"BUT WE DESIRE TO HEAR OF THEE WHAT THOU THINKEST: FOR AS CONCERNING THIS SECT, WE KNOW THAT EVERY WHERE IT IS SPOKEN AGAINST."
ACTS xxviii. 22.
SUCH, Brethren, was the reply of the Jews at Rome, to the address of St. Paul, when he was sent a prisoner from Jerusalem to appear before Caesar. To save his life he had appealed to the highest tribunal known to the laws of the empire, and after various vicissitudes by land and by sea, at length found himself within he walls of the imperial city. That his cause might not be prejudiced by the clamors of his own countrymen, whom he knew by past experience to be opposed to the religion which he taught, he assembled the chief of the Jews, a few days after his arrival, and stated to them the cause of his coming: namely, that-being delivered into the hands of the Romans, though guilty of no crime, and about to be set at liberty because no cause of death was found in him, the Jews nevertheless spake against it; wherefore he was constrained to appeal unto Caesar. "Not that I had ought to accuse my nation of:" said he: "For this cause therefore have I called for you to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. And they said unto him, we neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came showed or spake any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against."
By this sect, is undoubtedly meant, the sect of the Nazarenes or followers of Jesus Christ. It was the christian religion as taught by St. Paul and the other Apostles, which every where excited the opposition and the enmity of the Jews, and [31/32] indeed, generally, of all the nations to whom it was first preached. It was a religion of mortification and self-denial, which inculcated internal purity and moral rectitude, a religion that called for the exercise of constant vigilance over the thoughts, no less than a watchful circumspection of the condut, that rendered it the object of almost universal dislike and aversion. Striking at the roots of temporal ambition, it contradicted the fondly cherished notions of the Jew in reference to national glory and exaltation,--hence it was to him a stumbling block and a stone of offence. Pronouncing of the Heathen gods that they were dumb idols--that the worship offered to them was not only vain but an abomination to the true God, who would call them into judgment for this perversion of their reason, it seemed to the Gentile a system of arrogance and presumption, and he rejected it as foolishness. Neither Jew nor Gentile in that age had any relish for the humbling doctrines of the Cross. Its charity was opposed to their pride, its humility seemed to them meanness, its temperance, ingratitude to providence in not partaking of its bounties, and its glorious promises as the wild dreams of fanaticism. Its simple rites and worship giving expression to the devout feelings of the heart, had nothing in them attractive to the unrenewed mind of man, when set in contrast with the imposing ceremonies of the Jewish ritual or the magnificence and pomp and splendor of Roman worship. It can be no cause of wonder then, that every where it was spoken against. Yet it was the truth of God, and the wisdom of God, and the power of God. Such it has proved itself to be, by eighteen centuries of endurance against the natural hatred of mankind, by dispelling the darkness of ignorance wherever its glorious light has shined upon our earth, and by subduing the understandings of millions to the dominion of truth and their hearts to the reign of happiness and peace. It would be interesting, Brethren, to trace this religion from its implantation in various countries by the labors of the apostles, and show how it has every where encountered opposition, and survived not only the overthrow of kingdoms, states and empires, but the passing away of entire races and whole nations of men. It is destined, perhaps, to encounter yet severer trials in its onward progress to universal dominion, but sure as Heaven's truth, it will put [32/33] down all opposition, and at last reign without a rival in our world.
But I have selected this text not for the purpose of considering the grounds of opposition to christianity originally. They present to our minds a very striking analogy in the position which the church occupies towards the world at the present day, and the character of the opposition which is arrayed against her. It is our purpose to inquire why she is every where spoken against, and whether opposition to her is not wilful or blind opposition against christianity itself.
1. The first charge brought against the church, is exclusiveness of ministerial authority. If our claims upon the subject of the ministry be admitted, say those, who have separated themselves from our communion, then they are in schism. But as there are confessedly a great many pious people who are not Episcopalians, it would be very uncharitable and illiberal to say that they were guilty of schism, and we ought therefore to admit the validity of their orders.
Now we have stated the objection as it is commonly made, and let us meet it fairly and take, at the beginning, all the odium which usually attaches to the denial of its force and justice.
