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genuine God of Liberty; and these two or three formed a church.- For as differences among Christians were to be referred to the church, and two or three were sufficient to decide : so two or three formed a church. Matth. xviii. 15-20. How then, will it be asked, came the offices of the Priesthood, which were common to all, to be vested in a particular body of men, the Ministry? The answer is easy : by the general practice begun by the Apostles, which afterwards became a custom, done for the good of the Christian republic. For whereas in civil society a man gives up a part of his natural rights to secure the rest : so in an ecclesiastical society, a man gives up a part of his divine rights for the better edification of the whole body of Christ. So far is it then from being, that there is such a thing as the divine rights of the ministry or clergy, as they are misnamed, that, on the contrary, they have no divine rights, but it is the people who have the divine rights; and consequently all ecclesiastical institutions stand upon the same basis as all civil iustitutions, the will of society—which will rests in the great body of the people. Now I shall give intances from scripture to show that the people had these divine rights; and then I shall show that the Ministry have no divine rights, but exist from mere custom, and for the supposed good of the church.
I. When the disciples had been disputing among themselves, who should be the greatest, and our Lord undeceived them, by extending equality to all, thwarted in their ambition of ruling over each other, they desired to learn how far their authority was to extend over the rest of mankind. The Apostles, no doubt, concluded that their's was the only legal establishment from which all authority was to be derived, and which was to give laws to the rest of mankind. Their minds were very probably
imbued with notions necessarily current at that time about the divine rights of the priesthood. Fire and earthquakes were, of course, to consume and swallow up, as formerly, in the case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, all gainsayers.-Luke ix. 54. They were to be invested with exclusive privileges to loose and bind, without any control in their jurisdiction, so that there might be “none that moved the wing, opened the mouth, or peeped." Though then, they found they were mistaken as to any precedency of rank being instituted with regard to themselves; yet they had no doubt that they were vastly superior, by the Lord's ordination, to the rest of mankind : but as possibly, they might be mistaken in this matter, as in the other, St. John obliquely put the question to the Searcher of hearts, who answered it in as oblique a manner. We will transcribe the whole passage, where the train of St. John's thoughts may be easily detected, and the point of our Saviour's answer be readily felt.—Mark ix. 28–40. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting. And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him. And he came to Capernaum :, and being in the house, he asked them, What was it thạt ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace : for by the way they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child,
and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not : for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.” Here then we have it. The twelve had neither any right of precedency over one another, nor by any necessary law of Christianity any divine authority over the rest of mankind. This was not the time in which Korah, Dathan, and Abiram Jived. The twelve “ knew not” as yet " what manner of spirit they were of :” they knew not, as yet, that " wherever the spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.” Divine rights were now extended to all.“ He that is not against us is on our part! which in the relation of the same circumstance by the generally more diffuse, St. Luke, ix. 50. is the only inference drawn. Those who were not of the establishment of the twelve could perform miracles, while the establishment themselves could not. God is no respecter of persons. II. When the Holy Spirit was imparted to the twelve, and they had a complete insight into the genius of Christianity, our Lord's providence over the church again prevented any notions from arising, that the same spirit which dragged Judaism along, gave vigor to Christianity. He established a precedent at once brilliant, as it was significant, which is enough to overthrow all succeeding pretensions to legitimate linear authority being vested exclusively in a distinct order. Let every Christian give all due weight to the matter, when
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he learns it, that the first Gentile church was founded by Laymen! and that from that church the disciples first received the honorable title of Christians.--Acts xi. 1930. No sensible man will believe that this was not designed. He who had been so careful in the regulation of the Jewish economy, as not to suffer a thread to be out of place, would never have permitted any thing to pass in the Christian, from which any wrong inference might be drawn. It is at any rate plain from this, that it was immaterial how Christianity was spread, so long as it was done with some order. It is plain, that there was no fixed rigorous rule established, by which all were to derive their authority from any particular source.
The Apostles sent a commissioned man, Barnabas, in all speed · to the church of Antioch, when the news reached their ears concerning its establishment, lest any thing should have gone on amiss. But it was all right. "He saw the grace of God, and was glad !” There was nothing to be done: because the non-commissioned men had necessarily baptised and broken bread together, before his arrival, and done our modern bishops' office of laying on of hands. For if he saw the grace of God when he came, it is plain that the case of the church of Antioch was not like that of the church of Samaria, who when they received the word of God, required Peter and John to lay hands on them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost,-Acts viii. 14–17. The fact is, the men of Antioch were well aware of “the doctrine of laying on of hands;" and took that office upon themselves : for the grace of God, which Barnabas saw, when he came, necessarily implies, that the Holy Ghost had been already imparted by that ceremony, or, at any rate, that all things necessary had been done. He was glad too: he did not blame them--because, forsooth, they only exercised their own divine rights—but “ exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they
would cleave unto the Lord.” What Barnabas did then amounted to mere exhortation : and Barnabas, instead of giving a commission to the Gentile church, received one from it.-Acts xi. 30. III. The great Apostle of the Gentiles was an apostle neither “of men nor by man,”— Gal. i. 1; and he “ ministered to the Lord" before he ever received a particular commission from the church, Acts xiii. 1, 2: and then it was from the lay-founded church of Antioch. This was another splendid precedent to prove that there was no rigorous law ever intended to be observed, by which a man was to seek his anthority always from one particular source: for had the Lord ever designed that to be the case, there would have been no difficulty in having had St. Paul ballotted in, like Matthias, into the number of the Apostles,-Acts i. 26. But no: St. Paul asserted his equality with those who seemed to be somewhat; and they willingly gave him the right hand of fellowship,—Gal. ii. 6. 9. IV. The account of the nine different gifts, which were distributed among all the members of the church of Corinth, 1 Cor. xii, annihilates the distinction between clergy and laity; and in a professed detail of the component parts of a church, the mention only of those officers who were distinguished by them and the glaring omission of the three orders, bishops, presbyters, and deacons, (for no one will affirm that modern bishops are Apostles,) which seems to have induced Dr. Hales to attempt remedying the deficiency by converting “ governments”. into those orders, thus putting his new patch into an old garment, and making the rent worse, (for how can "governors” come after “helps" and “ Apostles,”) irrefragably prove, that orders, unless accompanied by particular spiritual endowments, of which there exist now only the ordinary graces of the Holy Ghost, made no necessary part of the church.-Hales' Anal. of Chron, Vol. 11. p. 968, note. The “ Judicious