless , genuine believers in Christ holding erroneous opinions not manifestly detrimental to the spiritual life should not be denied membership in the Church. The rule should be: "In non-essentials, liberty; in essentials, unity; and in all things, charity."
The duty of Church members toward each other is, to watch over one another for good; and, when occasion requires, to reprove, rebuke, and admonish. I Timothy 5:20; Galatians 6:1. (179. What is the design of Church discipline? Who should judge of qualifications for Church membership? Should all candidates be examined before the Church? In what? What is the duty of Church members toward each other?)
Church members are subject to discipline and excommunication for immoralities and heresy in doctrine. I Cor. 5:11; Titus 3:10. Our Savior has given a particular rule of proceeding in Church discipline, which should he strictly observed in all cases. Matt. 18:15-17. Offenders in the Church, upon suitable confession and reformation, should be restored to the fellowship of the Church. Matt. 18:21-22; Luke 17:3-4; II Cor. 2:6-8.
Excommunication consists in cutting off a member from all Church rights and privileges. This should be viewed as a very solemn act, both by the Church which performs it, and by the individual expelled. It should never be done without much deliberation and prayer.
As communion is with the Church as a body, and not with individuals, no person can be justified in absenting himself from communion because of existing offenses between him self and another Church member. (180. For what are Church members subject to discipline? What particular rule has Christ given? Should this be observed? How are offenders to be restored? What is excommunication? How should this be viewed? Should offended members abstain from the communion? To what is this analogous?)
In all decisions of the Church, though unanimity is very desirable, yet the majority should govern, and the minority dissent with love, meekness, and a disposition to acquiesce. Such course is Christian, and has a tendency to prevent many evils. Acts 15:1-31.
This is not limited to the duties of the family or household, since she is often by nature and grace pre-eminently adapted for a wider service. Hence women were employed as prophets, that is, in the sense of public religious teachers, including the higher ministerial duties, as appears from the rank next after apostles . I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11. Compare Acts 2:17-18; 21:9; Rom. 16:1-2. So in the Old Testament. Exod. 15:20; Judg. 4:4; II Kings 22:14; Num. 11:29.
Compare also Ps. 68:11, where the true rendering is, of the women preachers there was a great host; which accords with the wish of Moses, Num. 11:29, and of Paul, I Cor. 14:5. (181. Who should govern in the decisions of the Church? What is the duty of the minority? What benefit will result? What is said of woman's sphere? Of their service as prophets or teachers? Did Paul condemn the practice?)
Some have understood Paul as prohibiting women teaching. I Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2: 11-12. But he evidently refers to such only as prayed and prophesied unvailed, as appears 1 Cor. 11:5-13. Paul in this had respect simply to the usage of society, as was his custom in matters of indifference. I Cor. 9:19-23. To say that his prohibition applies alike to all times and conditions of society, is to say that the prudential regulations of a degraded heathen people, eighteen hundred years ago, are universally binding, and that Christianity in this respect has wrought no change in the world it came to reform. Paul surely had a different estimate of woman service. Rom. 16:1-7, 12-15. His first public discourse in Europe was at a meeting of women, and his first convert and host was a woman. Acts 16:9-15.
There is indisputable scriptural and historical proof that subordinate official position was accorded to women in the apostolic Church:-
1. The correct translation of Rom. 16:1-2, shows that Phebe was a deacon of the Church and a patron of many-the original of patron being radically the same as is rendered, he that ruleth, in chap. 12:8. (182. What is said of his estimate of women? Was offical position accorded to her? What is said of Phebe? What exposition of Rom. 16:1-2?) of Deacons not only minister to the sick and needy, but from Phil. 1:1, and I Tim. 3:2, 8, we infer that they preached and discharged other spiritual functions subordinate to the elders or bishops, who correspond to the pastors of modern times.
2.The rules of conduct laid down for women in I Tim. 3:11, and Titus 2:3, have been referred to the deaconesses by a series of eminent commentators from Chrysostom to Alford.
3. Dr. Schaff and other scholars interpret the words, "let not a widow be taken into the number," I Tim.5:9. Let not a widow be elected and ordained under threescore years old.
4. From Titus 2:3-4, we learn that women were employed as teachers in the direct personal application of Christian truth.
5. Pliny, a few years later, speaks of the order of deaconesses as exercising, in relation to their own sex, functions analogous to those of the deacons.
The history of the early Christian Church confirms this statement, and adds, also, that women baptized. (183. What exposition of I Tim. 3:11; 5:9? Of Titus 2:3? What is said of the history of the early Church?)
Signal honors are recorded of woman's devotion to Christ and his cause. Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 10:38-42. She was first to preach the actual advent of the promised Messiah, both to the Jews and to the Samaritans. Luke 2:36-38; John 4:28, etc.; and first to preach the risen Savior to his doubting apostles. Matt. 28:7-9, 17.
"Not she, with traitorous kiss, her Savior stung; Luke 22:47-48.
Not she denied him with unholy tongue; Matt. 26:69-75.
She, while apostles shrank, could danger brave: Matt. 26:56
Last at the cross, and earliest at his grave." Matt. 27:55-56 28:1.