A strange observation from David Dickson on deacons

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I am having trouble making sense of what David Dickson is saying in the below extract. Have you any ideas?

As in the body natural, that there may be an agreement, those members which are more infirm are most honoured, and necessary, by the appointment of God: so ought it to be in Ecclesiastical functions: Therefore in the choosing of Deacons rather than Pastors, care must be had, that other things being alike, men of the fairest fortunes, may be elected for the adorning of this inferior office.

David Dickson, An exposition of all St. Paul’s epistles together with an explanation of those other epistles of the apostles St. James, Peter, John & Jude: wherein the sense of every chapter and verse is analytically unfolded and the text enlightened (London: Francis Eglesfield, 1659), p. 61.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Is he saying it is alright to favor appointing upper middle class men to the office of deacon which considerations are inappropriate to consider in the office of pastor?
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
That’s what it seemed to me, and more than it’s alright to do so but that care should be taken to do so.
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
That seems like a good reason and maybe also wouldn’t be as likely tempted to sin in handling it?
 

Seeking_Thy_Kingdom

Puritan Board Sophomore
men of the fairest fortunes, may be elected for the adorning of this inferior office.
Does ‘fairest fortunes’ mean of wealth or physical appearance? I think it is interesting he uses the word adorning, as if to say make more appealing to the eye.

In the Duker biography of Voetius he says something similar, that in the early sessions of Dort he was passed over not only for his young age, but also his ‘less than significant appearance’.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Does ‘fairest fortunes’ mean of wealth or physical appearance? I think it is interesting he uses the word adorning, as if to say make more appealing to the eye.

In the Duker biography of Voetius he says something similar, that in the early sessions of Dort he was passed over not only for his young age, but also his ‘less than significant appearance’.

Is that biography only available in Dutch?

My first impression of the David Dickson quote was the same as that of Chris and Jeri, but I think that we may be reading modern notions of "fortune" into the source.
 

Seeking_Thy_Kingdom

Puritan Board Sophomore
Is that biography only available in Dutch?
Yes it is. It goes into incredible detail, another Dutch work deserving of full translation.

My first impression of the David Dickson quote was the same as that of Chris and Jeri, but I think that we may be reading modern notions of "fortune" into the source.
My initial reading went directly towards appearance. Perhaps not meaning beauty, but stature. ‘All theological beliefs being equal, get the 6’4 tree hurling Highlander over the 5’6 tea sipping soyboy.’
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
"Fairest fortune" indicates that things have turned out well for them. Obviously there's a component of wealth to that, but if someone attained great wealth after incredible difficulty and many dramatic reversals, I suspect Dickson would prefer someone with fewer possessions but greater evenness in attaining them.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Could he be warning against the danger that we let the culture's class structure infiltrate the church office structure, so that qualified men of lower-class rank tend to get elected deacons (an inferior office for those of inferior-class status) while qualified men of higher-class rank tend to get elected to higher offices? If so, perhaps he is saying that, instead, men who are seen as successful in society ("of fairer fortunes") ought to occupy the lower offices just as readily as they do the higher offices. Greatness in the world does not equal greatness in the church.

That would be a good word today, even in our less class-conscious society. Time and again I have seen very godly but "blue-collar" men made deacons while lawyers and businessmen who still seem to have much to learn about godly humility become elders.
 
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