RPM, Volume 18, Number 32, July 31 to August 6, 2016

Sermons on John 17

Sermon XXXII

By Thomas Manton

AS thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.—John 17:18.

SECONDLY, I now come to speak of the dignity that is put upon them that are called to the work of the ministry; they are sent by Christ as his deputies and ambassadors, as those who impersonate Christ, and represent him to the world: 2 Cor. v. 20, \~uper\~ \~Cristou\~ \~oun\~ \~presbeuomen\~, 'Wherefore we are ambassadors for Christ; as though God did beseech yon by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.' Ministers are sent out as Christ's proxies.

Here I shall show— p.) Who are sent; (2.) From whom; (3.) To whom; (4.) Why, or about what business.

1. Who are sent? Principally the apostles, but secondarily the ordinary ministers of the gospel; the apostles as ambassadors extraordinary, but we as liegers and agents. The apostles were immediately sent by Christ, and furnished with extraordinary gifts, as infallibility of doctrine, gifts of miracles, gifts of tongues; as ambassadors are sent forth with more pomp and state than agents. But now ministers are sent by a power derived and delegated from Christ; and we have not like authority and infallibility as the apostles bad, but the substance of the commission and of the work is the same; we are to open the mind of God to men, and in Christ's name and authority to pray you to be reconciled to God. And therefore both apostles and ordinary ministers of the gospel, ordinary pastors and teachers of the church, are sent.

2. From whom they are sent From Christ, who is the king of the church, though with the consent of all the persons in the Trinity. The Father sendeth, Christ sendeth, the Holy Ghost sendeth: Gal. i. 1,' Paul an apostle, not of men, neither by men, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead' Paul raiseth up his commission as far as the grant and consent of God the Father. And the Holy Ghost sendeth: Acts xx. 28, 'Take heed therefore unto [Pg. 483] yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.' So Acts xiii. 2, 'As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have called them.' In short, then, we are sent by the decree and will of the Father, qualified by the Holy Ghost, and commissioned by the authority of Christ as king of the church. And therefore the apostles were to tarry at Jerusalem till Christ who ascended, and seated on the throne, and seized upon the kingdom, and poured out the Holy Ghost upon them. None are sent but such are also called and chosen by the Holy Ghost, by whom also they are gifted, with respect to God the Father's consent, and Christ's authority.

3. To whom are they sent? I answer—To all, without any distinction of nation, sex, person, or condition: Mark xvi. 15, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.' Men send an embassy to kings and princes, but Christ to every mean creature, without any restraint It is true, the motion and course of the gospel is directed by a special providence, to some places and not to others: Acts xvi. 7, 'After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; but the Spirit suffered them not' But doth the Holy Ghost hinder the preaching of the gospel? We must distinguish between the grant of power and the exercise of it. Though there be a general grant, that the pale of the church shall be enlarged, yet this grant is to be made good as the Lord will. There is a general grant that the gospel shall be preached unto all nations, but as for the exercise and making good this grant, God will have the world to know that the preaching of the gospel is a privilege and a special favour, and therefore be sendeth it to some and not to others, as a token of his love. It is a thing that doth not come by chance, or by the counsels of men, but by his special grant and designation. Therefore it is notable that the apostles were guided by the Spirit, not only in their doctrine, but in their journeys; and the external means are distributed by the will of God, as well as internal grace, that wherever it cometh we may acknowledge it as a special favour; to some it cometh later, to others sooner, but to all as God will. He oweth it to none; and therefore, though the pale be enlarged, and there is a general grant that all creatures that live within the precincts of the round world shall have the gospel in their turn, yet to some it is sent before others: Acts iii. 26, 'Unto you first, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you,' The Jews had the first offer and liberty of choice or refusal. So Acts xiii. 26, 'Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, unto you is the word of this salvation sent' He doth not say, it is brought by me, but sent. The preaching of the gospel is governed by God's special providence and care; as the scriptures 'came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' 2 Peter i. 21. So it is not preached by the will of men. It is not your purses that procure it, nor your goodness that deeerveth it, but good ministers are sent to you by Christ's special love and care, and so should you acknowledge it I tell you, many have laboured for the gospel, fought for the gospel, and yet they have missed it, [Pg. 484] because they do not consider him that hath the stare in his hand, and directeth and guideth their motions. God will have this mercy taken out of his own hand, as a special token of his love; therefore because they do not acknowledge God, though they fight, strive, and labour for it, yet the gospel is taken from them.

