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In addition to this, we find that the things which Christ intended to be done for the salvation of souls, He gave a special commission to these men to do; and, apparently, at first to these alone. To them alone, at the outset, He gave the commissions to preach, to baptize, to administer the Eucharist, and to absolve.
Even if other persons were accidentally present, these particular commissions were given especially to the eleven, inasmuch as we read : “He through the Holy Ghost had given commandment to THE APOSTLES whom Ho had chosen " (Acts i. 2).
Now it is clear that if our Lord's procedure with respect to these men, in placing them in such a position with reference to Himself and His Church, is any indication of His will respecting the future of His Church, then ministerial agency and authority must be a leading principle of His kingdom.
Such a precedent as the position which He assigned to the twelve could hardly fail of developing into a system in which ministerial agency and authority play a most conspicuous part.
Then, in the next place, our Lord's procedure in the matter of the calling and commission of the Apostles shows that something analogous to Apostolic succession is the principle on which He designed all Church authority to be transmitted.
All ministration is derived from our Lord through the A postles to the Church, for the Apostles were not chosen by the Church, though there were apparently many professed followers of our Lord when thoy were chosen. They were chosen before the Church was in existence, and they were chosen to found it.
In the circumstances under which He designated them for their work, Christ altogether ignored any such theory
as that all ecclesiastical power is invested in the people, and that ministers, when exercising their functions, are only the delegates of the people, for mere order's sake doing what the whole body of believers cannot conveniently do.
If such had been the mind of Christ with respect to His Church, no reason can be given for the position which He assigned to “the twelve," and for the apparent limitation of the original commission to them.
On such a theory the new dispensation starts with a principle of Church rule, which has to be set aside in order to make room for the (supposed] true one, that the power resides in the people.
It would have been easy for Him Who had the Spirit without measure so to order matters that the principle of popular rights should have been intact from the very first.
He might have chosen the very same Apostles by controlling the whole body of His followers to choose them, but He did not. He appointed the eleven personally. He designated Matthias by lot. He singled out Paul by a special miracle.
It has been a question whether the two, Joseph and Matthias (Act: i. 23), were appointed to be presented to the Lord by the Apostles alone, or by the one hundred and twenty. I have littlo doubt but that they were appointed by the Apostles, and for this reason, that the two persons in question were not chosen out of the whole multitude of the disciples, as being the most devout, or energetic, or fitted for exercising rule, but out of the more limited number of those who had “companied” with the Apostles all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them, beginning from the baptism of John (Acts i. 21). The Apostles alone, as far as I can see, could possibly have been judges respecting the fact of the companionship in question, as well as of its constancy and duration. The fact also that the Lord's ministry was chiefly exercised in Galilee, or out of Jerusalem, and that these one We now come to the actual government of the Church As we find it described in the Acts of the Apostles.
During the whole of the first part of this history," tho twelve ” exercise supreme control over the entire Church. They seem to have been the only ministers of any sort; at least, till the appointment of the “soven," we read of no other.
We find them actually occupying the position which our Lord marked out for them. They reigned supremo in the Church. They acted together with one mind as if they were one person, St. Peter seeming to have the same office as their mouthpiece which he had before the Ascension. Thus we read (Acts ii. 14), "Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said,” &c. Also (Acts ii. 37), “ They said unto Peter, and to the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Those who believed “continued stedfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship” (Acts ii. 42).
We read that the price of the goods sold to supply the needs of the poor was laid at the Apostles' feet; i.e., placed at their disposal (Acts iv. 35).
We read that when Barnabas sold his land he “laid the price at the Apostles' feet” (Acts iv. 37). The judgment inflicted
Ananias seems to have still more confirmed
hundred and twenty disciples were probably dwellers in Jerusalem, seems to point the same way.
The remarks in this chapter are not to be understood as written against the election of clergy by the people, or of Bishops by the clergy, which, in some cases, as, for instance, in the Episcopal Church of America, seems a necessity, but against the idea that authority in tho Church proceeds from the people, and is to be exercised at their will.
In our own Church, the Sovereign in nominating the Bishops may be said to represent the Christian nation, thọ Bishops who consecrate conferring the spiritual authority,
their authority; for, after it we read, “ of the rest durst no man join himself to them, but the people magnificd them” (Acts v. 13).
Such was the Pentecostal government of the Church : certainly not, in the modern sense of the terms, popular or democratic.
All authority and discipline from above, not from beneath.
It was, in point of fact (and I use the term with the deepest reverence), a spiritual oligarchy, for the governing power was a college of only twelve persons, not removable by the popular will: and the Spirit was so dwelling in thein, that when men attempted to deceive them, it was taken as if they lied to the Holy Ghost.
Hitherto we have had no mention of any other ministry.
We now come to the appointment of the persons usually called the “ Seven Deacons." The twelve called the multitude and bid them look out men who might be guardians or trustees of the interests of those believing Jews who spoke Greek, and so were looked down upon by the Hebrews of pure blood. As it was a matter connected with the administration of public funds, the Apostles desired, as another Apostle did on a similar occasion (2 Cor. viii. 20), that “no one should blame them in the matter of the abundance which was ministered by them ;" and so they placed the matter, as all similar matters should be placed, entirely in the hands of the lay brethren; reserving to themselves the right to appoint and ordain those whom the brethren chose. “ Look out among you seven men whom we may appoint over this business.”
The names of these “ seven ” being all Greek names, show clearly that the appointment was made solely with reference to the dispute betwist the Grecians and the Hebrews.
These mon, designated to an office almost wholly secular, were set apart by laying on of the Apostles' hands.
This is the first Christian ordination on record. From it we learn that, according to Apostolic rule, every Church officer required this imposition of hands. If the Apostles felt it necessary to lay their hands on these men, to consecrate them to serve an office so comparatively secular, we may be sure that no one who administered the Sacraments would be suffered to do so without ordination.
We learn also from the subsequent history (chap. viii. 14) that the Apostles ordained the seven to discharge a part, but not the whole of their (the Apostles') own spiritual functions, for we find there that it was reserved to the Apostles remaining at Jerusalem to send two of their number to lay hands on (or confirm) the Samaritans converted and baptized by Philip.
This is to be carefully noted. It shows that a mar may have a commission to perform some spiritual offices without having power to perform all.
Hitherto all Church rule appears to have been vested solely in the Apostles, who seem to have all continued in Jerusalem.
It is probable that the Apostles mentioned in Acts viii. 1, as having continued in Jerusalem, were the whole college of twelve. About this time (that is, the time covered by the narrative from the eighth to the twelfth chapters of the Acts) a great enlargement of the Church takes place. Before this we read of no Christians except at Jerusalem. Now we read of Christians (Jewish, of course) at Antioch even. We read of the Churches throughout all Judæa and Galileo and Samaria (ix. 31). We read of St. Peter passing through all quarters, and on one of these missions opening the door of faith to the tențiles ; Christ expressly reserving it to an Apostle $