Edward Hiscox's New Directory For Baptist Churches

4 Church Officers

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 Deacons, constituting three orders in the clergy, corresponding to the three orders. High-priest, Priest and Levite, in the Jewish hierarchy, finds no warrant in the use of the terms, episcopos, presbuteros and diakonos, in apostolic writings. And to this many distinguished prelatists, historians and commentators agree.

Neander, the most distinguished of Church historians, gives the following explanation:

“The name of presbyters, which was appropriated to this body, was derived from the Jewish Synagogue. But in the Gentile churches, formed by the Apostle Paul, they took the name (episcopoi) bishops, a term more significant of their office, in the language generally spoken by the members of these churches. The name of presbyters denoted the dignity of their office: that of bishops, on the other hand, was expressive rather of the nature of their office, to take the oversight of the Church. Most certainly no other distinction originally existed between them.” “They were not designed to exercise absolute authority, but to act as presiding officers and guides of an ecclesiastical republic; to conduct all things with the cooperation of the communities; as their ministers, and not as their masters.” “I can discover no other difference between the elders and bishops, in the Apostolic age, than that the first denotes the dignity, the second the duties of the office, whether the reference is to one or more.”—Ch. Hist. Vol. I., p. 184; Plant, and Train, p. 147; Intro, to Colemans Prim. Ch., p. 20; Plant, and Train, p. 148.

Mosheim says:

“The rulers of the churches were denominated sometimes Presbyters or elders—and indicative rather of the wisdom than the age of the persons; and sometimes also bishops; for it is most manifest that both terms are promiscuously used in the New Testament of one and the same class of persons.” “In those primitive times each Christian Church was composed of the people, the presiding officers, and the assistants or deacons. These must be the component parts of every society. The principal voice was that of the people; or of the whole body of Christians.”—Eccl. Hist. Cent. I. part 2, ch. II., secs. 5,8.

Waddington says:

“It is also true that in the earliest government of the first Christian Society—that of Jerusalem, not the elders only, but the whole Church, were associated with the Apostles; and it is even certain that the terms bishop and elder, or presbyter, were in the first instance, and for a short period, sometimes used synonymously, and indiscriminately applied to the same order in the ministry.”—Hist.Ch.,chap.II.,sec.2.

Gieseler says:

“The new churches everywhere formed themselves on the model of the mother Church at Jerusalem. At the head of each were the elders (presbyter, bishop), all officially of equal rank, though in several instances a peculiar authority seems to have been conceded to some one individual, from personal considerations.”—Ch. Hist., Period I., div. I., chap. II., sec. 29.

Coleman says:

”It is generally admitted by Episcopal writers on this subject that in the New Testament, and in the earliest ecclesiastical writers the terms bishop and presbyter, or elder, are synonymous, and denote one and the same office.” “The office of presbyter was undeniably identical with that of bishop, as has been shown above.” “Only two orders of officers are known in the Church until near the close of the second century. Those of the first are styled either bishops or presbyters; of the second, deacons.”—Ancient Christianity Exemplified, chap. VIII., sec. 6; chap. VI., sec. 5.

This author still further cites many of the early Christian Fathers, who took the same view of the subject, declaring that only two orders existed in the primitive ministry, and that all pastors were of equal rank among themselves. Of these writers are: Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Jerome, Chrysostom, Theodoret and others; authorities extending from A.D. 100 to A.D. 1000, and nearly all of them defenders of prelatical supremacy.

Dr. Jacobs, an Anglican churchman, says:

“The only bishops mentioned in the New Testament were simple presbyters; the same persons being called bishop (episcopos), superintendent, overseer, from his taking an oversight of his congregation, as is distinctly shown by Acts 22:20 and other passages; and a presbyter {presbuteros) or elder, from the reverence due to age. It may, however, be observed that the term elder is of Hebrew origin, while that of bishop is Hellenic, and is applied in the New Testament only to the officers of Gentile churches, though it did not supersede the use of the word presbyter among them.”—Eccl. Polity of N. T.,pp. 72-3.

Schaff says:

“Bishops or presbyters. These two terms denote in the New Testament the same office: the first signifying its duties; the second, its dignity.”—Hist. Christ. Ch., First period, sec. 42, I.

Kurtz says:

“That originally the presbuteroi (elders) were the same as the episcopoi (bishops), we gather with absolute certainty from the statements of the New Testament, and of Clement of Rome, a disciple of the Apostles.”—Text-Book of Ch. Hist., Vol. I., p. 67.

Prof. Fisher says:

“Until we approach the close of Elizabeth’s reign there is no trace in the Anglican Church of the jure divino idea of episcopacy—the doctrine that bishops are necessary to the being of a Church, and that without episcopal ordination the functions of the ministry cannot be lawfully discharged. “—History Christ. Church, p. 373.

Prof. Plumptre, a Church of England clergyman, and a prominent biblical scholar, declares the identity of episcopos and presbuteros in New Testament usage, and adduces four reasons from the Acts and the Epistles for this opinion. To his statement and proofs he adds:

“Assuming, as proved, the identity of bishops and elders of the New Testament, we have to inquire into: 1. The relations which existed between the two titles. 2. The functions and mode of appointment of the men to whom both titles applied. 3. Their relations to the general government and discipline of the Church.”—Smith’s Bible Diet., An. Bishop.

