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more hurt than natural men, and lead more souls to hell, and that it would be well for mankind if they were all dead.
How needless are such petitions or imprecations as these? What benefit is there of them? Why is it not sufficient for us to pray that God would provide for his church, and the good of souls, and take care of his own flock, and give it needful means and advantages for its spiritual prosperity? Does God need to be directed by us in what way he shall do it? Why need we ask of God to do it by killing such and such persons, if he does not convert them? Unless we delight in the thoughts of God's answering us in such terrible ways, and with such awful manifestations of his wrath to our fellow creatures.
And why do not ministers direct sinners to pray for themselves, that God would either convert them or kill them, and send them to hell now, before their guilt is greater? In this way we should lead persons in the next place to self murder. For many probably would soon begin to think that that which they may pray for, they may seek, and use the means of.
Some with whom I have discoursed about this way of praying, have said, that the Spirit of God, as it were, forces them to utter themselves thus, as it were forces out such words from their mouths, than otherwise they should not dare to utter them. But such a kind of impulse does not look like the influence of the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God sometimes strongly inclines men to utter words; but not by putting expressions into the mouth, and urging to utter them; but by filling the heart with a sense of divine things, and holy affections; and those affections and that sense inclines the mouth to speak. That other way of men's being urged to use certain expressions, by an unaccountable force, is very probably from the influence of the spirit of the devil.
2. Another thing I would take notice of, in the management of which there has been much error and misconduct, is, lay exhorting; about which there has been abundance of disputing, jangling, and contention
In the midst of all the disputes that have been, I suppose that all are agreed as to these two things viz.
1. That all exhorting one another of laymen is not unlawful or improper, but on the contrary, that some exhorting is a Christian duty. . And, 2. I
suppose also, all will allow that there is something that is proper only for ministers; that there is some kind or way of exhorting and teaching or other, that belongs only to the office of teachers. All will allow, that God has appointed such an office as that of teachers in the Christian church, and therefore, doubtless will allow that something or other is proper and peculiar to that office, or some business of teaching that belongs to it, that does not belong as much to others as to them.
If there be any way of teaching, that is peculiar to that office, then for others to take that upon them, is to invade the office of a minister; which doubtless is very sinful, and is often so represented in scripture. But the great difficulty is to settle the bounds, and to tell exactly, how far laymen may go, and when they exceed their limits; which is a matter of so much difficulty, that I do not wonder if many in their zeal have transgressed. The two ways of teaching and exhorting, the one of which ought ordinarily to be left to ministers, and the other of which may and ought to be practised by the people, may be expressed by those two names of preaching and exhorting in a way of Christian conversation.But then a great deal of difficulty and controversy arises to determine what is preaching, and what is Christian conversation, However, I will humbly offer my thoughts concerning this subject of lay exhorting as follows.
1. The common people in exhorting one another ought not to clothe themselves with the like authority with that which is proper for ministers. There is a certain authority that ministers have, and should exercise in teaching, as well as governing the flock. Teaching is spoken of in scripture as an act of authority, i Tim. i: 12. In order to a man's preaching, special authority must be committed to him. Rom. x: 15.“ How
plute amongst a company of children, and counselling in a exhorts glory. But the expression as it is usually understood
shall they preach, except they be sent?" Ministers in this work of teaching and exhorting are ciothed with authority, as Christ's messengers, (Mal. ii: 7.) and as representing him, and so speaking in his name, and in his stead, 2 Cor. v: 18, 19, 20. And it seems to be the
most honorable thing that belongs to the office of a si minister of the gospel, that to him is committed the word
of reconciliation, and that he has power to preuch the in gospel, as.Christ's messenger, and speaking in his name. * The apostle seems to speak of it as such, 1 Cor. i: 16, at 17. Ministers therefore in the exercise of this power,
may clothe themselves with authority in speaking, or liamay teach others in an authoritative manner. Tit. ii:
“These things speak and exhort, and rebuke with them all authority: Let no man despise thee." But the
common people in exhorting one another, ought not thus to exhort in an authoritative manner. '
There is a des great deal of difference between teaching as a father and brotherly way, as the children may kindly counsel and
