Imágenes de páginas

I might, secondly, urge the practice of the Christian church. In the first ages of Christianity a serious examination always preceded the ordination. Before any person could be regularly elected to any clerical office in the church, the electors and ordainers were obliged to examine him concerning his faith, his morals, and condition in life. The person elected was obliged to answer certain questions of doctrine. He was obliged to subscribe to a body of articles, or confession of faith, at the time of his ordination. The examination of his morals was very strict.*

Dr. Doddridge, in his account of the usual methods of ordination among Protestant Dissenters in England, gives the following description; "previously to the assembly for ordination, the credentials and testimonials of the candidate are produced, if it be requested by any who are to be concerned; and satisfaction as to his principles is also given to those who are to carry on the public work, generally by his communicating to them the confession of his faith which he has drawn up; in which it is expected, that the great doctrines of Christianity should be touched upon in a proper order, and his persuasion of them plainly and seriously expressed in such words as he judges most convenient. And we generally think this a proper and happy medium, between the indolence of acquiescing in a general declaration of believing the Christian religion, without declaring what it is apprehended to be, and the severity of demanding a subscription to any

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

set of articles, where if an honest man, who believes all the rest, scruples any one article, phrase, or word, he is as effectually excluded, as if he rejected the whole.

"The pastors, who are to bear their part in the public work, having been thus in their consciences satisfied, that the person offering himself to ordination, is duly qualified for the Christian ministry, and regularly called to the full exercise of it, they proceed at the appointed time and place to consecrate him to it, and to recommend him to the grace and blessing of God."t

The same is true of the excellent fathers of New-England. We may apply to them the saying of Calvin respecting primitive ministers; "whereas they understood that, when they engaged to ordain ministers, they engaged in a most important matter; they durst attempt nothing, but with great reverence and carefulness.”

Such has been the practice of the Christian church in the best ages. And it is surely no sign of wisdom, to despise the footsteps of Christ's flock.

The general practice of enlightened men in cases far less important may be mentioned as another reason for examinations. Without a strict examination, a young man cannot be admitted a member of college. A man must pass through a long and minute examination before our medical societies, in order to obtain license to practise the art of healing. Our laws wisely direct, that the low est class of schoolmasters shall


† Appendix to his charge at thạ ordination of the Rev. Mr. Tozer.

not be employed without inquiry believes the truths of the gospel, into their qualifications. And or loves the Redeemer. shall men be introduced into the ministry, an office infinitely more important than any other, with little, or no attention to their qualifications Shall the children of this world be wiser in this respect too, than the chil dren of light? Shall Christians guard the interests of Christ's kingdom with less care than others do their temporal interests?

The very nature of the trans actions, in which an ordaining council are engaged, shews the propriety of examinations. How can they, by vote, express their satisfaction with the qualifications of the candidate, when those qualifications have never been the subject of inquiry? Is it not presumption to take it for granted, that every one who offers himself for ordination, is fit for the ministry? Can all be considered as sufficiently furnished for that momentous work, who have had a public education? Do not many leave college as they entered it, “with skulls that cannot teach and will not learn?" If graduates are well acquainted with science, is not their conduct often irregular and reproachful? And if their outward conduct is respectable, are they not, frequently, ignorant of Christianity, and visibly destitute of true godliness? With what propriety, then, or consistency, with what fidelity to God, or to the souls of men, can a council proceed solemnly to ordain one, whose preparation for the ministry has undergone no examination? How absurd, to embrace a man, as a gospel minister, and recommend him as such to the people, when they have no definite evidence that he

With this is connected another consideration; that if the practice of examining candidates be set aside, the churches will be in danger of being imposed upon by unqualified ministers. If there be no inquiry concerning the learning, the belief, and the personal religion of candidates; those whose belief is extremely erroneous, and who are destitute of learning and piety, may without difficulty obtain ordination. When we deny the necessity of examination, and give up the principle on which it rests, we open a door for the admission of all who apply, and practically declare, that neither literary, moral, nor religious character is of any consequence in gospel ministers.

I shall only add, that a serious examination of candidates is attended with many advantages. It has a desirable influence on the council, calling up their atten tion anew to the great truths of the gospel and the interests of Christ's kingdom, and thus preparing them to engage with a proper spirit in public transac tions. If the candidate give evidence of being well qualified for the ministry, it prepares them to embrace him with cordial affec tion, and to live with him in the most happy friendship. The practice has a salutary tendency respecting the people, with whom the candidate is connected. To know that he was not ordained rashly, but after diligent and prayerful examination was found well qualified, would naturally dispose them to receive benefit from his labours. mation would prepare the way

This infor

for his general usefulness and acceptance. The effect of the practice here defended, would be beneficial to those who contemplate the ministry as their profession. While its direct influence would be to prevent bad men from seeking to intrude themselves into the sacred office, it would excite others, of a hopeful character, to pious diligence in completing their preparation. This subject deserves the serious consideration of gospel ministers. When they are called to act in councils, neither love of popularity nor dread of reproach, nor any other motive, should deter them from acting faithfully. "Neither friendship, nor compassion, nor interest, nor importunity, should move them to bring any into the church, who is not, as they firmly believe in their conscience, in every respect duly qualified for its service. Friendship for any man, in this respect, is enmity against God. Compassion to an individual is cruelty to the community."*

Those members of councils, who oppose examinations, as sume what does not belong to them. It is the right and duty of every member to use all proper methods to obtain satisfaction respecting the candidate. Shall any be required to act with blind, implicit confidence in others? Shall they be deprived of the satisfaction, which a careful examination might afford? Shall an imposing vote of the majority keep them from making suitable inquiries respecting the religious sentiments of him whom they are called to ordain? This

Dr. Smith's Lectures on the Saered Office.

would be a palpable infringement of the rights of councils, and of churches.

