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specification of divers offices, and the duties of them; the due observance of which is the peace and growth of the Church, makes all go on sweetly and fruitfully: but men are either presumptuously or preposterously busy out of their own station, or slothfully negligent in it; and both these, instead of edifying, are discomposing and destroying things.
Not to insist on the distinction of offices, it is evident, in all enumerations of this kind, the same word sometimes means divers things, and divers words the same things, as ministry may comprise all, though sometimes peculiar to deacons, sometimes taken for teachers or pastors: here it is general, and the particulars following distribute it; some are to teach, which is doctorial ; some to exhort, which is more pastoral ; some are to give, which is proper to deacons ; some have their whole charge to rule, as elders : some are particularly for attendance on the sick.
But in all, fidelity and sedulity are requisite: how high so ever men are placed, if they are unfaithful, the higher judgment awaits them; how low so ever, if thou be sincere and studious of thy duty, thou shalt sustain no loss by thy low station, but rather thy faithfulness will be the more set off by it; he that is faithful in little shall be made ruler over much. Oh! that we were more eat up with zeal of our Lord's House, and winning of souls, whom he deputes to that. Oh! that they that rule, would study more rule of their own houses, that shall go before, and your own hearts, that should be first of all. Alas! how shall men, whose passions and lusts rule them, well rule the house of God! Be afraid and wise ye that are called to that, and know at length what is so generally either unknown or unconsidered, the exemplary holiness required in your persons, and the diligent watchfulness over the flock of God. There are many debates, and troubles, and pains, about these our liberties, but little diligence in the use of them; congregations are still as full of impiety and profaneness as ever. Oh! take heed, lest we thus forfeit them after all they have cost, and provoke God to bereave us of them. Men are busy that we know are not friends to the Church of God; but oh! that we were more careful to be in good terms with him: If he be for us, who can be against us? It is no matter who be, he is too wise and too strong for them all.
Ver. 9. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that
which is evil, cleave to that which is good.
The whole sum of the law is love ; love to God, and love to man, these two contain all, and the former of the two contains the latter: love to God is the only true principle and spring of all due love to man; and all love that begins there, returns thither likewise, and ends there.
The engaging the whole mind and soul to the love of God, does not engross it so, that there should be no kind of love communicable to man; on the contrary, it is to refine it, that it may flow forth the purer and better. All love should be once called in to God, to be sublimated and purified there, and then set in its right channel and motion, so as man be loved in him and for him; not to impair our love to him, but indeed to extend and act it as he allows; and so to love ınan is to love God, that love taking its rise from him, and terminating in him; and in this circle is the proper motion of celestial divine love.
The duty, then, here meant and commanded, is this, that we love one another; and our love must be thus qualified, it must be unhypocritical and sincere; such as, though it may consist with, yet doth not wholly consist in, civilities of expression and behaviour, but a real benevolence of soul, and good will to all; a love, disposing readily to forgive evil, and do good upon all occasions.
Yet this is not such a tenderness of complacency, as to partake with any in any evil ways; Oh! no; abhorring that which is evil, flying from it with in
dignation, with a kind of antipathy. And thus it will be from the new nature in a Christian, the holy spirit of Christ, which cannot endure the unholiness or impurity of the world, but is chased away, as doves with noisome smells, or bees with smoke: this delicacy of spirit profane men laugh at, as a weak foolish meanness; but, fools as they are, they know not that it arises from that highest wisdom which is from above, which indeed is peaceable, but first is pure, and can admit of no peace nor agreement with any persons or things that are impure ; this is to be like the all-wise God, with whom wickedness cannot dwell; his pure eyes cannot pleasantly behold any iniquity.
