AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE MINISTRY OF
THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
TO THE HOLY ORDER OF DEACONS.
E.P. DUTTON & CO.
TO THE REV. GEO. M. RANDALL.
DEAR BROTHER,--We are so impressed with the importance of the views expressed in your Sermon, at the Ordination of Mr. R. F. Putnam, Deacon, at the Church of the Messiah, Sept. 26, and think the mode of presenting and illustrating them so lucid for general circulation, that we request you to furnish a copy for the press, to be printed in a form suitable for circulation through our Diocese.
We are, dear Brother,
E. M. P. WELLS,
ALFRED L. BAURY,
T. R. LAMBERT,
C. F. KNIGHT,
EDWARD L. DROWN,
JOHN T. BURRILL,
WILLIAM H. MUNROE,
JOHN P. ROBINSON,
BENJ. F. DECOSTA,
EDMUND F. SLAFTER,
J. A. BOLLES,
MOSES B. CHASE,
ROBERT F. CHASE.
BOSTON, NOV. 22, 1859.
In accordance with your request, I submit to your disposal, this Sermon preached at the Ordination of Mr. Putnam, with the prayer, that God may make its circulation a means of promoting right views of the Diaconate, as an essential part of the ministry of Christ's Church.
Truly and fraternally yours,
GEO. M. RANDALL.
REV. E. M. P. WELLS,
REV. ALFRED L. BAURY,
REV. THEO EDSON, (and others.)
"THEY THAT HAVE USED THE OFFICE OF A DEACON WELL, PURCHASE TO THEMSELVES A GOOD DEGREE." 1 Tim. iii. 13.
TIMOTHY was an apostle. He had been admitted to this high and holy office by St. Paul, who, in his first Epistle to him, sets forth, in terms of earnest solemnity, some of the many duties which devolved upon him, as one of the chief ministers in the church of God. Among the more important of these duties, was that of ordaining men to the ministry. Hence, he enumerates some of the qualifications of those who should seek, at his hands, the great commission to preach the gospel. Having spoken of the qualities which should pertain to such as were ordained to the second order, he specifies some of the requisites to be demanded of those who should be admitted to the third order, saying: "A Deacon must be grave,--not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience,"--"ruling their own houses well;" and then adds: "For, they that have used the office of a Deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith, which is in Christ Jesus."
The same essential qualifications are demanded of [3/4] such as are admitted to the Order of DEACONS now, as were required in the Apostolic age. As the same duties are enjoined, so also the same promises of approval, of success, and of preferment, are made to all who, in this age, discharge the duties of their ministry with zealous fidelity.
It should, then, be the chief endeavor of such as are admitted to the third or lowest order of the ministry, to
I.--USE THE OFFICE OF A DEACON WELL.
In order to use this office "well," we must first understand what the office is, since it can only be "used well," when it is used for the end for which the Great Head of the Church made it an order of His ministry, and so a part of His kingdom on earth.
The Church holds that a DEACON is a Minister,--as really a Minister as is a PRESBYTER or a BISHOP, but a minister of the lowest grade. This the New Testament plainly teaches.
There are denominations who regard Deacons as simply a class of Laymen, whose duty it is to assist the minister in the administration of the Lord's Supper, to visit the sick, and to distribute the alms of the church for the relief of the poor. While it is true that such like duties do pertain to the office of a Deacon, it is also true that Deacons were empowered by the Apostles to preach the gospel and to baptize. This Philip did. But it is answered:--"Philip preached because he was an Evangelist." [4/5] An Evangelist is one who publishes good tidings. A preacher of the gospel is therefore an Evangelist. Philip was an Evangelist, because he preached the gospel. All Deacons were Evangelists for the same reason. Philip became an Evangelist when he became a Deacon. What, therefore, those who differ from us alledge as an argument against the doctrine that Deacons are Ministers, is the very thing which is the consequence of their being Ministers.
The office of a Deacon, then, is the office of a minister of Jesus Christ, duly ordained in and for his Church. Hence to use the office of a Deacon well, is to use the office of the ministry well.
So far as the words of the text conjoin an Apostolic injunction with a divine promise, we may safely regard their range as reaching beyond the numerical order of Deacons to the entire Church, in its legislative and executive relations, so that to the Church it may be said:--"They that use the office of a Deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree."
