Part I. Chapter V.
Of the obligations to actual ministration, which lie upon them in the foresaid cases.
Hitherto, I have insisted on those cases, wherein true and faithful pastors and ministers of Jesus Christ, are plainly bound, as I conceive, to stir up those spiritual powers, which he hath conferred on them; and to act ministerally as bishops and pastors, for supplying the needs of religion and of souls, or of the churches which are entrusted to their charge.
And the sum of what I have said thereupon, is this. They are bound to supply the church, with the ministration of prayers, or of pure and unpolluted offices, when the public service is corrupted, and prayers are poisoned, not only with idolatrous, but also with unrighteous and immoral mixtures. And with the ministry of the word, when they see dangerous and immoral practices are begun to be set up. And more still, when they are offered to be justified. Being obliged to this, when immoral practices are justified in some great and particular cases, which are like to involve the generality of persons. And higher obliged yet, when, for justification of the same in such particular cases, false teachers set themselves to vacate all the opposite moral duties, by undermining propositions and doctrinal salvos. All which still call louder for this ministration, if the immoral practices so justified, and doctrinally salved, are in themselves infamous, and a scandal to religion; or, if they have numbers of seducers and false guides, to recommend or persuade them; or, if they are pressed and forced upon all refusers, by a secular arm, and driven on by a violent and general persecution. When the breach is so great upon religion, and the danger is so terrible to the souls of men, and is like to make a general wast, and to seize and destroy such numbers of them: true ministers of religion, and guides of souls, ought not to be silent, and to sit still, under such wrongs done to both. But are bound, not to neglect the gift that is in them, by the laying on of hands, 1 Timothy 4. 14. But to stir it up, and that out of a spirit of love to religion and the church, and of power or courage without fear of dangers, as I observed from St. Paul, 2 Timothy 1, 6, 7. To give attendance to it, waiting on their ministry, Romans 12. 7. Not to be content merely to accept seasons, as put upon them; but to seek them, preaching the word, and being instant, in season, and out of season. 2 Timothy 4. 2. To give themselves wholly to these things, and to persevere and continue in performing them, that in so doing, they may both save themselves, and those that hear them, 1 Timothy 4. 15, 16.
But further to set off this obligation, having said thus much to the cases wherein they stand bound, I shall now proceed.
2. Secondly, to note, what obligations of actual ministration, do lie upon them in such cases. And these obligations will appear, both from the nature of the pastoral function, from the several characters which they sustain, and from the post or station which they are placed in.
These characters I shall consider, under this threefold respect, either as they relate to God, to religion, or to the souls of men.
1. First, I shall consider them, as they relate to God. And here this obligation to the foresaid ministrations, in the preceding and such like cases, will appear plain upon them, as they bear the character, and stand in place,
1. Of his messengers. The priest is the messenger of the Lord of hosts, Malachi 2. 7. And St. Paul says, the Galatians received him, as an angel or messenger of God, Galatians 4: 14. And the bishops of the churches, are styled angels, Revelation 1. 20. Now, when a polluted and immoral worship is offered up to God, or when immoral practices are set up, and the plain sense of moral precepts is perverted or vacated to maintain them; God hath enough to say to men, both for caution and prevention, and also for their recovery from the same. And who shall tell them this, but his own messengers? And how should they tell it, but in the discharge of their ministrations? So that by their ministry, they must show them the horrible profanation of an immoral devotion, and teach and afford them a pure worship, which is according to his mind. And declare to them the true force and meaning of those moral laws and duties, which others have doctrinally glossed away and vacated, to the end they may warrantably and securely transgress them. As the messenger of the Lord of hosts, his lips ought to keep up knowledge among the people, and they are to seek the law, i.e. the true sense of it, as Grotius and others note, at his mouth, Malachi 2. 7. So that he is ministerially to open his mouth, not to shut it; to minister knowledge, not to pen it up and suppress it within himself: it being the part of an ill and unfaithful messenger, to seal up his lips, and conceal the message which he is charged with.
