RPM, Volume 18, Number 31, July 24 to July 30, 2016

Sermons on John 17

Sermon XXXI

By Thomas Manton

As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.— John 18:18.

Secondly, I come to the mission of the apostles, 'So hare I sent them into the world, as thou hast sent me.' The words intimate a comparison between God's sending of Christ into the world, and Christ's sending the apostles into the world.

But how doth the comparison hold good? Christ was sent to redeem, they to preach; the apostles were no redeemers. Christ was sent, not only as a prophet, but as a priest, as we have seen before. And again, for the manner, Christ was sent by being incarnate, God-man in one person, he must be man, if sent; but they were men, and therefore there is a difference. Christ was sent as the supreme officer of the church, as God with original authority, they as ministers and servants. Christ could teach immediately, outwardly by his word, inwardly by his Spirit; they only outwardly. How then could it be raid, 'As thou hast sent me into the world, so have I sent them into the world'?

I answer — There is an \~omoiothv\~, not an \~isothv\~, some likeness, but not an equality. As the union of the allies is compared with the unity of the Trinity, so the mission of the apostles with the mission of Christ. The similitude holdeth in several things. They were authorised ministers and officers of the church, as Christ was. Christ was authorised by God, and the apostles by Christ; they were his deputies and representatives, as he was God's; that is the notion of apostle, or one sent, in the New Testament; not as bare messengers, but as proxies (see Hammond); and we read of 'messengers of the churches,' ap?st????, the church's deputies and representatives. Yea, they had [Pg. 471] power to send others, as Christ had. The world was bound to acknowledge them for such. To despise Christ was to despise God, whose deputy he was; and to despise them was to despise Christ; to hear them was to hear Christ, and to hear Christ was to hear God: Mat. x. 40, 'He that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me;' and Luke x. 16, 'He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.'

But why doth Christ urge this argument in this place,' They were cent,' and 'sent as I was sent'?

I answer—It is an argument as to God, and it is a ground of hope to the apostles. An argument fit to be urged to God in prayer,' they are sent as I was.' Thou didst send me to redeem the world out of thy grace, and they are sent to preach this redemption, and therefore it is fit they should be preserved and sanctified. It is a fit ground of hope for the apostles to meditate upon; they were sent as Christ was. If they be in great poverty, want the help and assistance of the world, so did Christ All God's witnesses prophesy in sackcloth.

Well, then, here we have the first rise of a gospel ministry. Christ was sent by God, the apostles by Christ, and others are their successors, authorised and sent by them.

The points which I shall handle are two:

1. The necessity of a call to the ministry.

2. The dignity of those that are so called. Both are implied in the word sent.

Before I enter upon the discussion, let none take offence that I apply that to the ministry in general which is spoken of the apostles in the text,' I have sent them;' which I do for two reasons:

1. Partly because we may compare ordinary ministers and the Apostles together, if their mission be compared with Christ's. As Christ's mission had something extraordinary and peculiar, by which it was distinguished from the mission of the apostles, so the apostles' mission hath something peculiar; but both agree in this, that they must be sent; this they have in common: Rom. x. 14,' How can they preach except they be sent? 'Mark, the apostles were sent as Christ was sent (though Christ was sent to redeem, as well as to prophesy and teach), and so ministers are sent; they must be authorised, as well his the apostles, though the apostles had somewhat peculiar and proper to that office, as the infallibility of doctrine, power of working miracles, the largeness of their circuit, which was the whole world, whereas ordinary ministers are set over one church, and fastened to one place. Again, the apostles were appointed to write scriptures, and pastors and teachers to apply scripture. The apostles were authorised by Christ himself, received their call immediately from his mouth; ordinary ministers are called by a power derived; yet they both agree in this, that they serve in the work of the gospel, and that they are officers that must be called and sent; as not only they are the king's officers, who are immediately appointed by the king, but those also that are appointed by subordinate powers.

2. Partly because a part of the comparison lieth in this, that as Christ was sent by God, and had power to call others, so the apostles [Pg. 472] were sent by Christ, and had a power to send and constitute others, and eo the succession was to continue. That this was a part of their power appeareth, because Christ, when he gave them their commission, saith, 'He will be with them to the end of the world.' Mat. xxviii. 20; that· is, with them in their persons and their successors, who are taken into the same patent and commission, and have a power to call others to the eud of the world; and therefore the 'apostles ordained elders ?a every city,' Acts xiv. 23; and those elders ordained others, as the apostle giveth leave to Titus so to do: Titus i. 5, 'For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.' Christ was not only sent to be a prophet himself, but to authorise others; so the apostles not only were sent to preach the gospel themselves, but to authorise others, and they others, even to the end of the world.