As a part of the divinely ordained ministry of Christ's kingdom, this order is to be "used," and it is to be used "well," and the church that so uses it, "will purchase to itself a good degree;" a good degree of success in the form of increase of numbers, of strength, of stability, and of holiness, as fruits of that blessing which God bestows upon the right use of the right means, in the work of saving a ruined race.
On the other hand, we are shut up to the conclusion that if the Church do not use this office well, then, in this regard at least, it will not "purchase to [5/6] itself a good degree;" in other words, it will lose the benefit of all those blessings, whatever their nature or their number, which the Divine Head of the Church has linked to the just and proper exercise of this particular office.
Nothing can be more evident than the fact that in just so far as we depart from apostolic practice and precept, in matters pertaining to the permanent offices in Christ's kingdom on earth, in that ratio, precisely, do we remove ourselves from the blessings which constituted the Apostolic success.
Thus in the SACRAMENTS, we are to have two--no more and no less. They who make the experiment of changing this number, forfeit the blessing which attaches to a divine law, and pay the penalty of their presumption in the infidelity of idolatry, as the Romanists have done; or by coming to nothing, as the Quakers are doing.
So in the orders of the ministry. No man, and no body of men, can modify the number or the nature of these orders, without forfeiting the blessing which belongs to their use, and incurring the consequences which come of their abuse. The CHURCH herself may, therefore, not "use the office of a Deacon well." She may do thus:
1. By not using it all.
A Christian Church, without some sort of a Diaconate, is so far and so manifestly an ecclesiastical monstrosity, that but few, even of the wildest heretics, have ever been mad enough to think of having an organized society, to be called a church, without the office of a Deacon.
 But this office is not "used well" when
2. It is not used for the general purpose for which it was established.
If it be an order of the Ministry, then it is not using it well to employ it as an office of the Laity. If Christ has created this order with ministerial functions, then it is not for man to put asunder what God has joined together.
Why the Almighty ordained three orders of ministry in His Church, is not for us to ask. He might have had six, and He might have had but one. It is enough for us to know that He was pleased to appoint three, and no more and no less. Of this we may be quite sure, that if one order or two orders would have answered the purpose equally well, then He would not have ordained three, since there can be no superfluity of means in a divine economy.
If we believe the ministry of the Christian Church to have been created and commissioned by the Great Head of the Church, in the orders of the Apostles, Presbyters, and Deacons, then we have no right to suppose that that Church will accomplish its mission, in the conversion of the world, by any one or by any two of these orders. "The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." "Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary." God creates necessities. It is man's prerogative to observe them, and his duty to conform to them.
The Church does not use the office of a Deacon well, when
 3. She does not use it for the specific purpose for which it was created.
It is not enough that we recognize this Order as a part of a three-fold ministry. We must actually and so practically employ it, as such, in the full integrity of its divine authority and purpose.
When ordination to the Diaconate is made simply preliminary to admission to the Priesthood, and the interval between the two ordinations becomes only a formal probation, for the sake of making a distinction where really there is no difference, then the Church virtually nullifies the divine arrangement, and sets out to make the experiment of improving upon what is divine, in the attempt to overcome the "world, the flesh and the devil," with an instrumentality something less than God Himself has provided. Such economy of means is alike a false and fatal husbandry of power. We thus, indeed, have a Diaconate, and so secure a nominal and numerical integrity. But this is by no means enough. If we would have the needed and the promised blessing, we must, in this matter, have not only a numerical, but a professional, functional and practical integrity. We must have Deacons in something more than a name. We must have a real, live, and distinct Diaconate. Neither Sub nor Super-Deacons will answer the purpose. We cannot convert the world with two and a half orders, where the Lord has ordained three, any more than we can do it with two or with one, for the plain reason that it is not God's plan for doing His work.
The Church, therefore, does not "use the office of [8/9] a Deacon well," when she makes it only a steppingstone to the Priesthood. In this regard, our own communion has verily departed from Apostolic practice. We have virtually no Diaconate, as a distinct order of the ministry, as the Levites were a body of men distinct from the Priests, in the Mosaic Dispensation; and as the primitive Deacons were a body of men distinct from the Elders in the Apostolic age. [Note A.]
