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consists in those ministerial offices, the essential characteristic of which was the display of miraculous power. If miracles have been shown to be inconsistent with a perfect and established dispensation, of course we should be startled to find any good evidence for the continuance of such offices in the Church. But no such evidence exists. The writings of the apostolical Fathers are not only with- Cessation of out the mention of the terms apostles, interpreters, prophets, &c., Ministerial as denoting offices in the Church, but they speak a language incom- Offices. patible with the continuance of these ministerial functions under any name.
Indeed, there seems to have been no slight scruple in the primitive Church on this point. For although the apostolic order, for instance, was in some respects succeeded and represented by the race of uninspired rulers on whom devolved the government of the Church, yet they presumed not to apply to themselves the title of apostles. It might have led to the error of supposing that the essential and characteristic point, infallibility, had descended to them. And although, in the case of confirmation, they scrupled not to apply to a new rite the name and circumstances of one antiquated, because in that case no mistake was possible; yet in this instance error would have been at once more likely to occur, and more dangerous. The Church would never have borne the claim of a Clement or an Ignatius to be, in all respects, the successors of St. Peter and St. Paul; and whatever ambition may have been dormant in the infant society, it was necessary that some generations should pass away, and the office and character of an apostle of Christ be less distinctly present to men's minds, before the fraud should be even practicable.
Among the offices created solely for the foundation of the Church, Deaconesses. there was one, indeed, which was not necessarily connected with miraculous power,—that of deaconesses. Concerning the origin and peculiar need of this, enough, perhaps, has been said in the preceding pages. Its continuance was prolonged for some centuries after the apostolic era ; and may, doubtless, be with propriety revived, whenever a similar emergency shall call for it.
WHAT PARTS OF THE APOSTOLICAL MINISTRY WERE DESIGNED FOR
THE PERPETUATION OF CHRISTIANITY.
The want of Miracles and Inspiration, how supplied.
To the apostolical age the Divine origin of Christianity was satisfactorily attested by miracles and miraculous gifts; the knowledge and the practice of it, too, must have been well understood and familiarized to the various societies of Christians which so long enjoyed the instruction and superintendence of the apostles and their fellow ministers: but the apostolical ministry not being designed for the benefit of that age only, some provision was to be made for perpetuating the doctrines and the practices which had been thus established.
Of these the first which presents itself to notice is a written record. For the establishment of Christianity, the apostles were commissioned to preach, and to confirm their preaching by miracles : for the perpetuation of Christianity, they were commissioned, first, to register the substance of their preaching ; secondly, to provide means for making this register equivalent to the word divinely preached; and thirdly, to provide a channel of evidence to attest the sacred character of that register. These two last objects were effected by forming Christians into perpetual societies. Had the Christian revelation been left to a record without a Church, it must ever have been liable to two mischances: first, it would have been the property of the learned only—a mere branch of philosophy; secondly, all connected chain of evidence for its scriptural character would soon have been lost. Had it been left unrecorded to the various Christian societies, it must soon have been corrupted and changed.
The very form of the New Testament Scriptures indicates their dependence on some further act of apostolical ministry, such as was the formation of Christian societies. For, beyond the primary benefit which the Scriptures derive from the Church, in the provision of an unbroken and perpetual channel for evidence ;-beyond this, the total absence of systematic instruction from them implies, that the sacred record was accommodated to the existence of a Church; into whose charge should be intrusted the mode of teaching the doctrines, and of applying the principles which that record preserved.
Among the various writings of which the New Testament is composed, there can be no doubt that the four Gospels, the Revelation of St. John, and the Acts of the Apostles, must have been intended as perpetual records. In writing or inditing the Gospels, the apostles were performing for posterity their primary office of Witnesses. We should naturally expect from some of them, that in their character of expounders of the Gospel scheme, of ministers of the Spirit, they would in like manner have laboured partly for future ages. And yet Epistles, and these too abounding in matters of The Epistie temporary concern, might leave some room for questioning whether framed for the instruction of future generations was contemplated by the writers. instruction. The question is not material; for, after all, the ministry of the apostles was really the ministry of the Holy Ghost; and whether that Divine Ruler chose to employ his servants in a sphere of ministry even greater than its extent appeared to them, or not; doubtless, the instruction of posterity was the main purpose for which those Epistles were inspired. And it was so, because such is the main purpose which they have served, and for which no other provision has been made. From the Gospels and the Acts we might have learned all the facts of inspired history; but, like the apostles at the close of their Lord's ministry, we should have wanted not merely an historical remembrancer “to call all things to our mind,” but some further infallible expositor “ to teach us all these things,”—to teach us the full meaning of all that had been done and registered. The epistolary form in which this has been accomplished might create a question, as to whether the apostles themselves understood that they were doing this for posterity as well as for their immediate charges; but that this was even the principal design of the Holy Spirit, is a view scarcely to be controverted. More; the careful manner in which these Epistles were preserved, transcribed, and circulated, from the earliest times, is a strong presumption that they were from the very first considered in this light. It was this, perhaps, more than personal respect for the memory of the writers, which caused them to be so carefully kept and transmitted. Nor can the occasional topics with which they are occupied be regarded as certain proof that even the apostles' views were confined to the instruction of those immediately addressed; for although the Epistle to the Colossians, for instance, contains some peculiar allusions to the state of the Church at Colosse; yet we know that this was sent with a special charge to transmit it for the perusal of the Laodiceans; and to obtain from them the perusal of one which St. Paul appears to have written to that Church. Why may not St. Paul, and the other writers of the Epistles of the New Testament, in like manner, have contemplated the perusal of every Epistle which they wrote, by every Church in every generation?
