AT THE OPENING OF THE ANNUAL DIOCESAN
CONVENTION, ON THURSDAY,
MAY 11, 1854.
BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE.
AUSTIN H. BROWN & CO., PRINTERS.
My Brethren of the Clergy:
In the Providence of God, we occupy a position, both in its social and moral relations, of no little importance and influence. To us is given "the ministry of reconciliation," by which we are made "ambassadors for Christ," "ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." And in the solemn "form and manner," by which we are publicly and authoritatively placed in this position, we are especially exhorted, among other things," in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to have in remembrance into how high a dignity, and to how weighty an office and charge we 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 [3/4] of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ forever." [Form and manner of ordering priests.]
Our position and office being of such weighty importance, and of such extensive influence, in addressing you on the present occasion, in compliance with the Canon which "declares it to be proper that every Bishop of this Church shall deliver, at least once in three years, a charge to the clergy of his diocese, the Ministry of Reconciliation, its Authority and Responsibility, hath commended itself to my mind as an appropriate and instructive theme of discourse; and to a consideration thereof I invite your attention.
I. The kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, according to ancient prophecy, was to be a visible, spiritual society on earth. Such a society, those inspired men who have recorded the fulfilment of prophecy in this respect, teach us, that kingdom, in its manifestation as the visible church of God, is, and that by the appointment of the predicted King himself.
In human affairs, every society has its officers. This, relative to secular societies, is, in principle, an axiom, and in practice of universal usage. The Church of Christ being a society, the same principle applies to it [4/5] as such. It must have officers. They are necessary to exemplify its visibility; to govern and regulate its affairs; and to extend and perpetuate it in the world. And as in secular societies, the officers of such societies are not self-appointed, but chosen and invested with authority, according to some law, and by some agency recognized by the respective societies; so it is with this spiritual society," the Church of the living God," and its officers. They may not assume the office. They must not send themselves, but be sent "by men who have public authority given unto them in the congregation, to call and send ministers into the Lord's vineyard." [Article XXIII.]
These officers constitute the ministry of Christ's church, "the ministry of reconciliation." This ministry, as is the church itself, is of Divine institution. It did not originate with the apostles, but with the Lord and Master, whose disciples they were. The great "Shepherd and Bishop of our souls," the Lord Jesus Christ, manifested His great love and unceasing care for the sheep who were to be gathered out of the world into His spiritual fold, by instituting and appointing shepherds, to be perpetuated through all time, to feed, nurture, guide, watch over, and protect His flock, and prepare them for those "green pastures and those still [5/6] waters," which are the promised inheritance of the faithful. He did not, as some seem to imagine, leave His religion to propagate and perpetuate itself at hap-hazard; nor commit its extension and perpetuation among all nations to human devices and ordering. He provided, in His own infinite wisdom, and by His own Divine authority, an agency for such extension and perpetuation. He instituted in His church a ministry; invested an order of men with authority to teach, edify, govern, and propagate the church; gave them command and power to transmit to others, the office and authority wherewith He had invested them; and added withal, a promise of His perpetual presence with them, with those whom they should commission to succeed them, and with their commissioned successors from generation to generation, until the end of time.
The commission runs thus:--"All power," said the Lord Jesus, "is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore," addressing the eleven disciples, "and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe whatsover I have commanded you: and Lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." This institution of a visible and permanent ministry, is recorded besides, with [6/7] a slight variation of terms, but substantially the same, by St. Mark and St. John. The greatest variation is in St. John's account of the transaction, in which, after declaring the mission of the apostles in general terms, he narrates the form and manner of the investiture of the eleven with their office and authority; together with the equal gift to all and each, of a disciplinary power, in the absolving of penitents in the name of Christ, and in the exclusion and restoration of offending members of the Church; technically called "the power of the keys." He teaches, moreover, clearly and authoritatively, the necessity that the ministers of Christ should be sent, by those who have authority to send, and that they may not assume the office, and send themselves. "Then said Jesus, Peace be unto you. As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained."
This commission was given to the eleven Apostles officially; and was designed to constitute in and through them a visible and permanent ministry, with the power of perpetuating said ministry, through their official successors, until the end of the Gospel dispensation. [7/8] The terms of the commission, as they are given by St. Matthew, clearly prove this; and especially the accompanying promise. Neither of these could possibly apply and be restricted to the Apostles in their personal, but only in their official capacity, and to the ministry with which they were invested. For, how could they personally "teach all nations, baptizing them?" And, how could the promise, "Lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world," apply exclusively and be restricted to men, mortal like other men, and who actually survived this investiture with ministerial authority, only a few years? It was the ministry they had obtained and were invested with, to which the terms of the commission necessarily apply and are restricted; terms designed to express its purpose and its perpetuity as "an ordinance of divine service," the divinely appointed agency for propagating "the gospel of the grace of God;" building up, extending, nurturing, governing, and perpetuating the church, and ordering all things therein unto the edification of its members in their most holy faith, and to their final salvation.
This ministry begun in the official commissioning of the eleven Apostles, but not ending in them, and from them transmitted "through the ages all along "unto the present day, by the order of which they were [8/9] the original possessors:--this ministry;--and that doubtless from the personal instruction of our blessed Lord, during His intercourse of forty days with the ministry of His church, between His resurrection and ascension, when He "commanded them many things which they were to teach and do;" things not expressly recorded in the brief narrative of the New Testament but which may be surely gathered from the teaching and doings of the apostles in accordance with their Master's instruction, which are recorded: -- this ministry partook, in its organization, of the general form and features of the preceding dispensation. Whilst the apostles lived, it subsisted, and has ever since subsisted, in three orders; of Bishops, at first called Apostles and sometimes Angels, possessed of and exercising the supreme authority and the peculiar functions which were conferred on the eleven disciples; of Presbyters or Elders, sometimes called Bishops, but invested only with subordinate authority and functions; and of Deacons, with authority and functions subordinate to both; equivalent to the Three fold ministry in the Jewish Church, of High Priests, Priests, and Levites.
