Oct 16, 2008

Campbell on Dr. Noel & Elder Rule

Wrote Alexander Campbell:

"He (Dr. Noel) maintained that the Baptist government was altogether too inefficient; that there ought to be ruling elders in the churches; and that Associations should have appellate jurisdiction over the churches, In short, sir, he came out a full-blooded PRESBYTERIAN.

Now the object I have in view, as already stated, is, to request of the Doctor information upon this matter. Is he really a Baptist, or a Presbyterian?

He may, for aught I know, have changed "his views of what the Scriptures teach" on this matter. Will he, therefore, distinctly say if Romans xii. 8. 1 Cor. xii. 28. 1 Tim. v. 17. now teach that there should be ruling elders in the churches, as he contended, they did then? These passages were as plain then as they are now. If they taught Presbyterianism then, as the Presbyterians believed Doctor Noel had proved, they teach it now. If Doctor Noel believed what he then said he did, he must have had good reasons for it; and if he does not now believe what he then did, he must have better reasons for the change--if, indeed, he be a reasonable man, which some doubt.

If, too, Doctor Noel is now really a Baptist, a "genuine Baptist" a "Baptist of the old stamp," and not a reformer, a "restorationer," a revolutionist--a Presbyterian and no Baptist, as was there said by those opposed to him; he can certainly give his reasons why he then wrote and acted as he did--or why he has changed in his "views of what the Scriptures teach," concerning the alleged inefficiency of the Baptist government.

Pardon me, sir, for this intrusion upon your time; (I trust the Doctor will pardon it;) but I thought it right that the Baptists should distinctly ascertain if Doctor Noel be a real Baptist, or a Presbyterian--if he has any creed at all, or ever had."


Campbell wrote elsewhere:

"Every person possessed in a good degree of the qualifications laid down by the apostle Paul as essential to the christian bishop, and who, after having been first well proved by a congregation of disciples, is ordained or appointed by the congregation to the overseer's office, in which he is to exercise the functions of a bishop, every such person, I say, is to be esteemed and valued as a bishop, and by no means to be ranked among the clergy. But some few Baptists, tickled by the love of novelty, and lured by the false majesty of Presbyterianism, exhibited in a classical priesthood, of ordinaries, co-ordinates, subordinates, priests and Levites; ruling elders, licentiates, reverends and doctors of divinity, have compromised the distinguishing features of their own grand peculiarities, and palmed upon themselves a species of demagogues, who, while they have all the airs, hauteur, and arrogance of some Paido-Baptist priests, have neither their erudition, nor their talents, nor their policy. They can neither wear the gown decently, nor conceal the cloven foot." (OCTOBER 4, 1824 - Address to the Public)

Thus, it seems that the Baptists of Kentucky were engaged in this debate in 1824. It also appears that the Baptists of Kentucky would not tolerate the views of Dr. Noel.

I will continue to search for more information about Dr. Noel and his attempts to turn Baptist churches into a Presbyterian style of government.

I also plan to write on what constitutes "ordination," and on what is the role of what is called the "presbytery" in such ordinations. Involved in this is the issue of whether an elder, being ordained by a church, is thus forever an ordained elder for the whole denomination. Certainly Dr. Gill did not believe the latter, believing that "ordination" was strictly for the local church, and not for multiple churches or for the whole denomination. In other words, if I am not presently pastoring a church, then I cannot presently claim to be an elder or bishop.

More to come, the Lord willing.

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