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The  Faithful and wise Servant;  or, The Authority, Character, and Work of a Gospel Minister, in the Church of Christ, opened up.

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The Faithful and wise Servant; or, The Authority, Character, and Work of a Gospel Minister, in the Church of Christ, opened up.

James Dodson

A


SERMON,


Preached at the Ordination of Mr. JOHN M’MILLAN,
junior, at Stirling, on the 11th of March, 1778.

By the Reverend
MR. JOHN M’MILLAN, Senior,

Minister of the Gospel, at Sandhills, near Glasgow.


FALKIRK:

Printed by DANIEL REID, and sold by him and other Booksellers,

M,DCC,LXXIX.

SERMON II.

[This sermon is numbered II. because it appeared with the sermon by John Fairley, HERE, numbered I.]

MATTHEW xxv. 45.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season.

THOUGH not one word were to be spoken on the subject, the text itself may be a weighty sermon to every gospel minister, as setting forth his station, office, and work. I need not spend time in looking into the occasion of these words: from the suddenness of his coming to judgment, and the uncertainty we are under about the time of it, our Lord Jesus Christ recommends watchfulness as the beast expedient, to prevent the danger of a surprize, and while he speaks to all and each individual in their several places, he declares that in the just extent of his discourse, a particular application is to be made to apostles, and gospel ministers as such. Every person as a servant has to give his account, but church officers, gospel ministers as such, are eminently servants in the household of Christ, and therefore they have the greatest account to give. Their charge is the greatest; their Lord has made them rulers over his household, not as Lords to exercise dominion; but as servants to make provision: They are guides and servants to serve them in the things of Christ and salvation, not masters to prescribe laws and ordinances. And, how hard to execute this charge well! to be both faithful and wise in all ministrations, and exemplary in walk! therefore, the text is expressed in way of question, Christ has few such servants; though through grace there may be some.—In the text observe—

1. The relation and office of a gospel minister to Christ, and in his church, he is a servant, a ruler.

2. His qualifications, faithful and wise.

3. His work and duty, to give them their food in due season.

4. The authority by which every minister acts in the discharge of his service, whom his Lord hath made.

DOCTRINE.

Gospel ministers are furnished and authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ as Head of the church, to the exercise of all that charge and duty, which they are called to in his household and family.—Without confining myself strictly to the metaphorical expressions used in the text, I shall treat of the following particulars.

METHOD.

First, I shall speak a word of the household of Christ, or church, wherein ministers serve and rule.

Second, Speak of ministers, their being made rulers in the church.

Third, I shall open up the work of an evangelical minister.

Fourth, I shall enquire into the qualifications of such a minister, by which he is fitted for his work, and likely to be successful therein.

Fifth, Offer some quickening motives, to stir up to diligence and constancy in his work.

Lastly, I shall apply the subject, referring the most until the solemn part of the day’s work is over.

I must, indeed, acknowledge in the entry, that, although the separating of men to the ministerial office be ordinary in the church of Christ, yet, the occasion and circumstances of this day’s work are, in several respects, somewhat singular; and which, perhaps, have hardly a parallel; for the discharge of which, my brethren could not have laid the appointment upon any of their number more unfit; but while I desire to be sensible of my own insufficiency, and that I am called to speak before some who are, by much, my betters; I desire likewise to be sensible, I speak before God, a consideration infinitely more weighty! If therefore, I shall only speak the words of truth and soberness, no apology to man is needful, and if I do not so, none can be sufficient, so begging divine assistance, I shall proceed, without bespeaking any excuse for my freedom, though, I know, I shall need it very much for my weakness.

I now return to the first particular which was, to speak a word of the household of Christ, or his church wherein ministers serve and rule. The church is the house or household of Christ, it is often so called, "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." [1 Tim. iii.15.] "Now therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" [Eph. ii.19.], It is Christ’s family, and is either visible, consisting of all that make a visible credible profession of the faith, joined with a gospel conversation; or invisible, consisting of real believers, true members of Christ, "Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his; and let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." [2 Tim. ii.19.]—And it is designed a household, house or family, generally, in regard that whatever things are requisite to the constituting of a house, household or family, do all concur in the church of Christ. There are in it a foundation, materials, and an orderly framing of the whole. "And are built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone: in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth into an holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are builded together, for an habitation of God through the Spirit." [Eph. ii.20, 21, 22.] Here observe the foundation of this house and family, the Lord Jesus Christ: as the first Adam was the foundation of the family of mankind; so Jesus Christ the second Adam, is the foundation of God’s spiritual family the church. "For other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ," [1 Cor. iii.11.], that which Paul laid ministerially, God himself laid primarily and efficiently, "Behold I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone." [Isai. xxviii.16.] This is no other but the rock on which the church is built, which makes it impregnable to the gates of hell. Christ is the stone which the builders rejected, but made of Jehovah the head of the corner, [Psal. cxvii.22.], He is the lowest to bear up the weight, and the highest to couple the whole household together. And as in a foundation, so there are three things eminently remarkable in the Lord Jesus Christ, in relation to this household:—

First, He is first laid in this holy fabrick, and that in respect of God’s eternal purpose. He decreed him the preeminence in this as in all other things, He is therefore the first-born among many brethren, the residue of this family being predestinated to be made conformable to him. 2. In respect of outward manifestation; God first declared him before he formed one member of his household, 'The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head,’ [Gen. iii.15.]; then was the Lamb slain, presently after the foundation of the world. 3. Because in order of nature, Christ must be first formed in the heart of every individual person before he is a part of this household. If Christ be not in us, we are all together useless, and must at last be rejected. 4. In respect of every particular congregation of the church and little sanctuary of mount Zion. If Christ be not placed as the foundation of such congregations, they will prove to be pinnacles of Babylon, not towers of Zion, therefore, the saints of old, first gave themselves up to the Lord, and then to one another, by the will of God. [2 Cor. viii.5.]

Second, As a foundation is hid and out of view; so the Lord Jesus Christ the foundation of this household, is not perceived by the men of the world, though the whole strength of the household rests upon him; men viewing the church, may regard it as a beautiful family, but cannot imagine how it should subsist: A few supporters it seems to have in the world, that make some shew of upholding it: A few faithful gospel ministers, and here and there some godly zealous Christians, and thinks the world, could we but take away these, the whole would quickly come to ruin. Thus they encourage themselves to the work of laying waste Christ’s household, never reflecting on the hid rock, which continually communicates strength and permanency to every part of it, and against which they dash themselves all to pieces.

Third, As the foundation bears up the whole weight, what part soever is not directly poised upon it hath no strength at all, so let a sinner be hewed andsquared by the word and ordinances, into outward conformity ever so exactly, that he appears one of the most beautiful saints in the world; yet, if he be not rightly laid by faith in Christ, to derive from him strength, support, and vigour, he will quickly come to nothing; what then shall become of their work, who gather together and heap up all sorts of rubbish, to erect a household unto the Lord?—but further, the apostle describes this household the invisible church, in the materials or members thereof, viz. elect believers, said to be ‘fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God,’ they alone are united to Christ, in virtue of which they derive life from him, ‘and grow into an holy temple to the Lord. Growth from an inward principle is a sign of life spiritual, a life whose fullness is in Christ. ‘He hath life in himself’ [John v.26,] ‘and gives it to whomsoever he will.’ [John x.10.] There is not one dead rotten member in all this household. However some such, by the advantage of their outward appearance, may crowd in; yet they are not of the family itself. Finally, there is observable the orderly framing of this household, instrumentally, by the prophets and apostles, and in succession by a standing gospel ministry to the end of time: Efficiently, by the Holy Spirit, the principal and great agent, in this work, we are framed to an habitation of God by the Spirit, by him all the parts of this household are fitly framed together, closely knit to one another, sweetly jointed and closed together with Christ the Head, ‘from which all the body by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.’ [Col. ii.19.] But more particularly, the church is designed a household.

First, Because, as that is a distinguished separate society, so the church are a people separate from the rest of the world, a people that dwell alone, [Num. xxiii.9.] ‘the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations;’ they are separate in their spirit, principle and practice, and are not conformed to the world, and a thousand pities it is, that in our day, the world and the church should be so much like to one another, and confounded together, as is charged against the church, ‘but were mingled among the Heathen, and learned their works.’ [Psal. cvi.35.]

Second, As in a household there is a diversity among persons, in their spirits, ages, relations, strength, and work; so in the visible church, there is a mixture of good and bad, true Christians and hypocrites, though when any declare themselves ungodly and unsound, and will not be reclaimed, the church is to turn them out, by the regular execution of the censures of Christ’s institution: and then there are ‘little children, young men, and fathers.’ [1 John ii.12, 13, 14.] There are weak and strong Christians, some that need to be led and carried, and teachers and taught.

Third, As in a household every one in it is privy to what concerns the whole family; though many things transacted therein ought not to be divulged to others. So, in the church, each member is acquainted with what concerns the whole church; yet, many things so particularly relate to the family, that it is an evil to make them known to those who are without and enemies: in which as well as in other respects, the church is said to be a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

Fourth, A household is, or ought to be well governed, this was what filled the Queen of Sheba with admiration, when she saw the regularity of Solomon’s house. [1 Kin. x.4, 5.] The order and regularity of the church is a great honour to it: In this respect, Solomon and his family were a type of Christ and his church, what is any society without rule and good government? strict discipline must be maintained in Christ’s family, this beautifies the church, this is what Christ has ordained in all his churches; and however it is a mournful thing, that anarchy and confusion often take place in Christ’s church, as it is under the direction of men; yet there is nothing but beauty and order therein according to the law of his house. And it is ground of comfort to the mourners in Zion, that the church’s Head will overrule all events in a subserviency to his own glory, for the good and consolation of his family, every member should know his own place and behave himself accordingly in the house of God. [1 Tim. iii.15.] ‘Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves, &c.’ [Heb. xiii.17.] All, both officers and members have their proper work, and must attend to that.

