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were members of this council. The subject was discussed at length on both sides, but the concurring opinions of Peter, Paul and James finally prevailed, and the council concurred harmoniously in the sentiments expressed by these apostles. It is observable, however, that the result of the council is given, not in the name of James,10 or any one of the apostles, but conjointly, by the apostles, and presbyters, and brethren. Acts 15: 23. With this decision the delegation return to Antioch, accompanied by Judas and Silas. The message of the council was received by the assembled church at Antioch, who gladly acquiesced in that decision. Throughout the whole narrative the presbyters appear as the authorized counsellors of the church, and the only ordinary officers of the church, whose opinion is sought in connection with that of the apostles, without any intimation of an intermediate grade of bishops.11
(c) It was the appropriate office of the presbyters to administer the ordinances of the church.
It is inconceivable that the performance of these duties could have been restricted to the apostles. The sacrament
10 That James did not draw up this decree as "the head of the church at Jerusalem," and as his "authoritative sentence," is unanswerably shown by Rev. Dr. Mason, in his Review of Essays on Episcopacy. The amount of the argument is, that James simply expresses his opinion, verse 19; just as Peter and Paul had done before. So the word, nolva, in the connection in which it is used, implies, and so it was understood by the sacred historian, who, in Acts 16: 4, declares, that the "authoritative sentence," the decrees, were ordained by the apostles and presbyters. Comp., also, Acts 21 25. The case was not referred to James, neither could it be submitted to him as bishop of Jerusalem, Antioch lying entirely without his diocese, even on the supposition that Jerusalem was the seat of his Episcopal see. The authority of this decree was also acknowledged in all the churches of Asia. The supposition, that it was the official and authoritative sentence of James as bishop, exalts him above all the other apostles who were members of the council, and gives him a power, farreaching and authoritative beyond that which belonged to St. Peter himself, the prelatical head of the church.
11 Comp. Rothe, Anfänge, Vol. I, pp. 181, 182.
was at first administered daily,12 and afterwards on each Lord's-day as a part of public worship, and occasionally at other times. The frequency and universality of the ordinance of necessity required that it should be administered by the ordinary ministers of the church. Baptism, by a like necessity, devolved upon them. The numerous and far-spreading triumphs of the gospel utterly forbid the idea, that the apostles, few in number, and charged with the high commission of preaching the gospel, and giving themselves wholly to this as their appropriate work, should have found time and means of going every where, and baptizing with their own hands all that believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, they appear expressly to have disclaimed this work, and to have entrusted the service chiefly to other hands. "I thank God that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me, not to baptize, but to preach." 1 Cor. 1: 14-17. Cornelius, again, was baptized, not by Peter, but by some Christian disciples, agreeably to his command. The apostles, indeed, very seldom baptized. The inference therefore is, that this service was by them committed to the presbyters, the ordinary officers of the church.
The right of presbyters to administer these ordinances is clearly asserted by Augusti and other writers on the subject, as stated in our Christian Antiquities. 13 Even the Episcopalian, who claims these as the official duties of the bishop, and maintains that the presbyter only acted as his representative, still admits that, previous to the establishment of the Episcopal system, these duties were performed by presbyters. To this effect is one of the latest and best authorities. "In the earliest times, when no formal distinction between ἐπίσκοποι [bishops], and πρεσβύτεροι [presbyters], had taken place, the presbyters, especially the 13 Chap. III, § 8.
12 Neander, Apost. Kirch., 1, p. 30.
лоεστõτεs [presiding presbyters], 1 Tim. 5: 17, discharged those Episcopal functions, which, afterwards, when a careful distinction of ecclesiastical officers had been made, they were not permitted to discharge, otherwise than as substitutes or vicars of a bishop. Instances, however, do sometimes occur in later times, of presbyters having officiated in matters which, according to the canon law, belonged only to the Episcopal office." 14
Tertullian asserts the right even of the laity both to baptize, tingere, and to administer the sacrament, offere. His reasons are, that the distinction between the clergy and laity is the device of the church,-that in the Scriptures all are priests of God, and that, having the right of priesthood in themselves, the laity are at liberty to perform the offices of the priesthood, as they may have occasion.15
Even Rigaltius, a Roman Catholic, in commenting on this passage, admits that the laity were permitted, in the primitive church, to administer the ordinances, though it was afterwards forbidden in the ecclesiastical law. The same is also affirmed by the learned Erasmus.16 If further
