On Ministry

Many professing the Christian name seem to imagine that though the assistance of the Holy Spirit was necessary to the introduction and support of the Christian religion in primitive times, but that it has no need of it now. It has become so matured by man’s wisdom and learning, which had no share in its origin, that it is fully capable of going alone. So that now it would appear in great measure to have become another thing, and to stand upon another foundation. Though its professors still call Christ their head, and account themselves His body, yet many of them expect to receive no immediate direction from Him, nor to feel the circulation of His blood, which is the life and virtue of true faith. Thus deservedly incurring the reproof of the apostle implied in this query: “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect in the flesh? [Gal. 3:3]”

The vitality and glory of Christianity lies in the clear administration of the Holy Spirit, without any veil of legal or ritual representations. School learning is but a human accomplishment, and though very useful as a servant, is yet no part of Christianity. Neither the acquirements of the college nor the formalities of human authority can furnish that humility which fitteth for God’s teaching. The mind of man is too prone to be puffed up with a conceit of superiority, which leads from self-denial and the daily cross, into pride and self-sufficiency, and instead of waiting for and depending upon the wisdom and power of God, into a confidence and in the wisdom of this world, and a devotional satisfaction in the round of external forms and ordinances. Whereas, those that worship God in the Spirit rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh. [Phil. 3:3] And why? Because “it is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. [John 6:63]

They who deny that the internal operations of the Holy Spirit are now to be sensibly experienced only demonstrate their own insensibility thereof. The true people of God in all ages have declared their own undoubted sense of Divine illumination and help, such as the apostle in Romans 7 and 8 testifies that he had a strong, clear and certain perception of the Holy Spirit throughout its operations. Every true believer and faithful follower of Christ, in the apostolic age, received a portion of the same Holy Spirit which the prophets and apostles did. Thus, according to the several measures allotted to them, they were all partakers of the same Holy Spirit, and as then so it is now, and must ever be in the true spiritual universal church of Christ. This Holy Spirit of Divine light and power of life is the great fundamental principle of Christianity and the only true saving principle for all mankind. It is Christ in Spirit, a light to enlighten the Gentiles and God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.” [Isa. 44:6, Acts 13:47] No man can be a true Christian without the Spirit of Christ, for “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”

If no man can be a true Christian without the Spirit of Christ, if no man can be one of His flock without a distinct knowledge of His voice, much less can any one be a minister of the Gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto Salvation, without an acquaintance with the operations of His Spirit, and its clear manifestations, furnishing him with authority and qualification for this most important work in the Church. The apostolic direction is given in 1 Peter 4:10, 11: As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” Such ministry is not the effect of man’s will or wisdom, but is the ministry of the Spirit; and all those who are really ministers of the Gospel have received a gift of the Spirit for that purpose. [See Eph. 4:11,12] No human talents or learning, and no ecclesiastical ordination, can make a man a Gospel minister. Christ under the New Testament hath instituted a new ministry, not through any external call or ordination but through the unction of the Holy Spirit, and without any regard to a man’s outward condition in the world. In the first promulgation of the Gospel, He chose fishermen, tent-makers and publicans, plain men and of ordinary employments in the world, and the gift of His Spirit was their sufficient qualification for His ministry.

No one can be assured that the has the gift for this work of the ministry but by the immediate impression and evidence of the Spirit itself. Nor can those among whom He labors know that the gift has been bestowed, unless they also have the evidence of the same Spirit. The church of Christ is to be under His government and built upon Him, the only true foundation; consequently, its members are not left to any uncertainty and under the influence of their holy Head, they necessarily know when the ministry proceeds from His Spirit. Although it may be possible for men by the strength of human abilities learnedly and eloquently to descant on the doctrines and obligations of the Gospel, yet without the heavenly, quickening virtue of the Spirit, such are only ministers of death and can never rise higher (2 Cor 5:5), unless they receive a gift for the work of the ministry. This gift is only at the disposal of Him from whom all perfect gifts proceed and not in the power of any man or set of men to assume or confer upon another. In a true church, gathered together, not only into the belief of the doctrines but also into the power and life of Christ, the Spirit of God is the ruler and director in each individual, and in the whole collectively. When they assemble and wait upon God, He qualifies and sets apart for the ministry whom He pleases, whether rich or poor, servant or master, young or old, male or female, opening their mouths and giving them ability to exhort, reprove and instruct with virtue and power.

It is an important duty in the church, and which rests on those who have long stood firm in obedience to the Spirit of Christ, carefully watching over the young and the inexperienced; and where any by mistaking their gift, improperly appear in this way, timely to counsel and caution them. Thus the living members are instrumental to preserve all in their proper places, instructing one another in the opening of that light which makes manifest.

The Gospel is the free gift of God. It cannot be purchased with money and what He dispenses freely, every true gospel minister, who is nothing more than a servant of Christ, is bound to give freely. In His instructions to the disciples, whom he was about to send out to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, He gave them this charge, “Freely ye have received, freely give. [Matt. 10:8] And as they would be travelling among strangers, without silver or gold in their purses, and whilst immediately engaged in His work, they could not labor for a subsistence, He directs them, as a workman is considered to be worthy of his hire, to partake of the provision that should be voluntarily set before them. It was in His service they were employed, and the object was to benefit those to whom they were sent, and this was to be performed ‘without money and without price.” [Isa. 55:1] It is the duty of the Church to take care of the members who are poor and unable to provide for themselves, as well ministers as others. The disciples and apostles had all things in common. Paul, rather than make the Gospel an expense to those to whom he preached, labored with his own hands and thus supplied his own wants.

The ministry of Jesus Christ is, therefore, a holy, spiritual, baptizing ministry. It has its origin and existence in Him who is the Head of the Body, the true Church, of which the ministers are necessarily members. Their qualification and call is from Him, through the immediate impressions of His Spirit on their understandings, and their preaching is “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, [1 Cor 2:13], upon which they must wait for instruction in every step they take in this solemn duty. It is a ministry that consists not “in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance. [1 Thess. 1:5]”