« PreviousContinue »
of regeneration but by the sacrament of Baptism, and allows of no qualification for the ministry unaccompanied by the imposition of hands. Were the case otherwise; were we permitted to separate the inward call from the outward; could we even in a single instance be justified in depending on the apparent gifts and graces of an eloquent teacher, as superseding the necessity of his regular ordination; every criterion, by which we could distinguish the genuine minister of Christ from the vain pretender to the sacred office, would be at once destroyed. The most plausible pretensions to the inward call of the Holy Ghost might be made, even where in reality it least existed. What could remain to secure the people from delusion? what could exempt the enthusiast himself? The "blind would "lead the blind;" even the appointed means of grace would become precarious; the table of the Lord could no longer be approached in the full assurance of faith.
Closely allied to this error, is that of those who regard the personal holiness of the ministers of the Gospel as necessary to
the validity of their administrations. But, "it should be remembered," says an excellent writer on this subject, "that there "is an holiness of office, independent of "the holiness of the minister; the former "being essential to the validity of the min"isterial 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 to
gether, is 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 judg"ment upon this point, that the greater "consideration be at no time sacrificed to "the lesser one "."
Did the wickedness of the Jewish priests under the Law render it necessary for the people to make their offerings by other hands? Can we believe, that when Judas was sent forth with the rest of the twelve, it was the misfortune of all those who
• Daubeny's Guide to the Church, vol. i. p. 71, 72.
chanced to receive baptism from him, to lose the benefits annexed to the sacred ministration? If our Saviour commanded the Jews to observe the directions even of the Scribes and Pharisees, because they "sat in Moses' seat';" if the Apostles declared themselves "men of like passions "with" the rest of mankind, without thereby disclaiming even the smallest portion of their spiritual authority; if St. Paul plainly insinuated that a man may preach effectually to others, and yet be himself “a castaway";" let us beware of attaching an unwarrantable importance to the personal sanctity of the ministers of religion, as if through their power or their holiness" God's blessings were to be conferred. If this supposition were really correct; if the good seed could be injured by the hand that sowed it; if the pure word of Gospel truth could be corrupted by the mouth that uttered it; if the holy sacraments could lose their efficacy as the means of grace, through the unworthiness of him who administered
f Matt. xxiii. 2.
g Acts xiv. 15.
h1 Cor. ix. 27.
them; who could secure us from disappointment and delusion? The accomplished hypocrite might defraud us of the bread of life i.
God's greatness is often most effectually magnified by the weakness of his instruments. And that we may not be induced to glory in men, and learn to think of men above what is written; that the eye of faith may be guided to its proper object, and that the divine agency may not be overlooked in the thoughtless admiration of its humble minister, "the foolish things of "the world" seem on many occasions to have been purposely chosen "to confound "the wise k;" and we have this inestimable "treasure" of the Gospel "in earthen "vessels, that the excellency of the
may be of God, and not of us 1."
But by the less enthusiastic, and more numerous portion of objectors, by those who are disposed either to deny entirely,
i See Article XXVI. "Of the unworthiness of the "Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacra"ments."
* 1 Cor. i. 27.
1 2 Cor. iv. 7.
or to reduce to comparative insignificance, the claims of ecclesiastical authority, it has been contended, that the powers thus asserted for the Christian priesthood are of a nature so extravagant, as to place the laity altogether at their mercy; to interfere in some measure with the prerogative of God himself, and to encourage in the clergy a degree of spiritual pride altogether inconsistent with the religion of the lowly Jesus. If indeed an absolute and unconditional authority were claimed by them, the objection might have weight. But assuredly so despotic a control is neither pretended nor imagined. Was it ever conceived that none could be saved but those whom the clergy might think fit to absolve? that the capricious or mistaken refusal of the sacramental rites could injure him who was thus unjustly excluded? Are we to believe that Abimelech would have continued in affliction, if Abraham had withheld his intercession"?
m See Law's Second Letter; Scholar Armed, vol. i. p. 315, 316.