Our Deacons have been little more than clerical candidates for the Priesthood, appointed to serve their probation of one year, wherein they were expected to perform (generally in the charge of some parish) all the duties of a Presbyter, except pronouncing the absolution, administering the Lord's Supper, and giving the Apostolic Benediction. In other words, we have undertaken to build up the cause and kingdom of the Redeemer with something less than the instrumentality which he has ordained to this end. Have we succeeded in this? Shall we succeed in this? Let the measure of our success, as compared with that of the primitive Church, furnish an answer to these questions.
Let it not be said that Laymen can perform these duties equally well; and therefore there is no call for such an order of Ministers entirely distinct from that of Presbyters, since such reasoning is charging the Great Head of the Church with folly in providing such an order in His kingdom. If the Diaconate, as a distinct order of the Ministry, were not proper, and needful and essential,--so essential that [9/10] neither Priests nor Bishops could as well do the duties of the office, then we may be assured that no such order of the Ministry would have been established. But it has been established, and we have failed to use it well, in just so far as we have departed from the original purpose and the Apostolic practice. Nor shall we ever reach the full measure of the primitive blessing, until in this and in other things we have returned in the simplicity of an humble faith to the practice of the Church in, her earliest and purest age.
It is not solely by induction from gospel premises that we arrive at this conclusion. Our own observation would teach us almost as much. We see every day, on every hand, how much the Church is losing of the fruits of her golden opportunity, by this misuse of the Diaconate. What pastor has not felt the want of that very provision which the Church's theory supplies, and which the Church's practice withholds? In this country, where the spirit of the age makes such demands upon the time, talents, and labors of the Rector of a Parish, whose meagre income will not permit the employment of an assistant minister, he needs precisely that assistance in the performance of his public ministrations, and in his parochial duties, which it is the office of a Deacon to render.
Again, to say nothing of the gain to the Church in thus saving the strength of her faithful Presbyters, thereby enabling them to labor longer and to labor better in the cause of their Master, if every Rector had, at his command, one or more ministers of this [10/11] lowest order, he could do much in the way of improving the many promising openings, which, on every hand, are inviting the Church to plant her Apostolic standard and to establish her Evangelical services.
I know it has been said that a considerable increase of this lowest order, qualified only for its more subordinate duties, would be to increase the number of the ministry at the expense of its dignity. If it can be shown that our Lord has ordained the ministry of His Church for purposes of dignity, then I admit that there is some force in the objection. But if, on the other hand, all the dignity there is, or ever was, or ever can be, in any Order of the Christian Ministry, whether of Bishops, Priests or Deacons, is to be found, and found only in the fact that it is a divine office, a thing of God, solely dependent upon His blessing for any measure whatever of true success, then it never can lose aught of its true dignity, so long as it is maintained in the manner and for the purposes for which a frail mortal receives an ambassador's commission from the eternal God.
We may rest assured that if we take care to do the duties of our sacred calling, the Lord will take care of its dignities, that they may suffer no loss by our earnest but legitimate labors, so that the cause of the Redeemer's kingdom shall not be hindered by our carrying out fully and faithfully, the Apostolic plan.
The General Convention has, by late legislation, sought to bring the Church's practice into harmony with the divine ordinance and the Apostolic usage. May we not hope that the voice of her highest [11/12] council will be heeded? A cordial cooperation in the matter of this provision, on the part of all who are in authority, will soon show to the world that the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States has the three orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, in something more than a name. And if they be faithfully employed, may we not be sure that her future history will verify the divine promise, that in this integrity "she hath purchased to herself a GOOD DEGREE?" [Note B.]
It is now time to turn our attention to the application of these words of the Apostle, to the person who seeks to be admitted to the holy order of Deacons.
We have already seen, that to use the office of a Deacon well is to use the office of the Ministry well. What, then, is the office of a duly ordained minister of the Lord Jesus Christ? One of the chief duties of the ministry is to preach the gospel. Then to use the office of a Deacon well--
1. Is to preach the Gospel well.
The Deacon is empowered to preach, if he is thereunto licensed by the Bishop.
What are the elements of good preaching? The first requisite is a knowledge of the scheme of salvation. No man can explain and enforce what he does not himself understand.
