Difference Between Ministers and Laymen

Difference Between Ministers and LaymenDaniel Featley, Dippers Dipt, Article 4.
Concerning the calling of Pastors.


That there ought to be no distinction by the Word of God, between the Clergy and the Laity; but that all who are gifted may preach the Word, and administer the Sacraments.


This prodigious error, which may be easily convinced not only by the clear light of Scripture, and the practice of the Christian Church from the beginning to this day: but also by the glimmering light of Reason and Custom of all Nations, a mungrill sect of late between Brownists and Anabaptists have set abroach, and thereby after a sort justified the scandal laid upon some in the Reformed Churches, by Cardinal Bellarmine, that Protestants have no order at all among them, but confusion; that among them all sorts of Tradesmen and Artificers handle the Word and Sacraments with foul and unwashed hands, to the great dishonour of God, and profanation of his holy Ordinances. But let the Cardinal and all Papists know, that we own none of these russet Rabbis, or Apron Levites, but detest and abominate them as much as we do that great Patriarch of the Anabaptists Cuiperdolin, who in Munster at the Coronation of their Taylor King, creeps upon all four, and passing through a great throng of people, breathed into all their mouths, saying to every one in particular, The Father hath sanctified thee, receive the Holy Ghost. This Heresy may be felled down at three blows of the axe (Saint John Baptist speaks of) laid to the root of the tree, after this manner:


No man may conjoin or confound them whom God hath severed and distinguished:

But God in his Word hath severed the Clergy from the Laity; & distinguished the Priests from the people, Num. 18:20; Hos. 4:4, 9; Mal. 2:7.

Ergo, None ought to confound them.


By the Levitical Law the Priests were distinguished from the people, but that distinction is now taken away, and by the Gospel any who hath the gift of Prayer, and Interpretation of Scripture, may both expound, and dip and do all such things as the Clergy of late have appropriated to themselves.


1. The distinction of Priest and People is more ancient than the Levitical Law, and founded in the very Law of nature; for the Indians have their Brahmans, the Turks their Muftees, the Heathen Romans had their Flamines and Arch-Flamines, the Brittons and Galls their Druids. Before the Law given, we read of Priests in Egypt, and in Canaan, and in Midian. Melchizedech was a Priest to the most high God, Gen. 14:18. The Priests in Egypt had a portion by themselves, Gen. 47:22. Only the land of the Priests, Pharaoh bought not, for the Priests had a portion assigned them, and they did eat their portion which he gave them. And Exod. 2:16. there is mention of a Priest of Midian which had seven daughters.

2. In the New Testament, though the Levitical Priesthood be taken away, yet there still remaineth a distinction between the Clergy and Laity; for Christ (Mat. 28:19) giveth commission to his Apostles, and their successors, to teach all nations, and baptize them, and (John 20:22) to remit and retain sins; and the Apostle evidently distinguisheth the Flock from their Pastors, Act. 20:28. “Take heed to your selves, and all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.” And Gal. 6:6. “Let him that is taught in the word, communicate to him that teacheth in all good things.” And Heb. 13:17. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit your selves, for they watch over your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief.


That for which God inflicted most severe punishments in the Law, ought not to be attempted by any that fear God:

But God inflicted severe punishments upon Lay persons for usurping upon, and intermedling with the Priests function as namely, upon Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Num. 16:31 and upon Uzzah, 2 Sam. 6:7 and upon Uzziah, 2 Chron 26:21.

Ergo, None that fear God, ought to attempt any such thing.


These plagues and judgments fell upon the persons above named for other crimes, namely upon Korah and his accomplices for their conspiracy against Moses and Aaron; Uzzah for his presumption; and Uzziah for his pride; not simply for those acts done by them, which seemed to trench upon the Priests and Levites office.


1. It is true, that the former delinquents were guilty of other crimes. For as Angels often appear single, but Devils by legions; so eminent virtues are for the most part single and rare in men, but enormous vices are seldom alone. Yet this no way dulleth the point of the argument: For the Text is express, that the particular punishments above mentioned were laid upon them for those illegal acts done by them, to the wrong and prejudice of the Sacerdotal function. For what saith the Text? “Korah and his company said to Moses and Aaron, You take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them.” Ver. 18. “They took very man his censer, and put fire on them:” and that hereby they encroached upon the Priests office, it is evident by Moses reproof, ver. 9, 10. “Is it a small thing that God hath appointed you to stand before the congregation to minister unto them,” and “he hath brought thee near unto him, and seek ye the Priesthood also?” Likewise it is said of Uzzah, that “he put his hand to the Ark of God, and that therefore the Lord was wroth with him, and smote him in the same place.” And for Uzziah, the case is yet clearer, for the Priests withstood him, and said unto him, 2 Chron. 26:18-19. “It pertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but to the Priests, the sons of Aaron:” yet Uzziah will be meddling with the censer, and be burning incense contrary to the Law, and thereby he incensed the wrath of God against himself, “and immediately the leprosy rose up in his forehead before the Priests in the house of the Lord, besides the Incense Altar.

