Brother Beebe: If it is not asking too much, I would be glad if you would take up the subject of Laying on of the Hands of the Presbytery, in the ordination of Elders and Deacons. What is the practice of the Old School Baptists? If it is their practice, by what authority? Please give your views through the “Signs of the Times” and oblige one who wishes to know the truth.
April 11, 1864
Reply: There is not a perfect uniformity in the practice of Old School Baptists in their manner of setting apart their Elders and Deacons to their respective callings. In the ordination of Elders, however, it is the general practice to call a council, or Presbytery, to be composed of Elders and brethren from sister churches whose concurrence in behalf of the churches in regard to the call and qualifications of such candidate for ordination is deemed essential to their future usefulness; inasmuch as the Elders are set apart for service in all the churches of the same faith and order, where they may have occasion to officiate in their sacred vocation. When such concurrence is obtained, the most general custom is to recognize the brother as an Elder in a public manner. First, a sermon is preached suitable to the occasion, then a prayer is offered, and at the same time the hands of the Elders present are laid on the head of the candidate, after which a solemn charge is given to the candidate by some Elder father in the ministry. Then the right hand of fellowship is extended to him with a few appropriate remarks in which he is recognized as a regularly ordained Elder of our faith and order.
We have said there is not a perfect uniformity as to the ceremony. Some brethren have doubted the propriety of laying on our empty hands, as we can not impart to the brother the gifts of the Holy Ghost. It is by them supposed that the laying on of our hands would imply that the gifts of the Spirit were pretended to be so given, and others perhaps have objected to the ritual from other reasons.
As our own views, however, are asked for, with out any design to disparage the views of others or to provoke any discussion or controversy on the subject, we confess that our convictions are in favor of the formalities which we have described. There can be no public recognition without some formality, and if we have rightly read the scriptures, it was an apostolic custom to set brethren apart to the work of the gospel ministry by fasting and prayer, and with the laying on of hands, to faithfully charge them before God and the elect angels to preach the word, and also to give them the right hand of fellowship to go and preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and the apostle tells us we have them for our example. There were many cases of the laying on of hands, where the design does not to us appear to have been to convey the gifts of the Holy Ghost, but simply to set apart brethren to the work where unto the Holy Ghost had called them.
With regard to Deacons, as their office is local, or generally confined to the church to which they belong, there does not appear to be any necessity of a council from abroad; and our churches generally ordain their Deacons by the unanimous voice of the church, solemnly invoking the blessing of God upon them to make them useful in their sacred calling. Still there are some churches who set them apart in about the same way in which Elders are ordained.
May 15, 1864.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 38 – 39