When Christ ordained the preaching of the gospel as a means for the salvation of sinners, and commissioned a ministry to this end, with whom He promised to be to the end of the world, it was on condition [12/13] that they should preach His gospel in His way. Hence, to preach the gospel well, is to preach it as Christ preached it--as it stands revealed in His holy word. He, therefore, who would preach this gospel well, must have right views of sin, its nature and consequences; the necessity of an atoning sacrifice; man's depravity and Christ's divinity; the relation of the sinner to the Saviour as an all sufficient Redeemer:--the penitent's Prophet, Priest, and King. If he do not so preach the gospel as to show to men dead in trespasses and sins their lost condition, just precisely as that condition is, and if he do not exhibit to a dying world Christ crucified, really and truly as He is--God incarnate, then he does not preach the Gospel well, for the reason that he does not preach it as God has written it.
Another element of preaching well, is to set forth all parts of the scheme of salvation in their just proportions and proper relations in connection with the means of grace, the conditions of pardon and the mode of justification, wisely adapting the word preached, to times and seasons and circumstances, "rightly dividing the word of truth," and thereby "giving to all their portion of meat in due season."
To preach the gospel well, is therefore to preach the whole of it; carefully adapting special parts of it to times and places, when and where it may be brought into effectual antagonism with prevailing errors, "withholding nothing of the whole counsel of God, whether men will hear or forbear."
2. Another office of the ministry is to administer the Holy Sacraments.
 The Deacon is empowered, by virtue of his ordination, to baptize, and to assist in the administration of the Lord's Supper. To do these well, is to use the office of a Deacon well. But what is it to administer the Sacraments well? I answer: To administer them according to the will of Him who instituted them, and commanded them to be observed everywhere by all. The will of Christ, in this regard, relates to the number and nature of the sacraments, the qualifications of those who are to receive them, the importance to be attached to them as means of grace. In other words, the minister is to make them just what the Saviour made them, no more and no less. He has no right to undervalue them, for the purpose of counteracting the mischief of those who overestimate them. Neither is he unduly to exalt them, to make amends for the harm done by those who do not duly esteem them, since, in both cases, he would not be using them well, inasmuch as he was not doing the will of Him who ordained them, and who commissioned him to administer them. There is, in this age and in this country, no little danger of erring in one or other of these directions.
He who makes more of the Sacraments than Christ has made of them, incurs the fearful responsibility of using the power of his position to lead his people into that error, whose progressive issue may, at length, involve their souls in irretrievable ruin. The wrong is none the less real, nor are the consequences any the less deadly, because he is sincere in his convictions and honest in his endeavors, to counteract the evil which may come of a criminal neglect [14/15] of these divine ordinances, on the part of others. Nor is it modified by the fact, that he himself does not fall, by following out his own teachings to their legitimate results.
On the other hand, he who designedly keeps the Sacraments in the background, does not make as much of them as the gospel does--does not give them the prominence which their author has given them, because others have erred in the opposite extreme, is guilty of disobedience to a divine command. He is, moreover, guilty of a criminal cowardice, inasmuch as he does not trust God's people with God's gift, which he has commanded them to receive; and so, he thereby not only robs them of their rights, but reproaches their Redeemer, since by such a course he is virtually saying, that Christ has instituted a dangerous ordinance, which it is not safe for the people to have. Nor is this the limit of his fault; he is guilty of distrusting God, as if the Great Head of the Church would not take care of His own ordinances, if they were faithfully set forth, as He has established them; and therefore the wise caution of human reserve is needed, to save these ordinances from ministering to the injury of souls.
Nor is this all. Such a manner of proceeding leads to the very error which it seeks to avoid. If, for example, a minister were to omit all mention of the Lord's Supper, when speaking of the means of grace, and avoid the whole subject of this Sacrament, lest his people should overestimate its importance, that minister is pursuing a course which will ultimately result either in infidelity or in that form of [15/16] extreme Sacramentarianism which leads to Romanism. Such is the nature of the human mind, that it will not remain long at one extreme. Action and reaction are equal. A people who have been taught, by the silence of their minister, practically to ignore the Sacrament of the Holy Communion, as a positive means of grace, will, some of them at least, one day awake to the fact that this ordinance was "commanded to be received," and that it was designed to be their spiritual food, for "the strengthening and refreshing of their souls;" and then, under the frightful impulse of a newly-discovered truth, gathering force from the consciousness of a long-cherished error, and a long-neglected duty, they rise to extravagant views, and rush to those excessive extremes which border upon damnable heresy.
