They therefore elect elders, who expound the Scriptures, baptize and hear confessions.
The elders are the first or oldest teachers of congregations, for which there is no regular bishop. They have charge of the meetings of such congregations, and participate in excommunication proceedings, besides which they preach, exhort, baptize, and may, when needed, take the offices of the deacons.
The inappropriate designation of St John's Christians arises from the early and imperfect acquaintance of Christian missionaries, who had regard merely to the reverence in which the name of the Baptist is held among them, and their frequent baptisms. In their dealings with members of other communions the designation they take is Sabians, in Arabic Sabi'una, from qs= y 25, to baptize, thus claiming the toleration extended by the Koran (Sur.
It is, he says, the " authority of the church " which has constituted the difference between the governing body and the laity, and in an emergency a layman may baptize and celebrate (Exhort.
The fact is that the Montanists represented the conservatism of their day, and even now the Roman Church admits the right of laymen to baptize when a priest cannot be had.