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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [1]

The title Presbyterian comes from the Greek word which signifies senior or elder, intimating that the government of the church in the New Testament was by presbyteries, that is, by association by presbyteries, that is, by association of ministers and ruling elders, possessed all of equal powers, without any superiority among them, either in office or order. The Presbyterians believe, that the Gospel, to administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper, and to feed the flock of Christ, is derived from the Holy Ghost by the imposition of the hands of the presbytery; and they oppose the independent scheme of the common rights of Christians by the same arguments which are used for that purpose by the Episcopalians. They affirm, however, that there is no order in the church as established by Christ and his apostles superior to that of presbyters; that presbyter and bishop, though different words, are of the same import; and that prelacy was gradually established upon the primitive practice of making the moderator or speaker of the presbytery a permanent officer. These positions they maintain against the Episcopalians by the following Scriptural arguments.

They observe, That the apostles planted churches by ordaining bishops and deacons in every city; that the ministers which in one verse are called bishops, are in the next perhaps denominated presbyters; that we no where read in the New Testament of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, in any one church; and that, therefore, we are under the necessity of concluding bishop and presbyter to be two names for the same church officer. This is apparent from Peter's exhortation to the elders or presbyters who were among the Jewish Christians. 'The elders (presbyters) which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, (acting as bishops thereof, ) not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being LORDS over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock,  1 Peter 5:2-3 . From this passage it is evident that the presbyters not only fed the flock of God, but also governed that flock with episcopal powers; and that the apostle himself, as a church officer, was nothing more than a presbyter or elder. The identity of the office of bishop and presbyter is still more apparent from  Hebrews 13:7;  Hebrews 13:17 . and  1 Thessalonians 5:12; for the bishops are there represented as governing the flock, speaking to them the word of God, watching for their souls, and discharging various offices, which it is impossible for any man to perform to more than one congregation.

"From the last cited text it is evident that the bishops of the Thessalonian churches had the pastoral care of no more souls than they could hold personal communion with in God's worship; for they were such as all the people were to know, esteem, and love, as those that not only were over them, but also 'closely laboured among them, and admonished them.' But diocesan bishops, whom ordinarily the hundredth part of their flock never hear nor see, cannot be those bishops by whom that flock is admonished; nor can they be what Peter requires the bishops of the Jewish converts to be, ensamples to the flock. It is the opinion of Dr. Hammond, who was a very learned divine, and a zealot for episcopacy, that the elders whom the apostle James desires ( James 5:14 .) the sick to call for, were of the highest permanent order of ecclesiastical officers; but it is self-evident that those elders cannot have been diocesan bishops, otherwise the sick must have been often without the reach of the remedy proposed to them. "There is nothing in Scripture upon which the Episcopalian is more ready to rest his cause than the alleged episcopacy of Timothy and Titus, of whom the former is said to have been bishop of Ephesus, and the latter bishop of Crete; yet the Presbyterian thinks it is clear as the noon-day sun, that the presbyters of Ephesus were supreme governors, under Christ, of the Ephesian churches, at the very time that Timothy is pretended to have been their proper diocesan. "In  Acts 20:17 , &c. we read, that 'from Miletus Paul sent to Ephesus, and called the elders (presbyters) of the church.

And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons. And now, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed, therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (bishops) to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember that, by the space of three years, I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, ' &c. "From this passage it is evident that there was in the city of Ephesus a plurality of pastors of equal authority, without any superior pastor or bishop over them; for the apostle directs his discourse to them all in common, and gives them equal power over the whole flock. Dr. Hammond, indeed, imagines, that the elders whom Paul called to Miletus, were the bishops of Asia, and that he sent for them to Ephesus, because that city was the metropolis of this province.

