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tain that Confirmation was universally observed, and that more strictly than in the lower ages; but instead of being known by the term of Confirmation, it was more usually signified by sealing, anointing, and the imposition of hands. Yet the term now in use seems to be warranted by the language of the New Testament. When Paul and Barnabas had determined to visit their brethren in every city where they had already preached the word of God, it is said of Paul, that “ he went
through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the Churches.” His design was to advance those who had already been converted and baptized; and as he had no time to waste, it is most probable that his visitation was official; that he acted in the Apostolical character, and confirmed his converts by the imposition of hands. But whatever ambiguity there may be in the name, in the thing itself there is none at all. So we may pass from the Institution, to consider the persons by whom it is administered
III. Philip the Deacon had preached the Word to the people of Samaria, and baptized them, both men and women, and was still amongst them. But though signs and miracles were done by him, it is plain he was DD 2
not qualified to administer imposition of hands, because other persons were formally sent out from the Church for this purpose : and as the persons so sent out were of the Apostolical Order, to them the office properly belonged.
By this example we are taught, that God hath appointed certain distinctions of ministerial Duty, for the sake of Peace, Order, and Edification in his Church: and farther, that the holiness and other personal qualifications of any minister, are distinct from the holiness and authority of his office. For though Philip was a person considerable enough to work such miracles as astonished the Samaritans, and procured him the good opinion of Simon Magus himself, he had no Right to administer Confirmation. And if Confirmation was proper to the Apostles in the first age of the Church, it is now proper to a Bishop. For Bishops have succeeded to that Character with which the Apostles were invested; (at least, to those parts of their Character which are necessary for the Church in the latter times.) Through all the intermediate ages down to the Reformation, the Christian Society has been governed by ministers of three different Orders, with the
names of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons. online A Church without a Bishop was never heard of till the fifteenth Century; when some Protestants, who were willing to shake off the errors of Rome, and thought they could reform on no other terms but those of Presbytery, pleaded necessity in excuse for the defect. The Scripture shews us what the government of the Church ought to be by shewing us what it was.
For a fact or precedent, where the example is authoritative, may be depended upon with greater certainty than a verbal distinction. Words are liable to dif. ferent meanings; and an artful man can mold them into so many forms, and invest them with such a cloud of Criticism, that they shall have no discernible meaning at all. The fact I speak of, is the government of the Church by three Orders of Ministers, at its first Establishment. The twelve Apostles were first ordained by Christ himself out of the number of his Disciples; of whom he chose twelve, and named them Apostles ; accommodating their number to the primitive partition of the Church of Israel. After these he
appointed other seventy also, who were sent out with a ministerial Character, but were inferior to the Apostles, both in name and authority: DD 3
for the Apostles, even after their ordination, are frequently called by the general name of Disciples ; but it does not appear
that the seventy were ever called by the name of Apostles. This Appellation was restrained to the twelve who were first appointed; and none other could be intitled to the name, till they were formally invested with the office. Acz cordingly it appears, that when the traitor Judas was gone to his own place, and the Apostles were reduced to Eleven, two persons were set apart from the disciples as candidates, and one of them taken by lot to the Apostolical office. The solemnity of this appointment would have been unnecessary and vain, unless the Apostles were distinguished to a superiority above the other disciples.
As the business of the Christian Society increased upon the hands of its ministers, seven more were ordained; who in respect of their superintending the distribution of ecclesiastical charities, were called deacons ; and in respect of their office as teachers of those converts to whom they administered the sacrament of Baptism, were called Evangelists,
By the most early constitution of the Christian Church, it was committed to the ministry of three different orders, not yet so exactly ascertained by their names as in the succeeding ages, but always distinct in office and authority. We are not to suppose that these three orders were a novel institution, peculiar to the Christian Church; but rather a translation of the three essential parts of the ministry from the Priesthood under the Law to the ministry of the New Testamenta.
Such was the form of the Church in every city and region, till it was interrupted by the encroachments of the Bishop of Rome. Other Bishops had exercised such an thority only, and in such a form as the Scripture itself had delivered down to them. And this case is so plain, that Calvin himself could not but allow, that the ancient Bishops had invented no other form of governing the Church, but such as the Lord had prescribed by his own word. So that a Church which preserves this form by succession, and administers Confirmation by the first of the orders above mentioned, is according to the Aposto
. Consult Bp. Overall, Book ii, chap. vi. Calvin Inst. lib. iv. cap. 4. sec. 4.
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