On Gifts and Offices in the Church.

J. N. Darby.

Originally written in German.

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It is far more happy to be occupied in considering the riches of the grace of God and of the love of Christ than to be discussing questions of offices and of institutions. It is however at times necessary to speak about these also, when they are put forward with a view of troubling the peace of Christians and of exciting their minds, as if their Christianity were defective, as if they were walking disorderly, and as if, before God, something were lacking to them. It is, then, in order to clear up these contested points, and to tranquillize the minds of Christians, that I would say a few words upon offices and gifts. I do so, however, with the most fervent desire that each one, after being really enlightened upon the subject, may turn from these questions and leave them entirely alone, so as to be occupied with Christ, and His exhaustless love and immeasurable grace. For it is that which nourishes and edifies, while questions tend to dryness and barrenness of soul.

There is a great difference between gifts and charges. Gifts flow down from the Head, which is Christ, among the members, so as to assemble, by their means, the Church outside of the world, and to build it up so far as thus gathered together.

Those to whom charges were entrusted, were as such "overseers," or "servants," established in each locality by the apostles, and who received from them their position and their authority. They might have gifts, and it was desirable that they should; but very often they had none. In either case, when they were faithful and devoted to their service, they were blessed of God. We will now examine the instruction of holy scripture concerning gifts.

Everything which is good is a gift, and comes from God. But here we speak of gifts in a rather more restricted and more limited sense; namely, the gifts bestowed by God for the gathering together of His Church and for its edification, according as it is written: "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men," Eph. 4:8. That is, the gifts of which we speak are those which, according to scripture, Christ received from the Father, after having ascended up on high to be Head over all things to the Church.

2 Man, through sin, has brought many a thing to a close in ruin. Without law he was lost in dissoluteness, in independence, in towering violence and corruption. Under the law he became a transgressor and despiser of the authority of God. God visited man in mercy there where he was lying in misery, vile and disobedient; and man has rejected God. He was a sinner, driven out of the earthly paradise. God came down into this miserable world of man's; but, so far as it lay in man's power to do it, he drove God out of the world. There remains thus for man - as altogether the servant of the prince and god of this world - nothing but judgment. God will not however, in any, even the least respect, fail to accomplish His own designs. Every hope for the first man, as such, is lost. But God has glorified the second Man, Adam, even Him who was obedient (the Lord from heaven), and has taken Him up into the heavenly place predestined for Him. Yet He still acts in grace upon the hearts of the children of men to give them a new life, and to gather the objects of His grace outside of the world, uniting them to Christ glorified, so that they may enjoy, together with Him, all blessings, and, which is more precious than all else, that they may rejoice together with Him in the Father's love. Thus those that are born again are also members of Christ, of Him who is the Head of the body. But there is still another truth which connects itself with the object we have in view; namely, that Christ has won that position by the accomplishment of the work of redemption. We were captives of the devil and of sin: now we are set free. Christ has led captivity captive, and He fills those whom He sets free with the power of the Holy Spirit that they may serve Him. Having overcome Satan and finished the work of redemption, He is ascended up on high, and, as Head of the Church, He has received of the Father the Holy Spirit of promise for the members of His body.

The Christian being redeemed receives the Holy Spirit in two manners. He is sealed with the Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance, and thus is one with the Lord, and united to Him; then he has received the Holy Spirit as power for service to Christ. Such is the way the gifts connect themselves with these truths. The work of redemption is accomplished; and believers are perfectly purified from their sins, so that, by virtue of the blood of Christ wherewith they are sprinkled, the Holy Spirit can dwell in them. Christ, having glorified God, His Father, upon earth, has sat down, as man, at the right hand of God, as Head of the Church, whose everlasting righteousness He is. As such, He has received the Holy Spirit for His members, that is to say, for those that believe in Him; Acts 2:33; Eph. 4:8. We are the righteousness of God in Him; 2 Cor. 5:21. Already the Holy Spirit - sent by the Father in the name of the Son - and come down from the Son, dwells in believers as the witness of His glory and the Spirit of power, as the Spirit of liberty and adoption, on behalf of the Father, and as coming from the Father, in order to communicate to them the certainty of salvation, and also to accomplish on the earth, as power and wisdom, the work of the Lord, in the members of the body.

