Timothy Dwight and the declension of New England concerning ruling elders

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Ruling Elders are, in my apprehension, scriptural Officers of the Christian Church; and I cannot but think our defection, with respect to these officers, from the practice of the first settlers of New England, an error in Ecclesiastical Government.

Timothy Dwight, Theology; Explained and Defended in a Series of Sermons; With a Memoir of the Life of the Author (10th edn, 4 vols, New Haven: T. Dwight & Son, 1839), 4: 399.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Ruling Elders are, in my apprehension, scriptural Officers of the Christian Church; and I cannot but think our defection, with respect to these officers, from the practice of the first settlers of New England, an error in Ecclesiastical Government.

Timothy Dwight, Theology; Explained and Defended in a Series of Sermons; With a Memoir of the Life of the Author (10th edn, 4 vols, New Haven: T. Dwight & Son, 1839), 4: 399.
He is criticizing his fellow congregationalists right?
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
At a General Assembly many years ago, I overheard a minister telling someone that he wouldn't have any ruling elders at all, if he could get away with it.

Are some Presbyterian ministers actually closet Baptists or Congregationalists on this subject?
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
At a General Assembly many years ago, I overheard a minister telling someone that he wouldn't have any ruling elders at all, if he could get away with it.

Are some Presbyterian ministers actually closet Baptists or Congregationalists on this subject?
It is possible some want nothing more than to go it alone. But it is also the case that ruling elders in Presbyterian churches have played a role very similar to deacons in Baptists churches who think their primary function is to oppose the pastor and impede his efforts. I once overheard a ruling elder saying that is was their (REs) job to "manage the pastor." Sadly, this mindset is all too common. It is a great hindrance to many churches and a discouragement to many godly ministers.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
At a General Assembly many years ago, I overheard a minister telling someone that he wouldn't have any ruling elders at all, if he could get away with it.

Are some Presbyterian ministers actually closet Baptists or Congregationalists on this subject?

One of the points Samuel Miller makes is that the early Congregationalist divines were in favour of ruling elders. In a quotation that I will cite in the near future, Thomas Hooker actually commends both Samuel Rutherford and George Gillespie for their labours in arguing for this office.

Still, I think I know what you mean. In all too many cases, some ministers (thankfully, not all) just wanted the ruling elders to be "yes" men who always allowed them to have their way. Always getting our own way is not could for any of us - least of all for those who are supposed to be humble shepherds of Christ's flock and not lords over God's heritage. Conversely, having unqualified ruling elders is a real curse. It often amazes me how those who can discourse at length about the divine right of church government so easily turn a blind eye to men who lack biblical qualifications for office being accepted for ordination.

When I had to make my last move, the only options for me in South Belfast were a conservative and generally Reformed CofI (Anglican) congregation or several broadly evangelical PCI congregations with women elders. The lack of godly ruling elders in the former congregation is a problem - one which becomes more obvious the longer that you attend. But compared to having those who are not qualified for office occupying it (and especially when they are women) it is the lesser of two evils.
 
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