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1883 Ecclesial Guide

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16. -- Mutual Consent the Basis of Order.

The only practicable basis of order in the circumstances existing in our dispensation, is that of mutual consent, expressed in the process known as voting, which literally means voicing, or speaking your mind. If God would speak, as in the day of the Spirit's ministration, there would be no need for man to speak; but, as God is silent, there is no alternative but to make the best appointments we can amongst ourselves, aiming in all things to come close to His mind and will, as expressed in the written word of the apostles.

The principle of government by consent can only be practically applied by listening to the voice of the greater number, technically described as "the majority." There are well-founded objections to following such a lead in certain matters: but in this matter, what other principle can be acted on? Shall seventy-five submit to the contrary wishes of twenty-five? Is it not more reasonable that in matters of general convenience, the lesser number should submit to the greater? Such an admission is doubtless a concession to the evil principle of democracy; but there is no other practicable alternative in the absence of the voice of authority. And it is a principle that may work out beneficent results if subordinated to the commandments of Christ, which are all-prevailing with true disciples of Christ.

 

17. -- Exercise of Authority Out of the Question.

One principle ought to permeate all appointments in the house of Christ, and that is the one laid down by Christ, when speaking of the exercise of authority of one Gentile over another, he said, "IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU." "He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief as he that doeth serve." The appointment of brethren to certain offices is not the appointment of men to exercise authority, but of men to serve. For this reason, it is wise to speak of them all, in whatever capacity, as "serving brethren." For the same reason, it is inexpedient to employ any technical term around which ideas of personal importance are liable to gather, or which have a tendency to create a cold officialism and obscure the family relation to the truth. "The committee," for example, or "the executive," "registrar," &c., is an abstraction which is liable to do this. It is wise to attach the term "brother" or "brethren" to every office. It may sometimes seem uncouth or redundant; but this is more than compensated by its wholesome effect in helping to preserve the family unity of the body of Christ. It keeps in view the fact that official brethren are only brethren performing an office for the good of the rest, and to some extent shuts the door against the corruption which generated the apostacy, and developed the clerical usurpation.

 

18. -- Serving Brethren, not Rulers.

All official brethren are serving brethren; but there are necessarily different sorts of serving brethren, such as managing brethren, presiding brethren, doorkeeping brethren, &c., but ALL are brethren. It is important to keep this feature constantly in the front. Christ places it there: "One is your master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." This feature, with many other beautiful features originally appertaining to the house of Christ, has disappeared from the religious systems around us, bearing the name of Christ. Having returned to it, let us hold on to it. There must be no authority, only service.

The spirit of the appointments involve this. The ecclesia does not appoint masters, but servants. In principle, the ecclesia is the doer of everything; but, as it is impossible, it can, in its collective capacity, do the things that are to be done, it delegates to individual members the duty of doing them in its behalf.

 

19. -- Suitable Qualifications.

In this delegation of official duties, it ought to be guided by the apostolic and reasonable principle that men of suitable qualifications should be chosen. Men chosen for the performance of particular duties become more or less representative men to "those that are without;" and since the ecclesia has a mission to "them that are without," it is important that in these men, "those that are without" should be able to recognize an illustration of the spirit and principles that belong to Christ. Furthermore, as regards those that are within, it is important that the men to whom a special function is assigned by choice, should be men likely to exercise a righteous and beneficial influence. If Paul was careful to recommend that candidates for spiritual appointment in the early ecclesias should have certain eligible qualifications, much more needful is it that regard should be had to these qualifications in appointments in a day like ours, when we are not privileged with the visible indications of the mind of the spirit.

Those qualifications are thus described: "Blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavour, given to hospitality, apt to teach, not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice, moreover he must have a good report of them that are without."

We cannot do better than have these qualifications always in view when called upon to make a choice for any particular office.

 

20. -- Ecclesial Control.

It is next important, in making this choice, that the right of the whole ecclesia to control proceedings should not be absolutely surrendered into the hands of those chosen. To do this would be to appoint masters and not servants, and lay a foundation for the evils that have come from clerical domination. While appointing special brethren to special offices, the ecclesia ought to retain a power of regulation and control. This is done by making the proceedings of the arranging brethren subject to the periodical approbation of the general body. Let the arranging brethren report their acts once in three months to the general body, and if there is anything objectionable in those acts, it is in the power of the ecclesia to repudiate them. Yet, since the decisions of the arranging brethren must often refer to matters requiring immediate attention, it is necessary that their decisions should be valid, without the consent of the general body; and that such acts should not be subject to repudiation. The two necessities are met by giving the arranging brethren the power to carry out their decisions at once: and the general body the power of veto only as regards the future.

 

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