But, were this opinion well founded, it is not conceivable that the sacred writer would have called them the elders of the church of Ephesus, but the elders of the church in general, or the elders of the churches in Asia. Besides, it is to be remembered, that the apostle was in such haste to be at Jerusalem, that the sacred historian measures his time by days; whereas it must have required several months to call together the bishops or elders of all the cities of Asia; and he might certainly have gone to meet them at Ephesus in less time than would be requisite for their meeting in that city, and proceeding thence to him at Miletus. They must therefore have been either the joint pastors of one congregation, or the pastors of different congregations in one city; and as it was thus in Ephesus, so it was in Philippi; for we find the apostle addressing his epistle 'to all the saints in Jesus Christ which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.' From the passage before us it is likewise plain, that the presbyters of Ephesus had not only the name, but the whole power of bishops given to them by the Holy Ghost; for they are enjoined to do the whole work of bishops which signifies to rule as well as feed the church of God. Whence we see that the apostle makes the power of governing inseparable from that of preaching and watching; and that, according to him, all who are preachers of God's word, and watchmen of souls, are necessarily rulers or governors of the church, without being accountable for their management to any prelate, but only to their Lord Christ, from whom their power is derived. "It appears, therefore, that the apostle Paul, left in the church of Ephesus, which he had planted, no other successors to himself than presbyter-bishops, or Presbyterian ministers, and that he did not devolve his power upon any prelate. Timothy, whom the Episcopalians allege to have been the first bishop of Ephesus, was present when this settlement was made,  Acts 20:5; and it is surely not to be supposed that, had he been their bishop, the apostle would have desolved the whole episcopal power upon the presbyters before his face.

If ever there were a season fitter than another for pointing out the duty of this supposed bishop to his diocese, and his presbyters' duty to him, it was surely when Paul was taking his final leave of them, and discoursing so pathetically concerning the duty of overseers, the coming of ravenous wolves, and the consequent hazard of the flock. In this farewell discourse he tells them that 'he had not shunned to declare unto them all the counsel of God.' But with what truth could this have been said, if obedience to a diocesan bishop had been any part of their duty, either at the time of the apostle's speaking, or at any future period? He foresaw that ravenous wolves would enter in among them, and that even some of themselves should arise speaking perverse things; and if, as the Episcopalians allege, diocesan episcopacy was the remedy provided for these evils, is it not strange, passing strange, that the inspired preacher did not foresee that Timothy, who was then standing beside him, was destined to fill that important office: or, if he did foresee it, that he ommitted to recommend him to his future charge, and to give him proper instructions for the discharge of his duty? "But if Timothy was not bishop of Ephesus, what, it may be asked, was his office in that city? for that he resided there for some time, and was by the apostle invested with authority to obtain and rebuke presbyters, are facts about which all parties are agreed, and which, indeed, cannot be controverted by any reader of Paul's epistles. To this the Prebyterian replies, with confidence, that the power which Timothy exercised in the church of Ephesus was that of an evangelist, Tim 2: 4, 5. and not a fixed prelate. But, according to Eusebius, the work of an evangelist was, 'to lay the foundations of the faith in barbarous nations, and to constitute among them pastors, after which he passed on to other countries.' Accordingly we find that Timothy was resident for a time at Philippi and Corinth ( Philippians 2:19 .  1 Corinthians 4:1-21;  1 Corinthians 16:10-11 .) as well as Ephesus, and that he had as much authority over those churches as over that of which he is said to have been the fixed bishop.

'Now, if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear, for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. Let no man, therefore, despise him.' This text might lead us to suppose that Timothy was bishop of Corinth as well as of Ephesus; for it is stronger than that upon which his episcopacy of the latter church is chiefly built. The apostle says,  1 Timothy 1:3 . 'I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.' But, had Timothy been the fixed bishop of that city, there would surely have been no necessity for beseeching him to abide with his flock. It is to be observed, too, that the first epistle to Timothy, which alone was written to him during his residence at Ephesus, was of a date prior to Paul's meeting with the elders of that church at Miletus; for in the epistle he hopes to come to him shortly; whereas he tells the elders at Miletus that they should see his face no more. This being the case, it is evident that Timothy was left by the apostle at Ephesus only to supply his place during his temporary absence at Macedona; and that he could not possibly have been constituted fixed bishop of that church, since the episcopal powers were afterwards committed to the presbyters by the Holy Ghost in his presence. "The identity of the office of bishop and presbyter being thus clearly established, it follows, that the presbyterate is the highest permanent office in the church, and that every faithful pastor of a flock is successor to the apostles in every thing in which they were to have any successors.