This being premised, I come to handle

First, The necessity of a call. That none can enter upon this work, or upon the office of the ministry, without a call, is, I suppose, out of controversy. All the difficulty will be to show you what a call is. Gifts merely do not make a call, but something else. Now a call is either extraordinary or ordinary.

1. Extraordinary, and that is an immediate call from God himself, by voice, vision, or oracle, or by Christ in person. So was Moses called to his office; so the Baptist, so the apostles; and so also was Paul called, because he not seen Christ in person, which it seemeth was necessary to the call of an apostle; he was called by Christ appearing from heaven; and therefore he saith, Gal. i. 1, 'Paul an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ,' Ac. Now this extraordinary call may be pretended, but cannot be expected in these latter days. Many have pretended to an extraordinary call Eusebius in his sixth book tells us of some that pretended they had a book sent from heaven, according to which they were to instruct their disciples; and Sozomen speaketh of a monk that pretended that the instruction that he offered to the church was written by an angel; and since in all ages, especially in ours, do men pretend to illuminations, teachings, and voices within. Thus it may be pretended, but it cannot be expected; for an immediate extraordinary calling hath only place in establishing a new doctrine; but now the canon of faith is closed up: 'This doctrine of the kingdom is to be preached to all nations, till the end come,' Mat. xxiv. 14. And the ordinances of the church are settled, and put into a stated course till Christ come; and therefore we cannot reasonably expect new miracles and new calla And besides, every extraordinary call is manifested by some vision, miracle, or special effect and gift of the Holy Ghost, by which the truth of that calling may be made out to others, and hath been always sealed with, extraordinary effects, which are ceased in these days.

2. The ordinary call then is that which we should chiefly regards and that is twofold—either inward or outward.

[1.] The inward calling, that is to be regarded in the first place. Be sure you be ministers of Christ's making. There can be no true tailing unless you see God in it as well as men. And the Lord taketh [Pg. 473] it to be his prerogative to bestow officers upon the church, evangelistam; 'I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings,' Isa. xli. 27. He did not only appoint the office, but doth design the persons. Now, what is this inward call? I answer — God calleth us when he maketh us able and willing; the inclination and the ability is from God. The inclination: 'He thrusts out labourers into his harvest,' Mat ix. 38; and the ability: 'He makes us able ministers of the New Testament,' 2 Cor. iii. 6; and both these are required of us. Ability there must be. Look, as princes count it a point of honour, when they send out ambassadors to foreign nations, to employ those that are fit, so it is for the honour of God that all his messengers should be gifted and fitted. Gifts and abilities are our letters of credence that we bring to the world, that we are called of God and authorised to this work. Certainly if the Spirit of God fitted Bezaleel and Aholiab for the material work of the tabernacle, much more doth spiritual work require proportionate abilities. It is true there is a latitude and difference in the degree of abilities, but all that can look upon themselves as. called of God must be able and apt to teach. The apostle took this for a call: 1 Tim. i. 12, 'I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.' If ever God put us into the ministry, he first enableth us, and bestows suitable gifts and graces. But that is not all; a man must be willing too: 1 Tim. iii. 1, 'If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.' There must be a strong inclination, that carries us out to such a course of life, if the Lord shall give us a call; yea, in some cases, in the conscience of the inward call, a man may offer himself, his gifts to trial, and his person to acceptance, so it be done modestly, and not in a vainglorious confidence. As Antisthenes said in the case of magistracy, that a man should deal with magistracy as with fire; a man would not come too near the fire lest he burn himself; nor stand at too great a distance, lest he grow stiff with cold; so of the ministry, a man must not be too forward nor too backward. In some cases it is good to expect the fair invitation of providence; an inclination there must be, if the Lord vouchsafe a call. In some cases we may offer ourselves to the acceptation of the church, if the Lord see fit that we be chosen. But to return; he hath the inward call who is able and willing; I mean upon spiritual grounds, having first counted the charges, difficulties, duties, dangers of this calling. Well, then, if men be willing, but not fit, they are not called of God; or if fit, yet not willing, they have not warrant enough to undergo the difficulty; much more they that are neither fit nor willing, but only thrust themselves upon the office by the carnal importunity of friends, or corrupt aims at honour and secular advantage. Thus you see what the inward call is.

