Pastoral TheologyArticles on doctrine, Covenant Theology, Practical Theology and Pastoral Theology
Concerning a Calling to the Ministry, and Clearness Therein by James Durham
Lecture IX (part.)
pages 66-83 (of 60-83)
Verse. 19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
This command of writing, was particularly set down, vers. 11. Here again, it’s renewed; and afterward, Chap. 2. and Chap. 3. is seven times repeated, with respect to every Church he writes unto: which certainly is to show, of what concernment clearness of a Call is, and that both in general, and particular; and is done amongst other reasons for this end, to clear John in his Call, and to warrant the People in their receiving of his Message. From which we may gather this, That a Minister that taketh on him to edify a Church in the name of the Lord, had need to be clear of his Call thereunto from the Lord: it’s not the general that we now insist on, to wit, that there is such a peculiar Calling, or, that none but the Lord can authorize for it; but it’s especially concerning that clearness which every Minister ought to have in his Call, that with holy boldness he may go about the work, having peace in himself (what ever he may meet with in it) as one who hath not run, whereas the Lord did not send him, Jer. 23.21. That this is exceedingly requisite to a Minister, we suppose will be out of question to all who know that Ministers are but Ambassadors; and so for them to want [lack] clearness of the Lord’s Call, is to be uncertain whether they have a Commission or not: and therefore they who look not to it, can neither have that confidence of the Lord’s owning them, or accepting of them in their duty, except there be some satisfaction herein, to wit, that the Lord hath sent them, or doth send them. It will be a puzzling question to many one day. Man, who made thee a Minister? Who gave thee Commission to treat for Christ? and although others may have peace in the use-making of such a man’s Ministry; yet himself can have none, he being ever liable to this question, Friend, how enteredst thou hither? and how obtained thou this honor? Doubtless from the defect of this trial, it is, in part, that many thrust themselves into the work at first, whose after-carriage and way proves them never to have been sent: which they durst not have done, had they walked by this rule of waiting for a Commission thereto. And on the other hand, some really called to the Ministry, are yet kept in a kind of bondage, both as to their duty and their peace; because it’s not clear to them that it is so: for, although the being of a Minister and his Calling, simply depends not on his clearness of his Call: as the being of a Believer doth not necessarily infer that he must know himself to be a Believer; yet, no question, as a Believer’s particular comfort depends on the clearness of his interest, for which cause he should study it; so a Minister’s confidence and quietness in his particular Ministry, doth much depend on this, that he be clear in his Call to be a Minister: for which cause, they who look there-away, or are entered therein, would humbly enquire for nothing more than this, that they be clear that they have Christ’s Commission for their engaging. And although it be impossible to be particular, or fully satisfying in this, so as to meet with all the difficulties that may occur; but Christian prudence and tenderness will still find matter of exercise in the deciding thereof; Yet, having this occasion here, (which is also frequent in this Book) we may, once for all, say a word in the general to what may give a Minister clearness in his Calling: which we may take up in a five-fold consideration.
1. Of a Minister’s Call to that work, in general.
2. To a particular People.
3. In carrying a particular Message to that People.
4. What is required of him as to writing for the benefit of the Church.
5. And what respect People ought to have to God’s calling of a man, in their hearing and reading.
For the first, we say,
1. That Ministers would soberly endeavor satisfaction at their entry, if they be called to that work or not; and begin with that: This is certain, that it’s not indifferent, whether men betake them to this Calling or another: for God hath not indifferently dispensed His talents: nor hath He left men to that liberty, to choose as they will; but willeth them to continue and abide in that calling whereto they are called; and not which they have chosen themselves: yea, that a man have some knowledge or affection to that work of the Ministry, will not prove him to be called, although all that is externally needful for his promoting therein did concur; for that will not prove a Call to another Charge or Trust; and so not to this: and no question, it being a desirable thing in itself to be a Messenger for Jesus Christ to His Church, many may desire the office of a Bishop, and be approven of God in their look there-away; and yet indeed never be called of God actually to it, as experience may confirm.
Secondly, When we speak of a Call in any of the former respects, it’s not to be understood, that men now are to look for an immediate and extraordinary Call, as John and the Apostles had, That were as unwarrantable as to look for an extraordinary measure of gifts, such as they were furnished with, and that in an immediate way; but it is that as extraordinary Officers had extraordinary and immediate evidences of their Call (for so it required) so Ministers and ordinary Office-bearers, that are called in a mediate way, would seek for such evidences, as mediately may satisfy them: for, the mediate calling of the Church, according to Christ’s Ordinance, is Christ’s Call, as that more immediate was: and therefore, Acts 20.28 and elsewhere, these Elders and Pastors of Ephesus (who yet, no question, had but such a Call as these that were chosen by the People, and ordained by the Presbytery, Act. 14.23. and I Tim. 4.14.) are said to be set over the Flock by the holy Ghost: and so Pastors and Teachers, who are to be continued in the Church by a mediate way of man’s transmitting it to others, as Paul’s word is, 2 Tim. 2.2. are yet accounted a gift of Christ’s to His Church, as the Offices of Apostles, Evangelists, etc. are, Ephes. 4. 11.
Thirdly, In this inquiry, the great stress would not be laid on a man’s own inclination, or a supposed impulse, which yet may be but the inclination. That being found to flow from, or to go along with rational grounds, may have its own weight; but otherwise, not: for we see often men more affectionately inclining to what they should not’ than to what they should. Hence many run who are not sent; whose inclinations certainly lead them to it: and others again, that are most convincingly called, have yet difficulty to go over their inclinations, as doth appear in Moses, Jeremiah and Jonah, at least in his Call to Niniveh. And our hearts being deceitful, and we ready to account the motions of our own spirits to be better than they are, There is need, whether in the general, or in the particular Call, to be wary here.
More particularly, we conceive, that both in general, and with relation to a particular place for the clearing of a Minister’s Call, respect is to be had to these four: which may be satisfying as to his peace, when they concur.
1. A man’s Gift, is the great differencing Character of a Call, though it be not of itself, constitutive of a Call, that is, that one be in some measure didaktikoV, or, apt to teach: this being infallibly true, that whom the Lord designs for any employment in His House, if it were but to make Curtains, Sockets, etc. to the Ark, He will some way fit, and make them suitable to it: and this is as the Seal whereby He evinceth [constrains and establishes] in the hearts of Hearers, that he who treats, is His Authorized Ambassador.
