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do a thing which many would have thought that any Christian was competent to do without any commission whatsoever.
About this time also the Lord converted St. Paul.
I shall consider fully the bearing of his life and acts upon Church government, after I have shown how the Church of Jerusalem, and the Churches dependent upon it, were governed. About this time the Apostolic college of twelve was
One-James the brother of John-was removed by martyrdom; and we never afterwards read of “the twelve" as in the former part of the history.
The government of the twelve is now exchanged for the presidency of one man, St. James, called by St. Paul, “ The Lord's brother.” From every notice of this man recorded in Scripture, it is certain that he exercised episcopal power over the Church of Jerusalem. When St. Peter was delivered from prison, he directed that tidings of his release should be conveyed to "JAMES, and to the brethren ” (Acts xii. 17).
This of itself would, of course, prove little or nothing; but, taken in connection with other notices, it comes in like an undesigned coincidence between two parallel narratives, confirming the truth of both.
The next notice of St. James is, when we read of him presiding at the first council, and delivering his sentence, ex cathedrâ, as it were. “My sentence is, that we trouble not them which from among the Gentiles are turned unto God; but that we write unto them that they abstain,” &c. (Acts xv. 19.) That he should have so delivered the sentence in the presence of the Apostles is only to be accounted for on the hypothesis that the perpetual presidency over the Church in Jerusalem had been committed to him.
The third notice is when St. Paul, after his arrival after his third journey, is reported to have “gone in unto James, and all the elders were present" (Acts xxi. 18).
The mention of his name here, as distinguished from the elders who were present, agrees with the other notices of his high position in this Church.
He is mentioned in Galatians ii. 9, as the first of the three which “ seemed to be pillars;" and a little further on, those Jewish Christians, on account of whose presence even Peter and Barnabas laid themselves open to reproof, are said significantly to have “come from James " (Gal. ii. 12).
These are the only notices of him in the sacred narrative, and one and all of them tend to confirm the truth of the testimony of all antiquity, that he was the first Bishop or perpetual President of the Church of Jerusalem.
We have now to notice the appearance of another order of Church officers—the Elders. They are first mentioned in Acts xi. 30 : “ Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judæa, which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul."
When these Elders were first appointed, and what was the nature of their office, we are not told. It is difficult to believe that they were appointed before the “seven,” because there is such absolute silence respecting any persons ministering any office whatsoever under the Apostles, before the appointment of the "seven.” They are mentioned three or four times in the account of the council held in Jerusalem respecting the circumcision of the Gentiles. They there appear to occupy a middle place between the Apostles and the brethren.
The last notice of them is when we read that St. Paul went in unto James, “and all the Elders were present.”
That they were a separate estate, as it were, in the Church, is certain; but, respecting their authority and ministry we are told nothing whatsoever.
Such are all the notices of Church offices and government which we can glean from those parts of the Acts of the Apostles which treat of the Church in Jerusalem.
It is quite clear from this, that the book of the Acts of the Apostles was not written to teach us the details of Church government; for consider the questions respecting the government of the Church of Jerusalem which are left wholly without solution.
First of all, we are told nothing respecting the particulars of the Apostolic government. There is abundant proof that the Apostles exercised absolute authority, but they did this as one man. They seemed invariably to have acted in concert, with one mind determining, and with one mouth decreeing, and that mouth was St. Peter's. This could only be accounted for by the fulness of the Spirit perpetually dwelling within them. It seems a most remarkable answer to the prayer of the Saviour on their behalf, “ that they all might be one."
Then, in the next place, there were persons called Apostles--and, apparently, in the strictest sense of the term, such as St. Barnabas—who were not of “the twelve." Most probably St. James, the brother of our Lord, was of this number; but respecting the authority of these secondary Apostles, and its relation to that of the twelve, we are told nothing.
Then, with respect to the seven called Deacons, what we are told is almost contradictory. They were ordained to execute one work of a quasi-secular character, but we afterwards find them going about as Evangelists.
Then, with respect to the Presbyters, or Elders, we are in total ignoranco respecting the nature of the ministry op
which they waited. We are not told whether they were, as their name implies, older men, who formed a sort of senate or chapter under James, or whether they were superintendents of particular congregations, meeting in houses or rooms, of which (as the Christians then possessed no large buildings) there must have been an immense number.
Then we are told nothing respecting another matter of the deepest importance, viz., the relations between the authority of St. James and that of the other Apostles.
He was, most probably, not one of the twelve. He is called an Apostle, but so were Barnabas and others, who were certainly not of the twelve. When his separate authority commenced, and under what circumstances, we know not. When the twelve were at Jerusalem in the former part of the history, St. Peter always spoke or decreed for them ; but at the council held at Jerusalem, at which apparently the Apostles as a body were present, St. James was unquestionably the president, for he summed up and pronounced the decree authoritatively; and, at the end of St. Paul's third journey, he was evidently exercising undivided authority, as no other Apostles were then in Jerusalem (Acts xxi. 18).
Then a number of now insoluble questions arise respecting the council held in Jerusalem. The Apostles and elders come together to consider of the matter.
After they have come to a decision, they send letters headed, “The Apostles and elders and brethren seno greeting to the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia;” and onding with, "It seemed good unto the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burthen than these necessary things, that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication” (Acts xv. 23–29).
Now, how is it that the elders and brethren write in this way to the brethren in such far-distant places as Cilicia ? What authority had the “elders” and “ brethren in Jerusalem to bind upon the “ brethren” of Cilicia abstinence from things strangled, and to loose them from the obligation of the Mosaic Law? The Apostles had undoubted authority so to do, but surely not the "elders” and “brethren” of a local Church. The letter is not hortatory, but authoritative. Did the Apostles then, simply for form's sake, associate the elders and brethren with them, as St. Paul at the beginning of his Epistles frequently joined the names of his companions with his own, though every line of the subsequent letter shows that his mind alone had been at work upon it; or had the Church of Jerusalem some real precedence or authority over the scattered Churches of the circumcision, which, on a matter like this, they naturally stretched over their Gentile neighbours ?
But there is another matter, of far more importance, on which the Acts of the Apostles throws no light whatsoever, and that is the relations subsisting between the Jewish and Christian ecclesiastical polities ; for, for nearly half a century, a Christian Israelite was under two systems, each having its own discipline and its own worship. Such an one would be a Christian, having hope only in Christ; and yet he was zealous for the law, i.e., for the Mosaic ritual. We read that there were many thousands ” of such (Acts xxi. 20).
St. Paul even “ walked orderly, and kept the law," i.e., the ritual law, at the very time when he was stoutly resisting its imposition on the Gentiles. (Acts xviii. 18, 21, 22; xx. 16 ; xxi. 26.)
A member of the Church of Jerusalem, then, being a Christian, would be under the rule of St. James and of