On the Presence and Action of the Holy Ghost in the Church,

in answer to the work of Mr. P. Wolff, entitled,
"Ministry as opposed to Hierarchism and chiefly to Religious Radicalism,"
Valence, 1844
J. N. Darby.

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In all the rest of the pamphlet we must expect to find the bishop and the pastor confounded; this will create much difficulty; but we will try to get out of it.

"The bishop," says Mr. Wolff, "can only, it is evident, receive his vocation from God, or from man, or from both together. Hence three different systems."

"In the first system," says Mr. Wolff, "the pastor holds his ministry from God alone; men are not to come in, in any way; this is the system of the Quakers, of the Irvingites, and of those called Plymouth Brethren."

All this is false. Firstly, the Quakers have elders who form a separate class, and who adjoin to themselves such or such other grave person to be elder with them, but with the consent of the assembly. Those who speak or feed may, or may not, be elders. Even their ministers (for the Quakers also distinguish between elders and ministers) are recognized by the elders after a certain time for the probation of their gifts, and they always remain subject to the judgment of the elders.

Secondly, the Irvingites have an angel, a sort of head pastor, and six elders besides, when the rules are followed. All are established by men (namely, their apostles), and they hold to that like papists.

Thirdly, those whom the writer calls Plymouth Brethren (as far as I can dare to speak for them) believe that, as the bishop was established by the apostles, he cannot be established in our day with the same formal authority. They leave the pastor where God placed him, that is, as a gift given by Christ when He ascended up on high and received gifts for men.

In the second system, says Mr. Wolff, the bishop holds his ministry from men alone, and he attributes this system to Limborch and Neander. As to Limborch I know nothing of him. As to Neander, except the direct appointment by men, he is just what people call a Plymouthian, and therefore Mr. Wolff says of him (p. 9): "a new theory, original, wholly destitute of proof." In the third system, which Mr. Wolff calls mixed, "the bishop receives his charge by a twofold vocation from God and men."

As regard this point, or this system, we must always bear in mind that the ecclesiastical system of the Reformed Church of France, etc., distinguishes between the bishop or overseer, and the pastor, so that what the writer says is not at all the system of Calvin — a system based on this, that the ordinary gift of pastor, which is distinct from the bishop, still subsists. According to Calvin, for the Church to exist, it is absolutely necessary there should be gifts now. And Mr. Wolff, on the contrary, says (p. 78), "If there are gifts at the present time, unless they are all there, ministry cannot be maintained in the Church."

236 He goes still farther. This doctrine of Calvin,* he says, "is one of the principal sores of the Church; every church where it may be received will become only a volcano" (p. 70). If a minister believes in gifts, Mr. Wolff advises him to resign his charge. "It can no longer be allowed now for a minister to remain uncertain on this point."

{*We say, this doctrine of Calvin (namely, that there must be gifts), because, in the system of Calvin, there are gifts recognised; but Mr. Wolff, without naming Calvin, judges the system of that servant of God in these words: "To pretend to establish gifts, without miracle, is to parody them" (p. 69).}

Finally, after having destroyed all the scriptural bases of the system of Calvin, in his desire to confound those who in their weakness rest upon God and the word, the writer goes on to establish this last system, which is his own. But what animosity of opposition does not this pamphlet manifest. To get rid of the activity of the brethren, their adversaries think proper even to undermine all their own house. As blind as Samson, without having his strength, they bring down the house upon their own heads, without touching those they wish to destroy. These, taught by the word as to the ruin which is coming, are already gone out of it.



In general I agree with the writer that the bishop was established of God.

But we have to call attention to the confusion between pastor and bishop — a confusion in consequence of which the passages he alleges are, for the most part, wrongly quoted. The passage, Hebrews 13:17, "Obey them that have the rule over you," does not speak particularly of pastors, but in general of those that rule — an expression, moreover, which does not prove there was a charge. Hence it is in no wise said that they must give account to God for the souls they feed, God having entrusted these souls to them. They watch over the souls, "as they that must give account." It has often been remarked that "give account for them" is not a faithful translation. We have already considered the passage, Ephesians 4:11: the bishop is not named there.

237 Acts 20:28. This passage is very clear, as proving that the bishops at Ephesus, and therefore elsewhere, were established of God; but here again is a confusion the importance of which is great enough.

The writer will have it that, because the Greek word translated established or made — is used in Acts 20 and in 1 Corinthians 12, the establishing is the same in both cases. But he has not perceived that, in the first of these passages, it is a question of establishing certain persons in a charge; and, in the second, of establishing the charge or the function itself. It is one thing to establish a professorship in a university, and to endow it, and another thing to set or establish an individual in the functions of rector of the same university. In the passage, Acts 20, God had set or established certain persons in the charge of bishop; and in 1 Corinthians 12 God had set or established in the Church certain gifts, certain joints or members of the body. He has constituted the body thus. So that there is no analogy whatever between these two passages as to sense.