2. To clear a man to exercise his Gift: it must not only be a Gift, but found and declared to be so, by these to whom the trial of Gifts is committed by Jesus Christ: for, it’s not the having a Gift, that maketh a Call; yea, nor that which maketh it a public Gift, or to be acknowledged as such; but it’s the orderly Authoritative mission, that followeth upon that Gift: in which respect, the exercise of the Gift, and the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, are put together, I Tim. 4.14. even though it seemeth that he had knowledge and Gifts before. If it were not thus, what a confusion would there be in the Church of Christ, more than in any Commonwealth? Where it’s not Gifts that constitutes a Magistrate, or an Officer; but the orderly calling of a person thereunto by such as have Authority: which ought also singularly to be observed here. And the Lord hath appointed this, not only for the public order of His house, which is exceedingly prized by Him; but also for the particular clearing of the person that is to be designed. Thus, I conceive, a person that is at some doubt about his Gift, and possibly thinking it fit to edify; yet, upon supposition that it be found otherwise by these to whom the Spirits, or Gifts, ought to be subjected, he may have peace in abstaining, what ever his own thoughts be: because the Lord hath not made these his rule. Hence also, on the other hand, some who may esteem their Gift unfit for edifying of the Church; yet if it be found otherwise by these whose place leads them to decide, and whose conscience will make them tender in it, they ought, and may with peace yield: whereas, if there were no Authoritative trial, what a torture would it be to some to have the weight wholly lying on themselves? and what a door would be open to the most self-confident persons on the other hand? Yea, were it not thus, there would be no need of the trial of Gifts, enjoined, I Cor. 14.29, 31. which being in extraordinary gifted Prophets, it’s much more to be respected in ordinary Ministers: neither were there use for so many precepts to try, and so many characters how to discern them that are fitted for, or called to the Ministry; whereof, to be apt to teach, is a main one, if there were not weight to be laid on the probation, and determination of a Presbytery, who are to count to God for their decision in such a case, and are not left to indifferency or arbitrariness therein.
3. For a man’s peace, beside the former two, singleness in himself is necessary, without which, both the former two will not sustain him against a challenge: except there be a testimony here, that conscience to duty, and obedience to God’s Call made him yield to it; that God’s glory, and promoting of the Work of the edifying of Christ’s Body, was his end; and that his taking up of Christ’s mind, to be calling him to follow this Call, was his motive that made him betake himself to this Calling and not to another, and that upon deliberation and search made, to discern the mind of God. Where these three concur, to wit, a Gift, and that orderly approven, with the hearts yielding to the Call, upon that account, to do Christ service in that, more than in another station, because it apprehends him to call to that employment and not to another, we conceive there is good ground of peace, so as there cannot be a torturing challenge upon this occasion: for, although men entrusted to try, are not infallible in discerning of Gifts; yet, when use is made of this way, as Christ’s Ordinance, for attaining satisfaction in this matter of a Call, it’s not like that His Ordinance will be a snare to any: and if tryers [examiners] of Gifts should mistake; yet may it be expected, that either the Lord will discover it timeously [seasonably] some other way to the person concerned, or graciously some other way pity him, who did yield only out of respect to his Call as it was supposed by him. And who knoweth also, but Gifts may follow by God’s blessing upon Labors, when He so clears a Call, if the Question only be there? As one may have peace in a Magistracy, when singly [sincerely] it’s embraced out of the conscience of God’s Call, although it may be they who had hand in his election did unfitly make choice of such a person. And though this singleness be not simply necessary to the being of a Call; (for, there may be a Call without it, as in Judas) yet, it’s simply necessary for the man’s peace that accepts it.
4. We take in here the considerations of God’s providence, and the concurrence of His dispensations: which, though they will not determine a Call simply, nor make a thing lawful to one, which is not in itself lawful; yet, in positive duties, they may do much to cast the balance in swaying a man to one Calling beyond another; as suppose one hath means and ways in providence provided for his education, which others have not; or, he hath been led to study, conscience puts at him to take some calling, and it may be, pointeth at this, at least so far as to make proof of it: all doors for other Callings are shut upon him, so that he must betake himself to this, or languish in doing of nothing: sometimes others may be made use of to put at him, and the mind is kept in disquiet while he essayeth [attempts] any other thing: reason here showeth, such and such like things concurring, may have so much weight as to encourage one to follow this motion, and may confirm him when this goeth along with the former three, or hath them following upon it.
If there were more particular enquiry called for concerning that impulse of the Spirit, which may be in one, in reference to the Ministry, how to discern it? and what weight to lay on it? We confess that it is hard to decide therein: the operations of the Lord’s Spirit being mysteries, and often seeming unreasonable to men; as also the deceits of our own hearts are deep, and not easily reached: Yet, for helping in this, we may say, That it’s not unusual to the Lord, to pouse [push] one by His Spirit, when He mindeth to have him to the Ministry; and thereby to stir the heart of one, more than another, and more to this Calling than another, though in all, or at all times, not in the same measure. This in experience hath been found, and God hath afterward sealed it to have been of him: and by this, many have been brought to the Ministry, who have been profitable in it; who, had not this been, would never have thought on it, or have been persuaded thereto by others. And seeing the Calling of the Ministry is in an especial and peculiar way from God, and eminently His choice herein doth appear, it’s not inconsistent with His sovereignty and interest therein, that he use this mean or way of an inward impulse. And although what is expressly spoken of this in Scripture be for the most part in reference to extraordinary Officers, and that in an extraordinary manner; yet by proportion may an ordinary impulse be gathered from that as concurring in the sending of ordinary Officers, as there is an ordinary motion of the Spirit acknowledged in other lawful duties. Yet,
1. Advert, that this impulse of the Spirit, is not in all alike or equally discernible. The Lord sometimes will thrust one forth by a more inward impulse; and will draw others by more external means: Hence it will be found, that if the thing be of God, where the way is most improbable, and there be fewest encouragements and least outward drawing, there the inward thrust is the more strong: because by it the Lord doth supply the want [lack] of that weight, which these outward helps might have on Him. And again, where outward things do more convincingly concur, as that a man is purposely, as it were, educated in reference to that end, provided for, and encouraged by others in the undertaking thereof, etc. In these, although the end may be single, yet often is the inward impulse less discernible: because the Lord hath provided other means to draw them forth, which do supply that: neither is he to be astricted [limited] to one way of proceeding in this.
