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Several names are given in the New Testament to these latter officers. They are called elders or presbyters; bishops or overseers ; pastors or shepherds; but these terms obviously apply to the same office. Paul, addressing those who were the elders of the Church at Ephesus, says, “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers," or as the word ETIXOTOS is elsewhere rendered “bishops.” The terms elder and bishop are applied to the same office in the Epistle to Titus : a similar use of the terms is observable in 1 Peter v. 1, 2. These are the permanent office-bearers that are proper to a scripturally organized Christian Church; and it is a fact well worthy of remark, that while the qualifications requisite for these offices are described with considerable minuteness in the divine word, no representations are made as to the qualifications for any other office, or directions given as to their appointment.
In the remarks now offered, you have our view of the model which is left in the New Testament for our imitation in church order. It may perhaps be interesting, and tend to confirm its correctness, if we just glance at the testimony of one or two historians, who, from their habits and predilections, cannot be supposed to favour the congregational system.
Gibbon, a learned, elegant, but infidel historian, says, “The societies," he here refers to Churches, “were united only by the ties of faith and charity. Independence and equality formed the basis of their internal constitution, by which the Christians were governed more than a hundred years after the death of the apostles. Every society formed within itself a separate and independent republic." Dr. Kaye, one of our English bishops, (bishop of Lincoln,) confesses in his “ Examination of the life and times of Tertullian," that it is clear, from Tertullian's writings, that in his “estimation the apostolic Churches were independent of each other, and equal in rank and degree.”
Mosheim says, “the rulers of the Church were called either presbyters or bishops, which two titles are applied to the same order of men. A bishop, during the first and second centuries, was a person who had the care of one christian assembly, which at that time was, generally speaking, small enough to be contained in a private house."
Dr. Hawies says, “all ecclesiastical officers, for the first three hundred years, were elected by the people.” And lord King, in his “inquiry into the constitution, discipline, &c., of primitive Churches," observes, “When a Church was vacant by the death of its pastor, all the members of it met together to choose a fit person for his successor. When they had thus elected a bishop, they presented him to the neighbouring bishops for their approbation and consent. Hence we find that sometimes the election of a bishop is attributed to the choice of the neighbouring bishops, with the consent and suffrage of the people. After his election, in his own place of worship, and in the presence of his Church, he was ordained by laying on of the hands of three or more of the neighbouring bishops." He also observes, that "every Chnrch, without the concurrence of any other Church, had a sufficient right to exercise discipline on delinquent and offending members.”
(To be concluded in our next.)
SKETCHES OF CHARACTER.
No. II.-The HumbleD Paarisee. Self-COMPLACENCY is one of the native tendencies of the human heart. It is only when divine truth opens the understanding, that we see the deceitful character, and desperate wickedness of our sinful nature. Το know the plague of our hearts is an essential pre-requisite to humiliation of soul, and that true repentance unto life which needeth not to be repented of.
H. N. had received a religious education, at least so far as a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and the general principles of morality went. She was happily snrrounded by those restraints which preserved her from many of the evils of youth. Her manners were of a reserved character; and this, too, prevented her from running into all the foolish frivolities of the giddy young around her. She regularly attended the services of the parish church; she had passed through the routine of christening, (baptism so-called) and confirmation; she knew her catechism, and could repeat the creed, and bad her mind extensively stored with portions of the liturgy, and passages from the word of God. As to her conversation, it was free from foolish expression; to profanity she was an utter stranger, and she seldom violated the law of truth. When she bad arrived at woman's estate, she stood forth in the village where she had lived all her life, with a character unspoiled, and having a reputation of a religious young woman.