In the apostolic office there were indeed some things peculiar and extraordinary, such as their immediate call by Christ, their infallibility, their being witnesses of our Lord's resurrection, and their unlimited jurisdiction over the whole world. These powers and privileges could not be conveyed by imposition of hands to any successors, whether called presbyters or bishops; but as rulers or office-bearers in particular churches, we have the confession of 'the very chiefest apostles, ' Peter and John, that they were nothing more than presbyters, or parish ministers. This being the case, the dispute which has been so warmly agitated concerning the validity of Presbyterian ordination may be soon decided; for if the ceremony of ordination be at all essential, it is obvious that such a ceremony performed by presbyters must be valid, as there is no higher order of ecclesiastics in the church by whom it can be performed. Accordingly we find, that Timothy himself, though said to be a bishop, was ordained by the laying on of the hands of a presbytery. At that ordination, indeed, St. Paul presided, but he could preside only as primus in paribus; for we have seen that, as permanent officers in the church of Christ, the apostles themselves were no more than presbyters. If the apostles' hands were imposed for any other purpose, it must have been to communicate those charismata, or miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, which were then so frequent; but which no modern presbyter or bishop will pretend to give, unless his understanding be clouded by the grossest ignorance, or perverted by the most frantic enthusiasm." The members of the church of Scotland are strict Presbyterians.

Their mode of ecclesiastical government was brought thither from Geneva by John Knox, the famous Scotch reformer, and who has been styled the apostle of Scotland. Their doctrines are Calvinistic, as may be seen in the confession of faith, and the larger and shorter catechisms; though it is supposed that the clergy, when composing instructions, either for their respective parishes, or the public at large, are no more fettered by the confession than the clergy of the church of England are by the thirty-nine articles. Many in both communities, it seems, take a more extensive latitude than their formulaa allow them. As to the church government among the Scotch Presbyterians, no one is ignorant, that, from the first dawn of the reformation among us till the aera of the revolution, there was a perpetual struggle between the court and the people, for the establishment of an episcopal or a presbyterian form: the former model of ecclesiastical polity was patronised by the house of Stuart on account of the support which it gave to the prerogatives of the crown; the latter was the favourite of the majority of the people, perhaps not so much on account of its superior claim to apostolical institution, as because the laity are mixed with the clergy in church judicatories, and the two orders, which under episcopacy are kept so distinct, incorporated, as it were, into one body. In the Scottish church, every regulation of public worship, every act of discipline, and every ecclesiastical censure, which in other churches flows from the authority of a diocesan bishop, or from a convocation of the clergy, is the joint work of a certain number of clergymen and laymen acting together with equal authority, and deciding every question by a plurality of voices.

The laymen who thus form an essential part of the ecclesiastical courts of Scotland are called ruling elders, and hold the same office, as well as the same name, with those brethren ( Acts 15:1-41 :) who joined with the apostles and elders at Jerusalem in determining the important question concerning the necessity of imposing upon the Gentile converts the ritual observances of the law of Moses. These lay-elders Paul enjoined Timothy, (   1 Timothy 5:17 .) to account worthy of double honour, if they should rule well, and discharge the duties for which they were separated from the multitude of their brethren. In the church of Scotland every parish has two or three of those lay-elders, who are grave and serious persons chosen from among the heads of families, of known orthodoxy, and steady adherence to the worship, discipline, and government of the church. Being solemnly engaged to use their utmost endeavours for the suppression of vice and the cherishing of piety and virtue, and to exercise discipline faithfully and diligently, the minister, in the presence of the congregation, sets them apart to their office by solemn prayer; and concludes the ceremony, which is sometimes called ordination, with exhorting both elders and people to their respective duties. The kirk session, which is the lowest ecclesiastical judicatory, consists of the minister and those elders of the congregation. The minister is ex officio moderator, but has no negative voice over the decision of the session; nor, indeed, has he a right to vote at all, unless when the voice of the elders are equal and opposite. He may, indeed, enter his protest against their sentence, if he think it improper, and appeal to the judgment of the presbytery; but this privilege belongs equally to every elder, as well as to every person who may believe himself aggrieved by the proceedings of the session.

The deacons, whose proper office it is to take care of the poor, may be present in every session, and offer their counsel on all questions that come before it; but, except in what relates to the distribution of alms, they have no decisive vote with the minister and elders. The next judicatory is the presbytery, which consist of all the pastors within a certain district, and one ruling elder from each parish, commissioned by his brethren to represent, in conjunction with the minister, the session of that parish. The presbytery treats of such matters as concern the particular churches within its limits; as the examination, admission, ordination, and censuring of ministers; the licensing of probationers, rebuking the gross or contumacious sinners, the directing the sentence of excommunication, the deciding upon references and appeals from kirk sessions, resolving cases of conscience, explaining difficulties in doctrine or discipline; and censuring, according to the word of God, any heresy or erroneous doctrine which hath either been publicly or privately maintained within the bounds of its jurisdiction. Some of them have frankly acknowledged that they cannot altogether approve of that part of her constitution which gives an equal vote, in questions of heresy, to an illiterate mechanic and his enlightened pastor. We are persuaded (say they) that it has been the source of much trouble to many a pious clergyman, who from the laudable desire of explaining the Scriptures, and declaring to his flock all the counsel of God, has employed a variety of expressions of the same import to illustrate those articles of faith, which may be obscurely expressed in the established standards.

