Brother Beebe: If one so unworthy as I feel may so address you, I desire your views on the duty of deacons. Our Association (Salem) has requested the churches of which she is composed to take up the subject, and set forth their views on the subject. Please give your views in as plain a way as possible, and you may confer a great favor on many of the Baptists in Southern Indiana as well as elsewhere. Please reply as early as you can, through your valuable, and to me, highly esteemed paper, the Signs of the Times.
I would also like to have your views on 1 Peter i, 22, particularly on the first part of the verse. I would like to write much; but, my dear brother, from a sense of my inability to write to edification, I refrain. May the good Lord bless you and me, and all the Israel of God, with all needful blessings while we sojourn in this unfriendly world, and finally crown us in heaven with all his blood-washed throng, that we may glorify and praise him in a world without end.
Reply: This letter having been mislaid, we have no means of knowing how long it has been on hand, as our brother neglected to date it. Our reply may be too late for his purpose, but as we have no special light to communicate on the duty of deacons, his loss will be small from our delay.
We have positive instructions in the Epistles of Paul, that the office of deacons belongs to the order of the gospel church; and of their character and qualifications we are very fully instructed, especially in 1 Tim. iii. 8-13; but the particular work is not so clearly defined. Many believe that the seven which were set apart to serve tables, Acts vi. 3-8, were deacons; if their exposition be correct, (and we will not controvert it) we may infer that their work is first to attend to the poor of the church, and see that the supplies provided by the church are faithfully applied for the relief of the needy. And as they were to relieve the administrators of the work from embarrassment, so that they might give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word. That the ministers of the word need such aid and relief now as much as it was required in the apostles’ days, is very evident; as the number of gospel ministers is small, and many of the few who stand approved by the churches are greatly hindered in the work, by pecuniary embarrassments, so that they cannot give themselves continually to the word of the ministry, without violating other precepts, which require them to provide for their households, etc. The minister of the word, in pursuing his holy vocation, becomes familiar with the necessities of the saints, and their wants are to be attended to. How dwells the love of God in those who see their brethren and sisters in need, and shut up the bowels of their compassion, etc.? See I John iii. 17, James ii. 15, 16. But if the administrators of the word have to make collections for the poor, and see to the appropriation of the contributions, they must necessarily neglect the administration of the word. Hence, there seems to be a necessity for men of honest report to take this responsibility. If they lack the qualifications which Paul requires of deacons, they cannot well fulfill the duties assigned them; those who contribute must have confidence in the honesty, integrity, and faithfulness of the officer who is put in charge of the work. We are not directly told that the seven men which were set apart by order of the apostles, Acts vi. 3-8, were deacons, but the similarity of their qualifications to those required of deacons in 1 Tim. iii. 8-13, is a strong presumptive evidence that they were. A second evidence is found in the fact that we have none but deacons now in the church to perform that work, and further, there being no specific work assigned the deacons, in Paul’s instructions to Timothy, strongly favors the conclusion that the work assigned the seven in Acts vi. 3-8, was well understood by Timothy and the churches as being the work of deacons.
Men who possess the qualifications which Paul requires of deacons, being grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, etc. Such men, it is presumed, will find enough to do in the church of God; not only in looking to the relief of the poor, and seeing that the ministry is relieved from pecuniary embarrassments; but as Paul requires that he shall be a good disciplinarian, ruling well his own house, we infer that he is to be of much service in the church, in seeing to the strict observance of all the laws of Christ, aiding the pastor in the oversight of the flock, and in attending faithfully to all that belongs to the order of the gospel. Especially when the administrator of the word and ordinances is called away, (for their time has to be divided, as was the time of the apostles among the churches) to see that the assembling of the saints is not neglected - that the regular meetings be kept up, and the gifts of the saints called out and exercised, and that the saints speak to themselves in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs - that they exhort, admonish and edify one another. They should make themselves familiar with the situation of the members generally; see that there be no strife, contentions, envies, or disorders among them, - visit the sick and afflicted, and make known to the church the case of such as require their aid. If these are not some of the duties of the deacon, we should not be able to enlighten our enquiring brother.
Our views on the text, I Peter i. 22, we will endeavor to give soon.
Middletown, N. Y.
May 15, 1861
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 499 - 502