8 Reasons Only Ministers May Preach

8 Reasons Only Ordained Ministers May Preach

“First, We distinguish between a private brotherly teaching, admonition, exhortation of one another and an authoritative public teaching. The first grounded on charity is the common duty of all Christians, by the royal Law of love, and prescribed to all, even to women, by the Law of God under pain of sin, and this especially in evil times. This practice we are far from disallowing or discouraging; we call God to witness it would be the joy of our hearts to see our people full of knowledge, and full of goodness, able and willing to admonish one another with prudence, love, zeal, and a spirit of meekness; and this we exhort and charge in the name of Christ that they neglect not: It is authoritative teaching only which we deny.”

The Divine Right of the Gospel Ministry, ch. 5, p. 78.

Robert Baillie,
A Dissuasive From the Errors of the Time,
ch. 8, Concerning the Right of Prophesying, pp. 174-180.

Note: Throughout this treatise, by “prophesying” Baillie means preaching. 

The State of the Question

The second question I propounded, concerneth the dogmatic power, so to call it, of their Church-members. They [i.e. the Independents] teach that the power of prophecy or public preaching both within and without the Congregation, belongeth to every man in their Church who hath ability to speak in public to edification.

The Reformed Churches give this power only to Pastors and Doctors who are called by God and the Church to labour in the Word. They do not deny to every Christian all true liberty in private as God gives them occasion, in an orderly way to edify one another, nor do they deny to the sons of the Prophets who are fitting themselves for the pastoral charge, to exercise their gifts in public for their preparation and trial; but public preaching they do not permit to any who are not either actually in the Ministry or in the way unto it.
. . .
The reasons we bring for our tenet, are these:


First, Whoever have power to preach the Word ordinarily, have also power to baptize. But only Ministers have power to baptize: Ergo, only Ministers have power to preach the Word ordinarily.

The Minor [“only ministers have power to baptize”], however, the Arminians and some few of the late Brownists deny, yet all the Independents grant it; but they deny the Major [“whoever have power to preach the Word ordinarily, have also power to baptize”], which we prove by two scriptural reasons:

First, Christ conjoins the power of baptism with the power of preaching; Ergo, who have the power of preaching have also the power of baptizing, which Christ hath annexed to it, “Go and teach all Nations, baptizing them…” (Mat. 28:19). Their reply that Christ speaks here of Apostles and not of ordinary Ministers is not satisfactory, for he speaks both of Apostles and ordinary Ministers because of such officers who were to remain in the Church unto the end of the world, and with whose Ministry he was always and ever to be present as it followeth in verse 20 [“lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world“]. But the Church from that time to the world’s end was not to be served by Apostles only, who soon after were removed, but by ordinary Pastors also, the Apostles’ successors. Moreover, there is no reason for the connection of baptism and preaching in the person of the Apostles that will not hold as well, if not better, in the person of ordinary Ministers.

Our other proof of the major is this. The power of preaching is more than the power of baptism; Ergo, who have the first, have the second also. The antecedent is manifest from 1 Cor. 1:17, “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach“; to intimate the excellency of the one above the other; the Apostle declares not only his seldom practice of the one, but denyeth his commission for it in comparison of the other.


The second Argument; Who ever have power to preach are sent of God to preach. But, these who have no office in the Church are not sent of God to preach, Ergo: They that have no office in the Church have no power to preach.

The major is grounded on Rom. 10:15, “How shall they preach except they be sent?” The minor may be proved, not only from the nature of the thing, the calling of God to preach, and a man’s ordinary preaching on God’s call importing an office and charge to do such a work: but also from the place in hand compared with its fountain, whence it is derived (Isa. 52:8) “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice…“, where it is clear that these whom the Lord sends to preach are watchmen, from whose hand the blood of them that die without warning will be required (Ezek. 33:6). Who watch for the people’s souls as they who must give an account (Heb. 13:17), which is not true of any man who hath no charge.


Every ordinary preacher labours in the Word and doctrine; no man out of office labours in the Word and doctrine; for labouring in the Word and doctrine is the character and specific difference of the Pastor and Doctor, whereby they are distinguished from the Ruling Elder (1 Tim. 5:17). This character and form of the prime Officers cannot be given to men out of all office.

The major is proved from the very terms of the proposition, for no man can acquire an ability to preach ordinarily the Word in the Congregation and to exercise that gift for the Church’s edification without great and constant labouring in that Word.


Fourthly, Every Preacher of the Word hath gotten a gift from Christ “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12); but, no man out of office hath gotten such a gift; Ergo.

