... Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.—Revelation 15.3.
AND CLEARNESS THEREIN.
By James Durham
Excerpted from his
THIS command of writing, was particularly set down, verse 11. Here again, it is renewed; and afterward, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3, is seven times repeated, with respect to every Church he writes unto: which certainly is to shew, of what concernment clearness of a Call is, and that both in general, and particular; and is done amongst other reasons for this end, to clear John in his Call, and to warrant the People in their receiving of his Message. From which we may gather this, That a Minister that taketh on him to edify a Church in the name of the Lord, had need to be clear of his Call thereunto from the Lord: it's not the general that we now insist on, to wit, that there is such a peculiar Calling, or, that none but the Lord can authorize for it; but it's especially concerning that clearness which every Minister ought to have in his Call, that with holy boldness he may go about the work, having peace in himself (whatever he may meet with in it) as one who hath not run, whereas the Lord did not send him, Jer 23.21. That this is exceedingly requisite to a Minister, we suppose will be out of question to all who know that Ministers are but Ambassadors; and so for them to want clearness of the Lord's Call, is to be uncertain whether they have a Commission or not: and therefore they who look not to it, can neither have that confidence of the Lord's owning them, or accepting of them in their duty, except there be some satisfaction herein, to wit, that the Lord hath sent them, or doth send them. It will be a puzzling question to many one day, Man, who made thee a Minister? Who gave thee Commission to treat for Christ? And although others may have peace in the use-making of such a man's Ministry; yet himself can have none, he being ever liable to this question, Friend, how enteredst thou thither? and how obtained thou this honour? Doubtless from the defect of this trial, it is, in part, that many thrust themselves into the work at first, whose after-carriage and way proves them never to have been sent; which they durst not have done, had they walked by this rule of waiting for a Commission thereto. And on the other hand, some really called to the Ministry, are yet kept in a kind of bondage, both as to their duty and their peace; because it's not clear to them that it is so; for, although the being of a Minister and his Calling, simply depends not on his clearness of his Call: as the being of a Believer doth not necessarily infer that he must know himself to be a Believer; yet, no question, as a Believer's particular comfort depends on the clearness of his interest, for which cause he should study it; so a Minister's confidence and quietness in his particular Ministry, doth much depend on this, that he be clear in his Call to be a Minister: for which cause, they who look there-away, or are entered therein, would humbly enquire for nothing more than this, that they be clear that they have Christ's Commission for their engaging. And although it be impossible to be particular, or fully satisfying in this, so as to meet with all the difficulties that may occur; but Christian prudence and tenderness will still find matter of exercise in the deciding thereof; Yet, having this occasion here, (which is also frequent in this Book) we may, once for all, say a word in the general to what may give a Minister clearness in his Calling: which we may take up in a five-fold consideration. (1.) Of a Minister's Call to that work, in general. (2.) To a particular People. (3.) In carrying a particular Message to that People. (4.) What is required of him as to writing for the benefit of the Church. (5.) And what respect People ought to have to God's calling of a man, in their hearing and reading.
For the first, we say,
First, That Ministers would soberly endeavour satisfaction at their entry, if they be called to that work or not; and begin with that: This is certain, that it's not indifferent, whether men betake them to this Calling or another: for God hath not indifferently dispensed His talents: nor hath He left men to that liberty, to choose as they will; but willeth them to continue and abide in that calling whereto they are called: and not which they have chosen themselves: yea, that a man have some knowledge or affection to that work of the Ministry, will not prove him to be called, although all that is externally needful for his promoving therein did concur; for that will not prove a Call to another Charge or Trust; and so not to this: and no question, it being a desirable thing in itself to be a Messenger for Jesus Christ to His Church, many may desire the office of a Bishop, and be approven of God in their look there-away; and yet indeed never be called of God actually to it, as experience may confirm.
