Brother Beebe: Will you please give your views, through the “Signs” as to whether it is indispensable that a Deacon’s wife should be a member of the church with her husband, and oblige some
May 27, 1866.
Reply: No rule given by the apostles for the faith, order, or practice of the church of God may be dispensed with. All their instructions are imperative, and should be so regarded and obeyed. The apostle in I Timothy 3, says, “A bishop must be the husband of one wife;” and of the deacons he also says, “Even so must their wives (the deacons’ wives) be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husband of one wife,” etc. This is about all the instruction we can find in the New Testament bearing on the subject of enquiry. The term, or word, bishop, clearly and beyond dispute signifies an overseer of the flock, the same as the pastors among us are held. Of those the apostle says, “A bishop must be the husband of one wife.” As polygamy was tolerated to some extent in Oriental countries in the apostles’ time, it is thought by some that the apostle only designed to restrict the bishop or deacon to one wife, or to prohibit their having more than one wife at the same time. But this seems to us hardly probably, as it would seem to imply that other members might have a plurality of wives, which we find most clearly forbidden by our Savior himself. (See Matthew 5:27,28; Mark 10:2-12; compared with Hebrews 12:4, and Romans7:l-3.) To us it seems that, while every pastor or bishop is required to be the husband of one wife, who with his children and household are to be judiciously ruled by him; that the other ministers of the word were not so required, as Paul himself, and others were not included, for they were without wives. The same qualifications here stated seem to be equally required of the deacons. This we infer from the words, “Likewise (or in like manner) must the deacons be grave,” etc. “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own house well.” Such are the instructions and rules laid down. We have neither authority nor disposition to diminish one jot or tittle.
We are aware, however, that in many of the small churches such deacons cannot be found, and the propriety of appointing others, approximating the rule as nearly as possible, is to say the very least, exceedingly doubtful. It seems to us better to wait until the Lord shall supply the church with members possessing these scriptural requisitions than to appoint others. Expediency is a very unsafe guide for us in matters relating to the kingdom of Christ. The propriety of attempting to organize churches when and where the proper gifts are not to be found is very questionable. Would it not be safer for the little clusters of brethren and sisters to retain their membership in the nearest churches of our order, even if somewhat remote, than to attempt to organize without the requisite organic members?
An organization is not indispensably essential to the communion, fellowship, edification and social worship of the twos and threes which may be gathered together in Christ’s name for communion and social devotion. The ordinances of the gospel may be observed, baptism administered, and the supper received by those in churches in fellowship duly qualified and authorized by their respective churches to administer them to such groups of disciples who cannot attend with the organized churches.
A deacon possessing all the qualifications of gravity, honesty, veracity, obstinence, indifference to the wealth and honors of the world, will be still better prepared to fill the office, having a wife of the character required. They are to occupy a position in the church accessible to all the members who may wish for counsel, and if the deacon be the husband of a wife who is also a believer, and equally interested in the welfare of the saints, it will greatly promote his usefulness as an adviser and counselor in the church.
If the seven men which were set apart to attend to the widows in the primitive church were, as is generally believed, deacons, their calling was to relieve the administrators of the word from any cares or burdens which embarrassed them in the preaching of the word. In such a calling a wide field of labor is assigned them. The widows, and all who require aid from the church are to be sought out, and their temporal circumstances ascertained, and suitable appropriations made at the expense of the church, for their relief. In visiting and enquiring of the conditions of the widows, a deacon who has a wife of the right disposition and piety would greatly aid him in his duties. There seems to us to be sufficient apparent reasons why a deacon should be a married man, and that his wife be a discreet and spiritually minded believer. Her faithful labors with the sisters in the church, as well as making provisions for the relief of the ministry, looking after all the temporal affairs of the church, are scarcely less important than his. Those are greatly mistaken who suppose that the deacon’s work is only to wait on the table at the administration of the Lord’s Supper, for we have no special direction given that they should officiate at the Lord’s table more than in attention to the tables of the poor of the churches.
Of course we give what we have written only as some of our own views on the subject of enquiry. So far as we know, the order of all our churches is not entirely uniform on the subject, and we only submit the suggestions embodied in this article to the consideration of our churches, and more especially in reply to some Enquiring Brethren.
July 15, 1866.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 357 - 359