deacons are the only ordinary officers. See Dexter, Congregationalism, 439.
Fish, Ecclesiology, 14-1l, by a striking analogy, distinguishes three periods of the church?s life: First is the pre-natal period, in which the church is not separated from Christ?s bodily presence, secondly, the period of childhood, in which the church is under tutelage, preparing for an independent life. Third is the period of maturity, in which the church, equipped with doctrines and officers, is ready for self-government. The three periods may be likened to bud, blossom and fruit. Before Christ?s death, the church existed in bud only.
(b) Provision for these offices was made gradually as exigencies arose, is natural when we consider that the church immediately after Christ?s ascension was under the tutelage of inspired apostles and was to be prepared, by a process of education, for independence and self- government. As doctrine was communicated gradually yet infallibly through the oral and written teaching of the apostles so we are warranted in believing that the church was gradually but infallibly guided to the adoption of Christ?s own plan of church organization and of Christian work. The same promise of the Spirit, which renders the New Testament an unerring and sufficient rule of faith, renders it also an unerring and sufficient rule of practice, for the church in all places and times.
<431612> John 16:12-26 is to be interpreted as a promise of gradual leading by the Spirit into all the truth; <461437>1 Corinthians 14:37 ? ?the things which I write unto you...they are the commandments of the Lord.? An examination of Paul?s epistles in their chronological order shows a progress in definiteness of teaching with regard to church polity, as well as with regard to doctrine in general. In this matter, as in other matters, apostolic instruction was given, as providential exigencies demanded it. In the earliest days of the church, attention was paid to preaching rather than to organization. Like Luther, Paul thought more of church order in his later days than at the beginning of his work. Yet even in his first epistle we fine the germ which is afterwards continuously developed. See:
(1)<520512> 1Thess. 5:12, 13 (A. D. 52) ? ?But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and are over you proi~stame>nouv in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them exceeding highly in love for their work?s sake.?
(2)<461223> 1 Corinthians 12:23 (A. D. 57) ? ?And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophet; thirdly teachers, then miracle;
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