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religion would soon be banished from the earth. But God has a controversy with it, and it cannot stand.
2. A course of trial or probation is necessary to be observed in ordi. nation. This was expressly enjoined, as we have already seen, both in respect to pastors and deacons. The primitive church in her purest days observed it cautiously. The reason of the thing demands it, as by this means those who are called of God are discovered and chosen, and ineligible persons are manifest and rejected. Great benefits arise to the church from the observance of this regulation, and serious evils have been produced by neglecting it. As to the length of time during which it is to continue, as well as the manner of regulating it, the prudential regulations of the church will easily fix these, provided the great leading Scriptural canons are observed. For instance, when it will be seen that the person lives blamelessly, acts piously, has become qualified to instruct others, and possesses those marks of a divine call already brought to view-and all this for such a length of time, and under such circumstances, as to prove satisfactorily that the candidate is a proper person to be inducted into the ministry—then he may be formally intrusted with the minister's office.
3. The approbation, election, or recommendation of his fellow-Chris. tians is an important part of a Scriptural ordination to the ministry.
In the case of Matthias the apostle, the disciples or private Christians chose or elected two, and proposed them to the apostles as fit persons, either of whom they recommended as qualified to fill the place of Judas. The very fact, too, of their choosing, two, when one only was to be appointed, shows that there was a controlling power in the apostles to decide which was the more proper person. The apostles, however, decided by an immediate appeal to God, through the lot and prayer. Still it seems to be conceded, that it was the province of the disciples, or private church members, to choose and recommend fit persons to fill the principal office in the church. In the case in hand they were limited in their choice, as, the persons to be chosen must, by divine authority, be of the dis. ciples, and such disciples too as had companied with the apostles all the time that the Lord Jesus went out and in among them, from the baptism of John to the ascension, so that he might be a witness with the other apostles of the resurrection, Acts i, 21. Thus they were limited in their choice to those only who were disciples, and to such of these as had been constant companions of Christ, and eye-witnesses of his public ministry, his death, resurrection, and ascension.
In the instance, too, of the appointment of deacons, the multitude of the disciples, or private members of the church, were called upon by the apostles to select, or look up, from among themselves, seven men, of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. Accordingly they chose seven, and set them before the apostles; that is, they chose them, and recommended them to the apostles as fit persons to be appointed deacons. Here too the disciples were limited in two respects : 1. They were not permitted to choose the deacons from any other class of men except from the disciples; and they were limited even in this, that those of their choice should be persons" of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” Thus the divine precept limited them to the disciples, and to disciples possessing certain qualifications. 2. The apostles had a negative on their choice.
Accordingly, this practice of the disciples, in the appointment of an apostle and deacons, seems to have obtained generally in the apostolic age. Ananias and the disciples of Damascus were the honored instruments in the hand of God to instruct, approve of, and introduce St. Paul, both into the church and the ministry of the word. Under their direction he was converted, and directed and encouraged to prosecute his ministry. This, however, was not done with the same formalities observed in the cases of Matthias and the deacons. As if God would teach us, that human rituals, or any rituals, do not enter into the essence of spiritual things.
Although the narrative of the apostolic epistles and the Acts does not furnish us with details to enable us to decide from the words that, in ordaining to the ministry, the people always approved and recommended the candidates, yet we have good reason to believe that this was a general observance in the days of the apostles. We have three prominent cases in the instances of Paul, Matthias, and the seven deacons. There are several passages of Scripture which imply it. There are several of the canons to be observed in ordain. ing ministers that require such approbation and recommendation; and the practice which immediately followed the days of the apostles confirms this as the sense of all sober men. Nor do the powers exercised by the apostles, by Timothy or Titus, or by others authorized by them, require a contrary mode of proceeding. Because the apostles themselves, in the two cases already adduced, where they exercised too their highest apostolical function, had recourse to the consent, election, and recommendation of the people. We may justly infer, too, that the plenary powers exercised by Timothy and Titus at Ephesus and in Crete, required that the consent of the pious should be had in selecting men to the ministry.
Hence, as was just said, the primitive church carefully observed this in the selection of ministers and deacons. This appears from the extract given from Cyprian. From this we learn that the people, who knew the men, were to judge whether they were persons of good moral standing, and possessed of such gifts as, in their opinion, were required in the minister. A perusal of the extract will present this in a clear light.
