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and aims only to oblige him so far as to keep him in tolerably good humour, it is what cannot be endured ; he must be first, or nothing; and such is the claim of heaven. Secondly : It is owing to this, among other causes, that many Christians go from year to year in doubt, with respect to their interest in Christ and spiritual blessings.-It is very desirable to have clear and satisfactory views on this subject. To live in suspense on a matter of such importance, must, if we be not sunk in insensibility, be miserable. How is it that so much of this prevails among us ; when, if we look into the New Testament, we shall scarcely see an instance of it among the primitive Christians ? Shall we cast off all such characters as unbelievers ? Some have done so, alleging that it is impossible for a person to be a believer without being conscious of it. Surely this is too much ; for if the grace of God within us, whatever be its degree, must needs be self-evident to us, why are we directed to keep his commandments as the means of knowing that we know him * The primitive Christians, however, had but little of this fear; and the reason of it was, they had more of that perfect love to Christ, to the gospel, and to the success of it, than we have, which tended to cast out fear. If we make our personal comfort the first object of our pursuit, (and many attend the means of grace as if they did,) God will make it the last of his : for it is a general principle in the divine administration, He that honoureth me, I will honour; but he that despiseth me shall be lightly esteemed. If we seek the honour of God, we shall find our own peace and comfort in it: but if we make light of him, he will make light of us, and leave us to pass our days in darkness and suspense. Thirdly : It is owing, if I mistake not, to the same cause that various denominations of Christians, who at some periods have been greatly blessed of God, have declined as to their spiritual prosperity. Several of our religious denominations have arisen from a conscientious desire to restore Christianity to its primitive purity. From this motive acted, I believe, the greater part of the Reformers, the Puritans, the Non-conformists, and the Baptists. I do not know that any one of these denominations were Wol. VIII. 45
censurable for the separations which they made from other professing Christian?. It may be alleged, that they have torn the church of Christ into parties, and so occasioned much evil: yet some of them did not separate from the church of Christ, but from a worldly community calling itself by that name; and those who did, pretended not to be the only people of God in the world, but considered themselves merely as withdrawing from brethren who walked disorderly. It is a melancholy fact, however that no sooner have a people formed themselves into a new denomination, than they are in the utmost danger of concentrating almost all their strength, influence, zeal, prayers, and endeavours, for its support; not as a part of Christ's visible kingdom, wishing all good to other parts, in so far as they follow Christ, but as though it were the whole of it, and as though all true religion were circumscribed within its hallowed pale. This is the essence of a sectarian spirit, and the bane of Christianity. - .
I am a Dissenter, and a Baptist. If I confine my remarks to the faults of these denominations, it is not because I consider them as greater sinners in this way than all others, but because I wish more especially to correct the evils of my own connexions.
If we wish to promote the dissenting interest, it must not be by expending our principal zeal in endeavouring to make men dissenters, but in making dissenters and others, Christians. The principles of dissent, however just and important, are not to be compared with the glorious gospel of the blessed God ; and if inculcated at the expense of it, it is no better than tithing mint and cummin, to the omitting of the weightier matters of the law. Such endeavours will be blasted, and made to defeat their own end. Those dissenters among whom the doctrines of the Puritans and Non-conformists have fallen into disrepute, are generally distinguished by this species of zeal; and it is principally from such quarters that complaints are heard of "the decline of the dissenting interest." Where they are believed and taught, and their progress, whether among dissenters or others, viewed with satisfaction, we hear of no such complaints. It is a curious fact, that while a certain description of dissenters are inquiring into the causes of the decline of the
dissenting interest, a certain description of the established clergy
QUERIES RELATIVE TO ORDINATION.
It having been the practice of some dissenting ministers to receive ordination but once, it became a question at a meeting lately held in the country, whether a pastor, removing to another church should be re-ordained ? The ministers about to engage in such a service, considering ordination not as a designation to the work of the ministry, (of which they find no examples in the New Testament,) but as a solemn appointment to office in a Christian church, were of opinion that a previous ordination had no influence on an appointment to office in another church. They allow
ed that re-ordination is unprecedented in the New Testament; and so also is the removal of a pastor from one church to another: if the latter were found, they supposed the former would accompany it.
Some conversation took place at the same meeting also, on the scriptural grounds, for the laying on of hands in ordination. In favour of this practice, it was alleged—1. That it appears to have been used in all ages of the church, where persons were set apart to sacred work. Numb, xxvii. 18—23. That though often connected with the communication of extraordinary gifts, yet it was not always so. It is not certain that it was for this purpose, that hands were laid upon the seven deacons of the church at Jerusalem (Acts vi. 6.); and it is certain that when the church at Antioch laid hands on Saul and Barnabas, (Acts xiii. 3.) it was not for this purpose, seeing they were possessed of extraordinary gifts already. In this case, they were ordinary persons, who laid hands upon the extraordinary.—3. That when the laying on of hands was accompanied with the conferring of extraordinary gifts, it is doubtful whether they were not imposed, for that specific purpose only. See Acts viii, 17—19. xix. 5, 6.-4. That ordination is expressed by laying on of hands: Lay hands suddenly on no man, &c. But that which is used to express or describe a practice, would seem to be an important, if not an essential part of it.
Two of your correspondents have honoured me with their remarks on my few bints on ordination. If I add a few more, it is with no design to enter into any thing like contention on the subject. "Mr. Howe" was a great and good man ; and while he considered ordination as a designation to the Christian ministry, it is no wonder he should answer as he did. But I see no evidence deducible from Acts xiv. 23. that this is the scriptural idea of it. Paul and his companions, having formed these believers into Christian churches, proceeded to organize them with proper officers. These elders, or presbyters, who were ordained by the suffrage of the churches, were officers in those churches, and not merely Christian ministers appointed to preach the gospel wherever a door might be »pened. Your correspondent C. speaks of " other passages which he forbears to quote." I he can produce an instance of ordination being a designation to the Christian mnistry, as such, his argument will be established; but not else.
Candour requires me to acknowledge, in reply to Amicus, that from what he has remarked on Acts ziii. 3. I suspect myself to have been under a mistake, in supposing that the laying on of hands, in that instance, was by the church. My reason for thinking so, was, that the exercises of fasting and prayer were not likely to be confined to the prophets and teachers, and therefore not that of laying on of hands: but upon a review of the subject, I incline to think that the latter was done by the prophets and teachers in the name of the church. The point however which was there attempted to be proved, is not affected by this mistake. This was, that the laying on of hands, was not always for the purpose •f conveying extraordinary gifts: but whoever they were that