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who, by one magic touch, could turn a huge mass of granite into a prolífic soil, and spread over it the delightful aspect of living verdure. But immeasurably sooner should I hope to meet with such a phenomenon as this, than that mere mortal energy or skill, should change a heart of stone into a heart of flesh, pour the balm of heavenly peace into the wounded spirit, or complete the training of an immortal being for the inheritance that fadeth not away. If these are Mr. B.'s views of the indispensable need of the influence of the Holy Ghost, to give effect to any and to all preaching, whatever may be its merely human excellency, I can assure him that they are equally mine.
But I would premise again, that if the question at issue were, is it right or not for a deacon or member of any one of our churches, of competent physical and mental ability, and having clearly eligible opportunities to preach the gospel, I would promptly reply in the affirmative. The enlightened and zealous advocates of a learned ministry would be the last to give any other answer.
It is no sentiment of theirs that such a person should be forbidden to proclaim the grand and precious truths of redeeming mercy, because he may not have had an academical or a collegiate education, because he may not be conversant with the original languages, have studied all the arcana of systematic theology, apprehended the phenomena of intellectual and natural philosophy, or become familiar with the profound investigations of mathematical, or with the sublime wonders of astronomical science. Over these fields of knowledge he may have walked but little ; and still, under certain modifications of place and circumstance, he might not only be justified in preaching, but under a solemn obligation to do so. Moreover, if the enquiry were, are there not some spheres of labour which may be adequately and usefully occupied by persons who have no pretensions to learning, and are there not many who ascribe the happy event of their conversion to the instrumentality of such labourers? I would without hesitation answer, yes; and am well assured that in this answer the great body of our ministers would heartily concur. These concessions, with whatever of consequence they may be supposed to carry with them, I have not the slightest difficulty in making to Mr. Beverley.
Once more I would premise, that I am strongly impressed with the remembrance that the first preachers of the gospel, comprehending the chosen disciples and apostles of Christ, were not learned men, in the sense in which Mr. B. uses that designation, and in which it is commonly understood. But surely this gentleman would not argue for a similarity, much less for an identity in the position of these men, as compared with that of a preacher of the present day. And yet his language, at the close of the ninth letter, evidently proceeds upon such an assumption. Let the impartial reader mark the following quotations, “ The first preaching of the gospel was not by a learned ministry :” of this proposition it is afterwards observed, it " is more than one argument, it is almost all that is to be proved; I must therefore make sure footing here, and repeat, that the ministry of apostolical times was not a learned ministry.". Then comes what is plainly regarded as the legitimate consequence, viz. that learning, not being possessed by the fishermen-preachers, cannot be requisite now, and to avail myself of the writer's own words, “is as little to be desired as a prelate's diocesan mitre, or any other figment of man.” In these declarations he appears. to have felt himself standing upon a rock, from which he could not be moved. But is the case really so? As to the unlearned character of the first ministry of the gospel, has he proved it? Did it require proof? Who ever doubted it? Is it not a fact, which immediately strikes even the most cursory reader of the inspired narratives? Mr. Beverley is a man of intellect and of learning too; but the energies of the one, and the fruits of the other, are not very wisely appropriated in an effort to prove that the earliest heralds of “ the Prince of Peace,” were not highly tutored men. The exact point which demanded the closest attention, is, the true inference to be deduced from this fact. It is here that there onght to have been that elaborate research, that sound and lucid argument, and that patient induction from the varied phenomena of ecclesiastical history, for which I have looked in vain through the volume. With respect to the earliest preachers, they were unquestionably men of undeveloped mind and character. But I must contend that they were supernaturally fitted for their work, that they received in this way from Christ himself just that kind and degree of preparation which all the circumstances of the case required, and which seemed to his infinite wisdom the best. And if from age to age Christ had called forth and qualified men for the same rank, in precisely the same way, then the church would not have been concerned to provide theological seminaries, lectures, professors, or students. Suppose, for instance, that the Son of God, in his incarnate form, should descend from heaven to-morrow, and, walking upon the beach of one of our sea-port towns, should meet with a group of fishermen mending their nets, that he should say to them follow me and I will make you fishers of men, that he should invest them with that authority, and endow them with those gifts and graces, which he vouchsafed to the first preachers, and that he should then command them to go forth proclaiming the rich grace of God in the salvation of sinners, through his own atoning blood; and suppose further, that the members of the church of Christ, of every denomination throughout England, were fully convinced that their Lord had thus appeared, and thus qualified and commissioned these men, would they, after this, think of sending them to Highbury, or Homerton, or any kindred spot, to have their qualifications' heightened or their credentials more fully authenticated? I imagine not. Let Mr. B. furnish us with a ministry thus originated and sanctioned, and then all the operations of our colleges may be put aside. But if he cannot do this, or anything like it, and if there be no reason to anticipate its being done from any other quarter, then surely he must concede that the position of a Christian minister now, differs entirely from that of the first preachers of the gospel, and that the fact of these men being “ unlearned and ignorant," does not fairly justify the inference, that learning never would be requisite to those who might be successively VOL. I. N.S.
