Thomas Cary Johnson On How God Used William Carey for the Good of His Church

As I prepare to teach a Sunday School class on the theology and history of missions this summer, I’ve been greatly aided by Thomas Cary Johnson’s Introduction to Christian Missions (1909). He weaves together biblical theology, exegesis, and history beautifully, and does so from a high view of the church and its calling to be God’s appointed missionary society. We get a taste of how Johnson’s ecclesiology and missiology merge in his evaluation of how God used William Carey in the life of the church:

“Carey no more caused the mission movements which were so closely connected with his life than Luther caused the Reformation amongst the German people; but as Luther led and accelerated the one movement so Carey led, accelerated and gave his own character to early nineteenth century Protestant missions. In this way he was helping toward the awaking of more than individuals, and groups of individuals to a sense of their responsibility to be missionary. If the winning of religious toleration was a preparation to the winning of religious liberty in Virginia, in Colonial and Revolutionary days, so the excitation into being of great voluntary missionary societies was a preparation for something much better for the awakening of the Churches of Christendom to a consciousness of the fact that God's Church is the God-ordained missionary society, and that every Christian in virtue of his Church membership is a member of a missionary society, and as such is pledged to do his utmost for the disciplining of all nations.”

As a little lagniappe today, you’ll be encouraged by the missionary principles of Carey and his fellow-laborers, composed on October 7, 1805, as a "Form of Agreement Respecting the Great Principles on which the Brethren of the Mission at Serampore [in India] Think it their Duty to Act in the Work of Instructing the Heathen."

(1) It is absolutely necessary that we set an infinite value on immortal souls;

(2) that we gain all information of the snares and delusions in which these heathen are held;

(3) that we abstain from those things which would increase their prejudice against the Gospel;

(4) that we watch all opportunities of doing good;

(5) that we keep to the example of Paul and make the great subject of our preaching Christ the crucified;

(6) that the natives should have entire confidence in us and feel quite at home in our company;

(7) that we build up and watch over the souls that may be gathered;

(8) that we form our native brethren to usefulness, fostering every kind of genius and cherishing every gift and grace in them; especially advising the native churches to choose their pastors and deacons from among their own countrymen;

(9) that we labor with all our might in forwarding translations of the sacred Scriptures in the languages of India, and that we establish native free schools and recommend these establishments to other Europeans;

(10) that we be constant in prayer and the cultivation of personal religion to fit us for the discharge of these laborious and unutterably important labors; let us often look at Brainherd, in the woods of America, pouring out his very soul before God for the perishing heathen without whose salvation nothing could make him happy;

(11) that we give ourselves up unreservedly to this glorious cause. Let us never think that our time, our gifts, our strength, our families, or even the clothes' that we wear, are our own. Let us sanctify them all to God and his cause. Oh, that He may sanctify us for His work! No private family ever enjoyed a greater portion of happiness than we have done since we have resolved to have all things in common. If we are enabled to persevere, we may hope that multitudes of converted souls will have reason to bless God to all eternity for sending His Gospel to this country."

May the Lord cause his church today to pursue His glory and the good of the lost with the zeal of Carey and those who served with him!

The Synagogue as Model for the Christian Church: Samuel Miller and T.D. Witherspoon

(If the author links in this post are broken, please visit our Free PDF Library and click on the author’s page directly.)

Samuel Miller once wrote that the Christian Church was modeled after the Jewish Synagogue rather than the Jewish Temple. This was a Presbyterian position, he argued, which was consistent with not only the historic Continental Divines, but also with leading Anglican Divines.

