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 said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
THE three offices, the first, for the ordering of Deacons; the second, for the ordering of Priests; and the third, for the consecration of Bishops, form what is commonly called the ordinal of the Church of England. To this form of making, ordaining, and consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and to all and every thing contained therein, the Clergy are required to give their unfeigned assent and consent. The rite of Ordination is not a Sacrament in the same sense as Baptism and the Lord's Supper are Sacraments; but it is thus spoken of by the Church of England in the first part of the Homily on Common Prayer and the Sacraments: "Though the ordering of ministers hath this visible sign or promise, yet it lacks the promise of remission of sins, as all other Sacraments besides the two above-named do. Therefore, neither it, nor any Sacrament else, be such Sacraments as Baptism and the Communion are." It was not, as I observed on a former occasion, by lowering the other ordinances, called by Hooker, "Sacramentals," that the reformers sought to distinguish between them and the two Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, but by speaking of these two as necessary to salvation. They who are most jealous of the exclusive pre-eminence of these great mysteries or Sacraments, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, are those who can afford to elevate the other ordinances to their proper and relative position. Low views of the two great Sacraments, occasion low views of every other rite of Christianity, and even of the fundamental articles of faith.
As in the three offices of Baptism, so in the three offices of the Ordinal, the same general features may be traced, with the alteration in detail rendered necessary by the change in the respective position of the parties participating in the rite. In each office there are certain inquiries addressed to the congregation and to the candidates, to certify the qualifications they possess for the office they seek, so far as they are ascertainable by any but the all-searching eye of God. These inquiries, forming the introductory part of each Service, are accompanied with prayer: this is followed by the administration of the rite, the outward and visible sign being the imposition of hands, with words varied according to the order to be conferred: each Service concludes with prayer and benediction. One important point each office has in common with the others: for each office, for that of Deacon, Priest, and Bishop, a Divine institution is claimed.
Thus, in the form for Ordering Deacons it is said, "Almighty God, who by thy Divine Providence hast appointed divers orders of Ministers in thy Church, and didst inspire thine holy Apostles to choose unto the order of Deacons the first martyr St. Stephen," &c. In the Ordering of Priests, the prayer runs thus: "Almighty God, giver of all good things, which by thy Holy Spirit hast appointed divers orders of Ministers in thy Church, mercifully behold these thy servants, now called to the office of Priesthood." And in the Consecration of a Bishop: "Almighty God, giver of all good things, which by thy Holy Spirit hast appointed divers orders of Ministers in thy Church, mercifully behold this thy servant, now called to the work and ministry of a Bishop." From which prayer, as a learned author remarks, thus used in every form of ordination, it is manifest that the Church believes every one of these orders to be of Divine institution, and also believes them to be several and distinct orders; for it would be absurd, not to say blasphemous, to give it as a reason why we may repeat God's blessing on the ordination of each, "because He has appointed divers orders in His Church," if each were not one of those distinct and divers orders. [Brett, quoted by the Hon. and Rev. Arthur Perceval, in his letter to the Bishop of Winchester.]
Recommending the perusal of these offices in private, that you may clearly understand what the Church teaches upon a subject concerning which much ignorance prevails, I shall proceed to make a few miscellaneous remarks on some of the peculiarities of each office, to which, in the perusal, I would direct your attention. In the Office for Ordering Deacons: "Before the Gospel, the Bishop sitting in his chair shall cause the oath of the Queen's supremacy, and against the power and authority of all foreign potentates, to be administered to every one of them that shall be ordered."
Now, it is very important to take notice of the terms of this oath, which is entitled, "The oath of the Queen's sovereignty," as regards what it does not contain, as well as what it does contain. "I, A. B., do swear, that I do from my heart abhor, detest, and abjure as impious and heretical, that damnable doctrine and position, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any authority of the Sec of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or any other whatsoever. And I do declare, that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate, hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, preeminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm."
