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Presbyterian government is ecclesiastical rule by mature Presbyteries of Presbyters or Elders — in and from Presbyteries responsible for associated Sessions confederately constitutive of Synods or General Assemblies. As to its inception, Presbyterian government is not just apostolic but also primordial in its antiquity. For unlike the Campbellite "Disciples" or that congregationalistic sect named "The Church of Christ" (alleged to have been established only in 33 A.D.) — and unlike the tyrannical Papal Church (launched only during the sixth century A.D.) — the very representative Presbyterian Church of the Triune God was established, unto all eternity, already in 4004 B.C.
There is very great merit in seeing the Eternal Trinity — the One God with His many Members — as being the first and the last Presbytery. He Himself is also the Foundation of all presbyterial government — and of His one Church with its many Presbyteries, all baptized into His Triune Name.1 The Triune God is a Presbytery.2 Also His Church should reflect this.3
A ‘Presbytery' (or Presbuteerion) is a group of Ruling Elders, including some Preaching Elders, which governs the Church of the Triune God.4 Such may be either local, e.g., the Session; regional, e.g. the Classis, usually named ‘Presbytery'in English; provincial, e.g., the State Assembly; or the National, e.g., the Great Synod.
Thus the head in each of ten households chooses from those heads one mature male, to be the Elder-over-ten in that local tithing or ward. Every five Elders-over-ten then in turn choose one Elder-over-fifty. Next, each two Elders-over-fifty choose one Elder-over-hundred. Thereafter, each ten Elders-over-hundred choose their one Elder-over-thousand. Finally, all of the Elders-over-thousand are convened to constitute the largest national Ecclesiastical Parliament of the people of God — "the General Assembly of the Church of the firstborn.5
Clearly, then, a Presbytery, just like the Trinity could consist of as few as three Members.6 Yet it should represent perhaps a minimum of five Sessions of Christ’s Church. Compare Exodus 18:25's "Rulers-of-fifty" in the Older Testament — with the five Preaching Elders in the Newer Testament which Acts 13:1 mentions within the Presbytery of Antioch. Optimally, however, some seven Sessions are represented
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in a Presbytery.7 No Presbyteries mentioned in the Word of God, ever exceed that latter size.8
In many Patristic Churches there were approximately seven Congregations associated in each Presbytery, and then again seven such Presbyteries associated together in one Regional Synod. Thus that famous authority on the Westminster Assembly, Rev. Dr. Alexander F. Mitchell, notes in his essay on the early pre-papal Keltic Church that the latter was ‘High' Presbyterian. Mitchell explains that "in South Britain, there were ‘Bishops' [alias Over-seers].. .with distinct ‘Sees’ [alias Sessions]. There were at least seven in Wales at the time of the conference.. .with Austin of Canterbury [around A.D. 600]…. They seem to have been [guided] by ‘Tribal Bishops’ …[and were] located in groups of seven near each other."
Even as late as the eighth century, as Sir Winston Churchill points out, it was Alcuin of York who was the chief adviser of the Continental Emperor Charles the Great. Also Möller observes that Alcuin was a worthy repre-sentative of Celto-Culdee learning on Anglo-Saxon ground.
Alcuin gave discourses on the Trinity (Whom he said governs the trivium of grammar and rhetoric and dialectic), and Who further operates through the fullness of creation (north and south and east and west) as reflected in the quadrivium of arithmetic and geometry and astronomy and music. Alcuin also held that Christ Himself is the Master of the Academy, and that the above-mentioned ‘seven arts' are an introduction