CONVENTION OF THE CLERGY
OF THE PROVINCES OF
ON WEDNSDAY THE 19th DAY of MAY, 1773
IN TRINITY CHURCH
IN THE CITY OF NEW-YORK;
BY THE REVEREND JOHN SAYRE
Rector of the Parishes of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. David,
Published by Desire of the CONVENTION.
If any man be a Hearer of the Word, and not a Doer, he is like unto
Printed by JAMES RIVINGTON,
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2011
TO THE CLERGY OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, In the Provinces of New-York, And New-Jersey, This DISCOURSE, Printed at their Request, Is humbly dedicated, By their affectionate Brother, and Fellow Labourer;
BELLEMONT, ULSTER COUNTY,
JUNE 24, 1773.
i. THESSALONIANS, 5. xii, xiii. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
GOD created man a little lower than the angels; and by giving him a reasonable soul, capable of contemplating and adoring the perfections & the majesty of the MOST HIGH, which constituted the felicity of his intellectual part; and placing him in a terrestrial paradise, filled with every requisite to delight and satisfy the bodily appetites; made him as completely happy as his present nature would admit of: But by his fall, his understanding became darkened, and his will perverted; so that, of himself, he had neither power nor inclination to consider or pursue his true good, which was in God. Having degraded himself below the dignity of his own spiritual nature, the Lord of this world became carnal, and consequently incapable of discerning the things of the spirit. By a wilful infringement of the covenant, under [5/6] which he was created, man justly forfeited the guidance of his maker, and became, like a ship without compass or helm, unable to direct his course to the true point of his happiness, and at the same time subject to be the sport of contending passions. As the flock was thus corrupted, no wonder if the branches derive corruption from it. All Adam's posterity fell in him, and are therefore involved in the same cloud of mental darkness, with their degenerated ancestor.
This is the melancholy effect of sin: but blessed be God, where sin abounded, there grace did much more abound! The goodness of God led him to pity the misery of his lost creature, and his wisdom pointed out a plan for his restoration; in pursuance of which, man's understanding is enlightened, by that wisdom which is from above; the way to his real good is developed, in a divine revelation, which teaches him that he may obtain reconciliation, through the obedience and bloody sacrifice of a mediator, who, though partaking of the human nature, is infinitely worthy in the sight of God; So that as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift might come upon all men, unto justification of life.
But lest wrong attachments, arising from the corruption of his nature, should lead man to forget and neglect so great salvation; it was necessary, in consideration of human weakness, that the way to it should be kept in mind, [6/7] by external rites, and sensible ordinances. This involved a necessity for a visible church; that it might be the peculiar business of some, to attend continually on those ordinances and rites, lest man's high privileges should sink into universal oblivion.
In order, therefore, to demonstrate, that the covenant between God and man, was in all things ordered and sure, it pleased the father of mercies to select to himself a particular nation, to be his church; and out of that nation to chuse a single family, on whom, and on whose posterity, he conferred the dignity of the priesthood; that they might be near him, to minister in holy things. So sacred was this function, that though all the nation were holy, yet they who were unconsecrated, were forbidden, on pain of death, to approach the altar: and God in several instances, (which are recorded for our admonition) vindicated the honour of his own ordinance, upon many, whose rashness led them to despise it.
This dispensation was indeed temporary, and intended only as a Schoolmaster, to lead men to the knowledge of a more perfect economy; for the law had but a shadow of good things to come. The Levitical sacrifices were only types of that grand propitiatory sacrifice, which, in the fulness of time, was to be offered by a High-Priest, of an order superior to that of Aaron; even the great High-Priest of our profession, who was called of God, to be an High-Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec.
[7/8] The gifts and sacrifices of the law, could not make him that did the service perfect; for they stood daily ministering and offering often times the same sacrifices: But Christ, being come an High-Priest of good things to come, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down at the right hand of God; and by ONE OFFERING hath perfected FOR EVER them that are sanctified, and hath called us, by a new and living way, out of darkness into his marvellous light.
