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and modesty, for them to speak freely, let who will be present, than if they were dying.
But then may a man be said to set up himself as a public teacher, when he in a set speech, of design, directs himself to a multitude, either in the meeting-house, or elsewhere, as looking that they should compose themselves to attend to what he has to say; and much more when this is a contrived and premeditated thing, without any thing like a constraint, by any extraordinary sense or affection that he is then under; and more still, when meetings are appointed on purpose to hear lay persons exhort, and they take it as their business to be speakers, while they expect that others should come, and compose themselves, and attend as hearers; when private Christians take it upon them in private meetings, to act as the masters or presidents of the assembly, and accordingly from time to time to teach and exhort the rest, this has the appearance of authoritative teaching.
When private Christians, that are no more than mere brethren, exhort and admonish one another, it ought to be in a humble manner, rather by way of entreaty, than with authority and the more, according as the station of persons is lower. Thus it becomes women, and those that are young, ordinarily to be at a greater distance from any appearance of authority in speaking than others: thus much at least is evident by that in 1 Tim. ii. 9, 11, 12.
That lay persons ought not to exhort one another as clothed with authority, is a general rule, but it cannot justly be supposed to extend to heads of families in their own families. Every Christian family is a little church, and the heads of it are its authoritative teachers and governors. Nor can it extend to schoolmasters among their scholars; and some other cases might perhaps be mentioned, that ordinary discretion will distinguish, where a man's circumstances do properly clothe him with authority, and render it fit and suitable for him to counsel and admonish others in an authoritative manner.
II. No man but only a minister that is duly appointed to that sacred calling, ought to follow teaching and exhorting as a calling, or so as to neglect that which is his proper calling. A having the office of a teacher in the church of God implies two things: 1, a being invested with the authority of a teacher; and 2, a being called to the business of a teacher, to make it the business of his life. Therefore that man that is not a minister, that takes either of these upon him, invades the office of a minister. Concerning assuming the authority of a minister, I have spoken already. But if a layman does not assume authority in his teaching, yet if he forsakes his proper calling, or doth so at least in a great measure, and spends his time in going about from house to house, to counsel and exhort, he goes beyond his line, and violates Christian rules. Those that have the office of teachers or exhorters, have it for their calling, and should make it their business, as a business proper to their office; and none should make it their business but such. Rom. xii. 3, 4, 5, 7, 8. "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the proportion of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we being many, are one body in Christ. He that teacheth, let him wait on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation." 1 Cor. xii. 29. "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers ?" 1 Cor. vii. 20. "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called." 1 Thes. iv. 11. "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.”
It will be a very dangerous thing for laymen, in either of these respects, to invade the office of a minister; if this be common among us, we shall be in danger of having a stop put to the work of God, and the ark's turning aside from us, before it comes to Mount Zion, and of God's making a
breach upon us; as of old there was an unhappy stop put to the joy of the congregation of Israel, in bringing up the ark of God, because others carried it besides the Levites: and therefore David, when the error was found out, says, 1 Chron. xv. 2., "None ought to carry the ark of God, but the Levites only; for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him forever." And because one presumed to touch the ark that was not of the sons of Aaron, therefore the Lord made a breach upon them, and covered their day of rejoicing with a cloud in his anger.
Before I dismiss this head of lay exhorting, I would take notice of three things relating to it, upon which there ought to be a restraint.
1. Speaking in the time of the solemn worship of God, as public prayer, singing, or preaching, or administration of the sacrament of the holy supper; or any duty of social worship this should not be allowed. I know it will be said, that in some cases, when persons are exceedingly affected, they cannot help it; and I believe so too: but then I also believe, and know by experience, that there are several things that contribute to that inability, besides merely and absolutely the sense of divine things they have upon their hearts. Custom and example, or the thing's being allowed, have such an influence, that they actually help to make it impossible for persons under strong affections to avoid speaking. If it was disallowed, and persons at the time that they were thus disposed to break out, had this apprehension, that it would be a very unbecoming, shocking thing for them so to do, it would be a help to them as to their ability to avoid it their inability arises from their strong and vehement disposition; and so far as that disposition is from a good principle, it would be weakened by the coming in of this thought to their minds, viz. "What I am going to do, will be for the dishonor of Christ and religion:" and so that inward vehemence, that pushed them forward to speak, would
fall, and they would be enabled to avoid it. This experience confirms.
2. There ought to be a moderate restraint on the loudness of persons talking under high affections; for if there be not, it will grow natural and unavoidable for persons to be louder and louder, without any increase of their inward sense: till it becomes natural to them, at last, to scream and halloo to almost every one they see in the streets, when they are much affected but this is certainly a thing very improper, and what has no tendency to promote religion. The man Christ Jesus, when he was upon earth, had, doubtless, as great a sense of the infinite greatness and importance of eternal things, and the worth of souls, as any have now-a-days; but there is not the least appearance in his history, of his taking any such course, or manner of exhorting others.
3. There should also be some restraint on the abundance of persons' talk, under strong affections; for if persons give themselves an unbounded liberty, to talk just so much as they feel an inclination to, they will increase and abound more and more in talk, beyond the proportion of their sense or affection; till at length it will become ineffectual on those that hear them, and by the commonness of their abundant talk, they will defeat their own end.
Of errors connected with singing praises to God.
ONE thing more I would take notice of before I conclude this part, is the mismanagement that has been in some places of the duty of singing praises to God. I believe it to have been one fruit of the extraordinary degrees of the sweet and joyful influences of the Spirit of God that have been lately given, that there has appeared such a disposition to abound
in that duty, and frequently to fall into this divine exercise; not only in appointed solemn meetings, but when Christians occasionally meet together at each other's houses. But the mismanagement I have respect to, is the getting into a way of performing it, without almost any appearance of that reverence and solemnity with which all visible, open acts of divine worship ought to be attended; it may be two or three in a room singing hymns of praise to God, others that are present talking at the same time, others about their work, with little more appearance of regard to what is doing, than if some were only singing a common song, for their amusement and diversion. There is danger, if such things are continued, of its coming to that by degrees, that a mere nothing be made of this duty, to the great violation of the third commandment. Let Christians abound as much as they will in this holy, heavenly exercise, in God's house, and in their own houses; but when it is performed, let it be performed as a holy act, wherein they have immediately and visibly to do with God. When any social, open act of devotion, or solemn worship of God ie performed, God should be reverenced as visibly present, by those that are present. As we would not have the ark of God depart from us, nor provoke God to make a breach upon us, we should take heed that we handle the ark with reverence.
With respect to companies singing in the streets, going to, or coming from, the place of public worship, I would humbly offer my thoughts in the following particulars.
1. The rule of Christ concerning putting new wine into old bottles, does undoubtedly take place in things of this nature, supposing it to be a thing that in itself is good, but not essential, and not particularly enjoined or forbidden. For things, so very new and uncommon, and of so open and public a nature, to be suddenly introduced and set up and practiced, in many parts of the country, without the matter being so much as first proposed to any public consideration, or giving any opportunity for the people of God to weigh the