Page images

The principal arguments by which this irregular practice has been supported, may be reduced to the two following heads.

1. Some have urged, that the apostles appointed their successors, under the immediate and visible direction of the Holy Spirit; and hence they infer, that, as miracles have now ceased, as this visible direction is no longer given, Christians may lawfully depart from this primitive rule, and, by the guidance of human judgment, may safely constitute ministers, who do not derive their office in an uninterrupted succession from the apostles.

And, 2dly, as error is various and inconsistent, there are others who boldly assert, that the miraculous inspiration of the Holy Ghost has never ceased; that certain Christians have a special and perceptible call of the Spirit to the work of the ministry; and that such ministers must, therefore, be considered as exercising the sacred office by divine appointment, though they want, the formality of human ordination.

With regard to the former of these arguments, it may fairly be submitted to the consideration of every serious person, whether

the same mode of reasoning would not apply, with equal propriety and force, to the profession of the Christian faith, to the use of

prayer, and to every ordinance of the Gospel. If one man is justified in pleading -“The apostles officially appointed a succession of ministers, by the immediate direction of the Holy Ghost ; but as miracles have now ceased, the preservation of that succession must be matter of indifference : ” if one man is authorised in saying this, why may not another be allowed to plead, that, “In the days of the apostles, faith and prayer were attended with a power of working miraclės; but as that power is now withholden, faith and prayer can no longer be indispensably required ?” The argument clearly applies, in the latter case, as properly and as forcibly as it does in the former. It is therefore altogether inadmissible : for if it be admitted at all, there is no restraining of its operation, till it has unhinged every Christian duty.

And as this argument is inconsistent with an established profession of Christianity, so it appears to have been founded in a radical misapprehension. The appointment which the apostle made was official. They judged of the apparent qualification of the candidate for the ministry ; but we are not warranted to say, that, in this discharge of their office, they had such a particular direction of the Spirit as must have laid open to them the secrets of the probationer's heart, and ascertained his future conduct, On the contrary, it is evident that this was not always the case. The persons to be ordained were not, generally, selected by the apostles. The members of the church chose them out amongst themselves, judge ing by their apparent fitness, and set them before the apostles, with a testimonial, and recommendation. (acts, vi.) Here it is evident, that apostolical ordination, though necessary to constitute a Christian minister, is nothing more than an official act.

Hence it is recorded that, as one of our Lord's chosen apostles fell by transgression, so also some of those very ministers whom the apostles officially appointed fell into apostacy and error. Such was the case with one of the first deacons, who became the founder of a pernicious schism. Had the apostles acted in this official capacity,

under such a special direction as must have unveiled the heart of every minister whom they appointed, they could not have had 'occasion to complain of those false teachers, who were unawares introduced amongst the brethren. In this respect, they acted upon a general rule ; but a rule which was to be perpetual in the visible church. They laid hands suddenly on no man. · They attended to the recommendation of the brethren, and judged of apparent fitness and qualification, but acknowledged that God alone can judge the heart. 3;. But even supposing that the apostles had, in the discharge of this office, a spiritual direction, which is no longer manifest ; it must yet be remembered, that miracles were not designed to be perpetual. They were only to continue till the church should be fully established. Thus we are told that Christ) gave some, apostles ; and some prophets; and some, evangelists. All these were supported by an extraordinary and perceptible influence of the divine Spirit: but how long were they to be given?. Not for a perpetuity, but for a limited time, and till a certain end should have been attained. Till weit- the church-all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto perfect man ; unto the measure of the statures of the fulness of Christ that is, till the church of Christ be fully constitúted and established in its unity and integrity. PBut was the church authorised, after these extraordinary helps should have ceasb ed, to depart from the apostolical rule, and to'appoint ministers, by some optional rule of its own ? By no means. These aids were expressly given for the edifying of the body -or church of Christ: That: we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by i the sleight of men, and cunning craftis

. ness, whereby they "lie in wait to deceive but speaking the truth in love in the bond of charity—may I grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ : from whom the whole body, riTLY JOINED TOGETHER AND COMPACTED by that which EVERY JOINT SUPPLIETH, accorda ing to the effectual working, IN THE MEASURE OF PTERY PART, maketh increase

H 2

« PreviousContinue »