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"feed the Church of God, and take the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind:" by deacons, you will perceive, is meant, worthy, confidential individuals, commissioned especially to manage the secular concernments of the societies, or, as it is expressed in the Acts of the Apostles, "to serve tables;" and you will finally ascertain, that these two, bishops and deacons, "are all that appear to have a divine sanction, as ordinary and permanent officers in the Church of Christ." But now turn from the New Testament writings to the National Establishment of this country, and what do you find in that? Why, archbishops, archdeacons, deans, prebendaries, cannons, rectors, vicars, curates, and I scarcely know what besides: but this I do know, not one of all those functionaries just mentioned will be able to find his official appellation in any part of the Christian Scriptures. Now it appears to us, that the original order of such things, which was established by our adorable Redeemer and his inspired apostles, must be the best. We admire that order because of its simplicity, and its sufficiency; and since we deem it incumbent on us to conform to that, we are necessarily separated from those who presume to depart so widely from it.
4th. We refuse to conform to the Church of England because of the very improper and pernicious manner in which its benefices are for the most part disposed of, and in which its ministers obtain their respective situations. Here I refer to that system of patronage, which has done more perhaps towards bringing the National Establishment of these realms into disgrace and inefficiency than any one thing beside. Nearly all the "livings" in this country are in the gift of the sovereign, or the bishops, or the deans and chapters, or the universities, or private individuals. It was ascertained, a few years ago, that in the gift of the crown were 1048 livings; in the gift
of the bishops, 1301; of the deans and chapters, 982; of the universities, 743; of private individuals, 6619; making a total of 10,693; while there were only about 64 in the gift of the parishioners themselves. Many of these "livings" are actually advertized in the public prints for sale, and are disposed of to the highest bidders, whoever and whatever they may be. Thus the members of the Episcopal Church, instead of choosing their own "pastors and teachers," as it is the duty and privilege of Christian societies to do, are obliged, for the most part, to sit under any ministers sent them by the parties to whom the benefices belong, and who commonly select their presentees, it is well known, not on account of high spiritual attainments and aptitude for teaching "the truth as it is in Jesus," but because they desire to confer some substantial favor upon them as relatives and friends. It is not unfrequently found, also, that several of these benefices are bestowed upon one individual, who derives a large annual income from them, while he is not even obliged to reside among the people of his charge. He can appoint a few curates on very limited salaries, to occupy the pulpits, and only go near himself to receive the tithes. By this system of patronage, many of the most pious and excellent ministers of the Church of England have been kept through life in the lowest situations, and on the smallest stipends, while many others, far inferior to them in point of mental talent and religious worth, have been exalted to very lucrative benefices on account of family connexions, and by means of patronal partiality; yea, through this system of patronage, the Church of England has been infested with hosts of ignorant, slothful, and even profligate clergymen, who would be a disgrace to any society calling itself Christian, and who, instead of enlightening the minds of the people, and guiding their feet into the way of peace, could
only be expected to confirm them in unbelief, and accelerate their progress to everlasting destruction. From a Church which allows of such flagrant enormities as these, we feel ourselves constrained to dissent. We are aware that many of its own members and ministers highly disapprove of these enormities. Some of them have even written against them as strongly as we could possibly do, and have loudly I called for an extensive reformation. But (to use the language of an able nonconformist writer) "we could not be satisfied with lamentations; we dare not call such a system ours; we should think it wrong to sanction it by our example; we stand aloof, therefore, from it; and by doing so, it is our design thus to offer a constant public protest against the support and continuance of such flagrant enormities."
Several other particulars might be adverted to, and enlarged upon this morning, but we forbear; enough has been said, we imagine, to show it is not without reason we refuse to conform to the Church of England; and that it is not without reason we glory in our name, our principles, and our privileges, as Protestant Dissenters. In conclusion, I would offer a very few observations respecting the constitution and government of our Churches as congregational nonconformists, with a word or two on the particular occasion which has brought us together this morning.
Our Churches are composed of such individuals, and only such, as solemnly profess to be "turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." These individuals unite together quite voluntarily, and receive each other as brethren and sisters in the Lord. The coalition takes place with a view to their mutual improvement in doctrinal, experimental, and practical Christianity; for the purpose also of more effectually
promoting the public worship of Almighty God, attending to the ordinances of his appointment, and advancing the cause of Christ, so far as their influence may extend. These Churches are quite independent of each other; they receive their own members, exercise appropriate discipline upon delinquents, exclude incorrigible transgressors, and manage all their own concernments without any foreign control or unauthorized interference. These Churches have two kinds of officers, viz, bishops, that is, pastors, to look after their spiritual improvement; and deacons, to transact especially their more secular and pecuniary affairs. These officers are chosen by the members themselves, and the members can remove them from office whenever there is any valid and sufficient reason for doing so.
