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be pleaded, that they were to lay by for this purpose the whole of their gains: but if not, they must have been allowed to labour and trade like other men. Moreover, if they were forbidden to encrease wealth, why are they exhorted to diligence, that they may have whereof to give to him that needeth?'* On this principle also, it would be wrong for parents to provide any thing for their children, which both reason and scripture allow.†
Finally: If these words require to be taken literally, why should not others of a similar import be understood in the same way? Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink' Sell what ye have and give alms.' Yet if such a literal interpretation were reduced to general practice, it would destroy all distinc tion of property, and so of rich and poor. This however was not our Lord's design, or he would not have addressed men, much less good men, under the character of rich and poor. The accumulation of property, if arising from the blessing of God on our lawful occupations, and considered as a trust to be laid out for him, has nothing wrong in it. The danger is, what our Lord inveighs against, that of making a treasure' of it, or setting our hearts upon it as an idol in the place of God, instead of considering all as his, and as requiring all to be employed for him, according to his revealed will. It is the desire to be great, to shine, and to indulge in the pride of life, that is destructive to men's souls. This is the evil everywhere described by such language as the following: 'Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts'-They that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.'
2. I observe, the reason of some duties ceases in a greater or less degree, by a change of circumstances.-This remark,
* Ephes. iv. 28.
† 2 Cor. xii. 14.
Matt. vi. 25. Luke xii. 33.
|| James iv. 3. 1 Tim. vi. 9.
Such, I conceive, is the state of things with respect to the apostles and succeeding pastors. There never were any men, or set of men whatsoever, that were, properly speaking, their successors. Nor was it necessary that there should, seeing every thing which they did (excepting what was extraordinary, in which respect none can succed them) was lawful for every pastor to do in his immediate charge.
If a necessity existed for any superior office or offices, it must be for the purpose of inspecting and preserving the general interest of the whole body: but even this would be more likely to be answered by occasional conferences among the elders.
II. The following arguments are offered in proof, that the office of a Superior, or of a general Superintendent in the christian church, is both unlawful and unnecessary.
1. A bishop is the first permanent office in the christian church. It was the highest title assumed for many ages after the apostles. But a bishop is no other than a presbyter, an elder, or overseer of a single congregation; as is evident from each of these names being given to the elders of the church at Ephesus, who met Paul at Miletus.* Any office therefore in the present day, which claims the oversight of bishops, must be antiscriptural.. 2. It accords with the genius of christianity, that the churches be governed, and all their affairs adjusted, by mutual consultation and persuasion, rather than by coercion. But where the power has been vested in one or more superior officers, it has commonly degenerated into a lording it over the heritage, and the people have gradually lost all interest in it. If Christ's kingdom were of this world, its officers might require to be invested with worldly honour, pageantry, and authority. Its members also must be governed 'like the horse and the mule, which
*Acts xx. 17, 28.
have no understanding.' But the great Head of the church has told his servants, 'It shall not be so amongst you.' On this ground there might be danger in what you propose in your letters, of having European missionaries as superintendents of the native pastors. You should indeed superintend them, but not so as to make it an office, or to set an example of lordly domination in future times among themselves.
3. The apostles, in the exercise of their authority, did not act separately from other elders, but in conjunction with them; by which means they gradually enured them to the discharge of the same duties among themselves, after their decease. Paul laid his hands on Timothy, yet not as an individual, in the manner practised by diocesan bishops, but as an elder among other elders.*
In the planting and organizing of churches, the same things which were done by them, were done by others appointed by them; and had they been done by elders whom they had not appointed, provided the will of Christ had been properly regarded, they would not, I presume, have objected to their validity. This is certainly true, at least, in some particulars; and I see no reason why it should not be the same in all. Paul left Timothy at Ephesus, that he might charge some to teach no other doctrine.' But if the Ephesian elders had been of themselves attached to the truth, neither Paul nor Timothy would have been offended with them for superseding the exercise of their authority.
The apostle also left Titus in Crete, to set in order the things that were wanting, and to ordain elders in every city.' But if the Cretians themselves had had sufficient wisdom and virtue to have regulated their own affairs by the word of God, would their 'order' have been reckoned disorder? And had there been 'elders' already ordained amongst them, who were competent to assist in the ordination of others, if we may judge from the tenour of
* 2 Tim, i. 6. comp, with 1 Tim. iv. 14.
I am aware, is liable to great abuse. Some, under the pretense of accommodating christianity to times and circumstances, may render it a mere temporising system, to be just what its professors may find it their interest or their inclination to have it be. Yet after all, the fact cannot be called in question; and if men will abuse it, they must take the consequence.
It is a fact, that for a man in the times of the apostles to have had his head covered' in public worship, was reckoned to be 'dishonouring his head;' for by the custom which then prevailed, it was a sign of subjection.* But in our times the reverse is true; a being uncovered is the sign of subjection, and the being covered indicates some kind of superiority. Men are now generally uncovered in the time of worship, not for the purpose of maintaining their dignity, or superiority over the women, but on the contrary, for avoiding the appearance of assuming too much in the presence of God, by seeming to refuse that honour to him which is paid to our superiors among men. The woman, on the other hand, was then required to be covered, as by the custom of those times it was a token of her subjection to the man. But though our females still cover the head in public worship, it is not for this purpose, nor does it convey any such idea.
To the same purpose the hair of the man was shorn, and that of the woman worn at length. Each by the custom of the time and place was considered as distinctive of the sexes, which various important purposes in society, and even nature itself required to be preserved. When the apostle asks, 'Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him; but if a woman have long hair it is a glory to her;'t some have thought that, by nature,' he means no more than custom. This I apprehend is a mistake. President Edwards has happily expressed what appears to be the true meaning of this passage, in the following words. "It is
custom which establishes any outward sign, as a token of inward sentiment: therefore when it had established the wearing of long hair as the sign of a female, nature itself taught that it was a shame for a man to appear in the known garb of a woman." The truth is, I apprehend, if the proper distinction of the sexes be preserved, by each appearing in that habit which the custom of the age and country makes the distinctive marks of them, the end aimed at by the apostle is fully answered.
[The remaining part of this Essay, consisting chiefly of strictures on the practice of Open Communion, then lately introduced at Serampore, is unfortunately mislaid or lost; but as the sentiments of the Author on this subject have already appeared in a posthumous publication, and also in some of the preseding pages, it is less to be regretted, though the Essay in its present state is left unfinished and incomplete.]
ON LAYING THE FOUNDATION OF A NEW CHAPEL.
HAVING been requested to say a few words on this occasion, I wish, my friends, to direct your attention, not so much to the place about to be erected, as to the use to which, I trust, it will be appropriated. Under the gospel it is not place, but the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth, that is of account.
To fix your attention on this subject, let us read a passage from 1 Peter ii. 4, 5.To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious: ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.'
Much of the religion of the old testament consisted in the building and worship of the temple; when therefore