« PreviousContinue »
and of doing this (i. e. of consecrating and administering the holy eucharist) in remembrance of me : but yet it is evident, that this ministry was not so confined to the apostolic order, as that none but they were allowed to exercise it ; for even in the apostles' days Philip and Ananias, who were no apostles, baptized, and St. Peter commanded the brethren with him (who were no apostles neither) to baptize those gentile converts upon which the Holy Ghost descended, Acts x. 48. and there is no doubt, but when those three thousand souls, Acts ii. were all baptized at one time, there were a great many other baptizers besides the apostles : and that passage of St. Paul, 1 Cor. i. 13–17. where he tells us, that he baptized none in the church of Corinth, though it were of his own planting, except Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanus, is a plain argument, that when the apostles had converted men to the Christian faith, they generally ordered them to be baptized by the inferior ministers of the church that attended them. And then as for the consecration of the holy eucharist, though when any of the apostles were present it was doubtless ordinarily performed by them; yet considering how fast Christianity increased, and how frequently Christians did then partake of this sacrament, it is not to be supposed that the apostles could be present in all places where it was administered, nor consequently that they could consecrate it in every particular congregation. For though it was a very early custom for the bishop to consecrate the elements in one congregation, and then send them abroad to be administered in several others; yet this was only upon special occasions : but ordinarily they were consecrated in the same places where they were administered ; in all which places, it was impossible either for the apostles at first, or after them for their successors the bishops, to be present at the same time: and therefore there can be no doubt but the consecration, as well as the administration, was ordinarily performed by the inferior presbyters, in the absence of the apostles and bishops. But it is most certain that none were ever allowed in the primitive church to consecrate the eucharist, but either a bishop or a presbyter. And as for baptism, because it is in some degree more necessary than the eucharist, as being the sign of admission into the new covenant, by which we are first entitled to it, not only bishops and presbyters, but in their absence, or by their allowance, deacons also were authorized to administer it: for so even in the apostles' days Philip the deacon baptized at Samaria, Acts vüi. 12. and afterwards not only deacons but laymen too were allowed to administer it in case of necessity, when neither a deacon, nor presbyter, nor bishop could be procured; that so none might be debarred of admission into the new covenant that were disposed and qualified to receive it. But the church's allowing this to laymen only in cases of necessity, is a plain argument that none had a standing authority to administer it, but only persons in holy orders. For that authority which a present necessity creates is only present, and ceases with the necessity that created it.
3. And lastly, another of the ministries common to the bishops with the inferior clergy, is to offer up the public prayers and intercessions of Christian assemblies : for to be sure none can be authorized to
perform the public offices of the church, but only such as are set apart and ordained to be the public officers of it. Now prayer is one of the most solemn offices of Christian assemblies; and therefore as in the Jewish church none but the high priests, and priests and Levites, who were the only public ministers of religion, were authorized to offer up the public prayers of the congregation, (vide 2 Chron. xxix. 26.) so in the Christian none but bishops, priests, and deacons, who alone are the public ministers of Christianity, are authorized to offer up the public addresses of Christian assemblies; it is their peculiar λειτουργείν τω Κυρίω, i. e. « to perform the
public office to the Lord,” Acts xiii. 2. for so the word destoupyeía signifies public service, and is used to denote those public services (of which one was, offering up the common prayers of the people) which the priests in their turns performed in the temple, (vide Luke i. 23.) and hence it is, that the ministers of the Christian religion are called λειτουργοί, Rom. xv. 16. because it is their proper business to officiate the public services of the Christian church. And accordingly, in Rev. v. 8. the four and twenty elders, (that is, the holy bishops of the church, as appears by their having crowns of gold or mitres on their heads, in allusion to the high priest's mitre, chap. iv. ver. 4.) are said to have every one of them harps and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints, referring to the incense which the priests were wont to offer in the sanctuary, which oblation was a mystical offering up the prayers of the people, (vide Luke i. 10.) which plainly intimates, that as it was one part of the office of those Jewish priests to offer the incense, and there
withal the prayers of the people, so it is also of the public ministers of Christianity to offer up the prayers of Christian assemblies. And as in the Jewish church not only the priests, but the Levites also, communicated with the high priests in this ministry of offering up the prayers of the congregation, so, in the Christian church, not only the presbyters, but the deacons alsó, always communicated in it with their bishop. Having thus given an account of those religious ministries which are common to the bishops with the inferior officers of the church, I proceed, in the next place, to shew what those ministries are which are peculiar to the bishops or governors of the church; all which are reducible to four particulars : 1. To make laws for the peace and good order of the church. 2. To ordain to ecclesiastical offices. 3. To execute that spiritual jurisdiction which Christ hath established in his church. 4. To confirm such as have been instructed in Christianity.
I. One peculiar ministry of the bishops and governors of the church is to make laws and canons for the security and preservation of the church's peace and good order; and this is implied in the very essence of government, which necessarily supposes a legislative power within itself, to command and oblige the subject to do or forbear such things as it shall judge conducive to the preservation or disturbance of their common weal, without which power no government can be enabled to obtain its end, which is the good of the public. Since therefore the church, by Christ's own institution, is a governed society of men, we must either suppose its government to be very lame and defective, which would be to blaspheme the wisdom of our Saviour, or allow it to have a legislative power inherent in it. But that de facto it hath such a power in it is evident from the practice of the apostles, who, as all agree, had the reins of church-government delivered into their hands by our Saviour; for so, in Acts xv. 6. we are told, that, upon occasion of that famous controversy about circumcision, the apostles and elders came together to consider of this matter ; where by the elders, by the consent of all antiquity, is meant the bishops of Judæa, (vide Dr. Hammond on Acts xi. note B.) and after mature debate and deliberation this is the result of the council; It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things, ver. 28. So that those necessary things, specified in the next verse, were, it seems, laid upon them as a burden, i. e. legally imposed on them as matter of duty; for herein it is plain the apostles exercised a legislative power over those Christian communities they wrote to, viz. in requiring them to abstain from some things which were never prohibited before by any standing law of Christianity. And as the apostles and primitive bishops made laws by common consent for the church in general, so did they also by their own single authority for particular churches, to which they were more peculiarly related. Thus St. Paul, after he had prescribed some rules to the Corinthians for their more decent communication of the Lord's supper, tells them, that other things he would set in order when he came among them, 1 Cor. xi. 34. But how could he otherwise do this, than by giving them certain laws and canons, for the better regulation of their religious offices ? So also, 1 Cor. xvi. 1. the same apostle makes mention of an