called forth to watch for souls, and to edify the body of Christ. Should he, however, still cling to his favourite inference, let me submit for his consideration, whether I might not with just as much propriety reason thus: the first preachers of the gospel were gifted with the power of working miracles, therefore every generation of preachers ought to have the same gift. Would he subscribe to this? By no means. So neither can I admit the justness of the inference which he draws from the fact, that the earliest preachers were unlettered men.
I come now to the main question, which may perhaps be fairly expressed thus: ought the stated minister of a church and congregation among us to be a man of learned education? The enquiry must of course have reference to the pastor of a people of average extent and intelligence. From the firmest conviction, I answer that he ought, and will now state the grounds of this reply.
1st. I shall assume, as beyond all controversy, that such a minister should possess the fullest possible acquaintance with the letter and with the spirit of the word of God.
If I were asked briefly to set forth the qualifications of an effective minister, my description should be drawn from the inspired pages, in the language of which I would say, he must be “ Full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures.” To the correctness of the greater part of this description, Mr. B. would no doubt readily subscribe. His own conception of a qualified person is given in the following passage; minister learned in the word of God, well read in the Scriptures, deeply practised in the school of prayer, and trained up in the wholesome discipline of many tribulations." Letter ninth, p. 61. So far, then, as the need of a thorough familiarity with the word of God goes, there is the clearest harmony in our views.
We equally feel that the stated pastor should be able to work the whole of this glorious mine of pure truth, and that he ought from time to time to bring its treasures before his people in their solidity, worth, and brightness. But who sees not, that the way to the attainment of this familiarity in its highest degree, lies through the close and persevering study of those tongues in which the Scriptures were originally written? Far be it from me to attempt to depreciate the modern versions of the Bible, especially our own, perhaps the best of them all. I acknowledge it to be a venerable monument, an extraordinary work, rich in undefiled and idiomatic English, strikingly faithful to the letter, and sometimes most happily so, to the spirit of the original, full of vigour and of majestic simplicity. Nor would I for a moment question that a good deal may be done towards gaining this acquaintance by fervent communion with the Scriptures in our mother tongue, even apart from a concordance, a commentary, or a Bible of references; but with these aids, still more. What can Mr. B. mean by the following sentence? “A learned theologian may perhaps consider himself greatly exalted above an unlearned student of the Scriptures, and may perhaps pity the pious multitude, who, versed only in their mother tongue, and having no help but a concordance or a Bible of references, wander in the dark through the vast wilderness
of oriental allusions, and are utterly at fault in some points where erudition could give many a curious and sometimes an interesting explanation.” The soi-disant learned theologian, the man of “Smail Latin and no Greek,” may perhaps think and feel in this way, but not the really learned divine. At least among our own ministers, for whom alone I am concerned to answer, I never met with one in application to whom these words could be used with the shadow of propriety; and safely might I challenge the author to find one. In our congregations and churches, there are many members of vigorous intellect, and of no mean attainments in holiness, who, though unlearned, yet comprehensively study the Bible, master some of the best theological treatises, and thus become rich in those truths which are more precious than rubies. And when the learned pastor is aware that any of his flock are thus proceeding, then it is that his heart rejoices with sacred delight. He is not the man to roll à stone over the well of divine knowledge, and put a seal upon it; but would rather zealously labour to keep it open, to secure free access to it, and to induce the most untutored as well as the more cultivated of his charge, to come thither and draw. But all this does not invalidate the position, that an acquaintance with the original languages is necessary to the settled minister. Whatever may be the merits of our translation, whatever may be accomplished by the wisest use of it, still there is much that will remain hidden from the