« PreviousContinue »
according as convenience may require, supposing him to be endowed with the necessary gifts; these gifts constituting his mission. Such were, before the law, the fathers or eldest sons of families, as Abel, Noah, Abraham, &c. Jethro, Exod. xviii. 12. xix. 22. "let the priests also, which come near to Jehovah, sanctify themselves-." xxiv. 5. "he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto Jehovah." Such were, under the law, Aaron and his posterity, the whole tribe of Levi, and lastly the prophets. In like manner, any one appearing to be in other respects qualified, was allowed to teach openly in the synagogue, though he were neither priest nor Levite ; a permission which was granted to Christ, and subsequently to Paul at Antioch. Acts xiii. 15. "after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on." How much more then must every believer endowed with similar gifts enjoy the same liberty under the gospel? Accordingly, this liberty is expressly conceded: Mark ix. 38, 39. "we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us; and we forbad him, because he followeth not us; but Jesus
priest. See his edition of Milton's smaller poems, p. 326. Edit. 1785. The third priesthood only remaining, is common to all the faithful.' Considerations, &c. Prose Works, III. 33. If all the faithful be now a holy and a royal priesthood, 1 Pet. ii. 5, 9. not excluded from the dispensation of things holiest, after free election of the church, and imposition of hands....for the gospel makes no difference from the magistrate himself to the meanest artificer, if God evidently favour him with spiritual gifts, as he can easily, and oft hath done.' Ibid, 39. So is he by the same appointment (of God) ordained, and by the church's call admitted, to such offices of discipline in the church, to which his own spiritual gifts ...have authorized him.' Reason of Church Government, &c. II. 495. See also p. 496. The functions of church government- -commend him.'
3 Heretofore in the first evangelic times (and it were happy for Christendom if it were so again) ministers of the gospel were by nothing else distinguished from other Christians but by their spiritual knowledge and sanctity of life.' Considerations, &c. III. 40.
4 In the beginning this authority seems to have been placed, as both civil and religious rites once were, only in each father of a family.' Reason of Church Government, &c. Prose Works, II. 492. In those days was no priest, but the father, or the first-born of each family.' Considerations, &c. 1II. 11.
said, Forbid him not." Acts viii. 4. "they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.” xi. 19, &c. "they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen, travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch.... which spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus; and the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.... they sent forth Barnabas.... who when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord." If our modern clergy, as they are called by way of distinction, who claim to themselves the exclusive right of preaching the gospel, had seen this grace imparted to those whom they are pleased to denominate the laity, it would have been to them a subject, not of rejoicing, but of censure and obloquy. xviii. 24, 25. "a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus: this man was instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John." 2 Tim. ii. 2. "the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." Exod. xix. 6. compared with Isai. lxi. 6. " ye shall be named the priests of Jehovah ; men shall call you the ministers of our God." 1 Pet. ii. 9. 'ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." Rev. i. 6. "who hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father." Again 1 Pet. v. 3. "neither as being lords over God's heritage." If in this passage the word heritage (clerus, Lat. whence the term clergy, appropriated by the ecclesiastics to themselves) has any meaning at all, it must designate the whole body of the church.5
5 This all Christians ought to know, that the title of clergy St. Peter gave to all God's people, till pope Hyginus and the succeeding prelates took it from them, appropriating that name to themselves and their priests only, and condemning the rest of God's inheritance to an injurious and alienate condition of laity.' Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, III. 493. 'Ecclesiasticorum duntaxat bona fuere, qui hoc maxime sensu clerici, vel etiam holoclerici, ut qui sortem totam
is the name of prophet applied exclusively to such as foretell future events, but to any one endowed with extraordinary piety and wisdom for the purposes of teaching. Thus it was said of Abraham, Gen. xx. 7. "he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live." So also Miriam is called a prophetess, Exod. xv. 20. and Deborah, Judges iv. 4. and the same title is applied to believers in general, Psal. cv. 15. "touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." Hence under the gospel likewise, the simple gift of teaching, especially of gospel teaching, is called prophecy. 1 Cor. xiv. 1." desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophecy." v. 3. "he that prophecieth, speaketh unto men to edification;" and so through the remainder of the chapter, 1 Cor. iii. 8, &c. "he that planteth, and he that watereth are one; and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour for we are labourers together with God." Pastors and teachers, therefore, are the gift of the same God who gave apostles and prophets, and not of any human institution whatever. 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11. "as every man hath received the gift, even so let him minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God: if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God."
