Julian Period, 4745. Vulgar Era,


among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles Jerusalem. forth a little space;

35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.

36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men,
and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of
men, it will come to nought":

39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest
haply ye
be found even to fight against God.

40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called
the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they
should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.


The appointment of seven Deacons.

ACTS vi. 1-6.

1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples

Old died, the honour of the law failed, and purity and Phari-
saism died." He is called Rabban Gamaliel the Old, to distin-
guish him from his grandson, who was also called Rabban Gama-
liel, and the great-grandson of this grandson, who was also
called by the same name, and had the same title, and were both
of them, as the Talmudists say, presidents also of the council.

They tell us that Rabban Gamaliel the Old died eighteen
years before the destruction of Jerusalem (a), that is, in the year
of our Lord 52, about eighteen years after the convention of the
council, before whom the apostles were brought, as related in
the Acts. We read also in Josephus of Simeon, the son of this
Gamaliel, as being one of the principal persons of the Jewish
nation about three years before the destruction of Jerusalem.

(a) The Talmudists say, he succeeded his father, and was president of the council.-See Biscoe on the Acts, vol. ii. p. 220.

כל עצה שהא לשם,,It was a common saying among the Jews 29

“phnb now, omne consilium, quod ad gloriam Dei suscipitur, prospero eventu gaudebit.-Schoetgen Hor. Heb. vol. i. p. 424.

an Pe- was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians Jerusalem. 4745. against the Hebrews, because their widows were neggarra, lected in the daily ministration.

2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business 30

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30 We now read the first account of the election of any order of men in the Christian Church, from among its own members. The Apostles and the Seventy had been ordained to their sacred work by their divine Master himself. The increased number of converts now made additional assistance necessary, and the manner in which the seven were set apart deserves both the attention and imitation of every Society united together in the name of Christ.

It is the misfortune of the Christian Church, that every, even the most minute point, has been made the subject of con troversy; we must begin therefore our inquiry into the nature of the office to which the Seven were appointed, by endeavouring to ascertain from what body of men they were selected, before they were set apart by the apostles. It has been questioned whether they were of the seventy-of the hundred and eight, who, together with the apostles, composed the number of the hundred and twenty upon whom the Spirit fell at the day of Pentecost-or, of the general mass of converts, now added to the Church. Lightfoot (a) supposes them to have been of the hundred and twenty. These he observes were they that were of Christ's constant retinue, and "companied with him all the time that he went in and out among them;" and who, being constant witnesses of his actions, and auditors of his doctrine, were appointed by him for the ministry. These are they that the story meaneth all along in these passages, They were all together"" They went to their company"-" Look ye out among yourselves"-" They were all scattered abroad, except the apostles"-" They which were scattered abroad, preached," &c. The Jews say, "Ezra's great synagogue was of a hundred and twenty men." And their canons allow not the setting up of a Sanhedrim of three and twenty judges in any city, but where there were a hundred and twenty men fit some for one office and employment, some for another (b).

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If we may give credit to Epiphanus, the seven deacons were of the number of the Seventy. If this was the case, and if they had been made partakers of the miraculous gifts, they were already invested with the power both of preaching and administering the sacraments. No imposition of hands therefore was necessary to set them apart for this office. The fact seems to be, that the difficulties and embarrassments arising from the incipient disputes between the widows of the Hellenists and of the Hebrews, might have increased so much, and excited so much dissension and unkindness, that it became necessary to select some of the next rank to the apostles, and appoint them for this express purpose. The general opinion however is, that the deacons were chosen from among the general mass of believers.

The second and the following verses are thus paraphrased by Hammond-And the twelve apostles calling the Church together, said unto them, we have resolved, or decreed, that it is no.

Julian Pe

4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and Jerusale: riod, 4745. to the ministry of the word:

Vulgar Æra,


way fit or reasonable, that we should neglect the preaching of
the Gospel, and undertake the care of looking to the poor.

Therefore do you nominate to us seven men, faithful and
trusty persons, the most eminent of the believers among you;
that we may consecrate or ordain them to this office of deacons
in the Church; and intrust them with the task of distributing
to them that want, out of the stock of the Church: and in the
choice of them let it be also observed, that they be persons of
eminent gifts, and knowledge in divine matters, (see ver. 10.)
who consequently may be fit to be employed by us in preaching
the word, and receiving proselytes to the faith by baptism.
(Chap. viii. 5. 12.)

