AUTHORITY FROM GOD
Required in those who Minister in His Name.
RT. REV. WILLIAM MERCER GREEN, D. D.,
BISHOP OF MISSISSIPPI.
JAMES POTT, PUBLISHER,
"What sign showest thou unto us, seeing thou doest these things?"--JOHN II. 18.
THE first public act of our Lord's ministry was to drive from the Temple those who, in his own strong language, were making His "Father's House" a "house of merchandise," and a "den of thieves." And from that act, however much it may surprise us, as well as those who witnessed it, we may learn a lesson both of instruction and warning. My design, however, is not to dwell upon the circumstances of that unwonted exhibition of our Lord's displeasure, but rather to call your attention to the effect produced upon his countrymen, and to the important inquiry which grew out of it. Of the confusion of that scene; the indignation of the buyers and sellers and money-changers, and the amazement of the bystanders, we may well conceive. But among that wondering multitude there were some who looked on with something more than surprise--I might well say, with mingled feelings of doubtfulness and rage. The singular conception and birth of the infant Jesus, his wonderful preservation from the sword of Herod, the heavenly voice that had witnessed to him as he came up from the waters of Jordan, and the twice-repeated [3/4] testimony of John, that he was the "Lamb of God that was to take away the sins of the world," the knowledge of these portentous tokens, either in whole or in part, had no doubt preceded our Lord in his entrance into the Holy City, and formed the ground of much speculation and anxious inquiry. And now, when single-handed and unarmed they see him inaugurating his assumed mission by so daring an act, they can no longer suppress the angry demand--"What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?"
I will not insist, however, that this inquiry was dictated by an improper motive, because it is one that might well become the occasion, inasmuch as this was the first public manifestation of our Lord's power, and because the remarkable incidents of his previous life may not have reached the ears of those who made it. It was, indeed, a just as well as natural question; for this buying and selling and changing of money was not only a convenience to many, but it had so long been winked at by both Pharisees and rulers as to have grown into an undisputed right. What authority, then, had this bold Galilean thus violently to break up a traffic which long custom and the Chief Priests of the Temple had legalized? Similar acts of authority, if not of violence, it is true, had been performed by the prophets of old, who had come accredited by signs and wonders before the people; but who was this man--this undistinguished dweller at Nazareth? Who, and what, and how many were his followers? What mighty work had he performed to herald in his claim to be sent of God?
This latter question, as I have already said, they had a perfect right to ask, seeing that our Lord had in this instance assumed a power which no one of their Chief [4/5] Rulers would have dared to exercise; and at the same time had, in an especial manner, claimed to be the Son of God, by saying to these profaners of the Temple, "make not my Father's house a house of merchandise." In asking, therefore, for a "sign," by which they meant some display of miraculous power, they demanded no more than had previously been exhibited by Moses, and Joshua, and Samuel, and Elijah, in attestation of their divine mission. And had our Lord been unable to give a like proof of his authority, they might, with reason, have charged him with presumption, and even imposture. From their Priests, who ministered daily in the Temple, they were accustomed to ask no further sign than to show that they were of the family and blood of their own God-appointed Aaron. But whenever one, not in that priestly line, put forth a claim to be sent of God, whether to instruct or rebuke the people, or to foretell what was coming upon them, he could not expect to be received upon the strength of his own word; he must bring with him, by way of miracle or prophecy, some manifest token of a Divine commission.
I have dwelt thus long on the grounds, and the reasonableness of the demand contained in our text, because I desire to fix your attention, brethren, on the important but much neglected fact, that under the Mosaic Dispensation, no one, either as Priest or Prophet, could minister in God's name, without indubitable evidence of an authority derived mediately or immediately from Him.
