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On the Evangelical Clergy
.The Socinians, in modern times have denomi‘nated themselves Unitarians ; to which title they
have no more an exclusive right, than Calvinists have to that of Evangelical divines.''
Similar intimations are frequently made against a body of the clergy in the establishment, called
the evangelical clergy ;' which it is not requisite particularly to adduce. The fact is sufficiently known, that such a distinction exists, and that it is considered by many as highly objectionable, and even invidious and arrogant.
The Socinians indeed appear to have studiously assumed to themselves the title of Unitarians; to which they certainly have no exclusive right. It, however, admirably answers their purposes. How far any part of the clergy, have assumed to themselves the title of evangelical; and how far this title has been restricted to Calvinists; or how far • some of the clergy have a right to it, more than others ; are questions which require some consideration.
The title of evangelical ministers was given to a certain description of preachers, some of them clergymen, others dissenters, but far more methodists, (both Calvinistic and Arminian methodists,) before any of the evangelical clergy now living had joined that company. I will not decide,
1. Ref. 49.
whether any of this multifarious company ar-, rogated it to themselves, and bestowed pains to acquire it; or whether they were so denominated by those, who noticed a marked difference in their style of preaching from that of other ministers.' The latter indeed is most probable. It is certain, however, that the present race of men thus distinguished did not devise it for themselves. They have no option, whether they will be so called or not; except they choose to renounce or conceal their sentiments. The term is, in so very many instances, misapplied ; and publicity is given to their ministrations in such incongruous associations of individuals, and through such channels of information; that in fact many of the company, especially in the church, are tempted to be ashamed of the distinction, even among those who favour their
doctrine : while the prejudice and odium, which it · excites in other quarters, are sufficient to render
them afraid of it. Yet, whether it be our honour or our infamy, we cannot avoid it. If it be our cross, we must bear it, both from our indiscriminating favourers, and equally indiscriminating opposers."
Indeed I feel great indifference as to my own concern, on the subject: I neither claim the title, nor am ashamed of it. However misapplied, its meaning is highly important. It has no direct connexion with Calvinism, unless Calvinism be synonymous with the gospel of Christ. It implies what all the ministers of religion ought to be ; which all are not ; and which many are, who yet in the grand points of discrimination are decidedly Arminians, nay sometimes perhaps too eager Anticalvinists. Many who bear it have a right to iti:
many have not. Some who do not bear it are entitled to it; and all ought to be ambitious of deserying it.--I would thus define, or describe, an evangelical minister, as distinguished from one who is not evangelical. Man is a ruined sinner; and God hath provided and revealed salvation in Christ for all who truly believe in him. He then who distinctly, prominently, intelligibly, and scripturally, answers, in his sermons or publications, the all important question, “What must I do, to be “ saved ?” saved from wrath and sin; “ saved “ with eternal glory:" he, I say, is an evangelical minister. But the preacher who either neglects or declines to answer the question; or who answers it unscripturally, or in an obscure and hesitating manner; is not an evangelical minister.-Now who will venture to come forward to deny and combat this position ? I would be understood as meaning by salvation, not only deliverance from wrath, and justification before God; but recovery also unto holiness, and salvation from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Antinomians, who insist not at all on the sanctification of the “Spirit unto “ obedience,” do not preach the gospel : they only answer, and very far from correctly, one half of the question : and mystics, who dwell on the work of the Spirit, but do not lead men to “the sprink“ling of the blood. of Jesus Christ," do not preach the gospel: they only answer, and not correctly, the other half of the question. Yet men, who verge to one or other of these extremes, may still declare so much of the " counsel of God," as to be entitled in some measure to the name. But they who preach mere ethics, or natural religion a little
modified; from which no awakened inquirer can learn the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, however attentively and perseveringly he may listen ; are no more evangelical preachers, than Cicero and Seneca were ; and few such preachers are at all equal to those heathen moralists on their own ground.
Would it not then be far better for us all, both those who are thus distinguished, and those who take umbrage at the distinction thus invidiously made, to give all diligence, especially by searching the scriptures, and by prayer to the Father of lights, “the Giver of every good and perfect gift;" that they may become, more and more, what the words EVANGELICAL PREACHER imply ; and so in the sight of God to have a right to it;-than to dispute about an empty title, which like all other titles, must disgrace him who bears it, and does not deserve it? In this the word EVANGELICAL widely differs from CALVINIST. We all ought to be evangelical ; but we none of us ought to be Calvinists, in the strict meaning of the word ; that is, the
disciples of Calvin, as if Calvin “ had been cruci.“ fied for us, or we had been baptized in his name.” |
The term itself indeed, if assumed, would not have been more objectionable, or arrogant, than that of ORTHODOX, which numbers of our opponents assume, without hesitation, to themselves and those of their own sentiments. Whether they have a right to it or not, the great decisive day must deterinine : but orthodox signifies holding right opinions ; what is orthodox must be right;
1 Cor. i. 12, 13.
and a man's creed may be in part wrong by material omissions, as well as by false doctrines. The terms Calvinist and evangelical by no means designate the same body of men; as all must know, who have turned their inquiries particularly to facts, and the state of things as now actually existing : but, as our opponents consider both as opprobrious they will probably continue to unite them. Should, however, the title of evangelical fall into disuse, as perhaps it may ; either the favourers or the opposers of the tenets and style of preaching, by which the evangelical, ministers are distinguished, will devise some new name, honourable or opprobrious, without consulting the persons who must be designated by it, whether they will or not.—“ The sect of the Nazarenes” was the ancient opprobrious title. “ The disciples .“ were called Christians ” probably by divine monition : yet that name was considered by others as a reproachful term. For ages past, it has been given so indiscriminately that it is scarcely considered either as an honour or a reproach. . They, therefore, who have been more earnest in religion than their neighbours, have received other titles, of either honourable or dishonourable distinction. Besides the names derived from those individuals whose followers they themselves professed to be, they have been styled Pietists, Puritans, Quakers, Methodists, &c. In fact, whether the earnestness of the companies thus denominated be sterling zeal for pure Christianity, or a false unhallowed fire; some discriminating name must be used concerning them : and a wise man will little regard this, to whomsoever it is given; for he will not judge of