Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.'

99

There is also a second state of the Church, in its edification, which is to be carried on according to the rules given by Christ, in the ordinary administration of the institutions of the gospel. To this end Christ gave ordinary officers, pastors, and teachers, who, by his direction, were ordained in every Church. Acts xiv. 23, 24.

But, whereas extraordinary officers were given by Christ, by his immediate call, and communication of power to them, it does not appear how he gives these ordinary officers unto it. I answer, He did it originally, and continueth to do it, by the following means:

·

66

He doth it by the law and rule of the gospel, wherein he hath appointed this office of the ministry in his Church, and so always to be continued. If there be not an ordinance of Christ to this purpose, or if its force be now expired, then we must confess that the whole office is a mere usurpation; but if he hath given pastors and teachers to his Church, to continue until all his saints, in all ages, come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. iv. 12.); and he hath promised to be with them, as such, to the end (Matt. xxviii. 18, 20.); if the apostles "ordained elders in every city" (Acts xiv. 23. Titus i. 5.) who were made "overseers, or bishops of the flocks" by the Holy Ghost (Acts xx. 28.); and if believers are obliged to yield obedience to them (Heb. xiii. 7, 17.) then this foundation standeth firm and unshaken as the ordinances of Heaven; and as there is no intimation whatever in the Scriptures of any state of the Church, wherein the disciples of Christ may or ought to live without the orderly guidance of the ministers, it is vain to imagine that any defect in other men, any apostacy of visible churches, should render them incapable of erecting a regular ministry over them. To suppose, that because the Church of Rome and its adherents have, by their apostacy, lost an evangelical ministry among them,-that therefore others "to whom the word of God is come," and has been

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

made effectual for their salvation, have not sufficient warrant from the word to yield obedience to all the commands of Christ, or that in so doing he will not accept them, is fit only for men who have a trade in religion to drive for their own private advantage.

Jesus Christ continues this office by bestowing spiritual gifts and abilities on men, to enable them to discharge the duties of it. Spiritual gifts do not, indeed, of themselves, make any man a minister; yet no man can, according to the mind of Christ, be a minister without them. Wherefore, supposing the continuance of the institution, if Christ, at any time, or in any place, were to cease to bestow spiritual gifts, then, and in that place, the ministry itself must cease. To erect ministry by virtue of outward order, rites, and cere monies, without gifts for the edification of the Church, is but to hew a block with axes, and planes, and set it up for an image to be adored. To make a man a minister who can do nothing of the peculiar work of the ministry, nothing towards the only end of it in the church, is to set up a dead carcase, fastening it to a post, and expecting it should do you work and service.

[ocr errors]

Jesus Christ continues this office by giving power to his Church in all ages, to call and separate to the work of the ministry such as he hath fitted and gifted for it. This power in the Church is not despotic or lordly; but consists in a right and ability to act in this matter obediently to the commands of Christ. Hence. the act of the Church is merely the instituted means of conveying authority and office from Christ to persons called thereto. The Church does not give them any authority of its own, or resident in itself, but only, in a way of obedience to Christ, they transmit power from him to persons so called. Hence they become ministers of Christ, and not of the bishops, or churches, or men, holding their office from Christ himself, by the law and rule of the gospel; so that whoever despiseth them, despiseth him also in them. Some would have the ministers of the gospel to derive all their authority from the people who choose them; and some from the

F

edience a

doing
o haver

advant by besto

nable the

fts do

ister;
st, be a

g the con

e, or in fts, ther ase. To rites,

n of the

planes, a

ake a m

liar wor

end of fastenings u work

[blocks in formation]

bishops who ordain them; but this is to make them
ministers of men, and servants of men, and to consti-
tute other masters between them and Christ.

The Church has no power to call any person to the office of the ministry, where Christ hath not gone before it in the designation of that person by an endowment of spiritual gifts; for, if the whole authority of the ministry be from Christ, and if he never gives it but where he bestows ministerial gifts, then to call any to the work whom he hath not previously gifted, is to set him aside, and act by our own authority.