[2.] There is an outward call. The inward call is not enough; to preserve order in the church, an outward call is necessary. As Peter, Acts x., was called of God to go to Cornelius; and then, besides that, he had a call from Cornelius himself. So must we, having an inward call from the Spirit, expect an outward calling from the church, otherwise we cannot lawfully be admitted to the exercise of such an office and function. As in the Old Testament, the tribe of Levi and house [Pg. 474] of Aaron were by God appointed to the service of the altar, yet none could exercise the calling of a Levite, or serve as a high priest, till lie was anointed and purified by the church: Exod. xxviii. 3, 'And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to me in the priest's office.' The like is repeated, Num. iii. 3. So the ministers of the gospel, though called by God, must have their external separation, and setting apart to that work by the church; as the Holy Ghost saith, Acts xiii. 2, 'Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.' Mark, the Spirit of God had chosen them, and yet calls upon the church, the elders of Antioch, to separate them for the work of the ministry. But now, in what order this is to be done, and by whom this separation is to be made, is the great controversy. Politicians, and with them Erastians, make it to be the magistrate's right; the Anabaptists, with some others, make it the people's right; papists and others give it to the bishops; others, to presbyters and elders of the church. To examine every claim at large would take up a great deal of time; let us compound the difference as well as we can. In short, there are three pretenders to the power of the external call—the people, the elders, the magistrate; and we may divide it among them, and give every one their share, and then the call will be complete. I say, there are but three pretenders, for we need not to speak of the bishops' plea, for bishops, and presbyters, or elders, in the scripture are all one. The apostle writes 'to the bishops and deacons at Philippi,' Phil, i. 1. The apostle taketh notice of no other officer in that church. And Chrysostom's gloss is of weight, What is the reason, the apostle saith to bishops? were there more than one of one city? The reason is, saith he, because bishops and elders or presbyters are the same. So when the apostle bids Titus, Titus i. 5, 6, 'Ordain elders in every city, if any be blameless,' &c., he adds, ver. 7, 'For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God.' To lay aside this, then, we shall speak to the claim of the people, the elders, and the magistrate, and give every one its due; for in the external call there are three parts— election, ordination, and confirmation. Election, that belongeth to the people; ordination, which standeth in examination of life and doctrine, together with authoritative mission, that is the right of the presbytery; and confirmation, that belongs to the magistrate.

(1.) Election is the people's right This appeareth because their consent and suffrage is required in all offices, even in the choice of an apostle. Acts i. 15,26, the one hundred and twenty nominate Matthias in the room of Judas, and God decided it by lot; and in the choice of a deacon: Acts vi. 3,' Look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost,' Ac.; and of an elder: Acts xiv. 23, 'And when they had ordained them, \~cifotonhsanta\~, elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord.' I know I tread upon thorns, but yet this seemeth to have been the constant practice of the church in after ages. Leo the great, in an epistle of his, is for vota civium, the vote of the people, m the election of ministers. And Cyprian more clearly before him, lib. i. epist. 4, VidemuB de authoritate divina descenders vt eacerdos, plebe [Pg. 475] prcesente, sub omnium ocults deligatur, etdignus afque idonetts publico judicio ac tesltmonio comprobetur—The minister should be propounded to the people, and approved by their vote and suffrage. And just before, Plebs ilia maxtme habet potestatem vd digendi dignos sacerdotes, vel indtgnos recusandi—The people have a power to choose those that are worthy, and refuse those that are unworthy. Certainly all tillow some consent to the people, a full use of the judgment of discretion 'to try the spirits.' 1 John iv. 1, and to distinguish 'the voice of a stranger from the voice of a shepherd,' John x. 5. It seemeth to be most agreeable to scripture that the people should by suffrage profound the person, and then he is to be authoritatively determined by the presbytery: Acts vi. 3, 'Look out from among you seven men of honest report, &c., whom we may appoint over this business.' The apostles did not take to themselves an absolute power, but referred the nomination to the people, though still they reserve the determination and ordination to themselves. Election is the people's right, because he is chosen for their good; hut ordination is the elders' right, because that is done in the name of Christ, and therefore must be done by his deputies and proxies, as an evidence that the matter is confirmed by Christ, and that he accepts him for his servant in the work of the ministry. Christ himself, as head of the church, had his ordination from God, and his election from the church. God hath appointed him to be head of the church: Eph. i. 22, 'And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.' And die church ratifies it by her consent: Hosea i. 11, 'Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head,' Ac. And it is notable that in Paul's vision the call is managed by a man of Macedonia, that represented the people of that place: Acts xvi. 9, 'A vision appeared to Paul in the night: there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.' Not Go thou, but Come over and help us.

