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a barn, have an equal right to form themselves into a church, as five hundred assembled in a building appointed for the sole purpose of public worship; that the people are by right the only, judges of the qualifications of their teachers, and that their expressed choice constitutes the only essential ordination, the mode of expressing such choice being left by Jesus Christ (who never promulgated any law upon the subject) to the exercise of christian prudence, and christian charity, in all future ages of the world, with a view to edification; a right in the exercise of which no man or body of men have an iota of authority to dictate or interfere. The language of our Lord on this grand subject of christian equality is so explicit, that it is surprising how any honest, impartial christian can possibly misunderstand it. Ye know that the princes of this world exercise. dominion, and they that are great exercise authority': but it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, and whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.---The Scribes and the Pharisees' love to be called of men Rabbi ; but be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your master even Christ, and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon earth, for one is your father which is in heaven : neither be ye called masters, for one is your master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant : and whoever shall eralt himself shall be
abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be eralted. The promise of our Lord's presence is made not only to the numerous but to the smallest congregation of christians. Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them. The assemblies of primitive christians were frequently held in private houses ; and Paul in his Epistle to Philemon sends his salutation to the church in his house. Thus the New Testament, and the practice of the primitive christians in the purest ages of the church, prove the truth of our author's opinions on these important subjects. The
pompous titles assumed by christian miniters of almost every church and sect, were to Mr. Robinson the subject of equal dislike and ridicule. “ I wonder," said he, in a letter to a friend," any "man should be so silly as to call me Reverend." The titles to which the sacred order have laid claim, such as-“Levites holy to the Lord-Am“bassadors of the King of Kings, Administrators “ of the New Covenant-Stewards of the mysteries “of the gospel,” were in his opinion, solely applicable to those whose offices under the Jewish dispen: sation were of divine appointment, or who under the christian dispensation were the subjects of divine inspiration : and indeed, we have a right to demand of the christian teachers who claim these titles--By what authority dost thou make this claim, and who gave thee this authority? Is not the epithet of Reverend claimed by the Deity
equally with that of Holy ? Has the pastor of a Dissenting church who arrogates this epithet, a right to complain of the bishop of Rome for arrogating the attribute of “holiness”? An uninspired teacher has no message to deliver from God to man; he can only explain and enforce the message which the heavenly ambassadors, the inspired apostles delivered to the world, the truth and importance of which explanation and exhortation, it is equally the right and the duty of those to whom they are addressed to judge of for themselves. That there are no divine mysteries committed to the stewardship of an uninspired teacher is evident by the language of the Apostle Paut addressed to the Ephesians. For this cause I Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ to you gentiles: if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you ward; how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words, whereby WHEN YE
READ YE MAY UNDERSTAND MY KNOWLEDGE OF
THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is NOW RÉVEALED unto his holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit, &c.--The invaluable book which contains an ample revelation of those divine mysteries, which kings and prophets under the old Testament dispensation earnestly desired to behold, is, blessed be God, equally open to all ranks and degrees, from the prince to the peasant, from the philosopher to the illiterate; and it is the duty and the privilege of the poorest and the meanest christian to read, examine, and to judge of the contents for himself, without applying for permission to any fancied, self-denominated "steward,” of any sect in the christian church.*
« Call not any
* Mat. chap. xx. 25-27.-xxiii. 7-12.
one on earth your father. The Pharisees no doubt had this “ title given them, and Bishop Wilkins observes, that it is a "title which assuming priests of all religions have greatly af“ fected.--One is your master even Christ. It is remarkable " that this occurs twice in the very same words. (ver.8 & 10.) “ Our Lord knew how requisite it would be for us to at“ tend to it, and how ready EVEN
MINISTERS would “ be to forget it.—Whosever shall exalt himself, fc. Christ
seems by the frequent repetition of this maxim to intimate, " that he intended it, not only for those who were to be “ teachers of others, but for all his disciples without excep" tion: and it is well worthy our observation, that no one
sentence of our Lord's is so frequently repeated as this ; " which occurs at least ten times in the Evangelists."
Doddridge's Family Expositor. Bishop Warburton observes that~" To claim rule or mastery
in matters of religion on mere human authority, shews so much impudence, and to acknowledge the claim such “ egregious folly, that one could hardly conceive any man " who had been delivered from the bondage of corruption “ into the glorious liberty of the children of God, should be " in danger either of assuming it himself, or submitting to it “ when assumed by others.” Warburton's Works 4to. Vol. I.
144. For Mr. Robinson's sentiments on the subjects referred to, see more particularly the 1st. 9th. 16th. and 17th. of his Village Sermons: his Discourses addressed to the church at Maze Pond, on the settlement of Mr. Dore, and at the Ordination of Mr. Birley, at St. Ives: Works. Vol. IV. Preface to the 3d.
With respect to the dress of christian ministers, Mr. Robinson had an utter dislike to the gown,
and 5th. Vol. of Saurin's Sermons: Works, Vol. I. Similar sentiments abound in his writings in general.
I cannot help in this place remarking the contrary sentiments which prevail amongst some of our modern dissenters, and which afford too evident proof how little they understand either of primitive christianity, or the genuine principles of nonconformity. In an ordination charge now before meThe preacher in addressing his son, observes—" That the " weight of his undertaking has not its parallel in any of the
departments of human society," and informs him that, “mi“ nisters who possess the pastoral office themselves, , can com" municate it, AND NONE OTHERS:” and that “ this has “ been the opinion of the church of God from the beginning, " although a few levelling sectaries have thought otherwise : -That 6
MINISTERIAL DECISIONS, regulated by the “ scriptures, will be followed with rewards and punishments $ of inconceiyable worth, or unutterable terror; and those 6 eternal in their duration :---that the souls of his [the young
gentleman's] hearers, are deposited in his hands, a more " valuable deposit than those great interests which are com“ mited to ministers of state, to admirals, to generals, to “ lawyers, or to physicians." —He exhorts him to " preserve “ the dignity, and to be tenacious of the authority of his of“ fice;” and “ not to suffer parents to alienate their children " from him by a bad education, &c." When the preacher terms all those who deem it their duty to oppose ihe claims of an arrogant priesthood, and more especially of an arrogant dissenting priesthood," levelling sectaries," who oppose “ the practice of the church of God from the beginning," he excites compassion for his ignorance of the new Testament, and ecclesiastical history : but when he proceeds to represent such persons, who dare not make a trade of religion ; who preach the gospel as our Saviour and his Apostles preached it, to the poor, without any temporal emolument,-when