Page images
PDF
EPUB

As he there states an opposition betwixt his way and that of the Judaizers who minded earthly things, so here he states an opposition between living godly in Christ with suffering, and the way of the men contending for the form of godliness without the power of it: for he says," But evil men and « seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being de« ceived.He tells the Galatians how such men were Thunning the cross by corrupting the gospel, reconciling it some way to its enemies, especially in points whereat they were most enraged. And, in after ages, the desire of conformity to the world, and of friend!hip with it, worked in that same way, and produced the form of godliness with a denial of the power of it; and so men went farther and farther from the old purpose of conformity to a humbled Christ, and from the Christian patience of hope, till they began to think not only of escaping persecution themselves, but even of perfecuting others; fo that at length the form of godlinefs became an engine of persecution against the power of godliness, as well as a proper mean of strife and bloodthed among themselves, differing about the several parts of that form as their interests led them. And all this was carried on with the fairelt

pre. tences of zeal for the honour of Christ and Christian pru. dence ; yea, it became a principle of Christianity to perfecute; and the ancient doctrine of love to enemies, and patient bearing of wrongs, and the like, came to be as an old almanack calculated only for the time of Christ and his apostles. Therefore says the Apostle, “ All that will live godly in Christ Je.

sus Thall suffer ; but evil men and seducers shall wax worse " and worse, deceiving and being deceived."

Let them, therefore, that have reformation indeed at heart, Mew the same temper of mind that the Apostle oppo. fes to that of the Antichriftian generation. Let them sepa. rate themselves to live godly in Christ Jesus, defiring confor. mity to him in his humiliation, and shewing the hope of con. formity to him in his glory. And let not these men speak of their suffering as Christians, who are at the same time shewing the hope of large contributions for their life in this world, from an enraged multitude, and boasting in this, and in the hope of a numerous following, and a strong party to make head against another faction, yea, and profes. sing the principle of persecution, and of the extirpation of all sects but their own out of the nation, as soon as it shall be in their power, and that, they hope, will be after this evil day is over. For such, men will have a form of godliness

suited

ment.

suited unto these things wherein they boast, and shun every confession and practice in religion that appears inconsistent with these things, let it be never so clear in the New Testa

So their feparation cannot be a turning away from them that have a form of godliness denying the power of it, but a division from that form in one shape to establish it in another.

Let such as want to see gospel-reformation look on every opportunity of separating the cross and Christianity, by aba. ting a very little of its rigour, as a strong temptation and guard against it. Let them creat every occasion of rising in this world, and being avenged on their enemies, as our Lord treated the vogue of the multitude, and their purposes of making him a king. And while they give the stricteft obedience, and pay the greatest deference to magistrates, as the New Testament commands, and reject all them that are not afraid to speak evil of dignities, let them beware of all the tricks the clergy have been playing with the magistrate from the days of Constantine. But let them reckon them. selves, as every first church of the saints did, complete in Christ, the head of all principality and power, head over all the heavenly hosts, powers of heaven, powers of hell, and powers of the earth, unto the church which is his body, unto whom therefore every member of that body has a readier and more immediate access than to any of his vassals, on whom they must not depend, but hold that head under whom they are all working together for the good of his body the church; and whatever way they behave under the conduct of his providence, they are working together to bring the nations of them that are saved into the new Jerusalem, who have their dependence on none but their head; and all the powers in the creation, good or bad, are serving them, while they hold that head.

These three directions, given by the Apostle against the perils of the last times, are thus laid before the consciences of them, especially that thew any desire to escape these perils ; and, however these may treat them now, their consciences will one way or other answer upon them before the judgments seat of Christ.

[blocks in formation]

466

A Letter to Mr John WILLISON, on a paf

sage in his fynodical sermon, concerning I LLITERATE MINISTER S.

He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. • And

he gave some pastors and teachers,-for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come, &c. Eph. iv. 7.-14

And ye are complete in him, Col. ii. 8. 9. 10.

[First published in the year 1734.]