Such is the oath which was necessary in the days of the Reformation, and which is unfortunately necessary also in these days, to protect the liberties of our Church against the aggressions of the Romish pontiff and the intrigues of his partizans. But I call attention to this oath, because by the enemies of the Church it has been so misrepresented as to lead persons to suppose, that the Church of England has transferred the power of the Pope to the sovereign, a thing which we expressly repudiate. The papal jurisdiction is suppressed; but, be it observed, it was suppressed some time after the supremacy of the English sovereign over all causes and persons, ecclesiastical as well as civil, was asserted: this was asserted as an inalienable right of the English Crown by the ministers of Henry the Eighth, the Gardiners and the Bonners, who took part in the persecutions of queen Mary's reign, or rather, were the chief instigators of them. In asserting the supremacy of the British Sovereign, we claim for her only that power which before the French Revolution the kings of France exercised over the Gallican Church, and to which the Spanish Church still submits. A wrong impression is conveyed to men's minds by a term never used in our Church itself, that the Queen is the head of the Church: properly explained, there may be no objection to the term, if by head is meant the political head; still, as a matter of fact, though the title of head of the Church of England was assumed by Henry VIII., yet such was the offence given by this title, that queen Elizabeth renounced it. Hence, too, it became necessary to explain, in Article XXXVII., that "the king's majesty hath the chief power in this realm of England, and other his dominions, unto whom the chief government of all estates of this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction. Where we attribute to the king's majesty the chief government, by which titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not to our princes the ministering either of God's Word or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative which we see to have been given always to all godly princes in Holy Scriptures by God Himself; that is, that they should rule all states and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil doers. The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England." [See Queen Elizabeth's Injunctions.]
The object was to assert the majesty of the law against the usurpation of the Pope, and to place the Church of England under the same control of the civil power, to which all other communities are bound to submit.
The next point to which I would call your attention is, the two questions asked of Deacons, the first of which is not repeated in the Ordering of Priests, or the Consecration of Bishops. "Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, to take upon you this office and administration, to serve God for the promoting of His glory, and the edifying of His people? Do you think that you are truly called according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the order of this realm, to the ministry of the Church?"
The principle involved in these two questions thus placed in juxtaposition, is one of general application. Upon almost all our deliberate actions it may be brought to bear. Good thoughts and holy desires are the inspiration of God the Holy Ghost; but all thoughts that we may think to be good, and all desires that we may imagine to be holy, are not really so: the devil may suggest a thought and desire apparently good, and this may be to us a temptation. We must therefore try the spirits. We must compare our inward inclinations with those providential circumstances under which we are placed; and when we find that, without violation of any law, without deviation from rectitude, we are enabled to do what we desire to do, then we attribute the desire to the inspiration of God. The providence of God, and the grace of God, will always correspond, since both are the effects of the one Divine will.
A man has a strong inclination to become a preacher of the Gospel,--how is he to discern whether this inclination comes from God? If this desire is of God, and not a temptation of the enemy, intended to make him set up his will against the will of God, the way will be opened to him by Providence to acquire sufficient learning, and to realize those acquirements which the Bishop may require before he will ordain a candidate. If no facilities are provided, if such studies cannot be pursued, then the internal moving is not of God, and the desire must be overcome, that to the will of God, plainly opposed to our own will, we may submit and say; "Father, not my will, but Thine be done." But woe, still greater woe, to that poor wretched being, who, because facilities of preparation are provided, because friends and parents wish him to undertake the sacerdotal office, because some worldly benefice may be secured,--ventures to present himself to the Bishop without any inward call, without an earnest desire to spend and be spent in his Master's service. If, where outward circumstances are unfavourable, the inward desire is to be restrained, much, much more must we refuse to avail our-selves of favourable circumstances from without, if there be no inward call. It is a dreadful sin to have recourse to this ordinance unworthily! Oh! awful thought, that many may have received this rite to their everlasting condemnation! Oh! what tears of repentance must be shed, what years of unmitigated labour passed, by those whose hearts, converted after their ordination, awaken to a sense of their sin! Awful thought for the clergy, whether Bishops, Priests, or Deacons; a thought so awful that it induced St. Chrysostom to fly to the desert to escape consecration, since he thought it so difficult for a Bishop to be saved! But with respect to the laity, our twenty-sixth Article, written for their comfort, affirms that, "although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have the chief authority in the ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet, forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing of the Word of God and in receiving of the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men. Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that enquiry be made of evil ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences, and finally being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed."
Alas! that this principle is so often reversed, that men refuse to bring an evil minister to justice, and yet decline his ministrations, thereby committing a double offence; neglecting their manifest duty to the body of Christ, which requires the amputation of a corrupt member, and at the same time, while neglecting a duty, committing an act of schism. It is our duty to God and His Church to bring an evil minister to judgment; but so long as he holds his credentials, the wickedness of an ambassador does not vitiate his ministerial acts. He acts in the name of the sovereign, and the sovereign, while he punishes the ambassador himself, will ratify all his acts legally performed.