Secondly, When we speak of a Call in any of the former respects, it's not to be understood, that men now are to look for an immediate and extraordinary Call, as John and the Apostles had, That were as unwarrantable as to look for an extraordinary measure of gifts, such as they were furnished with, and that in an immediate way: but it is that as extraordinary Officers had extraordinary and immediate evidences of their Call (for so it required) so Ministers and ordinary Office-bearers, that are called in a mediate way, would seek for such evidences, as mediately may satisfy them: for, the mediate calling of the Church, according to Christ's Ordinance, is Christ's Call, as that more immediate was: and therefore, Acts 20.28, and elsewhere, these Elders and Pastors of Ephesus (who yet, no question, had but such a Call as these that were chosen by the People, and ordained by the Presbytery, Acts 14.23, and 1 Tim. 4.14.) are said to be set over the Flock by the holy Ghost: and so Pastors and Teachers, who are to be continued in the Church by a mediate way of man's transmitting it to others, as Paul's word is, 2 Tim. 2.2, are yet accounted a gift of Christ's to His Church, as the Offices of Apostles, Evangelists, &c. are Eph. 4.11.
Thirdly, In this inquiry, the great stress would not be laid on a man's own inclination, or a supposed impulse, which yet may be but the inclination. That being found to flow from, or to go along with rational grounds, may have its own weight; but otherwise, not; for we see often men more affectionately inclining to what they should not, than to what they should. Hence many run who are not sent; whose inclinations certainly lead them to it: and others again, that are most convincingly called, have yet difficulty to go over their inclinations, as doth appear in Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonah, at least in his Call to Nineveh. And our hearts being deceitful, and we ready to account the motions of our own spirits to be better than they are, There is need, whether in the general, or in the particular Call, to be wary here.
More particularly, we conceive, that both in general and with relation to a particular place for the clearing of a Minister's Call, respect is to be had to these four: which may be satisfying as to his peace, when they concur.
1. A man's Gift, is the great differencing Character of a Call, though it be not of itself, constitutive of a Call, that is, that one be in some measure didaktikoV, or, apt to teach: this being infallibly true, that whom the Lord designs for any employment in His House, if it were but to make Curtains, Sockets, &c. to the Ark, He will some way fit, and make them suitable to it: and this is as the Seal whereby He evinceth in the hearts of Hearers, that he who treats, is His Authorized Ambassador.
2. To clear a man to exercise his Gift: it must not only be a Gift, but found and declared to be so, by these to whom the trial of Gifts is committed by Jesus Christ: for, it's not the having a Gift, that maketh a Call; yea, nor that which maketh it a publick Gift, or to be acknowledged as such; but it's the orderly Authoritative mission, that followeth upon that Gift: in which respect, the exercise of the Gift, and the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, are put together, 1 Tim. 4.14, even though it seemeth that he had knowledge and Gifts before. If it were not thus, what a confusion would there be in the Church of Christ more than in any Common-wealth? Where it's not Gifts that constitutes a Magistrate, or an Officer; but the orderly calling of a person thereunto by such as have Authority: which ought also singularly to be observed here. And the Lord hath appointed this, not only for the publick order of His house, which is exceedingly prized by Him; but also for the particular clearing of the person that is to be designed. Thus, I conceive, a person that is at some doubt about his Gift, and possibly thinking it fit to edify; yet, upon supposition that it be found otherwise by these to whom the Spirits, or Gifts, ought to be subjected, he may have peace in abstaining, whatever his own thoughts be: because the Lord hath not made these his rule. Hence also, on the other hand, some who may esteem their Gift unfit for edifying of the Church; yet if it be found otherwise by these whose place leads them to decide, and whose conscience will make them tender in it, they ought and may with peace yield: whereas, if there were no Authoritative trial, what a torture would it be to some to have the weight wholly lying on themselves? and what a door would be open to the most self-confident persons on the other hand? Yea, were it not thus, there would be no need of the trial of Gifts, enjoined, 1 Cor. 14.29,31, which being in extraordinary gifted Prophets, it's much more to be respected in ordinary Ministers: neither were there use for so many precepts to try, and so many characters how to discern them that are fitted for, or called to the Ministry, whereof, to be apt to teach, is a main one, if there were not weight to be laid on the probation, and determination of a Presbytery, who are to count to God for their decision in such a case, and are not left to indifferency or arbitrariness therein.
