that holy institution; and thus to have established, and to continue among us, a body of men bearing a commission direct from Himself to admit us into His fold by the waters of Baptism, and to nourish us in the same, not only with the pure word of His doctrine, but with the spiritual nourishment of His most blessed body and blood.
It would have been in vain that the two Sacraments had been instituted, had no persons, no set of men, been appointed to administer them. You cannot suppose that you or I—(for he who thus addresses you is a layman like yourselves, that is, has never received the ordination of a clergyman—) you cannot, I say, suppose that any one of us might, with no other authority than his own good pleasure, proceed to baptize, or to administer the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. Such a proceeding would, it is evident, involve the highest degree of arrogance and impiety, and would be nothing short of a mockery of that great and awful Being, of whose gifts these sacred ordinances are alike the appointed means and pledges.
And if, as men, as simple members of Christ's Church, we have not this power, the next question to ask is, who could give us this authority? If admission into the great Christian congregation, if the promise, confirmed to us in Baptism, of the assistance of Christ's Holy Spirit, cannot give it, is it to be supposed that any act emanating from men, from sinful creatures like ourselves, should be of force to convey it? Clearly not; no command of an earthly king, no ordinance of an earthly legislature, could invest us with power over the gifts of the Holy Ghost; for such may we well term the power duly to administer the Sacraments which Christ has ordained. No Act of Parliament, however binding the provisions of such Acts may be with regard to the temporal affairs of the nation, could make any one of us a Priest, or clothe us with one jot or one tittle of power over the things of the unseen world.
As little, surely, could popular election invest us with this power from on high. Men may express their readiness to receive the gifts of Heaven at our hands; but is it not absurd, that those who are to be the receivers from us of any boon whatsoever, should themselves be the persons to supply us with the means of bestowing it? It cannot be, then, that those to whom we are to administer the Sacraments should themselves confer upon us the power of their ministration.