« PreviousContinue »
For the Jewish and Christian Church, are to be considered, not so much different establishments, as two editions, if we may be allowed the expression, of the same church of God, the former, constituting, as it were, the grand plan, upon which the latter has been built. It is however to be observed, that when our Savioursettled thisæconomy in hischurch, he had confined it to the Jewish nation, for when he sent his disciples forth to preach, he charged them, saying, go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the city of the Samaritans enter ye not, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, (Matt. x. 5.) and being raised up by God, to be a prophet like unto Moses, (Deut. xviii. 15. Acts vii. 37.) He thought proper, while he saw it expedient, to confine his church to Judea, to
his harvest.” Now these words being spoken, both to the twelve and the seventy, at the time they received the commission to preach, was a clear intimation to them, that if they found more assistance necessary, they should not take upon themselves to commission others, but desire Him, who was the Lord of the harvest, to send a further supply of labourers--a plain argument that whosoever has only authority to minister the word and sacraments, has not, therefore, the power to ordain others to that sacred office.
adhere strictly to the Mosaic economy, in the government of it; and therefore as Moses bad under him twelve princes, heads of the tribes, and seventy elders, (Numb. xiv. 11.) (to whom God imparted a share of Moses' spirit, that they might assist in ruling the people under him,) so Christ also chose twelve apostles, and seventy disciples.
When our Saviour, after his resurrection, proceeded to the regular and permanent establishment of his church upon earth, he appointed the eleven principal disciples, or apostles, as they are called, by way of distinction, to meet him in a mountain in Galilee, for the purpose of delivering his commission, and directions to them on that subject. Then the eleven disciples, (we find) went away into Galilee, into a mountain, where Jesus had appointed them, and Jesus came, and spake unto them saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, go ye therefore and teach (or make disciples in) all nations, baptizing 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, not only for personal support, but (as the cloud of glory went before the Israelites every where preparing their way) to give success, to your labours, even unto the end of the world. Matt. xxviii. 18.
It is worthy of notice, that our Saviour's disciples at this time, exceeded the number of five hundred, after his resurrection, St. Paul tells us, " that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once.' But our Saviour did not deliver the commission for administering the sacraments of his church, to his disciples at large, but only to his eleven apostles ; and to them not by accident, but, it seems, by express design, and in consequence of a particular appointment, to meet bim for that purpose.
Now the granting a commission, manifestly implies, that none but those included in it, or their legal successors, have authority to act in that business, for which the commission had been granted – was it otherwise, the commission would be a useless form. Christ, therefore, by making choice only of eleven out of the whole number of his disciples, intended, it is presumed, that the business which he authorized them to do, should not be performed by every one, who might think himself qualified to transact it.
It is to be remarked further, that the tenor of the commission delivered to the apostles, seems purposely calculated to provide against, all self-constituted authority in the church—"as my Father sent me,” says Christ, “so send I you,” that is, as my Father gave me power, to constitute a church and appoint the governors and officers of it, so by one and the same authentic patent, I give you power to appoint governors and officers over it, when I am gone.
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 him, and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” John xx. 21-23.
From this high delegation it is clear, that the ordination of pastors, is founded on a divine and positive institution. It belongs exclusively to those who have been publicly and solemnly set apart and consecrated to the work. None can claim this power by any law of nature or of nations, or in any other manner, than as Christ has conveyed it. How can an individual or society of men give to another a power, which they do not themselves possess ? This would be to make the stream rise higher than the fountain, from which it springs. And since Christ bestowed the power of ordination on none but the apostles, with a command of doing as he had done, it is plain that none can receive this power but from those that are invested with it themselves.
But it may be said, although this commission delivered to the apostles, stamps a distinction upon their characters, and evidently invests them with a particular office and authority, yet it does not furnish sufficient information to enable us to determine the precise constitution of the Christian church ; it sanctions, indeed, the existence of a regular ministry, but describes no specific order of pre-eminence, or distribution of office or authority.