But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
~ John 15:26
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
~ Romans 8:16
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
~ Romans 8:26
Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:21
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
~ Ephesians 4:30
Witness of the Spirit, by Thomas Smyth. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “The Call to the Ministry”.
Holy Spirit Imparts This Assurance to the Soul, Or, In Other Words, How the Spirit Witness to the Soul.
Witness of the Spirit
16. If the Holy Spirit testifies to a fact not evidenced and propounded in the Scriptures, then whatever He thus testifies, must be as infallibly true as the Word of God itself. But it is affirmed that the Spirit testifies to the teaching of Romanists, Prelatists, Quakers, Irvingites, and innumerable sects, who all teach what is contrary to the Bible and to each other. The Spirit, therefore, only testifies to what He has made known to the Word.
17. If the Spirit, by immediate and supernatural suggestion, imparts the knowledge of one fact or truth, He can impart the knowledge of all. And if the importance of the subject or duty makes this necessary in one case, then it is necessary in all, since all are of unspeakable importance and involve everlasting consequences, (Math. 5, 18, 19). Thus would the Scriptures be set aside as unnecessary, since, if texts may be pleaded for such suggestions, as it regards some truth or duty, they may be pleaded also for “all truth” and duty.
18. If the testimony of the Spirit given by supernatural and direct suggestion conveys the truth of any proposition or fact, then this truth or fact was either already in the Scriptures, or in existence, or else such a testimony is incredible, since God never required the belief of a proposition or fact which was not already true, nor does the Spirit ever testify to a fact which has not been already established. He first works, and then testifies to his own work.
19. If it is said that this testimony of the Spirit is only by way of impulse or feeling, or shining, or voice, and not by the statement of any truth or fact — then we reply as before, that these constitute no evidence at all, and witness nothing.
Finally we remark, that such a testimony of the Spirit cannot be admitted, because its advocates are led to adopt positions, which we believe to be contrary- to Scripture, and to fact, and to each other.
Mr. Watson, who has verably and extensively written upon the subject, says we cannot love God, until we are assured by this witness of His Spirit, that He loves and is reconciled to us, since He alone knows the mind of God. and He alone can tell us that God loves us.t But we have seen that until we actually possess and exercise a spiritual mind, we cannot discern spiritual things, and cannot, therefore, either know or love God spiritually. He thus “puts us,” to use his own words, “upon the impossible task,”‘i of knowing God before we are savingly enabled to do so, which is absurd.
To know that it is the Spirit of God who speaks to us. on any occasion and in any manner, we must have some criterion by which to judge of His speaking, and so on ad infinitum. But when a spiritual capacity- has been imparted, and spiritual things are understood and felt, and the Holy Spirit gives clearness to the outward evidence and power to the inward principle, then is the heart able to stand fast and rejoice in hope, and while the manner in which these gifts are bestowed is unknown, this spiritual mind enables us to love God in Christ, from whom they all proceeded.
The argument that “love to God directly implies a knowledge of His love to us.” is therefore in one sense true, and in another untrue. Objectively or doctrinally, as it regards certain evidence of God “being in Christ reconciling sinners unto Himself, and not imputing their trespasses unto tnem,’ it is true. But it is not true, that to love God we must have a personal, direct attestation made by the Holy Ghost to our minds, that God has pardoned and adopted us. This is not faith, but sight and sense ; — it makes this testimony and its fruit precede justification. t whereas the Apostle makes this “peace with God” to follow justification; (Rom. 5: 1.) and to witness to this peace, therefore, before justification, would be to testify to what is not the fact; — it makes faith our work in consequence of this witness, whereas it “is the gift of God,” and the first fruit of the Spirit ; — it implies that there cannot be faith where there is not already assurance;? and yet, Mr. Watson says, “the faith that brings us into this state of “comfortable assurance,” must maintain us in it ;thus, in one place making faith precede justification ;(and in another making assurance, which is an exercise of faith, precede faith. The error, we conceive, lies in denying to faith the instrumental connexion with salvation, attributed to it in the word of God, and in making special love the ground of faith,| instead of God’s warrant in the Gospel, made plain to us by the regenerating influence of the Holy Ghost, “whose work is one,” and who in enabling us to exercise faith, thereby produces at the same time saving faith, hope and joy.