3 All important and precious as is the first-named point, we will for the present leave it in order to say a few words on gifts. The Holy Spirit is upon earth, in virtue of the finished work of redemption, and of the session of Christ at the right hand of God. There He acts, by means of the gospel, so as to proclaim the love of God, to gather together the elect, and to form of them one body, the body of Christ. Every converted soul, which has received the life of Christ and been sealed with the Holy Spirit, is a member of Christ, of the heavenly Head. We can consider then the gifts as either the gifts of Christ, or as the operation of the Holy Ghost now upon the earth. The holy scripture gives us both of these aspects. In Ephesians 4 it speaks of the gifts of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 it speaks of the unity of the body, and of the gifts as produced by the Spirit in the different members. In each case, the gifts are in connection with the unity of the body, as may be easily seen by reading Ephesians 4.

Before going farther, let it be remarked, that the gifts are of two kinds: first, such as serve to awaken souls, and to gather the Church; and, secondly, such as are signs to the world, signs of the presence of God in the Person of the Spirit in the Church. The Epistle to the Ephesians speaks to us only of the former; the Epistle to the Corinthians speaks of both. The word of God itself makes the above distinction, when it says that tongues are for a sign to unbelievers, and prophesyings are for believers (1 Cor. 14:22). This distinction is important, because it is impossible that anything should fail which is necessary for the conversion of souls, and for the building up of saints; whereas it is easy enough to conceive that God should withdraw that which was an ornament to the Church, and a token of its acceptability, when the Church is unfaithful, and when, instead of honouring God, she has grieved the Spirit. Nevertheless this external testimony remained, according to the wisdom of God in the Church, so long as it was needed, in order to confirm the preaching of the truths of the gospel.

4 All gifts proceed immediately from Christ the Head, and have their existence in believers by the energy of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 present to us these two important truths very clearly and very explicitly, while at the same time they give us their principle and their development. Ephesians 4 treats exclusively of the gifts which serve for the gathering and edification of the Church. Christ is ascended up on high, and has received gifts for men, who, in the enjoyment by faith of the work of Christ in redemption, by the which they are completely delivered from the power of Satan, to which they were previously subject - having also been made vessels of the grace and power, which flows down from on high, of Christ, who is the Head - become instruments of the Christ who is absent, by means of the gifts which are communicated to them. The Lord laid the foundation by the apostles and prophets, who are (says the apostle Paul, Eph. 2) the foundation, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. There yet abide evangelists, pastors, and teachers; and, so long as Christ loves the Church, and is the alone source of grace - so long as He desires to nourish the members of His own body - these same gifts will remain for the edification of the Church. But whereas - while the healthful action of these gifts is by means of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit - Christians are unhappily often unfaithful, and neglect His rebukes, it comes to pass that the development of the gifts, and their public efficacy, are little apparent, and their activity is diminished. This is true in general; and that both as to individual Christian life, and as to the practical state of the Church. But it is not the less true, that Christ always faithfully cares for His own body. On that care we can always count, though as to details we may be humbled on account of our own unfaithfulness. Also the Lord has said, The harvest is plenteous, but the labourers are few; and that we should pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth more labourers.

5 Every one who has received a gift has thereby become servant of Him who communicated it to him. In every case we are the servants of Christ, who alone is Lord of our souls; but every Christian, in particular, is His servant, as to any gift He may have conferred upon him; and, because He has conferred it on him, each one is responsible both to use it and to trade with it - I mean to trade with it, with the view for which Christ communicated it. Without doubt, each Christian is subject to the general discipline of the Church, or of the assembly, both as to his whole life and as to his service. But he serves Christ, and not men. He brings forth fruit for the assembly, because he serves Christ; he renders service to Christians, because he is the servant of Christ the Lord. Also, he must needs serve, because he is the servant of Christ, and has received, for that end, a part of his Lord's goods. Such is the doctrine of the parable of the three servants, whose lord went into a far country, and gave unto them of his goods; to the one more, to the other less. With what view? that they might be idle and listless? No; he committed to them the talents in order that they might trade with them. We do not commit materials and tools to men, in order that they may do nothing. Not only is such a thought senseless, but, if the love of Christ and His love to souls energize in our hearts, idleness and inaction are altogether impossible.

