« PoprzedniaDalej »
themselves for admission to this ministry, and are set apart to it by prayer and the laying on of hands, then, as really as he did those whose case is represented in the text, the LORD may be said to separate them to stand before the LORD and minister unto him. For it is the spirit of the Lord by which "the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified,” that moves them thus to dedicate themselves to his service. It is the LORD who by the same spirit matures and brings that desire to good effect; and it is the LORD by whose authority they act, who invest them with the badges of his service.
SECONDLY. The LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the Lord to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name. It were unnecessary, even would the time admit of it, to enter into a minute consideration of the particulars which are here stated as comprised in the part assigned to the Levites in the services of the ancient sanctuary. It is sufficient to observe, that the duties belonging to them under all previous administrations, as well as the modifications and enlargement of them made by David, when the Tabernacle had given place to the temple worship, all denote a sacred office, and that distinct from that of the Priests, and inferior, and subject to it.
The same things are true of the office of Deacons in the Church of Christ; theirs is an ecclesiastical office, distinct from, and auxiliary and subject to the authority of others. Every testimony by which a judgment can be formed of the nature, relations and duties of ecclesiastical offices, in the first ages of the Church, imposes upon us this persuasion. Their solemn separation at the first from the whole body of the brethren, by prayer and the laying on of the hands of the apostles, denotes the sacredness of the functions to which they were devoted. Philip, in the exercise of the authority thus imparted to him, we find preaching and baptizing; and Paul himself plainly, as we see in the chapter to which the words which have been read to you belong, represents Deacons as an order of ministers, by his instructions addressed to Timothy, respecting their character, conduct, and manners, in the same part of his epistle, which contains similar instructions for those who are invested with distinct and higher offices. In the age immediately
succeeding, we find Deacons expressly inhibited from secular business, as being an order of men holy to the Lord;* and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find in the writings of this period any mention of this office which does not plainly designate an office, apostolically instituted, of the Church and ministry of Christ.
The variations to which the functions of this order of the Christian ministry have been subject in different periods and places, do not, in any degree, affect the evidence of the fact we are asserting. Through all those variations, every thing essential to this fact remains apparent; that Deacons were ordained by prayer and the laying on of the hands of a distinct order of ministers, to whom this duty specially appertained, that under their authority and subject to their direction, they exercised the ministerial functions of baptizing, reading, and assisting at the celebration of the worship and sacraments of the Church.t
In conformity, then, with the example of all primitive antiquity, the branch of the Church of Christ, of which we are members, declares it to appertain to the office of a Deacon, in the Church where he shall be appointed to serve, to assist the Priest in divine service; and especially, when he ministereth the holy communion; to read the holy scriptures and homilies, in the Church, and to instruct the youth in the catechism; in the absence of the Priest, to baptize infants, and to preach, if he be admitted thereto by the Bishop.
THIRDLY. The text having declared the nature, proceeds to represent the will of heaven, with respect to the condition of the office of the Levites. Wherefore Levi hath no part or inheritance with his brethren. Called out from among the people, the tribe thus dedicated by the will of JEHOVAH to his own immediate service, were separated from all their common pursuits, and deprived of all the honors or profits, which either the judicial or regal government could confer. So, too, they whom God calls into the service of his Church, in a sense essentially the same, are called to a renunciation of all part and inheritance with their brethren. Of all its stages and degrees alike indeed, as well as of that which is on this occasion peculiarly in our view, this language represents the true condition. The pomp of power, the splendor of worldly distinction, the pride and pleasures of life, are not for the ministers of CHRIST. It is, however, the first step in this holy warfare, which constitutes emphatically the renunciation, which the text may be considered to describe. The same hour which witnesses, and the same ceremony which seals the dedication of any to CHRIST, as his ministering servants, witnesses and seals their consent to have henceforth no participation with the rest of men, in the common pursuits and interests of the world, or in any of the objects of merely secular interest and care. Shameful dissemblers were they with God were it otherwise. If, of all the professors of the religion of the Son of God, it is true (and who shall dispute the truth of what he has himself declared ?) that they cannot serve two masters, the world and him, with how much greater force will this declaration apply to them who devote themselves to the work of his sacred ministry! In the duties of that ministry, there is enough, (nay, how much more than enough, let them say who have arrived at life’s farthest verge, in the most diligent and assiduous discharge of them,) to employ all their time, all their solicitude, and all their powers. They may acquire much knowledge of the oracles of God, and yet know them very imperfectly and unsatisfactorily. They may have dealt out much of the bread of life, and yet to the last see many more around them hungering for it than they can feed. They may rejoice in the assurance of having many souls to present at the last to the Lorr, as the seal of their fidelity, yet mourn and weep for numbers whom they could not induce to come to Christ, that they might have life, passing into eternity with no interest secured in the salvation of the Cross. Can they then presume on the privilege of sharing their affections, their labors, or their time, between the things of their master and the world? Oh no! they know that no such privilege belongs to the service, to which, by the most solemn of engagements, they are bound. They know that neither their commission includes, nor the nature of their service will admit it. That none ever come to take upon them this office with the solemn declaration on their tongues, that they “ trust they are inwardly moved to do so, by the Holy Ghost," while their hearts are divided between its objects and those of secular pursuits and desires, we would not venture to assert. With the depravity of the heart of man there is scarcely any thing impossible, and instances, even of this hypocrisy, the most odious that the mind can conceive, there may be registered among the subjects of "the wrath that shall burn like fire for ever.” But, instances of this must be, and for the honor of our nature, let us presume they will always be but rare exceptions to the general holiness of intention with which men enter into the service of the sanctuary. It were
* Cyprian's Letters.