We agree with Mr. Watson, in believing that the Holy Ghost not only witnesses with, or in our spirit, but to our spirit, but when he makes the Holy Spirit give “witness to the great fact that our sins are forgiven, “i: &c., he makes necessary to saving knowledge what he admits the text on which he founds his doctrine may not require. which Scripture never asserts, and which we have shewn can never be proved to ourselves or to others. In fact, Mr. Watson admits that the manner in which this truth is communicated by the Holy Spirit, cannot be described, and is different in different individuals ; — that it is open to the greatest delusions ; — that it requires the fruits of the Spirit to test this test and make sure this assurance ; — that it is necessary, and that always,’^% and yet that it conveys no certain assurance of final salvation, t or of any permanent security; — it is according to him a direct witness of adoption and pardon, and is yet only “a comfortable persuasion or conviction” and “does not necessarily imply the absence of all
Such are some of the difficulties in which this theory involves its most skilful advocates. It leads ultimately to the endless circle — that we know that our feelings and convictions are saving, because of the direct witness of the Spirit assuring us that we are saved ; and we know that this assurance is the testimony of the Spirit, and not of our own minds or of Satan, because of the fruits to which it leads. And this theory, at the same time, substitutes an inward suggestion and experience of our minds for the only divine warrant given for our faith in the word and testimony of God.
On both sides of this question, therefore, of the witness of the Spirit, there are dangerous errors to be avoided — errors of excess — and errors of defect : — the error of the Sadducees who denied the doctrine and necessity of the Holy Spirit’s influence, in order that we may in any measure and as it regards any duty — will and do what is holy and pure; — the error of the Pelagians who reduce the proffered help of the Holy Spirit to mere natural capacity, or the knowledge imparted by revelation ; — and the error of the Semi-Pelagians, who attribute to man’s ability the preparation of the heart, and who teach that the grace of willing and acting is given in consequence of this preparation.^ So much for the errors of defect. But on the other hand, there are errors of excess which are as carefully to be avoided: — the errors of all, who, like Montanus, claim the special guidance and direction of the Spirit, to complete and perfect the doctrine and order of the church ; — the error of all, who like various sects at different periods of the church, claimed for themselves the illapses and illuminations of the Holy Spirit for guidance, instruction and ability to preach ; — the erroneous assumption also of the Romish church, in claiming the exclusive possession of the Holy Spirit for authenticating and interpreting inspired writings, and for imparting all heavenly grace ; — and, finally, the error of erecting as a standard of experience and a test of sincerity, a sensible manifestation of the personal and direct operation of the Holy Spirit, as is unwarranted and unrequired by the word of God. While such a standard may accord with the remarkable experience of a few, it is adapted to throw doubts, darkness and difficulties,
if not absolute despair, in the way of the heavenly conscientious and sincere, while it offers no obstruction to the self-confident, hypocritical, or presumptuous, and which, therefore, can do only harm, and that to God’s dear and most tender-hearted and spiritually minded children.
But to our doctrine on this subject of the witness of the Spirit, there is one objection not yet noticed, and which has been deemed of insurmountable difficulty. It is urged strongly by Mr. Watson, and by the Reviewer, and is this : If the witness of the Spirit is to be gathered from the conformity of our experience, and character, and motives, to those described in the Scriptures as the work and operation of the Spirit, then the witness is in fact not that of the Spirit at all, but is only the witness of our own spirit.
Now to this objection we have several replies.
