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pronunciation of it-Presbyter was made Prester, and that by degrees became Prest or Priest."
"That," said he, "is very remarkable, and proves that we ought to inquire before we find fault. But to go on with what I was saying I next proceeded to read over, and I assure you, Sir, I did it with great care, the three Services in our great Prayer Book-namely, for Consecration of Bishops, Ordaining of Priests, and Making of Deacons. And I must confess to you that I could not but greatly admire them; and at the same time feel much astonishment at two considerations which they brought to my mind."
"What were they, Richard?" I inquired.
"The one was," he said, "to think that after such a solemn dedication to the ministry, there should be such a thing as a careless or a wicked Clergyman. And yet, Sir, is it not also astonishing, that after such a solemn dedication of ourselves as we all make to God in Baptism, there should be such a thing as a careless or a wicked Christian?
"So it is," I said, "when we judge others we condemn ourselves. But what was the other ground of your surprise?"
"Why it was this; that there should be any doubt what the opinion of the Church is respecting the Christian ministry. Comparing the Ordination Service with the Liturgy and Articles, it seems to me quite clear, that in the judgment of the Church, none can show themselves duly authorized Ministers of CHRIST, who do not belong to one or other of the three orders, of Bishops, Priests, or Deacons.
But, said I to myself, other Churches have erred, why may not this then be the misfortune of the Church of England also? and this very opinion may be one of her errors. You see then, Sir, the next thing that I had to do was to consult the Scriptures on the subject, and (if it be not too bold in such a one as I to say so) to try the Prayer Book by the Bible."
"But, if you
"Your method was the best possible," I said. please, do not use the expression, the Church of England, but the Church in England."
Why indeed, Sir," said he, "in the present state of things
perhaps it would be more proper. But to proceed with my inquiry. I first observed that in the history of the Jews, as contained in the Old Testament, as well as in that of Christians in the New, the ALMIGHTY seems almost or quite always to have communicated His will to mankind through some chosen minister; some one, whether it were angel or man, who could give suitable evidence of the authority by which he spoke or acted. But there seemed to me to be this great difference between Jews and Christians, in this as in other cases; that in the Jews' religion, all the rules and regulations were set down so plainly and distinctly, that no one could mistake their meaning; for instance, in the Levitical laws concerning the priesthood; of what family and tribe the Priest and High Priest should be, what their respective duties, and what their dress, &c. Whereas in the Christian religion, the rules and regulations, however important, and even necessary, are yet not so exactly set down. And I remember hearing a very good and wise clergyman say in a sermon at Church, that this is probably what St. James means, when he calls the Gospel 'a Law of Liberty;' namely, that its rules and directions are not so plainly set down,—on purpose that Christians might have freer space, (I remember that was his expression,) and opportunity to exercise their faith and love for their Redeemer. And I have sometimes thought myself, that what St. Paul says about the difference between walking by faith and by sight, seems to suit the different cases of Jews and Christians. They walked by sight, we must walk by faith; and faith in this world, we are told, can see but as through a glass darkly." "It seems so," I said.
"With this view I went on to examine the New Testament, expecting to find therein some general instruction respecting the institution and authority of Ministers in the Christian Church. But I did not expect that these rules should be as particular and distinct as those on the same subject in the Old Testament, any more than I should expect to find a command to Christians to observe the LORD's Day set down as distinctly as the command to observe the Sabbath was set down for the Jews.
Sir, I suppose all will agree, that no one who wilfully neglects the LORD's Day can be a true Christian."
"There are strange opinions now afloat," said I: "and if many despise the LORD's Ministers, it is no wonder if many also despise the LORD's Day."
"Indeed, Sir," said he, "it is not to be wondered at. But to go on with my statement. On carefully perusing the New Testament history, I remarked that our LORD did not grant ministerial authority to His disciples in general, but first to twelve, and then to seventy; that of those twelve, one was among the wickedest of mankind, and that our LORD knew (St. John vi. 64. xiii. 18.) his character when he appointed him, and possibly some of those seventy also might be unworthy persons; that our LORD, just before His departure, gave what may be called a fresh commission to His apostles, which they should act upon after His ascension; that after that event the twelve Apostles were the leading persons in the Christian Church, having under them two orders or degrees, viz. Bishops (sometimes called Elders) and Deacons; that this threefold division of Ministers in the Church lasted as far as the New Testament history reaches, the Apostles having set men over different Churches with Apostolical authority, to preside during their absence, and to succeed them after their decease. This sufficiently appears from places in St. Paul's Epistles to Timothy and Titus."
