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§ 59. 1. Of the Ecclesiastical Estate, the Ministry.

As the Word and Sacraments are the means through which alone a Church can come into existence, God has willed and ordered that these means shall always be employed; thereby He has willed the office of the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. [2] This office is, therefore, one of divine appointment, [3] and God has at times Himself immediately called single individuals into it, while now He does it only mediately, [4] namely, through the Church, which has received from Him the right and the authorization to do it. [5] The whole number of those who are intrusted with this office we call the Ministry. Individual teachers now must, therefore, have received their call and authorization from the Church, if they are legitimately to have the right to teach and administer the Sacraments. [6] It confers their office upon them, moreover, by the solemn rite of ordination, [7] an act by which, indeed, not a special supernatural power or gift is imparted to the person ordained, but which, nevertheless, in ordinary cases, dare not be omitted, because order in the Church and the example of the ancient Church, require it. [8] With ordination the Church commits to them the obligation and the right to preach the Word of God and to maintain obedience to it, to dispense the Sacraments and to forgive or retain to individuals their sins (potestas ordinis — potestas clavium). [9] In all these functions the Minister does not act in his own name, but, as by the authority, so also in the name of Christ; all the effect, therefore, that follows the Word preached and the Sacraments administered by him, proceeds not from him, but from God. [10] Thus he has also, according to Matt. 16:19; John 20:23, the right to forgive the sins of the penitent, and retain those of the impenitent; and he upon whom this right is exercised must recognize in 606this act not a mere announcement, but can be sure of this, that thereby his sins are really forgiven or retained. But the power to do this, the Minister has not of himself, but from the Lord, and he exercises this power entrusted to him, in each particular case, only as the servant of the Lord. [11] The Church expects from each one to whom she entrusts this power, and to whom she then obediently subjects herself, that he perform all his duties with fidelity, and has the right, if he fail to do this, to discipline him. [12] The Church assigns to individual ministers different ranks, and establishes different grades in the ministry, but this is done only for reasons of outward order; and the essential rights of preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments are possessed by all alike. [13]

[1] GRH. (XII, b. 2): “Three estates or orders appointed by God in the Church are enumerated, viz., the ecclesiastical, the political, and the domestic, which also are frequently called hierarchies. The domestic order is devoted to the multiplication of the human race; the political, to is protection; the ecclesiastical, to its promotion to eternal salvation. The domestic estate has been established by God against wandering lusts; the political against tyranny and robbery; the ecclesiastical against heresies and corruptions of doctrine.”

[2] CONF. AUG. (Art. V): “For the obtaining of this faith (of justification), the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For, by the Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is given; who worketh faith where and when it pleaseth God in those that hear the Gospel . . . . They condemn the Anabaptists and others, who imagine that the Holy Spirit is given to men without the outward Word, through their own preparations and works.”

BR. (785): “For the collection and preservation of the Church it is necessary that certain men discharge the office of preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments; in order that, through these means, faith may be conferred upon men, and when conferred may be strengthened and increased. And this is the office which is called the ministry of the Church.”

GRH. (XIII, 224): “The ministry of the Church is a sacred and public office divinely appointed, and intrusted, through a legitimate call, to certain men, in order that being instructed they may teach the Word of God with peculiar power, may administer the Sacraments, and preserve church discipline, for the purpose of 607effecting the conversion and salvation of men, and truly advancing the glory of God.”

[3] HUTT. (Loc. Th., 186): “The ministry of the Church has been established certainly not by man, but by God Himself, John 20:21; Matt 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15.” AP. CONF., XIII, 11: “The ministry of the Word has the command of God, and has glorious promises, Rom. 1:16; Is. 55:11.”

[4] HOLL. (1332): “By the divine call is here understood the appointment of a certain and suitable person to the ministry of the Church, with the right to teach in public, to administer the Sacraments, and exercise ecclesiastical discipline, made by God either alone or by the intervening judicial aid of men.”

