There are, and have been from the earliest times, three Orders in the ministry. St. Paul in this chapter describes the qualifications for the office first of a bishop, and then of the general body of the clergy, for the reference in 1Ti_3:8 must be taken in its wider aspect and applied to priests as well as to deacons. A few thoughts on the episcopal office as we understand it to-day.
I. The antiquity of the episcopal office.—It is apostolic, and in the Church of England we trace our succession right back to apostolic times.
II. The making of a modern bishop.—The greatest care is taken. The Prime Minister (representing the laity) nominates a qualified clergyman to the Crown; the Crown nominates that clergyman to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral (representing the clergy) for election; if he is elected, the election has to be ‘confirmed’ in a public court at which objectors may appear. In recent years there has been much dispute as to what are valid grounds of objection, and attempts have been made—but most wisely overruled—to object to bishops-elect on ritual grounds. It is not necessary to discuss what might be grounds of objection; these must be left to the proper authority to decide. But the point to bear in mind is the care with which the Church guards the office of a bishop, as shown in the successive steps from the time of nomination to consecration.
III. Consecration to the episcopal office.—When the election of a bishop-elect is confirmed, but not till then, the archbishop proceeds to the consecration. Very solemn is the service; the act of consecration is performed by the laying-on of hands, the bishop-elect kneeling before the archbishop, and the archbishop and the bishops assisting—sometimes a dozen in number—all laying their hands upon the head of the bishop-elect as the archbishop recites the solemn words, ‘Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God,’ etc. What that work is is shown in the questions put to the bishop-elect before the act of consecration. [Refer to Consecration Service, and explain in detail the questions put in the examination by the archbishop.]