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  • DIARY, LETTERS AND RECORDS -
    CHAPTER 31.


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    DIVINE AND ORDINATION.

    THERE is good reason for asking, concerning many practices, — Are these Scriptural, or are they only traditions of the fathers? A little Ritualism in one generation may develop into downright Popery in a few years; therefore it is well to take these things as they arise, and crush them in the bud. I do not believe that, among our Nonconformist churches, there is more than a fly or two of the priestly system in the pot of ointment, but even those flies should be purged out. Great evils have small beginnings; the little foxes are to be dreaded among the vines. Where so much is admirable, it is a pity that the specks and spots should be suffered to remain. We have a stern fight before us against Ritualistic Popery, and it is well to clear our decks of all lumber, and go into the controversy with clean hands. It is a tar more popular thing to find fault with other denominations: than to point out follies and failings among ourselves; but this consideration should never occur to the right-minded, except to be repulsed with a “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

    Confining myself to one branch of the subject, I ask, — Whence comes the whole paraphernalia of “ordination” as observed among some Dissenters?

    Since there is no special gift to bestow, why in any case the laying on of empty hands? Since we cannot pretend to that mystic succession so much vaunted by Ritualists, why are men styled “regularly-ordained ministers”?

    A man who has preached for years is Mr. Brown; but after his ordination, or recognition, he develops into the Rev. Mr. Brown’ what important’ change has he undergone? This matter comes before me in the form of addresses upon letters, — “Rev. Titus Smith, Mr. Spurgeon’s College, or sometimes, “Rev. Timothy Jones, Spurgeon’s Tabernacle.” Rather odd, this! Here are reverend students of an unreverend preacher, the title being given to one out of courtesy, and withheld from the other for the same reason. The Reverend Titus has met with a church which will insist upon an ordination, and he is ordained; but the President of his College, having; never- undergone such a process, nor even that imitation of it called a recognition, remains an unordained, unrecognized person to this day, and has not yet discovered the peculiar loss which he has sustained thereby. I do not object to a recognition of the choice of the church by its neighbors and their ministers; on the contrary, I believe it to be a fraternal act, sanctioned by the very spirit of Christianity; but where it is supposed to be essential, is regarded as a ceremony, and is thought to be the crowning feature of the settlement, I demur. “The Reverend Theophilus Robinson offered up the ordination prayer, ” has a Babylonish sound in my ears, and it is not much improved when it takes the form of “the recognition prayer. ” Is there, then, a ritual? Are we as much bound by an unwritten extempore liturgy as others by the Book of Common Prayer? Must there always be “usual questions”? And why “usual”? Is there some legendary rule for the address to the church, and the address to the pastor? I do not object to any one of these things, but I do question the propriety of stereotyping them, and speaking o! the whole affair as if it were a matter robe gone about according to a certain pattern seen in the holy mount, or an order given forth in trust to the saints. I see germs of evil in the usual parlance, and therefore meet it with a Quo warranto? Is not the Divine call the real ordination to preach, and the call of the church the only ordination to the pastorate? The church is competent, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to do her own work; and if she calls in her sister-churches, let her tell them what she has done, in such terms that they ‘will never infer that they are called upon to complete the work. The ordination prayer should be prayed in the church-meeting, and there and then the work should be done; for other churches to recognize the act, is well and fitting, but not if it be viewed as needful to the completion of the act itself. I have noticed many signs of an error in this direction. (The following letter shows how Mr. Spurgeon regarded the question of an “ordination” or “recognition” service at the beginning of his London pastorate: — ) “75, Dover Road, “Borough, “May 2nd, 1854. “To James Low, Esq., “My Dear Sir, “I sit down to communicate to you my thoughts and feelings with regard to a public recognition. I am sure I need not request your notice of my sentiments, for your usual good judgment is to me a rock of reliance. I can trust any matter with you, knowing that your kindness and wisdom will decide rightly. “I have a decided objection to any public ordination or recognition.

    I have, scores; of times, most warmly expressed from the pulpit my abhorrence of such things, and have been not a little notorious as the opponent of a custom which has become a kind of iron law in the country. I am willing to retrace my steps if in error; but if I have been right, it will be no very honorable thing to belie my former loud outcries by submitting to it myself. “I object to ordinations and recognitions, as such, (1.) Because I am a minister, and will never receive authority and commission from man; nor do I like that which has the shadow of such a thing about it. I detest the dogma of apostolic succession, and dislike the revival of the doctrine by delegating power from minister to minister. “(2.) I believe in the glorious principle of Independency. Every church has a right to choose its own minister; and if so, certainly it needs no assistance from others in appointing him to the office.

