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consequence of the other sign (that of fiery tongues) they " began to speak with divers tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."*
The only question remaining is, why Christ, or rather the Evangelist, should choose to express the tenor and substance of their commission, by the phrase of remitting or retaining sins ? To which we reply, that remission of sins being the characteristic of the gospel, he that says of another, he has authority to remit sins, which is the same as to preach remission of sins, does in effect say that person is authorized to preach the gospel. On the other hand, since the gospel offers no pardon to unbelievers and to the impenitent, he that has authority to retain sins, (as that phrase is opposed to remission in the passage under consideration,) is indeed authorized to reveal the wrath of God against all unrighteousness; and that the sin of such, even under the grace of the gospel, remains
them. Certain it is, that the prophet Jeremiah thus describes the new covenant under the Messiah (xxxi. 33, &c.):“ This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the Lord, I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more ;” or, according to the original, “ I will be merciful to their uprighteousness, and their sins and iniquities I will remember no more." And not to multiply quotations, St. Peter places the matter beyond doubt (Acts x. 43) "To him (Christ) give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins ;" where we have both the
remission, and the condition upon which it is granted.
St. Peter clearly knew of no other power, but always declared that Christ" commanded us to preach unto the people, to testify that it is he which is ordained of God to be judge of quick and dead.” On this subject all the apostles agree, all of them teaching, that God calls men to repentance, and that pardon is tendered in Christ's name, and only by him. Not a word of their own power, as is the use amongst the popish priests of our day, except inasmuch as they are heralds of these glad tidings, and ambassadors of Christ; and such, indeed, they did account themselves, as having received this ministry of reconciliation. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ,” says St. Paul; as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. v. 20.)
4. Fourthly, that although these three Evangelists, with the view of bringing the subject at once and summarily under attention, do indeed fix the date of the transactions upon the first of the forty days, yet they did not in the series of history occur till the lastot
This we learn from St. Matthew, who relates that Christ had met the eleven in Galilee, upon a mountain, where he had appointed them, before he gave them their commission to make disciples, baptize, and teach. (Matt. xxviii. 16—20.) And that this was the same mission which is noted by St. Mark is very plain, from the use of the like words in both. Nor can it be maintained that the mission in St. John, which has been proved identical with that of Mark, is different; for, independent of what has been already remarked, we have the authority of the ancient Syriac version of St. Matthew, which has always, and most
On all this chapter consult Bed. Ven. VOL. XX. NO. XI.
† Grotius. Bed. Ven.
deservedly, been held in the highest esteem by the divines of our Church. There, after (Matt. xviii. 18,) where Christ asserts his own prerogative, that “ all power is given to him in heaven and earth,” the Syriac, borrowing the words from St. John, xx. 21, adds, “as my Father sent me, so send I you.” A plain indication, that when that version was made, as it is believed to be by some, before St. John's Revelations were commonly known, they thought that St. John and St. Matthew did not relate two different missions, but one and the same.*
We have, moreover, sufficient intimations in the Evangelists themselves, that they did not assign Christ's discourses to the very time in which they were delivered; for St. Mark, at the end of this mission, which he places under the account of the proceedings upon the evening of the first day (xvi. 19,) proceeds to say, “ So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven.” Could this, strictly speaking, be the meaning of St. Mark, who had just before stated that Christ had commanded their assembling in Galilee to meet him there, which must of necessity happen some day intervening between his resurrection and ascension ? And much less could St. Luke intend this, although he connects this entire conversation with the appearance on the first day; for, in the Book of the Acts, he distinctly mentions forty days that passed before the ascension of Christ (Acts i. 3,) and in the following verse, as well as in his Gospel, assures us, that Christ charged them, at the time he ordained them apostles, not to stir out of the city of Jerusalem till the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. (Luke xxiv. 49.) And confessedly those must bave been Christ's last words after the return of the disciples from Galilee, which he spoke as he led them to Bethany, where, on mount Olivet, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. (Luke xxiv. 50. Acts i. 8, 9. 12.)+
5. Fisthly, that therefore the mission of the apostles recorded by the four Evangelists was the same, by which Christ at once empowered
Theophylact. on xx. St. John. + St. Chrysostome, who was an excellent Greek scholar, by studying the Scripture idiom and style, has left us the best Greek commentary extant upon the Gospels and Acts, and his opinion coincides with the one here expressed. For thongh in his exposition of St. John, he mentions the opinion of some, that our Saviour did not then give the Spirit when he breathed upon the disciples, but only prepared, or made them fit to receive it ; for which reason he did not say énáßete, you have received, but kábete, receive, and although he farther considers it not erroneous to say the apostles might then receive some power of spiritual grace, yet, in his late and more deliberate thoughts, having mooted the point, how Christ could say, "receive ye the Holy Ghost," when the Holy Ghost was not yet come, he mentions two ways of solving the difficulty; the one in accordance with his previously expressed opinion upon St. John, that Christ only disposed them to receive the Holy Ghost'; the other, that Christ speaks now of giving the Spirit, as a thing done, not because he gave it, but because he promised it, as a thing certain to come to pass. And in this sense he affirms you are to understand Christ, (St. Luke x. 19.) “ Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you;" i. e. you shall have this power after my ascension; for our Lord speaks of it after his resurrection as still future, (St. Mark xvi. 18 ;) " they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.''