The question relating to the inward call is not repeated in the Ordering of Priests, because the question relates to the whole ministry, and consequently need only be made on the first entrance into the same.
In the form of administering this ordinance, there is a difference in each of the three offices: in the Ordaining of Deacons, the Bishop alone lays on his hands; in the Ordering of Priests, the Priests who are present unite with the Bishop in the imposition of hands; in the Consecration of a Bishop, all the Bishops act with the Archbishop. In the Greek Church the custom for the Priests to lay on hands at the ordination of a Priest, does not prevail; and it is not essential to the ordinance. But in a well regulated Church, a Bishop does nothing without consulting his Priests, and they ought especially to be consulted on the admission of any Deacon into their own order, an order very little inferior to that of the Bishop, and possessing very nearly the same privileges; the Priests who are present at an ordination, being properly those of the cathedral church, represent the second order of the clergy. In the consecration of a Bishop, care is taken to secure the attendance of at least three Ministers in episcopal orders, besides the Archbishop and 'his representative. The Epistle is to be read by one Bishop, the Gospel by another, and the elect is to be presented also by two. The sanction of a synod of Bishops was always considered necessary to a consecration, to prevent the possibility of persons being introduced clandestinely into that sacred order; and to constitute a synod, there must be present three Bishops at the least.
Deacons are ordained on the sole responsibility of the Bishop, who lays "his hands severally upon the head of every one of them, humbly kneeling before him;" and he says, "Take thou authority to execute the office of a Deacon in the Church of God, committed unto thee; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." The Bishop delivers to every one of them the New Testament, saying, "Take thou authority to read the Gospel in the Church of God, and to preach the same if thou be thereto licensed by the Bishop himself."
In the Ordering of Priests, the Bishop, with the Priests present, laying their hands severally on the head of every one that receiveth the order of Priesthood, the receivers humbly kneeling on their knees, the Bishop says, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee through the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God, and of His holy Sacraments; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." Then the Bishop delivers to every one of them, kneeling, the Bible into his hand, saying, "Take thou authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the Holy Sacraments in the congregation where thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto." In the Consecration of Bishops the form is nearly the same, only the power to forgive and retain sin having been already conferred, it is not imparted again, the Bishop possesses that authority through his former ordination; therefore the Archbishop and the Bishops present, lay their hands upon the head of the elected Bishop, kneeling before them upon his knees, the Archbishop saying, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Bishop in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And remember that thou stir up the grace of God which is given thereby this imposition of our hands; for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and soberness."
It is important to bring these facts before you, for as ordinations and consecrations are not often in these days publicly performed, nor when publicly performed, always in the cathedral, the generality of people are not aware of the great powers which the Bishops assert, and the authority which they give to the Priests. Perhaps a portion of the ill-will, with which consistent Churchmen are regarded, would be mitigated were these facts more fully known. It is certain that we are at present sending men to Rome by our putting a latitudinarian construction upon a Catholic Ritual. The Prayer Book teaches one thing; the popular religion is opposed to the plain teaching of the Prayer Book; and the system of explaining away the plain meaning of the Prayer Book, must have a demoralizing tendency, while persons taught by the Prayer Book to believe what they may not venture to express, are of course alienated from the Church of England. Let us seek to be consistent, neither explaining away one Sacrament to satisfy Puritans, nor refining upon the other to gratify Romanizers; still less let us put a non-natural sense upon our ordinances to wile latitudinarians to our fold, whose presence is only an impediment to the growth of godliness.
You will observe that every Bishop, in that office, to all and every thing contained in and prescribed by which, they, as well as the other clergy, give their unfeigned assent and consent, exercises the power of conferring the Holy Ghost by the imposition of his hands. He uses the words of our Lord Himself when He incorporated His Apostles, and gave them the Holy Ghost to sanctify their ministry, to which He hath promised His own presence even unto the end of the world. In vain do men seek to evade the teaching of the Church. Before the Reformation these same words were used; and they were understood in their natural sense; and no honest man may put a nonnatural sense upon them, the Church not having given the slightest intimation of her intention of interpreting the words, since the Reformation, in a sense different from that in which they were received before the Reformation. But that the grace is given by the Bishop is unequivocally asserted in the Consecration of Bishops, in which these words occur, as you have just heard, "Remember that thou stir up the grace of God which is given thee,"--how? "by this imposition of our hands." The imposition of hands is the outward and visible sign, through which this grace, the reception of the Holy Ghost for the work of the ministry, is given.