admonish one another. Those that are mere brethren, ought not to assume authority in exhorting, though one
may be better, and have nore experience than another. Laymen ought not to exhort as though they were the
ambassadors or messengers of Christ, as ministers do; cli aor should they exhort and warn and charge in his name,
According to the ordinary import of such an expression, "hen applied to teaching. Indeed in one sense, a hristian ought to do every thing he does in religion in
, a ace on him as his head and mediator, and do all for "hen applied to teaching or exhorting, is speaking in
brist's stead, and as having a message from him. one Persons may clothe themselves with authority in speak
either by the authoritative words they make use or in the manuer, and authoritative air of their speak
Though some may think that this latter is a matof indifferency, or at least of small importance, yet :re is indeed a great deal in it. A person may go
1. of authen ning, spel
much out of his place, and be guilty of a great degree of assuming, in the mapr:er of his speaking those words, which as they might be spoken, might be proper for him. The same words spoken in a different manner, may express what is very diverse. Doubtless there may be as much hurt in the manner of a person's speaking, as there may in his looks; but the wise man tells us, that an high took is an abomination to the Lord, Prov. xxi: 4. Again, a man may clothe himself with authority, in the circumstances under which he speaks; as for instance, if he sets himself up as a public teacher. Here I would have it observed, that I do not suppose that a person is guilty of this, 'nerely because he speaks in the hearing of many. Persons may speak, and speak only in a way of conversation, and yet speak in the hearing of a great number, as they often do in their common conversation about ten poral things, at feasts apd entertainments, where women as well as others, do converse freely together about worldly things, in the hearing of a considerable number; and it may happen to be in the hearing of a great number, and yet without offence. And if their conversation on sucli occasions should turn on spiritual things, and they should speak as freely and openly, I do not see why it would not be as harmless. Nor do I think that if besides a great number's being present, persons speak with a very earnest and loud voice, this is for them to set up themselves as public teachers, if they do it from no contrivance or premeditated design, or as purposely directing themselves to a congregation or multitude, and not speaking to any that are composed to the solemnity of any public service; but speaking in the time of conversation, or a time when all do freely converse one with another, they express what they then feel, directing themselves to none but those that are near them, and fall in their way, speaking in that earnest and pathetical manner, to which the subject they are speaking of, and the affecting sense of their souls naturally leads them, and as it were constrains them. I say that for persons to do thus, though many happen to hear them, yet it does not appear to me to be a setting
themselves up as public teachers. Yea, if this be added to these other circumstances, that all this happens to be in a meeting house; I do not think that merely its being in such a place, much alters the case, provided the solemnity of public service and divine ordinances be over, and the solemn assembly broke up, and some stay in the house for mutual religious conversation; provided also that they speak in no authoritative way, but in an humble manner, becoming their degree and station, tho? they speak very earnestly and pathetically.
Indeed modesty might, in ordinary cases, restrain some persons, as women, and those that are young, from so much as speaking, when a great number are present; at least when some of those present are much their superiors, unless they are spoken to; and yet the case may be so extraordinary, as fully to warrant it. If something very extraordinary happens to persons, or if they are in extraordinary circumstances; as if a person be struck with lightning, in the midst of a great company, or if he lies a dying, it appears to none any violation of modesty, for him to speak freely, before those that are much his superiors. "I have seen some women and children in such circumstances, on religious accounts, that it has appeared to me no more a transgresøng the laws of humility and modesty, for them to speak freely, let who will be present than if they were dying.
But then may a man be said to set up himself as a public teacher, when he in a set speech, of design, rects himself to a multitude, either in the meeting house or elsewhere, as looking that they should compose themselves to attend to what he has to say; and much more when this is a contrived and premeditated thing, without any thing like a constraint, by any extraordinary sense or affection that he is then under; and more still, when meetings are appointed on purpose to hear lay persons exhort, and they take it as their business to be speakers while they expect that others should come, and compose themselves, and attend as hearers; when private christians take it upon them in private meetings, to act as the masters or presidents of the assembly, and accordingly