(2.) Ordination, which consists in the trial of gifts and authoritative commission, that is the right of the elders. That appeareth, because to them is the power of the keys given for the people's good; and Acts xiii. 2, 'The Holy Ghost saith, Separate to me Paul and Barnabas unto the work whereunto I have called them.' Who were those that were to separate? They were prophets and teachers of Antioch, as appeareth ver. 1. And elsewhere the scripture speaketh of 'the laying on of the hands of the presbytery,' 1 Tim. iv. 14. Approbation of doctrine and life is the elders' right, who are best able to judge of men's fitness and abilities. To Titus, an officer, is this given: Titus i. 5, 6, 'To ordain elders in every city: if any be blameless, the husband of one wife,' &c. And then for imposition of hands, it is a custom most conform to apostolical practice; it is not founded on a precept, but only on apostolical practice.

(3.) Confirmation is the magistrate's right The Christian magistrate hath his share, to see that all things are done orderly by the people and elders. Now magistrates are concerned, not only as principal members of the church, and of the first rank, but as episcopt ad extra, as nursing fathers, to whom care and inspection belongeth, that [Pg. 476] all things be done decently, and according to the mind and will of God. The Christian magistrate is custos utriusque tabulce. And upon this ground would the apostle have us to pray for the conversion of magistrates, that they might be converted from paganism: 1 Tim. ii. 2, 'That under them we may lead quiet and peaceable lives, in all godliness and honesty.' The magistrate is not. only to interpose when differences arise about honesty, but also about godliness; there iajudex, index, vindex. In all controversies the word is judex, in it the mind and win of God is declared; the minister is index, it is his office to preserve knowledge, and out of the word of God to show his mind and will; and the magistrate is vindex, he is to see that duty be not neglected, that the administrations of the church be not ill managed, and curried on contrary to Christ's appointment, because he is the 'nursing father of the church,' Isa. xlix. 23. Again, the magistrate is concerned as the head of the commonwealth, and so to consider who shall be encouraged by public maintenance, and allowed to preach publicly without disturbance, the commonwealth being concerned in it. And there wants not precedents in scripture for this. David and Solomon did exercise such a power. Solomon deposed Abiathar: 1 Kings ii. 26, 'And to Abiathar the priest said the king, Get thee to Anathoth, unto thine own fields, for thou art worthy of death,' &c. And 'Jehoshaphat sent Levites and priests to teach in every city,' 2 Chron. xvii. 8,9. And as soon as magistrates turned Christian in after, they were much concerned in the votes and suffrages of the ch. The power of princes herein hath been much debated, especially by those that have pleaded the rights of princes against the encroachment of the Romish synagogue, who abundantly prove that the election of the pope himself is not valid without the consent of the emperor. So in ancienter history, Socrates showeth that when Ambrose was chosen by the people of Milan, the election was confirmed by the Roman emperor, lib. iv. cap. 25. And Theodoret showeth that when Athanasius had nominated one Peter for his successor, and the people had given consent, they solemnly asked the magistrate's leave and confirmation. 1 might heap up many other instances, but let these suffice.

Having spoken to the call, I come to show the necessity of a call. Now even a call, or authoritative mission is necessary

1. In respect of God. God enableth those whom he employeth: 1 Tim. i. 12, 'I thank Jesus Christ my Lord, who hath enabled me; for that ho counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.' And this is the ground upon which Christ builds his prayer in this place, 'Sanctify them through thy truth;' for ? have sent them into the world.' ??t????t??, those that ran of their own heads without a call, cannot expect God's blessing, but those only that are regularly sent can-expect the increase of gifts and success of their ministry; for the word worketh not by its own force, but by God's blessing. Blessing dependeth altogether upon the institution, and therefore the institution must be carefully observed if we would have the blessing. God is said to employ not only those who are called extraordinarily, but in the ordinary way. The elders of Ephesus had no extraordinary call, yet it is said, 'The Holy Ghost had made them overseers,' Acts xx. 28. [Pg. 477]