BR. (787): “Moreover, God calls men to the ecclesiastical office, sometimes immediately (as Moses and the most of the prophets in the Old Testament were called, and likewise the apostles in the New Testament), i.e., by no intervening judicial aid of other men; and at other times mediately, namely, through the Church, which, in the name of God, commits this office to certain persons.” (HOLL. (1333): “An immediate call is not to be expected in the Church to-day.” ) Concerning the difference between the mediate and the immediate call, GRH. (XXII, b. 75): “The difference between the mediate and immediate call consists always and only in this, that the former is effected through ordinary means, divinely appointed for this purpose, but the latter through God Himself, who manifests His will concerning the immediate call of a person, either by Himself or through some representative.” The mediate call, therefore, is to be considered no less a divine call. GRH. (XII, b. 79): “For, (1) It is referred to God as its author, Ps. 68:11; Is. 41:27; Jer. 3:15; 23:4; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11. (2) It is based upon apostolic authority, Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 2:2; 1 Tim. 3:2; Rom. 15:18; 1 Tim. 5:21; Acts 20:28; Col. 4:17. (3) The mediate call rejoices in God’s saving promises, 1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Cor. 3:6; Eph. 4:12. And, indeed, essentially the same promises belong to those thus called. GRH. (XII, b. 81): “But if the mediate call, therefore, is not less divine than the immediate, it will follow that the promises made by God to those who have been immediately called, concerning the fruit and success of the ministry, concerning protection in dangers, concerning the reward of labors, etc., belong in their own way to those also who have been mediately called by God. We do not deny that the prophets and apostles, as those immediately called, had many and great prerogative, such as the privilege of not erring, the right to teach in a plurality of places, more abundant gifts, 608peculiar charisms, fuller promises concerning the success of the call and protection, etc.; yet, with respect to the ministry of the Church and the functions of teaching, both the mediately and immediately called sustain one and the same office in the Church, and, therefore, the promises concerning divine aid, and divine virtue and efficacy in the ministry, can be referred in their own way to the mediately called.” . . .

The “mixed call, by which God Himself names a certain person, but yet wills that he be called through others, as representatives (thus Aaron through Moses),” is not regarded by most of the Dogmaticians as constituting a distinct species.”

[5] HOLL. (1334): “The less principal cause constituting the ministry is the Church, to which the right has been granted by God of electing, ordaining, and calling suitable ministers of the divine Word, nevertheless with the observance of becoming order in the exercise of this right, 1 Cor. 14:33.” (Id. (1335): “Therefore the examination, ordination, and inauguration belong to the presbytery; the nomination, presentation, and confirmation of the call, by means of writing, to the magistrate; and the consent, vote, and approval to the people.”) Br. (788): “To the Church, after it has been planted, before the right and power to appoint ministers. For she has the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 16:19; 18:18, given her as a Bride, by Christ, her Husband; and, therefore, as it is her prerogative to open and close the kingdom of heaven, so is it also her prerogative to appoint ministers, through whom she may open and close [the same]. And, if we consider that the Church is a republic, and that the ministers of the Word are, so to speak, the magistrates or conductors of public affairs, upon whom the care of the whole republic rests, it is easily understood that the power to appoint them is vested, per se and in the very nature of the case, in the whole Church; nor does it belong to any one part, unless, by the common consent of all, it be transferred to some one part.” (It is not intended, therefore, hereby to lay down the law that, in practice, all the estates of the Church must participate in the choice of the individual teacher. HOLL. (1334): “We must distinguish between the right to call ministers and the exercise of the right. The right to call belongs to the whole Church, and all its ranks and members. But the exercise of the right varies, according to the diverse agreement and custom of the particular Church.”) According to the doctrine of the Symbolical Books, also, the Power of the Keys is in the hands of the whole Church. ART. SMALCALD. “Of the Power and Primacy of the Pope,” 24: “In addition to these things, it is necessary to confess 609that the keys do not belong to the person of a certain man, but to the Church, as many very clear and very strong arguments testify. For Christ, speaking of the keys, Matt. 18:19, adds: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name,’ etc. Therefore He gave the keys to the Church primarily and immediately; just as also, for this reason, the Church has primarily the right to call. 66. Therefore when the regular bishops become enemies of the Church, or are unwilling to impart ordination, the churches retain their own right. 67. For wherever a church is, there also is the right to administer the Gospel. And this right is a gift given only to the Church, which no human authority can remove from the Church . . . . Where, therefore, there is a true church, there there must be the right to elect and ordain ministers . . . . 69. Lastly, the sentence of Peter (1 Pet. 2:9), ‘Ye are a royal priesthood,’ also confirms this. These words pertain to the true Church; and since this has a priesthood, it certainly must have the right to elect and ordain ministers.” AP. CONF. (XIII, 12): “The Church has the command to appoint ministers, which ought to be most gratifying to us because we know that God approves the ministry and is present in the ministry.” In conformity with this, the ART. SMALCALD (ibid. 11) likewise say: “Paul (1 Cor. 3:6) makes ministers equal, and teaches that the Church is above the ministers. Wherefore superiority and lordship over the Church and the rest of the ministers are not ascribed to Peter.”

