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should choose to ordain as Bishops (or Elders) and Deacons, (chap. iii.) He had power to select among the Elders such as should rule, (ver. 17.) probably over different portions of his congregation ; and to hear and decide upon any accusations brought against them in the discharge of their office, (ver. 19.) He was reminded by St. Paul to stir up the gift that was in him by the putting on of his hands, (2 Tim. i. 6,) and of the hands of the Presbytery; (1 Tim. iv. 14;) to ordain no man suddenly, (1 Tim. v. 22,) or without due examination into his character, but to commit the doctrine which he had learnt of St. Paul to faithful men, who should be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. ii. 2.)
Titus was left in Crete that he might set in order the things that were wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as St. Paul had appointed him. (Tit. i. 5.) He was taught what sort of characters befitted those whom he should make Bishops; he was to exhort and rebuke with all authority, and let no man despise him. (ii. 15.) He was to be the general instructor of his flock, and to have the power of expelling thence obstinate heretics. (iii. 10.) But it is unsatisfactory to quote particular passages; the whole of these three epistles should be seriously studied by those who wish to form a good general idea of the powers with which the Apostles, or rather the Holy Ghost, by their means, invested those who were to bear rule in the Church in times when they themselves should have gone to their reward.
Those times came.-St. John, the last of the glorious company of the Apostles, entered into his rest, and the Church found itself committed, under Heaven, entirely to the charge of the three established orders of its ministers. To each of these a specific title was now ascribed, and applied with greater exactness than before. The title “ Bishop,” which had at first been used indifferently with “ Elder,” became the exclusive property of the highest class of functionaries, the colleagues of Timothy and Titus. The word “ Elder” served to designate the second, and from its Greek equivalent, “ Presbuteros,” we have formed our English word “ Priest, by which “ Elder,” is now, in common use, superseded. The third class preserved its original and appropriate name of “ Deacons.”
Such, then, was the Constitution of which the Church, when first deprived of outward supernatural aid, found herself possessed ;
such the machinery at her disposal for the dispensation to mankind of those glorious gifts and privileges, which it was hers, and hers alone, to confer. As Priests or Deacons were required for the ministration of the Word and Sacraments to the different portions of her flock, the Bishops, in exercise of the heavenly gift confided to them, laid hands upon such individuals as they deemed suited to the charge, and as vacancies occurred among the Angels of the churches, the successors of the Apostles themselves, or as additions were required to their number, the existing members of the sacred band, consecrated new individuals to the participation of their privileges, candidates for the office being presented to them by the laity for their approval, or fit and proper persons being selected by themselves.
The gift conferred by their ordination was now no longer confirmed by outward ocular demonstration ; but, while they reverently complied with all the particulars and forms of these holy rites, as established under the guidance of inspiration by their predecessors, they would have held it a most guilty instance of want of faith, had they presumed to doubt the continued fulfilment of the Redeemer's promise, or the continued abiding, with the Church which He had framed, of the Almighty Comforter.
Since the Apostolic age seventeen centuries have rolled away; exactly eighteen hundred years have elapsed since the delivery of Christ's recorded promise ; and, blessed be God, the Church is with us still. Amid all the political storms and vicissitudes, amid all the religious errors and corruptions which have chequered, during that long period, the world's eventful history, a regular unbroken succession has preserved among us Ministers of God, whose authority to confer the gifts of His Spirit is derived originally from the laying on of the hands of the Apostles themselves. Many intermediate possessors of that authority have, it is true, intervened between them and these, their hallowed predecessors, but “ the gifts of God are without repentance;" the same Spirit rules over the Church now who presided at the consecration of St. Paul, and the eighteen centuries that are past can have had no power to invalidate the promise of our God. Nor, even though we may admit that many of those who formed the connecting links of this holy chain were themselves unworthy of the high charge reposed in them, can this furnish us with any solid ground for doubting or denying their power to exercise that legitimate authority with which they were duly invested, of transmitting the sacred gift to worthier followers.