4. For what are they sent, or the end and scope of the gospel? Ever since the fall, there is a quarrel between God and man; and God might send heralds to proclaim war, as he sendeth ambassadors of peace 'to pray you to be reconciled.' 2 Cor. v. 20; that is the purport and drift of oar message, to gain men to lay down the weapons of their defiance, and to accept of Christ, that in him they may find life and peace. God might send messengers into the world, as he sent Jonah to Nineveh, to warn the world of their destruction, or as he revealed the law upon Mount Sinai, to make men sensible of their bondage, and obnoxiousnem to divine wrath and justice; but he sendeth messengers of peace, with an olive branch in their mouths, to tell the world of God reconciled, and God pacified by Christ, and invite them to be in favour and peace with God, that so they may enjoy communion with him in grace here and glory hereafter: Col. i. 27, 28, 'Christ in you, the hope of glory. Whom ye preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.' There is the subject of our ministry, communion with Christ, and reconciliation with God by Christ, as 'the hope of glory;' the manner of managing it,' with wisdom warning' every man; the persons with whom we treat, 'every man,' without distinction; and our aim and scope,' that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.'

Use 1. It informeth us of four things:

1. The excellency and dignity of the ministry. They are Christ's ambassadors; they are sent, not as a post or letter-carrier, but as honourable messengers. An ambassador usually is one of the nobility, sent by a prince, or the supreme power of a nation; not to private men, but to their fellow-princes or states; not upon a light cause, but to treat of matters of moment; and not in a low or base manner, but with an equipage and pomp answerable to the dignity of him that sendeth. Or, in short an ambassador is an eminent person, sent from some chief prince, with dignity and authority to transact affaire of the greatest moment; and because he representeth the person from whom he is sent, therefore credit and honour is to be given to him suitable to his place and office. Now the greater the king or potentate is from whom he is sent, the more honour is done him; if from an emperor, it is more honour than from an ordinary prince; and the greater and more welcome the business is, still the greater honour. If the nature of the business be to require satisfaction for injuries, to denounce war, yet still he is respected according to his place; but if it be a matter of peace, he is more welcome; or if it be to establish a correspondence of traffic between nation and nation, much more if it be about a treaty of marriage, and to propound terms of the highest amity and friendship, he is much more respected; and yet more especially if the state or prince to whom he is sent be inferior to the other that sent him. Now these are the terms upon which the [Pg. 485] ministers of the gospel are sent; they are Christ's ambassadors, they are sent from the greatest monarch that ever was, from Christ, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords; and they are sent to miserable and wretched men, to rebels to the crown of heaven; and their message is not to denounce war, but to propose terms of friendship and amity, to tell you that God is willing to be reconciled to, and to be at peace with, his creatures. Oh! 'how beautiful upon the mountains should their feet be that publish such glad tidings!' Isa. iii. 7. It is an allusion to the dirty feet of travellers, that come about weighty business; the dirt of the journey doth not render them defiled, but beautiful Nay, this is not all; they are furnished with authority, with power of binding and loosing, of remitting and retaining sins: John ii. 23, 'Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.' To them are given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to open and shut; not as they please, but so as the Lord ratifies their regular proceedings in the court of heaven. They have a power, in God's name, to take up the controversy between God and you, and they bear God's name, that it, represent his person. And they are set forth with an answerable equipage, with plentiful gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are, as it were, their letters of credence, with gifts of knowledge, experience, and comfort, above the ordinary sort of Christians.

2. It informeth us of the duty of the ministry, as well as their dignity; their duty both in their life and conversation, and in their ministry and calling.

