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METHODIST NEW CONNEXION
FOR THE YEAR 1858.
VOL. XXVI.-THIRD SERIES.
VOL. SIXTY-ONE, FROM THE COMMENCEMENT.
LONDON: WILLIAM COOKE,
EDITOR AND BOOK-STEWARD,
METHODIST NEW CONNEXION BOOK-ROOM,
21, WARWICK-LANE, PATERNOSTER-ROW.
NEW CONNEXION MAGAZINE.
ESSAYS, &c., ON THEOLOGY AND GENERAL
THE LAY MINISTRY. The privilege of our embracing Christianity involves the duty of diffusing it to the utmost of our power; and what is our duty will ever be our delight if our personal religion be healthy and vigorous. The extent of our duty is prescribed by the measure of our ability, and our energy in performing it will be proportioned to the vigour of our religious life; for the love of Christ has a constraining power, and it never ceases to constrain until it ceases to live. Labour for Christ, therefore, is one visible expression of our love to him. In harmony with this there are spheres of usefulness in the church of God adapted to every grade of ability; and as there is a place for every man, so every man will find his appropriate position if he only put himself in an obedient attitude, and allow Providence to be his guide. In the economy of Methodism this principle is conspicuously recognized, and means for its embodiment are provided more amply than in any
church of modern times. Among the means of usefulness the ministry holds unquestionably the highest and most important place; and as it aims at nothing less than the salvation of all men, it employs an agency of widely diversified talent, and imposes its duties on men of a secular calling as well as on those who are wholly consecrated to its work. Let no one think lightly of a separated ministry, for it is an ordinance of God; let no one grudge a competent support to its ambassadors, for its Divine founder has said “the labourer is worthy of his hire;" and let no one seek to undermine or resist their scriptural authority as the stewards of God and the chief rulers in his church, for we are exhorted “ to know them who labour amongst us, and are over us in the Lord, and admonish us, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." The Divine origin of a separated ministry and the duty of its support are settled points, and the state of the world, both at home and abroad, demands a large augmentation in the number of zealous and devoted labourers. Equally Divine in its origin is the institution of the lay ministry; and it is on this we desire especially to speak at present, because it is a subject on which we think too little is said in the present day; and there is danger, both of the office being undervalued by the people, and of its duties being too negligently performed by its agents: the one evil is indeed often the parent of the other. The fact that there are at the present period about ten lay preachers to one circuit minister in the Methodist denominations, is sufficient to impress us with a conviction of the power which is thus furnished for useful activity, and the desirableness of rendering it in the highest degree available in the aggressive and onward movements of the church. We should like to see in the people a deeper conviction of its importance, and in the preachers themselves a more powerful sense of its responsibilities, and a more enlightened, earnest, and zealous regard to its functions and obligations. With some persons there is a foolish objection to the services of a lay ministry; as if men pursuing a secular calling were out of their place when ministering the word of life. We call this foolish, because it is founded neither in reason nor the word of God, but is equally opposed to both. It is akin to the prejudice which raised an outcry against the efforts of Robert Stephenson in his gigantic schemes to intersect the earth with railways, and traverse them with locomotives, because he was an humble breaksman, and had received no professional diploma. It is like the dogma of the Papal Hierarchy which denudes the whole dissenting ministry of its status and authority, because not in the line of Apostolical succession. The economy and the history of Methodism confront this prejudice, and afford credentials for the authority of both a separated and a lay ministry, which bear the solemn impress of Jehovah's sanction, as evidently as the call froin heaven which commissioned Saul of Tarsus to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. The founders of Methodism were early taught by the force of irresistible facts that some of their cherished notions on the ministry, imbibed from education, and fortified by established usage, stood in the way of the Divine purposes—that such obstructions must be swept away, so that the chariot of the Gospel might speed its course; and that henceforth their aggressive operations must not be trammelled by the official routine with which prejudice and formalism had encumbered a Divine institution, but must proceed in the simple and unfettered mode which God had marked out in his word. Methodism was the child of Providence, and so was the origination of its unpretending but effective ministry; and that Providence broke through its cumbrous restraints, for they were human, and restored a primitive agency which was Divine-and from that period until now, a regular ministry, wholly separated to the work, but largely supplemented by devoted men, who connect the occasional performance of its functions with a secular calling, has been the order of Methodism, and under God the main cause of its wide and prosperous diffusion. That a lay ministry is not a new thing under the sun, but the revival of a primitive institution, may be very easily shown.
1. It appears that originally both the priestly and the prophetic functions were exercised by men of secular pursuits. Under the patriarchal economy, each pious father was the priest of his household, connecting the highest offices of religion with the pursuits of husbandry and the usual occupations of an earthly calling; and to some of the patriarchs in those primitive times, the spirit of prophecy was imparted, under which they both unfolded the truths of a promised dispensation,