2. Advert, that this impulse may be, when yet it is not discerned, either because it is not taken heed unto; or, because the inclination may be prejudged, and the person not discern the language thereof. Or, because the Lord may make it ascend by the steps and degrees, as it were, at first withdrawing the mind only from some design that it was set upon; and it may not be positively at first known what he aimeth at: And, Secondly, He may incline the heart to, and bring it in love with reading, and studying, and other means which afterward he may make use of in reference to this end; and yet possibly hide from the person that which he aimeth at by this. Thirdly, He may make a stir inwardly in the heart, making it some way disquiet in every other thing, and restless in whatsoever it turneth itself to, as not being its proper work; that thereby He may constrain it to look some other where. Fourthly, When this is done, He may make the person content to essay the trial of his Gift, if so be by that he may attain quietness, and yet still the person be but trying what the language of that impulse may mean, and not be distinctly clear of the result. And, the Lord doth wisely follow this order, partly, to draw on the person by steps, who might otherwise be scared, if all were presented to him together: and partly, that in due order he might effectuate his point, and train up the instrument to a fitness for the work he is to call him to, whereas, if he had persuasion of God’s calling of him to the Ministry at first, before any acquired fitness for the same, he might be in hazard to slight the means, and precipitate in the thing, which the Lord alloweth not: partly also he doth it, to keep such in dependence on Him for through bearing in every step, one after another; so that although at first, one be not clear that God calleth him to the Ministry itself, yet if he be so far clear, as that He calls him to forbear such another Calling, to follow such a Study, to essay trials, etc. he ought to yield to that, waiting for what God may further reveal to him. Therefore,
3. Advert, that difference ought to be made between an impulse to the study of Divinity, and an impulse to the Ministry: one may really be stirred to the first, and ought to account it so, and so far to yield, without disputing what may follow; as we may see in many, who in the study of Divinity, and in trials have given good proof of God’s approving them in going that length, and yet he hath thought meet by death, or otherwise to prevent their being entered actually to the Ministry; which declareth that they were never called thereunto: as therefore, by any impulse, one cannot warrantably conclude that he is certainly to live so long; so can he not certainly gather, that he is called to be actually a Minister, which supposeth the former: and therefore certainty in this, is not to be at first enquired for, or expected; but so much is to be rested in, as may give the conscience quietness in the present step, supposing that death should prevent another: this being the Lord’s way, that the further one follow His Call, it will be clearer unto him: like one that ascendeth by degrees, he is still in capacity to behold the further. Yet,
4. Advert, that every impulse, which may be to the Calling of the Ministry, is not to be accounted an impulse of the Spirit of God; or, as his moving either to the studying of Divinity, or the following of the Ministry, as we may see in the multitude of false Prophets of old, and in the experience of later times, wherein many have, and do run, whom the Lord never sent. And considering the nature of our spirits, and the way that the devil may have in the seducing of some, and jumbling of others: this needeth not to be thought strange. The great difficulty then will be, how to discern the voice of the Spirit of God in this particular, from the voice of our own spirits, or of the devil, in this respect, transforming himself into Angel of light, and sometimes even driving honest hearts to the attempting of this as a good thing, who yet may not be called thereunto of God indeed.
To help then in the trial of this, Consider,
1. That that which is an impulse of the Lord’s Spirit, doth more compose and sanctify the whole frame of the inward man, it being that same Spirit which is the Spirit of Grace and supplication: therefore the more sensibly he pouse [push], the more sensibly are these effects; and the more composed and sanctified a heart be, the more clear and distinct will that impulse of the Spirit be: because then the heart is more impartial to discern the same. And although this impulse of the Spirit be but a common work, which may be in a hypocrite, and so alway hath not this sanctifying efficacy with it; yet, we conceive where one, out of conscience, reflecteth on it, to try whither it be of God or not, there can be no conclusion drawn from it to quiet the conscience in the acknowledgment thereof, except it be found to be like His Spirit in the effects of it.
2. That this impulse of the Spirit, is not backed with the assistance of our spirits; but some way it constraineth them to yield to it, even contrary to their own inclination, So that it moveth and carrieth a man over the thoughts of gain, reproach, credit or loss, over his inability and unfitness; which are never more discovered than when this impulse is strongest and most distinct, as we may see in the examples of Moses, Jeremiah, etc. whereas motions from our own spirits, do often lessen the difficulties, and hide the unfitness and inability that is within us, and readily ground themselves upon some supposed ability or probability, more than there is apparent reason for.
3. That God’s Spirit moveth by spiritual motives like himself, as the promoting of God’s glory, the edification of His people, the preventing of a challenge, by giving obedience to Him, and such like: whereas other motions have ends and motives like themselves, as in the false prophets and other teachers in the New Testament may be seen; who fed not the flock, but themselves, and served not the Lord Christ, but their own bellies, and sought their own credit, ease, etc. yea, even Judas, though extraordinarily moved by the Spirit; yet it’s like that was not the motive which prevailed with him to yield; but some carnal motive, whether gain, credit or such like, as is held forth in the Gospel.
4. That the motion of the Lord’s Spirit, is, in its nature, kindly; and in its way, regular, according to the rule of the Spirit in the Word, that is, it doth not drive the heart violently as the Devil’s injections do, nor doth it precipitate in the following and pursuing of what it moveth to; but, as having the command of the heart, he moveth natively, without making the spirit confused, and He presseth the prosecuting of what He moveth unto, orderly, it being the same Spirit that hath laid down a rule to walk by in the Word, and now stirs within the heart: and therefore, the inward impulse, cannot but be answerable to the outward rule. Hence also the spirit’s motion, is submissive to the way of trial, appointed in the Word, and is not absolute or peremptory: whereas motions from ourselves, or from the devil, are head-strong, and irregular, aiming at the end or thing, without respect to the way prescribed for attaining it; or, at least, do not so heartily approve of the one as of the other, especially if it be thwarted in its design by them.
5. That this motion of the Spirit putteth to the use of all means that lead to the end, as well as to the end itself, that is, reading, studying, praying, or what may fit one for that end: for, the Spirit never divideth the end and the means: and Paul’s word to Timothy, subjoining that precept, give thyself to reading, to that other of his fulfilling his Ministry, doth confirm this: whereas, when these are divided, there can be no claim made to a motion of the Spirit of God.
6. Consider, that the impulse of the Spirit, is a fitting, gifting impulse, and carrying along with it a capacity in some measure for, and a suitableness to, the thing that it calls to. Hence, in the Scripture, the Call of the Spirit, and the Gifts of the Spirit go together. And this last, is given as the evidence of the first, and in this respect, although there may be an impulse to the study of Divinity without the Call of the Spirit unto the Ministry; yet can that never be counted an impulse of the Spirit actually to enter the Ministry, where this gifting of the Spirit is not: for, it can never be instanced in all the Word of God, that His Spirit sent any, but his Call was scaled by His Gifting of them. And so, in effect, the trying of this impulse, so as one may have satisfaction therein, will for the most part resolve in the trial of those two formerly mentioned, to wit, the fitness of one’s Gift to teach. Secondly, The singleness and sincerity of the motive whereby one is swayed to follow the impulse: for, although the Spirit may move; yet if it be some carnal ground that persuadeth the person to yield to that which the Spirit moveth unto, it can be no ground of peace. These two then are at least, as to a man’s peace, the sine quibus non [without some is not], in the trial of this impulse; so that without them, he cannot conclude himself to be called actually to enter the Ministry, or have peace in the undertaking thereof.