The fact, however, is, that in presbyters the only prerogatives which the pastors have over the ruling elders are, the power of ordination by imposition of hands, and the privilege of having the moderator chosen from their body. From the judgment of the presbytery there lies an appeal to the provincial synod, which ordinarily meets twice in the year, and exercises over the presbyteries within the province a jurisdiction similar to that which is vested in each presbytery over the sever kirk session within its bounds. Of these synods there are in the church of Scotland fifteen, which are composed of the members of the several presbyteries within the respective provinces which give names to the synods. The highest authority in the church of Scotland is the general assembly, which consists of a certain number of ministers and ruling elders delegated from each presbytery, and of commissioners from the universities and royal boroughs. A presbytery in which there are fewer than twelve parishes sends to the general assembly two ministers and one ruling elder; if it contain between twelve and eighteen ministers, it sends three of these, and one ruling elder; if it contain between eighteen and twenty-four ministers, it sends four ministers, and two ruling elders; and of twenty-four ministers, when it contains so many, it sends five, with two ruling elders.

Every royal borough sends one ruling elder, and Edinburgh two, whose election must be attested by the kirk sessions of their respective boroughs. Every university sends one commissioner from its own body. The commissioners are chosen annually six weeks before the meeting of the assembly; and the ruling elders are often men of the first eminence in the kingdom for rank and talents. In this assembly, which meets once a year, the king presides by his commissioner, who is always a nobleman, but he has no voice in their deliberations. The order of their proceedings is regular, though sometimes the number of members creates a confusion; which the moderator, who is chosen from among the ministers to be, as it were, the speaker of the house, has not sufficient authority to prevent. Appeals are brought from all the other ecclesiastical courts in Scotland to the general assembly; and in questions purely religious, no appeal lies from its determinations.

See Hall's View of a Gospel Church; Enc. Brt. art. Presbyt

erians; Brown's Vindication of the Presbyterian Form of Church Government; Scotch Confession and Directory. For the other side of the question, and against Presbyterian church government, see articles Brownists, Church Congregational, Episcopacy and Independents

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

are those that affirm there is no order in the church, as established by Christ and his Apostles, superior to that of presbyters; that all ministers, being ambassadors, are equal by their commission; and that elder, or presbyter, and bishop, are the same in name and office, and the terms synonymous. Their arguments against the Episcopalians are as follows:—With respect to the successors of the Apostles, they seem to have been placed on a footing of perfect equality, the διακονοι , or deacons, not being included among the teachers. They were inferior officers, whose province it originally was to care for the poor, and to discharge those secular duties arising out of the formation of Christian communities, which could not be discharged by the ministers without interfering with the much higher duties which they had to perform. These ministers are sometimes in the New Testament styled πρεσβυτεροι , or presbyters, at other times επισκοποι , or bishops; but the two appellations were indiscriminately applied to all the pastors who were the instructers of the different churches. Of this various examples may be given from the sacred writings. The Apostle Paul, upon a very affecting occasion, when he was convinced that he could never again have an opportunity of addressing them, sent for the elders or presbyters of Ephesus, the persons to whom the ministry in that church had been committed; and after mentioning all that he had done, and intimating to them the sufferings which awaited him, he addressed to them what may be considered as his dying advice, and as comprehending in it all that he judged it most essential for them to do. "Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops or overseers, to feed the church of God,"  Acts 20:17;  Acts 20:28 . Here they whose duty it was to feed the church of God, as having been set apart through the Holy Spirit for that interesting work, are termed by the Apostle presbyters and bishops, and there is not the slightest allusion to the existence of any other επισκοπος , or bishop, superior to those επισκοποι , or bishops, to whom he gives the moving charge now recorded. In his epistle to Titus, St. Paul thus writes: "For this purpose I left thee in Crete," where, as yet, it is probable that no teachers had been appointed, "that thou shouldest ordain elders, or presbyters, in every city." He then points out the class of men from which the presbyters were to be selected, adding, as the reason of this, "for a bishop must be blameless as the steward of God,"  Titus 1:5;  Titus 1:7 . It is quite plain that the epithet bishop is here applicable to the same persons who were a little before styled elders, and both are declared to be the stewards of God, the guardians and instructers of his church. The Apostle Peter, in his first epistle addressed to the Jewish converts, has these words: "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, ο συμπρεσβυτερος , and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight of it, επισκοπουντες , being bishops of it, not by constraint but willingly,"  1 Peter 5:1-2 . This passage is a very strong one. The Apostle speaks of himself in his extraordinary capacity, a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and in his ordinary capacity as a teacher; showing, by the use of a very significant term, that as to it he was on a footing of equality with the other pastors or presbyters. He gives it in charge to them to feed the flock of God; the charge which, under most particular and affecting circumstances, he had received from the Lord after the resurrection, and which includes in it the performance of every thing requisite for the comfort and the edification of Christians; and he accordingly expresses this by the word επισκοπουντες , being bishops over them. It cannot, with any shadow of reason, be supposed that the Apostle would exhort the elders or presbyters to take to themselves the office, and to perform the duties, of a bishop, if that term really marked out a distinct and higher order; or that he would have considered the presbyters as fitted for the discharge of the whole ministerial office, if there were parts of that office which he knew that it was not lawful for them to exercise.

