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nothing to appréhend from the exertion of that authority which I possess over the faith of the church in this respect, I should only have been a promoter of your joy, because you have stood firm in the true faith of the Gospel.
So far, then, are these words from sup porting the doctrine, that the apostles, and apostolical ministers, disclaim all controuling power, and authoritative superintendance, over the faith of the Christian church, that they clearly imply the very contrary.
But, lest this explication should not prove satisfactory to those who have taken up the text in a different point of view—lest the expression of exercising dominion, which is here employed, should be thought too strong to describe the real power of the apostles-I shall take occasion to enquire, in what sense they may be said to disclaim a dominion over the faith of their converts; and what kind of authority they did assert and exercise over the whole Christian church.
Authority may be understood as either absolute or deputed. Absolute authority
is that of a sovereign lord or prince, who asserts a power in his own right, or, by an assumed prerogative, to deliberate upon the condition of others,, to enact laws according to the dictates of his own will or private judgment, and to abrogate or alter them at pleasure. Whereas deputed authority is that which pertains to a governor of a province, who acts by commission from another, whose powers are limited and defined by the terms of his commission, and who is accountable to his superior for the faithful execu→ tion of the trust committed to his charge.
Now, as Christians are the servants and subjects of Christ, it is clear that no man can assert an absolute or despotic authority over their faith or conduct, as to religious matters, without usurpation. And it is equally clear, from the New Testament, that no such optional power was claimed by the apostles, or acknowledged to pertain to them.
Our Lord charges those whom he appoints to the superintendance of his churchBe not ye called Rabbi-my Master-for one your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. (Matt. xxiii, 8.)
And in another place-Ye know that the princes of the gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them but it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. (Matt. xx. 25, 26.) Here an arbitrary or deliberative authority over the faith is expressly refused to the apostles. And they, acting under this restriction, considered themselves as not possessing a right to teach any doctrine of their own device. St. James, having exposed the error of some, who maintained that faith, without works of righteousness, was sufficient for salvation, adds this general charge-My brethren, be not many masters-221 Sidaona201-many teachers of systems-knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation: for in many things we offend all. (Jam. iii. 1, 2.)-We are all liable to err, if we indulge in private speculations.
St. Peter thus distinguishes between the lawful authority of apostolical ministers, and that power which they were forbidden to assume :-The elders which are among you, I exhort, who am also an elder :-Feed the
flock of God, which is among you, taking the oversight-episcopacy-thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: neither as being lords-absolute masters-over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (1 Pet. v. 1-3.)
Thus it appears, that an absolute dominion over the faith of the church is utterly disclaimed by the apostles of Christ; who, nevertheless, did assert a superintending authority. They were not masters, but stewards they were those faithful and wise servants, whom their Lord made rulers over his household, to give them meat in due season. (Matt. xxiv. 45.)
Accordingly, they did not pretend to the exercise of arbitrary power, but confined them to the less presuming office of acting under a limited and defined commission, and teaching only what they had received.
Thus St. Paul declares, that he counted not his life dear unto himself, so that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God. (Acts, xx. 24.) (3) ... à
And so far is this apostle from asserting an arbitrary dominion over the faith of his converts, or a deliberative power to modify the doctrine of the Gospel according to the suggestions of his own mind, that he thus fully disclaims all such authority, in his first epistle to the Corinthians :-Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful: but with me it is a very small thing that I should be judg ed of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self; for I KNOW NOTHING BY MYSELF. (1 Cor. iv. 1-4.)
This is not the language of a man who ex ercises the right of private judgment over the doctrine which he teaches, or concedes to others the exercise of such a right. His authority is merely that of a minister or steward. He is responsible for the faithful execution of the charge committed to him, without addition, diminution, or perversion.
And of such importance did he esteem it, for his converts to have a right apprehension of this matter, that he frequently inculcates the same truth in this very epistle. Thus