[ocr errors]

men

SIR,

' T no way surprises me, that when the cry of the danger

of the church is popular, you should appear as the au

thor of a fermon or pamphlet bearing that title ; but I confess I cannot fo easily understand how you imagine that your church is in danger from a sect which you say “is late“ ly risen among us, who decry the knowledge of human « arts and sciences, and of the languages, as unnecessary for “ gospel-ministers, and therefore make choice of illiterate

for that office." This complaint of illiterate ministers would have come more feasonably to your church, when they deposed Mell. Colvil and Ramsay, and licensed John Gillone, than at this day, when your feet is every where complaining of the church's danger, from men in respect of whom you your. selves are illiterate men. Your fathers, the covenanters, that abjured Independency, deposed two able ministers, and exceeding peaceable members of society, and set up an illiterate man to preach the gospel : but the men of letters, of whom you stand in fear, have only declared a few turbulent members of their fociety to be none of that society, of which they pretended to be a considerable part, while they would not walk orderly in it. And you cannot charge these men of letters with the crime of palming illiterate men upon you. The fect that makes choice of illiterate men for ministers is none of your society : their ministers are not, pretend not to be ministers of your church, and they impose their ministry upon none. It cannot be easily believed, that you are seeking to promote the welfare of that fect, in the warning you give of the danger of illiterate ministers : and as little can it be perceived, what is the danger of your church from such insignificant useless persons as you represent them to be. What have you to fear from such men as have neither skill nor power to handle against an adversary the only weapon they pretend to use? Or is your church in danger from the weakness of her adversaries? Yet if, while you are giving warning of your church's danger, you are allo so good as to point out to that sect its danger likewise, that seet is certainly obliged to you.

After all, who knows but perhaps you have a secret fear, that through these illiterate ministers “ your craft may be in

danger of being set at nought ;” and while you are far below the prevailing party in the knowledge of letters, and seek to excel in popular preaching, they may some way rival you in that among the people that know not letters, on whom you have the greatest influence? Yet I am of opinion, you need have no great fear on this head; when I consider the subject of their preaching, “ the kingdom of “ heaven, the kingdom that is not of this world ; ” which can never take with the multitude, as does the preaching of your covenanted kingdom ; and when I think on the strictness of their discipline, to which your followers, that can be esteemed good Christians at an easier rate, will not easily submit; especially when they must lose all their esteem among you as Christians, and become the objects of universal contempt the moment they submit to it.

Perhaps you have a suspicion, that, as it sometimes happens to the best fencers in duelling, even so it may posibly fare with you in a conflict with these fame illiterate men. А literate friend of yours (for so we must call you) made a fcornful attack, not long ago, upon some of these ministers; and all the authority he could display, all the grimace he was master of, was not fufficient to bear them down : Impudent fellows that they were! They handled their weapon in de. fence, till he thought he had enough of it, if he be capable of such a thought. But you are a little wiser. Your way, as far as it is above board, is, to show in your concio ad clerum, That the church is in danger from a set of men, to whom it is a great loss they want letters.

3 N 2

It had been still a question with me, if you indeed apprehended any danger to your church from these men, if your insinuation of a comparison to Julian, that infamous apo. ftate, had not betrayed your inward fear, or inclination to fill others with the greatest fear of danger from that airth; that all whom your comparison may touch, may be abhorred as haters of Zion, and that none who would be reckoned lovers of Zion may join issue with any whom you have been able to class with that infamous apostate. That this good end may be reached, you take care to make that Julian no better than he was. You say, the devil learned Julian to take away the maintenance of ministers, and put down their schools of learning; that he was guilty of robbing of ministers and schools of learning of their maintenance and revenues; and hereupon you agree with the observation of your fathers and predecessors, that he did more mischief to the church and her ministers than the bloody Dioclesian ; and you give this reason for it, That hereby he hindered a succession of able ministers in the church, while, when Dioclesian took many e. minent men away, there still arose others in their stead. The inference must be, that the church is in greater danger from the fect that you represent as joining issue with that Julian, than from the most bloody perfecutor. This ancient observation, and the reason you bring to support it, comes very natively from clergymen ; but you must excuse people of another character, if they cannot perceive the juftness of it, For they cannot think, that the church and her ministers en joyed any of these things by Dioclesian, whereof you say Ju. lian robbed them; and if the taking away the maintenance that they had not under Dioclefian, hindered a succession of able ministers in the time of Julian, which the taking away of their lives also could not hinder in the time of Dioclesian; it must be inferred, that these who desired the office of the ministry in Julian's time, were men of a very different fort from these that delired it in the time of Dioclefian. It may be a question, if Julian deprived the Christian ministry of any thing the gospel gave them ; and it has been also observed, that Constantine did more harm to the church than Julian and Dioclesian were capable to do, by their different ways of opposition to it : for that which ambitious covetous ministers reckon to be their interest, is not the interest of the profession of the name of Christ. It is certain, no true clergy man will join issue so far with Julian, as to declare these things unnecessary for them of which he deprived them; but

no

« PreviousContinue »