…I have given you a very brief sketch of the evidence that Christian Churches were organized by the Apostles, after the model of the Jewish Synagogues. I have shown that the mode of worship adopted in the Church, the titles of her officers, their powers, duties, and mode of ordination, were all copied from the Synagogue. This evidence might be pursued much further, did the limits which I have prescribed to myself admit of details. It might easily be shown, that in all those respects in which the service of the Synagogue differed from the Temple, the Christian Church followed the former. The Temple service was confined to Jerusalem; the Synagogue worship might exist, and did exist wherever there was a sufficient number of Jews to form a congregation. The temple service was restricted with regard to the vestments of its officers; while in the Synagogue there was little or no regulation on this subject. And, finally, it is remarkable, that the mode in which the Bishops and Elders of each Synagogue were seated during the public service, was exactly copied into the Christian assemblies. With regard to these and many other particulars which might be mentioned, the Christian Churches in primitive times, it is well known, departed from the ceremonial splendour of the Temple, and followed the simplicity of the Synagogue. In fact, there is ample proof, that the similarity between the primitive Christian Churches, and the Jewish Synagogues was so great, that they were often considered and represented by the persecuting Pagans as the same.

In support of the foregoing statements, it would be easy to produce authorities of the highest character. The general fact, that the Christian church was organized by the inspired apostles, not on the plan of the Temple service, but after the Synagogue model, is amply shown, by the celebrated John Selden, in his work, De Synedriis; by Dr. [John] Lightfoot, a learned Episcopal divine, in his Horae Hebraicae; by the very learned [Hugo] Grotius, in several parts of his Commentary; by Dr. (afterwards) [Edward] Stillingfleet, in his Irenicum: and, above all by [Cornelius] Vitringa [Sr.], in his profound and able work, De Synagoga Vetere — to which the author has given given this bold title — “Three books on the ancient Synagogue; in which it is demonstrated, that the form of government, and of the ministry in the Synagogue was transferred to the Christian Church.” If there be any points concerning the history and polity of the Church, which may be considered as indubitably established, this, unquestionably, is among the number (Letters Concerning the Constitution and Order of the Christian Minister, pp. 40-41).

Thomas Dwight Witherspoon concurred, as he has stated in his classic works Children of the Covenant, and The Five Points of Presbyterianism: The Distinctives of Presbyterian Church Government.

"When our Saviour appeared, therefore, He found, in every city of the Jews, a synagogue, with its bench of Elders, its ordinances of worship, and its provisions for the poor, as we have them in our congregations at the present day. When He went from city to city, He entered into their synagogues on the Sabbath day, and taught the people. He instructed his disciples to submit questions of discipline to the Church; that is, to these officers, who were its representatives. It is true that these church-sessions, if I may so call them, did not recognize, in most instances, the authority of our Saviour. ''He came to His own, and His own received Him not." The Elders joined with the Scribes and the Priests in putting him to death. But after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, there were many of these Jewish congregations, in which great numbers were converted to Christianity, so that the congregation was, in faith, no longer Jewish, but Christian. In these cases the synagogue became a church edifice. The Elders of the synagogue became Elders of the Christian Church. The rite of Baptism took the place of the rite of Circumcision. The Lord's Supper came in the room of the Passover. The day of the week took the place of the Jewish Sabbath. Hymns to Christ as God mingled with the old synagogue anthems to Jehovah. The epistles of inspired Apostles were read along with the Old Testament Scriptures; and thus, by a transition as natural as it was impressive, the Jewish church became Christian, with all its essential features unchanged.

That this is no mere theory, or special pleading on the part of the advocates of Presbyterianism, will be evident to every attentive reader of the following extracts from the works of one of the most learned and eminent prelates of the Episcopal Church. The late Archbishop "[Richard] Whately, of Dublin, as distinguished for his learning as for his integrity and piety, in his work, entitled "The Kingdom of Christ Delineated, in which he traces the origin of the first Christian churches planted by apostolic hands, uses the following language. (See Ed. of Carter & Bros., New York, 1864, p. 29.)

"It appears highly probable — I might say morally certain — that wherever a Jewish synagogue existed, that was brought, the whole or the chief part of it, to embrace the gospel, the Apostles did not there so much form a Christian church (or congregation: Ecclesia,) as make an existing congregation Christian" (the italics are his own,) "by introducing the Christian sacraments and worship, and establishing whatever regulations were requisite for the newly adopted faith, leaving the machinery (if I may so speak,) of government unchanged; the rulers of synagogues, elders and other officers, (whether spiritual or ecclesiastical, or both,) being already provided in the existing institutions." "And," he continues, "it is likely that several of the earliest Christian churches did originate in this way; that is, that they were converted synagogues, which became Christian churches as soon as the members, or the main part of the members, acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah. * * * And when they founded a church in any of those cities in which (and such were probably a very large majority,) there was no Jewish synagogue that received the gospel, it is likely that they would conform, in a great measure, to the same model."

Here, then, is a statement from one of the highest functionaries, and most learned writers of the Episcopal Church, that the primitive Church was built upon the model of the Jewish synagogue, the government of which, as we have already seen, was distinctively Presbyterian, A careful study of the Acts and Epistles will lead us also to the conclusion that the Church of the Apostles was essentially Presbyterian. On their missionary voyages they "ordained Elders in every city." As in many of these cities there was only a small congregation of believers, the Elders ordained in them must have been Ruling Elders, as the language implies that there were several in one city. These Elders ruled in councils, or courts, that were distinctly Presbyterian. Timothy was ordained by "the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." The Synod which met at Jerusalem, (Acts, chap. 15.) was a Synod composed of the Apostles and Elders (Children of the Covenant, pp. 156-160; see also The Five Points of Presbyterianism [LCP edition], p. 17).

Thus, in these two writers we see what representative leading 19th century American Presbyterians believed, in agreement with leading historic European Calvinists, that the Christian Church is modeled after the Jewish Synagogue.

Samuel Miller: No such thing as a solitary religion

(If the author links in this post are broken, please visit our Free PDF Library and click on the author’s page directly.)

Following up on yesterday’s post, Samuel Miller concurs with T.V. Moore that Christianity is not a lone wolf faith, but a corporate, and social, religion.

The Bible knows nothing of a solitary religion. The spirit and duties of Christianity are, characteristically, social. Man, in his state of primitive rectitude, was made a social creature; and redeemed and restored man, when he shall reach that holy heaven which is in reserve for him hereafter, will find it to be a state of perfect and most blessed society. It is true, the Christian, in the course of the spiritual life, is required, and finds it to be as profitable as it is delightful, to be often alone with his God. But the object of this retirement is, like that of Moses in ascending the mount, — not that he may remain there; but that he may come down with his face shining; his heart expanding with holy love; and all his graces refined and invigorated, and thus prepared the better to act his part in those interesting relations which he sustains to his fellow men. Accordingly, the visible Church, with which we are all bound to be connected, and which is the means of so many blessings to its members and to the world, is a social body. It is called in our text a “flock," under the care of the great "Shepherd and Bishop of souls," and under the immediate superintendence of the under-shepherds, commissioned and sent for this purpose.

Read Miller’s complete 1832 sermon on “Ecclesiastical Polity” from the Spruce Street Lectures here. And consider how Christians are not just born again as “isolated units” (Moore) but are meant to be children of the family of God, that is, his body, the Church.

T.V. Moore on the Corporate Life of the Church

(If the author links in this post are broken, please visit our Free PDF Library and click on the author’s page directly.)

In the spring of 1868, in Baltimore, Maryland, the opening sermon was delivered before the General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS) by Moderator Thomas Verner Moore. We have recently added this sermon, titled The Corporate Life of the Church, to Log College Press. It is a noteworthy sermon which, although not well-known today, speaks volumes to the fragmented and individualized state of the church in 21st century America.

In this sermon, Moore sketches out an important concept that is too-little understood today: the new birth of the believer, by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, is only the beginning of the story. It is not only the life of the individual soul with which Christ in his saving work is concerned, but the life of his body, that is, the general assembly of believers, or the Church.

…as soon as this personal life begins, the individual Christian finds that there is another life into which he is introduced by the same act of regeneration. Christ is revealed in Scripture, not only as the Saviour of the collective Church, His body, of which individual Christians are members in particular. “For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ;” and this image is elaborated to great length by the Apostle in the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians, as well as in other Epistles.

Moore shows us that the Scripture emphasize the corporate nature of the Christian community in a variety of ways: the church is described as a city, a kingdom, a building, a temple, and a body or a family with many members.