2. In respect of Satan. He will soon spy out our want of commission, as he did in the sons of Sceva: Acts xix. 14, 15, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?' I know Jesus as the Lord, Paul as an authorised minister, one that had a lawful commission,' But who are ye?' And then the devil fell upon them, and wounded them, ver. 16. It is true, we have not such visible instances of the devil's power now as then, because God rules the world now by wisdom, not by power; but yet we may observe the secret power of the devil upon those that run of their own accord, and venture upon the office of the ministry without a call. None are more apt to be led aside into errors, and those of the grossest nature, than those that venture upon this office without a call. Origen's errors are by many ascribed to his neglect or want of ordination. And the Arians, saith the synod of Alexandria, were famosi vitto suce creationis, infamous, for want of a right call to the ministry, and therefore fell into that damnable error.

3. In regard of yourselves, that you may digest difficulties with the more patience. You can never endure anything with comfort but when you can thus say, I am in God's way, doing God's work. This .is a great ground of patience. Conscience in a time of danger will take hold of the least faulty circumstance. Uzzah had little comfort in his stroke, because he was out of God's way: Jude 11, 'Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain, &c., and perished in the gainsaying of Korah.' Korah was a sad instance.

4. In respect of the church. This external mission is necessary, that the church may receive yon comfortably. It is made a character of Christ's sheep,' not to hear the voice of a stranger.' John x. 5, nor of such as 'do not enter in by the door,' ver. 1. And in the Old Testament it is often said, 'Hearken not to them, for I have not sent them.' In the primitive church this was strictly observed. When Chrysostom was banished, and Arsanius unduly succeeded him, the people would not so much as hear him. Theodoret witnesseth that some of them would rather go into banishment than .join with him in public worship. So when Felix was set over Rome instead of Liberius, against the consent of the church, the people would not enter while he was present, though Felix was orthodox, and nothing could be objected against his doctrine. This instance is approved by Luther in his comment on the Psalms of Degrees, and (in his way of expression) he saith, the same should be done to an angel or archangel, though he came with never so good tidings, if we knew they came without lawful commission.

Use 1. Information in two things—that the ministry is an office, and a standing office.

1. The ministry is an office, not a work of charity, which every one most perform; there must be fit persons sent; therefore it is said, Acts x. 41, that Christ appeared 'not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, whom he commanded to preach unto the people.' Therefore he that cannot say he is chosen of God for this work, must not take this honour upon him, lest he run before he be sent, and so they do but prattle, not preach, for preaching is an ordinance. So the Lord said to Ananias concerning Paul, Acts ix. 15, 'He is a chosen vessel before me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel' He is called 'a chosen vessel,' not in regard of [Pg. 478] eternal election, but in regard of designation to the work of the gospel. Every one is bound by the law of charity to use his gifts to the edification of others, but still in a regular way. A king hath many subjects, but all his subjects are not courtiers and special servants. All members of the church are subjects of Christ's kingdom, but all are not officers, for these are chosen members.

2. That the ministry is a standing office. When Christ was about to depart, them he sendeth apostles with a promise that he would be with them to the end of the world. He sendeth them that they may send others, and so continue the succession. So that the apostles are not only sent by Christ, but the ministers of the gospel virtually, being sent by Christ's deputies; an they are the king's officers that are not only immediately created by the king, but by his power. Still God hath ever had an ordinary standing ministry in the church. In the Old Testament there were not only prophets, that were immediately called to deliver God's message, and to write scripture, bat an ordinary ministry, to open the law and the prophets, and to preserve knowledge in the church: Mal. ii. 6, 7, 'The law of the truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips, Ac. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.' Therefore the ordinary Levites are called \~nomo didaskaloi\~, teachers of the law. In the New Testament, Christ gave not only apostles to write scripture, but pastors and teachers to open scripture: Eph iv. 11, 'He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.' The Bible is not enough for your edification without this institution; the same Christ that instituted apostles to write scripture, instituted pastors and teachers to open and apply scripture. This is always necessary, though religion be never so thoroughly planted in a nation, for we need continual remembrancers. And the end of preaching is not only to learn what we knew not before, but that we may have spiritual things always before our eyes, and in the view and consideration of conscience, and that the heart be always kept lively and soft and tender by the frequent droppings of the word, and that we may receive new influences of grace in God's way. Yea, for nations, how soon would they degenerate without a monitor and standing ministry, and all things would be wrapt up in error and darkness! This was the first occasion of idolatry among the nations, when their monitors ceased, and religion began to be confined to a few families. Experience will best show the necessity of such a standing office in the church.

