Edward Hiscox, The New Directory For Baptist Churches

In the maintenance of good order, and the administration of equitable discipline in a Church, there will at times arise cases of unusual difficulty; cases which require more than ordinary wisdom and prudence to manage justly, not to say satisfactorily; not so much, perhaps, because of the gravity of the offense, as because of the persistency of those concerned, the complications which arise in the progress of the case, the party spirit which may be engendered, and possibly, worst of all, the mistakes which the Church itself may make in the treatment of the matter. These mistakes thus give the culpable parties occasion to complain at the course pursued, even when they would not have condemned the final issue itself.

I. A Divided Church.

It is probably safe to say that two-thirds of such vexatious cases grow out of misjudged or mismanaged discipline. A wiser course pursued would, in most instances, have reached a just and a peaceful termination. But prejudice, self-will, and heated passion, make partisans contend for the mastery, and rend the body of Christ. Our churches do not have too much discipline—indeed, they have too little—but it is often so unwisely administered as to produce more evil by the method than is removed by the act. It may be too much influenced by personal animosities, by a party spirit engendered, or by ignorance of the principles according to which all true discipline should be exercised.

Such proceedings, even when instigated by sufficient provocation, may degenerate into a mere party or personal conflict for supremacy, in which leading members and related families become identified, and the pastor himself, possibly, involved. Alienations are produced, bitter feelings engendered, and discord rends the Church. The example becomes a reproach, bad men rejoice, and the good are grieved. Injustice has most likely been done to some one, if not by the final act, yet by some of the passionate and ill-advised proceedings leading to it. Unable to harmonize their difficulties, advice from outside is sought, a Council is called to extricate them from the difficulty. Each party of course believes itself to be right, and as firmly holds the other to be wrong.

All that a Council can do is to hear patiently the statements of all parties, corroborate, or disprove confused assertions, so far as possible, by collateral testimony; sift the mass of excited personalities from the vital facts and the underlying principles involved; make a careful digest of the substance of the case, what and where they judge the mistakes and the wrong to be, and advise what course they think the parties concerned should pursue. The Council has, of course, no power to enforce its decisions, to impose penalties, or to compel the performance of its recommendations. But if the advice is carefully and kindly given, and seems reasonable and wise in itself, public sentiment will sustain it, and bear with a heavy moral force against those who reject it.

One very common and very serious difficulty is, that Councils, when called for such purposes, do not usually take sufficient time to thoroughly understand the case, and to put in proper form…

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Every organization which proposes to work smoothly, and yet efficiently, must have certain rules and regulations to be followed; certain laws for the individual members to obey. Failing in this—either without laws or with laws disregarded— all effort will go wide of the mark, and all endeavors, instead of succeeding and furthering each other, will counteract and interrupt each other; confusion will ensue, the wisest designs be frustrated, and the best laid plans become abortive. This is true everywhere. In the State, in the family, every association whether for business, politics, scientific, literary or art research or improvement, all must be regulated by laws adopted for the common good, to which obedience is to be rendered by the members. And the object sought to be attained must fail unless there be conformity to the laws by which the organization is bound together, and obedience to which constitutes its vital force.

There is no society to which these remarks apply more appropriately and with more emphasis, than to that one divinely constituted organization, the “Society of Jesus,” the Church of Christ. It has its laws, not human enactments, but divine. They are few and simple, not difficult to be understood or obeyed. “His commandments are not grievous;” and on conformity to them, both by the Church as a body, and by the individual members as well, depend the peace, harmony and efficiency of the society. When these regulations fall into disuse, and the good order of the body is neglected, it becomes weak and inefficient, neither commanding the confidence of its own members, nor the respect of the world. It is true that mere laws are a dead letter without the indwelling spirit of life in Christ Jesus. But the indwelling spirit of life becomes effectual only as it works to its purpose in harmony with those laws given for its guidance. Law and life! Life and law! Life to energize; law to guide. This is the philosophy and the method of the universe, both in nature and in grace.

