Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

the injunction, Take heed to yourselves, intended that the elders or presbyters of the Church at Ephesus, should pay a due regard as well to the piety, purity, and benevolence of their conduct, as of their hearts.

In what purity and uprightness of life, as applicable to all the orders of the ministry, chiefly consist, the apostle has stated, in his epistles to Timothy and Titus. They should, said he, be blameless, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, not to wine, no strikers, not covetous, or greedy of filthy lucre, not brawlers, not selfwilled, not soon angry, but just, holy, temperate, gentle and patient ; judicious rulers of their own houses, persons, who sustain good characters, especially among those, who are without,* or do not belong to the household of faith, and who, in all things, shew themselves patterns of good works.I

But something more was implied, in this injunction, than the care and cultivation of religion in their own hearts and lives. As ambassadors of their Lord and Master to his rebellious creatures; as instructers to those, who manifested a disposition to return to their allegiance and duty, or had already accepted of the offers of pardon and grace; and as governors of that body, composed of

; these penitent and reconciled offenders, which is, by way of eminence, termed the Church ; no doubt can exist, that knowledge of the doctrines and precepts of the religion of which they were ministers, aptness to teach, and wisdom to govern, were qualities also required in them, as well by reason as Scripture.

As to care, in the acquisition of the knowledge of divine truths, and of the learning ordinarily requisite for that purpose ; although, from the circumstance that the miraculous gift of tongues, and other extraordinary endowments of the HOLY SPIRIT, still continued in the Church, it might be supposed not to come within the scope of the injunction to those primitive elders, To take heed to themselves; yet if we refer to the cases, in which the apostles urge the acquisition of them, upon those whom they constituted their fellow laborers, and successors in the ministry; it can hardly be doubted, that such was the case. Beside; though it is true, that many doctrines, relating to the mysteries of redemption, which the apostles were not capable of bearing till after the resurrection and ascension of our Savior, were, according to his promise, communicated to them by the Holy SPIRIT; yet it does not appear that this privilege was conferred upon others. That such was not the case—indeed, on the contrary, that other ministers were to obtain their knowledge of the Christian doctrines through the medium of the apostles, will plainly appear, by a reference to the passages, above mentioned, in which the duty and the manner of acquiring it, are inculcated and taught. The things, said St. Paul to Timothy, that thou hast heard of me, among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. * Give attendance to reading, to doctrine, said he to the same beloved youth, meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and to the doctrine ; continue in them.t

. See 1 Tim. iii. and Tit. i.

| Gal. vi. 10.

Tit. ii. &

A competent knowledge of the doctrines and precepts of our holy religion, is indeed indispensable to those, whose office it is to promulgate and explain them; and, with whatever facility this knowledge was originally obtained, it now requires considerable learning and laborious study, to become so well acquainted with them, as to qualify men for that sacred and responsible station.

But to knowledge must be added aptness to teach, as it is termed by St. Paul. This is a quality also, in a considerable degree, necessary to a steward of the mysteries of God. It has generally its origin in nature ; but it must be much cultivated, by study, by the acquisition of literature, and especially, by prayer for the divine blessing upon the exercise of it; before the possessor can be approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth ;; and be able also, by sound doctrine, to convince the gainsayers.||

Wisdom in the government of the Church, is another property requisite in the ministerial character. To be wise as serpents, at the same time, as harmless as doves, was the instruction, which our blessed Lord gave to his disciples, when he first sent them out to proclaim, that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand:* and although this was given with a view to another subject, the avoidance or defeat of the evil designs of enemies; yet it is as necessary to be observed in the administration of the government of the Church; if it is expected or desired that love, harmony, and peace, should prevail between the pastor and his flock ; and among the several meinbers of which it is composed. Without this quality-indeed, without the exercise of caution, moderation, discretion, and patience,--the results of true wisdom,--ministers, of whatever order, will make but little progress in the promotion of the Redeemer's kingdom, if they are not indeed instrumental to its decline. An imprudent, though otherwise well meaning clergyman, may sometimes do as much harm in a Church, as a man, the reality of whose religion is doubted, and whose moral conduct is not such, as to entitle him to the esteem and respect of his flock. The cultivation of a property, therefore, so necessary to a judicious administration of the spiritual concerns of the Church, must also have been in the apostle's view, when he called upon the elders of the one at Ephesus, to take heed to themselves.