14 Riddle, Chr. Antiquities, p. 233.
15 Vani erimus si putaverimus, quod sacerdotibus non liceat, láicis licere. Nonne et laici sacerdotes sumus? Scriptum est regnum quoque nos et sacerdotes Deo et Patri suo fecit. Differentiam inter ordinem et plebem constituit ecclesiae auctoritas, et honor per ordinis consessum sanctificatus a Deo, ibi ecclesiastici ordinis non est confessus? Et offers et tinguis; sacerdos es tibi solus. Sed ubi tres, ecclesia est, licet láici; unusquisque de sua fide vivit; nec est personarum exceptio apud Deum, quoniam non auditores legis justificabuntur a Deo, sed factores, secundum quod et apostolus dicit. Igitur si habes jus sacerdotis in temetipso ubi necesse sit, habeas oportet etiam disciplinam sacerdotis, ubi necesse sit habere jus sacerdotis.-De Exhort. Cast., c. 7. The same thing also is implied in another passage, from Tertullian, De Virgin. Vel., c. 9, in which he denies to women this right. The denial of the right to women is an admission that it was the authorized prerogative of the other sex.
16 Constat temporibus apostolorum fuisse synaxin quam laici inter se faciebant adhibita praecatione et benedictione, et eam panem, ut est probabile, appellabant corpus Domini, ut frequenter etiam sacris literis cadem vox signo et rei signatae accommodatur Fieri enim potest ut de hac synaxi loquatur ibi Origenes.-Ep., Lib. 26, Tom. 3. Origen, in the
evidence of the fact were needful it is given at length by Grotius.17
(d) It was the right of presbyters to ordain.
What reason can be assigned, may we ask, why they should not solemnize this rite, as well as perform other ministerial duties? What solemnity has the rite above all others, to restrict the performance of it to a certain order of the priesthood? It is the right of presbyters to baptize, to administer the sacrament, to instruct and provide for all the spiritual wants of the flock of Christ, as the shepherd and bishop of their souls, and have they no right to induct into the sacred office, their fellow-laborers and successors in the service of the chief Shepherd ? 18 Until instructed to the contrary by the word of God, we must presume that the right to ordain belongs to those presbyters whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers of the flock, to feed the church of God.
The subject of our present inquiry hardly admits of an appeal to Scripture; for the writers of the New Testament have left us no specific instructions on this subject. Neither have we any uniform precedent in the apostolical churches. The apostles were not set apart by any solemnity beside their commission from Christ. He lifted up his hands, indeed, and blessed them, as he was parted from them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost. The act was significant of the miraculous communication of spiritual gifts, as in various other instances, Acts 8: 17. 19: 6; but had no analogy to Episcopal ordination. No record is given of any formal ordination of Matthias, save his formal election to the apostolical office.
middle of the third century, was permitted by two bishops, in Palestine, to explain the Scriptures to their congregation, though he had never been ordained. And many bishops of the East, according to Eusebius, allowed even the laity to preach.-Eccl. Hist., 6, c. 19. Comp. Neander, Allgemein. Gesch., 1, p. 336, 2d edit.
17 Tract., De Coenae Administratione ubi pastores non sunt. 18 Comp. Gerhardi, Loci Theolog., Tom. 12, p. 159.
The seven deacons were inducted into their office by prayer, and the laying on of hands. This may have been, and perhaps was, the usual mode of setting apart any to a religious service. But was the imposition of hands exclusively ordination? It was a rite familiar to the Jews; and denoted either a benediction, or the communication of miraculous gifts. Jacob, in blessing the sons of Joseph, laid his hands upon their head. So Jesus took young children in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them. So Paul and Barnabas were dismissed, to go on their missionary tour, with the blessing of the brethren at Antioch, by the laying on of hands, Acts 13: 3. But they had long been engaged in ministerial duties.
The imposition of hands appears also to have been admitted more than once, as in the case of Timothy, upon whom this rite was performed by the presbytery, 1 Tim. 4: 14; and again, by the apostle Paul, 2 Tim. 1: 6. Such at least is the understanding which Rothe has of the case.19 This fact forbids the supposition, that the laying on of hands was the solemnizing rite in the act of ordination, which, according to all ecclesiastical usage, cannot be repeated. In the passage, Acts 14: 23, the phrase ZELQOTOVÝourtes, &c., has been already shown to relate, not to the consecration, but to the appointment of the elders in every church. 20
19 Rothe, Anfänge der Christ. Kirch., p. 161.
20"Where, it may be asked, resides the right, or power, and in what consists the importance of ordination? It is not the source of ministerial authority; for that, as it has been endeavored to show, does not, and cannot, rest on any human foundation. It does not admit to the pastoral office; for even in the Episcopal church, the title to office, which is an indispensable pre-requisite, is derived from the nomination of the person who has the disposal of the case. It is not office, but official character, which Episcopal ordination is supposed to convey, together with whatsoever the advocates of Episcopacy may choose to understand by those solemn words, used by the ordaining bishop (an application of them which Nonconformists deem awfully inappropriate), 'Receive the Holy Ghost.'