Oh! what presumption is here, what awful presumption, as it must seem to those who reject sacramental religion, and deny the Apostolical Succession. To others there is no difficulty in understanding how grace may pass through this channel, however unworthy; for they believe that through the waters of Baptism, sanctified for that purpose, through the elements of bread and wine, duly consecrated in the Eucharist, grace may pass to the souls of the faithful; and if grace, then the Holy Ghost in His character of the Comforter, since of all grace He is the Author. The grace of regeneration in Baptism, the grace of the Lord's body and blood for the strengthening and refreshing of our souls, these blessings are conveyed to our souls through the outward and visible signs in these two great Sacraments of the Gospel: and we who receive the teaching of the Church in this respect, can understand how grace for the ministry, which can only be efficacious through the Holy Ghost assisting those who minister in God's name, may be conveyed through the Imposition of Hands; the Bishop being only the instrument made use of by God, even as water in the font, or as bread and wine in the Eucharist.
So too can we understand the power of remitting and retaining sins, as conferred by the Bishop upon the Priests he ordains: waving for the present all consideration of special absolution; what is Baptism? "I believe one Baptism for the remission of sins;" this is one article of the Christian faith professed by all in the Nicene Creed; in administering this Sacrament then, the authority to forgive sins is exercised. What is the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper? "This is My blood," saith our Saviour, "which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins." When the Eucharist is administered, this power is again used; and St. James directs the sick to send for the Presbyters of the Church; "the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and if he have committed sins they shall be forgiven him." This whole Office is indeed described by St. Paul, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." In refusing, on just grounds, to administer these ordinances they retain sins; but since nothing is to be left to private judgment, for such refusal an appeal is permitted to the Bishop; as for example, in the case of refusing the Holy Eucharist to any one: and this branch of the sacred Office is subject to casual limitations, limitations perhaps overstepped by those of the Clergy who refuse to a people desirous of advancing in godliness a weekly Communion, which every member of the English Church has a right to demand of his Priest.
You perceive how that they have no difficulty with respect to this portion of the Prayer Book, who hold in sincerity what the Prayer Book teaches in her other Offices. But those who reject the teaching of the Church, those who, to conform to the other Offices of the Church, receive them in a nonnatural sense, must resort to the same artifice here, must have recourse to a nonnatural sense of the ordinance, and so benumb their moral sense, learn to equivocate, and do despite unto the Spirit of truth.
It is only by believing in the fact of the Apostolical Succession, that we can acquit the Bishops and Clergy of the Church of England of arrogance the most sinful. What sinful arrogance in Bishops to take upon themselves the power of giving the Holy Ghost, to make themselves channels of grace, to give to sinful men authority to remit or retain sins, unless they be authorized to do so by Him, who only is the fountain of grace, and who only can forgive sins. When did God our Saviour give to any individual, exercising the office of a Bishop, the authority to do this? Has He spoken to him by miracle? No; but as the Church has always believed, and as you read in the words of our text, Christ our God has given this authority to a certain order of persons, a certain body by Him incorporated, and like all such bodies possessing a perpetual succession. If a Bishop acts as he does in the Ordination Services, on the ground of his belonging to that holy order which our Saviour Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, instituted under the circumstances described in our text, there his conduct is intelligible, even to those who will not admit the existence of the fact. But to deny the fact, and yet to use these words, is indeed to blaspheme; to say that the Church of England does not hold the doctrine of the Apostolical Succession, is to accuse the Church of England of blasphemy in her Ordinal; but to all and every thing contained in and prescribed by the Form of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, the Clergy of the Church of England solemnly declare their unfeigned assent and consent.
Sin is an offence against God; God only, therefore, can absolve, but the power is communicable; the Priest, the water, the bread and wine, the uttered word, are but the instruments through which God acts; and when we speak of the Priest absolving through these agencies, we regard the Priest only as one of the agents; and we mean that it is God who absolves, the Priest's power being merely a delegated, ministerial, conditional power. But all depends upon the fact, that he has received this delegation. The Church of England instructs every Bishop to speak as one to whom such power has been delegated, and who can, through the Holy Ghost, hand on the power, and delegate others; which is the whole principle of the Apostolical Succession.