13 See particularly ch. iv. 8-10; and again, ver. 17.
The New Testament its own
Reasons for the
of the Church,
It is to be observed, too, that among these Epistles are some which really deserve the name of treatises ; although, having been addressed to particular Churches or bodies of Christians, they may in one sense be called Epistles. Such are the Epistles To the Romans, and To the Hebrews.
In considering, then, the New Testament record as one of the
measures for perpetuating Christianity, its twofold character should Expositor. be carefully kept in view, It is a record of facts; and so far
answers to the primary character of Christ's apostles, his witnesses. It is, beyond this, a record of the interpretation of the Christian scheme, which was made up of those facts; and, so far, corresponds to the secondary office of the apostles,--that of ministers of the Spirit. It contains not only a revelation, properly so called, but the infallible interpretation and unfolding of it. It was purposely so framed as to preclude the need of that which was not to be perpetuated, -an unerring expositor.
The sacred record, then, is most strictly a substitute for all the formation apostolical instruction. But the apostolical instruction was pre
served pure and entire in the preaching of the apostles by the Holy Spirit's extraordinary suggestions and corrections, and it was authenticated by testimonial miracles. An ordinary and permanent provision was requisite to compensate for all this when withdrawn; and, accordingly, these were among the objects contemplated in the formation of the Church. In furnishing a channel of perpetual evidence, it served the same purpose to the record, as did the testimonial miracles to the apostles' preaching ; in preserving the record entire and uncorrupt, it would do that which the Holy Spirit's suggestions and corrections had done for the unrecorded revelation, when only existing in the memories and minds of the apostles.
The Church, then, was the second great provision made for the perpetuation of Christianity. But its importance was not confined to its character as a safeguard, or as a channel of evidence. The Scriptures were so left as to depend on its operations, for the most efficacious employment and dispensation of the holy truths which they contained. With every change of language, of climate, of prejudice, and of all circumstances whatever arising out of religion, or accidentally interfering with it, the Gospel would require to be taught in a somewhat different form. Truths which for any reason had become subject to controversy or misapprehension, would need a solemn specification in the formula of a creed or an article; and the young and the newly initiated would require to receive instruction in that particular form which might put them on their guard against those errors to which they were most exposed. Change of manners, of climate, of government, and especially of the relative situation between the Church and State, would present exigencies which could only be properly met by the enactments of an authorized body. All these are further purposes for which Christians were formed into societies, and which that portion of the apostolical ministry appears to have effected.
and its distribution into separate Societies.
14 Herein more particularly we recog-
ye also shall bear witness, because ye
Still, we should form a very inadequate view of the benefits of Necessity for the social connexion between Christians, if we only regarded it as a tion with it. provision, facilitating and adjusting the other provisions made by the Holy Spirit for perpetuating religion. More was intended, and more has been accomplished by it. It is one of the appointed means of salvation; its character is, in short, sacramental. Although it is true, that the individual welfare or misery of every Christian will, according to the Gospel scheme, be separately determined, and sentence be passed, not on churches, but on individuals; yet it is no less certain, that the means of obtaining future reward, and of avoiding future punishment, are not appointed to be communicated to men otherwise than as members of a social body. Every promise of the Gospel is limited to such as shall thus associate themselves with a church. It is not by an exercise of faith, or by a confession of it, that we receive our first union with the Holy Spirit; but by the act of initiation into the Church; it is by baptism. We are not individually, but collectively, called by 1 Cor. iii. 16, the apostle," the temple of the Holy Ghost;” and he who expects vi. 19; to share in the benefits of Christ's death and resurrection, can only 2.Cor.16; do so as a member of his body—a portion of his residence, the 22. Church.
The Church, then, considered as a provision for perpetuating objects of Christianity, has four distinct offices: first, that of preserving the the Church. Scriptures; next, (which is closely connected with the former,) that of bearing witness to them; thirdly, that of judiciously dispensing the truths contained in them; and, lastly, it has the holy office of conveying grace. Accordingly, some of the several component parts of such a society, as well as its several institutions and enactments, are designed to fulfil, sometimes one, and sometimes another of these offices. In some instances more than one, or all, are to be recognised. For instance, as the channel for preserving and dispensing Gospel truth, it has ministers of different orders, and it establishes schools of gious instruction. Again, in its office of conveying to its members the grace of which it is the appointed means, it enjoins rites and ceremonies, and prescribes the form and manner of public prayers. All these objects, then, being contemplated in the formation of Recognised
by the the Church, the Church's separate functions were begun and sanc
Apostles. tioned by the apostles before their departure from the scene. To the Church was left, before their departure, the full exercise of all these separate offices, whereby its character as a permanent pro