After this she married, and had the care of a family, unto whom she acted the part of a faithful and affectionate mother. Her partner was what is called a decent, worldly man. Honest in his transactions, trustworthy in bis engagements, an occasional companion of his wife to church, but one who had no true sense of the nature or importance of religion. As he lived so he died, a stranger to the Gospel, and unconcerned about his final and eternal state. This event deeply afflicted his sorrowful widow, whose cares and anxieties were greatly increased, and who had many troubles in training and supporting her dependent family. As heretofore, she neglected not the outward forms of religion, and regularly went to the parish church. It seems somewhat strange, that persons of a thoughtful and seriously disposed character can be found hearing and reading the Scriptures for years, without ever seeing the evil of sin, and the necessity of a change of heart to the enjoyment of God's love in this world, or his presence and glory in that which is to come. Yet so it was with H. N. * She had been surrounded for years by the light of Gospel ordinances and blessings, but still she was dark, a stranger to herself, and unacquainted with the method of salvation. In one word, she was a pharisee. She looked upon herself with approbation and satisfaction; she was better than most around her; she was sober, industrious, economical, and honest; she was a true daughter of the church, a regular worshiper of God, and a constant reader of the prayer-book, and other religious works; she never neglected the sacrament of the supper, and always read some treatise on being properly prepared for worthily partaking of that sacred rite. After having passed the meridian of her days, she was led to change the place of her abode, and Providence fixed ber residence close to a dissenting chapel ; here, for the first time, she heard the Gospel extemporaneously preached, and where the usual forms of her own church were unknown. The doctrines of human depravity, human worthlessness, and the ulter inefliciency of all works to obtain pardon for sin, were con
stantly announced ; justification by faith alone, and the atoning death of Jesus, held up as the only foundation of the sinner's bope. To these truths she listened with the deepest attention. Her false hopes were torn to shreds; her good works, and profession, and worship, now appeared as the mere externals of a nominal religion, which had no place in the heart, and no connexion with the renewing grace of God, or sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. Self-righteousness now appeared as one of those things exceedingly evil in itself, and awfully grievous to a pure and heari-searching God. She now perceived the awful nature of sin, the extensive demands of God's perfect law, and the fearful wrath to which she was justly exposed. The Word of God, as a keen-edged sword, had pierced her soul, dissected her spirit, and made her deeply conscious of her sin and misery. She saw her ruin and her belp in the Gospel mirror. She fled for refuge to the hope set before her, and found peace and joy in the Holy Ghost through believing. Now she is a humbled sinner, a self-abased penitent, a believing, living branch in Christ the true vine. She now fears where she once presumed, now boasts of a Saviour's love, now trusts in Christ's all-sufficient grace, and is looking for the mercy of God unto eternal life. No longer clothed in the habiliments of the spiritually proud pharisee, but daily bowing her knee before the throne of grace, feeling the spirit, and offering the prayer of the publican, “ God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Reader, have you been brought to feel the misery and peril of your sinful state, and to repent, and seek mercy through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. Proñigacy is not necessary to the loss of the soul. The exterior may be decent and blameless, while the heart is corrupt, and the mind filled with the spirit of pride and opposition to God. Forget not the Saviour's appeal to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again.” The earthly mind cannot love or acceptably serve God: the name or form of godliness will not save: we must have within us that holy kingdom which is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. We must be renewed persons, the true circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Such persons are “as lively stones, built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 3, St. John's Wood Grove.
DEATH OF AARON, NUMB. XX. 2-29.-No. I. The chapter recording the death of Aaron is replete with instruction. It relates the death of Miriam, as well as that of Aaron. The former departed this life in the first month, and the latter in the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year. Numb. xx. 1, 28, and xxxiii. 38. The sin which caused the dissolution of Moses is also recorded in this interesting account; by comparing which with Deut. xxxii. 48–51, and xxxiv. 5—8, we find ihat Miriam, Aaron, and Moses, three distinguished members of the church in the wilderness, all died in one and the same year. These would be afflicting bereavements to the Israelites. But they were not all the trials they bad to endure in the last year of their sojourning in the wilderness. About the same time and place of Miriams death," there was no water for the congregation.” "And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord.”— Numb. xx. 2, 3. Thus the people had more troubles
than one at the same time; and they followed each other in a train. These tried their faith and patience, and found them wanting. Not only did the people generally show their weakness, but even Moses and Aaron fell into sin; for when the Lord directed them to assemble the congregation together, and speak unto the rock before their eyes, they assembled them; but Moses said, (Aaron being with him,) “ Hear now, ye rebels: must we fetch you water out of this rock?” verse 10. In this they sinned, and their sin soon found them out. Aaron is directed, for this offence, to go up unto mount Hor, and to die there; and, soon after, Moses is likewise directed to go unto mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, and die there, as Aaron bad done on mount Hor. Deut. xxxii. 49.