This great idea of corporate life is an essential element of New Testament Christianity. Men are not converted and saved merely as isolated units, but as members of Christ’s family, into which they are born by the new birth, and from which they cannot rightfully segregate themselves.

Moore acknowledges the danger of hierarchical corporate power which can lead to tyrannical abuse, but is focused here on addressing what we might today know as “lone wolf Christianity,” with its low regard for organized, connected religion.

It is true that this element of corporate power may be developed in a corrupt Church to a spiritual despotism, in which the individual life shall be smothered, but it may also be kept so much in abeyance as to lose its legitimate force and give an exaggerated development of the principle of individualism, tending to schism, contention, and paralysis of this power of corporate action. And it is probably true, that this is the real danger in much of our modern Protestantism, and the cause of much of our unsuccessful activity. “the eye saith to the hand, I have no need of thee, and the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” And the very evils which existed among the Corinthian Christians exist among us, and need to be corrected to restore our efficiency. If then we can revive this corporate life, without weakening the individual life, and bring it to bear on our daily work and warfare, as parts of the Sacramental host, citizens of the city that hath foundations, members of the household of faith, portions of the body of Christ, we shall remedy an undoubted defect in our modern piety, and give an added energy to every operation of our beloved Church.

As Moore continues, he examines how the early Church in most cases demonstrated this corporate vitality by the concern showed by disciples in striving to assist those with financial aids, those suffering under persecution, and doing such things, not only locally, but for the saints separated by great distances, wherever there was a need, and all motivated by the principle of love. It was this corporate vitality, in fact, that enabled the early Church to grow and flourish under difficult circumstances. The love of the saints for one another made them a sum that was strong than its individual parts.

And so Moore reminds us that the labor of Christianity is not merely assigned to church officers, but to all members of Christ’s body. And the love that characterized the early Church must also be reflected in our modern day.

Love, the life blood of this body corporate, must flow rich and warm, love to Jesus, love to souls, love to one another. This will give us in such a Church, one large, loving family, clinging to one another, caring for each other’s welfare, good name and general interests, just as members of the same household do; each seeking, not his own, but the things of another; in honour preferring one another; and so fulfilling the traditional words of the last, loving apostle, whose aged lips were wont to say, when he could utter no other exhortation, “Little children, love one another.”

Moore says that this principle of love, exemplified in our day, makes the work of the Church easy, its worship services and catechetical activities a delight, and causes the flame which attracts others to burn the brighter.

Having demonstrated the importance of recognizing the corporate life of the Church, Moore surveys the post-War landscape around him and reminds his hearers that just as when days were dark during the Killing Times for Scotland’s Covenanters, yet God did great things for them, so may we look for God to do a great work in the present day, most especially when we fix our eyes upon Christ, and when we love his Body, the Church. This sermon has great application to our day, and the reader is encouraged to download it for thoughtful consideration. We need this message from T.V. Moore today, just as it was needed in 1868.

The First Book Published in Kentucky was by a Presbyterian Minister - Adam Rankin

(If the author links in this post are broken, please visit our Free PDF Library and click on the author’s page directly.)

The first book printed in the State of Kentucky (which became a state in 1792) was published on January 1, 1793 by a Pennsylvania-born (March 24, 1755) Presbyterian minister, Adam Rankin. It is titled, A Process of the Transilvania Presbytery, which refers to the presbytery covering the territory of Kentucky within the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, established in 1786. Adam Rankin had been charged with several offenses which involved worship and doctrinal differences between him and others. This book is his account of the matter.

Rankin, Adam, A Process in the Transilvania Presbytery Title Page.jpg

In this interesting work, Rankin fired the first literary salvo in his controversy with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA), specifically, the Transilvania (Transylvania) Presbytery of Kentucky, of which he was a member. The controversy led to the further publishing of 1) A Narrative of Mr. Adam Rankin's Trial by the Transylvania Presbytery (1793); and 2) Adam Rankin’s A Reply to a Narrative of Mr. Adam Rankin's Trial (1794). Here, in A Process, he lays out the particular charges that were leveled against him, along with his defense. Additional sections of the book set forth his reasons for separating from the PCUSA (he later joined the Associate Reformed Church); a digest of his positions on matters of controversy at that time between the PCUSA and the ARC, including the free offer of the gospel, terms of communion, national covenanting, marriage licenses and more; followed by “A Appendix on a late performance of the Rev. Mr. John Black of Marsh Creek, Pennsylvania,” in which Rankin sets forth satirically a “Modern Creed” which lays out the arguments of the opposition, largely regarding the place of the Psalms in worship.

