Charles Pettit McIlvaine.

The apostolical commission: the sermon at the consecration of the Right Reverand Leonidas Polk, D. D., missionary bishop for Arkansas; in Christ church, Cincinnati, December 9, 1838 online

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Online LibraryCharles Pettit McIlvaineThe apostolical commission: the sermon at the consecration of the Right Reverand Leonidas Polk, D. D., missionary bishop for Arkansas; in Christ church, Cincinnati, December 9, 1838 → online text (page 1 of 4)
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The Apostolical Commission:
The Sermon at the consecration of the Right
Reverond Leonid as Polk, D,D,, Missionary
Bishop for Arkansas.







===^= 33







Charles Pettlt Mcllvalne








T H i: S K ]\ M () \



iiitisiowRY nrsiiof roii aukansas;


UKcrMnER 9, I«3S:

BY ( ■ H A 11 1 , 1-: s F r; 'j' t i t m . i l \ a i n i: . d . i>

tisiioj' nv Tin: diocese of ojiio.

U A MHli:i(, ().
c . >v . M Y r. n ! : v\ k « r r it x c u i' n r h p h k i i .


(!iNciNNATi, Dec. 9, ISS-?.

RioHT Rfir. AND Dkar Brother, —

We have listened to your Sermon, this morning, with
emotions we will not attempt to describe. Vv"e pray the divine bless-
ing upon the holy truths contained therein.

In asking you to furnish a copy for publication, we feel assured
that we shall gratify, not merely those who heard it, but far more wh»
will delight to read i(. We pray that God may long spare you. and
give you grace to exhibit and recommend in your life and labors, the
exalted sentiments set forth in the sermon of which we hereby re-
quest the publication.

Yonr's most affectionately in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!,


Assistant Bishop of Virpjiia^


Bishop of Kentvchy.


Bishop of Tennessee.


Missionary Bishop of Achansas^.


MATTHEW XXVlll. 18, 19,20.

And Jem's cams and spake u.nto thkm, sayino, AM-rowEa is civex usto me ix


It was a time of singular interest in tlie develop-
ment ol:' the divine purposes of grace to this world,
when Jesus delivered these words to his Apostles. He
n stood before them in liis once dead, but now risen
5J body; ready to return to the right hand of God the
^ Father, from whence he had come. The hour of his
g ascension is at liand. Tiie preparation for tiie full es-
■^ tablishment of his Ciuirch under the nev/ and final dis-
^ pensation is complete. The whole Mosaic economy
"in is iust about to expire. It has been one of light in
g com})arison v.ith the darkness that surrounded it, but
of light shut up, like the mystic candlestick of its own
tabernacle, in a single habitation, and shining upon
8 only a single family of all the kindreds of the earth.
Ji; 'i'jiat light is now to be brought out and set o\\ high
S and made the light of the world. The gospel of sal-
^ vation, by Jesus Christ, whicli by types and prophe-
y cies had before been ])reached obscurely only to a
chosen people, is now to be read, unveiled, and pub-
lished to every nation under heaven. Since the days
of the Patriarchs, the Cluircli had been national and
local ; it was now to be catholic, as well as to place
and time as nation ; catholic, because opening her gates
to all people ; catholic, because diffusing her blessings
overall the earth; catholic, because intended for all
ages to the end of the world. Two chief events alone


remained to be acconipli.shed, before all this passing
away of the old dispensation and the full introduction
of the new could be completed; the one, the invest-
ment of the ministry of the gospel with its final and
complete commission ; the other, tlie sending of the
promise of the Father — the gift of the Holy Ghost, as
the light, and strength, and consolation of an infant
Church — soon to be bereaved of the visible presence
of its divine Author and Head. The descent of this
promised powder, the Apostles were directed to await in
Jerusalem. They received it at the Pentecost. The
communication of their commission was the work of a
prior day, and is the evejit related in our text. The
risen Saviour, surrounded by liis Apostles, whose faith
had been stunned by the crucifixion of their Lord, and
was scarcely restored by his resurrection, was about to
give them their commission as his ambassadors to the
whole world, and to invest them "with supreme author-
ity, under himself, to plant, to rear, and to rule his
universal Church. Such a ministry was as yet unknown.
An office, so extensive, had not been thought of but
in the inspired visions of the prophets. Jesus begins :
* ^ All power is given unto me in heaven and earth, ^'^ What
a sublime introduction to such a commission ! He had
taken our sorrows — borne our sins — met our foes — died
our death — and now, in rew^ard of his victory, there was
given him, as the Son of Man, the divine Mediator
between God and man, **a name a1)ove every name,"
*'that all people, nations, arid languages should serve
him,'* and that, as "iiead o\'er all principalities and
powers," he might be "head over all things to His
Church." This infinite dignity he now^ asserts, and on
the basis of this unlimited right, delivers the instruc-
tions of his Apostles, and invests them with their
office. *' Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, bap-
tizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Hohj Ghost; teaching them to observe all


things^ whatsoever I have co)nmanded you : and h, I
am ivifh yon ahvay, even unfo the end of the world.*'