Fifth, In a religious household spiritual devotion is duly performed, and every one conscientiously waits on it, the contrary is the brand of Heathens, ‘Pour out thy fury upon the Heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name.’ [Jer. x.25.] The church is the chief place of public worship, where all the ordinances are duly administered, hence, God is said to shine out of Zion the perfection of beauty, and to love the gates of Zion, therefore let none forsake the assembling of themselves together.

Sixth, A household is closely joined together, the church is a most firm, compact, united body, they are one with Christ the Head, they are of one spirit among themselves united in truth, love, and gospel perfection flowing from Christ as being united to him, and without this, all other unity is but confusion in the sight of God. All the saints should live in perfect peace, and sweet concord together as children of the same father, and heirs of the same kingdom, ‘Endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.’ [Eph. iv.3.] The church is never more comely than when the love of each doth abound towards one another, and when there is a defect of this, (as alas! how little of it now is to be found?) it is so far a corruption from the just character of a true church of Christ.

Seventh, Some households, particularly those of princes, are very great and make a splendid appearance: Tho’ the church of Christ be but a little flock, compared with the great heard, the gross of mankind; yet, they are very numerous, a great multitude, ‘After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number—stood before the throne, and before the Lamb.’ [Rev. vii.9.] This whole family, the universal church, is very large, ‘Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.’ [Eph. iii.15.] The church is a very glorious household, 1. In respect of inward glory brought to it from God, in the face of Jesus Christ, it becomes beautiful through the comeliness that he puts upon it, Hence says Christ, ‘how pleasant, and how fair art thou, O love, for delights! Thou art fair, my love, there is no spot in thee,’ [Song vii.6 & iv.7], for Christ being the branch of the Lord and fruit of the earth, is made beauty and glory, excellency and comeliness unto the church. It hath the beauty and glory of justification, even the robe of righteousness, and the beauty and glory of sanctification, so is all glorious within. Christ is to his church a head of Gold. [Song v.11.] 2. As to its outward structure, which it eminently hath in all the particular assemblies thereof, ‘The new Jerusalem, the church, is said to be of pure gold, the building of the wall of jasper, and the foundation of the wall garnished with all manner of precious stones.’ [Rev. xxi.18.] This is the glory of the ordinances of the gospel in their vigour and purity, Christ reigning in the administration of his ordinances, called the beauties of holiness and the goings of our God and King in the sanctuary.’ [Psal. lxviii.12.] 3. As to the exaltation of this household above, and triumph over all its opposers: to see a household emblazoned with ensigns, spoils, and banners taken from the enemy that have come against it, is indeed glorious, but thus is the church of God decked, ‘Kings of armies did flee apace, and they that tarried at home, the mother of the family, and they that tarried at home divided the spoil.’ [Psal. lx.12.] She that tarries at home, the mother of the family, the church hath all the spoils, it is affirmed, ‘that not only every one that opposeth, but all that do not serve the church shall be utterly destroyed.’ Here you have hung up the garments rolled in blood, of all that ever came against this household, and there is yet a place reserved for the remaining spoils of the great whore, when she shall be burned, made naked and desolate; never any rose, and never shall any arise against this family, and go on to final prosperity. [Isai. liv.17.]

Eight, Some households are in a dangerous situation yet preserved: Christ’s lower family is always surrounded with enemies on all hands; there is the roaring lion of hell, that lies betwixt them and heaven; there are seducing hereticks, that regard not Christ the Head; and the powers of the earth combined against Christ and his family. They are in danger from ourselves if not faithful, in danger from the world and indwelling sin. It has been so, and likely will be so, until they are all brought to heaven; yet notwithstanding, the church is a household that is in a very safe condition, and never can be brought to ruin: for, as the text speaks, it is Christ’s; it is his property, and therefore strong; [Matth. xvi.18.] ‘my church:’ he is the owner of it; [Heb. iii.6.] ‘But Christ, as a Son, over his own house:’ he hath a good right and title to it, by donation from his Father; by inheritance he obtains this excellent name to be LORD of this family; and he hath a promise to enjoy his whole inheritance, ‘Ask of me, and I will give Thee the Heathen for thine inheritance; and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession’ [Psalm ii.4.]: by purchase, he paid the great price of his dearest blood for it [Acts xx.28.]; also by conquest, he hath conquered the unjust usurper that had taken possession of his family, and brought it into bondage [1 John iii.8.]: ‘for this purpose the SON of GOD was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.’ He overpowers, spoils, and triumphs over the enemy; and, having taken possession thereof, he fills up every endearing relation to his household.—Particularly, Christ is the Father of this family; they are all begotten again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of CHRIST; and, therefore, he is the Great Provisor [Provider] for his church, and every soul that belongs to him: ‘But my God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus. [Phil. iv.19.]—He is the builder of his household. [Heb. iii.3, 4.] The church is a more glorious workmanship than heaven and earth, a fabric fit for no workman but Christ; and it receives a twofold building from him, both spiritual, of all the members into one living body, and ecclesiastical, into several distinct assemblies, and dwelling places of mount Zion, ‘God setteth the solitary in families’ [Psal. lxviii.6.]; ‘yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock’ [Psal. cvii.41.]:—He is the repairer of his household, and all the breaches thereof: saints may weep for the church, but CHRIST must repair the desolations thereof, ‘Even HE shall build the temple of the LORD, and he shall bear the glory,’ [Zech. vi.13.], ‘When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.’ [Psal. cii.16.]—He is the Great Watchman and keeper of this family; there are subordinate keepers for the use of the household, ‘I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem,’ &c. [Isai. lxii.6, 7.] but CHRIST is that HOLY ONE, and GREAT WATCHER, to see what his family wants; and that the son of violence draw not nigh to it; or, if he does, to require it at his hand, that he may devour no more;—and so He is also the great avenger of all the wrongs and injuries done to it, ‘All that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD.’ [Jer. ii.3.]—He is the indweller of this household, He hath framed the church to be an habitation for himself, ‘For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell, for I have desired it.’ [Psal. cxxxii.13,14.] He dwells therein by his Spirit, graces, and ordinances. —Finally, HE is the Great Governor thereof; it is his prerogative alone to give laws to his family; he is the One-Lawgiver, the government is upon his shoulders, and HE alone has a right to establish the order of his household, and appoint all officers for the service of it:—But this brings me to the

Second Head, To speak of ministers, their being made rulers in Christ’s Household.—And here, first, a word as to their constitution.—And, second, of their authority.

First, I am to take notice of the constitution of gospel ministers.—The LORD CHRIST, as Head of the church, hath appointed, That there shall be officers in all the churches: there is an institution of offices and officers, as well as of ordinances: it is in no man’s power to institute the one more than the other; and the neglect of the one is a neglect of the institution, and so of the authority of Christ, as well as of the other.—Here observe,—

First, It is CHRIST’s prerogative to appoint servants and rulers in his family, ‘whom his LORD hath made ruler,’ and ‘Son of man, I have made thee a watchman’ [Ezek. iii.17.];—they may not make themselves, nor may others, without CHRIST’s commission;—it is HE who calls, and sends them out to their work, ‘All power is given unto me; Go ye, therefore, and teach,’ [Matth. xxviii.18, 19.] ‘And he gave, some apostles,’ &c. [Eph. iv.11.];—it is stated as one of his ascension-gifts; he not only gave the gifts, which qualify for the work, but the officers themselves:—ministers are to be regarded as a special gift of Christ; as a special fruit of his taking possession of the kingdom, when he sat down at his Father’s right-hand: ‘And GOD hath set some in the church,’ [1 Cor. xii.28.]; —the words note a constitution, a firm establishment, that cannot be changed: and, though they were all given for one common end, the gathering and perfecting of the saints; yet some were but temporary, others to abide to the end of the world, until the whole mystical body of Christ is gathered and perfected: therefore none may come into rule in Christ’s family, except called. ‘And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron,’ [Heb. v.4.]; if they do, they will not prove either good servants or rulers. Christ is the only Author and Instituter of all offices and officer-bearers in his house: the GREAT LORD that appoints who shall be in his stead. Whatever any think of a gospel-minister, he is such a creature as all the angels in heaven, and men on earth cannot make: no set of men may make officers in Christ’s church, more than they may institute new ordinances.

Second, Christ qualifies and furnishes men with spiritual gifts for the exercise of their work; this he does by the special agency of the Holy Ghost: therefore HE also is said to have made them overseers, ‘Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.’ [Acts xx.28.]—The SPIRIT, in the mediatory kingdom, is, as it were, a prorex [vicegerent], to rule for Christ; hence, before the throne there are seven lamps of fire, i.e. the seven spirits of GOD. [Rev. iv.5.] The SPIRIT, in the perfection of all his gifts and graces: he gifts and qualifies men for this work, ‘But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.’ [1 Cor. xii.8, 9, 10, 11.] Before Bezaleel and Aholiab did set about the work of the tabernacle, they were filled by the Spirit of GOD, with all wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, in all manner of workmanship.—In the like manner, the spiritual mediatory kingdom, being now in the hand of the Spirit; and he knowing what manner of work he hath to accomplish, doth gift men for the respective work in which he will employ them; he influences and bends their minds to the office; he endows them with knowledge, wisdom, and discretion; he touches their lips with a live-coal from his altar, and gives them the tongue of the learned. Their gifts of praying and preaching are both from him; by the one, they are GOD’s mouth to the people; and by the other, the people’s mouth to GOD.