The "ministry of reconciliation" we are thus taught is of Divine institution and appointment, and its authority not of man, but of God. We perceive too, [9/10] from the further teaching of the New Testament, that the office and the authority are the considerations which commend it to reverence and obedience, and not the persons, nor the personal qualifications of the individuals invested with it. This is the express instruction of the great Apostle of the Gentiles: "God hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; now then we are ambassadors for Christ." Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." "Make full proof of thy ministry." "Taking heed that the ministry be not blamed." "They which are over you in the Lord and admonish you, esteem very highly in love for their works' sake." The official position and authority, "the ministry which they had received of the Lord," constituted the only claim and at the same time the rightful claim of St. Paul, and his co-workers in the ministry of each order or grade, to reverence and obedience. It was not on account of any superior personal qualifications, though these they eminently possessed; nor was it because they were godly, learned, or eloquent; but simply and solely because they "had this ministry" and were "ambassadors for Christ;" men invested with authority by the great Head of the Church, through His appointed agency, to minister in the word and sacraments; men called and sent to their several ministries, not by any self assumption based on some [10/11] imaginary inward prompting, but called of God as were the ministers of the preceding dispensation, and as was our Lord and Saviour Himself in His humanity to His priestly office, as the same Apostle teaches, when he says: "And no man taketh this honor unto himself, 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; this day have I begotten thee;" and as our Lord expressly taught when He commissioned the eleven Apostles, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
Authority from Christ, derived in the way of His revealed appointment, is essential to invest a man with "the ministry of reconciliation." This was the doctrine and practice of the inspired Apostles; this is, and from the beginning ever hath been, the teaching and usage of the Church catholic every where; and it is the teaching and usage of our branch of that one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church, on "sure warrant of Holy Scripture and the ancient authors," as is dogmatically declared in the Preface to the Ordinal. And the principal and usage receives an incontrovertible sanction, and confirmation, in the known and established usage of all secular governments in relation to their officers; to which, if the [11/12] familiarity of the example be allowable, I would advert in the way of illustration.
In the general government under which we are priviledged to live,--and the same principle applies equally to each State government, of the Union-- the power to appoint to office under that government, is vested in the chief magistrate, the executive officer of that government, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. A commission from that chief magistrate is indispensable to constitute a person an officer, whether civil, judicial, diplomatic, or military; and essential to the legality and validity of any official act. It is not peculiar and acknowledged personal fitness for the office, but a commission under the broad seal of the United States, given by the constitutional appointing power. Without such commission and so derived, no person claiming to be a government officer, would be recognized as such, nor however personally competent, would his official acts be legal or be accounted valid.
A member of the bar, for instance, from superior talents and extensive and profound legal lore, might be much more competent to discharge the duties of a judge, than the individual holding a commission to that office. But, if on this account, he was to assume [12/13] the office of judge, and take his seat on the bench as a judge, would he be a judge? And supposing that from his known superior personal and professional qualifications, his assumption of the office should receive the sanction of his associates at the bar, and by the suitors in court besides, would this invest him with lawful judicial authority? He might call himself a judge, and be recognized by his friends as a judge; but would this make him a judge, and give his official acts and judgments as such, any validity, or any value whatever?
A private soldier, or a subordinate officer of the army, might be a man of superior courage and military skill, and in all respects better qualified to command the army, than its lawfully commissioned general. But if this private or subaltern, was, on the strength of his superior qualifications, to assume the command of the army; and if the whole army were so convinced of his superior qualifications, as to submit to his assumption of the office; would this acquiescence constitute him a lawful general, invest him as such with rightful authority, and give validity to his official orders and acts?
Suppose further, that this self-constituted general should attempt to perpetuate his office and authority, [13/14] and for this purpose should appoint another subaltern officer or private soldier as his coadjutor and successor, and should commission him as a general; could he give rank and authority to another which he himself had merely assumed, and did not lawfully possess? And would this coadjutor and successor, whatever might be his personal qualifications, and however unanimously the army might acquiesce in the appointment, be any more a general than the former, and his official orders and acts any more valid?
And suppose further still, that the perpetuation of an original unconstitutional and self-assumed office and authority, should extend over a period of many years, during which time the circumstances of the original appointment had been lost sight of, or was wilfully ignored; and that this perpetuation should embrace many successors; would these successors, calling themselves generals, acting as such, and being recognized as such by their adherents, be any more lawful generals than the one who had first assumed the office? Would lapse of time cure the original defect? Would a sort of prescriptive right, growing out of long allowed usage, be equivalent to a commission from the constitutional source and agent of official authority? And would eminent or superior personal and professional qualifications in the individuals, together with the [14/15] acquiescence and approval of those over whom they exercised authority, confer on them lawful rank and authority, sustain their claim to authority, and give validity to their orders and acts?