Now, what profitable use may we make of this marked characteristic of a Church, or Dispensation, which we followers of Christ acknowledge to be inferior in every point to our own? If the Jewish Temple, and Priesthood, [5/6] and sacrifices foreshadowed the corresponding features of the Gospel Dispensation, ought we, in reasons or in justice to Him who has freed us from that Levitical yoke, be satisfied with any less evidence of a Divine commission in those who now minister to us? Surely not. Else we must acknowledge that the Church of Christ is, in this respect, at least, surpassed by that of Moses; and that the Sacraments of which we partake have not upon them that stamp or seal of Divine authority which gave assurance to the shadowy ordinances under the law. This is an admission which no lover of the Gospel would willingly make. And yet, is it not practically done by those among us who either ignore entirely the subject of ministerial authority, or else set it down as a mere question of form, scarcely deserving a place among "the mint, and anise, and cumin" of the Gospel? Of the necessity of such a heaven-derived commission, I need not say more than simply to ask, what would have been the whole framework of the Jewish religion without it? In what respect would the Temple have been more holy than any other building, if it had not been reared at God's command, and blessed with a visible token of his presence? Of what avail would have been the various sacrifices offered upon its altars, if any other than a Divine authority had instituted them? And what but that same power separated Aaron and his sons from the rest of the people, and gave to them and their lineal descendants alone authority to minister in his name? Had this Divine warrant been wanting, what assurance would the pious Israelite have had that his oblations were accepted, or that the priestly blessing was available to the pardon of his sins? Why was the earth commanded [6/7] to open and swallow up Korah and his company? [* Num. xvi. 31, 32.] Why was the kingdom snatched from Saul before he was well seated on his throne? [* 1 Sam. xv. 23.] Why was Uzzah struck dead in a moment, as he was attempting to uphold the Ark? [* 2 Sam. vi. 7.] Why was the royal Uzziah thrust out a loathsome leper from the Temple? [* 2 Chron. xxvi. 19, 20.] Was it not that in each and all of these cases there was a usurpation of that authority which God had restricted to the priesthood?
Now, if these things be so--if a Divine commission be thus seen to have distinguished the priest from the people of old, and if such was the fearful penalty visited on those who dared to minister without appointment in holy things, what lesson should we learn from it? Shall we admit that we live under a dispensation, and belong to a church, and attend upon a ministry which can show no such evidence of Divine authority? God forbid! What then? Why, let us at once meet the subject, boldly look it in the face, faithfully apply it to the age in which we live, and see to what a fearful extent it concerns our present and eternal welfare.
If such unquestionable evidence of a Divine commission was necessary under a dispensation, or state of things intended to pass away, how should it be now, in the freer, brighter, more glorious Church of Christ, instituted by his own hand, endowed so liberally with his own spirit, and which is to continue to the very "end of the world?" If that church be a society, or organized body, who are its officers? If it has certain ordinances and fixed rules of government, what are they, and who is to administer them? If it has a [7/8] ministry or priesthood, whence comes their authority? "Are all Apostles?" demanded St. Paul of the contentious Corinthians "Are all prophets? Are all teachers?" So may we, in like manner, ask of this unthinking age: "Are all who profess the faith of Christ endowed in an equal degree with authority to minister in his name?" If so, then is the Church, the Bride of Christ, no better than a motley multitude, without law, without order, without any power to accomplish its great and holy ends, and to perpetuate its existence as an organized society. But if, on the other hand, the necessity for a Divine commission be acknowledged, and that commission be admitted to belong to a portion only of those who call themselves Christians, how shall they establish their claim? What proof can they bring of their being "called of God?" Is it not right that such assurance should be given to the people, to whom they minister in God's name? Else, how shall the fond parent, who brings his child to the baptismal font, and hears the minister baptize it "in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost," be certified that it is done by the authority of that Triune God? And if such assurance cannot be given, who would seek, either for himself or his children, ordinances based on any less solid foundation?
And now, dear brethren, let us bring our subject right down before our eyes, and apply it to the circumstances which this moment surround us.
Here I stand before you, this day, professing authority to preach the Word of God; to admit you and your children into covenant with Him by baptism; to administer to you the other sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood; to give the "Laying on of Hands" to the [8/9] baptized believer, and, still more, to commission others to go forth and minister in God's holy name.