Third, The Lord Jesus Christ has lodged a power in the church, to call his servants, Gospel Ministers, to the exercise of the ministry. When one is duly gifted and qualified, there is ground, from the furniture of the person, to apprehend, that the LORD hath done it, in order that he may employ him in his service; yet, it is not enough for any one to say, I am gifted, and therefore I will employ myself: for the body is before the ministry, the body that Christ hath purchased with his blood, and this trust he hath put into their hands; by his SPIRIT he stirs up the hearts of the church to choose and call forth whom he hath qualified and appointed to the ministry over them. The drawing out of the spirits of men, in that way the LORD would have them, is a special work of the Spirit of GOD; and therefore it is said, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ [Zech. iv.6.]; that is, by his Spirit working on the spirits of men, both on instruments and opposites, raising and elevating the one, and subduing the other; so that the Spirit of God inclining and over-ruling the spirits of men in such a work, is an evident testimony of a call to the work from the Spirit. This power and trust therefore, Christ hath lodged in the hands of the church, which he hath purchased. We find in the Acts of the apostles, that the choice of officers in his household is committed to the people: it were good that men, that the powers of the earth, would treat the church as the apostles did. It is strange! that any set of men, of ministers, should ever attempt to take this power from Christ’s family. In all free corporations every member has his vote. The church is a spiritual incorporation, and every member therein has a right to vote in calling their spiritual guides, and this right cannot be transferred to others: it is most affronting to GOD, and pernicious to the church, to transfer it to a patron as called, or to any other, under whatever denomination.

Fourth, CHRIST clears up his servants call to them, not only by bestowing gifts on them, but by opening a door in his providence, and giving them the call of the church; so that, where a serious and intelligent people center on one to be their minister, it may, without force, be constructed the motion of the Holy Ghost, and that such an one receives his ministry from Christ, who, as he employs in his service, also fits for it. The following things may serve in a great measure to satisfy one’s mind, that Christ hath called them.—When the heart is filled with a single desire after the great end of the ministry, the glory of GOD and the salvation of souls—When there hath been a conscientious diligence, in using all the ordinary means of attaining fitness for this great work.—When a competent fitness for the work is attained; for Christ sends none a warfare on their own charges, whomsoever he calls, he qualifies and gives talents for every piece of the service; and of this the church is to be the judge.—When the savour of a man’s ministry is left on the hearts and consciences of others: all these united, may help to clear up a call to be from CHRIST.

Fifth, There is a separating and setting apart of the person called, to the service of the SON of GOD in the glorious gospel, a sanction and establishment from the Holy Ghost upon him; and that, by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, with fasting and prayer, ‘Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery,’ [1 Tim. iv.14]: ‘As they ministered to the LORD, and fasted, the HOLY GHOST said, Separate me Barnabas and Paul, for the work whereunto I have called them.’ This, and the call of the people, are the moral means for communicating the call of the Spirit to the person set apart; hence, all the pastoral duties are laid upon his conscience, in obedience and conformity to Christ; and there is also a divine authority for the people to obey and submit to him in the LORD, in his proclaiming, explaining, and declaring the laws of Christ unto them: for this cause, the apostles took special care to set up all the institutions of Christ, as the state and condition of the church did require; they not only gathered Christians into bodies, but set rulers over them: ‘And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the LORD, on whom they believed.’ [Acts xiv.23.] The same they gave in charge to the evangelists, who were appointed to confirm the churches, and to ordain officers in them. It is also evident, that all the churches of Christ accepted rulers, and acknowledged them as such. There were elders in the church of Ephesus [Acts xx.17.]; the church of Jerusalem had not only apostles but elders [Acts xv.2, 22.]: hence the whole church is brought in under these two heads, rulers and ruled [Heb. xiii.17, 24.]; ‘Obey them that have the rule over you:’ all members of the church are not men in office, there are rulers who are distinguished from saints.—I come on this head

Second, To speak of the authority of gospel ministers: they are servants, but having an office in Christ’s household, they are vested with a power therein; all ministerial authority is put into their hands for the good of the church. You read of the power of the keys; ‘And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ [Matth. xvi.19.] This is an ensign of authority, and it notes a commission given by Christ to some to rule in his family, according to the order and form prescribed in his word.—Church-authority may be said to be threefold;—first, Monarchical, in respect of Christ the Head;—second, Democratical, in respect of the body of believers;—third, Aristocratical, in respect of the officers; these last are the church’s servants, and must manage their power with all humility, not as lords over God’s heritage; for it is committed to them for the edification of the body. [2 Cor. x.8.] Their very names in scripture note a great deal of power: they are your guides, leaders, and commanders, and said to be over you in the LORD; men set before others, and exalted above them: their power appears so much the greater, if it is considered, that they speak to the church in the name of CHRIST; and that what they require by virtue of their office, they do it in the authority of the LORD JESUS CHRIST: therefore, as you owe obedience and subjection to him, in whose name they speak, and whose work they do, you are to submit to them in the LORD; ‘In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my Spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ [1 Cor. v.4.] If ministers acted in their own name, indeed, there were little power in it, but in the name of Christ there is great authority. I may further add, as it is a power given them by Christ, so also with the churches own consent, and for a people to put a power into one’s hand, and afterwards to deny him the exercise of that power, is to judge and condemn themselves in the thing which they allow; there is then a necessity upon the people to be subject to this power, both for conscience sake, and as to what was done by their own free election, which still argues the greatness of ministerial power in the church [Isai. 22.22.], The governing and ordering of all the affairs in Christ’s family, must go through the hands of ministers, with the Eldership; whatever is done in the church, they must be the doers of it. As it was said of Joseph, whatever was done in all the land of Egypt, he was the doer of it, so whatever is done in the church of Christ, they must be the doers thereof, ‘And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ [Matth. xvi.19; xviii.17, 18.] The text means both of grace and glory, a power to bind and loose in the church, by virtue of Christ’s institution, and what they bind or loose, remit or retain, shall be so done in the world to come. Ministers open heaven ministerially to the church, and if on the warrant of the word, they shut any out, heaven shall be shut on them: If they bind on the consciences of sinners, so will the Lord also in a future state, and in this respect, it is a far greater power, than if one had the keys of the authority and government of all the world. Ministerial authority is what they have, either jointly, or separately—And, First, They have a power in conjunction with one another, thus office-bearers in the church, when constituted into a judicative capacity as courts of Christ in his house, have the power of ordination, discipline, government, and administering Ecclesiastick censures, for the orderly management of his household—Second, They have an authority which they can exercise separately, in the administration of word and sacraments, an authority to declare the counsel of God, to instruct, exhort, command, reprove and threaten sinners, a power to admonish, refute and confute hereticks, a power to bind or loose according to the threatenings and promises of the gospel: it must still be remembered, that all this power is spiritual in its nature, it relates not to the bodies or estates of men; but immediately and only respects their souls and consciences, Hence it is managed only by spiritual means; not by external violence in the way of the world, but solely by the word, which is the sceptre of the power of Christ, ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds.’ [2 Cor. x.4.] If sinners will not hear and be reclaimed by the word, ministers have no other way of dealing with them, but to set before them the judgment that is written, and leave them as inexcusable, and answerable to the power. All the censures of the house of God are spiritual, and relate to the soul, as a binding of sin. [John xx.23.] As there is a pardoning of sin in the conscience, and in respect of their church state, so there is a binding of sin upon the conscience, and before the church: a withdrawing of communion from the obstinate [2 Thess. iii.14.], that when they see all godly men to avoid their fellowship as a Pest, they may be ashamed; And a delivering such unto Satan, a casting them out by a judicial act from the assembly of the church, and being cast out, they are in the world, where Satan rules, and have nothing more to do with ordinances; yet, all this is with a special respect to the soul, for ordinances are means to inflict spiritual judgments, as well as to convey spiritual blessings. [1 Cor. v.4, 5.] Thus, all church power is for spiritual ends, for the preservation, edification, and salvation of the soul, in the day of the Lord Jesus. But I come to—

Third Head, Which is to open up the work and duty of a gospel minister. Ministers are here said to be servants; nor is this a mean dignity, the greatest honour of a creature is to be owned by God, as his servant. The dignity even of angels, lies in their service, ‘Are they not all ministering spirits’ [Heb. i.14.]—Ministers are stewards to Christ’s family, ‘Who then is that faithful and wise steward,’ [Luke xii.42.]—Souls and the gospel, their proper food, are both committed to their care, ‘Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.’ [1 Cor. iv.1.]