Thus it is with "the ministry of reconciliation." A layman from personal piety and zeal, from eminent talents and extensive attainments, may be well qualified for the exercise of this "ministry." He may be equally or better qualified than some, than many, who are duly and lawfully invested with the sacred office. But were he, on the strength of his equal or superior personal and professional qualifications, to assume the office, without investiture with authority from the great Head of the Church, in the way which He has clearly instituted, appointed and restricted authority to, as is taught and exemplified in the scriptures of the New Testament, would he be "an ambassador for Christ," "a minister of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God?' Would he have any authority to minister in the word and sacraments; and would his ministrations and official acts of any kind, be valid? And admitting him to be successful in his assumed office, eminently successful, would this success make any difference, be in any way equivalent for a lawful commission, invest him with lawful authority, and give validity and value to his official acts?
 Suppose further, that a lawfully appointed and ordained "minister of Christ" of a subordinate order, should assume the office or at least the authority of the superior order, to which the great Head of the Church hath committed and restricted the ordaining and governing power; and should proceed to confer the superior office on another person of the same subordinate order with himself, or on a mere layman; could he give to another authority which he himself did not possess and never had? And would the peculiar personal fitness of the giver or the receiver, or both; or any alleged necessity; or their successful ministrations; or long usage and the consent or assent of those to whom they ministered, make any difference? Would these circumstances, any or all of them, supercede a lawful commission, establish their claim to the authority and functions of the superior office, and give validity to their official acts and ministrations?
The instances adduced, so far as the principle is concerned, are parallel, and one illustrates the other. It is indisputable, that authority must first be obtained from the lawful source of authority, before a person can lawfully and validly exercise official functions of any kind, under a secular government. And is it not incontrovertible, that a similar necessity [16/17] exists, in relation to the lawful exercise of official functions, under a spiritual government, such as the visible kingdom and Church of Christ our Lord? A man may claim to participate "the ministry of reconciliation," may call himself a "minister of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God," may act as such, be recognized as such, nay, be eminently successful in his assumed ministrations; yet, unless invested with authority from Christ, he has no part in that "ministry," and is no more a "minister of Christ," than is the man who, without a commission from the constitutional appointing power of the State, is a Judge or a General, though he calls himself such, presumes to act as such, and is recognized as such by his adherents, whether numerous or few.
We come next, to an important inquiry connected with the consideration of the necessity of a lawful commission for investing a man with "the ministry of reconciliation," and with authority to minister in the word and sacraments. How is this "ministry" and its authority derived and acquired? It can only be derived and acquired in two ways: by immediate inspiration of God; or by transmission from those who received it originally and immediately from our Lord Jesus Christ, with command and power to transmit it from age to age.
 The former way, no one, except occasionally some wild fanatic, makes any pretence to; and even he, if he succeeds in getting followers, forming a sect, and setting up a church, adopts and acts upon the principle of transmission, in perpetuating the ministry of the sect, such as it is. Nor can any one, with any show of reason, make such pretence. For its only proof is the possession and exercise of miraculous powers. And miraculous powers have long since ceased, by God's ordering, with the necessity for their exercise, and the causes which in the earlier days of our most holy faith, called them forth. And even then, the possession and exercise of miraculous powers, was never regarded as a substitute or an equivalent for a lawful ministerial commission. It was only corroborative of such commission.
We are, therefore, restrained in the inquiry as to the source and mode of deriving and acquiring "the ministry of reconciliation" and its authority, to the way of transmission, by and from those who were originally invested with authority by the great Head of the Church, to transmit and perpetuate that "ministry." And it is the way which the scriptures of the New Testament clearly indicate and exemplify. Thus it was that Matthias was "numbered with the eleven Apostles." For although the precise mode [18/19] of his investiture is not recorded in the purposely brief narrative of the Acts of the Apostles, which purports to relate, not all things, but only some things done by the Apostles, and they mostly on account of their peculiar bearing on the common faith; and is confined principally to the acts of only one of the Apostles, St. Paul; yet it is evident that Matthias, after his designation to the Apostolic office by lot, was invested with authority by the agency of the Apostles; that he did not send himself but was sent by them. In the same way and by the same agency, it is clear the seven deacons were set apart to the work of their subordinate grade and functions in "the ministry of reconciliation." So also in the case of St. Paul, though his designation to his "ministry and apostle-ship" was supernatural, yet there was manifestly no self-assumption of the office. He was "an Apostle, not of men, neither by man." He was sent as were all others. And although in the narrative of his miraculous conversion, there is no record of his formal ordination, yet from the fact which is revealed, that Barnabas, himself an Apostle, "took him and brought him to the Apostles" at Jerusalem, and announced to them his supernatural call to the ministry, there is good reason to suppose that there was such an ordination at that time; and there is no reason to suppose, and no proof there was not. And the presumption [19/20] is sanctioned and strengthened by Ms subsequent teaching and practice in the premises. Thus also were Timothy and Titus, historically the first Bishops respectively of Ephesus and Crete, invested with the office and authority of Apostles or Bishops, with commission and command to transmit ministerial authority, in its several grades or orders. "The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also;" but "lay hands suddenly on no man," writes St. Paul to the former Bishop who had "received the gift" of apostolical authority by "the putting on of the hands "of that eminent Apostle. And to the Bishop of Crete, the same apostle writes: "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee." And thus also, "Paul and Barnabas" as apostles of Christ," ordained them elders in every church."
