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In the next place, our Lord empowered His Apostles to celebrate the Lord's Supper. The commission to do this was also not given to the whole Church gathered together into one place, but to the twelve alone.
Now, when an Apostlo, or other minister commissioned by him, administered the Lord's Supper, what did he do ?
In the first place, it is allowed on all hands, that he showed forth the Lord's Death. He showed forth, beforo God and the Church, not his faith in the Lord's Death, but the Death itself; and, surely, this was a far greater thing in the sacerdotal sense than any act which Aaron was appointed to do; if, that is, the act of celebrating Holy Communion be a more direct way of setting forth Christ crucified than the sacrifices of the Old Law.
Then, in the next place, by administering the Lord's Supper, the Apostles must have made men partakers of Christ's Atonement; for, if the bread and wine, in any effectual sense, exhibit or represent the Body and Blood of Christ, they must make men partakers of the grace and power of that Body and Blood. If otherwise, they would be more vain and ineffectual things, having nothing like the virtue of the old Aaronic sacrifices.
But St. Paul says, “ The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? Tho bread which we brcak, is it not the communion of the
ministrations of laymen or ministers not regularly ordained aro valid, I do not stop to consider. My purpose is to show that God, in having ordained a ministry for the regular celebration of such things as the Sacraments, has established under the Christian dis. pensation the principle, that certain benefits, the results of Redemption, are to be looked for, not directly from Himself, but indirectly through the hands of those whom He has authorised to dispense thom.
body of Christ ?" And this, too, in a context full of sacrificial allusions.
When, then, an Apostle administered the bread, he gave to the believer that which Christ called His Body; and when an Apostle or other minister gave the gave to men what Christ had called, and so would have men believe to be," the New Covenant in His Blood." He must, by so doing, have applied to his convert the One Atoning Sacrifice far more directly and intimately than any priest of the order of Aaron could have done by his sacrifices : for the words in which the Holy Communion is described, establish the most intimate relation possible between it and the One Atoning Sacrifice.
Then, in addition to this, our Lord commissioned His Apostles to absolve. This power He imparted to thein when He said to them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (John xx.) When the Apostles exercised this power, which, if they were faithful to their Master's commission, they must frequently have done, they must then have applied to those whom they absolved the Atonement wrought out by their Master. If not, they must have absolved on the score of their own personal merits; a position for which I suppɔse, none would contend.
If, then, there be but One True Priest, and if all subordinate priesthood, Jewish or Christian, be instituted simply for the application of the Atonement of this One True Priest, then an Apostle, when he absolved according to Christ's commission, exercised priestly functions in a way far more direct, and by an authority far nearer to the fountain of all efficacious Atonement, than Aaron ever did, even when once a year he cleansed the people from all their siņs “ before the Lord.”
When, then, the Church was founded, the Saviour Himself appointed certain men to exercise functions of a far more sacerdotal character than any ever exercised before, because the exercise of these functions was far more intimately connected with His own Atoning Sacrifice.
