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gift of the keys, and by binding and loosing, constituted a part of their office as rulers of his kingdom, and was first conferred upon himself, and then transmitted by him to them. The same power of “ binding and loosing” was conferred by our Lord subsequently upon all his Apostles. In Matt. xviii. 18, we read, “Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven ; and again
for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.' The Evangelist here declares that the Apostles received the grace of Apostleship to the preaching of the Gospel, as Moses received the grace or commission and power to declare the law. The word grace being so understood. (Rom. i. 5.) We have received grace and Apostlesliip;' and so (1 Cor. xv. 9), "I am the least of the Apostles who am not worthy to be called an Apostle, but by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain.' And so may be understood the expression • We have received grace for grace,' i.e. grace to impart to grace, and propagate it in the hearts of others.”—Lightfoot, Harm. Ev. John i. 17.
This interpretation, showing that the gift of the ministerial office is in Scripture designated a grace, corresponds with the form of ordination by imposition of hands, by which other graces as well as that of orders were conferred. Thus Timothy's Episcopal ordination by St. Paul, according to St. Jerome, is called the gift of God, which he had by imposition of the Apostle's hands. (Hieron. in loc.) So (Rom. xv. 15), “I have written the more boldly to you, because of the grace that is given me of God.” (Rom. xii. 6.) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy or ministry,” &c. So also 1 Cor. iii. 10, and xv. 10., To When James, and Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” (Gal. ii. 9; and Eph. iii. 7.) “As every man hath received the gift, even so let him minister the same one to another.” (1 Peter, iv. 10.) It thus appears that it was the common language of Scripture to speak of the grace of ordination, to call the ministerial office a grace or gift of God. And if it be so, no man can take it of himself unless he be appointed of God, from whom it proceeds. Those who in Scripture possessed this grace had it either directly by Divine commission as the Apostles, or else transmitted by imposition of the hands of those who were so commissioned. In the absence of direct authority, for any private person to assume this grace or office is an infringement and violation of the prescribed method of conferring it,-a practical denial of the scriptural mode of transmitting it by successive ordination, and incurs the danger of setting at nought and overthrowing the Divine institution, and of unwarrantably intruding into the sacred office; which can only be exercised by Divine sanction and privileges, and which it is impious to assume without sufficient warrant of a Divine commission and appointment.
in John, xx. 22, 23, “ He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receivee ye the Holy Ghost : whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” The words translated “ sins ye remit” are, in the original, the same used by our Lord when he said to the sick of the palsy (Matt. ix. 2, 6), "Son, be of good cheer ; thy sins be forgiven thee;" and that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.
Also, in Mark ii. 5,“ Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” They are the words generally used to express forgiveness or remission of sins, either conferred by, or obtained through, our Saviour; as in 1 John, i. 9, “ He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins ;” and 1 John, ii. 12, “ I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name's sake." We thus learn that the Keys of the Kingdom, with the power of opening and shutting, which were committed to our Lord (Isai. xxi. 22), as the Son of Man, with power on earth (Matt. ix. 6), were by him conferred on his Apostles, in the very same words in which they were conferred upon himself, and which he constantly used when he exercised the power of absolution. The sins which his Apostles were to remit upon earth, would be forgiven in heaven—the act of forgiveness would be made by God in heaven, the declaration was to be made by his Apostles upon earth. “I, even I (saith the Lord), am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins,” (Isai. xliii. 25); and at the same time commissions his Apostles, like Nathan, to declare to the truly penitent who humbly confess their sins, “ The Lord also hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not die.” (2 Sam. xii. 13.) Our Lord himself, though with “power to forgive sins on earth,” (Matt. ix. 6), pronounced his forgiveness only upon those who “had faith to be saved ;” in the same manner as his Apostles. were empowered to remit on earth the sins forgiven by him in Heaven to faithful penitents confessing their sins. Our Lord conferred his absolution, not irrespectively, but upon those who had faith in him, who were truly penitent and confessed their sins,-" To those who confess their sins, He is faithful and just to forgive their sins.” (1 John, i. 8.) Christian confession includes faith and penitence; and we are taught that on about ten occasions our Lord absolved persons who had made confession of faith, in these words,
Go thy way; thy faith hath saved thee, thy faith hath made thee whole.”
