Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

was confined to “ the lost sheep of the house of “ Ifrael;" on which account St. Paul calls him a “minister of the circumcision,” and he was frequently styled—“ the King of the Jews.” But as his death was to take away the distinction between Jew and Gentile, so after his resurrection he declared, that “all power was given to him in heaven and in “ earth;” as a proof of which, he enlarged the power of his apostles, and gave them a full and absolute commission, to convert, baptize and teach, not the Jews only, but “all nations." The nature of their commission is sufficiently expressed by our Lord's telling them-“ As my Father hath “sent me, even so send I you ;" which plainly shewed, that as the Father had sent and empowered him, to collect, constitute and govern his church, and or. dain ministers in it, so he devolved this miflion and power upon them; and as before they had been on. ly his personal attendants, waiting his orders from his own mouth, they were now to stand in his stead, to be officers in trust for the regular administration of the affairs of his kingdom, and to have authority to fend others, for the purpose of carrying on and perpetuating the same plan which he had set on foot, even unto the end of the world. Though they were thus sent by him, even as he had been sent by the Father, yet it is certain, they could not be sent as mediators and redeemers, as he was ; for there is but “one Mediator between God and men, the “man Christ Jesus.” This new commission there

fore fore must be understood only of the authority of government and discipline in the church, which Christ himself had received of the Father, and of ordaining others to the same office, to which the apostles themselves had been called by virtue of their ordination. While our Lord himself continued per. fonally present with them, they had a commission to baptize, and preach the gospel, and to do such things as were most likely to gain credit to their doctrine. But now being sent in a more ample and solemn manner, to supply the place of their absent Master, and carry on the work, which he had begun, they were empowered to convey to others that Epis. copal Authority, which they themselves had received from the chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls ; that so there might be a continual, uninterrupted fuccefsion of ecclesiastical governors and pastors, who, in consequence of his gracious promise, were to hope for the blessing of his spiritual presence, protection and aslistance in the execution of their sacred office, even unto the end of the world.

Thus were the apostles exalted to the highest station in the church, according to the account which St. Paul gives of this matter, when he tells usthat “ God hath set some in the church, first apof56 tles.”I He set them first, not only in order of time, but in dignity of oflice, and distinguished them as the governors of the church, under Christ

its

[ocr errors]

1 Cor. xi. 28.

its supreme Head: Which enlargement of their power we find them soon after exercising, by electing one to fill up the place of Judas, which had fallen vacant by his miserable end, and prescribing several rites to be observed by the members of their spiritual society. But though the apostles were thus constituted the principal labourers in God's vineyard, it cannot be supposed, from the daily increase of the work which it required, that they could long be able to attend to all the minuter parts and branches of it. They therefore found it necessary, according to the model established by their blessed Master, to continue that other inferior order of church officers, in which capacity themselves had served under him, while he was upon earth. These are often mentioned under the title of presbyters or elders, though the express time and manner of ordaining them be not particularly recorded. Thus we are told of the apostles Paul and Barnabas, that in the course of their travels “ for confirming the souls of the disci“ples, they ordained them elders or presbyters in “every church.'* St. James directs the sick to e call for the elders or presbyters of the church to “ pray for them.”+ St. Peter warns those to whom he wrote, to be sobedient to their elders, and he

exhorts these elders or presbyters to feed the “flock of God which was among them.”I St. Paul puts Titus in mind, that he “ had left him," as ' R

bishop,

A&s, xiv, 23.

+ St. James, y. 14.

i St. Peter, v. 1-S.

[ocr errors]

bishop, 6 in Crete, that he should set in order the “ things that were wanting, and ordain elders in " every city."* The elders, in all these paffages, are the same with presbyters or priests, the second order of ministers in the church, whom we may suppose St. Paul to have had in his eye, when, after mentioning—that “God had set some in the church, “first apostles”—he added, “ secondarily prophets ;" the word prophet being often applied to signify a person acting by a divine commission, and employed in God's immediate service, but without conveying the idea of his foretelling future events, which is now commonly affixed to the word prophet.

But we have farther to observe, from the infor. mation given us in the history of the apostles, that soon after they had received their Episcopal power, they ordained another order of church ministers, who, from the nature of their office, were peculiar. ly distinguished as deacons or servants. There were seven of these ordained at first, because the apostles judged such a number sufficient to supply the necefli. ties of the church at that time. They had the charge of the poor people, and took care of the charitable collections that were made for their re. lief. But they had also authority, as they now have with their bishop's license, to preach the gospel, and to baptize where a higher minister cannot be had. Thus we find Philip, who was one of them, bap

tizing

• Titus, i. 5.

tizing the eunuch,* while Stephen another of them suffered death, for preaching the gospel to his own countrymen.t Accordingly this office was regularly continued in the church; and in every council or fynod, mention is made of the deacons, their pow. ers are confirmed, and their duties explained, as being the persons alluded to, whom the apostle says, God has set in the church, as " thirdly teach. sers.”

These seem to be all the standing orders establithed in the church; which therefore St. Paul, we fee, distinguishes in a particular manner, by men. tioning them in their regular order_“ first apostles, “ secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers :" Which three gradations of office, thus distinguishing the Christian, as they had before distinguished the Jewish dispensation, were carefully and constantly preferved in the primitive church, and spread, with the spreading of the gospel, to the very ends of the earth. In every kingdom and corner of the con. verted world, we find the bishops, as the successors of the apostles in all their ordinary powers, presiding over their several portions of the flock of Christ; administering the sacred rite of confirmation, as the seal or fanction of admission into that flock; ordain. ing presbyters, as the pastors of its several congregations, and deacons for the particular services allotted to their order; and exercising their Episcopal au

R 2

thority,

Tere

[ocr errors]

• Afts, viii. 38.

+ Ads, vi and vii.

f 1 Cor. xii. 28.

« AnteriorContinuar »