2. Of his ministers and ambassadors. They are not, as inferior messengers, employed only to bear and tell a message; but as ministers of his kingdom, they are messengers empowered, and authorized, to negotiate and transact for God. And this, not only in some particular thing; but at large, in all the outward administration of the covenant of grace, or of reconciliation between God and man. Let a man so account of us, says St. Paul, as of uphretaV the officers of Christ, (1 Corinthians 4: 1) as of diakonouV, ministers by whom ye believed, 1 Corinthians 3. 5. As of presbeiV, the ambassadors, 2 Corinthians 5. 20. As of leitourgouV, the public agents of Jesus Christ, Romans 15. 16. As of such ambassadors, who have the ministry, thn diakonian, the administration of reconciliation between God and sinful men, (2 Corinthians 5. 18, 19) and as of such public agents, who are empowered and entrusted to minister the gospel of God (Rom. 15. 16). Nay, being thus empowered as God's ministers, public agents, and ambassadors: they are not only as his servants, who are to do his business; but as his visible representatives and vice-gerents here on earth, who in all these concerns, are to sustain his person, and to stand in his place. This is the part of public agents and ambassadors, who sustain the person, and supply the presence of their masters. Speaking to you as God's ambassadors, God bespeaks you, and beseeches you by us; and praying you, as ambassadors of Christ, we pray you in Christ's stead, says St. Paul to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 5. 20). And accordingly the Galatians, he says, received him as Christ Jesus (Galatians 4. 14) and in his ministerial actings, he declares he acted in the person of Christ (2 Corinthians 2. 10). And they are sent thus to transact for him in all these administrations, and to sustain and supply his place, not only at some one time, or on some particular and occasional turn; but with standing powers, as his ambassadors in ordinary, or residentiaries here on earth, who are to do the same still from time to time, as there is occasion.
Now, standing thus, as his ordinary ministers, and public representatives, who are to act God's part, and to supply his place in these matters; they must be bound to their actual administrations, in the foresaid cases.
For being to act in those cases, and in all others which providentially come before them, as God's ministers and officers; they ought to do all therein, that is needful for God's business. They are unfaithful ministers, if they do not appear, and concern themselves in their master's affairs, and so far as their powers will go, prosecute his business who employs and entrusts them. And when sinful prayers are presented to him, in his solemn and public worship; his business is to have them purged out, and to have more pure and unpolluted prayers put up to him in their room. When immoral practices are justified, his business is to have them generally disclaimed and condemned. When moral precepts are glossed away, and vacated; his concern, is to have them faithfully expounded and maintained. So that, if they must officiate, and act in prosecution of his business; they must officiate, and minister in prosecution of these things. And they throw off the part, and work of his ministers, if they will have no care of his matters, nor afford him their ministrations at such times.
As God's public agents, and ordinary ambassadors, their instructions are, to preserve the things of God safe. Then, they must see to guard his worship from sinful and polluted mixtures; and his laws from elusive glosses, and undermining salvos; and the practices of his people, from damnable unrighteousness and immoralities. And what sort of agents would they show themselves, should they refuse to minister, and act for him; what trusty ambassadors, should they fail to pursue their instructions, when all these wrongs and violences are offered to his affairs, and are attempted to be obtruded upon his worship, his precepts, and his people, at such times?
As his ambassadors, they are ambassadors for peace, and carry the word of reconciliation, to a people that has offended him. And when God, and any people are at enmity, by reason of the foresaid worship and practices; would they approve themselves fit to be intrusted with this ambassage of peace, or to be faithful in the discharge thereof, who should not so much as tell the offenders, that God and they are at difference; nor minister and propose from him, the true terms of making up the breach. By failing to minister this word, when they are sent on purpose with it, and have undertaken the administration of it; would they not prove themselves down-right enemies, and basely treacherous and false to both? And is any failure or falsehood, more fatal, as well as more inexcusable, than theirs would be in this case?
As Christ's representatives, and as sustaining his person and place, they are to say what he would say to any offenders, and to act as he would act in these cases, were he visibly to appear, and immediately to manage and administer his own affairs. They must come into Christ's care and administration, when they come to sustain his person. For his part on earth, as he declares, was to minister to his church. Representing him, they must endeavour, as they can, to supply the want of his presence; and that must be, by affording religion, and his people, what ministrations he would afford to them, were he among them. And this must imply the foresaid exercise of their spiritual ministries, in the above-mentioned cases. For, were he on earth at such times, he would surely see no want of these ministrations, to preserve, or rescue, his worship from being polluted, his laws from being vacated, and the practice of his people from such ways of sin and death, as are then offered to be obtruded on them. To minister against all these, was his business when he was upon the earth; and would be so, were he to appear again: and ought to be the business of all, that represent and appear for him. If they neglect the ministry, and care of these things, and let them alone; what other ministries are there left then, for them to represent this great minister of God, and bishops of our souls in? If then they do not minister his word to the church, in his name, what becomes of the communication, which they are to keep up between his church and him? For he is to speak to them by his representatives, and says, he that hears them, hears him, Luke 10. 16. And if his representatives are silent at such times, and say nothing from him; that, instead of faithfully maintaining, is to drop, and make an end of this way of communication.
