The following is the preface of Jus Divinum Ministerii Evangelici, Or, The Divine Right of the Gospel-Ministry by the London Provincial Assembly (1654).
The Necessity and Excellency of the Gospel Ministery is so transcendently great, as that it cannot but be accounted a very glorious Service, in all those that shall undertake to represent it in its Beauty to the Sons of men, and to vindicate it from all that seek to asperse, undermine and destroy it. Our Saviour Christ when he Ascended up into Heaven, left the Ministry as his choicest Legacy next to the Gift of his holy Spirit; he gave unto his Ministers (which he gave to no earthly Monarch) the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (Mat. 16.19), he committed to them the Word of Reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19), he made them Stewards of the Mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4.1), and Watchmen over the precious Souls of his people (Heb. 13.17). There is hardly any thing necessary for man in his Natural or Civil Relation, but the Ministry is compared to it. Are Light and Stars necessary? Is Salt necessary? Are Rulers, Shepherds, Stewards, Ambassadours, Husbandmen, Builders, Angels, Chariots and Horsmen necessary? Ministers are called, The Light of the world, The Salt of the earth (Mat. 5.13, 14), Stars in Christ’s right hand (Rev. 1.20), They are Angels (Rev. 2.1), Rulers (Heb. 13.17), Ambassadors (1 Cor. 5.20), Stewards (1 Cor. 4.1), Husbandmen (1 Cor. 3.9), Fathers (1 Cor. 4.15), Shepherds (Eph. 4.11), Builders (1 Cor. 3.11, 12), Watchmen (Isa. 52.8; Ezek. 3.17), The Chariots and Horsemen of Israel (2 King. 13.14). The people of Constantinople professed they could sooner want the Sun then Chrysostom’s Ministry. And Chrysostom tells us, That Herod might very well have saved John Baptist notwithstanding his Oath, for his Oath was to give the daughter of Herodias what she should ask, though it were to half his Kingdom, but John Baptist’s head was more worth then all his Kingdom.
Hence it is, That the Devil in all Ages hath laboured by his wicked Instruments to discountenance, disparage and overthrow the Ministry, as knowing that it is a spiritual Engine in the hand of the Lord of Hosts to batter down his Strongholds, and designed for this very purpose to bring people from the power of Satan unto the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament, though the Ministry that then was, was acknowledged to be of Divine Institution, yet even then it was by a carnal part of the World opposed, as a superfluous humane Invention, and the Persons to whom that Ministry was committed were in their several Generations vilified and traduced as a Society of men which rather sought some worldly, carnal, personal interest, than the sacred things of God’s Kingdom. Thus Enoch who had this Testimony that he pleased God, endured hard speeches which ungodly sinners spoke against him. Noah a Preacher of Righteousness was not believed in his Generation, they did not, they would not know any thing till the Flood came and swept them all away. Moses a Prophet mighty in word and deed had Jannes and Jambres to resist him in Egypt, and Korah and his company to withstand him in the Wilderness. Elijah that man of God, whom one calleth an Earthly Angel, and an heavenly Mortal, who whilst he lived on Earth below, commanded the Heavens and Clouds that are above, yet was he persecuted by Jezebel, and accounted by Ahab both an Enemy to him and to the State, and accused to his face as the Troubler of Israel. Thus Jeremiah, sanctified from the Womb, was smitten and imprisoned, Michaiah imprisoned, Urijah slain with the Sword, Zechariah stoned to death.
In the New Testament John Baptist who was filled with the holy Ghost from his Mother’s womb, was beheaded. And Christ Jesus himself, who was not ashamed to be styled the Minister of the Circumcision, The Bishop of our souls, The Apostle and High Priest of our profession, was crucified between two thieves. The holy Apostles of whom the world was not worthy, were not worthy to live in the world, but were despised and rejected of men, and accounted the scum and off-scouring of the world.
In the ten first Persecutions, The Devil especially endeavored the ruin of the Godly and Learned Ministry: It is said expresly of the sixth Persecution, That the Emperour Maximinus raised it against the Teachers and Leaders of the Church, thinking that if these Captains were removed out of the way, he should the easilier prevail against the rest. The greatest Design that Julian the Apostate had for the overthrowing the Christian Religion, was by destroying of Learning, and taking away the means of subsistence from the Ministry.
