by Samuel Miller
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THE WARRANT, NATURE, AND DUTIES,OF THE OFFICE OF THE RULING ELDER IN THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.
According to the Scriptures, the Body of Christ is to be ruled by a plurality of elders elected by and accountable to the people of each congregation. One of the most complete treatises ever written on the Presbyterian system of church government, this book details the historical basis and scriptural qualifications for the office of ruling elder.
Our once crucified, but now exalted Redeemer, has erected in this world a kingdom which is his Church. This Church is either visible or invisible.
By the invisible Church we mean, the whole body of sincere believers, of every age and nation, "that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the glorious Head thereof." Part of these are already made perfect in heaven. Another portion are at present scattered over the earth in different denominations of professing Christians, though not certainly distinguishable from others by the human eye. And the remainder are in future to be gathered in by the grace of God when the whole number of the "redeemed from among men," will be united in one holy assembly, which is the "spouse," the "body of Christ, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."
By the visible Church is meant the body of those who profess the true religion, together with their children. It is that body which is called out of the world, and united under the authority of Christ, the Head, for the purpose of maintaining Gospel Truth and Order, and promoting the knowledge, purity, comfort and edification of all the members. When we use the term Church, as expressive of a visible, professing body, we either mean the whole visible Church of God throughout the world, or a particular congregation of professing Christians, who have agreed to unite together for the purpose of mutual instruction, inspection and edification.
The word Church is also employed in Scripture to designate a Church Judicatory; that is, the Church assembled and acting by her representatives, the Elders, chosen to inspect, and bear rule over the whole body. This, it is believed, will be evident to those who impartially consult Matthew xviii. 15-18; and compare the language of the original here, with that of the original, and the Greek translation of the Seventy of Deuteronomy xxxi. 28-30.
The visible Church is a spiritual body. That is, it is not secular or worldly, either in its nature or objects. The kingdom of Christ "is not of this world." Its Head, laws, ordinances, discipline, penalties, and end, are all spiritual. There can be no departure from this principle; in other words, there can be no connexion between the Church and the State; no enforcement of ecclesiastical laws by the power of the secular arm, or by "carnal weapons," without departing from "the simplicity that is in Christ." and invading both the purity and safety of his sacred body.
This great visible Church is one, in all ages, and throughout the world. From its first formation in the family of Adam, through all the changes of the Patriarchal, Mosaic and Christian dispensations, it has been one and the same; having the same divine Head, the same ground of Hope, the same essential characters, and the same great design. Diversity of denomination does not destroy this unity. All who profess the true religion, together with their offspring, however divided by place, by names, or by forms, are to be considered as equally belonging to that great family denominated the Church. The Presbyterian, the Episcopalian, the Methodist, the Baptist, and the Independent, who hold the fundamentals of our holy religion, in whatever part of the globe they may reside, are all equally members of the same visible community; and if they be sincere, will all finally be made partakers of its eternal blessings. They cannot, indeed, all worship together in the same solemn assembly, even if they were disposed to do so:-and the sin and folly of men have separated into different bodies those who ought to "walk together." Still the visible Church is one. All who "hold the Head," of course, belong to the body of Christ. "We, being many," says the inspired Apostle, "are one body in Christ, and every one, members one of another." Those who are united by a sound profession to the same almighty Head; who embrace the same "precious faith;" who are sanctified by the same Spirit; who eat the same spiritual meat; who drink the same spiritual drink; who repose and rejoice in the same promises; and who are travelling to the same eternal rest-are surely ONE BODY,-in a sense more richly significant than can be ascribed to millions who sustain a mere nominal unity.
This unity is very distinctly recognized, and very happily expressed, by Cyprian, a distinguished Christian Father of the third century. "The Church," says he, "is one, which, by its fruitful increase, is enlarged into a multitude. As the rays of the sun, though many, are yet one luminary; as the branches of a tree, though numerous, are all established on one firmly rooted trunk; and as many streams springing from the same fountain, though apparently dispersed abroad by their overflowing abundance, yet have their unity preserved by one common origin;-so the Church, though it extends its rays throughout the world, is one Light. Though every where diffused, its unity is not broken. By the abundance of its increase, it extends its branches through the whole earth. It spreads far and wide its flowing streams; yet it has one Head; one Fountain; one Parent; and is enriched and enlarged by the issues of its own fruitfulness."
Table of Contents
Two: Testimony from the Order of the Old Testament Church.
Three: Evidence in Favor of the Office from the New Testament Scriptures.
Four: Testimony of the Church Fathers.
Five: Testimony of the Witnesses for the Truth during the Dark Ages.
Six: Testimony of the Reformers, and Other Learned and Disinterested Witnesses, Nearly Contemporary with Them.
Seven: Testimony of Eminent Divines since the Time of the Reformers.
Eight: Ruling Elders Absolutely Necessary in the Church.
Nine: The Nature and Duties of the Office.
Ten: Distinction between the Offices of the Ruling Elder and Deacon.
Eleven: The Qualifications Proper for this Office.
Twelve: On the Election of Ruling Elders.
Thirteen: Of the Ordination of Ruling Elders.
Fourteen: Of the Resignation of Ruling Elders;--Their Removal from One Church to Another;--And the Method of Conducting Discipline against Them.
Fifteen: Advantages of Conducting this Discipline on the Presbyterian Plan.