The order in which a Church may call any person to the office of the ministry among them, and over them, is, by their solemn joint submission to him in the Lord, as to all the powers and duties of his office, certified by their election of him. It is concerning this outward order, in calling men to the ministry, that the world is filled with disputes; but whatever order be adopted, if the things before mentioned be not observed, it is of no validity or authority :-on the other hand, admit that the authority of the ministry depends on the institution of Christ; that he calls men to this office by the collation of spiritual gifts unto them; and that the acting of the Church herein is but an instituted moral means of communicating office-power from Christ to such persons, then the outward mode need not be much contended about.

It may be proved to be a beam of truth from the light of nature, that no man should be imposed upon a Church without their consent; considering that his whole work is to be conversant with their understanding, judgments, wills, and affections; and that this should be done by their own choice, as the Scriptures manifestly declare, Numb. viii. 9, 10. Acts i. 23, 26. Acts vi. 35. Acts xiv. 23; and that this method was sacredly observed in the primitive Churches, cannot modestly be denied.

The Lord Christ continueth his bestowing of this gift of the ministry, by the solemn ordinance of setting apart those who are called in this manner, by fast

[ocr errors]

ing, prayer, and imposition of hands, Acts xiv. 23. chap. xiii. 2. 1 Tim. iv. 14, By these means, I say, doth the Lord Christ continue to declare that "he accounts men to be faithful, and puts them into the ministry."

The substance of what we affirm is this: That there is special dispensation and work of the Holy Spirit, in providing able ministers of the New Testament for the edification of the Church; and that he doth exert his power and exercise his authority in the communication of spiritual gifts without a participation of which, no man hath (de jure) any lot or portion in

this ministration.

Jesus Christ hath faithfully promised to be present with his Church unto "the end of the world ;" and this his presence renders the Church a congregation essentially distinct from all other societies and assem-. blies of men. Let men be formed into what order you please, or derive authority by any claim whatever, yet, if Christ be not present with them, they are no Church nor can all the powers under Heaven make them such. (Matt. xviii. 20. Rev. xxi. 3.)

This promised presence of Christ is by his Spirit, We speak not of his essential presence with respect to the immensity of his divine nature; nor doth it respect his humanity; for where he promised this his presence, he informed his disciples that he must depart from them; on which they were filled with sorrow, until they were assured he would make good the promise of his presence with them; and who, or what it was that should supply his bodily absence. This was his Holy Spirit, whom he would send in his name, place, and stead, to do all to them and for them which he had yet to do with them and for them. (See John xiv. 26, &c.-xv. 6, &c.)

This presence of the Spirit is secured to the Church by an unchangeable everlasting covenant: "As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord: My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of

the mouth of thy seed's seed, from henceforth and for ever." Isa. lix. 21. This is God's covenant with the gospel-church, to be erected when the Redeemer shall come out of Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob (verse 20); and as the continuance of the word unto the Church in all ages is by this promise secured (without which it would come to nothing) so is the presence of the Spirit secured to it; without which all covenant relation between God and it would cease, and there would be no Church, no ordinance, no acceptable worship.

Hence the gospel is called "the Ministration of the Spirit;" and the ministers of it, "the Ministers of the Spirit," 2 Cor. iii. 6. ; for it is by the assistance of the Spirit that any persons are enabled to administer the gospel and its institutions of worship, according to the mind of God, and to the edification of the Church; also, by the ministration of the gospel, the Spirit himself is, in all ages, communicated to the disciples of Christ. Gal. iii. 2.

Now, the great end for which the Spirit is thus promised and communicated under the gospel, is, the continuance and preservation of the Church in the world. God has promised that the kingdom of Christ shall endure to the end of time; and this must be either the work of God or of men; and if it be of God, it must be by the communication of his Spirit :-and whereas the Church falls under a double consideration (its internal and external form) the first is, as we have shewn, by his communicating effectual grace to the elect;-the latter is, by the communication of gifts to the guides, rulers, officers, and ministers of it, and to all its members, according to their place and capacity.

The communication of such gifts to the ordinary ministry of the Church in all ages, is plainly asserted in various places of the Scripture. The nature of this work is declared in the parable of the talents, Matt. XXX. 13-31. The state of the Church, from the accension of Christ until his second coming, is there represented. In this season his servants are entrusted with the affairs of his kingdom, the care of his Church,

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »