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But if its members refuse to provide a place in which the ungodly in their vicinity may hear the Gospel of salvation, or one which does not admit of their attendance, how can they discharge their duty towards them? The same general principles lead to the conclusion, that, without aiming at splendour in our places of worship, (which may be desired under the influence of the very worst feelings,) they should, if possible, be not barely comfortable, but in some measure attractive, that they may invite the attendance of those whose spiritual benefit ought to be especially contemplated in their erection.
Thirdly. By aggressive as well as by attractive measures; i. e., the Church must not only hold up the light of a holy example, and provide for an efficient administration of Divine ordinances, 'but it must employ every possible effort to diffuse the light of truth throughout the immediate vicinity, yea, to send it to the ends of the earth. It should go, by its emissaries, into the highways, and hedges, and compel men to come in, that the supper may be crowded with guests. Some plan of general operation should be devised, and carried into effect, under the guidance of the pastor, as the result of which the Gospel may be made known throughout the entire neighbourhood, so that its inhabitants may, at least, have an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the way of salvation. Failure, as it regards the success of these efforts, will doubtless pain, but it ought not to dispirit. Despair is always a bad counsellor : if the seed scattered by the sower does not spring up and bring forth fruit in this place, it may in that; if not at one time, it may at another. The voice says, “Be not weary in well doing, for in due time ye shall reap, if ye faint not.” Gal. vi. 9.
But the immediate vicinity should not bound the exertions of a Christian church; and where the active, enterprising, ardent, benevolent spirit of eminent personal religion exists, it cannot be restrained within such paltry
limits. Overleaping the enclosure, it expatiates at large; it aims to stimulate and strengthen the associated churches of the county in which it is located, and to aid them in their attempts to evangelize the whole of the district. It surveys the entire length and breadth of the nation ; entering with zeal into all those measures which are adapted to increase the number of the churches of the saints, and to provide for them a constant succession of pastors. Nor can the most distant boundary of the country limit its benevolence and its labours. The heart of Christianity is warm and expanded; its arms are far reaching, comprehending the world in their grasp. No church of the living God can, therefore, be satisfied till “ the whole earth is full of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the seas.”
It is the province of the church to evangelize the world : but as that work is far too mighty for the effort of any individual church, there should be a combination of churches for this purpose. Our missionary societies are not exactly combinations of churches; and, perhaps, on this account, their constitution and modes of procedure are not so perfect as it might be possible to render them: but, in spirit, the difference is so inconsiderable, that no Christian church, except one in name only, can hold back its support. It will aid by its exertions, its prayers, its pecuniary contributions.
THE OFFICERS OF A CHURCH.
These have been generally, and very properly, distinguished into ordinary and extraordinary. The extraordinary officers, comprehending prophets, apostles, evangelists, &c., were obviously appointed by the Redeemer to meet the emergency of the case. Christianity was then a new religion. No one, in the first instance, could in the slightest degree unfold its essential principles, its system of faith and practice, without a special revelation from God. And, even after the apostles had commenced their appropriate work of explaining and confirming the new religion, some time must necessarily elapse before any of those who received it could become qualified, by the use of ordinary means, to act as instructors of others. The Lord, therefore, graciously poured down upon the church a plentiful effusion of spiritual gifts. He qualified, by supernatural means, many men, besides the apostles, (whose specific work it was to plant the Gospel in the world by the power of that miraculous evidence which they were enabled to produce,) to act as pastors and teachers to the newly formed churches, until some of their members becoming, by ordinary means, fully instructed in the Gospel, should be able to edify their brethren, “to proa pagate their faith in the world, and to transmit it to posterity.” When this should have become the case, all supernatural gifts were to cease. Now, as Jehovah invariably effects by natural means what is within their
reach and competency, never employing others unless his purposes cannot be effected without them, we might have assumed, without information, both that, in the infancy of the church, it would share richly in miraculous endowments, and that, when it should reach a state of comparative maturity, these endowments would be withdrawn. We are not left, however, without information. The Apostle Paul distinctly declares the purpose for which they were bestowed, and in what state of the church they were to cease. “But unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ; for he saith, He ascended on high, he took captivity captive, he gave gifts to men. And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some pastors and teachers,” (i. e., extraordinary pastors and teachers, fitted for the work by miracle,) “ FOR (the sake of) FITTING THE SAINTS FOR THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY, for (in order to) the building of the body of Christ, TILL WE ALL COME TO THE UNITY OF THE FAITH, AND OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD, TO A PERFECT MAN, EVEN TO THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF. Christ.” Eph. iv. 7,,16.
The preceding account alone would require us to decide concerning the pretensions of certain men, in the present day, to be the successors of the apostles,—that they are both arrogant and baseless. It may, however, be stated, in addition, that the following qualifications were essential to an apostle. He must have seen Christ after his resurrection, for the apostles were ordained to be witnesses of the resurrection. Hence Paul, in proof of his apostleship, says, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, ix. 1, “ Have I not seen (referring to his journey to Damascus) the Lord ? ” It was again necessary that he should have the power of working miracles ; for that power was the exclusive prove of his Divine mission, * Truly,” said Paul to the Corinthians, 2nd Epistle, xii. 12, “the signs of an apostle were wrought among you," “in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." There can, accordingly, be no successors of the apostles at the present day. There are none who have seen the Lord-none who are endowed with supernatural gifts. The high pretensions of certain semi-papists to have received from the apostles, by an unbroken series of communication, authority to rule in the church of God, exclusively to ordain others to the Christian ministry, and to invest them with official power to communicate grace to their hearers, while they are themselves destitute of the divinely-required qualifications for the pastorate, and are, it may be, in a state of condemnation, might, perhaps, have obtained credence in the dark ages; certainly no Protestant understanding will admit them. We distinctly and most emphatically deny that any collection of bishops, even though the whole race were congregated together, could confer validity upon the ordination of a man who is not (as the apostle says he must be) apt to teach, who is not sober, of good behaviour,—who has not a good report of them who are without, &c. And we maintain, on the other hand, that-when the required qualifications (vide epistles to Timothy and Titus,) of “a good minister of Jesus Christ” centre in a certain individual, and he has been invited by a Christian church to take the oversight of them in the Lord, and has further been solemnly set apart to the pastorate by fasting and prayer, and by the imposition of the hands of the presbytery~he has the most perfect right to officiate, though no mitred hands have been laid upon his head. We maintain this, because, though we have repeatedly and carefully examined the inspired directory, we cannot find that what is usually meant by Episcopal ordination, is a divinely-required qualification for a Christian pastor.