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213

ON

AUTHORITY

IN THE

INSTITUTION OF ORDINANCES

AND THE

MINOR ARRANGEMENTS OF THE

CHRISTIAN CHURCH

BY

REV. WILLIAM LOCKHART, M.A.

No. II.

WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS

EDINBURGH AND LONDON

MDCCCLXXVIII

122,e 20

Price One Shilling

* ON AUTHORITY IN THE INSTITUTION OF

ORDINANCES, AND THE MINOR ARRANGEMENTS OF

THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

In the CANONS, DECREES, CONFESSIONS OF FAITH, or ARTICLES OF BELIEF of all the leading CHURCHES of CHRISTENDOM, it is either asserted or implied that there is an AUTHORITY existing in the CHURCH OF CHRIST, distinct from the civil magistrate on the one hand and from the suffrages of the people on the other, and that this authority resides entirely in the Church's accredited OFFICE-BEARERS. However much these Churches may differ in opinion as regards the nature and extent of that authority, or even as regards the particular office-bearers, or associations of them, who are ultimately to exercise it, if necessary, in a supreme manner, yet they all agree in this, that the LORD JESUS CHRIST has invested those who hold office in His spiritual kingdom upon earth with a power which can neither be set aside nor infringed without transgressing, in a certain sense, divine, or at least ecclesiastical, law. Nor does this power spring from the fact that the Christian Church is a society composed of individuals and possessed of laws, which necessarily requires office-bearers to rule over the one and to administer the other. Although it be the case that the Church of Christ is a society in the world, and therefore entitled to all the privileges and powers which WORLDLY SOCIETIES have, yet the authority which its office-bearers possess and exercise is of a far more important description than that which is derived from any such source, because their authority is conveyed to them by the express language of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they enter upon its exercise when, by prayer and the laying on of hands, they are solemnly and publicly set apart to the sacred office by those who have been similarly consecrated. It is true, indeed, that the words of the Lord Jesus conveying this authority were originally addressed to men who have long since passed away from this scene of things, and who occupied a position of unapproachable dignity in the Christian Church ; but it is no less true that if that Church is to be a perpetual institution in the world, and to descend through all coming ages, the authority which was originally given to apostles must necessarily, to a certain extent at least, descend to those who, under the influences of the Holy Ghost, are prepared and solemnly set apart as the religious and spiritual guides of mankind. It is not to be expected, indeed, that any office-bearer of the

* The principles maintained in this essay do not exactly touch the controversy which raged in Scotland during the reigns of James I. of Great Britain, and his successors Charles I. and Charles II., because that was virtually a controversy between two forms of government in the Church--where Episcopacy, supported by royal authority and influence, opposed Presbyterianism, and where the clergy on both sides asserted their right to determine what should and what should not be the form of worship in the kingdom.

And to

Church can lay claim to that superhuman power which at times resided in the apostles, and which enabled them so successfully to stamp a divine character upon their mission and teaching, because the age and circumstances in which they lived were peculiar ; but, nevertheless, every office-bearer in the Church of Christ, as occupying, to a certain extent, the position of the early preachers of the Cross, can lay claim to the authority which, proceeding originally from Christ, is conveyed in such language as this : “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven : and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven," Matt. xvi. 19. show that this authority was not confined to Peter, it was subsequently bestowed upon the other apostles after the resurrection of Christ. “ Receive ye the Holy Ghost : whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained,” John xx. 22, 23.

“ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost : teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." And to show that a descending authority was recognised by the apostles, after the ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, Paul writes thus in his Epistles : And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you," 1 Thess. v. 12. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour,” 1 Tim.

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