One of the major issues between Rankin and the Transylvania Presbytery was his conviction that the Psalms of David alone were to be sung in public worship, to the exclusion of Isaac Watts’ imitations. A Process, in fact, constitutes one of the earliest published American defenses of exclusive psalmody. Following the January 1, 1793 publication of A Process, we have at Log College Press also a February 7, 1793 letter of encouragement from ARC minister Robert Annan to Rankin touching on this very issue.

Rankin is famous in church history for possessing difficult temperament. Here is an opportunity to read his own words in the heat of controversy to see for yourself how he expressed himself. Also available at LCP is his Dialogues, Pleasant and Interesting, Upon the All-Important Question in Church Government, What are the Legitimate Terms of Admission to Visible Church Communion? (1819). John Wilson Townsend, Kentucky in American Letters, 1784-1912, Vol. 1, p. 18 (1913), says: “His Dialogues …, is really his most important publication, but it has been greatly overlooked in the recent rush among Kentucky historical writers to list A Process as the first book published in Kentucky.”

Controversy followed Rankin even in the ARC in the form of a dispute with Robert Hamilton Bishop, which resulted in church discipline for both men. Eventually, Rankin left the ARC too, bidding his Lexington, Kentucky congregation farewell with plans to travel to Jerusalem. He died on the way in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 25, 1827. James Brown Scouller, A Manual of the United Presbyterian Church of North America, 1751-1881, pp. 493-494, writes:

There can be no question that Mr. Rankin was “encompassed with infirmities,” that he was sensitive, a little jealous, impulsive and strong of will, so that he soon put himself on the defensive, and always with his face to the foe, and he had the misfortune of living at a time when ecclesiastical things did not always run smoothly. On the other hand it is just as certain that he was loyal to the truth and valorous in its defence, however faulty his methods. He was of unquestioned piety, and commanded the full confidence of those among whom he lived. He possessed unusual eloquence and power in the pulpit, and often moved a whole congregation to tears.

The Ecclesiastical Catechisms of Alexander McLeod and Thomas Smyth

Most Presbyterians are familiar with the Westminster Shorter/Larger Catechisms, or the Heidelberg Catechism. But have you heard of Ecclesiastical Catechisms? At least two were written by Presbyterians in America in the 19th century: one by Alexander McLeod (1806) and one by Thomas Smyth (1843). (Another was written by Luther Halsey Wilson titled The Pattern of the House; or, A Catechism upon the Constitution, Government, Discipline and Worship of the Presbyterian church, which we hope to add to the site in the future.) These books present the doctrine of the church in question and answer format, so that God's people might more easily understand what the Scriptures teach about the institution that Jesus is building. McLeod and Smyth won't agree on everything (for instance, the number of offices Jesus has appointed in His church), so comparing and contrasting these two documents, written 40 years apart, will undoubtedly be an edifying and rewarding use of your time. 

Note: This blog post was originally published on November 8, 2017 and has been slightly edited.

Henry Rowland Weed's 19th Century Presbyterian Study Guide

Among the 19th century American Presbyterian works on the Westminster Confession of Faith, one by Henry Rowland Weed (1789-1870) stands out: Questions on the Confession of Faith and Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1842).

In question-and-answer format, Weed’s study guide tackles both the Confession of Faith and the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, delving into both its ecclesiological history and principles. Further, there is a brief section on admission to the sacrament of baptism. His questions are not always followed by an answer — sometimes the reader is just meant perhaps to go back to the source document, or discuss, or ponder. Sometimes his questions are answered with a simple Scripture reference. And at other times, the answers given are more full.

