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are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly joined together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the spirit.”
With this description of the household of God, on the one hand, and on the other, the scattered and dismantled fabric which we see before our eyes in this country, there is a mighty difference.
We see various structures raised for religious purposes. In some the doctrine of universal redemption is taught; in others particular redemption, election, and reprobation. In some the divinity of Christ is maintained, in others it is denied. In some an apostolic priesthood is deemed essential, in others it is thought that any man may take this honour unto himself. These facts are as notorious as that the sun shineth in the firmament of heaven, yet, notorious though they be, they are viewed with indifference, and people hardly think it worth their while to inquire which is the church which the Lord hath founded. Is it not of serious importance to know whether we be in the faith, and whether we continue in the apostles' fellowship, as well as doctrine? All cannot be right, because all are at variance. To me, I must confess, it is a subject of grave and
anxious consideration; and feeling how weighty a matter it is to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, I am desirous of drawing your attention to it, that you, through the blessing of Almighty God, may discover the true church here on earth.
The first commission given by their divine master to the holy apostles ran thus :-“Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The blessed gospel of eternal life, was, according to the wisdom and goodness of God, to be proclaimed first to the children of the promise, the stock of Abraham ; but they to whom it was offered having rejected the glad tidings, the apostles were then commanded to turn to the Gentiles. They were commanded to preach the gospel to every creature. The Lord Jesus, very God of very God, having accomplished the object of his earthly mission, and having made a full, perfect, and sufficient atonement and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, by the sacrifice of himself upon the altar of the cross, and being about to return to his throne on high, to resume the glory he had with the Father before the world was made, gave to the apostles whom he had chosen, authority and power to raise up into a goodly and firmly compacted structure the
church which he had planted. This second commission was of the most ample kind—“As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you, and when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said, whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” This gift of the Spirit was essential for the work of the ministry. For at the baptism of Jesus the Holy Ghost descended upon Him in bodily shape like a dove; now, as in Christ Jesus dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, this visible descent could not have been caused by any imperfection of His nature, but as a sign or seal to the world of his ministry, and in testimony that God was with Him. So, likewise the same Spirit fell upon the apostles in bodily shape, that the world might believe that God had sent them, even so, and in like manner, as he had sent His beloved Son. And as the chief Shepherd and Bishop of our souls was sent to gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so the holy apostles were commissioned for the same purpose, and also to the whole world: “and God,” saith St. Paul to the Ephesians, “gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry; for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” This passage showeth that these various orders of the ministry were not extraordinary and temporary, as some would have us believe, but perpetual, and to continue even unto the end of the world as Christ in another place said, “ Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Our blessed Redeemer gave the ministry of reconciliation, personally, to none but the apostles; but the apostles ordained others, and what they did under the direction of the Holy Ghost is said by St. Paul to have been done by God. “ And God," says he, “ hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily, prophets, thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles ? Are all prophets? Are all teachers ? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing ? Do all speak with tongues ? Do all interpret?” This proveth the diversity or disparity of the priesthood. First in rank, authority, and power, were the apostles; and though they were the immediate and intimate companions of Christ, his privy-councillors as it were, they were not the only disciples, as St. Luke informs
“ he appointed other seventy also, and sent them out, two and two, before his face.”
These seventy disciples were sent to preach the gospel, and were endowed with miraculous powers, but their ministerial office was inferior to that of the twelve. They received but one commission from Christ, after which, when they had performed their office and returned, we hear nothing more of them in the gospel. They were not present at the Last Supper; neither did they receive from Christ the final commission to preach the gospel to every creature ; neither were they with Christ during the forty days which intervened between the resurrection and the ascension. But their inferiority more particularly appeared in the case of the seven deacons:-“ The twelve called the multitude of disciples together, and said unto them, Brethren, look ye out seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. They did so, and set them before the twelve apostles, and when they had prayed they laid their hands on them.” Here the choice of the deacons was made by the multitude, and the ordination by the imposition of hands, was the act of the apostles alone. I beseech you to mark this: it is distinctly stated that the twelve laid their hands upon the seven ; now, had the presbyters or elders joined in the ordination it would probably have been recorded, as they are frequently mentioned in the Acts as being joined in council with the apos