As the office of Christ was of greater dignity, so also it was of larger extent, than that of Aaron. He was anointed not only to be a Priest; but also a Prophet, and a King. He was not only to sanctify the people, but to be their righteousness and wisdom and redemption; and in all things, through his eternal power and Godhead, to be mighty to save; seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us.
The Levitical church was temporary, and confined to a single nation. The Christian church is universal, and shall survive the world; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. But as human nature is still in the same state of imperfection and corruption, that it was in, under the law; so it was necessary, that the same steps should be taken, to keep in memory the glorious plan of redemption, by the Immanuel.
It pleased God, therefore, to continue the dispensation of his love, through external ordinances, under the ministration of a priesthood of his own positive appointment; for even Christ himself glorified not himself, to be [8/9] made an High-Priest; but was called of God, and anointed by him who said unto him, thou art my son, for this day I have begotten thee.
As Christ was anointed and sent, by his FATHER, so HE consecrated and sent others, to preach the gospel, and committed unto them the word of reconciliation, promising to be with them, and their successors, till the end of the world.
The Apostles were, therefore, sent as ambassadors of Christ; clothed with full power, to act in his name. They, and those on whom they transferred it, had authority to plant churches, whenever they and their doctrine should be received and entertained; and having planted, to govern them.
Saint Paul, therefore, though he was called into the ministry by Christ himself, yet as this was done after the ascension, had also (by express command of the Holy Ghost,) an external ordination, by the visible church at Antioch; to seperate him for the work of the ministry, before he could exercise it. Being thus qualified, Paul ordained others, and committed unto them power to ordain elders in every city; which power, according to the declaration of our Lord, (Mat. 16, xviii.) was necessarily to remain, in succession, through every age of the world; to be exercised by persons solemnly set apart and commissioned, by the proper officers of the church: and (whatever men in this careless age may think) by none else; for no man taketh this honour to himself but he who is called of God, as was Aaron; [9/10] i.e. by institution and visible consecration.
The divine œconomy, in establishing an external church, begat new relations among men, and consequently required new duties to be practised. These relations take place between ministers and people; between the ministers themselves, in their clerical capacity; and among the people, considered as members of the body of Christ.
What the duties are, which are annexed to these relations, will be the subject of our enquiry in what shall follow.
And here it must be noticed, that as the establishment itself, of a church militant here in earth, is of divine institution; so none but the institutor can be supposed to have a right to determine the offices, and to enjoin the reciprocal duties in it.
The church is raised upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets; being the chief corner stone. To them, therefore, we must apply for information, concerning the nature of the offices and duties subsisting among men, in their ecclesiastical connexions.
In the words of our text, the duty of ministers to the people, is implied in the mention of their work, on account of which, the people, on their part, are to make a suitable return of esteem: The duty of the people towards each other, is comprized in this charge, that they be at peace among themselves. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in [10/11] the Lord, and admonish you: and to esteem them very highly for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
The work of christian ministers is very clearly pointed out by our Lord and his apostles.
They are to disciple all nations, by baptizing them; thus receiving them into the fellowship of Christ’s church; and having admitted, to nourish them with the wholesome food of the word of God. [* See Mark 3, xiv, & 13, x, 16, xv. and Luke 9, lx.] and to establish them by the communion of the body and blood of Christ. [* See Luke 22, xix, and 1 Cor. 11, xxiv.]
In the discharge of their important duty of preaching, they must take heed to their doctrine, and be careful that they, on no consideration, handle the word of God deceitfully. They must be instant in season, and out of season; gladly spending, and being spent for the flock. In their public discourses they must declare the whole counsel of God; shewing uncorruptedness, gravity, sincerity and soundness of doctrine; manifesting the truth as it is in Christ Jesus; that they may commend themselves to every mans conscience, in the sight of God.
But the ministers of Christ are not only to be thus the salt of the earth, but they are also to be the light of the world; and their light must shine before men, that God may be glorified in them.