He who uses the office of the ministry well, will never be afraid to declare whatever Christ has said, and to do whatever Christ has commanded. It is only by having the courage that comes of a true faith, and in that faith making known "the whole counsel of God," leaving consequences to Him, who can take care of his own Church a great deal better than any of His mortal ministers can do, that we shall avoid the error of an idolatrous infidelity, and maintain the evangelical integrity of divine truth.
3. Another office, which specially pertains to the order of Deacons, is to visit the poor, the sick, and the afflicted, that he may relieve their distress by supplying their wants, so far as the alms of the church will enable him to do; that he may comfort the feeble-minded by words of kindness and [16/17] encouragement; enlighten the ignorant by instructing them out of God's Word in the ways of righteousness; console the bereaved with the precious promises of the gospel; and thus, by following in the footsteps of his divine Master, in "going about doing good," he will "use the office of a Deacon well."
Much more may sometimes be done, for the good of souls and the glory of God, in faithful pastoral labors, than in extraordinary pulpit performances. It is evident enough that those denominations where this duty has been best discharged, have been most successful in their efforts to increase their numbers, and to gain a firm hold upon the affections and confidence of the people.
Not a few young men make the sad mistake, in the early years of their ministry, in supposing that their success is to depend upon the brilliancy of their preaching, and that pastoral visiting must give place, essentially, to sermon-writing. No apparent success in the pulpit can compensate for the neglect of parochial visiting. The mischief is mutual. The minister, by this omission, loses quite as much as the people. A minister, who preaches, not simply to be heard, but to be felt, and looks for and depends upon the blessing of God, to make his teaching effectual, will write all the better sermons for having regularly visited his people, "in all time of their tribulation and in all time of their prosperity."
To use the office of a Deacon well, is to so use it as most effectually to promote the true prosperity of Christ's kingdom. To this great end, he should consecrate his life with all its abilities and opportunities.
 II. HOW SHALL THIS BE DONE?
Does the young Deacon exclaim--"Who is sufficient for these things?" I answer: NOBODY, in himself and of himself. A Deacon is God's minister, and may only perform the duties of this ministry by the help of Him whose ambassador he is.
1. To use the office of a Deacon well, he needs the ceaseless pressure of the highest incitement. He will find this by seriously and frequently reflecting upon the importance and responsibility of his holy office; his solemn obligations to be faithful to his high trust; the consequences to his own soul and to the souls of his fellow-men, if he be unfaithful; the coming of that day, when he will be called to give an account of his stewardship to that Judge who first gave him his commission.
2. As no man can do this or any other duty acceptably, without the Holy Spirit, so should he, who aims to use the office of a Deacon well," look constantly and earnestly to heaven for that divine direction, whereby alone he can go right, and that ghostly aid whereby alone he can do well.
3. To perform the multiplied duties of the ministry aright, he must do the will of God, in all things that pertain to his holy calling. , God's Will is revealed in His Word, and it is revealed no where else. If it be not found there, it cannot be found anywhere. He, then, who would "use the office of a Deacon well," should be a prayerful student of the Bible, as alone containing that truth which Christ has made the only rule of faith--the only guide of life--the only way of salvation.
 4. Such are the temptations which beset ministers, in common with other Christians, not to do well by omitting what is important or by doing what is unimportant or improper, that if he who enters upon the lowest grade of the ministry, would use his office well, he should make the discharge of its duties a matter of conscience, and not a matter of convenience. The good of souls, and not his own comfort, should be his ruling motive. The advancement of the Redeemer's cause, and not his own preferment, should stimulate him to untiring effort. He must remember, that it was for labor and self-denial that he enlisted as a soldier in the service of the Great Captain of his salvation; that he stands upon the walls of Zion, not for the purpose of spying out a pleasant post, but to watch for the coming of a crafty enemy.