To some the word discipline has an unpleasant sound. It seems punitive. It savors of transgression, conflict and punishment. But Church Discipline is not to be taken in this narrow sense alone nor does it develop these unlovely features, except where, by the culpable neglect of pastors and others it has fallen into decay, good order and the well-being of the body have been long disregarded, and the Church has become a lawless and disorderly company. Then a very hasty, and possibly an intemperate effort to make matters right, without sufficient prudence and precaution, may develop difficulties. As chronic disorder and disregard of lawful regulations in every society tend not only to a decay of efficient action, but to the ultimate destruction of the society itself, and prepare for conflict, if a vigorous effort be made to reestablish good order and the reign of law; so many a Church has declined even to imbecility, if not to death, by long neglect of judicious and healthful discipline. Many a Church has found serious trouble in reestablishing a healthful order and discipline, after long continued neglect and disorder. But many a Church has also found that a thorough course of Christian labor, and the reestablishment of a healthful scriptural discipline has brought back to the body order and harmony, reinvigorated its wasted energies, has produced a better tone of practical piety, and become the precursor of a revival of religion.

Discipline, in its larger sense, means training, cultivation, improvement, according to prescribed rules; subordination to law; administration of government and submission to lawfully constituted authority; from disco, I learn; disciple, a learner, one under discipline, taught and trained. Church discipline is sometimes distinguished as formative and corrective; the former having reference to culture, training and development according to Christian law, and the latter to the management of difficulties, and the correction of offenses as they arise in Church life and practice. It is to the latter, more especially, that attention is given in discussions on the subject, and the latter is usually understood to be meant when Church discipline is mentioned. To this more particularly is attention here given. But this is not because formative and cultural discipline for edification and development is less important, but these ends are largely attained by instruction from the pulpit, the various departments of worship and the general activities of Christian life.

That corrective discipline may be carried to an unwise and an injurious extent is not denied; but the…

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Is there any particular form of Church government revealed in the New Testament? And if so, what is it?

These questions will be variously answered by Christian scholars and Bible students. Some hold that no specific form can be deduced from the sacred records, and that no one form is best suited for all people and for all places; and that it was purposely left for Christian wisdom and prudence, guided by experience, to decide that question. But the greater part believe that a specific form is at least outlined in the New Testament; and, naturally enough, each one believes the form with which he is identified is that divinely given form. It may be safely allowed that no one class or company of Christians has attained to all the truth, leaving all others exclusively in error; and it is a comfort to know that, however believers may differ in opinion as to any matter of doctrine or of duty, if with loving hearts they sincerely desire to know the right and do it, they are blessed of God. As Peter said at the house of Cornelius, we may say, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.”—Acts 10:34,35.

If, however, there be any definite plan plainly taught or clearly deducible from the words of Christ or His inspired Apostles, we should, if possible, ascertain that fact and be guided accordingly. Or if—what would be equivalent—we can ascertain how the Apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit, organized and ordered the churches they founded, with what regulations they were instituted, and what polity was impressed upon them, our questions will be substantially, and, it should seem, satisfactorily answered. Indeed, there appears to be light on the subject in this direction; for though no formal plan of government is detailed, yet there are numerous incidental references in the Epistles which clearly disclose formative and conclusive facts in the case.

I. Three principal forms of Church government are in current use among the denominations:

1. The Prelatical; in which the governing power is in the hands of prelates or bishops, and the clergy generally, as in the Roman, Greek, English, and most of the Oriental communions.

2. The Presbyterian; in which the governing power resides in Assemblies, Synods, Presbyteries, and Sessions; as in the Scottish Kirk, the Lutheran, and the various Presbyterian bodies.

3. The Independent; in which the governing power rests entirely with the people, i.e., the body of the members of each local Church, each being entirely separate from and independent of all others, so far as authority and control are concerned; as among Baptists, Congregationalists, Independents, and some others.

Now, is either of these forms taught in the New Testament-And if so, which? And which best accords with the genius of the gospel, and with what we know of the constitution and government of the apostolic churches?

Baptists claim that a Christian Church is a congregation of baptized believers associated by mutual covenant, self-governing, and…

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Christian ordinances are defined to be “institutions of divine authority relating to the worship of God, under the Christian Dispensation.” In this general sense there are various ordinances; since preaching and hearing the word, prayer, singing, fasting, and thanksgiving may all be considered as institutions of divine authority.