Now, on what ground do I lay claim to this authority? Thou, God, knowest it, not from any supposed worthiness in myself, or from any mere personal qualification. If thy favored Apostle esteemed himself "less than the least" of all thy saints, Lord, what am I, or what, in personal holiness, is any one who ministers before Thee at this day? Seeing, then, that I pretend not to minister in my own name, or by virtue of any worth or merit which may be in me, or which I may fancy myself to possess, from what quarter shall we reasonably look for this authority to come? It must of necessity proceed either from God or from man. No third power can be taken into view. Now, if it be from man, what is its worth? Who would respect its claims, or be bound by its acts? But if of God, the question arises: How, or in what manner, has this authority been received? To this point let me, dear friends and brethren, direct your earnest and serious attention.
Of all the modes or methods by which men may claim to derive from God authority to minister in his name, there are but two that will bear the test of sound reason, viz.: 1st. The power of working miracles in proof of their mission; 2dly. An ability to trace up that authority, step by step, through an unbroken succession of the chief officers of the Church, until it reaches even to the Holy Apostles, and to Christ himself the source of all power in his Church.
But who claims, in these latter days, the power of miracles? On all hands it is conceded that no reliable instance of such power has been known in the Church since our holy religion was well established [9/10] in the world. It is true that Rome sometimes puts in this claim, even now, in order to enhance the value of a relic, or to bolster the reputation of some newly-made saint; but who, beyond her own immediate followers, admits it? If, then, any one assuming to be "sent of God," to minister in holy things, can neither work a miracle himself, as Moses did when his rod was turned into a serpent, nor show that one has been wrought in his behalf, as Christ was testified to after his baptism by John, then is he bound, of very necessity, to show that the authority by which he acts has come down to him in an unbroken succession from Christ and his Apostles.
And let no one make light of this only method of verifying one's claim to ministerial authority, or persuade himself that it can never be convincingly established.
How is it with our own, or any other well-regulated civil government? The authority derived from its original founders is vested in certain officers. In order to exclude all mere pretenders, as well as unworthy occupants from her high places, our government, like all others, ordains that in the election and installation of her chief officers certain fixed and notable methods, open to the view of all, shall be observed. Now, in the midst of these well-known safeguards, who would dream of the possibility of a sham president, or of a successful imposter among any of the chief officers who share with him the legislative or judicial authority of the government? And what but this unquestionable commission, on the part of these officers, secures for them the willing and reverential obedience of the people, knowing, as they do, that the authority to which [10/11] they bow can be traced to the founder or founders of the government, and to the fundamental law which is the law of its existence.
Now see how marked is the parallel between the government of the Church and that of the State; and learn thence how reasonable--nay, how indispensable--is the authority for which I am arguing, and which you should in all cases demand of those who minister to you in holy things.
It is on all hands admitted, that our Lord Jesus Christ is the great source of all authority in the Church. Nor is it questioned, that when He said, "As my Father hath sent me, so send I you," he bestowed on his Apostles all power necessary to the governance and perpetuation of his Church. Here, then, was the beginning of that Divine commission which the holy Catholic Church of all subsequent time has claimed to possess. In order to guard this sacred deposit against all imposture or fatal abuse, there have been ordained, in all ages, certain processes of election and consecration no less fixed and well known than those called for in appointments to civil office. To one instance of this kind I will here direct your attention. Although we do not read that any other hands than those of Paul were laid upon the heads of Timothy and Titus when they were made Bishops respectively of Ephesus and Crete, and although it has ever been the judgment of the Church that the apostolic commission may be conveyed through the hands of one Bishop alone, yet when the last survivor of the Apostles had just ended his labors, and when, in the beautiful language of another, "the horizon of the Church was still red with the glories of descending inspiration," even at that early period, [11/12] it was decreed by the united voice of the Church [* Vide 1st of the Apostolical Canons; also the 4th Canon of Council of Nice, vide Appendix.] a decree universally and religiously observed from that day to the present--that no Bishop should undertake to confer this Divine commission, without the presence of two other Bishops concurring and assisting.
