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For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
BY REV. CHARLES ELLIOTT, A. M.
MANY persons are accustomed to consider imposition of hands to be of the same import with ordination, though, in truth, they are of very different acceptations. Ordination is the constituting or appointing of ministers to their office. Imposition of hands is only one of the ceremonies used on an ordination occasion, and stands in the same rank with reaching the Bible to the candidate, or any such rite; while it is inferior to the proper examination of the candidate's attainments, as well as to prayer, unless as imposition of hands may be itself a form of prayer. We have no fault to find with the use of this in the ritual of ordination, though we have an irreconcilable warfare against it as an essential part of ministerial ordination; and much more so when it is made the principal part of ordination, or when it is converted into ordination itself.
At an early age of Christianity, rites and forms of new and imposing import began to find their way into the church. At the same time the ancient ceremonials received more than their wonted attention. In process of time the mere ritual took the place, in a good degree, of the thing with which the rite was associated, and which it was intended to signify. The prayer for the thing was put in the place of the thing prayed for. Thus the precatory absolution employed when apostates returned to the church was used on all occasions where pardon was invoked. The precatory form, too, was soon turned into the absolute. Instead of praying, as at first, "Deus te absolvat," (May God absolve thee,) they pronounced authoritatively, "Ego te absolvo," (I absolve thee.) In ordination, too, the ceremony of imposition of hands, as the rite of consecration, after due preliminaries, began to be considered as an essential part of ordination.
When diocesan prelacy of modern stamp, the shadow of the primitive presbyterial episcopacy, came to be established, and after it metropolitical primacy and patriarchal superintendency, both ministers and people began to entertain superstitious notions of what VOL. X.—Jan., 1839.
have been called holy orders. When the approbation of the people and the election of the clergy were rejected, and very little else of the ancient ordinal was preserved except the consecrating act, by one man or a few, something exceedingly inscrutable and mysterious was believed to be in the ceremony. In the place of considering it, as before, to be a solemn rite, whereby the church expressed her opinion, that the subject thereof was a fit person, and endowed with gifts and graces to be useful in the ministry, and therefore set apart for this work, as well as to prevent the unqualified from entering into the vineyard,-they attached to it ideas that would better suit the art of magic, or divination, than the office of the gospel ministry. It was beheld as a sort of divine spell.
We are not, however, of those who reject an appropriate or significant ceremony, because it has been perverted to superstitious or wicked purposes. We deem it much better to attach a proper value to the rite, to guard against its wrong use, and still use the appropriate ceremony in its proper import. In the sacred office of ordination to the gospel ministry, we purpose, in this article, to examine the value and place of imposition of hands, as well as to present some views of the component parts and nature and design of ordination. The Scriptures will be our directory in this matter, according to whose decisions every thing connected with this topic must stand or fall. We shall inquire into,
I. The import of the words rendered TO ORDAIN, ORDINATION, &c. 1. The words "to ordain," "ordination," &c., which are currently made use of when we speak of the consecration of ministers to their office, are probably more misunderstood than any other terms in our language. By them, in common phraseology, we mean the same as imposition of hands, although the words themselves, in their radical import, or applied sense, convey no such idea, other than as we have generally associated the one with the other. To point out, make, elect, choose, appoint, constitute, or the like, is the general idea held out by the words employed to designate ordination. There are several Greek words used by the sacred writers which we render choose, appoint, ordain, &c., an examination of which, in their import when used to designate appointment to offices in general, and to the ministry in particular, may repay us for our trouble by leading us to a more correct view of the subject of ordination, or appointment to the gospel ministry.
In reference to this point, we shall lay down the following proposition, which we shall attempt to establish by an actual examination of the words in question, not by a mere reference to lexicons, but by producing the words in their various connections and acceptations-a process which was resorted to previously to the use of lexicons, is superior to their authority, and to which the lexicographer himself must be brought, and by this standard examined, tried, and censured or acquitted. Our proposition is this: That the words rendered "to ordain," "ordination," &c., do not, in their radical import or use, applied properly, mean or imply imposition of hands.
