« AnteriorContinuar »
what they wrote was to produce the fulness of joy; then we may also be assured, that we have in their writings the substance of all which they taught. So that we may come to the examination of the next topic suggested by the commission which they received, prepared to learn, what were the things which they were commanded to teach, not from traditionary fables, but from the pages of their own writings; the true and lively oracles, the word inspired by God, which, like himself, liveth and abideth for ever.
No PRIESTHOOD REQUIRED FOR THE OBSERVANCE OF THE RITUAL INSTITUTIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
CoNNECTED with the consideration of the apostolic commission, is the question, What ritual observances are actually enjoined under the Christian dispensation? One of these, the right of initiation, is specified in the commission: “Teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Now, the rite of baptism, formed no part of the divinely authorised institutions of the Jewish priesthood; nor was even the corresponding rite of initiation into the Jewish church (the rite of circumcision), performed by the priesthood. The rite of circumcision was a much older institution than that of the Jewish priesthood, nor, when the latter was appointed, did Aaron, or his sons, receive any commission to interfere with its performance. It remained, as it was before, a domestic, and not a priestly rite. It was discharged in the dwelling of the parents of the child, not in the temple of worship. Its administration was entrusted to the father of the child, or to whomsoever, as more skilful than himself, he might choose to employ.
The rite of baptism, moreover, had been previously administered by John, who, though he was the descendant of a priest, had yet never himself entered on the discharge of the office, nor was even accustomed to visit the temple. He was in the wilderness until the time of his showing to Israel, and then appeared to the multitude which thronged to his baptism, not in the vestments of a priest, but in the rough garb which had been worn by the ancient prophets. That he, who was descended from a priest, and legally entitled to claim his consecration, and officiate in his course in the temple, should make no pretensions to the office, but appear in another character, seemed itself to indicate that the earthly priesthood was now waning to extinction;–that among the ministers of that Saviour, of whom John was the herald, the office was to have no existence. The injunction of the baptismal rite, then, involves no argument for the necessity of a Christian priesthood to administer it; since neither its performance, nor that of the corresponding rite of circumcision, was ever, by divine appointment, connected with the office of a priest.
The only other rite which they anywhere tell us they were commanded to enjoin, was the Lord's supper. And nothing can be more simple, or foreign from the pomp of priestly rites, than this institution, as it is presented to us in the New Testament. The repeated references which are made to it, not only exclude altogether the notion of a priest and a sacrifice, but they do not even suppose the existence of any authoritative official administration. It was delivered to the disciples, in their incorporation as a church, to observe; not to those who sustained office in the church to administer. That at its celebration, the officers of the church would preside and superintend its arrangements, would become a matter of course, and be essential to its being discharged in all respects decently and in order. But then, the duty of its observance is not so much connected with their ministerial work, as with the responsibility of the whole church over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers. The obligation to set forth Christ crucified in the preaching of the word, rests upon the ministers of the church; the obligation to show forth the Lord's death till he come, in the observance of the supper, rests upon the members of which each individual church is composed, and appears to be one interesting and important part of the design contemplated by their Lord and Master, in their incorporation. The First Epistle to the Corinthians is inscribed, “unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” Connect this —keeping in view the persons to whom the epistle is addressed—with the declaration which is given in the eleventh chapter: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” In exact accordance with this passage will be found the references to the Lord's supper which are contained in the Acts of the Apostles. It is invariably represented as a rite observed by the disciples; never, as officially administered to them. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread.”f A distinction between the two rites, in the mode of participation, is here clearly marked. Baptism was administered to them; the bread of the Lord's supper was broken by them. Of the former they were the recipients ; the celebration of the latter was their united and cheerful performance. At that bright opening of the Christian era, when the stupendous facts of redemption were fresh in every individual's personal recollection;—when impending civil commotions loos