The Ency. Britannica says:

“The identity of the office of bishop and presbyter being thus clearly established, it follows that the presbyterate is the highest permanent office in the Church, and that every faithful pastor of a flock is successor to the Apostles in everything in which they were to have any successors.”—Art. Presbyterian.

The Pantalogia says:

“There is no scriptural difference between bishop and presbyter.” Furthermore, the same competent authority adds: “To this purpose the declaration made of the functions of bishops and priests, signed by more than thirty civilians and divines, among whom were thirteen bishops, Cranmer and others included, affirm that in the New Testament there is no mention of any degrees or distinctions in orders, but only of deacons, or ministers, and priests or bishops.”—Arts. Bishop and Presbyter.

In Acts 20:17 it is stated that Paul called together the elders (presbyters) of the Ephesian Church. But in Acts 20:18, he calls these same persons bishops (overseers). In this case both terms were applied to the same office, and were used interchangeably to designate the same officer.

Dean Alford says:

“The E.V. has hardly dealt fairly in this case with the sacred text in rendering episcopous, v.28, overseers; whereas, it ought there, as in all other places, to have been bishops, that the fact of elders and bishops having been originally and apostolically synonymous, might be apparent to the English reader.” Com. on Acts 20:17. “The episcopoi of the N. T. Have nothing in common with our bishops.” “The identity of the episcopos and presbuteros in apostolic times is evident, from Titus 1:5-7.”—Com. on 1 Tim. 3:1.

Paul and Timothy, in their address to the Philippian Christians, specify three classes as composing the Church, and manifestly consider these as constituting the entire body. They say: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus, which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”—Phil. 1:1. Saints, bishops and deacons, therefore, comprised the entire membership—the whole Church. Bishops and pastors were identical.

Timothy is instructed by Paul as to the qualifications necessary for those who should be chosen as pastors and placed over the churches. These officers are called bishops. Particular directions are given as to the choice of bishops and deacons, but no mention is here made of elders or presbyters, clearly because they were the same as bishops.—1 Tim. 3:1-10.

Titus is in like manner directed by Paul to place pastors over the churches in Crete. These pastors he calls elders in the fifth verse and bishops in the seventh. Here both terms are applied to the same persons, and must indicate the same office—Titus 1:5,7.

But little discussion would be needed on a question so clear, at least when viewed from the position of the apostolical epistles, were it not for the pertinacity with which the somewhat arrogant, and not seldom offensive assumption is put forth by Episcopal denominations—both clergy and laity—that there are no genuine churches save those duly organized with three orders in their ministry, and no scripturally ordained ministers except such as have been ordained by the imposition of hands by Episcopal bishops, as a superior order of the clergy. How groundless and absurd such lofty pretensions are, let any careful reader of the New Testament judge. The “historic episcopate” finds no foundation and no warrant in the New Testament.

During their lifetime the Apostles would, of necessity, be regarded with peculiar veneration, as having been the companions of, and received their appointment directly from, Christ Himself: and, also, as having been specially inspired and qualified for their work. But in all of this, they had no successors. After their death, such pastors as had associated with them, or had been appointed to office by them, would, for that reason, receive special regard from the churches and the younger ministry, and this special regard might deepen into reverence so profound as to concede them a foremost official position—a kind of patriarchal attitude among the churches, with a larger dignity of office and a larger liberty of action than was allowed to others. They in time could easily lead to the recognition of a higher rank and a superior order in the ministry.

Moreover, in process of time, as the first planted churches in the more important cities grew older and stronger, they might readily claim, and have accorded to them, a preeminence over the newer and feebler—especially the suburban and rural churches. In like manner the pastors of the older city churches could, without difficulty, assume a preeminence over the pastors of the smaller churches about them. In this way grew up the rule of the metropolitan churches over the provincial churches, and the authority assumed by the pastors of the former over their brethren in humbler positions, resulting finally in a clerical caste, or higher order of the clergy.

Gieseler, in his history of the Church, declares that:

“After the death of the Apostles and their pupils, to whom the general direction of the churches had always been conceded, some one among the presbyters of each Church was suffered gradually to take the lead in its affairs. In the same irregular way the title of bishop was appropriated by this first presbyter.”—Ch. Hist., Period I., div. 1., chap. III., sec. 32.

To the same effect is the testimony of Neander and nearly all early Church historians, including many prelatists. Moreover, it appears that each Church usually contained several elders, and the one among them who presided in their meetings, and, whether for age or ability, was more prominent, would come to be recognized as peculiarly the episcopos, though all were of equal rank. Thus gradually matured, through a course of years, either because of assumption on the one hand, or of concession on the other, or of both, that vast, complicated and despotical system of ecclesiastical domination and hierarchical tyranny, which culminated in the oppressive rule of the Greek and Roman establishments, falsely called churches.

