Review of "The Scriptural Form of Church Government" by C. C. Stewart

The Scriptural Form of Church Government by C. C. Stewart, Toronto: James Campbell & Son, Second Edition, 1872, 197 pp.
The Presbyterian Quarterly Review in 1873 (p. 357) notes the following in a review of The Scriptural Form of Church Government: “Against Prelatists [Episcopalians] and Papists on the one side and the Plymouth Brethren on the other, the author strenuously argues for the Presbyterian as the true form of church government.”
Other than that review I was unable to find much information on the author, Rev. C. C. Stewart M. A. The book does note that he lived in Owen Sound, Ontario and that James Campbell & Son was a Canadian publisher of Sunday School books. In that Stewart defends Presbyterian church government he likely was a minister in a denomination called Presbyterian or in a denomination or independent church which practices such government.
In Stewart’s time it was already clear that the Church of England had fallen from its former theological heights. Stewart writes, “The Church of England was once truly Protestant, but she foolishly retained some of the apparently unimportant forms and doctrines of Rome, and the consequence is now, that the whole High-Church party has abandoned the principles of the Reformation, and the perverts from it to Romanism may be counted in the hundreds.” (p. 19)
He makes solid arguments against the Church of England’s claim of apostolic succession. He contends that apostolic succession is in no way historically verifiable for any church, and that there were many cases where succession was broken in having such situations as imposter bishops, Popes who were only children, and where church offices were sold to the highest bidder. (p. 20-26)
He also makes a number of arguments against the Plymouth Brethren practice of having no distinction between church members and ministers. Of his arguments, the best perhaps are that “It is proved that there is a Ministry by the fact, that private members are called upon to obey their rulers in the Church” (p. 36) and because “the qualifications necessary for the office of Ministry are pointed out … this shows that it is the intention of the Head of the Church [Jesus Christ] that there should be a Ministry.” (p. 38)
The author takes a cessationist position when he argues for a distinction between church offices that are perpetual and church offices that have ceased. He writes, “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, workers of miracles, those possessing gifts of healing, and those having the power to speak miraculously in different languages, have ceased; the rest remain.” (p. 47)
As for the offices that are perpetual, Stewart notes that “helps and deacons are different names for the same officers” (p. 54) and likewise “Elder and bishop are different names for the same officer.” (p. 54-55) For the latter he references especially Titus 1:5-7 where the one office is alternately called elder and bishop.
It would then appear that Stewart takes a 2-office view. He says “We have now the two orders, viz., elders or bishops, and deacons.” (p. 55) It is worth noting that in a way Stewart actually argues for a 1-office of view of actual ministry, as he references Acts 6:1-4 where deacons are arranged so that the elders can “give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.” But, following a critique of the Episcopalian position (p. 55-83), Stewart returns to “governments” and argues for a 3-office view. He writes,
“Who are to be understood by governments? Not pastors and teachers, as these have already been mentioned in the list [1 Cor. 12:28 – “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”]; not deacons for they do not rule, and moreover are mentioned already under the name of helps; not elders or primitive bishops, who teach and administer the sacraments, for they are just pastors and teachers, as we have already proved; not diocesan bishops, for the Scripture knows nothing of such an officer … Nor can we suppose that civil rulers are meant, for governments are given to the Church, and civil rulers have no authority in it, as we shall hereafter show. We are then shut up to the conclusions, that by governments is meant ecclesiastical officers, whose special duty it is to rule. In this view we are confirmed by another passage. … ‘Having then gifts different according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth on teaching; or he that exhorteth on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence, &c.’ Nor are they the only rulers in the Church; the elders also rule. (1 Tim. v., 17) Nor are they superior to the elders, for there is not a word in Scripture to indicate such a state of things, but on the contrary much which is opposed to it; neither is there anything to show that they are subordinate to elders: there is then only one remaining supposition possible, and that is, that they are officers who rule in conjunction with the elders.” (p. 85)
He continues,
“We have hitherto refrained from giving a name to these officers, though we are aware that some denominations have done so. We have followed this course for two reasons: first, to show that it is not a name which we contend for, but an office; and secondly, we did not wish to commit ourselves to any theory respecting the dignity of the office, until we had produced Scriptural authority for it. We hav now however, come to that point, where we may take up the theory of the Presbyterian Church on this subject. She holds that the officers indicated by the term governments, are elders whose special duty it is to rule. With this theory let us proceed.
“The Presbyterian Church has all along maintained, that there are two classes of elders, not differing as to rank or dignity, but solely in respect to official duty. The former class both preaches and administers the sacraments, and also rules; while the latter only rules: she considers the ruling elders to be the officers signified by governments (p. 86)
Moving on to the diaconate, Stewart notes that Prelatists “try to make it appear that deacons were ministers of the Word” but “They do not pretend that any such statement is made in the Scripture, but they infer it from the fact, that some of the seven, appointed deacons, afterwards preached.” But, Stewart argues, “It does not follow that because a man is appointed to a particular office, that he must continue to discharge the duties of that office for his lifetime; he may surely resign it and take another. Hence it does not follow that Philip preached as a deacon. He is indeed afterwards mentioned by another name, viz., evangelist.” (p. 100)
But this is the last we hear of evangelists in the volume. It leaves this reader wondering “Is the evangelist another office of the church?”
Stewart continues arguing for the Presbyterian principles of the plurality of elders and of a gradation of church courts(p. 107-117), for the “popular election” of officers and their ordination by elders with particular reference to Acts 14:23 (p. 118 -127), and that Christ alone is the head of the Church (p. 128-173). He concludes with a chapter in defense of the Regulative Principle of Worship, though he nowhere calls it by that name. (p. 174-191)
As evidenced by the space I allotted to the topic in this review, I found The Scriptural Form of Church Government to be particularly insightful on the question of the Bible’s teaching on the ruling elder.