OLD BAPTIST RECORDS
The Duties of Church Officers and Members.
A statement agreed to at a meeting on 30-31 August 1654 of the Association of Welsh Particular Baptists.
Here the answer was given to the query at the last meeting, respecting the several duties of officers and private members. The following is a copy thereof:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head of the Church, after he had by himself purged our sins, ascended on high, gave gifts to his church, that each joint in the body might have its peculiar gift, and that thereby unity, peace and order might be preserved for the good of the whole. Eph. 4,8, llf, 15f.
1. He gave Apostles, who planted the first churches, and laid down infallible rules of doctrine and discipline, which we are now to observe, in the gathering and building up of churches. Eph. 2.20f.
2. Prophets who, by divine inspiration, foretold things to come;
as John etc.
3. Evangelists, who were the publishers of the Gospel to the world.
5. Gifts of healing.
6. Diversities of tongues, for the further publishing and confirmation of the Gospel, by those primitive and extraordinary Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists. All those officers and gifts were extraordinary, and therefore are now ceased; that being effected whereto they were given, only the three first may be said to remain in their writings; as Luke 16.29 and may be said likewise ordinarily to continue, while there are,
1. Apostles or Messengers sent forth to gather churches out of the world.
2. Evangelists, or publishers of the glad tidings, which is only some men’s special gift.
3. Prophets, or such as speak to exhortation, etc., of whom hereafter.
Now there are to continue in the Church these officers:
3. Helps, or those who rule.
These three are called Elders, Bishops, Watchmen, etc, whose joint office is:
1. To take care of the church, Acts 20.17, 28; 1 Pet. 5.2f.
2. To consult on controversies. Acts 15.If, 6,23.
3. To order things in the church, Acts 16.4.
4. To advise in matters of doubts. Acts 21.18f.
5. To govern, 1 Tim. 5.17; Titus 1.5.
6. To visit the sick, if sent for, James 5.14.
7. To care for the distribution of collections. Acts 4.37; 11.29f.
These were the duties of all the elders, though the greatest charge lay on the pastors, as appears in that, though there were many elders in the church at Ephesus, yet the epistle in the Revelation the second chapter, is directed but to one, viz, the angel of the church, and the charge given to, and the account required of him wholly. Now more particularly:
First, the pastor’s office is to do all that tends to the feeding of the flock, Jer. 3.15; Mt. 24.45 as to
1. Exhort. Ro. 12.7f; 1. Cor. 12.8.
2. Reprove with all authority. Tit. 2.15.
3. Cast out. 1 Tim. 1.20; 1 Cor. 5.1 etc.
4. Lead the sheep, he is to be the mouth of the whole.
5. Watch. 2 Tim. 4.5; Heb. 13.17.
6. Administer all ordinances in the church.
7. Give himself wholly to the word and doctrine. Acts 6.4.
8. Rule well, which consists (1) in the right ordering of questions and disorderly speakings. 1. Cor. 14.33,40. Col. 2.5 etc, (2) in preserving purity of doctrine and discipline, Rev. 2 and 3. The angels are charged with it.
Secondly, the teacher’s particular office is, to wait on teaching, to expound scriptures, and confute errors. Tit. 2.7f. 2 Tim. 4.2f. And this is no less the pastor’s office.
Thirdly, the ruling elder’s, or helping office is, to oversee the lives and manners of men: to whom also double honour is due, 1. Tim. 5.17; Ro. 12.8. He also must take care of God’s house, Heb. 13.17. 1. Tim. 3.5.
Fourthly, the next officer is a deacon, 1. Tim. 3.8 who is to serve tables, that is, the Lord’s Table, and the tables of all others in the church, that shall want his service. He also is to be dedicated to the church’s service, as the word deacon imports. Acts 6.1 etc.
Fifthly, for the assistance of the deacons there are widows, of whom, see 1. Tim. 5.16, who are likewise to serve the church, Ro. 16.1 most probably in looking to the poor and sick.
Sixthly, there are, for the further edifying of the church, ordinary prophets, who, though they be not such as wait on the ministry, or are wholly given up to it as yet, are such as being gifted, may speak, as they be permitted, or desired, to edification, exhortation, and comfort, 1. Tim. 4.15; 1 Cor. 14.3, 29f.
Thus far of church-officers with their offices. Now follow the duties of private members, as they are related to their officers and to each other.
In relation to their elders, they are to honour them, 1. Tim. 5.17. Submit to and obey them, Heb. 13.17. To provide for them, especially such as labour in the word and doctrine, having dedicated themselves thereto, 1 Cor. 9.7; 1. Tim. 5.8; Gal. 6.6. To pray for them, Heb. 13.18; Col. 4.3; Eph. 6.18f. Not to grieve them, Heb. 13.17. Nor to speak roughly to them, 1. Tim. 5.1. Nor hastily to receive an accusation against them, 1. Tim. 5.19.
An Exhortation to Pray.
A letter from Particular Baptist Churches in Ireland 1st. April 1653.
The churches of Christ in Ireland, walking in the faith and order of the Gospel do agree together, through the Lord’s assistance, to set apart one day in every month, solemnly to seek the face of our God and, by fasting and praying, humbly to mourn before Him for the things following which is also recommended to our dear friends the churches of Christ in England and scattered brethren in several places, who have obtained like precious faith with us.
First. Our little knowledge of and less trusting in the name of our God in Christ, so as to set Him for ever before our eyes, that we may glorify him both in our bodies and souls, which are His, 1. Cor. 6’20; Heb. 5.12.
2. Our little sincere love to the Lord and his people and our little knowledge of the office and proper place of each member as God hath set him in the body of Christ, to the end that every particular member might be now effectually improved for the mutual edification of the whole, 1. Cor. 12.21, Eph. 4.16.
3. Our little serious searching into the word of God and not substantially acquainting ourselves with the foundation truths revealed therein, 2.Tim. 3.15; 2. Pet. 2.2; Rom. 1.16f.
4. Our little faith in the great and precious promises of the Lord, which are to be fulfilled in the latter days, Lk. 18.8; 2. Pet. 1.4.
5. Our little pressing after the mark of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ and our inordinate affections after earthly things, Luke 10.40f; Phil. 3.9 (?14) Col. 3.2.
6. Our little praying and praising frames of heart in particular for faithful labourers in the Lord’s vineyard and for all whom he hath set in authority over us, under whom we have much opportunity to practise the truth we profess. Mat. 9.37f; 1 Cor. 2.4; 9.7;
1. Tim. 2.2; 1. Pet. 2.14; Jn. 15.4; Ps. 22.4.
7. Our little sense of saints’ sufferings, Lk. 18.7; Rev. 17.6.
8. Our great aptness to forget the great things God hath done for us. And the abuse of the many precious mercies he hath multiplied upon us, Ps. 7,8; 10.6,13.
9. Our want of spiritual wisdom to reprove sin plainly in all without respect of persons and to exhort faithfully so as to stop the mouths of gainsayers and to give no just offence to any, Prov. [9.15; 9.8f; 2. Tim. 4.4; 1. Cor. 10.28.
10. Our little laying to heart the great breaches the Lord hath made amongst us by removing many righteous ones from us and from the evil to come, Is. 57. If; 2.22.
11. Our little mourning for sin both in ourselves and others, Ezek. 9.4; Hos. 4. If.
12. Our great ignorance for the deceitfulness of our own hearts, Jer. 17.9.
These things amongst others ought to be sufficient grounds of our being low before the Lord that his voice (may) lift us up in due time, James 4.9f, and supply all our wants according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus, Phil. 4.19.
Church Membership, Women’s dress and Men’s hair.
Two interesting questions answered at a meeting of the Association of West Country Particular Baptists at Taunton on 18-20th. July 1654.
Query 4. Whether any are to be received into the church of Christ only upon a bare confession of Christ being come in the flesh and assenting to the doctrine and order laid down by Him?
Answer: they may not be admitted on such terms without a declaration of an experimental work of the Spirit upon the heart, through the word of the Gospel and suitable to it, being attended with evident tokens of conversion, to the satisfaction of the administrator and brethren or church concerned in it, Acts 8.37, Rom. 10.9f., Acts 19.18, Luke 6.44f., Mat. 3.7f.
Query 5. Whether the church of Christ is not to consider of some rule for habit and hair, inasmuch as costly habit of women and long hair of men are both forbidden in the scripture?
Answer: we judge that Christians are not to adorn themselves with gold, pearls and costly aray, 1. Tim. 2.9,1. Pet. 3.3, but they are to shew all soberness and modesty in the matter of apparel and in the manner of the putting of it on not fashioning themselves like unto this world, 1 Pet. 1.14, Zeph. 1.8, and so much the rather because of the expediency of it, 1 Cor. 10.32, Phil. 4.8f, 1 Cor. 8.12f., and forasmuch as the word of God forbids the wearing of long hair, 1 Cor. 11.7, 14, we judge it the duty of saints so to wear it as to give none offence thereby, 1. Cor. 10.32f.