To speak a word then to what weight is to be laid on this impulse: Concerning it, we say,
1. That if all things beside concur to the fitting and qualifying of a Minister, this is not simply to be accounted a sine quo non [without any is not] in one’s undertaking: Because,
1. There may be some impulse, though we discern it not.
2. Because there are more clear grounds to gather God’s mind from, as the effects of the Spirit fitting one with Gifts for the charge, and other grounds laid down, whereupon weight may more safely be laid, than upon any inward apprehending, or not apprehending of the Spirit’s motion, which is never given to us in anything, as the alone rule of obedience; and we must suppose the motion of the Spirit to be where these Gifts are, seeing as the impulse hath alway the Gifts with it, so we may gather the impulse from the Gifts.
2. We say, that where other things concur not, no impulse is to be accounted a sufficient evidence of a Call to the Ministry simply, upon the grounds formerly given: yet,
3. A distinct native, sanctifying impulse, may be a Call to use means, and to wait on in God’s way for attaining of fitness in a submissive manner, seeking rather to know what God intends, than as being absolutely determined in respect of the end.
4. Although Gifts, singleness of heart, and an impulse concur together; yet will not these constitute a Minister, though they may evidence a Call to the Ministry, and warrant one to step in, when a door is opened to them: because neither of these, do include an Authoritative Commission for him to treat, although they do put him in a capacity to be sent as an Ambassador of Christ, when he shall be Authorized. Hence it is, that in the case of Deacons, Act. 6. who are by Gifts fitted for their Office; and of Bishops, Tit. 1. 7, 8 and 9. who are, in the respects there set down, to be found qualified for their employment; yet is the Authoritative ordaining of both, mentioned, as that which did constitute them Officers in these respective stations. Lastly, we say, that yet this impulse, when all concur with it, may have its own cumulative weight, for the strengthening of one that hath it, to the under-taking of this Charge, when the Lord in His ordinary way opens the door unto him.
To shut up this part of the discourse, we conceive, that it were useful to the Church, and conducing exceedingly for the clearing of Entrants to the Ministry, that there were some choice and way of trial, both of such as might be presently found fit to enter the Ministry, and also of others that might be advised to study in reference thereunto; and that it might not be left unto men themselves alone, whether they will offer themselves to trial in reference to that Charge or not. For so, many may, and no question do, smother good Gifts which might be useful, thereby prejudging the Church thereof, who by this grave convincing, and (ere it fail) Authoritative way, might be brought forth, and would more easily be made to yield thereunto, when the burthen thereof were not wholly left on themselves; whereas now, partly, from shame and modesty, partly, from custom, and undervaluing of the Ministry, none ordinarily who otherwise have a temporal being, or any place, do betake themselves to this Calling: and it’s hard to say that either none such are gifted for it, or that such Gifts should be lost. And by this, on the other side, we suppose, that many who do now design themselves to the Ministry, (because none but such as take that way are called thereto) would be ashamed to thrust forth themselves; and so the Church might have access a great deal better to the providing of herself with able and qualified Ministers; whereas now she is, almost, confined in her choice to a number that give themselves, or at most, are designed by their Parents, or possibly constrained by necessity to follow such a study. It’s true, this way the Lord may provide His House, and may so engage those whom He minds to make use of; yet certainly, it looks not so like, in an ordinary way, for attaining of edification as the other: and considering that the Church as such, is one body, and so ought to make use of every member, and any member, as may most conduce for the good of the whole body. There is no question, but the Church might call a member, upon supposition of his qualifications, to trial, and (being found conform, to what was supposed) might appoint him to the Ministry: and that member ought to yield to both, from that duty that lieth on every member in reference to the whole body, which is to be preferred to any particular member’s interest: and this without respect to men’s outward condition or place; providing their being employed in this station, may be more useful to the Church, and the edification of Christ’s Body, than their being employed in no Calling at all, or in any other Calling. This being also to be granted, that some men may be so useful in, and fit for public civil Callings, as that thereby the Church may be benefited so far, that it will not be meet in every case, and in every person, to use this power; yet such extraordinary cases being laid aside, no doubt ordinarily it were useful: And seeing all Incorporations and Commonwealths have this liberty to call, and employ their members, without respect to their own inclinations, so as it may be most behooveful for the good of the Body; this which nature teacheth, and experience hath confirmed in them, cannot be denied to the Church, which is a Body, and hath its own policy given to it by Jesus Christ for the building up of itself. This way is also agreeable to Scripture; and to the practice of the Primitive times: none can say that the Church did not choose her Elders and Deacons, and other Officers out of all her members indifferently, as she thought fit, Act. 6. seven men fitly qualified are to be looked out amongst all the People; so in Paul’s practice through the Acts; and in his directions to Timothy, and Titus: such only are not to be chosen, who offer themselves to it; but indifferently, such as may be best qualified, are to be inquired for; and when found, what ever they be, to be called and ordained to the Ministry. By all which, it appears like the Apostolic way to inquire for men that may be found qualified for the Ministry: and also, that shunning, or repining to enter the Ministry in any person found qualified for it, and thus called to it, hath never been supposed as allowable by the Apostles; but it was looked upon as a duty, for those that were so called, to obey, as it was the duty of others to inquire for such. To this also, may that exhortation of Peter relate, I Epist. 5. Chap. and 2. vers. Feed the flock of God which is amongst you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly, etc. whereby it would seem, that he is pressing obedience from those that were called, that willingly they should undertake the oversight of God’s flock. Which words, if well considered, would pinch exceedingly a tender Conscience of any man, if a Call were thus pressed upon him. And indeed, if it were at men’s option arbitrarily to refuse such a Call, the directions that are given to People and Ministers for searching out, calling and ordaining such, were to no purpose; for thus they might all be frustrated. We do not say this to prejudge the laudable way of training up Students in reference to this end, it seemeth that even amongst the Jews, these who were to teach the People, were numerous, and as it were in Colleges, trained up with the Prophets, and these who were able to teach them. The Apostles also were not defective in training of young men in reference to this, which shows the laudableness of that way, And although the main part thereof be not to be placed in Scholastic debates; yet is training necessary, which in the meanest Calling is found useful: and therefore, not justly to be denied here, We would only say,
1. That there would be some choice made in the designing of Youths for that Study: so that in an orderly way, some might be so trained, and not have liberty otherwise to withdraw; and others timeously [in due course] advised to look to some other employment.