They must endeavour, in all things to shew themselves patterns of good works, being examples to the flock. They must therefore take [11/12] heed to themselves, as well as to their doctrine, giving none offence, that the ministry be not blamed; inall things striving to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called.
Not being righteous overmuch, they must exercise humanity and generous justice towards their fellow men, and (from principles of true piety) supreme love and devotion towards God, and faith in his Christ; exemplifying the moral virtues and Christian graces, in their own characters.
They must be CHASTE, lest they pollute the members of Christ, and SOBER, lest they defile the temples of the Holy Ghost. They must be TEMPERATE in all things, as becometh those who are striving for the mastery; keeping under their bodies, and bringing them into subjection; lest when they have preached to others, they themselves should be cast away.
They must be meek and lowly in heart, having that charity which suffereth long, and beareth all things. When they are reviled, they must bless; when they are persecuted, they must suffer it: Yea, they must esteem it all honour, when they are counted worthy to suffer shame for their master; thus testifying an invincible faith in him as their great reward; and by visiting the fatherless and widow, in their affliction, prove their religion to be pure and undefiled before God, andthat their faith is not dead, because it worketh by love.
Farther.--It is the duty of shepherds not only to feed the flock, but also to watch over it; [12/13] looking diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up, trouble them, and thereby many be defiled.
The ministers are therefore to comfort the broken hearted; to establish the wavering; to exhort the careless; to rebuke the contumacious; to censure the flagitious; to cast out the incorrigible.
They are not only thus to guard against the mischief of the foxes within; but they must also counteract the designs of the wolves from without; knowing, that the time will come, when men will not endure sound doctrine: but after their own lusts, heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; for I know (says St. Paul) that grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock: Yea, that of your ownselves also, shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them.
When this shall actually happen, it will immediately become the indispensible duty ofthe watchmen to cry aloud and spare not,--to mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which they have learned, and to avoid them; for they that are such, serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly: and by good words, and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple.
In such conjunctures, the representatives of Christ are loudly called upon to contend earnestly for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints,--to stand fast in that faith,--to quit themselves like men, and be strong--to set their faces like a flint, against those who speak evil of dignities and despise government.
 At such times, ministers are not to fear the face of man; but to speak the truth, though men thereby become their enemies: and if it must be so, to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and to spend till they are spent for the flock; though the more abundantly they love, the less they be loved.
If we take a view of our ESTABLISHED CHURCH, we shall find it needful for us, at this very time, to exhort one another, earnestly to contend for her faith; to exert every faculty to preserve her from declension, and to plead with God that she may yet hold fast that form of sound words, under which she hath flourished like a tree planted by the water side; insomuch that her faith hath been spoken of, and her manners admired, in all the world. Let all her ministers be very watchful, lest this church, which, after having been sublimed in the flames of martyrdom, hath been preserved through perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, and perils from her own countrymen; and which hath even been revived from shipwreck; should in these days, have her hedges undermined by false brethren, and the wild-boar from the wilderness let in to destroy her. May God, in his mercy, so over-rule every present, and every future attempt, to throw down her walls, that the event may prove, that they have not been built with untempered mortar; but that, on the contrary, she hath grown up unto him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.
 In this new world, we behold the church in an unparalleled situation; like a system without a centre. Her ministers, instead of moving like planets in their orbits, regularly receiving support and vigour from their proper sun, and by its superintending power, being kept in their proper track,--like comets they make a short visit to the sun; perform a sudden revolution, and disappear so soon, and travel, to such a distance, that they can scarcely be said to move within the sphere of its attraction.
If the present humiliating circumstances of the church be a punishment on her children, for departing from their first love to her; let them strive to conciliate the divine favour by penitence and supplication; let them remember from whence they are fallen, and repent and do their first works; lest Christ come quickly and remove their candlestick out of his place, as he once threatened the Church of Ephesus.