If to this ample security against hasty and injurious action, on the part of the conservator, be added the high moral qualifications required in the candidate, the natural jealousy and watchfulness of the inferior clergy, who were to be subjected to his authority, the publicity of the action in all its stages, the number of eye-witnesses to its final consummation, and the careful recording of the whole in the archives of the Church; if all this be carefully considered, we shall behold the sacred order of Bishops placed above the reach of either accident or imposture, and see the utter impossibility that any pretender to that holy office should ever successfully impose himself upon the Church. Much easier would it be, in a hereditary government, to foist upon the people a false claimant to the throne, than for a sham Bishop to escape the detection and disgrace that would undoubtedly follow his endeavor to usurp the high and holy office of a successor to the Apostles.
Thus has the true and unmistakable authority of the Church resided in her chief officers, the Bishops, for more than eighteen centuries; an authority which, if traced along its earlier as well as later channels, will be found to have flowed, without interruption, through Apostles, and martyrs, and confessors, and holy men without number from its first fountain, Christ himself.
 So with all human associations or societies which have existed for any length of time. Take the Masonic order, for example. More than two thousand years are supposed to have passed away since the date of its foundation. How has that order thus been perpetuated through so many generations, but by an authority, carefully preserved and unbrokenly transmitted from one lodge to another through the hands of its chief officers. Now, here is a historical fact, which few, if any, are disposed to question. And yet some are found amongst us who distrust the claim of the Church to an uninterrupted descent from the Apostles; and think it next to impossible that the chain of succession should remain unbroken to the present day. Of three things they seem wilfully ignorant: First, that little more than fifty generations have passed from the earth since Christ himself passed into the heavens; secondly, that that blessed Founder of the Church himself solemnly engaged, in the very hour of its institution, to be with his Apostles and their lineal successors to the very "end of the world;" and lastly, that no other mode of perpetuating this Divine commission was known in the Church through the first fifteen centuries of its existence: nor was it ever questioned, until those who departed from the Church in the sixteenth century found it necessary, for the defence and maintenance of their self-appointed orders.
That our blessed Lord himself was, in his human nature, possessed of all the power necessary to the formation of his Church, was sufficiently testified by that voice from Heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And that the Apostles received from Him authority to organize and perpetuate [13/14] that Church, is plainly to be seen from his parting words: "As my Father hath sent me, so send I you. Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, . . . And lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." From the language of this holy commission it is very evident that the authority to minister in God's name, thus fully committed to the Apostles, was not intended to be confined to their limited number, or to end with their natural lives. For how was it to be expected that those eleven unassisted, unbefriended men could convey the glad tidings of salvation throughout every nation and people then upon the earth? And even if all the men and women of that generation could, through their preaching, have heard the Gospel, was this great work to stop there? Had Christ died for that generation only? Was the work of baptizing (or making disciples of) all nations to cease when the grave or the lion's maw had received the last of those holy men? If so, why the promise of being "with them to the very end of the world?" Were not those words intended to show that they were the beginners only of a great work that was to continue through the latest generations of the earth? And if that work was to go down from age to age, and spread from country to country, by whom was it to be carried on, unless the Apostles, before they passed away, should commit to others the authority to minister his word and sacraments which Christ had given to them? That they did this, is evident in the cases of Matthias, and Timothy, and Titus, to say nothing of others, and from the express command of St. Paul to the former: "The things that thou hast heard of me, [14/15] the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." Here we see the first two links in that sacred chain which, stretching through eighteen centuries of change, and violence, and commotions of every kind, has reached even unto us unbroken and unimpaired.
That the Church has always confided this divine commission to her chief officers, the Bishops, and has ever been careful to preserve that commission from injury and even suspicion, is the testimony of all ecclesiastical history. And if, as we have already shown, the mode or method of transmitting that commission be duly considered, it would seem almost a moral impossibility that it could have failed through either corruption or imposture.