3. For a man's peace, beside the former two, singleness in himself is necessary, without which, both the former two will not sustain him against a challenge: except there be a testimony here, that conscience to duty, and obedience to God's Call made him yield to it; that God's glory, and promoving of the Work of the edifying of Christ's Body, was his end; and that his taking up of Christ's mind, to be calling him to follow this Call, was his motive that made him betake himself to this Calling and not to another, and that upon deliberation and search made, to discern the mind of God. Where these three concur, to wit, a Gift, and that orderly approven, with the heart's yielding to the Call, upon that account, to do Christ service in that, more than in another station, because it apprehends him to call to that employment and not to another, we conceive there is good ground of peace, so as there cannot be a torturing challenge upon this occasion: for, although men intrusted to try, are not infallible in discerning of Gifts; yet, when use is made of this way, as Christ's Ordinance, for attaining satisfaction in this matter of a Call, it's not like that His Ordinance will be a snare to any: and if triers of Gifts should mistake; yet may it be expected, that either the Lord will discover it timeously some other way to the person concerned, or graciously some other way pity him, who did yield only out of respect to his Call as it was supposed by him. And who knoweth also, but Gifts may follow by God's blessing upon Labours, when He so clears a Call, if the question only be there? As one may have peace in a Magistracy, when singly it's embraced out of the conscience of God's Call, although it may be they who had hand in his election did unfitly make choice of such a person. And though this singleness be not simply necessary to the being of a Call; (for, there may be a Call without it, as in Judas) yet, it's simply necessary for the man's peace that accepts it.
4. We take in here the consideration of God's providence, and the concurrence of His dispensations: which, though they will not determine a Call simply, nor make a thing lawful to one, which is not in itself lawful; yet, in positive duties, they may do much to cast the balance in swaying a man to one Calling beyond another; as suppose one hath means and ways in providence provided for his education, which others have not; or, he hath been led to study, conscience puts at him to take some calling, and it may be, pointeth at this, at least so far as to make proof of it: all doors for other Callings are shut upon him, so that he must betake himself to this, or languish in doing of nothing: sometimes others may be made use of to put at him, and the mind is kept in disquiet while he essayeth any other thing: reason here sheweth, such and such like things concurring, may have so much weight as to encourage one to follow this motion, and may confirm him when this goeth along with the former three, or hath them following upon it.
If there were more particular enquiry called for concerning the impulse of the Spirit, which may be in one, in reference to the Ministry, how to discern it? and what weight to lay on it? We confess that it is hard to decide therein: the operations of the Lord's Spirit being mysteries, and often seeming unreasonable to men; as also the deceits of our own hearts are deep, and not easily reached: Yet, for helping in this, we may say, That it's not unusual to the Lord, to pouse [push] one by His Spirit, when He mindeth to have him to the Ministry; and thereby to stir the heart of one, more than another, and more to this Calling than another, though in all, or at all times, not in the same measure. This in experience hath been found, and God hath afterward sealed it to have been of him: and by this, many have been brought to the Ministry, who have been profitable in it; who, had not this been, would never have thought on it, or have been persuaded thereto by others. And seeing the Calling of the Ministry is in an especial and peculiar way from God, and eminently His choice herein doth appear, it's not inconsistent with His sovereignty and interest therein, that he use this mean or way of an inward impulse. And although what is expressly spoken of this in Scripture be for the most part in reference to extraordinary Officers, and that in an extraordinary manner; yet by proportion may an ordinary impulse be gathered from that as concurring in the sending of ordinary Officers, as there is an ordinary motion of the Spirit acknowledged in other lawful duties. Yet, (1.) Advert, that this impulse of the Spirit, is not in all alike or equally discernable. The Lord sometimes will thrust one forth by a more inward impulse; and will draw others by more external means: Hence it will be found, that if the thing be of God, where the way is most improbable, and there be fewest encouragements and least outward drawing, there the inward thrust is the more strong: because by it the Lord doth supply the want of that weight, which these outward helps might have on Him. And again, where outward things do more convincingly concur, as that a man is purposely, as it were, educated in reference to that end, provided for, and encouraged by others in the undertaking thereof, &c. In these, although the end may be single, yet often is the inward impulse less discernable: because the Lord hath provided other means to draw them forth, which do supply that: neither is he to be astricted to one way of proceeding in this. (2.) Advert, that this impulse may be, when yet it is not discerned, either because it is not taken heed unto; or, because the inclination may be prejudged, and the person not discern the language thereof. Or, because the Lord may make it ascend by the steps and degrees, as it were, at first withdrawing the mind only from some design that it was set upon; and it may not be positively at first known what he aimeth at: And, Secondly, He