He who would "use the office of a Deacon well," will seek the direction of God, as to his field of labor. Just where the hand of Providence opens the door of duty, there he will gladly go in and live and labor, until that same Providence shall call him "to go up higher." He is surely not counted a good soldier, who spends his time and wastes his strength in travelling about the camp, seeking a good place, or in search of a good name, but rather he who stands just where his commander puts him, and does the duties of that station, whatever those duties may be, to the best of his ability;--willing to stand there, to fight there, and to fall there, if such are his orders.
It is to such as these that the salutation sooner or later comes,--"Friend, go up higher;" and to [19/20] this St. Paul doubtless referred, when in the text he says: "They who use the office of a Deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree."
Promotion to the higher order of the ministry is here spoken of as a fact, and not as a motive--a consequence, and not a cause. The only motive that should impel a minister to diligence and faithfulness, is the glory of God in the salvation of souls. The approval of Christ--the testimony of a good conscience--success in building up the Church by the conversion of souls and the edification of saints, are all the rewards he should look for this side of heaven. Thus living and thus laboring, "he will purchase to himself a good degree:"--a good degree of peace of 'mind, which springs from a consciousness of having done our duty--a good degree in the affections of those to whom we have ministered, and whose spiritual welfare we have sought to promote--a good degree in the abundant blessings which God will bestow upon the faithful here, and in the rewards of life and glory which he will confer upon his chosen in the world to come.
And how can I better discharge the duty that devolves upon me of addressing you, my beloved brother, on this most interesting occasion, than by reminding you of the importance of "using the office of a Deacon well."
You are about to receive from the hands of a successor of the Apostles, that commission, transmitted in unbroken succession from the Great Head of the Church, which will admit you to the Holy Order of Deacons.
 Permit me, then, to remind you that when that commission has been given and received, which admits you into the first or lowest order of the Christian Ministry, then your relations are at once and forever changed. You will then stand before your fellow men a regularly ordained minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, an ambassador of the living God, clothed with the authority to exercise the office of a Deacon in His Church--to preach, (if you should be thereto licensed by the Bishop,) to administer the sacrament of baptism, and to assist in the administration of the Lord's Supper.
If you would labor successfully to the glory of God, and the salvation of souls, then be prayerfully careful to use this office well, by using it in the manner and for the purpose prescribed in the gospel. Never desire to go beyond, nor to rest within that limit.
Make Christ crucified the central point of all your preaching. What He has revealed of Himself:--His divinity, His offices, and His atonement; what He has said of the depravity of man and the way of salvation, that set forth plainly, earnestly and affectionately, with all the faithfulness of a true Christian, and with the meek fearlessness of a minister of the Most High.
Hold up to the people the blood of Jesus, as the only sacrifice for sin, and the only hope for sinners. Hold up his Word, as the only rule of faith--His Church, as the only ark of salvation.
Make the Sacraments just as important as Christ has made them. See that you raise them no higher, and be careful that you sink them no lower.
 Set forth the Church as the exclusive instrumentality, which God has ordained for the reformation and salvation of a lost world. But in doing this, see that you do not mistake a means for an end. Never place the Church so far in the forefront as to give just occasion to any, either within or without its pale, to say that you strive to extend it, other than as a divine organization, for conveying the knowledge and means of salvation to a perishing world. Be careful, in all your labours, to build the Church on the foundation which Christ hath laid, and on no other. Be not persuaded by the importunities of a false charity, to expand these walls beyond that foundation; nor, on the other hand, be driven, by the spirit of a blind exclusiveness, to contract them within that foundation. Make the Church just as Catholic as Christ hath made it, and make it just as exclusive as He has made it.
Be always clothed in the panoply of the gospel--always in the way of duty--evermore cultivating the spirit of prayer, and the power of holiness, and may you so live and labor, that your Master may at all seasons find you "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed." Aim "to use the office of a Deacon well, that you may purchase to yourself a good degree" in the Church militant, and when life and labours here are over, may you hear, in the Church triumphant, from the lips of your Saviour: "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
There is no evidence that either of the seven Deacons were ever any thing but Deacons. They lived and died, so far as the Bible informs us, in this lowest order of the ministry. They constituted a REAL DIACONATE; they were a body of ministers doing the work of Deacons in the Church of God. Their labors were owned and honored of Him, who called them to this ministry in His Church. Is it not, therefore, as plain as any historical fact can be, that in the primitive Church there was a distinct order of men known as Deacons, performing the office of a Deacon, just as evidently as there was a distinct order of men known as APOSTLES, doing the work of Apostles? This fact proves, plainly enough, that there was a work for such an order of ministers. It was their duty to "serve tables;" but it was also their duty to preach the gospel and baptize believers. These two distinct classes of duties were united in them, and they were united in no other order. It was a subordinate ministry; as such it was instituted. In the judgment of Infinite Wisdom, such an order of ministers, who should join "the service of tables" with preaching the gospel, was a necessity, and it is not, therefore, for us to question the purpose or the propriety of such an ordination.