"Do you remember any of the passages?" I asked him.
"I cannot," he said, "call to mind chapter and verse. But I have with me a little paper of memorandums which I use at the school, and which, if it be not too much trouble, I will thank to look at."
The paper was as follows:-for I thought it well to copy what he had written into my pocket memorandum-book.
It appears that Timothy had authority at Ephesus to check false or unedifying Teachers, 1 Tim. i. 3, 4;-to select persons proper to be ordained Bishops' iii. 1–7; and also Deacons, iii. 8—13.
That he should have particular regard to the Elders who rule well. That he should be cautious of receiving accusations against Elders. v. 19. That if any [Elders] were convicted, it was his duty to reprimand them publicly. v. 20.
That in his decisions he should be strictly impartial. v. 21. That he should be very cautious on whom he laid his hands. That Timothy was in a station which even the rich and great vi. 17.
That Timothy had been ordained by St. Paul himself, once if not twice. 2 Tim. i. 6.
That at his ordination or consecration there was something remarkable in the Sermon. 1 Tim. iv. 14; i. 18.
That he was to commit what he had heard from St. Paul to faithful men, who should be able to pass it on to others. 2 Tim. ii. 2.
That Titus had authority to set in order what was wanting in the Cretan Church; Tit. i. 5; and to ordain Bishops in every city; i. 5. 7.
That he was to be cautious whom he selected for this office. i. 6-9.
That he should rebuke false teachers sharply. i. 13.
That if Titus himself was a pattern of good works and a teacher of truth, the whole Church would gain credit. ii. 7, 8.
That he should rebuke with all authority. ii. 15.
That he should suffer no man to despise him. ii. 15.
That after one or two admonitions he should reject heretical persons. iii. 10.
"Now, Sir, it seems to me evident, from these and other similar passages, that there were certainly in the Church, as far as the Testament History reaches, three different ranks or orders of Ministers one above the other."
"It is plainly so," I said.
"But," said he, "there was one point which rather perplexed me, and I was some time before I could make out such an explanation of it as was satisfactory to myself."
"What was that," I asked.
Why," said he, "it was this. I considered that any person to whom the Apostles granted Apostolical authority, (Timothy, for instance,) was from that time higher than a Presbyter or Bishop, and yet could not properly be called an Apostle. What then could he be called? I at last remembered a place in Bishop Wilson's little book, which led me to reflect, that surely as there were Angels, (whether it might mean guardians, or heavenly messengers, or missionary Bishops, as we might say,) of the seven Churches in Asia,-so Timothy might have been called the Angel of the Ephesian Church; and Titus, of the Church of Crete; and the same in other cases. And it came into my thoughts,
that, perhaps, after St. John's decease, whether out of humility, or because (the Churches being settled,) the Ministers need no longer be missionaries, the title of Apostles or Angels was laid aside, and that of Bishops limited to the highest of the three orders.
"Thus I seemed to myself every where to have traced the threefold order, down from the beginning of the Gospel; the authority and distinction peculiar to each being preserved, a difference in name only taking place.
Apostles, Elders, Deacons.
"Thus at first they were
Angels, Bishops, Deacons.
Apostles, or at least, while St. John was yet living "At some period after St. decease .. Bishops, Priests, Deacons." "I do not see how what you have said can be contradicted," I replied.
"But," he proceeded, "there is one thing I must, Sir, confess to you, and it is this;-that I have often said to myself, what a comfort it would be, if it had pleased God to preserve to us some few writings of the good men who lived close after the Apostles, that so we might have known their opinion on matters of this kind and we might have known, too, by what names they distinguished the different orders of ministers, one from another. For, surely, what they would think most proper in such cases, must be safest of all rules for us to follow; unless, (which is a thing not to be supposed,) their rules should be contrary to those of the Apostles, as set down in Scripture. So, Sir, I have often thought, if any such writings could be found, what a precious treasure they would be."
"What!" said I, "Richard, did you never hear of those who are called the Apostolic Fathers: Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius?"
"I believe I have heard of them," he answered; "but I observed that you, Sir, and other Clergymen, scarcely ever notice them in your sermons: and the man I mentioned just now told me that Mr. Cartwright, who is the minister of the Independent chapel at the town, and who is reckoned to be a very learned