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from the Holy One. It would be worse than idle and unprofitable to treat this matter, here, as a theme of strife, or controversy, or elaborate discussion. Thus much we nevertheless may fitly observe,—that there is nothing in all this which ought to overpower and confound the faith of them who know any thing of man's weakness, or of them who are reverentially conversant with the power and majesty of God. We know “ that there is no kind of faculty, or power in man, or any other creature, which can rightly perform the functions allotted to it, without the perpetual aid and concurrence of the Supreme Cause of all things ?.” And, if this be so, can it seem strange that God should, in more especial manner, be aiding and concurrent, when men are appointed to duty and to power, which, fitly to sustain, might well nigh seem too weighty for the seraphim who excel in strength ? Touching, therefore, all them who are the chief ambassadors of Christ, we may ask, (in the words of one who has long been almost as an oracle among us,) “ Who should give them their commission, but He whose most inward affairs they manage ? Is not God alone the Father of Spirits ? Are not souls the purchase of Jesus Christ? What Angel in heaven could have said to man, as our Lord
Hooker, book i. $ 9. Vol. i. p. 236. Oxf. Ed. 1807.
did unto Peter : Feed my sheep ; preach ; baptize; do this in remembrance of me; whose sins ye retain, they are retained ; and their offences, in heaven, pardoned, whose faults ye shall, on earth, forgive. What think we? Are these terrestrial sounds; or else, are they voices uttered out of the clouds above? The power of the ministry of God translateth out of darkness into light. It raiseth men from the earth, and bringeth God himself from heaven. By blessing invisible elements, it maketh them invisible grace. It giveth daily the Holy Ghost. It hath to dispose of the flesh which was given for the life of the world; of the blood which was poured to redeem souls. When it poureth malediction on the heads of the wicked, they perish: when it revoketh the same, they revive. O wretched blindness if we admire not so great power : more wretched, if we consider it aright, and, notwithstanding, imagine that any but God can bestow it !.”
It may, indeed, be thought by some, that the claim to power and dignity like this can scarcely be of God; seeing that it can hardly choose but minister to human pride; and, perhaps, may bring upon the earth, not a benignant and patriarchal rule, but a harsh, imperious, and arrogant dominion. Alas! alas ! for them whose eye is thus
Hooker, E. P. book v. 8 77. Vol. ii. p. 424. Oxf. Ed. 1807. evil against the Church of their fathers, because the Head and Master of the household hath been abundant in his goodness towards her! What, , shall it minister to pride, for a man to be told that he is numbered among them who are appointed to keep alive the Church's sacred fire, from age to age; and that, if that fire shall burn dimly, or shed a lurid and destructive glare upon mankind, of them shall it be required, by Him from whom the light came forth ? Shall it minister to pride, for a man to know that he has been ordained to be a vessel of honour, filled with the oil of gladness and of holiness; and that, if at any time, the savour of death should issue from his heart or lips, he shall be in danger to be broken to pieces, like unto a vessel of wrath ? Shall it swell the heart with pride, to feel that, after a transcendent manner, it is become the temple of the Holy Ghost; and then, to remember that if any man defile the temple, him shall God destroy ? That fearful honours, such as these, should sometimes minister to pride, is not, indeed, a thing impossible,—though passing strange! But yet it follows not but that these honours still are pure and perfect gifts, which come down from the Father of all Spirits. For pride it was which overthrew the Angels; and their pride was engendered by the contemplation of their own excellency; which excel
lency was, nevertheless, the gift of the Lord God of Sabaoth. But, happily, with us, the remedy against all such pride, is of divine simplicity, and perpetually before us. If a successor of the Apostles should ever chance to be assailed by the unholy solicitings of pride, he has but to call to mind the words of an Apostle, “If I needs must glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me!."
But, further,—when we speak of that golden chain of succession which is bound unto the bench of the Apostles, it is sometimes urged, that many have come into the ministry, albeit they were not thus called; and that many have run, albeit they were not thus sent; and yet, that their labours have frequently been honoured with a most abundant blessing. And, suppose for a moment, this thing to be granted : what then should we say ? Perhaps, that, for certain wise but unsearchable reasons, it has been thus permitted by the Lord : it may be, to provoke his Church to holy emulation; it may be, to try her faith; it may be, to animate her diligence ; it may be, to abate her pride; or it may be, to remind us that the arm of the Lord is never shortened,—never confined and tied down to the measure and the limit of his own express appointments. For, even when Israel was in deadly schism, he had his seers, and prophets, and holy men of God. And these, though not a priesthood, were, doubtless, the ministers of peace and blessing unto all who bowed not the knee to Baal. But, whatever may have been the causes of it,—this permission, most assuredly, never was designed to absolve us from our obedience to injunctions, which, as we believe, have been delivered unto us by Him. For, although it may be true, that the ordinances of God were never framed by Him, with the intent that they should be as fetters on His own omnipotence ; yet is it, likewise, true, that they are binding upon us, until we are released from their power by repeal or dispensation. It is, therefore, at our peril that we listen to the voice which is perpetually inviting us to deal unfaithfully and loosely with that which He hath commanded; lest we fall into the condemnation of them, who are ready to obey man, rather than God. And if, at times, it should be our chance to feel confounded and perplexed by appearances which are, seemingly, at variance with the tenor of His appointments, it will be our wisdom to remember, that these are secret matters, which belong not unto us; matters, of which it scarcely can be safe for us to speak, or even think,-unless we speak and think, with a view to the solemn duty, which lies upon us, of making more manifest, by life and doctrine, the proof of our own ministry.
1 2 Cor. xi. 30. xii. 9.