[6] CONF. AUG. (XIV): “Concerning ecclesiastical orders, they teach that no man should publicly in the Church teach or administer the Sacraments except he be rightly called.” (HUTT. “(1) On account of God’s command, Jer. 23:31; Heb. 5:4; Rom. 10:15. (2) For the sake of good order and the peace of the Church, 1 Cor. 14:40. (3) For the sake of certainty of doctrine, that it may be evident of what nature it is, and by whom it has been received, there is necessity for an examination and testimonials as to the doctrine. (4) For the sake of the conscience of the teacher, that he may be certain that Christ’s grace is with him, and that the hearers, also may know that they are hearing an ambassador of God, 2 Cor. 5:20.”)

[7] GRH. (XII, b. 145): “Ordination is a public and solemn declaration or attestation, through which the ministry of the Church is committed to a suitable person, called thereto by the Church, to which he is consecrated by prayer and the laying on of hands, rendered more certain of his lawful call, and publicly, in the sight of the entire Church, solemnly and seriously admonished concerning his duty.” Concerning the person to be ordained, 610GRH. (XII, b. 149): “Our churches do not approve of the disorder and anarchy of the Anabaptists, but recognize distinct grades among ministers; yet, meanwhile, we deny that the power of ordaining is, according to divine right, so confined to the episcopal office that it cannot be exercised by presbyters, when the necessity and advantage of the Church especially demand it. The practice itself bears witness that, for the sake of good order, we commit ordination to the bishops or superintendents alone, who are called bishops, not only with respect to the flock intrusted to them, or their hearers, but also with respect to other preachers, viz., presbyters and deacons, the oversight of whom has been intrusted to them; yet, meanwhile, we do not recognize any such distinction between bishops and presbyters, as though the former alone, according to a divine right and the appointment of the Lord, have a right to ordain preachers, from which the rest of the presbyters have been excluded in such a manner that they cannot administer the rite of ordination even when necessity demands, as when bishops are not present or are neglecting their duty; but we say that, according to an ecclesiastical custom, introduced for the sake of good order, the power of ordaining has been left to the bishops, although from this presbyters have not been purely and absolutely excluded.”

Of the ceremonies to be observed in ordination, GRH. (XII, b. 163): “In our churches we retain the laying on of hands, and reject the anointing. We make use of the χειροθεσια, not as though it were a sacramental symbol, appointed by Christ Himself, and commanded to be employed in this rite, but we use this ceremony according to our freedom, both because it descends to us from the practice of the Apostolic Church (Acts 6:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim. 1:6),  . . . and because if affords useful admonitions.” . . .

Ordination is, therefore, no Sacrament, GRH. (XII, b. 147): “The belief of our churches is this, that ordination may be called a Sacrament, if the word be received in a wide sense; yet, if we wish to speak most accurately, in such a manner that only that be termed a Sacrament which has an outward element or sacramental symbol, appointed in the New Testament by Christ Himself, to which has been attached the promise of grace, for offering, applying and sealing the remission of sins, according to which sense and signification Baptism and the Eucharist are called Sacraments: in such a sense, signification and respect, we deny that ordination is a Sacrament.”

