A Short Answer to the Last Article by Count De Gasparin

 •  20 min. read  •  grade level: 10
I SHALL not follow you in the way upon which you have entered, sir, by taking up expressions to which this controversy may have given rise: I might quote some of yours which are stronger perhaps than those I made use of. I disdain troubling myself about them; and should not have perceived those to which I allude, if you had not taken up similar ones of mine It is a question of serious things, and not of expressions which may escape us in communicating our convictions in a rapid controversy. I do not believe that you bear me any ill-will; if you do, I pardon you and pity you: if the controversy has irritated you, I regret it. I willingly plead guilty as to all expressions which pain you, if you yield to the force of my arguments, or, better still, to the teaching of scripture which I have brought forward. I desire, sir, as you do, that our discussion should not degenerate into a dispute: but you will allow me to present to you some of your own remarks, in order to excuse myself for having used the word weariness with reference to our controversy.
You acknowledge that it would be wearisome enough to discuss anything with one who does not know (certain) things. Here, sir, are those that you point out. " In another place, Mr. Darby is kind enough to teach me that inspiration is not dependent on apostleship-that all the writers of the New Testament were not apostles; that the apostles did not found every church; that the laying on of the apostles' hands conferred extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; that Christians are not under law."
There is little wisdom in again directing the attention of your readers to these points.
Did you know these things, sir, when in speaking " of what is connected with their office alone " (that of the apostles), " with the sole fact of the apostleship," etc., you wrote these words, " they write theopneustically the canonical books "? (Archives, Feb. 24, 1855.)
Is not inspiration dependent on the apostleship according to Count de Gasparin in 1855?
Again, did you not write " the only founding of churches, of which the New Testament contains the account, is that accomplished by the apostles "? (Archives, Dec. 23, 1854.)
I have tried to show you that this was not the case. Did you know it in 1854?
Later on you said, " If a mysterious transmission were effected by the laying on of the apostles' hands; if it were more than a blessing, more than a prayer, more than a laying on of hands now done with faith in the bosom of a faithful church ": and you were speaking of the original charisma.
Again, you say " Gifts, that is to say, influences." And then you write that " to fill an office, because one is fitted for it, is to grant that the nature of things will have its course." (Archives, Feb. 24, 1855.)
Does Count de Gasparin believe, in 1856, that the imposition of hands done in the bosom of a faithful church, that a blessing, a prayer, are really the same thing as the laying on of the hands of the apostles? Or does he believe, in 1856, that there was no mysterious transmission by the imposition of the apostles' hands with respect to the original charisma?
Had you to learn that the laying on of the hands of the apostles conferred extraordinary gifts? Yes, or No?
If you reply Yes, I had to learn it, you have justified me when I said, that it was wearisome to argue with a person who did not know these things.
If you reply No, I have, sir, in this case, only to repeat (for respect for the word of God is more important than human considerations), that the superficiality and lightness (I say it with sorrow), with which you treat these serious subjects, are evident, and that they are accompanied in you with a root of unbelief; for, knowing that the laying on of the hands of the apostles conferred extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, you put it on the same level with the imposition of hands now in the bosom of a faithful church-on the same level with a blessing or a prayer.
And I ask you, Is it not more than wearisome to argue with one who writes as you wrote in 1854 and 1855, in the passages which I have just quoted; and who then writes as you have done in 1856, in the passage which I have also quoted, and this in articles by which you intend to enlighten Christians on these points, and to confound those who are opposed to your course?
This is not all that may have wearied me; but it is not well for me to speak of this any more. Let us come to what is at the bottom of the question. You say that " Paul founded neither the Church of Rome, nor that of Colosse " (say rather that of Hierapolis and of Laodicea): " granted; but it is not anywhere written; that the other apostles were equally strangers to the birth of these churches." Which of the apostles? Do you even think that other apostles had been in these towns? Does any one think so who has studied the New Testament? Who believes that the apostles who remained at Jerusalem had been to Rome before the sending of Paul's epistle to the Christians in that city, or that they had been into Asia Minor to found the churches to which Paul wrote, when it was they who all agreed that Paul should go to the Gentiles? I ask every sensible man, if the history of the Acts, the Epistles to the Galatians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Romans are not sufficient to show that the work of the apostles did not precede the sending of the letters which Paul addressed to these churches. But the cases on which you insist are still plainer with regard to this principal point. You say: " Moreover, in the two only cases in which the first work of evangelization is expressly attributed to private Christians at Antioch and Samaria, Acts 8 and 11 mention the immediate mission of delegates from the apostles and the church at Jerusalem. By what right, then, could one in these days found a new church, since there are no longer apostles to preside in the work, nor delegates from the apostle to confirm it by the imposition of their hands on the newly converted and by conferring on them the Holy Spirit? "
This time I will not say that you weary me, sir. You furnish such suitable cases to demonstrate that my views are true that I have only to be satisfied with you.
