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more significant declaration, that each of the noticed orders made a distinct branch of the original constitution of the Church: And the sentiment derives an immense increase of solemnity, from its being made in an appeal to Almighty God.
It may be proper in this place, to guard against a misconstruction, which might have an evil influence on the conceptions to be formed of the tenour of this lecture. The misconstruction referred to, would be the supposing, that under the term “ Priest," the Church understood the like character, with that known by the same term under the law: That is, the offerer of a real sacrifice. That the Church of England and this Church have a very different apprehension of the subject, was shown in the fifth lecture.
There has been laid before you, from the institutions of our Church, all that is judged necessary to the present design; which is to ground on it and to establish the three following positions, concerning the ministry of the Christian Church. First, It is of divine institution: Secondly, In every local Church, it is of right independent on all foreign authority or jurisdiction: And thirdly, As insti. tuted by Jesus Christ and his apostles, it includes the three orders of bishops, priests and deacons.
First, the ministry of the Christian Church is of divine institution. This proposition is to be maintained, in opposition to those, who make the right to the ministerial character dependent on an incite. ment in the mind. In opposition to this, we affirm the necessity of succession from the apostles. The commission from them was by a personal act, performed on those whom they admitted in the beginning, to a copartnership with them in their autho. rity, and in their labours. But it is evident, that succession was the only way, in which there could have been a transmission of the same, from age to age.
It is confessed, that the first preachers of the gospel received their commission from our blessed Lord in person. These were the eleven apostles; and their commission is "Go ye, therefore, and teach 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 always, even unto the end of the world."* When the place of Judas was to be supplied; it was under the influence of illumination, that Matthias was chosen into the number of the twelve. Of all the subse quent preachers of the gospel, the only instance on record, of a commission received without its passing through the medium of human discretion and designation, is that of St. Paul; who received it, like the eleven, from the Lord himself in person.
Of the former plan of administration, there is abundant evidence in the New Testament. We read of Paul and Barnabas in their travels that “ When they had ordained them elders in every Church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they be. lieved.”+ The former apostle, in his first Epistle to Timothy, speaks of his having received the gift of the ministry, "by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery:"1 A term, which must be considered as applicable to the higher order; since the term “Presbyter" is used with such a latitude, even to apostolick men. In a company of such men, however, in the act of ordaining Timothy, the same apostle must have presided; because in his second epistle to the same Timothy, speaking again of the gift of the ministry, he says" Which is in thee, by the putting on of my hands." That Timothy, thus ordained by St. Paul, was to ordain others, appears from the numerous directions given in the third chapter of the first epistle, and in the first chapter of the second, concerning the religious care and caution, with which that business should be conducted. Şimilar to the designation of Timothy, was that of Titus; as appears in the fifth verse of the epistle to him; in which the apostle says—“For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.”
* Matt. xxviii. 8. 19 & 20, † Acts, xiv. 23. Ch. iv. 14. Ch. i. 6.
These seem very express authorities; especially when it is considered, that throughout the whole gospel narrative, there is not a single instance of any person's taking on himself the ministerial character, on the mere ground of the weight of any sentiment on his mind, which he supposed to be the call of God. So far as the practice of early Churches is concerned, it goes directly to the same point: There not having been any such Church, in which the ministry was not supposed to be fenced round by divine appointment, and to have been handed in succession from the apostles. The evidences of the designation of the Christian ministry, are thus as clearly recorded, as were those of the Jewish priesthood. And if under the legal economy, “no man took this honour to himself, but he that was called of God, as was Aaron”*-called of God, not by an inward voice, but by the ministry of Moseswhich was the medium of call on Aaron and all his sons—so neither can any man take to himself the character of a pastor of the Christian Church, but through the door of entry which has been opened by her divine head.
This would be entirely misunderstood; if it should be construed to confine to the clergy the office of imparting spiritual benefit, as God may have given ability to any one; and as there may be a readiness in others to receive instruction or consolation or excitement. Christians of every desGription are encouraged to “exhort one another
• Heb. v. 4.
daily, while it is called to day, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”* And St. James says-without any regard to a peculiar order" Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the errour of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins.”+ In fact, here is a duty lying more or less on all; and especially on parents towards their children, and on superiours to their dependents ge. nerally.
But while the doctrines of the gospel are not more or less true, or its duties more or less obliga. tory, according to the mouths from which they come, there is an order of persons, who are especially commissioned to declare them; and to preside in all transactions, the object of which is to sustain the system, especially in such as are prescribed by its divine ordainer: among which, must be reckoned occasions of assembling in his name, to be rightly instructed in his holy word; and to join in acts' of worship, through his merits and mediation. It is thus, that there is drawn the line of distinction between the duties which lie on Christians generally; and those attached to the mi. nistry in particular.
It falls within the design, to point out wherein our system differs from the sentiments of other professing Christians: A part of the duty, which is here wished to be performed, in a spirit equally distant from uncharitableness and intolerance on the one hand, and from the want of confidence in the integrity of our'ecclesiastical system, on the other.
It is in direct contrariety to the systems of those denominations of professing Christians, who ground the right of exercising the ministry,'on an incite. ment, or what is supposed to be a call, in the mind of the party to that effect. Thus far we agree with them, that where there is a tendency of inclination to the work of the gospel, having for its object the glory of God and the good of men; the sufficiency of the party appearing to those who have authority to judge thereof; the said favourable inclination may be considered as one of those fruits of the Spirit, which are said to be “in all goodness, and righteousness and truth.”* And hence it is, that in our Ordinal, the person to be admitted to the first grade of the ministry is asked—not whether he knows, by a revelation to his mind, but-whether he trusts, that he is called by the Holy Ghost to this office and ministry: a species of call
* Heb. iii. 13.
+ Ch. v. 19, 20.
, no otherwise to be felt, than from the holy intentions entertained. But this is very different from referring, for a standard of the right to minister, to a persuasion existing or said to exist in the party's mind.
There cannot be a more decisive proof of the untenable nature of this ground, than the fact, that the communions adopting it are compelled by imperious necessity, to devise provisions against the extravagances growing out of the principle. This is a circumstance, which should be especially noticed by some persons of our own communion. For there are occasionally those, who forward the pretensions of persons, wishing for an access to the ministry, without the requisite qualifications; but actuated by an earnest desire of serving God in this way: The mere desire being construed into evi. dence, that there will be future usefulness. Inde. pendently on the proofs which we possess, of the insufficiency of such a test; it ought to weigh much, that in proportion to its having been relied on among other people, to justify a voluntary assumption of the ministry; there has appeared a call for some strong bar against the continuance of such ministry, when it is unwelcome.
Besides the plea of an incitement in the mind,
* Eph. v. 9.