First, Their work is to feed the household, by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ: The duty of a pastor is to feed, of a Steward to provide. It requires special attention to feed the church of God, ‘which he hath purchased with his own blood.’ [Acts xx.28.] Indeed, this is the great end of the ministry. The preaching of the gospel is the main engine in the hand of God, whereby he overturns the strongholds of sin, and undermines the kingdom of darkness; this is the great mean of the spiritual nourishment of souls; and as the gospel is the food of souls, ministers are obliged to dispense it in their own persons to their flocks; They are not at liberty to turn it over to others: it is of too great importance to be done by proxy, and therein, they are to preach the things that become sound doctrine, which proves health to souls. ‘But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.’ [Titus ii.1.] They must not feed souls with their own fancies and mere speculation; but with Jesus Christ the green pasture, as they would not be guilty of starving souls, and suffering them to pine away under spiritual want, for we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus sake. A gospel minister must be able to say, what I deliver to you, is not other than what I have received of the Lord: As ambassadors they must keep close to their instructions, with A THUS SAITH THE LORD. They must preach Christ and his gospel purely, not handling the word of God deceitfully, and adulterating he truths of Christ, not blindly, mixing the two covenants together, in justification; and so making another gospel. Whoever does this, lays himself under the curse of heaven. [Gal. i.8.] The preaching of Christ and free grace is the way God honours: unless the sound and breath of Christ be in the preaching, the Holy Ghost will not communicate his influences on the hearers. There is such a beautiful harmony among all divine truths, and such a harsh dissonance betwixt them and error, that no error can agree with them. We speak the words which become sound doctrine, when we make all the divine perfections to harmonize in the work of our redemption, when we give unto Christ, in all things, the preeminence making all duty center in him, and so lay the pride of sinful men in the dust. O! let the name, grace, Spirit, and love of Christ triumph in every sermon, recommend him to sinners as a sanctuary to protect them, a propitiation to reconcile them, a treasure to enrich them, and advocate to represent their persons and services to God, as wisdom to counsel, righteousness to justify, sanctification to renew, redemption to save, and as an inexhaustible fountain of pardon, grace, comfort, victory, and glory: this is food. I am the bread of life: and when preaching up the necessity of gospel holiness, as faithful ministers, they must declare, that true Evangelical holiness can grow upon no root, but the grace of CHRIST alone: Christ must be set forth, as the only foundation of reconciliation with GOD, of regeneration, faith, repentance, and all blessedness. In order to this, ’tis necessary, that ministers be well acquainted with the holy scriptures, and our own church standards, which may be called forms of sound words; yea, and that themselves first taste the words, which they distribute to others: They must study to get their sermons first preached to their own souls. In this work, they must neither overlook the poor, nor fear the rich; but be instant in season, and out of season.

Second, to defend the gospel and all the truths thereof, against the errors of the times, ‘Knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.’ [Phil. i.17.] They must contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. The truth of the gospel is worthy of the striving for; it is the food of our own and of other’s souls; it is the spring of spiritual life, and foundation, on which we build for eternity. It is indeed lamentable, that now, there are scarce any of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, which are not impugned and called in question, by men of corrupt minds, destitute of the truth; and that many, who still profess to own divine truths, do so blind law and gospel, that they make the covenant of grace, little better than another edition of the covenant of works. In relation to the discipline and government of CHRIST’s house, the generality seem agreed, that it is matter of mere indifferency. The Divinity, the Sonship, and personal character of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, are also attacked from different quarters, and endeavoured to be undermined, by all the little sophistry, and carnal reasoning, that men of corrupt minds are capable of. Now a minister’s duty is to defend all the truths of the gospel, whether respecting the glory of God, the salvation of men, the rights of Christians, or the prerogatives of our Redeemer; and here my brethren, there is the most special need for the exercise of all the gifts and graces of a gospel minister: faithfulness will oblige to the duty; but wisdom must direct, when, and how to do it. The establishment of the people in the truth, is one great end of the ministry; but without the assistance of all grace, the end is not likely to be obtained. A faithful, loving, and bold minister will not be silent, when the glory of his master, the good of souls, and the salvation of his people are concerned; Yet, all his endeavours to secure them, will be to little purpose, if knowledge, humility, and wisdom are a-wanting, in the management of that design. Wisdom and prudence must both time our contentions, and regulate the manner of them, they will neither suffer us to appear too soon, nor too late; not too soon, because errors are sometimes best cured by neglect, and in a little time they grow weary of themselves; nor too late, lest they should get head, and be past retrieve.

Third, It is the work of a gospel minister to declare all the counsel of God, to set before the household, all the treasures of grace, as Paul said, ‘For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of GOD.’ [Acts xx.27.] It is not to be supposed, that all the truths of GOD, which are comprehended in the unfathomable depth of divine revelation, ever can be brought forth by any one minister, or even by all that ever preached the gospel: the apostle does not say, he actually declared to them all the counsel of GOD; but he did not shun it; for we know only in part, and prophesy but in part: Not to shun to declare all is, to keep back no truth which we know from our hearers. It is to the utmost of our capacity, to bring forth what we know and think as before GOD, will be most for their spiritual profiting, in the proper season of it, and that either for instructing the ignorant, awakening the secure, strengthening the weak, recovering the straying, or comforting the mourners in Zion, and raising up those that are bowed down, under spiritual distresses of any kind; thus studying rightly to divide the word of truth, and to give every one their portion of meat in season.

Fourth, It is the work of gospel-ministers to be careful, that as they have called others, so that they in their own persons have answered the gospel call. Ministers are the salt of the earth, and if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? under the law, there was a sea for the priests to wash in, as well as a laver for the peoples souls. Oh! shall we direct others to heaven, and not go there ourselves? It may make us tremble to think, that it is possible for ministers, like the unbelieving spies, to coast the heavenly Canaan, to commend it to others, and yet never to possess it themselves; this had weight with Paul, ‘But I keep under my body, and bring into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away.’ [1 Cor. ix.27.] What anguish and sorrow must it be to a minister, to behold many of his people and charge in heaven, and himself a cast away? Oh cruel thought! and yet doubtless, it will be the end and fate of many at length, to find the gates of life, which they opened to others in the dispensation of the gospel, shut upon themselves.

Fifth, Ministers are to warn the people. ‘Son of Man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore, hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.’ [Ezek. iii.17.] It is their business to warn them often, of the danger of living and dying in the unsafe state of unrenewed nature, without being acquainted with the power of godliness, ‘Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in CHRIST JESUS.’ [Col. i.28.] They are to warn them of hypocrisy, of all error and heresy, and the evil and danger thereof: O! how does Infidelity rage amongst us? the doctrine of free grace is generally scoffed at, and human reason is cried up to the height of gospel revelation. How is CHRIST dethroned in the land? Impious men are found robbing him of his royal prerogative; they have shuffled their cursed heads under his glorious crown. In a word, men must be warned against all sin and danger, whether they will hear or forbear, as we would be guiltless of the blood of their souls. [Ezek. iii.18, 19.] Therefore, let ministers often visit their flocks, and warn every one, night and day, that they may not be found careless hirelings, and expose them to the rage and cruelty of the devouring wolf: this duty is enforced by Paul’s practice, when he said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city, where we have preached the word of the Lord.’ In the management of this part of duty, the poor must not be neglected, the rich feared, nor young ones despised; for all souls are of alike value in God’s estimation.

Sixth, They are to administer all appointed ordinances, these belong to the provision which our Lord has made for the nourishment of his family. A minister is Christ’s representative in his house; he acts in his name, and is to express his tenderness, love, and care in visiting it: like the high priest of old, he brings their names, temptations, and doubts before the throne, and must still remember, that Christ’s household on earth are a company of troubled, and tempted ones. Perhaps, some of the sweetest senses, which ministers are helped to give of scripture, are the issue and result of the conflicts and experiences of other saints, communicated unto them, ‘That is, that I may be comforted together with you, by the mutual faith both of you and me.’ [Rom. i.12.] A minister may possibly gain more by one hours converse with his people, than by a week’s study, and they also may be greater gainers, than by many learned sermons. Ministers must therefore allow their people all proper opportunities of this kind, and exercise a compassionate sympathy with every member, under all his afflictions; yet, at the same time, in administering the seals of the covenant, they must carefully separate betwixt the precious and the vile, and herein lies much of the beauty of the ministerial office, in keeping conform to the pattern, in keeping the door, as the Levites, that the unclean enter not in, and so not affix the precious seals of God’s covenant to a visible blank. In this exercise of church authority, there is very great difficulty, as many in Christ’s household are often in such a condition, that they need both exhortation and reproof, and Christ’s stewards must have an impartial regard to the meetness of the subject in all, and maintain a compassionate feeling with all the members of the church, in their various temptations, trials, and disconsolations inward and outward, ‘Who is weak and I am not weak, who is offended and I burn not?’ [2 Cor. xi.29.]

Seventh, The exercise of church discipline upon offenders belongs to the food of Christ’s household, here ministers must be impartial, and study so to rebuke and reprove sin, that the party under rebuke may be convinced, it is not their persons, but their sins that are hated, Let the righteous smite me, and it shall be as oil to my bones, and them that sin, rebuke before all, that others also may fear. Some may say that such a freedom will irritate; for avoiding all irritation, the apostle gives an excellent direction, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all long-suffering, yea, with all gentleness, that they may restore such an one with the spirit of meekness: as there are some sinners, not only impudent, but obstinate, it is necessary to rub their sores with vinegar and salt, that they may be felt. Our Saviour, who was meekness itself, severely lashed the hypocrites: reprove we must, else we cannot be faithful, and prudently too, else we cannot be successful. Faithfulness considers and argues the necessity of the duty, and wisdom considers the quality of the offender, the time and manner of the application. Wisdom will reach the sin, and if possible, avoid the offence of the sinner.