We have now seen that neither Prophet nor Apostle ever went forth to minister in God's name without a palpable evidence of being commissioned by Him. For "No man taketh this honor unto himself," says St. Paul, "but he that was called of God, as was Aaron." And how was Aaron called, or set apart as the Chief Minister of God's people? Was it not by having the anointing oil, in the sight of all the people, poured upon his head by the express command of God to Moses? Nay, further, St. Paul tells us, that even "Christ glorified not himself to be made a High Priest, but He that said unto Him, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee."
Thus we see the necessity for a Divine commission, and that it must come in a way evident to the senses of all whom it concerns. But what shall that evidence be? The days of miracles are over. The voice of prophecy is silent. Whither shall you go then, brethren, to assure [15/16] yourselves that those who minister to you in God's name, do it by God's authority, unless to that Heaven-appointed commission which, beginning with Christ and his Apostles, has descended unbroken through a long succession of the Church's chief officers, even to him who now addresses you. This succession has been carefully watched and guarded through every age, from the days of the Apostles to the present hour, as the only ground on which the Church could, in any degree, represent the authority of her Divine Head, or confidently minister in his name. I know that it is lightly esteemed by some, and even mocked at by others. But what do they offer in place of it? They point, it may be, to the distinguished piety, learning and zeal of some one claiming to be a minister of the Gospel, and confidently ask, will any one dare dispute that good man's authority to minister in holy things? As well might we, in reply, point to any one of our fellow-citizens and say, there is a man of intelligence, of probity, of experience, and of patriotism; who dares question that honest man's claim to be the chief ruler of the State? If learning, or piety, or zeal for God's service were a proof of a commission from Him to minister at his altar, then might woman as well as man lay claim to that commission. And not unfrequently, also, would it happen, that among a congregation one or more persons might be found possessing a better title to this authority than he who then fills their pulpit, or administers to them the sacraments of the Church.
The seven men who were chosen to be Deacons were "full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom and faith," but, notwithstanding, had no authority to minister, as such, until the hand of the Apostles were laid upon them. No, [16/17] this learning, and piety, and zeal well become the minister of God, and without them he can hope for but little favor or success in his calling. They are so many personal qualifications fitting him for usefulness after he has received authority to exercise the ministry; but they, in no wise, and in no degree, confer that authority upon him. A man may possess every possible mental and moral endowment; nay, he may equal in honor and glory any one of the angelic host, and yet have no authority to administer the sacraments of the Church. On the other hand, a man may be greatly wanting in these distinguished qualifications, and yet possessed of an unquestionable commission from God to minister before him. How was it with Judas? Did not our Lord know from the first that he was a traitor in heart? Yet he was sent out with the other Apostles, and possessed like authority with them. The ordinance of baptism, if it had been received at his hands, would have been just as valid as if John, or James, or Peter had administered it. And do we not find here, too, a sufficient answer to the question so often asked, "Why our blessed Lord chose this man to be one of his Apostles, knowing his traitorous character from the beginning?" What other purpose could he have had in view, (we at least can see no other,) than to teach that and all succeeding ages of the Church, that "the unworthiness of the minister hinders not the effect of the sacraments, inasmuch as he ministers not in his own name, but in Christ's, and by his commission and authority. [* XXVI Article.]
And is not the same principle acted upon in the civil [17/18] affairs daily transacted before our eyes? Whence does the chief magistrate, either of our State or of our Federal Government, derive the authority exercised over us? Is it from any mental or moral qualities which they may possess? No; these give them fitness for their high office; but they do not--they, cannot--confer the office itself. That must come from the people, who claim to be the fountain of all civil power. But in spiritual things the appointing power must come from another and a higher source than the people. It is theirs to receive, not to give the grace of the Gospel. He who would minister in holy things asks no authority at the people's hands. No, my friends; if ministerial authority comes from any source short of God, how can it put us in connection with God? How can it assure us that our baptism admits us into his family; or that the bread and wine of the other sacrament is that spiritual food which makes us the very members incorporate of the mystical body of his Son?
