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Old or the New Testament can a single instance be found of any one servant of God who based his claims to the ministry on an internal call, or who pleaded his earnest and vehement desire to serve God in evidence of his mission. This answer, therefore, is only to be accounted as one of the traditions of men, which make void the commandments of God.
Another common evidence of a divine call to the Christian ministry is, personal qualification. It is not an uncommon observation, that whom God sends, he qualifies; by which is meant, that great fluency, earnestness, a good delivery,-in a word, the requisites of popular oratory, will prove a man a minister of Christ : and with the multitude, perhaps, this evidence goes further than any other. Yet there is hardly any one pretence that is more directly in opposition to the scriptures. By this rule the two greatest of God's ministers would be pronounced impostors. Neither Moses nor St. Paul was eloquent. Moses, knowing the vulgar error, urges this defect as a serious objection against his mission—“ O, my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." And a similar lack of eloquence in Paul induced the Corinthians to question bis apostleship. “ His letters (say they) are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." And he himself says—« Though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge." It is therefore altogether a mistake to suppose that fluency of speech is an evidence of a divine call, or even a requisite in a Christian minister. It is a power either conferred by nature, or acquired by habit, and possessed in as high, if not in a higher degree, by the ancient heathen, than by any of God's servants, either Jew or Christian, and can therefore furnish no proof of a call to the Christian ministry. Where it exists, God may make use of it, as he did in the case of Apollos, but it is in no wise needful for his purpose.“ His strength can be made perfect in weakness;" and his will is, that the gospel of Christ should be preached, “ not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”. Those, therefore, who profess to be protestants, and make it their great boast that the scriptures are their only guide, must look out for some other evidence less antiscriptural; and some think that they find it in the success of the minister.”
A third answer to the question, “Who is a minister of Christ,” is, he who is successful in the conversion of sinners; and this answer is professedly based upon St. Paul's words to the Corinthians—“ Are ye not my work in the Lord ? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you; for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.” Those persons think that St. Paul here meant to affirm generally that whosoever has got converts as the seal of his ministry, is thereby proved to be a lawful minister of Christ. How any Christian people ever arrived at a conclusion so absurd, is perfectly incomprehensible; and the fact proves, either that their prejudice is very strong, or the cause which they defend desperate. On this principle, Mahomet must be accounted as a true servant of God, for he had this seal long before he used the sword as an instrument of conversion. Joanna
Vol. XII.—Sept. 1837.
Southcote, too, will appear as a lawful minister, and her converts can refer to themselves as the seal of her mission. Yea, and every fanatic and impostor, man, woman, or child, who finds people foolish or wicked enough to be misled, may prove the truth of his call to the Christian ministry; and prove, moreover, that he is an apostle, as good and as true as St. Paul himself. Surely a principle leading to conclusions so monstrous cannot possibly have been taught by an inspired apostle. Those persons must, of necessity, have mistaken his words. Even if we take the words without reference to the preceding verse, they cannot be made to express any such unqualified assertion as this, that whosoever has got converts as the seal of his ministry, is therefore a lawful minister. They signify, at the very most, that he who has got converts must be regarded by those converts as a lawful minister.“ If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you;” that is, Whatever others may think of me, ye must, if ye will be consistent, receive me as an apostle : ye are my converts; ye believed the gospel at my word; whatever, therefore, others whom I did not convert may think of me, to you, at least, I am an apostle. But this measure of lawfulness will not satisfy those who take pleasure in citing these words. Their wish is, that every man who has made converts should be universally acknowledged as a lawful minister of the catholic church. But any such general acknowledgment of the validity of their claims is plainly forbidden by the passage cited. The apostle's supposition excludes the idea of being acknowledged by any but their own converts. “ If I be not an apostle unto others.” By omitting the context, we may allow them to be ministers to their own converts; but if the preceding verse is to be considered, we cannot admit even that. St. Paul's object was to prove that he was, not an ordinary minister, but an apostle, equal in authority and rank to St. Peter, or any other of the apostles. “Am I not an apostle ?" If, therefore, the conversion of sinners proves anything, it will prove that a man is an apostle of the same rank and standing in the church as St. Paul himself. The passage proves this, or it proves nothing. Those, therefore, who rest their claims upon it, must either boldly assert that they are apostles in the same sepse in which St. Paul was, or they must give up the passage altogether. But, secondly, St. Paul does not rest the proof of his apostleship merely on the conversion of the Corinthians, but joins this argument with another; namely, that he had seen the Lord. “ Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord ?" Here, then, he appeals to the external evidence, as he does also in the 2nd epistle, when he says, “ Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." Those, therefore, who hold St. Paul's proof to be valid, and applicable to their own case, must not dishonestly withhold one half of it, but if they appeal to success, must also produce the external evidence of their mission. If St. Paul did not expect the Corinthians to admit his apostleship without both these proofs, surely no modern claimant can expect us to believe without evidence equally valid. The answer, therefore, that success in the conversion of sinners proves a man to be a minister of Christ, is, to those who believe in the New Testament, and take it as their guide, just as unsatisfactory as those which precede.