This broad departure from apostolic practice, and from the order and simplicity of the Gospel, was natural, though unfortunate, and no imitation of it, however remote, should be countenanced or continued now. Its course of evil progress is easily traced in history, and generally conceded by scholars and divines. Not the less to be deplored that it was begun soon after the Apostles and their immediate successors had ceased to watch over and guide, by their wisdom and piety, the churches they had planted.

The Pastorate and the Ministry.

The Pastorate and the Ministry are related, but not identical. A pastor is a minister, but a minister is not necessarily a pastor. The minister is the kerux, the herald, who preaches the Gospel, who proclaims the glad tidings to men. The pastor is the poimen, who folds and feeds and leads the flock. The pastor has the care of a Church; the minister is a preacher, and may or may not have the care of a Church. James is understood to have been pastor of the Church in Jerusalem; but Paul and Barnabas, Apolos and Cephas preached the Gospel from place to place, as ambassadors of Christ and heralds of the great salvation, planting churches and setting in order affairs, but without a local and permanent cure of souls.

In our time—though we have evangelists, missionaries and other ministerial service without pastoral responsibility—yet, for the most part, ministerial service is identified with the pastorate. It may be, as some have supposed, that in primitive times, when in each Church the Spirit developed a plurality of ministers, some—gifts and graces according to their peculiar—devoted themselves especially to pastoral work, as each Church might desire or have need, and some to preaching only, or chiefly. Certainly, in all ages, some have been better adapted to the one department of the ministry, and some to the other. Thus could the churches have the largest amount and the best application of the ministerial service, and be most edified.

The present discussion will be confined to the pastorate, its functions and relations, leaving a more general consideration of the ministry to another chapter.

1. Nature of the pastors work.

The religious cultivation of his Church and congregation constitutes the peculiar work of the pastor. It is the shepherding of the flock. He is not to be indifferent to their temporal interests, but their spiritual welfare is his special charge. He is to be the ever ready, sympathizing and helpful friend to all; but his endeavors should aim at, and be made subservient to, the ultimate purpose of the Gospel to win souls to Christ, and edify the saints. The details of his work will be manifold; and while he should not assume too many duties, or take responsibilities alien to his proper calling, he must not too hastily repulse those who repose confidence in him, and whom he may be able in many ways to benefit by a variety of service.

The pulpit will constitute the stronghold of his power on his congregation and the community. For though a pastor, he must still be a preacher, a Gospel herald to his flock. The minister is, perhaps, first of all, a teacher. Therefore he must not neglect his preparations for the pulpit. If he cannot hold the people by his preaching, he cannot in any other way. Many devices may be resorted to, to draw and hold an audience, some of which deserve no better name than tricks, which if they serve their purpose at all, are short lived, and fail utterly to command the confidence of thoughtful people. For, while some men have not, and cannot have the same attractive power in the pulpit as others, yet sound Gospel sermons, ably prepared, and earnestly delivered, constitute the only kind of pulpit service which can long commend itself to the consciences of the people. He who neglects his pulpit preparations for any cause whatever, will find frequent pastoral changes to be imperative and possibly, not always in the most pleasant way. The same will be true of him who relies on a facility for extemporaneous discourse, under the inspiration of a present audience, to the neglect of previous careful preparation.

Emphasis must also be laid on pastoral visitation. Here peculiarly he is the pastor. He may not visit so much as many would wish. Some are never satisfied. Nor should he visit to the detriment of his pulpit preparation. Since, according to the present constitution of religious society, the Christian minister is expected to fill the twofold office of preacher and pastor, he should labor to discharge the functions of both, with the greatest possible fidelity and success, giving to each conscientiously its appropriate share of his ability. He must know his people in their homes; must know their joys and sorrows as they themselves will relate them. They must know him, as they cannot know him in the pulpit simply. Both he and they miss boundless good, if this be not done. These visits should be brief and religious. They should not degenerate into social chit-chat, or even into religious gossip. They must not be morose nor melancholy, but genial, gentle and sympathetic. Young ministers may find it hard work, and dread it as a drudgery; but they will come to feel differently when for a few times they have been able to comfort the sorrowing, relieve the burdened, and know the luxury of doing good to those in trouble.

It would not be just nor true to say, that the pastor’s sphere is exclusively the spiritual life of the church, while the deacons are assigned to its temporalities. The pastor has the oversight and superintendence of all the interests of the Church, and of all departments of its work, both spiritual and temporal. And while he should not lord it over God’s heritage, he should feel himself responsible for the guardianship and watch-care of all with which he is put in trust. Nor should he needlessly interfere with the deacons, or trustees, or Sunday-school workers, nor assume dictatorial authority over others in their service. Yet it is his privilege and his duty to hold a watchful supervision over all, that all may be done to the edifying of the body of Christ.

The pastor should have great care for the religious culture of children and the youth. But not to the neglect of others. Class distinctions are invidious, unhappy in their influence in a Church, and should never be encouraged, or countenanced. As this is not a treatise on pastoral duties, it need be pursued no further than to say, the pastorate should be assumed, not of constraint, nor for selfish ends, but out of love to Christ, and for the triumphs of His truth.

