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It is here that a great many ministers lose their independence, and become the mere tools of a few leading minds. Some come into their profession ladened with a heavy debt incurred while prosecuting their education. They are dependent upon their people for the very bread they eat. Their families require every dollar they are receiving. What a temptation here to lose their independence and betray the interests of Christ's kingdom. Many people think too, if they support a minister he is bound to preach as they wish to have him. If he does not, he is very ungrateful, and unworthy of their patronage. They look upon him just as they do upon their other hired servants, and expect him to work as they wish him to, or be dismissed. His salary is thus held over his head, as a scourge to compel him to follow their instruction. This is often the case where the minister derives his support from a few. That few generally suppose they have the whole control of the pulpit-to say to this one, come, and he cometh, and to that, go, and he gocth. Here I fear is one great cause of the present servility of the ministry everywhere. If this is the prevailing feeling among churches and congregations, it is not strange that ministers should feel a degree of dependence not very consistent with their fidelity to God and to souls. Nothing but an unwavering confidence in God can sustain them here from yielding to worldly policy. They must look through man up to God and receive every gift from Him, or they will lose their boldness, and become the servants of man. In view of these considerations, I cannot but hold the church responsible for the present servility of the ministry. Have churches stood by those who have not yielded to carnal policy, and who have maintained their independence in this degenerate
Does the reader inquire, How then would you have ministers supported? Would you have government support the as in several countries of Europe? My answeris, no, I would have them go forth like the primitive disciples without scrip and purse, and live
among those for whom they labor, and acknowledge God as their Provider. Let them ever remember they are the servants of God and not of men. Do you not think God will take care of his servants? He will feed them if necessary, as he did Elijah, by ravens, before he will suffer them to want, in the path of duty. Let them be faithful, and never withhold anything that may be profitable, because men will withdraw their support. God can do without them. No
man ought ever to enter the ministry unless he has faith enough in God to believe that God will take care of him while he takes care of his cause.
Again, personal favors often materially affect the independence of the ministry. Most find it peculiarly embarassing to be faithful to familiar friends, especially to those from whom they have received personal favors. No matter how small the gift
, it won the heart. Such favors ought to stimulate to fidelity. If we have received temporal favors from one, it should be no reason why we should withhold spiritual blessings from him. Such treatment can be regarded in no other light than highly criminal.
No class of men are more strongly tempted here than ministers. If beloved, they are often receiving favors from their people. They steal their hearts, and excite the desire to please. Saith God, " Thou shalt take no gift; for the gist blindeth the wisc, and perverteth the words of the righteous.” What is more truthful? Even a wise man is blinded by a gift and a righteous man is turned away from his integrity, by a present. The minister of Jesus is the man most exposed to the temptation. One sends him a present; perhaps the giver is a sabbath-breaker. Now what a temptation to break down his independence, if he has any, and make him more moderate in his portraiture of that sin. Another sends a gist; he is a worldling; he is sensitive when•his idol is touched. How strongly is the minister tempted to be more sparing in his delineations of covetousness. In India, some years ago, there was a nobleman, who though a frequent attendant at church, and very kind to the clergyman, of the parish, lived in the open practice of many heinous sins. When laid upon his death-bed, he sent for the clergyman, and addressing his by name, said, “ Did you know that I was living in the practice of such vices ?” naming them. Yes, my lord, I did. “ You did,” replied the nobleman, " then why did you not warn me of the consequences?” “I am very sorry I did not," replied the clergyman, “ but I was afraid of offending your lordship, having a large family chiefly dependent upon your lordship’s favor.” Here he was suddenly stopped by the nobleman, who exclaimed, “ Wretched man! through your neg. ligence I am damned,” and soon expired.
Any one at all acquainted with human nature can see the trying situation of a minister. As he prepares his discourse he knows such a truth is applicable to such a hearer who is one of the ablest supporters of the gospel. If the truth is
uttered in its simplicity and power, he will be offended. The offensive truth must be kept back or so polished as to destroy its point and power. Another truth equally important will offend a personal friend. Again, if personal favors are to be the rule this must be retained. In this way, the whole discourse is mutilated and destroyed. The independence of the ministry is gone.
Again, the minister may be really conscientious. His purpose is to preach the whole truth without fear or favor. But God has said, “ a gift blindeth the wise;" that personal favor may unconsciously blind his eyes to the sins of the giver. His faults may not appear. His damning sins are unrebuked and unrepented of. When I think of the great and alarming servility of the ministry, I cannot but consider this as a very fruitful cause.
How few in this profession have any independence. They suppose they have. They will tell you how sharply they encountered this and that evil. How boldly they preached on temperance. But when was this done? When the cause had become universally popular, and they had to preach as they did, or lose their places. They did not do it when the deacon was opposed, and when that grocer was engaged in the traffic. By and by they will boast of their courage, in preaching anti-slavery, when the battle has been fought and the victory won.
Wonderful independence! They must be resormers! They deserve to have their names enrolled with Luther's. They ought to have a D. D. from a European university! But where were they when the legions of liberty were marshalling, and the battle was fought, and the victory achieved? Behind their pulpits, or closely closeted in their chambers, whining about the fanaticism of the reformers, and afraid they are going to destroy the church.
IV. Theological seminaries tend to impair the independence of the ministry.
You will not understand me as supposing that this is a necessary influence of thcological seminaries. It is one of the incidental evils which must be guarded against. It is not confined to such institutions alone, but exists in every system of education. There is a tendency in every course of instruction to destroy individuality, and make one like the model set before him. And so far as it does this it diminishes his
power. It serves to break down his independence and make him weaker so far as he leans upon others.
At our theological seminaries we have the leading minds of the various denominations as professors and teachers. As a matter of course young men who belong to these institutions would naturally look up to them and reverence them. It would not be strange if they should place undue dependence upon their opinions in theology and in their general policy. They are not only men of learning but men of great experience. As a general thing young men would not think of attaching themselves to a seminary where they have not great respect for its officers. It would not be strange under these circumstances that they should listen to them as to an oracle; that they should sometimes give up their own opinions without much reflection, for the opinions of others whom they so highly esteem; or that they should readily adopt their views without considering them very carefully. In some such way they lose their own independence without being conscious of it. They imagine they have a large share of independence while they strenuously defend the opinions and views of their instructors. Who cannot see this influence exerted by our theological seminaries? Young men come from them year after year with about the same qualifications and exhibiting the same manner. It is not difficult to tell an Andoverian, a Princetonian, a New-Haven or an Oberlin student. They have been subjected to the same mould; they have the language of the schools, the tone and emphasis of their revered instructors, and all the peculiar views of doctrine which usually characterize the different seminaries. They are often very strenuous in defending their views, imagining they have a large share of genuine independence. In this they are greatly deceived. They are not aware how much they lean upon their instructors. They have scarcely learned to walk alone. Their plans are all laid out for future action—the theory is all written in their memorandum books. To reduce it to practice seems an easy task. As they enter the field they feel like David with Saul's armor on. The machinery is heavier than they supposed, nor have they skill to work it. They want the independence, the experience and the resources of their instructors. If he knows himself he begins to understand his dependence. It will require time to break away from these trammels and assert his independence, if he ever makes a full grown man.
The influence of theological seminaries in moulding the character of the Church and ministry is tremendous. It may be seen at the present time in the different sections of our country. These oracles speak, and a whole class of ministers and Churches reiterate the theses over the nation. They take the lead in all the dissensions in polemic theology, and determine not only the themes but the language of the pulpit throughout the country.
V. Creeds impair the independence of the ministry.
I am not going to defend nor condemn their use in this place, but simply show their influence upon the ministry. They have been regarded by the different sects as embodying the most essential doctrines of the Bible. When a young man is preparing to enter the ministry in any of the various communions, the first thing for him to do is to subscribe to the creed. Can he subscribe to every tenet held by that Church? Can he adopt all their views on baptism, on election, on falling from grace, on church policy, on apostolical succession, &c.? He must study the creed and see whether he can swallow the whole, hook and line; if he can, he is a fit subject for licensure. Send him out, fledged or unfledged, to do the best he can in advancing the interests of that Church. In his future course he must abide by his creed. He must bring the Bible to conform to that. He must not only adopt the crecd, but he must use the language of the schools to which he belongs or be arraigned before the world as a herctic. What independence can a minister have under these circumstances. If he has any independence of thought to begin with, he must soon relinquish the privilege of thinking for himself. He must study to know what Luther has said, what Calvin has written, what Wesley taught, what Gill thought, or what the Church has sanctioned or decreed. The Fathers are appealed to almost as often among Protestants as they are among Catholics. It is just as though these great and good men were appointed to think for us.
What independence can there be in the ministy while such a course is adopted. For one, I claim the privilege of thinking for myself. I can determine what the Bible means as well as Calvin or Wesley, probably more satisfactorily to myself. I yield not the privilege to any Association or Synod, or to any ecclesiastical body in the world. I do not despise their opinions. I read their comments and form my opinions from the best light I have. But if they are to think for me, to decide what I shall believe, I will take my hat and go over to Mother Church, where I shall have enough of the Fathers, and enough of tradition, and enough of what the Church has decreed. It is a sad affair that our fathers should have suffered so much to establish religious toleration, if we, their children, are to be chained to creeds; if we are to lie on this