Now this is the principle of apostolic succession, for holding and teaching which, we are not only censured, but reproached, and accused of holding one of the worst errors of Popery. I say it is the principle; for of the channel, which the instances adduced teach and exemplify, I shall speak presently. And so far as the principle is concerned, they who repudiate and condemn [20/21] it, practically adopt and act upon, just as much as we do who avow and maintain it. And they do so of necessity; for unless the principle is acted upon, there can be no pretence to any ministerial authority whatever, and no evidence thereof. It is notorious, therefore, that such is the usage of the various religious denominations in the land, with scarcely an exception. ["The Society of Friends," or Quakers, and one sect of Baptists, it is believed form the only exception.] They do not account or recognize any man as a minister among them, unless he has been formally ordained and set apart to the office, by one or more accredited ministers who have been ordained and set apart in the same way. And what is this, but derivation of ministerial authority by transmission and succession? No matter how remote or how near the original source of such ministerial authority; whether it is traced back three hundred, or one hundred, or fifty, or twenty, or ten years, it is in principle, succession. Practically, all who pretend to authority as "ministers of Christ," derive such authority as they deem themselves to possess, in this way, and can derive it in no other way, save by immediate inspiration of God, the proof and test of which, as before remarked, is the power of working, and the actual working of undeniable miracles.
So far, then, as the principle of succession is concerned, and, indeed, an actual succession of its kind, [21/22] there is no difference between the church, and they who are, by their own will and act, outside of the church. The only difference is the channel of this transmission and succession. This we hold and teach to be, in the superior order of "the ministry of reconciliation," the order of Bishops, at first called Apostles, and that it is restricted to that order. And we so hold and teach, because the authority and power to transmit the office and authority of that ministry, was originally conferred on and restricted to that superior order by the great Head of the Church, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in his recorded commission to the eleven apostles, as its terms manifestly imply; and as is further evident from the fact, that apostles exclusively, without any exception, exercised that authority and power, in every recorded instance of ordination to "the ministry of reconciliation" in the scriptures of the New Testament. There is also additional proof, in the silence of those Scriptures in their general teaching concerning the church and its ministry, of the possession or exercise of the authority and power, by any others than apostles; while in the particular teaching of St. Paul, in his epistles to the two apostles or bishops who were ordained and set apart to that office and dignity by the "laying on of his hands," Timothy and Titus, its exercise is expressly restricted to them in that, their official capacity.
 We so hold and teach, moreover, because such was the teaching and usage of the Church of God, "quod semper, quod ubique, et quod ab omnibus," as is clearly proven in the works of the early Christian writers, historical, didactic, and devotional: those who were cotemporaries of the original apostles, and received the doctrine and usage directly from them; and those who lived in the age immediately succeeding, when the teaching of the apostles was green in the memory of all, and who could no more be mistaken as to what the apostles taught and did, and as to the usage of the church every where, an usage established by their teaching and example, than we can be mistaken as to what transpired in the transmission and conveyance of the apostolic succession to our branch of the church, in the consecration in Scotland and in England of our first three Bishops. The evidence, indeed, that the superior order of Bishops was and is the rightful and restricted channel of the succession, is the same that we possess and are of necessity restricted to, in proof of the genuineness and authenticity of the scriptures of the New Testament: the testimony of those who were living when those scriptures were written, and received by the church, as the inspired word of God; and of those who were living in the age immediately succeeding, and were cognizant of the fact of their universal recognition and reception as such. Without such testimony [23/24] we cannot prove, except by inference from the character of their contents, and that is imperfect evidence, the genuineness, authenticity, and authority of the scriptures of the New Testament. With and by such testimony we prove the fact of the doctrine and usage of the succession in the superior order of Bishops. If the proof is sufficient, as all who receive those scriptures as the inspired word of God admit, in the one case, is it insufficient and of no weight of authority, seeing it is precisely the same, in the other case?
That which we hold and teach to be the exclusive channel of the transmission of authority to minister in the word and sacraments in the Church of God, our branch of that one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, does most surely possess. We have this succession from the original Apostles, entire and unbroken, with its necessary and accompanying mission. It is no fanciful claim, no absurd pretence, no arrogant assumption. We derive our office and authority as participants of "the ministry of reconciliation," lawfully and rightly, from the Divine fountain of authority, in uninterrupted transmission through the superior order of Bishops or Apostles. And this transmission and succession we trace back to the original Apostles, not through one but several lines of descent, extending down to the latest consecrated bishop in our Reformed [24/25] and Protestant branch of the church. There are in our possession well authenticated, nay indisputable, catalogues of this uninterrupted succession of Bishops in several distinct channels from several of the original Apostles: and that, too, independent of the succession through the Church of Rome, which, however, the perversions of, and additions to the faith, of that branch of the Catholic Church, its vicious morality and corrupt practice, could not break nor vitiate, any more than some rusted links in a chain could destroy the integrity of the chain; or the mudding or the freezing over of any portion of a stream could affect its identity and prevent it from flowing on from its fountain head to the ocean.
Besides, if these historical documents, the records of the succession of Bishops in certain prominent Sees were lost, or were justly liable to suspicion in any portion of their details, we stand, nevertheless, on the same unshaken foundation of authority. For the succession we teach and maintain, is not, as is commonly and erroneously supposed, a descent of ministerial authority from the Apostles by one single chain of successive links, or in one single channel of transmission; but a descent from the original fountain in innumerable streams flowing there from the main stream, [25/26] ramifying in all directions from the main stream, and multiplying as the church extended itself throughout the world. Such is the succession we teach and have. And besides the promise of our blessed Lord, of the permanence and perpetuity of this ministry of His divine institution and appointment, included in His commission to the eleven Apostles, a promise as immutable as Himself, and which cannot fail; the moral impossibility of a failure in the succession, may be perceived from a moment's consideration of the law and usage of the church universal from the beginning, relative to the ordination and consecration of Bishops. This law and usage require as essential to a canonical consecration, in every branch of the church, the presence and co-operation of at least three Bishops, in "the laying on of hands "in such solemnity; each of whom has been consecrated and set apart to the office in the same way by three Bishops. Now estimate this law and usage, in its practical operation, on the principle of simple arithmetical progression, carried over a space of more than eighteen hundred years, and in constant operation, as history proves, in various parts of the world; and say, whether a succession so perpetuated, is exposed to failure, or can possibly fail?
