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CIRCULAR LETTER OF CENTRAL NEW JERSEY ASSOCIATION.

This extraordinary document has been forwarded to us by brother D. Hulsizer, with a request for us to copy and explain. The great length and little value of the letter is our reason for refusing it room in our columns; but as our brother seems particularly desirous for our view upon that part of the letter in which the office of pastor is defined, we copy an extract upon that point, and subjoin our opinion on the same.

“A minister may be called as a supply or regular minister, to one, two or three churches at a time, but cannot be pastor only to one. He may act as a supply without being a member of the church he supplies; but he cannot be a pastor where he is no member. He may be called, for a limited time, (say a year or more) as a supply; but a pastor cannot be settled for a limited time, because a limitation would destroy the nature of the pastoral relation.

“The term pastor or pastoris means first, a shepherd, which is a relative term; he must have a flock. Second, it has the meaning governor, king or husband. A shepherd cannot attend to two or more flocks. A husband cannot have to wives at once. He cannot sustain the pastor’s office without a lawful relation to the church. He cannot sustain the relation of a husband for a limited time. The very vague relation in which pastors (so called) have been understood to stand to the churches, has been fraught with disastrous evils not easily remedied.

“When a church settles a minister as a pastor or bishop, she enters into an affinity similar to that of wedlock, and if the does not love him more than all other men in that relation, (all things considered) she is not worthy of him. When he unites with him, she puts into his hands the great charter of her existence – the gospel of Christ, her covenant, her discipline, and the supremacy of her executive power. She now in the utmost confidence says, by placing him at the head of her affairs, This is your house, this is your garden, this is your family. Do your duty faithfully, and we will sustain you in the execution of the great duties of your office. And as love is the fulfilling of all just law, no man can discharge the onerous duties of the pastoral office unless he sincerely loves the church over which he settles. He is the regular moderator of all their meetings, whether for worship or business. It is his duty to direct the worship in that way he may judge the most conducive to the general good; always preferring the greater general good to the indulging of personal enjoyments.

“He is to watch for souls, and to seek for their conversion and salvation. He is to use all means consistent with christian prudence and morality, to increase the congregation and to retain it; well knowing if he loses his auditory he fails of success. He must regulate his services with great judgment, for what may satisfy or even please a christian, may not always be the best suited to the general good; but he is never to be a man-pleaser, to gratify the fastidious. The services should be multiplied or diminished at discretion. His visiting should be general and short; so that wherever he has been, it cannot but be known that the faithful pastor has been there. Especially he should cultivate the affections of the youth of the congregation, and always make them feel that the best return they can make for his attentions is to seek for the salvation of their own souls.

“In the business, he should decide what is in order, and what is not. He should seldom give his opinion on business first, but reserve his for the last, if necessary, and then never without great judgment. For a vascillating disposition in a pastor is destructive of his influence.

“He should always set himself up as an example to the believers, showing uncorruptness. He should be willing to challenge (as his Master did) the whole world, and say, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” And if at any time he should be found in error, let him confess it at once, repent and reform on the spot, and live every slanderous tongue into silence. Every pastor should be a missionary MAN; and should consider the community over which he presides responsible for bearing their just proportion in giving the gospel to all nations.

“He has no more right to meditate a change of his relation for the sake of popularity or emolument, than the church has from similar motives; which in either case is inconsistent with the sacred ties that bind them.

“Whatever may be said in favor of employing ministers of the gospel in various agencies for public institutions, either of science or religion, it certainly secularizes their devotional character, and derogates from their religious elevation, and is incompatible with pastoral relations. It may be inquired, “What is a pastor to do, if he cannot sustain himself or family?” He should candidly tell the church, through her deacons, who should immediately adopt measures to remedy the evil; but if no method can be found to answer the purpose, he is entitled to look to other sources.

“The duties of churches to their pastors should be clearly understood, and invariably, promptly and faithfully discharged. The pious and noble minded pastor suffers more from the want of proper treatment in the church, from leading members in particular, than from all the trouble he may meet in the world.

