Monday, August 9, 2010

Presbyterianism Begins Locally

John Murray, "The Form of Government," in Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 2, pp. 348-349:

4. Local Government. We have found that the kind of government set forth in the New Testament is that of a plurality of elders or bishops exercising oversight on a parity with one another. It is all-important to take account of the fact that it is on the local level that this must, first of all, be applied. It is in the local assembly, or congregation of God's people, that the ordinances of Christ's appointment for his church are regularly administered. The importance of the local congregation is therefore paramount and it is in the local congregation that the presbyterian principle must first be exemplified. If it is not preserved and practised at this point, it is not in operation at all. If and when it so happens that a particular congregation is not able, for reasons of geographical isolation, or for reasons of loyalty to the whole counsel of God, to establish a broader fellowship with other congregations of like faith and practice, that congregation must not consider itself pre-empted from discharging all the rights and prerogatives, as well as duties, of presbytery. In the New Testament the presbuterion is simply the elders gathered together for the discharge of those functions of government devolving upon them when acting in that capacity. The presbyterian principle begins at the level of the particular flock or congregation, and if, for good reasons, it does not extend further than one congregation, we are not to deem it unpresbyterian. To be concrete, to that local presbytery belong all the functions that Christ has accorded to presbytery.

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