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But, whilst we are laying aside the outward forms, we are far, very far indeed, from desiring to discourage the practice of true prayer. It is a duty which we owe to our great Creator ; and which the feelings of our own manifold wants and dangers, will often draw from the rightly concerned mind. It is indeed difficult to conceive, how any thing deserving the name of religion can be preserved without it. _“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation,"* is an injunction delivered by our Holy Head and High Priest; who in this, as in many other instances, has shown, that He was, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews expresses it, “touched with the feeling of our infirmities;" + for He immediately adds : 66 The spirit indeed is willing ; but the flesh is weak.”
In this commard, our blessed Lord sets forth both the necessity and the preparation for this great duty, which constitutes a very important part of religious worship. We are not to rush hastily or unpreparedly either into private or public prayer ; but, having our minds engaged in true watchfulness, or waiting for the Influence of the Holy Spirit upon the soul, we thereby become qualified to put up our petitions to the Father of Spirits, in such a manner as the impressions which He affords us of our wants shall indicate. And when we are brought into an humbling consideration of the many mercies and favours, of which we are unworthy partakers ; as the objects of creation, of redemption, and of that bountiful provision which is made for us; we shall find abundant cause frequently to offer that praise, by which the Almighty is glorified ; and of which He is, with the Son of his love, through the Eternal Spirit, for ever worthy.
After these remarks on religious worship, we proceed to the consideration of the subject of Gospel Ministry.
* Matt. xxvi, 41.
+ Heb. iv, 15.
The right qualification of those who occupy the station of ministers, is of great importance to every religious society. It will, I presume, be universally agreed to be, in the first place, necessary, that the principles and practice of these, should correspond with their profession and station ; and next, that they be called and qualified, according to the nature and principles of that religion, which they stand forth to espouse. To apply these self-evident rules to the Christian religion, under its various divisions, it must be deemed necessary for a gospel minister, that he possess a heartfelt conviction of the truths of Christianity, as well as of the principles of that particular society, of which he is a member; also that his moral conduct be such as the Gospel of Christ requires. When there is any material deficiency either in principle or practice, there is reason to fear that such will do more injury than benefit to the cause of religion ; as well as render themselves objects of disgust and contempt. 6 Unto the wicked God saith : What hast thou to do to declare my statutes; or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth; seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee?” *
As to the further qualification for a Gospel minister, although the definition already given may be generally agreed to, yet, in the application of it, there exists soine diversity of sentiment. As the nature and principles of the Christian religion are the same now as formerly, we conceive that the same Divine call and Influence, which qualified the early ministers and promulgators of the Gospel, should be, in a degree at least, experienced by its ministers to the end of the world : especially as we have no other qualification pointed out in the Holy Scriptures. This call was not of men, neither by man; but by Jesus Christ, and God the
* Psalm 1. 16, 17.
Father.” We believe that the same is inwardly and immediately received, by the true gospel ministers of the present day; and that, in the discharge of the duties of this sacred office, the renewed influences of Divine wisdom and strength should be waited for and experienced. Thus ministers are qualified to speak to the state of their hearers; and to baptize them into the Name (or Power] of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; thereby fulfilling that true commission for gospel ministry, given by our Saviour. Matt. xxviii. 19.
The foregoing qualifications correspond with the description, which the apostle Peter' gives of prophecy, and which we conceive to be descriptive of the essentials of a gospel minister. “ Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man : but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” ” . Thus we see, that both ancient prophecy and Gospel ministry came “not of men, nor by man;" that they required those who exercised them to be holy men of God; such as could say to others : 6 Walk, as ye have us for an example;" c and that, in performing the duties of these offices, they should speak “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" or in other words, ' as the “ Spirit gave them utterance.”d If ministers are not thus influenced and directed, we may expect the declaration respecting the prophets formerly, who ran and were not sent, to be verified : “ They shall not profit the people at all.” e Nor should this serious language be forgotten : 6 Wo unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing."
What is said respecting an inward call to the ministry, is by no means peculiar to our religious society. However the
a Gal. i. 1,
b 2 Peter i. 21. e Jer, xxiii. 32.
c Phil. iii. 17.
f Ezek, xiii. 3.
d Acts ii. 4.
doctrine of the Influence of the Spirit may be slighted by some, it is in this instance, as well as in its general influence and operation, clearly maintained by the Church of England, as appears by the following question put to those who apply to be admitted to the office of deacon : “ Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, to take upon you this office and ministration,” &c. The answer required is, “ I trust so.” This doctrine is also consistent with the general observation on the priesthood, made by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews : “ No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron."* The writings of the apostles abundantly show, not only whence they derived their commission, but also the Influence under which they exercised it: thus the apostle Paul says: 66 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.”+
From all these considerations, we believe, as is already stated, that it is necessary, in the first call to the ministry, to be “ inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost;" and that, in the various performances of this sacred office, the renewings of this Divine Influence and ability, should be waited for and experienced, as the most likely means to fulfil the apostolic exhortation : “ If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth ; that God in all things may be glorified, through Jesus Christ ; to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." I
From our views of this important subject, there arise a few points, in which we materially differ from most other professors of Christianity.
1.-In not considering human learning essential to a Gospel minister.
2.-In believing that no individual has a right to assume the exclusive exercise of this ministry, in a congregation of Christians ; but that all, both male and female, who are rightly moved thereto, may exercise this gift.
3.- That this ministry being, if rightly received, received freely and without any pecuniary expense to qualify for it, it therefore ought to be freely communicated ; and no further support expected by ministers, than what is authorized by Christ, and was practised by his apostles.
Upon each of these points it seems proper to make a few remarks.
On the first, very little appears necessary ; for if we consider the Holy Scriptures, and particularly the New Testament, as any guide to us in this matter, we shall not only find, that human literature is no where recommended for this office ; but likewise, that many of the apostles were illiterate men. It is also clear that the apostle Paul, though a man of learning, disclaimed the influence of it upon his ministry ; as appears from various parts of his epistles, particularly from the first and second chapters of the epistle to the Corinthians, of which the first five verses of the second chapter, appear especially worthy of notice : 6 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God : for I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling : and my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power : that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” *
* 1 Cor. ii. 1-5.