« PreviousContinue »
concerning preaching the Gospel, as the great duty of Ministers. In all these it is presented as the most important business of a Minister; compared with which every other is of a very subordinate nature. Ruling, on the contrary, is mentioned but six times in the New Testament; and there without a hint of its possessing any peculiar consequence. If Elders, therefore, had been distinguished from Bishops by inferiority of power, as Rulers ; they would still hold a higher and more important employment, as decided by the Scriptures. If there are different classes of Ministers ; the Preacher is certainly made in the New Testament superior to the Ruler. Yet Ruling is the peculiar employment, professedly assigned to the supposed higher class of Ministers. Can this scheme consist with what we have just now heard from the Scriplures ?
The subject of Qrdaining Ministers is mentioned nine times : four in the phraseology of laying on hands; and five in other, varying terms.
And he, that is, Christ, ordained twelve, that they should be with him. Mark iii. 14. The Greek word here is stornos, constituted. Wherefore, of these men, says St. Peter, must one be Ordained to be al witness with us of his Resurrection. Acts i. 21, 22. The Greek word is here yaveddar, become.
And when they, (the Apostles,) had ordained them Elders in cvery Church. Acts xiv. 23. Here the Greek word is, xsigoSounduvrés, originally signifying to stretch out the hand; then to elect with uplifted hands; and afterwards to appoint, or constitute to an office. Whereunto, says St. Paul, I am ordained a Preacher, and an Apostle. 1 Tim. ii. 7. The Greek word here is stednu, I was appointed.
For this cause left I thee in Crele; that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and Ordain Elders in every City. Here the Greek word is xatadinons, constitute. It is doubtful whether Ordaining, in the Ecclesiastical sense, is intended in either of these passages, except the third; Acts xiv. 23: And even this will admit of serious debate.
In the last, to wit, Tit. i, 5, the power of Ordaiping has been supposed to be attributed to a Bishop. The justice of this supposition must be determined by answers to two questions. The first is, whether xatadions signifies Ordination in the appropriate sense; or to constitute Elders, already Ordained, Ministers of particular Churches: or in other words, to appoint them their particular places of administration.
The second is, whether Titus was a Bishop in the Prelatical sense. This subject will be examined in its proper place.
The four remaining instances are mentioned in the appropriate language of laying on hands ; sritiones Xeigas; phraseology, which usually denotes Ecclesiastical Ordination in the proper sense. They are the following: Whom, that is, the seven Deacons first chosen, they set before the Apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Acts vi. 6. And when they, that is, the Apostles, had fasted, and prayed, and laid hands on them, viz. Paul and Barnabas, they sent them away. Acts xiii. 3.
Lay hands suddenly on no man. 1 Tim. i. 22.
Neglect not the gift, that is in thee, which was given thee by prophesy, and the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery; or body of Elders.
In all these instances Ordination, in the appropriate sense, is undoubtedly intended. As the Apostles laid hands on those, 10 whom they communicated the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, the same phraseology is used twice with reference to this subject. Acts viii. 17, 19; both but one instance ; and 1 Tim. i. 6. It is also used to denote the laying on of the hands of him, who offered a sin-offering. Heb. vi. 2.
Of the four instances, in which this phraseology denotes Ecclesiastical Ordination, it is, in two, attributed to the Apostles generally. In the third, Timothy is commanded to lay hands suddenly on no man. That is, not hastily to Ordain, or be concerned in Ordaining, any man; lest he should prove an unsuitable person for the Ministry. In the fourth, the Ordination of Timothy is attributed to the whole body of Presbyters, or Elders, who united in his Ordination. Of these instances, the only ones of this nature in the Bible, it is perfectly plain, that there is but one in which Ordination can possibly be ascribed by any construction to persons, who were Bishops in the modern sense : viz. the passage, in which Timothy is commanded to lay hands suddenly on no man. Here the ascription depends wholly on the fact, that Timothy was such a Bishop, and Bishop of Ephe. sus: a fact, which it is presumed cannot be established. Leaving this, however, for the present, I observe, that, were it to be granted, still, as Timothy's own Ordination is directly ascribed to the Presbytery only, the Scriptures attribute Ordination, at least as evidently, and as extensively, to Presbyters, as to Bishops.
Of this power, also, as well as that of ruling, it is to be observed, when compared with preaching, very little stress is laid on it in the Scriptures. It is mentioned but nine times, even if we adopt the utmost latitude of construction ; and in all these, except two, is mentioned incidentally. In one of these two, St. Paul commands Timothy to lay hands suddenly on no man. 1 Tim. vi. 16. In the other, he mentions, that he had left Titus in Crele, to ordain Elders in every City. Preaching the Gospel on the contrary, is, throughout the New Testament, and often in the Old, exhibited as the great duty of a Christian Minister ; as his chief, most useful, and most honourable, destination. From this state of the subject the conclusion is, therefore, warrantably drawn, that, in the view of the Scriptures, Ordaining is an employment, wholly inferior in its nature and importance. Of course, the powers, claimed by the Bishop as peculiar to his office, are inferior to those, confessedly attributed to the Elder, and can, in no Scriptural sense, become means of raising the former above the latter.
The Elders, which are among you, I exhort, who am also an Elder,
and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God, which is among you ; taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being Lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
In the preceding discourse, I mentioned it as being, in my own opinion, the doctrine of the Scriptures,
That there are but Two kinds of permanent Officers in the Church of Christ.
In support of this doctrine, I alleged the following things.
4. The fact, that, except in this passage, no mention is made of Bishops by way of address, direction, or salutation.
5. The Commission, originally given to Ministers of the Gospel.
6. The fact, that the same duties are assigned to all such ministers.
I shall now proceed to support the same doctrine by exhibiting, at some length, the Manner, in which ministers are spoken of in the Gospel. This very general head, which I could not conveniently make less general, I shall illustrate from the following
1. The address of Christ to his Apostles, Mark X. 42—45, with the parallel passage. Luke xxii. 25.
Ye know, that they, who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles, exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them: but it shall not be so among you. For whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoeter will be the chiefest shall be servant of all. For the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.
The Apostles, James and John, as we are informed in the context, had solicited Christ, that they might be exalted to peculiar distinction and authority in his kingdom. The other Apostles were offended at this scheme of ambition on the part of their companions, as being themselves desirous of the same elevation. To repress every such feeling in them all, Christ utters the words, which have been quoted. These words certainly discouraged all wishes for peculiar authority in the minds of the Apostles, as Ministers of Christ; and informed them, that the proper destination of the ambitious among them was the place of a servant, or minister, to the rest. In other words, Christ required them to be, and to feel themselves to be, equals; and forbade them to assume any authority over each other. The conduct, which Christ required of them, must, it would seem, be the proper conduct of all succeeding ministers. An absolute cquality is plainly here commanded, so far as the Apostles were concerned. It ought to be shown, that the case is not directly, and entirely, applicable to their followers in the sacred office. Let us suppose, that Christ had given the converse directions.