But there is another answer, which settles the point in a more summary manner. It is this: every man who preaches Christ is a minister of Christ. This appears to be an extension of that “ latitudinarian indifference" commended by Milner. Speaking of episcopacy, presbytery, and independency, he says "To me it seems an unhappy prejudice to look on any one of the forms as of DIVINE RIGHT, or of scriptural authority. Circumstances will make different modes more proper in one place, and at one time, than at another. And whoever rests in this conclusion will be in no danger of bigotry, but, on the contrary, will see much reason for moderation and latitudinarian indifference in judging of various methods which have been proposed or made use of for the EXTERNAL regulation of the church.”* Since Milner's time, the principle has developed itself, and many are now found who assert that any man, of any or no denomination, if he only “preach Christ," is Christ's lawful minister; and who endeavour to prove this latitudinarian principle by an appeal to the New Testament. They reason thus :--When the apostles forbad a certain man to cast out devils, because he followed not with them, Christ said, “ Forbid him not; for he that is not against us is for us." Therefore there is no apostolical succession, but every man who preaches Christ is his lawful minister. The short and true answer is, that the logic is very bad, and that, when we meet any one casting out devils, we shall not forbid him. But suppose that, for the sake of argument, we grant the applicability of the passage, what do those who reject the doctrine of an apostolic succession gain by the admission? Does it overturn that doctrine ? Nay, it proves it. In order to get at their conclusion, they must, as the first step, produce a parallel case. Here we have an unauthorized man casting out devils; to preserve the parallelism, they must produce an unauthorized preacher of the gospel; and they must, further, produce authorized preachers of the gospel forbidding him. Unless they do this, they have no parallel, and therefore no premises. But the moment they complete the parallel, and admit that some ministers are authorized, and others unauthorized, they give up that for which they contend. They admit, nay, take for granted, as the very basis of their argument, a ministry authorized by Christ; and they fail altogether in attaining the real object for which they quote the passage. Their real object is, not to obtain liberty for unauthorized persons to preach—for in this country every man that likes may preach-but to have these unauthorized persons acknowledged as authorized, and received as legitimate brethren in the Christian ministry. But for this the text cited furnishes no warrant. Christ did not tell the disciples to receive this man as a brother, or to acknowledge him as a fellow-apostle. “Forbid him not,” is the utmost limit to which Christ extended his command; and if this text be pressed as an argument, “ Forbid him not" is the utmost limit of favour which Christ's authorized ministers can be called upon to shew
Church History, vol. i., p. 518.