We ask, do piety and learning and gifts, of themselves, impart the power of Orders? It is not so pretended. Why will not a pious man receive the sacraments of a pious man simply because he is pious, or learned or possessed of aptness to teach? It is answered because he has not been ordained. Ordination then, it is clear, confers authority which is altogether separate and distinct from qualifications for office. Thus we say that a man ought to be pious and learned and apt to teach, in order to receive ordination, and that he may exercise his ministry profitably and to edification. But he may be ever so pious, and learned and apt to teach, and yet be no minister. Just so, a lawyer may be just, and upright and learned in the law, and yet not be in the office of a judge.--Qualification for office is one thing, authority to fill the office and exercise its functions is quite another and different thing.
If ordination then confers a power and authority distinct altogether from the qualifications for office, is it unreasonable [33/34] to ask and to demand the proof; whence that power and authority are derived? Would you permit any man by his decision to divest you of your rights and property, under the name of law, unless you were satisfied that he possessed the power and authority of a Judge? And why then should you allow any one to minister to you the sacraments of religion, unless convinced that he was invested with ministerial authority? Now here is the precise line of difference between us and surrounding denominations whose piety and learning and ability to instruct, we do not deny. We ask, whence your authority to act as ministers of religion? Can you show that it is derived from Christ and his apostles? If this can be shown, there is an end at once on our part, of all objection to the orders of dissenters, and we are more than ready to receive their ministrations. But if this cannot be shown, what else is the charge of exclusiveness brought against the Church, but a charge against the institution of Christ?
As then ordination is necessary to confer ministerial authority, and it is, so acknowledged, the question at once arises, how is the power of ordination to be proved? We answer that originally the authority to act in the name of Christ, in the appointments of religion was certified to the world by miracles. When the apostles and other first teachers of christianity travelled into various countries in fulfilment of the work with which they were charged, they spake with tongues--they healed the sick--they cast out devils--they raised the dead, and performed other and wonderful works, all of which were conclusive evidence to men that they were commissioned from on high. And at this day, if any one came to us bearing these unquestionable credentials--these impressive marks of Heaven's acknowledgment, there is not one of us that would demand any further proof of his authority. But as these proofs of the ministerial power are no longer vouchsafed--as miracles have long since ceased, how shall the authority of the christian ministry be certified and proven, in any other way, than by showing its transmission from the original root? Fruitful as the mind of man is in devising expedients to meet a difficult case, no other than this method, to prove a succession in the ministry, has ever been attempted [34/35] by any, except by those who deny that there is any ministry at all established for the perpetual edification and government of the church. But there is a plain, common sense view to be taken of this subject, which seems to me, will convince any one of unprejudiced mind, not only that a ministry was established by Christ, but that it must of necessity have been continued all along to the present day, and will be perpetuated to the end of the world. For, first of all, Christ constituted a ministry, commissioning the apostles, before a church was gathered--before the New Testament or any part of it was written, and before any christian rite or sacrament was administered. His words to the Apostles are: "All power is given unto me in Heaven and in Earth; Go ye therefore and teach, (or make disciples,) of all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost--teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and to! I am with you alway even unto the end of the world."
This declaration that he would be with them to the end of the world, conveys an assurance as definite as language can well express it, of the perpetuity of the Christian ministry. But without dwelling on an interpretation which appears sufficiently obvious, we remark that the commission enjoins the performance of positive and explicit duties, namely: to baptize and teach all things whatsoever he had commanded them. We know most assuredly that the apostles did baptize and did administer the Lord's Supper. Were not these sacraments to be of perpetual obligation? Can any doubt, that they have been observed in every age of the Christian Church to the present day? Corrupted as they may have been, and undoubtedly were,--overloaded and obscured in their obvious purpose and design as they have been, by the superstitious additions of man's presuming wisdom, is it not undeniably true, that they have been celebrated in every country where the religion of Christ has been professed, for the last eighteen centuries? Now what do these facts undeniably establish? Why, that the institution of sacraments pre-supposes the constitution of a ministry--and the perpetual obligation of the former--that is sacraments--proves the uninterrupted [35/36] continuance of the latter. Not a week has passed, we may safely say, since the crucifixion, that baptism or the Lord's Supper, has not been celebrated in some part or other of the earth, and consequently not a day has passed without witnessing the existence of a ministry in the church. The connexion between them, is inseparable, and the fact that men have assumed the office of the ministry, proves that the conviction rested upon their minds, "that a ministry and sacrament, must go together--that they could not be sundered without impugning the authority, and impairing the institution of Christ. Furthermore the institution of sacraments and the authority to administer them resting simply upon the command of Christ, both necessarily become integral parts of the same revelation. The same divine power that commissioned a ministry, commanded the observance of sacraments, and both would be utterly destitute of obligation, if they could not be shown to rest upon the declared will of him, to whom all power is given in Heaven and Earth."