Ordination, or, as it is called in the case of Bishops, Consecration, though it does not precisely come within our definition of a sacrament, is nevertheless a rite partaking, in a high degree, of the sacramental character, and it is by reference to the proper sacraments that its nature can be most satisfactorily illustrated. And with respect to these, it would lead us into endless difficulties were we to admit that, when administered by a minister duly authorised according to the outward forms of the Church, either Baptism or the Lord Supper depended for its validity either on the moral and spiritual attainments of that minister, or on the frame of mind in which he might have received, at his ordination, the outward and visible sign of his authority. Did the Sacraments indeed rest on such circumstances as these for their efficacy in each case of their ministration, who would there be of us, or of any Christian congregation, who could possibly say whether he had been baptized or not; or what preparation or self-examination could give to a penitent the confidence that he had truly partaken of the Body and Blood of Christ, were the reality of that partaking to depend upon something of which he had no knowledge, and over which he could exercise no control; upon the spiritual state, not only of the officiating minister himself, but of every individual Bishop through whom that minister had received his authority, through the long lapse of eighteen hundred years ? He who receives unworthily, or in an improper state of mind, either ordination or consecration, may probably receive to his own soul no saving health from the hallowed rite ; but while we admit, as we do, the validity of sacraments administered by a Priest thus unworthily ordained, we cannot consistently deny that of ordination, in any of its grades, when bestowed by a Bishop as unworthily consecrated.
The very question of worth, indeed, with relation to such matters, is absurd. Who is worthy ? Who is a fit and meet dispenser of the gifts of the Holy Spirit ? What are, after all, the petty differences between sinner and sinner, when viewed in relation to Him whose eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, and who charges His very angels with folly? And be it remembered that the Apostolic powers, if not transmitted through these, in some instances corrupt channels, have not been transmitted to our times at all. Unless then we acknowledge the reality of such transmission, we must admit that the Church which Christ founded is no longer to be found upon the earth, and that the promise of His protection, so far from being available to the end of the world, is forgotten and out of date already.
The unworthiness of man, then, cannot prevent the goodness of God from Aowing in those channels in which He has destined it to flow; and the Christian congregations of the present day, who sit at the feet of Ministers duly ordained, have the same reason for reverencing in them the successors of the Apostles, as the primitive Churches of Ephesus and of Crete had for honouring in Timothy and in Titus the Apostolical authority of him who had appointed them.
A branch of this holy Catholic (or universal) Church has been through God's blessing, established for ages in our island; a branch which, as has been already stated, we denominate the Church of England. Its officiating ministers are divided into the three original orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and into no other. In the exercise of that authority which is inherent in every society, of making salutary laws and regulations for its own guidance, it has been found expedient to vest in two of the principal members of the episcopal order in England a certain authority over the rest, and to style them Archbishops, but this is not by any means to be understood as constituting them another order in the Church. They are but, in strictness of language, the first and leading Bishops of our land.
The Priests and Deacons, (whom we usually class together under the common name of Clergymen,) who officiate in the Churches and Chapels of our Establishment, have each received ordination to the discharge of their holy office by the laying on of the hands of a Bishop, assisted, in the case of Priests, by members already admitted into the presbytery or priesthood, as St. Paul was assisted in the ordination of Timothy. (iv. 14.)
And each Bishop of our Church has, at the hands of another Bishop, (himself similarly called to the office,) received in the most solemn manner the gift of the Holy Ghost, and that Apostolical power over the Church, for the support of which the Redeemer pledged Himself that His assistance should never be wanting to the end of time.
Wonderful indeed is the providence of God, which has so long preserved the unbroken line, and thus ordained that our Bishops should, even at this distance of time, stand before their flocks as the authorized successors of the Apostles ;—as armed with their power to confer spiritual gifts in the Church, and, in cases of necessity, to wield their awful weapon of rejection from the fold of Christ;—as commissioned, like Titus, to bid, on heavenly authority, no man despise them, and to point out to those who, as a class, as Bishops of the Church, do despise them, the solemn words, “ He that despiseth you, despiseth Me ; and he that despiseth Me, “ despiseth Him that sent Me.”
The mode in which new candidates for the episcopal station have been presented to existing Bishops for consecration, has differed in different ages and countries. They have sometimes been chosen by the laity, sometimes selected by other Bishops, and sometimes by civil magistrates. In our own country the latter mode has for some centuries prevailed, and the King of England has presented to the Prelates of its Church persons for their approval and consecration.
As the King and Legislature were the pledged defenders of the purity and integrity of that Church, this was perhaps a mode as unobjectionable as any which could have been substituted for it, and it possessed the advantage of being free from the turmoil and party feeling which have always been generated by proceedings in the way of popular election.
The mode, however, in which this presentation is made is, after all, of minor importance, it being understood that it is upon the responsibility of the Bishop himself that the solemn rite at last takes place. No earthly authority can compel him to lay his hands upon what he may conceive an unworthy head, or can presume to dispense with his concurrence, and arrogantly assume to itself the power to confer the Holy Ghost. The solemn words in which the offices of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon, are respectively conferred, are annexed to these pages, and from their perusal it will be seen how impious it would be, in any one but the deputed minister of Heaven, to utter them over a fellow-mortal, or to con