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Procrustian bed and have our limbs mangled. If this is the use to be made of creeds, I say, away with them. They should have no place in a Christian Church. Says the creedman-"but few cases of intolerance have occurred under the use of creeds." Is it so? I believe every case has occurred under their use. Was not this the great point of controversy in the Reformation? The catholic church attempted to chain the Reformers to their creed, and they would not be chained. If there has been but few in these days, if now and then a Hill and a Belden only has fallen under the condemnation of the creed, it is in most cases because the creed has first destroyed the independence of the ministry. Ministers have not had the courage to stand forth and meet the combined influence of the Church. They have not been willing to have the unenviable notoriety of being the mark for the envenomed shafts of a whole communion. They have preferred to get along as well as they could with the error, while they have urged what they could of the adopted creed. In the various sects discussions have been stifled, and independent minds have been crippled in this way, which might have emancipated the world from the dominion of error. Like Sampson shorn of his locks, they have been shorn of their independence and have become like other men. and then one has arisen and broken the shackles, and carried off the gates which party had set up. Their hearts were too big to be confined by sectarian prejudice and bigotry. They have been independent men. The world has acknowledged their power, and by and by the point has been gained for which they contended. Here the Church has rested, as though it had reached its ultima Thule, till some other master spirit has arisen to advance another step towards emancipating the Church and the world. They would have been like other men had they not retained their independence and manliness. They have felt their responsibility in thinking for themselves, and the world has felt their power.
In general it has been far otherwise. Ministers have been greatly deficient in independence. The Calvinist must think just as Calvin did; the Methodist must think with Wesley, or lose caste; the Baptist must follow his creed, or be disowned. The right of private judgment is denied. In such a case, what privilege has the minister of Christ to use his own mind in determining what the Bible teaches. He must give his independence I had almost said his manhood-to the creed. If he dares maintain his own views he is immediately arraign
ed as a heretic. The creed is the law book by which he is to stand or fall. He is denied the privilege of appealing to the Bible as umpire in the case. The creed is placed above the Word of God. Nothing is left for him but to submit or be disowned; kiss the cross or die; fall down to the creed or be cast out. In this way the creed becomes established. All yield homage thereto, unless a John Huss or a John Knox arises. Wo be to him unless he is able to carry his point. From the use made of creeds they have been a great draw back to the Church. They have crippled independent thought, and nothing can prosper where the liberty of thought is abridged.
THE IMPORTANCE OF AN INDEPENDENT MINISTRY.
This will be generally admitted. It is well known that nothing great can spring up and flourish when thought is bound. Truth never imposes fetters. It gives the mind ample scope for all its energies.
1. Independence makes an efficient ministry.
As the object of such a ministry is not to please men, but God who searcheth the heart, it can depend upon nothing short of the arm of God. Its expectations are from him alone. This sense of dependence is one of the best guarantees of success. Again the course which such a ministry must adopt in the presentation of truth contributes to make it feel its entire dependence on God. Appearances will often be against him. He will meet with opposition. His course lies directly across the sins and the prejudices of community. He will sometimes feel like Elijah," and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away." Under such circumstances where else can he go but to God. He is shut up to the faith. Without this no one can be very efficient. Again, a bold and faithful minister will present truth in such a manner and of such a kind as to render his administrations more efficient. He will assail the prevailing views of community. Popular sins will be rebuked. Like Richard Baxter he will not spare the rich nor the great. It is said of him, that he showed the same boldness in reproving kings as he did in reproving peasants. Such a minister will not be all the while preaching to people on the other side of the globe. Nor will he be careful to use the third person when he is addressing the second. The backslider is admonished, thehypocrite unmasked, the careless warned, and all pointed to the Lamb of God who taketh away the of the world. All are interested in such a ministration. Some may oppose,
but it is because truth has made a lodgment in their hearts. It has enlightened their consciences and convicted them of sin. In his appeals there is no timidity, as though he was afraid lest he might offend some one. He preaches the word boldly. He feels the solemnity and dignity of his office as an accredited messenger of Heaven's King. Every one who hears him feels as though the things he utters are living realities. There is no room left for conjecture. He knows whereof he affirms. Under such an administration of the word the Church is sanctified and the ungodly convicted and converted. These are the legitimate results of an independent ministry. It may be called to meet sore trials, to contend with violent and strong opposition, but it has the promise and the grace of God to support it. Opposition only awakens its energies and reveals its hidden resources.
Paul is a notable example of the efficiency of an independent ministry. We know his success, and we are told again and again that he preached the word boldly. It was under such preaching that Agrippa cried out, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian;" that Felix trembled while he reasoned of righteousness, temperance and a judgment to come;" that Dyonisius and Damaris were converted under his first sermon. Wherever he went, men felt. Some were violently opposed, others submitted to the truth. No one could long be indifferent.
