« PreviousContinue »
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 be fore 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, Num. 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 fasting, 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 (dejure) 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 pre
sence renders the Church a congregation essentially distinct from all other societies and assemblies of men. 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.
'the Ministration of the Spi-. the Ministers of the Spirit,' assistance of the Spirit that
Hence the gospel is called rit;' and the ministers of it, 2 Cor. iii. 6.; for it is by the 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. 13-81. The state of the Church, from the ascension 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, and the propagation of his gos pel for which purpose various talents are distributed, the least of which is sufficient to encourage the possessor to its use and exercise. These talents are the gifts with which Christ, by his Spirit, endows his ministers for the service of the Church.
In like manner, it is said, Romans xii. 1-8. As we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having, therefore, gifts, differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy,' &c. &c. From this passage it is plain that the apostle is speaking about that edification of the Church which is necessary in all ages and conditions ;-that the principle of all administrations therein is gifts received from Christ by his Spirit;and that these gifts furnish not only ability for duty, but Bule and measure to every service to be performed in the Church. Every one is to act therein according to his gift,
and no otherwise.
These gifts, as they are bestowed to that end, are indispensably necessary to gospel administrations. These adninistrations are, in their nature, use, signification, and cacy, spiritual;-it is, therefore, by spiritual gifts
alone that they may be managed. Hence these things live and die together;-where the one is not, the other cannot be. We also plead the event, even in our own days. The Holy Spirit does continue to dispense spiritual gifts to those ministers of the gospel who are called to their office according to his mind and will. The opposition that is made hereto by profane scoffers, is not to be regarded. The experience of those who are humble and wise is appealed unto. Have they not an experience of this administration? Do they not find the presence of the Spirit himself, by his various gifts in those by whom spiritual things are administered to them? Have they not a proof of Christ speaking in them, by the assistance of his Spirit, making the word mighty unto all its proper ends? And the experience of those who have received these gifts,-of the special assistance which they enjoy in the exercise of them, may also be pleaded. Indeed, the profaneness of a contrary apprehension is intolerable among such as profess themselves Christians; for any to boast that they are sufficient of themselves for the dispensation of the gospel, by their own endowments, natural or acquired, without the peculiar gifts of the Holy Spirit, is a renunciation of all interest in the promises of Christ to the church, or the continuance of his presence therein. It will at length appear, that where the gifts of the Holy Ghost are excluded from their ministration, Christ himself is excluded, the Holy Spirit is excluded, the true edification of the church is at an end, and so are all the real concerns of the gospel!
It yet remains more particularly to point out, What are those gifts by which the Holy Ghost qualifies men for the gospel ministry; and how they may be attained and improved.
First, What are the gifts whereby men are fitted for the ministry?
The first great duty of the ministry is, the dispensation of the doctrine of the gospel. Hence it is given in charge to all the ministers of the gospel (Acts xx. 28. 1 Pet. v. 2. 1 Tim. i. 3. Chap. v. 17. iv. 13-16, &c.); for this is the principal means appointed by Christ for the edification of his church,-by which spiritual life is produced and preserved; and with respect to this duty, three things are required :
1. Wisdom, knowledge, or understanding in the mysteries of the gospel. Some imagine that this is very easily attained,-nothing requisite but what is equally necessary in the acquisition of any art or science: and it would be well if some persons would but take as much pains to obtain this knowledge as they do in learning other things, which will turn to little account. The cursory perusal of a few books is thought sufficient to make a man wise enough to become a minister; and more than a few persons undertake to be public teachers, who would scarcely be admitted as tolerable disciples in a well-ordered church: but more belongs to this wisdom than most men are aware of. Were the nature of it duly considered, probably some would not rush into that work as they do. It is such a comprehension of the scope and end of the Scripture, such an acquaintance with the system of doctrinal truths, in their rise, tendency, and use,-such a habit of mind in judging of spiritual things, and comparing them with each other, as enables men to make known to others the way of life, of faith, and obedience. Now, this is the special gift of the Holy Spirit :-He gives the word of wisdom (1 Cor. xii. 8); and where this is not, to look for a ministry, is to look for the living among the dead: and they will deceive their own souls in the end, as they do those of others in the mean time, who, on any other grounds, undertake to be preachers of the gospel.
2. Skill to divide the word aright, is requisite to the ministry of the gospel, and is also a peculiar gift of the Spirit. Study to approve thyself unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. ii. 15.)-both the former clauses depend on the latter. If a minister would be accepted of God,—if he would be found at the last day ( a workman that needs not to be ashamed,' he must take care to divide the word of truth which is committed to his dispensation in a due manner. This is, as a wise steward, taking out from those great stores of truth which are in the Scripture; and, as it were, cutting off a portion suitable to the various conditions of the different members of the family; and without this, a common course of preaching, without distinguishing persons and truths, however it may be gilded over with a flourish of oratory, is shame