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upon them : and, if they fail of furnishing it, their pretensions stand for nothing.
2. If they are actually thus inspired; their Inspiration can be of no use to mankind.
The language, which they use in interpreting the Scriptures, is the plain, common language of men. The Scriptures are written in this very language, chosen with incomparably. more skill and success, than that, which is used by these preachers. The most important things in the Bible are written in the plainest possible
If mankind cannot understand the terms here used; the terms, which they employ, must be still more unintelligible. Their labours, therefore, must be absolutely useless.
So far as the language of the Scriptures is attended with any difficulty, and demands any skill in interpreting it, the efforts of these men are worse than nothing. The only power, by which any language can be correctly explained to those, who speak it, is critical skill in that language. But this, these men have not begun to possess. When, therefore, they comment, they merely blunder. What they attempt to explain, they only perplex. As they do not understand the language themselves; it is impossible, that ihey should make it understood by others. 3. They give no proof, that they are thus inspired.
The Apostles proved their inspiration in three unobjectionable ways. They wrought miracles, ultered unrivalled wisdom; and exhibited throughout their lives unrivalled virtue. These men furnish neither of these proofs. They do not pretend to work miracles ; they are always weak, ignorant, and foolish; and, though sometimes, it is to be hoped, men of piety, are never distinguished by any remarkable excellence, bui fall below most other pious men, through the influence of characteristical pride, prejudice, enthusiasm, censoriousness, and bigotry.
As, therefore, they furnish no proof, that they possess this power; mankind are under no obligation to believe their pretensions. Neither the Apostles, nor even Christ himself, claimed the least faith in their mission, nor the least obedience to their precepts, until they had proved themselves sent from God, and inspired with the knowledge of his will, by the unanswerable evidence of miracles. Nor can it be supposed, that God would require us to believe any man to be inspired, or sent with a commission from himself, unless he furnished clear, unquestionable proof of his inspiration. If we were to admit the contrary position, and were required to believe men to be inspired because they asserted themselves to be inspired; there is no error, which we should not be obliged to receive; and scarcely any crime, which we should not be called upon
to commit. No men have been more erroneous; few men have been more wicked ; than such, as have claimed inspiration. Such were Judas Gaulonites, Theudas, and Barchochab; and such have been many in succeeding : ages. · But the
preachers, in question, furnish no evidence of their own inspiration, whatever.
4. They are not thus inspired.
From what has been observed under the last head, it is evident, that, if they were inspired, their inspiration could be of no possible use to any but themselves; because, as they give no proof of it, none can warrantably believe it. But it is contradictory to the whole history of God's providence, that men should be inspired for their own benefit merely. No fact of this kind is recorded in the Scriptures. Nor can it be admitted by common sense.
But the men themselves furnish ample proof, that they are not inspired. They are ignorant of the propriety and meaning of language; and use it falsely, absurdly, and in violation of the plainest rules of grammar. They reason weakly, erroneously, and inconclusively ; lay down false premises, and draw false conclusions. Their sentiments are regularly vulgar; often gross, and not unfrequently indecent. It is impossible, that the Author of all wisdom should be the author of folly ; inspire absurdity; and disclose his own pleasure in the lame conceptions of ignorance, in. the mistakes of mental imbecility, and in the disgusting sentiments of indecent vulgarism. Ignorant men, he may undoubtedly inspire: but their inspiration makes them cease to be ignorant men; enlarges their views; ennobles their sentiments; and adorns ali their communications with pre-eminent propriety and dignity. The writings of Peler and John have communicated wisdom, elevation, and refinement, to the ablest men of all succeeding ages. Nothing was ever more unlike their writings, than the crude effusions of the preachers in question. Besides, ihe doctrines, which they teach, are contradictory to each other. The language of Scripture, they frequently misunderstand, and misinterpret; supposing that, which is simple, to be figurative, and that, which is figurative, to be simple; and thus making the Scriptures speak not only what they never meant, but what it is impossible, that they should mean; viz. gross absurdity. Were an intelligent man to attribute these things to the Spirit of God; he would, in my view, be guilty of blasphemy. These preachers are shielded from this charge only by their ignorance.
The Priests, and Prophets, of the Jewish Church were almost all educated men. Whenever they were not, and often when they were, they were inspired. The Priest's lips, says God in Malachi, should keep knowledge; and they should seek the Law at his mouth : for he is the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts. If the Priests were to keep knowledge; they must have previously obtained it. Such, plainly, ought to be the conduct of every messenger of the Lord of Hosts. The Apostles were educated for a series of years by the best of all teachers, the Saviour of mankind; and were then inspired. In this manner were Ministers anciently prepared for the business of instructing mankind.
Thus the pretence, on which these men act, is unfounded, false. and vain.
The basis, on which it is erected, is, I presume, the following text: The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him : neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But of this text, and of others like it, they totally mistake the meaning. Spiritual discernment is that view of Divine truth, which is experienced by those, who love it. Such persons, by this discernment, perceive the excellence and beauty of that truth, but are not enabled by it to understand, in any other respect, the meaning of a single passage at all better, than they would have understood it without this discernment. It does not at all enlarge the understanding, communicate knowledge of language, nor enable the mind to discern the proper sense of that language. Every sanctified child has spiritual discernment. Still he is a child; extremely limited in his understanding, ignorant of the meaning of words, and incapable of interpreting Scriptural passages. These preachers are only larger children. si. Paul has forcibly described their character in Heb. v. 12 ; &c. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers ; or, as rendered by Dr. Macknight; For though ye ought to have been teachers, on account of the time, (that is, have lived so long under the Gospel, that ye ought to have known enough of it to teach others) ye have need, that one teach you again which be the first principles of the Oracles of God; and are become such, as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one, that uselh milk, is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meal belongeth to them, that are of full age, even those, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. How different is this character from that of the Scribe, instructed unto the kingdom of Heaven, who is like unto a householder, that bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old !
II. Every Minister is to conduct both the common and peculiar Ordinances of Divine worship.
The common Ordinances of this Worship he is to regulate according to the Scriptures; and administer them to all who are present: and no other person is to interfere with his administrations, The peculiar Ordinances he alone is also to administer: the Lord's Supper, as the Apostles did, to professing Christians only; Baptism to professing Christians offering themselves to him, unexceptionably, as candidates for admission into the Church; and to the infant children of professing Christians.
The rules, by which he is to conduct the mode of administration, are, so far as they are applicable, those, which have been given concerning Preaching. The administration is to be marked with dignity, solemnity, explicitness, and affection : so that every thing may be distinctly understood, and deeply felt. In the Prayers, accompanying these administrations, and when the occasion permits, in suitable expositions of the great things, which they teach, he may advantageously unfold just conceptions of the nature and import of the ordinances administered; and powerfully impress them on the minds of those who are present. Still more particularly should he explain, and impress, them in his sermons, to the utmost of his power. If they are not thus explained; they will become in the vicw of his flock mere symbols, without meaning, or use. If they are not thus impressed; they will be in danger of being profaned, and disregarded.
III. Every Minister is to preside over, and direct, the Discipline of the Church.
A Minister is by his office a Ruler in the Church, and the Ruler in his own Church. In this character he is bound to rule well; and in thus ruling, is to be uccounted worthy of double honour. He is required to take the oversight thereof, not as lording it over God's heritage, but as an ensample to the flock; not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but as of a ready mind.
All government is intended for the benefit of the governed. In that, which Christ has established for the benefit of his Church, this equitable principle is conspicuous in every part of the system. A strong, uniform, controlling sense of this truth will, of itself, direct to almost all that conduct in Ecclesiastical government, which is evangelical, and prevent almost all that, which is wrong. The Minister is bound to feel, in this case, nothing but the honour of his Master, and the good of his flock. All favouritism and prejudice, all cunning and worldly policy, all selfish schemes and byends, are by the Scriptures shut out of the institution. As in preaching, so in Ruling, he is required not to walk in guile, craftiness, or hypocrisy ; lo renounce ihe hidden things of dishonesty; and to commend himse!f to epery man's conscience in the sight of God.
Passion, also, is never to be indulged in the performance of this duty. A Bishop must not be soon angry, says St. Paul, nor selfwilled, but blameless and patient. The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men; in merkness instructing those that oppose themselves.
While he is bound to rebuke them, that sin, before all; that others also may fear; he is to prefer no man before another; and to do nothing by partialily. In the discipline, which respects other ministers, he is bound not to receive a railing accusation, but before, that is, on the testimony of two, or three, witnesses : and all those Elders, who rule well, he, together with their people, is to account worthy of double honour.
The peculiar directions given in Scripture concerning Ecclesi: astical discipline, I propose to consider hereafter. At the present time, it will be sufficient to observe, that he is to do nothing, to omit nothing, and, so far as is in his power, to suffer nothing to
be done, or omitted, which is not directly authorized in the Word of God.
IV. He is also to unite with his brethren in Ordaining other Ministers.
Ordaining is the Consecration of a Minister by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, and by Prayer. At the same time, a Charge, containing a series of solemn injunctions, and similar to that, which St. Paul gave to Timothy, is to be delivered to the person ordained by the united authority of those who act in the Ordination. This charge is to enjoin all the great duties of his office, and the manner, in which they are to be performed. The Right hand of fellowship is to be given to him, also, as it was to Paul and Barnabas by the Apostles at Jerusalem, assuring him of the cordial friendship, communion, and co-operation, of his Christian brethren, both in the Ministry and in the Churches.
Concerning all these ihings, since they are perfectly understood, and uniformly practised with great decency, throughout this country, it will be unnecessary to make any particular remarks. I shall therefore only add, that there are, in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, so many injunctions on the people concerning their duty, as, in my opinion, to warrant, and in a sense demand, ihat a Churge, enjoining it upon them, should become a part of these solemnities.
The chief difficulty, connected with the business of Ordination, will almost always be found in selecting the proper persons to be Ordained. The character, given of these persons, particularly in the above mentioned Epistles, and generally throughout the New Testament, is the authoritative, the perfect, and the only, directory concerning this subject. This character is even to be regarded as indispensable, and invariably to be demanded. Unless it be found substantially in a Candidate for Ordination, he is of course to be rejected.
Particularly he is, in the Evangelical sense, to be a good man; of a fair Christian profession; of an unblameable Christian life; holden in esteem by the Church; well reported of by others; of competent capacity, and attainments; and marked with that prudence, which our Saviour required of his Apostles. His doctrines are to be Evangelical, and uncorrupt; and his public exhibitions edifying, and approved. All these characteristics, those wlio ordain, are bound to see amply attested. Indeed, unless he possess them, he cannot, in my opinion, be warrantably licensed to preach the Gospel.
Among the things, indispensably necessary in the character of such a Candidate, and yet not unfrequently less insisted on, than this ministerial duty demands, is the Prudence, or Discretion, just mentioned. A man may be a good man, and yet be indiscreet: but he can hardly be a useful man. An indiscreet, or imprudent, Minister will rarely do good at all; and will certainly do much harm.