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There was a time in which God no longer manifested himself to his own appointed priests, as he had been accustomed to do. But as, notwithstanding the loss of that glory which formerly rested upon the Jewish Church, every pious priest, such as Zacharias, was a true successor of Aaron; so, during the eclipse of that glory which once illumi. nated the Christian Church, every pious minister may justly be accounted a true successor of St. Paul.
4. The word apostle signifies one who is sent, and answers to the term angel or messenger. “Our brethren,” says St. Paul, who accompany Titus,* “ are the messengers," or apostles, “ of the Churches,” 2 Cor. viii, 23. Every minister, therefore, who carries with sincerity the messages of his Lord, may, with propriety, be ranked among his angels or messengers. Nor do such immediately lose their title when they neglect to perform the duties of their office. They may, like Judas, go under the name of apostles even to their death, though utterly unworthy of such an honourable appellation. Thus, after the pastors of Ephesus and Laodicea had outlived the transient fervours of their charity and zeal, they were still addressed as the angels of their several Churches. And thus St. Paul gave the title of apostles to the worldly ministers of his time. In quality of ministers they were apostles ; but in quality of worldly ministers they were false apostles.
5. As the name of Cesar is ordinarily applied to the twelve first Roman emperors, so the name of apostle is ordinarily applied to the twelve first ministers of the Gospel who had been permitted to converse with their Lord, even after his resurrection, and to St. Paul, who was favoured with a glorious manifestation of his exalted Saviour. In this confined sense it is acknowledged that the name of apostle belongs, in an especial manner, to those who were sent forth by Christ after having received their consecration and commission immediately from himself. But as the name of Cesar, in a more general sense, may be given to all the emperors of Rome, so the name of apostle may be applied to every minister of the everlasting Gospel. Thus Barnabas, Andronicus, and Junia, who were neither of the number of the twelve, nor yet of the seventy, were denominated apostles as well as St. Paul, Acts xiv, 14 ; Rom. xvi, 7.
6. It is the invariable opinion of slothful Christians that the zeal of ministers, and the piety of believers in the present day, must necessarily fall far below what they were in the apostles' time : as though the pro. mises of Christ were unhappily limited to the primitive Church. This error has been frequently refuted in vain by a variety of Christian writers, since nothing can be more conformable to that spirit of incredu. lity which reigns among us, than to renounce, at once, the most important promises of the New Testament. Had the same promises been made respecting temporal honours and profits, we should see a different mode of conduct adopted ; “For the children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light,” Luke xvi, 8.
Mons. Roques bears the following testimony to the truth contended for in this place. « The ministers of the Gospel esteem themselves, and with reason, the successors of the apostles. Their employment is essen. tially the same ; though the apostles were honoured with many glorious prerogatives, as being the first to lay the foundation of the Church."
“ The minister of Christ,” says the same writer, “cannot be said vainly to flatter himself when he counts upon the gracious assistance of his Master. He takes the promise of that Master for the solid foundation of his hope. “I am with you alway,' said Christ to his apostles, and, in their persons, to all those who should succeed them in the ministry, even unto the end of the world,'” Matt. xxviii, 20.
“It was this Divine promise," continues he, “a promise more steadfast than earth or heaven, that filled the apostles with such an ardent zeal, as enabled them to rejoice evermore; placing them above the fury of tyrants, and beyond the reach of fear; assisting them to endure excessive fatigue and toilsome journeys, the inclemency of the seasons, and the resistance of obdurate hearts." Impressed with a just sense of this important promise, the venerable writer concludes with this fervent prayer : “Holy Jesus! who hast promised to continue for ever with thine apostles, and to give them that wisdom which no man shall ever be able to resist, give me to experience a participation of these signal favours, that, animated by the same spirit with which thy first disciples were inspired, I may lead some soul a happy captive to the obedience of thy word.” These beautiful quotations will make their own apology for appearing in this place.
7. If any are disposed to condemn Monsieur Roques as an enthusiast in this point, they consider not how many great and honourable names they disgrace by such a precipitate judgment; since all those pious fathers who are looked upon as the reformers of corrupted doctrines and degenerate manners, were unanimously of the same opinion.