Do you know what this case demonstrates? That " faithful disciples " went forth to do the work of evangelization without asking what the apostles would do afterward: then those who were the fruit of their labors took their position as Christians and as an assembly. This is exactly what we do.
The apostles laid their hands on them, and acted in order to confirm them in the faith; and in other cases appointed elders, either personally or by a delegate. The laboring brethren do not pretend to do the apostolical part of the work, because they are not apostles; and it is precisely this part which you have the pretension to do (that is to say, the apostolical part). We make the distinction, which you point out, between the work of simple Christians (I will add, possessing the gifts which God has deigned to allot to them), and the work of the apostles and their delegates. This part the laboring brethren do not pretend to accomplish. You also make the distinction between these two things, but pretend, in that which relates to elders, to do the apostolical part of the work, alleging that without so doing an assembly cannot be founded.
It seems to me that the serious and scriptural thing is to carry out the distinction which you make: to do that which private Christians did according to their gifts, and to leave to the apostles and their delegates what was done by the apostles and their delegates.
But you insist on another fact in your letter. You say, as to collections, only one is related in the New Testament, and in that single account the participation of an apostle is positively stated! Must I repeat to you, sir, that the apostle refused to take part in this collection, unless there were other persons with him? But this is not all. I must here thank you for the support which you lend to my views. This case also, as well as the other which you quoted, overturns your arguments. If you give yourself the trouble to read Rom. 15:2626For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. (Romans 15:26), you will find, " For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily, and their debtors they are." So that, on this point, the principle recognized in the word of God is that of the full liberty of the saints, and under certain aspects their moral obligation. " It pleased them." Hence, when it pleases us, we do it, acknowledging often that it is an obligation. If you wish to see the spirit in which the thing was done, you can read 2 Cor. 8 where the apostle says, " I speak not by commandment "; and elsewhere (1 Cor. 16) you will find other collections also. You will see that the apostle speaks of the collection at Corinth, as of a thing which was being made, and of his participation in it as a discretionary thing-" if it be meet." He had given orders to the Galatians as to how the collection was to be made. Hence, while quite admitting that there is often a moral obligation (and in this case one does not wait for an apostle), we find perfect liberty, we find spontaneous action as an essential thing, and that the participation of the apostle is a question of seasonableness. The examples which you quote, sir, confirm the principles which I maintain, as well as the distinction, which is intelligible to every sensible person, between acts which are, on the one hand, the fruit of grace, or of a particular power granted by God in the form of a gift, and, on the other, acts of authority which depend on a mission from on high.
I am very glad that you openly repudiate the principle " that it is lawful to do otherwise than what is expressed in the word of God "; but in the face of this assertion allow me again to quote M. de Gasparin's writing (Dec. 23, 1854) on the subject of the establishment of elders, etc. " Because things appear to have happened thus in the two or three instances which the New Testament mentions, it does not the least in the world follow that they could not also have been done otherwise." Now the facts are always there-the thing was not done in the Gentile churches otherwise than by the apostles and their delegates. I have already said that there does not appear to have been any nomination of elders amongst the Jews, so that, if you make elders, you cannot escape from the perplexity of " doing it otherwise " than according to the way which scripture presents to us. But this is not all. Whilst openly repudiating this principle in 1856 at the end of one paragraph, you again lay it down at the end of the following sentence. In order not to make elders, etc., you say it would be necessary to find in scripture a passage confining this act exclusively to the apostles and their delegates, a passage declaring that elders must be appointed by them " and not otherwise."
