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separating from the Church, was really such as they think it to be, it does not authorise the possessor of it to take upon himself an office to which he has not been regularly appointed.
Our Saviour, it will be allowed, possessed holiness in a superlative degree; for to him (we read) the Spirit was not given by measure.* But our Saviour "glorified not himself to be made a highpriest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my son." This honour no man taketh unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron."‡ Now Aaron was called by an outward call from God, communicated to him through the medium of Moses; from whom, as God's prime minister, he received a formal appointment to his high office before all the people. And from the circumstance of our blessed Saviour delivering the commission for collecting and governing his Church, not to his disciples at large, but to his eleven Apostles, purposely convened by him on the occasion,§ the conclusion may be drawn, that it was the design of the Divine Founder of the Church, that the sacred office of ministering in it, should be subject to that controul and direction, which was best calculated to give effect to his Divine institution. Upon this idea have the governors of the Church uniformly proceeded, in the discharge of that commission, from the days of the Apostles down to the present time. Thus stands the fact; a fact not to be contro
* John iii. 34.
+ Heb. v. 5. + Heb. v. 4.
§ Matt. xxviii. 16.
verted; and reason teaches us, that the wisdom of God has been manifested upon this occasion.
The Church, as it has already been observed, is a society; and every society is distinguished from the general mass of the community by its order and government. To the establishment of order and government, a regular appointment of chosen men to the administration of particular offices is essential. But if any man, independent of all regular appointment, is to take upon himself the discharge of an office, for which he may feel himself disposed, or think himself qualified; the society having no longer any security for the proper management of its concerns, the end for which it has been collected being thereby frustrated, its consequent dissolution must ensue.
This mode of reasoning, so far as temporal affairs are concerned, we readily admit. Let it be applied, as it ought to be, to the case of the Church, considered as a society, formed by God under a particular government calculated to promote the end of its institution; and we shall conclude in one case, as in the other, that personal qualifications furnish no dispensation for an outward appointment to an office of trust, because this is the only security which the members of the Church can have against imposture; it being the only criterion by which they can judge, who are ministers of the Church, and who are not.
We do not say that the personal qualification of the minister in spiritual matters is not requisite to the proper discharge of his sacred office; because it confessedly is so to a certain degree, and on
that account truly desirable; but what we would be understood to say, is, that in the administration of an outward sacrament, which is to be considered as the appointed means of spiritual communication from God to man, nothing is to be regarded as absolutely necessary, but the lawfulness of the commission by which it is administered. For it is the commission which secures to us the Divine confirmation of the ministerial act, and not the personal qualification of the minister; that the eye of the faithful may be directed to the proper object, and God, not man, receive the glory.
Judas received a commission from our Saviour to baptize, no less than the other Apostles. And there can be no doubt, but that the baptism administered by him was equally effectual with that administered by any other Apostle. Yet we read that this Judas was a devil.* From whence it is to be observed, that the power of Divine grace, happily for mankind, is not limited by the poorness of the instrument appointed to convey it; and that a ministerial act performed by proper authority may be valid to the parties to whom it is applied, be the performer of it ever so unworthy.t
"For this cause," says St. Barnabas, in his Catholic epistle, c. 5, « did Christ choose men who
*John vi. 70.
+"Sacramentum non ex ejus manu estimandum esse a quo administratur, sed velut ex ipsa Dei manu, a quo haud dubie profectum est: inde colligere licet nihil illi afferri vel auferri ejus dignitate per cujus manum traditur."-CALV. Instit. lib.
iv. c. 15.
were exceeding sinners to be his apostles, to show the greatness of his power and grace; and put the inestimable treasure of his Gospel into earthen vessels, that the praise might be to God, and not
The idea of the personal sanctity of the minister being necessary to the effectual administration of his office, constituted one of the earliest errors in the Christian Church, and has accompanied it through every stage of its progress. The effect of it, wherever it has prevailed, has been uniformly destructive of peace and unity, by fixing the eye of the Christian worshipper upon the man, rather than upon the office; by which means the persons of ministers being held in admiration, the commission by which they have been authorised to act in the ministry has become an object of inferior consideration.
But it should be remembered, that there is a holiness of office, independent of the holiness of the minister; the former, being essential to the validity of the ministerial act, is, on that account, not to be dispensed with, whilst the latter only recommends and adorns it.
That these two qualifications should always meet together, is doubtless a circumstance most devoutly to be wished; but as, through the infirmity of human nature, this will not always be the case it ought to become an object of primary concern with us in our judgment upon this point, that the greater consideration be at no time sacrificed to the lesser one.
• Such, we would remind the reader, is the principle laid down by our Church in her 26th Article.
Where the inward call of the Spirit is therefore pleaded as a warrant for undertaking the sacred office, we have a right to expect that it should be accompanied with the outward call, or a regular appointment to that office; because reason tells us, that the end for which the Church, as a society, was instituted, requires that thus it should be; because, moreover, where there could be no possibility of deception in the party, as in the case of our blessed Saviour, (a circumstance which challenges particular consideration) this conformity to order was judged necessary to be observed. And if our blessed Saviour condescended to regulate his public exercise of a sacred office by this rule of order, with the view, doubtless, that it should become obligatory upon every succeeding minister in his Church, we need not hesitate to call it something worse than presumption in man, upon the ground of any qualification whatever, to plead an exemption from it.
What zeal soever, therefore, a man may feel, and what qualification soever he may possess for the service of God; still God, to be served acceptably, must be served in his own way. Wellmeaning people (and I wish to speak of them with respect,' for we may honour their principle at the same time that we condemn their practice) should consider, that good intention and regular practice are two very different things; and that the former can never make amends for the disorder occasioned by the defect of the latter. On this account it is, that the intention of the agent is never admitted as a sanction for the irregularity of his act.