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It is much easier for us to understand what should be the character, deportment and standing of a deacon and of a deacon’s wife, than to define with certainty their official duties. Paul has instructed Timothy that deacons must be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And he adds, “And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” &c. I Tim. 3:8-12. From the qualifications required, we infer that those who, on being proved, are found duly qualified, will be led by the Spirit to make themselves useful in the church of God.

Like the bishop, {or pastor} they are to be good disciplinarians, for they are to rule their own houses well, showing that they are gifted in discipline; and as the place of a deacon is called an office, we infer that as officers in the church, they are divinely authorized to assist the pastor in the general oversight of the church. To watch over the members, and to admonish, exhort, and to reprove when necessary; to give wholesome advice to those who need it; to see that the poor of the church are not neglected, and that the pastor is not hindered in the ministry by cares which the church through her deacons should relieve him from. We judge from the qualifications of deacons that they should see that none of the members of the church neglect the assembling of themselves together for social worship, and when the pastor is not present, or the church is destitute of one, the deacons should take the lead of the meetings, and call into exercise such gifts as in their judgment are most edifying. As the members generally have a right to look to the deacons, as well as to their pastors for counsel, it is highly important that their wives should possess the qualifications required of them. If the pastor, or deacon’s wives are double tongued, or slanderous, or given to gossip, it would greatly embarrass the members in visiting them for the purpose of counsel and instruction.

The deacon’s wife, if what she should be, will be of great service in the church, as they may be approached more freely on many subjects, by the female members, on subjects which they could not so well state to the deacons or pastors.

Some have supposed that the deacons were, in the absence of a pastor or evangelist, to administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper; but that is an egregious mistake, and has caused great disorder and confusion whenever the error has prevailed. None were commissioned by the Head of the church to baptize, but those who were also commanded to preach. Philip, who baptized the eunuch, was expressly called, qualified and sent to preach and baptize, and he was nowhere called a deacon; but he is, in Acts 21:8, called “the evangelist, being one of the seven.” That the office of the deacon is co-operative with the bishop or pastor, and yet distinct, is clear from the titles by which they are severally designated, and the peculiar qualifications they are required to possess, as good, sound and efficient disciplinarians, is, we think fully implied.

Middletown, N.Y.
November 1, 1870.
Elder Gilbert Beebe