1st. This objection does not give us credit for believing and teaching as truly as the objectors can, the direct and personal operation of the Spirit in the production of every holy principle, capacity, feeling, desire and purpose, and also In upholding, strengthening, and confirming them. What we deny, is not the direct and personal operation of the Spirit, but the sensible and self-evidencing nature of this process as a necessarily required test and evidence of the reality of what is thus produced. We believe in the necessity and fact of the Spirit’s operation — we deny the capacity to discern the time and manner of His operation.
2dly. The term “witness,” is itself metaphorical, and can only be explained, therefore, by what is taught elsewhere of the nature and incomprehensibleness of the divine operations.
3dly. The analogy of language and the actual usage of Scripture sustain the interpretation, that by the term “witness of the Spirit,” is to be understood, the effect produced by the Spirit — the testimony given by Him in those graces of which he is the only possible author, — and this view is sustained as admissible by the construction and the context of that passage in which the words are used, (Rom. 8, 16. )t The objection, therefore, is founded upon a view of this passage, which is not necessary — nor sustained by the general doctrine of Scripture.
4thly. The testimony of our spirits to any thing within the range of our capacity, is founded on the veracity of God, and is therefore infallible, and hence the testimony of that “Spirit,” which is “the gift of God,” imparted for the very purpose of spiritual discernment, must be infallible, also,
5thly. This inward infallible testimony is rendered more assured by the infallible evidence and test of the outward word, made plain and applicable to us by the infallible teaching of the Holy Spirit. Nor is this reasoning in a circle. We are conscious and therefore certain of a spiritual capacity. The infallibility of this consciousness we assume, though “we cannot tell whence it cometh.” And in the exercise of this capacity we discern the truth in the word and its application to us, and the actual existence of that grace which is there ascribed to the Holy Spirit, wrought in our hearts, and are therefore intuitively led to attribute that grace — whether it comforts, or directs to duty — to the Holy Ghost.
6thly. Scripture and reason both warrant us in saying, that those spiritual views, feelings, desires, and principles which could not be produced by our natural powers, and could only be imparted by the Holy Ghost, are a direct and literal witness given by Him to our “Spirits” — speaking more loudly and incontrovertibly than if we actually heard a voice from the upper sanctuary. Nay, so assuredly are these spiritual views, the witness of the Spirit, that in Scripture they are actually denominated the Spirit, (John, 3 : 6, Rom. 8 : 5, 1 Cor. 2 : 14, and 15 : 49, 2 Cor. 5 : 17, Gal. 4 : 19, &c.)
In the language of Scripture and reason, therefore, these fruits of the Spirit are the Spirit Himself, witnessing with our spirits, and demonstrating that “He who hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God.” “But how and in what manner He works these effects we know not any more than how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child. Therefore it is called a hidden life, (Col. 3: 3,) being in this respect unknown even to spiritual men, though they are themselves the
subjects of it.”
The nature of the ministerial call depends upon the nature of assurance and the witness of the Spirit, — of both which it is an eminent exemplification. Having, therefore, endeavored to state the doctrine of Scripture on these subjects, we are now prepared, without farther introduction, to lay down what we believe to be the doctrine of Scripture, concerning the Call to the Ministry, directing our readers to some of the most accesssible works in which this subject is specially discussed. A call to the ministry, like all other saving influences, must, as we have seen, be imparted by the Holy Ghost, and an assurance of His having given it, must be imparted to the soul, in order that it may become efifectual and operative. The Holy Spirit must impart those qualifications of natural fitness which are essential, in order to prepare for, or to engage in, the work ; — He must open up the way for such a course of preparation ; — He must give ability and success to our endeavors ; — He must inspire the heart with that desire for the work, which cannot be satisfied without the utmost effort to carry it into execution ; — He must give the singleness of heart and purpose, which looks only to the glory of God and the salvation of souls; — He must bestow that “spirit of wisdom, of power, and of a sound mind,” which alone can lead to that prudence which will give offence to no man, and to that boldness, which will contend for the truth if needs be, even unto blood; — He must open a wide and an effectual door to the individual called for an entrance upon this high calling; — He must, therefore, dispose the hearts of his appointed officers to ratify His call, and the hearts of his people to attest the fitness and capacity of the individual so called to edify and instruct; — He must crown his labors with a saving and sanctifying blessing to them that hear ; — and He must continue to uphold, direct, instruct, and comfort his servant while engaged in his arduous labors. The whole work of the ministry depends, therefore, upon the Holy Ghost for its authority, and for our obligation and fitness to assume it.