It is you who put " and not otherwise " between inverted commas. To show that if the passage does not say " and not otherwise," Count de Gasparin has a right to do it in a way different from that authorized by the word, since it is necessary to find these words to prevent your doing it as you list. Finally, you cannot deny that things were done thus in the two or three cases narrated in the New Testament: the elders were established exclusively by the apostles or by a delegate of the apostle. It is an incontestable fact; but there is not a passage to be found which says " and not otherwise." Consequently you are not obliged to follow the example of the apostles; you do it otherwise! And this whilst " openly repudiating the convenient theories in virtue of which it would be lawful to do it otherwise."
Since it is not lawful to do it otherwise, why is it necessary to find a passage which says " and not otherwise "? The contradiction in 1856 of what has been said in 1855 may be allowed to pass; but to insist in one paragraph on what has been openly repudiated as a convenient theory in the preceding paragraph, is rather strong. But what is to be done when one struggles against the inflexible testimony of the word, even whilst one acknowledges its authority?
But you also bring in a parable to support your arguments. You say, " A sovereign legislator had promulgated a decree relative to the offices of judges; the decree ended thus: I have promulgated the present ordinance to make it known how persons ought to behave in the administration of the state, the pillar and ground of justice."
It has been justly observed, " Nullum simile quatuor pedibus currit: no parable goes on all fours." But yours limps even more pitiably, sir.
There is an executive power as well as a legislature. How convenient vagueness is! Our question is to know to whom the decree is addressed, and to whom the apostle makes known as a rule of conduct the way in which it was to be executed? The apostle is very precise; but this view at least disappears entirely from your similitude. " To make it known," you say: where is the similitude? The apostle says, " that thou mightest know." He gives to Timothy alone, when he sends his letter to him, the knowledge of what ought to be done. Who then owed obedience to the apostle if it was a command? Did the legislator publish his decree? Thanks be to God, we have it; but the apostle addressed his letter to Timothy alone, who enjoyed his confidence, in order that he might know how to behave.
Your similitude entirely falsifies facts as regards the epistle. Why have confidential delegates, if all could do that of which the apostle speaks? There is authority-executive power as well as a legislature: if every one undertakes to fulfill the part appertaining to the executive power, because the legislator has made laws, he is acting rebelliously, and encroaches on the rights of others. There is an authority and a mission, as well as decrees and laws. When you say the apostles obeyed their own laws, you alter facts and betray the weak point of your argument. They exercised an authority on the part of Christ; you have not this authority, the churches did not possess it, nor do the assemblies either; and if the apostle sends a confidential delegate to accomplish this very delicate task, and if he writes to him in particular, in order that he may know how he ought to behave, it is nonsense to say that this is an authorization, and even a command for all to do the same. By saying so, one denies authority.
In your parable you speak of the appointment of judges; if judges represent the emperor's authority by executing justice, and if their nomination be placed in the hands of a confidential person (and that is the case here) to arrogate to oneself the right of appointing a judge is to usurp the rights of a sovereign. The mission of Timothy and Titus was an act of authority on the apostle's part; can you not understand this, sir? And the exercise of the authority which had been confided to them, as well as instructions for the application of this authority, do not belong to everyone. Do you deny the mission of these delegates of the apostle to have been an act of authority; and that what Titus and Timothy did, they did in virtue of that authority? Have you that authority? No, you have not. Let me once more place the expressions of the apostle before you-" These things I write unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly. But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself," etc. These words of the apostle are only addressed to his confidential delegate; they served to direct his conduct in a task which the apostle had himself entrusted him with. He was not bound to show the letter to any one. Even if he did so, no one was bound to act according to its contents excepting himself. Thanks be to God, there would be light for us all in the letter; by it also the behavior of Timothy might be judged; but not one word of the letter is addressed to the assembly. Why " If I tarry "? What would his delay mean, if it were a question of an absolute command for all Christians and for all times? Would it be a command for the Christians of that time, to whom the apostle's letter was not at all addressed, and to whom Timothy was not obliged to communicate it, to whom also he probably never showed it, since this letter was confidential? Is it thought that Titus showed to the Cretans the letter which confidentially declares that the Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies; and that consequently he was to " rebuke them sharply "? When the apostle says to Titus, " exhort and rebuke with all authority," is this a command for everybody? It is destructive of authority to say it is.