Note.—Ministers are not priests in any ecclesiastical sense to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people, or propitiate an offended Deity; nor yet do they mediate between God and men, as is taught by the Romish, and other sacramentarian communions. They cannot consecrate elements, and have no exclusive right to the ministration of sacraments—indeed, there are no sacraments, in the commonly understood sense of that term, as means which in themselves effectually convey grace. The minister is not a priest, save in that sense in which all true Christians constitute a “royal priesthood.” Sainthood, therefore, without distinction of rank or office, constitutes a spiritual priesthood. Thus also said Peter to the elect believers, scattered abroad. “Ye also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ.” “A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.”—1 Peter 2:5,9. Christ Jesus, the Great High-Priest of our profession, is the one only mediator between God and men.

2. How pastors are obtained.

If it be asked how the churches are to secure pastors, the reply is, by election, as the free choice of the people, in each individual Church. It is an essential part of the independency of the churches, the right to choose their pastors and teachers; and that no individual, or combination of men, can appoint pastors over them, or compel a Church to accept as officers those whom they have not chosen by their free suffrages. This is the polity of the New Testament, and has ever been the usage of our people. A free people demand and maintain the right to choose their own rulers. They may ask, or accept advice; but no man is a pastor to any people until he has been chosen by a majority vote of that Church. Nor does it require the consent of any synod, presbytery or council for him to enter at once upon the duties of the office. Primarily and properly, though not necessarily, the pastor is chosen from among the members, after the Church has had evidence that the Spirit had called to, and fitted him for, the work of the ministry; and after having abundant evidence of his adaptation to the position. But if not a member of that particular Church, he should become such before entering upon his official duties as pastor of it.

The selection and election of a pastor is one of the most important acts—if not the most important—pertaining to the independency of the Church. The interest of the body, and the welfare of religion depend so largely on it, that it should be entered upon with the utmost care, deliberation and prayer—prayer for divine direction. That a wise and safe leader, an able and instructing teacher, a devout, spiritual and holy man may be secured for the sacred office, and that the choice be influenced by no carnal ambition, by no personal prejudices, and for no selfish ends. When the choice is made, and the pastor secured, then let him be received, loved, supported, honored and obeyed, as one sent of God for this sacred work.

And let it be further considered that no man can do of himself all that is desired and expected of a pastor. He must not only have divine help, but he must have the sympathy, cooperation, and prayers of the Church. Some miserable failures in the ministry are due to the faults of the ministers themselves; still more are due to the churches, which too often abuse what they professed was the gift of God, when they secured their pastors.

3. The Pastor’s Authority.

The pastor is to be loved, honored and obeyed, in the Lord. He is placed over the Church by both the Head of the body, and by the free and voluntary act of the body itself. Though he professes no magisterial authority, and has no power, either spiritual or temporal, to enforce mandates or inflict penalties, yet the very position he occupies as teacher and leader supposes authority vested in him. On the one hand, the minister is not to be regarded with ignorant and blind devotion, as if possessed of superhuman attributes, whose official acts must be venerated even though his private life be scandalous; nor yet, on the other hand, is he to be considered a mere puppet for the capricious mistreatment of such as wish to show their independence, and “use their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness.”

As a rule, the pastor who maintains a dignified and consistent Christian and ministerial life, commending himself to the confidence of the people, will receive all the deference he desires, and will have accorded to him all that personal respect and official reverence which he needs to claim. His authority will be a moral force, to which those who love and honor him will yield. He need not worry and fret because he does not receive the respect which he thinks his due. Let him command it by his character and deportment. He may too much attempt to enforce his authority. As a preacher of the gospel his authority is of another and a higher kind, in that he is an ambassador from the king, and speaks with an authority more than human. True, his words, even in the pulpit, are not beyond question, since they are to be judged by the infallible standard of the word of God. But in the administration of Church affairs he should secure the cooperation of his members, and gain his object by reason and persuasion, rather than attempt to force compliance by authoritative dictation.

4. Length of the Pastorate.

The spirit of Christian liberty, and the voluntary principle on which all Christian institutions should be supported, control the relations of pastor and people. There is no power that can compel a Church to accept a pastor, or a pastor to accept a Church. The relation is formed by mutual agreement between them. And when once formed, the relation can be dissolved by no external authority, civil or ecclesiastical, but by the mutual consent of the parties themselves. In some of the other denominations, where ecclesiastical systems instead of Church independency prevail, the relations of the pastorate are regulated by higher official authority, instead of by the mutual agreement of the parties. Even there, however, the free spirit of religious life manifests itself, indirectly, if not directly, and the churches do not quietly consent to receive pastors unwelcome to them, nor to retain them when the relation becomes irksome, notwithstanding the action of bishops, conferences, or presbyteries.