If this evil is brought upon us, by secret machinations, or open opposition, from without; let us remember, that as it is our duty to forgive all manner of private injuries, and therefore to pray "that it may please God to forgive our enemies, persecutors and slanderers"; so it is also our duty, when injuries are offerd to the church, to ward them off; or openly censure and oppose them, after the example of the apostle; [* See 3d Epistle John verse 10.] Seeing we are persuaded in our minds, that the GOVERNMENT of this Zion [15/16] is truly apostolical; her LITURGY purely primitive, and her FAITH, inevery respect, sound, and consonant with the word of God.--And may I add, that she only wants her enemies to examine her in all these respects, without prejudice or party zeal; to oblige them not only to approve of her government and worship; but even to prefer her as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood; to sit down under her shadow with great delight, and to acknowledge her fruit to be sweet to their taste.
Does our deficiency of discipline and ordinances, arise from any intricacies, which derive from the church's connexion with the civil government? As good subjects, we must bear it, being willing to be subject not only for wrath, but for conscience sake: As Christians, we should heartily implore, "that it may please God to illuminate the minds of the Bishops, and to endue the Lords of the Council, with grace, wisdom, and understanding; that these difficulties may at length be overcome, and a door opened for the admission of spiritual parents into this church. If the fathers CANNOT look back to the children for feebleness of hands; let us remember, that we are not therefore to forget our filial obligations to them, but rather to exert the little all of our juvenile strength, for our own support, in this feeble state; till it shall please God, from whom cometh every good gift, to visit us in mercy.
But this thought, if indulged, will lead us too far from our proper subject; let us return, therefore, and enquire what is the duty of the people [16/17] to their ministers. And here we must apply to revelation; for we are but of yesterday, and know nothing. Holy Scripture will inform us, that the people owe to those who are over them in the Lord.
First, MAINTENANCE, as a return for their labour. Secondly, OBEDIENCE, as to those who are placed over them by Christ. Thirdly, RESPECT and REVERENCE, as to Christ's messengers and representatives. Fourthly, GRATITUDE and LOVE, as to those who admonish them for their good, and whose heart's desire and prayer to God for them is, that they should be saved. Fifthly, CHARITY, inasmuch as ministers are men like themselves, and hold their treasure in earthen vessels.
First, If the ministers have consumed their youth and spent their substance, in acquiring the necessary exterior qualifications, for their sacred function, (the miraculous gift of tongues having ceased in the church;) and if, after they are admitted into it, they give their time and study to the people, labouring for them in the word and doctrine; offering up prayers to God without ceasing, for their temporal and eternal welfare; thus sowing to them spiritual things; is it much, if they communicate with them in their temporal things? Surely, he must be destitute of every idea of common justice, who will deny, that such labourers are worthy of their hire; and of every principle of Christianity, who will refuse them double honour, i e. a very liberal support; for the Lord hath ordained that they which preach the gospel, should live of the gospel.
 Secondly, The holy scriptures frequently speak of ministers as fathers, and of the people as children; implying the tender affection and authority of that relation, and the suitable return of love and filial obedience of this. Do the fathers then, in their collective body, make any synodical regulations for the edification of the church, in the ordering of her public worship? The children must submit to them, provided they be not repugnant to God's word; nor incompatible with that decency and order, which should always be conspicuous in the garments and ornaments of the spouse of Christ; for ministers have power, after the example of the apostles, to set these things in order. [* See 1 Cor. II, xxxiv. Chap. 14, xx. and Tit. I, v.]
It is strange, that any who enjoy the free use of the holy scriptures, should forget, that though miracles have long since ceased in the church, yet our Lord gave his ambassadors the power of binding and loosing, of remitting and retaining offences against it; and declared, that their sentence should be ratified in heaven. That the same Lord charges the people, to receive the gospel with the meekness of little children: That Saint Paul enjoins them to obey them that have the (spiritual) rule over them, and to submit themselves, walking worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called; in all lowliness and meekness, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: that Saint Peter requires them to lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envy, [18/19] and evil speaking; and to submit themselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: And to sum up the whole; that Christ himself declares, that they who hear his ministers, hear him, they who receive them, receive him; and that they who despise them, despise him; yea, that it shall be more tolerable, in the day of judgment, for Sodom, than for any city which shall refuse them: From all which it appears, that the people are to yield obedience to their ministers, in spiritual things, and that they who do it not, do act in direct opposition to the will of him who sent them. It is strange, I say, that men should forget these things, and plead tenderness of conscience, in extenuation of the guilt of schism; or in excuse for disturbing the peace of the church, which they are called upon by every motive civil and religious, to maintain; seeing they ought to know, that a conscience truly tender, will ever discover as much tenderness in giving, as in taking offence.
