Page images
PDF
EPUB

riched with “the gifts he received for men”—and standing in humble, pure, separated, but honoured and elevated dignity, in the world, will be hailed as a divine institution, and as intimately associated with the highest grace of God, and the most valuable in terests and happiness of man.

We adduce one other proof—from amongst many—of the divinity and intended perpetuity of the ministerial office. When our Lord 'sent his Apostles to preach the gospel after his resurrection, he added—“and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Two things are obvious from this—that the ministry was to continue to the end of the world and that Christ would be with his faithful servants to encourage them in their duties. Here again we perceive that the sacred ministry is made identical with the Christian dispensation. It is the last, and intended to continue to the end of time and the consummation of all things; and the successors of the Apostles are to remain as long as the dispensation itself. That the declaration cannot be limited to the Apostles personally, is evident from its terms. Our Lord knew that they would not live to the end of the world; but, like other men, they would serve their generation by the will of God, and then sleep with their fathers. But they were the types and representatives of a race of men, who should remain through all ages, and, as the foremost of the class, they received the promise ; but they received it for their successors as well as themselves, as Adam received the promise of Redemption, both for himself and for all his children.

Let us now examine the principle of the delegates as affecting this question.They claim “the right of interference of the members of the church, in the regulation of all its affairs." The office of the ministry is one “ of the affairs” of the church, and we are certain, we do the delegates no injustice, when we affirm that their main intention is, to regulate this affair. They assert their right then to interfere with this office. They do not inform us whence they derive this right; or in what particulars, and to what extent, the interference is to be carried. We grant that the members of the church have inalienable rights. They have a right to all the external ordinances, and to the communion and provisions of the church, as long as they walk according to its rules; and if they are raised by the call of God to offices, they have the right freely to exercise their functions as long as they do it in conformity with the laws. But the proposition of the delegates sets up an undefined, and, consequently, an absolute right to interfere, on the part of those who hold no office, in all the affairs of the ministry. Then, according to this, the office is dependent upon them. They claim the right of creating it-shaping its powers-modifying its operations and, if they choose, altering its structure-or annulling it altogether. We believe we do not overstate the case. On a former occasion, Mr. Gordon, the author of the resolution, stated his opinion on this subject very clearly. He said, at that time, “I know of no inherent rights of the preachers of the gospel. They are given by the people; how can they be otherwise ?"-" The people choose a man as their minister."-" What the people give, they can control; what they can control, they can take away."-And“ There are no rights but what you give.” This is obviously placing the ministerial office on the will and taste of the people. If our previous remarks on the divine origin and appointment of this office are well founded (and we challenge the delegates to disprove them), then the assumption of this radical right is a profane invasion of the prerogatives of the Deity, the mediatorial glories of the Son of God, and the settled order of his kingdom. The democratical theory that the people are the fountain of all power in the state, so delightful to the pride and vanity of the age, is here borne triumphantly from the world into the church, and placed as the basis of the new order of things in Christianity. We remind the fond advocates of this principle, that there is such a book as the bible; that Christians have been in the habit of acknowledging it as divine; and that its lessons of instruction place the church in the hands of its founder, not theirsits powers and authority in its head, not the people-its economical arrangements in its great bishop and shepherd, not the variable, feeting, and self-interested opinions of man-and its ministry as an office jure divino, not dependent upon the votes of a human constituency.

We ask, is not the ministry first in order in every known instance of the establishment of a church? If so we should like to know how it originates with the church, which, in fact, it instrumentally creates. Did not the ministry of St. Paul exist before the churches of the Gentiles, which he planted ? Did not the ministry of Wesley exist before the societies which he, in the exercise of his functions, united in church fellowship ? At the present moment does not the ministerial office precede in the person of some humble missionary, the existence of the church in any of the destitute pagan nations ? And even in our own country, at this moment, the independent body are obliged to do good against their own principles, for they send Home Missionaries to convert sinners and to collect churches in the dark parts of this country