But in a narrower and a more distinctive sense it has been common to call Baptism and the Lord’s Supper by this name, and to say they are the only Christian ordinances committed to the churches, and are for perpetual observance. These rites are also by some called sacraments the number of which the Catholic Church has increased to seven, including, with Baptism and the Eucharist, Confirmation, Penance, Extreme unction, Matrimony, and Orders. But in the sense in which the Roman and Greek Churches explain the meaning of sacrament, to which meaning other ritualistic churches do strongly incline. Baptism and the Supper are not sacraments at all. Sacraments, by them, are interpreted to mean not simply outward signs of inward grace and spiritual operations, but outward rites which work grace and produce spiritual operations. This view of sacramental efficacy Protestant confessions reject, and against it Baptists do strongly protest.

These two, therefore, Baptism and the Supper, are the two sacred rites, and the only ones, enjoined by Christ for perpetual observance in His churches. They are not only visible signs which appeal to the senses, but they are teaching institutions which appeal to the understanding and the heart. They are the two symbols of the new covenant; the two visible pillars of the spiritual temple; the two monuments of the new dispensation. Christ has appointed no others. They are positive institutions, as distinguished from those of a purely moral character, their claim to honor and obedience arising exclusively from the fact that Christ has appointed and made them obligatory. Their claim to respect and observance rests not on their peculiar fitness, though that is manifest, but on the simple fact that Christ has established them and commanded their observance.

These ordinances, so simple in form, so expressive in action, and so intelligible in meaning, have been the occasions of heated, sometimes of bitter controversy through all the ages of Christian history. Their forms have been changed, their purpose perverted, the manner of their administration encumbered by numerous and puerile ceremonials, and their entire effect and efficacy misinterpreted and misstated. Baptists claim to hold and use them in their original simplicity and purity. But a fuller discussion of the subject must be reserved to another place.

I. Baptism.

Baptism is sometimes called “the initiatory rite,” because persons are not received to membership in the churches until they are baptized. But baptism of itself does not admit to the…

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4 Church Officers

20 Feb 2023, by

Every form of organized society, whether civil, social or religious, is supposed to have officers, duly constituted to execute the laws, administer the government, and secure the ends contemplated by the organization. The Church is a commonwealth, a society, a family, and has its officers as leaders and administrators of its affairs. Officers, however, are not essential to the existence of a State, nor are they to the existence of a Church. They are nevertheless important to their highest efficiency, and the best exercise of their legitimate functions. The State does not lapse and cease to be, because its executive dies, resigns, or is removed. Nor does the Church cease to be a Church though it may be without officers. It was a Church before it had officers, and supplied these administrative functionaries from among its own members. And should they all resign, or be removed, the Church would still survive, and supply the deficiency by the election of others to fill their places.

What are the officers of a Christian Church? How are they secured? What are their functions? And whence is their authority? These are questions of importance to be asked and answered; and to which various replies will be given, according to the ecclesiastical theory on which the reply proceeds.

But suppose we make the questions somewhat more specific, and ask, “What are the Scriptural officers of a Christian Church?” We shall by this means simplify the inquiry, and be directed not to ecclesiastical standards, but to the New Testament for an answer—A source of authority which to all Christians ought to be more satisfactory than any other, in such matters; and to Baptists, certainly will be, if they be true to their convictions as Bible Christians.

They are of two grades.

In the New Testament we find but two orders pertaining to the ministry; but two officers to a Church. These are pastors and deacons. And, yet, this is a question still to some extent in dispute. All prelatical churches insist there are, and of right should be, three orders and the Romish Church has carried the number up to ten or twelve.

But if the Scriptures be appealed to, and primitive churches be accepted as examples, it would seem to be a question settled, that in apostolic times, and for many years after, pastors and deacons only were known as permanent Church officers. The introduction of other orders subsequently, was a part of that system of change and perversion, which eventually reared a gigantic and corrupt hierarchy on the ruins of the simplicity of the Gospel, and substituted an oppressive and tyrannical worldly establishment for the Church of Christ. All of which changes and corruptions come largely through the unwarranted assumptions of the clergy themselves.

I. Pastors.

In the New Testament the term episcopos, which is usually rendered bishop, and presbuteros, which is rendered elder, are used interchangeably, and often applied to the same person. The episcopos was an overseer, what the term properly denotes; it was the word used chiefly by the Greek Christians as applied to the pastor, who had the oversight of the flock, and performed the work of a shepherd in spiritual concerns. The term presbuteros or elder, was evidently derived from the synagogue, and used chiefly by Jewish Christians, to designate the same person, especially as in the synagogue elderly and dignified persons were selected as the official directors of religious affairs.