Thus doth their very office and station, of being God's ordinary and standing ministers, and public agents, and ambassadors, and representatives: oblige them to actual administrations in the foresaid cases. Their office, lies in supplying such administrations, which are the trust they have received from Christ, and the business which they are set for. He hath committed to us the administration of this reconciliation, saith St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 5. 18. This faithful supply of such administrations, is called, fulfilling their ministry, as in St. Paul's caution to Archippus. Col. 4. 17. For to entrust his things with them, as ministers, or agents; is to trust that they will act therein, and administer the same unto his people. Accordingly they, who have received a ministry, are required to wait on their administration, Rom 12. 6, 7. Or, every man, as he hath received the gift of preaching, or ministry, &c. Even so to minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God, 1 Peter 4. 10, 11. Thus also they are called to preach the word, and discharge these ministrations, against teachers preaching to please men's lusts, and against people heaping up such teachers to themselves, that they may thereby fulfil, or make full proof of their ministry, (2 Timothy 4: 2, 3, 5). And are bid, not to neglect the gift that is in them, by imposition of hands, but to be the people's monitors, against the speakers of lies in hypocrisy, that they may be good ministers of Jesus Christ, 1 Timothy 4. 2, 6, 14. And to approve themselves, as the ministers of God, by the word of truth, and by the armor of righteousness, in the midst of afflictions and persecutions, 2 Cor 6. 4, 5, 7. Their administration, must from time to time keep up, what God would have kept up, both in his people's practice, and in doctrine, in worship, and devotion. They shall teach my people the difference, between the holy and profane; and shall cause them to discern, between the unclean and the clean. And they shall keep my laws, and my statutes, in all mine assemblies; or, see that all things be done in those assemblies, according to them, as Theodoret expounds it, Ezekiel 44: 23, 24.
3. Of his fellow-workers, or co-adjutors. We, as workers together with God, beseech you, saith St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 6. 1. We are labourers together with God, the chief worker. And ye are God's husbandry, whom, as co-labourers, we cultivate, planting what is profitable, and rooting out every hurtful weed. Ye are God's building, which we, as work-men together with him, are spiritually to rear and build up, or to repair the same when any part thereof is broken down, 1 Corinthians 3. 9.
Now, when any such breaches are made, upon the worship, or the laws of God, and upon the practice of his people in all the foresaid cases, God is sure to be at work with men. His providence, outwardly throws I hindrances, and awakening alarms; and his holy spirit, is inwardly busy in their hearts, by raising holy thoughts and suggestions, to prevent the fall of some, and to recover and raise up others who are already fallen, and to set, both the celebration of his own worship, and the sense of his precepts, and the practice of his people, at rights again. And whilst he is thus working and plying them, both with inward motions, and with outward accidents or occurrences; his ministers, as fellow-workers, should join their ministration to carry on the same work in them. And how are they fellow-laborers, if at such times, whilst he holds on labouring, they give it off? How are they true to the part of co-workers, if they withdraw their ministrations, and leave and let him alone to do all the work himself?
They are also said to be co-workers with him of the people's joy or consolation, 2 Corinthians 1: 24. This joy can be had only in the way of holy, not of polluted prayers; and of maintaining, not of vacating God's precepts; and of humbly and industriously seeking, to approve themselves to God by good; not of justifying themselves, in unrighteous and wicked practices. For in those ways, they have nothing to do with joy; but remorse, and shame, and sorrow are their portion. So that if the true pastors, are to be ministers and co-workers of their joy and consolation, they must minister and co-work at such times, to keep up pure worship, and pure precepts and practices among them; because else, they would not have what they may justly rejoice and take comfort in.
Again, the ministerial characters, may be considered.
2. Secondly, as they relate to religion. And here also they carry with them a plane obligation to the foresaid ministrations in the forecited cases.
With respect to religion, they are styled ministers of the word. We will give our selves, say the apostle, to the ministry of the word, Acts 6: 4. Or, ministers of the gospel, or of the now covenant. The gospel, whereof I am made a minister, Ephesians 3: 7. Col. 1. 23. And God hath made us able ministers of the New Testament, saith St. Paul, 2. Corinthians 3. 6. Or sometimes, lastly, stewards of the mysteries. Let a man so account of us, as of stewards of the mysteries of God, saith the same apostle, 1 Corinthians 4. 1.
Now, as ministers and stewards of the word of God, of religion, and of its mysteries, they stand entrusted with the charge thereof. The part of stewards and ministers, is to keep such pearls of price safe, to supply what is wanting to them, or improve them to advantage; of their fidelity and care wherein, they must give a strict account to their masters.