“And in the first place let your agreement with him be put in writing; let it be recorded on your book, and let your proper officers give him a certificate of the same. And if your church and congregation is chartered according to law, (which it ought to be) let your trustees give him their obligations for the stipulation, so that all may be at rest, and no dispute arise. Let the deacons see to it, that the trustees be prepared to meet their engagement promptly; for want of this, many churches have occasioned their pastors great trouble and loss, as well as their own dishonor. Endeavor to make him as happy as possible, and you will always thereby receive a rich return. He as constantly needs to be met with your smiles, as does the careworn and affectionate husband require the soothings of his bosom companion. Never suffer any of your members to treat him with want of respect or veneration. A church should never leave her pastor under the necessity of complaining of any one. That mother must be a very unlovely companion who would suffer her children to speak or act unworthily towards the man of her choice. The church should be always zealous to sustain her pastor’s character at home and abroad; for in the first place, his use fulness depends upon it; if his character sinks, God will not bless you in his labors. Secondly, your own character and influence sink with his. Never suffer yourselves, in speaking of your pastor, to say, “Well, I know he is but a man;” for first, it is untrue; he is a man, and he is more than a man: he is a christian minister and pastor; he is the plenipotentiary of Jesus Christ to this world, and his personal secretary for you. Secondly, the moment a member conceives the idea that your pastor is no more than any other in the church, that person places him or herself beyond the blessing of pastoral relation. You should never let your pastor languish for want of encouragement; while on the other hand it is disgusting to flatter; on the other hand it is unkind not to let him know that his labors are appreciated. You should yield a cheerful submission to his authority as moderator in all your business; never reply to his admonition; when he rebukes, be humble and patient. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account.” – Heb. xiii. 17.

“And if at any time it should appear, generally, that he has departed from the faith, or has become erroneous in practice, let the deacons Communicate with him in a respectful manner on the subject; and if after you have done your duty, things remain unsettled, you may solicit the friendly office of some other pastor with whom he is on good understanding, and if there is no Prospect of adjustment to satisfaction, and if other churches are willing to receive him you should regularly dismiss him, but never say a word against him, after his connection with any other church. You may never receive a report against him unless it be well authenticated by two or three witnesses of competent ability. And if in the ministry of Providence, you should ever be called to try him for immorality or heresy, always ask the friendly counsel of neighboring ministers.”

The apostle John was an elder or pastor; but to which particular branch of the church he belonged we are not in formed; nor have we a right to suppose that he was a member of any particular branch of the church of God. The care of all the churches devolved on the apostles; and those who are called of God to fill the pastoral office, are charged to “Feed the flock of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.” For the nice distinction made in the Circular letter between a Supply and a pastor, the writer brings no authority from the scriptures.

The definition of the term pastor is precisely what might be expected from Charles Bartolette, the writer of the Circular, who, claiming to hold that office himself would by no means object to be called Rabbi, or addressed as “His Royal Highness,” Bishop Bartolette, “king” of the Amwellites of Flemington, New Jersey. He certainly could not intend by defining the word pastor to mean king to show that he is to lord it over God’s heritage; or governor, that he is to be the servant of all; or by defining the term to mean husband, that he is to be responsible for the maintenance of the church, for he is of a very different opinion on the subject, and would have the wife or church bound by a written article to maintain her husband, governor, king, &c. The latin pastor, or pastoris, signifies a shepherd, a herdsman, a keeper of poultry, &c. This is the prime and legitimate meaning of the term, and agrees with the Greek term poimenas, as in Eph. iv. 11. “And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” It is some times used metaphorically, applied to a governor or king, as Christ who is the King of Zion, is the Shepherd and Bishop of his flock; but in this sense it is never used in the scriptures in reference to the office of an ordinary pastor, and it is presumed that, after excepting the papists, Mr. Bartolette and the Central New Jersey Association, are the first who have attempted to confer regal dignity and absolute power over the church of God upon the pastoral office. When an inkling after authority and superiority was manifested among some of Christ’s disciples, at a certain time, Jesus called them unto him and said, Ye. know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them; but it shall not be so among you, but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, (or servant.) “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” – Matt. xx. 25-27. “And whosoever of you will be chiefest, let him be servant of all; for even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” – Matt. x. 44, 45.

In all respects the scriptural definition of a pastor, his qualifications and his work, is essentially different from, and in many, directly opposite to the spirit and letter of the Circular before us. The apostle Peter, who was also an elder, exhorted the elders or pastors among those to whom he directed his epistle; and in his exhortation clearly stated the proper work of the pastoral office, thus: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof; not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” – 1 Peter v. 1-3. Elder, pastor and shepherd are relative terms, it is true, and imply the existence of a flock; but they do not imply king and subjects, husband and wife, &c. The flock of God is to be fed and will be fed by pastors which God has given for that purpose. This however is not the world or worldly congregation, but the flock of God which he has purchased with his own blood. “I lay down my life for the sheep,” says Jesus. The sheep are then the flock which he purchased with his blood, and the sheep exclusively. His sheep are still more definitely described both negatively and affirmatively: “Ye are not my sheep, as I said unto you;” “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” This flock is comparatively little: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It is composed of none who have not heard the Shepherd’s voice: unregenerate sinners are not included; nor can they in their unregenerate state be fed with the sincere milk of the word. They hear not the voice of strangers: therefore they cannot be found in the congregation of Charles Bartolette, or of those of his strange brotherhood.

