« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
The influences of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of men are both general and extraordinary. By the general influences of the Spirit I mean the work of grace,-a work essential to the salvation of the soul; by which alone we are turned from our evil ways, enabled to serve God out of a pure heart, and preserved alive, as members of the body of Christ. “The grace of God which bringeth salvation,” says the apostle Paul, "hath appeared to all men; teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;" Tit. ii, 11, 12. Again, he says, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God;" Eph. ii, 8. The extraordinary influences of the Spirit are those which qualify individuals for particular religious services: they are by no means indispensable to salvation: it is not by them that we maintain our spiritual life: neither are they, as a whole, the common allotment of all the living members of the true church; but are variously bestowed--one upon one person, and another upon another.
These extraordinary influences are usually denominated the gifts of the Spirit. “To one,” says Paul,
“is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit; (that is, probably, such faith as qualified for the execution of some peculiarly important service ;) to another the gifts of healing, by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another the discerning of spirits ; to another divers kinds of tongues ; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will;" I Cor. xii, 8—11.
This apostolick description of the distribution of divine gifts in the church is introduced by the declaration that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal;” or, as in the Greek, in order to that which is profitable or useful. And, as every member of the natural body contributes, by the exercise of its own functions, to the welfare of the whole body, so it may be presumed that there is no real Christian who is not, sooner or later, endowed with some particular spiritual capacity for usefulness in the church, and called to the performance of some specifick services, in the great cause of truth and righteousness. When, however, we consider any one gift of the Spirit, we plainly perceive that it is not bestowed generally, but is the portion of those individuals only, upon whom is laid that peculiar office in the church, to the exercise of which such gift is directed. Now, the gift to which I am about to advert is preeminent, above all others, as a means of general usefulness of conversion, instruction, and consolation; it is that which is now generally denominated the gift of “ministry,” but which, in the Scriptures, is sometimes described as the gift of "prophecy;" I Cor. xiv, 3. Undoubtedly, there have existed, at various periods,
1 προς το συμφέρον. .
and for particular purposes, other gifts of the Spirit, which require a higher degree of supernatural influence; such as those of " miracles” and of “tongues ;" but the gift by means of which divine truth is outwardly communicated and applied, is of constant and therefore of paramonnt benefit; and when we take into our view the weakness and imperfection of human nature, we may consider it as equally important, in every age, to the maintenance, edification, and enlargement, of the militant church.
I believe it to be allowed, among the plurality of Christians, that none can be true ministers of the gospel, who are not called to the exercise of that office by the Holy Ghost; and, consequently, that the faculty of ministry is still to be considered a gift of the Spirit. But, although this doctrine is generally admitted, it is very far indeed from being consistently or universally carried into practice. Many rush into the sacred office, and enjoy the temporal privileges with which it is so usually connected, whose whole deportment evinces, in the plainest manner, that they are destitute of qualification for any such undertaking. Others, whose views are of a somewhat more serious complexion, and who are actuated by a general desire to perform their duty, are obviously depending, in their ministry, not upon that Spirit who can alone qualify for the exercise of his own gifts, but upon human learning and merely intellectual exertion. Their discourses are so far from arising out of the intimations of a divine influence, that they are the mere produce of their own reflections, and their own industry---unless indeed they are borrowed, as is too frequently the case, from the reflections and industry of others. Such discourses may be the word of the preacher, or they may be the word of his neighbour, but they cannot, with any degree of strictness or propriety, be described as “the word of the Lord.”
Happily, there is still another class of ministers, among various denominations of Christians (as I can testify from my own observation), whose views on the present subject are of a much more spiritual character. In the first place, they enter into the sacred office under very decided impressions of Christian duty, and in the humble, yet full persuasion, that they are called into this field of service by the great Head of the church. And, in the second place, when invested, according to their own apprehension, with the office in question, they exercise its important functions, not only with zeal and fidelity, but with a real feeling of dependence upon the divine Spirit. Such persons are evidently the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ; and we can scarcely fail to observe how frequently their labours are blessed to the conversion and edification of the people. Nevertheless, I conceive that even these preachers of the gospel do not consider it necessary that their ministry should be the unmixed offspring of the Lord's Spirit. The principle upon which they generally (I will not say universally) conduct their religious services, appears to be this—that, having been called to the work, and invested with the office of preachers, they are constantly to seek for the assistance of divine power in the exercise of its functions: nevertheless, that the discourses which they actually utter are not to be immediately prompted of the Lord, but, under the more general and indirect influences of the Holy Spirit, are to be the produce of their own minds, and mostly of previous study, research, and reflexion. Little as I am inclined to cast any blame
upon others, who are evidently accepted and assisted by their "own Master,” I conceive it to be a duty, plainly laid upon the Society of Friends, to hold up a still higher and purer standard respecting the Christian
ministry. It is a principle generally understood and admitted by the members of that Society, that the faculty of the Christian ministry is a gift of the Spirit, which cannot be rightly exercised otherwise than under the direct and immediate influence of that Spirit. Friends are not, therefore, satisfied with any general impression that it is their duty to preach the gospel; nor do they venture, under such impression, either to employ their own intellectual exertions as a preparation for the service, or to select their own time for performing it. If it be the divine will that they should minister, they believe it will be manifested to them, by the divine Spirit, when they are to speak, whom they are to address, and what things they are to express. In the exercise of so high and sacred a function, they dare not depend, either in a greater or less degree, upon their own strength or wisdom; but they feel constrained to place their sole reliance
upon him who "searcheth the reins and the hearts;" upon him who “hath the key of David;" who "openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth;" Rev. iii, 7.
The individual who, according to the apprehension of Friends, is a true minister of the Gospel, (and there may be many such persons in a single congregation) avails himself, with strict regularity, of the opportunities provided amongst us, as in every religious society, for the purpose of divine worship. In company with his brethren and sisters, he waits, in public, upon Him who is alone the author of every good and perfect gift. His soul is humbled in true prostration before God; and, while he continues in this condition, he is often sensible, not only of a general desire for the spiritual welfare of his friends, but of a strong, yet secret, exercise of mind on their account. Now, as he patiently waits in reverent dependence upon Christ the great