Page images
PDF
EPUB

shop of his metropolitic church, complained to him in a synod of a disorderly deacon, he tells him, that pro episcopatus vigore et cathedræ authoritate, i. e. by his own episcopal authority, without appealing to the synod, he might have chastised him. And the fifth canon of the first Nicene council plainly shews, that it was then the judgment of the catholic church, that the power of spiritual jurisdiction was wholly seated in the bishops ; for it decrees, that in every province there should be twice a year a council of bishops, to examine whether any person, lay or clergy, had been unjustly excommunicated by his bishop; which shews, that then this sentence was inflicted by the bishop only; though afterwards, to prevent abuses, it was decreed in the council of Carthage, that “the bishop should hear no “ man's cause but in the presence of his clergy; and " that his sentence should be void, unless it were “ confirmed by their presence;" but yet still the sentence was peculiarly his, and not his clergy's. In some churches indeed the bishops did many times delegate power to their presbyters, both to excommunicate and absolve, (as perhaps St. Paul himself did in the church of Corinth ;) but in this case the presbyter was only the bishop's mouth, and his sentence received all its force from that episcopal authority he was armed with.

IV. Another peculiar ministry of the bishops and governors of the church is to confirm such as have been baptized and instructed in Christianity; which ministry was always performed by prayer and laying on of hands, upon which the party so confirmed received the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is true, upon the first institution of this imposition of hands, the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, such as speaking with tongues, &c. were many times consequent; but from hence it doth no more follow that it was intended only for an extraordinary ministry, that was to cease with those extraordinary gifts that accompanied it, than that preaching was so, which at first was also attended with miraculous operations. The great intendment of those extraordinary effects was to attest the efficacy of the function: and doth it

1 therefore follow that the function must cease, because those extraordinary effects did so, after they had sufficiently attested its efficacy, and consequently were of no farther use? if so, then all the other ministries of Christianity must be expired as well as this. And what though those extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are ceased? Yet since our Saviour hath promised a continual communication of his Spirit to his church, is it not highly reasonable to believe, that he still continues to communicate it by the very same ministry of prayer and imposition of hands whereby he communicated it first; and that he now derives to us the ordinary operation of it in the same way that he first derived the extraordinary ones ? Especially considering that this laying on of hands is placed by the apostle in the same class with baptism, and made one of the principles of the doctrine of Christ, Heb. vi. 1, 2. and therefore must without all doubt be intended for a standing ministry in the church; and as such the church of Christ in all ages has thought herself obliged to receive and practise it; but as for the administration of it, it was always appropriated to the apostles and bishops. So in Acts xix. 5, 6. it was St. Paul that

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

laid his hands on the Ephesians after they were baptized in the name of Jesus ; whereupon it is said, that the Holy Ghost came upon them: and in Acts viii. we read, that when St. Peter by his preaching and miracles had converted the Samaritans, and afterwards baptized them, St. Peter and St. John, two of the apostles, were sent to lay hands on them, upon which it is said, that they received the Holy Ghost, ver. 17. By which it appears that this ministry of confirmation appertained to the apostles; since St. Philip, though a worker of miracles, a preacher, a prime deacon, and, if we may believe St. Cyprian, one of the seventy-two disciples, would not presume to assume it, but left it to the apostles as their peculiar province. And accordingly in the primitive church it was always performed by the hands of the bishops; for though from later ages some probable instances are produced of some presbyters that confirmed in the bishop's absence, or by his delegation, yet in all primitive antiquity we have neither any one canon nor example of it. From whence we may fairly conclude, that this imposition of hands for confirmation was peculiar to the apostles, in the original, and to their successors the bishops in the continuation of it.

1

SECT. XI.

Of Christ's regal acts in his kingdom. Having in the foregoing section given an account of the several ministers which Christ employs in the administration of his kingdom, we proceed, in the next place, to inquire what those acts of

royalty are which he himself exerts in his kingdom, and by which he perpetually rules and governs it : and these may be distributed into three orders :

First, Such as he hath performed once for all.

Secondly, Such as he hath always performed, and will still continue to perform.

Thirdly, Such as are yet to be performed by him before the surrender of his kingdom.

First, One sort of the royal acts of our Saviour are those which he hath performed once for all : and these are reducible to three particulars :

I. His giving laws to his kingdom.

II. His mission of the Holy Spirit to subdue men's minds to the obedience of those laws, and to govern them by them.

III. His erecting an external polity or form of government in his kingdom.

I. One of those regal acts which Christ hath performed in his kingdom once for all is giving laws to it; and this he performed while he was upon earth in those excellent sermons and discourses which he then preached and delivered to the world. For though he preached as a prophet, yet it was as a royal prophet, as one that had regal authority to enact what he delivered into laws; for he was a king while he was upon earth, so that all his prophecies were enforced with his regal authority, and he commanded as he was a king whatsoever he taught as he was a prophet. Indeed, had he been a mere prophet, he could not have obliged men by any legislative authority of his own to believe and obey him; his declarations had had no farther force in them than as they expressed the will and command of the Almighty Sovereign of the

VOL. III.

K

world; and if what he declared had not been law before, it could not have been made law by his declaring it. But being a royal prophet, his words were laws, and all his declarations carried a commanding power in them. And hence the gospel is called the law of Christ, Gal. vi. 2. and the law of the Spirit of life in or by Christ Jesus, Rom. viii. 2. and that command of loving our neighbour as ourself is called the royal law, i.e. the law of Christ our King, James ii. 8. for this our Saviour calls his commandment, John xv. 12. and his new commandment, viz. That

ye

love one another, even as I have loved you, John xiii. 34. And not only this, but all other duties of the gospel are called his commandments, John xiv. 21. and Matt. xxviii. 20. By all which it is evident, that in revealing his gospel to the world he did not only perform the part of a prophet, but also of a legislator, and that by his own inherent authority, as he was a king, he stamped those doctrines into laws which he taught and delivered as a prophet. And such as his kingly power is, such are his laws and commandments; he is a spiritual king, a king of souls, of wills, and of affections; and accordingly his laws are spiritual, and do extend their obligation to the souls, and wills, and affections of his subjects. For they not only oblige our outward man, but also the inmost motions of our heart; they lay their reins upon our thoughts and desires, as well as upon our words and actions ; and give directions to our inward intentions, as well as to our outward actions. So that to satisfy their demands, it is not sufficient that we do well, unless we also intend well; that the matter of our actions be good, unless the aim and design of them be so

« PreviousContinue »