II. This "ministry of reconciliation," derived as we have seen from our Lord Jesus Christ, who is "Head [26/27] over all things to the church, which is His body," and the only, because the divine fountain of authority; and derived in unbroken succession in the superior order of Bishops "through the ages all along," is an inestimable possession and privilege. We may with propriety and very justly "magnify our office," and value ourselves upon a gift so precious. But it becomes us, at the same time, to take earnest heed "that we stir up the gift of God which is in us, by the putting of hands" invested with apostolic authority; and be diligent and faithful in "making full proof of a ministry "so derived and obtained. Otherwise, the valuing of ourselves on its possession, is only vain boasting and sinful pride.
Let me, then, trespass a little longer on your attention, while, with as much brevity as possible, I lead you to consider the RESPONSIBILITY of "the ministry of reconciliation," and that in particular reference to the prominent duties of the pastoral office.
This RESPONSIBILITY springs from the very nature and purpose of our ministry, as set forth in the scriptures of the New Testament. "We are "laborers together with God," co-workers with the "High and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, and whose name is Holy," in evangelizing the world, irradiating it with moral light, [27/28] emancipating it from the bondage of sin, and Satan, and "bringing it into the glorious liberty of the children of God." We are "ambassadors for Christ," charged by Him our Lord and King, with an embassy of amity and good will to His rebellious subjects; appointed to bear a message of "grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ," to a race of depraved intelligences, the "enemies of God by wicked works," involved in guilt and sin, condemned and "ready to perish." We are "ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God," commissioned to offer to sinful men, pardon, reconciliation, and salvation, through that precious blood of atonement and propitiation shed upon the cross; and dispense the sacramental pledges thereof to the penitent and believing. The eternal interests of our fellow men are entrusted to us, and we are "to watch for their souls as they who must give account." We are to initiate them by the divinely appointed sacrament of initiation, Holy Baptism, into the covenant of grace and salvation; enroll them as members of "the household of faith," the one visible Church of the Redeemer on earth; and as "stewards" of that spiritual household, impart unto them a their portion of meat in due season;" "build them up in their most holy faith;" "reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine;" comfort, console, encourage, [28/29] strengthen them in all godliness of living; dispense to them sacramentally, the "bread of life," and the "cup of salvation;" and thus "feed them with food convenient for them," nurture them in holiness, goodness, and truth, and train them for heaven.
Entrusted with such a "weighty charge," involving consequences of spiritual life or death, our office is truly of deep responsibility. While, as the sworn soldiers of the cross of Christ, to shrink from this responsibility, throw down our arms, and desert our colors, would be rank cowardice, it surely becomes us to "have it in constant remembrance," and make it an ever present and influential motive to fidelity in our high trust; to untiring zeal and diligence in our endeavors to fulfil to the uttermost our sacred mission; and to frequent and fervent prayer for Divine counsel, guidance, and strength.
With a view, then, to a more definite conception of the responsibility that rests upon us, a consideration of some of the prominent duties of our office and ministry, as pastors of the flock of Christ, is important. And to this I proceed.
One prominent duty is "prayer and the ministry of the word:" in other words, the exercise of our ministry [29/30] in celebrating the worship of the church, and in "rightly and duly administering God's holy sacraments;" in offering, as orators for the people, confession, supplication, praise, and thanksgiving; in reading lessons of holy scripture; and in explaining, illustrating, and enforcing the doctrinal and preceptive truths thereof, by the public "preaching of the word."
Responsibility rests on the "ministers of Christ," relative to the manner of celebrating divine worship. They are bound to celebrate it, so as most to promote the glory of God, and the edification of the worshippers; not in a pompous and affected, nor in a careless and slovenly manner; but reverently, under an abiding sense of God's presence; decorously, as becometh creatures addressing the Creator; fervently, unaffectedly, in "all simplicity and godly sincerity," as feeling in the depths of their own hearts, the desires to which they give utterance; the sin, guilt, and un-worthiness they confess and deprecate; the necessity for the pardoning, purifying, enlightening, and envigorating grace they invoke; and the blessings of goodness and mercy they acknowledge, in fitting words of praise and thanksgiving.
In the preaching of the word also, there is a weighty responsibility; a responsibility growing out of the very [30/31] nature and purpose of the duty, which is, to warn the sinner of the error of his ways; convict the conscience and move the heart of the careless and impenitent; awaken the spiritual slumberer from his sleep of death; comfort, encourage, strengthen for duty and conflict, and inspire with invigorated faith and holy hope, the humble believer; inform the understanding and excite the devout affections of all; win immortal souls to Christ, and keep them "steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, that so their labor may not be in vain in the Lord."