to the unauthorized preachers of the gospel. Until the opponents of the apostolic succession can shew that “ Forbid him not” means receive him, acknowledge him, no lover of the Bible will go further. He may not forbid, but he can never acknowledge the call of those who make themselves ministers of Christ. . But the truth is, that, if this text proves anything, it proves too much; and that, therefore, the reasoning founded upon it is altogether inconclusive. If, because the apostles were told not to forbid a man to cast out devils, we are not to forbid any one to preach and admi. pister the sacraments, but to regard them all as lawful ministers, then the most notorious profligate is to be acknowledged as such,—then women, as well as men, must be reckoned as lawful ministers, though Paul says, “ Let your women keep silence in the churches." Then Christ has ordained not only no form, but no substance of church-government at all. There is no order, and ought to be none, in the gospel ministrations. Then the presbyterian and independent forms are an usurpation as much as the episcopacy. Then St. Paul's appointment of Timothy and Titus was an useless and unauthorized innovation, whereby the Christians of Ephesus and Crete were deprived of their right to become ministers of the gospel; and, as Luther says, we all stand on the same footing, and no one is bound to hear or obey another. These conclusions are in themselves sufficient to shew the invalidity of the reasoning. But it is also easy to shew that the case of those who assume the ministerial office is not at all parallel to that of the man casting out devils. He was not a member of the church of Christ. The apostles say, “ He followeth not with us.” If he had been baptized, the apostles must have known of it, for they baptized, and not Christ himself. His case is exactly parallel to that of an unbaptized Jew or heathen in the present day, who should take upon himself to preach Christ to his brethren. Of such an one it might be said, “ He that is not against us is for us.” As a Jew or a heathen, preaching to Jews or heathens, he would not interfere with the authority or jurisdiction of Christ's authorized ministers, for this is confined to the church of which he, as Jew or heathen, is not a member. There would therefore be neither cause nor right to forbid him. But this is very different from the case of those who do interfere with order of every kind,—who cause divisions,—who make all exercise of discipline impossible, and whose object it is to overthrow the church of Christ. Think you that, if this man had been preaching against the apostles—had been asserting that they had no right to the office, and that Christ had no apostles—that our Lord's language would bave been, “Forbid him not; he that is not against us is for us”? No; for such persons Christ has taught us a different doctrine, saying, “ He that is not with us is against us; and he that gathereth not with us scattereth.”
The question, then, How am I to know a lawful minister of Christ? still remains. The prevailing temper of the times calls for an answer from the Bible: men will not hear of history, and reject evidence. Well, then, let us, especially as there is not room to go into the full answer, consult the New Testament, and see what principle it lays
« But if any
down for settling disputes relative to the external order of the church, In the Corinthian church, the women committed an offence against external order by praying with their heads uncovered : how does St. Paul endeavour to convince them of their error? He first declares his own judgment in the matter, and then, in case they should dispute his authority, refers to the practice of the universal church. man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” (1 Cor. xi. 16.) He proves that the Corinthian practice was wrong, because it differed from that of the other churches, and hereby plainly intimates that they were not to rest upon their own judgments or interpretations, but to bow to the universal practice of the churches. He places this universal practice above his own decision, and evidently uses it as an argument not to be gainsayed. In like manner, in proving the erroneousness of another practice—the public preaching of women-he reproves their self-sufficiency, and directs them to others who had received the gospel as well as themselves. “ What! came the word of God out from you ? or came it unto you only ?" (1 Cor. xiv. 34.) In these two cases, then, relating to external order, he employs one principle to set the Corinthians right,—he tells them not to rely upon their own interpretation, but to see how others understood the gospel, and what was the universal practice of the churches. Let us, then, in determining this question of a lawful ministry, which also refers to external order, employ the same principle. Let us look to the churches established by the apostles, and ask what is their universal practice. The churches of Greece, Rome, Asia, and Africa, will all give one reply. They will all declare that the episcopal form of government is apostolic, and that the ministers ordained by bishops are the lawful ministers. They will all testify that every other form is an innovation and a departure from that which they received. If, then, we are willing to abide by the New-Testament principle of the universal usage of “ the churches, we shall be delivered from our perplexity, and find an easy answer to the question, Who are the legitimate ministers of Christ ?
THE CONVERSION OF JOHN THAULER, A DOMINICAN MONK.
In reading the very interesting collection of “Luther's Letters” published a few years back by De Wette, I was struck by his commendations of the sermons of Thauler, a name quite new to me. On inquiring, I found his name mentioned, and that is all, by Mosheim; but a little further search told me that he was a Dominican monk of the fourteenth century, and that his life, prefixed to his works, was well worth reading, as it contained a history of a sudden conversion, —and that, too, of a person previously esteemed as a shining light in the church,—which shewed that the annals of popery and protestantism may sometimes run more nearly parallel than is commonly allowed among us.
So it turned out. There were the continued reproofs of the learned preacher by a simple layman,-his at length