Page:Tracts for the Times Vol 1.djvu/43

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To cut this inquiry short. He alone is evidently entitled to confer the power of conveying, by the appointed means, the gifts of His Spirit, who Himself gave, in the first instance, that Spirit to His Church. It is to Him that such commission must be traced in the case of every individual who would establish his right to this holy office.

Constitution of the Church of the Apostles.He appointed in the first place, as is well known to every reader of the Scriptures, the Apostles; to whom He at diffferent periods entrusted all such powers as were necessary to the formation and continued protection of His Church, which they, under His Spirit, were to establish. He gave them the power of admitting members into it; and He put into their hands that power of expulsion from it, which it was necessary, for the well being of the society, should be vested somewhere: assuring them, at the same time, that their decrees in this respect should be ratified on high; that what they "bound on earth, should be bound in heaven." To them it was that he entrusted the power of baptizing all nations; and still more exclusively the power of celebrating the sacred rite which commemorates His passion[1]. They undertook the sacred trust, preached to all, and at first baptized all converts; though, when the number of these increased, when the Church could reckon its three thousand and its five thousand members, and when thus, to borrow the prophetic language of Daniel, the stone began to swell which was destined in time to become a great mountain, and to fill the whole world, it was plainly impossible that the small band of Apostles, employed as they were in the business of teaching the word, should suffice themselves to baptize all who should accept their offers of salvation. For this, among other purposes, the formation of a class of ministers, distinct from, and subordinate to, themselves, became necessary; a class, of the first establishment of which we read in the 6th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The members of this new class were called "Deacons:" they were at first only seven in number: they were chosen, at the suggestion of the Apostles, by the believers in general, or, in the language of the Church, by the laity; but they were ordained to the office by the Apostles themselves, by the laying of their hands on them, accompanied by prayer.
  1. "This do in remembrance of me," Luke xxii. 19; whereas the commission to baptize was apparently given to others besides the Apostles, though to them in the first place. Matt, xxviii. 18, 19.