How great is the criminality of those, who carelessly bring into the sacred office, such as ought to have neither part nor lot in it. They are in effect partakers of other men's sins. They are responsible for the error, the impiety, and the hurtful influence of those, whom they remissly introduce. They keep the door of the sanctuary, and must answer to God and to the souls of men for those whom they admit. Alas, how sunk is the credit and usefulness of councils; how do our churches lie mourning in the dust; how is the ministry divided, and its influence dwindled almost to nothing, through the want of vigilance and fidelity in those, who have the keys of Christ's kingdom. Let us, then, join with them, who, in this evil day, aim to be faithful to their trust, and seriously guard against countenancing those, who are not only lax in principle, and supine in the discharge of pastoral duty, but are the most cumbrous, oppressive load upon the shoulders of the ministry.



BELIEVERS Consider the righteousness of Christ, as the only foundation of their forgiveness and salvation. If he had not obeyed the law and suffered death, there would have been no way, in which pardoning mercy and saving love could be exercised toward sinners. "Without


the shedding of blood is no remission." But since Christ hath offered himself, a sacrifice for sin, God can be just and yet justify him that believeth. Believers know, that the foundation, on which they build their hopes of happiness, is firm and immoveable. But such a foundation could not be laid, except by a self-sufficient and unchangeable Being. The hope of believers rests on Christ, the Rock of Ages. Hence their hope may well be called, "an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast." But Christ could not be such a firm foundation of hope, were he not GOD as well as man. Our hope of pardon and salvation, must, therefore, involve an unwavering confidence in the infinite power and grace of the Redeemer.

To illustrate and establish this sentiment more fully, let us attend to the following train of reflections.

The obedience and sufferings of Christ derive all their merit from the union of Divinity with his human nature. There is "one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." It was necessary that he should be man, that the nature, which had sinned, might obey and suffer. Divinity is incapable of obedience or suffering. The Son of God, therefore, took upon him the human nature, that he might obey the precepts, and suffer the penalty of that law, which man had broken. But Christ is not merely human. He is "God manifest in the flesh." It was necessary, that he should be God, that he might be qualified to bring in that perfect righteousness through which sinners can be pardoned; to sanctify their

depraved hearts; to introduce believers into the presence of God, and give them a place in the kingdom of everlasting blessedness.

If Christ were a mere man, there would be no real, inherent merit, or efficacy in what he did and suffered, any more than in the actions and sufferings of such eminently good men, as Abraham, and Paul. If only the sacrifice of a mere creature, posses. sing perfect holiness, had been necessary, one of the elect angels might have been designated as Redeemer, and the Son of God spared. But all the divine perfections were requisite to qualify a being for the work of atonement. No being but the Son of God, in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, had sufficient power and dignity to fulfil the office of Mediator.

The objector may say, that, although Christ were not God, the Father might have accepted his sufferings, as an adequate price of pardon and salvation. This objection rests on the idea, that the merit, by which the sinner is justified, consists simply in the will of the Father, and not, in any degree, in the dignity and work of the Saviour. But the scriptures represent this subject in a very different point of light. They inform us, that Christ hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; that by one offering he hath perfected forever them who are sanctified; and that by the obedience of one many shall be made righteous. These passages plainly teach us, that sinners are justified by virtue of the obedience and death of Christ; that our salvation is the effect of his

own intrinsic worth. As he has thus merited and purchased eternal happiness for his friends, he is represented, as bestowing it upon them by his own power, and according to his own sovereign pleasure. "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” Upon his divine and eternal existence depend their security and glory. "Because I live, ye shall live also." He is the author of eternal salvation to them who believe. His coming into the world and suffering death, was the consequence of his having been appointed to the office of a Saviour. But his appointment to the work was not the ground of his merit. The merit of his death, and the efficacy of his blood arise from his own divine excellence. As it is impossible, that any original merit should belong to a finite being; all the merit of Christ's death must flow from his divinity.

By attending to the apostle's reasoning, Heb. vii. we shall find, that he infers his ability to save sinners from his divine perfection. By showing the superior ity of Christ's priesthood above that of Aaron, and proving it to be eternal, he establishes the doctrine of his sufficiency for the work of redemption. "But this man, because he continueth forever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost, who come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." The apostle's argument rests on the unchangeableness and eternity of the Redeemer; and these are incommunicable per.

Hence it

fections of Jehovah.
is evident, that our hope of sal-
vation must rest on the divine
character of Christ.
some just views of the scheme
of redemption, and of the divine
character of the Saviour, we can-
not have a hope, which the gos
pel will authorize, of enjoying
éternal salvation.

They, who have had a proper
sense of the evil of sin and the
strictness of the divine law, are
fully convinced that none but a
divine Being could make an ad-
equate atonement. So exceed.
ingly hateful is sin in the sight
of God, that the most exalted
creature could do nothing to pro-
cure forgiveness. The divine
law is so holy, so inflexibly just,
that it would have forever pre-
vented the salvation of sinners,
unless full satisfaction had been
made to its injured authority.
They, who are taught of God,
clearly see, that none but a be-
ing of spotless purity and infinite
dignity could make that satisfac-
tion; that none, but the divine
Lawgiver, could so vindicate and
honour the broken law, as to
render the salvation of sinners
consistent with his just and holy
government. Thus their hope
of being delivered from
guilt and punishment of sin rests
entirely on the divinity of the
Lord Jesus, who made the atone-



Let it be added, that scripture often represents the Saviour, as being God; and always holds up, as the object of our faith, a Being of divine perfection. "I am God, and beside me there is no Saviour. Look unto me, and be saved. To the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory," &c. But we know that sinners are

« AnteriorContinuar »