It is proper to observe here, that the choice of the people in this case is not left to a mere arbitrary decision. They have no power to make ministers. They can only, according to Scriptural rules, ascertain who are called of God; and when they ascertain this, they are to recommend or approve of them as fit persons to be appointed by the pastors to minister in holy things.
We must also note here, that it is only the true disciples of Christ, or pious Christians, who are the electors or recommenders of ministers. The wicked and irreligious are not members of the church - are not disciples, and therefore are not allowed to act in the choice of ministers. If it happen that the wicked and irreligious bear rule in any church, then it proves that this is not a church of Christ; it is the synagogue of Satan. The pious only are members, and they only are true electors in the case in hand. Hence, when discipline is neglected, and the wicked rule, the appointments made
by such are null and void. Consequently, at an early age in the church, when popular elections of corrupt men governed the church, the elections of bishops became scenes of tumult. To remedy this, the clergy, in the place of reforming or expelling their wicked church members, deprived the pious of the right of suffrage in recommending pastors. This gave rise to other abuses, and contributed its share to the prostration of primitive Christianity ;-or rather, perhaps, it was one of the first-fruits of neglecting the Scriptural discipline which recognizes those only as members of the church, or catechumens, who have the form of godliness and are seeking the power of it. So dangerous is it to overlook the plain Scriptural canons or rules given for our direction. And this becomes ten-fold worse when a mere unauthorized form is put in the place of ministerial qualifications or Scriptural attainments.
4. The election, choice, appointment, or approval of the ministers connected with the candidate, is a Scriptural element of ordination to the ministry.
We find that the eleven apostles were particularly concerned in the appointment of Matthias. The twelve ordained or appointed the seven deacons whom the disciples chose and recommended. Barnabas first, and then the other apostles, received St. Paul, and gave him the right hand of fellowship, when they had been assured that he was truly called to the work, and the works of an apostle had been performed by him. Even when Paul and Barnabas were appointed to a certain work, the prophets and teachers, under the direction of the Holy Ghost, separated Paul to the work whereunto he had been called to wit, that he might preach among the Gentiles of a certain district of country. Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in every city throughout a portion of Asia.
From what has been said, it will also appear that they had the right of controlling or rejecting nominations made by the people. So that if persons, not possessing the true qualifications, were by any means nominated or recommended for the ministry, they could reject such as ineligible to the ministry of Christ.
Nor can we believe that they, any more than the people, could lawfully elect or choose to the ministry those who were disqualified for its duties. In this they had no power to choose. They could discern who was the man whom God chose, but they could not choose a wicked, ignorant, or irreligious man to be a minister of Christ A departure from this has been the source of innumerable evils in the church of God. The choice of God must precede the selection or recognition of man.
5. The ceremonies and rites to be used in ordination.
(1.) Naming, numbering, or putting on the list of ministers. This seems to be all the formality used by our Lord. After he had chosen or selected his apostles from the disciples, he placed, or numbered, or enrolled them among his ministers. So our Lord successively enrolled from among his disciples till he had the number twelve on his list. Hence it is said of Judas, that he was numbered with the apostles, Acts i, 17. And when Matthias was chosen, the same expression is used; for after the lots were cast, and the choice fell on Matthias, it is said, “He was NUMBERED with the eleven apostles,” Acts i, 26. Connected with this was calling or naming
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them. So those whom Christ chose to preach, he called them by the name of apostles. This seems to be all the appointment, or consecration, or election which the first apostles received; they were selected by our Lord from among the disciples, were named apostles or missionaries, and were numbered or put on the list of such. This same practice seems to mingle itself with the appointments to the ministry which took place after the resurrection. So it appears the Jews appointed their elders, by merely calling or naming them Rabbi. The want of form in many of the appointments referred to or mentioned in the New Testament can be accounted for in no other way, than that their ceremonials were very little else than merely naming and numbering the persons with the ministers already appointed.