may incline the heart to, and bring it in love with reading, and studying, and other means which afterward he may make use of in reference to this end; and yet possibly hide from the person that which he aimeth at by this. Thirdly, He may make a stir inwardly in the heart, making it some way disquiet in every other thing, and restless in whatsoever it turneth itself to, as not being its proper work; that thereby He may constrain it to look some other-where. Fourthly, When this is done, he may make the person content to essay the trial of his Gift, if so be by that he may attain quietness, and yet still the person be but trying what the language of that impulse may mean, and not be distinctly clear of the result. And, the Lord doth wisely follow this order, firstly, to draw on the person by steps, who might otherwise be scared, if all were presented to him together: and partly, that in due order he might effectuate his point, and train up the instrument to a fitness for the work he is to call him to, whereas, if he had persuasion of God's calling of him to the Ministry at first, before any acquired fitness for the same, he might be in hazard to slight the means, and precipitate in the thing, which the Lord alloweth not: partly also he doth it, to keep such in dependence on Him for through-bearing in every step, one after another; so that although at first, one be not clear that God calleth him to the Ministry itself, yet if he be so far clear, as that He calls him to forbear such an other Calling, to follow such a Study, to essay trials, &c. he ought to yield to that, waiting for what God may further reveal to him. Therefore, (3.) Advert, that difference ought to be made between an impulse to the study of Divinity, and an impulse to the Ministry: one may really be stirred to the first, and ought to account it so, and so far to yield, without disputing what may follow; as we may see in many, who in the study of Divinity, and in trials have given good proof of God's approving them in going that length, and yet he hath thought meet by death, or otherways to prevent their being entered actually to the Ministry; which declareth that they were never called thereunto: as therefore, by any impulse, one cannot warrantably conclude that he is certainly to live so long; so can he not certainly gather, that he is called to be actually a Minister, which supposeth the former: and therefore certainty in this, is not to be at first enquired for, or expected; but so much is to be rested in, as may give the conscience quietness in the present step, supposing that death should prevent an other: this being the Lord's way, that the further one follow His Call, it will be clearer unto him, like one that ascendeth by degrees, he is still in capacity to behold the further. Yet, (4.) Advert, that every impulse, which may be to the Calling of the Ministry, is not to be accounted an impulse of the Spirit of God; or, as his moving either to the studying of Divinity, or the following of the Ministry, as we may see in the multitude of false prophets of old, and in the experience of later times, wherein many have, and do run, whom the Lord never sent. And considering the nature of our spirits, and the way that the devil may have in the seducing of some, and jumbling of others: this needeth not to be thought strange. The great difficulty then will be, how to discern the voice of the Spirit of God in this particular, from the voice of our own spirits, or of the devil, in this respect, transforming himself into an Angel of light, and sometimes even driving honest hearts to the attempting of this as a good thing, who yet may not be called thereunto of God indeed.
To help then in the trial of this, Consider,
1. That that which is an impulse of the Lord's Spirit, doth more compose and sanctify the whole frame of the inward man, it being that same Spirit which is the Spirit of Grace and supplication: therefore the more sensibly he pouse [push] the more sensibly are these effects; and the more composed and sanctified a heart be, the more clear and distinct will that impulse of the Spirit be: because then the heart is more impartial to discern the same. And although this impulse of the Spirit be but a common work, which may be in a hypocrite, and so always hath not this sanctifying efficacy with it; yet, we conceive where one, out of conscience, reflecteth on it, to try whither it be of God or not, there can be no conclusion drawn from it to quiet the conscience in the acknowledgment thereof, except it be found to be like His Spirit in the effects of it.
2. That this impulse of the Spirit, is not backed with the assistance of our spirits; but some way it constraineth them to yield to it, even contrary to their own inclination, So that it moveth and carrieth a man over the thoughts of gain, reproach, credit or loss, over his inability and unfitness; which are never more discovered than when this impulse is strongest and most distinct as we may see in the examples of Moses, Jeremiah, &c. whereas motions from our own spirits, do often lessen the difficulties, and hid the unfitness and inability that is within us, and readily ground themselves upon some supposed ability or probability, more than there is apparent reason for.
3. That God's Spirit moveth by spiritual motives like himself, as the promoving of God's glory, the edification of His people, the preventing of a challenge, by giving obedience to Him, and such like: whereas other motions have ends and motives like themselves, as in the false prophets and other teachers in the New Testament may be seen; who fed not the flock, but themselves, and served not the Lord Christ, but their own bellies, and sought their own credit, ease, &c. yea, even Judas, though extraordinarily moved by the Spirit; yet it's like that was not the motive which prevailed with him to yield; but some carnal motive, whether gain, credit or such like, as is held forth in the Gospel.
