« FöregåendeFortsätt »
in the family, who little regard the father that begat them, or the mother that bare them; so it is not to be wondered, that there are unnatural children in the church, that reject those by whose means they have got any acquaintance with religion that they have, and cast reproaches on the breasts of ordinances, in sucking of which they grew up.
3. Diligent attendance on ordinances of all sorts dispensed by them, as word, sacraments, catechising, &c. Heb. x, 25. Luke x, 16. In vain do these stars shine, if there be none to receive their light. The same word that obliges ministers to dispense ordinances, must needs oblige people to attend them; and that even though they may lie at a considerable distance from them, 2 Kings iv. 22, 23. The woman there mentioned had sixteen miles to go to the man of God.
4. Submission to them in things pertaining to their office, Heb. xiii. 17. submitting to discipline exercised by them in the name of Christ; to their instructions, cordially receiving them from the word; to their reproofs, whether public or private; to their exhortations and charges, wherein they hold forth to you the will of God, ib. Jam. i. 21. They who do otherwise, sin against their own souls, as well as discourage ministers by their untractableness, and do but lay up witnesses against themselves, to be led against them at the great day. It is not the hearers of the word, but the doors thereof, that are justified. It will be no advantage to you to have heard, but never complied.
5. Praying for them, 1 Thess. v. 25. The work in which they are engaged is a great work. Who is sufficient for it? They have need of prayers for them. Your own interest may engage you to it. They may do their work, but the success of it must be fetched from heaven by prayer, 1 Cor. x. 4. We have the sword, but how shall we get the arm? We may compass Jericho, and give the shout; but it is the power of God that must make the walls to fall. Like Gideon's three hundred men, we may bear the lamps in our empty pitchers, blow with the trumpet, and the earthen pitchers may be broken in the cause, but God only can do the work, Judges vii.
6. People should be very tender of the reputation of ministers; it being a tender thing, so much interwoven with the success of the gospel. The Spirit of God, seeing that the devil would be very ready to mark at their reputation in a VOL. III. D
special manner, by a wicked world and false brethren, has set a double hedge about it, 1 Tim. v. 19. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.' So that ye ought not only not to slander them, but to be loath to receive those slanders vented by others against them, believing nothing therein without proof.
7. Lastly, Maintenance. This by divine right is due from people to their ministers, 1 Cor. ix. 14.
Secondly, I shall shew the duty of ministers to their people, 1. They owe tender love to the souls of their people.They should be full of bowels towards them, 1 Thess. ii. 7, 8. which should appear in their preaching, and all parts of their work.
2. Diligent and faithful dispensing of all gospel-ordinances to them, word, sacraments, &c. It is a labour, and they must take it so, willing to spend and be spent in the service of their Lord, and of precious souls. And indeed they are as lighted candles, which while they shine waste, 2 Tim. iv. 2. 1 Thess. ii. 3, 4.
3. Behaving so as they may be examples of holiness and tenderness, Tit. ii. 7. for precept, without example, will have little influence.
4. Watching over their flocks, that being ready to be acquainted with their state and case, they may be in capacity to instruct, comfort, and admonish them, &c. as the case requires, Heb. xiii. 7.
5. Lastly, Praying for them, Eph. i. 15, 16.
SECONDLY, I come to shew the duties of ruling elders and the people over whom they are appointed overseers. And as we are this day to ordain some to that office, I shall discourse of this subject a little more fully than I would otherwise have done in a catechetical exercise. I propose to discourse on this occasion, from that text.
1 TIM. V. 17.-Let the elders that rule well be counted wor thy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
THE church is the kingdom of Christ, and the holy scriptures are the book of the manner of the kingdom. There the institution of church officers, their work, and the duties owing them by others, are only to be found. And whatever
officers of the church men pretend to be, if their office be not found there, they have no due call to their work, but are usurpers and intruders.
In the words read, the apostle gives us the work assigned by Jesus Christ to elders of the church, and what is due for it unto them from the church: Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour. Here he distinguishes two sorts of elders of the church.
1. Ruling elders. The word elder originally is a name of age; but here, and in many other places of scripture, it is evident, that it is the name of an office, being the name of ruling church-officers, because usually taken out of the elder sort, or that, though of the younger, yet they ought to be men of gravity and authority. Here consider,
(1.) The work of these elders, from whence their designation is taken. It is to rule, and govern the church, as those who are set over it by the Lord. For the Lord has not left his church in a state of anarchy and confusion, but appointed some to rule, and others to be ruled.
(2.) How they ought to manage their work, well; i. e. rightly, worthily, according to the rules prescribed them by Christ, the chief bishop.