It seems, by the passages that have been quoted, to be placed beyond a doubt, that, in what the Apostles said respecting the ministers of Christ's religion, they taught that the επισκοποι and the πρεσβυτεροι were the same class of instructers; and that there were, in fact, only two orders pointed out by them, bishops or presbyters, and deacons. This being the case, even although it should appear that there were bishops, in the common sense of that term, recognized in the apostolic age, all that could be deduced from the fact would be, that the equality at first instituted among the teachers, had, for prudential reasons, or under peculiar circumstances, been interrupted; but it would not follow either that the positive and general declarations on the subject by the respired writers were not true, or that it was incumbent at all times, and upon all Christians, to disregard them. It has been strenuously contended that there were such bishops in the infancy of the church, and that allusion is made to them in Scripture; but without directly opposing the assertion, this much must be admitted, that the proof of it is less clear than that bishops and presbyters were represented as the same in rank and in authority. Indeed, there does not appear to have been any occasion for this higher order. To presbyters was actually committed the most important charge of feeding the church of God, that is, of promoting the spiritual improvement of mankind; and it is remarkable that their privilege of separating from the people by ordination the ministers of religion, is explicitly acknowledged in the case of Timothy, whom the Apostle admonishes not to neglect the gift that was in him, and which had been given by prophecy, and by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery; by which can be meant only the laying on of the hands of those who were denominated presbyters or bishops. But although all the parts of the ministerial duty had been intrusted to presbyters, it is still contended that the New Testament indicates the existence of bishops as a higher order. There has, however, been much diversity of opinion in relation to this point by those who contend for the divine institution of episcopacy. Some of them maintain that the Apostles, while they lived, were the bishops of the Christian church; but this, and upon irrefragable grounds, is denied by others. Some urge that Timothy and Titus were, in what they call the true sense of the term, bishops; but many deny that, founding their denial upon these evangelists not having resided within the bounds, or been limited to the administration of any one church, being sent wherever it was resolved to bring men to the knowledge of divine truth. Many conceive that the question is settled by the epistles in the book of Revelation being addressed to the angels of the respective churches named by the Apostle. But it is far from being obvious what is implied under the appellation angel; there has been much dispute about this point, and it is certainly a deviation from all the usual rules by which we are guided in interpreting Scripture, to bring an obscure and doubtful passage in illustration of one, about the import of which, if we attend to the language used, there can be no doubt.