2. We would not have Elections bounded and limited to that number, so as either any whosoever thus trained up, might certainly be supposed as capable of being Ministers, or as if no Congregation or Presbytery might fix their eye upon, or give a Call unto any other. This way of calling was long continued in the Primitive Church, as we may see in the example of Ambrose, who being a Senator and President (although not yet Baptized) nevertheless because of his known ability, piety, and prudence, was unexpectedly, and unanimously called to be Bishop of Milan: and notwithstanding of his great oppositeness thereto, was at length so pressed as he was made to yield: and after proved a notable instrument in the Church of Christ. And it’s remarked, that the good Emperor Valentinian, did exceedingly rejoice, when he heard it, blessing God that had led him to choose one to take care of bodies, who was accounted fit to take care of souls. Theoderet. Hist. lib. 4. cap. 6. The like is recorded by Euagrius. Hist. lib. 4. cap. 6. Of one Euphraimius, who, while he was Governor of the East, was chosen to be Bishop of Antioch, which the Author calleth sedes Apostolica [the Apostolic seat]. This is also the established Doctrine of our Church in the first Book of Discipline, in that head that concerneth Prophesying and interpreting Scripture, whereof these are the words, Moreover men in whom is supposed to he any Gift, which might edify the Church, if they were employed, must be charged by the Ministers and Elders to join themselves with the Session and company of interpreters, to the end that the Kirk may judge whither they be able to serve to God’s glory and the profit of the Kirk, in the vocation of Ministers or not. And, if any be found disobedient, and not willing to communicate the Gifts and special graces of God with their brethren, after sufficient admonition, Discipline must proceed against them, provided that the civil Magistrate concur with the judgment and election of the Kirk: for no man may be permitted, as best pleaseth him, to live within the Kirk of God; but every man must be constrained by fraternal admonition, and correction, to bestow his labors, when of the Kirk he is required, to the edification of others. Which if it were zealously followed, might by God’s blessing prove both profitable, and honorable to the Church.
To say something to the second head proposed, to wit, of a man’s clearness to the Ministry of a particular Congregation, we suppose that this also is necessary for his peace, seeing there is no reason that men ought arbitrarily to walk herein, but accordingly as they are called of God to one place and not to another: therefore we see that in John’s commission, the general is not only expressed; but particularly, he is instructed in reference to such and such particular Churches: and according to this, we see in the History of the Acts, that some were ordered to Preach in one place, and some in another; and Acts 13. Paul and Silas in their leaving Antioch, and going to the Gentiles, were not only called by word, but confirmed and authorized by the laying on of hands; and we doubt not but this general also will be granted. For helping to clearness therein, The former general rules, are also to be applied with special respect to the particular case, As,
1. It is to be tried, if the Gift be not only suitable to edification in general, but to the edification of that people in particular: so that if when their case, dispositions, qualifications, etc. and his gifts, disposition, and other fitness, both in reference to his public Ministry in Doctrine and Discipline, as also to his enduements [accomplishments] in reference to his private conversation (yea, their very corruptions and infirmities being compared together.) If, I say, such a man may, in well grounded reason, be looked upon as qualified for the edifying of such a people: In this comparison also, respect would be had even to the more public state of the Church: so as a man’s fitness would not only be tried with respect to the Congregation itself; but with respect to other things.
2. This fitness would be found and determined to be so, by these whose place it is to try Gifts, even in this respect.
3. The trysting [meeting] of providences is to be observed; as, the rise of the Call, if it proceed from no natural or carnal end? if no other door be opened elsewhere to him who is called, he may the more warrantably step in there, if no probable settling of that Congregation appear otherwise than by him, so as his refusing might occasion a detriment to that place? If things look so as he have an esteem without prejudice in the hearts of that people; so as he may probably expect to be looked on as a Minister, and to have the Word without prejudice received from him in that place? also if without carnal respects his heart be made to incline that way, or if unexpectedly and over many difficulties the people have pitched on him and adhered to him? These, and such like, may have their own weight, so as to help to gather this conclusion, That probably such a man’s Ministry may be useful and profitable in such a place: Neither is the advice of sober and unbiased men, Ministers and others, to be neglected; seeing often they may see more in a man’s particular case, nor he can discern himself: and that is oft found to be a mean made use of by God, for manifesting of His mind in such cases. Again, if there be any competition of places, so as one be sought by more Congregations at once, the case is here somewhat different, supposing the man to be equally fitted for several places; otherwise greater suitableness to the one, nor to the other, where it is palpable, doth cast the balance. In deciding what to choose in this competition, there is much need of singleness and deniedness to all outward and carnal things, both in him that is sought, and in them who seek, and in all others interested; this being a great ill to suffer carnalness and contentions to steal in, even in pursuit for a good Minister. Neither is there great weight to be laid upon priority or posteriority in the applications that are made, the matter itself and causes which may be given for the last and for the first, can only satisfy the conscience as to the great scope of the Ministry, to wit, the edification of the Church: seeing a man is obliged to look to edification in his Ministry, and so to settle, where probably that may be best attained, and not as an occasion may be, first, or last moved to him: and it were good that both he who is called, and they who call, would submit all interests, and be regulated by this. We conceive also, that the decision of this, doth not mainly or principally lie upon the person himself: for, as he is not simply to judge, whether his Gifts be meet for the Ministry in general, or for the edification of such a people in particular; so neither comparatively is he to decide, whether it be more conducing for edification, that he embrace one Call rather than another; but this is to be done rather by these, whose place leads them indifferently to took to the general good of the Church. This then is the great rule to decide by, whether his Ministry, considered complexly in all circumstances, may most conduce to the edification of Christ’s body by the accepting of this or that charge, when all things are singly [honestly] and impartially weighed and compared together? so as in the result, it may, upon good grounds, be make to appear, that the one will prove a greater furtherance to the perfecting of the saints, and enlargement of Christ’s Kingdom than the other: as if his Ministry in one place, may be profitable to more souls than in another: and that not only with a respect to the particular Congregation; but as it may have influence to the preventing or suppressing of some general evils, or the promoting of some general good in more Congregations beside: If his Ministry may probably have more acceptance and fruit in one place, than in another; if by some present circumstance, the planting of one place be more needful, and the delay thereof be more dangerous than in another, which seemeth more difficult than the place in competition therewith; if the man find, after some trial, his liberty greater, his bowels more stirred, and his mouth more opened as the Apostle speaks, 2 Cor. 6. in reference to one more than another; if the harmonious judgment of single and uninterested faithful men prefer the one, as more edifying, to the other; and many such like, whereby Christian prudence, after the inquiring of the Lord’s mind, may find the general end of edification to sway more on the one side than on the other, accordingly conscience is to determine that to be God’s Call, and the person is to yield: for, although in every case these could not sway a man warrantably and simply in respect of his Call; yet, where the competition is in a case, that is almost equal on both sides, they may have place to cast the balance.