Eight, The minister’s duty is to teach and guide by example, as well as by doctrine. He is represented, as an evil servant, whose conversation is corrupt, how pure soever his doctrine might be, ‘But and if that servant say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to beat the menservants, and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken.’ He is at the best, but like the star which did only guide the wise men where Christ was to be found. He, who by a wicked life buildeth again those things, which by his holy doctrine he destroyed, makes himself a transgressor, a holy life justifies the doctrines which are according to godliness. Therefore a minister must take heed to himself, as well as to his doctrine, lest while he preach Christ to others, he himself be a castaway. He must be an example to believers, ‘But be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.’ [1 Tim. iv.12.]

Ninth, And to mention no more, a minister’s duty lies in inspecting particularly that part of the church, over which the Holy Ghost hath made him overseer. Though every minister has a general relation to the whole family, yet he hath a more special concern in that part of it parceled out to him, and in which he is immediately to labour; he is to be instant in season, and out of season; being glad to spend and be spent, as one that must give account; and therefore, though in the public dispensation of the gospel, a great auditory is desirable, because in a great number, there is a probability some may be caught by the gospel-net; yet, as to a particular charge, a small body is more comfortable, where they are in capacity to be a charge, for ministers have then a better opportunity of dealing with every one by himself, that, from a particular knowledge of their various soul-cases, distresses, and temptations, they may apply their doctrine to the situation of each, and know how to speak a word in season to the weary, and so give to all their portion of meat in due time; and hence it is comfortable and hopeful, when the Lord brings his church into such a state, as this can be obtained, both in respect of the people, and of public instruments.—I come to the

Fourth head, Which was to speak of the qualifications of such a servant, whereby he is fitted for his work, and likely to be successful therein.—There are principally two in my text, a faithful and wise servant, at present, I shall confine myself to these, and what may be comprehended in them.—First, He is faithful; ministerial faithfulness is an essential requisite in his character; what ground for trust, where there is no faith? ‘And the thing that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.’ Faithfulness, as it respects God, ourselves, and the household includes.—

First, Personal sincerity, so the word signifies, where ’tis said of Abraham, that God found his heart faithful, i.e. it was upright and sincere before him. A faithful minister is a sincere hearted minister: Oh! herein, or in nothing, let us approve ourselves the ministers of Christ; let this be our rejoicing, that in all sincerity, and godly simplicity, we have had our conversation in the world; and the rather be careful in this, because, no sin is more apt to insinuate itself into our hearts and duties, than hypocrisy. In the 9th of Hosea and 7th verse, the servant is called a spiritual man, the spiritual man is mad, but from that text it is plain, that the servant may be objectively spiritual, and all the while subjectively a carnal man; alas! he can have but little, or no concern for the souls of others, who has no sense of the worth of his own—believe it, a minister will find his own heart one of the hardest texts he has to preach on; it is easier, like orators to declaim against a thousand sins in others; than like Christians, to mortify one sin in ourselves: our work is spiritual; but alas! our frames are often carnal: gifts may make us useful to others; but without the present exercise of grace in duty, how often are ministers a burthen, a terror to themselves! delight in God gives rest, sweetness, and complacency in duty; and indeed, all studying and preaching may be said to be but trifling, until the truths studied and preached be felt, in their power, in the heart: all abounding in public services, will never atone for neglect in private, and personal communion with God.

Second, Pure and spiritual aims and intentions for God, a servant is not his own, but his who hath chosen him, whose honour and interest he must design. Fidelity will not endure self-ends, disguised with a pretence of zeal for Christ. It is said of the master-workmen in the temple of old, that there was no reckoning made with them because they dealt faithfully; they acted out of a pure principle of zeal for God and his house, without any respect had to sinister and base ends; oh! let us all be such faithful master-builders for the house of our God; let us say, not our interests, but Christ’s; not our glory, but his; let us beware of all artifices and designs, to accommodate carnal interests under a shew of devotion to God; let us not dread the fear of the world or scourge of tongues; let us not desire the love of lucre, nor court the applause of men; but with Paul labour, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of God, Let us study to shew ourselves unto God, workmen that need not to be ashamed. Pure ends in our service will give abundant comfort, at the end of our service; if our great Lord approves, no matter who condemns.

Third, Impartiality in all the affairs of Christ’s house, he that is partial in church-administrations, cannot be faithful, with what extraordinary solemnity does Paul urge this upon Timothy, ‘I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things, without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.’ [1 Tim. v.21.] We must shortly appear before an impartial God. Oh then! let us be impartial servants in all the mysteries of Christ, rightly dividing the word of truth, and giving every one their portion in due season; a gospel minister must manifest the same love to, and attend with the same diligence, on the poorest and weakest, as on the richest and strongest: all the souls of the saints are rated at one value, in our master’s book, they are all equally dear to the blessed Jesus, and they must be so to his ministers, the servants of Christ ought not to account it any disturbance, to be interrupted in their studies, by the objections and fears of a young convert, or by the sad complaints of a distressed believer, (but oh! how rare nowadays, are interruptions of this kind?) they must bear with their ignorance and weakness, yea, and even with their impertinences, for he that winneth souls is wise.

Fourth, Diligence, and vigilance in the whole ministerial work is comprehended in this; a minister must not be a sleepy drowsy person; the wicked servant is called slothful, he is a faithless one. Rulers in Christ’s household, have an extensive care devolved upon them, and it is not enough that they have eyes in their heads; but these must be open, there is work for their head, heart, and hands, ministers have need above all others, to be fervent in spirit serving the Lord. A sleepy servant is no better than a faithless one: it is said in the parable, that while men, church rulers slept, the enemy came and sowed tares, errors, and heresies; when the shepherds sleep, the wolves watch, and devour the flock.—They must be diligent, to be found true believers, the importance of sincere godliness in them, is written in the deep wounds the church of Christ hath received, by the hands of ungodly ministers—diligent, that they be called and sent ministers of the Lord, this is requisite as to success, he that can say, Lord, thou hast sent me, may boldly add, Lord, go with me and bless me; it is to be feared, that many do run and never ask this question, and so is seen in their success; I sent them not, therefore they shall not profit this people at all—diligent as to all trials and temptations they may meet with, no men are more shot at, by Satan, than ministers—And diligent with respect to their doctrine, they must be careful, that their doctrine be a divine truth, and that Christ has given it to them, to give to his people, hear therefore the word at my mouth. They must be well acquainted with the scriptures; those who are called daily to lay out, had need to take care that they lay up: it is incumbent on them to study before hand, what they are to deliver to the people, and in a humble dependence on divine promised grace, digest into order and method, what they are to deliver of the counsel of God, [1 Tim. iv.13, 14, 15, 16.], again it includes,

Fifth, Unweariedness and indefatigableness in their work, all the names given to ministers in scripture, are taken from that which is painful, hard, and laborious among men: they are watchmen, exposed to all winds and weather, to the cold of the night, and to heat of the day. Ministers may look for changeable conditions, a succession of good and bad. Paul counsels Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Christ; soldiers are not only appointed to stand sentinels in the night and day; but are often sent upon desperate services: such an one was Paul [2 Cor. xi.23 to 30.]: Ministers are men principally struck at, and are likely to meet with the first and greatest danger; but whatever be the dangers in the day, they must never weary and give over their work: the labours of the ministry will exhaust the very marrow out of the bones, and hasten old age, they are fitly compared to the toil of men in harvest, and the labours of a woman in travail: indeed, it is not so much the expense of their labours, as the loss of them, that kills faithful ministers; it is not with them, as with other labourers, these find their ministerial work as they leave it, but it is seldom so in the ministerial work: sin and Satan unravel almost all that is done. The impressions made on people’s souls in a sermon, often evanish before the next. Yea, ministers must fight for the defence of those truths which they preach, as well as study them to paleness, and preach them to faintness; but well-spent head, heart, lungs and all! welcome pained breasts, aching backs, and trembling legs! if by all, we can but approve ourselves Christ’s indefatigable faithful servants, constant and steadfast to the end. Be thou faithful to the death: we look for happiness, as long as God is in heaven, and he expects constancy, as long as we are on earth.

Sixth, Holy boldness and courage in the cause of Christ, it is necessary, that the preachers of the gospel be men of an undaunted spirit and resolution, that they may avowedly make open proclamation of their message, preferring the truth of God and conscience of duty, before the favour of men. ‘Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads, fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.’ [Ezek. iii.8, 9.] Shall people not be afraid to sin? and shall ministers be afraid to reprove them? they must resolve to bear the scorn and contempt of the world; it requires courage and fortitude of mind, to make their way, thro both the importunity of friends and frowns of enemies. Gospel-ministers are the leaders of the sacred militia, who are marching to ruin the Devils empire, and sap the foundations of his kingdom, and their honourable station exposes them more to the hatred of wicked men, and malice of devils, than if they stood on lower ground, being raised higher in office than ordinary Christians, their enemies multiply in number, and increase in danger; but tho’ dangers and deaths tare them in the face, they must never flee their colours, nor forsake their captain. Their cause is good, their crown better, and captain best of all, he goes before as the glorious breaker up, passing before upon their head, and as he leads on, will not, like the devil, leave his servants in extremity, but will bring them off with triumph and victory, either safe on earth, or safe to heaven.

Seventh, It includes holy zeal, ministers had much need to be fired with holy zeal for God, and religion founded on his authority. It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing. Indifferency in the Lord’s cause and interest, is often guilded over with the fair names of moderation and charity, and when Christ’s cause, his honour and glory are contended for, that is taken up under the notion of self-honour and blind-zeal; but is it not observable; that great charity is allowed to such as are not deserving thereof, and denied to these who are the proper objects of it? In this day of blasphemy and rebuke, when the truths of Christ are struck at, is it not required; that ministers be zealous against all that oppose themselves to their divine master? as they would not be found bidding them God speed, who he curses. [2 John 10 and 11 verses.]