The ideal pastorate is, no doubt, life-long; but in practical life this is seldom realized. In theory there is something beautiful in the case of a minister who spends his whole life among the same people, loved, honored and venerated till his death; around whom the new generation grows up as his supporters, when the fathers have passed away. Honored by his compeers, loved by the young, venerated by the children, he becomes the typical patriarch and shepherd of the flock. Such things have been; but seldom can they now be found—certainly not in our denomination. And perhaps, on the whole, it may be just as well. The restless spirit of a headlong age and a busy life demands change—change in hope of progress, but change at any rate. The romance of a beautiful theory cannot control the activities of society, not even in Christian circles, since there, also, a carnal, utilitarian spirit is likely to rule.

It is unquestionably true that the long pastorates have their trials no less severe—sometimes more painful—than short ones. The pastor has more than once seen the time when, restless and uneasy, he would gladly have resigned, had any eligible field elsewhere opened for him. And the Church has more than once seen the time when it would have rejoiced at a change, but had too much regard for him, and too much respect for themselves, to force a change. Many a pastor, who has the faculty of “holding on,” has outlived his usefulness on a given field, either because devoted to the theory of long pastorates, or because he saw no way to better his situation; and that, too, very likely, when he knew the people would be quite willing for a change; quite willing for a change for the sake of the cause, though they loved and honored him.

Quite as unfortunate in its effects, and more frequently than long and fruitless pastorates, is the sudden and hasty change so often made by many, and sometimes on the most trivial occasion. There are in every Church, most likely, mischief-makers, whose influence is chiefly felt in opposing others and stirring up strife. Let a pastor possess his soul in patience, and not be made unhappy by every little cross-current in his affairs. But if any considerable number of his kind, prudent and judicious brethren think a change is desirable; or if he himself, after long and prayerful consideration, believes it his duty to leave, let him act accordingly. But let a minister flee “Church quarrels” as he would pestilence. He may not be responsible for them, but if he becomes involved in them, though the merits of the case may be on his side, yet he cannot remain to fight them out without suffering more in peace of mind and reputation than any victory he can win will be worth. Let him retire to more quiet fields, where he can live in peace and do good without conflict, and leave the fighting to those who have less at stake. The world is wide, and he can do good and be happy in many another field.

5. Pastoral Support.

A pastor should be well and generously supported as to his salary, according to the ability of the Church he serves. Few things exhibit the essential meanness of human nature—Christian human nature even—more clearly than for a people to stint and crowd a pastor down to the smallest pittance, while they have an abundance, or live in affluence. The true minister of Christ will cheerfully share necessities with his people. But it is cruel and contemptible for them to lade him with heavy burdens which they are not willing to help him bear. He will not expect to live up to the standard of the wealthiest he ought not to be expected to live down to the standard of the poorest. And if there be one thing more dishonorable than cramping him to the smallest amount of salary, it is that refinement of cruelty of not paying him the salary agreed upon, when it is due, compelling him to endure the shame and grief of living in debt, unable to pay for the necessaries of life, while they have an abundance.

When the Church extends a call they name the amount they are willing to pay. Of course it is optional with him whether to accept the call on such conditions. If he does, he cannot find fault that they give no more. Unless, indeed, as is not unfrequently the case, they delude him with the promise that they will increase the amount the next year; a promise often made, but very seldom kept. But let the stipulated sum be regularly and promptly paid, otherwise he will not be able promptly to pay his debts, and his reputation will be compromised, and his character imperiled. It is a fearfully bad and injurious thing for a clergyman to get the name of not paying his debts. In the payment of salary, never allow donations and personal presents to be counted. It is little less than an insult to ask a minister to discount his salary for a bushel of potatoes, a bag of meal, or a barrel of apples. These personal presents are of value in the family; can often be made without sacrifice, and will go far to eke out a scanty support. But let them be personal presents and the salary come by itself, in full tale, and promptly.

It may be added also, with propriety, that a minister devoted to Christian work should not engage in secular employments simply for the purpose of making money. But if the Church cannot, or will not, support him in comfort, he may, if opportunity offers, add by the labors of his hands what will relieve himself and family from want—as Paul sustained himself by tent-making that he might the better preach the Gospel.

6. The Pastor a Peacemaker.

Troubles in Church life unfortunately do sometimes arise. And whether the pastor be the cause, or only the victim of them, he always more or less suffers from them. Very many of these troubles are no doubt to be charged upon pastors themselves. If they do not originate them, their indiscreet and unwise management and partisan conduct foment instead of allaying dissension. Some pastors, like some private members, are imprudent, irascible, impetuous and severe. It is not wise to give heed to everything said and done. Many exasperating things are cured or conquered by letting them alone. A minister of the Gospel, of all men, should be a peacemaker. He should soothe and heal. It is better for himself and better for all concerned. He must “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Of course he has his rights, which are not to be lightly invaded; he is not required to be trifled with, or trampled on, for the sport of the envious or the vile. But he is to be an example to the flock in patient endurance.

