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and in the purity and dominion of his life, far beyond me. Now for me to set up or hold forth a sense or judgment of a thing in opposition to them, this is out of the sobriety which is of the truth. Therefore, in such cases, I am to retire, and fear before the Lord, and wait upon him for a clear discerning and sense of his truth, in the unity and demonstration of his spirit, with others who are of him, and see in him. And this will prevent the rents which the want of this sobriety may occasion." Thus far Isaac Pennington.
Now, though I have thus enlarged with quotations from several worthies, I am not easy to omit some very pertinent observations of John Griffith, in bis" Brief Remarks upon sundry important subjects.” Page 59,* &c. upon the subject of the true and false ministry, speaking of the danger of ministering merely from “ strong desires to do good, and much beautiful gospel doctrine, opening without the call and real gift in this so awful an undertaking,” he proceeds thus : “But there is great cause to believe some have launched out upon this foundation only, in the beginning of their public appearances, whereby they have in a sorrowful manner brought darkness upon
themselves, and sometimes on others, having proved only ministers of the letter; though perhaps pretending to have the impulses of the spirit. These have been instruments of much anxiety and distress to the true church, who can savour nothing with delight, but that which comes from the power of the Lord of life. It may be difficult to bring true judgment over such in the present low state of things ; especially, when there has been a fair outside, and nothing to blame in their morals. But it sometimes hath fallen out that there has been something permitted to manifest the unsoundness of such, and thereby to relieve the painful sufferers under the blasting wind of such ministry. Inconsiderate, weak persons have intruded themselves into this great work; who not duly waiting for judgment to try the spirits, and what presents to their minds, have been beguiled by transformations to go out in a false heat; and for want of the holy dread and fear upon their hearts, they have catched hold of the gospel
* Page 74, American edit. ann. 1780.
liberty again restored, (which must be preserved open lest the holy spirit be quenched,) viz. that all who are called to the work of the ministry, whether male or female, may prophecy or preach one by one, that all may be edified.* It has been a painful suffering case to living members of some places, when they have seen that both the matter and manner of some, could have no other tendency than to erpose themselves, and burthen the religious society who suffered such to assume an office for which they were no way qualified. Certainly the church hath power to order and regulate her own members; and doubtless she may wholly refuse and reject a ministry, which upon trial, she has in truth no unity with; and even substantial members in their private capacity, who have stood their ground well, and have large experience of the Lord's dealings, whether ministers or others, ought, in reason and the nature of things, to have great weight with such who have not yet made full proof of their ministry, nor given satisfaction to their friends in general, as well as to themselves, and perhaps a few others of little judgment. Neither ought any to go abroad to exercise their ministry, until they know there is a general satisfaction at home therewith ; not even to adjacent meetings. Some such' have been very posilive and resolute, hard to be convinced of their mistakes, and censorious upon those of deeper experience; but too much like that sign of great depravity set forth by Isaiah, iii. 5. The child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.'
“Great order and decency are to be preserved in the church of God, especially among the leading members, as way-marks to all. The reason and nature of the thing demands a proper regard, and preference to age, gists, growth, and experience, which will be always strictly observed and paid by those of right spirits. When it is otherwise it is a sure token of a false birth, and that pernicious self is not slain. Where that predominates, it cannot fail of mixing with their religious services. That the hearers have a right to judge, appears from 1 Cor. xiv. 29. · Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.'
* 1 Cor. xiv. 31.
