« ПредишнаНапред »
never works good by a ministry he may disapprove, or that Christians never obtain good from a ministry of the defects of which they may be painfully sensible. While we hold that Christian churches and people ought never to sanction a plainly unworthy ministry, we perceive how slow they should be to judge, condemn, and abandon those who minister in holy things in the communion to which they belong. After all wise and faithful efforts to secure a ministry approved of the Lord, it is perceived how much must be referred to the decisions and the siftings of the last day.
We hold that an orderly ministry which has the sanction of the church, that is of the Christian pastors and people through whom a candidate for the sacred office would be, through his connexion with them, regularly introduced into it. Far be it from us to hold, that any man's
's own presumptuous pretensions should be held as proof that he has a valid ministry from Christ. Order is the law of the Great Master. Humility is the sure mark of his servants. Co-operation and mutual support is the strength of all whom he employs. Were we to dwell on validity without reference to order, we should be wrecked by fanaticism. Were we to exalt order above validity, we should fall under tyranny. Order is for the sake of validity—to discern it, to preserve it. When duly administered, men give order because they think God has already given validity. They sanction that man as a minister whom they judge God has previously made one. They put him to make the declaration, that he believes himself moved by the Holy Ghost to take the office on him, and the sanction they then give, amounts to a declaration that they also believe such to be the fact. Extreme cases best illustrate principles. Validity is above order in the Christian ministry. Where need is, the less must give place to the greater.
The instance may occur where it is fully plain that validity is possessed, but that order cannot be had. Here is a faithful witness for Christ, in a corrupt and persecuting church, which therefore will not give him order, or will deprive him of the order once given, for this sole cause, because he is faithful. He is Christ's true minister ; not the less, but the more for this. More than sanctioned, he is bound to minister in the face of all ecclesiastical opposition. Such disorder is the highest, strictest order. Yet order must check presumption. A ministry valid without order, is the exception. The rule is, that the validity should be attested and vouched by the order. A man vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, with conceit of his talent, with uncharitable judgment of others, with pernicious novelties of opinion, will preach, will minister. The elders and church with which he is connected will not sanction him. They try his spirit, and discern that it is not of God. They must withdraw from him, if he persist in his courses. He walks disorderly. If he will speak perverse things liberty vindicated against tyranny, and order against licence. Such are our principles and views.
When we arrive at the question, what will prove that any man has a ministry constituted valid by the sanction of Christ ?—the answer we give, is simple—whatever will prove that any one is a faithful minister of Christ's pure gospel, will also prove that he has a valid, sacred office. This matter must be disencumbered of mystery. There is no such thing as official sacredness in the Gospel ministry which he may possess, who being by regular order in the office, is yet wanting in real moral goodness, and of which he must be destitute who stands in the office by an irregular introduction, though possessed of the highest qualifications of moral and gracious gifts. A faithful ministry of the pure gospel is a valid Christian ministry wherever it is found. He cannot be a faithful servant of Christ, exercising a ministry valid because approved by him, whatever may be his gifts, whatever his excellent points of character, seeming, or real, who does not faithfully preach the truth. Nor can he have a valid ministry approved by Christ, however purely he may preach the truth, who is in reality an unholy, hypocritical
It may be most properly regarded and employed as valid by the church, because it is not known to be other than it seems. It may be employed by the Lord to promote some of his purposes of grace ; but no sanction of that ministry by the church, because ignorant of the wickedness of the person ; no good accomplished through it by the Lord, though knowing that wickedness, can make his bearing the ministry other than what it really is a thing abominable and accursed. The truth of the ministry considered in the abstract, consists in this, that it is a ministry of the truth. The truth of the ministry as exercised by any particular person, lies in this, that he faithfully ministers the truth. But, though the ministry may be considered as an abstraction, it cannot so exist. The office is nothing but as sustained by some man. Our inquiry is not, what is the abstract notion, or idea, of a true ministry—but by what men is a true ministry exercised? And we do not believe that the ministry of a false man can be a true ministry. As long as he who ministers the truth appears to be a true and faithful labourer, he must be as such regarded, employed, and honoured : but when it is discovered, that he who appeared worthy, only appeared so, “his bishopric let another take!" Christ's kingdom is administered through personal character. To be a true Christian, a person must be a truly good man. To be a true minister, a man must be a faithful servant of Christ. It cannot be, that through a form, some whole classes of men are true ministers in Christ's church, and, through defect of form, other entire classes, merely pretenders ; personal character in neither case affecting the question. Present to us, then, a faithful man, labouring in the ministry, to preach Christ's pure truth, and to accomplish by it all its saving purposes, and we own him a true minister, even though to us his entrance on the work may appear to have been irregular, or though he may minister in a fellowship, deemed by us, in many things
erroneous. Perhaps he entered both by right forms, and with a true heart, and was approved from the beginning by the Great Master. Perhaps he entered with upright mind, but through mistake by unscriptural modes, and the Master forgives the error, approving the integrity. It may be, his entrance was unworthy and disapproved, but Christ has given him repentance of that great sin, and has sealed both his pardon, and his call, by bestowing on him a holy and an honest zeal. However this may be, he is now called, and chosen, and faithful. This sufficeth. Under the Gospel, he is not a Jew who is one outwardly ; he is not a priest who is one outwardly.
If it be urged, that to make a man's personal fidelity in preaching true doctrine the mark of a valid ministry, is to make it impossible to be discerned amidst innumerable uncertainties of character, and diversities of opinion ; the answer is, that it is much more easy for it to be thus known, difficult as the inquiry so conducted may be, than by tracing it through the endless genealogies of the apostolic succession. If it be objected, that we thus make churches to be judges of ministers by their characters, whereas Jesus said of wicked ministers in his own time, “the scribes and pharisees sit in Moses' seat; all therefore that they command you, that observe and do ; but do not ye after their works, for they say, but do not ;"—the answer is, that same Jesus also said, “Beware of false prophets, who shall come unto you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them ;” in which words the people are instructed to judge of the pretensions of those who undertake to teach them, and to make the personal character of those teachers the rule of their judgment. It is not necessary to the present argument that we should set forth at length what is required in the New Testament, to constitute a true minister of Christ. How he must be an example of the virtues he enforces ; a possessor of the religion he would produce in others; affectionately zealous for Christ ; faithful in the truth; patient in suffering ; pitiful of souls; gifted with thought, feeling, and utterance, that he may be apt to teach ; a labourer, a soldier, a witness, a shepherd, a steward ; wholly given to his office ; not counting his life so dear as his work. Our business is not to describe the good minister, but to prove that the good minister is the true one ; that the ministry exercised by such men is valid by the approval of Christ, wherever it is found, inasmuch as the graces, the gifts, the virtues, the desires they possess—severally rare and precious—far more so in their combination in the same men, are the bestowments of Him, who ascended on high to give such gifts to the men whom he would constitute in his church, apostles, evangelists, pastors, and teachers; and inasmuch as where he gave the gifts, he must have intended them to be thus employed, and must approve that they should be employed as he intended. The good minister is the true minister. Let every man be thoroughly persuaded in his own mind to N. S. VOL. VI.
what community of Christians he should be united: but let him seek within it a faithful ministry ; and if he find it not there accessible by him, let him seek it in other fellowships ; for, not the form, but the power-not the letter, but the spirit, is the proof of a valid Christian ministry. It
may be objected, that things which differ are confounded when the validity of the ministry is made to depend on the moral and gracious qualifications of those by whom it is held and discharged, for that there may be a true ministry in the hands of a bad
man, as may and lawfully a magistrate, who is yet tyrannous, or unjust, in his rule ; and he who is unfaithful to his master, may still be really a servant. Let it be admitted, though with reserve, that in civil offices this may be 80; we, nevertheless, deny that so it can be in the Christian ministry. We allow, that through error, or corruption, the church may constitute him an orderly minister, who being an evil man, cannot hold or exercise a ministry, rendered valid by the approval of Christ. No less do we admit, that the office of the ministry considered abstractly in itself, is a good work, by whomsoever held. But neither of these admissions touches the point in question, which really and exactly is, by what men is a true and valid ministry held and exercised ? And our assertion is, that no man not qualified for the work by appropriate excellencies of character and mind, can have a ministry true and valid as held by him.