Use 2. Reproof of those that invade the minister's office, and of those that countenance them, Jude says of them, 'They perished in the gainsaying of Korah,' Jude 11. God's judgments will overtake them. Koran's sin was levelling of offices in the church: 'All the Lord's people are holy;' why should any take a special office upon them? It is a horrible abuse. Remember the breach of Uzzah; God is jealous even of a circumstance in his institution. Christ himself had his call to authorise him: 'Thou hast sent me into the world;' therefore much more should you have a call to authorise you. If the work doth not lie within the compass of your office, you do not glorify God, and cannot please him; and it will be ill for your account; you [Pg. 479] cannot, when you die, say as Christ, John xiv. 7, 'I have glorified thee upon the earth, I have finished the work which thou hast given me to do.' You do not glorify God with anything but that which he hath given you to do. It is notable that Christ would not intermeddle out of his calling. When one came to entreat him to 'speak to his brother to divide the inheritance with him,' he said to him, Luke xii. 4, 'Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?' Who was fitter to judge than Christ? yet this was not the work he came about. If troubles arise, you cannot suffer them comfortably. All the disorders abroad will lie in a great measure upon your score. Invading of callings hath been the source of those mischiefs that abound among us. Augustine saith, Pax est tranquillttas ordinis, when all things keep their place. In natural things, elements, when out of their place, breed confusion; the sea out of its place makes an inundation; and the air out of its place, imprisoned in the bowels of the earth, causeth an earthquake. t is true in this case also; when men are out of their place it begets confusion and disorder. Never do I look for the peace of the church, and power of the gospel, till men have learned to keep within the compass of their callings. You pretend gifts and abilities; if you have a desire to the work for the work's sake, why do you not submit to the regular way of sending? The angel that appeared to Cornelius biddeth him send for Peter, Acts x. 5. Why did not the angel teach him himself? His commission was only to bring a message from God, not to preach the gospel; that was Peter's work, therefore he sent him to Peter. Nay, Christ himself sendeth Paul to Ananias, Acts ix. 6. If any should usurp the place of an ambassador, without the prince's leave and command, it would be accounted horrible pride. No prince can endure a servant whom he hath not chosen; and how then can Christ take it well at your hands? It is but an itch of pride, if we search it to the bottom. There are regular ways of exercising your gifts, in private meditation, and family instruction, and gracious conferences, by way of interchangeable discourse, with less pride and usurpation, and more spiritual profit and comfort, than in public sermons.

Use 3. Advice to ministers and people.

1. To ministers. Strive to make out your calling to your people, to evidence it to the consciences of your auditory, by your sincerity and success.

[1.] By your sincerity: 2 Cor. iv. 2, 'We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.' Success is not in our power, but yet our aim should be sincere. Delight not in vain applause; let not this satisfy thee, but that others may feel the power of truth. Let it not satisfy thee when thy hearers go away and nay, Oh I how learnedly, how eloquently, with what subtlety and sublimity of reason doth he preach! what excellent gifts of memory, wit, elocution t This did not satisfy Christ. Christ had made an excellent sermon; a woman in the company cries out, Luke xi. 22, 28, 'Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps that thou hast sucked! But he said, Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and [Pg. 480] keep it! It is far better, when they go away from hearing, to be more mindful of themselves than of us; of what is spoken to their consciences, rather than what are our gifts; condemning themselves, rather than commending us; bewailing their own hearts and lives, rather than applauding and admiring our sermons; smiting their own breasts, and saying, not so much, How well hath he preached! but how ill have I lived! how carnal am I, subject to sin!

[2.] By success. This you should covet above all things; this is the seal of your ministry in the people's consciences. Every ambassador sent out from a prince hath not only instructions and commands, but his commission sealed; so a minister-must not only look to his instructions to preach the gospel, but for a seal of his ministry, as his letters of credence and recommendation. Now our seal is spiritual, as all other the parts of our administration are. What is this spiritual seal? God's owning and blessing our endeavours: 2 Cor. iii. 1-3, 'Do we begin again to commend ourselves; or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from yon? Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men. For as much as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart.' Success in the hearts of the people doth authorise our commission. So 2 Cor. xiii. 3, 'Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.' This is a proof that we come to you in Christ's stead, and speak in his name and power. It is not who can speak most finely and plausibly, but most effectually to the heart: 1 Cor. ii. 4, 'My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.' That is the evidence, not luscious gifts. Carnal men may have these, for the good of the body, that have no inward calling. I remember Paul putteth the false teachers upon this experiment and proof of their calling: 1 Cor. iv. 19, 'I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.' I will not examine them by their speech, but by the spiritual efficacy of their ministry, which is the chiefest sign of God's approbation and blessing, not their pomp and eloquence. And therefore this is the seal that you should look after.