If therefore it be competent to any believer whatever to preach the gospel, provided he be furnished with the requisite gifts, it is also competent to him to administer the rite of baptism; inasmuch as the latter office is inferior to the former. John iv. 2. "Jesus himself baptised not, but his disciples." invasissent, rectius nominari poterant.' Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano, Symmons' ed. V. 247. Milton seems to intimate that the distinction between clergy and laity is of modern date, whereas it was known in the time of Clemens Romanus. See Bingham's Antiquities, Clem. ad Cor. i. 5. sect. 40.
6 It is a foul error, though too much believed among us, to think that the university makes a minister of the gospel: what it may conduce to other arts and sciences, I dispute not now; but that which makes fit a minister, the Scripture can best inform us to be only from above, whence also we are bid to seek them. Matt. ix. 38. Acts xx. 28. Rom. x. 15. "how shall they preach, unless they be sent ?" By whom sent? By the university, or the magistrate, or their belly? No surely, but sent from God only, and that God who is not their belly.' Considerations, &c. Prose Works, III. 36. Doubtless, if God only be he who gives ministers to his church to the world's end, and through the whole gospel never sent us for ministers to the schools of philosophy- . Ibid 39.
1 Cor. i. 17. "Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel." Hence Ananias, who was only a disciple, baptized Paul. Acts ix. 10, 18. x. 48. "he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord;" which command was given to the companions of Peter, who are only called "brethren," v. 23. and "they which believed," v. 45. And if it be true that baptism has succeeded to the place of circumcision, and bears the analogy to it which is commonly supposed, why should not any Christian whatever (provided he be not a mere novice, and therefore otherwise incompetent) be qualified to administer baptism, in the same manner as any Jew was qualified to perform the rite of circumcision?
With regard to the Lord's Supper also, it has been shewn in the preceding chapter that all are entitled to participate in that rite, but the privilege of dispensing the elements is confined to no particular man, or order of men. There can be still less shadow of reason for assigning to the ministers of the church the celebration of marriages or funerals, offices which hirelings are wont to assume to themselves exclusively, without even the feeble semblance of prescription derived from the Levitical law.9
THE PEOPLE of the universal church comprise all nations ; Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. "go ye and teach all nations;" whose
7 1 Burials and marriages are so little to be any part of their gain, that they who consider well, may find them to be no part of their function. As for marriages, that ministers should meddle with them, as not sanctified or legitimate without their celebration, I find no ground in Scripture either of precept or example.' Considerations, &c. Prose Works, III. 21.
8 Help us to save free conscience from the paw
Sonnet XVI. 13. 'Of which hireling crew.... Christendom might soon rid herself and be happy, if Christians would but know their own dignity, their liberty, their adoption.... and let it not be wondered if I say their spiritual priesthood, whereby they have all equal access to any ministerial function, whenever called by their own abilities and the church, though they never came near the university.' Considerations, &c. Prose Works, III. 40
9 The intervention of a priest to solemnize the contract, is merely juris positivi, and not naturalis aut divini; it being said that Pope Innocent the Third was the first who ordained the celebration of marriage in the church; before which it was totally a civil contract,' Blackstone's Commentaries, Book i. Chap. 15,
conversion it is the duty of all men to promote to the utmost of their power. Rom. i. 14. "I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise."
CHAP. XXX.-OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
THE writings of the prophets, apostles and evangelists, composed under divine inspiration, are called THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 2 Sam. xxiii. 2. "the Spirit of Jehovah spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." Matt. xxii. 43. "how then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying-?" 2 Cor. xiii. 3. "since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me." 2 Tim. iii. 16. "all scripture is given by inspiration of God."
With regard to the question, what books of the Old and New Testament are to be considered as CANONICAL, that is to say, as the genuine writings of the prophets, apostles, and evangelists, there is little or no difference of opinion among the orthodox, as may be seen in the common editions of the Bible.'
The books usually subjoined to these under the name of APOCRYPHAL, are by no means of equal authority with the canonical, neither can they be adduced as evidence in matters of faith.
The reasons for their rejection are, first, because, although written under the old dispensation, they are not in the Hebrew language, which they would undoubtedly be if genuine; for as the Gentiles were not then called, and the church consisted wholly of Hebrews, Rom. iii. 2. ix. 4. it would have been preposterous to write in the language of a people who had no concern in the things discoursed of. Secondly, their authority is deservedly called in question, inasmuch as they are never quoted in the New Testament. Lastly, they contain much that is at variance with the acknowledged parts of Scripture, besides some things fabulous, low, trifling, and contrary to true religion and wisdom.
1 By orthodox Milton must here mean the Protestant or reformed churches, in opposition to the church of Rome, which holds the authority of the apocryphal books. It is remarkable that in the article of 1552 no list is given. Compare Cosin, and Jones On the Canon of Scripture.