[1.] In their life and conversation. Remember the gravity and state of ambassadors; you represent Christ's person, and you must be examples and patterns to others. You should not be guilty of levity, or be given to the pomp and vanities of the world, as others are; not only that you may not disparage your ministry, and hinder the ends of it, but that yon may the better represent the person of him that hath sent you, and not disgrace Christ An imprudent, vain, carnal minister is a disgrace to Jesus Christ: 2 Cor. iii. 18, 'We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of our God.' Principally that text concerns ministers; so Beza, Calvin, and others expound it; for there he is comparing the ministry of the New Testament with the ministry of the legal dispensation; that as Moses, by conversing with God, his face .shone, so ministers of the gospel have their glory top; by conversing with Christ, they carry away his image. So that a minister should be a representative of Christ It is a spiritual dignity, not a temporal, to be Christ's ambassadors; and therefore yon must excel, not in place only, but in grace: 1 Tim. iv. 12, 'Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.' This is the duty of a minister, to appear like Christ's deputy, just as he was in the world. This will make way for your esteem, though young for age, and mean in birth and estate. The apostle doth not write to others, and say, 'See you do not despise Timothy;' but he writes to Timothy, 'Let no man despise thee.' Our disesteem cometh from ourselves, when we let fall the majesty of our conversations. Well, messengers will not let them alone, therefore they hate them. Errors and lusts are touchy. Mundus senescent patitur phantastas. The world, as it grows old, is given to dreams and dotage, and is loath to be disturbed. A thief would have the candle put out that discovereth him. Christ's messengers, though instruments of common good, yet often meet with public hatred: Eph. vi. 20, 'For whom I am an ambassador in bonds, e? ???sa, in chains.' A man would think he meant golden chains, because he speaks of his ambassadorship. No; he means hard iron chains, which he suffered for Christ's sake; and usually this is the lot of Christ's ambassadors.

Use 2. Advice both to people and ministers.

1. To people. If ministers be sent by Christ, then it adviseth you to respect their message, their calling, their persons.

[1.] Accept their message When we speak for the honour and dignity of the ministry, we plead for a spiritual respect to them, not for a temporal domination and precedency in all meetings and companies. Our king whom we serve is a spiritual king; his kingdom is not of this world; he came not with external pomp and splendour; therefore these are not things we should look after. Though some respect is due to their persons, yet chiefly we plead for a respect to their doctrine. Do not despise the message which they bring, though their persons be obscure and despicable. Doctrines delivered from the scripture have a divine authority; it is God's message, as if it had been spoken from heaven. And therefore, if we must speak as the oracles of God, you must hear it as God's word: 1 Thes. ii. 13,' For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.' Never can you expect the word should work with you till you have this respect and reverence for it

But you will say, Is all gospel that is delivered by one in office?

I answer—No; but yon must humbly consider what is brought to you in Christ's name. When Ehud said to Eglon, Judges iii. 20, 'I have a message from God unto thee,' he arose out of his seat See what it is, and let it move you more to look to your ways.

[2.] Respect the calling more. Many seek to undermine it, as if it were grown the burden of the Christian world; others think disgracefully and meanly of it, as if it were below their parts or rank and place. Let me tell you it is the highest honour that can be put upon a creature to be Christ's messenger. No nobility of birth, antiquity of house, plenty of estate is to be compared with it; all worldly honours and titles are beneath it; and so shall we judge when once we come to see a prophet's reward. Do not think scornfully of the calling. It is a great mercy if God should choose any of thine to this work, the best and chiefest of thy family. The first-born were separated to God before the priesthood was settled upon the tribe of Levi. Usually men consecrate the worst to God, if any be lame, blind, unfit for work; like the deceiver, Mal. i. 14, 'Which hath a male in his flock, and voweth and sacrificeth to the Lord a corrupt thing.' I speak the more in this matter, because if God suffer the wickedness of the age [Pg. 489] to go on, if maintenance go away, nobles must put their necks to the yoke, to serve Christ in this employment, as some have done in other churches.

