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CANDIDATES FOR ORDERS
AFTER THEIR SUBSCRIBING THE ARTICLES.
You have now made the subscription, by law required. And as, in so doing, you have acknowledged the liturgy and articles of the church of England to be agreeable to the word of God; I hope you will think yourselves bound, as you are, to be careful, that the instructions which you give, and the doctrines which you maintain, in public and in private, be agreeable to that liturgy and those articles: that you neither contradict, nor omit to inculcate and defend, on proper occasions, the truths which they contain.
In the next place, I exhort you to spend a due share of the remainder of this day in what, I trust, hath employed not a little of your time already; weighing diligently the nature and importance of the undertaking, in which you are about to engage; forming suitable resolutions; and earnesty begging
of God, which alone can make you able ministers of the New Testament *.
Nothing is better fitted to assist you in this good work, than the office of ordination, of deacons or priests, as you are respectively concerned. You must certainly have read it over, before you offered yourselves. Since that you have been directed to read it again. But I desire you to peruse it once more this afternoon with your best attention, that you may join in it to-morrow with a greater degree of rational seriousness; and particularly, that you may answer, on more deliberate consideration, the questions, which will then be put to you. For there can hardly be a case, in which either insincerity, or even thoughtlessness, would carry in it heavier guilt.
And that you may be in no perplexity concerning the meaning or fitness of any part of the office, it may be useful to go through some parts of it along with you beforehand, proceeding as they lie in the book.
The first thing, which candidates, both for deacons' and priests' orders, after they are presented, are required to do, as distinct from the rest of the congregation, is to take the oaths of allegiance, and supremacy. For as you are to be ministers of the church established by law in this nation, it is evidently reasonable, that the civil government, established by law, should be assured of the fidelity and affection of persons to whom it gives and secures privileges and profits; and who are intrusted with the care, amongst other matters, of making men good subjects. Now these oaths bind every person, who takes them, to honour the king f, and by consequence all that are put in authority under him, both in word and deed; and to lead, in subjection to them, quiet and peaceable lives *. That these things may with a good conscience be promised and performed, there is no just cause of doubt. But if any one thinks there is, he ought to apply for satisfaction: and till he receives it, he ought to abstain from taking the oaths. For whatever is not of faith, is sint; and in this case it would be no less than perjury. Nothing is a plea sufficient for committing any sin, much less one so heinous : not even all the force, that can be used. But here is no shadow of force. You are come voluntarily to offer yourselves, well knowing that the oaths must be tendered to you: that is, you have made it your choice to take them. .
† 1 Pet. ii. 17. kk
2 Cor. ii. 6.
But by your subscription you have entered into a further obligation: to use the Liturgy in all your public ministrations I: and therefore, to pray for the king by name, for his long life and prosperity, for his obtaining victory over all his enemies. God forbid, that any one, who doth this, should be disaffected to the government, under which we live. And if we are friends, it is both our duty and our wisdom to shew that we are. For thus we shall strengthen an establishment, on which, under God, the safe enjoyment of our religion entirely depends; we shall procure the support, which we cannot but be sensible that we want; and we shall silence, or at least confute those, who love to speak despitefully against us on this head.
After the oaths, candidates for deacons' orders are asked: Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office and ministration? A solemn question: and which ought to be well considered, before it is answered. Observe then: 1 Tim. j. 2.
+ Rom. xiv, 23. # Can. 36.
it is not said, Do you feel ;' have you an immediate perception of such an impulse from the Holy Ghost, as you can distinguish from all other inward movements by its manner of impressing you ? but, Do you trust ; are you on good grounds persuaded ? What then are the proper grounds of such persuasion ? In the first place, if he hath not moved you
effectually to live soberly, righteously, and godly*, you may be sure he hath not moved you to assume the office of a minister in God's church. Examine yourselves therefore strictly on this point : a most important one to all men: but to you, if possible, above all: and before you presume to officiate in this house, ask your hearts, Do you transgress, do you omit, no duty, wilfully or knowingly ? Have you a genuine practical faith in Christ? Are you, on the terms of the Gospel covenant, entitled to everlasting life ? But supposing that you are, more is requisite in the present case: and what more, the latter part of the question points out: To serve God, for the promoting of his glory, and the edifying of his church. This then being the design of the office; if, so far as you know your own hearts, this is your motive to desire it; and if, so far as you can judge of your own abilities and attainments, they are equal to it in some competent degree:
then you may safely answer, that you trust you are moved by the Holy Ghost to take it upon you. For we can have such trust to God-ward only through Christ, who hath sent us the Spirit: we are not sufficient to do or think any thing as of ourselves : but our sufficiency is of Godt. Together with this principal motive, of serving God by edifying his people, you may allowably have the subordinate one, of providing a decent maintenance for your own support, and for * Tit. ii. 12.
+ 2 Cor. iii. 4, 5.
those who may belong to you: but if you are indif
. ferent or cool about the former, and attentive only or chiefly to the latter : since you cannot think that such dispositions are approved by the Holy Spirit, as proper for the ministry, you will be guilty of lying to him *, if you affirm, that he hath moved you to enter on it with them. Therefore inspect your souls thoroughly: and form them, by the help of divine grace, to be duly influenced by the right principle, before you venture to answer this question : which is very wisely made the leading one; because your inducement will be the rule of your behaviour, and probably also the measure of your success.
The next question, put to those who apply for deacons' orders, and the first to such as have received them, and desire to be admitted priests, is, Do you think, that you are truly called, according to the will of Christ, and the due order of this realm, to the ministry of the church? This is, Are you conscious neither of any defect in body or mind, nor of any other impediment, which may, for the present, if not for ever, be, according to the laws of God or man, a just obstacle in your way ? Such things may escape our knowledge or memory. Therefore we call upon you to inform us. And you are bound to answer with sincerity.
It is not requisite, that I should enlarge on every question; though it is, that you should weigh every one seriously. That, which recites the duties of deacons, may seem to have some difficulty in it: as it assigns to them occupations, which the Acts of the Apostles do not, in the history of their appointment t; and as they are but little employed now in the single business, there allotted to them. But that
+ Aets vi.
* Acts v. 3.