On the other hand, the Church should carefully guard the reputation and the feelings of their pastor, and not allow the gossip-loving or the envious to assail him. His people are bound to protect him. If he be in fault, let them tell him so, and win him from his mistakes. A pastor ought not to be compelled to stand guard as a watchful sentinel over his own good name, to defend it against the idle but wicked calumnies of mischievous tongues. There ought to be advocates and defenders on every side. Ordinarily there will be. Both pastor and people should regard all dissension and strife with so much dread as to check it by any amount of effort and sacrifice at the very beginning. If, however, it defies all attempts at repression, and involves the peace and harmony of the Church, the pastor will find it wise to flee from the windy storm, and serve the cause he loves in some more quiet sphere.

Churches cannot be expected to prosper, or the Gospel to have free course, while rent by dissension and strife, especially if it be strife connected with, or on account of the pastor. The philosophy of spiritual and religious growth is the same now as at first, when this record was made: “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”—Acts 9:31.

Note 1.—Great care is needed in the selection of a pastor. Grave interests are committed to his charge, as the religious teacher, leader, and example for the flock. Very serious responsibility devolves on the deacons and leading members of the Church especially. An act so vitally connected with the welfare of the cause and the spread of the Gospel, should be preceded by, and accompanied with, earnest and protracted prayer for divine direction in the choice.

Note 2.—In calling a man to the pastorate, the Church should take deliberate care to know his record; what he has done elsewhere, and how he is esteemed and valued where he has previously lived and labored. It is a piece of reckless folly, of which churches are often guilty—and for which they justly suffer—that on the credit of a few flashy or fascinating sermons, wholly ignorant of his private character and of his ministerial history, they call and settle a pastor. A man of deep piety, thoroughly in love with the word of God, is much to be preferred to the brilliant platform declaimer.

Note 3.—If a young man without a record is called to be ordained and begin his pastorate, his reputation for piety, sound sense, and pulpit ability should be carefully considered and well understood. If he be of the right spirit and the right material, he will grow into larger usefulness through study, the endowment of the Spirit, and the prayers of the people.

Note 4.—In giving a call, the Church usually appoints a meeting for that express purpose, notice being publicly given two Sundays in succession, the purpose of the meeting being distinctly stated in the notice, and a three-quarters vote of all present at such a meeting should be deemed essential to a call. Certainly no prudent or self-respecting man would accept a call on anything less than that. Nor even on that if but a very small number are opposed to him. Such meeting should be managed with Christian sincerity, without caucusing or partisanship for the purpose of electing a favorite man. The candidate should be informed exactly how the vote stands, and what the feeling toward him is, concealing nothing. Let there be transparent honesty inso delicate and important a matter, and no deception practised.

Note 5.—The connection between pastor and people is sometimes made for a specified and limited time. But more generally—now almost universally—for an indefinite time, to be dissolved at the option of either party, by giving three months notice; or otherwise by mutual agreement. Permanency in this relation is greatly to be desired, as tending to the best good of all concerned, if it be the permanency of active concord. Trifling disadvantages are better endured than remedied at the expense of more serious evils, which frequent changes seldom fail to bring to both pastor and people.

Note 6.—The too common practice of hearing many candidates preach on trial cannot be approved, and usually works evil to the Church which indulges in it. A few sermons preached under such circumstances form no just criterion of a man’s ministerial ability, pastoral qualifications, or personal worth. If the churches wish to avoid men unsuited to them, and especially if they wish to escape the plague of unworthy men in their pulpits, they must use more caution in the calling and settlement of pastors.

Note 7.—Is it right for one Church to call a pastor away from another Church? Merely to call a man would be neither wrong nor dishonourable—would violate no law of personal courtesy or of Christian comity as among the churches. Let the responsibility, then, rest with him of accepting or declining the call. But if one Church should use other means to unsettle him by arguments, persuasions, and the offer of special inducements, it would be both unchristian and dishonorable. It would surely not be doing as they would wish to be done by.

II. Deacons.

The term deacon (diakonos) in the New Testament means a minister; a servant; one who ministers to, or serves others. This, taken in a large sense, gives a very wide range of meaning to the word. It is applied to the Apostles and even to Christ himself. In ecclesiastical usage, however, it designates an officer in the Church. But precisely what relation the diaconate sustains to the Church and the pastorate is a matter of opinion or of interpretation, in respect to which men differ.

Those who favor prelatical forms of Church organization and government, claim, as has been heretofore stated, a threefold ministry, and demand an episcopate, a pastorate, and a diaconate. The deacon, then, is the first and lowest order of the ministry. But Presbyterian and Independent Churches reject the episcopate, holding that bishop and pastor are the same, and the deaconship does not constitute an order in the ministry, taking that word in its ordinary sense, though the deacon be in the primitive sense a minister, but a minister of temporalities, and a helper to the pastor in his ministry of the Word.

1. Their Origin.

The diaconate is usually supposed to have originated in the election of the Seven, as helpers to the Apostles, recorded in Acts 6:1-6; though they were not called deacons. Some, however, have regarded the election of the Seven as a temporary expedient to meet that special emergency, and claim that they had no successors. But inasmuch as a similar service in Church work became permanent, similar help would be permanently needed. Also since the Apostle subsequently recognized the office in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, giving specific directions as to the qualifications necessary for those who should fill it, we are in no great perplexity as to the fact or the nature of the diaconate as permanent in the churches.