[3.] Respect their persons. Something is due to them for the work's sake: 1 Thee. v. 12, 13, 'And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among yon, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake;' Gal. iv. 14, 'Ye received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus;' whose deputy he was, though compassed with weaknesses. Certainly there is some good-will due to the persons that brine such glad tidings from heaven. We reward a messenger that oringeth a token from a friend, and these come to you from your best friend, Jesus Christ There is a promise made to that respect that you show to the persons of Christ's messengers: Mat x. 42, 'Who shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, m the name of a disciple, verily I say unto yon, he shall in nowise lose his reward.' It was said of Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, Acts v. 34, he was \~timiov\~ \anti\~ \~tw\~ \~law\~, 'in reputation among the people.' The original word signifies he was precious to the people. If a doctor of the law was in such esteem, something is due to the teachers of the gospel. Do not say we plead for ourselves; it is fit you should hear your duty pressed.

2. To ministers. It quickeneth yon to your work, notwithstanding great afflictions, and the inconveniences you meet with in the world. Remember you are sent, as Christ was, to an unthankful world. It will hold good not only in regard of authority but condition: 'The disciple is not above his Lord,' Mat x. 35,' Nor he that is sent, greater than he that sent him,' John xiii. 16. Comfort yourselves against contempt God hath vouchsafed this high favour and prerogative to you above many others that seemed worthy to be preferred before you, that have quicker parts and higher abilities; above the nobles and the princes of the world. You have no cause to envy them nor their greatness, though you are counted the dregs of the world, and made a daily reproach. Paul balanceth his office and his afflictions: Eph. vi. 20, 'For which I am an ambassador in bonds.' There is his ambassadorship and his bonds, the greatness of his office and the straitness of his condition; his dignity before God and the church, and his shame and disgrace in the world.

Use 3. Reproof to those that wrong Christ's messengers, their persons with reproach and violence, or their estate by sacrilegious hands, seeking to deprive them of their maintenance. Take heed what you do; the persons and goods of ambassadors are privileged. You rob God and Christ, whose receivers they are, and to whom these things are consecrated: Rom. ii. 22, 'Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?' God will wink at the superstition of former times, that had no better light, when he will not at the unthankful ness, rapine, avarice, and robbery of these times; and therefore take heed what you do.

1. The affronts you put upon them redound to Christ, whose deputies and proxies they are. They represent his person, therefore he takes it as done to himself: Luke x. 16, 'He that despiseth you [Pg. 490] despiseth me, and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.' It goes up to God himself, from messengers to Christ, from Christ to God. As the Lord tells Samuel, 1 Sam. viii. 7, 'They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.' Chriet counts it as done to himself in his own person.

2. It showeth you do not prize the word when you hate the messengers of it, when yon offer violence to their persons, and rob them of their good names: Isa. iii. 7, 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Him, Thy God reigneth!' The messengers of Christ are precious to those that have received benefit by them. If ever you tasted the power of the word, certainly yon would love the instruments more. Take heed of rotten hypocrisy. Yon profess you detest the persecutions of former times, of pagans, and antichrist, that so furiously persecuted Use church; and, alas I yon do the same when you oppose God's messengers, that live in your age, whom Christ hath put into office, to deliver his counsel to the people. So the scribes and pharisees: Mat xxiii. 29, 30, 'Woe unto you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites; because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchre of the righteous; and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' Dathan and Abiram were as odious and accursed to the wicked Jews in Christ's days, as the memory of Judas and Julian can be to us. Therefore do not flatter yourselves that yon detest the persecution of former ages, when your heart is carried out with such rage and malice against the messengers of Christ now.

3. God will not always suffer it Prophet-hating is a deadly sin. It is said of Herod, Luke iii. 20,' He added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.' So 2 Chron. xvi. 10, 'Then Asa was wroth with toe seer, and put him in a prison-house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing.' Were these scriptures written for our instruction, and yet are you guilty of prophet-hating, that seek, by sacrilegious violence to rob and deprive ministers of that which is their portion before God and men? So Hosea iv. 4, 'This people are as they that strive with the priest.' Enter your protest against it, have no hand in this sin.


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