So that, as ministers and stewards, of religion, and of its mysteries, they stand obliged,
1. To keep, and preserve them. They must see, that they be not lost, nor injured in any part; that the word of God be not maimed, or perverted; nor his worship adulterated, and polluted; nor his doctrines, and precepts, either denied in terms, or vacated by corrupt glosses or undermining propositions. This is the first thing, which they owe to those good things, wherewith they are entrusted. That good thing, which was committed to thee, keep (2 Timothy 1. 14). O! Timothy, keep that, which was committed to thy trust, (1 Timothy 6. 20). Hold it fast, and in the form of sound words, wherein thou hast received it (2 Timothy 1. 13). And remember how thou hast received, and heard, and hold fast, Revelation 3. 3. These things, are a depositum, 1 Timothy 6. 20. A good depositum (2 Timothy 1: 14). Or most sacred and precious things, lodged in their hands, and left to their keeping. So that their first fidelity to these depositums, must be the fidelity of good keepers. They must see, that they be no worse, for being in their hands; that nothing be spoiled, or perish from them, but that they have them to produce, safe, entire, and uncorrupted, when they are called for back again.
And this keeping of these ministers and stewards, must not lie merely in keeping these things thus pure and perfect, to themselves; but
2. In keeping them up, so pure, and perfect, among others. This worship, is to be a public worship; and Christ's followers, are to join in common, and concur therein. And this word, is to be generally and publicly communicated, and a true sense thereof is to be born up, and held fast in the church of Christ. So that these keepers, of the pure and perfect word, and mysteries of religion; must be ministers, to exhibit and deal them out, and stewards to dispense them. The part of stewards, lies in dealing of them out: as good stewards of the manifold grace of God, minister the same one to another, saith St. Peter (1 Peter 4: 10, 11). And the part of ministers, lies in administrations, or in ministering the gospel, as St. Paul saith (Romans 15: 16). To be ministers of the new covenant, is to have the ministration of the spirit, and the ministration of righteousness which is therein offered (2 Corinthians 3: 6, 8, 9). That is, to stand charged with the administration thereof, by affording people the appointed ways, of entering and confirming it, in administration of the sacraments; and of being built up in the duties, and of supplying and fetching down the grace and blessings thereof, in administration of the word, and of prayers. And thus the scripture sets off being ministers of the word, by having the charge of preaching and testifying it. To make thee a minister, and a witness, saith our Lord to Paul, when he committed the gospel to him, Acts 26: 16. And the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God, saith the apostle, Acts 20. 24. And they were then said, to have fulfilled this ministry of the word, when they had preached it all about (Acts 12: 25).
As therefore they are obliged, to purge out all profanation and polluted matter, from worship and prayers; and all corrupt glosses and vacating salvos, from the doctrines and duties of religion, as their faithful keepers: so are they obliged, to exhibit the same thus purged and cleansed in their own ministrations, that they may keep them up among others, as their faithful stewards and ministers. And they are very much wanting to religion and its mysteries, if they do not acquit themselves, both as their faithful keepers, and dispensers, in the foresaid cases.
And this keeping and dispensation, of the foresaid unpolluted worship and moral doctrine, where that can be had, is to be in a regular and standing church. If there is a want of pastors and people in any defection, to incorporate in the administration, and profession of them; it is a fatal blow, indeed, to pure worship and doctrine, in any kingdom. But if a remnant is left, both of pastors, and people, who still faithfully and firmly adhere thereto; their way is, as a light set on a candlestick, or as a city set on an hill, by a visible communion, to profess them, and to bear them out before men. It is a debt they owe to religion, and to God's holy truth and worship, to appear to the world, as a visible church, for the maintenance and ministration thereof.
For religion, ought not to stand on scattered individuals, but to be born up by communions of pastors and people, or by regular societies. Our Lord has instituted a Christian church, for the profession and support, of Christian worship and doctrine. And the church, is to be the pillar and basis, or stay of truth: or that, which should support and bear it up, and make it both more conspicuous, and more creditable to the world, 1 Timothy 3. 15. As a church, they must preserve the depositum, and minister and bear it out in their own times: and commit the same to faithful men, who, at the head of their respective churches, may hold it on, and teach others; that is, transmit it down, by like way of church ministrations, and visible societies, to succeeding ages, 2 Timothy 2. 2. By the professions and ministrations of such societies, it comes down to us: and by the same, ought we to convey it down to our posterities, that there may be no want of that sacred depositum, or of a church, to minister the same and bear it out before men, to preserve the knowledge and memory thereof, and to show that true religion has not failed, to the world's end.