2. The first word we will examine is Toew, to make; but as applied to selecting persons for office, it signifies to make, constitute, appoint, or ordain, as the following quotations abundantly show:"When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take
him by force to make (iva noinowow, that they might make, constitute, or appoint) him a king," John vi, 15. "Who was faithful to him that appointed (T Tоinoavri, to him that made) him," Heb. iii, 2. "God hath made (εñoinσe, hath constituted, ordained) that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ," Acts ii, 36. In the foregoing passages there is certainly no reference to imposition of hands.
Take the following in connection with the foregoing: "Follow me, and I will make (onow) you fishers of men," Matt. iv, 19. "And he ordained (eñoinon, made, appointed) twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach," Mark iii, 14.
These quotations will show that the word made use of, in its prime meaning, signifies to make; and then, in its secondary and applied sense, means to appoint, constitute, ordain. There is nothing said of imposition of hands. Christ simply appointed them to be with him, and that he might send them occasionally to preach.
3. The next word we will mention is ava dɛikvνμai, to show plainly or openly, publicly to appoint to an office by some outward sign. "After these things the Lord appointed (avedežev, pointed out or chose) other seventy also, and sent them two by two before his face," Luke x, 1. As he before had chosen twelve disciples to be apostles, perhaps in reference to the twelve patriarchs, who were the chief of the twelve tribes, and the heads of the Jewish church, he now publicly appointed seventy others, as Moses did the seventy elders whom he associated with himself to assist him in the government of the people.
4. The next word we shall mention is ekλeyoμai, to choose, elect, and hence to choose, elect, or appoint to office or employment. It is in the following places applied to the appointment of the apostles to their office of apostleship by Christ, to translate which the word choose is employed: Luke vi, 13; John vi, 60; xiii, 18; xv, 16, 19; Acts i, 2, 24.
It is applied to the appointment of Stephen, (Acts vi, 5,) and there refers to the choice made by the whole multitude, and not to the imposition of the apostles' hands. It is used to designate Peter's appointment to preach to the Gentiles. (Acts xv, 7.)
It is used also to designate those who were sent to Antioch from the church in Jerusalem, with the decrees of the latter to the former respecting the Jewish ceremonies. (Acts xv, 22, 25.)
5. The verb in, which, in its radical import, signifies to stand, set, place, set up, is used in Acts to express the appointment of Joseph and Matthias as candidates for the apostleship: "And they (ernoav, set up) appointed two," Acts i, 23.
6. The verb yeveolai, to be, to be made, is used to designate the appointment of a person to fill up the vacancy occasioned by the death of Judas in the apostolic college. It is in our translation rendered ordained, which tends to mislead those unacquainted with the original. The following is the text: "Wherefore of these men which have accompanied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning at the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one (yevεolai) BE MADE a witness with us of his resurrection," Acts i, 21, 22. The
use of the word "ordained" would lead most readers to think that imposition of hands was intended; whereas nothing of the kind is meant,—to be made or constituted being the idea inculcated. Indeed, the word "ordained" is not only superfluous in this place, but tends to mislead, and ought by all means to be excluded from the text.
7. nother word, Tonu, is used by the sacred writers to express appointment or designation to the ministry. It signifies radically to place, put, lay; and whether applied to selecting or appointing to office, signifies to appoint, constitute, or the like. It is used in reference to Abraham, who was constituted head or father of many nations by virtue of the covenant which God made with him: "As it is written, I have made (referra, I have appointed or constituted) thee a father of many nations," Rom. iv, 17. It points out the designation of Christ to be the heir of all things, and a light to the Gentiles: "Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed (enke, constituted or appointed) heir of all things," Heb. i, 2. "I have set (rebeika, appointed, constituted, or ordained) thee to be a light to the Gentiles," Acts xiii, 47. The same word is used to mark the appointment by God of different grades or degrees in the ministry of the gospel: "And God hath set (efero, hath placed, constituted, appointed, ordained) some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues," 1 Cor. xii, 28. It is employed to express Christ's choice or election of his twelve apostles: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained (enka, placed or appointed) you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit," John xv, 16. St. Paul employs the word to denote his appointment to the Christian ministry: "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting (euevos, placing, appointing) me in the ministry," 1 Tim. i, 12. "Whereunto I am ordained (εrε0ŋv, am appointed or constituted) a preacher and an apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity," 1 Tim. ii, 7. "Whereunto I am appointed (erεONY, the same form of the verb as before) a preacher and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles," 2 Tim. i, 11.
