The Apostolic Salutations And Benedictions -- By: John J. Owen

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 019:76 (Oct 1862)
Article: The Apostolic Salutations And Benedictions
Author: John J. Owen

The Apostolic Salutations And Benedictions

John J. Owen

From the earliest days of the Christian church, widely different views have been taken respecting the meaning of the apostolic salutations and benedictions, and their significancy in the position assigned them in public worship. They who invest Christ’s ministers with sacerdotal powers and functions, regard these formulas as the actual conferral from priestly lips of spiritual blessings; and by implication, if not by express statute, they argue that the power to pronounce maledictions belongs in like manner to the ministerial office. Others go to the opposite extreme, and consider them mere expressions of earnest desire that blessings may descend upon God’s people, and implying no such official power or prerogative, as to render them unsuitable to be uttered by private Christians at the opening and close of religious services. Between these extremes lies a third view, that they are solemn declarations of the permanent possession and enjoyment of the grace of God by all who are embraced in the covenant of redeeming love.

We believe that very few persons in evangelical churches are disposed to attach a priestly significance and potentiality to these sacred formulas, and we dismiss therefore, as irrelevant to the special object of this Article, any refutation of this belief, and confine ourselves to the simple question, whether they are to be regarded as expressive of strong desire, or as declarative of a great truth, applicable to all of Christ’s family, and in all time. That they are not prayers, in the proper acceptation of the term, is quite evident from the fact that they are not addressed to God, and have not the usual form of supplication. But as might be expected from such short, elliptical, and independent formulas,

it is a matter of doubt whether they are to be interpreted as earnestly expressed wishes or positive declarations.

That a difference of opinion exists on this point, is manifest from the variety of form employed by ministers of the gospel in pronouncing the benediction. It is the practice of some to say: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all;” others adopt the same form, but substitute “us “for “you.” Many drop the potential form, but, nevertheless change the pronoun from the second to the first person plural: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.” Another class adhere precisely to the language of scripture, and say: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

It is our present purpose to inquire, whether the last-mentioned form of the benediction does not express its true and only meaning, or, in other words, whet...

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