The pastor is instructed to take the oversight of the flock of God; by which we are not to understand that he is endowed with kingly authority; for that would make him a lord over God’s heritage; but what is implied by the oversight which a shepherd has over a flock of sheep, to see that they are well fed; all in a healthy condition; and to watch against false prophets coming among them in sheep’s clothing, while inwardly they are ravening wolves. If by oversight in the case we were to understand regal authority, this direction would seriously clash with the words before quoted from the mouth of our Lord; expressly forbidding his ministers to exercise lordship over their brethren; and also those in which lie forbids his people to call any man on earth lord, or master: for one is their Master and their Lord, even their Father in heaven. Timothy, it is true, was to teach with all authority but all authority that is connected with the pastoral office, is the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Head over all things to his church, which is his body, and the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Hence we learn the pastor is restricted to the authority of Christ, and may not with impunity quote the authority of popes, mission boards, or senior divines, &c., as the custom of the New School is. This oversight of the flock of God is not to be assumed from constraint nor from sinister motives. King Bartolette would have the pastor under hire, and constrained by written contract, by some legally chartered body, but this, with every sentiment we have ever known that coxcomb to utter, is at antipodes with the scriptures of truth.

Another equally absurd notion contained in the Circular is that a minister of Jesus has no right to officiate in the pastoral office except in that branch of the church to which he stands immediately connected. The elders, or pastors, among the saints scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, were not at home, and confined to some specific localities, but being driven out in the providence of God, by persecutions, they were elders or pastors still, and were still exhorted to feed the flock of God. It matters not where they may be located, they are to be fed, admonished, instructed and taught, not by constraint of written contracts, or stipulated amount of filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.

The old papal, and to some extent, protestant notion of marrying preachers to churches and congregations for life, to take them for better or worse, hit or miss, is revived in this Circular; and it is in keeping with the idea of kingly power and majesty as belonging to the office of pastor. The minister of a church is by no means to be regarded as standing in such relation to her. If the pastor be the husband of the church, he is the father of all her legitimate children and is bound to support, sustain and defend them. But is it so? The pastor looks to the church for support, as the candle is sustained by the candlestick, and not the candlestick by the candle. Christ is the Husband and the only Husband the church has, or can have, without committing adultery. It is not, as asserted in the Circular, necessary that the church should love the person who serves her as pastor, more than any other minister of the gospel or private christian. Christians should esteem the ministers of Jesus highly for their work’s sake; but all alike who are equally engaged in the same blessed employment.

It is also false that the church puts into the hands of her pastor the gospel. If there come any unto her who bring not the doctrine which Christ authorized, and the apostles preached, she is commanded not to receive him or them, as the case may be, into her house, nor bid them God-speed. The pastors which God gives to his church are by him made partakers of that gospel which they are to preach to the flock of God. But this is not all that is contended for in this Circular. The church covenant, the discipline and supreme executive power of the church, are all to be surrendered into the hands of the kingly prelate. The execution of her covenant and of her discipline, all to devolve on the man she may choose as her pastor. According to this theory the church has no executive power to discipline her members; her prelate is to cast his censures as he may please, cast out of fellowship or receive into covenant union without consulting the judgment of the church. Such order may do for Central New Jersey Association, but it will never answer for a church of Jesus Christ. In further describing what they hold to be the duties of the pastoral office, they say, “It is his duty to direct the worship in that way he may judge the most conducive to the general good. He is to watch for souls, and to seek for their conversion amid salvation, and use all means, &c., to increase and retain the congregation.” Not one syllable of all these duties is anywhere to be found in the sacred volume. They that worship God are to worship him in spirit and in truth; and not as some bloated specimen of mortality may dictate. God has directed in what manner he will be worshiped, and if any man lack wisdom in this matter, he is directed to ask counsel of God, (not of the usurper of God’s special prerogatives) who giveth liberally unto all men, and upbraideth not. In what part of the divine record has God directed that his pastors shall watch for the salvation of souls? Salvation is of the Lord, and not of the pastor. Pastors may watch, and preach, and pray, and exhort, and do all in their power, but can never communicate one spark of spiritual life to a single soul. None who are truly taught of God will ever presume to think of any such thing; but rather will they testify with Peter, that there is no other name given under heaven nor among men. whereby sinners can be saved, because there is salvation in no other name. Had Christ and his. apostles and other primitive preachers of his gospel taken measures for increasing and retaining their congregations, they would not so frequently have offended them by telling them the truth. What have the ministers of Jesus to do with increasing and retaining their congregation? He that bath God’s word is to declare it faithfully, and to preach, whether men will hear or forbear; having the assurance always, that the more faithfully and plainly they are enabled to preach the gospel, the greater will be the opposition they will be called to encounter from the world, the flesh and the devil. The Circular asserts that what may satisfy or please a christian, may not always be for the general good. There never was a christian that could be satisfied with anything from the pastor short of the gospel. With the gospel christians are not only satisfied, but pleased; but this is thought to be, at least sometimes, not suited to the general good. It certainly is not so well calculated to increase and retain large congregations. It is not so well suited to puff the pride and vanity of the preacher. It will not generally command so large a salary, or bring under the princely reign of the lordly clergymen so many subjects as will. the doctrines of the world. In regard to the duties of churches to their kings or pastors, we are told in the Circular that the church and world should be married, or, in their own words, chartered according to law. Their agreement with their hireling should be in writing. The trustees should give their obligation for the stipulation, so that all may be at rest and no dispute arise.