The major they do not deny, for they make the ground of their Prophet’s preaching to be their gift to edify the Church. The minor thus we prove, Apostles, Evangelists, Prophets, Pastors, and Doctors are not out of office. But all who have received such gifts are Apostles, etc. Ergo, none who have received such gifts are out of office. The major none will deny; the minor is grounded on Ephesians 4:8 & 11 where there is a perfect enumeration of all the teaching gifts which Christ gave to the Church for edification; of these are reckoned up only five, Apostles, etc. and to God’s perfect numbers men may not add.

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men… And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:8, 11-12).


Fifthly, It was unlawful for men out of office to sacrifice; Ergo, it is unlawful for men out of office to preach.

The consequence lieth in the parity of preaching to sacrificing, the one being as great an honour if not a greater than the other; for I suppose it will be granted that the Sacraments of the New Testament are in many respects more excellent than the Sacrifices of the old. Now preaching as we have proved before, is more excellent than baptism, a Sacrament of the New Testament. The antecedent is proved from Hebrews 5:4-5, “No man taketh this honour to himself (viz. to offer up Sacrifices), but he that is called of God as was Aaron; so also Christ glorified not himself to be made an High Priest“; here it is made unlawful both for Aaron and Christ to offer up Sacrifices before they had a calling to be Priests.


Sixthly, Whoever have gotten of God a calling or a gift to preach the Gospel, they are obliged to keep and increase their gift, and to improve that calling by giving themselves wholly to reading, by laying aside all worldly occupations, and not entangling themselves with the things of this life; but, no man out of office is thus obliged. Ergo.

The minor they grant, for they will not have their Prophets to be so much in reading as may distract them from their worldly trade and civil occupation: The major is proved from 1 Timothy 4:13-15 where Timothy is commanded to keep his gift of preaching by the means named. The reason is alike to all that have that gift, whether they have it by prophecy and laying on of the hands of the Presbytery as Timothy had it, or any otherwise: for the gifts of God, however gotten, must not be neglected, and the means prescribed of God for the entertaining of these gifts may not be slighted, least of all by them in whom the gift is but mean and small; they of all others have most need of the strongest means to make their smoking flax to burn: beside, public preaching is a faculty of that nature, that all the reading and attendance which any man can bestow upon it, will have enough ado to support and entertain it in any useful and edifying condition.


Seventhly, None may lawfully preach but such as the Apostles appointed to preach. But, the Apostles appointed no man out of office to preach.

The minor alone is questionable; which thus we prove. The Apostles appointed no others to preach but Elders; Ergo, none out of office. The antecedent we have from Titus 1:5 “That thou shouldest…ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.


Eighthly, the permitting of private men out of office to preach, is a great means of confusion in the Church and breeding of errors and strife; Ergo, it’s not of God.

The antecedent is made too clear by daily experience; the consequence is built upon the nature of God who is a God and Author of truth and order; what is from him is conduceable to these ends, not to the contrary.

Objections Answered

The opposite Arguments are many. Robinson while yet he was, as I suppose, in the height of his Separation, did fill a whole book with them; the best of these Arguments whereupon our brethren are pleased to pitch be these following:

First, in the Church of Corinth, men out of office did ordinarily preach in the Congregation; Ergo, it is lawful to do so still.

Answer. We may either deny, or distinguish the antecedent: They that preached in the place alleged [1 Cor. 14], were Prophets, and so not out of office. Secondly, they who preached there, were men endued with extraordinary gifts, whose practice can be no pattern to the Churches now a days where these gifts are ceased. That it is so, verse 30 makes clear, where the Prophets do preach extemporary Revelations.

Also Mr. Cotton himself in his last book of the Keys [Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, pp. 49-50]  doth grant this, and expressly recalls what himself in his Catechism, and both he and his brethren in their Answer to the 32 Articles, had delivered about prophesying. This ingenuity is amiable, and if it might please God to bring our brethren off the other points of Brownism as fairly, there might be hope quickly of an happy accommodation.

Their second Argument. Jehoshaphat and his Princes did preach the word. But, Jehoshaphat and his Princes were not Church-officers; Ergo, some who are no Church-officers, may preach the Word.

Answer. We deny the major; for that which is recorded of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 19) was nothing but the King’s exhortation to his subjects, to stir up the Levites and Judges to a faithful discharge of their office; this was no exposition of the Law, nor any dispensing of that knowledge which the Priest’s lips were appointed by God to preserve. What is spoken of his Princes preaching (2 Chron. 17:7-9) beside that it was but once in the time of an extraordinary Reformation, the way of that teaching is expounded in the following words, not to have been by themselves, but by the Levites who carried the Book of the Law, they only did preach; the Princes accompanied them, and by their Civil authority countenanced and assisted them in their preaching. That thus it was, Mr. Cotton confesseth in the above-mentioned place of his Keys, avowing that in the Church of Israel none did preach either in the Synagogue or Temple, but Priests and Levites, except they had an extraordinary call to Prophesy.

