« PreviousContinue »
WESLEYAN METHODIST ASSOCIATION
The right of private judgment in the reading of the Sacred Volume.
VOLUME THE SIXTEENTH.
WESLEYAN METHODIST ASSOCIATION
ON THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.
An Address, delivered to the Preachers at the Annual Assembly, held in Manchester, on Monday Evening, August 2nd., 1852.
By the Rev. JOHN PETERS, Ex-President. PUBLISHED AT THE REQUEST OF THE ASSEMBLY. Eight years since, and upon a similar occasion, I had an opportunity of addressing a few words to my dear brethren in the ministry. At that time, as I can well remember, I felt it an onerous duty, and I feel it not less so at present. A painful sense of inadequacy, similar to that which I experienced then, presses upon me now. But I will not occupy the time with apologies. I have earnestly sought assistance of Him who has, through many years, been to me, according to his word, “a very present help in every time of need.” My remarks you will expect to bear upon the official position which, in the providence of God, you have been called to occupy.
Your office is of Divine appointment, and of constant necessity. That period, though hastening onward, is still remote, when it shall no longer be needful to teach "every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know ye the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.” Until that era shall have arrived, it will be the duty of the church to maintain an order of men, properly qualified, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their fellow-men.
But while I hold the opinion, that the preaching of the Gospel is of Divine ordination, and that it is the duty of the Church to send out and support men for that purpose, I am not a believer in the dogma that those sent out and supported become thereby a distinct order, or that therefore they become possessed of power and prerogative apart from, independent of, and superior to their brethren. God's people are a royal priesthood. They are kings and priests to God in virtue of their relationship to Jesus Christ. In no other sense is there a priesthood in the New Testament economy. It acknowledges one only—“the High Priest of our profession." There is no work in the Christian system which requires a human priesthood, consequently, no such order has been instituted. The
last sacrificial offering was presented when the Son of God expired on the cross.
Nor may the ministers of Christ pretend to succession from the Apostles. The Apostles were of special and extraordinary commission. It was neither intended nor necessary, that they should have successors. They did their work. They left no part of it undone. Successors to them would have nothing to do, and God appoints not to sinecures. Apostolic succession is either a delusion or an imposition. Its claimants and its advocates are either deceived or deceivers. Do they mean to claim apostolic endowment and authority ? Then let them exhibit apostolic credentials. If the office still remains, and is occupied by a succession, then must those successors be similarly endowed, and their word must be received as of equal authority with that of Paul. Whence then the oppositions in doctrine between those who alike claim to be successors ?
There were no contradictions between Paul, Peter, James or John. But enough. This impudent assumption is not likely to find belief or favour among you, my brethren.
You will not seek to rest your claims upon such a sandy foundation. You are one with your Christian brethren, and will never, I trust, seek to be “lords over God's heritage.” You remember the admonition-“One is your Master, and all ye are brethren."
What then, it may be inquired, is the minister's scriptural position, and what are his rights and claims in the Church of Christ ? I reply, If he be a man who can and will “ feed the church of God," if he be “apt to teach,” if he be an ensample to the flock," then has he a claim upon the respect and esteem of his brethren. • Esteem them highly in love for their work's sake,” is a scriptural injunction. It is the duty of the church to think kindly of you ; to speak charitably of you ; not to be hasty in taking up evil reports against you. The branch of the church to which you belong has, in duty to its divine Head, lifted up its testimony against clerical lordship. It has repudiated ministerial despotism, under the guise of pastoral authority. But, brethren, I trust the societies in which you sustain the ministerial office will carefully guard against the opposite extreme of attempting to denude you of the position and influence which should ever be assigned to the men who faithfully discharge the duties of their office. And I may just observe, in passing, that wherever the minister is treated disrespectfully, or wherever he is denied his proper place and influence, some other individual or individuals will be ready to assume the position to which the minister, who conducts himself as he ought, is entitled ; and then it will soon be found that lay-tyranny is as little bearable as is that exercised by those who fill the office of the ministry.
As to support, the minister's claim is upon the justice and honesty of those who accept of his services. It is unjust and dishonourable to employ any man without affording him support. I am aware that in our day there are to be found persons who regard themselves as reformers par excellence, who declaim against a salaried ministry, and who advocate what they style "a free Gospel." Now if parties refuse