Page images


sebius or Epiphanius in a matter which is in itself both natural and probable, it was from among the seventy that Matthias was chosen to supply the vacancy in their number, occasioned by the death of the apostate Judas.

Thus, faint as are the indications of a regular Church during our Saviour's continuance on the earth, we may nevertheless trace the outlines of that triple polity which has ever since distinguished it; Christ himself being the visible Bishop and Governor of his Church, and the Apostles and the seventy forming two distinct orders of ministers, under his supreme authority.

As no inconsiderable illustration of the same point, let it be observed, that the Apostles received their full powers, not at their first ordination, but at three distinct periods. Their first commission empow


[ocr errors]

Epiphanius mentions the same fact, and gives the names of some others who were also of the seventy-two, (as he states the number to be,) viz. the seven deacons, and Mark, Luke, Justus, Barnabas, Apelles, Rufus, and Niger. Epiph. adv. Hæres. edit. Paris. lib. i. p. 50.

s See this stated by Potter, Disc. on Ch. Government, p. 55-58.

ered them to preach the Gospel and to baptize, offices which have usually been considered in the Church as within the qualifications of the lowest order of ministers ;next, they received authority to bless the elements of bread and wine, in commemoration of his death and sacrifice, an office which has never been performed by any below the second order ;-and lastly, when their blessed Master was about to leave the world, he transferred to them the powers which he himself had exercised, and they entered on their full episcopal authority, to govern and judge the Church as he had governed and judged it, and ordain its ministers as he had ordained them.

Words could not express this transfer more amply than those which were employed in conveying to them their final and plenary commission. "As my Father hath "sent me, even so send I you. And when "he had said this, he breathed on them, "and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them and whose

[ocr errors]


t John iv. 1, 2.

[ocr errors]

"soever sins ye retain, they are retained "." To complete this parallel, as Christ had not undertaken the execution of his office, until he had been duly authorized by the visible * descent of the Holy Ghost, so neither did the Apostles commence the active labours of their ministry, till they had received power for that purpose from the same Divine source on the day of Pen


The extent of their commission is best explained by their own interpretation of it, as displayed in their subsequent conduct. And it is observable, that scarcely an act of power was exerted by our Lord himself during his abode on earth, which was not afterwards, in a degree at least, exercised by his Apostles. Besides performing the

u John xx. 21-23.

* Matt. iii. 16. y Acts ii. 4.

z "The power is clear, will you see the execution of "it? Look upon St. Paul, the posthumous and super"numerary, but no less glorious Apostle; see with what "majesty he becomes his new-erected throne; one while "deeply charging and commanding; another while con"trolling and censuring; one while giving laws and "ordinances, another while urging for their observance; "one while ordaining Church governors, another while

ordinary offices of the Christian priesthood, preaching, and prayer, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, they assumed to themselves such authority as proved that the government of the Church was altogether committed to their charge, judging and condemning offenders, inflicting on them spiritual censures, excluding them from spiritual privileges, pardoning and reinstating them on their repentance, prescribing rules and observances for the Church, ordaining itsministers, superintending their official conduct and the soundness of their doctrine, and laying their hands on those who had been baptized, to confirm them in the possession of the privileges of the Christian covenant.

[ocr errors]

These powers,


which so decisively point

adjuring them to do their duties; one while threaten"ing punishment, another while inflicting it. And if "these be not acts of jurisdiction, what can be such?" Bp. Hall, Episcopacy by Divine Right, book ii. ch. 2. p. 96. See also Potter, p. 58-68.

a 1 Cor. v. 5. and 1 Tim. i. 20.
c 1 Cor. ch. vii. viii. xi, xiv.
e Acts viii. 17.

b 2 Cor. ii. 6, 10.

d Acts xiv. 23.

them out as the episcopal rulers of the Church, may be considered as possessed by them independently of that more enlarged and general commission, which belonged to them as Apostles, strictly so called, and of those miraculous gifts and extraordinary effusions of the Spirit, which were withdrawn when the necessities of the infant Church no longer demanded their aid; which were possessed by the Apostles, in common with numerous Christians of inferior dignity; were considered as altogether distinct from official authority, and afforded no pretence for the unauthorized exercise of the ministerial functions, or the violation of established order.

That the Apostles could have erred in the measures which they adopted in the execution of their office, or have arrogated to themselves any powers which their commission did not strictly warrant, must be considered as manifestly impossible. We are informed by the Evangelist St. Luke, that our blessed Lord "shewed himself

f The consideration of this point is reserved for Sermon V.

« PreviousContinue »