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The imposition of hands is a rite derived from the Jews, and significant of the communication of the gifts of the Father. This venerable rite was used by Christ, and with great propriety has been retained in the Christian church. But with the apostles it was the customary mode of imparting the zagiouara, the miraculous gifts of that age. So the converts at Samaria received the Holy Ghost, Acts 8: 17, and in the like manner, when Paul had laid his hands upon the Ephesian converts, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spake with tongues and prophesied, Acts 19: 6. In the same sense is to be understood the gift, zagioua, which was given to Timothy by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, 1 Tim. 4: 14. The meaning simply is, that by the imposition of hands that peculiar spiritual gift denominated prophecy was im
The Jewish ordination, on the contrary, although sometimes accompanied, when administered by the apostles, by the communication of miraculous gifts, was in itself no more than a significant form of benediction on admission to a specific appointment. Of this nature were the offices connected with the synagogue, in contradistinction from those of the priesthood. When Paul and Barnabas were sent out from the church at Antioch, they submitted to the same impressive ceremony: not surely that either authority, or power of any kind, or miraculous qualifications, devolved upon the apostle and his illustrious companion, by virtue of the imposition of Presbyterian hands! What then is ordination? The answer is, a decent and becoming solemnity, adopted from the Jewish customs by the primitive church, significant of the separation of an individual to some specific appointment in the Christian ministry, and constituting both a recognition on the part of the officiating presbyters, of the ministerial character of the person appointed, and a desirable sanction of the proceedings of the church. It is, however, something more than a mere circumstance, the imposition of hands being designed to express that fervent benediction which accompanied the ceremony, and which constitutes the true spirit of the rite. To an occasion which, when the awful responsibility of the pastoral charge is adequately felt, imparts to the prayers and the affectionate aid of those who are fathers and brethren in the ministry, a more especial value, the sign and solemn act of benediction must appear peculiarly appropriate. This venerable ceremony may also be regarded as a sort of bond of fellowship among the churches of Christ, a sign of unity, and an act of brotherhood."-Conder's Protestant Nonconformity, Vol. I, p. 242.
parted to Timothy.21 Of the same import are 2 Tim. 1: 6, and 1 Tim. 5: 22. Both relate to the communication of spiritual gifts. If the rite of ordination was implied and included in it, then the same act must be expressive both of this induction into office, and of the communication of spiritual gifts. Such is Neander's explanation of the transaction. "The consecration to offices in the church was conducted in the following manner. After those persons to whom its performance belonged, had laid their hands on the head of the candidate, a symbolic action borrowed from the Jewish - they besought the Lord that he would grant, what this symbol denoted, the impartation of the gifts of his Spirit for carrying on the office thus undertaken in his name. If, as was presumed, the whole ceremony corresponded to its intent, and the requisite disposition existed in those for whom it was performed, there was reason for considering the communication of the spiritual gifts necessary for the office, as connected with this consecration performed in the name of Christ. And since Paul from this point of view designated the whole of the solemn proceeding (without separating it into its various elements), by that which was its external symbol (as, in scriptural phraseology, a single act of a transaction consisting of several parts, and sometimes that which was most striking to the senses, is often mentioned for the whole); he required of Timothy that he should seek to revive afresh the spiritual gifts that he had received by the laying on of hands." 22
The question has been asked, but never yet answered, who ordained Apollos? See Acts 18: 24-26. 1 Cor. 3:5-7.
It remains to consider the case of Paul the apostle. Of whom did he receive ordination? One Ananias, a disciple and a devout man according to the law, and having a good