Thirdly. What we are commanded to regard is lawful. But, the preaching of men out of office we are commanded to regard, 1 Thes. 5:20 “Despise not prophesying.

Answer. We deny the proof of the minor; for the prophesying spoken of by the Apostle is not the preaching of men out of office, but either of such extraordinary Prophets as were in the Church of the Corinthians and other Churches in those primitive times, or else of ordinary pastors who oft in Scripture are called prophets, “He that receiveth a Prophet in the name of a Prophet, shall receive a Prophets reward” (Mat. 10:41); “a Prophet is not without honour but in his own Country” (Mat. 11:9). A Pagan poet by the Apostle is called a Prophet (Rev. 18:24), “In her was found the blood of the Prophets and Saints“; and 22.9, “I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the Prophets.

Fourthly, our brethren of New-England bring no more arguments. The rest of Robinson’s stuff is not so considerable, he reasoneth thus: The sons of the Prophets did preach, 1 Sam. 10:5; 2 Kings 2:7; also 4:1. But, the sons of the Prophets were men out of office.

Answer. The major is not proved by the places alleged; for the first speaks of the Prophets, but not of their sons; the other two speak of the sons of the Prophets, but nothing of their preaching: yet we do not deny the major; for we think it may be proved from other Scriptures; but we deny the minor, that the sons of the Prophets were men altogether out of office; for their call from God, and appointment by the Prophets to wait on that service, did give them such a beginning and entrance into the office of a Prophet that made them capable of an initial exercise of their begun gifts: so we deny not in the New Testament, to men who are destined to the Ministry and in their preparations for it, a power to preach for attaining an habit of that gift whereunto initial sermons are a necessary means, without which neither the gift nor the calling can be obtained without a miracle.

Fifthly, Robinson reasons thus; All these whom we ought to wish to be Prophets may lawfully preach. But, we ought to wish all the people of God to be Prophets (Num. 11:29), “Would God that all the people of the Lord were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!

Answer. We deny the major, because our desire for the enlargement of God’s honour and the propagation of his truth, that many more than are were sent out to preach and baptize, giveth not to any man either a gift, or a power, or a calling to preach and baptize, till God and man give the calling. Moses’ wish was not that all the people should prophesy, but that all might have the office of Prophets and the Spirit of God to enable them for prophesying. Moses wished all the people to be Prophets, but not without God’s calling to that office.

Sixthly, the Apostles before Christ’s resurrection did preach. But, the Apostles before Christ’s resurrection were not in the office of Apostleship.

Answer. The minor must carry that they were men out of all Church office, which is evidently false; for beside that (Mat. 10:2) they are called expressly Apostles at their first mission; and Judas (Acts 1:25) is said to have had the ministry and the Apostleship: they did celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism, which the adversary will grant could not lawfully be done by men out of office.

Seventhly, Paul and Barnabas were invited to preach where they were in no office, and by those who did not know them to be in office anywhere (Acts 13.15), “Men and brethren if ye have any word of exhortation for the brethren, say on…“; Ergo, men out of office may lawfully preach.

Answer. The antecedent is false, for Paul and Barnabas were men in office, true Prophets and Apostles; their bounds were as large as all nations. Beside, a Pastor in one Church, for the relation he hath to the Church universal, upon a lawful call may preach in any Church. Also that the rulers of the Synagogue did not take Paul and Barnabas for Preachers is as easily denied as affirmed: the same both of their preaching and miracles might easily have come before or with them from Cyprus into Pisidia.

Lastly, the Scribes and Pharisees did expound and preach the law; but, the Scribes and Pharisees were in no Church office; for all the offices of the Church under the Old Testament were in the hands of Levites alone: now the Scribes and Pharisees were not Levites but of other tribes.

Answer. The minor is false; for the Lord tells us that the Scribes and Pharisees were in Church office, that they sat in Moses’ chair, and were doctors of the Law [Mat. 23:2]. The confirmation is not good; for how will they prove that in these times of great confusion, the Levites alone had all Ecclesiastical offices, not only in the Temple about the sacrifices, but in the Synagogue about the doctrine and discipline? Also though this were yielded, yet how will they prove that the Scribes and Pharisees were of any other Tribe than of Levi?


One thought on “8 Reasons Only Ministers May Preach

  1. It is important to note that the second reason cited from Romans 10:15 is the last of four rhetorical questions asked by the Apostle, the answer to each being, “It is impossible”. These four questions move from calling upon the Lord, in retrograde to a minister being sent to preach. See below:

    14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? [Impossible!] and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? [Impossible!] and how shall they hear without a preacher? [Impossible!] 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? [Impossible!]

    The structure the Apostle is using is clear. He moves in a temporal retrograde from calling upon the Lord backward to the sending of a minister to preach. When viewed in this light, it is clear that a man cannot send himself–He must be sent of God, which is accomplished through ordination.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s