« AnteriorContinuar »
It is certainly no advantage to the young men themselves to find their way into our annual conferences too easy. They need something to arouse their energies, and call out their powers. To throw them upon their own resources at the outset of their ministerial career is one of the best things in the world for them. Some of the most pious and intelligent among them would be among the first to ask for more thorough and frequent examinations. They feel the want of a spur to assist them in overcoming the mental sluggishness common, in a greater or less degree, to all.
In connection with the qualifications required for admission into our conferences, it should be remembered that we are not like other churches in our ecclesiastical organization. They induct a man into their ministry, and send him off
' to seek a field of labor where. he can find one. They throw him upon his own resources, and let him sink or swim, as he can. We take a man, and agree to find him a field of labor, and must sink or swim with him. If he be incompetent, we share the results. If a church or circuit run down under him, we must go and build it up. If he scatter a congregation, we must pay the penalty, and go and get it together, if we can, even though we have not bread to eat or a coat to wear while doing it. If we labor until flesh and blood complain, and lungs and nerves cry out, under the pressure of our burden, and incompetent men are among us, they may be our successors to blight and prostrate all we have done. Is it, therefore, unreasonable that we ask for such a system of trial and examination as shall let us know whom we are to vote into our ranks? An itinerant ministry not well guarded must inevitably sink by its own weight.
In closing this article, the writer cannot do better than to transcribe the following extracts from a small volume, lying before him, entitled “The Ministry we need,” published by Taylor & Gould, New-York, 1835. After describing the ministry which the church demands, the author* observes :-" If it be said, that this exhibition is, on the whole, appalling, disheartening to our youth–I answer, The standard will always be low enough in practice, without sinking it in theory. Besides, it will be found on experiment to be a great deal cheaper to get competent knowledge than to go without it. No man knows what he can do till he tries; and he never will attempt great things if he has no adequate motive. If a man aims low, his skill is generally of that sort that he hits bis mark; and in consequence the archer is as low as the archery: he conforms himself to a standard ignoble and degrading. If a young man knows not his weakness, it is equally true that he knows not his strength ; and shall his self-ignorance, in any respect, be allowed to legislate for the church respecting the quality of her approved ministry? He needs to be encouraged, assisted, and enlarged. If in lower offices innumerable men task themselves to grand achievements, and succeed, why not in that profession which in importance, in profit, in peril, in courage, in magnificence, in usefulness, in responsibility, in solemnity, in glory, has nothing equal to it in the universe of human pursuits ? What has ignorance to do in the sacred office? God is not the patron of darkness. He has none of it in his own nature, and near his altars there should be perpetual light. A minister of Christ is expressed emphatically by the metaphor of a star. Why? Obviously because he is appropriately a luminary in the world
* Dr. Cox.
Mid upper, nether, and surrounding darkness.' Its lodgment is a candlestick-a church lightened with its heavenly brilliancy, and upholding its pure and steady radiations."
There is a generous enthusiasm worthy of any bosom-indigenous to the purest, and inspired by that philosophy which sees things as they are. It ought to be encouraged and cultivated in every minister and every candidate. The aspirations of piety, the promise of intellect, and the stamps of vocation from above, are all involved in it. Yet for the same reason that piety is not all in the qualifications for the ministry, the mind must be stored, regulated, ripened, fully and correctly, or a brief and unfruitful career at best may be ordinarily predicted. There is special need of such preparation, all the more where there is excellence of capacity and adaptation of gifts connected with distinguished zeal. The greater momentum of the powers is only the more pe. rilous without proportionate and balancing concomitants, verifying the poetry of the Roman satirist:
“ Vis consilii expers mole ruit sua.
Of wisdom, soon is self-destroy’d."
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
A Discourse on Genesis xxviii, 12. “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.”
The narrative of which this passage forms a conspicuous part presents a striking instance of that vigilant oversight which God takes of his creatures. This has been called by some his general providence; and perhaps the term general may be allowed, as a collective term, embracing all the individual interpositions of the Rector ef the universe with regard to his creatures. It may also be used to denote the fact, that the providence of God extends to all the crea. tures that people his wide domain. But, while we admit that the providence of God extends to all his creatures, we have reason to believe that it is peculiarly interested in the concerns of rational beings, and that among them mankind have received no small amount of the divine regard. In view of this the patriarch asks, “ What is man that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? and that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment ?" Job vii, 17, 18. And a similar question is
proposed by the psalmist, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" Psa. viii, 4. This great concern for man is manifested doubtless because of his superior nature and exalted destiny.
Among the children of men there are some who share more largely than others in God's providential regards. This is, no doubt, on account of the conspicuous part which they are called to perform in the great drama of life.
Among these we may reckon the hero of our subject. From his very birth he was marked by the special regards of Heaven ; and these regards seemed ever to follow him, notwithstanding many of bis acts in early life were calculated to defeat the purposes of God concerning him. The circumstances which surround him in the paragraph of his history which lies before us are peculiarly gloomy. By two acts of subtlety—for which, by the way, he was remarkablehe had well nigh incurred the forfeiture of his life. He first supplanted his brother in the matter of his birthright, and then with regard to the paternal blessing. On account of these things Esau resolved to slay him. Upon hearing this, his mother devised means to save his life. She adopted the following expedient :-After apprizing Jacob of his danger, she went to Isaac, and pretended to him that she was weary of her life because of the daughters of Heth, among whom Esau had married, and insinuated that she was apprehensive that Jacob would make a selection for a wife among them also. Upon which her uxorious husband gave Jacob permission to visit his grandfather at Padan-aram, and to marry one of his own cousins.
