CHAP. I. Of the words Elder, Lay Elder, Ruling Elder.
THE word Elder answe∣reth to Zaken in the He∣brew, & 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in the Greek. It hath foure dif∣ferent significations, 1. It noteth Age. 2▪ Antiqui∣ty. 3. Venerability. 4. An office. In the first signification, Elder is op∣posed to younger, as 1 Tim. 5.1. Rebuke not an Page 2 Elder, but intreat him as a father, & the younger men as brethren, 1 Pet. 5.5. Likewise ye youn∣ger submit your selves unto the Elder. In this sense was the Apostle Iohn called the Elder, because hee outlived the other Apostles, 2 Iohn 1. and 3. vers. 1. In the second signifi∣cation Elder is opposed to Moderne, Mat. 15.2. Why doe thy Disciples transgresse the tradi∣tion of the Elders. That is, of them of old time, Mat. 5.21. In the third signification we finde the word, Isa. 3. where the Lord saith, that he would take away from Israel the prudent and the ancient, vezaken; that is, the worthies among them, and such as were respected for wisedome. The same word, (and peradver∣ture in the same sense) is turned Elder, Exod. 2.16. Eth-zikne Israel, the Elders of Israel. So the Spanish Seijor, the French Seigneur, the Italian Signore, all comming from the Latine Senior, signifie a man of respect, or one ve∣nerable for dignity, gifts, prudence, or piety. Contrariwise, men of no worth, nor wise∣dome, men despicable for lacke of gifts and understanding, are called Children, Isa. 3.4.12. Ephes. 4.14. But it is the fourth signifi∣cation which we have now to do withall, and so an Elder is a spirituall officer, appoin∣ted by God, and called to the government of the Church, Acts 14.23. When they had Page 3 by voyces made them Elders in every Church. They have the name of Elders, because of the maturity of knowledge, wisedome, gifts and gravity, which ought to be in them: for which reason also the name of Senators was borrow∣ed from Senes.
Before we come to speake particularly of those Elders of which our purpose is to treat, it is fit we should know them by their right name, lest wee nick-name and mis-call them. Some reproachfully and others ignorantly call them Lay Elders. But the distinction of the Clergie & Laity, is Popish and Antichri∣stian; and they who have narrowly conside∣red the records of ancient times, have noted this distinction as one of the grounds whence the mystery of iniquity had the beginning of it.* The name of Clergie appropriate to Ministers, is full of pride and vaine-glory, and hath made the holy people of God to be despised, as if they were prophane and un∣cleane in comparison of their Ministers.*Ge∣rard likeneth those who take to themselves the name of the Clergie, to the Pharisees, who called themselves by that name: for that their holinesse did separate them from the rest of the Jewes: for this Etymologie of the name Pharisee, hee citeth Tertullian, Origen, Epiphanius, Ambrose, and confirmeth it from Page 4 Luke 18.10. Hence was it that some Coun∣cels discharged the Laity from presuming to enter within the Quire,* or to stand among the Clergie neere the Altar. Two reasons are alleadged why the Ministers of the Church should bee called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. First, be∣cause the Lord is their Inheritance: secondly, because they are the Lords inheritance. Now both these reasons doe agree to all the faith∣full people of God: For there is none of the faithfull, who may not say with David, Psal. 16.5. The Lord is the portion of my inheritance; and of whom also it may not bee said, that they are the Lords inheritance, or lot: for Peter giveth this name to the whole Church,* 1 Pet. 5.3. Where (if it were need∣full) we might chalenge Bishop Hall, who borroweth a glosse from Bellarmine and Gre∣gorius de Valentia, telling us, that Peter char∣geth his fellow Bishops not to dominier over their Clergie; so shutting out of the Text, both the duty of Pastors, because the Bishops onely are meant by Elders; and the benefit of the people, because the inferiour Pastors are the Bishops flocke, according to this glosse: for Peter opposeth the Lording over the〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to being ensamples to the Flocke. Surely, if this Popish Glosse bee true, Prote∣stants in their Commentaries and Sermons, Page 5 have gone wide from that Text. But Mat∣thias the Apostle was chosen by lot.* What then? By what reason doth the Ca∣non law draw from hence a name common to all the Ministers of the Gospell?* Let 〈◊〉 then banish from us such Popish names, and send them home to Rome.*Bellarmin thought we had done so long ere now: for he maketh this one of his controverted heads: Whether wee may rightly call some Christians the Clergie, and others the Laity, or not, ascribing the negative to Protestants, the affirmative to the Church of Rome.
Yet beside the Clergy and the Laity,* Pa∣pists hold that there is a third sort in the Church distinct from both, whom they call Regulares. These are such of their religious orders, as are not taken up with contem∣plation alone (like the Monkes) but with a∣ction;* such as the Dominicans, Franciscans, &c. Who helpe and assist the Clergy in their Ecclesiasticall imployments, though they themselves bee not admitted into any particular charge in the Church. Now hee who will needs side with the Papists in the distinction of Clergy and Laity, may also with them admit a third member of the di∣stinction▪ and make ruling Elders of that sort; especially since the reason why the re∣gular Page 6 Chanoins are assumed as helpers to Parish Priests,* is propter multitudinem fidelis populi, & difficultatem inven•endi curatos suf∣ficientes & idoneos, saith Cardinall Cajetan, adding further, male consultum populo Chri∣stiano invenitur sine hujusmodi supplemento. Which reasons agree well to ruling Elders. For 1. Parishes containe so many, that the Minister cannot oversee all, and every one without helpe. 2. Sufficient and fit Ministers shall hardly bee every where found. 3. It is found by experience, that sinne and scandall are never well taken neede to, and redressed, where ruling Elders are not. To let all this passe, if any man will needs retaine the name of Lay Elders,* yet saith Gersomus Bucerus, What aspersion is that to our Churches? is it any other thing then that which Papists object to us for admitting Lay men into Councels? They who have place in the highest and most supreame assemblies of the Church, wherein the weightiest matters are determined, ought much more to be admit∣ted into inferiour meetings, such as Presby∣teries are.
But if we will speake with Scripture, wee shall call them Ruling Elders, Rom. 12.8. he that ruleth, 1 Tim. 5.17. Elders that rule well. They are called ruling Elders, non quia Page 7 soli sed quia solum praesunt. Pastors rule the Church even as they doe; but Pastors doe something more, from which they may bee designed. Whereas the Elders of which wee are to speake, have no other imploy∣ment, which can give them a designation, except the ruling of the Church onely. That wicked railer Lisim•chus Nicanor, who assu∣med the name, but forgot to put on the vi∣zorne of a Jesuit, in his congratulatory (I should say calumniatory) Epistle pag. 61. alledgeth that they are called ruling Elders, because the Ministers are their ruled Elders. If he were a Jesuit, he may remember that in their own society, besides their Priests, Do∣ctors, Preachers, Confessionaries, &c. They have also Rectores,* or Regentes; whose of∣fice it is to see the rules of their order kept, to observe the behaviour of every one, & when they perceive any seeds of Heresie, to signifie the same to the Provinciall, and hee to the Generall. Yet are these Rectores among the lowest rankes of their officers, so that Jesu∣ites need not stumble when wee call our El∣dersruling Elders.