An extract from the section on the Confession relating to the chapter on God is given as a sample:

Q. 1. Are there more Gods than One? Deut. vi. 4. 1 Cor. viii. 4.
Q. 2. What is God? John iv. 24.
Q. 3. Why do the Scriptures ascribe bodily members and organs unto God?
A. It is an accommodation to our weakness, to express those perfections and acts, of which those bodily parts are known emblems: as hands, of power; and eyes and ears, of knowledge. Q. 4. How is God distinguished, in Scripture, from idols? 1 Thes. i. 9. latter part.
Q. 5. What are some of the attributes of God? Ex. xxxiv. 6, 7.
Q. 6. Are the divine attributes really distinct from God himself, or separable one from another? A. Certainly not; such ideas would be inconsistent with the infinite perfection of the divine nature.
Q. 7. How are the attributes of God commonly divided ? A. The most commonly received division is, into Communicable and Incommunicable.
Q. 8. What are the Communicable attributes? A. Those of which some resemblance may be found in creatures ; as wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth.
Q. 9. What are the Incommunicable attributes? A. Those, of which there is no resemblance in the creature ; as Independence, Infinity, Eternity, Unchangeableness.

From the section on the Form of Government, another sample extract pertaining to ruling elders is given:

Q. 1. What is the office of the Ruling Elder? 1 Tim. v. 17.
Q. 2. By whom are Ruling Elders to be chosen?
Q. 3. How is this office designated in Scripture? 1 Cor. xii. 28. 1 Tim. v. 17.
Q. 4. How are they distinguished from Pastors? 1 Tim. v. 17.
Q. 5. While inferior in rank to Ministers of the word, have they an equal vote in the Judicatories of the Church ? A. Yes.
Q. 6. What are the duties of this office? A. Excepting the administration of the word, and sacraments, they are the same as those of the pastoral office. Heb. xiii. 17. James v. 14.
Q. 7. By what arguments does it appear that this office ought to be maintained in the Church? A. 1. Christian Churches were formed after the the model of the Jewish Synagogue, in which there was a class of officers of this kind. 2. It appears from a careful examination of Rom. xii. 6—8. 1 Cor. xii. 28, and other passages already referred to, that there was such a class of men in the Churches organized by the Apostles. 3. The early history of the Church; and 4. The necessity of the case.

Appended to this exposition of the standards of the Presbyterian Church is Ashbel Green’s Questions and Counsel for Young Converts. Altogether, Weed’s work is a valuable 19th century compendium of information about what the Presbyterian Church believes and how it is to be governed. Download it here for your own edification, study and reference.

Debate in Detroit

Presbyterian minister George Duffield IV (1794-1868) in Detroit, Michigan, at the behest of his congregation, confronted the local Episcopal Bishop over a sermon that he had preached arguing for Episcopal Government and Apostolic Succession. In 1842, Duffield, in a series of letters, addressed the Bishop, and challenged him on Episcopal Government. For students of polity, or those with an interest in Presbyterian church government, Rev. George Duffield’s work against Episcopacy showcases a debate in an American context and would prove helpful to anyone studying the subject.

Has God Given Rules for the Government of His Church and for Worship?

B.B. Warfield addresses a fundamental question about whether God has given rules for how His church is to governed and how He is to be approached in worship in an address titled "The Mystery of Godliness" in Faith and Life, pp. 375-378. Taking I Tim. 8:16 for his text ("And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness"), Warfield responds to the idea that God has given no such direction. 

It is of the more importance that we should note this, that there is a disposition abroad to treat all matters of the ordering of public worship and even of the organization of the Church as of little importance. We even hear it said about us with wearisome iteration that the New Testament has no rules to give, no specific laws to lay down, in such matters. Matters of church government and modes of worship, we are told, are merely external things, of no sort of significance; and the Church has been left free to find its own best modes of organization and worship, varying, doubtless, in the passage of time and in the Church's own pas sage from people to people of diverse characters and predilections. No countenance is lent to such sentiments by the passage before us; or, indeed, by these Pastoral Epistles, the very place of which in the Canon is a standing rebuke to them; or, in fine, by anything in the New Testament. 

