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whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”* On the ritual observances of the church, as specified or involved in the commission given by the Redeemer to his Apostles, we have sufficiently enlarged to show, that there is in them no affinity with priestly rites; as in the commission itself there is nothing to countenance the claims of a Christian priesthood.
* John vi. 68.
No PRIESTHOOD CONFERRED IN THE PERSONAL AUTHORITY WITH WHICH THE APOSTLES WERE INVESTED.
BEFoRE the Apostles received the comprehensive commission which was given to them at a mountain in Galilee, where by special appointment they had been convened to meet the Saviour, and which, in its most essential part—teaching, they execute by their writings to the present day, and will to the end of the world; their divine Master had, on the very evening of his resurrection, when he unexpectedly appeared as a friend amongst them, invested them with authority to tread in his own steps, and, by the exercise of miraculous powers, to become his representatives in the world:— “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus unto them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” In the Saviour's own mission from the Father to our world was fulfilled the prediction which had been given
by Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me;
because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.”f In the synagogue of Nazareth, therefore, at an early stage of his public ministry, he read the passage from the scroll of the prophetic book, and applied it to himself; while the miracles which he performed were the credentials which he presented, and the warrant for faith in him to which he appealed. “Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him.”f
* John xx. 19—23. f Isai. lxi. 1–3. j: John x. 36–38.
Now, when the Saviour in sending forth his Apostles declared to them, that their mission from him corresponded with his from the Father; and attended that declaration with significantly breathing on them, and communicating the Holy Ghost; we may certainly consider him as transferring to them the prophetic description which had already been fulfilled in his own personal ministry, to be fulfilled also in theirs; and as furnishing them with the same credentials to present “mighty signs and wonders, wrought by the power of the Spirit of God.” In the Redeemer's intercourse with his Apostles during the period of his own personal ministry, he gave them a distinct intimation, that, on its close, and his consequent departure, they should be abundantly furnished for the mission on which he was about to send them. In reply to a request from Philip, he said to them all, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also ; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” And that the promise was literally fulfilled, two passages of the narrator of their Acts will sufficiently prove: “And by the hands of the Apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that, at the least, the shadow of Peter passing by might
* John xiv. 12.
overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.” “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: so that from his body were brought unto the sick, handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.”f Thus far, the general outline of their personal mission is clear; and their possession of satisfactory credentials, obvious. That part of the Saviour's declaration to them, which relates to the remitting and retaining sins, demands a careful and distinct consideration. It may safely be assumed, that, since the Acts and Epistles contain such distinct and repeated references to every other part of the work which, as Apostles, they discharged; so also some evident traces must remain in the same books, of what they performed in execution of this extraordinary power conveyed to them; and consequently, that any modern practice supposed to be warranted by this passage, but of which no indication can be discovered in the apostolic writings, must be of very questionable character, on two accounts: the want of a direct and personal apostolic commission by him who performs it; and the want of resemblance to any recorded apostolic function, supposing the trans
* Acts v. 12, 15, 16. f Acts xix. 11, 12.