Subsequent to the Pentecost, the large ingathering of converts had so multiplied the number, that the care of the needy among them and such temporal concerns as were a necessity, became a burden to the Apostles, so great as seriously to interfere with their spiritual duties in the ministry of the word. Hence, having called the multitude of the disciples together, they explained the matter and requested them to select “seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom,” to whom this service should be committed, that they themselves might “give themselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” This request was complied with and seven men selected, whom the Apostles, set apart to the work for which they were chosen, by prayer and the laying on of hands.

2. Their Duties.

They are to be chosen by a free vote of the Church—”the multitude of the disciples”—and are to be faithful, prudent, experienced, and devout men. They are to have charge of the sick and needy members, and whatever temporal affairs may require attention. They are also to act as counselors and assistants of the pastor in advancing the general interests of the body, both temporal and spiritual. Of the original seven, Philip and Stephen were most effective preachers of the Gospel, but it was not for this they were specially chosen. With many of our churches the deaconship has come to be a merely nominal affair, regarded as of small importance, and accomplishing a questionable service. This ought not so to be.

3. Their Number.

The number of deacons in a Church is a matter, discretionary with the body. Usually it is from two to seven, according to the conditions and necessities of the case; the latter being the original scriptural number, many unwisely consider it needful to have seven, whether the Church be large or small. Deacons, however, should not be appointed merely to keep the ranks full, nor as official ornaments, but only for real and needed service to be rendered by them. And the men appointed should be fit men for that service.

4. Their Time of Service.

The period of time for which they are chosen, as well as the number, is discretionary with the Church, since no scriptural precept or precedent directs. More commonly they have been chosen for an indefinite period, which was substantially for life, unless they resigned, died, or removed. But since it not unfrequently happens that persons in the office become inefficient and sometimes obstructive, the practice of electing them for a limited period has come to be quite prevalent; generally for three years. In this way the office expires by limitation, and if better men are available they can be chosen without offense. Which is the better rule, each Church must judge for itself. Other things being equal, permanency in this as well as in the pastoral office, usually tends to secure a higher regard for the office itself and greater usefulness on the part of those who fill it.

5. Their Ordination.

The Seven were set apart to the discharge of their duties by prayer and the laying on of hands by the Apostles, as indicating the sacred and important duties committed to them. In our older churches this practice was carefully adhered to, as it still is by some, particularly at the South. But in many parts, of late, it has fallen very much into disuse, and the diaconate is regarded as little more than a committee service. The office is coming to be far too little esteemed, and the scriptural qualifications of the men chosen, too little insisted on. Ordination, if generally practised, would invest both with more importance. Too much care cannot be taken to secure the right kind of men for the office, when we consider that the permanent influence of a deacon is scarcely surpassed by that of the pastor himself. A good deacon is a peculiar blessing both to the pastor and the Church.

Note 1.—Notice that the deaconship was not instituted by Christ, but by the Apostles, and grew out of the emergencies of the case. The fact that Paul subsequently recognized the office and specified the qualifications which the incumbents should possess, shows that it was to remain a part of the permanent constitution of the churches.

Note 2.—The Seven were elected by the Church, that is, by “the multitude of the disciples; “they were chosen from among their own number, but their setting apart or designation to their work was by the Apostles with prayer and the laying on of hands. This is called their ordination, and gave added importance and impressiveness to the office, and the work to which they were chosen.

Note 3.—It deserves notice that while no instance is found in the New Testament in which any preacher of the Gospel was inducted into his office by formal ordination or by any ceremony whatever—hands were laid on Paul and Barnabas when sent to the heathen, but they had then been in the ministry many years now ceremonial ordination to the ministry is strenuously insisted on. And yet, while we have primitive precedent for formal ordination of deacons, now that ceremony is very generally disregarded.

Note 4.—The qualifications made requisite for the office sufficiently indicate its importance, and the care with which it should be filled. “Men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom.” Indeed, these qualifications differ but slightly from those required for bishops or pastors.

Note 5.—It is evident from the character of the Seven, and the personal history of some of them subsequently, that while their specific official duties were the temporalities of the Church, yet at the same time they were foremost as counselors and co-adjutors with the Apostles in the spiritual interests as well. Having been among the most devout, prudent, and faithful before their election, and as the reason for their election, they would not be less so afterward. Such are the men for the office.

Note 6.—Some people and some churches seem to think, that about the only duty of a deacon is to pass the elements at the celebration of the Supper. And so the office becomes almost a nullity. Any one on whom the pastor may call can pass the elements. The original “serving of tables” was quite a different work from this. The diaconate implies a substantial and an important service in the Church, of which the serving at the Supper is a proper, but only an incidental adjunct. If their practical relations to the Church be reduced to this, they may well be considered as little more than an ornamental appendage to an organization.

Note 7.—The secular concerns of the Church, including its financial affairs, would seem legitimately to be embraced in the duties of the deaconship according to the original purpose, as belonging to its temporalities, but now these matters are usually committed to an entirely different class of men known as trustees, elected under the specific direction of State laws.