On the other hand, APOL. (VII, 11): “But if the word be understood of the ministry of the Word, we should not seriously 611object to call ordination a Sacrament. For the ministry of the Word has the command of God, and glorious promises . . . . If ordination be understood in this manner, we do not object to call the laying on of hands a sacrament. For the Church has the command to appoint ministers, which ought to be most gratifying to us, because we know that God approves the ministry, and is present in the ministry. And it is of advantage, so far as can be done, to adorn the ministry of the Word with every kind of praise, in opposition to fanatical men, who dream that the Holy Ghost is given, not through the Word, but through their own preparations.” (Cf. § 53, note 5.)

[8] GRH. (XII, b. 168): “We do not deny that, in ordination, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, necessary for the discharge of the duties of the ministry of the Church, are conferred and increased. Yet, we make a distinction between the grace of reconciliation, or of the remission of sins, and the grace or ordination, since many receive the grace of ordination who nevertheless do not receive the grace of reconciliation; and we say further that the bestowal and increase of the gifts necessary for the ministry are by no means to be ascribed to the laying on of hands as a sacramental symbol truly so called, and divinely appointed, but to the prayers of the Church and the presbytery, to which the promise of hearing has been divinely made.” HOLL. (1342): “The necessity of ordination is ordinate, for the sake of good order or decorum, and because of the divine command (Acts 13:2), although the number and form of the ceremonies vary according to the judgment of the Church; nevertheless, the necessity is not absolute.”

GRH. (XII, b. 146): “We deny that ordination is necessary by reason of any special divine command, as this cannot be produced; or by reason of any such effect as the Papists ascribe to it, viz., as though by it any indelible character was imprinted, or as though it conferred, ex opere operato, gifts requisite to the ministry, concerning which no promise can be adduced from the sayings of Christ and the apostles; or by reason of any absolute and pure necessity.” . . .

[9] BR. (792): “The ministry of the Church bears with it the power and office (1) of teaching publicly, and administering the Sacraments according to order; (2) the power and function of remitting and retaining sins.” The former is termed the power of the order (potestas ordinis); the latter, the power of the keys (potestas clavium, called also potestas jurisdictionis).

CONF. AUG. (Of Church Power, VII, 5): “Now, their judgment is this, that the power of the keys, or the power of the bishops, by 612the rule of the Gospel, is a power or commandment from God, of preaching the Gospel, of remitting or retaining sins, and of administering the Sacraments. For Christ doth send His apostles, with this charge, John 20:21; Mark 16:15. This power is put in execution only be teaching or preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, either to many or to single individuals, in accordance with their call, for thereby not corporeal things but eternal are granted, viz., righteousness eternal, the Holy Ghost, life eternal; these things cannot be obtained but by the ministry of the Word and Sacraments.” GRH. (XIII, 16): “The power of jurisdiction consists in the use of the keys. But the power of the keys is twofold, loosing and binding, Matt. 16:19; John 20:23. For, although the ministry of the Word, by which sins are loosed and bound, is one, wherefore, also, in a generic signification, one key is effectual to open and to close the kingdom of heaven; nevertheless, according to the diversity of objects, means and effects, one key is said to be a loosing key, by which penitents are absolved from their sins and heaven is opened to them, and another binding, by which to the impenitent sins are retained, and heaven is closed against them. The former is called absolution; the latter excommunication. Both are exercised either publicly or privately. Absolution is public, when, to all who truly repent, the remission of sins for Christ’s sake is declared from the Gospel; private, when sins are remitted to some penitent in particular. Excommunication is public, when to all the impenitent and unbelieving, the wrath of God and eternal condemnation are declared from the Law; private, when to any obstinately wicked one in particular the retention of sins is announced. With respect to degrees, excommunication is said to be twofold, viz., the less and the greater. The former is exclusion or suspension from the use of the Lord’s Supper; the latter is expulsion from the communion of the Church: the former is called καθαιρεσις [purifying], the latter, αφορισμος [excommunication in the proper sense]. To the latter extreme degree of ecclesiastical censure we dare not progress hastily, without serious deliberation, and without the consent of the Church, and especially of the Christian magistrate, but the order prescribed by Christ, Matt. 18:15, must be carefully observed.” Id. (XIII, 109): “As in the political and the domestic estates, so also in the ecclesiastical estate, a certain discipline is required, without which, just as in the former subjects and domestics cannot be kept in their duty, so also in the latter the hearers. The objects of church discipline are men who have been received into the house of God, and the family of Christ, and who sin, Matt. 18:15; Gal. 5:1, who must be rebuked, chided, 613and corrected, in order that they may return into the way and perform their duty, according to the requirement of the Word. Such falls are twofold, viz., with respect to doctrine, and with respect to morals.” . . .

[10] AP. CONF. (Of the Church, 28): “Nor is the efficacy of the Sacraments destroyed, because they are administered by the unworthy; because they present before us the person of Christ by virtue of the call of the Church, and do not present before us their own persons, as Christ testifies (Luke 10:16): ‘He that heareth you, heareth me.’ When they offer the Word of Christ, when they offer the Sacraments, they offer them in the stead and place of Christ.” GRH. (XIII, 15): “Ministers do not act except instrumentally (οργανικως), and, therefore, ought to adapt their actions to the divine judgment and command.”

[11] HOLL. (1348): “The power which ministers of the Church have to remit sins is not absolute (αυτοκρατορικη), or principal and independent (which belongs to God alone, against whom alone sin is committed), but ministerial and delegated (διακονικη), by which to contrite and penitent sinners they remit all sins without any reservation of guilt or punishment, not only ιστορικως, or by way of signification and declaration, but also effectually and really, yet οργανικως (instrumentally).”

The remission is “delegated, Matt. 16:19; John 20:23. Therefore, the power to remit sins depends upon Christ (1) with respect to form, because it is a delegated power, and therefore such only, as to nature and extent, as God has delegated; (2) with respect to the norm, since the minister of the Church cannot absolve sinners according to his own judgment, but according to the norm of the divine judgment; (3) with respect to exercise, because in the act of absolution God concurs with the ministers and absolves through them; (4) with respect to efficacy, because the minister cannot absolve, except by delegated virtue and power, and, therefore, by that which is subordinated to the principal cause.”

Ministers of the Church remit sins not “by way of signification,” but “effectively; for they really bind and loose, and do not merely declare the binding and loosing that has occurred in heaven; because he who receives a key to unlock and open does not show that another has opened, but he himself opens. For the key is not the same as the declaration of the act of opening, and to unlock is not the same as merely to declare that another has unlocked. Through the Word of God, ministers really and effectively convert, regenerate, etc.; therefore, they also really and effectively remit sins.”

BR. (798): “That which is declared by the voice of the minister 614is truly presented and offered by means of his voice to the contrite and believing, or is confirmed by God, as certainly as though Christ Himself were to say to the penitent, what He said to the paralytic, Matt. 9:2.” HUTT. (Loc. c. Th., p. 765): “This absolution has its dependence upon confession. Therefore, it never errs, nor are the words scattered to the wind. For, inasmuch as absolution always either silently or expressly presupposes a condition of confession, it happens that absolution can, indeed, be invalid or ineffectual, yet it is never false; since it is declared by the minister only under the condition of a confession that has been properly and sincerely made.” GRH. (VI, 298): “Neither can any one present this argument in opposition, that in this manner all certainty of absolution is removed, if it be said to depend upon the condition of repentance and faith: for we do not say that the absolution must be judged from the extent of the contrition or of the faith, but we do say that sincere contrition, and faith that is true and not hypocritical, are necessary; and, furthermore, every one can examine himself as to whether he truly recognize and detest his sins, and whether he truly believe in Christ.”