Thirdly, our Lord affirms, that as his father sent him, even so he sent his apostles, and their successors; for he promised to be with them, (in the execution of their office) to the end of the world. Therefore, as Christ acted in the name, and in the power of God; so, his lawful ministers are commissioned to act in the name, and in the power of Christ; for otherwise they are not sent as he was sent. But we find Saint Paul claimed this privilege and authority for himself and his brethren in the ministry, telling the Corinthians, that Jesus had [19/20] committed unto them the word of reconciliation, and that they were ambassadors for Christ; and therefore required their attention as tho’ God himself besought them. Saint Paul not only claimed, but actually exercised, this ministerial authority; for he called upon men, in Christ’s stead, to be reconciled to God; and, though he was absent in body, from the church at Corinth, yet he insists that he was present in Spirit, i.e. in the power of his office; and in virtue of this Spirit he judged and sentenced an offender, in their communion; and in the name and in the power of Jesus Christ, commanded that people, that when they should be come together, they should put that his sentence into immediate execution. In this character, as ambassador for Christ, the apostle St. John declares, that he will remember the deeds of Diotrephes, (who seems to have been an interloping, mischief-making teacher,) because he made disturbance in the church, through his pride, and prated against the proper governors of it. And Saint Peter brought terror upon the whole church, by the miraculous exercise of his apostolic power, in the case of Ananias and Saphira.
A character like this, once had, and still demands, respect and reverence; and let no man be backward in rendring them; for our Saviour hath promised, that whosoever shall give a cup of water to his messengers, because they belong to Christ, shall not lose his reward.
Fourthly, it is the common sense of all the world, that a man ought to be grateful to [20/21] that friend, by whose advice and assistance he rises above want, and makes an estate. Now every earthly possession is not only perishable in its nature, but unsatisfying in its use; for our hopes and desires are too big to be filled by the enjoyment of earthly delights: But the ministers of the gospel, make it their employment to counsel and aid men to procure an eternal inheritance, which fadeth not away, laid up for them in heaven; an inheritance, not only free from the common vicissitudes of time, but in its nature sufficient to fill every desire, and swallow up every hope.
If then, men are esteemed worthy of great reproach, when they neglect the physician, by whose skill and assiduity they have been preserved thro' a dangerous disease; or that friend, by whose interposition their reputations are saved from the foul breath of slander, or their lives from treachery or assassination; surely, they will deserve it more, if they forget those, whose study it is to relieve their spiritual sickness and distress; and to preserve them from the more dangerous assaults of their most formidable enemy. They then who sow unto us spiritual things, lay us under the most engaging ties of gratitude and love.
Fifthly, Tho' it is evident from the preceeding observations, that the ministers of Christ are his ambassadors to men; and that, as such, they should be esteemed very highly for the dignity of their office, and for their work's sake; yet it should be remembered, that they are but men, and consequently liable to errors, [21/22] both in judgment and practice, as well as others; and have therefore, a right to expect their actions should be viewed thro' the same medium of candour and charity, which every other man wishes for himself; and to have the same allowance, in their behalf, as the present state of human nature requires, from man to man.
Ministers are indeed honoured by their master with the custody of a great treasure; but this they have in earthen vessels; that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of men. It isthe duty of the people therefore to pray for them, thatthey may be blameless; that they may fight the good fight, and keep the faith; that they may finish their course with joy; and present their flocks, at the last day, to the great shepherd, as people zealous of good works.
