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thee. Immediately upon this he gives Titus the description of a Bishop, which is nothing less than giving him instruction what characters to ordain. And this is tacitly directing him not to ordain any man, without previously obtaining satisfactory evidence, that he possesses the character described. Now whatever private satisfaction ministers may have respecting the character of a candidate, it is necessary, when they come to act as a council, that the evidence of his character be exhibited before them in their public capacity, so that their public act in ordaining may be attended, in public view, with the reasons which justify it.
SECOND reason for examinations. The general practice of enlightened men in cases far less important. A young man cannot be admitted a member of College, without a strict examination, and evidence from substantial testimonials, that he is a suitable character to be admitted. A man must pass through a very long and minute examination before our medical societies, in order to his obtaining license to practice the art of healing. A man cannot be admitted an attorney, without proof that he has made those acquisitions, which qualify him for the office. Our laws wisely direct, that the lowest class of school-masters shall not be employed without inquiry into their qualifications. And shall men be introduced into the ministry, an office infinitely more important than any other, with little or no attention to their qualifications? Shall the children of this world be wiser in this respect too, than the children of light? Shall they guard their temporal interests more strictly, than Christians do the interests of God's kingdom?
THIRD reason. It was the practice of the Christian church in primitive times. "In the first ages of Christianity a serious examination always preceded the ordination. Before any person could be regularly elected to any clerical office in the church, the electors and ordainers were obliged to examine him concerning his faith, his morals, and condition in life. The person elected was obliged to answer to certain questions of doctrine. He was obliged to subscribe to a body of articles, or confession of faith at the time of his ordination. The examination of his morals was very strict." See Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church.
The same is true of our excellent forefathers. The saying of Calvin respecting primitive ministers may be in a measure applied to the first pastors of New-England Churches; " whereas they understood that they engaged in a most important matter," (when they undertook to ordain ministers) they durst attempt nothing, but with great reverence and carefulness."
FOURTH reason. The very nature of the transactions in which an ordaining council are engaged. Previously to ordination, they commonly vote their satisfaction with the qualifications of the candidate, and their readiness to proceed to ordination. How can they by vote express their satisfaction with the qualifications of the candidate, when those qualifications have not been the subject of inquiry? How can
they consistently signify their readiness to proceed to the solemn art of ordination, when they have not attended to the natural, reasonable, and important question, Is the candidate properly qualified for ordination? Is it not presumption to take it for granted, that every one, who offers himself for ordination, is fit for the ministry? And as to the act of ordination, how can a council solemnly set apart to the sacred office a man, whose preparation for that office has undergone no examination! How can they embrace one as a brother and fellow labourer in the vineyard of Christ, and recommend him as such to the people, when as a council, they have no evidence that he believes the gospel, or loves the Redeemer? Without a solemn and strict examination, there can be no propriety or consistency in the proceedings of a council from first to last.
FIFTH reason. If the practice of examining candidates be set aside, the churches will be in the greatest danger of being imposed upon and misguided by unqualified ministers. If there be no inquiry respecting the learning, the doctrinal belief, and the personal religion of candidates, those, whose belief is extremely erroneous, and who are destitute of learning and religion, may without difficulty obtain ordination. As soon as we deny the necessity of examination, and give up the principle on which it stands, we open a door for the admission of the worst characters to the sacred office. By ordaining even good men without examination, we implicitly engage to ordain all who apply. To omit examinations is to say practically, that character, whether moral or literary, is not of essential consequence in gospel ministers.
SIXTH reason. The practice of thoroughly examining candidates previously to ordination, has many advantages. It has a desirable influence on the council, calling up their attention anew to the great truths of the gospel and the interests of Christ's kingdom, and thus preparing them to engage with a proper spirit in such public transactions. If the candidate give evidence of being well qualified for the ministry, it prepares them to embrace him with cordial affection, and to live with him in the most endearing and happy friendship. The practice is salutary in its tendency with reference to the people, with whom the candidate is connected. To know that he was not ordained rashly, but after long and prayerful examination, was found well qualified for the ministry, would naturally dispose them to receive benefit from his labours. This information would prepare the way for his usefulness and acceptance not only among his own people, but in every place, where he should occasionally preach the gospel. The effect of the practice would be serviceable with reference to those who contemplate the ministry as their profession; while its direct influence would be to keep unqualified men from seeking to be introduced into the sacred office, it would happily excite those, who are in any measure qualified for the ministry, to greater diligence and prayer in completing their preparation.
The SEVENTH reason for it is, that there is no reason against it.— They who oppose examinations ground their opposition on a variety of pretences. One is, that the candidate has been publicly educated and received a degree, and that his outward conduct has been regular and respectable. But a collegiate education does not give every one even a tolerable acquaintance with common science. College cannot impart genius. Many leave College as they entered it, "with skulls that cannot teach and will not learn." If graduates are learned, they may be destitute of common morality. If their outward conduct should happen to be regular and blameless, they may, notwithstanding, be ignorant of Christianity, erroneous in their views of religion, and at the greatest distance from experimental godliness, and from all the most important ministerial qualifications.
Another pretence is, that it is sufficient for the candidate merely to say, he believes the Holy Scriptures; and that no further inquiry is necessary. But if upon examination it should appear, that, although he professes to believe the Bible, he rejects its contents, his profession would deserve little credit.
Another pretence is, that, as there is such difference of sentiment among ministers, it is best to avoid disputes and difficulties by keeping out of sight every question relative to sentiment. Is such a pretence sufficiently rational and manly to deserve consideration? Is it any more than saying, because we differ in our views, let us put out our eyes and not see at all? Let us act in the dark, lest, if we should come to the light, we should not agree? Let us not know each other, lest we disesteem each other?
