I am glad to see that discussions continue at Oldlife without input or posts from (all about me). Apologies for not spending more time on-line, but I am in the midst of a week-long course on American Presbyterianism at Westminster (California).
I do not know how many times I have taught this material but I continue to be amazed by the consequences of the piety and concerns that prevailed in the First
Great Pretty Good Awakening. The different understanding of conversion that the awakenings introduced — an immediate encounter with God versus the life long mortification and vivification taught in the Heidelberg Catechism (88-90) — as well as a different conception of qualifications for ministry, were huge for the future of Presbyterianism in the United States and beyond.
At the heart (no pun intended) of these differences is a piety geared more to subjective experiences as the ground for authenticity as opposed to objective promises and means. Arguably one of the best examples of this is to contrast Gilbert Tennent’s sermon, “The Danger of an Unconverted Minister,” in which he argues that critics of revivals are unconverted, to the Second Helvetic Confession on preaching done by wicked or evil ministers:
Even Evil Ministers Are To Be Heard. Moreover, we strongly detest the error of the Donatists who esteem the doctrine and administration of the sacraments to be either effectual or not effectual, according to the good or evil life of the ministers. For we know that the voice of Christ is to be heard, though it be out of the mouths of evil ministers; because the Lord himself said: “Practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do” (Matt. 23:3). We know that the sacraments are sanctified by the institution and the word of Christ, and that they are effectual to the godly, although they be administered by unworthy ministers. Concerning this matter, Augustine, the blessed servant of God, many times argued from the Scriptures against the Donatists. (ch. 18)
That also explains why ministers have power by virtue of the office as opposed to their character:
The Keys. For a lord gives up his power to the steward in his house, and for that cause gives him the keys, that he may admit into or exclude from the house those whom his lord will have admitted or excluded. In virtue of this power the minister, because of his office, does that which the Lord has commanded him to do; and the Lord confirms what he does, and wills that what his servant has done will be so regarded and acknowledged, as if he himself had done it. Undoubtedly, it is to this that these evangelical sentences refer: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19). Again, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23). But if the minister does not carry out everything as the Lord has commanded him, but transgresses the bounds of faith, then the Lord certainly makes void what he has done. Wherefore the ecclesiastical power of the ministers of the Church is that function whereby they indeed govern the Church of God, but yet so do all things in the Church as the Lord has prescribed in his Word. When those things are done, the faithful esteem them as done by the Lord himself. But mention has already been made of the keys above. (ch. 18)