+ All questions relating to the office and duties of Deacons in the Church may be found stated and discussed in Bancroft's Survey of the Pretended Holy Discipline.
oo daring an impiety for the most hardened, and too serious for the most thoughtless profligacy often to commit : and you must seek another explanation of that want of a sufficiently undivided interest in the objects of their calling, which, in all ages, the Church may have had more or less to lament in her ministers, than that which resolves it into motives unworthy at the begining, of the pure and exalted nature of her service. You must recognise in it, a melancholy evidence of that infirmity of fallen man, which, amid the trials, necessities, and temptations of life, often renders his best and holiest purposes ineffectual, or the sad effect of the relaxation of that holy vigilance which, in all conditions alike, is indispensable to the integrity of human virtue.
If, however, we must confess, on the one hand, an inconsistency sometimes to mark the lives of the ministers of Christ, with the holiness of the purpose for which they are separated from the world, yet must it, on the other, be declared of them at large, that as it is their lot to have no part or inheritance with their brethren, in the honors, profits, and pleasures of the world, so they are cheerfully content to have none. Even where considerations of human expediency may have united the ecclesiastical with the civil state, and annexed high distinction and emolument to some of its departments, even there, unless the state of the Church be utterly corrupt, honor and affluence can actuate comparatively none to enter into its ministry. At the stations in which these are found, but few can hope to arrive; and thousands must devote themselves to the laborious work, the toil ending only with their days, of the service of Christ, with no higher expectation than that of being scantily and grudgingly provided with the things needful for their sustenance. No. The cupidity with which the enemies of Christianity have delighted to reproach its ministers, can move none to enter into a calling, out of which, the purposes of such a temper can so much more readily and effectually be answered; and the ignoble ambition into which an ignorant malignity would explain the zealous enterprise or learned assiduity of those who have been early distinguished in the service of their divine master could, here, but defeat and disgrace itself. A worldly minded ambition, an ambition unworthy the Christian, because incompatible with the love of God and man, wbich must regulate all his views, and influence all his conduct, would seek another sphere than this. It would choose the world for its field; where ignorance can so readily be duped, or knavery bribed, into its views. In the Church, it were too base a motive for the favor indispensable to its object; and stripped of its disguise, would be soon abandoned to the scorn and disgrace it merited.
But, my brethren, whatever coloring other circumstances may afford for the alleged worldliness of the views of Christian ministers, it is certain those of their condition in our quarter of the Christian world, are calculated to secure their motives, at least from any such reproach as this. Here, little, indeed, is the part or inheritance they have with their brethren. Here obscurity and poverty are their lot--poverty in many places, absolute and almost extreine; in others, comparative indeed, yet poverty justly so called, while limited to the provision barely adequate to the decent necessities of the present, their most favored condition admits of no reservation for the increased necessities of the future. While, then, such is the condition of the ministers of CHRIST, yet is it a condition at which they feel they are not to repine; nay, by that very authority which has ordered their condition as it is, they are forbidden to murmur or repine at it; for it assures them, as in the last clause of the text, the Lord is their inheritance.
Fourthly. This language, in its original application, issufficient ly explained by the laws of the Levitical code, making provision