HOLL. (1349): “The power that ministers of the Church have to retain sins is not principal and independent, but ministerial and delegated (the right to the key of binding, Christ has intrusted to the Church, as a spiritual mother of a family. The exercise of this right He has intrusted to the apostles and their successors, Matt. 18:18; John 20:23. Since, therefore, the power of the key of binding has been delegated, the ministers of the Church cannot bind impenitent sinners according to their own judgment, but in accordance with the norm of the divine judgment), by which they deny the remission of sins to obdurate, publicly infamous and notorious sinners, or only prohibit them from the use of the Holy Supper; or, by the consent of the church council, actually cast them out of the society of the Church; or, by an effectual declaration, hand them over to Satan, that they may truly repent and be reconciled to God and the Church.”

[12] CONF. AUG. (XXVIII, 21): “Again, by the Gospel, or, as they term it, by the divine right, bishops, as bishops, that is, those who have the administration of the Word and Sacraments committed to them, have no other jurisdiction at all, but only to remit sin, and to take cognizance of doctrine, rejecting doctrine inconsistent with the Gospel, and excluding from the communion of the Church, without human force, but by the Word, those whose wickedness is known. And herein, of necessity, the churches ought, by divine right, to render obedience unto them, according to the saying of 615Christ, Luke 10:16. But when they teach or determine anything contrary to the Gospel, then have the churches a commandment of God, who forbiddeth obedience to them, Matt. 7:15; Gal. 1:9; 2 Cor. 13:8-10.” HOLL. (1351): “A minister of the Church should cultivate piety with his whole heart (1 Tim. 3:2), and if his impiety be notorious, the censure of the Church ought to be employed against him, 1 Tim. 5:20. Yet his impiety does not derogate from the efficacy of the doctrine which he presents from the Word of God.” (“Efficacy of doctrine does not depend upon the minister, but upon the Holy Ghost, who is inseparably joined to the Word of God. Wherefore, by whomsoever it be preached, the divine Word is and remains the power of God to every one believing, Rom. 1:16.”)

GRH. (XIII, 214) under the caption, “Things Hostile to the Ministry of the Word,” discusses the chief hindrances to the efficiency of the Gospel ministry. He makes a distinction between the faults of the pastors and the faults of the hearers. Of the former he enumerates: “(1) abuse of the office, and of the power of the keys; (2) corruptions of doctrine, which degenerate into heresies, if obstinacy be added; (3) faults of character and life.” Among the faults of hearers, he gives prominence to “(1) the contempt of the ministry . . . (2) καισαροπαπια, by which some claim for the political magistracy absolute power over the ministers of the Church. They decide that the regulation of the ministry belongs to regal affairs, and ascribe to the magistracy the power, according to its pleasure and without the consent of the Church, to appoint and reject ministers, and to prescribe laws according to its own discretion. They refuse to submit themselves to Church discipline, and strive to put a muzzle upon the Holy Ghost when He censures their errors and crimes.” A heresy he thus defines: “A heresy is any private opinion, which any one selects for his reception in preference to a Christian doctrine and the Catholic faith, and obstinately defends.” (Id., 222): “That any one should be a heretic, properly so called, it is necessary (1) that he be a person received into the visible Church by the Sacrament of Baptism; (2) that he err in the faith; whether he introduce an unheard-of error or embrace one received from another, although the former seems to be peculiar to a heresiarch, and the latter to a heretic; (3) that the error directly conflict with the very foundation of the faith; (4) that to the error there be joined wickedness and obstinacy, through which, though frequently admonished, he obstinately defends his error; (5) that he excite dissensions and scandals in the Church, and rend its unity.” GERHARD, with 616AUGUSTINE, thus distinguishes heresy and schism: “Heretics violate the faith itself, by believing false things of God; but schismatics, by wicked dissensions, break away from brotherly love, although they may believe those things which we believe.” (221.)

[13] HOLL. (1351): “For the sake of good order it is useful and prudent that, corresponding to the disparity of gifts, there should be among the ministers of the Church, distinct degrees of dignity and influence, 1 Cor. 14:40; Eph. 4:11.” QUEN. (IV, 396): “Meanwhile, we say that the same power of the ministry in preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments and power of jurisdiction consisting in the use of the keys, belong to all the ministers of the Church.”

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