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Minister of the sanctuary, this exercise of mind often assumes an explicit direction; and, when he apprehends that the secret command has gone forth towards him, vocally to address either the congregation in preaching, or the Almighty in prayer, he obeys the mandate of his Lord, and speaks as the Spirit gives him utterance. When he has been enabled to discharge himself of the burthen which has thus rested upon him, he returns to a state of silence, and is often permitted to experience a consoling feeling of relief and tranquillity. The quietude and true ease which then prevail in his mind afford him an evidence, of which he may, with humility, avail himself, that, in thus exercising his gift, he has been following, not the carnal imaginations of his own heart, but the voice of the true Shepherd.
Here I would particularly observe that, with every humble and devoted minister who acts on these principles, and who carefully maintains the watch, the internal operations of the Spirit will not only prompt to a right exercise of the gift, but will afford a constant check upon its abuse. There will be found, in those internal operations, a secret discipline, a salutary correction, for those who exceed the limits of their calling, and stretch their gift beyond its true measure. If, however, in any persons, who have received the gift of the ministry, a watchful dependence upon God is not maintained, and thus their services degenerate into the use of words without life, the spirituallyminded hearer will not fail to observe so important a change; and thus, while the members of a religious Society are “subject to one another in love,” and a right Christian oversight is preserved among them, it will not, for the most part, be found a difficult matter to prevent the continuance, in any congregation, of a spurious ministry.
The use of the Christian ministry, whether in preaching or in prayer, whether in the public congregation, or even in the more private circle,-is immediately connected with the worship of God. It is universally understood to constitute a part of that worship. The sentiments of Friends, therefore, on this subject, like those on the rites of baptism and the supper, arise out of that part of the divine law, as revealed under the New Covenant, which declares that God is a Spirit, and must be worshipped, by his followers, in spirit and in truth.
They conceive that true spiritual worship consists in that communion of the soul with its Creator which is not interrupted, either by the use of ceremonial ordinances, or by any religious services originating in the invention and contrivance of man; and, therefore, they apprehend that no verbal administrations properly consist with worship, but those which spring simply and immediately from the influence of the Holy Spirit. They believe that God can be rightly praised only by his own works. Now, among those works may be reckoned the spiritual ministry of which I am speaking; for, although it may be affected by the infirmity of the instrument through which it passes, (and this may be the case in a greater or lesser degree,) it is, nevertheless, called into exercise, ordered, and directed to its right object, by the Lord himself.
Here I would observe that there appears to exist a material distinction between teaching and preaching. While, in the performance of either of these Christian duties, the dependence of the true Christian will be placed on the grace and Spirit of God, it may be freely admitted that, in teaching, a much greater liberty is given, for the use of our merely human faculties, than in the higher and more important office of prophesying or preaching. The Spirit operates through a variety of administrations : and opportunities fre
quently occur, when the composition of treatises on religious subjects, when commenting on the Scriptures, or when the use of other means of Christian instruction, is not only allowable, but desirable. But, such an allowance by no means affects the principle of Friends, that, with occasions so solemn as those of the congregational worship of the Deity, no ministry can be in true harmony, but such as proceeds from the direct influences of the Holy Spirit. It is then that, in a peculiar and preeminent manner, the Almighty Saviour of men is present with his people. The sacred canopy of their heavenly Father's love is spread over them; nor can they worship him aright, unless the reasonings and imaginations of their own minds are brought into subjection. At such times the mandate is proclaimed to the spiritual worshipper: "Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord; for he is raised up out of his holy habitation;" Zech. ii, 13. If incense is then to be offered unto him, its sweet savour must arise out of no "strange fire;" Levit. x, 1. If the ark of the covenant is to be uplifted among the people, none may touch it to whom the command is not given; II Sam. vi, 6. If the pure temple of the Lord is to be built up, he himself must prepare the materials, "and neither hammer nor axe, nor any tool of iron”nothing of the unauthorized instrumentality of manmust be “heard in the house;" I Kings vi, 7.
In offering the description now given of the nature and operation of that which we deem to be true ministry; in adverting to its divine origin, and in marking its coincidence with the pure spirituality of Christian worship,- I have not forgotten our own infirmities and deficiencies; and it has been very far indeed from my intention to convey the idea that we are found universally to maintain in practice this high, yet simple, standard. I am remarking, only, that this is our prin
ciple, and that it is a principle which evidently arises out of the divine law, and accords with its holiness and perfection.
There is another point of view, in which the present subject requires to be considered.
Although the object for which Christians meet in congregations is the worship of the Deity, and although it is by means of a direct communion between God and the soul that the worshipper is chiefly edified, the “Master of assemblies" is pleased to appoint the outward ministration of preaching, in immediate connexion with the service thus offered to himself, for the purposes of conversion, edification, and consolation. It is obvious that, in an assembly of persons, there is always a great variety of internal condition; and the mental state, even of a single individual, is varied, from time to time, by circumstances known only to himself and to his Creator. In order, then, to be useful to its fullest extent, the ministers of the Gospel ought to consist, not only in a statement of scriptural truths, but in a right experimental application of those truths, as occasion offers, to all this variety of internal condition. Now, although the preacher, from his own observation, may form some opinion respecting the states of his hearers, he cannot penetrate the secrets of the heart; and his judgment never fails to be obscure, uncertain, and imperfect. Thus his administrations may or may not be fitted to those persons for whom they are intended. But the Minister of ministers searches the hearts of men; and, under the immediate influence ef his Spirit, the preacher of the Gospel is enabled to unfold the condition of individuals, and rightly to apply to their several wants the word of consolation, reproof, or instruction. Such was the character of that prophesying or preaching of which we read in the epistles of Paul. “If all prophesy,” says he, “and
there come in one who believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth;" I Cor. xiv, 24, 25.
So, also, in publick prayer, the minister prays as the representative of the congregation, and the minds of the hearers are supposed to accompany the words of the speaker. If he utter the written prayer, and the congregation follow him in the same words, it is sufficiently obvious that the expression of the lip and the feeling of the heart will often be in total dissonance. The obdurate sinner may be found addressing an omnipresent Deity in the language of contritionthe sorrowful and desponding spirit, in the voice of praise and thanksgiving—the happy and rejoicing believer, in the words of mourning and wo! Nor can it be considered that a less inconsistency prevails, when the prayer of the minister is extemporaneous, and proceeds, not from the Spirit of the Lord, but from his own powers of invention and composition. The words which, under such circumstances, he may express, however satisfactory to his own mind, may often be in absolute discordance with the feelings and real condition of his hearers. Were we, in our publick assemblies for worship, to use addresses either to the people or to the Almighty, not prompted by his Spirit, but either previously written or extemporaneously composed, we should, with our views of the subject, consider ourselves, not as honouring the God of our fathers, but as making an unauthorized and improper use of his holy name.
And we are persuaded, from long experience, that, under that dispensation of religion into which we have been led, such a mode of conducting the administrations of the gospel would greatly injure the life, and as greatly