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diate direction and guidance of the God of Israel ; and consequently to trace out the conditions under which they exercised the duties of their office;—to mark God's dealings with them under failure — His infinite and providential care over them under
every circumstanceHis preordained arrangements for all their temporal need, in order to their more effectually carrying on (without let or hindrance from external necessities) those services of that earthly tabernacle, which was so significantly to foreshadow " the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” (Heb. viii. 2.) It may
be that in the selection of those texts which it was deemed absolutely necessary to introduce, in order to meet every possible objection that could arise, and to the rendering of the book unanswerable — at least from Scripture—it may be, I say, that a few of those passages may seem a little obscure as they stand alone, especially to those whose short experience on the heavenly road leads them to dwell more frequently and with greater relish upon the blessings and promises of the New Testament; upon those, then, let me press my advice, as they desire light upon these Scriptures,) that they refer to every one of them, and read them with their contexts. To prove the importance of this, I will refer only to the title of the work itself, “The Priests thereof teach for hire,” which is taken from Micah iii. 11. We begin at verse 5: “Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people
Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel ... They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money; yet will they lean upon the Lord and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us.
Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps.” Now, by reading to the end of the chapter, we find that not only severe judgment, as in verse 6, comes upon the prophets and the priests, but even Zion and Jerusalem bitterly suffer for their sake.
Hence, then, we see the great importance and the obvious duty devolving upon all the Lord's people to see well that those whom they recognise as pastors of the flock are “pastors after God's own heart;” that their teachers are “ teachers sent from God ;” nor is this enough, but that tney are also faithful in the exercise of that service unto which they are called of God, not as men-pleasers, but as “ stewards of the mysteries of God;” and not only so, but that this service is performed with due reference to God's order, for we read that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” Surely it is man, following his own ways and the devices of his own heart, that causes confusion. If God has, in His exceeding grace and kindness, left us a pattern of His service, (and who can doubt it, with Paul's epistles in his hand ?) of the worship which He requires in the assemblies of His saints, surely it becomes His people to know what it is, and to follow its rules. Hear, then, what His word is to all who have learned that worship, of which the blessed Saviour speaks in John iv. 23, 24, and who know how to “ offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually
giving thanks to His name.” In 1 Cor. xiv., we
have God's thoughts about liberty of ministry in the worship of His saints. We read, in verse 31, “For ye may ALL prophesy, one by one, that all may learn, and that all may be comforted." Does this surprise any? Is this any new thing? No! God has no new thoughts. He knoweth the end from the beginning. Surely this is the very perfection of order.
The only limit to this blessed and glorious liberty of the Spirit of God in His church, we have in verse 34: “Let your women keep silence in the churches.” It may be well for a moment to turn to Numbers xi., where we shall find one (on whom came the Spirit of God) breathing out the same thought. Read from the 25th to the 29th verses. “ And there ran a young man and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.” This, we may suppose, was deemed a violation of the order of the seventy, for they prophesied as they stood round about the tabernacle; and the flesh was so grieved at this irregularity, that, rather than not have its own way, the tongue of the Lord's prophets must be silenced. Have we not here, then, a little sample of that desire for fleshly order, of which we hear and see so much in this our day? "And Joshua said, My lord Moses, forbid them.” But what do we read was the language of the Spirit in Moses? How did he meet this fleshly desire ? “And Moses said, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them !” Oh! that this were the desire of the saints of God in these days of formal ministry. (See 1 Peter iv. 10, 11: “If any man speak .... if any man minister,” &c.) Oh! the deep responsibility of those
who dare to take upon them the ordering of God's house with a fleshly mind; who shrink not from taking upon them an office, in the slightest failure of which it is said, “knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”—But I forbear trespassing upon a subject which is so fully entered upon in the work itself.
I would here add, in conclusion, that should the treatment of the subject be deemed in any wise too severe, let him who thinks so bear in mind, that severity does not always argue absence of charity. Need I instance our blessed Lord himself, or his devoted servant Paul?—but let the importance of the subject and the extent of the evil be sufficient for this. Need I again point the reader to the anticipated result, which, in the above text, Micah xi., and many other analogous to it, warrant us to expect? Be it ever remembered, that the Lord Jesus draws the most fearful contrast between the good shepherd and the mere hireling; and before I venture another thought here, let me add, that no severer word will be found in these pages, than that which is drawn from the “Law and the Testimony.” What, then, are the words of the meek and lowly Jesus, of Him of whom it is justly said, “Never man spake like this man”? In John X. 13, after describing who and what the good shepherd is, He adds, “The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep;” and in the next verse, “I know my sheep, and am known of mine." Christian reader, think of this word. Are you altogether ignorant of a hireling ministry? Look around, I beseech you, and behold the fact of many a poor flock having strange shepherds pressed upon them, who prove
to be no shepherds at all, who never know the sheep, and whose voice the sheep cannot know, for they know not the voice of a stranger (hireling). “The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling.” I could most willingly allow this to be the last word, that the echo of it might dwell upon the ear of all while they peruse the following pages; but one word more.—Surely the present state of the Church of God is deeply to be lamented. How true is that word, Jer. xii. 10, “Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard.” This is truly the time when the weak as well as the strong should lift up the voice, to testify against the wide-spread evil which this little work seeks to bring to the light.
Cheerfully, therefore, do I (the weakest of all) desire thus to strengthen a brother's hand; and earnestly do I pray that the Good Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep, — and adds, “They shall never perish, may bless the work. May it be the means of opening the eyes of those, who, either from education, habit, or prejudice, are still blind as to their proper path in their heavenward journey; and may it confirm others, whose present state appears to be like the second stage of the blind man, whose reply was, “I see men as trees walking;” and should there be, among the readers of this book, one whose conscience is telling him that his heart has departed from the living God, or one who feels that he is as yet in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity, let him know that it is written, “ The wages of sin is death, BUT THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”