Apostolic Succession.

1867 252 Succession was contemplated in the Jewish polity. It is not in that of the Church, because no time, no future, is in the thought of the Spirit, so as to sustain the idea of succession. "If I tarry," I may say, in the language of Him who orders the Church. "The latter times," and "the last days" are regarded in their moral wakings, as being always present and the churches and ministers are addressed as about to meet the Lord on His return. The Church is as one generation, her time as one day.

No successional office is contemplated. It is true, Paul is to be "offered up," and he would have Timothy act in the midst of the saints; and as men were speaking "perverse things," he would have Timothy commit "the truth" to "faithful men" (see 2 Tim.). But all that is something very different from successional office.

Indeed no one can be said to stand in the place of another, or to do another's business, in a dispensation where all ministries flow from personal grace and power, as in the Church. Ministry or service cannot therefore be after a pattern or precedent or predecessor, but according to the ability which God giveth. Office without power or grace is an idea foreign to the polity of the Church.

It is co-operation rather than succession (with different measures of power and authority, I grant) which we discern in Timothy's ministry. He helped Paul's work, rather than succeeded him, according to a perpetual apostolate.

There was a good deal of ministry in apostolic days altogether independent of apostolic appointment. The fruit of it, or the grace of the mode of conducting it may be questioned (as in the Epistles to the Corinthians), but never the lawfulness of it, or its consistency with the polity of the Church.

Persecution (as another once observed) ordained preachers of the Gospel in Acts viii.; and, I may add, divine delight does the same in Romans x. 15. Beautiful and precious truths! And no one instance have we of the Apostles ordaining to preach.

If corruption enter, the original order yields, after special energy of the Spirit to keep the original purity, and after a time of divine patience. Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete were instances of this special provision of the Spirit; the voice of the Spirit to the Apocalyptic churches is an instance of this divine patience. But corruption prevailing, the order is changed. We see this in the Epistles to Timothy. It is no longer Timothy behaving himself in the house of God, but Timothy purging himself from the vessels to dishonour of the great house and walking with a remnant in a clean path. (See 1 Tim. iii. and 2 Tim. ii., etc.)

So, in the progress of the Epistles, ecclesiastical order seems to be lost sight of; the earlier Epistles of Paul assuring it, those of James, Peter, John, and Jude not doing so.

Paul's apostleship is the divine interruption of the order constituted in Matthew xxviii. 19, 20, or of the institution of the twelve (see Gal. i. ii.) There is nothing successional or derivative in his apostleship; and it becomes a mere play of words or of the fancy to divine office from the twelve now: at least without shutting out St. Paul.

"The Spirit of God has, in this world, to wander among ruins" has been truly said — Church ruins, I may say, as well as personal.

Right conclusions, I doubt not, therefore, come from a due understanding of the history as well as of the nature of the dispensation, as it is anticipated in the Scriptures of the New Testament. Disturbances through corruption are contemplated by the Spirit in the Apostles, and the path of the godly is guided — they are to leave corruptions, whatever their connection or genealogy may be.