And by that means we shall be less disturbed, or interrupted, in our daily employment of praying and preaching the Gospel. The general opinion, as it is here expressed by Hammond, certainly is, that the deacons were selected from among the mass of believers ; and that the Greek words το πλῆθος τῶν μαθητῶν, here rendered the multitude of the disciples, refers to the community or society of Christians, called sometimes πávres, the All, (1 Tim. v. 20.) πλetoves, the many, (2 Cor. ii. 6.) and sometimes xpisiávo, Christians, or followers of Christ; and also Matt. xviii. 17. επiríμα vжо πávtwv tλecóvwv, before the Church.

From whatever body of men the deacons were selected, the narrative before us informs us of two important facts. The utmost caution was used on the part of the apostles, to prevent the admission of inferior or unworthy men into the offices of the Christian Church. The apostles, the heads of the Church, prescribed the qualifications for the office, the people chose the persons who were thus worthy, and the apostles ordained them to the appointed office. Every Church we infer, therefore, is entitled, and is bound to follow this plan of conduct. Its ecclesiastical heads are the sole judges and directors of the qualifications required for the fulfilment of any sacred office; the persons who are to fill those offices must be taken from the general mass of the people, and they are then, when thus known and approved, to be set apart by prayer, and laying on of the hands of those to whom that power is rightly committed. Till they are thus set apart, their own qualifications, and the general approbation of the people, do not constitute their right of admission to the offices of the Christian Church. If Scripture is to be our guide in matters which concern Christian societies, as well as in those which interest us as individuals, these are the directions it has for ever given to the Churches of Christ, in every nation, wherever its sacred pages have been imparted. The apostles alone called the Church together, and gave them directions to look out from among them seven men of good report, specifying at the same time their necessary endowments and numbers; and reserving to themselves the power of appointing them to the sacred office. And when we consider that the gifts of the Holy Ghost were one indispensable qualification, and may be regarded as the præelection to some sacred function; no possible authority can be derived from this portion of Scripture to sanction the laity in taking upon themselves the choice and appointmeut of their respective ministers. The same rules which were on the present occasion prescribed, we have reason to suppose, were observed likewise in the nomination of bishops and deacons in other Churches. For in St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy and Titus, we read he desires the bishop who ordains, to inquire most parti

an Pe1,4745.

gar Era,

5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and Jerusalem.

cularly into the character of those who were admitted into the
high sacred functions. In Titus (i. 6.) for a bishop, seventeen
necessary qualifications are enumerated; and in Timothy (iii.
2.) fifteen. The same inquiries and the same discipline (com-
pare ver. 6 and 10.) although the former are not so particularly
specified, are also required before the election of deacons.
(1 Tim. iii. 8.) They, says the apostle, that have used the office
of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, that is,
a degree towards the order of Presbyter.

We are now to inquire into the nature and extent of the dea-
conal office. If we refer to the Scripture on this subject, we
find that Philip, one of the deacons, preached and baptized,
(Acts xxi. 8. and viii. 12. 29. 40.); and that St. Stephen also, who
was another, preached, and did great wonders and miracles
among the people, (Acts vi. 8-10.); and they were not able to
resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Whether
Philip and others of these deacons preached and baptized, not
in their character of deacons, but as Evangelists, or as belong-
ing to the Seventy, has been a subject of dispute. It is clear
that before their ordination the apostles themselves were en-
gaged in the ministry of the tables, for the treasure of the
Church being laid at the apostles' feet, distribution of it was
made to every man according as he had need, (Acts iv. 35.)
That work, therefore, which the apostles themselves performed,
till an increase of duties compelled them to appoint others to
officiate for them, cannot in any way be regarded as inconsis-
tent with the high commission which they received to teach and
to baptize all nations. The office of the deacon is mentioned by
St. Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians, as a spiritual and
perpetual office, then settled in the Church, they being the ap-
pointed attendants on the bishop, as we read in Epiphanius (b)
A bishop cannot be without a deacon. Throughout the whole
history of the Acts of the Apostles they are never once called
Ministers of the Tables, although they are said to be appointed
for that work-no other name is given to them but that of dea-
cons; and St. Jerome (To. 5. F 251. K.) speaks of them as the
ministers not only of the priests, but also of widows and tables.
And when it is remembered that the gifts of the Holy Spirit
were particularly conferred upon them, the order of deacons,
like that of the apostles, may be considered of divine institu-
tion, and decidedly ecclesiastical, established for ever in the
Christian Church.

