Dr. William Ames (1576-1633)
Who are the ministers of the church?
The Extraordinary Ministers of the Church
by Dr. William Ames
1. So much for the subject of the application of redemption; now we consider the way of application.
2. The way of application consists of those means whereby the Spirit bestows Christ and all his benefits on us for our salvation.
3. The Spirit itself supplies all saving things to us internally, most intimately, and in its own way directly. No external means properly have the power to communicate grace to us in any real sense. Therefore, although external means naturally concur and operate in the preparation of man to receive grace, yet in themselves they do not properly confer grace. It is the Spirit that works together with them. 1 Cor. 3:7, Neither is he that plants anything nor he that waters, but God who gives power to increase.
4. The two principal means of this sort are the ministry and the holy signs (or symbols), to which some ecclesiastical discipline must be added.
5. The ministry is an ecclesiastical function in which a man, being singled out, is responsible by special right for holy things. 2 Cor. 4:1, We have this ministry, having obtained mercy; 1 Cor. 4:1, Let a man account us as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
6. It is called the ministry because the power which is committed to the men of the church is a power of acting only by command of Christ and out of obedience to him alone, 1 Cor. 4:1, 2.
7. The spiritual or regal power of self-rule whereby one works in freedom and by his own choice does not belong to men, but to Christ alone.
8. Therefore, a minister of the church is bound to execute his office himself, as one who does not have power to appoint anyone in his place – for that would be an action of command, not of obedience.
9. The permanent minister of many churches where vicars must serve is not of God’s ordaining, but of man’s ambition and presumption.
10. Ministerial power is not absolute but relative, i.e. it is not an absolute power to do anything but consists of a right whereby one has due power to do lawfully what he could not do before. Therefore, it is called a power of right.
11. But it is a special right because it refers to special duties unlawful for others; and it undertakes certain common duties in a certain special way.
12. The right of ministry depends upon calling. Heb. 5:4, No one
takes this honor to hinuelf except he that is called of God as was Aaron.
13. Calling is an action which commits an office to someone with authority to minister.
14. Therefore, it is clearly ridiculous to ordain the calling of
ministers but not give them power to preach the word without further permission.
15. A necessary part of calling is fitness for the ministry.
16. Those who are altogether unfit to do the work of the ministry,
if they are called to it by men, are ministers of men and not of God. Hos. 4:6, Because you have despised knowledge, I will also despise you so that you shall not be a priest to me.
17. Fitness arises from a fit measure of gifts and a ready will to undertake and execute the office.
18. The ministry produces a third state of the church. As by faith it has its essential state and by gathering its integral state, so by the ministry it has a certain organic state. It is now made fit to do all the works which pertain to the good of the whole.
19. The course and direction of these operations is ecclesiastical polity.
20. The form of this polity is altogether monarchical in respect to Christ as the king and the head. But in respect to the visible system of administration, it is of a mixed nature: partly aristocratic, so to speak, and partly democratic.
21. Therefore, in the lawful ministry of the church, hierarchy or
sacred rule has no place, but rather hieroduly or sacred service.
22. One minister is not subject to the power of another in his
responsibility but each one depends directly upon Christ. So it is that the angels who are inferior in office to others are directly subject to God and not to other angels.
23. This ministry is either extraordinary or ordinary.
24. An extraordinary ministry is one which has a certain higher and more perfect direction than can be attained through ordinary means.
25. Such ministers always have extraordinary gifts and assistance so that they minister without error.
26. The authority of an extraordinary minister is given actually neither by man nor through man but by God alone through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, Cal. 1:1.
27. Therefore, the calling to such a ministry is direct.
28. Yet an extraordinary calling is not so direct as to exclude all
ministry of men, as appears in the calling of Elisha and Matthias. It excludes only the ministry which lacks infallible direction.
29. Such an extraordinary ministry was surely necessary for the church because that will of God to which living well to God is directed could not be discovered by human industry or any ordinary means used in other arts and sciences. But it required men who were stirred up and sent by God and to whom he manifested his will in order that they might be in the place of God himself for us. Exod. 4:15, 16, And you be to him instead of God.
30. God revealed his will to those extraordinary ministers in several ways. First, by direct speech, Rev. 1:10, to which was often added the appearing and speaking of an angel or of Christ himself, such as the angel of the covenant. Second, by a vision in which the form of things to be declared was shown to the eyes of the vigilant along with the word. Third, by dreams through which like proposals were imparted to the minds of men asleep. Fourth, sometimes by a special familiarity, mouth to mouth, so to speak, without riddles. Num. 12:6-8, If there be a prophet among you, I will make myself, the Lord, known to him in a vision and will speak to him in a dream. It is not so with my servant Moses . . . With him I speak mouth to mouth and not in dark speeches; and the form of the Lord he beholds.
31. The mode of this revelation was so powerful that it often took men into ecstasy: They were so caught up above themselves that they knew nothing but what was proposed, and not even that in all its circumstances, 2 Cor. 13:3, 4.
32. Yet it is certain that the divine truth of such revelation is always confirmed and scaled in a special way to those to whom it is revealed. Therefore, it does not need further confirmation. Gal. 1:17; 2:6, Neither did I return to those who were apostles before me . . . They who were of repute made no difference to me. Sometimes, however, miracles are added for more abundant confirmation, Judg. 6:36-38.
33. This extraordinary ministry is either for the first instituting of a church, or for the special and extraordinary conservation of a church, or for the extraordinary restoring of a church which has collapsed.
34. The ministry of instituting a church is always accompanied by a testimony of miracles. Heb. 2:3, 4, Which at first began to be spoken. . . God also bearing witness with signs and wonders and many miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
35. Yet miracles do not provide testimony to any doctrine in the sense that they immediately produce faith. For doctrine which does not agree with the known will of God ought not to be accepted, although it might seem to be confirmed with miracles. Dent. 13:1-3, Although that sign or wonder come to pass which he foretold you, saying, “Let us go follow other Gods” . . . do not harken to the words of that prophet; Gal. 1:8, Though we or an angel from heaven preach to you another gospel besides that which we have preached . . . let him be accursed.
36. The ministry of conserving and restoring a church although extraordinary and usually confirmed by miracles does not always or necessarily require a testimony of miracles. This appears in many places in the Old Testament and in John the Baptist.
37. The prophets, apostles, and evangelists were extraordinary ministers.
38. Wickliffe, Luther, Zwingli, and the others who were the first restorers of the gospel were not, strictly speaking, extraordinary ministers.
39. Yet they are not wrongly called extraordinary by some. First, because they performed something similar to what was done by the extraordinary ministers of old. Second, because as occasion required they received gifts of special magnitude from God. This may also be affirmed of many of the more famous martyrs. Third, because they necessarily attempted some things out of the common course, since the order of the time was disturbed and decayed.
40. It is, therefore, ridiculous to require miracles of those men to confirm the doctrine which they propounded, when such an attestation was not necessary even among the extraordinary ministers.