As some persons, however, may stumble at this because the actual name of priest is never applied to a Christian minister, I have taken the liberty of transcribing the following passage from a well-known work, showing most fully the reasons why the name of priest was for some time in abeyance :
" The term “Sabbath,' like the term “Priest,' is employed nowhere in the New Testament in reference to Christianity. The caso is even stronger with regard to the term “Sabbatlı,' than to that of • Priest.' For the observance of Holy Days, and specifically of the Sabbath day, is spoken of with positive reprobation, as destructive of the simplicity of faith in Christ. 'Let no man therefore judge you in meat or drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.' (Col. ii. 16.) And again, 'Ye observo days, and months, and times, and years : I am afraid of you.' (Gal. iv. 10.) Again, it may seem, on a superficial view, from the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, that all sabbatical observances, or days of rest, had passed away with the coming in of a deeper spiritual life, and that the only rest contemplated by the Gospel is the soul's inward repose on Christ. Yet coincidentally with this rejection of the term Sabbath, and of holy days and seasons, the Apostles and brethren were observing the Lord's day; and Passion Tide, Easter, and the Wednesdays and Fridays of the week, as days of observance associated with the betrayal and crucifixion of our Lord, may be traced up through the dimness of the carliest tradition to the age of the Apostles. In the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, also, the term Sabbath never occurs except in connection with the Jewish apostacy, which was stigmatised by the opprobrious name of Sabbatising.' Later still, St. Augustine speaks of the Sabbath as observed only spiritually, and having its fulfilment in Christ. The subsequent history of the two terms entirely coincides. Both arose to life again after a time, and became fixed in the ordinary language of the Church, only the term Priest at a much earlier date than the other. The terın Sabbath has not been used
The greater part of these men survived the close of the New Testament history. The Acts of the Apostles carries us down to A.D. 58, and St. Peter and St. Paul were not martyred till ten years afterwards, so that during the whole of the New Testament period the heads of the Church must have cxercised sacerdotal functions of the highest character, and we have not a syllable throughout the whole Book to intimate that these functions were either to cease, or to be in abeyance.
We have now to consider the question whether the Apostles had any power to commit the exercise of these functions to others. If they had not, then only those Christians with whom they came in personal contact could have either been baptized, or received the Lord's Supper, or absolution : for I must ask the reader to bear in mind that the original commissions to preach the Gospel, to baptize, to administer the Lord's Supper, and to remit and retain sin, were given solely to the Apostles, for they and they only are mentioned as present when the commissions to do these things were given, and certair words in the Acts of the Apostles seem to limit it all to them. (Acts i. 2, in connection with Matt. xxviii. 16, 18, 19; Mark xvi. 14, 15; John xx. 19-27; Acts x, 40-42.) Our Lord might have assembled all His followers together, and have given to all of them power to do these things, and it
of the day of Christian observance until quite modern times. From the remarkable similarity, there can scarcely be a doubt that the same principle has operated in both cases. While there was danger to be apprehended from Jewish ideas becoming attached to the New System, from mere confusion, or from the appearance of antagonism, the Jewish terms were suspended, though the ideus of Priesthood and Sabbath passed into the Christian system, and when this danger no longer existed, and the separation of the two systems was complete, the terms themselves were again freely used.”—CARTER'S " Doctrine of the Priesthood,” p. 122.
appears to me that He would have done so if He had intended to maintain the universal priesthood of the whole Church or body of believers to the exclusion of that of the ministers of His Church : but He did the very opposite of this.
He gave power only to the Apostles, so that at the time of His ascension the Apostles were the sole commissioned ministers of the Church.
In order that these functions might be perpetuated, Christ or the Holy Spirit gave to the Apostles the power of transmitting the authority to exercise them by mcans of the “laying on of hands," or Ordination.
This laying on of hands was so prominent a feature in the New Dispensation, that it is included amongst the first principles of the doctrine of Christ: the foundations of Christianity. (Heb. vi, 1–4.)
. Every officer of the Church, from the Apostle (Acts xiii. 2) to the Deacon (Acts vi. 6), was set apart or consecrated to his office by this imposition of hands.
We have reason to believe that every office-bearer of the Church was thus set apart; for, if the Apostles would not commit to others so apparently secular a business as the control of the distribution of certain alms, without first laying their hands on those to whom they assigned this work, we may safely assume that no spiritual functions whatsoever would be committed by thom to others withrut this imposition of hands.
In the last of the Pastoral Epistles, we find this principle of transmission of power by imposition of hands recognised as the appointed means of continuing in the Church the functions of the ministry. St. Paul bids Timothy stir up the gift that was in him, by the putting on of his (St. Paul's) hands (2 Tim. i. 6), and bids him als-), in his turn, “ lay hands suddenly on no man (1 Ti, v. 22).