4. That the motion of the Lord's Spirit, is, in its nature, kindly; and in its way, regular, according to the rule of the Spirit in the Word, that is, it doth not drive the heart violently as the Devil's injections do, nor doth it precipitate in the following and pursuing of what it moveth to; but, as having the command of the heart, he moveth natively, without making the spirit confused, and He presseth the prosecuting of what He moveth unto, orderly, it being the same Spirit that hath laid down a rule to walk by in the Word, and now stirs within the heart: and therefore, the inward impulse, cannot but be answerable to the outward rule. Hence also the spirit's motion, is submissive to the way of trial, appointed in the Word, and is not absolute or peremptory: whereas motions from ourselves, or from the devil, are head-strong, and irregular, aiming at the end or thing, without respect to the way prescribed for attaining it; or, at least, do not heartily approve of the one as of the other, especially if it be thwarted in its design by them.
5. That this motion of the Spirit putteth to the use of all means that lead to the end, as well as to the end itself, that is, reading, studying, praying, or what may fit one for that end: for, the Spirit never divideth the end and the means: and Paul's word to Timothy, subjoining that precept, give thyself to reading, to that other of his fulfilling his Ministry, doth confirm this: whereas, when these are divided, there can be no claim made to a motion of the Spirit of God.
6. Consider, that the impulse of the Spirit, is a fitting, gifting impulse, and carrying along with it a capacity in some measure for, and a suitableness to, the thing that it calls to. Hence, in the Scripture, the call of the Spirit, & the Gifts of the Spirit go together. And this last, is given as the evidence of the first, and in this respect, although there may be an impulse to the study of Divinity without the Call of the Spirit unto the Ministry; yet can that never be counted an impulse of the Spirit actually to enter the Ministry, where this gifting of the Spirit is not: for, it can never be instanced in all the Word of God, that His Spirit sent any, but his Call was sealed by His Gifting of them. And so, in effect, the trying of this impulse, so as one may have satisfaction therein, will for the most part resolve in the trial of those two formerly mentioned, to wit, the fitness of one's Gift to teach. Secondly, The singleness and sincerity of the motive whereby one is swayed to follow the impulse: for, although the Spirit may move; yet if it be some carnal ground that persuadeth the person to yield to that which the Spirit moveth unto, it can be no ground of peace. These two then are at least, as to a man's peace, the sine quibus non, in the trial of this impulse; so that without them, he cannot conclude himself to be called actually to enter the Ministry, or have peace in the undertaking thereof.
To speak a word then to what weight is to be laid on this impulse: Concerning it, we say,
1. That if all things beside concur to the fitting and qualifying of a Minister, this is not simply to be accounted a sine quo non in one's undertaking: Because, (1.) There may be some impulse, though we discern it not. (2.) Because there are more clear grounds to gather God's mind from, as the effects of the Spirit fitting one with Gifts for the charge, and other grounds laid down, whereupon weight may more safely be laid, than upon any inward apprehending, or not apprehending of the Spirit's motion, which is never given to us in anything, as the alone rule of obedience; and we must suppose the motion of the Spirit to be where these Gifts are, seeing as the impulse hath always the Gifts with it, so we may gather the impulse from the Gifts.
2. We say, that where other things concur not, no impulse is to be accounted a sufficient evidence of a Call to the Ministry simply, upon the grounds formerly given: yet,
3. A distinct native, sanctifying impulse, may be a Call to use means, and to wait on in God's way for attaining of fitness in a submissive manner, seeking rather to know what God intends, than as being absolutely determined in respect of the end.
4. Although Gifts, singleness of heart, and an impulse concur together; yet will not these constitute a Minister, though they may evidence a Call to the Ministry, and warrant one to step in, when a door is opened to them: because neither of these, do include an Authoritative Commission for him to treat, although they do put him in a capacity to be sent as an Ambassador of Christ, when he shall be Authorized. Hence it is, that in the case of Deacons, Acts 6, who are by Gifts fitted for their Office; and of Bishops, Titus 1.7-9, who are, in the respects there set down, to be found qualified for their employment; yet is the Authoritative ordaining of both, mentioned, as that which did constitute them Officers in these respective stations. Lastly, we say that yet this impulse, when all concur with it, may have its own cumulative weight for the strengthening of one that hath it, to the undertaking of this Charge, when the Lord in his ordinary way opens the door unto him.