Such too was the ministration of Richard Baxter. It mattered not whether he addressed common people or a parliament; whether king Charles sat before him, or a peasant. He used the same fidelity. He made the same pointed and direct appeals. He did not seem to ask his auditors whether they were pleased or displeased.
Jonathan Edwards belonged to the same class of ministers. When he knew the will of God the fear of losing his living never deterred him from his duty. Thus we find him entering into all the measures which promised good, though greatly opposed by the self styled conservatives of his day. All these were efficient men. Nor do they stand alone. Luther, Wesley, Whitfield and a host of others were, like them, decided and independent men.
I cannot but view the great inefficiency of the ministry to be owing to its great servility. This may not be the root of If there was more spirituality and devotion there would be more genuine independence. I do not believe the mass of the ministry are aware of its servile condition. Why
did not ministers at once espouse the cause of temperance? They certainly knew the extent of the evil. And why have they been so slow to speak for the dumb, for our poor, enslaved countrymen? They do not deny the criminality of slavery, nor their responsibilities in its continuance as members of the government. The cause you can see in the general state of society, in the state of their own congregations, and in the position of their ecclesiastical bodies. The same may be said in relation to other popular and prevailing evils. When public sentiment gets right they are with it. They seem to go with public opinion. Instead of this the ministry ought certainly to lead public opinion, to transform it where it is wrong. It is presumed that they are better informed in respect to the nature of, and remedy for, such evils, and are therefore well qualified to lead the people in removing them.
By not doing this they have lost that hold upon the public conscience which their position ought to give them. There has not been that strong attachment to principle and that independence in avowing it which become those who are commissioned by the King of Heaven.
2. Independence makes a strong ministry.
The strength of any class of men depends very much on what they lean upon for help. Do they lean on man or on God? They have no more strength than that arm can give them upon which they rest. If they rest on the arm of God they have all the strength which that arm can impart to them. This is the sole dependence of this kind of ministry. They look not to man for help, nor do they depend on appearances. Their expectations are from God. In the integrity of their hearts and with the honest convictions of the righteousness of their cause a small number become a host. Right is might at any time. In such a cause one can chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight." If his position is attacked, he feels that you are trying to batter down the throne of God. The very opposition only increases his strength: for he takes a stronger hold upon God. Like Paul he, can say, "Christ strengthening me I can do all things." Such men have extorted confessions from unwilling lips. Even the proud scribe and bigoted priest marvelled when they saw the boldness of Peter and John. They felt the power of their appeals. The same is still the case. Let a minister of Jesus take his stand on the side of truth, let him espouse the cause of righteousness and he will have power over the consciences of men however they may oppose him.
In another point of view his influence is greatly increased by such a course. He is known as a consistent man. People know where to find him. He is not like the vane to our churches, turning as often as the wind changes. He has no ndia-rubber conscience. You expect to find him to-morrow where he is to-day. He does not suppose truth depends upon the weight of his purse nor upon the amount of his reputation. His character becomes fixed. Every one is interested to know where he stands upon every moral question. His influence is not confined at home, nor is it to his natural life. Being dead he speaks by his posthumous influence. If any minister thinks to add to his strength by flattering people, by winking at their sins and by justifying their prejudices he is greatly deceived. It is just the way to lose the hold you have on the conscience. Look at the influence of this course at the present time in our country. The great majority of our ministers have taken no decided stand against the awful sin of slavery. The consequence is a great many have lost confidence in them. We have not a strong ministry. Where will you go to find it. Not to New York, nor to Boston, nor to Cincinnati. Only let a Beecher or a Beman take thorough anti-slavery ground and they would more than double their strength in a single year. We have but few Boanerges in this age. We have men that might wake up this whole nation if they would only stand forth in the majesty of eternal truth. Most have fallen into the current of public opinion, and are floating along down with it. Who cannot see that in many respects if they would stem the current and sometimes face the storm, they would be stronger men.
3. Independence makes a pure and devoted ministry.
As the waters of the ocean purify themselves by their own motion, so the principles and practice which such a ministry adopt tend to sanctify and purify it and assimilate it to God upon whom it leans.
4. It makes an Orthodox ministry.
After all creeds are a poor protection to orthodoxy. What is that orthodoxy worth which results only from the servility of the ministry, and which embraces this and that tenet because the creed contains it? Every article is silently acquiesced in till there is a gradual and imperceptible change, and the majority go over to error. On the other hand, as independence gives efficiency and strength to the ministry, it serves to keep it in the truth. It is not held by unwilling cords. It has liberty. It can range the rich fields of truth,