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away from the scene of their labours. It was necessary that the Apostles should appoint successors to themselves; persons to be armed with at least all that portion of their authority which did not depend on their miraculous powers, or extraordinary gifts of the Spirit ; with neither of which was the power of ordination to any rank of the ministry necessarily connected. They felt this necessity, and they did appoint such persons; but from the altered condition of the Church, and the number of converts in each particular
place, it became expedient, instead of giving to each person so ap
Ļ pointed that species of general commission with which the Apostles hat this
themselves had commenced their labours, to fix the residence of bu onren of
each in some particular city, and to give him the peculiar superin
tendence of the Church therein and in the districts adjoining. It anehopole was thus that St. Paul appointed Timothy to preside, as (what we handel me?)
now call) Bishop, over the Church at Ephesus : and Titus over that of Crete : and the Holy SPIRIT, by dictating to the Apostle those directions to them for the discharge of the duties of these offices which form the Epistles bearing their names, gave the fullest and most solemn ratification, not only to their individual appointment, but also to the establishment in perpetuity of the episcopal order in the Church.
Though this event in the history of the Church has been narrated as occurring subsequently to the appointment of the lower classes of ecclesiastical ministers, it must not be supposed that it was an after-thought, or that the Apostles were not from the first aware that their office was to be perpetuated by succession. Our LORD ended the sentence in which He endued them with power to baptize, with the promise of His assistance in the discharge of their functions through all time: "Go," said He,“ baptize all nations : and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world :"a phrase which as addressed to mortal men, must clearly have been understood as a promise of continual assistance to them and to their successors. We find, accordingly, that so far were they from understanding this gracious promise as applying solely to the individuals to whom the words were spoken, that one of their very first joint acts, when deprived of the presence of their Lord, was to select a person to be associated with themselves in
the apostolic office, that the number originally named to the office by our Saviour might be complete. They did not, it is true, ordain him, in the manner afterwards adopted, by the laying on of hands ; for they referred the act of ordination to ALMIGHTY God by casting lots “ whether of the twain” He would choose ; and in the pouring out of the gifts of Pentecost upon the head of Matthias, as well as upon those of the eleven, the Spirit bore a testimony, which could hardly be misunderstood, to the will of the Almighty that the Apostles should from time to time, as it became necessary, nominate such associates in their general Apostolic toils and powers as they might select ; associates on whom as they themselves were gradually withdrawn from the world, the whole government of the Church, and the whole care of providing for its further continuance, must ultimately devolve.
The miraculous gifts and graces, which God in the first instance showered upon His Church, answered their purpose in giving it its first footing in the world ; and when no longer necessary for that purpose were consequently withdrawn ; but it should never be forgotten, that these, wonderful and striking as they must have been, were but secondary and subsidiary to those invisible spiritual gifts, which are the real fulfilment of God's promise of constant aid to His Church. With regard to these latter, it was indeed necessary that they should be her portion through all ages ; but the others derived in truth their chief value from the evidence which they bore to the existence of these more precious boons; an evidence which, though immediately addressed to converts in the first ages, was intended to convince, not them alone, but all those to whom their report of these miraculous gifts should come, of the reality of God's promises with regard to those gifts which were not palpable to earthly senses ; of the truth of Christ's saying, already quoted, that He would be with His Church even unto the end of the world ; and of His declaration that the Comforter, whom He would send, should abide with that Church for
What name was originally applied to the office borne by Timothy and Titus, of destined successors to the Apostles, is not very clear. There was perhaps at first no one name especially used to designate it. They may have sometimes been called Evangelists (see 2 Tim. iv. 5.); sometimes, from their bearing in some measure the character of heavenly messengers to mankind, the Angels of their respective Churches. By this name, at least, the heads of the different Churches of Asia are addressed in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of the Book of Revelations. Consecrated as they were by different Apostles in different parts of the world, some little time would necessarily elapse, before one general name would be applied by the whole Christian Church to the associates and successors of its first inspired governors.
Of the powers entrusted to these persons, a good idea may be formed from the study of the Epistles addressed to two of them. Timothy, it appears, had Apostolic authority to superintend and arrange the celebration of divine service, to prescribe the nature of prayers to be used therein, and to give general directions for the decent and orderly behaviour of the congregation. (See 1 Tim. ii.) Copious instructions were given him as to the persons whom he should choose to ordain as Bishops (or Elders) and Deacons, (chap. iii.) He had power to select among the Elders such as should rule, (ver. 17.) probably over different portions of his congregation; and to hear and decide upon any accusations brought against them in the discharge of their office, (ver. 19.) He was reminded by St. Paul to stir up the gift that was in him by the putting on of his hands, (2 Tim. i. 6.) and of the hands of the Presbytery ; (1 Tim. iv. 14 ;) to ordain no man suddenly, (1 Tim. v. 22.) or without due examination into his character, but to commit the doctrine which he had learnt of St. Paul to faithful men, who should be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. ii. 2.)
Titus was left in Crete that he might set in order the things that were wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as St. Paul had appointed him. (Tit. i. 5.) He was taught what sort of characters befitted those whom he should make Bishops ; he was to exhort and rebuke with all authority, and let no man despise him. (ii. 15.) He was to be the general instructor of his flock, and to have the power of expelling thence obstinate heretics. (iii. 10.) But it is unsatisfactory to quote particular passages : the whole of these three epistles should be seriously studied by those who wish to form a good general idea of the powers with which the Apostles, or rather the Holy Ghost, by their means, invested those who were to bear rule in the Church in times when they themselves should have gone to their reward.
Those times came.—St. John, the last of the glorious company of the Apostles, entered into his rest, and the Church found itself committed, under Heaven, entirely to the charge of the three established orders of its ministers. To each of these a specific title was now ascribed, and applied with greater exactness than before. The title “ Bishop,” which had at first been used indifferently with “Elder," became the exclusive property of the highest class of functionaries, the colleagues of Timothy and Titus. The word “ Elder" served to designate the second, and from its Greek equivalent, “ Presbuteros," we have formed our English word "
Priest,” by which “ Elder" is now, in common use, superseded. The third class preserved its original and appropriate name of " Deacons.”
Such, then, was the constitution of which the Church, when first deprived of outward supernatural aid, found herself possessed ; such the machinery at her disposal for the dispensation to mankind of those glorious gifts and privileges, which it was hers, and hers alone, to confer. As Priests or Deacons were required for the ministration of the Word and Sacraments to the different
portions of her flock, the Bishops, in exercise of the heavenly gift confided to them, laid hands upon such individuals as they deemed suited to the charge, and as vacancies occurred among the Angels of the churches, the successors of the Apostles themselves, or as additions were required to their number, the existing members of the sacred band, consecrated new individuals to the participation of their privileges, candidates for the office being presented to them by the laity for their approval, or fit and proper persons being selected by themselves.
The gift conferred by their ordination was now no longer confirmed by outward ocular demonstration ; but, while they reverently complied with all the particulars and forms of these holy rites, as established under the guidance of inspiration by their predecessors, they would have held it a most guilty instance of want of faith, had they presumed to doubt the continued fulfilment of the Redeemer's promise, or the continued abiding, with the Church which he had framed, of the Almighty Comforter.
Since the Apostolic age seventeen centuries have rolled away: exactly eighteen hundred years have elapsed since the delivery of Christ's recorded promise ; and, blessed be God, the Church is with us still. Amid all the political storms and vicissitudes, amid all the religious errors and corruptions which have chequered, during that long period, the world's eventful history, a regular unbroken succession has preserved among us Ministers of God, whose authority to confer the gifts of His Spirit is derived originally from the laying on of the hands of the Apostles themselves. Many intermediate possessors of that authority have, it is true, intervened between them and these, their hallowed predecessors, but “ the gifts of God are without repentance ;" the same Spirit rules over the Church now who presided at the consecration of St. Paul, and the eighteen centuries that are past can have had no power to invalidate the promise of our God. Nor, even though we may admit that many of those who formed the connecting links of this holy chain were themselves unworthy of the high charge reposed in them, can this furnish us with any solid ground for doubting or denying their power to exercise that legitimate authority with which they were duly invested, of transmitting the sacred gift to worthier followers.
Ordination, or, as it is called in the case of Bishops, Consecration, though it does not precisely come within our definition of a sacrament, is nevertheless a rite partaking, in a high degree, of the sacramental character, and it is by reference to the proper sacraments that its nature can be most satisfactorily illustrated. And with respect to these, it would lead us into endless difficulties were we to admit that, when administered by a minister duly authorised according to the outward forms of the Church, either Baptism or the Lord's Supper depended for its validity either on the moral and spiritual attainments of that minister, or on the frame of mind in which he might have received, at bis ordination, the outward and visible sign of his authority. Did the Sacraments indeed rest on such circumstances as these for their efficacy in each case of their