Now, my brethren, I am anxious to comey to \ our
minds a full conception of the relative im])ortance of
the event here related. But this I cannot do, unless
you conceive aright of tlie whole system of events and
designs of God with which it was connected. You
will perhaps imagine that I speak in very figuniti\e
language when I call tlie dispensation of the Gospel of
Jesus Christ, which then began, and is now fast ad-
vancing to its consummation, the new creation ; and the
times of which our text speaks, the day of that
new creation ; and you will perhaps suppose me dealing
in language exceedingly hyperbolical, and a comparison
far overstrained, if I compare this new creation in
point of sublimity, and glory, and importance, to the
first, the creation of these visible heavens and earth ;
and especially if I say that this material workmanshij)
must be considered as far inferior in all such respects
to the other. But such is the langua'jre and such is
the estimate of the Scriptures. They represent the
Creator of all things as promising the dispensation (^1
the gospel in such words as these: *' Behold I create a
new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelletli right-
eousness" — and they tell us, that tlie citizens of tliis
new creation arc *^ncic creatures in Christ Jesus-," tliat
they "have put on the i/rir man," and are renewed
in that image of God in wliicli tiie first man was crea-
ted and which by sin was lost ; that this new crea-
tion, just as much as the creation of this globe, is the
work of the infinite power of Goil, and that, as "(lod
"commanded the light to shine out of darkness," when
the cartli was without form and void," so doth liC now
with equal might and in (Mpial majesiv shine into t'le
heart of the new creature in Christ Jesus to gi\^^ him
"the light of the kn(n\k>(l'j(" ol" ihe l':!<ii\ ol (iod in iIh^
face of Jesus Christ."

Kor is there any tiling strained in this comparison.
When I read the subhme narrative of the creation of
the v/orld, what impresses me most is not the com-^
manding of order out of chaos — of Hght out of dark-
ness; not the instant gathering together of the waters;
nor the clothing of the new earth with its vesture of
many colours ; nor the storing of its surface and of its
waters v/ith things animate and inanimate; not even
the over-spreading of it all, with this glorious firma-
ment; nor the susTDcnsion there of suns and stars; —
but that v/heii Jill this temple of God was finished, and
all v/as perfect, and all waited in silence the entrance
of some appropriate worshipper — some high priest,
with a mind capable of collecting all the incense of
nature and a heart pure enough to offer it up, as in a
golden censer, before tlie tiirone of God — that then
said the Almighty, as if about to put the crown upon
the head of his creation, "/?^ us mahe man in our im-
age, after our likeness.''' Tliat was the last and far the
greatest v/ork of all — a splrilaal creation, the creation
of an iiumortal mind to take the lordship of all this glo-
rious domain of matter — to occup)^ and enjoy it for his
Creator ; and that immortal mind exalted immeasura-
bly above all the rest of things created upon the earth,
in its possessing the immje and likeness of God. That
last work was emphatically the creation.

And then when sin had entered, and dcatli by sin,
why that sudden and mysterious change th.roughout all
the provinces of animate and inanimate nature; para-
dise without an inhabitant; its entrance guarded by the
flaming sword of the chenibim; man a downcast exile;
all nature in mourning; the sun sliining upon a deso-
lated Eden and a blighted Morld? Alas, the glory of
creation is departed — {he noblest work of God, his
.spiritual workmansliip, man in the likeness of his Ma-
ker is no more. — He is fallen 1 Sin has eflaced the
chief i-)(>;uii V of creation in haAing put out its light.

And now the altar is without a priest, the temple with-
out a worsliijiper, ami the golden censer broken and

But these "works of the de\il" arc to ho destroyed.
Ruined man is to be redeemed from that fall. A Me-
diator, the God- Man appears to restore him to the
likeness of his Maker, and to tlie temple, and the al-
tar, and the paradise; and so again to raise from all
nature, by marvellous grace, the praise of God the Cre-
ator, througli Christ the Redeemer. Tliis is one of
the two grand objects of tlic gospel; literally, to create
anew that lost image of God in man. Vv'cU and truly
then is the dispensation of the gospel, denominated
of God, His new creation.

Like tlie creation of the heavens and tlie earth, this
new workmanship is progressive. The evening and
the morning were its fii^st day, when the Spirit descen-
ded at Pentecost, and God said by *' tongues of fire,"
let there he lif/hty and the Apostles went every v.diere
preaching Christ, and myriads v\Tre made new creatures
''through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the
truth." It has had continual progress since, though
Satan never ceasing to war against tlic second Adam,
as against the first, has often impeded its purposes, de-
filed its beauty, and covered its sky witli storms. It is
now in its sixth day. " TIw times of the restitution of
aU things ''' as they were in the beginning ot the world,
and ever shall be, are near at hand. "Vv^c, according
to the promise, look for new heavens and a new earth,
wherein dwclleth righteousness"* most perfect Tlie
last, finishing work, as in the old creation, will be the
forming of the body of the new man out of the dust
of the ground. Its ruins are now in the grave. At
the trump of God it shall stand up, incorruptible, im-
mortal; and "the spirits o'i the ju.«t made perfect"
shall come down from God, out of fieavcn, and re-
's Pet: iii. IJ.


possess their bodies, and so the creation will be com-
plete and the work of the Redeemer ended. Then
the everlasting Sabbath! Then will be seen *'the
Lord from heaven," Jesus the Redeemer, at once the
Creator and Pattern of all, resting from his work of
boundless grace, surrounded by an immaculate church
which cannot be numbered for multitude, each blissful
countenance reflecting his image, each ransomed saint
radiant in his glory, beginning the Sabbath, hallowed
and blessed to everlasting. And then will a song be
sung by the Church, such as the sons of God, when
they shouted for joy, at the finishing of this earthly
creation, could not sing — such as Adam in Paradise
could never have known — a song to which only the
golden harps of those who have been new-created and
redeemed from his fall could be strung: " Unto Him
that loved tis and washed us from our sins in his oivn
hlood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God
and his Father \ To him he giorij and dominion forever
and ever. Amen.'*

Then will the comparison appear, between that new
world of grace, with a shining tenantry of the ransom-
ed, and perfected, and sealed inheritors of its glory,
and the world of nature as the dav/n of the first Sab-
bath beheld it, *'when the morning stars sang together
for joy," but when, beautiful and perfect as it v/as,
there appeared but one of all its v/orks dignified by
the possession of a rational and immortal soul, enno-
bled by the impress of the image and likeness of the
Creator; only one able to knov/ him, competent to
adore him ; and that one, not the w^orkmanship of grace
— not plucked as a brand from the biu-ning — not won
from hell by the agonies of the Son of God upon the
cross, making atonement for its sins. We cannot take
time to set out that comparison. We know to which
side the host of heaven, who rejoice over one sinner
that repenteth, will award the praise of supremacy in


ali that is glorious to (iod and excellent to man. We
know wiiich will seem the better and the more wonder-
ful; not that in which order arose out of chaos with the
moving of the S})irit of God u])on the face of the deep ;
but that wliose first day was ushered in by the de-
scent of the same Spirit ui)on a world of benighted,
and confounded, and upon wandering, and lost immor-
tal minds — to give them "the light of the knowledge of
the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;" not that
creation, in which man apj)eared as the head of his
race, perfect indeed, but ca])able of sin, and where
Satan was permitted to enter, and Adam was ruined by
his temptations, and all his race died in his fall ; but that
second creation in which the first man appeared, not
only perfect in his nature, but having that nature in
mysterious union with the divine; so that *'the second
Adam" was no less than "the Lord from heaven," the
head of a new and s})iritual race, himself without sin
and incapable of sin, encountering Satan, the usurping
god of this world, in the height of his kingdom, recov-
ering the lost from his dominion by the sacrifice of him-
self, purchasing everlasting life for his seed, by j)aying
in his own death the penalty of all the sin which, by
the transgression of the first Adam, had cursed man-
kind — and not resting from his work — not beginning
the Sabbath of his Ciiurch, till all was so perfect that
Satan could never enter its paradise, nor sin defile its
purity, nor a single soul ever foil from the image and
glory of God.