We are assembled this morning to witness and assist in the public setting apart of a Christian brother as bishop, or pastor, of the Christian society usually assembling within these walls. The Church of Christ here has chosen our brother as its pastor because of his mental and spiritual qualifications for the office, and the ministers present from distant Churches have been respectfully requested to come and assist in the formal and public ratification of their choice, as well as to give them a few words of affectionate exhortation relative to their duties towards each other, and towards the sacred cause of the adorable Redeemer in this town and neighbourhood.
Having trespassed, I fear, upon your time and patience, brethren, I would now conclude in the well-known words of the poet, occasionally sung in our sanctuaries :—
RRIEF ESSAYS ON IMPORTANT DOCTRINAL SUBJECTS.
No. 1.-FREE AGENCY, RESPONSIBILITY, &c.
By Rev. J. Burns, Pastor of the General Baptist Church, St. Mary-le-bone.
MAN is either free to choose good and reject evil, or he cannot be responsible for his conduct before God. If, on any ground whatever, it can be demonstrated, that man acts from necessity, either on account of superior energy exerted upon him, or from the circumstances in which he is placed, and over which he has no control; then accountability is utterly out of the question. We do not doubt the inability of man in his natural state to exemplify the beauties of holiness, or even to change the bent of his own desires, but can he place himself in the way of restoration? can he be brought to perceive his error, misery, and peril, and thus influenced, avail himself of the saving directions and blessings of the Gospel. If he must necessarily remain ignorant, unaffected, and unimpressed, until a superior power is exerted upon him,-then, so far as it regards that condition, he cannot be responsible. That Adam in his original state was free, is unquestioned; and yet we find the Deity just treating mankind afterwards as he did the progenitors of the human race. To Adam he said, obey, and live; transgress, and die." And did he not say just the same to the guilty fratricide Cain. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at thy door." The principle on which Adam and his guilty son were treated were precisely the same. does not follow from this, that Cain possessed either the moral ability, or was expected to obey perfectly the same laws with his father; for, the one stood before God in the maturity of unsullied purity, capable of rendering perfect obedience, while the other was under the influence of a fallen nature, and must serve God with all the frailties pertaining to a sinner: but, in both cases, the freedom of the individual was clearly involved, and the responsibility of both self-evident. And God's address to Cain he has been reiterating to sinners in every age, from that period to the present. To the Jews these emphatic words were addressed;-“See, I
have set before thee this day, life and good, and death and evil.” Deut. xxx. 15. See also ver. 1. And again, "Behold I set before you this day a blessing and a curse, a blessing if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and a curse if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God," &c., Deut. xi. 26, &c.
After the lapse of nearly nine hundred years we find the posterity of those Moses addressed pleading their inability to obey God, and the neccesity under which they were placed of doing evil, saying, "If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?" Ezek. xxxiii. 10. Thus denying their free agency, and evading the responsibility with which they were charged. To this God replied, with all the moral grandeur of his oath, "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his wickedness and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, Ŏ_house_ of Israel.” Ezek. xxxiii. 11. Here God affirms their free agency, and throws all the responsibility upon themselves, and then mercifully urges them to turn and escape the just consequences of their transgressions. The same important principle characterizes all the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. He never loses sight of the sinner's free agency, and responsible state and condition. urges the attentive hearing of the Word, and shews that if the good seed sown does not produce fruit, that the fault is in the soil; and his explanation of the various classes of hearers, demonstrates that the cause of barrenness was their own free act, and for which they alone were responsible. In like manner in the case of the builder whose house was swept away, he attributes the calamity to his own folly and want of forethought. The man excluded from the wedding chamber was manifestly guilty of intruding without the prescribed costume in which every guest was to appear. The
rich fool is described as ruining his soul by worldliness and religious neglect. The Jews who remained in spiritual death, were charged with the guilt of not coming to Christ that they might have life. Their ignorance, unbelief, and criminality, were ever placed at their own door. Jesus wept over their devoted city, and traced its inevitable and fearful doom to their own "would not" be gathered beneath the merciful wings of their Messiah, who was so truly solicitous for their rescue and salvation. Thus, too, he gave the great commission to his diciples, and rested the onus of salvation or eternal death on the belief or unbelief of those to whom the Gospel was preached. Now, if such conduct as the great Redeemer manifested, is to be interpreted according to the dictates of reason, it evidently follows that he considered all men as free agents, and as responsible for their moral conduct and condition. It would be impossible to select all the portions of Divine truth which most manifestly, in the strongest mode of expression, point to the free agency and responsibility of man. See Prov. i. 24, &c., Isaiah lxv. 12; Matt. xxi. 33, &c. Of course responsibility is ever in proportion to the means and privileges enjoyed, according to Christ's words, that "where much is given, much will be required." How then does this subject bear upon those, to whom the Gospel of salvation is now preached? reply, they are responsible for the reading and hearing the truths of the Word of God; responsible for the knowledge it communicates, for the blessings it reveals, for the faith and obedience it demands. Ignorance of divine truth is criminal ignorance, and therefore the shame as well as the misery of the unenlightened. Inattention is criminal neglect of the most momentous concerns of the soul. Unbelief is a glaring sin against God's truth and grace, against the divine love and the merciful mission of the Saviour. And if they live and die in ignorance and unbelief, their destruction will be the just result of their own impenitent choice and decision.