Is it not evident that all these communications are confidential ones, made by the head of the executive power to his delegates? I acknowledge that, as inspired epistles, they are always valid; but this supposes that I make use of them according to the Spirit, and not that I appropriate to myself, rightly or wrongly, the things which Christ has not entrusted to me. Then you say, " Hence there is not only a command, an absolute command for all Christians, and for all times (how one ought to behave oneself in the house of God); but this command is declared essential as regards the Church." Where, sir? This is pure imagination; there is not a single word nor a single thought which affects this point.
Finally, the main and principal point of your assertion is that there is a command, and a command for all Christians and for all times. I reply, that there is not a command for all Christians, since there was none for the Christians at Ephesus; the letter was not addressed to the latter, and there is not the least reason for supposing that it was communicated to them.
At all events this communication would have been purely voluntary, so that the words addressed to Timothy could not be a command for them-the Christians at Ephesus. The reason of this is plain: the epistle was addressed to a single individual.
But further still, there was no command given to any one to establish elders, not even to this individual. Timothy did not receive any command to establish elders at Ephesus; the apostle teaches his beloved disciple what were, in the case of any one desiring to be a bishop, the qualifications which ought to characterize him; but he gives no command to Timothy to establish any. He was left at Ephesus for another purpose. It is very probable that elders had already been established there, since the apostle speaks of them and gives no command to establish any. Besides, the essential thing is that the apostle's letter is addressed to Timothy, and to Timothy alone, in order that he, he only, might know how he ought to behave. Consequently, the words of Paul were not and could not be a command for the Christians at Ephesus. Add to this, that the apostle wrote epistles to churches, and under circumstances in which the action of elders would be of the highest importance, and never in any case does he suggest to Christians or to any one amongst them, the idea of choosing or establishing elders; whilst we have one epistle addressed to a confidential person who, as well as Timothy, is a delegate of the apostle; and in this epistle the apostle entrusts to him the task of establishing some, and gives him rules to this end.
To sum up the subject. We have found in the account of the apostles, and in the writings which regulate this point, the commission to establish elders exclusively entrusted (if the apostles did not establish them themselves) to confidential delegates of the apostle, and where there were churches, this mission was entrusted to those persons to the exclusion of those churches; for the letters were not addressed to the latter; and when the apostles were on the spot, it is said, "they chose them." In other words, the choice is attributed exclusively to the apostles and their delegates. Only it is not added " and not otherwise." Ought we to do it " otherwise " by neglecting the authority of the word, whilst we openly repudiate " the convenient theory " that it is lawful to do otherwise? Is it right to acknowledge what is said in the word, while pretending to repudiate these convenient theories which allow one to do otherwise; and to do it otherwise all the time, because the words " and not otherwise " are not to be found there? Let us add that in the letters addressed to the churches, one does not find a single word on this point; but that there are, in more than one of them, moral directions, and they are therefore valid for all times, formally addressed to all Christians and applicable to submission to rulers, even when there might be no elders.
The thesis of Mons. de Gasparin and his associates is, on the one hand, the denial of authority in the Church of God, if one regards this authority as derived from Christ, and existing in the persons of those whom He has sent for that purpose, namely, His apostles; and on the other, the destruction of submission founded on the moral precepts of the word addressed to all the faithful, even when there might be no authority formally appointed, and submission in which the word and grace of God exercise all their power, and have all their rights.
Mons. de Gasparin and his partisans wish to attribute to every babe in Christ, and to women, the discernment and authority which the apostle took so much trouble to use for the profit of the Church in the disciples whom he had chosen for this.
I do not think that there is any other point in Mons. de Gasparin's article which is worth taking up, and I desire to be brief. I will only again remark that in what Mons. de Gasparin calls his motives, he avoids touching on the question of authority. He speaks of ordinary actions, such as eating and drinking, etc., and of religious acts, as preaching-actions which are common to all Christians. He speaks of founding new churches; he speaks of collections, etc. Finally, we have treated of these points. But it is a question of executive authority. On this point Mons. de Gasparin maintains complete silence, and instead of speaking of executive authority, he gives us the parable of a legislator.