The term call is a metaphor, referring both to the command or summons by which a person is verbally invited and directed to any duty, and to the vocation or employment to which he is summoned. It is, therefore, that command — addressed to any individual through His word, by the Holy Ghost, — to engage in any work or duty, or to enjoy any privileges and blessings. It is used in the Scriptures generally for every state and condition of life to which any one is destined by God — for which He gives the requisite capacity and qualifications, opening the way for an entrance upon it — and blessing and supporting those who engage in it. The Holy Ghost is represented as the efficient agent in carrying out, in reference to every individual, the providential purposes of God, as well as the dispensations of His grace. To every such state, condition and duty, whether in the family, the church, or the commonwealth, the Holy Spirit calls, and his people are called ; and hence, these employments are termed callings, or a man’s vocation. A call, therefore, is necessary to the proper discharge and enjoyment of any business or occupation, and this call is the more clear and evident, in proportion as the duty is peculiar, responsible, and attended with temptation and difficulty. A christian is, therefore, to expect such a call, and a comfortable persuasion or assurance of duty in all that he undertakes.
The terms call and calling are, however, most generally applied to the commands and invitations addressed to sinners by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures, and through the preaching of the truth, and to the effectual application and power with which the Holy Ghost makes them “the power of God to their salvation,” sanctification, and devotion to His service.
In all cases the calling of God is two-fold, outward in His word and providence, and inward in those qualifications and desires which enable the believer to judge of his calling. These inward qualities, fitness and desire, are given by the Holy Spirit, and wherever they exist, prove that the person is chosen by God, and fitted and called to the work for which they qualify.
Now, so it is with regard to the work of the ministry — which is a part of the great field of christian work and duty to which the Holy Spirit calls, and for which He fits and prepares. The call to this work is also external and inward. The external call to the ministry, is that testimony, command, precept, promise and invitation of the word, which makes known the duty and the privilege of the christian ministry, together with all other means by which the mind is led to feel, to understand, and to become personally sensible of this duty. The internal call, is that supernatural influence, communicated by the Holy Ghost, by which the soul is freely persuaded and enabled to obey the command, to believe the promises, to desire the privileges, and willingly undergo the self-denial and the labor of the christian ministry.
This combined call to the ministry, that is, the outward and the inward call, are in the present state of the church, ordinary, — that is, it is effected according to the general order laid down in the word, and established in the church, — and is not extraordinary; — and it is also mediate, that is, it is made through the cooperation of men, and not directly and solely by God.
In both aspects of the ministerial call, the only efficient and authoritative source from which it flows, is the triune covenant Jehovah, by whom the church has been constituted, and more especially God the Son, in the exercise of His sovereign dominion over the church through the Holy Spirit. The ultimate author of the ministerial call is, therefore, the Triune God, and the proximate author, the Holy Ghost.
The essence of the external call is found in the whole doctrine, precept, promise, and order concerning the ministry laid down in the word of God; and the essence of the internal call, consists in the operations of the Holy Ghost, by which we are persuaded of the duty ; led to desire it ; endued in some measure with spiritual fitness for it ; and made willing to undertake it. Of these “gifts that are in Him, which are given by the Holy Ghost,” every one is and must be conscious; of their conformity to what the Spirit in the word has promised and made necessary, he may be and is convinced ; and being sensible that he is actuated by no avaricious, ambitious, or worldly motives, but by a sincere spirit of love and obedience to God, and a desire to edify the church and proclaim the Gospel for the encouragement of sinners, he is assured, by a conviction more or less powerful, that he has the witness of the Spirit with his, that he is called of God to the work of the ministry. Under his guidance, a spiritual application of the command to preach the Gospel, gives to the soul a relish for the holy and divine work commanded ; an adoring view of the sweet and wonderful grace of Christ, in instituting and entrusting it to men ; a sense of the all-sufficiency of Christ to fulfil His promise in enabling us to discharge the duty; and a conviction of our title to, and interest in, the work prescribed.