Hence the writer has quoted no passage which speaks of an immediate or inward call. There is on the part of God the appointment of certain persons; but this is not an inward call. What the writer gives us is nothing but reasoning which ends in very little. One passage only declares that the Holy Ghost had placed certain persons in the charge of overseer; and this I fully admit; but it is not said there was an inward call. And I make the remark, that it is not even said that God set or established bishops in His Church; this is nowhere said. Nowhere either is it said, that God, according to that power which creates and orders, has set such a function in the body. This is said of gifts, comparing them with the eye, the ear, etc., which God has set in the natural body. When He set certain individuals in such a charge, it was, in that case, sanctioning the existence of that charge; but the word of God does not go so far as to say that God has established the charge itself. A charge is not of the same nature as a function in the body. The fact is, that a bishop was a local government; it was not the impulse of the Holy Ghost acting in the way of gift; it was a charge to which one was appointed. The Holy Ghost had established certain persons in that charge. And here is the importance of this remark. It was not something that existed in the individual who acted in such or such a way. It was a charge — outward as to oneself — which one could desire, and for which certain qualities were necessary. Hence, one could be appointed to that charge, and the vocation from God was not, in that case, His own power acting in the way of gift (a power which He had divided, which the Holy Ghost had divided); but that vocation was merely the appointment, on God's part, of an individual to the charge in question, and his being established in that charge. Hence, when it is a question of a charge, we have the only true vocation from God — namely, His appointment of the individual. The Holy Ghost established him in that place, in that function; He did not establish the function itself, save by the act of appointing the individual. It need not be added that the Holy Ghost appointed persons having suitable qualities.

238 What we have then to inquire into is — how God established these bishops. It is thus that we shall discover what that vocation is that is received of God.

Of this we have very plain instances in the word. A man is not established of God in a charge through a quality only; this may render him fit for the charge; but, as Mr. Wolff says, he must be regularly installed in that charge; he is not a bishop, he is not established as bishop, either by God or by men, before that, whatever may be, moreover, his qualities. Accordingly Christ appointed and sent the twelve, to whom, at a later period, after His ascension, He gave gifts, necessary for the charge of apostle, as He had, during His life here below, given that which was necessary to render them messengers of His glory as Messiah on earth. But He had appointed them in His stead. The apostle Paul, specially charged with such a function, appointed elders for the government and oversight of each church. He sent Titus invested with his authority to do the same at Crete. Thus, at least, God established them. This is all that the word positively says on the subject. Am I thinking that the authority of God was wanting there? In no wise. I say that God had established these bishops according to the authority conferred upon Paul by the Lord; an authority which he exercised through the power of the Holy Ghost, as he says on another occasion: "When ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ." The Holy Ghost had established elders by his means.

239 Whatever be the means, that which we find in the Bible, and that which I consequently ask for, is, that the Holy Ghost may establish persons in those charges. For do not come and tell us that the Holy Ghost established the charge, and that it must be continued. That is not what the word of God says. It says that the Holy Ghost established the persons who were invested with it in the charge we speak of. That is what I ask for in those who pretend to be invested with it now. If the simple fact that they are in it were sufficient, without asking who set these persons in that charge, this fact would suffice just as well for the Romish priests as for any others. They would be established by the authority of God, by the Holy Ghost, and they ought to be recognized. It would be complete popery, in its real principle, namely, the authority of God attached to a man, without proof — the authority of the Holy Ghost attached to the possession of a charge, and not the legitimate possession judged by the proof of the authority of the Holy Ghost. That is what concerns the establishment of the bishop by God Himself.

I now ask for the proof of the establishment of the individual in the charge on the part of God. In the case of a gift, it is no longer the same thing; for it proves itself. But a charge of authority needs to be legitimated. One has no right to say that the Holy Ghost established bishops. The Holy Ghost did establish certain persons as bishops. Shew me this and I shall be content; but it is your task.

Mr. Wolff owns (p. 37) that the election by the church excludes the vocation of God. But, to be consistent, you must shew me some one established by a perceptible intervention of the Holy Ghost (otherwise the choice by anyone else excludes it equally); but this they do not pretend to. Or else, you must shew me someone established according to the word by some supreme authority. But in the word this is found to be attributed only to the apostles and their delegates.

240 If it be objected that it is written, "Obey them that have the rule over you … for they watch for your souls"; and, "know them which labour among you";* I reply, I consent to this, and I do still more than consent (for the word of God does not need the consent of man). May God lead His children to do so! Such is my prayer.

{*This passage does not prove that the Church recognised those who had laboured, but quite the contrary; for there would have been no need to take cognisance of those who laboured, if they had been publicly and officially recognised by the Church. It would have been an exhortation altogether out of place.}

I bless God that there is in His word ample provision for times when a state of disorder prevents every thing from being outwardly legitimated. The heart of man is put to the test in a most precious way. Those who are humble will discern all that is of God, and submit themselves to it; the flesh will rebel against everything. But when, by using the phrase "The Holy Ghost has established," people seek to force upon me that which man has established, and to determine an order of things as obligatory, in circumstances where God demands patience and humiliation, I require from such to produce their evidence. Such a pretension must be legitimated; otherwise, I dishonour the Holy Ghost, whose authority and name are introduced to uphold that which is only from man, which is only an authority, a ministry, without gift. But it is necessary, and it is the least that can be required, that an authority without gift should produce the clearest evidence that it is established by the Holy Ghost, before one can own in it such an authority. This is what I have not seen as yet. And when this pretended authority is used to hinder the activity of love, or to arrogate to itself the right of ruling it, as it were ex officio, and to deny any gift whatever, the thing becomes most serious. Is it of God? Now this is a question of the utmost gravity.