Eighth, It respects the committing of the ministerial trust into faithful hands, for its safe transmission to posterity. ‘And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.’ [2 Tim. ii.2.] Tho’ the prophets do not live for ever, yet the ministry must live while the world lasts. And therefore it should be the care of ministers, for the sake of the truth and of the church, to look out for such as may be able to feed the flock, with knowledge, and of whom it may be hoped, that they will be faithful in doing it; otherwise, they themselves cannot be faithful.—The putting of men into the sacred ministry is of the last consequence to the souls of men, and the keeping of the truth pure. ‘Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins;’ [1 Tim. v.22.] without a due care used, ministers are chargeable with all the injuries the truth suffers, by those whom they send forth precipitantly, and are found to be unworthy timeserving men.—

The second qualification with which the Lord’s servants should be clothed is wisdom; they must not only be faithful, but wise, discreet and prudent, knowing and understanding. Faithfulness will fix the eye on the right end; but it is wisdom that must direct to the proper means of attaining it. If we look to Rev. iv.6, 7, we shall find a stately emblem of gospel-ministers, they are men full of eyes, looking to God before them for direction, looking to the flock which they lead, and looking within them to their own hearts: they possess not only the courage of the Lion, the strength of the ox, and the loftiness of the Eagle, but the face of a man, that is, wisdom, knowledge, and discretion. If the blind lead the blind, both may fall into the ditch. Ignorance causeth error, and error destruction [Isai. ix.16.]: there must be a comprehensive view of the gospel, an experimental knowledge of God and his truths in all gospel ministers. They are to lead the flock of Christ into green pastures, and there to feed them, but without scripture knowledge, instead of feeding them on the green and fat pastures of sound gospel-truths, they will lead them to the rotten ground of heresy, where the flock will be ruined. If a minister wants eyes, how can he discern danger, instruct the ignorant, plaister the wounded, reduce the straying, lift up the fallen, feed the hungry, comfort the discouraged, resolve doubting consciences? Ministers are, or should be, men of God, throughly furnished. The use of this property to a minister of Christ is unspeakably great, in all the concerns of Christ’s house. The eye of this heavenly wisdom must look to our own proper work, and to others who work.—It will direct us in our own ministerial work that it be well done, particularly,—

First, Wisdom will direct the servants in Christ’s house, to lay a good foundation of knowledge in their people’s souls, by catechising and instructing them in the principles of Christianity, without which, they labour in vain; except they have a knowing people, they are not like to have a gracious people. Paul’s prudentials lay much in this, as a wise master-builder, says he, I have laid the foundation, and indeed, this is the master-piece of a master-builder, without it, the most excellent sermons will be dashed to pieces, on the rock of the people’s ignorance.

Second, This directs to the choice of subjects, as the needs of people’s souls do most require: a wise servant will study the souls of his people, more than the best human systems in his library. He will not choose what is easiest for himself, or may best please their humours; but what is most needful for their spiritual interest, hence is called a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, knowing every part of his work that lies before him. The food Christ has provided for his family is of various sorts, suited to every one’s case, and of which a wise servant will eat up, and divide to every one his proper portion. The word of truth consists of law and gospel, promises, and threatenings, grace and duty. Some are Christ’s sheep to be brought into his fold; but presently ignorant and unregenerate, such as need the doctrines of conviction, regeneration, and faith: others are gathered in and need to be built up; among these, are such as are withering and decaying in their religious affections, or staggering and floating in their judgments; some are babes to be fed with milk, plain easy gospel-truths; others are confirmed and strong men, to be fed with stronger meat suitable to their age and standing in the church; the wandering are to be settled, the secure roused, back-sliders threatened, and the heavy loaden raised up, ministerial skill lies in an ability to give to every one the proper food or physic [medicine] which his present state calls for.

Third, This directs to the language, in which he is to deliver all his discourses to the people, this seeks to find out acceptable words, particularly wholesome words, sound speech that cannot be condemned: ministers are never to preach the law, without Christ the end of it; as it was delivered, so let it be preached, in the hands of a Mediator: when discovering the disease let them still point to the physician. [John i.29.] Salvation must be preached from first to last, altogether of free grace, and no conditions thereof known but what Christ fulfilled, wisdom will choose expressions that are solid rather than florid, and will cast away a thousand airy phrases, for one sentence that is apt to penetrate the conscience, reach and affect the heart. As learning is most useful, so most beautiful, when most concealed. A crucified stile best suits the preachers of a crucified Christ. Let the truths of God be delivered in such a plain and easy manner, as that the weak and ignorant may understand them, Shunning all long and intricate sentences, all gaudy and bombast expressions on the one hand, and all rude and coarse language on the other, a grave scriptural stile is most elegant for the pulpit, and it is certain the more fully ministers understand their own doctrine, the more able will they be to deliver it plain to others.

Fourth, Wisdom guides to the proper season of treating every divine truth, present truths struck at are to be vindicated, and present sins run into are to be reproved: alas! a fatal neutrality prevails among professors, both as to doctrine and practice, pretended moderation in principles has been a great inlet, to all that irreligion which has carried away the generation. There are many things in themselves, which it may not be so seasonable to observe at all times, but a word fitly spoken, that hits the case, time, occasion, and circumstances of persons and things, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. [Prov. xxv.11.]

Fifth, It will show of what great use the exercise of our own affections is, for the moving of others, and will therefore advise, as ever ministers expect the truths they preach, to operate upon the hearts of the hearers, that they first labour to work them in upon their own hearts, after this sort did Paul preach, it was with tears accompanying his words.

Sixth, This directs to that gravity and strictness of deportment, which is necessary to procure an esteem for the persons of ministers, and a regard for their ministrations, in the consciences of the people; in the pulpit, they are carrying on a treaty of peace betwixt God and sinners, which will not allow any thing out of it, that may hinder the happy close betwixt them. He that winneth souls is wise. Our saviour’s sweetness allured, and the Baptist’s gravity made even Herod to tremble, a proper mixture of both is most amiable, and best becoming in the servant of the Lord, that he may be able to say with Paul, what ye have both heard, and seen in me, do.

Seventh, This wisdom will send ministers often to their knees, to seek a blessing from God on all their ministerial studies and labours, as well knowing, that all the success depends entirely thereupon. ‘So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth: but God that giveth the increase.’ [1 Cor. iii.7.] The best sermons are got by prayer. If an honest husbandman could tell his neighbour, that the reason why his corn prospered better than his was, because he steeped the seed in prayer, before he sowed it,—We, at least, I may blush to think, how much more precious seed we have often sown dry and unsteeped in prayer, and by this neglect, have frustrated our own expectations, but —wisdom is also of great use with respect to others who work, either with us, or against us, And,

First, As to our brethren and fellow servants in the Lord who work with us, wisdom will enjoin it upon us, that by the firmest union with them, we make their gifts and graces as useful as possible, for the advancement of our great and difficult work: we cannot be ignorant, how much Satan has gained, and Christ’s interest hath lost, by unhappy divisions and alienations amongst brethren and fellow servants in the work of the Lord. Christ hath shed down a variety of glorious ascension-gifts and abilities upon ministers, for the service of the church, which are not capable of a full improvement, but in union and conjunction with each other. Gifts are improved in ministers by prayer and study; but the benefit of these is shared amongst them by love and unity. Love and union bring every one’s gifts and graces into the common stock, and instead of monopolies, they drive an open trade to the great enriching of the church. There is not a greater, or more pleasant variety of qualities, smells, and colours, among the herbs and flowers in the field, than there is in the gifts and abilities of ministers, for the service of the church: when these different gifts and qualities shine together in the church, what a glorious constellation do they make! what benign influences do they shed down upon the Lord’s heritage!

Second, Again, this wisdom is most useful with respect to enemies, who labour to obstruct the work of the Lord in their hands, and if ministers are heartily engaged in the service of Christ, they may expect many adversaries and much opposition from them, men, who will raise clouds of reproach to darken their reputation among the people, men, who will represent them as ignorant and unlearned, factious and seditious, erroneous and enthusiastical, in this case, wisdom will restrain from rendering reproach for reproach, and propound the best expedient in the world, for the vindication of their names, and the success of their labours, and that is, that they so preach the gospel, that people may see the power of Christ in their doctrine, and so live, that they may see the beauty of Christ in their conversation, thus preaching and living, they shall bear down before them, all the prejudices of the world. I come to the

Fifth Head, To offer some quickening motives, to stir up ministers to constancy and diligence in this great work, and of many that might be offered, shall only name these four.

First, Gospel-ministers are not their own, but Christ’s; it is he that calls, and sends them to their work, ‘Son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel.’ [Ezek. iii.17.] A servant is wholly another’s [Eph. iv.11.], hence ministers are called vessels [2 Cor. iv.7.] not only signifying, that they can convey nothing but what they have received; but to show that what they receive, is not for themselves only, but chiefly for others; nay, they are not only Christ’s but the church’s, for Christ’s sake; all their knowledge, their gifts both of praying and preaching, their graces, trials, and comforts are all for the use, and benefit of the household of Christ.

Second, Christ will one day come and demand an account of their whole trust: servants are accountable to them by whom they are put in trust. ‘After a long time, the Lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with them.’ [Matt. xxv.19.] God values no man by his greatness in the world, but as he has laid out his talents for his service, and what an awful thought is it, that they who have been employed in the great work of saving others, may themselves be cast aways!