unlearned apprehension, and which never can be transfused into any language. There is a force and graphic beauty in many words, a depth and significance in numerous sentences, a glow and a pathos in some of the narratives, a firmness and a strict logical dependance in not a few trains of argument contained in the Scriptures, the express image and the satisfactory results of which can be discerned only in the original Hebrew and Greek. Subject to some trifling modifications, I do not shrink from applying this remark to the historical, the poetical, and the epistolary portions of holy writ. It is this communion with the primary languages of the inspired volume, accompanied with the gracious illuminations of the Holy Ghost, that not unfrequently reveals to the mind, in broader light and with deeper efficacy, the exact and all-animating spirit of many a part of it. Whilst the fruits of such communion, carried to the sanctuary and wisely infused into the discourse, have given to it a freshness and a strength which have equally enlarged and edified the heart. At this moment I can call to mind sermons to which it has been my privilege to listen, rich in the vital elements of the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time replete with the traces of real learning impressed upon them; but entirely free from all perplexing technicalities, and from the disgusting pretensions of pedantry. The result was, that they dropped like the rain and distilled like the dew, upon the souls of the assembly. Not a few churches might be instanced, were it requisite, the members of which, by their number, their intelligence, and their purity, are the living witnesses to the truth of these remarks. But how can the minister thus impart solidity and richness to his discourses, unless he have obtained an acquaintance with the original languages of inspiration? And how can such an acquaintance be gained without a learned education ?
2nd. My next proposition is, that if there exist written works of antiquity which paint the countries, or delineate the character of those nations and times which occupy so large a space in the Scriptures, the stated minister ought to possess the fullest practicable acquaintance with these.
Here let it be remarked, that I do not take this proposition for granted. It will be my endeavour to offer some proof and illustration of its justness. Most readily would I allow to Mr. B. that Christ, in the divinity of his person, in the purity and majesty of his character, in the merit of his atoning blood, in the efficacy of his sanctifying Spirit, and in the spreading conquests of his power, is the very substance and glory of the sacred volume. Equally may it be affirmed, that Christ, and him crucified, with all the imperishable benefits which flow to man from that great transaction, should be the leading theme of pulpit exercises. it must be borne in mind, that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Who is meant by the “man of God ?" Doubtless the christian minister, as may be seen in a moment, from the two solemn verses with which the next chapter opens.
And what then is his imperative duty ? Surely to explain and apply the whole of inspired truth. Whatever will aid him in this labour cannot be unimportant. Now it is well known that productions of the character glanced at in our proposition, do exist. Are they necessary or really useful in the elucidation of any portions of holy writ? Let us try to ascertain this. I will suppose, for example, that the faithful pastor, in the course of his ministrations, is desirous of presenting to his people an exposition of the Book of Genesis, or of Judges, or of Ruth. In his studious preparations for this public exercise, he discovers that these books are pervaded by modes of thinking and habitudes of living, foreign in their spirit and influence to all those with which he is personally familiar. He feels at a momentary stand, and betakes himself, it may be, to one or two of the best commentaries. From these he gathers a few gleams of light. But they do not greatly assist him. There still appears to him much curious peculiarity scattered through these narratives. Now imagine that the minister, all at once, becomes acquainted with those sources of information relative to the lands, the nations, and the social habits of the east, which are contained in certain of the classic historians, philosophers, and poets, where all the leading characteristics of oriental living are minutely and clearly reflected. Let him add to this a knowledge of the best researches of modern travel. Would not a blaze of light be thereby thrown over those parts of the Bible? And might not the intended exposition be enlivened and greatly 'enriched by the discriminating use of such information ?