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Levitical Priesthood and the Christian Ministry, he will be struck with the minuteness of detail displayed in the history of the former, and the barrenness of circumstance and utter indifference preserved in the notices of the foundation of the latter. While in Moses we are presented with an express code of laws for the institution of the Jewish bierarchy, in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles every thing is learnt concerning the Christian Ministry incidentally. Moreover in the establishment of the Jews we find every thing arranged before the polity is set in motion; whereas in that of Christians every thing, with respect to church government, is left to the moment when necessity shews the occasion for it. Thus the order of deacons arose out of the mere exigency of the occasion, and not by any predetermined law; thus shewing, that when the exigency ceased, the order might also. In Acts, xi. 30, we first discover, by chance, that the chief Christians at Jerusalem had assumed the title of Presbyters or Elders, which we afterwards learn is synonymous with bishops; but how they came to adopt that title we are not informed. We learn afterwards, xiv. 23, that Barnabas and Saul ordained elders in every city and that the latter enjoined Titus to do the same, Tit. i. 5; but no where, as in the laws of Moses, is there any express directions given to the church at large for the establishment of different orders, or for the appointment of any different orders to distinct duties. Preaching the word, baptising for the remission of sins, laying on of hands, administering the sacrament, all necessarily attend the propagation of Christianity ; but there is not one law in the gospel that assigns these duties respectively to distinct orders of men. The instances we have above adduced on the contrary shew that they belong, of divine right, to all. The Hebrews, xiii. 17, are exhorted to obey
those that have the rule over them; but in what this rule consisted, or who were to have it, is no where defined : suffice it, observe, that according to St. Paul's confession of his own authority, it did not consist in having dominion over the faith of the converts, 2 Cor. i. 24: nor as St. Peter has it, in being lords over the clergy (Two xańzw), as the people are called. 1 Peter, v.3. The Corinthians, again, are exhorted to do all things decently and in order ; but by this very injunction, it appears, that it was left to them partly to determine what order and decency were. All what then has been since done in the church has been built upon no law, but the mere practice of the Apostles; and what that practice was, neither as to what is recorded, nor as to what is not recorded in Scripture, is there any universal agreement. And indeed, if there were, where there is no law, one precedent is as good as another as to validity, whether it declare the rights of the People or the custom of the Ministry. The inference to be drawn from all this plainly is, that the imposition of any particular laws upon the Society of Christians was incompatible with that perfect law of liberty which was brought in by the gospel—that any regulations, which Christians did not themselves assent to, (and of course they would assent to those temporary ones which they knew the apostles were best able to lay down), would be an open infringement of those divine rights which Christ commanded should be accorded equally to all-that any permanent settling of particular orders of ministers upon the church would be the means of defeating the main design of Christianity, which was finally to abolish all these distinctions in the perfect enjoyment of the rights of priesthood by all and every one, as it is written : “Christ will reign till he has put down all rule and all authority and power.” 1 Cor. xv. 24. So far, therefore, was there any thing
from being laid down concerning Church Rule, that on the other hand there seems to be a remissness in that matter entirely designed ; and so far are the offices of the entire Priesthood of Christians from being rigidly, sacredly, and inviolably transferred and confined to their servants, the Ministry, that circumstances in the sacred history prove directly the contrary; and though for the sake of temporary convenience a certain portion of the Christian priesthood were permitted to be the more particular depositaries of the Christian mysteries; yet every Christian had an inherent original right to assert the sacerdotal office, when necessity shewed the occasion for it, and time proved the utility of it. It is plain, that when the Levitical priesthood was abolished by converting all Christians into priests, as partakers of the benefits of the end of that institution--viz. the typified sacrifice of Christ Jesus, whose blood they might ever after feed upon-(a priest, lepiùs, means a sacrificer)--the new unprecedented order of the Ministry (I shall not call it the clergy, because that is a mis-nomer) arose, in order to bring to effect this new transformation ; and so far is it from being, that this new institution is similar to that of the Levitical priesthood, to whose dignity the whole body of Christians are successors, that on the contrary there is a difference between them in two most essential points : whereas the Levitical priesthood enjoyed an acknowledged superiority of rank in the commonwealth of Israel, and were the exclusive servants of God, the ministry occupy the place that the Levites, who were not priests, and the Nethinims did, and as their name imports, are the professed servants of men, a subject, subsidiary institution, and consequently removable when necessary, It ought always to be kept in mind, what seems sometimes to be forgotten, that the ministry are not the
church, but the servants of the church.