While on his journey he was benighted at a certain place, w and he took the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” And behold the Lord stood above it, and made an address to Jacob ; which, with the vision of the ladder and the angels, proved to him that, though a fugitive, and apparently alone, yet he was still surrounded by the ever-watchful providence of God. For when he awoke, he exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not! How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And he called the name of that place Beth-el."
While this narrative shows, in a beautiful and striking manner, the providence of God, that passage of it which heads this discourse shows us one of the methods by which God exerts his providence toward men; to wit, by the ministry of angels.
Indeed, some have considered Jacob's ladder as typical of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom both worlds meet, and in whom the divine and human natures are conjoined ; and they suppose that our Lord applies this vision in this way himself :
First. In his address to Nathanael, “ Hereafter ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man,” John i, 11. Secondly. In his speech to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Fa. ther but by me," John xiv, 6. The vision may have this typical refer. ence, and our Lord's speech to Nathanael may have allusion to the vision. But really I cannot see how that speech can support the typical application of the vision, which I should rather suppose has exclusive reference to the ministry of angels. As to Christ's address to Thomas, I do not think that that excellent passage has any refer. ence at all to Jacob's vision. But that this vision was intended to point out the intercourse between heaven and earth by the ministry of angels, seems sufficiently manifest from the accompanying history, as well as sundry other passages of Scripture, and particularly Heb. i, 14, “ Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation ?"
Thus Jacob was ministered unto by angels; and he became the heir of salvation, by inheriting the promises contained in the covenant which God made with Abraham, Isaac, and afterward with himself.
In this discourse we have nothing to do with the nature of angels. We shall suppose them to be exclusively spiritual beings, in opposition to Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, Tertullian, and others; and also that they are holy, wise, and powerful, though finite intelligences.
Let us consider the objects of their ministry.
Although the apostle says, that they are sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation”—and none are the heirs of eternal salvation but the children of God; yet we are not to suppose that the ministry of good angels is confined to the righteous. “I will not say,” says a favorite writer, " that they do not minister at all to those who, through their obstinate impenitence and unbelief, disinherit themselves of the kingdom. This world is a world of mercy, wherein God pours down many mercies, even on the evil and the unthankful ; and many of these, it is very probable, are conveyed even to them by the ministry of angels ; especially so long as they have any thought of God, or fear of God, before their eyes. But it is their favorite em. ploy, their peculiar office, to minister to the heirs of salvation to those who are now saved by faith, or, at least, seeking God in sincerity.”
One object of the ministry of angels is, doubtless, to convey information to God's people with respect to those subjects which are more immediately connected with their interests. Even the heathen were of opinion that some superior intelligences were employed in this work. Hence Socrates says, “ My demon gives me notice every morning of the evil which may befall me that day.” This may be branded as enthusiastic superstition ; but it shows that the wise and virtuous among the heathens, not only recognized a rank of intelligences which answers to angelic spirits, but also believed that they were employed in communicating information, which, while it was interesting to, was otherwise above the reach of those to whom this information was given.
Indeed, we are not to be too hasty in supposing this idea of So. crates to be superstitious. One whom no man will charge with enthusiasm-a greater than Socrates—when, with his fellow-voyagers, exposed to the dangers of shipwreck, declared, " There stood by me, this night, the angel of God-saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee,” Acts xxvii, 24. I need not add the prediction was realized.
It is remarkable, that many of the most sublime revelations which were ever made to the world were made through the instrumentality of angels. It is more than probable that that was an angel whom Ezekiel (chap. xl, 3) describes as a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, and by whom the plan of the prophet's enig. matical temple was drawn. It was the angel Gabri that revealed to Daniel that important and most glorious prophecy of the seventy weeks, which determined the period of our Lord's sacrificeand the succeeding prophecies which refer to the state of the church during the reign of Antichrist, and of her final triumph over all her foes. It was the same Gabriel who“ stands in the presence of God,” ready to be sent to communicate glad tidings to men, who revealed to Zacha. rias the birth of the Baptist, and to the blessed Virgin the birth of him who was to be a " light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel.” And in those scenic representations of things that were and are to come, which are found in the Apocalypse, angels bear a prominent part. They sound the trumpets ; they pour out the vials; they proclaim the day of vengeance on the enemies of the church, and the conquests and final triumph of him who is called the Word of God. Now, surely, it is not a vain thought to suppose that these celestial intelligences are still employed in similar services for man. We grant that the age of prophecy has ceased—miraculous inter. ferences may have ceased also. But man still stands in need of celestial guidance. While he is in the present state of existence he wants continual instruction and superintendence; and it is more than probable that God frequently condescends to instruct and guide him by angelic ministrations, “ causing his angel to go before him to lead him in the way.”
Another design of the ministry of angels is the defence of the people of God. Defence implies danger-and the source of this danger may be found in evil angels and evil men. Of the former there are innumerable hosts; for, like the locusts of the east, " they throng the air, and darken heaven.” of the latter, we may say, with David, “ Ten thousands of people have set themselves against us round about.” The combined powers of earth and hell compose an army at once numerous, subtle, diligent, and powerful. In view of which we may well say, with the young man in Scripture story, who exclaimed, when he beheld the great Syrian host, with their horses and chariots, encompassing him and the prophet around about, “ Alas! my master, how shall we do?" But, if our eyes were opened, we should be able to answer our own interrogatory, for we should behold the place around us full of horses and chariots of fire. (2 Kings vi.) These are that great host of the angels of God which encamp around the right. eous to deliver them. (Psa. xxxiv, 7.) Yes; they are the angels of God's deliverance to his people ; for they assume a belligerent attitude toward those wicked spirits in high places whose influence is adverse to the church of Christ. We have a remarkable proof of this in the Apocalypse, chap. xii, 7, &c.," And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not ; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world : he