From what hath been said it appears, that the spiritual necessities of fallen man, were such as he could not of himself supply; and that therefore, if he were at all restored to the divine favour, it must be by divine interposition; and that God in great pity to his creature, promised him felicity, in another state, after the execution of his sentence of death; in such a way as should be consistent with the nature of God, and the dignity of his laws.
We have seen also, that a mediator was appointed of such a character as made it possible for mercy and truth to meet together in God, and for righteousness and peace to kiss each other; so as to preserve the unchangeable attributes [22/23] of JEHOVAH in perfect harmony; that this mediator was preached by the prophets; his propitiatory sacrifice prefigured and kept in mind, by means of an external priesthood, and a ritual worship, of divine appointment, till the acceptable year of the Lord came, when that which was imperfect was done away, to make room for that which was perfect. We have seen that, at this time, God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten son into the world, that the world, thro' him, might be saved: that this divine messenger did also institute a visible church on earth, thro' which the life that was in him might become the light of men; and that the establishment of this church begat new relations among men, which brought with them moral obligations. These obligations, so far as they concern ministers and people reciprocally, have been already considered; but there are duties, which ministers owe to each other, as a fraternity; and also duties incumbent on the people among themselves, as being members of the church of Christ; which remain to be spoken to.
1st. Ministers should live in unity and godly love with each other, shewing in this respect a good example to the flock. They should, like Saint Paul, be careful that they push not themselves in, to build on another man’s foundation; [Rom. 15, xx.] lest they hinder each other in the peaceable discharge of their duty; but on the contrary, their endeavours should co-operate to lighten the burthens of each other, in their [23/24] common labour. They should consult together as often as opportunities offer, for the benefit of the whole church. They should unite all their strength, for the prevention and suppression of heresy and schism. They should countenance and support each other, in opposing and exposing false teachers and pretended prophets; striving to counteract the pernicious projects of those who love to fish in troubled waters; for they must not flee like hirelings when the wolf cometh. They must consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works. They must not despise the weaker brethren, nor offer adulation to the strong. They should not envy or malign each other; but forbearing one another in love, in all simplicity and godly sincerity, give honour to whom honour is due. They should exert all the force of their conjunct example and precept, to repress vice, in this age of dissipation; and in all things strive to keep a conscience void of offence towards the brotherhood.
IIdly. The duty of the people, as members of the body of Christ, is expressed in the text, by requiring them to be at peace among themselves; a matterin which the peace of the church is equally concerned.
As the ministers preach not themselves, but Jesus Christ, the people should not set themselves in opposition to them, conceiting themselves to be full, to be rich, to reign as kings, without them; counting them fools; but themselves wise in Christ; them weak; but themselves strong; them despicable; but themselves honourable. [24/25] They should not suffer themselves to be deluded, by designing men, into an opinion that every pragmatical youth hath more knowledge than the most reverend and learned divine; for such knowledge only puffeth up, and is, too often, (as Bishop Hopkins hath well observed [* Exposition of the Ten Commandments] ) "like the rickets, which enlarges the head, but contracts the breast," and destroys the symmetry of all the parts.
They who are strong among the people, should bear with the infirmities of the weak. They should emulate each other in piety and patience, exhorting one another daily, while it, is called to day. They should live in love, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another; doing all that in them lieth, to live peaceably with all men, and to let all their things be done with charity, remembering that without charity, they are nothing. They should administer cheerfully to the necessities of the poor brethren; pray for each other, and comfort each other; rendering to all their dues; tribute, to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honour, to whom honour.
Permit me now to apply what hath been said, first to myself and my clerical brethren; and then to my brethren of the laity.
Ist. Seeing, then, dearly beloved, that through the mercy of God, we have received this ministry, let us not faint; but renouncing the hidden things of dishonesty, let us not walk in craftiness; nor handle the word of God deceitfully: but by manifestation of the truth, let us commend [25/26] to every man's conscience, in the sight of God: that he who is of the contrary part, may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of us.
