Rusk, Texas, April 23, 1880.
Elder G. Beebe & Son: We do not wish to burden you with these questions, but we really need instruction. We are little church, of which I am a member; we were constituted about one year ago. We have no preacher or deacons; in regard to deacons we wish for instruction. We have been trying to get a presbytery to come and ordained deacons for us. I think it is the practice here among our churches to ordained deacons by a presbytery. I see in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES of April 15th, that you think the deacons may be ordained by the action of the church, or by the vote of the church. We want a deacon, and one proper instruction, as we are young and ignorant, and make this appeal to your more mature judgment on the subject.
Allow me to trouble you further, as it may be the last time. If the person we desire should serve us as deacon has a wife who is not a member of the church, does this disqualify him for being a deacon? We wish to know whether their role given in 1 Timothy III. 11 requires of the deacons wife that she shall be a professor or not; and do the requisitions supply to her if she is not a professor of religion?
Brethren Beebe, if not too much trouble, please let us know your mind on the subject through our family paper, the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, and you will greatly oblige a one and fills truly as the lease sheep in all the flock; and if I could only know that I am a sheep, even astray one, I would be better satisfied.
U. J. BELL.
REPLY: – We feel our incompetency to give the instruction concerning deacons which brother Bell has asked for. In regard to the ordination, or manner of setting them apart to the work, we have given our views, in reply to brother Demaree, in our issue for April 15th, of this year. In regard to the special qualifications of a deacon, we are instructed in 1 Timothy iii. 8-13, “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double tongued, not given too much wine, not greedy a filthy lucre; holding ministry of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of the deacon, being found blameless.” We have copied these directions as they are found in our versions of the scriptures, with the supplied words marked byItalics. The first proving them is, as we understood, to ascertained by proof that they possess these indispensable requisitions; and if they are found blameless, than they are to use the office of a deacon. The further directions are of what the wife of the deacon (if he has one) must be. If the deacon possesses all the above named requisitions, he is not to be forbidden to use the office of the deacon. And he is allowed to have one, and but one wife; but she is required to possess and maintain the characteristics given in the connection, for if she possesses the opposite rates, she would seriously retard him in his official duties as a deacon. The words, “Let the deacons be the husband of one life,” are no more imperative than the words, “let them use the office,” &c. They express liberty, rather than a command. We do not understand that all who possess the requisite qualifications are commanded to use the office; but they are at liberty, or are eligible. “Let them,” when proved, use the office. And allow them to have one wife, who was grave, not slanderous, sober and faithful in all things. If the member, having all the other requisitions named, can not use the office unless he has a wife, then one who has a wife, and all the other requisitions, should his wife die, would be disabled by her death to use the office until he should marry again.
It is not said that his wife must be a member, or that her holding a membership would meet the essential requirement. A deacon’s wife may be a member, and still be seriously deficient in gravity, sobriety and faithfulness in all things.
It is said also all the Bishop, or Elder, that he “must be blameless, the husband of one life;” but Paul himself was unmarried, and we presume many, and probably a large majority, of the ministers of the gospel in the primitive church, including Bishops and Elders, were unmarried. But as a plurality of wives was allowed by the Government of the Roman Empire, it is generally understood that this instruction of the apostle was restrictive, forbidding that they should have but one life. Paul was not a great admirer of the connubial relations, for he would that others to whom he wrote or even as he was in that respect. That more than one wife was at that time allowed in the church to any of the members, we think very improbable; but that the Bishop should have more than one, was as improper as that he should fail to be vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given the hospitality, apt to teach; and not given to wine, and be no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, not a brawler, or covetous.
We submit these views only as our understanding of the subject, to be tested by the word and spirit of the Lord.
Elder Gilbert Beebe,
Middletown N.Y., June 1, 1880
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 11
June 1, 1880