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CHRISTIAN BRETHREN, RELIGION
ELIGION is the common business of all men. Its duties cannot be performed by delegation. Every man is required to examine, to believe, and to obey the gospel for himself, and for himself to receive the promised reward. We may commit other concerns to the wisdom and fidelity of our fellow-men: but the care of his own soul belongs to each individual, and if he neglect it, no solici. tude, no exertions on the part of others, can possibly avail him.
But although Religion be a concern which equally belongs to every man, yet it has pleased the allwise Head of the Church' to appoint an order of men more particularly to minister in holy things : Not to supersede the attention of other individuals to this object, but to stimulate, to guide, and in various ways to assist them in this attention. For when this Divine Instructor ascended up on high, he gave some to be prophets, and some apostles, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfeciing of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Prophets and apostles are no longer continued in the Church; because the immediate inspiration, and the miraculous powers with which they were endowed, are no longer necessary in dispensing the gospel. But though the age of inspired men, and of miracles be past, the Redeemer still continues the ministry of reconciliation. He still continues to raise
and send forth a succession of ambas. sadors, to declare his will, and to offer pardon and life to a fallen race.
The office sustained by ministers of the gospel is designated in scripture by a variety of names. They are sometimes called Bishops, because they are overseers of the flock committed to their charge. They are frequently styled Presbyters, or Elders, which are words of the same import, because, if not . really advanced in age, they are bound to maintain the dignity and gravity of ecclesiastical rulers. They are denominated Pastors, because it is their duty to feed the flock of God. They are called Doctors and Teachers, because they are required to instruct those committed to their care, in the doctrines and duties of religion. They are said to be Ambassadors, importing that their duty is to declare the will of their Sovereign, and to negociate a peace between the offended Majesty of heaven and guilty
They are represented as Ministers or Servants, because in all that they lawfully say and do, they act under the authority of a Master, whose declared will is their guide. They are Stewards of the mysteries of God, having the spiritual provisions of his house committed to them to be dispensed. They are Watchmen, being placed to guard the welfare of Zion, to give notice to men of their danger, and to exercise a vigilant care over all the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom. They are Shepherds, inasmuch as they are appointed to feed, protect, guide, and govern the flock, under the direction of the Chief Shepherd. And, finally, according to the language of scripture, they are Workmen and Labourers, because they have a particular task assigned them; and because a faithful discharge of their duties requires diligence, exertion, and persevering labour.
Every thing relating to the Christian Church is important, and worthy of our serious attention. But it too often happens, that, on account of particular states of society, or other peculiar circumstances, some portions of the system of revealed truth are less regarded and examined than their relative importance demands. Accordingly, it has appeared to me, for several years past, that the order of Christ and his apostles respecting the CHRISTIAN MINIstry, is a subject which has received less of your attention, and is, by many of you, less understood than it ought to be by those who profess to be members of that holy commu
nity, which ministers are appointed to serve and to govern.
If all the interests of the Church are precious in the view of every enlightened Christian, it is evident that the mode of its organization cannot be a trivial concern ; and if the Saviour, or those who were immediately taught by his Spirit, have laid down any rules, or given us any information on this subject, it behooves us carefully to study what they have delivered, and to make it our constant guide. Under these impressions, I have determined to request your candid attention to some remarks on the doctrine held by our Church respecting the Christian Ministry, and especially as to the points in which we differ, on this subject, from our Episcopal brethren.
You will do me the justice to acknowledge, that, in the course of my ministry among you, I have never manifested a spirit of bigotry or litigation. Indeed, some of you, I know, have considered me as too reluctant to engage in the public discussion of various subjects disputed between our Church and those of other religious denominations. My great attachment to peace among Christians, and my earnest desire to promote that charity without which faith and hope are vain, have always rendered me unwilling to embark in controversy. It may not be improper, also, to inform you, that the circumstances attending my early life and edu. cation were such as to produce partiality in favour of the denomination of Christians whose claims will be more particularly examined in the ensuing