Which assertion we prove by the three following considerations.
I. When the question is discussed by the apostle Paul, what shall qualify a man for the work of a bishop ; and when he is purposely giving precise instructions relative to the appointment of ministers, he mentions none but qualifications of character and mind, while these he enumerates at large, and expressly requires. Now, whatever is required to qualify a man for an office, must be essential to his holding it in a legitimate, valid way. He, therefore, that enters the ministry, and remains in the ministry, destitute of the qualifications represented as necessary by the apostle, is no minister of Christ, according to this inspired rule. By the law of Moses no man might be priest who was deformed in person. By the law of Christ no man may be a minister who is unsound in Christian character. As far as the evidence in the two cases may be equal, the Christian ministry is as much profaned, and is as unlawfully held, when a man without faith or love, is introduced into that office; as would have been the Levitical priesthood, by the appointment to it of one blind of an eye, or wanting a limb.
The effect on the argument respecting a valid ministry, of the instructions given by the apostle Paul to Timothy, as to the brethren whom he should ordain elders, is totally different from that of similar representations when addressed to ministers already ordained, as rules of their duty. They stand as qualifications for the ministry. Now, in no case can any man hold office with valid warrant, who entered it destitute of the qualifications required by the authority with which its appointment and regulations originated. There have been in this land various qualifications for offices appointed by law-property, age, religious opinions. In
any such case, wherever it was ascertained that a man had entered office without the legal qualification, that was sufficient to vitiate his title, annul his appointment, and secure his ejection. A disqualified man cannot hold a valid office. No form of appointment can remedy disqualification. No order of the church can confer a valid ministry on one disqualified by apostolic canon for entrance on it. The nature of the qualifications for the ministry being moral, and the ministry being exercised under an economy of grace, it may be that the acquisition of gracious fitness for the work by him who entered it disqualified, may heal that original defect, and constitute his ministry valid. But this consideration does not in the least weaken the argument, that gracious, moral, and mental gifts are essential to a valid Gospel ministry ; on the contrary, it adds to it strength and confirmation.
II. The second proof is, that all the denunciations contained in the New Testament against any as not true ministers of Christ, are founded on their false doctrine, unsound characters, or evil lives-never on defects of forms, or irregularity of ordination. The false teacher is the teacher of false doctrine. The schismatic is found in the regular and orderly elderships. Also, of your own selves; of you the present elders of Ephesus, or your regular successors, shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. The men on whom fell the awful rebukes of Peter and Jude, as false teachers, were ungodly men, on whom no ordination, not even that of an apostle, could have conferred a valid ministry; but whom, had they been as good men as they were bad, no conscientious or unintentional error in respect of forms, would have prevented those apostles from hailing as brethren beloved in the faith and patience of the saints.
III. The third proof is, that the Christian ministry is a spiritual agency, employing spiritual means, and aiming at spiritual results. Those who labour in it are to employ no carnal weapons of force, or bribe, or policy. They are not to accomplish their objects by mere forms or rites, however accurately administered. Instituted forms they are indeed to employ, but only as moral means to exhibit and enforce truth, to instruct the understandings, and so to impress the consciences
Christian rites embody, exhibit, and enforce Christian truths. Apart from those truths they have no signification. Except as vehicles of those truths they have no efficacy. They are one mode of bringing truth to act on mind, as preaching is another mode for accomplishing the same end. But it is only as modes that these two forms of administering truth differ. The efficacy in both cases
and hearts of men.