We are thus led to the full understanding of our Lord's meaning in conferring upon His Apostles the power of remitting sins; and we are not compelled to the irreverence of understanding figuratively his positive, often repeated declaration, nor of putting upon his words a forced interpretation-always painful, as implying that our Lord was not explicit, that he used phrases not to be received in their direct and simple expression, and that he therefore was regardless of being understood correctly, and made use of terms the plain meaning of which was likely to mislead, and which he foreknew would occasion doubts and perplexity in the Church. The expression whosesover sins ye remit (John xx. 23), in the original exactly rendered is, the sins of whatever individual persons ye may remit, they are remitted to them ; a phrase which completely excludes all such interpretations as apply the absolution given to the Apostles to some general act of theirs, as the publication of the Gospel, or the establishment of the Church. These may have been means of dispensing the knowledge which should lead to remission of sins, but not to absolve the sins of individuals ; which is the primary and literal sense of our Lord's words, and which cannot be rejected by any teachable spirit, receiving the milk of the word as a babe of Christ in its sincerity of simple expression. Whatever ministerial acts of the Apostles conveyed remission of sins to the penitent and faithful, are no doubt to be included in their gift of Absolution. When they “baptised the repentant for the remission of sins,” (Acts ii. 38), “washing away in baptism their sins,” (Acts xxii. 16), “ by the washing of regeneration,” (Titus iii. 5), when they, by blessing the sacramental cup and breaking the bread, communicated, or admitted to “ the communion of the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. x. 16), shed for the remission of sins," they loosed individuals from their sins, and so directly exercised the power of absolution conferred upon them by our Lord. Also, when they excluded sinners from the communion of the faithful, and from the graces of Christ attached to his Church, they bound their sins,—they retained them, in a strict and direct sense, by cutting them off from the only name by which they could be saved, and so delivering them to, and leaving them in, the power of Satan; of which there are several examples in Scripture, as where St. Paul says (1 Cor. v. 4), “ In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." And in 1 Tim. i. 20,“ Hymenæus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.”* The Apostle, in the name of Christ and with His power, and his own spirit, in the full congregation, delivers to Satan an immoral person (as in the first case), or one who had erred from the faith (as in the second), by excommunicating them from the Church. And this solemn exercise of the power of retaining sins was not confined to the Apostles, for St. Paul directs Titus to exercise it in the Church of Crete, -"A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition reject.” (Titus, iii. 10.)It is very worthy of observation that excommunication and absolution, in Matt. xviii. 17, 18, are connected with each other :. “If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” Our Lord proceeding thus in his discourse, from the excommunication of a disobedient member to the binding of sins upon earth, leads us to conclude, that the excommunication was a part of the exercise of the gift of absolution and bindingsins upon earth ; an inference which is rendered certain by the language of St. Paul in the examples of excommunication just adduced. I
* In the 1st Ep. to the Corinthians, St. Paul condemns generally all schisms, dissent, and vicious practices in that Church, solemnly excommunicating one guilty member, and exhorting all the rest to follow him in all things, as their spiritual father, possessing full Apostolic authority over them. He concludes his Epistle by denouncing Anathema or excommunication against all who do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, in the sense spoken of by our Lord. Matt. vi. 24.) If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathéma, Maran-Atha. (1 Cor. xvi. 22.) In the same manner, St. Paul wishes that those who unsettled the Church of Galatia were cut off or excommunicated (Gal. v. 12); for a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, and the corrupters of the faith should be as “heathen men,”- “ those who are without'' -- cast out from the household of faith-being accursed or excommunicated, as teaching doctrines opposed to those delivered by the Apostles. (Gal. i. 8.)
+ Tertullian, speaking of the Church, says, " Ibidem etiam exhortationes castigationes, et censura divina, nam et judicatur magno cum pondere, ut apud certos de Dei conspectu.”— In Apologet.
"Is any sick among you ? let him call the Elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord
45.-SUMMARY OF PRECEDING PASSAGES. We are therefore led to understand the appointment by our Lord to his Apostles of the Kingdom, as he had been appointed to it by his father, as including the gift of the keys of his Kingdom, which had been first laid upon his shoulder as the ensign of government, with the power of binding and loosing, of excommunication, of absolution, and of remitting sins through the sacraments : we have seen, by Scriptural declarations, the close connection with each other of these gifts of our Lord to his Apostles, and the similar manner in
which they were exèrcised by them and by himself, as parts of the office and power contained in the general gift of the Kingdom, as it had been appointed to our Lord, and transmitted by him to his Apostles. We
shall raise him up: and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed.” (James, v. 14, 15.) The literal translation of the words in Italics is, And if
, or although, he may have committed sins, absolution or remission shall be given to him. It is the same word used by our Lord, “whosesoever sins ye remit,” &c., and is in the singular number passive voice, so can neither have the word sins as its nominative which is plural, nor the word Lord understood; for then it would be active, “The Lord will remit them.” We have here a scriptural example of absolution afforded to the sick by the Priests of the Church, accompanied with prayer and confession. In Mark vi. 13, we are told that the Apostles anointed many sick persons with oil and healed them: the anointing, therefore, spoken of by St. James is generally understood to refer to this form of exercising the miraculous gifts then common in the Church for healing the sick. But this seems not to be the object of the Apostle: his words are, “ If any one among you be weak, let him call the priests of the Church, and let them
pray over him, having anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of the faith shall save him who is distressed, and the Lord will raise him; and if he have committed sins, remission will be given to him. Confess
ye the transgressions to each other, and pray for each other, that ye may be healed : the fervent prayer of a righteous person availeth much." ist. The Apostle, it will be observed, directs the priests to be summoned, without reference to their miraculous gifts. And. He refers the advantages conferred upon the weak to prayer said by the priests over them. 3rd. The example he adduces afterwards of Elias, is to show the effects of a righteous minister's prayer even to prevail with God miraculously to interpose ; and is an example of the power of prayer,—not of a miraculous gift. 4th. If the Apostle's words are to be understood, that the priests possessed this miraculous power of healing the sick, its exercise would have been so common as to interfere with the due course of nature in the mortality of man, and leave no room for faith,