It is a necessary consequence of what is advanced on this subject, that all should be careful that the ministry of the ordinances they attend upon be such as is warranted in the word. If none can warrantably preach except they be sent, we cannot warrantably attend on the ministry of any but those who we have reason to believe have Christ’s call and mission. And if it be an objection against a pastor of a congregation, that he is imposed upon the flock without their choice, it is no less an objection against a preacher, if he be not admitted to the ministry of the word by those whose office it is to examine his qualifications, and judge of his call. It must, however, be acknowledged, that to have gone through the ordinary forms of admission is no sufficient evidence of one’s having the call of Christ. The outward forms may be observed, while the spirit and design of them is neglected, and the rule of the word transgressed. Nor can any be acknowledged as sent by Christ, unless their character correspond with that pointed out and required in the word, and unless the doctrine they teach be the gospel of Christ. None can be supposed to have a mission from Christ, who do not bring his message, 2 John ver. 10: “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” But when we are favored with the pure gospel, and an administration of it agreeable to the word, let us wait upon it diligently; regarding the preaching of the gospel as an ordinance of Christ, and depending on his promised blessing to make it effectual: for when “the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe,” 1 Cor. i. 21.
Both parts of this number are recommended to the serious consideration of what are called lay-preachers, and of such as favor that scheme. And let all intruders upon the office of the holy ministry, with their deluded votaries, beware lest it should be said to them, Who hath required this at your hands?
Quest. Have not the people a divine right to choose their own pastors and other church officers?
Ans. In those divinely qualified for the ministry, there are diversities of gifts, though but one spirit. As the same food, though abundantly wholesome and nourishing, is not equally suited to the taste, appetite, and constitutions of different persons and nations; so the same gifts in a candidate for the gospel ministry are not equally adapted to every person and place. To secure edification there must therefore be a choice of the gifts most suitable. And who fitter to make it than those who are to enjoy the use thereof, if their senses be exercised to discern good and evil? Can any man pretend to know better what gifts suit the case of my soul than I do myself?