That body can think it no disrespect, that we quote the words of their master, who has made the service honorable.
In vain then will you search the Scriptures, which are able to make wise unto salvation, for any laws concerning the orders of the Ministry. You will only discover the practice of the apostles, which was afterwards converted into a custom. And even then you will not find it customary for there to be the three orders, bishops or overseers, presbyters or elders, mis-named priests, and deacons. Elders were the supreme dignity of which bishops or overseers described the office. At Philippi we find saints, bishops, and deacons to be the component parts of a church, Phil. i. 1, where necessarily bishops, being plural, must signify elders. Titus we find is enjoined i. 5, to ordain elders in every city; and their qualifications are described under the title of bishops, 7. At Ephesus St. Paul called the elders of the church, Acts, xx. 17 and 28, declared that the Holy Ghost had made them bishops (overseers) to feed the church of God. The apostles themselves were elders or bishops, without any other head than Christ, (Acts, i. 20; 1 Peter, v. l; 2 John, i. 1; 3 John, i. l; compare 2 Tim. i. 6, with 1 Tim. iv. 14), differing from other elders in this respect, as having each the care of all the churches, 2 Cor. xii. 28, or the church universal; while the rest had the care only of particular churches, each of which had many. The apostles then could have had no real successors. It has been said that Timothy, Titus, and Epaphroditus were the first bishops, or heads of bishops, respectively of Ephesus, Crete, anit of Philippi; but from the evidence of Scripture alone, this must be far from being the truth. It is plain that they were sub-apostles, agents and emissaries or companions of the apostle Paul, and could not have had the
permanent care of any particular church. Timothy could no more have been bishop of Ephesus, than bishop of Corinth, 1 Cor. xvi. 10, bishop of Philippi, ii. 19, or bishop of the Thessalonians, 1 Thess. iii. 2. From 1 Tim. i. 3, it is evident, that his residence at Ephesus was to be only temporary, to establish the Ephesians in the faith, as it had been among the Thessalonians for the same purpose, 1 Thess. iii. 2. and to ordain, as Titus was commissioned to do in Crete, a sufficient number of the two orders of the ministry, bishops, or elders and deacons, whose qualifications are so systematically described, as to leave no doubt that only these two orders existed, 1 Tim. iii.; and that it was only temporary, perhaps for not so much as a year, appears from 2 Tim. iv. 13, where St. Paul desires him to bring with him the cloak, which he had left at Troas, to Rome : shewing, that he neither, if he had been at Ephesus, was to stay there, nor really was at Ephesus when this Epistle was written, since Troas did not lay in the way of Ephesus to Rome, whither he was directed to go as quickly as he could. The subscriptions to the Epistles are of no authority, as six of them are shewn to be erroneous by Paley; and the subscription to 2 Tim. may be added to the number. That Timothy generally attended St. Paul, may be proved from his name being joined with the latter's in the inscriptions of six of St. Paul's Epistles. 2 Cor. Philip. Colloss. 1 and 2 Thess. and Philemon; at the writing of which they were supposed to have been at Macedonia, Rome, and Corinth. To maintain that he is an apostle who is an agent of another apostle, or that he is a bishop or head of presbyters who leaves his see to obey the commands of another, is only to maintain, that one name can be extended to represent two things, about only one of which there is any contention. That Titus was bishop of Crete