2. I grant Korah and his accomplices conspired against Moses and Aaron, but the cause was, Moses and Aaron withstood his ambition, and would not suffer him to arrogate to himself the Priests function. Uzzah was presumptuous, but for ought appears in the Text, he shewed it in nothing but this, that he without any calling from God presumed to touch his Ark, and do the office of a Priest. Uzziah was proud, and it was the height of his pride which moved him to burn incense, and not content with his Scepter, to meddle with the Censer. I shall add no more to enforce this Reason than the Application of the words of the Orator to Mark Anthony; I wonder Anthony that thou art not frighted at their ends, whose courses thou followest: So I very much Marvell that they who do such things as Korah, Uzzah, and Uzziah smarted for, fear not that they shall suffer in the like kind, or a worse, without repentance. For although the earth open not her mouth and swallow them up as she did Dathan, and his fellow Conspirators; yet Hell will open her mouth, and swallow them body and soul: And though God smite them not with temporal death, as he did Uzzah, yet he will with eternal: And though their flesh be not infected with leprosy, as Uzziah’s was, yet their consciences are most foul and leprous in the sight of God.


All that take upon them to execute the office of a Priest or Minister of the Gospel, ought to have a calling thereunto, Heb. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:14.

But Lay persons, whether Merchants, or Artisans, or Husbandmen, or any the like, have no calling to execute the office of a Priest, or Minister of the Gospel.

Ergo, they may not assume, or arrogate it to themselves.


God’s conferring gifts upon any man, is a sufficient calling; as for the imposition of Episcopal hands, it is an Anti-christian rite, and giveth the party ordained no power at all.


There is a double calling necessary to a dispenser of the mysteries of salvation; Inward, and Outward: The Inward enableth them, the Outward authorizeth them to discharge their sacred function. Where theirs are gifts, if God incline the heart of the party to enter into the Ministry, there is an inward calling: yet this alone sufficeth not without an outward calling, either ordinary or extraordinary; Extraordinary callings (since Miracles are ceased) we are not now to expect; nor if any pretend, easily believe, or give way thereunto: and therefore we must stick to the ordinary calling, by the imposition of the hands of the Presbytery; for none may prophesy or preach except he be sent. Jer. 14:14. “The Prophets prophesy in my name, and I sent them not.” Jer. 27:15. “I have not sent them, yet they prophesy.” Rom. 10:15. “How shall they preach, except they be sent?” And the Christian Church now knoweth no other sending, than by laying on of hands by the successors of the Apostles, and commending them to particular charges; And if such Episcopal Ordination be an Anti-christian Rite, we desire to learn from them what is the Christian form or manner of admitting men into holy Orders; for no other Ordination was heard of for 1500 years, or at least approved of, and more: during which time, if there were no lawful Calling, there were no Pastors feeding, and governing the flocks; if no lawful Pastors, no visible Churches.

2. As the Anabaptists have no outward Calling, so neither inward; for whatsoever overweening conceit they may have of themselves, yet certain it is, they who take upon them to be their leaders and teachers, are such as St. Jerome complaineth of in his 8th Epistle, “Who become Masters of the unlearned, before they were scholars of the learned. And S. Bern. We have many cocks in the Church, but few cisterns; they who derive to us the heavenly waters, are so charitable, that they pour out rather than stay to have any thing poured into them; more ready to speak than to hear; and apt to teach that they never learned.” Though they can vary phrases, and out of broken notes hold out a discourse upon some passages of Scripture for an hour or more; yet they are no ways furnished with gifts requisite to a faithful Shepherd, and able Minister of the Gospel: for they understand not the Scripture in the Original Languages, they cannot expound without Grammar, nor persuade without Rhetoric, nor divide without Logic, nor sound the depth of any Controversy without Philosophy, and School-Divinity. Neither may they fly to immediate Inspirations of the Holy Ghost, and the miraculous gifts of Tongues, and Prophecy, for such have ceased in the Church for these many hundred years.

The Anabaptists’ Objections answered.

You have heard how strong our Arguments are for the truth: now ye shall hear in brief how weak the Adversaries Objections are against it.


First, they allege out of Joel 2:28. “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” That though under the Law the people were ordinarily to hear the interpretation of the Law of God from the Priests; yet that under the Gospel God so plentifully poureth his Spirit upon all congregations, that all Believers are enabled to Prophesy, and to speak to instruction, to edification and comfort.

