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Baptist Waymarks,
Samuel H. Ford, 1903

Laying on of Hands in Ordination

[p. 57]
THE imposition of the hands of a presbytery, or number of mmisters, is questioned by many Baptists, and indeed so is oraining in any way. "Its essence," as says the Philadelphia Confession, "or essences clothe themselves in fitting forms and fitting apparel," or in New Testament language, "separating" unto the work of the ministry, is a "fitting form" with which to clothe that "essence." Dr. Thomas Armitage, in his voluminous "Baptist History," describes ordination as usually observed by Baptists. Spurgeon refused to be ordained. He never was formally set apart to the ministry. More ministers from his college and others under his influence held similar views about it and acted accordingly.

Many of our influential ministers in the West, while approving of an ordaining council, or presbytery, and when invited acting with it in the
[p. 58]
examination and other requirements, would refuse positively to join in the form of laying on of hands.

The reasons for refusal were: (1) There is no gift or special enduement bestowed or communicated in ordination. Laying on of hands was for such gift or enduement; therefore, as the one has ceased, so ought the other. (2) It is a form with an ecclesiastical object or purpose and leads to clerical protection on the one hand and to unmeaning formalities on the other.

To this it may be replied that the laying on of hands did not necessarily impart gifts or communcate spiritual fullness or power. It was done for these reasons: Paul was commissioned a minister of the gospel by the Lord Jesus directly from heaven. "And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogue." "He increased the more in strength." He solemnly declared that he did not receive appointment of men, neither went I up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before."

Barnabas, like Paul, was an acknowledged preacher of the gospel. He it was who introduced Paul to the church at Jerusalem.

But now when the Holy Spirit "called" these two to the special mission, he mysteriously communicated to the teachers and ministers and the church at Antioch saying: "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed and
[p. 59]
laid their hands on them, and sent them away" (Acts 13:2, 3).

There was no gift imparted in this setting apart. The laying on of hands was not for any such purpose. It was an action in harmony with their prayer. It was a silent invocation of God's blessing. Laying on of hands is not confined to the impartation of spiritual gifts. And so Jesus laid his hands on the little ones as he blessed them, but imparted no gift in this action.

The laying on of hands immediately after baptizing a believer has no example in the New Testament - except when it was done to impart miraculous gifts. Cornelius and those with him received the miraculous gilt of the Holy Spirit before baptism. Peter commanded them to be baptized, but no hand-laying took place, else it would have been recorded.

The same may be said of the Samaritan believers. It was not immediately on their baptism, but sometime afterward, that the apostles laid hands on them that they might receive miraculous gifts. The same is true of the twelve disciples at Ephesus.

Ordination is a recognition and an approval by the surrounding ministry and churches of the acts of the church in appointing, or selecting, the one ordained to the ministry.

They ask these ministers, or rather churches through them, to iquire into, to approve or disaprove
[p. 60]
of the action of the church; if approved, to endorse that action, so that the candidate may be received by the churches as a regular and approved minister of the Lord Jesus.

Baptists throughout the West and South generally adhere to this scriptural form. But what is called "installatlon" (an Episcopal ceremony) by the presbytery, an empty ceremony, is seldom or never performed or admitted by Baptist churches.

[Samuel H. Ford, Baptist Waymarks, ABPS, 1903. Typed from the original document by Linda Duvall; the document was provided by Pastor Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. - jrd]

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