From the preceding refleetions it seems but reasonable to conclude, that all the true ministers of Christ in every nation are to be considered as the true successors of the apostles, and particularly of St. Paul, who, by way of eminence, is entitled the apostle of the Gentiles, and who, on that account, may, with the greater propriety, be proposed to them as a model.
A third objection replied to. THEY who will allow neither believers nor pastors to become imitators of St. Paul, very rarely forget to propose a third objection against such imitation. “If you pretend,” say they, “to be the apostles' successors, then prove your mission by the performance of miracles equal to theirs."
To this objection we reply :
1. That no mention is made of the miracles of Andronicus, Junia, and Barnabas, who were real apostles ; nor any miracles attributed to Titus or Timothy, though they were undoubted successors of the apostles. Farther; it is expressly said that John the Baptist, though he was greater than the prophets, did no miracle, John x, 41. On the other hand, some miraculous gifts were common in the Church of Corinth, even among those who were neither apostles nor evangelists ; and these gifts were so far from being essential to apostolic zeal, that many unwor. thy brethren, and many false apostles, as well as the traitor Judas, were endued with them. This we are taught, in the most express terms, by our Lord himself, Matt. vii, 22.
2. If any of those pastors who make a profession of following St. Paul, are observed to publish another Gospel, or to depart from the order established by the apostles, the world has then reason to require miracles at their hands as a demonstration that their doctrines are Divine, and that their recent customs are preferable to those which were formerly adopted in the Church of Christ. But if they simply proclaim that glorious Gospel which has been already confirmed by a thousand miracles, and are observed to adopt no other method than that of the apostles; it is absurd, in the highest degree, to insist upon miracles as the only sufficient evidences of their mission. From worldly pastors such attestations of • their sacred commission might, with propriety, be required. These are the persons who turn aside from the beaten track of Christ and his disciples, both with respect to doctrine and discipline; and these should be required by the Church to give incontestable proofs that their novel customs are better than those of St. Paul and the ancient evangelists.
3. No sufficient reason can be given why the humble imitators of St. Paul should be required to evidence their spiritual mission by extraordinary actions. On the one hand, they do but simply declare those religious truths of which they have had the most convincing experience : and on the other, they earnestly solicit the wicked to become partakers of the same invaluable blessings with themselves. Now the certainty of such declaration, and the sincerity of such invitation, may be solidly established upon two kinds of proofs; the first upon those proofs which support the Gospel in general, and the second upon the holy conduct of those who bear this testimony, and repeat these invitations, by which they demonstrate the efficacy of their doctrine, and indisputably prove that true Christians are dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, Rom. vi, 11. That pastor who is unable to produce the former proofs, cannot possibly be regarded as a true successor of the great apostle; and he whose uniform conduct is insufficient to supply the latter, is no other than a false apostle.
4. External miracles, which effect no change in the heart, nor rescue the soul from a state of spiritual blindness and death; miracles which serve only to repair the organs of a body that must shortly be consigned to the grave; miracles which tend merely to modify matter, such as causing green trees to wither, withered trees to spring, and waters to gush out of the flinty rock; miracles of this nature are far less important than those which cause the thorns of vice to wither, the seeds of grace to spring, and streams of sacred consolation to flow through those very hearts which were formerly barren as a desert, and hard as the rock that Moses smote..
5. “ If you wish for miracles," says a Christian writer, « if you are anxious to experience them in yourselves ; if, in the secret of your heart, you would become witnesses of his almighty power by whom that heart was formed, then ask of him that sublime virtue (that charity] from which all your inclinations and habits detain you at so vast a dis. tance that you are in no situation to form any just idea of it, nor even to conceive the possibility of its existence.” (Professor Crousaz's Sermon upon 1 Cor. xii, 13.) ;.
6. That Divine charity, and those sacred consolations, which were as “ a well of water springing up into everlasting life” in the hearts of Christ's first disciples, may be made to abound even in ours, since the source of these inestimable graces can never be exhausted, Heb. xiii, 8, and the faithful, who experience in themselves this gracious miracle, stand in need of no other prodigy to establish them in the faith of the Gospel.
