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ter of the Acts of the Apostles; which in those days consisted especially in the proper distribution of the alms, supplied by the church, to the poor. But as other duties were connected with this office, to which the name of ministerial duties is now especially appropriated, the apostle directs both these orders of ministers, prophets and teachers, to attend to teaching, or the giving of instruction and information with respect to the doctrines of Christianity, together with exhortation in their discourses; or he that teacheth on teaching; or he that exhorteth on exhortation. Christian instruction is to be laid as the foundation, and is to be followed up with exhortation to the belief and practice of its doctrines and precepts, that the minds of the hearers may be more deeply impressed with them. So the apostle spoke of himself and his brethren in the ministry, as warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.61 The deacons were likewise to distribute the alms of the church with simplicity or impartiality. He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity. The overseer of the church, or bishop, was to be eminent for his diligence in watching over the charge committed to him, to set an example of vigilance in the station in which he was placed. He that ruleth, or pre

61 Col. i. 28.

sideth, with diligence. So the apostle exhorted the elders of the church who came to him at Miletus, Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.62

Having given these directions to the ministers of the church, the bishops, priests, and deacons, the apostle proceeds to exhort the Christian community at large, He that showeth mercy, let him do it with cheerfulness. Those who had it in their power to manifest kindness and compassion to the sick and needy, were to do so with readiness and pleasure, in order to show their gratitude to God for His goodness to them, in giving them all things richly to enjoy. They were to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.63 was no compulsory community of goods, I apprehend, in the primitive church; nothing further was required from converts to the Christian faith, than that which proceeded from their spontaneous liberality. Those who were disposed to show mercy and compassion to the poor, were directed to give every man according as he purposed in his heart; not grudgingly, or of necessity, but with cheerfulness, as taking pleasure in giving their superfluity, or what they thought they could


62 Acts xx. 28.

63 Acts xx. 35.

64 2 Cor. ix. 7.

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spare, to the poorer members of the church of Christ. They were to do this in singleness of heart, as to the Lord, knowing that God loveth a cheerful giver.65

Love to Christ, and to one another, as members of His mystical body, was the badge of their profession. This the apostle therefore exhorted them to cultivate. Let love be without dissimulation, or hypocrisy, not hollow, but sincere. Abhor that which is evil. Hate wickedness of every kind. This is the way to avoid the practice of it. Cleave to that which is good; as he said also to the Philippians, Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things, and do these things. And as to the exercise of love, they were to be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. They were to regard each other with the affection that subsists between the nearest relations in life, each treating the other with respect, esteem, and honour.

As to their general conduct, they were to be not slothful in business. In that which required diligence of them, as members of the community, they were with quietness to work, and eat their

65 2 Cor. ix. 7.

66 Phil. iv. 8.

own bread, to use their endeavours to obtain an honest livelihood; to provide for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. Yet in the midst of their worldly avocations, they were to be fervent in spirit, having their minds warmly alive to the things of God and heaven, recollecting that here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come,68 and serving the Lord, with all humility of mind, living as His servants, making it their first business to obey His will in all things.

As those who looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God,69 they were to be rejoicing in hope of the fulfilment to them of all the promises of God hereafter; to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And therefore to be patient in tribulation, in all the afflictions which they might be called to endure in this transitory world; and continuing instant in prayer; in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, making known their requests unto God.

With regard to the members of the church of Christ, the apostle directs them to distribute to the necessity of saints, to be given to hospitality. This might refer especially to those brethren who went about, as the apostles did, from place to place, to preach the gospel, or to communi

67 2 Cor. viii. 21. 68 Heb. xiii. 14.

69 Heb. xi. 10.

cate Christian instruction, and keep up intercourse between the different bodies of Christians in various parts of the world. A person who distinguished himself by such hospitality, is highly commended by St. John, who wrote to him, Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; which have borne witness of thy charity before the church; whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well; because that for His name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth.70

But Christian love is to be manifested not only to the brethren, but also to enemies. The apostle therefore proceeds, Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not. All kind of illwill and animosity is to be avoided towards all men; but sympathy is to be cultivated with regard to Christian brethren. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Unanimity and humility are also enjoined upon them. Be of the same mind one toward another; and this in order, as the apostle afterwards observes, That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." They were not to seek their own exaltation or preeminence; Mind not high things, but condescend

70 3 John 5-8.

71 Romans xv. 6.

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