Euthymius, in like manner, who made a collection of the opinions of the Greek Fathers upon the Gospels, says, “Insufflavit quidem gratiam susceptivam Spiritus S. - dicit autem, accipite Spiritum S. non nunc, sed quando descenderit.”
them, and consequently, however different the expressions may be, wherein their commission and the extent of it is recited, they must intend one and the same thing—a power to preach the gospel of remission of sins upon the terms of faith and repentance.
Were it otherwise--for instance, were the mission from St. John different from that in St. Mark and St. Luke, and this again from that recorded by St. Matthew, these absurdities would follow :
(1.) That Thomas, one of the apostles, was never authorized to remit and to retain sins. For on the evening of the day of Christ's resurrection, Thomas was absent, as St. John specially remarks (xx. 24), and it was eight days before Thomas saw the Lord, and then no authority was given to him in particular. And will that be allowed in his case, which is not in any other's, that a man should be ordained in his absence ?
(2.) That Christ actually gave his apostles power to remit and retain sins, even before they had subjects to exercise that power upon, before they were authorized as apostles to collect a church and baptize disciples. Might it not better be supposed, since by baptism men obtained remission of sins, those words should refer to a power of admitting by, or rejecting from baptism? It would be preposterous to confer a power not to be used, but in churches regularly formed, before a power had been conferred, to collect and organize such a church.
(3.) That this commission was given to other disciples as well as to the eleven, St. John saith only, in reporting that appearance, that the disciples were gathered together, when Christ stood in the midst of them, and said, “ As my Father sent me, so send I you.” But St. Luke tells us, as to the appearance he mentions, there were others with them, (xxiv. 33); συνηθροισμένους τους ένδεκα και τους συν αυτοίς, imports they were crowded together, and probably Joseph and Justus, Mary Magdalene, and the women that attended his sepulchre, with the other persons that were reckoned with the hundred and twenty, might be there. (Acts i. 15.) Now if one should pertinaciously insist from the letter, that Christ authorized all the disciples equally, both men and women, because the text makes no distinction in the direction of Christ's words, the most ready way of convincing him would be, that it was not at this appearance, but some other, to the eleven, that he gave them their commission; whereas, by recognising several missions, according to the several appearances in the Evangelists, this good defence will be lost, and the absurdity will not be avoided, that all present partook of the mission, which is recorded as spoken indiscriminately to all.
6. Sixthly, that although this commission was given to the apostles immediately and principally, and most largely, as those to whom the extraordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit was promised for the execution of their office ; yet it belongs to and includes all that succeed in the standing branches of the ministry, to the end of the world, so far as they pursue in their respective ages, by gospel means, the great end of Christ's coming into the world to save sinners. The same reason for which Christ substituted the apostles in his room during his bodily absence from the world, required the apostles to appoint others, that should carry on the same designs of reconciliation, after their deaths ; nothing less can fully answer the promise of Christ at the close of that discourse, wherein he sends his apostles to baptize and teach all
nations: “ Lo, I am with you alway, to the end of the world.” (Matt. xxviii. 20.) The life of the apostles falling far short of the duration of the world, his presence, by his Spirit, does necessarily remain with those that carry on the work of baptizing and preaching, being duly authorized thereunto, and ordained to the work in regular succession, from the apostles and first bishops of the Church.
