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Christianity is known, and to whom are com“ mitted the oracles of God,” in nearly the same state as the nation of Israel was? And may not the same means conduce to increase the number of true Christians among nominal Christians, as were of old blessed to increase the number of true Israelites among nominal Israelites; and would it not be better to endeavour to state clearly, how existing establishments might be improved, and rendered more efficacious; than, by condemning the thing itself, in one sweeping sentence, to arm all establishments, in self-defence, to support unaltered, and unimproved, the whole existing system?
Again, do not the prophecies clearly foretell that “ kings shall be nursing fathers, and their
queens nursing mothers " to the true Israelites ? and that they shall bring “gold and incense, and «shew forth the praises of the Lord :”
“ Kings “shall minister unto thee, &c.”? Surely this implies that they shall use their wealth, and influence, and authority, in something of the same manner as Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah, and Josiah did, to support and maintain the worship of God, according to his word, in their several dominions :3 and as Nehemiah did, after the captivity.
The vision in the latter chapters of Ezekiel 5 is indeed, very obscure in many respects ; but it is generally admitted to predict future events, and to relate to the approaching Millennium. The waters, flowing from the threshold of the house, and growing wider and deeper in their progress,' evidently refer to the same events, which Isaiah and Micah predict, under the emblem of“ the moun“tain of the Lord's house being established on the
Isa. xlix. 23..
· Isa. Ix. 1-14. 3 2 Chron. xvii. 4-9. xix. xxix, 3-11. xxx. 1-12, 22, 24. xxxi. 2--19, 20, 21. (v. 6-18, • Neh. x, 19--29.
top of the mountains, and all nations flowing “ unto it :"? and Daniel," as the stone cut out of “ the mountain without hands, and becoming a “ great mountain and filling the whole earth.” 3 This seems decisive that the vision does not refer exclusively to Israel, and their restoration, but to the general prevalence of Christianity throughout the earth, going forth from the sanctuary, and holy city, into all the nations. And let it be observed that the city is never called Jerusalem, nor the land Canaan. “ The name of the city from « that day shall be called, the LORD IS THERE, " JEHOVAH shammah." “ Lo, I am with you al
ways, even unto the end of the world.” Now the very things, in many respects, are ascribed in this vision to the prince, or princes, which the pious kings of Judah did, with acceptance and usefulness, before the captivity; and Ezra and Nehemiah after the captivity. Still a stated and large proportion of the land is allotted for the support of the ministers of religion, which must not be sold, or alienated; and the prince, or princes, are stated as bearing the expenses of the worship.5 Now I do not mean to argue for the divine right of tithes, or for any thing in particular which now exists: but, if there be any meaning in these prophecies, kings and princes, in the predicted time, will have a more important station in religious concerns allotted to them, and take a more active, and liberal, and decided part in them, than the opposers of all establishments are willing should be assigned to them. If there be any instruction in these prophecies, (and they were “written for our “ learning,”) it cannot be a thing evil per se to provide a regular and stated maintenance for the ministers of religion, even when funds for that purpose did not previously exist: it could not be evil in itself (whatever the motive might be in those who did it, or however they might exceed all due proportion) for men to devote a portion of their estates to the service of the sanctuary, and the support of its ministers : it cannot be evil in itself to reserve this portion, or what remains of it, or is needful, for the same purposes at present, however it may be improperly parcelled out, or disposed of: nor can it be evil in itself to add to it, if exigencies, not to be supplied by a more equitable distribution of the existing fund, do require it. Nay, it cannot be wrong in itself for kings and princes to interpose, even in respect of the ministers of religion, and to require those who are supported as such to attend to the duties of their station according to the word of God, and according to such explanation of the word as they have voluntarily consented to. These things cannot be wrong in themselves, unless what God has recorded of his ancient servants, and predicted concerning his future servants, be wrong in itself.
? Isa. ii. 2-5. Mic. iv. 1-3. • Dan. ï. 34, 35, 44, 45. * Ezek, xlv. 9-17. xlvi. 1-8.
$ Ezek. xlviii. 9--20.
It is admitted by some, that many things of this nature may be done by kings and princes without an establishment.
But can a
a more effectual method be formed of giving religious instruction, and affording opportunities of religious worship, to those who can be induced voluntarily to attend on these means of grace, through any country, than by distributing it into districts and parishes, building places of worship in all proper situations, and stationing ministers to officiate in these places of worship, statedly, and especially on the Lord's day, under pious superintendents, who may see to it that they properly attend to their duty; encouraging those who do so, and censuring or superseding, those who do not? I cannot doubt that a plan of this kind, if superintended and conducted by truly pious characters, might go very far, by the blessing of God, in evangelizing the inhabitants : I say by the blessing of God, which in this case might be expected, and without which even the efforts of what is pleaded for as primitive * Christianity' must be useless.—It especially seems important, in procuring a willing observation of the Christian sabbath throughout any country. Many, perhaps, would object to any constraint in this also ; and certainly what is done freely and willingly, and merely by instruction and persuasion, is far preferable ; and, wherever a stated parish minister is punctual and earnest in his duties, it may generally be observed that, even when no constraint is used, the Lord's day is proportionably hallowed by his parishioners, with fewer exceptions by far than in the other places. The plan adopted by Jehoshaphat might also, from time to time, come in aid of it with great effect.
The Independents in general, as far as I can learn, consider the ministerial character conferred, or recognized, when the person whom they have chosen is ordained pastor over that special church, as distinct from his pastoral relation to them : they can dismiss him from the latter, and another church may choose him ; but reordination is not required, and his ministerial character is deemed permanent. Whether he is at liberty, in foro conscientiæ, to renounce it, forms another question.
If Christian ministers derive their office merely from men, and are properly their ministers, they may be set aside by the same authority as appointed them: but the New Testament constantly speaks of them, as the “ministers of God, and of Christ."2 And the apostle in addressing the elders of Ephesu& says, “ Take heed unto yourselves, and to all “ the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made
you overseers.” 3 Now, has man authority to disannul what the Holy Ghost has done? Even if the overseer, whom the Holy Ghost hath made, should on any account be removed from his original charge: do not his office and character remain indelible, except taken away by him who delegated them? Man has, almost in every age, had some assigned part in forming or recognising the mar
See the Author's Commentary on 2 Chron. xvii. 7-9. ? I Cor. iv. 1, 2. 2 Cor. vi. 3. xi. 23. Col. i. 7. iv. 17. s Acts XX. 28.