Under this aspect of the case--that is, the ministry and sacraments being equally integral parts of revelation--equally of divine institution--may not one be altered, changed or abrogated, with as much show of reason as the other? Might not the pretended necessity which would justify an assumption of the ministerial authority and office, just as well authorise the entire disuse, or abrogation or alteration of the sacraments? I confess, that with every disposition to concede to men distinguished for piety, every thing upon this subject, which is not utterly repugnant to the plain declarations of Holy Writ and their unavoidable meaning, I can see no difference between the claims to obedience and submission, of those who undertake to change or dispense with the ministry and those who presume to abrogate the sacraments. They must stand or fall together. Consistency has indeed forced very many who have denied one, to reject the other. Thus the large and respectable body of Friends, otherwise known as Quakers, have alike repudiated the ministry and the sacraments of the Gospel, as of binding force and obligation upon the consciences of men. And as a general rule, we may observe, that those who undervalue the authority of the ministry as of divine institution, [36/37] make but little account of the sacraments of Christ's religion. They regard them as badges merely of profession--not necessary in any sense to salvation, and are consequently irregular, inconstant and infrequent in their observance. If it be true then, that Christ instituted a ministry and sacraments in his church--if it be clear that the sacraments are of perpetual obligation and cannot be dispensed or administered without a standing ministry--if the authority of the ministry cannot now be certified by miracles, it follows inevitably that this ministry can be known and verified only as proof shall be exhibited that the authority originally delegated by Christ to his apostles has been transmitted in an uninterrupted succession to those who at this day claim to exercise office in the Christian Church. This is what is termed the apostolic succession, for maintaining which, the charge of exclusiveness is brought against the church--this is one of the reasons why she is every where spoken against." And yet, strange as it may appear, it is nevertheless demonstrably true, that all those who contend for the institution of a ministry authorized to act in Christ's name, in the appointments of religion, do adopt identically the same principle. [Although religion be a concern which equally belongs to every man, yet it has pleased the all-wise Head of the Church, to appoint an order of men more particularly to minister in holy things. If all the interests of the church are precious in the view of every enlightened Christian, it is evident that the mode of organization cannot be a trivial concern. We agree with our Episcopal brethren in believing, that Christ hath appointed Officers in his church to preach the word, to administer sacraments, to dispense discipline, and to commit these powers to other faithful men. We believe as fully as they, that there are different classes and different denominations of officers in the Church of Christ; and that, among these, there is, and ought to be a due subordination. We concur with them in maintaining, that none are regularly invested with the ministerial character, or can with propriety be recognized in this character, but those who have been set apart to the office by persons lawfully clothed with the power of ordaining. We unite with such of them as hold the opinion, that Christians in all ages, are bound to make the Apostolic order of the Church, with respect to the ministry, as well as other points, the model, as far as possible, of all their ecclesiastical arrangements."--Dr. Miller, professor in the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, at Princeton, New Jersey. Next hear Dr. McLeod, another Presbyterian and famous preacher. "A person who is not ordained to office by a Presbyterian has no right to be received as a minister of Christ; his administration of ordinances is invalid; no divine blessing is promised upon his labors: it is rebellion against the Head of the Church to support him in his pretensions: Christ has excluded him in his providence, from admission through the ordinary door, and if he has no evidence of miraculous power to testify his extraordinary mission, he is an impostor:" McLeod's Ecclesiastical Catechism.] Hear the Confession of Faith of the [37/38] Presbyterian Church: "Unto this catholic visible church, Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this we, to the end of the world: and doth by his own presence and spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto." The same authority sets forth that Baptism and the Lord's Supper, are "holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace," appointed by Christ, for our "solemn admission into the Church," and for "confirming and sealing our interest in him;" and they are not to be dispensed by any but by a minister of the word lawfully ordained." Do we enquire who are "lawfully ordained ministers," according to the same standard? We are informed that "the Presbytery,--consisting of all the ministers, and one ruling elder from each congregation, within a certain district or any three ministers and as many elders as may be present belonging to the Presbytery,--have power to examine and license candidates for the holy ministry; to ordain, instal, remove, and judge ministers." What then becomes of the charge of exclusiveness against the church--if the very same, upon identically the same grounds, may be urged against the Presbyterians and indeed all others who reject Episcopacy, but yet claim the power of ordination as grounded upon the commission of Christ to his apostles?--Let the truth be told, Brethren honestly--openly--fairly. They flinch from the consequences of their declared and published sentiments. Professing a sound principle to which the truth of God's word compels them to subscribe, they yet deny its application in practice, because its practical exemplification would involve themselves in the same odious imputation of exclusiveness which they seek to cast upon the church.--To prove this let us ask the question; where is the power of ordination lodged in the Church of Christ? They reply, in a council of Presbyters. Who lodged it there? The apostles acting under the authority of Christ, and guided by his holy spirit,--say they. Now what is the inevitable conclusion from those positions? Why that none others than those presbyterially ordained, are lawful [38/39] ministers of Christ. There is no escape from this conclusion; for the apostles did not institute two modes of ordination, or leave the matter opened and unsettled by their practice. With them there was but one church--but one source of power and authority in it--and but one ministry.--"There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in you all."--If Presbyterial ordination be the institution of God--Episcopal ordination must be of man. They cannot both be of divine authority, and consequently one or the other must be without just claims to the obedience of man. If the former, prove it by scripture and the voice of antiquity and we surrender Episcopacy upon the spot.
But that cannot be done my Brethren. The Bible must be changed and the writings of the Fathers must; be changed, before it can be shown that Presbyterianism is of God and Episcopacy of man. The challenge of the judicious Hooker has remained unanswered some hundreds of years past, and is likely to continue so, some thousands of years to come. "A very strange thing, sure it were," he remarks, "that such a discipline as ye (the Puritans) speak of should be taught by Christ and his apostles in the word of God, and no church ever have found it out, nor received it until this present time. Contrariwise, the government against which ye bend yourselves, be observed every where, throughout all generations and ages of the Christian world, no church ever perceiving the word of God to be against it. We require you to find out but one church upon the face of the whole earth, that hath been ordered by your discipline, or hath not been ordered by ours, that is to say, by Episcopal regimen, since the time that the blessed Apostles were here conversant. Many things out of antiquity ye bring as if the purest times of the church had observed the selfsame orders which you require; and as though your desire were that the churches of old, should be patterns for us to follow, and even glasses wherein we might see the practice of that, which by you is gathered out of scripture. But the truth is ye mean nothing less. All this is done for fashion's sake only; for ye complain of it as of an injury, that men [39/40] should be willed to seek for examples and patterns of government in any of those times that have been before."
Let those who reject Episcopacy meet this demand if they can--let them trace a succession of ordinations by Presbyteries, if they deem such a thing possible, and so far from charging them with exclusiveness, we will give up our own system and adopt theirs.