It is said, that a minute and rigid examination proves to the candidate a strong temptation to dissemble, and that, on this account, the practice of examination ought to be rejected. I answer, upon the same principle the practice of requiring civil oaths ought to be rejected, because it proves a temptation to perjury. The objection proves very much indeed.
Another objection is, that it will take up time. But is it not as well to use time in attending to the proper business of a council, as in conversing upon common news and airy trifles ?
The last objection I shall consider is, that the candidate will regard an examination, as a mark of disesteem and uncandid suspicion. But will a candidate, who is a man of judgment and noble feeling, think himself injured, because the council aim conscientiously to discharge their duty? If he is conscious of requisite qualifications he must surely be willing his qualifications should be known. And where is the man, truly humble and godly, who is not willing that others should, when it is necessary, search for his defects as well as for his virtues?
Such are the arguments of those who oppose the examination of candidates. What solidity and weight these arguments have, I leave to the decision of the candid. And whether they who use these argu
ments do not conceal an objection, which has more influence than all others, I refer to their own deision. Honesty is the best policy for church as well as state.
Here a query arises; How far should the examination extend? The best answer I can give is, that it should extend as far as the essentials of the ministerial character. What these essentials are let the infallible pen of the apostle determine. He treats the subject amply in his epistles to Timothy and Titus. Is it essential, that a minister be a man of information? Then inquiry should be made concerning his information. Is it essential, that a minister believe the doctrines of the Bible, or as the apostle expresses it, that he hold fast the faithful word? Then inquiry should be made concerning his belief. Is it essential, that a minister be a regenerate man, a penitent, a saint? Every proper method should be taken to discover, whether he be such a character. Is it essential that he be prudent, blameless, apt to teach, &e.? Inquiry should be made concerning these qualifications. Is it requisite that he should know how to deal with souls in various cases, what directions to give, what remedies to administer? He should, then, be questioned as to the proper treatment of souls in various cases; as they, who seek for license to practice the healing art, are questioned concerning the treatment of human disease according to its various symptoms. What work is so interesting as that of a Pastor? And is it a matter of no consequence who undertakes it?
1. If the necessity of faithfully examining candidates is so clear, and its importance so great; then whenever we are called to act in councils, we should not be deterred from acting faithfully by fear of We should not be deterred by dread of reproach, nor by love of popularity. "Neither friendship, nor compassion, nor interest, nor importunity," says Dr. Smith, "should move us to bring any into the church, who is not, as we firmly believe in our conscience, in every respect duly qualified for its service. Friendship for any man, in this respect, is enmity to God. Compassion to an individual is cruelty to the community." We should behave ourselves like men, like Christians, like ministers of King Jesus. Remembering that the interests of his church are infinitely important, we should faithfully pursue them, willingly sacrificing every worldly, selfish object for Christ's sake; and thinking it enough to have the honour of faithful ministers, the honour which cometh from God, whether we have the honour which cometh from man or not.
2. Those ministers who, in councils, oppose examinations, assume what does not belong to them. It is the right of every member of a council, to use all proper methods to obtain satisfaction respecting the candidate. It is the right, and the duty of delegates, as well as of ministers. Now whatever private satisfaction ministers may have from
personal acquaintance with the candidate, it is rarely the case, that deľegates have any such satisfaction. Shall they be required to act with blind, implicit confidence in ministers? Shall they be deprived of the satisfaction, which a free and thorough examination might afford ?— Shall they be kept from asking, and from hearing others ask questions relative to the religious views and sentiments of him, whom they are called to ordain? This would be an imperious contempt of delegates. It would be a palpable infringement of the privilege of churches. How great is the guilt of those, who oppose examinations! They are remiss and easy in admitting to the ministry such, as ought to have neither lot nor part in this matter. They do much to promote error and delusion among the people, who look up to them as guides, and have no suspicion, that they will ordain men who are unqualified to preach the gospel. They are in effect partakers of other men's sins. They are responsible for all the defects, errors, and hurtful influence of those, whom they remissly introduce. As ministers keep the door of the sanctuary, they must answer to God, and to the souls of men, for such as they unwarrantably let in. Alas, how sunk is the credit and authority of councils; how do our churches lie mourning in the dust; how are ministers divided, and their influence dwindled away almost to nothing, through the want of vigilance and fidelity in those, who have the keys of Christ's Kingdom.
Finally, there is reason to think the most faithful ministers come short of their duty in this respect. Who is sufficiently affectionate, patient, laborious, discerning, and prayerful in examining those, who are candidates for ordination? And shall we fall even below those who come short of duty? Shall we desert those, who, in this evil day, aim to be faithful to their trust? Shall we go over to the side of those, who are not only lax in principle and supine in the discharge of the pastoral office, but are the most cumbersome, oppressive load, which lies upon the shoulders of the ministry? NEANISKOS.
N. B. Are not those ministers willing to examine candidates, who are willing to display their own theory? And are not those ministers averse from examining candidates, who for certain reasons are averse. at present from displaying their own tenets? Let facts determine.
FOR THE HOPKINSTAN MAGAZINE.
Reverend and Dear Sir:-As all the circumstances of the case of the lying spirit, favour the idea of bare permission on the part of God for that spirit to be in the false prophets, the assertion that God put it there, should not be understood absolutely. It is a law of language, that circumstances qualify words, and not words circumstances. Circumstances alone shew when terms should not be understood literally. To say that the spirit went under Divine influence, merely because God is said to have sent him, when, at the same time, all the other circumstances of the case convey the idea of mere permission, goes to establish a rule by which it would be impossible to prove any words figurative.