It may, therefore, be safely affirmed that there is nothing clear and specific in the writings of the New Testament which qualifies the positive declarations that bishops and presbyters were the same officers; that the ground upon which the distinction between them is placed, is, at least, far from obviously supporting it; and that there is not the slightest intimation that the observance of such a distinction is at all important, much less absolutely essential to a true Christian church, insomuch, that, where it is disregarded, the ordinances of divine appointment cannot be properly dispensed. If therefore it be established,—and some of the most learned and zealous advocates for the hierarchy which afterward arose have been compelled to admit it,—that Scripture has not recognized any difference of rank or order between the ordinary teachers of the Gospel, all other means of maintaining this difference should be with Protestants of no force. It may be shown that the admission of the distinction is not incompatible with the great ends for which a ministry was appointed, and even in particular cases may tend to promote them; but still it is merely a matter of human regulation, not binding upon Christians, and not in any way connected with the vital influence of the Gospel dispensation. The whole of the writers of antiquity may be urged in support of it, if that could be done; and, after all, every private Christian would be entitled to judge for himself, and to be directed by his own judgment, unless it be maintained that where Scripture has affirmed the existence of equality, this is to be counteracted and set at nought by the testimonies and assertions of a set of writers, who, although honoured with the name of fathers, are very far, indeed, from being infallible, and who have, in fact, often delivered sentiments which even they who, upon a particular emergency, cling to them, must confess to be directly at variance with all that is sound in reason, or venerable and sublime in religion. It also follows, from the Scriptural identity of bishops and presbyters, that no church in which this identity is preserved, can on that account be considered as having departed from the apostolic model, or its ministers be viewed, at least with any good reason, as having less ground to hope for the blessing of God upon their spiritual labours; because if we admit the contrary, we must also admit that the inspired writers, instead of properly ingulating the church, betrayed it into error, by omitting to make a distinction closely allied with the essence of religion. What is this but to say that it is safer to follow the erring direction of frail mortals, than to follow the admonitions of those who, it is universally allowed, were inspired by the Holy Spirit, or commissioned by him to be the instructers of the world?

It is to be observed, however, that although bishops and presbyters were the same when the epistles of the New Testament were written, it would be going too far to contend that no departure from this should ever take place; because, to justify such a position, it would be requisite that a positive injunction should have been given that equality must at all times be carefully preserved. There is, however, no such injunction. Unlike the Old Testament, which specified every thing, even the most minute, in relation to the priesthood, the New only alludes in general terms, and very seldom, to the ministry; and the reason probably is, that, being intended for all nations, it left Christians at liberty to make such modifications in the ecclesiastical constitution as in their peculiar situation appeared best adapted for religious edification. The simple test to be applied to the varying or varied forms of church government is that indicated by our Lord himself: "By their fruits ye shall know them." Wherever the regulations respecting the ministry are such as to divert it from the purposes for which it was destined, to separate those who form it from the flock of Christ, to relax their diligence in teaching, and to destroy the connection between them and their people, so as to render their exertions of little or of no use, there we find a church not apostolical. But wherever the blessed fruits of Gospel teaching are in abundance produced, where the people and the ministers are cordially united, and where every regulation is calculated to give efficacy to the labours of those who have entered into the vineyard, we have an apostolical church, or, to speak more properly, a church of Christ, built upon a rock, because devoted to the beneficent objects for which our Saviour came into the world.

The form of church government among the Scotch Presbyterians is as follows:—The kirk session, consisting of the minister and lay elders of the congregation, is the lowest ecclesiastical judicature. The next is the presbytery, which consists of all the pastors within a certain district, and one ruling elder from each parish. The provincial synods, of which there are fifteen, meet twice in the year, and are composed of the members of the several presbyteries within the respective provinces. From the kirk sessions appeal lies to the presbyteries, from these to the synods, and from them to the general assembly, which meets annually, and is the highest ecclesiastical authority in the kingdom. This is composed of delegates from each presbytery, from every royal borough, and from each of the Scotch universities; and the king presides by a commission of his own appointment. The Scotch ordain by the "laying on of the hands of the presbytery," before which persons may be licensed to preach as probationers, but cannot administer the sacraments. The clergy are maintained by the state, and nominated to livings by patrons, as in other establishments. Those properly called the English Presbyterians, have no connection with the Scotch kirk. They are now indeed broken into separate churches, and follow the same from of church government as the Congregationalists or Independents. The name Presbyterian, therefore, is now inapplicable to them although retained. So Dr. Doddridge: "Those who hold every pastor to be so a bishop or overseer of his own congregation, as that no other person or body of men have, by divine institution, a power to exercise any superior or pastoral office in it, may, properly speaking, be called, so far at least, congregational; and it is by a vulgar mistake that any such are called Presbyterians." See Episcopalians .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [3]