And may not our argument gather fresh strength by considering the various titles given to the ministers of God in his holy word. In a number of places we see them spoken of as "Apostles" (or Messengers,) "Ambassadors," "Stewards," "Shepherds," "Heralds," "Overseers." Now, if they are truly Apostles or Messengers, by whom are they sent forth? If Ambassadors, whence comes their commission to negotiate with us in the things of salvation? If Stewards, whose goods or stores do they dispense? If Shepherds, whose flocks do they tend? If Heralds, who puts the trumpet to their mouth, with authority to proclaim peace or war? If Bishops, (or Overseers,) who has conferred upon them the oversight of the Church? [18/19] One, and one only answer can, in reason, be given to all these questions. From God alone must come all power to minister in his Church; and that power, from Christ, must, from age to age, and from hand to hand, pass through the Bishops--the chief officers of the Church--by the "Laying on of hands," or what is usually termed, "Ordination." Alas! that this holy rite, by which Barnabas and Timothy were set apart for the work of the ministry, should be regarded by many, at the present day, not as the medium of a Divine commission, but as a mere certificate, or passport, or recommendation to the confidence and employment of those to whom they minister. "It is not Ordination," say they, "that gives authority to act for God, but a secret inward call, coming immediately from Him to the hearts of his chosen servants." Now, this sounds well, my brethren; but will it bear the test of reason, or of a sober judgment? Who knows what is in the breast of another? How am I to be assured that God has spoken directly to the heart of any man, giving him a Divine warrant to minister to me his word and sacraments? Am I to rest my hope of communion with God through his appointed means of grace, upon the bare persuasion of this or that man, whether real or pretended, that he is "called of God?" What "sign" can he show; or what proof can he give beyond his mere word? He may be a deceiver; or, at best, only self-deceived. But in either case, how can I receive him as an authorized minister of Christ, seeing that he comes with no evidence of miraculous power, no voice from heaven testifying in his behalf, no laying on of hands by those who have received and transmitted from the Apostles all power given to the Church. Let us suppose a case:--Let us [19/20] suppose a man, under the persuasion that he has a call from God, administers baptism to you or your children. Time rolls on. Among its many developments it is found out that this man, upon his own confession, was a hypocrite and deceiver at the very time of that baptism; or that, the "call from God," on the strength of which he administered that sacrament, was a mere fancy, or delusion of the brain. What are you to do? Will you go, for a second baptism, to some other one of like pretensions, but as you hope, of a more reliable character? What if he too should prove an impostor, or self-deceiver? Will you run to another and another, with no better assurance of a valid administration, when God's own appointed ordinances, and his duly commissioned administrators are at hand to place his own heavenly and unquestionable signet upon your brow?
But let me not be understood, dear brethren, as making no account of what may justly be termed, "a call from God." What I understand from these words is this,--a clear and strong conviction of both mind and heart that a man can best promote the glory of God, and the good of his fellow-men, by devoting himself to the work of the ministry. Such a call our Church justly appreciates. For the very first question which the Bishop puts to the candidate presenting himself for either Priest's or Deacon's Orders is--"Do you trust that you are truly called?"--or inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, to "take this office upon you?" Similar to this was the Divine impulse in the breast of the zealous Paul, that made him say, "Necessity is laid upon me; yea, wo is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel." But did that favored Apostle vest his authority as a Preacher and Apostle of Christ upon this inward persuasion, [20/21] strong and holy as it was? No. When the false brethren among the Corinthians were disposed to question his authority, he indignantly demands: "Am I not an Apostle? Have I not seen the Lord Jesus Christ?"--thus referring to the express commission received from the mouth of Christ, when He appeared to him on his way to Damascus. But here, let me remark, that the appointment of St. Paul to the ministry, being miraculous in its character, and altogether out of the common track of ministerial succession, is not to be taken as a pattern by this or any other age. When set by the side of all other instances or exercises of the Ordaining power, it stands out, like the accepted repentance of the thief upon the cross, a solitary exception to the general rule or order by which the Divine commission has ever been received.
