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appear that they celebrated the holy communion, or pronounced the sentence of absolution and benediction, which functions have .always been considered as peculiar to the priests' office.
If deacons, as an order of the ministry, had not been originally constituted by the apostles, it is in the highest degree improbable that they would have been received in all churches, in all places, and at all times. If preaching and baptizing had not been powers originally vested in them, by what influence could they have obtained these exclusive prerogatives of the higher order of the ministry?
The inspired record exhibits the exercise, by deacons, of several of the powers of the ministry. The Samaritans were converted to the faith of Jesus, and admitted into his fold in baptism, by Philip the deacon. The illustrious preacher of the Christian faith, whose blood first ascended to heaven as a testimony of fidelity even unto death in his divine Master's cause, was Stephen the deacon. These distinguished heralds of the truths of salvation, and others, were set apart to the office of deacons by prayer and laying on of hands, which were ceremonies that indicated designation to spiritual functions. They were originally constituted, indeed, in especial reference to the charge of the poor; but it is equally certain, from the inspired bistory, that they exercised some of the functions of the ministry. In the apostolic epistles, deacons are enumerated as one of the orders of the ministry, and directions given as to their qualifications and duties,
It is one of the marks of the apostolic character of our church, that she has retained the office of deacon, with the functions appertaining to it in the apostolic age--the charge of the poor and the impotent, where provision is so made; and especially the spiritual duties of assisting the priest in divine service; of aiding him in the administration of the eucharist, by the distribution of the cup; of admitting into the church by baptism; of reading practical expositions of Christian doctrine set forth by the church, called Homilies; and of preaching the word of God, when licensed by the bishop.
The peculiar circumstances of the church in this country, the number of vacant congregations, and the paucity of clergymen, render it necessary that deacons should be placed by the bishop who has the direction of them, not as assistants to priests, which is their appropriate station, but as in some measure pastors of congregations. Whatever be the station which they occupy, they are to be considered by the people as one of the orders of the ministry, had in estimation for their work's sake, and followed in the godly admonitions and truths which they deliver from the word of God."
For the faithful discharge of these important functions of the ministry, they must bring literary, theological, and spiritual qualifications.
Destitute as the church now is of miraculous gifts, it is by talents and learning alone that divine truth can be elucidated and enforced ; and by the graces of style and the force of eloquence must it be rendered interesting and impressive, and urge its way to the understanding and the heart. There are now no fishermen of Galilee who can spenk in every language the wonderful works of God, and exercise that inspiration of the Spirit which understandeth all mysteries and all knowledge. Talents, natural or acquired, must now perforin the work
of an evangelist. Natural talents alone may effect a great deal; unite with these extensive and accurate learning, especially theological, and you form, as it regards literary qualifications, the perfect minister.
Human talents and human learning are now the ordinary means by wbich the Divine Spirit convinces gainsayers, converts sinners, establishes the faithful. The weapons of human science have been employed to subvert the faith ; from the same armoury must the Christian minister furnish himself to defend it. The stores of erudition, the graces of style, and the power of eloquence, supply the champion of literary truth, and of the public weal, with the means of accomplishing the great objects to which he is devoted. Let not these high and efficient instruments of intellectual power be neglected by the advocate of divine truth ; let them not be discarded from subjects whose sublimity and importance are worthy of their highest efforts. God, judgment, eternity—the bliss of heaven, the torments of hell—the Son of God made man, suffering, dying, rising from the grave, ascending to heaven, sending forth his Spirit, ruling the world, coming to judgment, awarding the eternal destinies of the human race these are the topics, which the Christian minister enforces, and which are surely worthy of all the most vigorous efforts of the understanding, and most lively affections of the heart. Those truths of redemption into which angels desire to look-those precepts of salvation which are a light to our feet and a lamp to our path-those promises which, unfolding the glory that is to be revealed, raise to heaven the heir of sorrow and the dust--these awful and sublime toVOL. II.
pics, in all their variety and richness, it should be the especial study of the Christian minister to explain and enforce; for in explaining, and with holy fervour enforcing them, consists his office as the herald of salvation.
But whatever may be his literary and theological attainments, if he is destitute of spiritual qualifi-. cations, the labours of his office will be a drudgery, his work will be neglected, his 'ministry will be dishonoured, and he will fall under the condemnation of bringing to the altar of his God a heart which is corrupt, and hands that are defiled. He must shine forth with an understanding enlightened from above, a heart renewed to holiness, and a life an example of all that is dignified and all that is lovely in Christian duty. Thus will the Christian minister preach, in his character and in his life, with an eloquence calculated to warm every heart into the admiration, the love, and the pursuit of that holiness which is set forth not only by the tongue of the preacher, but in the life of the man.
We have good reason to trust that this will be the eloquence of those persons who are now to be commissioned to the order of deacons. Having passed through the Theological Seminary of our church with great reputation, they bring, we are happy to say, to this holy office those literary, theological, and spiritual qualifications which will adorn their ministry, and we hope, render it honourable to themselves and a blessing to the church.
Bear in mind, my young friends, that your office in the church, though a most honourable, respons sible, and important, is still an inferior office. The
constant impression of the subordinate station which you occupy, will excite you, by diligently pursuing your studies, to qualify yourselves for the superior office of the priesthood, and to cultivate that modesty and humility which peculiarly belong to your station, and will therefore most eminently adorn it.
In the inimitable language of the office prescribed by our church, by which you will be admitted to the order of deacons, let me exhort you to be modest, humble, and constant in your ministrations; to have a ready mind and will to obey all spiritual discipline. Preserve the testimony of a good conscience; continue stable and strong in your Lord and Master Jesus Christ; so well behaving yourselves in this inferior office--using the office of a deacon well, you will purchase to yourselves a good degree, an honourable rank in the church-you will be found worthy to be called into the higher ministries of the church. Pray to God for all these things. It is the unction of the Holy One enlightening, sanctifying, and strengthening you, that must fit you for the work before you. Never lose sight of the great object of the ministry -to save the souls of men, and this must be done, not by the vain speculations of philosophy, not by erudite disquisitions, not by ingenious dissertations, not by the portrait of virtue drawn by the pencil of human fancy, but by the exhibition, in their simplicity and purity, of the doctrines of the cross. There is no honour more exalted, none that will obtain brighter trophies on earth, none for which are reserved higher rewards in heaven, than that of faithfully preaching the cross of Christ. It was the resolution of the apostle-be it yours God