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  • WORKS OF ARMINIUS - THE ECCLESIASTICAL MINISTRATIONS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT


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    DISPUTATION LIX

    ON THE ECCLESIASTICAL MINISTRATIONS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND ON THE VOCATION TO THEM

    I. By The word "ministry," we designate a public auxiliary office or duty, subservient to a superior, who, in this instance, is God and Christ as he is the Lord and Head of the church. It receives the appellation of "ecclesiastical" from its object, which is the church; and we distinguish it from a political ministry, which exercises itself in the civil affairs of the commonwealth.

    II. But it is the public duty which God has committed to certain men, to collect a church, to attend to it when collected, and to bring it to Christ, its Head, and through him to God, that [the members of] it may attain a life of happiness, to the glory of God and Christ.

    III. But as a church consists of men who live a natural life, and are called to live while in the body, a spiritual life, which is superior and ought to be as the end of the other, there is a two-fold office to be performed in the church according to the exigencies both of the natural and of the spiritual life: The First is that which is properly, per se, and immediately occupied about the spiritual life, its commencement, progress and confirmation; the Second is that by which the natural life is sustained, and, therefore, it belongs, only by accident and mediately, to the church. The First is always necessary per se. The Second is not necessary [in the church] except by hypothesis; because there are those who need a maintenance from others, and they do not obtain this through some order established in the community, in which case, it ought always to endure; but where any such order is established, it is unnecessary. On the former of these we are now treating; about the latter we have no further remarks to make.

    IV. The office accommodated to the spiritual life, consists of these three acts: The First is the teaching of the truth which is according to godliness; the Second is intercession before God; the Third is regimen or government accommodated to this institution or teaching.

    V. Institution or teaching consists in the proposing, explanation and confirmation of the truth, which contains the things that are to be believed, hoped for, and performed, in the refutation of falsehood, in exhortation, reprehension, consolation, and threatening, all of which is accomplished by the word both of the law and the gospel. To this function, we add the administration of the sacraments, which serve for the same purpose.

    VI. Intercession consists in prayers and Thanksgivings offered to God for the church and each of its members, through Christ our only advocate and intercessor.

    VII. The government of the church is used for this end, that, in the whole church, all things may be done decently, in order, and to edification; and that each of its members may be kept in their duty, the loiterers may be incited, the weak confirmed, those who have wandered out of the way brought back, the contumacious punished, and the penitents received.

    VIII. These offices are not always imposed in the same mode, nor administered by the same methods. For, at the commencement of the rising Christian church, they were imposed on some men immediately by God and Christ, and they were administered by those on whom they had been imposed, without binding them to certain churches; hence, also, the apostles were called "ministers," as being the ambassadors of Christ to every creature throughout the world. To these were added the evangelists, as fellow-labourers. Afterwards [the same offices were imposed] immediately on those who were called pastors and teachers, bishops and priests, and who were placed over certain churches. The former of these [the apostles and evangelists] continued only for a season, and had no successors. The latter [pastors, &c.] will remain in perpetual succession to the end of the world, though we do not deny that, when a church is first to be collected for any one, a man may traverse the whole earth in teaching.

    IX. These offices are so ordered, that one person can discharge all of them at the same time; though, if the utility of the church and the diversity of gifts so require, they can be variously distributed among different men.

    X. The vocation to such ecclesiastical offices is either immediate or mediate. Immediate vocation we will not now discuss. But that which is mediate is a divine act, administered by God and Christ through the church, by which he consecrates to himself a man separated from the occupations of the natural life and from those which are common, and removes him to the duties of the pastoral office, for the salvation of men and his own glory. In this vocation, we ought to consider the vocation itself, its efficient and its object.

    XI. The act of vocation consists of previous examination, election, and confirmation.

         (1.) Examination is a diligent inquiry and trial, whether the person about whom it is occupied be well suited for fulfilling the duties of the office. This fitness consists in the knowledge and approval of things true and necessary, in probity of life, and a facility of communicating to others those things which he knows himself, (which facility contains language and freedom in speaking,) in prudence, moderation of mind, patient endurance of labours, infirmities, injuries, &c.

    XII. Election, or choice, is the ordination of a person who is legitimately examined and found good and proper, by which is imposed on him the office to be discharged. To this, it is not unusual to add some public inauguration, by prayers and the laying on of hands, and also by previous fasting and is like an admission to the administration of the office itself, which is commonly denominated "confirmation."

    XIII. The primary efficient is God and Christ, and the Spirit of both as conducting the cause of Christ in the church, on which cause the whole authority of the vocation depends. The administrator is the church itself, in which we number the Christian magistrate, teachers, with the rest of the presbyters, and the people themselves. But in those places in which no magistrate resides who is willing to attend to this matter, there, bishops or presbyters, with the people, can and ought to perform this business.

    XIV. The object is the person to be called, in whom is required, for the sake of the church, that aptitude or suitableness about which we have already spoken, and on account of it, the testimony of a good conscience, by which he modestly approves the judgment of the church, and is conscious to himself that he enters on this office in the sincere fear of God, and with an intense desire only to edify the church.

    XV. The essential form of the vocation is that all things may be done according to the rule prescribed in the word of God. The accidental is, that they may all be done decently and suitably, according to the particular relations of persons, places, times, and other circumstances.

    XVI. Wheresoever all these conditions are observed, the call is legitimate, and on every part approved; but if some one be deficient, the act of vocation is then imperfect; yet the call is to be considered as ratified and firm, while the vocation of God is united by some outward testimony of it, which, because it is various, we cannot define

    COROLLARY

    The vocations or calls in the papal church have not been null, though contaminated and imperfect; and the first reformers had an ordinary and mediate call.

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