2. Here is advice to the people, to own them that are called, and sent to you in the name of Christ. Own their persons by a cordial submission to them: Heb. xiii. 17, 'Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give an account.' In the particular places where you are disposed by the care of providence, they are sent by God to you. There is much in the designation of God's providence, and cohabitation is an excellent friend to church communion. That is the sphere of your activity; where God hath appointed your dwelling, there you are in the greatest capacity to serve God, and to promote the ends of church-fellowship and communion. And do not only own the persons, but the calling of the ministers, as a gospel institution. Pray for it; How importunately doth Paul beg the people's prayers everywhere! [Pg. 481] and countenance and plead for it in the gates. Wicked men could never obtain that power they have over ministers, were there not some backwardness and faintness in the people of God to own them. Herod could have put John to death,' but he feared the multitude, because they counted him for a prophet.' Mat. xiv. 5. The putting down the ministry will not only be imputed to the violence of others, but to your coldness and ingratitude. Therefore let the world know by some public vindication that you are not afraid to own Christ's institutions. If we have a charter given us by a prince, how zealous are we that it might not be infringed! Whatever the world thinks of it, this is Christ's royal gift in the day of his inauguration: Eph. iv. 11, 'When he ascended up on high, he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.' Therefore stand, and plead for it more. Paul took notice, 2 Tim. iv. 16, 'At my first answer no man stood with me; but all men forsook me.' It is a crime to forsake ministers in their defence, much more to forsake the ministry. Are we so backward that we do not think Christ's gift worthy a public vindication? Nothing hath been accounted so near and dear to the church of God, that hath put them upon such frequent prayers and zealous endeavours, as this, that their ministers may not be taken from them. Therefore own their calling, and own the institution.

Before I come to speak to the dignity of ministers, I shall answer an objection or two against what hath been said.

Object. 1. If none but such as have an outward call are to preach, what call had the first reformers? I answer—

1. The first reformers, most of them had a lawful call, being pastors and teachers before the reformation; and though they had it from antichrist, as some plead, or the popish clergy, yet that did not make it less valid. The apostles say of Judas, Acts 1.17, 'He was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.' Wicked Judas, in foro ecdestas, was a true and lawful apostle, and whatever he did by virtue of his office was valid and lawful. So the Roman clergy, they have obtained part of this ministry with us, and in foro ecdesioe, at least before the reformation, were lawful ministers; it is disputable whether as ret God hath given such a total divorce, that all their ecclesiastical acts are nullities.

2. Others were stirred up by the special instinct of the Holy Ghost to undertake the work, and being received of their own churches, their call was valid; for things of order must give way to things of absolute necessity, and where an ordinary calling cannot be had, God calleth men out of order. It is the duty of all saints to contend for the faith; and when God, by a special instinct, stirreth up holy men to do this work, they are thereby authorised; especially when there is a general defection and corruption among the officers of the church. Who would expect the reformation of stews from bawds and panders? It is necessary the church should have pastors and teachers; and where ordination cannot be had, the election and consent of the people sufficeth, God especially accompanying them with his presence, and the men being furnished with gifts and necessary qualifications, both as to life and doctrine, for that office. [Pg. 482]

Object, or Case. 2. What shall be done in case of propagating the gospel, where no lawful call can be had, or all die at a time?

I answer—In extraordinary cases, God supplieth the want by extraordinary ways; that may be done at one time that is not lawful at another, especially in matter of order, as eating the shew-bread in case of necessity. Edesiusand Frumentius, travelling into the Indies, had an opportunity of spreading the gospel; though the last afterwards returned, and was ordained by Athanasins. Natural bodies have their ordinary qualities; yet ad fugam, vacui, they act contrary to them, as water will ascend contrary to the gravity of it. Before deacons were instituted, the apostles served tables, though it was a thing not meet for them: Acts vi. 2, 'It is not reason that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.' Philip, of a deacon, was made an extraordinary evangelist, Acts viii.

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