21 Rothe, Anfänge, 1, p. 161.
22 Neander, Apost. Kirch., 1, 213. Comp. pp. 88, 300, 3d edit.
report of all the Jews that dwelt at Damascus,—this man prayed and laid his hands upon Paul, and straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues. Soon after this he spent three years in Arabia; then, for a whole year together, he and Barnabas assembled themselves with the church and taught much people at Antioch, Acts 11: 26. After all this, he was sent forth by the Holy Ghost, on his mission to the Gentiles. Preparatory to this mission he was recommended to the grace of God for the work, by fasting, prayer and the imposition of hands. Even this was not done by any of the apostles, but by certain prophets and teachers, such as Simeon, Lucius and Manaen. Even on the supposition, therefore, that these were the solemnities of Faul's ordination, he was not Episcopally ordained. But, in truth, they had no reference whatever to his ordination. On the authority of his divine commission, he had already been a preacher for several years. It was, not a new appointment, but an appointment to a new work, which in no degree helps forward the cause of prelatical ordination.23
We have, indeed, adopted from apostolic usage, a significant, impressive and becoming rite, by which to induct one into the sacred office of the ministry. The rite ought always to be observed. But no direct precept, no uniform usage, gives to this rite the sanction of divine authority; above all, there is not in all the Scriptures, the least authority for the exclusive administration of it by the bishop alone. The idea of a bishop receiving the Holy Ghost in regular succession from the holy apostles, and transmitting the heavenly grace by the laying on of his hands is a figment of prelatical pride and fanaticism, unknown either in Scripture, or in the earliest ages of the church. But the historical argument in relation to the subject of ordination by presbyters is considered below.
23 Bowdler's Letters on Apostolical Succession, p. 22.
The claims of Episcopacy, on the ground of an original distinction between the names and titles of bishop and presbyters seem now to be wholly abandoned, even by Episcopalians themselves. "Even if Timothy," says the Christian Observer, "had been distinctly called bishop of Ephesus, and Titus bishop of Crete, Episcopalians would build nothing on that nomenclature as regards Episcopacy, being a distinct order from Presbytery, for presbyters are admitted to have been called bishops. The disparity is proved by other considerations." 24
Even the church of Rome acknowledges the identity of the orders of presbyter and bishop, and reckons among the three greater, or holy orders, those of priest, deacon, and subdeacon.
Bishop Onderdonk makes also the same concession. "As some readers of this essay may not be familiar with the controversy, it is proper to advert to the fact, that the name 'bishops,' which now designates the highest grade of the ministry, is not appropriated to that office in Scripture. That name is given to the middle order, or presbyters; and all that we read in the New Testament, concerning 'bishops' (including, of course, the words 'overseers' and 'oversight,' which have the same derivation), is to be regarded as pertaining to that middle grade." Bishops and presbyters are identical, then, in the Scriptures, according to our American bishop, who traces his own descent from a higher grade known by no specific name in Scripture, such as the apostles, and Titus and Timothy, and the angels of the seven churches, who are not honored with any official title, as a distinct order or grade.25 The whole fabric of Episcopacy
24 Christian Observer, 1842, p. 59.
25 The highest grade is there found in those called apostles, and in some other individuals, as Titus and Timothy, and the angels of the seven churches of Asia, who have no official designation given them. It was after the apostolic age that the name 'bishop' was taken from the second order and appropriated to the first.-Bishop Onderdonk's Episcopacy, tested by Scripture.
is here made to lean on a certain nameless grade, whose successors have uncourteously appropriated to themselves exclusively an official title which by divine right belonged to the presbyters. The issue of the argument, accordingly, turns chiefly upon the proposition which comes next under consideration.
4. There was, in the apostolical churches, no ordinary class of ministers superior to that of presbyters or bishops. We deny entirely that Timothy, or Titus, or any other person, or class of persons named in Scripture, represents a grade, or order of ministers in the churches planted by the apostles, who were invested with prerogatives superior to those of presbyters; and whose office was to be perpetuated in the church of Christ. In opposition to these Episcopal pretensions, we remark:
1. That no distinct appellation is given to the supposed order, and no class of religious teachers represents them in the Scriptures.
If there be such an order, it is surely extraordinary that it should be left without a name, or a distinctive appellation of any kind. Here is a high grade, possessed of exclusive ministerial rights and powers, from whom all clerical grace has been transmitted by Episcopal succession, age after age, down to the present time; and yet distinguished by no appellation, represented by no single class or order of men. The inferior grades, presbyters and deacons, are specified with great distinctness, but the highest and most important of all has no definite name, no distinct and single representative. And yet your bishop, with astonishing credulity, runs backward his spiritual lineage up, I had almost said, through a thousand generations, in strange uncertainty all the while, to whom he shall at last attach himself, or with whom claim kindred. If Peter fails him, he flies to Paul, to James, to Timothy, to Titus, to the angel of the church, to-he knows not whom. He is, however, a legitimate de