Page images
PDF
EPUB

It is said, that the apostles received freely, and were commanded freely to give. The apostles, on a miraculous mission, and endued with miraculous powers, were commanded to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead, to cast out devils, and to preach, as they went, saying, “ the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The supernatural powers, by which these miracles were to be wrought, and which they had received freely from the bounty of Christ, they were com'manded to exercise freely, for the benefit of those, by whom they should be welcomed into their cities and houses.

Is this the commission under which ministers are now to act? if it is, let them obey its call, as did the apostles. Particularly, let them provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass, in their purses, nor scrip, nor two * coats, nor shoes, nor yet staves. According to this very commission, they are forbidden to preach the gospel to any, who will not furnish them with these things. Against those who do not perform this duty, they are directed," to shake off the dust of their feet,” and it is declared, “ that it shall be more torable for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day judgment, than for them.”

The ninth chapter of the 1st of Corinnians, has settled this point for ever. Here Christ has ordained, that “they who preach he gospel, shall live of the gospel,"* and to cut off all debate, so far as debate can be cut off, St. Paul, appealing to the law of Moses, the express injunction of Christ, and the authority of his own inspiration, hath left the following satisfactory decision :- Who goeth a warfare at any time, at his own charge who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock. Say I these things as a man, (upon principles of natural reason and equity) or saith not the law the same also ? for it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corndoth God take care for oxen, or saith he it'altogether for our sake? for our sake, no doubt, this is written, that (in the spiritual husbandry) he that ploughs should plough in hope, and he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we should reap (some of) your carnal things ?”

* The first converts to the christian religion, felt that the teachers of its doctrines, had a claim for some compensation for their exertions, on the broad principle, that “the labourer is worthy of his hire”; and the practice of the Jews, suggested a tenth part of the produce of the land, for the maintenance of the priests.

The present revenues of the bishops and clergy are wrought into the very fundamentals of our government, and make a part of the constitution. Magna Charta is but a confirmation of their rights, for they have an older charter, that of Ethelwolph, Anno. 855, recorded in Ingulphus, and afterwards ratified by Edmund, Edgar, Ethelred, Alfred, and William the Conqueror; so that with regard to property, they have not only as old, but a much older title to their tithes and estates, than any man or corporation can plead, as far as we can trace the annals of our country. But it must be carefully recollected, that the church, in being supported by the state, does not lose its spiritual nature. It continues the same church still.--It rests upon its own foundation.Upon the law of its own discipline, antecedently to the civil laws.-Suppose it were persecuted by the civil power, and its ministers and worship were prescribed, would it therefore cease to be the church of Christ? and if its doctrines remained unchangeably the same, in the days of persecution, do its bishops and priests, cease to be bishops and priests? do its sacraments cease to be sacraments ? does its discipline cease to be christian diseipline, and lose its authority, because according to the prophecy of Isaiah, Kings are become “ its nursing fathers, and Queens its nursing mothers ?"

Great and excellent are the ends and uses to which the ministry is directed, and among them that of christian unity, holds a distinguished place. - Abide in me, said our Lord, and I in you. The powers of language cannot more forcibly describe the duty of continuing in the communion of that fellowship, which subsists under one everlasting head. “ As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

I am the vine, ye are the branches.” These words are plain and simple ; they admit but of one construction --the necessity of a fruitful bond of union, as to faith and worship with Jesus Christ, the one true vine. Without this. privilege there can be no safety. No thriving shoot, no bud of promise, no leaf, no cluster for the gatherer, no happy vintage : and no cup of blessing for the table of the Lord.

How much then does it behove us to be faithful, constant, and sincere, in our attachment to that spiritual house, which in

this happy land, still stands, according to the form and plan of its first establishment.

Let us at all times bear in our remembrance, all that God hath done for those whom he hath called into the fellowship of his church, and united under its appointed ministry, as plants grafted into a living stock, and brought within the safe enclosures of his favoured vineyard.

In the success of the gospel, are involved the honour and glory of God. The good man considers it, as an august display of the divine perfections, as gaining the Deity everlasting praises from angels and men, as dear to the eternal mind, in its design and accomplishment, and as vouchsafed to men with a kindness that enraptures the imagination, and warms the heart. As a creature, therefore, of the Most High God, he will feel concerned for the prosperity of a work upon which, from before the foundation of the world, his Creator hath bestowed his care, and the success of which he earnestly desires, and hath sent his Son to promote. He considers Christianity as opening to the sinner,

« PreviousContinue »