To shut up this part of the discourse, we conceive, that it were useful to the Church, and conducing exceedingly for the clearing of Entrants to the Ministry, that there were some choice and way of trial, both of such as might be presently found fit to enter the Ministry, and also of others that might be advised to study in reference thereunto; and that it might not be left unto men themselves alone, whether they will offer themselves to trial in reference to that Charge or not. For so, many may, and no question do, smother good Gifts which might be useful, thereby prejudging the Church thereof, who by this grave convincing, and (ere it fail) Authoritative way, might be brought forth, and would more easily be made to yield thereunto, when the burden thereof were not wholly left on themselves; whereas; now, partly, from shame and modesty, partly, from custom, and undervaluing of the Ministry, none ordinarily who otherwise have a temporal being, or any place, do betake themselves to this Calling: and it's hard to say that either none such are gifted for it, or that such Gifts should be lost. And by this, on the other side, we suppose, that many who do now design themselves to the Ministry, (because none but such as take that way are called thereto) would be ashamed to thrust forth themselves; and so the Church might have access a great deal better to the providing of herself with able and qualified Ministers; whereas now she is, almost, confined in her choice to a number that give themselves, or at most, are designed by their Parents, or possibly constrained by necessity to follow such a study. It's true, this way the Lord may provide His House, and may so engage those whom He minds to make use of; yet certainly, it looks not so like, in an ordinary way, for attaining of edification as the other: and considering that the Church as such, is one body, and so ought to make use of every member, and any member, as may most conduce for the good of the whole body. There is no question, but the Church might call a member, upon supposition of his qualifications, to trial, and (being found conform, to what was supposed) might appoint him to the Ministry: and that member ought to yield to both, from that duty that lieth on every member in reference to the whole body, which is to be preferred to any particular member's interest: and this without respect to men's outward condition or place; providing their being employed in this station, may be more useful to the Church, and the edification of Christ's Body, than their being employed in no Calling at all, or in any other Calling. This being also to be granted, that some men may be so useful in, and fit for publick civil Callings, as that thereby the Church may be benefited so far, that it will not be meet in every case, and in every person, to use this power; yet such extraordinary cases being laid aside, no doubt ordinarily it were useful: And seeing all Incorporations and Commonwealths have this liberty to call, and employ their members, without respect to their own inclinations, so as it may be most behovefull for the good of the Body; this which nature teacheth, and experience hath confirmed in them, cannot be denied to the Church, which is a Body, and hath its own policy given to it by Jesus Christ for the building up of itself. This way is also agreeable to Scripture; and to the practice of the Primitive times: none can say that the Church did not choose her Elders and Deacons, and other Officers out of all her members indifferently, as she thought fit, Acts 6, seven men fitly qualified are to be looked out amongst all the People; so in Paul's practice through the Acts; and in his directions to Timothy and Titus: such only are not to be chosen, who offer themselves to it; but indifferently, such as may be best qualified, are to be enquired for; and when found, whatever they be, to be called and ordained to the Ministry. By all which, it appears like the Apostolick way to enquire for men that may be found qualified for the Ministry: and also, that shunning, or repining to enter the Ministry in any person found qualified for it, and thus called to it, hath never been supposed as allowable by the Apostles; but it was looked upon as a duty, for those that were so called, to obey, as it was the duty of others to enquire for such. To this also, may that exhortation of Peter relate, 1 Epist. 5.2, Feed the flock of God which is amongst you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly, &c. whereby it would seem, that he is pressing obedience from those that were called, that willingly they should undertake the oversight of God's flock. Which words, if well considered, would pinch exceedingly a tender Conscience of any man, if a Call were thus pressed upon him. And indeed, if it were at men's option arbitrarily to refuse such a Call, the directions that are given to People and Ministers for searching out, calling and ordaining such, were to no purpose; for thus they might all be frustrated. We do not say this to prejudge the laudable way of training up Students in reference to this end, it seemeth that even amongst the Jews, these who were to teach the People, were numerous, and as it were in Colleges, trained up with the Prophets, and these who were able to teach them. The Apostles also were not defective in training of young men in reference to this, which shews the laudableness of that way. And although the main part thereof be not to be placed in Scholastic debates; yet is training necessary, which in the meanest Calling is found useful: and therefore, not justly to be denied here. We would only say, (1.) That there would be some choice made in the designing of Youths for that Study: so that in an orderly way, some might be so trained, and not have liberty otherways to withdraw; and others timeously advised to look to some other employment. (2.) We would not have Elections bounded and limited to that number, so as either any whosoever thus trained up, might certainly be supposed as capable of being Ministers, or as if no Congregation or Presbytery might fix their eye upon, or give a Call unto any other. This way of calling was long continued in the Primitive Church, as we may see in the example of Ambrose, who being a Senator and President (although not yet Baptized) nevertheless, because of his known ability, piety, and prudence, was unexpectedly, and unanimously called to be Bishop of Millan: and notwithstanding of his great oppositeness thereto, was at length so pressed as he was made to yield: and after proved a notable instrument in the Church of Christ. And it's remarked, that the good Emperour Valentinian, did exceedingly rejoice, when he heard it, blessing God that had let him to choose one to take care of bodies, who was accounted fit to take care of souls. Theoderet. Hist. lib. 4. chap. 6. The like is recorded by Euargrius, Hist. lib. 4. chap. 6. Of one Euphraimius, who while he was Governour of the East, was chosen to be Bishop of Antioch, which the author calleth sedes Apostolica. This is also the established doctrine of our Church in the first Book of Discipline, in that head that concerneth Prophesying and interpreting Scripture, whereof these are the words, Moreover men in whom is supposed to be any Gift, which might edify the Church, if they were employed, must be charged by the Ministers and Elders to join themselves with the Session and company of interpreters, to the end that the Kirk may judge whither they be able to serve to God's glory and the profit of the Kirk, in the vocation of Ministers or not. And, if any be found disobedient, and not willing to communicate the Gifts and special graces of God with their brethren, after sufficient admonition, Discipline must proceed against them, provided that the civil Magistrate concur with the judgment and election of the Kirk: for no man may be permitted, as best pleaseth him, to live within the Kirk of God; but every man must be constrained by fraternal admonition, and correction, to bestow his labours, when of the Kirk he is required, to the edification of others. Which if it were zealously followed, might by God's blessing prove both profitable, and honourable to the Church.
To say something to the second head proposed, to wit, of a man's clearness to the Ministry of a particular Congregation, we suppose that this also is necessary for his peace, seeing there is no reason that men ought arbitrarily to walk herein, but accordingly as they are called of God to one place and not to another: therefore we see that in John's commission, the general is not only expressed; but particularly, he is instructed in reference to such and such particular Churches: and according to this, we see in the History of the Acts, that some were ordered to Preach in one place, and some in another; and Acts 13, Paul and Silas in their leaving Antioch, and going to the Gentiles, were not only called by word, but confirmed and authorized by the laying on of hands; and we doubt not but this general also will be granted. For helping to clearness therein, The former general rules, are also to be applied with special respect to the particular case, As, (1.) It is to be tried, if the Gift be not only suitable to edification in general, but to the edification of that people in particular: so that if when their case, dispositions, qualifications, &c. and his gifts, disposition, and other fitness, both in reference to his publick Ministry in Doctrine and Discipline, as also to his induments [endowments] in reference to his private conversation (yea, their very corruptions and infirmities being compared together.) If, I say, such a man may, in well grounded reason, be looked upon as qualified for the edifying of such a people: In this comparison also, respect would be had even to the more publick state of the Church: so as a man's fitness would not only be tried with respect to the Congregation itself; but with respect to other things. (2.) This fitness would be found and determined to be so, by these whose place it is to try Gifts, even in this respect. (3.) The trysting [meeting] of providences is to be observed; as, the rise of the Call, if it proceed from no natural or carnal end? if no other door be opened elsewhere to him who is called, he may the more warrantably step in there, if no probable settling of that Congregation appear otherwise than by him, so as his refusing might occasion a detriment to that place? If things look so as he have an esteem without prejudice in the hearts of that people; so as he may probably expect to be looked on as a Minister, and to have the Word without prejudice received from him in that place? also if without carnal respects his heart be made to incline that way, or if unexpectedly and over many difficulties the people have pitched on him and adhered to him? These, and such like, may have their own weight, so as to help to gather this conclusion, That probably such a man's Ministry may be useful and profitable in such a place: Neither is the advice of sober and unbiased men, Ministers and others, to be neglected; seeing often they may see more in a man's