Walter Scott For the Christian Messenger (1827)

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"Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.--PAUL.

VOL. I.] GEORGETOWN, KY. OCTOBER 25, 1826. [NO. 12.


      BROTHER STONE,--When I forwarded my second piece on the government of the church, it was my intention to have prosecuted the subject further; but having been measurably anticipated by you, in your editorial remarks--I thought it unnecessary, and therefore declined it. The observations however of a correspondent in your last number, has called forth the few remarks that follow, in addition to your answer. "Prochorus," while he "occupies the place of an enquirer," has entered into a tolerably minute investigation of the subject, and has assumed some positions from which I beg leave to dissent. He is no doubt bound to admit that each church has the privilege of choosing its own officers--for the plain and positive word of God, to which I referred, & upon which I relied in support of the position; has not been opposed nor even attempted to be explained away by him.

      Had "Prochorus" attended to the import of the language I used as quoted by him, it would certainly have rendered his first query (as noticed by you) unnecessary. My expression was that "each church had, and selected its own officers."--Now if a church selects its officers; it must certainly be the [283] proper, and only tribunal that ought to judge of their qualifications--this is no less scriptural than reasonable. Hence we find the qualifications so particularly and minutely stated, that each church might be in the profession of that knowledge essentially necessary to enable them to elevate suitable persons to those offices, created with a single view to their edification and benefit, and the dissemination of light and truth.

      I admit that the saviour in his own person, "called" and qualified his apostles for their great and responsible duties--but are ministers in the present day, or have they been since the days of the apostles, "called" in a similar way?

      What preacher now on earth ever heard the saviour say (as he did to his apostles) "follow me"? Will we admit it for fact that all are "called" of Jesus, who profess to be preachers? If so then he calls men to preach contradictions--divide his flock--promote strife--spread discord and division--and oppose that for which he most devoutly prayed. Does Prochorus himself believe this? If the Savior does not "call" all who declare it, (and I presume there is no man on earth can believe such absurdity.) Who are the particular ones "called," and how, and by whom is this important matter to be determined? And if Jesus "yet calls and qualifies his ministers" as he did the apostles, why are any instructions given us upon the subject in the scriptures?

      If ministers be called now, as the apostles were it would of course render it perfectly useless to give any instructions upon the subject in the New Testament. To be plain, if mankind had followed the scriptures more, and their whims less, much of the division, jargon, and confusion of speech amongst christians, would certainly have been obviated. I do not believe that any special trust has been vested in the Elders to examine, judge, and determine on the qualifications of Elders--I think, that I established the fact in my second No. that it is a matter, that specially concerns the church, Bishops, (or Elders,) Deacons and brethren, altogether. The Elders of course will not participate in ordination, without a belief on their part of the candidate's ability, "to teach others," nor is it to be supposed that a church will ever desire any one to be set forward without entertaining a similar opinion. If a church have elders, and desire others, the elders in that particular Society, can proceed to set them apart by the imposition of hands." Or should there not be elders, in that particular society; elders from any other society, can proceed [284] to comply with the wishes of any church by ordaining any individual that may be chosen without the aid of a synod, Conference &c. &c. See Tit. i, 5.

      If every church was now organized as the apostles set them in order, would not each one have its own officers? And if preachers are a kind of "common property," will Prochorus include all from the "Holy Catholic church," and her relations down to those who claim no relation with her?

      Far be it for me to limit the labors of any preacher, to any particular church, I would rejoice to see them extend their usefulness; crying aloud and sparing not.

      Prochorus again says, "if each church is absolutely independent, and authorised to make or choose her own preachers and depose or silence them at pleasure, it would be difficult for preachers to fulfil their mission, and act in concert as fellow laborers in the harvest of the Lord, and to preserve unity and harmony in the churches." The sentiments indirectly advance in the above paragraph will justify every high handed and tyrannical attempt that has ever been made to Lord it over God's heritage. If the above sentiments be correct, then the synod of Ky., in order to "unity and harmony" was justifiable in expelling Marshall, yourself and others for preaching those truths that thousands have since found to be the power of God to their salvation. And if doctrine had then been universally admitted that a special trust was vested in the ministry, where would have been that religious liberty now enjoyed by thousands? You and your co-temporaries must have sunk beneath the cruel edict of an ecclesiastical tribunal unknown in the word of God--this would have been proper to maintain "concert, unity, harmony," &c. Yes, if it be true that the church is not "absolutely independent," and that the preachers are a superior order of people, then will there be a higher tribunal than the church.--Yes, Episcopacy with all its odious, despotic traits will be entirely justifiable. I cannot think that Prochorus does believe the sentiment he advanced in the above extract, it must certainly have dropped unguardedly. As I stated before, I believe that every member whether preacher or not, is responsible to the church, and to the church alone--in proof of which I referred to some scriptures, which I should like to have explained if I am not correct. Should a church become dissatisfied with the doctrine of a preacher, he will not be tolerated as a public speaker, though he should not be denounced for mere [285] opinion, but ought to be borne with as a private member while his walk is holy and pious.

      The Conference to which Prochorus alludes in Acts xv, cannot be a precedent for us at present. Preachers are not now placed upon thrones, as the apostles were. The history of the acts of the apostles embraces a period of about 30 years, and this is the only account, we have of a special Conference, and this was from the fact, that elevation was not complete--hence say the apostles "it seemeth good to the holy Ghost &c. Paul in his second Chap. to the Gal. mentions a visit he made to Jerusalem, and speaks of some brethren he met with, as he frequently does, but no intimation of an ecclesiastical court, for the transaction of any "special trust"--In conclusion I will assure Prochorus, that I shall regret to see the day when our annual meetings, (for the purpose mentioned in my first number) shall be discontinued; but I hope never to see a meeting among us, arrogating to itself the "special" trust, or right of setting forth preachers, or of controlling the churches in any manner whatever.


[The Christian Messenger 1 (October 25, 1827): 283-286.]


      Walter Scott's "For the Christian Messenger" was first published in The Christian Messenger, Vol. 1, No. 12, October 1827. The electronic version of the essay has been transcribed from the Star Bible Publications reprint (1978) of The Christian Messenger, ed. Barton W. Stone (Georgetown, KY: Barton W. Stone, 1827), pp. 283-286.

      Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. I have let stand variations and inconsistencies in the author's use of italics, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in the essay. Emendations are as follows:

            Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 283:    prosecnted [ prosecuted
            Had "Prochorus [ Had "Prochorus"
 p. 285:    Tit i, 5. [ Tit. i, 5.
            harmony, &c. [ harmony," &c.
 p. 286:    jerusalem, [ Jerusalem,
            controling [ controlling

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
373 Wilson Street
Derry, PA 15627-9770

Created 17 September 1998.

Walter Scott For the Christian Messenger (1827)

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