« AnteriorContinuar »
Hence Paul, who instructed his son Timothy to imitate him in all things, admonished him to instruct some opponents "with all meekness," and "sharply to rebuke and confute others." So did Peter and Jude in their epistles. "Make a difference," says Jude, "between those who are complainers, who walk according to their own lusts, whose mouths speak great swelling words, and admire men's persons for the sake of gain;" have compassion upon other errorists; save them with fear, hating the garments spotted with the pollutions of the flesh." No man spoke more severely of certain teachers than Peter in his second epistle. We must, in all our controversies, make the same differences. When we find persons, like Balaam, obstinately intent on covetous courses, for the sake of others we must not spare them. But courtesy and benevolence will be our best guides; and a good example will often achieve more than a thousand arguments.
To your posts, then, O Israel! Remember you have enlisted not for six months, like some of our sectarian militia; but you have vowed allegiance during the war. Fight the good fight of faith." Keep your eyes upon the Captain; and when the conflict is over he will cover you with laurels which will never wither, and bestow upon you a crown of righteousness which fadeth not away. A. C.
THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
[From the Christian Baptist, Vol. I.]
THE CLERGY.-NO. I.
No class or order of men that ever appeared on earth have obtained so much influence, or acquired so complete an ascendancy over the human mind, as the Clergy. The Christian Clergy have exercised, for about fifteen hundred years, a sovereign dominion over the Bible, the consciences, and the religious sentiments of all nations professing Christianity. Even Kings and Emperors bowed with deference to their authority, acknowledging their supremacy, and not daring to wield the sceptre until consecrated and crowned by a minister of religion. Though vials of wrath have
been poured from Heaven upon the kingdom of the Clergy; though many of them have gnawed their tongues and bit their lips with pain at the loss of their former magnificent and mighty sway—yet, still their dominion, though much impaired, exists to an alarming extent, and their eagerness to have an unrivalled controul over the public sentiment in all religious affairs remains unabated. Behold the arrogance of their claims! and the peerless haughtiness of their pretensions! They have said, and of them many still say, they have an exclusive right, an official right, to affix the proper interpretation to the Scriptures; to expound them in public assemblies, insomuch that it would be presumptuous in a layman to attempt to exercise any of those functions which they have assumed. They must "Christen" the new born infant; they must catechise and confirm the tender stripling; they must celebrate the rites of matrimony; they must dispense all ordinances in religion; they must attend the corpse to its grave, preach a funeral sermon, and consecrate the very ground on which it is laid. This dominion they at first obtained by slow degrees, but from its great antiquity and general prevalence it is almost universally acquiesced in, approved, yea, even admired by the devout community. From this dominion over the feelings and consciences of mankind, it was not difficult to slide the hand into the purse of the superstitious. The most artful, and, indeed, the most effectual way, to get a hold of the purse, is to get a hold of the conscience. The deeper the impression is made on the one, the deeper the draft on the other. Thus it came to pass that the Clergy obtained worldly establishments, enriched themselves, and became an order as powerful in the State as in the Church. The history of France before the Revolution, and of Spain until the establishment of the Constitution and the Cortes, is a convincing proof of the truth of these positions. Niles, in his Weekly Register, informs us, that in Spain before the Revolution, "the number of secular clergy, monks, and friars, &c., was 148,242. Nuns and religious women, 32,000-total, 180,242. These persons occupied 3000 convents." 66 "The property," adds the same writer, belonging to the clergy, in lands and buildings, amounted to the enormous sum of eight hundred and twenty-nine millions of
dollars! exclusive of tithes and various other taxes and dues."
