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Sermons & Study Guides

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government Pt. 19 - Concerning The Doctrinal Part Of Ordination Of Ministers.

James Dodson

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government

Concerning the Doctrinal Part of Ordination of Ministers.

 

1. No man ought to take upon him the office of a minister of the word without a lawful calling.[1]

2. Ordination is always to be continued in the church.[2]

3. Ordination is the solemn setting apart of a person to some publick church office.[3]

4. Every minister of the word is to be ordained by imposition of hands, and prayer, with fasting, by those preaching presbyters to whom it doth belong.[4]

5. The power of ordering the whole work of ordination is in the whole presbytery, which, when it is over more congregations than one, whether these congregations be fixed or not fixed, in regard of officers or members, it is indifferent as to the point of ordination.[5]

6. It is agreeable to the word of God, and very expedient, that such as are to be ordained ministers, be designed to some particular church, or other ministerial charge.[6]

7. He that is to be ordained minister, must be duly qualified, both for life and ministerial abilities, according to the rules of the apostle.[7]

8. He is to be examined and approved by those by whom he is to be ordained.[8]

9. No man is to be ordained a minister for a particular congregation, if they of that congregation can shew just cause of exception against him.[9]

10. The preaching presbyters orderly associated, either in cities or neighbouring villages, are those to whom the imposition of hands doth appertain, for those congregations within their bounds respectively.[10]

11. In extraordinary cases, something extraordinary may be done, until a settled order may be had, yet keeping as near as possibly may be to the rule.[11]

12. There is at this time (as we humbly conceive) an extraordinary occasion for a way of ordination for the present supply of ministers. 


Question 1.—May a man take upon him the office of a minister of the word without a lawful calling?

Answer.—No. John 3:27; Jer. 14:14.  Thus do the Fanatics and others err who maintain that a man might take upon himself the office of minister of the word without a lawful calling.  The Scriptures hold out the following things concerning a lawful calling: 1.) Mission is essential to the constitution of a minister, Rom. 10:14, 15.  The apostle’s argument hinges not on the minister being gifted, but upon him being sent.  2.) The calling must be from God, Heb. 5:4.  Just as Aaron did not undertake his office until called thereunto, Ex. 28:1; no more did any of the priests in the Old Testament, 2 Chron. 29:11; 26:16.  3.) The titles used of ministers imply a commission—stewards do not officiate without warrant, Luke 12:42; Tit. 1:7; ambassadors do not go forth to treat with foreign states without public commission, 2 Cor. 5:20.  4.) Scripture maintains a constant distinction between gifts and calling, John 20:21, 22; Isa. 6:6, 7, 9; Jer. 1:5, 9.  If gifts were sufficient to make a minister, then women might preach as well as men.  5.) Those called by God preach no other doctrine but what is agreeable to the Word of God, Jer. 23:16; 29:8, 9.  6.) The Scriptures lay down rules for the calling of a man to the office of the ministry; both as to qualifications, 1 Tim. 3:2,3; and the manner of his calling, 1 Tim. 4:14.

Question 2.—Is ordination the solemn setting apart of a person to some public church office?

Answer.—Yes. Num. 8:10, 11, 14, 19, 22; Acts 6:3, 5, 6.  The act of ordaining is a setting apart, or commissioning, to office.  Ordination is an act of government for the ordering and establishing of the church, Tit. 1:5.

Question 3.—Is any man to be ordained a minister for a particular congregation, if they of that congregation can show just cause of exception against him?

Answer.—No. 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:7.  The people’s right to show just cause of exception in the choice of their own pastors, is evident from the Lord’s command unto them to try the spirits, 1 John 4:1; his warning to beware of false prophets, Matt. 7:15; his admonition that his sheep do not hearken to the voices of strangers and hirelings, John 10:5; and his commendation of the Church at Ephesus for rejecting false teachers, Rev. 2:2.  All which demonstrate the people’s power to give the negative upon just occasion.

Question 4.—In extraordinary cases, may something extraordinary be done, until a settled order may be had, yet keeping as near as possibly may be to the rule?

Answer.—Yes. 2 Chron. 29:34-36; 30:2-5.  A succession in the church is necessary ordinarily; extraordinarily, and in the cases of necessity, it may be lacking. This is because a right succession must be a succession to truth of doctrine, not to the naked office, 1 Tim. 4:16; 6:3-5.  In cases of necessity, when ordination cannot be had lawfully (though there be lawful ordination), election by the people only may stand for ordination, where there are no pastors at all.  This is proved: 1.) Because God is not necessarily tied to succession of pastors; Jer. 2:8; 12:10.  2.) Because where men are gifted for the works of the ministry, and there are no pastors to be had, the giving of the Holy Ghost is a sign of a calling of God, who is not lacking to his own gracious intention, though ordinary means fail; Jer. 3:15; Matt. 12:2-8.  As Mr. Rutherfurd notes, “They are lawful pastors, and need not a calling revealed, who, in cases of extraordinary necessity, are only chosen by the people and not ordained by pastors.”

Question 5.—Was there at that time (as we humbly conceive) an extraordinary occasion for a way of ordination for the present supply of ministers?

Answer.—Yes.  To remedy this, the divines sought to erect a “provisional” presbytery to go to areas without ministers and ordain; or make trial and ordain where the congregations were not competent to make such trials.


[1] John 3:27; Rom. 10:14, 15; Jer. 14:14; Heb. 5:4.

[2] Tit. 1:5; 1 Tim. 5:21, 22.

[3] Num. 8:10, 11, 14, 19, 22; Acts 6:3, 5, 6.

[4] 1 Tim. 5:22; Acts 14:23; 13:3.

[5] 1 Tim. 4:14.

[6] Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5; Acts 20:17, 28.

[7] 1 Tim. 3:2-6; Tit. 1:5-9.

[8] 1 Tim. 3:7, 10; 5:22.

[9] 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:7.

[10] 1 Tim. 4:14.

[11] 2 Chron. 29:34-36; 30:2-5.