Note 8.—Deacons should be watchful guardians of the purity and good order of the churches, striving to maintain a healthful tone of piety and Christian activity in the body. But they do not constitute a coordinate branch for the administration of its government, and in the exercise of their functions must act only in conjunction with the pastor, not independent of him; possibly, except in very rare and urgent cases. Hence, while it is desirable for the pastor to have meetings with his deacons often or statedly for consultation and advice, it is not proper for them to hold meetings as a “board of deacons,” independent of and without the advice of the pastor, as sometimes is done.

Note 9.—In the absence of a pastor it becomes the duty of the deacons to conduct the devotional meetings, provide for the supply of the pulpit and administer the affairs of the body generally. In case there be no pastor it would be legitimate for them to bring before the Church, as by them directed, such persons as were deemed suitable candidates for the pastorate. But this is often, perhaps usually, performed by a “pulpit committee” appointed for that purpose.

Note 10.—The deacons’ wives (gunaikos), mentioned in 1 Tim. 3:2, were probably not the wives of deacons, as has usually been inferred, but deaconesses or female assistants, appointed by the churches to minister to the sick and perform other services to those of their own sex, which could with more propriety be done by them than by the deacons or other male members. A few churches retain the practice; and since female members in all the churches are the more numerous, and as a rule, the more efficient in charitable ministrations, it is difficult to see why such a class of helpers, more or less formally designated for Christian work, should not be continued in our churches.

III. Other Officers.

The above named officers constitute a twofold ministry for the churches, and all that are provided for by the New Testament economy, and all that are necessary to the best organization and highest efficiency of these bodies, since all the functions essential to a working Church may be efficiently discharged by these alone. Yet it is usual to supplement these by several called “Church officers,” merely as a matter of convenience or of expediency.

Thus a clerk is appointed to take minutes and preserve records of its business proceedings, with all other papers belonging to the body. A treasurer is chosen to hold, disburse, and account for moneys for Church purposes. In most of the States, if not all, trustees are elected, as required by law, according to specified procedure, in order legally to hold property and rightly to administer its financial affairs. But the duties of these various offices could well be performed by the deacons and constitute a part of their appropriate work. Yet it may be right and wise to distribute the labors of the Church among its members, all the more so if those better fitted for these peculiar services can be found. Especially should the requirements of civil law be conceded, as in the case of trustees, in order to enjoy the legal rights of corporate bodies as property holders.

Note 1.—The laws for the incorporation of religious societies differ in the different States. In some the Church itself can become an incorporate body, and thus control and administer its temporal affairs as it does the spiritual, without interference by any persons not Church members. This is right, and, according to the independent theory of Baptist Church government, they ought everywhere to be able to do this. In other States the corporate body is a society composed of all attendants who are regular contributors, whether members of the Church or not. This admits persons not Christians to participation in the management of Church affairs. Though usually no harm arises, yet harm is always liable to arise and the theory is wrong. Still, the churches should conform to the legal requisitions of the States where they are located.

Note 2.—Trustees are really a standing committee, appointed for a specific purpose. And since the Church is the responsible and authoritative body, even though there be a society, the trustees should hold themselves bound by every consideration of morality and honor to carry out the wishes of the Church and to act under their instructions, whatever technical rights civil laws and the decisions of courts may give them in certain emergencies.

Note 3.—The trustees have a treasurer through whose hands pass the funds for current expenses, including pastor’s salary and other items, provided for by pew rents, subscription, and gifts for these uses. It is customary also to have a Church treasurer, usually one of the deacons, who receives and disburses, as directed, funds for benevolent purposes, moneys for the needy, and other uses, not included in current expenses, or for care of the property.

Note 4.—It is supposed that the Church clerk will do more than keep in record the bare items which may be transacted at business meetings. His journal should show a condensed history of the Church’s current life, including all items of note, and whatever transpires in its affairs of interest to be mentioned and preserved.

Note 5.—The various offices and responsible services in the Church should be as widely distributed as possible among the members, so that the same persons need not fill several offices at the same time. A few individuals should not be overburdened with service, nor should any one be tempted, by too much office, to dictatorial authority and an assumptive personal control of affairs. And yet incompetent and unfit persons should not be appointed to important and responsible positions, even though two offices might be imposed on the same individual.

Note 6.—It is undoubtedly true that the different official positions require somewhat diverse personal qualifications for their incumbents. Trustees, as having to transact business matters, should be sound, careful, and accurate business men. Deacons, as being more concerned in spiritual affairs, should in a marked degree be spiritually minded and devout. A Church clerk should be a good penman, prompt, careful, and accurate in detail. An appropriate fitness should be sought in all these affairs.

Edward Hiscox (1814-1901) was an American Baptist pastor and theologian. He was converted to Christ in 1834 and began to preach the gospel four years later. He served as the pastor for several congregations, including the Stanton Street Baptist Church, New York (1852). He is best known for authoring the “Standard Manual for Baptist Churches” (1890) and the “New Directory for Baptist Churches” (1894).