網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

it would have been impossible for any well-disposed members of the Church in the Apostolic age to have had any doubt concerning it. Its appointment, authority, and office were so distinctly determined by Divine declaration, that a denial of them would have implied direct disobedience to the Apostles. The ministerial authority of the persons ordained by St. Paul, or by St. Timothy, or by St. Titus, could not have been denied without disclaiming the inspired authority of St. Paul; and no one, pretending to the character of Christian, could have rejected the ministerial authority of those whom the Apostles had ordained by imposition of their hands. It is therefore impossible to doubt the sacred character of the Ministry in the Apostolic age. The separation to the holy office by the hands of our Lord's Apostles bore a sacred obligation of the highest character; and the incidental allusions to the ministerial office in the Epistles of St. Paul, prove that its functions and authority were established and defined. The practice or forms of the Churches had, even in the lifetime of St. Paul, been brought into such conformity to one prescribed rule, that it was alleged by him, as a reason for condemning a custom of the Church of Corinth, that it was different from the general practice of the Churches. (1 Cor. xi. 16.) We know also that he set all things in order (I Cor. xi. 34), while residing in any Church: that he prescribed even the minutest regulations affecting Divine Worship, as, for example, the dress of the male and female members of the Church: that where he could not himself remain long enough for this purpose in any Church, as in Crete, he employed one of his companions "to set all things in order." (Titus, i. 5.) It is therefore to be concluded, that the ministerial functions, authority, and office were defined and particularised by the Apostles in the various Churches in which they presided, with far greater distinctness and certainty than can be learned from the undesigned and incidental allusions to the subject in the Epistles of St. Paul. We have seen, however, that these allusions are sufficient to detail the most important institutions of the ministerial office; and we therefore may conclude, that in the Apostolic age every particular connected with the sacred office was strictly determined and defined by the authority of the Apostles. The Church, in its first ages, had not to deduce the Divine institution and ordinances of the ministry from the incidental allusions of the sacred writers: they could refer to the acts, institutions, and teaching of the Apostles in every Church for full and decisive information respecting the

D

ministerial office. We are therefore to regard the Christian ministry as an institution, with its authority, functions, duties, and attributes determined by the Apostles in precise instructions delivered to the Churches, of which the allusions in Scripture furnish but a general outline. The Scripture allusions point to the main characteristics of the ministry; and are not to be considered (like the description of the Levitical priesthood) as designed to be a full account of the ministry, but as occasional incidental allusions to it, as it existed by the regulations and directions of St. Paul. We are led to draw the important conclusion, that a perfectly and fully organised ministry was established by Apostolical authority.-Let us then, with this impression of the constitution of the Christian ministry, advert to our Lord's appointment or commission to his Apostles.

35. OUR LORD'S APPOINTMENT OF THE APOSTLES. The Holy Gospels teach us that our Lord sent two orders of persons to preach in his name: to the former and superior order he gave the name of Apostles, the other he does not appear to have distinguished by any peculiar name. In the 3rd ch. of St. Mark, 14th ver., it is written, "He ordained twelve that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils." St. Luke (vi. 13) adds to this account, that "he also named them Apostles." The relation of St. Matthew (x. 1) corresponds altogether with that of St. Mark. The institution of the office of the Apostles appears, then, to have consisted in the selection by our Lord from among his Disciples of twelve persons, distinguished with the name of Apostles, "to be with him"-"to preach the Gospel" or kingdom of God,-"with power over unclean spirits, and to heal the sick."

36.-POWER OF REMITTING SINS CONFERRED UPON THE

APOSTLES.

In St. Matthew (xvi. 18) we are told, that our Lord thus addressed St. Peter: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." In the 18th ch., v. 18, our Lord says to the whole number of the Apostles, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven : and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

This same declaration we find repeated by our Lord after his resurrection. (John xx. 23.) "He breathed on them, and saith, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."

37.-AUTHORITY AND GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH COMMITTED TO THE APOSTLES.

After the institution of the Eucharist, our Lord thus spoke to the Apostles, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my Table in my Kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke, xxii. 29.) Our Lord also declared to the Apostles, "He that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth Him that sent me. (Matt. x. 40.) And “ as my Father hath sent

[ocr errors]

me, even so send I you." (John, xx. 21.*)

38. OUR LORD'S LAST COMMISSION AND PROMISE TO HIS APOSTLES.

We have already considered Our Lord's institution of the Eucharist, and his command to his Apostles to imitate him in consecrating, breaking, and distributing the elements. (Luke, xxii. 19.) We have also seen the execution of this command by St. Paul (1 Cor. x. 16); and by the Church generally, as incidentally mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. The first three Gospels conclude with our Lord's final commission to his Apostles: "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 alway, even unto the end of the world."