Third, If faithful now, they shall be blessed at last, Christ has a crown of glory in his hand, as the gift of grace. When the chief shepherd shall appear ye shall receive a crown of glory. If ministers work for him, they shall appear, and reign with him, look forward to the reward, ‘that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus,’ [2 Cor. i.14.], ‘for ye are our glory and joy.’ [1 Thess. ii.19, 20.]

Fourth, The Lord Christ will feed his servants: while they as rulers and servants are dividing a portion to others, themselves shall be fed at his table, their springs are all in Christ, and though streams fail, there is all sufficiency in him the fountain, tho’ distressed on all hands in their work, Christ calls off from straits and difficulties to look to him, who has promised, ‘the liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.’ [Prov. xi.25.]—I shall now make some general reflections from the whole, And,

First, From the state and condition of the church, its relation to Christ, as his house and family, we may be taught, that the sole order and disposal of it should be entirely left to himself: the men of this world will be tampering with Christ’s house, and laying out their wisdom about it, to cast it into this and the other form, such as into Prelatical, Papistical, Erastian, and Sectarian forms. Others contend, that Christ has left no settled form in his house, but has left it to the will of man, to choose what he pleases, all this wisdom is not from above; it bears a high reflection against him who is a son in and over his own house, and who is exceeding jealous of his honour in this particular; he cannot bear it, that men pretending to his glory, should think him so wanting in love, faithfulness, and wisdom towards his church, as not exactly to dispose of all things that concern the order and government thereof. None would be so dealt with in their houses, as Christ is generally dealt with in his: every one supposes himself to have sufficiency of conduct to order his own house, only Christ is so wanting in faithfulness and wisdom, as to leave his to the discretion of others; how absurd and blasphemous the thought! How impious to suppose! that not only, either Pope or Prelate, but that any Erastian civil head should be vested with the jewel of supremacy, in and over the church, to model the form thereof at pleasure, as alas! has been fatally the case in these nations, ever since our national apostacy from our national attainments, in purity of principle and reformation.

Second, Is the church Christ’s household? then let the men of the world take heed how they spoil it for themselves, or impose upon Christ, that for his house, which is destitute of the distinguishing properties of it. If we should present that to Christ for his household, which is but a den of unclean beasts, a sty of swine, he would not bear with such a reproach: they do an equal injury to the Lord of this house, who attempt to pull down the form and frame of it; and turn it into a den of thieves, they who calling themselves servants or rulers therein, instead of preserving their equity and the discipline of this household, do pervert the same, plunder the family of its most valuable furniture and privileges, and break down the carved work of reformation in the house of God, which by oath to him we are bound to maintain and defend; but will the Lord Christ suffer his household to be spoiled at an easy rate? shall not the ungodly pay dear for their encroachments? Yes, for he hath said, touch not mine anointed,—and Jerusalem shall become a burdensome stone to all that burthen themselves therewith. The gates of hell have made many attempts for the ruin of Christ’s church, but never yet have prevailed, and never shall, infinite wisdom always hath taken the wise in their own craftiness, turned the counsel of the forward headlong, and made the very devices of hell subservient to the exalting of the Redeemer’s interest. ‘His enemies will I clothe with shame, but upon himself shall his crown flourish.’ [Psal. cxxxii.18.] The little stone cut out of the mountain always hath, and ever shall prove too hard for every opposition, it shall become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth.

Third, From the subject, learn that a gospel ministry is of divine institution, ‘he gave some apostles, and some Prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,’ [Eph. iv.11, 12, 13.]; and that it is perpetually binding, useful, and of necessary use in the church of Christ, ordinances are constantly needful in the house of Christ, therefore there must be rulers and servants to dispense them, as appears from the promise of Christ’s presence with his ministers, in the dispensation thereof to the end of the world. [Matt. xxviii.20.] The ends of a gospel-ministry are of continued necessity, the chosen number are to be gathered in, enemies are to be opposed, and the saints are to be built up in their most holy faith, until they reach the stature of the fullness of Christ, therefore the ministerial work is not only honourable; but useful and necessary; it is to instruct the ignorant, to give wisdom to the simple, to open the eyes of the blind, to relieve the oppressed, to deliver these who are condemned to poverty, slavery, and death: this is a work worthy of the greatest men. These therefore who say, that the church, for any considerable time can dispense with the want of a gospel ministry, or, that it is unnecessary to the subsistence of the church in the world, may as well say, that this lower world needs not the sun, a church without ministers is like a body without eyes, a flock without a shepherd, or a family without a ruler, or any to serve it.

Fourth, We may see the condescension and goodness of God in giving us gospel ministers: Christ himself having gone to heaven, has left them to supply his absence: the bridegroom having departed for a season, has left them, as his friends, to comfort his bride, to watch over his church, and feed his household. In the new Jerusalem there is no need of them, I saw no temple there. There, all the children of the resurrection shall see him face to face, and compass him about with shouts and songs of salvation.

Fifth, Hence see the wisdom and mercy of God, in giving us men like ourselves,—of like passions with ourselves, to be rulers and servants in his household. God could have taught his church either immediately by himself, or mediately by angels; but the experience of all saints, both under the Old and New Testament, plainly shows, how little, in our mortal state, we could bear such a dispensation; let not God speak to us, but let Moses speak to us, said his own Israel, when they saw the fire and smoke, and heard the dreadful sound of the trumpet; nay, the favourite himself trembled; and the beloved disciple could not bear the divine splendor of his exalted Lord, tho’ the rays of his majesty and glory were tempered with meekness and grace; but when he heard and saw him, fell down at his feet as dead.

Sixth, From this subject be informed, what a fatal pernicious thing an erroneous, unfaithful, and ignorant ministry is to the church of God, it is one of the worst plagues that can befall her: for such act in immediate opposition to the gracious design of heaven, in the institution of this ordinance, and the family is ruined, or in the utmost danger of being destroyed for want of faithfulness and knowledge. ‘There were false prophets among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies,—and many shall follow their pernicious ways.’ [2 Pet. ii.1.] Alas! how awfully is this verified in our day: is not Christ’s household filled up with a loose, erroneous, and may I not add, an ignorant ministry? who attempt to feed the household with the empty harangues of a Heathenish morality, while Christ in his person and official character is not to be found in all their discourses, and if this is the case, we are, notwithstanding all our light, among the dark places of the earth: how much need then to try the spirits, particularly as to their acquaintance with Christ, and the power of religion, before their admittance as rulers into Christ’s house, agreeable to the divine direction? [1 John iv.1.]

Seventh, Let us not think that ministers are perfect, the sun hath its motes, and the best marble its flaws; the heavens are not pure in God’s sight, much less man; be not severe to mark the failings of Christ’s servants, every gracious soul, like Shem, will be more ready to throw a mantle over their fathers nakedness, than with wicked Ham, to expose and flout at it; these who mock or despise the servants of Christ, as they are guilty of an atrocious crime, so they run themselves into visible danger. He that despiseth you, despiseth me, and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.

Eighth, From this doctrine you may be convinced, that the ministerial work is not so easy, as some apprehend it to be, considering the many qualifications that are necessary; indeed, we find Isaiah saying send me, and when young men are entered upon the ministry, they are often resolute, and think to carry all down before them, until they find that OLD ADAM is too strong for YOUNG MELANCHTHON.—It is a very hard and difficult work, who is sufficient for these things? it is no easy talk to rule an ungovernable people, especially, when the laws whereby they are to be governed, are contrary to their natural inclination, it is so hard a work, that many of Christ’s servants of old undertook it, with much trembling, crying out, send by whom thou will send—so hard, that a saint with all his natural parts, with all his acquired abilities, nay, with all his spiritual gifts, graces, and endowments, is not sufficient for it, without fresh supplies of new strength from above.—The difficulty of this work arises partly, from themselves who are employed therein, they are attended with weakness, and carry about with them a body of sin and death, they, at best, know but in part, and are of short lived experience, and subject to many discouragements and temptations,—partly, from the work itself. It is a most mysterious work, it requires the greatest care, exactness, and diligence and the whole strength of the soul: a work that consists of many branches, which must be continually followed. Preach the word; be instant in season, and out of season—and partly, on account of the opposition ministers meet with, from sin, satan, and the world, by reproaches, contradictions, and persecutions from Hereticks and false teachers, and even false brethren; and often from the stubbornness, unteachableness and refractory perverse dispositions of the people they are immediately set over.

Ninth, Is there so much required of ministers? may not the doctrine then reach conviction to all of us, whom God hath called to this sacred office? when we consider what, and how much is required, and how little we have performed; may not our consciences upbraid us? Can we say that we have declared the whole counsel of God? and that we are pure from the blood of all men? or dare we appeal to God, and our people, for the tenderness of our walk? When we read of Paul’s diligence, how he warned every one, exhorted every one, importuned them with tears, traveled from house to house, thought no labour too great, no lodging too mean, no diet too coarse, no bed too hard, in pursuing his work, it may fill our hearts with fear, and our consciences with remorse: all I shall say on the whole is, when we enter on the consideration of neglects and defects of this great work; must we not cry out, enter not into judgment with us, O God. We have constant need to make use of the laver that is at the door of the tabernacle, in going to, and in coming from our work; but notwithstanding the imperfections of ministers, people will have much to count for, who despise their message delivered in the faithful discharge of their trust, for these who despise them, despise him who sent them, and how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him.