    You, yourselves, have chosen me; and what .matters it if the whole world dislikes the choice? They cannot invalidate it; nor can they give it more force. It seems to me that other ministers have no more to do with me, as your minister, than the crown of Prance has with the crown of Britain. We are allies, but we have no authority in each other’s territories. They are my superiors in piety, and other personal matters; but, ex officio, no man is my superior. We have no apostles to send Titus to ordain. Prelatic power is gone. All we are brethren. “(3.) If there be no authority inferred, what is the meaning of the ceremony? ‘ It is customary.’ Granted; — but we are not all Ecclesiastical Conservatives; and, moreover, I know several instances where there has been none. Rev. W. Robinson, of Cambridge, agrees with me, I believe; and has not: endured it himself. Rev. J. Smith had nothing of it, nor had Rev. Burton, of Cambridge, nor Rev. Wooster, of Sandbeach, etc., etc. “Furthermore, I have seldom heard of an ordination service in which there was not something objectionable. There are dinners, and toasts, and things in that line. There is foolish and needless advice, or, if wise advice, unfit for public mention. I am ready to be advised by anyone, on any subject, in private; but I do not know how I could sit in public to be told, as Mr. C was told by Mr. S____, that I must not spend more than my income; and (if married), that I must be a good husband, and not let the wife say that, being a minister, had lessened my affection, with all the absurd remarks on family and household matters. I do not know what sort of a homily! should get; but if I am to have it, let it be in my study; or if it be not a very good one, I cannot promise to sit and hear it. “I trust, my dear sir, that you will not imagine that I write warmly, for I am willing to submit; but it will be submission. I shall endure it as a self-mortification, in order that you may all be pleased. I would rather’ please you than myself; but, still, I would have it understood by all the church that I endure it as a penance for their sake. I find the friends do not care much about it, and others have, like myself, a decided aversion. I am your servant; and whatever is for the good of the church, let it be done. My knowledge is little; I simply express my feelings, and leave it entirely with you. “A tea-meeting of members, with handbills, and notices in the papers, will be a real recognition; and if my God will make me useful, I am not afraid of being recognized by all good men. I write now to you as a kind and wise friend. You can use my communication as you think best; and believe me to be — “Yours, with the profoundest respect, “C. H. SPURGEON.” (Shortly after writing the above letter, Mr. Spurgeon preached the following sermon at New Park Street Chapel: — ) THE MINISTER’S TRUE ORDINATION. “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel’ therefore hear the word at My mouth, and give them warning from Me.” — Ezekiel 3:17.

    The office of a gospel minister in some respects resembles that of the ancient prophets. Though we cannot, like Elisha, raise the dead; nor, like Isaiah, pour forth eloquent predictions; nor, as Ezekiel, foretell certain coming and immediate judgments; yet, like them, we are commanded to teach, to warn, and to encourage. So much are we like Ezekiel, that his commission will suit any gospel minister even of our day. Let us consider, — I. THE MINISTER’ S COMMISSION.

    Here is a scrap of ancient writing worthy of a place in the museum. It ought to be in every minister’s study. It is the ultimatum of the King of Heaven to us in our doubts as to our calling. It is our Emperor’s protocol to all His legions. It is the minister’s true ordination ,. a real installation, worth more than a thousand Papal bulls from Rome bearing the mark of the fisherman’s ring; yea, worth more than all the charters of universities, or the appointments of archbishops. notice, — 1. The wording of this ancient commission. It is worded in the Court language of Heaven, and each letter is Divine. “Son of man. ” Here is the title by which Ezekiel is addressed; — not Right Reverend, nor the Very Venerable; but he has given to him a graciously-humbling title. Ezekiel is called “son of man” no less than ninety times. This is the name Jesus often took to Himself when He was on earth, and therefore it is a truly glorious one. The gracious and all-wise Father saw that too lofty an eminence might tempt Ezekiel to pride. He therefore styles him son of man, as much as to say, — “Your visions, rank, talents, and office, must not exalt you, for you are, after all, only man. You must not lean on sell:, for you are utter weakness, being only the ‘son of man.’ You must sympathize with each of your fellow-creatures, and deal with him, not as if you were a prince, or a master, but as being, like him, a ‘son of man.’” “I have made thee a watchman. ” Here we read, on this ancient manuscript, a true account of the making of a minister. God alone can do it. Two things are absolutely requisite to make a man a preacher, viz., — (1.) Special gifts , — such as perception of truth, simplicity, aptness to impart instruction, some degree of eloquence, and intense earnestness. (2.) Special call. Every man who is rightly in the ministry must have been moved thereto of the Holy Ghost. He must feel an irresistible desire to spend his whole life in his Master’s cause. No college, no bishop, no human ordination, can make a man a minister; but he who can feel, as did Bunyan, Whitefield, Berridge, or Rowland Hill, the strugglings of an impassioned longing to win the souls of men, may hear in the air the voice of God saying, “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman.” “Unto the house of Israel. ” Ezekiel’s was a limited commission; but ours is not, it is as wide as the earth, and as long as time. The world is our parish.