particular case, nor [than] he can discern himself: and that is oft found to be a mean made use of by God, for manifesting of His mind in such cases. Again, if there be any competition of places, so as one be sought by more Congregations at once, the case is here somewhat different, supposing the man to be equally fitted for several places; otherwise greater suitableness to the one, nor [than] to the other, where it is palpable, doth cast the balance. In deciding what to choose in this competition, there is much need of singleness and deniedness to all outward and carnal things, both in him that is sought, and in them who seek, and in all others interested; this being a great ill to suffer carnalness and contentions to steal in, even in pursuit for a good Minister. Neither is there great weight to be laid upon priority or posteriority in the applications that are made, the matter itself and causes which may be given for the last and for the first, can only satisfy the conscience as to the great scope of the Ministry, to wit, the edification of the Church: seeing a man is obliged to look to edification in his Ministry, and so to settle, where probably that may be best attained, and not as an occasion may be, first, or last moved to him: and it were good that both he who is called, and they who call, would submit all interests, and be regulated by this. We conceive also, that the decision of this, doth not mainly or principally lie upon the person himself: for, as he is not simply to judge, whether his Gifts be meet for the Ministry in general, or for the edification of such a people in particular; so neither comparatively is he to decide, whether it be more conducing for edification, that he embrace one Call rather than another; but this is to be done rather by these, whose place leads them indifferently to look to the general good of the Church. This then is the great rule to decide by, whether his Ministry, considered complexly in all circumstances, may most conduce to the edification of Christ's body by the accepting of this or that charge, when all things are singly and impartially weighed and compared together? so as in the result, it may, upon good grounds, be made to appear, that the one will prove a greater furtherance to the perfecting of the saints, and enlargement of Christ's Kingdom than the other: as if his Ministry in one place, may be profitable to more souls than in another: and that not only with a respect to the particular Congregation; but as it may have influence to the preventing or suppressing of some general evils, or the promoving of some general good in more Congregations beside: If his Ministry may probably have more acceptance and fruit in one place, than in another; if by some present circumstance, the planting of one place be more needful, and the delay thereof be more dangerous than in another, which seemeth more difficult than the place in competition therewith; if the man find, after some trial, his liberty greater, his bowels more stirred, and his mouth more opened as the Apostle speaks, 2 Cor. 6, in reference to one more than another; if the harmonious judgment of single and uninterested faithful men prefer the one, as more edifying, to the other; and many such like, whereby Christian prudence, after the enquiring of the Lord's mind, may find the general end of edification to sway more on the one side than on the other, accordingly conscience is to determine that to be God's Call, and the person is to yield: for, although in every case these could not sway a man warrantably and simply in respect of his Call; yet, where the competition is in a case, that is almost equal on both sides, they may have place to cast the balance.
For the third, That when a man is cleared in reference to a particular Charge, there doth remain yet a necessity of clearing him in reference to a particular message to that Charge: for, as the condition of every Congregation, is not alike: so is not one way to be followed with all. Hence we see that John hath a particular and several message in reference to these seven Churches, though all agree in the one general scope, to wit, their edification. This is not to awaken at every time an anxious dispute, what matter to Preach; But, (1.) To consider what particular faults have need to be reproved; what Truths have need especially to be cleared; what duties are especially to be pressed, as being most slighted amongst them; what snares they are most in hazard of, and need most to be warned against, and so accordingly to insist: for, though all duties be good, and all sins be to be eschewed; yet do we see in the Word, that sometimes, and in some places, some are more insisted on than others, upon the former grounds. (2.) The necessary Truths of the Gospel, as they tend to instruct, convince, convert, comfort, &c. which are the great task of a Minister, are necessary to all people; yet in the pressing of instruction and conviction, more than consolation; or, again, consolation and healing applications, more than sharper threatenings and reproofs, That is to be regulated according to the temper and case of the people, as also the manner of proposing and following of them, according as may among such prove most edifying, as the Lord, in these seven Epistles, doth more sharply or more mildly deal with them to whom he writes. But because there may be occasion to touch on this in the 10th Chapter, and here we have already exceeded our bounds, we shall say no more of it, but shall say somewhat particularly to writing and the people's use-making thereof.