Therefore, it is very presuming for any to take upon them the sole right of speaking and judging too, or to impose that upon an auditory, or church, which they are not edified with, nor believe to proceed from the right spring; for the word preached doth not profit unless it be mixed with faith in those that hear it. I know no way, (says he, to evade the force and weight of what is above observed, unless it be supposed the auditory in general are so void of spiritual understanding as not to be capable of judging; which would discover great uncharitableness, and savour too much of arrogance. I am fully persuaded that if ministry doth not reach the divine witness in the hearts of the hearers, and cause them to assent thereunto, in some measure, it will never profit them. The right ministers have a witness to the truth of their ministry in the minds even of the rebellious; how much more so then, in those of the honest, hearted? The danger which there is reason to apprehend from the low, languid, unskilful state of many in our society, hath induced me, (and feeling my mind in a degree warned thereunto,) to write the more closely concerning the nature and pernicious consequences of a false ministry; being fully persuaded, that the more formal and superficial we as a people become, the more abundant danger there is of such a ministry rising, and finding encouragement to grow and prevail; for the lifeless, formal professors, had rather have almost any kind of ministry, than all silence. And on the other hand, a right ministry can, not have a free course, nor be exalted, where there is nothing but worldly spirits, elothed with a form of religion. But true ministers must be like the holy prophet Ezekiel : ' And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover, for they are a rebellious house.'*
* And the prudent shall keep silence in that time.'t
Having made some remarks upon the false, as well as the forward and unskilful ministry, which, though plain and close, I hope will administer no hurt or discouragement to any truly concerned in this important work; they may, if duly observed, be lessons of caution and instruction to those for whom they are intended, and I hope also a strength to the painfully exercised, under the causes of uneasiness given by unskilful intruders into the work, whether throngh weakness or wilfulness, that they may not be slack in their endeavours to regulate the same by plain dealing; yet with true judgment, love, and tenderness, all justly applied where they severally belong. Their task may sometimes be heavy and discouraging, as it is hard to turn those who have taken a wrong course and imagine themselves right, when it is really otherwise; for those have been observed to be the most positive of any of their pretended sight and sense: yet let the weight of the sense of truth, which is strongest of all, be laid upon them from time to time, that the church may not suffer hurt and loss, by the omission of its sensible members, which cannot fail of weakening and hindering the growth of such members also, in an individual capacity.”
+ Amos v. 13.
* Ezek. iii. 26. Vol. II.-33
Page 69,* under the head of Discipline, he says, “ None have a right to apprehend such a self-sufficiency as to be independent of other members.” A little after, speaking of the church, he says, “ It likewise appears that every member entered as such by his or her voluntary consent, is strictly bound to keep and maintain the established rules of that body, the breach of which not only renders him or her guilty in God's sight, but also accountable to the body. It also behoves this body, immediately upon the transgression of its rules and orders, to exert itself in dealing with transgressors, and to administer sound judgment, in order to restore them, or on failure of success in that, to disown, or refuse to have unity with such, and to let the world know they are not of their body."
Thus much from these worthies, showing the real principles of our society in these things. Now if the church ought to disown such as persist in the breach of its established rules and good orders; and if to impose unsavoury offerings, contrary to the advice of the brethren, and the proper officers and judges in the church, be a breach of good order, then none need besi. tate about what the church'ought to do, in case any do so impose.
* 86, American edit. ann 1780.
There is one passage of scripture rests still on my mind. Matthew v. 23, 24: “ If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Now, if remembering that a single brother hath aught against one, be sufficient in the opinion of our great Lord and law-giver to stop an offering, how much more so the united voice of many brethren? especially those elders whose office in the church authorises them, under divine assistance, to order and judge in such cases. And how will any answer the breach of this, to him who was pleased to pronounce this solemn prohibition : Leave there thy gift, &c.”
Thus have I performed what lay upon my mind; the success I leave with him who knows the sincerity of my intentions, and wishing the welfare of Jerusalem, and prosperity of the church, I rest a friend to the honest-hearted labourers in the vineyard.
P. S. It is with me to say, that there is an exercised remnant of true mourners, with whom neither Luciferian nor lukewarm spirits have much sympathy or fellowship; but Israel's Shepherd is with them and will support them, as they are faithful, and no weapon formed against them shall prosper; but every tongue that riseth in opposition against them, shall they condemn: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Amen.