In the mean time let it not be forgotten that the assumption which they make--namely that presbyterial ordination has the authority of scripture and the sanction of primitive practice to uphold it, carries with it all the odious features which it is attempted to impress upon the claims of Episcopacy. If a council of presbyters only are invested with ordaining power, then ordination by a congregation is invalid, and this throws the Independents, or Congregationalists and the whole body of Baptists into schism--not only so, it determines against the validity of ordination by a Bishop, in whom alone the ordaining power resides according to our system, and consequently cuts off both Episcopalians and Methodists. Thus it is plain that the presbyterial system is to all intents and purposes as exclusive as any other. It is obliged to be so, my friends, in the very nature of things; for as Christ founded but one Church, and committed to it the ministry of reconciliation--that ministry whether constituted after the model of Congregationalism, Presbyterianism or Episcopacy, necessarily excludes all others. The grand question for us all to determine is, what was the form of government established in the primitive church--was it congregational, presbyterial, or episcopal? Shall, we appeal to scripture? We read of Apostles--elders--and deacons, and it is agreed that these orders made up the ministry of the church in the days of the Apostles. We do not find mention once made of ordination by a congregation or by a council of presbyters--on the contrary, everywhere the ministerial authority is conferred expressly by the laying on of the hands of the Apostles--not only of the twelve, but of Paul and Barnabas--of Timothy and Titus. One single, solitary, passage occurs where the laying on of the hands of the presbytery is mentioned. ["Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." I Tim. iv. 14. In answer to the presbyterian gloss on these words, we say: the word presbytery does not necessarily signify a body of presbyters, properly so called. It is as justly applicable to a council of Apostles--for every Apostle was in virtue of his office a Presbyter, but it by no means follows that every presbyter was an apostle. Every Governor of the State is ex-officio a Trustee of our University--but every Trustee is not therefore Governor of the State. But let us see how ancient and wise men understood the term "presbytery" as here used by St. Paul. St. Chrysostom says, "He (St. Paul) does not here speak of Presbyters, but Bishops; for presbyters do not ordain a Bishop." Theodoret. "In this place he calls those Presbyters (i. e. old men) who had received the grace of the Apostleship." Theophylact. "That is, of Bishops; for presbyters do not ordain a Bishop." "Others, as Jerome, Ambrose, and last but not least, Joins CALVIN, maintain that the term presbytery refers to the office to which Timothy was then ordained, and interpret the passage thus: "Neglect not the gift of the presbytery or priesthood that is in thee, which was given by prophecy and the laying on of hands." Lastly, hear St. Paul's explanation of his own words. "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands." 2 Tim. i. 6.]] And even in that case we do [40/41] not know that an ordination was referred to. But granting that it was an ordination, it seems that the presence and action of an Apostle was necessary to give it validity. For St. Paul, referring to the transaction, let the authority imparted by it, be what it may, says expressly it was by the putting on of his hands.
To meet the arguments of Episcopalians upon this subject, drawn from the plain warrant of scripture and the undoubted practice of the primitive church, it is alledged that the Apostles were extraordinary officers and could have no successors--and that after their disease, the government of the church necessarily devolved upon Presbyters. All this ought to be proven. We cannot consent to take assertion merely for argument. We may say however, in passing, that neither Barnabas, nor Silas, nor Junias, nor Andronicus, nor Timothy, nor Titus, appear to have exercised any extraordinary powers--or to have been extraordinary officers, and yet are they called apostles--and some of them we know exercised the power of ordination and governed the church.
Again: those who reject Episcopacy say that it was introduced by little and little about the beginning of the 2d century, so that before the council of Nice, A. D. 325, it was generally prevalent, and after that time was universal till the era [41/42] of the reformation. "A very strange matter, if it were true," says Archbishop Bancroft, "that Christ should erect a form of government for the ruling of his church, to continue from his departure out of the world, until his coming again, and that the same should never be thought of or put in practice for the space of fifteen hundred years: or at least, that the government and kingdom of Christ should then be overthrown, when by all men's confessions, the divinity of his person, the virtue of his priesthood, the power of his office as he is a prophet, and the honor of his kingly authority, was so godly, so learnedly, and so mightily established against the Arians in the council of Nice, as that the confession of the Christian faith, then set forth, hath ever since without contradiction been received in the church."
Strange indeed that so wonderful a change in the form of church government, as that denoted by Episcopacy from parity should take place and no record be made of the fact--no detail of the circumstances by which it was effected be mentioned by so much as one writer. Strange beyond the power of explanation, that light and trivial matters about which Christians then differed, should find a place in the annals of those times, and yet the wonderful revolution from the presbyterial to the Episcopal mode of government pass utterly unnoticed. So early as the time of Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna and the disciple of St. John, the whole christian world was agitated by the question, on what day should Easter be observed? and Polycarp journeyed all the way from Asia to Rome to adjust the difference. Can we really think that such things would form matters of grave discussion, and the introduction of Episcopacy pass unheeded? When people make such demands of us, they must ask us to lay aside the common sense and understanding of men.
