BROTHER BEEBE: – A word by the way of Postscript to my last, for I forgot to note the origin of “Creed’s &c.” Calvin tells us they had no other way of detecting Heretics. The Scripture being so loosely worded, and vaguely expressed that men’s principles could not be determined by them, and therefore a more perfect formula was absolutely necessary, or many a non-conformist, would remain in his errors for lack of convincing power of fire and faggot. When confessing that “Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” ceased to be a good confession, these others took its place as guides to direct the decisions of bigotted and besotted Priests, and Magistrates in maintaining the Unity of the Church.
But now to my third proposition viz: the undue influence of Ministers, and the improper place which they occupy in the minds of Men, and in the Church; the word Minister, signifies servant, and the Apostles uniformly claimed that title as expressing their office and standing; they were not servants of the Law, nor the flesh, but of the Church. Now in the present as in our former No’s, we intend to detect errors, by setting forth the truth. We shall briefly shew our views of the Ministry First, of the Apostolic gift, and then of the others. The Apostles were laid as the twelve foundations of the City, – the New Jerusalem; Christ committed the whole doctrine to them, and set them as Princes of the house of David to build the Gospel Church, and give his Laws to Zion, to them all the tribes of Spiritual Israel, came up for Judgment, the tribes of the Lord to the testimony of Israel. From their decision there was, and there needed to be no appeal, for they speak the word of the Lord, – they were commissioned to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every Creature; none but the Apostles ever received any such commission. A line was given them to measure the length, height, and breadth of the Church, according to the word of the Psalmist, quoted by Paul, “Their line is gone out into all the earth, and their word unto the end of the world.” Paul also declares that their commission was fulfilled in his lifetime, for he says, “this Gospel has been preached to every Creature which is under heaven.”
They receiving therefore the commission with the corresponding declaration, “Lo, I am with you,” it no way follows that other men are called to the like office, but directly the contrary for surely there can be but one tier of foundation stones, in any city or building, and the fact that one course is laid, utterly precludes the possibility of more; again if there is no need that the Gospel be committed to any more, for a commission is a calling, and if any part of the commission applies to any but themselves we see no evidence but that the whole must, and if it does, every one who chooses may take shelter under it, and declare himself “seat” to preach, and if he can manage to get learning enough to write or commit to memory a Sermon, we sae not who can dispute the divinity of his claim, but the truth is, that none but the twelve have any more right to the ancient commission, “go ye into all the world;” than a present Militia Corporal, has to steal General Washington’s Commission, as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army of the United States, and act under it. The Apostles fulfilled their commission, and are still fulfilling it; their word being still the Law of the Church, and Christ being still with them in teaching the people, the testimony which is sure, it follows: that other servants must serve in other spheres, and of course by special commission to themselves. This brings us to the “Pastors and Teachers,” among which all God’s Ministers of the present day are included. Apollos, Timothy, and Titus, were of this order, and therefore to the directions given them, and to other Elders, must we look for the length and breadth of the duty of the same class of Ministers in our day. To the Elders of the Church of Ephesus, Paul in his last and most affecting exhortation, says nothing about going into the world, but says “take heed unto yourselves, and to the flock of God, over which the Holy Ghost hath made overseers.” Again to Timothy, he says, he wrote to him, to instruct him how to behave in the “Church of the Living God.” He then describes false teachers their mode of action, and way of entrance into the fold, and pernicious influence there, points out the true Doctrines of Christ, and declares that if he, Timothy, put the Brethren in remembrance of these things, and to no Pastor, or Teacher is one word said, or direction given, how to address “impenitent sinners,” in order to make them Christians, or for any other religious purpose. Tis for the perfecting of the Saints, and the edifying of the Body of Christ, that the gifts are bestowed, and when he that teaches, waits on his teaching, and he that exhorts, on his exhortation, and each one of the Church stands in his place to speak or hear, and all things are done decently and in order; then the Church appears in her beauty as a whole. The Epistle of Christ, seen and read of all; then if there come in among you, one untaught of God or an unbeliever of the Doctrines of Christ, an Arminian, or Calvinist, he is convinced of all, judged of all, and is obliged by the power of Divine Truth to confess, “God is in you of a truth.” (Observe the person here spoken of is a child of God, but has been led away by tradition or some other means, and is thus brought back to Christ.) The Throne of Christ is in Zion, or in the Church, and there is he himself, and in no other place can he be found; therefore every invitation given to unbelievers to come unto him, is in fact an invitation for them to come into the Church. Again, Pastors are called watchmen, on the walls of Zion – their duty is to prevent the entrance of enemies and strangers, not to invite them in, further they are called Shepherds, – we ask, is it the duty of a Shepherd to allow wild beasts into the fold? Or can his word by its persuasive power change them into sheep? Perhaps some will say, that they pray for, and expect a blessing from God in the word preached, in order to make it effectual. But when did God ever command such a practice? Or when did any primitive preacher do so? The idea is absurd, his word is a blessing, and such a prayer would be, to ask him to bless his blessings; he never sent his preachers to supercede Christ, or the Apostles. By the foolishness of preaching, he is pleased to save believers – But preaching never gave life to the dead; this is the prerogative of Christ, which he never delegated to man of any any order, and we trust he never will, any more than he will his eternal power and God-head. Those who have received the Elder’s gift from him, together with his form of Doctrine, and sound speech, will seek to edify the flock, and separate it more and more from the world, they will make their calling fully appear, and make full proof of their Ministry – they will as gladly follow the Apostle’s direction to labor with their hands, to support themselves and others too, as they will enforce the principle, that the laborer is worthy of his hire; and while they keep the place to which by the Holy Spirit they were called, they will be kept humble, and made useful, they will be esteemed for their work’s sake, and not for the official dignity of the Priestly office. On the contrary, those who assume the Apostolic Mission feel as if the Eternal Salvation of men depended on their fiat. Elevated by the moral dignity of their great and (self) important calling, (tho’ they are boys scarce out of their teens, and know not Law from Gospel, and cannot preach except they commit some old Sermon to memory or study and write a week.) – They seem to think honest labor with their hands, degrading and as they have taken the work of Christ out of his hands, they aspire to his place, and style themselves Reverend!!
Oh my Brethren, how does a Reverend Sinner look? Yet they call each other “Reverend Divines,” as they have assumed the Apostolic commission; so they affect to sit in judgment over their brethren to make laws and Creeds, and sit in Council to Judge after their own Laws, and Lord it over the Heritage of God. Thus have we briefly exposed the root of the evil, we meant to do no more, for if when the cause of evil is known; Brethren do we not remedy it, they must wait under the curse of it till he come, whose eyes are like a flame of fire, who will consume with the Spirit of his mouth and the brightness of his coming, these apostles, these deceitful workers, and all who follow their pernicious ways. Their sin “hath never forgiveness,” for they have “blasphemed against the Holy Spirit” – they are anointed with an unction from the Evil One, whereby they become ignorant of all things. “They have gone in the way of Cain,” who hated the Sovereignty of God, running greedily in the error of Balaam, who hired himself out to preach to please the King of Midian. They shall perish in the gainsaying of Korah, “so let all thine enemies perish O Lord, but let those that love him be as the sun, when he goeth forth in his might.” Farewell.
Signs of the Times
Volume 1, No. 9
March 27, 1833