Now we trust we have ])rci)ared your minds to esti-
mate, in some good degree, the interest of tliat moment
in the beginning of the dispensation of the gos])el,
when the Son of God, having "all power in hea\ en
and earth," commissioned his ambassadors to go and
teach all nations; to introduce them into his church,
and bring them to the observance of his command-
ments. It was a moment equivalent to tlint in the



ibrniing of the material world when ^^God said^ let there
he Uijlds hi the. Jinnament of heaven^ to divide the day
from the 7ught" It was literally the setting up in the
firmament of the new creation those ruling orbs of
light, which, receiving the light of the departed Sun
of Righteousness, were to communicate it from him to
all the world, and in his name to rule over this star-light
morning, until He shall appear again to bring the per-
fect, endless day.

This introduces us to the first question arising out
of the text —

What ivas the pecidiar^ charaxiteristic nature of tJie
office which the Apostles were commissioned to exercise ?
The authentic voucher of office is the commission.
To the commission of the Apostles, then, we must
refer you for the distinctive peculiarities of their office.
Whatever is not contained tlierein, either expressly, or
by necessary inference, must be considered as not per-
taining to the characteristic duties and pov/ers of the

Now the Apostles were distinguished by certain cir-
cumstantial peculiarities, and certain miraculous gifts..
Were these so connected with tlie apostolic office, as
to constitute in any sense its distinguishing features?
Thej/ are not mentioned in the commission.^ as found in
the ioyJi. For example, the Apostles were distinguish-
ed by the fact that tliey liad seen Christ in the flesh,
after his resurrection ; but so had many others — " eveti
five hundred brethren at once.''^* Thus were the Apos-
tles qualified to be *'v/itnesses of his resurrection;"
but this qualification was not their com)nission. It
was part of their furniture ; but no part of their
office. Again : they had been set apart to their office,
1)1/ the immediate and visible act of the Saviour. But
Matthias v/as afterwards numbered with the Apostles ;

* I Cor : XV. 6.


and Barnabas, and 'J'iniolliy, and K})aplnoditiis were
Apostles, to whom belonged no sueli distinction ;*" so
that, eminent as was this personal honour, it was not
necessary to the designation or place of an Apostle.
Again : the Apostles were possessed of miraculou.'^
powers. But so were divers others, as Stephen, and
Phili}), to whom the name of Apostle was never given.
It tbllows, that such endowments were not peculiar,
features of the A})ostolic office. I'^ssential to its suc-
cess in those days, they undoubtedly were ; but es-
sential to its nature, they certainly were not. We
must not confound authority to act, witli the means of
acting successfully ; the office of an amba^ssador, with
the force of mind, or the personal endowments witli
whicii he sustiiins his embassy; i\\Q. commission o^ oim
whom the King despatches to subdue and govern a dis-
tant province, with the array of martial force with
w^hich he marches to the work. No more must the
essential office of the Apostles, sent to subdue, and es-
tablish, and rule, as ambassadors of Christ, be con-
founded with those extraordinary endowments and all
that striking array of miraculous powers with wliich
tliey were furnished for their enterprise. Such endow-
ments were needed for the first pro-pa^^ation of the
gos])el. Tliey have not been needed since. They
have therefore ceased. But the essential commission
of the Apostles, to which they were a])pended, lias not
ceased, nor can cease, wliile the world lasts ; for CIn-ist

• Acts, i. 26 ; xiv. 1 i : 1 Tiicss. ii. 0, compar«.-l witli i. 1 : Philip, ii. 2r) ;
— " my brother, and companion in lahour, nnd fellow-soldier, but ijonr vicssen-
gcTf ( ijoitr apostlr., iftur aTuc-mXet.) nocaiiso Epaphroditus is Iiere Called " MOi/r
apoKtle," or messenper, no more warrants the inference that St. Paul only meant
that he was sent Inj tlir Pliili/i/iinis, a inesstmder for a .-special errand, and not an
apostle m the ^-Iriri sense, than the phrase ." a/iosUc of llic Gt.iitUrs" applied to St.
Paul, or ^^ apostle of the. rirannrision" ajipli-^d to St. Peter, atithorizes the infer-
ence that f^ucli only was the oflicc of St. Pet'jrandSt. Paul. Tlie Ajjostlcship of
Kpaphrodilus was understood in the striclist and hiphcet sense by the Fathers.
Theodorot, writing on the above pas.sagc of Pliili]>pian3 calls his office an cpisco-
pair., just as Peter called that of the Apostles. " Dictus I'hilippcn^ium Aiinstoliis
'I S. Pinili), ijiiid hue tdiiid nisi rpiscopiis '" Jerome also says that Kpaphroditus
wa^ called apostle, " hccausc he also had rcccivtd the oriicE of bcin^ an Apostle
among (he Philipj'iaiis,"'


lias promised that he will be with that office to the end
of the world. That commission was complete as soon
as delivered; and from that moment its recipients were
invested with all the functions of the Apostolic office.
But not so, with regard to miraculous gifts and qualifi-
cations. These were not bestowed till many days after
the delivery of the commission. It was before the
ascension of Christ that the full authority of Apostles
was bestowed. It was not till the Pentecost that they
received *^ power from on high" for the support of that