Tenth, Are ministers rulers and servants in Christ’s household? have they such a great charge? then they ought to have a comfortable maintenance allowed them, by the people, over whom they are set: this is their due by divine right, and love to God and his truths ought to influence the people to their duty. The labourer is declared worthy of his hire, [Luke x.7.], they ought to have all things necessary provided for them, and their families. If God bless a congregation with a plentiful portion of this world’s goods, it is their duty, to make their minister a sharer with them in their fullness. It is not enough, that his pressing necessities be supplied, while the people abound in superfluities. If indeed the necessity of the church be such, and they do not voluntarily place themselves in that necessity, then the minister must be content to be poor with them, yea, and if need be, rejoice to approve himself a minister of God, by hunger and nakedness, if God call him thereto; but if it really is in the power of the church’s hand to provide better, God expects it of them; and be not deceived, God is not mocked. The people be under the strongest obligations to this duty; the law and light of nature oblige to it, as a matter of equity and justice, see how the apostle pleads and enforceth this duty, 1 Cor. ix.7, to 15.—The ministry is a warfare, a labour undertaken at the command of Christ for the service of souls, and is it consistent with justice, that labourers should be deprived of the fruit of their work? such is the case, in respect of a reasonable provision, betwixt a minister and his people. It is not charity, but strict justice; a reasonable debt owing him, he is called to be employed in the church’s service, and of right, should live on their charge; you have taken him off from all other business, and therefore his maintenance is due from you, as much as the wages of your servants; though many will give more to the meanest servant in their house, than to their minister. Is it reasonable they be devoted to necessities, the same hour they enter into the ministry? Let ministers, at least, have as good treatment as the oxen that tread out the corn, [1 Cor. ix.9.] Nay, to put the matter beyond all dispute, God hath added his express command, in providing for his ministers, under the law, verse 13, and the moral equity of it never ceaseth, nor hath Christ left gospel-ministers to the pleasure of the wide world, but hath made provision for them also, so far as the interest and authority of his command will go with these that profess his name, verse 14, ‘even so hath the Lord ordained, that they who preach the gospel, should live of the gospel.’ For understanding duty in this matter, do but only consider, that a minister is to attend wholly on his calling in the work of the gospel, that he may please him, by whom he is called thereunto, and therefore, being excluded from these secular businesses whereby others advance themselves in the world, it is by no means meet, that he should be left to conflict with the thorny cares and pinching necessities of a mean condition; whilst those he labours amongst have it in their power to prevent it.—It is no less his duty, than that of other men, to provide for his family, having one, and as much as possible to take care, that they be not exposed to misery when he is gone: although covetousness ill becomes him, it is a great mistake to think, that he must divest himself of the due affection of a husband, or tender care of a parent, and that the fruits thereof, which are commendable in others, should be a fault in him. He is under a special charge to use hospitality, and to be a pattern of charity, and the people are concerned that he be capable of this grace by the exercise of it. This duty might be more home applied; but perhaps, some will think, there is too much said already, tho’ it is to be wished, that more were not needful in some cases; only let it be remembered, that a gospel-minister is the servant of Christ, and therefore, he acting in his place according to his duty, the Lord Jesus will account that done to himself, which is done to his ministers, for says he, he that receiveth you, receiveth me. And therefore, true love to Christ and a due esteem of his gospel, will never suffer us to treat his servants in an unworthy manner; remembering that he who gave himself for us, deserves to be honoured, not only with good words, but with our substance, and the first fruits of our increase.—But, here I interrupt the prosecution of the applicatory branch of this subject, until the more solemn part of the work is over: prayer and singing of psalms being ended, I proceeded as follows.

You, the principal constituents and members of this assembly, need not to be informed of the immediate design of our meeting together, in this place, today. It is known, that you, the elders and people in the different societies of true Presbyterian dissenters, in and about Stirling, and the bounds adjacent thereto, owning and adhering to the testimony of the covenanted reformed church of Scotland, maintained by the reformed Presbytery, and united together in a congregational capacity, under their inspection, did, some considerable time ago, petition said Presbytery, to appoint one of their number to moderate in a call, to one, to take the immediate ministerial oversight and inspection of you in the Lord, which the Presbytery granted accordingly, and appointed the Reverend Mr. John Thorburn to preach at Stirling, and to moderate in the said call; and the foresaid congregation, at the moderation, having given their harmonious and unanimous consent by the stretching out of their right hands, to Mr. John Macmillan preacher of the gospel, to be their minister, did thereafter, sign an unanimous and harmonious call to him, in the presence of the said Mr. Thorburn moderator of the meeting, and two neutral witnesses, which call the Reverend Mr. Thorburn attested; it being duly given into the Presbytery, was sustained by them, as orderly proceeded in, and offered to be put into the hands of the said Mr. Macmillan, who, after a considerable time desired, and granted to him, to deliberate thereupon, at length, accepted said call, and returned it to the moderator; he was thereupon taken under trials, in the ordinary and several pieces thereof, by the Presbytery, in all which he acquitted himself to their satisfaction. According to appointment his Edict was duly served, a Presbytery was held in this town, this forenoon, and intimation was given from this place, that if any person or persons had anything to object, against the life, or doctrine of Master John Macmillan preacher, they should compear and give it in: no objections being offered, the Presbytery now resolve this day, (being a day set apart for fasting and prayer) to proceed to his ordination, after demanding from him, and his giving satisfactory answers to the questions agreed upon by the Presbytery, and proposed to licentiates before ordination, which questions, it is not necessary here to insert; but being proposed to him, and answered to the satisfaction of the Presbytery, I proceeded—you the people of this congregated charge, under the inspection of the reformed Presbytery, have heard the questions proposed, the satisfactory answers given, which besides all other discoveries, you have had of the orthodoxy of the candidate as to the faith delivered to the saints, is another convincing proof thereof. It is desired, that you now discover your former declared willingness to submit to this person, as your pastor, in the Lord, by the apostolick cheirotonia, the stretching forth of your right hands—This sign being given, I then proceeded to the solemn setting apart of this person, to the holy office of the ministry, by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, and by prayer, then was given to Mr. Macmillan the right hand of fellowship to take part with us in the holy ministry: and afterwards I prosecuted the application of the doctrine, in a further improvement of the subject, in a few advices, both to the minister, and to the people.


CHARGE TO THE MINISTER.

First, To the minister, Dear Brother, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by his word and authority, I may warrantably declare that you are no longer to be considered as a private Christian, but as a minister of Jesus Christ; you are no more to be looked upon as an inferior subject of the kingdom of Christ, but as an officer in it. I do not now stand as a dictator, or as an informer to you; but as a rememberancer—With the concern of a friend,—of a father,—and as a brother in Jesus Christ, I would lay the words of the text before you, who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season: and, I would not be understood, to say more to you, than I do to myself, and to all the ministers of Christ were they present, we are all equally concerned in his honour, and in the pastoral office of his house. Will ye suffer a little the word of exhortation, in the following particulars? consider—

First, The great work you are now entered upon is full of difficulties, you are called to an high and holy calling; but your work is full of danger, full of duty, and full of mercy: you are a servant and ruler in Christ’s family, which, while in this militant state, is often very unruly: you are a watchman appointed to inspect the church of God, and may expect hazards, the dangers of the day, and the noxious humours of the night; you are a shepherd to feed and lead the flock of Christ to green pastures; you are a steward to dispense the bread of life, the mysteries of the gospel to the children of God. O then! divide the word of truth aright, and give to every one their meat in due season; you are a spiritual nurse to the new-born family, bearing their burdens and difficulties, in the way of becoming all things to all men, that, by all means you may gain them to Christ, by not being a member simply, but an officer in his house: I remember Luther puts the question, and gives the answer, saying, what it is to be a minister? It is to draw the weight of the world’s vengeance on one’s head. The way and manner of the discharge enhances the difficulty.

Second, It is not only difficult, but of great importance, you are called to the winning of souls, an employment near of kin to our Lord’s work, the saving of souls, and the nearer your spirit be in conformity to his holy temper, the fitter you are for, and the more fruitful you shall be in your work, we are either the savour of life unto life, or the savour of death unto death, to all that hear us, and are under our charge. Great is the importance! precious souls are committed to you; the mysteries of the gospel, the truths of God, the honour of the Divine Majesty, and his interests in the world are committed to you;—to bring down Satan’s kingdom is your office, to draw stones out of the quarry of nature, and polish them for being received from the lower to the upper house of God.

Third, Remember Christ’s interest in the people committed to your charge: feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood: He is the owner of this flock and family, he takes a special care of it. It shows us how the under-shepherds ought to take care of his flock, from his own care of it, in Ezek. 34, from the 11th to the 17th verse; he notices and reproves them who are not faithful, from the 1st to the 11th verse; view and ponder this scripture.

Fourth, Consider the awful and solemn engagements you are come under, before God, and witnesses not a few, to be faithful; besides, you are under vows in baptism, to be honest, sincere, and faithful to God and his people, as you shall have occasion from time to time: let—you and me—and others here consider ourselves in Timothy’s place, to do the work in faithfulness. Tho’ there is not the solemnity and formality, in our engagements, of an oath; yet remember there is the force and strength of an oath, the oath of office to be faithful to the trust, is like the oath of fidelity that persons give to be faithful to the end. Let then these you labour among see that you are in earnest about your Master’s business, that your heart is intent upon it, and that nothing will satisfy you, but the answer of faith to the message which you bear.

Fifth, