Page images

of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. iv. 11-16.

In this individual church, the laws and appointments of our great Master continue in force till his second advent. And therefore, when he sets forth the state of the ministry in this church, or in the spiritual kingdom upon earth, he represents himself as delivering to his confidential servants their several talents, with the express charge+ Occupy till I come. From the time of the Lord's departure till his return, these talents are not to be alienated by those who had received them. And though, during his absence, be does not visibly superintend the improve ment or abuse they make of his treasure; yet, at his second coming, he reckons with those servants to whom the charge has been committed, and denounces the judgment of those other subjects who, in the mean time, had despised his government,

To these things the attention of every Christian is seriously called. Even amongst men, how could he be deemed a faithfuk servant who should contemn the commands of his master the moment he sup

poses that his eye is not immediately upon him, and that his hand is not extended to direct that work which he has expressly en joined and disposed in regular order? But we have a Master who sees, and will justly recompense every work of man. And though, for a season, he has withdrawn his visible presence, in order to prove our fidelity, and the sincerity of our obedience to his laws, it is most assuredly to be expected, that, when he returns, he will have regard to the observance or neglect of those laws; and will not pass a light censure upon those who, taking advantage of his absence, have usurped the office of superintending his household, and wrested his authority out of the hands in which he had placed it.

As to those teachers who assert a divine appointment to the ministerial office, by virtue of a special and perceptible call of the Spirit, they exhibit no other proof of such a call, than the power of preaching extemporaneously; and upon this slight credential it is, that they apply to them selves the words of our Lord to his apostles

Take no thought beforehand, what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but

whatsoever shall be given you in that hour that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. (Mark, xiii. 11.) i JUUpon this subject I would observe that, although it be not the province of human judgment to meddle with the faith and pre cepts of the Gospel, yet it has its due place and office in matters of religion; and may be justly exercised upon such occasions as the present. And here an unbiassed judgment will clearly perceive, that any man of common abilities may acquire a habit of haranguing for an hour upon any general subject, without the smallest claim to inspiration. It is also to be observed, that many of these favoured teachers, not long ago, were accustomed to discourse upon political topics, with an eloquence equal to any which they display in their conventicles, and with a tendency which by no means indicated the direction of the Spirit of truth.sqr

It is not reasonable, therefore, that any man should give implicit credit to him who pretends to a supernatural power, till the presence of that power be demonstrated by some certain sign, or till it may be enforced

by fair argument. And the ecstatic feelings which the ministry of these men excites in! their audience, are no certain signs of the divine blessing upon their labours, or of the illumination of the Spirit: for effects still more extraordinary were produced by the, fanaticism of heathen priests, inasmuch as they created an opinion of inspiration, both in themselves and in others.

The demonstration of the Spirit, in the days of the apostles, consisted in the gift of miracles and prophecy. This was sufficient for, as God cannot deceive his creatures, no power can work a miracle in his name, but the power of God himself. But if this demonstration be now demanded, it will be replied, that it is no longer to be found in the visible church. The pretensions of these modern teachers must, therefore, be subjected to other proof. The Spirit of truth must be consistent with itself. It is not, then, to be supported in argument, that this Spirit should, in the days of our Lord and his apostles, and with the demonstration of miracles, have committed the work of the ministry to one order of men, officially appointed, and now, without any

[ocr errors]

demonstration at all, have placed it in the hands of others.

[ocr errors]

Again: the Spirit of God in the revela tion of the Gospel, and at the time when that revelation was supported by the evi dence of miracles, expressly enjoins the union of the flock of Christ, and forbids every degree of dissension and division. It cannot, then, be maintained that, in our days, and without any degree of evidence, the same Spirit should contradict itself, abrogate the laws of the Gospel, dissolve the union of the church, and authorise unlimited separation.

[ocr errors]

The Spirit of God in the Gospel enjoins the profession of one immutable faith, the admission of one consistent form of doc trine, and the observance of one orderly system of discipline. TRUTH IS STILL INVARIABLE. It is, therefore, impossible the Spirit of truth should at present teach a diversity of faiths, a variety of doctrinal systems, and an immunity from the laws of good ordered

Where there are divers systems, with regard to things thus essential, there must be error and corruption in some of the teachers.

[ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »