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were, leaving the world, and sweetly betaking himself to God, as his sure friend, and finding sweet complacence in God; though he be indeed in a mistake, concerning that which he thought was agreeable to God's will.
As I have before shewn that the exercise of a truly good affection, may be the occasion of error, and may indirectly incline a person to do that which is wrong; so on the other hand, error, or a doing that which is wrong, may be an occasion of the exercise of a truly good affection. The reason of it is this, that however all exercises of grace be from the Spirit of God, yet the Spirit of God dwells and acts in the hearts of saints, in some measure after the manner of a vital, natural principle, a principle of new nature in them; whose exercises are excited by means, in some measure as other natural principles are. Though grace be not in the saints, as a mere natural principle, but as a sovereign agent, and so its exercises are not tied to means, by an immutable law of nature, as in mere natural principles; yet God has so constituted that grace should dwell so in the hearts of the saints, that its exercises should have some degree of connexion with means, after the manner of a principle of nature.
Another erroneous principle that there has been something of, and that has been an occasion of some mischief and confusion, is that external order in matters of religion, and use of the means of grace, is but little to be regarded. It is spoken lightly of, under the names of ceremonies and deal forms, &c. And is probably the more despised by some because their opposers insist so much upon it, and because they are so continually hearing from them the cry of disorder and confusion. It is objected against the importance of external order that God does not look at the outward form, he looks at the heart. But that is a weak argument against its importance, that true Godliness does not consist in it; for it may be equally made use of against all the outward means of grace whatsoever. True Godliness does not consist in ink and paper, but yet that would be a foolish objection against the importance of ink and paper in re
ligion, when without it we could not have the word of God. If any external means at all are needful, any outward actions of a public nature, or wherein God's peo, ple are jointly concerned in public society, without doubt external order is needful. The management of an external affair that is public, or wherein a multitude is concerned without order, is in every thing found impossible. Without order there can no general direction of a multitude to any particular designed end, their purposes will cross one another, and they will not help but hinder one another. A multitude cannot act in union one with another without order; confusion separates and divides them, so that there can be no concert or agreement. If a multitude would help one another in any affair, they must unite themselves one to another in a regular subordination of members, in some measure as it is in the natural body; by this means they will be in some capacity to act with united strength. And thus Christ has appointed that it should be in the visible church, as 1 Cor. xii: 14, to the end, and Rom. xii: 4, 5, 6, 7,
8. Zeal without order will do but little, or at least it will be effectual but a little while.
Let a company that are very zealous against the enemy, go forth to war, without any manner of order, every one rushing forward as his zeal shall drive him, all in confusion, if they gain something at first onset, by surprising the enemy, yet how soon do they come to noihing, and fall an easy, helpless prey to their adversaries? Order is one of the most necessary of all external means of the spiritual good of God's church; and therefore it is 'requisite, even in heaven itself, where there is the least need of any external means of grace; order is maintained amongst the glorious angels there.
And the necessity of it in order to the carrying on any design, wherein a multitude are concerned, is so great, that even the devils in hell are driven to something of it, that they may carry on the designs of their kingdom. And it is very observable, that those kinds of irrational creatures, for whom it is needful that they should act in, union and join a multitude together, to carry on any work for their pres
ervation, they do by a wonderful instinct that God has put into them, observe and maintain a most regular and exact order among themselves; such as bees and some others. And order in the visible church is not only necessary to the carrying on the designs of Christ's glory and the church's prosperity, but it is absolutely necessary to its defence; without it, it is like a city without walls, and can be in no capacity to defend itself from any kind of mischief. And so however it be an external thing, yet it is not to be despised on that account; for though it be not the food of souls, yet it is in some respect their defence. The people of Holland would be very foolish to despise the dikes that keep out the sea from overwhelming them, under the names of dead stones and vile earth, because the matter of which they are built is not good to eat.
