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"that he might ordain elders in every city." If the eldership might be assumed at pleasure, or conferred by private hands, why should Titus be left in Crete to ordain elders?
Christ gave pastors and teachers, not only to preach his gospel, but to train up and prepare holy men for the same work. They who undertake this sacred work should be saints; but it is not every saint who is qualified for it. There must be a previous education. They who desire the ministerial office should be fitted for it under the instructions, and sent forth under the recommendations of teachers already in office. This our apostle plainly signifies, when he says, Christ gave apostles, prophets and teachers, at his ascension," in order to the perfecting of saints for the work of the ministry."
We find, in scripture, no instance of ordination to the ministerial office, by any other than elders of churches. Every church has a right to choose her own minister; but his induction into office must be by the hands of the presbytery. When some were to be appointed to preside over the church stock, and the daily ministrations to the poor, the apostles referred the choice of the persons to the multitude of the disciples; but the ordination they reserved to themselves. They said, "Look ye out seven men of honest report— whom we may appoint over this business."
As the approbation of elders was necessary to authorise men to preach the gospel, so we find, that the apostles, for the prevention of fraud and imposition, sent forth their preachers with written testimonials. This appears from the history of the Acts and from Paul's epistles, to have been an uniform practice. And the churches were never to receive a stranger, in the capacity of a minister, unless he could exhibit some evidence, that he was not only a Christian, but a minister, approved of his brethren. It was a sign of great degeneracy in the church of Thyatira, that she suffer
ed those to teach who said they were prophets, but brought no credentials of their prophetic character. The church of Ephesus, on the contrary, was commended, because she could not bear them who were evil; but tried them, who said they were apostles, and were not, and found them liars.
III. Ministers are to be men endued with gifts suitable to the work to which they are called.
As in the early days of the gospel, public teachers were called to extraordinary services, so they were endued with extraordinary gifts: But these gifts were only for a season. The Apostle says, "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge," immediately inspired knowledge, "it shall vanish away."
Since the gospel is fully established, the miracles which attended its first publication are no longer of use; and since it communicates to us all things, which pertain to life and godliness, there is no farther need of inspiration. The Apostle tells Timothy, that the scriptures are able to make the man of God perfect, wise to salvation, and furnished unto every good work.
But as the business of a minister is to teach men the things which Christ has commanded in the holy scriptures, so it is necessary that he himself should be fully instructed in them. One who undertakes to teach others, should well understand, firmly believe, ardently love, and practically exemplify the religion which he teaches. He should not be a novice; but one who holds fast the faithful word, as he has been taught; T and one who by sound doctrine is able to exhort and to convince gainsayers. He should be apt to teach, having not only a good knowledge, but an easy faculty of communicating to others the knowledge which he has in the doctrines and dutics of the gospel. That he may be able rightly to divide the word of truth, he
must apply himself to study, and give attendance to reading.
In the early days of the gospel, as there were evangelists, who went forth to preach the gospel, where Christ had not been named; so there were pastors and teachers, who had the immediate care of churches al ready established. These the apostle charges to take heed to the flocks, over which they were made overseers. Ministers are not to enter into each other's labors, but to move within their respective measures and lines.
IV. The great object of the gospel ministry is the building up of the church of Christ. When he as cended, he gave pastors and teachers" for the edi. fying of his body."
The church is edified, when she increases by the addition of new members; and when she becomes more holy by the religious improvements of her present members. In both these ways, the ministry is intended for the edification of the church.
Ministers should so speak the word, as to convince gainsayers, awaken the careless, reclaim the erroneous, instruct the ignorant, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing them who oppose themselves; if peradventure God will give them repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth, that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil."
You will observe; the apostle expresses the success of the gospel by the phrase of edifying Christ's body, because wherever his religion prevails in men's hearts, there will be a disposition to come within his church and attend on his ordinances. Real converts will not be indifferent to the edification of Christ's house; much less will they feel a desire to pull it down. They will not rend and divide Christ's body; but seek to preserve its soundness and promote its growth. They
who, in the Apostle's days were converted to the faith of the gospel, immediately joined themselves to the Lord. The increase and union of the church are the immediate effects of a real revival of religion.
The ministry is designed for the improvement of saints, as well as for the conversion of sinners. They who view themselves as regenerate, are not to supposé,. they have already attained, but they are to go on to perfection. For this end they are to attend on the appointed ministration of the word; and to this end the ministration of it should be adapted. The apostles warned every man, and taught every man in all wis.. dom, that they might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
Pastors and teachers are given for the edifying of Christ's body, "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
"There is one faith;" and we should all come to such a good understanding in the doctrines of Christ, as to have this one-this like precious faith; or, if we differ in sentiment, still to maintain that unity of affection which is the fruit of faith. We should all mind one and the same grand object, the common salvation.
Christians may have various opinions about the less important doctrines of religion; but true faith has the same influence in all. It works by love, and purifies the heart. So far, therefore, as we walk together in ⚫mutual peace and love, and in obedience to our common Lord, we may be said to have come to the unity of the faith.
The apostle mentions also the unity of the knowledge of Christ. All Christians profess to believe in him as their teacher and Saviour. But unless this profession is accompanied with a love of his precepts and a conformity to his example, it avails us nothing.
"Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" To come to the knowledge of Christ, is to have the same mind as was in him, and to walk as he walked. So far as we agree in that holy temper and life, which his example exhibits, and his gospel requires, we come to the unity of the knowledge of him.
As our conformity to Christ will not be perfect in this world, we never must rest in attainments already made, but continually aspire to the character of a perfect man-to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. We must labor to become Christians of full maturity and ripeness in all those heavenly graces which are derived from him. The apostle says of himself, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." He adds, "Let us, as many as are perfect, be thus minded."
1. Our subject should lead us to adore the wisdom of God in the provision made for our edification in knowledge and holiness.
He has given apostles and prophets, pastors and teachers, for the edifying of the body of Christ. He has adapted his gifts to different conditions of the church. In its first ages there were apostles; in its ordinary state there are pastors. Since the public ministration of the word is an institution of Christ, designed for the happiness of fallen men, How inexcusable are they who despise it? If this is a mean of converting sinners; they who are conscious of their impenitent and guilty state, should seek the grace and mercy of God for their renovation and forgiveness, by a faithful attendance on this institution. If they put the word of God from them, they judge themselves unworthy of eternal life. If the ministry is designed for the improvement of saints in knowledge and faith, let