7. The most important miracles were those which were wrought by the apostles when, as fellow workers together with God, they opened the eyes of sinners, turning them “ from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God," Acts xxvi, 18. True miracles of mercy these, and memorable conversions, which the word of God, in the mouths of his ministers, is continually operating in every age!
8. The charity which is discovered by a faithful pastor who humbly co-operates with God in the conversion of his inveterate enemies, should be regarded by the world as the truest test of his apostleship. “Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail ; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; but charity never faileth. And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains," and perform the most unheard-of prodigies, “if I have not CHARITY, I am nothing," i Cor. xiii.
The preceding replies are abundantly sufficient to demonstrate the weakness of their third objection, who are the professed enemies of apostolic zeal.
. CHAPTER VI.
· A fourth nhjection refuted. The objection here proposed has been abundantly more prejudicial to the cause of piety, than any of the preceding. “You suppose,” say formal professors, “ that every pastor is called to labour for the salvation of souls, in the present day, with all that zeal which animated St. Paul in primitive times. But their circumstances differ in a very material way. The apostles were commissioned to preach the Gospel, either to obsti. nate Jews or idolatrous heathens : whereas our pastors are called to exercise their ministry among such as have received the truth from their earliest infancy, Is it not then contrary to common sense, that the same laborious efforts should be thought necessary for the instruction of Chris. tians, which St. Paul was formerly constrained to make use of for the conversion of idolaters ?”
As this specious objection has been more frequently repeated than properly refuted, it becomes necessary, in this place, to expose all its weakness, and to demonstrate that the difference between sinners who are baptized, and those with whom St. Paul had to do, is by no means in favour of indolent pastors.
1. There are found swarms of infidels and idolaters in every Christian country upon earth. We need not look beyond Protestant Churches to discover multitudes of impious Christians, who not only despise the Gospel in secret, but who even dare to make it the subject of public ridicule : men, who have set up their idols in their hearts,” Ezek. xiv, 2,
and who perfectly answer the apostle's description of degenerate professors, 2 Tim. iii, 2-5.
2. St. Paul himself sufficiently answers this very objection, as fol. lows :"In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature : and as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them,” Gal. vi, 15, 16. If there are any who make a profession of receiving the Christian faith, and who follow not this evangelical rule, the apostle thus addresses them with a holy warmth : “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves; know ye not your own selves how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates ?” 2 Cor. xiii, 5. “Be not deceived: neither covetous persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. vi, 9, 10.
3. Observe how the same objection is combated again in another of St. Paul's epistles. “Behold, thou art called a Christian, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, being instructed out of the tro. fold law of Moses and of Christ. Thou, that makest thy boast of this law; if thou, through breaking the law, dishonourest God, the name of God is then blasphemed among the Gentiles through thee. Therefore, thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest” the heathen, as sinners more hopeless than thyself: “ for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. And thinkest thou; O man,” that thy privileges unim. proved will assist thee to “escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ?" Beware lest, “after the hardness of thine impenitent heart, thou treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath,” Rom. ii, 1–24.
If every Scriptural threatening is denounced against those who are without that holiness which the Gospel requires, it would ill become us to flatter either ourselves or others, with being the true followers of Christ, merely on account of that external profession of Christianity, which is generally apparent among us. Is it not undeniably evident, that such a profession, unless it be accompanied with strict holiness, will subject us to more and heavier stripes, than if we had never known the will of our heavenly Father, nor ever acknowledged Christ as our rightful Lord? Luke xii, 47, 48. Did not our gracious Master himself once openly manifest a greater degree of abhorrence toward the lukewarm Christian, than toward the notorious sinner? Rev. iii, 16. And has he not plainly declared, that myriads of righteous heathens shall be permit. ted to sit down in the kingdom of God, while multitudes of his professing people shall be cast into outer darkness ? Luke xüi, 28, 29.
5. After infants have been baptized, and after young persons have been admitted to the holy communion, the true pastor, instead of taking it for granted that they are become unfeigned Christians by partaking of these ordinances, examines them with diligence from time to time, and, from an attentive observation of their conduct, forms a judgment of their faith. If, after the strictest scrutiny, he discovers some among them who hold the form without experiencing the power of godliness, he renews his work with increasing ardour. The most painful part of his duty is still before him, when he attempts to convert those sinners, who