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REMARKS ON THE ESSAY RELATING TO THE AUTHORITY OF
MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL.
( To the Editor.) Having just risen from the reading of Mr. Beverley's Letters on the state of religion, which are, as might have been expected, general conclusions from partial data ; and having pleaded "not guilty" to the charge of assuming a priestly character in consequence of my pastoral office; I have been asked by my brethren in the ministry, to do not some of our ministers lie open to the charge ?” to which I was compelled to reply, “I fear that may be too true.” I was, therefore, somewhat alarmed at the title and tone of the first article of the new series. Not wishing to judge rashly, I gave it a second reading, which considerably mitigated my disapprobation, but by no means converted it into entire approval." I know not whether the writer, whoever he may be, really adopts that notion of an ecclesiastical corporation, which Mr. B. ranks among our errors; but I cannot doubt that one of those who have cherished the semi-popery with which we are charged, would think himself sanctioned by your correspondent.
I could wish that he had clearly expressed his own idea of a minister. Sometimes he seems to adopt the principle which I maintain, that the pastors of the churches are the only scriptural ecclesiastical ministers; that the call of the church to that office is the act which gives them their distinction from the rest of their brethren; that ordination is nothing more than solemn prayer for the divine blessing; that the presence of other ministers is merely a proper expression of Christian unity maintained among Independent churches; and that when the pastoral relation is dissolved, the minister returns to the rank of other Christians, except so far as he has been specially proved to be fitted to watch over a flock of Christ, to which service other churches have, therefore, good reasons for giving him a call.
These principles I would illustrate by well known facts in the case of deacons, who have been, unscripturally indeed, we admit, made ecclesiastical officers in the Established Church. We, however, regard them as distinguished from the rest of the brethren, only by their office, which implies that the church has counted them faithful, endued with the graces which the service of Christ and his people demand. But when the deacon lays aside that office, we know him only as a brother who has been honoured by the church with its confidence, in being intrusted with a divinely appointed office, which would naturally lead us, if circumstances favoured, to place him there again. But we do not admit that he has received an indelible character, which for ever removes him from the rank of other brethren, or gives him a right to claim distinction as a member of the corporation of deacons. Should we not adopt the same principle with regard to the other officer in the Christian church, and so reckon the notion of an indelible character, derived from ordination, a relic of popery ?
But your correspondent seems to entertain an idea of ministers as a caste among Christians, and as having peculiar right in the affair of ordination; so that their sanction is ordinarily, if not absolutely, essential to the validity of that service, and the ministerial character of him who is ordained. If he will examine his Greek Testament, he will see that what we render ordained, should rather be translated elected by show of hands; though I am aware that Campbell contends, but in my judgment on insufficient grounds, against that translation. But waving this controversy, is there any rational or scriptural notion of ordination, but that of public recognition of the church's choice, and of solemn prayer for the divine blessing on him who has undertaken to feed the flock of God? Your correspondent speaks of those who are already in the ministry as under a special charge to see to the succession, (page 4.) I wish he had attempted to prove this from the New Testament. Perhaps he would have appealed to 2 Timothy ii. 2. « The things that thou hast learned from me, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.” Timothy was not an ordinary pastor, and though the Episcopalians attempt to make him a bishop, the Scriptures give him not this title, but that of evangelist, and we admit, that he was the apostles' locum tenens, to do those services which the apostles, from want of ubiquity, could not personally perform. The pastors of the churches are under no other obligation to provide a succession of ministers than the rest of the church, except as they have special opportunities of performing that service well.
Your correspondent speaks, (page 5,) of ordination “as a solemn sanction of ministers and others to the entrance of a pastor on his work.” This might have passed, in ordinary times, without comment, but when the Sovereign Lord of the Church is shaking various communities to the centre, it behoves us to take heed to our ways, that we offend not; lest our churches, which have hitherto escaped, should share in the general convulsion. Nothing but scriptural sentiments, spirit, and practice, can save us. Ordination is no otherwise a sanction to a pastor entering on his work, than special prayer can make it. I am glad that it is said “ministers and others," and if others beside ministers can give a sanction, this can be only by their approving presence, and united prayers; and if there is any thing special in the countenance of ministers, it is derived only from their more notorious character as brethren “ who have obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.”.