A conviction of a call to this work, arising from an audible voice, or an immediate suggestion is, for the reasons already given, a blind call, not founded upon the truth in the word, but upon what is within the power of imagination, or of Satanic influence to produce. Such a call is, therefore, either a gross delusion, or, if from God, it is the accompaniment, but not the essence of the call. Such suggestions or sensible signs are not, therefore, to be expected or trusted in — first, because they are extraordinary and unwarranted ; second, because they are beside and independent of the Scriptures ; and, thirdly, because they do not necessarily imply, or require, or produce, those holy desires and qualifications which are spiritual, supernatural and divine, above nature, and altogether beyond the power of Satanic influence.
The evidence of an external call to the ministry, is the possession of the natural qualifications fitting for it — and of those spiritual and acquired habits which are laid down in the word as actually necessary. And the evidence of an internal call is the conscious exercise of these qualifying graces and gifts, with a conviction more or less free from doubt, assuring us that they were given by the Holy Spirit, and that by them God testifies to the personal application of His command to our souls.
The object which a heavenly call to the ministry presents to our minds, is in both cases Christ, the head and legislator of the church, whose ministry it is ; by whom it was given ; by whom it is directed and sustained.; and for whose glory it was and is maintained.
The ground of warrant of this Call, or authorized engagement in the ministry, is the command, institution and promise of Christ, making this office permanent in the church, calling men into it, and. securing to them assistance in it.
The necessity for such a call, is founded upon the supernatural and divine ends contmemplated by the ministry — the glory of God and the salvation of men — which can only be secured by divine appointment, divine warrant, divine authority, divine assistance, and divine blessing.
The acceptance of a call to the ministry, is the actual submission of the whole man, — body, soul and spirit, — ro the Lord Jesus Christ, in obedience to His command to preach the Gospel, looking to Him for grace and help to fulfil it ; an actual entrance upon that course of study which is necessary to prepare for the work; — and the actual discharge of its duties, when so prepared. In this act, the soul looks neither to itself, nor to the effects which are to follow, but only to the word and to Him who there speaks.
The end aimed at in a call to the ministry, is not our glory, honor, or comfort, but the glory and honor of the Triune God, as in Christ Jesus He is reconciling the world unto Himself, through the Gospel preached unto them.
The LIFE and power of a call to the ministry, consists in an abiding conviction of the divine authority, glory, and infinite importance of the work ; of our fitness in some measure to discharge it; of our single and sincere desire to glory God in it; and of His presence, comfort and blessing in the work. This is “that secret call of which,” as Calvin teaches, “every minister is conscious before God, but has not the church as a witness of it ; I mean, the good testimony of our heart, that we undertake the offered office neither from ambition, nor avarice, nor any other selfish feeling, but a sincere fear of God and desire to edify the Church. This, as I have said, is indeed necessary for every one of us, if we would approve our ministry to God. Still, however, a man may have been duly called by the church, though he may have accepted with a bad conscience, provided his wickedness is not manifest. It is usual also to say, that private men are called to the ministry when they seem fit and apt to discharge it; that is, because learning, conjoined with piety and the other endowments of a good pastor, is a kind of preparation for the office. For, those whom the Lord has destined for this great office, he previously provides with the armor which is requisite for the discharge of it, that they may not come empty and unprepared.” Thus reasonably speaks this immortal man.