But suppose it possible that their ignorance is the necessary result of the Divine decrees, or of their own unavoidable circumstances, that their unbelief is a disease of the mind, which they have no means to remedy, and then
their doom, however awful in its representation, loses its main terrors, which will chiefly arise from a sense of its justice, and the upbraidings of inward remorse from the recollection of their own free agency and former responsible condition. The eternal ruin of such must be more matter of misfortune than wilful crime, seeing that means of deliverance were never really placed within their reach.
The New Testament Scriptures lay the greatest possible stress on the unbelief of the sinner. He is guilty it is true, and so are all men, but he is also redeemed, and in that redemption there is a remedy for his guilt, a remedy freely tendered, but which his impenitent unbelief wickedly rejects. On the ground these observations assume, and on no other, can we lay the sinner's wickedness and misery at his own door. Thus only consistently can we urge the great doctrines of repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And thus only can we appeal to the sinner's conscience and place in fearful array against him the terrors of the judgment day.
It is in vain, and worse than vain, for Christians metaphysically to speculate on the power of the mind of man, to philosophise on what he can, and on what he cannot do; and thus fritter away the great truths of his free agency and responsibility to God. The carnal heart will gladly avail itself of doubtful disputations on these subjects, to escape the sentence of its own condemnation. But surely it is the Christian minister's duty to place the guilty and selfprocured misery of every man before his eyes, and to insist that every finally lost soul will have been his own destroyer. All other truths will be comparatively powerless as this is adulterated, or explained away; and only as this is brought to bear on the consciences of men, can we expect to see the Gospel the power of God unto salvation.
It is precisely upon the application of this principle that all the affairs of life are conducted. Parents recognize the freedom of their children, to obey or disobey, the civil authority recognizes this in the subjects of the realm, and holds every man accountable who is of sane mind. No man would be exculpated because he should inform
the jury that he was necessitated to commit the crime with which he was charged, or that it was the result of a decree over which he had no control; or, because he had no rescources with which to arm himself against the power of temptation.
And just so does God treat sinners; he demands, not that they should undo the criminal act of the first transgressor, or that they should annihilate the deparavity within them, the result of that transgression,-but he demands, that they should hear his voice-know his will-receive the tenders of his mercyavail themselves of the sacrifice his grace has provided, and in the strength and ability it imparts, serve him in newness of life.
Thus is reasonably pressed upon men immediate repentance and the present exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. To-day if men would hear his voice they are exhorted to harden not their hearts, against the delusion that a better and more favorable season of mercy is before them; they are reminded that "Behold now is the accepted time, and behold now is the day of salvation." The sinner is never admonished to wait, but to awake from his sleep of sin, and to arise from the dead that Christ may give him light. And thus we see how men exhibited this freedom of will, and choice, and decision. Peter preached to the Jews, truth flashed across their minds, remorse followed, and then fear, until they cried out, Men and brethren, what must we do?" When informed of the will of God, they imme
diately obeyed it, and were added to the number of the disciples. So it was everywhere were the Gospel was preached; men heard, understood, believed, and were saved. And such precisely are the circumstances of mankind now. How sincerely careful then ought the public teachers of religion to be, that no doctrines they teach may tend to lessen in the minds of men, the true and momentous sense of their free agency and accountability to God. The reader will perceive in the following passages of the Divine Word, how clearly and fully these principles are recognized.
"And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve," Joshua xxiv. 15. "Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord," 1 Chron. xxix. 5. "If ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land," Isa. i. 19. "I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision,” Acts xxvi. 19. For there is no respect of persons with God, for as many as have sinned without law shall perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law," &c., Rom. ii. 11, &c. Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, to-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation," &c. Read Heb. iii. 7, to the third verse
next chap. How shall we escape if
we neglect so great salvation?" Heb. ii. 3. "What shall the end be. of them that obey not the Gospel of God," 1 Pet. iv. 17. "And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely," Rev. xxii. 17,
HEBREW HISTORY. (No. IV.)
FROM THE GIVING OF THE LAW AT MOUNT SINAI, TO THE DECREE OF DEATH. B. C. 1491 To 1490.
WE left the Israelites tarrying at the foot of Mount Sinai, from whence, through the medium of Moses, the honored servant of God, they had received instructions and directions as to their civil and religious polity. Before we proceed to trace their further progress, we shall notice a number of the directions and appointments that were
given them in these respects; as this may set before us in a more interesting manner the religious rites and the beautiful order of this great and wonderful people. In this sketch, the tabernacle, the vestments of the priests, the appointment of the Levites, the principal sacrifices and religious festivals, the form of the general encampment of the tribes,