In the kingdom of the Clergy there are many ranks and degrees, as respects influence, authority, wealth, and dignity. From the haughty Pontiff that sits upon the throne of an imaginary St. Peter, down to the poor Curate that sells his fifty-two sermons per annum, for a starving advance of twenty per cent. on the first cost; what a diversity of rank, of authority, of wealth, and dignity!! Perhaps it may be said that the kingdom of the Clergy was designed to bear a resemblance to the kingdom of nature, which exhibits an endless variety, that it may please, delight, and instruct us. Thus, from the mighty elephant down to the oyster that clings to its native rock, what a variety! And from the gorgeous majesty and wide dominion of his holiness, down to the humble class-leader, marching at the head of twelve "candidates for immortality," what a diversity! But with all this diversity, what a unity of spirit, of aim, and of pursuit! The class-leader would become a local preacher; the local preacher a circuit-rider; the circuitrider a presiding elder; and the presiding elder a bishop. Then the highest round of the ladder is possessed. No further exaltation; no higher preferment in one province of the kingdom of the Clergy. But in another province of the same kingdom, there is a greater diversity of gifts, honours, and emoluments; but still the spirit, and temper, and aim, are one and the same. The Bishop is an inferior dignitary in another province of this realm; he views with envious eyes the superior dignity of the Lord Archbishop, and when promoted to this honour, his ambition is circumscribed by his circumstances. Every member, then, of this kingdom of priests is aiming for one and the same object; and though in other provinces, the ranks may be fewer, and the honours less, the desires, and aims, and pursuits of the priesthood are specifically the same. To say that every individual of this nation of Clergy is actuated by such motives, and such only, is very far from our intention. There have been good and pious Kings, and there are good and pious clergy. Yet we confess it is much easier to be a good and pious King, than a good and pious clergyman. There are, in the Christian religion, constitutional principles that
must be trampled upon, before a man becomes a priest; but none that impede his advancement to the throne as a President or as a King. The exceptions to the general spirit and aim of the Clergy, are, however, so few, that we may safely ascribe to them, as an order of men, the above views, aims, and pursuits.
But to descend from general to particular remarks on the kingdom of the Clergy, let us inquire how they came to invest themselves with such authority and dominion? If we mistake not, they acquired their authority and dominion by the use of two grand means; the first is that of an alleged special call of God to what is commonly called the work of the ministry; the other, the necessity of a consociation of these called ones, for the better administration of their government, and the securing what were called the interests of the Church. Many sermons have been delivered on the necessity and importance of a special call to the ministry, on the necessity and importance of the confederation of the ministry, in the form of general councils, synods, assemblies, associations, and conferences, in order to their securing the interests of religion, which seem so completely identified with the interests of the Clergy, that many have been tempted to think that the phrase, "the interests of religion," means the interests of the clergy.
Now, although I feel myself as able to demonstrate and prove that both the one and the other of these positions are false, as I am to prove that there is a God, the Creator of Heaven and earth; yet, I cheerfully admit that there are now, and there were formerly, many good men who have advocated the necessity, and expatiated on the importance, of a special call of the Holy Spirit to the work of teaching the Christian religion, and also, who have earnestly contended for that confederation of the ministers of religion as above stated. Nay, that many good and eminent men have really thought such things indispensable to the promotion of Christianity. But shall we be deterred from examining any principle because good and great men have espoused it? Nay, verily! Should we adopt this course all examination of principle is at an end. We shall then
venture to ask one of these called ones to furnish us with the evidences of his having been specially called by the
Holy Spirit, to the preaching and teaching of the Christian religion. The purposes to be answered by such a call, it is replied, render it necessary. What then are the purposes to be answered by such a call? It is answered, that they are two; first, the qualification of the preacher himself; and, secondly, the regard to be paid to the instructions which he communicates. Doubtless, then, it is necessary that the call be evidenced to those to whom he is sent. For if the instructions are the more to be regarded because of the preacher's call by the Holy Spirit, it is absolutely necessary that his call be well authenticated that his instructions may be well received. It must either be criminal or not criminal to disregard the instructions of a teacher of the Christian religion. On the supposition of its being criminal, the criminality must arise from the neglect or despite of his authority to instruct; but his authority to instruct must be rendered apparent and manifest before it is criminal to neglect or despise it; therefore, it is necessary that he demonstrate his authority, to render it criminal to neglect or despise his instructions. How then does he demonstrate his authority? By producing a licence, or a certificate, from Papists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, or Baptists, that they considered him competent and authorised to preach and teach Christianity. Does this prove that he is called of God? No, assuredly; for then God calls men to preach different gospels, and to teach different kinds of Christianity!! This will not satisfy the conscientious. Will his saying or his swearing that he is moved by the Holy Spirit to preach and teach Christianity prove that he is so moved? No; for many have thought that they were so moved, who afterwards declared and exhibited that they were mistaken. And many have said that they were so moved by the Holy Spirit, who were conscious at the moment that they were not so moved, but sought the office for filthy lucre's sake. Nothing of this kind will be admitted as evidence that any man is specially moved by the Holy Spirit to preach or teach the Christian religion. Neither a licence from any established sect, nor his own saying or swearing that he is specially moved by the Holy Spirit to the preaching or teaching of the Christian religion, is a proof sufficient to