Oh! much of the love of God would work more hatred of sin ; but if thy hatred of evil be right, know, it will begin at home, as we feel aversions and abhorrences most when the things are nearest us. It is not the upright nature of holiness to hate sin in others, and to hug it, or spare it in thyself, either the same kind of sin, or any other ; for if this abhorrence be right, it is against all sin, the whole, as natural contrarieties are, and it is most against it, where nearest in thyself; it is the true divine fire of zeal, kindled by the love of God, that burns up sin, but first that which is nearest it, as a fire in the hearth does, and so reaches what is further off. But if thy zeal fy most abroad upon others, it is an unruly disordered wild-fire, cracking and squibing up and down, good for nothing but to set houses and towns on fire.
Cleave to that which is good.] This expresses a vehement and inseparable affection ; loving and rejoicing in all the good thou seest in others ; desiring and seeking after all the good thou canst attain unto thyself; and more pleased with the society of godly persons than any other; such as will put thee and keep thee most in mind of thy home, and the way thither, and admonish and reduce thee from any declining steps ; their reproofs are more sweet to thee, than the laughter and Hattery of profane men, as one said to his master, “ Thou shalt find no staff hard enough to beat me from thee*.” Though they seem harsh to thee, yet wilt thou say, Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness"; and no opposition will drive thee from the truth of God, and his ways, which are only good, if thy heart be once glued by love and fastened to them; yea, thou wilt cleave the closer to it, the more thou art persecuted for the truth; and the more thou sufferest for it, 'wilt love it the better : the word that is used in marriage, of the husband cleaving to the wife, holds true in the soul once married to that which is good; all violence will be too weak to sever thee. Learn to know what this is that is truly good, to know the excellency and sweetness of holiness, and it will be impossible to part thy affection from it; but this is the reason why men are so soon shaken, and the slender hold they have removed, the superficies of the soul only, is tied to the outside of religion, by some external relationsand engagements, and those are a running knot, that easily slips. Few receive the truth in the love of it, and have their hearts united to Jesus Christ, who is indeed all that good we have to seek after, and to cleave to.
Ver. 10. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brother
ly love ; in honour preferring one another.
Now, in this way of holy spiritual affection, seeking the true good one of another, be kind in brotherly love, not upon design or particular interest, but by a natural propension ; such as in creatures to their young ; such a tenderness as is amongst men of nearest relations, parents and children, and brethren; and know that you are indeed brethren of the highest birth and parentage ; and so, beyond all brethren, Christians are obliged to love one another : alas! that in them, likewise, it should prove so unhappily true, that the love of brethren is rare“; that they
» Psal. cxli. 5.
και έκ το ξυλον ευρήσως, &c.
© Fratrum quoque gratia rara est,
should be so hardly drawn to acts of love, and so easily stirred to fits of anger and bitterness, one towards another. My beloved, are we Christians ? Oh! where is the spirit of Christ ? Where that great law of his, that badge of his followers, Love one another! that by which the Christians of the first times astonished the Pagans about them ? Yea, their very enemies and persecutors were amazed at it. It were well, and would be one considerable gain by our enemies, if their combinations and malice against the godly might drive them close together, and unite them more to one another in love.
In honour preferring one another.] Putting all possible respect on one another ; this not in ceremony or compliment, though these civilities, that are due, and done without feignedness or affectation, are not disallowed, yea, are, I conceive, included; but in matter of real esteem, each preferring one another; for though a man may see the weakness of those he converses with, yet passing, and what he can, covering these, he ought to take notice of what is good. All have something commendable, and none hath all ; so the meanest may in something be preferable to the highest; and Christian humility and charity will seek out for, and espy that, and for it put all respect upon them, that their quality and station is able to bear; and in this one should prevent another, and strive who shall do most in this kind, as a good and happy contention.
And the source of this is love to God, that so mortifies the heart to all outward advantages, that, further than a man is tied by place and calling, he would not receive, much less desire, any kind of respect from any, but had rather be slighted and disregarded. What cares a soul, enamoured with the glory to come, for the vain passing air of preference and honour here! That it can easily bate to any, and, so far as a man has any power of it, would put it upon others, far rather than own it himself; such an one can sweetly please himself in being the meanest in all companies where he comes, and passing for