The evidence of the Fathers is no less clear; their writings are to be valued not only for their testimony to the opinions of the Primitive Church, but for their statements of facts. The customs of the cotemporaries of the apostles, or their successors in the next age, when those customs were universal in every country where Christianity was established, are related by the Fathers and they have ever been esteemed therefore as useful chroniclers, and as our best guides in all questions concerning the faith or discipline of the early Church When the Fathers are unanimous in asserting the prevalence of a custom in the day in which they lived; when they describe it as universal ; when they declare it to have prevailed in the age of the apostles; and when their testimony is confirmed either by the positive affirmation of Scripture, or is alluded to in Scripture, or is supported by rational inference from the language of Scripture, we are justified in pronouncing such opinion, custom, or practice, to have been either instituted, or at least sanctioned by the apostles. If there be any thing of a doubtful nature in the pas

Julian Pe- they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Jerusale

riod, 4745.

Vulgar Æra,


sages of Scripture, which relate the opinion or practice in ques-
tion, the corroborating evidence of the Fathers must be consi-
dered as decisive of any discussion arising from the subject.
This authority of the primitive Fathers will enable us to ascer-
tain the real nature of the Diaconate which was now instituted,
and became an ordinance for ever in the Christian Church.

In answer to those who consider that the order of deacons is
only a temporary or civil office, instituted for the serving of
tables, it must be urged, as Bishop Pearson (c) rightly observes,
that the tables of the apostles were common and sacred. Justin
Martyr (d) mentions them as attendants on the bishops at the
Agapæ, or love feasts, when the Eucharist was also celebrated;
and that they distributed the bread and wine ( its conse-
cration by the bishop,) to the communicants present, and car-
ried them likewise to those who were absent. St. Polycarp (e),
in his Epistle to the Philippians, (p. 17. edit. Oxon. 1644.) ex-
horts the deacons to behave themselves unblameably as the dea-
cons or ministers of God in Christ, and not of men. St. Igna-
tius (ƒ) also, in his Epistle to the Trallians, has these words :-
"And deacons, being the ministers of the mystery, or rather
of the mysteries, of Jesus Christ, ought by all means to please all
men, for they are not dispensers of meat and drink, but ministers
of the Church of God." St. Cyprian (g) writes (Epist. 65. Ord.
Pamel.) "But deacons ought to remember, that the Lord chose
apostles, that is, bishops and governors; but after the Lord's
ascension into heaven, the apostles constituted deacons for
themselves, to be attendants upon them as bishops, and upon
the Church."

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Many other similar references might be given; but it is only necessary here to add, they were ordained by the imposition of hands by the apostles, in the very same manner as priests were ordained; and that this solemn ceremony could not have been used, had the deacons been designed only for civil and temporary purposes.

Mosheim has endeavoured to shew that the seven deacons were not the only persons appointed by the apostles to take charge of the poor, as there must have been curators for that office long before this period, in consequence of the increasing numbers of the Church; and there must, therefore, in fact, have been deacons before there were any such by name. He argues, these ministers having been selected from amongst the indigenous Jews, who in number far exceeded the foreign ones, it was found that they were not strictly impartial, but were apt to lean a little more than was right in favour of their fellow citizens, and those of their own country, and discovered a greater readiness in relieving the widows of native Jews than the others. The foreign Jews, whom St. Luke terms Greeks, being much dissatisfied at this, and murmuring greatly against the Hebrews on account thereof, the apostles convoked the members of the Church, and commanded them to nominate seven men of approved faith and integrity, to whom the management of the concerns of the people might without apprehension be committed. The people complied with these directions, and chose by their suffrages the appointed number of men, six of them being Jews by birth, and one a proselyte, of the name of Nicolaus. These seven deacons, as we commonly call them, were all of them chosen from amongst the foreign Jews. This be thinks is sufficientlyevident, from the circumstance of their names being all of them Greek for the Jews of Palestine were not accustomed to

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