For the third, That when a man is cleared in reference to a particular Charge, there doth remain yet a necessity of clearing him in reference to a particular message to that Charge: for, as the condition of every Congregation, is not alike; so is not one way to be followed with all. Hence we see that John hath a particular and several message in reference to these seven Churches, though all agree in the one general scope, to wit, their edification. This is not to awaken at every time an anxious dispute, what matter to Preach; But,
1. To consider what particular faults have need to be reproved; what Truths have need especially to be cleared; what duties are especially to be pressed, as being most slighted amongst them; what snares they are most in hazard of, and need most to be warned against, and so accordingly to insist: for, though all duties be good, and all sins be to be eschewed [avoided]; yet do we see in the Word, that sometimes, and in some places, some are more insisted on than others, upon the former grounds.
2. The necessary Truths of the Gospel, as they tend to instruct, convince, convert, comfort, etc. which are the great task of a Minister, are necessary to all people; yet in the pressing of instruction and conviction, more than consolation; or, again, consolation and healing applications, more than sharper threatenings and reproofs. That is to be regulated according to the temper and case of the people, as also the manner of proposing and following of them, according as may among such prove most edifying, as the Lord, in these seven Epistles, doth more sharply or more mildly deal with them to whom he writes. But because there may be occasion to touch this on the 10. Chapter, and here we have already exceeded our bounds, we shall say no more of it, but shall say somewhat particularly to writing, and the people’s use-making thereof.
In reference to this, we say,
1. That men may by writing, communicate what light God gives them, for the good of the Church. It’s true, the Gospel was at first spread and planted by Preaching, that is more properly the mean of conversion. It’s true also that all the Apostles Preached; but all did not write: yet we will find, that the Apostles made great use of writing, for the informing, reproving, strengthening, and every way edifying of Churches and Persons brought to the faith; for, they wrote these Epistles, not only as Scripture, for the Church in general, but also for the edifying of such persons, in particular, and for clearing of such and such particular Doubts, or Truths, which the state of such times, or Churches did most call for. There is reason also for this, if we consider:
1. The relation that is amongst all the members of the Catholic Church, whereby all are tied, to be edifying one to another, etc.
2. The end wherefore God hath given men Gifts, which is to profit withal: and yet,
3. That a man cannot by word make his Gift forthcoming in the extent that he is obliged; there is therefore a necessity of using writing for that end, it being a singular gift of God for promoting edification. It’s upon this ground, as we said, that many Epistles are written, to be useful, where the Writers could not be, and when they were to be gone. It’s upon this ground also, we conceive, that many Psalms, and Songs (as that of Hezekiah’s, Isa. 38.) are committed to writing by the Authors: that by it their Case or Gift might be made useful to others, for their instruction, as the Titles of sundry Psalms bear.
This way, for many Ages, hath been blessed, for the good of the Church of Christ, who have reason to bless God, that put it in the hearts of many Ancients and others, thus to be profitable in the Church. And it may be, some able men have been but too sparing to make their talent forth-coming that way to others. And as we may conclude, that Ministers may Preach the Gospel who are called, because the Apostles did it, even though Ministers are not gifted with infallibility of Preaching, as they were, because that was for edifying the Body; so may we conclude, that men called to it, may write for the edification of the Church, although they be not gifted with infallibility in their writing.
2. We gather from this, that none should take on them to write anything, as the Lord’s mind; for the edification of the Church, without a Call to it: I mean not an extraordinary Call, as John had; but this I mean, that as there is an ordinary Call needful, to the Preaching of the Gospel, (and we may conclude from God’s extraordinary way of calling the Apostles to Preach, the necessity of an ordinary Call); So, in the general, that same consequence will hold in respect of writing, for such an end. And if we look through the Scripture, we will find a Call for Writing, as well as for Preaching; and readily he who was called to the first, was also called to the second, as being a Prophet of the Lord. Though this particular we do not absolutely and simply press, seeing men may be called to write, and not be fitted to Preach; yet I conceive, Solomon is called the Preacher from his writing. And to warrant writing, we would conceive so much to be necessary as may,
1. Satisfy the man himself, as to his being called to such an eminent duty by God, and therefore there must be somewhat to hold out to Him, that it’s God’s mind he should undertake such a task.
2. That men walk not by their own satisfaction alone; but that there may be so much, as to convince others, that God put them on that work: and therefore though we would not press an authoritative mission to write, as to Preach; yet, considering that John’s warrant to write, is also a warrant to others to make use of it, and that people would have a warrant for making use of writings, as well as a man for his writing, There is some as orderly thing necessary, as to point out to the man his duty in writing, for his peace; so also to point out to others their duty in use-making of it. So that neither any that pleaseth may write (but he would give some reason, beside his pleasure) nor would everyone use the writings of all, as they please.
1. A Call is necessary for every thing; and men in lawful duties are to walk by it: otherwise, all lawful duties would lie upon all men as their calling, or be at their pleasure: which stands not with God’s putting the task, even of particulars, into men’s hands.
2. To write of the holy things of God, is to take on us, to tell what God thinks, and what is His will, which is a most concerning thing; especially to do it solemnly in writ, lest it prove, at least, a taking of God’s Name in vain; when without a Call we do it.
3. This may clear it, That neither public Preaching, nor private edification by word, can be discharged rightly, but when men walk according to God’s Call in these, which is also necessary in writing.
4. There is no promise to be guided in it, or of success to it, without some clearness of a Call to it; and so it cannot be comfortably undertaken nor prosecuted.
5. All the Saints had their Call to write, who took that way: hence some Apostles have written, others not; some Saints have recorded their case, others not. The reason of this difference is, because some were called to write, and others otherwise employed; else we must say, they failed who wrote not. Neither will it simply warrant one, that he writes truth: there was doubtless truth in the Preaching of the Sons of Thunder, and also of the Son of consolation; yet God thought it not good to call them all to write. And experience hath often made this truth out, that many have taken on them to write, whose writings have been exceeding hurtful to the Church; so that had all men walked by a Call in writing, there had been fewer errors, at least they had not come unto such an height; and the Church would have been free of many subtle Disputations, that have more prejudged than advanced Godliness in it. As therefore some may fail in not writing, when they are called to it, so others may in going about it, whiles they are not called to it.
