« PoprzedniaDalej »
authority than these. What was the language of the great apostle of the Gentiles on this subject ? Did Paul consider the work of the ministry an easy work-a work that required but small qualifications ? Under a sense of the dread responsibility attached to it, he cried out “who is sufficient for these things?”
But what are the qualifications which are necessary to make an able and faithful minister of the word of God.
We observe in general that these qualifications may be divided into two classes.
I. Those which are received from God only.
II. Those which under God may be attained by human industry and application.
1. As pastors and teachers are the gift of the Lord Jesus to his church, so he qualifies for their work those whom he gives. “ To every one of us,” says the apostle, “is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ,” Eph. iv. 7. Hence the apostle charges Timothy to commit the things that he had heard of him to faithful men, that is, to men of true piety. This is the first, and this too is the most important qualification.
Genuine piety is not only absolutely necessary for the salvation of a minister as well as any other man, but it is also necessary in order to his being a blessing to the church. It is true that God may, and he sometimes does, bless the labours of unregenerate men, and make them the instruments of converting others; but such men have a withering influence; the spirit of piety decays before them, and mournful spiritual desolation follows.
II. But without dwelling further on this head, we observe, that there is a second class of qualifications which under God may be obtained by human industry and application. Such as arise from a diligent improvement of the faculties of the mind, and the cultivation of suitable tempers and habits.
But without entering largely on the discussion of each particular included in this general remark, we shall devote the residue of this essay to the consideration of the importance of sound learning to the gospel ministry; not merely to the respectability, but to the usefulness of the ministry.
Though the Lord Jesus gives pastors to his church and qualifies them by his grace, yet this does not supersede the necessity of their labouring to the utmost to improve themselves. God has so ordered that nothing good or great is ever attained without labour. The apostle charges Timothy, still I come give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine; neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery: meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all.” 1 Tim. iy. 13—-15. We consider this as deci
sive, and shall offer nothing further to establish the point. Reading and meditation are particularly enjoined.
We are aware that prejudices against a learned ministry exist in the minds of some truly pious persons, whom we sincerely esteem, and truth compels us to declare, that a lamentable apathy on this subject, exists too generally in the minds of Christians.
But where should we desire or expect to find learning if not in the ministry? Do men choose ignorant lawyers to manage their suits at law, or ignorant physicians to heal the diseases of their body? Why then entrust the care of our souls, the affairs of eternity, to ignorant spiritual guides? What work is there that requires superior wisdom and superior knowledge ? To ministers it belongs to dispense the mysteries of the kingdom of God, mysteries which excite the admiration of angels, and which even angelic intellect cannot comprehend. To ministers it belongs to instruct the ignorant; to guide the wanderer; to reclaim the backslider, to comfort the mourner; to direct the inquirer; to warn the sinner, and to encourage the believer.
To ministers it belongs rightly to divide the word of truth; to solve doubts; answer objections, clear up obscurities, establish doctrines, explain prophecies, enforce precepts; in fine, to give to every one his portion in due season. They are set for the defence of the truth, and to them it belongs to repel the attacks of its adversaries. What need then was there for that strong and pointed admonition of the apostle to Timothy, “the things that thou hast heard of me, among many witnesses, the same commit thou”-not only “ to faithful men,” but to those " who shall be able to teach others also.” Great stress is laid on this ability to teach others. Hence, the apostle at one time declares, that a preacher of the word should be apt to teach ; at another that he should be able rightly to divide the word of truth; to withstand, and by sound doctrine to convince gainsayers. It is not merely a dictate of sound reason, it is a maxim enforced by the high authority of heaven, that the priests' lips should keep knowledge.”
Still, however, some will object that confining youth to the drudgery of a college life, compelling them to go through the routine of classical studies, and human science, has a tendency to abate their ardour, and to quench the spirit of devotedness to the service of God, which, otherwise, they would feel. For this reason some are for hurrying young men with small attainments in literature into the work of the ministry, and others refuse altogether to contribute any thing towards supporting them while they are obtaining an education.
Many remarks might be made on this objection. It might be said, that all kinds of zeal are not pleasing in the sight of
God; that covetousness and love of money is often hidden under objections that would seem to flow from regard to the glory of God. But, waving every thing of this kind, we solicit your serious and candid attention to the following remarks in favour of a learned as well as pious ministry.
I. God has been pleased to build up his church generally by the instrumentality of able and learned as well as pious men.
Against this observation we know that it will be immediately objected, that the apostles of our Lord were illiterate fishermen, and yet they were chosen and blessed of God to build up his church. Hence, it is inferred, that illiterate men now, if pious, may be just as well qualified for the work of the ministry, and perhaps more useful in it than learned men. It is readily granted, once for all, that illiterate men, that is, men who have not gone through a regular course of college studies, have in many instances been very useful. But though they were illiterate men they were not ignorant men. Most of them regretted that they had not had the opportunity of obtaining science, and there is reason to believe that useful as they were, they would have been much more useful had they possessed it.
In reply, however, to this objection, it might perhaps be sufficient to observe, that the circumstances of the apostles were essentially different from the circumstances in which any man can now be placed; that their case was an extraordinary case; and that, therefore, it should not be pleaded as in point.
