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to the end of the world, in the first, why not in the last ? seeing he commends it to elders, and calls them to follow it as well as the other. Thus the people may have their liber. iy, if they were delivered from that carnal notion of Christ's kingdom, that has no more real ground in the Old-Teltament prophesies, than the notion of the Jewish builders. This, and no present act of parliament or assembly, holds them in bondage ; and till they be delivered from it, com: plain as they will, they will never have true liberty to serve Christ according to the New Testament, and follow the foot. steps of his flock set before them there. If Mr Erskine would be so good to them as tell them this, it might perhaps get a better hearing from them : but it is still better they hear the truth from any body, than not all.
The Right of the CHRISTIAN PEOPLE, and
the Power of their PASTORS, in the ORDINATION of Ministers of the Gospel, asserred. With fonie Directions for REFORMATION.
[First published in the year 1733.]
F one would know the truth in any point touching reli
for the pre-eminence in this world, the kcenness of each faction must be far from him, and the less concern he has in the temporal interests of either side, he is the more fit to judge of the strength of their arguments, so far as these are able to instruct him in things that have a reference to eternity. In the heat of contention, every party snatches the readieft weapon for self-defence, or for the hurt of the adversary. And in this case something of the truth may be found on both sides, but mixed with a deal of falsehood; and in that field of battle it appears not like itself; it drudges there to the ambition, avarice, or fleshly ease of a set of men, and serves to promote the temporal interest of one faction upon the ruin of another; and is ready to be treated by either side according to the appearance it makes against their interest. Yet truth, where-ever it appears, demands regard ; and it is not the least part of the duty we owe it, to contribute to our power to deliver it from the slavery it is put to by them that want only to serve themselves of it.
Would it not move the indignation of any man that indeed believes the holy scriptures to be the words of eternal life, the words of God's grace, that teacheth us to deny ungod. liness and worldly lufts, and to look for that blessed hope, to see these scriptures wrested by all parties of men, contending for worldly pre-eminence in one shape or other, to answer their designs, and serve them in their malice and guile, hy. pocrisies, envies, and evil speakings against one another? In opposition to this, it becomes us to study the exhortation given us by the Apostle Peter, when he tells us, “ That all “ flesh is grass, but the word of the Lord endureth for “ ever," and calls us to lay aside all malice and guile, and, as new-born babes, to desire the sincere milk of the
word, word, that we may grow thereby, if so be we have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
There is no controversy more famous among us at this time than that concerning the right of the Christian people to elect their pastors, and the power of the pastors in that matter.
The people's right was not long ago debated with no small heat among the Episcopal diflenters from the established church; and these of them that found their interest in it pleaded most zealously for it, with all the criticisms on συγκαταψηφίζομαι and χειροτονεω, and all the quotations of the ancients that their reading could furnish them with; for all sorts of clergymen will stand up for the rights and liberties of the people, when they find this necessary to raise them. selves ; though, aside from that, it will take a power of grace to make a clergyman a hearty friend to the liberty of the Christian people. After much contention among these clergyman, they at length saw their interest lay in coming together, and such union of the clergy is not the most friend. ly thing in the world to the liberty of the laity. But we are now again amused with a very hot debate in the established church on the fame subject. And one would think there must be something in this right of the people, when no fort, of church-rulers are alhamed to have recourse to it on proper occasions; yea, they can glory in patronizing it, though, at the same time, it must be owned there is a principle (not ve: ry Christian) in the people, that inclines them to give good heed to those teachers that zealoufly proclaim their right, and make the loudest complaints to them of their superiors as in. croaching upon it. And this contention in the church is nog very unlike the strange bustle and confusion in the state about the excise-bili. Yet, because it pretends an interest in the scriptures, and a concern in religion, it demands the atten, tion of them that believe the scriptures, and would not desire to be utter strangers to any thing that pertains to true religion, let the interests of the differing parties be what they will. For whether this debate issue in their separation from one another, or their coming together on some general terms of agreement, (in both which cales we may suppose, from what has hitherto appeared, the clergy will see to themselves); yet the truth is the truth ftill; and something ought to be said for their fakes who may be honestly inquiring after it, let the number be never so small. For however whimsical they may appear that feck the truth without any worldly design, bus
with a respect to the world to come, no man's labour is ill bestowed in contributing to their satisfaction.
The question about the call to the ministry of the gospel or word of faith supposes the truth of that gospel ; and they that are so unhappy as to disbelieve it, cannot plead any concern in the question. They can go no further than this, that every man has a right to instruct his neighbour in every thing that is good for him to know, as far as he is able, and as is consistent with the good of the body-politic wherein they enjoy privileges together; and so it must be in the power of that body, to take care that it fuffer no damage by any pretended exercise of this right among the members. But as to the church or kingdom of Christ, his officers, and the whole or der of that society, they have nothing to do about it, except it be to thew their greatest dislike and contempt of whatsoever appears most agreeable to the gospel; though, after all, it cannot be reckoned exceeding discreet in them thus far to meddle with other mens matters, whereof they are not the most fit to judge. They are indeed sometimes called upon and appealed to by both parties in this and other questions about the Christian institution, when they plead reason and nature's light against one another, where they have least to fay from the scriptures; but this is their folly and weakness to inquire at the light of nature what a positive institution should be.
It is not a sign of the greatest regard to the gospel, in them that profess to believe it, to speak as if what the New Te. fament says of the ministry of the word and such things ferved only for that age wherein it was committed to writing. For if this were the case, why had we any thing but the es. sentials written to us in that book? And why do we observe and admire the divine providence in the prefervation of that book, in a focicty that corrupted the whole of Christianity, and in the bringing of it again forth to the view of the nations in their own languages, as his testimony against all the corruptions of that fame fociety? And may not these of that Roman church as well alledge, that the New Testament served indeed for the time wherein it was written; but as for after-ages, it belonged to them to adapt Christianity to these, as the New Testament was suited to that age? However, it is manifeft, they speak lies in hypocrify who make infinuations this way, to the discredit of the only rule of Christianity, and yet pretend, that the New Testament, and the practice of
the first Christians recorded there, is the rule of their cono sciences as to this matter of the people's right.
That the writings of the Old Testament and the New contain a complete revelation of the will of God to men cannot be denied without the highest reflection on the truth of that revelation, that plainly sets itself out as a declaration of the whole counsel of God, to which nothing can be added. The Old Testament plainly promised, in its conclusion, a further revelation, and the New Testament declares itself to be that revelation, while it concludes with a curse on them that add to it, as well as on them that take from it. If therefore the New Testament fay nothing on this question about NewTestament ministers, that depends entirely on the gospel, no man can say any thing of it that can be submitted to as a di. vine institution, unless it could be proved that the New Te. Itament has lodged a power in any man, or society of men, to say in this matter what they think fit, or to act in it as they please; and till this be done, which in all appearance will never be, we must rest ourselves content with what the scriptures say, and examine every thing that men tell us by that.
And, seeing the holy fcriptures contain a complete revela. tion of the will of God to men, no man can now pretend to be so called of God to the ministry of the word as the inspired men, whom he chused to give out that revelation, and to whose miflion he bore witness in an extraordinary manner. But what these men were to them that had the divine oracles from their mouths, that their writings are to us, as our Lord said of the writings of Moses and the prophets; “ they have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them; " and if they will not believe Mofes and the prophets, pei. “ ther will they be persuaded though one rose from the « dead.”
The question then is, How the holy scriptures declare that men are called to the office of feeding Christ's people by his word fully contained in these fcriptures ? For if the whole connfel of God be declared in them, and the ministry of the word of revelation depend wholly on that revelation, no man can lawfully pretend a call from God to give out the least addition to that revelation ; and as little can any pretend to be called of God to the ministry of the word already contained in the seriptures, but according to these feriptures; and every man that is called according to them has his call. The New-Teftament law speaks not fo clearly of any thing,