39. ABSTRACT OF

THE MINISTERIAL OFFICE: CHURCH AUTHORITY AND MIRACULOUS GIFTS OF THE APOSTLES.

These passages teach us that the ministerial office of the Apostles was, 1st, To preach the Gospel; 2nd, To make dis

*This is the plain declaration of our Lord Jesus Christ sending his Apostles, and committing the power given to him by his Father to them alone, to whom we have succeeded in the same power, governing the Church-Speech of Clarus a Muscula, in the Council of Carthage; related by St. August. lib. vii. de Bap, and by St. Cyp. de Unit. Eccl.

ciples (for so the word translated teach, Matt. xxviii. 19, signifies) of all nations; 3rd, To administer the Lord's Supper, and to baptize; and 4th, To absolve sins. The authority of the Apostles consisted, 1st, In their being sent by our Lord as his Father had sent him; 2nd, In the declaration that they should be received and heard as his representatives; 3rd, In being appointed to rule in his Kingdom, sitting on thrones judging his people; and 4th, In having received the Holy Ghost breathed upon them, and in the promise of Christ's perpetual presence with them. In addition to the ministerial office and authority in the Church conferred upon the Apostles, there were also gifts of a miraculous nature bestowed upon them, but not, as it would seem, upon them exclusively*; as, the gifts of tongues at Pentecost of healing and casting out devils-of prophecy --of direct inspiration,-for in all these miraculous gifts the Evangelists and members of the Church generally participated. It is then in their ministerial office and government of the Church that the peculiar appointment of the Apostles consisted. 40. REASONS TO SHOW THAT THE MINISTERIAL OFFICE AND GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH CONFERRED UPON THE APOSTLES WERE DESIGNED BY OUR LORD AS A PER

PETUAL INSTITUTION. 1ST. NO MENTION OF ANY PRO

VISION FOR THE MINISTRY TO SUCCEED TO THEIR OFFICE AFTER THEIR DECEASE.

We see how important and even essential to the well-being, if not existence, of the Church the ministerial offices conferred by our Lord upon the Apostles were. These functions are conferred on them in general language, together with the authority of our Lord himself. They were empowered to govern his Church, and to minister those ordinances which he had constituted as the means of conferring his spiritual graces upon his people. The permanent nature of the duties they were commissioned to fulfil, affords the strongest reason to conclude that the office to which these duties were attached was designed to be equally permanent. Otherwise it is difficult to suppose that our Saviour would have given no intimation of the nature of the ministry and government he designed should

* The miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost do not seem to have been conferred upon the Apostles in any exclusive manner. Stephen and Philip, though only Deacons, appear to have possessed them in as full a degree as any of the Apostles; Stephen, before his ordination, was full of the Holy Ghost. Agabus foretold what should happen to St. Paul at Jerusalem, in a manner which leads us to conclude that that particular revelation had not been so fully made known to the Apostle as to the Prophet.

be established in his Church after the decease of the Apostles. We cannot suppose that he would have made no provision for that occasion: we are warranted therefore in supposing, in the absence of such a provision, that no such occasion was contemplated; and that in the constitution of the Apostolic office our Lord designed to provide for the ministry and government of his Church in all ages.

41.-2ND. HIS PROMISE OF PERPETUAL PRESENCE WITH THE APOSTLES.

Our Lord's last words to his Apostles as recorded by St. Matt.,-"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," is a positive declaration of the perpetuity of their office; for his presence is promised with them in their making disciples of all nations, and baptizing them in the name of the Holy Trinity. It is with them in performing the ministerial office which he sends them to execute that he promises to be present. That office was to continue for ever, and his promised presence is for ever. To understand this promise as fulfilled by our Lord's grace accompanying the Scriptures, is a bold attempt to explain away the plain meaning of the words. But four of the twelve Apostles were writers of Holy Scripture; so that the promise is by this explanation not applicable to two-thirds of the Apostles to whom it is made. Besides, it is to attribute to our Lord language equally incorrect and obscure, to suppose him thus solemnly to promise to be present for ever with his Apostles, when he meant only that he would impart his grace with the reading of the Scriptures which four of them should write. Another insuperable difficulty against this interpretation is, that it breaks the connection between our Lord's command and his promised presence in the performance of that command,-"Go, and lo I am with you.-Execute my ministry while the Church endures, till all nations become my disciples, and are baptized by you; and lo (in doing so), I am with you alway, without interruption, even to the end of the world.-Amen." Nothing can be plainer than the connection between the promise and the command, the presence of our Lord and the ministry of his Apostles. We are therefore bound by the plain meaning of our Lord's words, by their connection with the command which precedes them, and by the contradictions involved in all figurative explanations, to understand our Lord to promise a perpetual presence with the Apostles and their successors in their ministerial office; which must therefore have been designed to be perpetual in the Church.

« 上一頁繼續 »