It seems to be partly on the foundation of this notion of the worthlessness of external order, that some have seemed to act on that principle, that the power of judging and openly censuring others should not be reserved in the hands of particular persons, or consistories appointed thereto, but ought to be left at large, for any body that pleases to take it upon them, or that think themselves fit for it. But more of this afterwards.
On this foundation also, an orderly attending on the stated worship of God in families, has been made too light of; and it has been in some places too much of a common and custoniary thing to be absent from family worship, and to be abroad late in the night at religious meetings, or to attend religious conversation. Not but that this may be, on certain extraordinary occasions; I have seen the case to be such in many instances, that I have thought did afford sufficient warrant for persons to be absent from family prayer, and to be from home until very late in the night. But we should take heed that this does not become a custom or common practice, if it should be so, we shall soon find the consequences to be
It seems to be on the same foundation, of the supposed unprofitableness of external order, that it has been
thought by some, that there is no need that such and such religious services and performances should be limited to any certain office in the church; (of which more afterwards.) And also that those offices themselves, as particularly that of the gospel ministry, need not be limited as it used to be, to persons of a liberal education; but some of late have been for having others that they have supposed to be persons of eminent experience, publicly licensed to preach, yea, and ordained to the work of the ministry, and some ministers have seemed to favor such a thing. But how little do they seem to look forward, and consider the unavoidable consequences of opening such a door? If once it should become a custom, or a thing generally approved and allowed of, to admit persons to the work of the ministry that have had no education for it, because of their remarkable experiences, and being persons of good understanding, how many lay persons would soon appear as candidates for the work of the ministry? I doubt not but that I have been acquainted with scores that would have desired it. And how shall we know where to stop? If one is admitted because his experiences are remarkable, another will think his experiences also remarkable; and we perhaps, shall not be able to deny but that they are near as great. If one is admitted because, besides experiences, he has good natural abilities, another by himself, and many of his neighbors, may be thought equal to him. It will be found of absolute necessity that there should be sonic certain, visible, limits fixed, to avoid bringing odium upon ourselves, and breeding uneasiness and strife amongst others; and I know of none better, and indeed no other that can well be fixed, than those that the prophet Zechertah fixes, viz. That those only should be appointed to be.pastors or shepherds in God's church, that have been taught to keep cattle from their youth, or that we have had an education for that purpose. Those ministers that have a disposition to break over these limits, if they should do so, and make a practice of it, would break down that fence, which they themselves after a while, after they had been wearied with
the ill consequences, would be glad to have somebody else build up for them. Not but that there may probably be some persons in the land, that have had no education at college, that are in themselves better qualified for the work of the ministry than some others that have taken their degrees, and are now ordained. But yet I believe the breaking over those bounds that have hitherto been set, in ordaining such persons, would in its consequences be a greater calamity, than the missing such persons in the work of the ministry. The opening a door for the admission of unlearned men to the work of the ministry, though they should be persons of extraordinary experience, would on some accounts be especially prejudicial at such a day as this; because such persons, for want of an extensive knowledge, are oftentimes forward to lead others into those things, which a people are in danger of at such a time, above all other times, viz. impulses, vain imaginations, superstition, indiscreet zeal, and such like extremes; instead of defending them from them, for which a people especially need a shepherd; at such an extraordinary season.
Another erroneous principle that it seems to me some have been, at least, in danger of, is, that ministers, because they speak as Christ's ambassadors, may assume the same style, and speak as with the same authority that the prophets of old did, yea, that Jesus Christ himself did in the xxii: of Matthew, Ye serpents, ye generation of ripers, &c. and other places; and that not only when they are speaking to the people, but so to their brethren in the ministry. Which principle is absurd, because it makes no difference in the different degrees and orders of messengers that God has sent into the world, though God has made: a very great difference. For though they all come in some respect in the name of God, and with something of his authority, yet certainly there is a vast difference in the degree of authority with which God has invested them. Jesus Christ was one that was sent into the world as God's messenger, and so was one of his apostles, and so also is an ordinary pastor of a church; but yet it does not follow,