Our responsibility in this respect, is enhanced by the peculiar moral condition and circumstances of the times in which we live. These are generally antagonistical to the true faith of Christ. Serious error in religion, great worldliness, with alas! viciousness of life, extensively prevail. Infidelity, open and avowed, or working its malign influence under the insidious guise of newly developed religious truth, and a one virtue, transcendental morality, made a substitute or an equivalent for faith, holiness, brotherly kindness, charity, and all the other virtues and graces of the Christian character, abounds. A vitiated public taste, vitiated from these causes, demands either the concealment of "the truth as it is in Jesus," or the explaining it away and softening its alleged asperity and uncompromising sternness; [31/32] and the adaptation of religious teaching to the boasted intellectual refinement, superior intelligence, and social progress of the age. Popular themes, embracing the various and cumulating moral theories, schemes, "causes," and "isms" of the day, are regarded as desirable substitutes for the wholesome doctrines of the cross, and the pure, integral, and practical morality of the gospel. These demands of a vitiated public taste, are yielded to, in too many instances, by the recognized teachers of religion. From a love of popularity, or from a dread of unpopularity, they introduce themes extraneous to the legitimate themes of the pulpit; accommodate holy scripture to novel notions and plans of human invention; pander to the sickly sentimentality, the perverted habits of thought and action, and the pseudo philanthropy of the times. Thus recreant to their trust as professed teachers of religion, and turning often traitors to the Bible, they have, in many instances, gradually descended into various sorts and degrees of error, introduced social strife and contention, where before there was charity, peace, and good will, "brought in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them," and opened a wide door to the most pernicious infidelity.
The church, with whose ministry we are entrusted, from its conservative principles and purer taste, derived [32/33] from its permanent liturgic forms, and its stricter order of worship, has, for the most part, and generally, escaped these evils. But the temptation exists; and it becomes us to take warning from the melancholy examples around us; and see to it, as we shall answer to our consciences and to our God, that we preach the word faithfully, in its purity and integrity, without reserve, without admixture; "keeping back nothing that is profitable," yet adding nothing extraneous and secular, because it may chance to be popular; withholding no scriptural truth whether relating to doctrine or to practice; "rightly dividing the word of truth;" and declaring fearlessly, yet prudently and with due discrimination," the whole counsel of God."
As a guide to our duty in the premises, and a safeguard from error, let the subject matter of our preaching be, directly or indirectly, that which St. Paul "determined only to know" among those to whom he ministered--"Jesus Christ, and Him crucified," in all the bearings and relations of that glorious and comprehensive theme; in all its fulness; in all its affecting appeals to the heart and to the conscience; in all its consoling and hope inspiring encouragement to the troubled soul. Christ the atoning sacrifice for sin; "the one" and only "mediator between God and men;" our "advocate with the Father," and all-prevailing [33/34] intercessor; our divine example; our final Judge; are prominent themes of the gospel revelation; and they ought to be the conspicuous and prevailing topics of discourse in the teaching and preaching of the "word of reconciliation." The "ministers of Christ" must proclaim and commend Him to faith and obedience, in the essential divinity of His nature; in the dignity of His person;, in the glory of His character; in the wonders of His love; in the plenteousness of His mercy; in the tenderness of His compassion; in the condescension and omnipotence of His grace; in the efficacy of His sufferings; in the prevailment of His intercession; in the immensity and all-compensating glory of His rewards. We must "preach, not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord," in His willingness and power to save; communicating through His instituted sacraments, as the appointed means of grace, the manifold gifts of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, renovating and purifying the heart and its affections, controlling the passions, and converting the soul. He is declared in the inspired word to be "the way, the truth, and the life;" the only hope of the sinner; the consolation of the mourning penitent; the stay, support, and confidence of the confirmed believer: and vain, and worse than vain, is that preaching, which fails to exhibit Him as the great object of the love, the faith, the obedience, and the imitation of those to [34/35] whom it is addressed. In dispensing pastoral instruction, to ignore in anywise, or throw into shade "the author and finisher of our faith;" to expend our strength on curious criticism, metaphysical subtleties, extraneous discussions, tha popular topics of the day, or mere dry morality; to respond to the anxious inquiry, "What must I do to be saved?" by an array of cold abstractions, speculative novelties, or pseudo moral and philanthropic harangues, to the neglect of the only satisfying answer in the practical truths of redeeming love; to omit, or obscurely present, the only source of pardon to the penitent, of comfort to the broken-hearted, of encouraging motive and animating hope to the awakened conscience:-- oh! what a throwing away of opportunity! what a mockery of spiritual misery! what a prostitution of office! what treachery and cruel wrong to immortal souls! Shamefully and sinfully do the "ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God "betray their sacred trust, who thus attempt to feed those who are "hungering and thirsting after righteousness," with husks instead of bread, and withhold the priceless gem of a Saviour's grace and mercy, in the spiritual treasure given them to dispense to the poor and needy. If we would feed the flocks committed to our pastoral care with satisfying food, we shall lead them in penitence and faith to that "good shepherd who laid down His [35/36] life for the sheep," and who giveth them "the bread of life;" point the sinner for relief, and the saint for comfort, and both for salvation, to Him who gave himself a ransom for the spiritually enslaved, and a sin-offering for the guilty; whose "precious blood cleanseth from all sin;" and whose most affecting, attractive, significant, and glorious designation is--"Jesus," "Saviour," "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world."
The duties of the sanctuary, however, are not all that impose responsibility on the pastors of Christ's flock. There is our general intercourse with the world, involving no ordinary responsibility. The eye of the world is fixed upon us, keen, searching, vigilant, observant of every movement, ready and disposed to construe an equivocal word or act to our discredit, and to the prejudice of the sacred cause of which we are the accredited advocates and conservators. Its gaze, generally stern, its scrutiny unkind and harsh, and both frequently malevolent, rejoicing to catch us tripping, and eager to spread abroad our real or supposed delinquencies; is to be met by the strictest integrity and the utmost circumspection; by "abstaining from all appearance of evil;" studiously avoiding every thing, in word, in conduct, in social intercourse, in our walk and conversation, which may afford just [36/37] ground for accusation or complaint; "giving no offence in any thing that the ministry be not blamed, but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God."