Thus we see that the very same word, on the same subject, and for the same purpose, is rendered to put, place, ordain, appoint, thereby showing that these terms, in the opinion of our translators, were synonymous. The word does not signify, nor does it imply, any imposition of hands, either by bishops, presbyters, or any other.
The same word is used by St. Luke to designate the appointment of the presbyters or bishops of the Ephesian church to the oversight of the flock: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made (0ɛro, hath placed or appointed) you overseers," Acts xx, 28.
8. The word kabinu, to constitute, to give formal existence, to make a ruler, or the like, is employed to denote the appointment of men to the gospel ministry. A vie of it in some of its applications to offices may enable us to see more clearly its use in reference to the gospel ministry.
It is used to express the appointment of the steward of a house, or the like: "This then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler (Karencev) over his household," Matt. xxiv,
45; also verse 47. The word is also used chap. xxv, 21, 23, and in Luke xii, 42, 44, in a similar manner.
It is applied to designate the office of judge, or some civil officer. "Man, who made (karesnoav, appointed or ordained) me a judge or a divider among you?" Luke xii, 14; to a judge or governor, as of Joseph over the land of Egypt: "And he made (karanσev, appointed or ordained) him governor over Egypt and all his house," Acts vii, 10. It is used to denote the appointment of Moses over the Israelites: "Who made (kareçŋoe, appointed) thee a ruler and a judge over us?" Acts vii, 27, 35.
The word is also applied to the appointment of the Jewish high priest, in whose consecration imposition of hands was not used: "For the law maketh (kabinov, appoints, constitutes, or ordains) men high priests which have infirmity," Heb. vii, 28. See also Heb. v, 1. In the appointment of deacons, where imposition of hands is used, this is the word employed by St. Luke to denote their designation to office. (Acts vi, 3.) St. Paul employs it in his instructions to Titus respecting the appointment of elders in Crete: "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain (karagnons, appoint, constitute, make rulers of) elders in every city, as I had appointed thee," Tit. i, 5.
From the meaning of the word we cannot gather whether the Cretan elders laid hands on them or not; for it is used, as we have seen, to designate the offices of steward, judge, governor, and lawgiver, in whose installation we have good grounds to believe imposition of hands was not used. In the consecration of priests this ceremony was not used. The deacons were initiated by imposition of hands; but from any thing that appears from the meaning of the word in the case of the elders or bishops ordained in Crete, there is nothing in proof that imposition of hands was employed. To appoint, constitute, make rulers, in any manner, by any persons having authority in any office, whatever were the ceremonies made use of, or whether they used any, is all we can gather from the true import of the word.
9. There is one word more (xepoTove) which, in our translation, is rendered ordain, and is used in the following passage, with a direct reference to ministerial appointment: "And when they [Barnabas and Paul] had ordained (xepoтovecavтeç) them elders in every church, and had prayed, with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed," Acts xiv, 23. It will be necessary to clear up thoroughly the import and application of this word, not only in reference to the point immediately in hand now, but also as it regards other matters closely connected with ordination to the ministry. We maintain that the word does not mean, in itself, or properly imply imposition of hands. Let us examine the radical import of the word, as well as its various applications, especially as it is used in reference to appointment to the ministry.
The word xεporovεw is derived from yep, the hand, and TeTova, the perfect middle of revw, to extend or stretch out. Its radical meaning then is, to stretch out or lift up the hand. The principal meanings of the word are three, viz.: first, to stretch out the hand or lift it up; second, to vote, elect, choose, appoint, constitute, by lifting up the hand; third, to choose, appoint, constitute, ordain, in any manner.