-these churches are formed by the ministry, not the ministry by the churches. The attempt of our reformers is to remove this sacred office from that lofty pedestal of divine appointment on which it is placed by the holy scriptures, to the pivot of human opinion, where it may be made, like the weather-cock, to turn to every gust of passion and folly, or to be hurled and rolled in the mire, and kicked and cuffed at the caprice of every babbler in religious revolution. They profess to do all this of right. We want to know whence they derived their right ?' We can understand on what authority the ministry is divine. It is so on the ground of a divine origin and appointment, fully and clearly expressed in the New Testament. But how it can be a divine ordinance, and yet a human institution-liable to the modifications, changes, interferences, and even abrogation of the church-at the same time, we confess we cannot comprehend. One of these claims must be false and ill-founded. If the authority of thegreat Head of the church to fix the ministry as a permanent provision ir. the economy of Christianity is valid, then the assumption of the delegates is a bold and profane invasion of the authority of our Lord ; if their claim is legal, then we maintain that the bible is of no authority ; but human opinion is the origin of all power, and natural-not revealed religion, is that which we are bound to espouse.

THE CALL TO THE MINISTRY, AND THE QUALIFICATIONS WHICH PREPARE FOR ITS successFUL DISCHARGE. ARE DIRECTLY DIVINE.

We mean by this, that the election, the anointing, the commission, and the gifts which unite to authorise and qualify a Christian to discharge the duties of the ministry, are from God; not remotely, but immediately. That there is a difference between the grace that gives piety, and “the grace to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.” That the call to "this office and ministry” is super-added to the privileges and purity of personal piety, and none can lawfully enter it, or efficiently discharge its duties, but such as are called of God. The evidence of this is clear. Called, ordained, made, entrusted, sent forth, ambassadors, stewards of the mysteries of God, are terms employed to designate the inauguration of ministers into their office, and the dependent manner in which they hold it. Hence our Lord said " Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” St. Paul designates himself" Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God.” And adds“But I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” And again “ Our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter ; but of the spirit: for the letter

killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” “ Let a man so account of us as of the ministers . of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.”-“For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me : yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the Gospel is committed unto me.” “ According to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”—Lest it should be thought that these terms are peculiar to the Apostolic office, we find St. Paul using similar language respecting those who occupied inferior stations. “ And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the Elders of the church.” When they were in his presence, amongst other things he says to them, “ Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” To Timothy he says "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the putting on of my hands. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep, by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.”

These passages, which might be greatly multiplied, clearly show that the persons who are really the ministers of the gospel are not so by the appointment of any human authority; but by the ordination and call of God. This is in perfect harmony with the nature of the Christian dispensation, and the ends it proposes. It is the bestowment of spiritual blessings--the call of sinners to repentance and the edification of those who believe in Christ. This represents it as pre-eminently divine. Religion, in its progress through the world, is the work of God the evolutions of His government -the operations of His grace the exercise of His pardoniny mercy—the display and offer of the divine atonement-the ministry of His spirit and the extension of His kingdom. It is not likely that a work of this purely religious and spiritual character would be left to the force of human reason, the arts of secular eloquence, and the ac

cident of men choosing the office of the ministry as a matter of mere taste. Besides, from the peculiarly divine nature of religion, this kind of instrumentality could not accomplish it. The end proposed is to bring sinners to God, to humble them in penitence, to invest them with Christian privileges, to regenerate the heart, to raise them to life and joy, to dress them in the robes of righteousness, and to lead them beside the still waters of spiritual consolation. As the end is purely spiritual and religious, the instrumentality employed inust agree to the design. | Hence, if a person called to this office is previously occupied in secular pursuits, the election to this trust, the elevation of the mind, the tone of piety necessary, the devotion of the soul to these particular duties, and a separation to, and the energetic discharge of the functions of the office will give a perfectly new turn to the tastes and tendencies of the soul. The heart cannot be made the depository of this “heavenly treasure," and the lips the channel of conveying it to others, without the person so engaged being in a peculiar manner and degree the minister, the ambassador, and the servant of God.