The Scripture tells us, that for the space of 1260 days (that is, all the time of Antichrist’s reign) the two Witnesses should prophesy in sackcloth, and this sackcloth is not yet put off, nor as yet likely to be.
For there are a Generation of men risen up amongst us, that say, That it is the greatest cheat that ever was put upon Christian’s, to make them believe that there is a distinct Office of the Ministry peculiar to some men and not to others. This they call a Monopolizing of the Ministry, and the worst of all Monopolies. And they say, just as Korah and his Company, You take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi, Are not all the people of God holy? And may not any man that is gifted preach, though he be not Ordained? But in the mean time they forget, that this Speech of Korah’s was accounted Rebellion, and that the earth was not able to bear it, but opened her mouth and swallowed him up, and the rest of his companions. It was heretofore accounted a great fault for a Minister to be a Justice of Peace, and thought incompatible with his Calling, and impossible for one man to wait upon both. But there are many in our days, that continuing in their Civil Callings, think themselves able to discharge the Ministerial. And although the Apostle out of the sense of the weightiness of it, cried out, Who is sufficient for these things? Yet there are very many that think every man almost sufficient. And as Jeroboam made Priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi, and it was reckoned as his great sin. So it is with us, The lowest of the people and such as are not called to the Ministry, nor trained up in the Schools of the Prophets, are become Preachers, and cried up as the None-such of our times.
There are divers ways by which some men endeavour to destroy the Ministry.
1. By railing upon and reviling their persons, and raising all manner of reproaches against them, as if they were the onely Incendiaries of Church and State, pestilent fellows, the causers of all the disturbance in the Commonwealth.
2. By crying down the present Ministry as Antichristian, because made (as they say) by Antichristian Bishops.
3. By taking away their Maintenance.
4. By setting up the basest and meanest of the people, and such as have no Arts nor Knowledge in the Tongues, to be Preachers, that thereby they might make the world believe, That the Ministerial Office is of all other the lowest and the easiest.
5. By decrying the very Office it self.
These with others of the like Nature, are the ways and means by which men seek to ruin the Ministry, and thereby Religion, and to open a wide gap to all Errors, Heresies, Blasphemies, Prophaneness and Atheism. Herein dealing with us as Alexander did with the Athenians, who desired to make Peace with them upon condition that they would deliver eight of their chief men into his hands. Demosthenes to dissuade the Athenians from delivering them up, tells them a Fable of the Wolves and the Sheep: The Wolves desired to make Peace with the Sheep, upon condition they would deliver up their Dogs to be destroyed, which they had no sooner done, but the Wolves presently devoured the Sheep: Even so when once not only the Persons of Ministers are disgraced, and their Maintenance taken away, but when the very Calling and Office of the Ministry is denied, and liberty given to every man that will to preach, then will the Wolves devour the Sheep of Christ, then will Errors, Heresies, Blasphemy, Atheism and Popery, come in like a mighty flood, then will ruin and desolation come like an armed man upon that Nation where this is practized, without remedy.
And therefore to testify our Love unto the Truth, that the Sun of Righteousness may not go down in our days, that the Truth of the Gospel may live when we are dead, and the Word of Christ may run and be glorified; And to prevent the growth of Atheism which every where abounds, and threatneth the overthrow and ruin of the way that God hath called holy, and to reduce poor misled souls, which ignorantly conceive they sin not in traducing the Ministers of the Gospel, as if they were men only seeking their own things, and not the things of the Lord Jesus, and contemning the Ministry as if it were not God’s Institution, but an humane invention introduced to uphold some carnal interest.
We the Members of the Provincial Assembly convened by Authority of Parliament, conceive it our Duty to clear unto our respective Congregations, the Ministry and Ministers, such as serve the Lord in uprightness, from these unkind and ungrounded aspersions. Beseeching the Lord, the Father of Spirits, to convince and settle the Judgments of them that through misguidance may doubt, and to give Repentance unto such as carnally oppose themselves, that they may come to the acknowledgement of the Truth, and so recover themselves out of the snare of Satan, wherein they suffer themselves to be taken captive at his pleasure.