We have ourselves made extensive research into this question, and so far as we have done so, have found- — beyond the writers of the Methodist Church, and we need hardily except even them, — an undeviating uniformity of views. In no one writer have we found the doctrine of the Reviewer, that “a supernatural conviction of duty, wrought by the immediate agency of the Holy Ghost, is an essential element in the evidence of a true vocation to the ministry” — sustained. Any such immediate, direct, and self-evident operation of the Holy Spirit, convincing an individual of his duty to enter the ministry is, so far as we know, universally regarded by all judicious writers, as unwarrantable, unattainable and delusive. Indeed, the same views as we have maintained, are advanced, for substance, by our most orthodox divines. “In God’s ordinary calls” “to the Gospel Ministry,” says Dr. Owen, “there is the same sovereignty, though somewhat otherwise exercised. For in such a call, there are three things : 1. A providential designation of a person to such an office, work, or employment. When any office in the house of God, suppose that of the ministry, is fixed and established, the first thing that God doth in the call of any one thereunto, is the providential disposition of the circumstances of his life, directing his thoughts and designs to such an end. And were not the office of the ministry in some places accompanied with many secular advantages, yea, provisions (for the lusts and luxuries of men) that are foreign unto it, this entrance into a call for God thereunto, by a mere disposal of men’s concerns and circumstances, so as to design the ministry in the course of their lives, would be eminent and perspicuous. But, whilst multitudes of persons out of various corrupt ends, crowd themselves into the entrances of this office, the secret workings of the providence of God towards the disposal of them, whom he really designs unto his work herein, are greatly clouded and obscured. 2. It is a part of this call of God, when he blesseth, succeedeth and prospereth the endeavors of men, to prepare themselves with those previous dispositions and qualifications which are necessary unto the actual call and susception of this office. And hereof also there are three parts. First, An inclination of their hearts in compliance with his designation of tthem unto their office. Where this is not effected, but men proceed according as they are stimulated by outward impressions or considerations, God is not as yet at all in this work.
Secondly. An especial blessing of their endeavors for the due improvement of their natural faculties and abilities, in study and learning, for the necessary aids and instruments of knowledge and wisdom. Thirdly. The communications of peculiar gifts unto them, rendering them meet and able unto the discharge of the duty of their office, which in an ordinary call is indispensably required as previous to an actual separation unto the office itself. 3. He ordereth things so, as that a person whom he will employ in the service of his house, shall have an outward call according unto rule, for his admission thereunto. And in all these things, God acts according to his own sovereign will and pleasure.”
To all this the objection will, we know be presented, that as the work of the ministry is especial and extraordinary, and not an ordinary duty, the call to this work must also be extraordinary, immediate and direct from the Holy Ghost.
But we can see no force in the objection:
1. In the first place, the work of the ministry is only one department of that wide field of christian obligation, effort and usefulness, which is under the direction and control of the Holy Spirit, into which, as we have seen. He calls, and for which He qualifies.
2. The whole work and operation of the Holy Spirit is conducted upon a uniform plan — so that, however various the field, the work, or the effect to be produced — it is one and the same Spirit that worketh all, in all, and by all. The manner of this working of the Holy Spirit in one case, will therefore be His manner in all ordinary cases ; and if that manner in one case is secret and unknown, and only evidenced by the state produced, and not by the operation producing it, — then this will be the manner in all cases.
3. This view is sustained by the analogy between the work of the ministry and every other christian work, and between the call to the ministry and the call to every other duty and privilege.