The presence and the activity of Christ's love in our hearts is thus, in truth, tested. If the love of Christ be active in my heart, would it be possible for me to remain inactive in any case in which I could be of use to one soul beloved of Him? Certainly not. The power to act thus, the wisdom needful to do it, in a way which would be agreeable to Him, comes always and directly from Himself, while the love of Christ in the heart is that which keeps the heart lively. In order to have courage for action, I must have confidence in Christ: otherwise the heart will say, "Perhaps He will not accept what I do"; "it may be He will not be content with me"; "would not this be too rash, too hasty?" "it might be proud to attempt that." The sluggard says, "There is a lion in the way"; whereas love is not inactive but intelligent, because it confides in Christ. Love apprehends what love wishes; it yields itself to the will of Christ, and follows the example of Christ, its guide. Such is the action of that very love which is in Christ, and which acts with humble and true wisdom. It is obedient and intelligent, understanding from grace its duty, and drawing out of the love of Christ courage to fulfil it. And whose conduct did Christ approve of and accept? Was it his who, out of a heart's confidence, laboured without any other commandment, or his who was afraid to do so? We all know the answer. The approbation of Christ suffices for the heart of the Christian, and suffices for his justification in his deed.

6 Brethren, when we have His acceptance manifest and declared, we may leave all the rest alone. This is just what to be faithful to Christ means. Let us have patience. He will judge everything ere long. Till then let us walk by faith: His word is enough for us. At the time appointed He will justify us before the world, and will put full honour upon His own word and our faith.

The Lord Jesus has, then, received these gifts as Himself a man, and has given them to men, for the effectuating the work of the gospel and of the Church; those therefore who have received these gifts must needs turn them to their full profit, according to God, to Will souls, to edify Christians, and to glorify their Lord and heavenly Master. In Ephesians 4 we have seen the gifts of edification represented as being trusts made here below by Christ Himself ascended up on high, while the members of His body upon the earth are being gathered, and while, by means of an activity which acts the one upon the other, the body grows, and is at the same time kept from every wind of doctrine, until it come unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

The gifts are looked at in 1 Corinthians 12 rather according to the energy of the Holy Spirit upon earth, who distributes them to each as He will. Therefore we find here, not only gifts of edification, but all those which are the result of the power of the Spirit and signs of His presence. This chapter examines everything which can be considered as a spiritual manifestation; and while it distinctly speaks of the action of the power of demons, it shews us the means of distinguishing these from divine gifts. It sets forth, in the very clearest manner, the doctrine of the body and members of Christ, drawing our attention to this: that there is but one only Lord, by whose authority those who have gifts labour - whether in the world, or in the assembly of saints - to accomplish the work of God by the efficacy of the Holy Spirit. Each member is dependent upon the action of the others, because all have been baptized by one and the same Spirit.

7 In Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4:10 the gifts are briefly enumerated. In Romans, again, as the members of the body of Christ, and, in general, with the object of exhorting those who possess gifts not to go beyond that which has been given to them, but to keep within the limits of their gift. In 1 Peter 4 the Holy Spirit exhorts Christians to use the gifts which have been bestowed upon them, as the immediate and faithful t stewards of God Himself; to speak as the oracles of God; to serve as by the ability received of God. In all this teaching, we find nothing about office; the subject is simply the members of the body of Christ who all take their part in the edifying of the body, and who are held responsible to do so. All do not speak - all do not preach the gospel - all do not teach, because all have not these gifts; but all are obliged, according to scripture, to do (according to the scriptural order of the house of God) that which God has given them to do. When once it understood that all Christians are members of Christ, and that each member has his own proper work - his own service in the body, all becomes simple and clear. We have all a duty to fulfil, and that in the strength of God; and the less seen is perhaps the most precious, while exercising itself before God and not before man. But all have something to do. To say that all have office is to deny that there are special offices. Nothing can be clearer, if we examine history and the instruction of scripture upon this point. We see in it that, in that which concerns either the preaching of the gospel in the world, or the edification of Christians in gathering, the question is never about office, but that all depends upon gifts.

Let us turn to a few passages in proof of this assertion.

We have already called attention to Matthew 25. In the parable of the talents committed to the three servants, the Lord lays down this principle, that two of them are worthy of praise because they had traded, without being otherwise authorized than by the fact itself that their lord had committed to them his money; while the third is blamed and punished for having expected a warrant, because he had not confidence in his lord, and had not dared to trade without some further obligation. This means, that the gifts themselves are, for the workman, a warrant or authorization fully sufficient to trade with the gift which he has, if the love of Christ constrain his heart; but, if this love is not there, he is under responsibility; and the proof that the love of Christ is not in action in him is, that he has not served by means of his gift - he is a bad and a lazy servant. Christ gives not gifts with the object that we should not turn them to profit; He gives them, rather, that we may use them with energy. We find also, that, in point of fact, so it was among the early Christians. When the persecution which ensued upon the death of Stephen had dispersed the Christians, they went everywhere preaching the gospel (Acts 8:4). And we read (chap. 11:21) that the hand of the Lord was with them. But is it possible that if I know the means by which a soul may be saved, I ought not to announce that way, though God may have rendered me able to do so? In private anyone can do such a thing; but the ability to preach in public is precisely the gift of God in this respect.

8 Paul finding himself in prison at Rome, many of the brethren in the Lord waxed bold on seeing his bonds, and fearlessly dared to preach the word; Phil. 1:13, 14.

When false teachers go forth to seduce the Lord's people, the receiving them or the not receiving them in no wise depends upon any office they have, or upon the absence of an official character. Even a woman is directed to judge for herself by doctrine (2 John). It did not for an instant come into the thought of the apostle to use such a means as the possession of office, in order to guard a woman on the occurrence of a time of difficulty; he simply writes to her to judge each according to his doctrine. It does not even come into his head to counsel this woman to ask of him who presents himself as preacher whether he has office, or is consecrated or ordained. On the contrary he praises the beloved Gaius, because he had received the brethren who were gone forth in the name of Christ; and he exhorts him to bring them on their way in a manner worthy of God. In so doing Gaius would become a co-labourer with the truth (3 John 8).

So far as the preaching of the gospel is concerned, the word of God then confirms this doctrine, that each, according to his capacity, and the opportunities which God in His grace affords him, is obliged to announce the good news.

The scripture is quite clear also as to the edification of believers. Not only does it present us with this general truth, that Christ has given gifts, and that the Holy Spirit acts thereby, in order that we may fulfil the work of God in every way (Eph. 4 and 1 Cor. 12); but, moreover, it speaks with exactness and clearness of the duty of those who possess gifts. The Holy Spirit says by the mouth of Peter (1 Pet. 4:10), "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards. of the manifold grace of God." Then in 1 Corinthians 14 we find the order according to which the exercise of gifts should take place, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted." James shews us distinctly the true limits of this service, without reference to office, when he says that believers should not be many teachers, because that the responsibility thereof would be all the greater, and that (since we all in various ways offend) they would suffer a so much the greater judgment. It is, then, perfectly certain that gifts, and the service which believers render by gifts, are completely independent of the possession of office; and that those to whom God has communicated these gifts are obliged to use them for the edification of the saints. The scripture gives the rules according to which the exercises of the gifts ought to take place; it requires that the spirits of the prophets be subject to the prophets, and that all be done unto edification, in such wise that there be no disorder in the assembly. As to office, the scripture says not one single word upon this subject in this respect.*

{*It is remarkable that in the epistle to the Corinthians elders are never once mentioned; and there, where there existed so much trouble and evil, the apostle nevertheless does not propose to the assembly to nominate or establish elders; but he acts upon the conscience of Christians by the word, in order that they may be roused to remove the evil.}

9 Now, on this subject, we beg that it may be remarked, that between gift and office there exists a great difference, and that this difference depends upon the nature of the two things. The gift has its course, it is available everywhere. If I am an evangelist, I shall preach the gospel wheresoever God may call me. Am I a teacher? I shall teach believers according to my ability, wheresoever I may chance to find myself. Apollos teaches at Ephesus; he is also of use to believers at Corinth. But if any one has received an office, he fulfils the service which is connected with it in the determinate place where he has been nominated thereunto. Is he an elder, or a deacon at Ephesus? he ought to fulfil his office at Ephesus; his official authority is valid at Ephesus. At Corinth he would have none. The possessors of office are not, as such, members of the body of Christ; though those who are installed therein are themselves individually such. The gifts, as gifts, are the various members of the body (see Eph. 4, 1 Cor. 14, and Rom. 12), who ought to render their service according to the will of God, wheresoever they may find themselves. The scripture never says that an evangelist is the evangelist of an assembly or of a flock; neither does it recognize a teacher or a pastor of a flock; but God has put such gifts in the Church, in the body of Christ. "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love," Eph. 4:11-16. There were, without any question, at the commencement, offices in the assemblies; we find two kinds of them in the holy scriptures; overseers and servants, and if any one is pleased to make the distinction, sisters in service. The first-named were ordinarily (presbuteroi) what are now called elders. The others were deacons or deaconesses. We do not find, however, that elders were established in any determinate manner among the Christian Jews. Among the Christians who had been called by grace, from among the heathen, we see very clearly, that they were chosen and installed in their charge by the apostles or their delegates. We read in Acts 14:23 that Paul and Barnabas choose, in each town, elders for the assemblies; and in Crete the apostle left Titus, in order that he might establish elders in every town. As to Timothy, although that was not his service, having been left by the apostle at Ephesus, to watch as to doctrine, yet he received from Paul instruction as to the qualities suitable for an overseer. Nevertheless, the apostle did not enter into conference upon this point with the assemblies; but he did everything himself personally, or else he entrusted this service exclusively to his delegate; even there where assemblies were already formed.

11 We find but little in scripture about the servants (or deacons). In Acts 6 we read that the apostles, not wishing to have any more to serve tables, require the Christians to choose seven from among themselves, who should fulfil the duties of deacons, though they are not called by the name; and, to say the least, they had in many respects the suited qualifications which are enumerated by the apostle Paul to Timothy and to Titus.

It may be asked, Now that there are no apostles, what ought we to do as to elders? Our God, who has in all times foreknown the wants of His beloved Church, has given us the answer in the word, and has taken sufficient heed of these wants. We read, "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves," 1 Thess. 5:12, 13. At the same time, the apostle distinctly sets forth the common responsibility of all the saints. "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men," 1 Thess. 5:14, 15.

In Hebrews 13 he speaks of the real leaders of the assembly. "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation," Heb. 13:7. The word is the same as that used in Acts 15:22 of "Judas and Silas, chief men among the brethren."

Such ought to be esteemed among them. We see in the same chapter, verse 7, that some of them were dead, and we learn here what had been their disposition; but the rest still lived.

The duty of elders is that of oversight. In Acts 20 the apostle gives them this name (in our language, bishop; in Greek, episkopos). We find this title again in the Epistle to the Philippians. In Acts 20:28, 31, we see in what their duty consisted - to nourish with sound doctrine, to be watchful against false teachers, and attentive to everything. The passage in 1 Peter 5:1-3 speaks the same thing.

12 The duty of deacons is also, as for the elders, expressed in their name. The Greek word diakonos signifies servant. They served the assembly as its servants; there were also sisters (as Phoebe) with the same title. If we examine Acts 6, the seven who cared for the poor widows as deacons had this service specially allotted to them for their portion.

These were the offices then in the various assemblies, which the apostles, and Paul in particular, established when all was yet in order. There were in each assembly several elders.

Nevertheless all the elders had not gifts. "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine," 1 Tim. 5:17. The deacons, like all other Christians, had to exercise them when they possessed them. The deacons, where they fulfilled their charge faithfully and carefully, found also their own spiritual profit therein. "For they that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 3:13); as we may see most fully made good in the cases of Stephen and Philip; Acts 6, 7 and 8.