Thus are we brought again to the question — What
teas the peculiar and characteristic nature of the Apos-
tolic office ? They themselves applied to it a name
which will aid the answer. Peter, in addressing his
brother Apostles concerning the filling of the vacancy
caused by the death of Iscariot, expressly styles the
office which the traitor had vacated, his bishopric, or his
episcopate, as the original reads. The same is also
called, in the same transaction, his apostleship. Hence,
in the writings of the Fathers, the names of apostle
and bishop are used as pertaining essentially to the same
office.* But the w^ord bishopi-ic or episcopate, in the
abstract, only means an office oi supervision, in gener-
al; and the supervision may be either of single con-
gregations, as in the cases of *' the elders'* of Ephe-
sus;t or of many congregations, ivith their overseers,
as in the case of Paul, who assembled and charg-
ed those Elders. What then was the peculiar na-
ture of the supervision, or Episcopate exercised by
the Apostles, that name, of itself, does not indicate.
Whither shall we go to -ascertain whether it was a

* Cyprian writes of the Apostles in that manner ; as for example : " Aposto-
los, id est Episcojws, Doininus elegit:" — Tlw Lord chose Apostles, ihatisto say,
Bisliojii. "They which were termed Apostles, as being sent ot Clirist topuWish
his gospel throughout the world, and were named Bishops, in that the care of
government was also committed to them, did no less perform the offices of their
Episcopal authority by governing, than of their Apostolical by teaching." — Hook-
er's Ecd. Vol.

t Acts, XX. 28 — Overseers — Bishops, IxuxKii-xaui.


j)ai'ticular, or a gcncriil supervision; congregational,
or tlie contrary? Their commission decides. ** G^o
and teach (ill ^ntfiiffts," Sec. I'lierefbre, Avluitever
powers their Aposf/es/iijj or Ejjlscopafc embraced, were
not limited lo any particular congregation of the
church, but extcMided to the M'hole cluu-ch ; in other
words, the "Bisliopric" in tlie hands of the Apostles
was evidently generaly as distinguished from congrer/a-
tional. AVhat })articular functions belonged to that
general oversight or Ej)isco})ate, their connnission leaves
no room to doubt. First — " (ro atul teach all iiaticms ;*
or as the more acccurate and universally preferred
translation is — jo aiul make disciples of all natimis.
Thus was given authority to propagate the gospel.
^'- 13ctptizing them in the name of the Father ^^^ &c. Here
was authority to administer the sacraments of the
church; and by the sacrament of baptism, to open the
doors of the church, and of its privileges, to discijiles
out of all nations. Finally, -" teachi)if/ them to ohsei-ve
<dl things whatsoever I have commanded you.^'' These
words conveyed to the Apostles the authority to rule
the church, after they had made disciples by preaching,
and members by ba])tism. An essential part of the
govermnent of the church consisted in seeing to the
succession of its ministry. That the autliority to do
this, to ordain successors in the ministry, was included
among the ])owers of the A])ostles, is not only neces-
sarily im])iied in their authority to govern, but also
in those impressive words of the Saviour: '^ As the Fa-
ther hath sent me, even so send I gou,''^ For as it was
part of the office on which Jesus was sent, to institute
the ministry of his church ; so, it follows from these
words, that it was part of tlie sending of the A])ostles,
to continue that ministrv, bv the ordainino- of others to
its functions.

The conclusion, tlien, with regard to the character-
istic nature of the apostolic oflice, is, thai it was one


of a general super vLla/i, or episcopate ; and einbracod
essentially the authority to preach and propagate the
gospel ; to administer the sacraments of the church ;
to preside over its government, and, as a chief part ol
government, to ordain helpers and successors in the
ministry. All these powers the Apostles held, not as a
collective hody, or college ; but severally, and individually.

1 3 4

Online LibraryCharles Pettit McIlvaineThe apostolical commission: the sermon at the consecration of the Right Reverand Leonidas Polk, D. D., missionary bishop for Arkansas; in Christ church, Cincinnati, December 9, 1838 → online text (page 1 of 4)