But here is a person who desires that charge, who possesses all the qualities which the word demands, who is blessed of God in it: for my part, I would support him with all my might, and so much the more because he cannot legitimate his vocation in an outward way, nor say, "The Holy Ghost has established me," and appeal to evidence. But let him abide in sincerity, in that position of acknowledged weakness, because we will both of us, then, rest upon God, and the strength of God will be there. If, on the other hand, I have laboured in a place, if God has blessed me there, if He has gathered many souls, if He has Himself raised up true bishops, who work together and help and teach and watch over souls; and if I have to labour elsewhere, would I scruple to exhort them, nay, to beseech of them, in the bowels of Christ, to watch over the souls which God had given me in that place for my reward? If I have love for souls, if I love Christ, and if I am led by the Holy Ghost, I could not act differently. If these same persons sought to place themselves in a position where it would be a question of a right, all the work of love would be thoroughly destroyed.

241 Whoever cannot feel the difference between such conduct, and the fact of insisting on a ministry without gift, I pity him.

Let us remember also, that elders (of whom there were always several established in each church by the side of gifts) are quite a different thing from a young man who leaves an academy, having perhaps natural talents, perhaps piety, but not one of those qualities required by the word of God for elders. The elders which the word depicts are quite a different thing from the young ministers whom Mr. Wolff presents to us in that sad picture in which he sums up their features by saying, "After suitable study, all preach without gifts." See the last page of his pamphlet.

To recognize a labourer according to his gift in his field of labour is a positive duty; he who does not will suffer for it. This is what religious societies are not doing in their pretensions to direct the work. They respect ministers whom they know to be not established of God; they often allow souls and their own work to pass into a system which they believe to be not of God, and they oppose every other labourer who is not subject to them.



In this chapter Mr. Wolff shews that bishops were established by ministers. I have nothing to add to what I have already said, except that it is very convenient to speak of bishops established by ministers, because we have ministers now. Whereas the word of God speaks only of elders established by apostles and their delegates. Give us then, for the establishment of elders, either apostles or their delegates.



Here again the writer spares me the trouble of saying much. His desire is, at the beginning of the chapter, that the flock should take a part in the nomination of the pastor, and that the ministry should have the right of presenting him. He states all this, without caring much to see what is found about it in the word.

All the system which chooses to appoint pastors in such a way is so much outside all that is found in the word, that I have nothing to say on the subject. I have already explained the origin, historically, of this custom. The flocks which one has in view being in fact unconverted for the most part, it is still less needful I should speak of it. "We cannot but approve of such a custom" (p. 20). It would be convenient to free oneself from the government and consistories, and to follow the liberal influence of the age. All that is outside my task. I have already discussed the subject of all the remainder of the chapter, in the same sense as Mr. Wolff.*

{*See "Remarks on the State of the Church, in Answer to the Pamphlet of Mr. Rochat" (Ecclesiastical, 1, 405-413.)}



In this chapter Mr. Wolff asserts that there were in the apostolic Church two kinds of imposition of hands; the one, miraculous, which communicated extraordinary gifts; the other, ordinary and without miracle, which was conferred by all ministers.

I agree also with the general idea of this chapter, namely, that there was an imposition of the hands of the apostles which was special to them, and which, in general, distinguished the apostle. Long since have I written, and even acted, in making this distinction.

But there are ideas in this chapter of Mr. Wolff, which require to be discussed, not only because of their importance, but also because those ideas bear on subjects, with respect to which Mr. Wolff, while he has received certain views which the brethren whom he opposes have had long since, has nevertheless fallen into the confusion out of which these truths should have brought him. It is comforting, however, to have at least a certain ground, where there is some light in the understanding, and on which scriptural argument can have a hold.

243 When I say that Mr. Wolff had understood certain views which the brethren whom he opposes received long ago, I do not mean that he has borrowed them. I know not where he found them; but I am glad to bear witness that there is a very respectable production on the precious word of God. I will explain where it appears to me there are serious gaps in the system which the writer thinks he has found there; but, at least, he has searched the word on the subject, and this is always worthy of respect.

We must here notice a striking part. The moment one searches the word, it comes out that theology and theologians are worth nothing at all. As to the two kinds of imposition of hands (the difference of which forms the basis of the writer's production, and he is right in the main) "old theologians did not distinguish between them" (p. 27); "hence the vagueness and obscurity into which of necessity they fell" (p. 29). And the writer adds, "This confusion in the ideas has produced two results, both equally sad."

Poor theologians! Even when, at any cost, they will uphold the imposition of hands which is practised in our day, for that is always the object, at least they are compelled to throw aside all the system on which it is founded. In short, it is impossible to search the word without putting aside all the theological system on ministry. This is a singular confession, when one chooses to support that system. It is true, that it is impossible to read the word and to follow, even one moment, the system of theologians, the established system, as to the ideas. It is what I have felt myself.

244 Here now is what Mr. Wolff condemns as one of the sad results of the confusion he spoke of. I am almost afraid I may be accused of irony in quoting, however seriously, what he says. "Some have thought they saw in ordination something mysterious and sacramental, I know not what magical transformation, which must stamp an indelible character on the man who undergoes it; and clerical pride has favoured that error" (p. 27). Such is one of the results of the theological system on the imposition of hands.

Further, the distinction adopted by the writer, and which old theologians had neglected, is, he says, of "so much importance, that it is only in this that I can see the means of restoring to the ordination of the minister all its dignity, by keeping it pure from superstitious ideas."

Here, then, we have all the old system on this subject entirely condemned. Is it surprising that others, who have searched the word before Mr. Wolff, have condemned it also? And it is not merely a question of some flaw in the theory; the ordination of ministers is tainted with "superstitious ideas"; and "clerical pride has favoured that error," the distinction which alone could keep it pure not being found in theology.

And if, on one hand, this was true, as I fully believe it was, and if the thing has gone very far on a very serious point, which is nothing less than the ministry which God has established in His Church; and if, on the other hand, I have found, like Mr. Wolff, that, according to the dissenting system, the bishop or the pastor is absolutely without vocation from God, is it surprising that I should have withdrawn far away, on the one hand, from those superstitious ideas favoured by clerical pride; and, on the other, from a system which establishes pastors or bishops without any vocation from God? That is what I have done, because I believe what Mr. Wolff believes. I know not whether he has hitherto received or not an ordination conferred according to those superstitious ideas. If he has, I hope God may grant him more light. If in keeping away from both these things, I subject myself to the accusation of belonging to a new sect, I must bear it with patience: it is clearly what is demanded by light and a good conscience; and then the blame of men becomes of very little weight. Moreover, I am not the first who is of a "sect" which is "everywhere … spoken against." May God give unto us, if we have not the same gifts, the same courage as unto him who endured such contempt from those who, calling themselves Jews, were, most of them, liars.

As to the imposition of hands, I do not at all reject it, provided it is left in its proper place. But this I ask, if an upright man, whose desire is to act according to the word, having the convictions expressed by the writer of the pamphlet, would not have withdrawn from national ordination, and from dissenting ordination? — from one, because tainted with superstitious ideas, and founded on an error which is favoured by clerical pride; from the other, because applied to men who have received no vocation from God; yet in spite of all, acknowledging that, on both sides, there are individuals blessed of God? Then, having seen that theologians had based everything on a false system, he would have waited in order to see clearly the will of God, instead of building up again the things which the word of God had overthrown.

245 I have been present at the imposition of hands done with simplicity, when it went not beyond the light I had; I was present and felt much joy. But I think that ministry can be exercised without it, without any human vocation being necessary; and I found this on Acts 8:4; chap. 11:21; Philippians 1:15, etc.; because I see from those passages, that they preached, that they evangelized, that they announced the word (I will not even mention here either the prophets or Paul), all the words which can express in the highest way the act of announcing the word being used, without the idea of ordination; and it is said that "the hand of the Lord was with them"; and because I see and believe what Mr. Wolff carefully avoids seeing, and what he wants to fashion according to his own mind, namely, that the ministries which concern the edification of the Church are gifts; and if they are not called charismata they are none the less gifts which Christ gave. And I bless God for it; because His work is not hindered, nor clothed with superstitious ideas, although man has marred the outward order established by the apostles.

What I desire is, that ministry be independent, and that it enjoy its true dignity, as being of God, and dependent upon God; that it be the Holy Ghost who may direct both the work and the workmen; and that in the Church of God money may become servant (deacon) — and this is a great privilege — not the master of ministry.

Let us always remember that the ordination of young students, who have just left an academy, is as far as can be from the establishment of elders in the Church; that there is no similarity whatever between the two things; and that what "is practised now" has introduced into the ministry founded on that system, a mass of Socinians, Rationalists, and Arians, and conferred upon them all the rights of ministry.

Mr. Wolff was educated at a school formed by men whom the ministers, ordained according to that system, had expelled from their midst because they believed in the fundamental basis of Christianity. To see oneself reduced to the necessity of choosing between such a state of things and a system which, if it be more scriptural in its forms, establishes its charges in such a way as excludes the vocation of God, or to place oneself outside of all — is one of the most striking proofs of the state of failure in which the Church is.

246 Now what is the place given to the imposition of hands? This is shewn to us in Hebrews 6. The imposition of hands has its place there, as one of the elements of the beginning of Christ; an expression which, in effect, connects this ceremony with things that existed before the gift of the Holy Ghost. It seems to have been a very ancient ceremony, everywhere used as a sign of blessing.

The case of Joshua may be added to those pointed out by Mr. Wolff. This ceremony was at all events used as a sign of blessing, for healings, for children, for those who served the tables, and many others. We must not, I think, confound the case of the sacrifices with this imposition of hands. The imposition of hands on the victim identified the victim with the sinner, or the worshipper with the victim; that is what we see in Hebrews 7:7. In that case, he who laid his hands on the victim was not a superior who blessed, nor a brother who "recommended" another "to the grace of God," Acts 14:26. He who offered a burnt offering laid his hands on the victim, and was thus presented to God according to the acceptance and sweet savour of the victim. In the offering for sin, the sin of the guilty one was laid upon the victim, which, thereby, became sin in his stead. Neither in the one nor in the other of these cases was it a question of blessing; nothing was conferred. In the burnt offering there was not even transmission. In that case, the imposition of hands expressed an idea of representation. If one means to say that he who receives gifts or a charge must represent him who conferred them, in this very general sense one might recognize a certain analogy between the imposition of hands on an offering, and the imposition of hands on a man to confer a gift or invest with a charge. But in healings and in the case of children this idea also is lost. For the rest, I am not anxious to dispute anything here. The idea is rather vague and imperfect; but it does not affect the question we are treating. A brother, who has been dead many years, sought to establish, in a short publication, this analogy, and the connection between Hebrews 6 and the sacrifices; but it seemed to me that there was a certain confusion of ideas between blessing and identification or representation. All acts of power, in blessing, presented themselves under the form of imposition of hands — healings like all others; but then there was no representation. In the case of the burnt offering, nothing was transmitted; the imposition of hands expressed another idea.

247 I admit that, in the order of the Church at the beginning, the Holy Ghost was conferred by the imposition of the hands of the apostles: this is incontestable. It was, in my judgment, a sign of apostolic power.

But the writer has thoroughly overlooked the bearing of this fact, and in making gifts to cease (the possession of which he connects with the imposition of the hands of the apostles), he brings in the cessation of the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church. This I will now establish.

Mr. Wolff says (p. 270), first, that one must distinguish between the gift and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. In this he is perfectly right: this is what the Irvingites did not do, neither also has the writer of this pamphlet on ministry done it himself. Hence I am anxious to call attention again to the point, that all that is found in Ephesians 4 is there called gift, not 'charisma tou pneumatos,' but equally gifts; the word used indicating, according to Mr. Wolff, a free manifestation of the Spirit (p. 72, 5°).*

{*"To each is given," 1 Corinthians 12:7; "to each was given," Ephesians 4:7.}

Let us now examine the very grave subject of the gift of the Holy Ghost; for it is certain that, if Mr. Wolff is right, we must give up not only the gifts but the gift of the Holy Ghost.

It is possible, according to his system, that we may not have to give up the life which the Spirit has communicated to us, the life according to the power of the resurrection of Christ: but we must give up the gift of the Holy Ghost as seal, and not the gifts only.

According to Mr. Wolff, p. 73, No. 16, and p. 37, the gifts communicated by the imposition of the hands of the apostles were an extension of the gift they received at Pentecost. In effect, we see one and the same result in what comes to pass on the day of Pentecost, at Caesarea (Acts 10), at Samaria (Acts 8), and at Ephesus (Acts 19). Those who received the gift "spake with tongues, and prophesied." Whether at Caesarea, where the Spirit works in a special way, as a testimony of the admission of Gentiles; or at Samaria, where He is communicated through the imposition of the hands of the apostles Peter and John; or at Ephesus, where He is communicated through the imposition of the hands of the apostle Paul — a proof of his apostolic rights; it is evident that, in all these cases, it was an extension of what came to pass on the day of Pentecost. But what took place on the day of Pentecost was the gift of the Holy Ghost Himself; it was the promise of the Father; it was the Comforter sent by the Son from the Father, and by the Father in the name of the Son; it was the Spirit of truth, to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, to communicate the things of Christ to the Church; for it was the Spirit whom Christ sent when He went away (John 15; ch. 16; Luke 24:49). It was that other Comforter, who was to abide for ever with the disciples; John 14. But the gift which the apostles communicated or transmitted was only, by Mr. Wolff's own confession, "an extension of that gift which the apostles themselves received at Pentecost" (p. 31). It is not a question of giving up gifts and saying they no longer exist; but one must say that the Spirit, who was to abide for ever with the disciples, has no longer an existence on earth. It is the gift that it lost, not the gifts; for the imposition of hands was a transmission of what had been received. Now, that which had been received, was the Holy Ghost the Comforter, the Spirit of truth; this it is, then, that has been lost. It is evidently of the utmost gravity; and, at the same time, nothing is more simple. The imposition of hands transmitted that which the apostles themselves had received at Pentecost; and this it is which would be lost. But it was the promise of the Father, the Holy Ghost Himself, that the apostles had received. It is this, then, which is lost, according to Mr. Wolff! What shall we say of those who, to sustain what is practised in the present day, treat with such inconceivable levity the basis of all power, of all testimony, of all manifestation of the glory of Christ, of the existence of the Church — that is, the presence of the Holy Ghost Himself? of those who recommend and carefully circulate a tract, which absolutely takes away from the Church the Holy Ghost, such as He was given at Pentecost, the Comforter; and who do so, either through partiality for the clergy, or through a sad preoccupation which prevents them from perceiving what they are doing?

249 Are we really come to this, that those who think they are pillars of the Church give their approval to that which denies the presence of the Comforter; and, while denying it, seek to persuade us that the Church enjoys "all the primitive blessings"? The gifts were only "the manifestation of the Spirit." How much we have lost in this respect, alas! is but too evident. All that was, under the apostolic administration, a public sign of the presence of the Holy Ghost to the world — that was directed and even conferred by that ruling ministry — all this is lost. It is that very thing on which I insisted, as being a proof, among other things, of the state of failure in which we are; but to say, on that account, that the Holy Ghost no longer exists in the Church, except as grace of life-and that is what this pamphlet says — is to deny the basis of all Christian hope; it is that which at the same time shews what is. at the root of the question discussed, and that all is lost on the side of those who think to uphold such a system.

I do not conceal from myself that what I say is very strong language. I do not deny that some few have, through ignorance, maintained what I denounce; but the principle here professed takes absolutely away all source of power in the Church, all testimony rendered by the Holy Ghost. It puts out the Holy Ghost, as having no existence in the unity of the body. It is to deny, in its principle, the existence of the Church, and the glory of Christ, and all testimony to be rendered to Christ on earth; for there were only two testimonies: one, that of the twelve, because they had been with Christ from the beginning (and we may add to their number Paul as to the heavenly glory); the other, the testimony of the Comforter sent by Christ from the Father, of the Spirit of truth "which proceedeth from the Father," John 15:26-27. As to -the testimony of the twelve, we have it no longer personally; and, according to Mr. Wolff, we have not the Comforter either; for that is what the apostles received on the day of Pentecost. If you think that we have the word, as taking the place of the apostles and of the Holy Ghost, say so at least, that we may know what to abide by; and deny openly — not the gifts but — the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church. Say, it is no longer true that there is one Spirit and one body. You no doubt admit grace to believe; but as to that one Spirit, it is no longer any question of Him. What an awful confirmation of the failure of the Church!

250 Let us now examine the passages quoted for the miraculous imposition of hands; and we shall see that it is a question of the reception of the Holy Ghost Himself, as well as of a particular gift sometimes conferred in that way; and we shall see at the same time by these passages, and by others that we are going to quote, that the reception of the Holy Ghost is never confounded with the faith which the Holy Ghost may have produced in the heart.

Acts 19:2. The apostle says, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost" — or rather, "if [the] Holy Ghost was [come]" — that is, if that baptism of the Holy Ghost, of which John had spoken, had taken place. It is clear then here, that, although the gifts of tongues, and of prophecies, etc., did manifest the presence of the Holy Ghost, they had not in any way received the Holy Ghost as the Comforter sent by the Son.

Acts 8:15-17. "Who" — Peter and John — "when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then laid they their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost." We may well suppose that the Holy Ghost manifested Himself as elsewhere, since Simon perceived it; but it is not directly referred to. One thing is clear — that the disciples had not received the Holy Ghost before.

Acts 10:44. In the case of Cornelius, the Holy Ghost, without imposition of hands, "fell on all them which heard the word": a proof that (although the imposition of hands, according to the ordinary administration at the time of the apostles, was the means used for communicating the Holy Ghost, that the manifestation of power might be there), nevertheless God was sovereign in this respect. It shews, moreover, that when once the Holy Ghost was in the Church, He was to abide there for ever, and that the means of His manifestation was a secondary point. The Holy Ghost was there, ever abiding there; He did not content Himself with only giving unto individuals to believe; but He abode in the Church as in a temple, acting sovereignly for the good of the body, according to the will and the wisdom of God. That all the means of the manifestation are in a state of disorder, that the state of ruin in which we are throws obscurity on all these things, this it is on which I have insisted; but to use it in order to deny the presence of the Comforter is to do the work of the enemy; it is the spirit of unbelief and of impenitence.

251 Other passages present this subject to us under another light also, proving to us that the result of this doctrine is to deny the Holy Ghost, as seal of the promise to the individual; for this presence of the Holy Ghost is something added to faith.

John 7:38-39. "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]," etc.)

Galatians 4:6. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts."

Ephesians 1:13-14. "In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance."

We see then in these passages that the seal of the Holy Ghost is added to faith; and if we have not that Holy Ghost of promise, we neither possess the Spirit of adoption, nor the rivers of living water, nor the earnest of our inheritance. It is not here a question of gifts; it is not a question of power in the Church. If we lose what was transmitted by the apostles — what they received on the day of Pentecost — then, that which we lose is the Holy Ghost of promise, who is received by all those who have believed; it is the source of all joy and energy.

Whatever may have been the manifestation that is wanting now; whatever may have been the apostolic administration which transmitted the gift, if the thing transmitted is wanting to us, it is not a question of gifts; it is a question, both for the Church and for the believer, of the Holy Ghost Himself. What the apostles transmitted was the Holy Ghost, and not merely gifts. If we lose that, where is the Church? and where is the Christian? See 2 Corinthians 1:21-22.


There is one thing more to notice on this chapter.

The prophets laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, when these were set apart for their work among the Gentiles. Reader, you will no doubt think that Paul and Barnabas (for he also was called apostle) acted as apostles in this mission; that what Paul did in all the churches to order what concerned their walk, that all his remarkable labours in Asia Minor, in Macedonia, in Greece, were apostolic labours — the work of an apostle. Not at all; that cannot agree with Mr. Wolff's system, because the imposition of hands, in the ordinary sense, must always be "from the higher to the lower, never from the lower to the higher. Everywhere the minister lays his hands for a charge either for an inferior or equal to his own, and never for a higher charge" (p. 32). That is all very well; but moreover, says the writer,

252 "The blessing must always, in its importance and effects, be proportionate to the elevation of the one who gives it. Hence, when it is Jesus Christ who confers the imposition of hands, it operates miracles, it heals the sick, it raises the dead. When it is the apostles, they share with simple believers the miraculous gift which was laid on their heads at Pentecost" — a fresh proof, it may be said by the way, of what we have said; for it is certain that it was the Holy Ghost Himself, the Comforter, who came down, so that it is this which is lost — and not merely gifts. The writer confounds the special form of manifestation, and the administrative means of transmission, with the presence itself of the Comforter. "Finally," he says, "when it is a question of the other ministers, they invest the candidate with the charge they received themselves."

Thus the ministry which Paul exercised was not in the least the ministry of an apostle.

You may suppose that the conclusions I draw are forced. Listen rather to Mr. Wolff on Acts 13:1-3: "Paul and Barnabas," he says (p. 28, 2°), "were marked out by the Holy Ghost to receive the charge of evangelist, which was to be conferred upon them by their colleagues." Thus all the labours of Barnabas or of Paul were in nowise an apostolic work. This is rather strong. "But," says Mr. Wolff, "the text expressly tells us that it" — the imposition of hands — "was only conferred upon them with a view to their charge as evangelists." This I have not found. It is quite true that the apostles did not disdain (very far from it) this solemn recommendation to the grace of God for the work (for it is thus that the Holy Ghost designates this imposition of hands, Acts 14:26); but to say that it was simply an ordination from the higher downwards! an ordination to the charge of evangelist, this, assuredly, is rather strong.

253 But there is still another difficulty. "As to the other ministries," says Mr. Wolff, "they invest the candidate with the charge they have received themselves" (p. 32).

This is indeed very convenient, in order that pastors may make pastors of certain young students who are candidates; but Barnabas, Simeon, etc. (Acts 13:1), were prophets who had received a vocation from God alone, and not a charge; and Paul and Barnabas depart as evangelists. So that, according to Mr. Wolff, the prophets had invested the candidates with a charge which they had not received themselves.

I hesitated a little, lest it should be dishonouring the precious word of God to introduce all this, as shewing what a terrible mess is the result of the desire to authorize that which is practised. If I have been wrong, may God deign to forgive me, for it is very painful. But such absurdities and such contradictions are always the consequence of having adopted a system, and then seeking, at any cost, to establish it by the word. If the word has been dishonoured, it is the system that dishonoured it, and not I.


We have only one point more to treat, as regards the imposition of hands.

We have seen what is alleged for the ordination of evangelists. We have seen the preaching of the word without ordination presented under every form (Acts 8:4): they spoke, they evangelized or announced the word (lalountes), Acts 11:19; both words are used in verse 20. In Philippians 1:15 they preach, they are heralds (kerussousin)--a word habitually used by Paul for his own ministry and by which he indicates his own function. The only case alleged of the ordination of an evangelist being the mission of the two apostles at their departure from Antioch, there only remains to be examined the ordination of the bishop.

It was necessary for Mr. Wolff to point out the two ordinations, of the bishop and of the evangelist, because this answers to the evangelists and to the pastors of the present day. Having seen what is said about one, let us see what there is about the other.

I admitted the difference in point of fact between the imposition of hands by which the Holy Ghost was communicated, and the imposition of hands which was ordinarily practised (although, as a division, it is inexact). I acknowledge that when it is a question of the imposition of hands by Timothy, it is not a question of the gift of the Holy Ghost; but I stop there. All the remainder of Mr. Wolff's page 34 only contains arguments which are utterly groundless.

254 First, all this reasoning is founded on the idea, that the imposition of hands was only practised for evangelists and for bishops, which is entirely false. For it is never said that hands were laid on evangelists, and it is quite certain that hands were laid on deacons, at least in the case of the seven in Acts 6.

Secondly, Mr. Wolff (p. 34), in favour of the imposition of hands on the bishop, alleges the injunction given to Timothy, to "lay hands suddenly on no man," 1 Tim. 5:22. But almost the whole of the epistle comes in between the rules for choosing elders and this verse 22 of chapter 5; and all kinds of subjects are treated between the two passages.

Thirdly, the passage, 1 Timothy 5:22, does not immediately follow after some exhortations about the elder;* but it applies to Timothy's personal conduct. I think it probable that hands were laid on elders; because I see that this ancient sign of blessing and of setting apart for a charge was universally used; and that, among other things, the epistle treats of the charge of elder. But so little is it true that it is impossible to apply to any other than the bishop the imposition of which this passage speaks, it is very evident that it is a direction for Timothy's conduct in every case in which he might be called to lay hands on any one.

{*It may be applied to deacons as well as to elders. The rules for the choice of deacons are nearer to the passage than the rules given for the choice of elders; but, as I say in the test, it is a general rule for the conduct of Timothy, and may apply to every possible case of imposition of hands.}

In favour of the imposition of hands having solely the bishop for its object, Mr. Wolff alleges a second passage, namely, 1 Timothy 4:14: "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." His reasoning on this second text may lead to a conclusion more or less just, but which only serves to establish the fact that the word of God never says that hands were to be laid on the bishop. It may be supposed, and one may reason about it with pretty much probability, but the word does not say so. All that Mr. Wolff dares to affirm on this passage is that it alludes to it; but we have only this reasoning of Mr. Wolff, "If the elders laid their hands on Timothy, it must be supposed that they had themselves received the imposition of hands." But all this does not affect the question, which consists in inquiring who appointed these elders.



On the subject of the twofold vocation of the bishop, I find nothing whatever that is scriptural in Mr. Wolff's system. What is called inward or immediate vocation is not to be found in the Bible in the case of the bishop. The Bible supposes that a person may desire to be a bishop, but that is all. Where that desire exists, not a word is said about an inward vocation as a quality requisite for the charge. If a young man desired to be a minister, according to the present system (and it would be very difficult to find the least analogy between that and the choosing of bishops in the New Testament), the first thing which an evangelical friend of the young man would ask him is, "Do you feel yourself called of God to the ministry?" Not a trace of such an idea is in the epistle to Timothy: "If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work," and thereupon follow the requisite qualities, without a single word about inward vocation. It was a charge entrusted to persons who were qualified.

But the confusion is the natural consequence of the confusion which is made between the pastor and the bishop; it results from having denied all the gifts and excluded them from ministry, and from the will to maintain, at any cost, the existing system and the flesh which rests there.

A second remark presents itself here. Mr. Wolff says (p. 36), "that it is God who gives, who sets the bishops in the Church; it is men, the ministers, who establish them." But in the word of God the expression "given" is never used in reference to the bishop; never is it said that God, that Christ, gave bishops.* Never is the word 'set' used as to the charge. The Holy Ghost had put certain persons in that charge. In Acts 20 it is nowise a question of an inward vocation, but of the simple fact that the Holy Ghost had placed them there; and Mr. Wolff himself acknowledges that a person is not set in a charge by an inward and immediate vocation. Hence it is not true that God sets bishops in the Church; but He sets persons in the charge of bishop in a flock.

{*The expression in 1 Timothy 3:1 is sufficient in itself alone to shew the difference that exists between the gift of pastor and the charge of bishop. If God gave a pastor, he who was such by the grace of God had not to desire that gift, that function; he had it. Neither was it a question of judging of the qualities of the individual, in order to know if he was fit for that place. Christ had already judged that, when He had bestowed on him the grace to be pastor. But as to the episcopate, a person desired a charge, a certain position in a church; and the person to whom that care was entrusted was to begin by examining if the one who desired it had the requisite qualities. Could this be applied to what is said in Ephesians 4? When Christ ascended, He gave pastors and teachers. If anyone desired a gift, he had to apply to the One who gave; and if anyone aspired to a charge, he was to subject himself to an examination, that it might be known if he possessed certain qualities required for that charge.}

256 All that Mr. Wolff says on this subject is therefore altogether false from one end to the other; it is a theory or arrangement for sanctioning that which exists without any scriptural foundation — a theory, which, after all, is a thing quite different from the theory itself, which makes bishops of young students who have none of the qualities which God demands.

Mr. Wolff says that the word of God contains nothing against the Church's choosing among those who have already been called to the ministry, or among those who are ready to be received. There is in such expressions a boldness which really demands something more than the brief remarks I can give here; it is sought to justify oneself by adding to the word of God systems and thoughts of which not one trace is found there. Where is there to be found in the word of God a single trace of choosing among those who are already called to the ministry — unless it be in the case of those who said, "I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos"?

The apostle or his delegates appointed certain persons having certain qualities to a certain charge: was the Church afterwards to choose among them, or even to choose others, leaving them aside? Is it not true that the apostle appointed such a person bishop in such a town? And how, if the Church took no active part in the vocation of the bishop, could it choose among those who were called? It is very convenient to say of any one that he is called to the ministry, because this is done now; but where is that to be found in the word? No one in that case was called to the ministry; but the bishop was established in a special charge.

257 In the case of the bishop, it was a question of a local charge; and Mr. Wolff admits that at that time there were ministries of apostles and of prophets, whose vocation was from God alone. Could the churches choose according to their will among the apostles and prophets? In all this portion of the pamphlet there feigns, in order to flatter that which exists, a contempt for the word of God, which one would do well to weigh before the Lord. God will judge.

When the writer speaks of the candidate for ministry, what does it mean? Was a person candidate for the function of apostle or prophet? Was a person then chosen by such or such a church? For these were ministries. And when the apostle chose and established bishops in each town, even if there were men who desired that charge, were these churches (one knows not where) choosing amidst a company of young ministers the one who suited them? It is wrong, very wrong, thus to treat the word of God.

Finally, whether one takes ministry as being the exercise of a gift, as was the case with the apostles or prophets (for it is absurd after all to pretend to say that the prophet exercised a ministry without gift); or looks upon it as a charge, as was the case with the bishops established by the apostle, by Timothy, or by Titus; the idea of choosing among candidates or among those called to the ministry, is equally foreign to the word, excluded from the word. And the idea that a young candidate or an ordained minister should go and make himself heard, that the population of a place may choose him, is certainly not to be found in the word of God.

I cannot admit that a bishop is not a bishop without the imposition of hands. I have already said that, reasoning from analogy, it is probable that hands were laid on one who was to be bishop. But if the apostle had appointed certain persons bishops, and had established them by his own authority, they would be bishops. It is not a question of the distinction between desire and reality, for a man might have desired to be appointed without being appointed, not having the requisite qualities. It was only a question of this fact: had they been established by the apostles or by some other competent persons?

258 To insist on the imposition of hands as to the bishop (a thing which is not said in the word), then cleverly to add (P. 38, 2°), "Thus he who will be pastor without receiving the imposition of hands, has not really received any charge; his ministry ought not to be received by any church" — this is nothing but a conjuror's trick. For after all the pastor is not named anywhere except in a list of gifts. Such is the fact; and not a word of what is said of the bishop and of his charge is applied to him in the word.

As for the testimony drawn from Acts 13 (p. 38, 3°) we have already found the reasoning of the writer to be entirely false. Thus all the high words he addressed to the brethren at the close of the paragraph are not worth much.* The man who thinks that Paul and Barnabas received the collation of the charge of simple evangelists from prophets and teachers at Antioch, and who makes this the basis of his reproof, needs in effect to cry out very loud in order to make himself heard.

{*"Is it not scandalous," says Mr. Wolff, "to see in the midst of Christians some would-be strong minds resisting, freeing themselves from, duties recognised by the Church at all times, and rebelling against an institution to which the Holy Ghost Himself consented to subject Himself?"}

That in the present system "ministry is debased, so as only to see in it an altogether human order of things," this I acknowledge. Has one any trouble in recognizing the picture we find in page 41?* Where did Mr. Wolff find the original of that portrait? Will he have us to remain in a system which thus degrades ministry?

{*"When the divine vocation in ministry is lost sight of," says Mr. Wolff, "then one sees, as in some churches in our day, the imposition of hands conferred upon those who have no intention of devoting themselves to the service of the Church, or sought after by candidates without any certainty of ever having a charge to fill. To confer such an imposition of hands, or even to seek after it, is a monstrosity. It is to disown the inward vocation and the rights of God; it is making light of the most holy institutions; it is to debase ministry, so as only to see in it an altogether human state of things."}