As these duties were essentially different from those which pertained to the Priesthood, or the Apostleship, so were the qualifications different. The chief qualification demanded of such was, that they should be men of "honest report." Higher requisites than honesty and a good reputation, would necessarily be demanded of persons who sought admission to the two higher orders; and therefore, if a Deacon would aspire to such an elevation, he must "purchase that good degree" by acquiring, during his Diaconate, such qualifications as would entitle him to this advancement, and which would, moreover, answer the condition of a "purchase."
It has been objected, that the ordination of Deacons, under the new Canon, would serve to flood the Church with a class of ministers, who would impair the moral power of the ministry by degrading its dignity. To this it may be answered, that the law regulating the qualifications of candidates for the Priesthood would be the same then as now, and the Church would hold the control of this matter as effectually in her own hand as she ever has done. She guards against an uneducated ministry by demanding certain literary qualifications, and by requiring a satisfactory examination in theological learning. The fact of a DIACONATE does not interfere at all with the requirements or the execution of such a Canon. So far from lowering the standard of the ministry, the existence of a body of Deacons, contemplated by the Canon, would serve to elevate that standard. Now we have practically no such distinct order of men known as Deacons. A person is admitted to the Diaconate [23/24] only as a necessary antecedent to his admission to the Priesthood. The fact that he is ordained Deacon, becomes virtually a pledge that he shall be admitted to the Priesthood. To keep a Deacon in this lowest Order, against his wishes, would be accounted an act of oppression and cruelty, inasmuch as he would stand before the Church singled out from all others, and therefore publicly branded as unworthy of advancement. The argument is, that the mistake was in admitting him Deacon; but having ordained him, the Church is bound to promote him, unless, indeed, her ecclesiastical authorities are prepared publicly to punish him for her own fault, and not for his. Hence it is that many find their way to the Priesthood who are not qualified for this office.
Such is the demand for Pastors, that Deacons are hurried into the Priesthood, irrespective of their qualifications, because, having taken the charge of parishes, their inability to administer the Lord's Supper is a matter of serious inconvenience.
Suppose we have an Order of Deacons to perform primitive duties, with primitive qualifications; who are ordained Deacons, not as it stepping-stone to the Priesthood, and with no particular reference to it. The Church can then well afford to enforce a rigid conformity to the requirements of the Canons, in guarding the Priesthood from the intrusion of the uneducated. She can say, without severity to the Deacon, that he must remain and live and labor with his Order, because he does not come up to the full requirements of the law, and he cannot complain that he is disgraced, since he is simply required to abide with his peers, until he is able to "purchase a good degree;" and so can neither the Priest say that his Order is dishonored by the admission of an unworthy candidate. I ask, if such had been the practice of the Church for the last twenty-five years, how many, who are now Priests, would, up to this day, have remained Deacons? The fact of such a Diaconate as the primitive Church had, and which our own Canons now recognize and authorize, would serve to make the distinction between the two orders greater than it now is, and at the same time would serve to increase, rather than diminish, the number of well-educated Presbyters, by raising and maintaining the standard of qualification. Under such a regulation to "purchase a good degree," would be language not entirely without meaning. "Purchase" implies consideration. We might well ask what consideration is demanded by the Church's present practice? Where preferment comes as a matter of course, it can hardly be said to be "purchased."
To the objection, that such a class of Deacons are not qualified to preach, it may be replied, that the license to preach is held by the Bishop in his own hand. If the Deacon be not qualified, this license may never be given, or if given, it may, for good cause, be revoked. In such a case, the Deacon can act as the Priest's assistant, and his service can bring no reproach. If he be morally disqualified, he may be degraded, and that is the end of him, as a minister, in the Church of Christ.