    We are not ordered to cast the net alone in the pools of Heshbon, or the streams of Jordan, or the Lake of Gennesaret; but we may cover all seas and rivers with the gospel fishing-boats, — the navy of Jesus. Yet, still, it is for the sake of the true Israel that we go. “Therefore hear the word at My mouth. ” The ancient seers spoke not at random; but they declared what they had been taught of God. Sometimes, in dreams, they heard Heaven’s message; sometimes, by a. voice from on high; but, most commonly, by vision, did the Word of the Lord come unto them. The soul, inspired by God, seems at times to leave the body, and that narrow tube of vision which we call eyesight, and, with its own eagle eye, to pierce the thick cloud, and to mount into that remote region which the ordinary eye cannot see.

    The prophets heard the spoken Word, but we have the written Word; and this we must devoutly read. It becomes a minister diligently to study the Scriptures, with all the assistance he can gain from holy men who have gone before, but chiefly from the most excellent of all instructors, the true Interpreter, the Holy Ghost. “And give them warning front Me .” There are other duties; but as this is the most arduous, it is specially mentioned. We are to warn the Christian if he is found backsliding, or sinning; and to warn the sinner of the consequences of his sin. of the strict justice of God, and of the tearful hell in which the ungodly shall suffer. 2. The high office conferred by this commission. It is that of “watchman.”

    Every soldier of the Cross is bound to watch; but the minister is in a double sense a watchman. He is so called because — (1) The ministry requires great vigilance. We must not sleep: we must watch against false doctrine and false brethren; we must be ready to help benighted travelers, and to give alarm to any who may be in danger. The true minister is to sit like the shepherd in the wilderness by night, or like the whisper-hearing sentinel. (2.) The ministry involves toil and trouble. Few think of the watchman who tramps by their door. Hark! there is a scuffle, a fight! Who is sure to be in it? The watchman. How the wind blows! The snow must be a foot deep; pray put list on the doors, and stir the fire. Surely no one is out of doors to-night, — except the watchman! His bare face is cut by the driving sleet, his fingers are numbed with the cold, his eye-lids are almost frozen. “Well, well,” someone says, “never mind about the watchman and his trials; that’s his work, and he is used to it.” Some of you come here, and sit, and smile, and enjoy the sermon; but there are some who criticize, and find fault, and slander, and calumniate. The minister must bear it all, for he is the watchman. He had need be a very tough veteran, who has swallowed many “Nor-westers” and I know not what to fit him for the task he has in hand. (3.) The ministry should be arousing. If there be a fire, or a thief, or a door or shutter unfastened, the watchman must not spare, but cry aloud. We must cry out with all our might, — not being afraid to disturb, or alarm, or hurt the feelings of the sleepers. We may as well be asleep as be mumblers, or speak in such a way that none can really make Out what we mean; we must preach the truth in plain, blunt, honest language which none can mistake. Every man, who labors in Word and Doctrine, should ponder over this commission, and wear it next his heart, and on his brow. It is to be feared that many, who profess to preach the gospel, are not alive to a sense of their position; but, having the next presentation to a living, or having purchased a benefice, they rush in where angels if. like them, uncalled, would tear to venture.

    II. THE MINISTER’ S RESPONSIBILITY.

    The watchman holds a responsible office. If the sentinel, by sleeping, causes the death of a single person, he is a murderer. It the prisoner escapes from his charge, he shall be required to answer for his neglect. So, if the ungodly man is not warned, he shall suffer for his own guilt, but my unfaithfulness will lie as a crime on me. If the professing Christian falls, his fall is his own; but if I have not warned him, [ also am guilty. It I do not utter the whole truth, — the threatenings, the promises, and the invitations of God, — I shall be a sleeping sentinel, a careless captain, a negligent railway guard, and I shall be the slaughterer of my fellow creatures, Or if, to the professor, I give wine instead of medicine, a plaster instead of a lancet, or a stone for bread, — I shall be a guilty wretch, and God help me, then, for no one more requires help than an unfaithful minister!

    III. THE MINISTER’ S COMFORT. 1. The Lord’s call to the office: “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman.” 2. The promises peculiar to that call, for every call from God hath the strength to perform it enclosed within itself. 3. The blessed brow-hardening Spirit, who makes us despise alike the frown or the smile of man, and thus keeps us from unfaithfulness. 4. The fact that success is not required of us, — but faithfulness.

    O my Father, keep me clear of the blood of all men! Amen.

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