We see too elsewhere how Christians, without losing their proper responsibility according to grace, had to be subject to those that were at the work. "I beseech you, brethren (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints), that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to everyone that helpeth with us, and laboureth," 1 Cor. 16:15, 16. The Christian can never lay aside his individual responsibility. The discipline of the assembly recalls to a walk according to that responsibility, when the Christian has forgotten so to walk. Brethren, then, who by the Lord's grace are called to the work, labour to maintain the Christian walk, to strengthen the feeble, to instruct the ignorant, to exhort and to encourage all, to nourish by the word and to render all able, by that divine nourishment, to honour God and the doctrine of the Saviour-in short, to be in every way a help, the common responsibility being in view.

The Christian can say: All things are mine - the activity of the workman of God, as much as his efforts to remove every kind of evil. "Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's," 1 Cor. 3:22, 23. The apostle says, "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake," 2 Cor. 4:5.

13 These two public offices then are now entirely wanting to us; no one can restore them officially according to holy scripture, after a divine sort, because no one has received, in order to do so, authority or commission on the part of God to do so. But the scripture provides morally for subjection to those whom God raises up to service: and inasmuch as Christ is infallibly faithful toward His body, and inasmuch as the Holy Spirit is always in the Church upon earth, the gifts necessary to the edification of the assembly are always there. The feeble state of the Church of God shews itself, it is true, in this respect as in every other; but Christ ever remains faithful, and cannot cease to nourish His members.

The doctrine of scripture as to gifts has been almost forgotten; or else it is altogether set aside by assigning the right to edify men to those who have been placed by men in their positions - positions which men have for the most part invented for themselves. And when even it is conceded that God furnishes the gifts, it is not any the more permitted to those who possess them to exercise them without a sanction from man.

The confusion arising from the mixture of gifts and offices, which men have invented, has resulted in what is ordinarily called "clergy," and even worship; and it is carried so far as to maintain, that, if this confusion is not recognized, the service due to God is denied. But the true service to God is there, where each member of Christ serves God also (be it in the word, or be it for the edification of the brethren, and thus of the whole body of Christ) with the gift which Christ has communicated to him by the power of the Holy Spirit.

If in the existing state of the Church the public re-establishment of the offices which scripture recognizes is not possible, God has nevertheless previously ordained all that is necessary, all that is good for such a state, sad as it may be; as also He will infallibly give all that is useful to those who ask it of Him.

As to the imposition of hands to authorize the exercise of gifts, the scripture owns no such necessity. When hands were laid on the apostles Paul and Barnabas, they were simply recommended to the grace of God for the work which they then fulfilled. But both of these had now for a long time exercised their gifts; it was not then, on the part of the prophets at Antioch, anything else than a commendation to the grace of the Lord for a special work. The twelve apostles laid their hands on the seven who are ordinarily called deacons; and (though that is nowhere said) it is likely enough, from analogy, that the apostle Paul, or delegates, laid hands on the elders. But as to the exercise of gifts, it is spoken of everywhere as exercised without that ceremony, even in such a manner that (if it were necessary) all Christians ought to have the imposition of hands. It is as clear as the light of the sun, that, as all might "prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted" (1 Cor. 14:31), all, in effect, might preach; and that, many having spoken with divers tongues, the imposition of hands for the exercise of gifts was completely impossible.

14 The scripture is ignorant of any official ceremony for the administration of the Lord's supper, as men speak; and God nowhere therein declares, that it is the privilege of a person consecrated, or set apart, to administer it. "The disciples came together to break bread," Acts 20:7. Probably those who were esteemed among them began the breaking of bread with prayer before distributing it, because it is evidently comely as a general principle that such should have this place and not a service, and charity does not behave itself unseemly: nevertheless scripture has said nothing upon the subject The blessing used in worship is but a giving of thanks, as we see in 1 Corinthians 14:16, "Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?" Even the Lord gave thanks before breaking the bread. "And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me," 1 Cor. 11:24.