Let our conversation be in all things such as becometh the gospel of Christ. Let us comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, and be patient towards all men; and, brethren, if any man be overtaken in a fault, let us which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted. As every man hath received the gift, even so let us minister the same, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God: If any man speak; let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister; let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified, thro' Jesus Christ. Let us feed the flock of God, which is among us, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: neither as being Lords over God's heritage; but being ensamples to the flock; always considering, that they and we, tho' we be many, are but one body in Christ, and every one members one of another; that so, when the chief shepherd shall appear, we may receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Let us be instant in preaching the word, in season and out of season. Let us reprove, rebuke, and exhort, as with all authority, so also, with all long suffering and doctrine.
With respect to the form of sound words, which we have embraced and subscribed; let us hold fast that profession of our faith, without wavering; let us not follow a multitude to do evil; but stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving [26/27] together for the faith of the gospel, in nothing terrified by our adversaries; tho’ the times require, that we should be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Let us not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good; let us be stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.
2dly, To my brethren of the laity I say, and not I but the Lord; a new commandment give I unto you; that ye love one another; for he that loveth not his brother, is not of God. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another; for where envy and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. As the tree is known by its fruit; be ye well assured, brethren, that if any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue; that man's religion is vain. Laying therefore aside all guile, and hypocrisies, and envy; as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. Remember that it is your duty to "hold the faith, in unity of spirit, and in the bond of peace;" and that in proportion as ye depart from this rule, ye will deviate from the spirit of christianity. Saint Paul esteemed a spirit of separation, an infallible indication of irreligion, in any christian church. He says to the Corinthians, whereas there is among you, envying and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal? While one saith, I am of Paul, another, I am, of Apollos, are ye not carnal? Was Paul crucified [27/28] for you; or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? Think not then of men, above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one, against another. Saint Jude, warning the church, of Seducers, thinks his description of them sufficiently pointed, when he tells us, that they are murmurers, complainers; their mouth speaking great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration; and that these be they who separate themselves.
It is true indeed, that our Lord, and his apostles after him, knowing the frailty and perverseness of human nature, did foretell, that it was morally impossible but that offences would come, and divisions happen, in the church; but let no man plead these predictions, in excuse for interrupting her repose; for our Lord hath pronounced Woe unto that man thro' whom they come.
If the ministers of Christ endeavour to discharge their arduous duties, with zeal and faithfulness; (endeavour, I say, for who is sufficient for these things?) if they watch for the souls of the people; if they instruct them in the principles of true religion; if they visit the sick, and administer consolation to the wounded spirit; if they admonish men of the danger of a careless life, and propose to their minds the truly sublime pleasures of a life of holiness, to engage them to follow Christ; if they duly open the ordinances of the church, for the admission and establishment of believers; if they wrestle with God in prayer for them; if they employ all their power for the edification, and not the destruction of the people;--if this be the case--surely, he who shall return hatred for so much love, by making or fomenting divisions, should, according to the apostle's advice, be avoided, as an enemy to peace.
It is very pathetic and proper advice which the apostle gives to the Philippians; if there be, therefore, any consolation in Christ; if any comfort of love; if any fellowship of the spirit; if any bowels of mercies; fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; let nothing be done thro' strife or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves. If these rules be duly observed, ye will "henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, [29/30] and carried about, with every wind of doctrine, by the fleight of men; but will hold fast the faith, which hath been delivered to you by the sober ministers which are over you in the Lord," and strive to live up to the precepts which they give you.
"Finally, brethren, farewell; be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace be with you; and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love, one towards another and towards all men, even as we do towards you; but if ye bite and devour one another; take heed that ye be not consumed, one of another."
"Now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all men that are sanctified."
"Consider what I have said, and the Lord give you a right understanding in all things!"
Now to God the Father, &c.
F I N I S.
The Author’s great Distance from the Press, he hopes will be deemed a sufficient Apology for any typographical Errors in the foregoing Discourse.