The term pastor signifies a shepherd, and well indicates the nature of the relation he sustains to the Church; that of leading, feeding, guiding and guarding the flock committed to his care. He is also called a minister {diakonos), one who serves and ministers to others; as the pastor is supposed to minister in holy things to the Church. Thus the prelatical distinction of Bishops, Priests and…

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The character of a building depends very much on the materials of which it is constructed. Christian disciples “are builded together for a habitation of God, through the Spirit.” Any society or association is largely what its constructive elements are. Combination and intercourse may, to a certain extent, modify individual peculiarities, but the corporate character will be the result of the various personalities which compose the body. The estimation in which will be held its internal life and order, the efficiency with which it will work toward its purposed end, will all be determined by the character of its individual elements.

It is sometimes said that a Church is a voluntary society. This is true in a sense, and only with an explanation. It is true in that no external force or authority can compel the relation of membership to be formed, or dissolved. The Church can compel no one to unite with it, nor can the individual oblige the body to receive him. But it is not true that it is a matter merely optional and indifferent whether or not a believer identifies himself with the Household of Faith. He is under moral obligation to do that. It is for his own spiritual good to do it; it is one of the appointed means of grace; the Church needs his presence and influence, and the cause of Truth is furthered by a combination of Christian influence and effort. All are under law to Christ, and are bound by sacred obligations to obey and please Him. He has ordained that His followers should associate themselves together in these brotherhoods of faith and affection. A Church, therefore, is more than a voluntary society: it is a society under law to Christ.

Church membership, therefore, becomes a question of grave moment, and should be carefully studied and well understood.

Let it be observed:

Note 1.—The character of the persons who are to constitute the churches and hold membership therein, is fixed and prescribed by Christ Himself, and is to remain permanent and unchanged.

Note 2.—Consequently, the Church, by whose act persons are to be formally admitted to membership, has no right or authority to alter the terms or conditions of membership, but must conform strictly to those prescribed by the Lawgiver; much less can the wish or the will of the pastor be allowed to change these conditions, since he has no authority in the case; still less can the desire or judgment of the candidate himself modify the divinely prescribed conditions.

Note 3.—The benefits to be derived by Church association and fellowship, whether to the individual or to the…

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A Christian Church is a company of regenerate persons, baptized on a profession of faith in Christ; united in covenant for worship, instruction, the observance of Christian ordinances, and for such service as the gospel requires; recognizing and accepting Christ as their supreme Lord and Lawgiver, and taking His Word as their only and sufficient rule of faith and practice in all matters of conscience and religion.

I. Meaning of the Word.

The word Church is of uncertain derivation: English, Church; Scottish, Kirk; Anglo-Saxon, Cyric; German, Kirche; Danish, Kyrke; Swedish, Kyrka; Russian, Zerkow. It is used as the equivalent, if not derived from the Hebrew Kahal; Latin, Curia and has usually been derived from the Greek Kuriakon—”belonging to the Lord.” This is, however, disputed by good authority. But Ekklesia is the accepted equivalent Greek word used in the New Testament, and translated Church. This word is used to designate the visible “Kingdom of heaven” on earth, the company of God’s elect people chosen in Christ Jesus; His spiritual Israel of the New Dispensation—what Alford calls “the congregation of the faithful.” [See Matt. 16:18; 18:17]

Ekklesia is composed of ek, from, or out of, and kaleo, to call—called out from. It denotes a company, or assembly of persons, called out, selected, chosen and separated from a larger company, a more general concourse of people. According to the usages of Greek civil life, the Ekklesia was, as the lexicons define it, “an assembly of citizens called together for deliberative purposes; a legislative assembly, called to discuss the affairs of state.” It was an orderly and an organized assembly, consisting of those possessing the rights of citizenship, for the consideration of public affairs, and the enactment and enforcement of laws pertaining to the public welfare, as distinguished from the common populace at large, an incidental concourse, or a disorderly crowd of people. [See Grimms-Wilkes N. T. Lexicon, Liddell & Scott, Robinson, et al.]

Bishop Trench gives the following elucidation:

“We have Ekklesia in three distinct stages of meaning—the Heathen, the Jewish, the Christian. In respect of the first, Ekklesia, as all know, was the lawful assembly in a free Greek city of all persons possessed of the rights of citizenship for the transaction of public affairs. That they were summoned, is expressed in the latter part of the word; that they were summoned out of the whole population, a select portion of it, including neither the populace, nor yet the strangers, nor those who had forfeited their civic rights; this is expressed in the first part. Both the calling, and the calling out, are moments to be remembered when the word is assumed into a higher Christian sense, for in them the chief part of its peculiar adaptation to its auguster uses lies.” – Synonyms of the New Testament, pp. 17, 18; Ed. 1837.

Still true to its original classical idea and scope of meaning, when the word was adopted into Christian literature and applied to higher and more sacred uses, it designated a company called out from the…

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I. Distinguishing Propositions

Proposition 1

The Bible is a Divine Revelation given of God to men, and is a complete and infallible guide and standard of authority in all matters of religion and morals; whatever it teaches is to be believed, and whatever it commands is to be obeyed; whatever it commends is to be accepted as both right and useful; whatever it condemns is to be avoided as both wrong and hurtful; but what it neither commands nor teaches is not to be imposed on the conscience as of religious obligation.

Proposition 2

The New Testament is the constitution of Christianity, the charter of the Christian Church, the only authoritative code of ecclesiastical law, and the warrant and justification of all Christian institutions. In it alone is life and immortality brought to light, the way of escape from wrath revealed, and all things necessary to salvation made plain; while its messages are a gospel of peace on earth and of hope to a lost world.

Proposition 3

Every man by nature possesses the right of private judgment in the interpretation of the Scriptures, and in all religious concerns; it is his privilege to read and explain the Bible for himself, without dictation from, or dependence on, any one, being responsible to God alone for his use of the sacred truth.

Proposition 4

Every man has the right to hold such religious opinions as he believes the Bible teaches, without harm or hindrance from any one on that account, so long as he does not intrude upon, or interfere with, the rights of others by so doing.

Proposition 5

All men have the right, not only to believe, but also to profess and openly declare, whatever religious opinions they may entertain, providing they be not contrary to common morality, and do no injustice to others.

Proposition 6

All men possess the common right to worship God according to the teachings of the Scriptures, as they understand them, without hindrance or molestation, so long as they do not injure or interfere with the rights of others by so doing.

Proposition 7

Civil governments, rulers and magistrates are to be respected, and in all temporal matters, not contrary to conscience and the word of God, to be obeyed; but they have no jurisdiction in spiritual concerns, and have no right of…

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26 Jan 2023, by

The following is designed, as its name implies, to be a directory to the doctrines and practices of Baptist churches. Its plan is different from that of any other work; more comprehensive in the range of its subjects, but more concise in its statement of facts. It is rather a hook for reference than a book for general reading. The arrangement is intended to be so clear and convenient, that any subject on which information is wanted, can be found at once. The style is adapted to the condition of those who desire information on such subjects, but who have little disposition for laborious or protracted investigation—instances of which are frequently occurring within the observation of every pastor.

There are great numbers of the younger members of our churches who, while they have a deep conviction that the doctrines they hold are according to the word of God, yet greatly need instruction as to church order and discipline, and the usages of the denomination. Indeed, there are many older members who might not be able to bring forward arguments to justify their faith and practice, or give information to those who desire to be instructed as to our denominational peculiarities. Besides, there are many outside the churches who often wish to know accurately what Baptists do believe and practise. These persons have, perhaps, small means to purchase, and little time to peruse many books. They desire to have the whole matter so condensed and definite that they can see it at a glance, and so reliable that they cannot doubt its correctness. The Directory is designed to supply this want.

Proof sheets of it were sent by the publishers to a number of ministers, eminent for learning and piety, residing in different sections of the country, who were requested to express their opinions of its merits, and also to make any suggestions that might improve it. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the very kind and generous terms in which they were pleased to speak of it, as well as for the very valuable suggestions which were made by several of them—which suggestions have, to a considerable degree, been adopted.

It is hoped that this work, prepared with much labor and care, and having met such general and generous approval, will be thought worthy to find a place in every church, and to be in the hands of every church member. That it may, by the divine blessing, contribute to the harmony, peace, and prosperity of our churches, is my sincere desire and prayer.

E. T. H.

New York, February 22, 1859.

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