In my endeavor to explain and enforce the lesson of ministerial authority presented in our text, I took occasion, just now, by way of analogy, to liken it to the power conferred on our civil rulers; let me now, even at the risk of being thought fanciful, endeavor to illustrate this whole subject by comparing it to one of the most striking inventions of the present age:--that invention, I mean, which enables us to transmit our thoughts and wishes from one end of the earth to the other as rapidly as the lightning flashes across the heavens; and which brings mind and mind, and heart and heart into immediate contact, though mountains, and deserts, and oceans may lie between. In the slender and far stretching wire you may see no imperfect emblem of the Church of God, with its living and life-giving spirit, beginning with Faithful Abraham, and reaching down even to the present moment. In [21/22] its various ramifications is represented the going forth of the Gospel from age to age, and nation to nation. In the several props which lift it above the earth, placing it beyond the reach of rude and wanton hands, you may see, as in a figure, the ministry of the Church, especially its Bishops or Chief Pastors, through whom the authority derived from Christ is in like manner upheld, and transmitted from one generation to another. In the electric spark that runs through the whole, passing and repassing, and imparting all the power and utility which it possesses, we may see a type of that Divine power and authority of which we have been speaking; which, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, gives vitality, and force, and blessing to the Church's ministrations, and which, however extended through time and space, will, according to Christ's gracious promise, continue even to the latest generation undiminished in its effects. Through the instrumentality of this Divine principle--this spark from Heaven's own fires, we are put, as it were, in communication with the faithful of all past ages, with Patriarchs, and Prophets, and Apostles, and, above all, with Christ himself. And herein is that holy Catholic bond, that "Communion of Saints" in which we believe, that very fellowship which St. John reminds us that we "have not only with one another," but "with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." To pursue this analogy a little further: That slender wire of which we are speaking may be beaten to the earth by the force of the tempest, and for a time lie trampled under foot; but so long as it remains unbroken, it is capable of conveying that invisible and subtle agency which gives it all its wonder-working power.
 So it is with the Church of Christ. The storms of adversity have beaten upon her from time to time; her chief officers have been dragged down to prison and to death, and she has, to all appearance, fallen, never to rise again; but by preserving within herself that Divine commission given her at the beginning, and pledged to her forever, she has kept up her connection with her Great Head, has stretched out her arms to the remotest nations of the earth, and, with undiminished power, will be the bearer of "glad tidings" even unto the end of the world.
Thus, dear brethren, have I endeavored, in as brief and plain a manner as possible, to show you the firm foundation on which you rest your hope of communion with God through the agency of his ministry and ordinances. I have made no attack upon others. I accuse no man. I seek no controversy. Much less do I deny the grace of God, or the possibility of salvation, to any who cannot see the doctrine of ministerial authority in the light in which it has this day been set before you. In all that I have said, my sole desire has been to teach my people what I believe to be God's truth, on a subject too little understood by themselves, as well as by those who differ from us. If I have offended any, I ask to be forgiven. My aim has ever been, while "speaking the truth," to speak it "in love." God grant, therefore, that my words, though they may not be received by all of you, may be misinterpreted by none. May they incite you, dear brethren, to thank God daily for the inestimable gifts of an Apostolic ministry, and help each one of you to adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour, by a life devoted to his service.
Canon IV of the Council of Nice, A. D. 325.
"It is most proper that a Bishop should be constituted of all the Bishops of the Province; but if this be difficult, on account of some urgent necessity, or the length of the way, that at all events, three should meet together at the same place, those who are absent also giving their consent in writing, and then the ordination be performed:--the confirming power however of what is done in each Province belongs to the Metropolitan of the same."
Canon 1st.--"Let a Bishop be ordained by two or three Bishops."