To our respective flocks, also, we stand, in this respect, in a position of great responsibility: a position in which one false step, one imprudent, injudicious, unguarded word, may impair our usefulness, and involve us in serious difficulties. It becomes us, therefore, in our intercourse with the people of our pastoral charge, to be especially circumspect in our conduct, and give no reasonable cause for prejudice, offence, nor even suspicion. We are to be examples to them, "in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in purity;" gentle, courteous, considerate, kind, affectionate; manly but not obsequiously attentive; "in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves;" taking heed that u no corrupt communication proceed out of our mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers;" cheerful, and sociable, not morose and gloomy, yet avoiding all light and trifling behaviour; prudent and guarded in speech and act, causing our conduct and familiar discourse to be not only consistent with our sacred calling, but co-operative in our public labours; and "ceasing not in every house," as well as in the house of God, "to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
 The services of the "ministers of Christ" are required in the chamber of the sick and dying. These services, while they involve a most weighty responsibility, are, from a variety of causes, among the most difficult, if not the most difficult and perplexing, of all our pastoral functions. Besides "the fear of man which bringeth a snare," peculiarly influential at the bed side of the sick, with sympathy for physical suffering which makes reproof painful, if it does not disarm it; and the false anxiety of kindred and friends, backed at times by the warning of the medical attendant, lest any thing should be spoken to disturb and alarm; we have to contend with the great diversity of cases, calling forth a difficult, but necessary, discriminating judgment. The soul is sometimes as lethargic in its spiritual, as the body in its physical sensibilities. We meet with one tremblingly alive to the things that belong to his peace, and another insensate from ignorance or apathy. One is agitated with a full perception of all the awful truths of God's word; while another is obdurate to warning, admonition, and reproof. There is in one a fatal presuming on infinite mercy? and in another as perilous a distrusting of omnipotent grace. Some are relying on "the flattering unction they lay to their souls," that they have never done any harm, and have, in their own estimation, led a tolerably blameless life; and others are constantly "writing [38/39] bitter things against themselves," and, in a morbid sense of unworthiness resisting the application to them of any and all the promises of the gospel. The soul of one is loaded with manifold transgressions, and yet at ease; while that of another is sinking under the burden of its conscious iniquities into the depths and agonies of despair. Some are impenitent, insensate, obdurate, though they know and feel that death is fast approaching and inevitable; others convulsed with the anguish of remorse, without contrition, and deprecating the summons of departure; and others bowing with Christian submission to the will of God, "counting it gain to die," and in the exercise of a living faith, and a "reasonable, religious, and holy hope," ready, nay desirous, to "depart and be with Christ," How perplexing and trying the scene, often, to the faithful, conscientious pastor! What a fearful responsibility rests upon him! How assiduous, and yet how cautious need he be, in applying the remedies of spiritual healing with which he is entrusted! How wisely discriminating does it become him to be, in dispensing the warnings and denunciations, the invitations and promises of the gospel; in exhibiting the justice and the mercy of God, the compassionate grace of the Saviour, the stern indignation of the Judge! If earnest supplication for Divine counsel and guidance, for a right judgment and discriminating wisdom, is essential to [39/40] the success of our ministerial labors in general, it is indispensable at such times, under such circumstances, and amid such trying and perplexing scenes.
The presence of the Christian pastor is required in "the house of mourning." There he is to go in a spirit of unaffected kindness; tenderly sympathizing with the afflicted, sorrowing with the sorrowers, and "weeping with them that weep." This is a service, too, of deep responsibility. Here is afforded no ordinary opportunity for awakening dormant spiritual sensibilities, and pressing home the practical truths of religion. Here and now, when the heart is wrung with anguish, or tender and susceptible from chastened grief, and. affliction hath measurably weakened the influence of the world, and shown the vanity and worthlessness of its attractions and pursuits; is an opening of peculiar promise and hope, to address the conscience of the sinner, impress him with a due sense of his sinfulness, guilt, and accountability, and lead him humbled, subdued, and penitent to a compassionate, gracious, and long-suffering Saviour. Here, and now, while with the soothing, consoling, teaching of God's word, the pastor "binds up the broken-hearted, and comforts them that mourn," does it become him, earnestly and diligently to employ his office and ministry, in turning the bereaved or the afflicted from "the shadows they have [40/41] hitherto pursued;" in impressing the lesson, so much and generally ignored in prosperity, that "here we have no abiding city, but must seek one to come;" and in commending, in all its solemn warnings, in all its affecting appeals, in all its gracious invitations and precious promises, in all its consoling hopes, "the gospel of the grace of God," and the Divine author of the gospel, as the object of faith, reverence, obedience, and love. And as he faithfully discharges this function of his pastoral office, will he prove a minister of light to the house of mourning, a messenger of comfort and peace to the stricken bosom, or a minister of darkness and despair.