(3.) What is due from the church to those who so manage it; double, i, c, abundant honour. This honour implies two things, viz (1.) Maintenance. This is evident from ver. 18. (2.) Esteem and reputation, Phil. ii. 29.
Episcopalians, as they have given us the prelate, an officer whom Christ never appointed, so they rob us of the ruling elder, which the text so plainly discovers to be a church-officer of divine institution. To evite the force of which, they turn this elder into various shapes; but in vain. For by the elders that rule well, cannot be understood superannuated ministers, as some say; for it is evident that the preaching elder is to have more honour than this elder, But it is shocking to the common sense of the people of God, to honour and esteem a young laborious minister more than an old one, who has spent his strength in the work. Nor by them are to be understood magistrates as others say; for at this time they were not so much as members of the church. Nor are deacons meant hereby, as others say; for their work is not to rule the church, but to serve tables, Acts vi. 2. Nor are we to understand by them the fixed pastors of flocks,
in opposition to those that travelled up and down to visit and confirm the churches, whom they understand by those that labour, namely, to weariness, in the last part of the verse. For the work of the fixed pastor is such a labour too, 1 Thess. v. 12. Nor yet such as were unfit for preaching yet administered the sacraments, prayed with the church, and privately admonished the unruly. But such an officer, I am sure, is unknown to the Bible. It remains, then, that they are those whom we call ruling elders, whose work is, as in the text, to govern the church, but not to preach the word; and therefore they are distinguished from preaching elders, as is plain from the particle especially; as Phil. iv. 24. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Cæsar's household.' Chiefly is the same word in the Greek that is here rendered especially; and it plainly implies, that thère were some saints at Rome not of Caesar's household. So here are described some elders that rule well, and do not las bour in word and doctrine:
2. Preaching elders: Their work is to preach the gospel to labour in the word and doctrine. To them in a special manner, by the text, double honour is due, i, e. maintenance and respect, forasmuch as their office is greater and more honourable, not only in ruling of the church, as the others do, but preaching of the gospel besides. Where, by the by we may see, that if Paul's doctrine had place in the world, the preaching parish-minister would have more honour than the non-preaching bishop, who contents himself with ruling but puts not his shoulders to the labour in the word and doctrine. Maintenance, we see, is due to both sort of elders, by divine right. But it is no sin for either to quit their right in certain circumstances. And with us the ruling elders are allowed no maintenance, but the preaching elders are. The reason of this is the poverty of the church that cannot bear it ; and that our ruling elders are not taken off their secular employments, as ministers are.
The doctrine deducible from the text is,
DOCT. Ruling elders rightly discharging their duty, are worthy of abundant honour.'
Having sufficiently cleared the divine institution of ruling elders from the text, which is clear also from Rom. xii. 8. 1 Cor. xii. 28. I shall, in prosecution of the doctrine, shew,
1. What is the duty of these officers.
II. What it is to discharge the duties of that office well. III. What is the honour that people owe to their ruling elders.
I. I am to shew what is the duty of these officers.
The apostle tells us in the general, that their work as ruling elders is to rule the church. The keys of jurisdiction and government are not given to one, but to the unity of church-officers acting together; so, together with the pastor, they are to rule the congregation. God setting a minister in a congregation, says to him, It is not meet the manshould be alone, I will make him an help meet for him.And a society of diligent and faithful elders are a meet help indeed. And without that the weight of a congregation is too heavy for the shoulders of one, as Exod. xviii. 18. But more particularly,
1. They are to be careful overseers of the manners of the people. Hence the apostle says to the elders of Ephesus, Acts XX. 28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God.' And as ministers are a mouth to the church, so they are to be instead of eyes: And therefore it is necessary, for the good of a congrega tion, that there be of them in every corner. For they are truly watchmen, whom the Holy Ghost has set over the flock, as well as ministers are. And they ought to acquaint themselves with the way of the people, that so they may encourage those that do well, and warn those that do evil. And unless elders do so, and communicate their help in that matter to the pastor, he may be long in a congregation, and yet be a stranger to many under his charge; and so ministerial visitations may be very useless.
2. Though they are not to preach the word, yet they aré to apply the word privately to people by virtue of their office. They are to have a mouth to speak, as well as eyes to take heed to the flock of God, 1 Tim. iii. 2. Apt to teach.” There is a word pat to this purpose, 1 Thess. v. 12.-3 Are over you, and admonish you.' It is the same word in our text. The word admonish there used, is far from expressing the full meaning of the word the Holy Ghost useth here,