If we might inquire in the general (for particulars cannot be pitched on) what may evidence a Call to write? We shall show,
1. What is not needful.
2. What will not satisfy and be sufficient. And
3. What is needful and may be satisfying.
1. An extraordinary Call by revelation, or immediate impulse of the Spirit, such as John and the Apostles had, is not needful: It might make a Writer as well as a Preacher to be suspected, if they should pretend to any such Call.
2. We think not an authoritative mission in the person who is writer, simply needful: One may be fitted to edify by writing, whose Gifts lead not to edify by Preaching: yet ought not the Church to be frustrate of the benefit of his Gift.
3. We think not a pressing inclination simply necessary; seeing often, inclination thwarts with duty; and men’s modesty, laziness or other respects, may much divert the inclination, as in Moses, Jeremiah and others, when called to God’s Work.
4. We think it not necessary, that there be any singular or extraordinary measure of Gifts beyond others: Some may be called to write by particular providence, when others of more understanding may be spared; even as some may be called to Preach, and others of more learning and ability, are passed by.
On the contrary, It will not be sufficient to evidence a Call to write.
1. To have an inclination.
2. To have Gifts. Or,
3. To be sound in truth: Nor,
4. To have a good meaning and end. These will not serve in other duties; and so neither in this, without respect had to the particulars after mentioned.
That a man therefore may have peace, as to his undertaking, we conceive there is a concurrence of several things needful, to be observed: As,
1. There is a necessity of a single end, to wit, God’s glory, other’s edification; and in part may come in, his own exoneration, as to such a duty. It’s not self-seeking, nor getting of a name, nor strengthening such a particular party or opinion, that will give one peace in this matter.
2. It is necessary, not only that the thing be truth; but that it be edifying, profitable, and pertinent, at such a time: God’s Call to anything, doth ever time it, and tryst [meet] it well, as most subservient to the scope of edification. Hence, that which is Error, or impertinent, can never plead a Call in writing, more than in preaching; yea, we conceive, the writing of many light, frothy subject, or of speculative janglings, and contentions about words, is exceedingly contrary to edification, which ought to be the end and also the rule of our practice in writing.
3. Besides these, there are circumstances in the concurrence of providences trysting [meeting] together, in reference to the person writing, to the subject written of, the time wherein and occasion whereupon, and such like: which being observed, may contribute to give some light in the thing. As,
1. If the person be called publicly to edify the Church; if he be of that weight, as his testimony may prove profitable in the Church, for the strengthening and confirming of others, or the like considerations; though no new thing be brought forth by him: which ground, as a moral reason, Luke gives to Theophilus of his writing the Gospel, Luke 1. 1.
2. Considerations may be drawn from the subject. As,
1. If it be a necessary point, that is controverted.
2. If the Scripture opened be dark, and obscure; and possibly not many satisfyingly writing of it.
3. If the way of handling it, be such, as gives any new advantage to truth; or, to the opening of that Scripture, (though it be not so accurate every way) that is, if the manner be more plain, or more short, or more full; or, touching at some things, others have passed, or clearing what they have mistaken, or confirming, what they asserted only, or such like cases wherein they may contribute, and be useful, for the understanding of what is already written; or occasion others, to form and mold their invention, and what God hath given them, for better advantage to others; seeing some hath the faculty of inventing, others of improving what is invented: thus both are made use of, for one end, when they are brought forth together: even as in building, some are useful for plotting, or contriving, some for digging stones, some for hewing, others for laying by square and line; yet must be furnished by the former: So is it also in an edifying way of writing, everyone have not all; yet should none refuse to contribute their part.
3. The time would be considered, if such a truth be presently controverted, or such a subject necessary to be spoken unto now; if such a person’s interposing may be useful, if such a duty be neglected, or if such a Scripture be not made use of, and the like. These may have their weight to put folks to it, even though they should say little more than what is said by others: because then all are called, to put to their hand to help; that is the time of it. And there is this advantage, that when many do write, it serveth not only to confirm and strengthen what another hath said, but it occasions some to read that subject, that readily would never have read it, had not such a man written thereon, seeing another book of that subject might possibly never have come to their hands: and withal, this is advantageous when more are engaged in the same subject. This consideration is alleged by Bellar. præfa. in Tom. prim. out of Augustine, as a reason to put men to write, who were not of the most excellent parts; that it was edifying, and better than nothing; yea, that it was beseeming at such a time, to see many armed in the Camp of Christ, against His adversaries, although all be not leaders and captains.
4. Occasion also may be, from God’s putting one to have thoughts of such a subject when others are otherwise taken up, some not having access to be edifying otherwise; as when occasion of study is given, and the thing by public delivery, or secret communication is known to others, and called for by them to be made public: or that they would set themselves to it, God giving occasion of health, quietness, means, etc. for it: the thing getting approbation from such as are single, and intelligent, judging such a thing useful; in this the spirits of God’s servants would be subject to others. Such considerations are frequently mentioned by worthy men, in their prefaces to their Books. And it’s observed in Vita Pellicani, as swaying him to publish his writings, though not accounted (by himself at least) to be of accurate learning, that, mediocriter & simpliciter scripta, mediocriter doctis placitura videns, & quod illorum major sit copia, quam, eximie doctorum, gratificari potentibus voluit. For, as the most learned Preachings, do not always edify most; so neither is it in writing: and though (as a learned man observeth in a preface) that which is accurate, edifieth most intensively, and best explaineth the thing; yet often, what is more popular, edifieth most extensively, and proveth profitable to many more who are but of ordinary reach.
Of Reading, and Hearing
In the last place, it is also clear, that people are not indifferently and without warrant to read or hear, except they know that they be warranted therein: for, this command of writing, is not only inferred, for the confirming of John in his Call to write, but also tendeth to warrant these who are written unto, confidently to receive and make use of what is written. And it follows upon the former: for, if a Call be necessary, to speak or write in the Name of the Lord, then ought also people some way to be clear, that in their reading and hearing they may be walking according to God’s rule and call to them in reading what He calleth them to read, seeing men cannot be supposed to be left to arbitrariness therein. Hence it is, that where the Lord disowneth the commissionating of such to teach, and accounts them guilty for running whom he hath not sent, and that either by writ or word, as may appear, by Jer. 23. and 29. vers. 24. etc. So also doth he reprove the people that do countenance such in their hearing or reading, while as their Call is not evidenced to be of Him. Hence so frequently, both in the Old and New Testament, are we commanded not to countenance such, but to beware of them; and that must reach the reading of their writing as well as conversing with their persons, the one being dangerous, as the other is: for, one of these two must necessarily follow, supposing them not to be called of God thereto.