In regard to all such cases, there is no difference in the nature of the duty, but only in its degree of importance. All spiritual duties depend alike upon divine appointment and divine assistance. Entire consecration to God is the spirit and principle of all piety, and entire devotion to Him and to His service, is the full and perfect manifestation of piety. The obligation to this entire consecration of all our powers and efforts to the promotion of God’s glory in the salvation of men, arises from our relation to God in Christ, and rests, therefore, equally upon all men. As it regards any particular duty, the obligation springs from the command of God in His word ; and the qualifications for it are to be determined by that word, while they can only be imparted by the Spirit. In all cases, our knowledge of duty arises from the Scriptures; in all cases saving and sanctifying impressions come through them; and in all cases the Holy Spirit is the efficient agent in opening the understanding to perceive and the heart to obey. The Word of God is, therefore, in all cases the guide to duty, the standard of duty, and the warrant of duty. And when our own hearts testify to the existence within us of the qualifications prescribed in that word for any office or duty ; of the dispositions it requires ; and of the desire and willingness it demands ; then, that word assures us that these are the gifts and fruits of the Spirit, and that having given them, He has thereby fitted us for, and called us to, the duty in question.
No duty is obligatory upon the conscience of a christian that is not made binding by the Word of God, since the Scriptures “thoroughly furnish unto every good word and work.” This word, therefore, is the external call to any work. And its call is as general and as extensive as the field of christian duty, and includes within its range every specific requirement. The internal call is in every case the operation of the Holy Spirit in the soul, by which this external call is made to commend itself to the heart, and to produce an internal compliance with it.
The application of passages of Scripture enforcing any particular duty — as for instance that of the ministry — is in accordance with a general rule pursued by the Holy Ghost, in His illuminating and saving operations. In such cases the truth is special, the duty special, and the application special, but the flower by which an application is made, and the manner in which it is made, is in all cases analogous. Truths referring to special persons and to special cases, are, therefore, as a universal rule, only accompanied by special illumination and enforcement in the case and circumstances designed.
The ministry, however, is no more special as a privilege and duty than the christian calling, or than any other particular christian duty. 1 1 All are permitted and bestowed by sovereign goodness. The proper discharge of all is beyond mere natural ability and capacity. All are unwarranted, except to those specially called to undertake them. As is the case with all other christian duties, therefore, the ministry depends upon divine appointment; its qualifications are measured by divine requirements ; fitness for its discharge proceeds from the divine bounty; obligation to use the gifts thus bestowed is created by the divine command ; and the sense of individual responsibility, is an inference from our actually possessing these gifts wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, and from our opportunity of engaging in the work.
The ministry is an instituted and permanent means of grace and “labor of love.” And as the Holy Ghost instituted and ordained it, so He continues it to the end of time, by an ordinary and reg-ular method of procedure. The ground of a call to it, is found in the whole doctrine of Scripture, concerning the nature and necessity of the office, and the obligations to fulfil it. This doctrine is general and unlimited in its application, except to persons of the female sex, or of natural incapacity, or such as are destitute of the required qualifications to whom it does not apply.f The ability to apply this doctrine of the ministry to himself individually, and to assume the actual discharge of its functions, is the result of its special application by the Holy Ghost to his soul, which application is to be sought and secured in this, just as it is in every other case of christian privilege and duty.
To make a call to the ministry depend, therefore, upon a direct and immediate suggestion of the Spirit, constraining an individual to engage in this work, is to teach that the Scriptures are not the only infallible guide to duty, and that they are not able “thoroughly to furnish for every good work’ since the ministry is expressly described as “a good work ;” — it is to teach that God immediately, directly, and independently of His own Word; which is perfect as a rule of duty, reveals and imposes duty; it is to teach God does this through evidence, which opens up the way to the greatest possible delusion, and which is incapable of certain authentication ; it is to substitute for an authentic and infallible directory and rule of duty one that is variable, uncertain, delusive, indeterminable, — one which even Mr. Gurney admits only mature christians can discern, and which all admit, must be tested by the only sure test, and proved genuine by its subsequent results : — and unless, therefore, this evidence of a ministerial call is resolved essentially into the combined testimony of the Word, its saving application and effects, and the secret but effectual operation of the Spirit leading to a comfortable persuasion of duty, it is vitally different from what we must believe to be rational, scriptural, and attainable.) I The Scriptures no where promise such a call, and no where give rules by which to ascertain and determine it.