If men will not accept this truth, they must remain in that dilemma to which I have referred: but we are sometimes desired to produce evidence that the Church of England has formally, and in express terms, asserted this doctrine in some of her formularies since the Reformation.
But the real question is, not whether she asserts, but whether she denies it. If she admitted it before the Reformation, and has not denied it since, it is a doctrine of our Church. The Church of England does not date from the Reformation; if indeed it did, it would be no Church at all. The Catholic Church was at the Reformation not destroyed in this country, but reformed; medieval corruptions and innovations were repudiated, but the Church remained as she was; even as Naaman, when cleansed of his leprosy, was still Naaman, even as he was before, though purified. Until the period of the Reformation never did a community of Christians exist, which doubted of the necessity of episcopal ordination, which implies, as all admit, the Apostolical Succession. "Of the distinction among the governors of the Church," observes Dr. Isaac Barrow, "there was never, in ancient times, made any question; nor did it seem disputable to the Church, except to one malcontent Aerius, who did indeed get a name in story, but never made much noise or obtained any vogue in the world. Very few followers he found in his heterodoxy; but all, Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, Donatists, &c. maintained the distinction of orders among themselves, and acknowledged the duty of the inferior Clergy to their Bishops. And no wonder, seeing it standeth upon so very firm and clear grounds; upon the reason of the case, upon the testimony of Holy Scripture, upon general tradition, and unquestionable monuments of antiquity, upon the common judgment and practice of the greatest saints, persons most renowned for wisdom and piety in the Church."
I repeat it, that unless we would unchurch ourselves, the question really to be asked is, not where has the Church of England in her public documents asserted this great truth, but where does she repudiate it? from the first foundation of our Church, whether the founders were the British Bishops, or Augustine of Canterbury and his missionaries, this, the undoubted doctrine of Christendom, was the doctrine also of the Church of England; and no where does the Church of England stultify herself by rejecting this Catholic verity. The sectarian requires the express declaration of his sect for what he receives as doctrine: but we are not sectarians; what was held by our Church before the Reformation, is held by the Church now, unless by subsequent definitions an alteration is asserted, just as the Canons are still in force in our ecclesiastical courts, although ordained long before the Reformation, except when they are overruled by subsequent enactments: and one reason why those who desire to avoid all sectarian notions, are so desirous to retain the ancient ceremonies, even when not expressly enjoined in the present Prayer Book, is to keep up in men's minds the knowledge of the fact, that our Church was not founded at the Reformation; and to connect the Church since the Reformation, with the Church before the Reformation; a reformation implying that things remain as before, except upon the points reformed. This is the principle involved in the present controversy about ceremonies: all admitting that ceremonies are in themselves things indifferent, they still dispute; because the one party desires to regard the Reformers as the founders of our Church; and the other, believing that the Church hath no human foundation, that to ascribe to it a human foundation, is to pronounce it to be, not a Church, but a sect, desire continually to remind men that it is a portion of that very congregation of faithful men which was incorporated under the Apostles, Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone, which existed long in its purity, which was corrupted in the middle ages, which was reformed three hundred years ago, and now exists among ourselves, whether well or ill administered, the very Church of Christ.
Such persons would argue thus: the doctrine of Apostolical Succession is a doctrine of the Catholic Church, the Church of England is a branch of the Catholic Church, this, then, is her doctrine.
But if it be necessary to silence those who regard the Church of England as a sect, we are prepared to meet them on their own ground. The Preface to the Ordinal forms part of that book, to all and everything contained and prescribed wherein the Clergy give their unfeigned assent and consent. It commences thus, "It is evident to all men reading the Holy Scriptures and the ancient authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these orders of ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which offices were evermore had in such reverend estimation, that no man might presume to exercise any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same, and also by public prayer, with imposition of hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful authority. And therefore, to the intent that these orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the form hereafter following, or hath had formerly Episcopal Consecration or Ordination."
