church that constitutes them, ordination requires no consultation with other churches. But in the ordination of a pastor, there are three natural stages. First, there is the call of the church, second, the decision of a council (the council being virtually only the church advised by its brethren) and third, the publication of this decision by a public service of prayer and the laying on of hands. The prior call to be pastor may be said, in the case of a man not yet ordained, to be given by the church conditionally and in anticipation of a ratification of its action by the subsequent judgment of the council. In a well instructed church, the calling of a council is a regular method of appeal from the church unadvised to the church advised by its brethren. The vote of the council approving the candidate is only the essential completing of an ordination, of which the vote of the church calling the candidate to the pastorate was the preliminary stage.
This setting apart by the church, with the advice and assistance of the council, is all that is necessarily implied in the New Testament words which are translated ?ordain? and such ordination, by simple vote of church and council, could not be counted invalid but, it would be irregular. New Testament precedent makes certain accompaniments not only appropriate but is obligatory. A formal publication of the decree of the council, by the laying on of hands, in connection with prayer, is the last of the duties of this advisory body, which serves as the organ and assistant of the church. The laying on of hands is appointed to be the regular accompaniment of ordination, as baptism is appointed to be the regular accompaniment of regeneration while yet the laying on of hands is no more the substance of ordination than baptism is the substance of regeneration.
The imposition of hands is the natural symbol of the communication, not of grace, but of authority. It does not make a man a minister of the gospel any more than coronation makes Victoria a queen. What it does signify and publish, is formal recognition and authorization. Viewed in this light, there not only can be no objection to the imposition of hands upon the ground that it favors sacramentalism but insistence upon it is the bounden duty of every council of ordination.
Mr. Spurgeon was never ordained. He began and ended his remarkable ministry as a lay preacher. He revolted from the sacramentalism of the Church of England, which seemed to hold that in the imposition of hands in ordination divine grace trickled down through a bishop?s finger ends and he felt moved to protest against it. In our judgment, it would have been better to follow New Testament precedent and at the same time, to
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