Again, it is said, that a person is entitled to the consideration due to a minister of Christ " if he have (among other things the solemn, cordial approval of other ministers," (page 7,) and “when such approval of ministers and people has been publicly expressed by a solemn ordination service, the whole authority of a christian minister resides in this pastor,” (page 7.) I doubt not that the author of this paper knows full well that many of our first churches ordained their ministers among themselves; and though I am glad we have departed from that exclusive practice, I would not fall into the opposite
VOL. I. N. S. ito to
error of invalidating or discrediting the ministry of those who were ordained without the sanction of other pastors.
But my most serious protest is directed against that which follows; for we are told that the authority to preach the word is vested in those ministers who are thus ordained. This should have been proved from Scripture; and if your correspondent can do it, I shall be glad to be taught, by him, a principle which I once held, but now repudiate, as one of those errors of popery with which we are all more or less infected. The ordinary authority to preach the word which the pastor possesses, is limited to that church which has called him to minister to it in word and doctrine; or to other churches which may occasionally invite him to the same service. Beyond the limits of a church of Christ, he has no other authority to preach than that which any Christian may have, which arises from the possession of the requisite gifts and graces. Every man who is able to preach has a right to preach. This liberty of prophecying can be no otherwise limited, than by the word of God. If your correspondent can produce such a statute of limitations, to adopt a law term in a theological sense, I shall be ready to bow to it. Till then, I maintain the right of every Christian to use the ability which God has given him. When the persecution arose about Stephen," it is said of the church at Jerusalem, that “they were all scattered abroad, except the apostles ;” and of those who were thus scattered, that “ they went every where preaching the word.” Even females are not restricted by any express law from preaching the word, except in the church, 1 Cor. xiv. 34; for this exception is made by divine authority. That there are other considerations which make it inexpedient for christian females to preach, I readily admit; and as the preaching of females in the Society of Friends is not sanctioned by my position, so it is remarkable that this doubling of the number of prcachers, by admitting both sexes, has ended in silent meetings.
I might have defended my remarks on ordination, by pleading that the supposed sanction afforded by the presence of other pastors in ordination, is little known, and soon forgotten, so that the recognized ministerial character is, at last, derived from a known official relation to a church, and is maintained by the manifest possession of the qualifications, without which no forms can give him the estimation of which your correspondent speaks. But when he adverts to those who go forth among the heathen, as receiving their authority from the ordination they obtained at home; I am persuaded he is attaching importance to a non-entity. Any Christian has a right to go and preach Christ to the Gentiles; and they will regard him, not according to the ordination he has received, of which they are ignorant and regardless; but according to his ability to instruct, and persuade, and exhibit all the mind of Christ, in temper, and labours, and life. These are the only things of which the heathens take cognizance. We have now, in India, a melancholy specimen of the claims of ordination set up against the claims of character; and who that is imbued with the spirit of the Scriptures, would hesitate which side to take? If a man that is sent forth by no body of Christians in existence, should go and preach Christ in China, and gather a flock, by the blessing of God on the word of truth, and settle it according to scriptural order, who would dare to refuse to them the consideration due to a church, or to him the regard due to a minsiter of Christ?
I should be glad to know (what I think not improbable) that your correspondent is not so opposed to these views as the general strain of his paper seems to imply; and to have another opportunity of communicating the thoughts which Mr. Beverley's letters have suggested to
LETTERS FROM ROME. No. I.
