(1) Superintendents. The Apostles originally appointed men to superintend the spiritual, and occasionally even the secular, wants of the churches (Acts xiv:23; xi:3o; see also 2 Tim. ii:2), who were ordinarily called rpecrI3Urepot, fires-bu'Ier-oi, elders, from their age, sometimes irlatcorot, eh-pis'ho-poi, overseers (bishops), from their office. They are also said to preside (1 Thess. v:12; I Tim. v;i7), never to rule, which has far too despotic a sound. In the Epistle to the Hebrews (xiii:7, 17, 24) they are named leading men (Comp. Acts xv:22), and, figuratively, vrocalyes, shepherds (Ephes. iv:II).
But that they did not always teach is clear from Tim. v :17 ; and the name elders proves that originally age, experience, and character were their most necessary qualifications. They were to be married men with families (i Tim. and with converted children (Tit. i :6). In the beginning there had been no time to train teach ers, and teaching was regarded far more in the light of a gift than an office ; yet St. Paul places 'ability to teach' among episcopal qualifications (t Tim. iii :2; Titus i :9; the latter of which passages should be translated, 'that he may be able both to exhort men by sound teaching, and also to refute opposers). That teachers had obtained in St. Paul's day a fixed official position, is manifest from Gal. vi :6, and 1 Cor. ix :14, where he claims for them a right to worldly maintenance ; in fact, that the shepherds ordered to 'feed the flock,' and be its 'overseers'), ( t Pet.
v :2), were to feed them with knowledge and in struction, will never be disputed, except to sup port a hypothesis. The leaders also, in Heb. xiii :7, are described as 'speaking unto you the word of God.' Ecclesiastical history joins in proving that the two offices of teaching and guperintending were, with few exceptions, com bined in the same persons, as indeed, the nature of things dictated.
(2) No Difference Between Elders and Bishops. That during St. Paul's lifetime no difference between elders and bishops yet ex isted in the consciousness of the church, is mani fest from the entire absence of distinctive names (Acts xx :i7-28; I Pet. v 2). The mention of
bishops and deacons in Phil. i :I, and I Tim. iii, without any notice of elders, proves that at that time no difference of order subsisted between bishops and elders.
(3) Ordination. A formal ceremony, it is generally believed, was employed in appointing elders, although it does not appear that as yet any fixed name was appropriated to the idea of ordination. (The word ordained is inexcusably interpolated in the English version of Acts i In Tit. i :5 the Greek word means set, or set up; and in Acts xiv :23 it means having elected, prop erly by a show of hands; though, abusively, the term came to mean simply, having chosen or nominated (Acts x :41) ; yet in 2 Cor. viii :19, it. seems to have its genuine democratic sense.) In i Cor. xv1:15, we find the house of Stephanas to have volunteered the task of 'ministering to the saints ;' and that this was a ministry of 'the word,' is evident from the Apostle's urging the church 'to submit themselves to such.' It would appear then that a formal investiture into the office was not as yet regarded essential. Be this as it may, no one doubts that an ordination by laying on of hands soon became general or uni versal. Hands were first laid on not to bestow an office, but to solicit a spiritual gift (I Tim. iv :14 ; 2 Tim. i :6 ; Acts xiii :3 ; xiv :26 ; xv :4o). To the same effect Acts viii :17; xix:6;—passages which explain Heb. vi :2. On the other hand, the absolute silence of the Scriptures, even if it were not confirmed, as it is, by positive testimony, would prove that no idea of consecration, as distinct from ordination, at that time existed at all ; and, consequently, although individual elders may have really discharged functions which would afterwards have been called episcopal, it was not by virtue of a second ordination, nor, therefore, of episcopal rank.