ONE of the most important considerations connected with the Christian Ministry, and too frequently lost sight of in the present day, is its divine institution. When our Saviour quitted this lower world, he left the government of his church expressly in the hands of his Apostles, whom he promised to endow with every necessary gift, and whose decrees he declared should be binding upon his disciples to the end of time. Their official acts were virtually the acts of Christ himself, for they acted not only by his delegated authority, but under the immediate influence of his Holy Spirit. Now we know from their own writings, as well as from the testimony of ecclesiastical bistory, that they not only ordained men to the ministry themselves, but gave authority to others to do the same. Thus were Timothy and Titus empowered and enjoined to “set in order things that were wanting” in the several churches which they visited, “ and to ordain elders in every city.” From that day to this, elders have been ordained by men who were severally authorized by their immediate predecessors; and of every one who has been thus ordained, it may be said, in the language of St. Paul, that “ a dispensation of the gospel has been given to him, and that woe will be unto him if he preach not the gospel.”


In a

That the ministers of God's word and sacraments are to be considered as divinely appointed to their respective offices, may be deduced also from the general tenor of the writings of the New Testament. The apostle Paul, in adverting to the various agencies which were then employed for the benefit of the church, and the spread of Christianity, traces them all up to the great Head of the church, as their origin and source. " When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto

. . And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”ı similar manner he speaks of himself and his fellowlabourers, in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, ? where he traces up all to the same divine source:

" All things are of God.... who hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” And in the same chapter he adds, " Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us.” And is there not an important sense in which every. Christian minister, inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to · desire the office of a presbyter,' as a thing preeminently

good,' and regularly set apart to the same, by the imposition of authorized hands, may now be regarded as an 66 Ambassador for Christ ?” And is he not justified in claiming from professed Christians such a recognition of his divine appointment, as is implied in the words of the apostle ; “ Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God ?” Eph. iv. 8, 11, 12.

2 Chap. v. 18.


But how much soever the ministerial office may be contemned by others ; how low soever their conceptions of its authority or its source; the minister himself must “magnify his office.” It is of the utmost importance, that he entertain elevated notions both of its sanctity and its dignity. The welfare of the people committed to his charge, no less than the formation and maintenance of his own character requires him to be well persuaded “ of what dignity, and of how great importance the office is, whereunto he has been called.” Hence the stress which is laid upon it in the Ordination Service of our church. And now again,' (observes the Bishop, whilst addressing those about to be admitted into the priestly office,) we exhort you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you have in remembrance into how high a dignity, and to how weighty an office and charge ye are called, that is to say, to be messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord, to teach and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family : to seek for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.'

There is a sense, doubtless, in which a Christian presbyter may be justly styled the minister or pastor of his flock-their watchmen, their messenger, their steward : but in a still higher and far more appropriate sense he is the minister of CHRIST, the watchman of the LORD OF Hosts, the messenger of JEHOVAH, the steward of God. As far as it respects the objects of his care, and watchfulness, and ministration, he is theirs, but when his original appointment, the source of his authority, his ultimate responsibility are referred to, he is wholly and entirely the LORD's.

Such is the scriptural view which he should take of the transcendant dignity of his sacred office. If he regard it with less respect and veneration, he will not fail to act in many respects in a manner at variance with its true character—a more secular spirit, and meaner motives and designs than become the sacred office, will be sure to mar his ministrations.

“The moment we permit ourselves to think lightly of the Christian ministry, our right arm is withered, nothing but imbecility and relaxation emains. For no man ever excelled in a profession to which he did not feel an attachment bordering on enthusiasm; though in other professions what is enthusiasm, is in ours the dictate of sobriety and truth.” 1

The reluctance which some persons feel to admit this view of the subject, may have arisen in part from a just indignation at the claims which have been set up by an arrogant priesthood to the almost idolatrous homage of a superstitious and ignorant people. But it should be remembered that the abuse of a doctrine or a truth is no just argument against the legitimate use. What, though proud and ambitious men arrogate to themselves that which is due only to their office, do they thereby make void the declarations and appointments of the unchangeable and faithful God ? No: “ let God be true, though every man be found a liar,”-let his own divine institution be had in honour, though all who are invested with it be

Hall's Sermon on the Discouragements and Supports of the Christian Ministry.

« VorigeDoorgaan »