But we answer, That the Prophet there speaketh not of any ghostly [i.e. spiritual] power to open the Kingdom of Heaven, and remit and retain sins given by Christ to his Apostles and their successors, but of an extraordinary measure of enlightening graces, as also of extraordinary gifts of Tongues and Miracles, as the Apostle Saint Peter himself expoundeth the Text, Acts 2:15-17.

As there is a greater measure of knowledge given to the people under the Gospel than under the Law, and a more copious effusion of the Spirit; so also to the Pastors: and to whom more is given, more shall be required. This Text therefore proveth not that all Sheep should be Pastors, and all Scholars, Teachers; but that both Teachers and Disciples should have a greater measure of knowledge than before they had under the Law.


Secondly, they allege out of Col. 3:16 and 1 Peter 4:10 that all Christians ought to communicate their knowledge and other gifts of the Spirit one to another, and thereby to teach and instruct, and edify one another. Therefore all Lay persons who have the gift of Supplication and Interpretation of Scripture, ought to make use of them for the benefit of others, as the Ministers of the Gospel do.

But we answer, that as the clouds when they are full, drop, and the ears shed, and the fountains flow; so all who abound in knowledge, ought in such way as they are able, according to their calling, derive it to others: but hence it will not follow, that all men have ghostly power to dispense the mysteries of salvation, and administer the Sacraments, and remit and retain sins, which peculiarly appertain to the Pastoral calling.

There is a double teaching and admonishing, Public and Private; Public, by expounding the holy Oracles of God, and revealing to God’s people his whole counsel for their salvation: Private, by Catechizing a man’s family, or conferring with his Christian Brethren, and rehearsing in some particular what he hath learned from the Scripture, and other holy Books, or the mouth of his Pastor, or by giving good advice, and shewing him his errors, or encouraging him in a good course, ministering unto him a word of comfort, or advice, or admonition in due season: And of this latter kind of teaching and admonishing, the Apostle speaketh, as appeareth by the words following, “Admonishing one another in Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.


Thirdly, they allege, that Eldad, and Medad (Num. 11:27), and Saul (1 Sam. 10:11), and Philip’s daughters (Act. 21:9) prophesied, that the Prophet Amos was a Herds-man, Peter, and other of the twelve, Fishermen, and St. Paul a Tent-maker: Why then may not Tradesmen, and the like, if God bestows gifts upon them, preach the Word, and administer the Sacraments?

But we answer, that extraordinary instances ought not to be taken for precedents, or drawn into ordinary practice; else false Prophets might now expect to be admonished of their errors by brute beasts, because once God opened the mouth of the Ass, and by it reproved the madness of the Prophet Balaam; and all Soldiers that fight the Lord’s battle, blow rams horns in stead of trumpets, because once with them the walls of Jericho were blown down; or arm themselves with lamps and broken pitchers, because Gideon’s soldiers with such weapons discomfited and routed the Midianites.

All these had a calling from God, and proved this their calling by strange and wondrous effects, as by certainly fore-telling things future, or speaking with tongues, which they never had learned, or by miraculous cures, or the like. Let our new Enthusiasts and Brownists prove their extraordinary calling in like manner, and we will not deny them the exercise of the Ministerial function.

It is to be noted, that none are now borne in holy Orders, or may challenge the Priesthood by birth; but before they take holy Orders upon them, given them by the Church, they are mere Lay persons. Neither do we find fault with any simply, hoc nomine [this name], because they have been before of other professions, or trades, (though it were to be wished that there were no necessity of admitting such into the Ministry, whose education or former course of life hath not been corresponding to so holy a Calling) but that we blame them for, is, that they take upon them the honor and office of the Priesthood, not being called thereunto, as was Aaron (Heb. 5:4); that they despise the Church’s Ordination by Imposition of hands; that they handle the holy Scripture and Sacraments with black, foul, and unwashed hands; that they presume that they have those gifts and graces of the Spirit, which indeed they have not; that they usurp upon the place and function of the Ministers of the Gospel, and too much undervalue the cure of souls, which as Saint Gregory rightly defineth it, is Ars artium, the Art of all arts; And St. Paul, by the question he propoundeth, resolveth as much, saying, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). But now, as the practice is, and the common estimation of the vulgar, we may cross St. Paul’s question, with a contrary Interrogatory, Who is not sufficient for these things? sith Coach-men, Weavers, Felt-makers, and other base Mechanics, are now (by some) thought able Ministers, and profound Doctors of the Church, and Exercise, as they term it, not only in private Conventicles, but also per famam & populum [by the tradition and the people] in great Churches, and public Assemblies, to the great dishonour of God, profanation of his Ordinances, and scandal of the Reformed Churches.


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