Page images
PDF
EPUB

derived their own appointment, and the power of appointing others, from Christ himself.

Thus it is recorded, that, in those days when the members of the church first became numerous, The twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men, of honest report, and full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Let us observe the scope of this apostolical direction. It is not said “whom ve, the members of the church, may appoint,or “ who may appoint themselves by virtue of a special call ;” but, “ whom we, the deputed shepherds of Christ's flock, may ap. point." These candidates are required to be men of honest report, and endowed with the Holy Ghost, and with wisdom. Their qualifications were far from being mean; but these qualifications did not entitle them to take

upon

themselves the office of deacons, the lowest order of the ministry which is mentioned in the New Testament: nor did

[ocr errors]

they authorise the church to invest them with that office. For this, they must have the official appointment, or ordination, of those who had been duly constituted stewards of the mysteries of God. Wherefore we are further told, The church set these men before the apostles, and when they had prayed, they laid their hands

upon

them. (Acts, vi. 2, 3, 6.)

So again it is recorded, that The Holy Ghost said to those prophets and teachers, who were in the church at Antioch, Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts, xiii. 3, &c.)

These apostles had been already in the ministerial office: but they are now invested with higher powers, and with authority to appoint other ministers. Accordingly we learn that, in their subsequent travels, they ordained them elders, or priests, in every church, or local congregation; and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, on whom they helieved. (Acts, xiv. 23.) And here we

must remember, that the ordaining of ministers always supposes the imposition of hands, by those who were duly authorised to make such appointment; for, without this form, no man was regarded as qualified for the discharge of the sacred office. Wherefore St. Paul instructs Timothy-Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy-public declaration with the laying on the hands of the presbytery. (1 Tim. iv. 14.)

The presbytery, or eldership, which is here mentioned, takes in all the higher orders of the ministry, and includes the apostles themselves. Hence St. Peter and St. John acknowledge the title of presbyters or elders. And, in this comprehensive sense the term" must be understood, in the passage before us.

For St. Paul says againWherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee, by the putting on of my HANDS. (2 Tim. i. 6.)

Here the gift of God means, the appointment and authority of a Christian minister. The graces of faith and piety had been manifest in Timothy long before. From a

child, he had known the Holy Scripture; yet this gift was not in him, previous to the putting on of the apostle's hands; and it was conferred upon him by virtue of that act. It is called the gift of God, because it is derived, in regular and constituted order, from our Lord Jesus Christ, and from God the Father: and this, by express and official appointment.

Thus the establishment of an authorised ministry, in the Christian church, is prored by the records of the New Testament. · The Father conferred his

power upon

the Son; the Son committed it to the apostles ; the apostles ordained others, who had the endowment of the same gift of God, to provide a due succession in the work of the ministry. And, for the due discharge of the sacred office, a regular gradation of ministers was provided.

We have already seen the appointment of deacons and elders, or priests. But, as the writers of the New Testament do not expressly mention the order of bishops, as presiding in the church of every district, some have taken occasion to argue, that, in the age of the apostles, no such order, am distinct from the priests, did exist: and hence they have framed an objection to the episcopal government of the church.

But, even admitting the candour and good faith of such an objection, we must still maintain, that it is founded in misapprehension.

In the constitution of the church of Christ, every thing was brought forward in

regular order, and in its due season. Whilst 1, our Lord himself continued in his public

ministry, as the visible head and superintendant of his church, he was the great, and only, bishop of their souls. He did not inyest his apostles with their episcopal office, or commit to them the charge of the flock, till he was about to leave the world, and

go to the Father. They were not his partners in authority, but his successors in the visible government of his household.

So, whilst the apostles continued in the execution of their charge, they were, in reality, the bishops, or superintendants of the visible church of Christ. Thus we find that, immediately after our Lord's ascension, the apostolical office is expressly termed a bishopric or episcopacy; and this is the

« PreviousContinue »