This is what the Circular avers “should be.” But why should it be thus? Has the God of heaven forfeited the confidence of his ministers whom he has commanded to trust alone in him, that they should require the written obligation of a chartered body in order to put the matter of their support at rest? Which of the primitive churches were with their congregations incorporated by law? Did the church at Jerusalem, at Ephesus, at Corinth, Rome, Galatia, or Antioch, through legal trustees, bind themselves to pay the Reverend Messrs. Peter, Jude, John, Paul, or even Barnabas, a stipulated sum of money for their pastoral services? ‘What nonsense!

Another duty imposed on the churches is that they are to consider their pastor something more than a man!

“Never suffer yourselves in speaking of your pastor, to say, ‘Well, I know he is but a man;’ for first, it is untrue; he is a man, and he is more than a man; he is a christian minister and pastor. He is the plenipotentiary of Jesus Christ to this world; and his personal secretary for you.”

Plenipotentiaries are never sent by any government to negotiate business within the territory of such government; but in all cases to other or foreign governments. But the ministers of Jesus Christ are sent to feed the flock of God, and charged to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness: how can they then be considered as plenipotentiaries? The appropriate business of plenipotentiaries is to represent the government to which they belong, and they are invested with full power to act for that government, and the government by which they are sent is bound to ratify all their negotiations. Will any one beside the New Jersey Central Association pretend that any such authority is vested in poor finite worms of the dust? How blasphemous the reflection upon the Head of the church, to represent that he has vested such unlimited and discretionary power in his preachers. One of the pastors within the bounds of that very association recently left his family and ran away with another female. Was he a plenipotentiary vested with full power to represent the whole government of the church of God? How preposterous!

The spirit that would exalt itself above all that is called God, betrays itself throughout the Circular. There is not the shadow of authority in the scriptures of truth to support such a pretension. The apostles of the Lamb, who were seated on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel, unto whom the keys of the kingdom were given, that their decision should be binding, claimed only to be ambassadors, but never claimed to be vested with unlimited power or with any power whatever beyond the precincts of the kingdom of Christ; and all the power they possessed even there was in subordination to Christ as the King. But the New School gentry of Central New Jersey Association claim for their arminian organs, that they are the plenipotentiaries of Jesus Christ to the world. A more popish assumption has never been made by any short of the pope of Rome. In addition to this arrogant pretension, these work-mongers claim to be the personal secretaries of Jesus Christ to the church. What they intend to claim as being embraced in this office, we cannot tell; unless they claim to keep his accounts with the church: we leave them to define their own meaning, knowing that they cannot exceed the arrogance and blasphemy of their claim in the preceding item of the Circular.

The Circular closes by asserting that the salvation or damnation of sinners often turns on the conduct of professors. “And who,” say they, “can tell what angels and assembled worlds will witness on that great day when the faithful christian shall greet, face to face, the souls he or she has been instrumental in saving?” No christian has ever anticipated any such thing. The very thought of dividing the honors arising from the salvation of souls with the Redeemer, would make all heaven shudder. None but arminians are capable of exulting in such impious thoughts; yet the sentiment is every way worthy of the pen of Charles Bartolette, and of the endorsement of Central New Jersey Association.

We beg the forbearance of our brethren and readers for having taken up so much of our paper in exposing this fulsome stuff.

New Vernon, N.Y.,
August 1, 1843

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 300 – 312