With this prerogative of Diety in the appointment of his ministry, the principle of the delegates directly interferes. It claims the “right of interference of ihe members of the church in the regulation of all its affairs ;” and, consequently, in this. Explained and elucidated by other parts of these famous speeches, and, indeed, the whole of the proceedings of the Association, we cannot be mistaken as to their bearing on this branch of the question. These levellers have repeatedly stated, both in conversation and in print, that they have no objection against the private character of their ministers, it is only against their public and ministerial character that they object. As men and as Christians, they allow that they possess an average share of piety, charity, amiability, and virtue. But as ministers, they object to them as knaves, tyrants, usurpers, oppressors; and all the epithets of reproach and scandal which the language can furnish are selected to hold up-not the man, but the minister to the contempt and hatred of the world.

This shews the animus of the opposition most fully. “It is against that official character in which the Head of the church has clothed his ministers, that the Association levels its maledictions. These gentlemen, of equal rights, do credit to that part of the character of ministers which is just on a level with their own-their humanity and their Christian graces and virtues;- but when they appear clad in robes of office, though they have been placed upon them by the hands of their Lord and Saviour, they at once attempt to tear them to shreds, for the purpose of reducing the wearer to an equality with themselves. Considered in no higher a light than as matter of mere justice, there is something extremely unfair in this. A minister is nothing but a minister: he is placed on an isolated spot in the great social system-he is debarred from commercial speculation and pursuits, and that wealth and consideration which this class of the community often acquire he is shut out from the walks of science, literature, and the arts, as a profession, and can only engage in these things as an anonymous contributer to the periodicals—he cannot engage in the strife of political debate, and, however talented, raise himself to the station and honour of a legislator ; and yet, he is an object of envy-and envy by those who have the world open before them: to all its wealth, its honours, its professions, and its fame. The ways of God are all equal; and when it pleases him to place some official honour, of a religious nature, on ministers, he exacts an equivalent. They are reduced to a nonenity, in other respects : their office, honours, and persons are equally despised in the world.

But it is not in this light we consider the subject. Any injustice done to ministers, as men, merely, is of trifling importance. If they are despised, scorned, lampooned—if they are held up to reproach, contempt, and ridicule-if they are saved the trouble of exercising any will of their own, by taking such things as are prepared for them if they are made the sport of strife, and rocked in the storm of angry contention they must make up their minds to endure all this. They are called to recollect who was despised and rejected of men,and kindle their own love and zeal by meditating on the example of the Apostles, martyrs, and confessors of old. But their office they have no power to surrender. If they are weary of bearing the cross, let them settle the matter with their divine Master; and if he permit, give up the deposit they received from him into his own hands again. But they have no right to give it into the hands of a greedy, ambitious, and rampant democracy. Like a sand desert, it is always absorbing, and never satisfied. Whilst a good soil drinks in the dews and rains of heaven, and makes a grateful return of smiling corn, or blooming and fragant pasturage; the arid wilderness receives the blessings of heaven, but continues thirsty and barren still. So it is with our radicalism : the wisdom, the piety, the gifts, the labours of the true ministers of God descend like refreshing rain on the simple of heart, the devout, the believing, and the pure; whilst they impart no fertility to those who, instead of receiving the message and the grace with gratitude, imagine that the instrument is too much honoured in his employment; and, refusing to receive God's gifts at his hands, remains in a state of barrenness and misery

As we have taken leave to tell ministers that they have no right to surrender their commission into the hands of the people,so we tell the Association that they have not only no right to demand it, but that the demand itself demonstrates their vanity, assurance, and unblashing impudence. Pray, gentlemen of the delegation, did you or God put the Wesleyan ministers into their office? If you, in the exercise of your Association functions, placed this power in the hands of the preachers, then, according to your orator and lawgiver, you have the right to annul. But if it has been received from a higher, a heavenly source, you have no right to demand it; it does not belong to you—it does not belong to its possessors--it belongs to God, who gave it. If you object to the directly divine call of the Wesleyan ministry, and attribute it to a mere human agency, then we ask-was that agency yours ? Did you, gentlemen of the Association, raise up this ministry, as you require the surrender of its powers into your own hands ? No. Instrumentally, it is the ministry trained and raised up by John Wesley; and since his days, by those who were taught in his school. It is a modest request, most assuredly, made by the Association-viz., that about thirteen hundred ministers, belonging to the Wesleyan connexion, who profess to have received their call and commission, in the first degree, from the Head of the church, and, in the second from the Conference, should humbly surrender their trust to them, and take it up again, under such“ interferences” as they shall choose to exercise, and such conditions as they may think well to attach to it. And pray—a stranger from another world would ask—who are these gentlemen ? They must be persons of great consideration, great wisdom, great piety, great age, and great numbers. So every one would imagine from the demand.And who are they, in fact? The airy and floating particles which have exhaled from a body of three hundred and sixty thousand professing Christians, and being too light for adhesion to the solid and compact body to which they were attached, flew, by an instinctive impulse, to the sound of discord, and united in the Manchester Tabernacle, as a sand hill, to receive the homage of the nodding Alps. But are they particles compared with the Alpine mountains, when put in contrast with the Wesleyan body? We do not disparage them; and all we choose to say is, it is too much for such as they are to demand the surrender of the Wesleyan ministry into their hands.

Indeed, the proposition itself is another proof of the insanity of faction. As if the assembled disaffection of the connexion had a right to demand that which no set of men have the right to give the ministry; to be fashioned after their own democratic notions. We beg to tell these gentlemen that their kindness will be dispersed with-that they will be most assuredly saved the trouble of being the conservators of the Wesleyan ministryand that there is no intention in those who hold the office to submit it to their tempering and modifying capacity. It has been safe hitherto in the hands and under the guidance of its divine author. Imbued and animated by His Spirit, it has proved itself vital and powerful. By the blessing which has been upon it, it has been instrumental in leading myriads of lost sinners to Christ, and spreading scriptural religion largely through the four quarters of the world. We know what it has been in the hands of God -we know not what it would be in the hands of a democracy, and we are not prepared to make the exchange. - THE DOCTRINES AND PRECEPTS TAUGHT BY A DIVINELY COMMISSIONED MINISTRY ARE FURNISHED BY THE WORD OF God.

Properly speaking, the duties of preachers are purely ministerial. They have not the liberty to frame a system of doctrines, to devise ordinances and terms of communion, or to enforce a code of laws and morals, resting on their own independent dicta. They are entrusted with the gospel, and are simply the administrators of its truths, provisions, and ordinances; to ascertain the meaning of the Word of God, by diligent study and humble prayer, and then, pointedly, faithfully, and fully to exhibit the truth, by such modes of argument, illustration, and appeal us are best calculated to enlighten the mind, awaken the conscience, and lead to experimental and practical piety, appears to be the proper calling of a preacher of the gospel. He can have no liberty in the case, except such liberty as appears to have been granted to the prophets themselves, to throw the truths into such forms of thought and language as their own peculiar genius makes natural and easy. This is the extent of their eclectic rights. Can they have the right to preach any other gospel than that which has been inspired and given to the world in our holy books ? Can they have the right to lay any other foundation of salvation than that which has been laid ?-or to build on this foundation any other superstructure of experimental and practical religion, than that which is taught in the promises, descriptions, and examples of the word of God ? Now the new constitution to be prepared for Methodism is to be framed on “the principle of the right of interference of the members of the church, in the regulation of all its affairs,” consequently, in its doctrines. Let us examine this claim as applicable to this question.