I. The time of Aaron’s death was remarkable, for
Ist, He died at an advanced age. He was one hundred and twentythree years of age when he died in mount Hor. Numb. xxxiii. 39. We may find many that lived to this advanced period prior to Aaron, but not many after him. Eighty-three years of his life he had, in all probability, spent in Egypt, and nearly forty in the wilderness. In Egypt he had been oppressed with the iron rod of Pharoah: in the wilderness be bad been afflicted not only with the privations of his situation, but also by the rebellions of his countrymen, the Israelites. In every situation on earth he might truly say, “This is not my rest.” But death comes and pats an end to all his cares, and probably at a time when he did not expect it; for,
2nd, Aaron died in the last year of Israel's sojourning in the wilderness. This appears from Numb. xxxiii. 38. Aaron, as well as the Israelites generally, would doubtless wish the time to arrive when they should be led out of the wilderness. They had been doomed to sojourn in it for the space of forty years, on account of their sins. Numb. xiv. 33. All this time they were shut up as in a prison, and the whole congregation that were men of war died. Josh. v. 4. During this mournful period it is supposed Moses wrote the ninetieth Psalm, when the congregation were being carried off “as with a flood”
And hence we read, “Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought; where there was no water,” &c. Dent. viii. 15. As it was in the last year of Israel's sojourning in this terrible place that Aaron died, may we not naturally conclude that he was anticipating the conclusion of the period with delight? But Aaron did not live to see his trials terminate.
3rd. Aaron died just before Israel took possession of the promised land. The Lord bad promised to give the land of Canaan to the Israelites for an everlasting possession. This was an old promise: it had been made to them more than four hundred years. Gen. xv. 13. This promised land was described to them as most desirable. It was said, “For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of waters, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.” Deut. viii. 7, 8, 9. This good land was also to be divided to them by lot. Numb. xxxiii. 54. Moreover, the time when the Lord bad promised to lead them into it was at hand. Doubtless, therefore, this good land would be the object of strong desire by Aaron, as well as by all Ísrael; but Aaron was forbid to enter it. He is directed to VOL. 3.-N.S.
go up unto mount Hor to die, when he was, in all probability, expecting to be directed to enter the promised land. May we not learn from Aaron's death, the folly of pleasing ourselves with prospective good of an earthly kind ? “ Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” Aaron did not live to enjoy all the earthly good which he desired.
II. The cause of Aaron's death. Aaron died not tlırough the infirmities of old age, though he was advanced in years, nor through the ravages of disease; but he died by the visitation of God for his sin. He was connected with Moses in smiting the rock, when he said, “ Hear now, ye rebels: must we fetch you water out of this rock ?” In this Aaron sinned, and for this the Lord judged him to die. This is a remarkable fact, if we consider,
1st, Its apparent severity. The Lord judged Aaron to die for speaking rashly or unadvisedly with his lips. It may be thought that the offence for which he suffered death was small; that he bad commilled crimes greater than this on former occasions, for which he had escaped punishment, or for which he had been punished only in a small degree; and that many others have been guilty of offences, apparently much more heinous, for which they have not been punished in this life, at least not visibly. But let us be careful not to censure the Judge of all the earth, who will do right. He seeth not as man seeth. Man looketh at the outward appearance, but God looketh at the beart. Besides, the Lord only can tell the mischievous effects of the sin committed by Aaron and his brother. We must remember that the one was the
priest, and the other the prophet of Israel, at the time of this offence. The cause of Aaron's death seems remarkable,
2nd, From his eminence in the Church. Aaron was condemned to die for sin when he had been the Lord's high priest nearly forty years. If age and experience; if eminence in the Church, and exalted privileges; if knowledge, superior knowledge of God's will, and lengthened obedience in his service, could procure safety, and prevent sin, surely Aaron would have been preserved. But, alas ! 'all these are in vain, except the Lord Hence we hear the great apostle of the Gentiles say,
“ But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away.”
I Cor. ix. 27. “Let him that thinketh he slandeth take heed lest he fall.” The cause of Aaron's death is remarkable,
3rd, Because he died for the sin which the Lord had forgiven him. It appears evident that Aaron died in the favour of God, and therefore that all bis sins were pardoned. The Lord said, “ Aaron shall be gathered to his people.” Does the Lord then sometimes punish a person for a sin when he bas forgiven it? Certainly the Lord sometimes chastises his people for sins which he has pardoned. Did not Jacob sin when he stole his father's blessing, which Esau should have bad? Did he not forgive Jacob this sin ? He appeared to him at Bethel, as he was going towards Padanaram. Gen. xxviii. 13. The Lord made great promises to Jacob at Belbel, which proves that he had forgiven his sin; but Jacob appears to bave been often chastised for deceiving his brother, when he stole his blessing. Jacob was deceived by his father-in-law, and by his own sons.
Likewise David, he committed a great sin. He was gniliy of uncleanness and of murder in the case of Uriab and his wife. Nathan the prophet was sent to David,
hold us ap.