But we shall not dismiss this part of our subject thus. We maintain that the case of the apostles proves directly the opposite of what is contended for in the objection. We appeal to
as a proof decisively in favour of the principle which we have laid down, that God generally uses an enlightened and able ministry to build up his church.
The apostles were illiterate fishermen when the Lord Jesus first called them. But were they such when he sent them to preach the gospel? It is from not distinguishing between what they were when Christ first called them, and what they were when he sent them to preach his gospel, that this objection is urged with such frequency and confidence. A clown may by education be changed into a polished and enlightened statesman. Though previous to their calling by Christ the apostles were illiterate fishermen, yet from the time of his calling them, if
you will allow the expression, their education for the gospel ministry commenced. They entered the school of Christ ; for upwards of three years they were his companions; they heard his public preaching; received his private instructions ; observed his example, and conversed familiarly with him. Stupid indeed must they have been not to have profited by this; not to have acquired much knowledge and wisdom from the in
structions of the great prophet sent from God; from his instructions who spake as man never spake.
But this is the least part of our answer. That our Lord did not intend that the ministry of the gospel should be committed to ignorant and insufficient men, is evident from the charge which he gave to his apostles just before his ascension. And what was this charge? Did he tell them go just as you are and preach the gospel ? No. They must be qualified for this work before they go. He commanded them to tarry at Jerusalem till they should receive the spirit, and be “endued with power from on high.” Luke xxiv. 49. Acts i. 4–8.
It was not sufficient that they had been his companions, and received his instructions for three years, they must be furnished with gifts and graces for their work immediately from heaven.
What, then, were the qualifications for the work of the ministry which the apostles possessed ? “ They were all filled with the Holy Ghost.' God himself inspired them, and by his enlightening influences on their souls led them into all truth. He gave them superior degrees of holiness and knowledge, and appointed them to be the inspired teachers of his church. What now costs years of laborious study, the speaking of other tongues, they had given them at once. “God also bare them witness both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost according to his own will.” Heb. ii. 4. They wrought miracles to attest the truth of their message; they healed diseases; they cast out devils; they raised the dead.
And are these the men who are pleaded in favour of an illiterate ministry? How perfectly ridiculous is this. Never since their days has there been such a ministry in the church; a ministry so able, so enlightened, so zealous, and so powerful. What! degrade the apostles of our Lord to a level-not simply with the most able divines of the present day—but with those who are the least able What! degrade men who had been the companions of Christ? men divinely inspired; men filled with the Holy Ghost; men possessed of superior knowledge and superior holiness ; men having the gist of tongues and the power of.working miracles-of working mighty signs and wonders-degrade these men by comparing them with any that have ever lived since their days? They stand alone. They occupy a lofty eminence; objects of admiration, and illustrious patterns to all succeeding ministers of Jesus. Where is the minister of the cross who does not shrink from a comparison with these distinguished servants of Christ.
If from the apostles we proceed to consider the primitive Christian fathers, we shall find enrolled among them some of the most celebrated names of antiquity for profound erudition.
They were men who defended Christianity by their writings, who built up the church by their preaching, who recommended the gospel by the holiness of their lives, and some of whom, as martyrs, sealed their testimony with their blood.
After these venerable fathers had ceased from their labours, the church became wofully corrupt. But let it be recollected that those days are called, emphatically, the dark ages of the world and of the church.
Together with the revival of learning was the revival of religion. The Reformers were eminent for their literary attainments. They were the most learned men of the day. They were the great revivers and promoters of learning, and their learning gave them a decided superiority over their enemies.
And who are the men that under God were honoured to be the fathers of the American churches ? Not to mention those eminent men who built up the churches in New England; who were the founders of the Presbyterian church in our land ? To be admired, they need only to be named. Burr, and Dickinson, and Edwards, and Davies, and Bostwick, and Blair, and the Tennants, and Finley, and Witherspoon, were ornaments and blessings to our country.
When we look abroad and contemplate the character of the Missionaries, who have been and are now employed in the conversion of the heathen, we find this to be the fact, that those who have been the most distinguished for their success, are precisely the men who are most distinguished for their learning and piety. Elliot, and Brainerd, Schwarts, and Vanderkemp, were far from being illiterate. Did not Martyn's learning, under the blessing of heaven, greatly contribute to his success and usefulness among the Persians ? Could Carey, or Marshman, without an acquaintance with the original languages of scripture, have given them to the Hindoos, or Morrison and Milne to the Chinese? And, had it not been for the labours of eminently learned and pious men, would not we, ourselves, to this very hour hava been destitute of the word of God; to us it would have been a sealed book. But,
II. It is an interesting fact that for ages past schools have been established for the instruction of those who were designed to minister in holy things. This is our second argument.
1. Among the ancient Israelites there were the schools of the prophets, in which young men were piously educated, to prepare them for being instructers of the people. These schools appear to have been established in the time of the prophet Samuel, and he is by some considered as the founder of them. Fleury, in his History of the Ancient Israelites, says, “there was a great number of these prophets from Samuel's time, but more especially from the days of Elijah and Elisha, to the BaVol. II.- Presb. Mag.