Now you must see at once how this formulary silences those, who, being mere sectarians, conform to the Church of England with sectarian feelings, and on this principle feel that they may reject the doctrine of Apostolical Succession. It is evident to all men reading the Holy Scriptures and the ancient authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these orders of Ministers in Christ's Church, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. But what did these ancient authors mean by the word Bishops? They meant, as all will admit, ecclesiastical rulers to whom exclusively pertains the power to ordain. This point cannot he denied. The assertion of the Church, then, is this; that from the Apostles' time this order existed, the order of Bishops, as distinguished from the other orders; she also states that evermore, even from the Apostles' time, the Bishops, as well as the other Clergy, were admitted to their office by public prayer and imposition of hands. It is admitted that Ordination is an office which has always belonged exclusively to the episcopal order, where episcopacy exists, and our Church affirms that this order has existed from the Apostles' time. Therefore as our present Bishops were 'all ordained by Bishops, so by Bishops were their predecessors consecrated, up to what period? The Church answers, up to the Apostles' time: the Apostles, being themselves ordained by Christ, ordained the first generation of Bishops, and Bishops, from that time to this, have ordained men to succeed them in the episcopal office, and this is what is called the Apostolical Succession; a fact in history, and a fact necessary for us to insist upon, because it is only by this fact that the Clergy can prove that they have authority from Christ Himself, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, to act as His ambassadors. He said to the Apostles, "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you:" the Apostles said to the Bishops whom they appointed to be their successors, "As Christ sent us, so do we send you: "and down to the present hour, this is the office of Bishops; as they were sent by those who had power to send, so they, in their turn, send others, and they use the words which Christ, the Bishop of souls, Himself used, when first giving the commission, handing to others both the grace and the authority which He has Himself imparted to His Church. So it is that the Church on earth, in her baptisms and her ordinations, is compared to that luminary which is placed in the firmament to rule the night; daily diminishing and daily increasing; our brethren departing from us to the Church triumphant, and their vacant places filled; so that by a continual accession of children and of fathers, the visible Church is continued to the end of the world. '
Of this Church we are members; some of us set apart for the ministry, but many more to be ministered unto; but whether ministers, or those that are to be ministered unto, all forming but one Church, We, my brethren, are ordained for you; for your regeneration, renovation, edification. It has been by means of one of our order that the infant you saw so lately at the font, has received spiritual regeneration; that infant was brought here a child of wrath, it has been taken hence a child of grace; it has been born again of water and the Holy Grhost; it is a new creature. It is now a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. And this marvellous change has been wrought through the ministry of one of our order. It was by means of one of Christ's ministers that you received the spirit of strength in your Confirmation. It is by means of us that, in the Holy Eucharist, your spiritual life is renewed, and nourished, and sustained; and you are built up in your holy faith. It is for you, my brethren, that we have been ordained; your duty is to receive, with all readiness of mind, our ministrations; our duty is to take heed to our ministry that we fulfil it. And to do our duty, both we and you need God's special grace, which must be sought by diligent prayer. Consider how much we need your prayers. Consider the heavy responsibility that is laid upon us. These are the words addressed by the Bishop to every candidate for the priesthood. "We exhort you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you have in remembrance, into how high a dignity, and to how weighty an office and charge ye are called: that is to say, to be messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord to teach and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family; to seek for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for His children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever. Have always therefore printed on your remembrance, how great a treasure is committed to your charge. For they are the sheep of Christ, which He bought with His death, and for whom He shed His blood. The Church and congregation whom you must serve, is His spouse, and His body; and if it shall happen the same Church or any member thereof, to take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue. Wherefore consider with yourselves the end of your ministry towards the children of God, towards the spouse and body of Christ; and see that you never cease your labour, your care and diligence, until you have done all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error in religion, or for viciousness of life."
Brethren, is not our responsibility great, far greater than yours? And who is sufficient for these things? No one by himself. No, not a St. Paul nor a St. John by himself, without the grace of God. But blessed be God, His grace is sufficient for us; surely then, brethren, you will not refuse us your prayers; we need them. If St. Paul needed the prayers of the brethren, surely we need them more; and it is on. this account that the Church, in her tender love for our souls, before the candidates for the priesthood receive the imposition of hands, requires the people to offer up prayers in their behalf. If you look at your Prayer Books, you will see that after several questions have been put by the Bishop, and answered by the candidates, and after a short benedictory prayer by the Bishop, there follows this rubric, "After this the congregation shall be desired secretly in their prayers to make their humble supplications to God for all these things, for the which prayers there shall be silence kept for a space." These prayers should not only be offered up by the people at the time of Ordination, but they should never cease. Pray then, for us, my brethren, that we may not have entered into the ministry to our condemnation; and that you yourselves may not suffer loss by our unfaithfulness.