"When I shall see" says the learned Chillingworth, "all the fables in the metamorphosis acted, and proved true stories; when I shall see all the democracies and aristocracies in the world lie down and sleep, and awake into monarchies; then will I begin to believe, that presbyterial government, having continued in the church during the apostles' time, should presently after (against the Apostle's doctrine and the [42/43] will of Christ) be whirled about like a scene in a mask, and transformed into Episcopacy. In the meantime, while these things remain thus incredible, and in human reason impossible, I hope I shall have leave to conclude thus: Episcopal government is acknowledged to have been universally received in the church, presently after the Apostles' times."
"Between the apostles' times and this presently after, there was not time enough for, nor possibility of so great an alteration."
"And therefore, there was no such alteration as is pretended. And therefore, Episcopacy, being confessed to he so ancient and catholic, must be granted also to be Apostolic."
Perhaps enough has now been said to show that there is no just ground of complaint against the church, because of her exclusiveness. Since she occupies in this respect, the same position with others. If to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone, be to render us exclusive, let it be even so.--We cannot help it. We dare not undertake to amend or alter that which divine wisdom has ordained and appointed.
It gives me no pleasure, I am sure, to show the points of difference between ourselves and other denominations. I would that we were perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment, and that we all spake the same things. But when points of difference are misunderstood and especially when they are misrepresented, silence on my part would be an unworthy abandonment of known obligations--would be a criminal indifference to the prevalence of error--and a disregard of your most important and dearest interests. I have no sympathy, and I hope you have none, with that mawkish sensibility which fears the honest declaration of the truth, lest it make others feel unpleasant. I have no respect for that pretended liberality of opinion, which under the name of charity, will embrace all professions of Christianity as equally sound branches of the one catholic Church of Christ--and will cast into the shade all distinctive principles as non essential and of minor consequence. Christianity, Brethren, "rejoiceth in the truth," as well "as hopeth all things, and endureth all things." And while we dare not pronounce upon the character of those who follow unscriptural [43/44] and erroneous systems--while we leave them to the just and righteous judgment of that God before whom we must all stand at last, it is nevertheless our duty to show them their error, to lead them to embrace the truth and by all proper means aid them to attain eternal life.
Having therefore made a beginning upon this subject, I shall, God being my helper, go into it thoroughly and leave nothing untouched as to the order, doctrine and worship of the church, which may conduct you to a correct understanding of her principles and your own correspondent privileges and duties. And if I succeed in this, I know the necessary effect will be to inspire you with increasing reverence for the institutions which God has established--and with a deeper sense of gratitude to that good providence which has wrought wondrously and mercifully for you, and brought you into connexion with his holy church.
 It was doubtless from a wise foresight of the proneness of the human mind to become engrossed with "temporal things" to the exclusion and neglect of the "things that are eternal," that God established his church, having in it appointments to keep alive the remembrance of our future accountability and most important interests, and committed to it the ministry of reconciliation, charged with the special duty of rousing men by warning and rebuke, from the slumbers of a careless and unreflecting life--and of quickening them in the pursuit of a heavenly crown by holding up to their view the glorious rewards of eternity.
That God did establish his church in the world, admits of no more question, than that he made a revelation to mankind. That he appointed a ministry in that church, deriving their authority to act in the appointments of religion from him, is equally plain and certain. That this authority, whatever it be, is delegated, no one will deny. By delegated authority, I mean of course, authority to act in the name of another. It is authority in opposition to that which is assumed. And that no one is allowed to assume such authority in the name of God, is manifest from the whole recorded history of the divine dispensations, as well as clear from express declarations of Holy Writ. "No man taketh this honor to himself"--says the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews--"but he that is called of God as was Aaron." "So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou, art my Son, to day have I begotten thee." Such a declaration, enforced by the reference to the illustrious examples mentioned by the Apostle in confirmation of its truth, must settle forever the question; whether the ministerial authority may be assumed or not--it must for ever stamp the seal of reprobation upon all assumptions of the ministry without warrant. Dr. McKnight, a learned Presbyterian divine of the church of Scotland, in his celebrated work on the Epistles, has these words: "The account of the designation, character and office of an high priest, the Apostle applies to Messiah, by observing, that as in the gospel church, no man can take the dignity of an high priest to himself but only the person who is called to the office, by God, like Aaron in the Jewish Church--so the [46/47]