1. Either they are ensnared by such and such errors, as others take on them to vent; and they are brought to give heed to lies instead of truth: and so though reading and hearing be good in itself; yet that wise advice of Solomon, Prov. 19.27. doth here take place, Cease, my son, to hear instruction, that causeth to err from the words of knowledge. This effect is frequent, the Lord thereby in His secret Justice punishing the lightness and curiosity of presumptuous persons, that dare hazard upon any snare. Hence it is that so often that lightness and indifferency in the practice of reading and hearing such as are not called, hath with it an itching after some new Doctrine, and a secret discontent with sound Doctrine, which putteth them to this, to heap up teachers to themselves, which is said, 2 Tim. 4.1, 2, 3.
1. To show the difference that is betwixt Teachers sent of God, and such as People choose to make so to themselves, without His warrant, And,
2. It showeth what ordinarily doth accompany that itching practice, vers. 4. They turn away their ears from truth, and are turned to fables: for, as it is ordinarily a lusting to vent some strange Doctrine, which doth make men write or Preach without God’s Call thereunto; so it is an itching after some such thing, or at least a loathing of sound simplicity, that makes people thus bestow their time in the reading or hearing of such. And if no such thing be at first sensible; yet doth such persons tempt the Lord to give them up unto it.
2. Or if this follow not, we are sure that it shall no way prove useful unto the followers thereof, as that word (Jer. 23.33) is, I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore thy shall not profit this people at all. And seeing edification is God’s gift, can it be expected but in His way? or can that be accounted His way, which He hath not warranted? At best, it putteth,
1. The person in the hazard of a snare, which hath taken many off their feet, which sometime seemed to be strong: and can they pray unto the Lord that they may not be led into temptation, when they do cast themselves into the snare?
2. It carries offence along with it, in reference to the party who runs unsent, it proves a strengthening and confirming of him, and so a partaking of his sin: in reference to others, it either strengthens them, by that example, to cast themselves in that snare, which possibly may be their ruin; or it grieves them and makes them sad who are tender of such things; or, gives occasion to make all difference of that kind to be thought light of. All which should be eschewed [avoided]: at least it doth this, it diverts men from that which might be more profitable, and to which they might expect a blessing which they have not a promise of, nor can expect in this.
And seeing reading is a special mean of edification, if well employed, and a great step to destruction when otherwise, as experience doth prove, people who are commanded to watch, and to choose that which is most excellent, cannot be left in an indifferency in this; yea, the spending of our time rightly being the improving of a special talent, which, in reading many things, may be exceedingly misspent, if not hurtfully abused: Christian wisdom therefore is mainly called for in this, that a right choice may be made. Especially, considering, that it’s but little time that many can spend in reading; therefore by a wrong choice they incapacitate themselves from reading that which may be more profitable for their case and station. And also, seeing everyone hath not that ability to discern poison from good food, there must be therefore a necessity that people regulate their Christian liberty in this rightly, lest it become looseness, and turn to be a snare. Also, though some, whom God hath furnished with Gifts, and by their place and station calleth them to convince gainsayers, may, and are called to acquaint themselves with writings of all kind; yet ought not all to take that liberty to themselves, more than they durst hazard publicly to debate with adversaries of any kind; seeing the strength and weight of their errors are stuffed into their writings, and we are no less unable to encounter there writ than their word.
In matter of hearing, it is not so hard to discern who are to be accounted to speak without God’s commission: because ordinarily, such have either no warrantable Call at all, (no not in the outward form; and so cannot be accounted but to run unsent) or, by palpable defection from the truth, and commission given them in that Call, they have forfeited their commission, and so no more are to be accounted ambassadors to Christ, or watchmen of His flock, than a watchman of the city, is to be accounted an observer thereof, when he hath publicly made defection to the enemy, and taken on with him. For we are here to rest in the external Call, and not to dispute that which is inward: because it passeth our reach; and Christ hath furnished His House with external Ordinances, for the warranting of His people’s peace in reference to these things: there is therefore great difference to be placed here between one that is called, and one whom we think not worthy to be called: it’s the first that warrants hearing, whereof we may afterward have some occasion to speak.
It is more difficult to give directions in reference to reading: yet, seeing that now God hath furnished His people with many useful books, that in experience have been found to be such, we may for the help of the weaker propose these general directions.
1. That they would spend their time in the reading of such books, as judicious tender Christians have found good of before, or shall recommend to them: such as (so to say) have been tried and tasted, and therefore may be, as good food in which there is no hazard, meddled with. And there is no difficulty here: for, such and such books are commonly esteemed such, and it is easy to attain to the knowledge of them.
2. Some respect may be had to the Author so far as may help to a decision in this, whether such and such a book may be made use of, if it be known to be his? that if by other writings, preaching, or otherwise he be known to be sound and serious, such a book, may with the more confidence be hazarded upon: It is for this that frequently the names of Authors are inserted in their writings, as is done by John frequently in this Book. For, though no man’s name ought to bear such sway with any, as to make them digest anything without trial, because it cometh from him; yet it may give to one, freedom to make use of the writings of such, rather than of another, of whom there is no such ground of confidence.
3. Where Books and Authors are noted by the judicious and Godly to be dangerous and unprofitable, and in experience have been found to have been so to others, distance would be kept with such; lest we find the proof thereof by our own experience, which we would not learn from others.
4. Where Books and Authors are both unknown, we conceive that it’s more safe for private persons for a time to abstain the reading of them, until it be found what they are by some others who may more judiciously discern the same, and in the mean time to spend that time in the reading of such as unquestionably are profitable: because by this we lose no time, and this may be done in faith, knowing that we are not hazarding ourselves upon a temptation, which by reading the other, that is unknown to us, cannot be. And seeing men usually take this way in making choice of Physicians for the body, who are in experience found by others to be skillful and useful, rather than to hazard on any who are yet unknown and have given no such proof; wisdom would say, that no less should be required in the making use of Physicians or remedies that tend to our spiritual edification, it being of no less concernment than the other. And if these things were observed in writing, reading, and hearing respectively (as they may be applied in cases) the Church of Christ might be preserved from many Errors and offences, which by this liberty is occasioned; and many persons saved from much hurtful, and unprofitable labor, both in writing and reading.