The lambs of the flock, moreover, demand the special care and attention of the Christian pastor. They are to be sedulously fed, nurtured, and watched over by him. No ordinary responsibility rests on him to be faithful to the youth of his pastoral charge; considerate of their spiritual interests; diligent in "training them up in the way they should go," impressing them early with a filial, reverential fear of God, with a sense of their duty to Him as His "children by adoption and grace," and with the obligations and responsibilities of their baptism into Christ. They are to be faithfully instructed by him in all that relates to their spiritual well-being, carefully indoctrinated in the great principles of the [41/42] gospel, as embodied and set forth in the creeds, articles and catechism of the church; an attachment created and cherished in their young minds, for its hallowed institutions, its worship and discipline, its "ordinances of divine service;" and its claims upon their allegiance and confidence conspicuously presented, asserted and confirmed. They are his pupils by their relative position, and are to be "brought up by him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Here is an especial sphere of duty, and an extensive opportunity for usefulness. Here is a most interesting and promising field of labor, and a soil prepared to receive efficaciously the seed of evangelical truth, and bring forth precious fruit. And the duty may not be performed by proxy, through the medium of the Sunday School, but personally. It is the pastor's own business. He may receive the assistance of others, but the work must be done under his personal supervision. Catechetical instruction strictly and canonically belongs to him; it is his peculiar province; and he cannot delegate it, as is sometimes done almost exclusively, to comparatively irresponsible agents, however well qualified, without involving himself in the just condemnation of pastoral negligence and unfaithfulness.
Finally, above all, and including all, a weighty responsibility rests upon the "ministers of Christ and [42/43] stewards of the mysteries of God," to be faithful to their own souls. Is the suggestion uncalled for, out of place, unnecessary? Have we not "this treasure in earthen vessels?" Are we not men, frail, sinful men, compassed about with the infirmities of a corrupt nature, prone as others to sin, and exposed to manifold temptations? Is there not, too, in the position we occupy, peculiar danger to our spiritual welfare, and an especial call to watchfulness and prayer? Has not our very familiarity with spiritual things, a tendency to diminish their impression, and impair their influence? Teaching, warning, reproving, and admonishing others, we are apt to become more or less insensible to teaching, warning, reproof, and admonition ourselves. Our duties, if we are not careful, degenerate into a sort of perfunctive observance, and the spirituality of our minds degenerates with them. How watchful, then, does it become us to be over our wayward, treacherous hearts! How sedulous in cultivating the spiritual soil in ourselves! How earnest "in working out our own salvation, with fear and trembling," and in "giving all diligence to make our calling and election sure!" What a monitory thought is that expressed by St. Paul, in his memorable caution: "lest that when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away!" If it be essential to the members of the "household of God," that they be not conformed to this world, but transformed in the renewing [43/44] of their minds;" that they "walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit;" that they "abound in all the fruits of holiness," and "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;" that they "crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts," and "denying all ungodliness and worldly lusts, live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world;" how indispensable are these things to the "stewards" of the household! Surely we have need "to watch over our own souls, as they who must give account;" take heed that we impair not, in any way, the lustre of our looked-for example; see to it, that the world, its seductive blandishments, and its fascinating pleasures, allure us not from our integrity and propriety; be careful, that while we "hold forth the word of life" to others, as the light of their path, all within ourselves be light also, and not darkness.
Independently, too, of personal consideration, how earnest, practical, luminous should be the piety of the "minister of Christ," and how carefully cherished and cultivated, in regard of his public labors! Such piety, deep toned, sincere, exemplary yet not ostentatious, alike removed from aceticism and levity, is essential to our official success. How shall we teach others efficiently, if we ourselves are not taught of God? How shall we commend the love of Christ, and "the unsearchable [44/45] riches of His grace "to others, if we ourselves do not realize and cherish their constraining and restraining influence? Professional piety, unenlivened and unsustained by personal piety, will make us only as "the sounding brass, and the tinkling cymbal." "Out of the abundance of the heart, must the mouth speak," or we shall speak to little purpose, and with little effect, to the hearts and consciences of our hearers. We may be flattered for our eloquence, be popular preachers, attract a crowd, but we shall not be faithful to ourselves, nor to our high trust. We may emit a dazzling light, but it will be the cold glare of the iceberg, not the warming and invigorating light of the sun. Barren and unprofitable will be our most splendid efforts; and, fearful thought! the souls we are charged to feed with the "bread of life," surfeited with such frothy and unsubstantial aliment, may, whilst we are "preaching not the Lord Jesus Christ, but ourselves;" courting popular applause, pandering to a vitiated public taste; uttering with an admired eloquence truths we do not feel, or little feel;--the immortal souls for whom Christ died, committed to our care and culture, to be nurtured and prepared for heaven, may perish through our vanity, by our negligence and fault.
My brethren of the clergy, it is truly a "weighty [45/46] office and charge "that is devolved upon us, as "ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God;" an office involving a deep and awful responsibility. In contemplation thereof, "who is sufficient for these things?" is a thought that arises spontaneously in every mind, filling the soul with fear and trembling. But there is an answer to this question of fearful anxiety. "Our sufficiency is of God." True and faithful to our sacred trust, He will sustain and further us with His abounding grace; "make us able ministers of the New Testament;" bestow upon us wisdom, strength, patience, perseverance, and every needed gift; and crown our efforts with acceptance and success. "Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, let us faint not; but renouncing the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, by manifestation of the truth, commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." "Strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might," let us do our duty and trust God for the issue. Darkness may occasionally overspread our path, and make us sad; but light is ever at hand, in answer to prayer, to revive, animate, encourage and gladden us. And at length the sun, which to the eye of faith, already decks the distant mountain tops with a golden radiance, will break forth in all the effulgence of the perfect day; and entering "the kingdom prepared of [46/47] our Father," we shall receive our great and glorious "recompense of reward;" and behold, through a tearless eternity, and brighter and brighter forever, "the light of the knowlege of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."--AMEN.
[Appendix of charts of apostolic succession omitted.]