• In case of a church becoming corrupt and heterodox in sentiment, it claims for it the right of forcing their opinions on their ministers. This is the legitimate conclusion. If they have the right to interfere in all the affairsof the church, this must be intended; and, as they do not stop at any given point in their interference, of course it sets up the claim of an unlimited and universal dictation. All history, alas! informs us how possible it is for the spirit of religion to be dissipated in a Christian community, and for the professing members to become heretical in opinion. If, at any time, a church should become Socinian in sentiment-deny the Godhead of our Lord -the atonement for sin-the grand scheme of mediation-the justification of the sinner by grace through faith—the influence and sanctification of the Holy Spirit, and all those blessings of experimental religion which emanate from these vital truths; then, according to this claiin, it must be their right to force their sentiments on their preachers, and compel them to dole out a meagre Unitarianism, instead of “the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” The Association indignantly ask-may we not be trusted ?' We reply-no, you may not. Others have been led into this boy, and why may not this be your call. The fact is, we would trust no class of men with this precious and invaluable deposit. The conservation of sound doctrine should be placed, as much as possible, beyond the reach of the changeable mind and corruptible principles of living man. In Methodism it is so placed at present, and we hope the day is very distant when it will be removed from the safe keeping of the Poll Deed.

These gentlemen will deny any intention of altering the Methodist doctrine.We do not charge them with the intention of doing so; but with the assertion of a principle, and the claim of a right, which would, in all probability, lead to it. What they do claim is the right of “ interference," and that without limit. It is in the nature of radicalism to have no right unused. It is the spirit of the movement to put every power it possesses in motion, and at every opportunity, to augment the impetus and attain the distinction of being at the bottom of the hill, as soon as possible, surrounded by the ruin it has occasioned. Who can doubt, if the Association, and men of their spirit, should obtain the right to interfere with the doctrines preached in our pulpits, it would long lie dormant. They, with a most industrious assiduity, are found present every where -doing every thing-touching every spring of the machine which they possibly can; while good and unsuspicious men sleep, these enemies are awake, and sowing their tares in every direction. Would they, if they could, leave the ministry of the word unreformed?' Not they, indeed. This, they will discover, is the fountain, and if there must be pure and purified water in the sanctuary, it must be necessary to purify the fountain. The attack would not be made, in the first instance, on the vital doctrines of the gospel, but it would soon be made on those principles, and, especially, the practices and habits that legitimately flow from them. Abstractions would be tolerated, but the detail of religious obligation and duty would not be allowed. We recollect, several months ago, the preachers of Liverpool South Circuit met the societies, and calmly and affectionately cautioned the members against the evils to which, at that time, they were exposed. In a few days, those ministers found themselves posted in the public papers, by the Association, who charged them with the grossest crimes, for the performance of this duty. Supposing these men had the “right to interfere,within the pale of the church, instead of expressing themselves in the public prints, would they have refused to use it in the same manner? No; and in their hands the gospel would soon be pared down to common-place generalization : at best, nothing would be allowed to the poor automaton preacher but to enunciate their views, and guard with especial caution against touching their rights.

Such is the march of intellect in our days, that the parties who need to be taught. and instructed now claim the absolute right of giving the teachers of religion their credentials, and also the syllabus of truths they choose to have preached to themselves. Poor old Richard Baxter has left his successors in the ministry instructions how to catechize families, adults as well as children, and has founded his instructions on his own practice. We wonder how this venerable divine would be received in our day, with his interrogations in his hand ?

In the mean time, the order of heaven's law is not altered by the arrogant claims and assumptions of the Manchester delegates. The true minister, called of God to his employment, has still the right to preach the unadulterated gospel, without let or hindrance. He is obliged, on the principles and conditions of his calling, to adhere to the truth, and not to surrender that truth to any class of men on earth. We believe that this is the position in which the Wesleyan ministers stand at this moment. They are put on their trial, by the circumstances of the times. The current runs against the just rights and great responsibilities of their stewardship. Religion is against the proud, self-sufficient, and levelling spirit of the age; and no wonder if that spirit is

« PreviousContinue »