| The Extraordinary Ministers of the Church
by 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
38. Wickliffe, Luther, Zwingli, and the others who were the
first restorers of the gospel were not, strictly speaking,
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