On the contrary, you will observe, Paul's point of view is precisely the opposite one. He takes his start from the inestimable importance of the Gospel. Thence he argues to the importance of the Church which has been established in the world, so to speak, as the organ of the Gospel — the pillar and buttress on which its purity and its completeness rest. Thence again he argues to the proper organization and ordering of the Church that it may properly perform its high functions. And, accordingly, he gives minute prescriptions for the proper organization and ordering of the Church — prescribing the offices that it should have and the proper men for these offices, and descending even into the details of the public services. His position, compressed into a nutshell, is simply this: the function of the Church as guardian of the truth, that glorious truth which is the Gospel, is so high and important that it cannot be left to accident or to human caprice how this Church should be organized and its work ordered. Accordingly, he, the inspired Apostle — "an Apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Saviour and Christ, our Hope" — has prescribed in great detail, touching both organization and order, how it is necessary that men should conduct themselves in the household of God — which is nothing other than the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. In other words, it is God's Church, not man's, and God has created and now sustains it for a function; and He has not neglected to order it for the best performance of this function.

To imagine that it is of little importance how the Church shall be organized and ordered, then, is manifestly to contradict the Apostle. To con tend that no organization is prescribed for it is to deny the total validity of the minute directions laid down in these epistles. Nay, this whole point of view is as irrational as it is unbiblical. One might as well say that it makes no difference how a machine is put together — how, for example, a typewriter is disposed in its several parts, — because, forsooth, the typewriter does not exist for itself, but for the manuscript which is produced by or rather through it. Of course the Church does not exist for itself — that is, for the beauty of its organization, the symmetry of its parts, the majesty of its services; it exists for its "product" and for the "truth" which has been committed to it and of which it is the support and stay in the world. But just on that account, not less but more, is it necessary that it be properly organized and equipped and administered — that it may function properly. Beware how you tamper with any machine, lest you mar or destroy its product; beware how you tamper with or are indifferent to the Divine organization and ordering of the Church, lest you thereby mar its efficiency or destroy its power, as the pillar and ground of the truth. Surely you can trust God to know how it is best to organize His Church so that it may perform its functions in the world. And surely you must assert that His ordering of the Church, which is His, is necessary if not for the "esse," certainly for the "bene esse" of the Church.

Three Important But Forgotten Works on Ecclesiology by Robert Jefferson Breckinridge

Three works by Robert Jefferson Breckinridge (The Christian PastorPresbyterian Government, Not a Hierarcy, but a Commonwealth; and Presbyterian Ordination, Not a Charm, but an Act of Government) have been all but forgotten by modern Presbyterians. And yet, thanks to the reviewing work of James Henley Thornwell in the Southern Presbyterian Review, and the Biblical power of Breckinridge's ideas, much (though certainly not all) of what he believed has found its way into the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, and perhaps other American Presbyterian denominations (for instance, the right of rulings elders to lay hands on teaching elders being ordained and the need for ruling elders to make up a quorum of a church court are practices the PCA takes for granted, yet Breckinridge had to contend strenuously for them). Written in the middle of the debate over the nature and function of the ruling elder in the Old School Presbyterian Church in the 1840s (other authors who contributed to this debate include Thornwell, Thomas Smyth, and Charles Hodge), these works are worthy of your time.  If you've never read these short treatises, you can find them here

The Works of Robert J. Breckinridge are Nearly Unknown But Still Affect Presbyterians Today

Three works by Robert Jefferson Breckinridge (The Christian PastorPresbyterian Government, Not a Hierarcy, but a Commonwealth; and Presbyterian Ordination, Not a Charm, but an Act of Government) have been forgotten by modern Presbyterians. And yet, thanks to the reviewing work of James Henley Thornwell in the Southern Presbyterian Review, and the power of Breckinridge's ideas, much (though certainly not all) of what he believed has found its way into the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, and perhaps other American Presbyterian denominations. For instance, the right of rulings elders to lay hands on teaching elders being ordained is powerfully argued for by Breckinridge, as is the need for ruling elders to make up a quorum of a church court. If you've never read these short treatises, you can find them here