• 2 Tim, ii. 2.
$ ? Tim, ii. 15.

t I Tim. iv. 13, 15, 16.
I Tit. i. 9.

11 Tim.iij. 2.
# Mat. x. 16.

These are the principal duties, implied in that important injunction.

The apostle, however, did not stop here. Something further was necessary, in reminding these presbyters of the duties of their office, than the religious care of their own hearts and lives; and the due cultivation of those properties, which would render them capable of discharging such duties to effect. The faithful execution of the office itself, was a principal object of his concern; and therefore he charges them to take heed also to all the flock over which they had been appointed overseers, for the purpose of feeding it; in other words, feeding the Church of God.

Two great duties are here inculcated, that of superintendency, as overseers of the flock, and that, which was especially the object of their appointment, feeding it.

What the duties of the superintendency, here mentioned, are, may be learned from the metaphorical language used by the apostle; and from other passages of Scripture, of the same, or a similar

• Mat. 1. 7.

import. As the shepherd, in the common and literal acceptation of the term, is not only to direct the sheep, committed to his care, as to the paths they may pursue; but is also to exercise the utmost caution and vigilance, to preserve them from harm, especially from the insidious design and open attacks of their natural enemies, the wolf and other beasts of prey; so it is the duty of the pastors of Christ's flock, the Church, to direct and guide the members of it into the way of salvation, the path of life; and to caution them against, and guard them from, not only those heretical and schismatical teachers, who artfully endeavor to delude them, and draw them from the truth of the Gospel; but also, those still more dangerous foes, the world, their naturally corrupt passions, and the spiritual powers of darkness. In a word, to watch for their souls as they that must give account.*

That the duty last mentioned, was included in the injunction, Take heed to all the flock, is evident from the remarks which immediately follow the text. For I know this, said St Paul, that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch.

To carry into effect this superintendency, power is requisite. Indeed it is necessarily implied in the term. There could be little or no use, in inspecting the concerns of any part of the Church, under less authority existed in the officer to correct the disorders, which might prevail in it, and put into execution any legal measures tending to its purity and prosperity. That such authority does exist, in the ministerial office, will not be questioned, when reference is made to the declaration of our Lord to his disciples; whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven ;t and to the question, who is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household ?I again when he says to the twelve, I appoint unto you a kingdom, foc.Ś But, though this authority undoubtedly exists, mi

[blocks in formation]

* Matt. xviii. 18.

[blocks in formation]

nisters are bound, as well to observe great prudence and moderation, as decision, and firmness, in the exercise of it: for the Lord hath given it to us, saith St. Paul, for edification, and not destruction.*

To the same purpose, St. Peter exhorts the elders of the Churches, in some of the cities of Asia Minor, To feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof, not, as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.f

The other great duty, included in the injunction, Take heed to all the flock, is feeding it.

The metaphorical expression, feed the flock, occurs in other places in Scripture; as the injunction of our blessed Lord to St. Peter, Feed my lambs, feed my sheep; and of St. Peter himself, as was repeated in the preceding article, Feed the flock of God.I The meaning of the metaphor feed, in these cases, is sufficiently obvious from its application ; but it is put beyond doubt, in the prophet Jeremiah, where it is used in connection with words which illustrate it. I will give you pastors according to mine own heart, saith the LORD, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.ll To feed, therefore, as it stands in the text, may be understood to comprehend every thing, in the ministerial office, which comes under the terms, instructing, persuading, exhorting, reproving, and consoling, both in public and private; every authorized act indeed, which will increase the flock, by drawing into it those who are immersed in sin, infected with unbelief, or error; and which will tend to nurture, and bring the whole, to maturity, and to the enjoyment of everlasting life.

It was the duty then of the elders, and urged upon them, by the apostle, to instruct the flock of Christ in the important doctrines and precepts of the Gospel; to open to their understanding the great mysteries of redemption, and the nature and obligation of the ordinances peculiar to that divine institution; to unfold the various duties of life, in all their extent and purity, and by arguments, drawn from their excellency, and from the example of the illustrious Author of redemption, inculcate and enforce the practice of them; and, as a motive to their perseverance in the faith, and

;

• 2 Cor. x. 8.

# 1 Pet. v. 2, 3

Ibid.

1 Jeremiah. iii. 15.

« PoprzedniaDalej »