The remark of Canus,* the learned Bishop of Canaris, is exceedingly applicable: “ Privilegia apostolis a Christo concessa, aliter ad ipsos, aliter ad successores referuntur. Quippe in apostolis fuerunt etiam privilegia personalia amplioris gratiæ, quam in posteris. Ut, verbi causa, per illa verba, “Quæcunque ligaveritis super terram,' &c. et perilla, sicut misit me Pater, et ego mitto vos,' &c. intelligimus, potestatem generalem in universum orbem apostolos suscepisse, sed episcopi posteriores non successere apostolis in potestate extraordinaria,” &c. The apostles, therefore, who published every where the gospel revealed to them by inspiration, and who had in many cases the power of discerning the sincerity of men's hearts, might with more authority remit and retain sins, or assure converts of the efficacy of their penitence, or the consequences of their impenitence, in places where they made known the conditions of the gospel. It is sufficient for their successors, that they explain according to their capacity, though not in so ample and enforcing a manner, the gospel truths, and to exhort, beseech, and apply both in public and private, the promises and threats therein contained that they give the most wholesome advice, and put sinners in the best course of subduing their evil passions, or if irreclaimable, make them sensible of the extreme danger they incur by continuing in sin; and to all persons to dispense or refuse the sacraments, to the right use of which a promise of remission of sins is annexed.
In doing this to the best of their ability and power, they may expect God will ratify the acts of their ministry. Those that despise their warnings and reproofs, despise Christ, whose word they preach; and thus by aggravating their crime, may reasonably expect to have confirmed against themselves, all those denunciations of the gospel, which its ministers apply to his case; whilst those who amend their lives according to his word, read and preached by his" unchangeable priesthood," hear not the preacher, but Christ himself, who will assuredly fulfil that which was promised by his servants in his name, and receive them into favour.
Such is the only meaning, it appears to us, that can properly be deduced from the words of Christ to his apostles, and the ministers of the gospel in subsequent times.
There is indeed a further sense affixed to them by some of the fathers, as if they contained the institution of the discipline of shutting out of the pale of the Church by excommunication, and receiving into her bosom again by public absolution, which has been so far improved upon by the Papists, that they assume an authority over the consciences of all the faithful, extending to the private remitting or retaining guilt and punishment of sin. But for further elucidation, it will not be unprofitable to consult the testimonies of the ancients, especially as they appear to favour the interpretation given of this passage.
( To be continued.)
DISTRIBUTION OF THE ELEMENTS IN THE LORD'S SUPPER.
Sir.—A writer P. in your number for June, asks if any of your correspondents can inform him whether there are any churches in which the priest silently receives the elements of the Lord's Supper, before he administers them to others, with the words prescribed in the order of administration of the Holy Communion. I should imagine that this practice is not so unusual as he seems to conceive; this mode is advocated by a writer, under the signature of “ Presbyter Catholicus," in the British Magazine for December, 1837. It is my own custom invariably thus silently to receive, before I proceed to administer. A diligent perusal of the rubric, and an attentive consideration of it, convinced me, long since, of the propriety of this method, and several of my congregation have been so forcibly struck with the propriety and solemnity of this mode, that they have expressed to me their satisfaction at my having adopted it. It would, I conceive, if generally adopted, be as generally approved.
While upon this subject, I may mention also some other returns which I have made to primitive practice, in which I have been happy enough to carry the feelings of my congregation with me. Every Sunday morning, whether there be a communion or not, I return from the pulpit immediately after the ascription of Glory to the Eternal Trinity, at the end of my sermon, to the Lord's table. The choir invariably (as they seem to be invited to do by this ascription), strike up a chant of Gloria Patri, &c. in prose, or one of the numerous versions of Gloria Patri in metre. This gives me, when officiating alone, full time to be in my place again, at the north side of the Lord's table, before there is any pause in the service. In places where two clergy officiate, one may sit at the altar during the sermon, and this doxology will not be required from the choir, although its effect here is good. I then read a sentence, or more of the offertory, (and generally some one or other of these sentences will be found to suit the subject of the sermon.) I afterwards put up “the prayer for the church militant," and when there is no communion, one of the appointed collects, concluding with the blessing. When there is a communion, persons appointed for that purpose receive the alms for the poor from the whole congregation, whilst the sentences of the offertory are reading, and reverently bring them to me, when I humbly present and place them (I cannot do better than quote the rubric) upon the holy table. The bread and wine, which up to this time have been, not on the table, but upon a little bracket, which is within the recess of the altar, within view of the congregation, are then placed by me upon the table. At the close of the prayer for the church militant those who do not communicate retire, and it is from principle not my custom to substitute at this part of the service the benediction of the apostle, as many clergymen do, for that with which (at the close of the service, and not before) the priest or bishop, if he be present, is directed to let the congregation depart. The use of any other form previously, except at the end of the order for morning prayer, or the repetition of the apostolic benediction at this period and place, I look upon as an unauthorized interpolation. Its use, moreover, serves