Rome, Dec. 30th, 1834. MY DEAR FRIEND,-Christmas and Easter are the grand seasons of the Roman Catholic Church, and the festivities, both religious and civil, connected with these seasons, are of course to be seen to high advantage at Rome, the head-quarters of popery. Civil and religious matters are, however, so mixed together here, that it is often difficult to draw the line between them, or say what is intended for religious observance and what for recreation or amusement. Even the Catholics themselves are often puzzled to tell you the meaning of many of the pompous ceremonies, about which they are asked; they know the name of the “ festa” and know that a “ giorno di festa,” allows them an opportunity of shutting up their shops, and idly lounging away a day, and this is often all they know about the subject. They will, however, frequently attempt to give you an explanation, and these explanations are generally amusing enough; mingling as they do false scriptural history with some monkish tradition, and their own peculiar notions as to the application of these to the matter in question. Holy-days or “feste," as they term them here, are so frequent, that the gorgeous ceremonies connected with most of them, are matter of but little interest or attention to the Romans themselves; who mostly content themselves with saying the appropriate prayers in their own parish church, early in the morning, and spend the rest of the day “ festeggiando.” But to foreigners, the religious ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church, as conducted at Rome, are among the principal attractions, and the grand sights of the place. For if the foreigner be a Catholic, he naturally feels great interest in witnessing the service of his church, performed in its highest style of pomp by its highest functionaries; and if a Protestant, the novelty, the music, the getting up of the thing, (a heretic may be allowed the phrase, and it would be difficult to find another ;) and moreover, the fashion, all conspire to make these performances “ spectacles," which it is worth his while to go and see. I am sorry, however, to say, that Protestants, and espe
cially English Protestants, often so far lose sight of the place in which they are, and of the fact, that they are attending what is meant for religious worship, as to conduct themselves in the most unbecoming way, and annoy, and shock those who look upon what is going on with a somewhat more reverential regard. But I must confess, that even the Catholics themselves are but too generally, in appearance at least, like their heretical neighbours, mere spectators of the raree-show. I have even seen some of the functionaries themselves engaged in conversation with bystanders, in the midst of the most solemn services.
Whenever the Pope takes part in any of the ceremonies, it is necessary, in order to be admitted within a certain distance of him, to be in full dress. Whether it be in virtue of his office as representative of God upon earth, or as sovereign of the Papal states, that this has been considered necessary, I leave you to determine. However, this regulation is taken advantage of by strangers to display their court dresses and handsome uniforms, which serve as passports for their wearers, to step within the line which keeps off the a profanum vulgus," and at the same time add to the splendour of the scene. A short account of high mass, as performed by the Pope in St. Peter's on Christmas day, will perhaps illustrate the above remarks.
This is one of the occasions when almost all the foreigners in Rome, and vast crowds of the poorer Italians, flock together, beneath the wondrous dome of the most magnificent edifice in the world.
Early in the morning, I was in the carriage on my way down to the “ Piazza di San Pietro.” The streets were crowded with foot passengers; the Italians in all their picturesque holiday dresses ; monks of every class, in all the various hats and frocks of their different orders; here and there a pilgrim with his staff and a scollop shell; companies of troops; carriages of cardinals and ambassadors, princes and nobles; rich and poor; all were crowding to the same point. On arriving at the steps leading up to the portico of St. Peter's, we were assailed by a multitude of miserable wretches, begging in the names of the virgin and all the saints, a “ baioco," with an earnestness that betokened real want, and which went to the heart with more than ordinary power, amid all the surrounding splendour. We passed through the noble portico into the cathedral, and up towards the high altar, between files of soldiery, who lined the great aisle on each side, forming an avenuc of such a length that the figures composing the further extremity dwindled into mere children, whose features were not to be distinguished. We had not waited long, when the sonnd of martial music announced the approach of his holiness. All eyes were directed to the further extremity of the edifice, and presently the procession was seen emerging from one of the side aisles near the main entrance. A long line of priests, bishops, and cardinals, together with a host of other functionaries, preceded the pope, who was seated in a superb chair or throne, supported on mens shoulders by means of two staves. Over him was a sumptuous canopy, supported at the four corners by poles, held by four priests or acolytes. On each side of