(2.) The lot. This was appealed to in the case of Matthias alone; and though its use is of divine and apostolic origin, it is entirely disused in selecting for the ministry. We can account for this only in this way: that when a call from God began to be overlooked in ordaining ministers, and when human election was mostly substituted for the choice of heaven, the lot was rejected because it was an immediate appeal to God. We think, however, there is now no need to recur to its use, though this might be done with nearly as much Scriptural authority as to use imposition of hands.
(3.) Fasting was sometimes associated with ordination. Its use cannot be objected to; yet it cannot enter into the essence of Scriptural ordination.
(4.) Prayer. This seems to have been of general use in selecting ministers. It may be considered justly as the principal part of the ceremony, as imposition of hands itself is little else than a form of prayer. It is only when prayer is used as a charm or spell that it becomes objectionable.
(5.) Imposition of hands. It has been already shown that this ceremony was not used in appointing the principal ministers of the New or Old Testament, and that it was used only in ordaining deacons, or ministers of tables. It might, without invalidity or irregularity, be disused by the church. Yet it is appropriate and significant, and may be used to advantage when stripped of the garb of incantation with which it has been for the most part invested.
6. The ordainer or consecrator.
This has been the great stumbling-stone of those who have made ordination to consist principally of forms.
(1.) True Christian people, approving, testifying, or recommend ing candidates, are the first actors in ordination. This appears evident from what has been said.
(2.) The elders or pastors, electing, or choosing proper persons, take part in ordination. We have not room to enlarge here on this head; yet, from what has been written respecting the elders or pastors, this too must be a settled point in the estimation of candid persons.
(3.) Those delegated by the church to appoint persons formally in behalf of the church are actors in this matter. These are presbyters or bishops, chosen by the body of presbyters to separate formally those whom the laity recommend, and whom the presbyters elect. Our limits here do not allow us to enlarge.
(4.) Hence ordination is the joint work of the people, pastors, and superintendents of the church, in which a person duly qualified is separated for the work of the ministry, in some formal Scriptural form, accompanied with prayer.
We say it is to be accompanied with prayer, because this refers the choice to God. Prayer was always used in all kinds of appointments to the ministry, and the absence of it would involve the charge of irreligion.
That some kind of form may be used, because, in all the cases we have an account of, with any circumstantiality, a formal process has been observed. Our Lord appointed his apostles by naming and numbering, or enrolling them ; Matthias was chosen by lot, and then numbered or enrolled; or the deacons' hands were imposed, accompanied with prayer. Thus some form was used; yet the forms did vary from each other in those cases recorded in Scripture. The form is not essential. Whatever Scriptural form the church approves of ordinarily ought to be observed.
The person must be duly qualified. On this enough has been said.
Ordination, in the foregoing definition, is said to be a joint work of the people, pastors, and special officers of the church. If the will or judgment of the people be overlooked, there is a great irregularity in the ordination, though we would not say the ordination is invalid, provided the candidate was duly qualified. When special officers, as bishops or selected elders, are not chosen to ordain, there is great want of formality and regularity; yet we would not maintain that an ordination of a proper person chosen by the people or elders was therefore invalid. If the body of elders connected with the candidate do not act in the case, then there is a very serious irregularity, which approaches to an invalidity. Hence those ordinations made by the Church of Rome by their prelates, without the joint acts of people or presbyters, are highly irregular, and most of them are absolutely invalid, because of the ineligibility of the candidates. The same may be said of the ordinations of the English Church, where neither people nor elders were consulted. Thus invalidity or irregularity, or both, are chargeable to a very great extent against the ordination both of Romish and Protestant Successionists. Their ordinations for Scriptural character are not to be compared with the ordinations of those who select pious and gifted men, by the recommendation of the people, the election of the pastors, and by such special officers whom they may see fit to intrust with the formal consecration, whatever Scriptural form may be used on the occasion.
Had we time and space, we could advantageously prove that ordination to the ministry in the Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as among the Wesleyan Methodists, may safely challenge comparison with the ordination practiced by any branch of the Successionists, whether Protestant or popish, and be a large gainer by the examination. This, however, may be attempted at a future time. It might also be a matter of some curiosity to present before the reader the ordinals of Exclusionists, as their notorious defects would serve to show how much they have departed from Scripture and antiquity. Perhaps this also may be attempted at a future period, if life, health, and opportunities permit.