a name derived from the peculiar Church government which is advocated ( (See Presbyter) and (See Presbyterianism) ), designates a large body of Protestant Christians not bound together in one large denomination, but associated in independent churches. As, however, the term Congregationalist embraces not merely the denomination which assumes that title, but also those whose principles of government are the same though their doctrines may be diverse, as the Baptists, the Christians or Campbellites, the Unitarians, etc., so the term Presbyterian properly embraces all those that accept the Presbyterian principles of government, even though there be some differences in their theological beliefs. All Protestant or Reformed churches may in general be said to be divided into three classes-those who hold to government by or through bishops, i.e. to an Episcopal government; those who hold to government directly by the members of the Church without the mediation of any representatives, i.e. to a Congregational or Independent form of government; and those who hold to government by a board of elders or presbyters, i.e. to a Presbyterian form of government. Presbyterianism, variously modified, is the form of Church government observed by many Protestant churches, but is most perfectly developed in Britain and America. In Britain it prevails chiefly in Scotland, although during the Commonwealth in the 17th century it was for a very short time in the ascendant in England also.

In the "General Presbyterian Council" held at Edinburgh in July, 1877, the German state establishments and the French and Dutch Reformed churches, as well as other bodies that admit of certain features of Presbyterianism in government, were represented; and Dr. Blaikie, in his Report on Presbyterian Churches, which was submitted and approved by the Pan-Presbyterian Council at Edinburgh, treats of all these churches as Presbyterian bodies. In most, if not all of those churches, while there is a consistorial system that connects them with the state, giving the latter considerable control, there is also a true Presbyterian and synodal constitution. In virtue of the former, these churches have in some cases a general oversight of all matters affecting the moral and religious well being of the community, and in the exercise of the latter they deal more especially with spiritual questions. This was substantially the system advocated by the Scottish Reformers, and still exhibited to some extent by the presence in the General Assembly of the Scottish Established Church of a representative of the sovereign called the lord high commissioner, authorized to bring its sessions at any time to a close should the proceedings conflict with the royal prerogatives by the presence as members of the Assembly not only of elders chosen by the churches, but of elders appointed to be there by the town councils of such places as are possessed of royal charters, and hence called royal burghs, and by the wide range of social as well as of religious questions that it considers. In Presbyterian churches not connected with the state, whether in Great Britain, on the continent of Europe, in this country or elsewhere, the jurisdiction being over only their own members and civil representatives unknown, the discussions are confined to matters directly affecting the interests of religion, and a more purely spiritual type of Presbyterianism in consequence prevails. (See Belgium); (See Bohemia); (See France); (See Holland); (See Hungary); (See Italy); (See Prussia); (See Russia); (See Spain); (See Switzerland).

The French consistorial system is more nearly Presbyterian than the German, and is not perfectly so only from the pressure of the civil power. In other churches, also, as well as in the Protestant Church of France, Presbyterianism is more or less modified by the relations of the Church to the State. (See Reformed Churches).

The Presbyterians are for the most part Calvinistic in doctrine. They generally accept the Westminster Assembly's Confession of Faith as their symbol of belief, and every minister in the Presbyterian Church of the United States is required to declare his personal belief in it as an embodiment of the truths taught in the Scriptures. I hey do not agree, however, in their interpretation of that standard, and are divided into strict Calvinists and moderate Calvinists. (See Calvinists). This division in sentiment, combined with other circumstances, divided the Presbyterian Church of the United States into two bodies for a time, as we have already seen; but the division has been healed and a reunion effected, the theological differences having abated. (See Presbyterian Churches).

The chief Presbyterian Church in America not Calvinistic is the Cumberland Presbyterian. There was at one time, however, a serious defection in England, many of the churches becoming Socinian in doctrine; but the Unitarian churches in England at the present day are nearly all Congregational in their polity. Calvin is generally regarded as the founder of Presbyterianism; but it should be borne in mind that government by a board of elders was maintained by certain bodies, as the Waldensians, from a very early age. Of course, we are ready to grant that he adopted the form known as Presbyterianism because he believed it to be "founded on and agreeable to the Word of God." Calvin may be regarded as the founder of Presbyterianism in the sense that he was the first to organize the Reformed Church on a Presbyterian model, just as he was the first to frame the Reformed faith of Southern Europe in a clear, distinct, and affirmative form. Says Blaikie: "It is not correct to say that Calvin originated the Presbyterian system. But in connection with it he rendered very essential service both in theory and in practice; he unfolded the idea more lucidly than it had been set forth before, and with much struggle he set it in actual operation in Geneva. What he thus established became the model on which the Reformed Church in France and other countries was formed" (Report, p. 7).

The tables on the following page are from Blaikie's Report.