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them right again, and to fix them in nearer union to Christ by faith, and to their brethren in love.
2. In regard of themselves, for the work of the ministry. It is for work that they are appointed. This work for the kind of it is diakovia, a ministry or service. The first excluding idleness, the second excluding a lordly dominion. The word comes from Kovio dust, and denotes a painful and laborious service, in which men are serviceable, as those that make haste in travel, raising the dust about them by their speed. So that they are neither to be loiterers, nor lords over God's heritage; but to serve them in the concerns of their souls, by the dispensing of the word publicly and privately, by dispensing the sacraments, and the censures of the church.
3. In respect of the body of Christ; it is to edify it, namely, the mystical body of Christ. There is a double metaphor here; one taken from the natural body to which the church is compared, in respect of its union with Christ the head by faith, and that union that is among the saints by love; and the vital influences received from Christ by the church. The other metaphor is taken from masons, whose work it is to build a house. Thus they are to build the body of Christ; and so they do, when they are instruments in Christ's hand to lay new stones in the building; that is, to convert the elect, and to fix and raise up others that are already laid; being instruments of the growth of converts in knowledge, faith, and holiness.
The Holy Ghost casts in that of the work of the ministry betwixt the other two ends. The two great ends not being to be obtained by naked gifts, or the honour of the office, but by a painful and laborious discharge of the trust committed to them.
The sum of all is, Christ Jesus having ascended up on high, gave various gifts to the church, in that he gave various officers to it suitably qualified; he gave some, not all, to be extraordinary, namely, apostles, prophets, and evangelists; some to be ordinary officers, pastors, and teachers; and whatever differences be amongst them, they were all given for one common end, to labour in dispensing gospel ordinances, for restoring and perfecting saints, who are so often out of frame, and for gathering in the elect, and increase of grace in those that are converted.
Presbyterial Exercise Addition, June 24, 1708.
MINISTERS TO CONTINUE TILL THE CHURCH BE PERFECT.
EPHESIANS iv. 13,
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
DOCTRINE I. That the office and work of the ministry is to continue till all the elect of God be fully perfected, and the church arrive at its full growth. This is the principal doctrine of the text. We shall first confirm this doctrine, and then give the reasons of it. I. To confirm the truth of this, consider,
1. That Christ's presence is promised to the ministry always, even to the end of the world, Matth. xxviii. 20; now this suppose th the existence of the ministry till then. Ministers are the stars which Christ holdeth in his right hand, that will always shine more or less while the stars are in the firmament; and wicked men may as well attempt the divesting of the heavens of these glorious lights, as the church of Christ of a ministry, for they shall never be able to effect the one any more than the other. Even when the church is into the wilderness, some are commanded to feed her there.
2. The sacraments are to continue till then, snd consequently a ministry by which they may be dispensed. As to baptism, it is plain from that, Matth. xxviii. 20. Though the blasphemous Socinians account it only a temporary right, used by the apostles towards those, whether Jews or Gentiles, of whom the gospel church was first made up. But there is a command universal in respect of persons to be baptized; in respect of places, and in respect of times, to the end of the world. As circumcision lasted in the church till Christ's first coming, so must baptism till he come again. And as for the sacrament of the supper, it must continue till the Lord come again. For by it we do shew the Lord's death till he come.
3. The Scripture holds forth public ordinances, in which the Lord keeps communion with his people, never to be laid aside till they come to glory. It is one of the singularities of the upper house, that there is no temple there, Rev. xxi. 22. Here they look through the lattices of ordinances, till they come to see face to face in heaven.
It is when the day of glory breaks, that these shadows
will flee away; but till that time, Christ has promised to be in the mountain of myrrh-the public ordinances; so called in allusion to the temple, which was on a mountain.
II. Reasons of the doctrine. It must continue.
1. Because the ministry is a mean of the salvation of the elect. "It hath pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe." They are these by whom the Lord gathers his elect; the means must continue till the end be obtained, Rom. x. 14, 15. While there is a lost sinner to seek, the Lord will not blow out the candle; and while the night remains, and till the sun arise, these less lights are necessary to be continued in the church.
2. The ministry is appointed of Christ, in some measure to supply the want of his bodily presence in the world. He spoke in the prophets before he came, as the word is, Heb. i. 1; yea to the old world, by his Spirit in Noah a preacher of righteousness, he preached. Now when he is ascended up on high, he hath given a ministry; and now God doth beseech sinners by them; and in Christ's stead, we pray sinners to be reconciled to God. They must then continue till the Lord come again.
3. Because their work which they have to do, will continue till then. They are ambassadors for Christ, and while he has a peace to negociate with sinners, he will still employ his ambassadors. While Christ keeps house in the lower world, stewards must be maintained to give his servants meat in due season. While weeds grow in the vineyard, the labourers must be continued; and till the house be fully built, and every stone laid in the building, it is not time to dismiss the builders.
4. What society can be preserved without government and governors. Every society hath its governors, and so the church must have hers also. While corruption remains in church members, there will be out-breakings among them. That company that is terrible as an army with banners, how mean would it be if there were not a set of men appointed by the Lord to order and govern them; they would soon turn into a mass of confusion. In the best constituted church how often is the beauty of it marred; how often does the enemy break in, though the watchmen keep their posts, and stand to give warning to the city; how much more, if there were no watchmen at all. These then must be continued, till they all be within the gates of that city, where the gates are never shut, because no enemy can make an attempt to break in, and these that are within have no inclination to go out.
USE 1. Of information. It lets us see that the church shall never fail altogether. The continuance of the ministry argues the con
tinuance of the church. When the Lord has done his work, he will doubtless call in his servants, and will not have watchmen where there is no city to watch. The church and her ministry also, may be driven into the wilderness, and they may both be reduced to a very small number, but neither of them shall altogether fail. There may be seven thousand in Israel, when Elias thinks he is left alone; and the witnesses of the truth may be seen so far gone as if they were dead, and yet there are still some in the darkest time, who afterwards appear as if they had risen from the dead.
Again, this shews that Christ hath a special care of, and providence watching over the ministry. Ministers are the great butt of the world's malice, the thorns in their eyes of which they would fain be freed; and readily, when a storm ariseth, it blows most violently on their faces. Papists cry for miracles; if they were not blinded, they might see it in the continual preservation of these earthen vessels, for all the opposition they meet with in the world. But Christ holds the stars in his right hand.
We see also the dignity of the office. The greatest officers in earthly kingdoms, yea kings themselves, hold not their offices by such a tenor. Their work is to carry on God's work in the church till the church be perfected, a noble work, and a long term indeed for the continuance of their office; which is never to cease till God be all in all, and all the elect be in heaven.
Wo then to those that are above teaching, and despise the ministry as that which they might well want. Has Christ set a ministry in the church as an useless burden upon the people. It speaks a profane spirit, and a growth indeed, but not towards that in the text; a growth in wickedness and self-conceit. Let us therefore prize the preaching of the word.
DOCTRINE II. The diversity of gifts bestowed on ministers hath a tendency to, and is designed for advancing of unity among God's elect people, for unity is the centre of all these divers gifts. These are as the strings of a viol, some sounding higher, others lower; yet altogether making a pleasing harmony. "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion." There are many things necessary to make a compact building, such as the church is. Some must procure the stones, some lay them; some smooth and join the wood, and altogether make a compact uniform house. Round about the throne are the four beasts; some eminent for lion-like boldness; some for the patience and laboriousness of the some for prudence, and some for quick-sightedness in the
Some of these
mysteries of godliness. The church can want none of them. eye cannot say to the foot I have no need of thee." blue, purple, scarlet, goat's hair, to the tabernacle. things were more necessary than others, but none of them could be wanted. All our Lord's gifts to his servants, tend to unite his servants with God, and among themselves, by faith and love.
USE. 1. For information. This lets us see what a desirable thing unity in the Lord is. It is that which is the great end of all these divers gifts that Christ has bestowed. It' is comely in the eyes of the Lord, and so should it be in ours. By Adam's fall his whole posterity were broken and shattered, rent from God and from one another. To cure this, God has appointed Christ a new head, under whom they might all meet again in unity; and Christ has appointed ministers adorned with a diversity of gifts, in order to accomplish this.
2. It may also let us see what is that government of the church that looks most like divine institution; whether prelacy that gives the keys unto one, or presbytery that gives them to the unity of ruling church officers. Which of them is most adapted to the end of the ministry; whether one gift, or diversity of gifts. The text determines the question, and consequently determines that several presbyteries diversely gifted, are the subjects of church power, and not a single prelate. Prelacy looks nothing like Christ's economy, and his way of managing his house; therefore prelacy brought in for the remedy of schism, was a step very far out of Christ's way. And this church was for many years preserved from heresy and schism also, by means of presbyterian government; and though of late our schisms have increased, it remains still, that it is the government most adapted to unity, according to the Scriptures. USE 2. Of reproof. It reproves those people who gifts of ministers occasions of schism and faction. am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos." It is a great weakness that people cannot value one gift, but they must undervalue another. Many cannot build up one in their esteem, but they must needs have the ruins of others for a foundation for it. How contradictory are their desires, to what Christ would have in the church. Christ would have diverse gifts, and they would have but one, and that all might be just of a piece with what they fancy. These that say they can get no good of such and such a gift, had need to take heed, that when they get good, it be not rather a tickling of their fancy, than solid edification.
make the divers "One saying I
But much more are these ministers to be reproved, who improve their gifts to the rending of the church, and breeding in people a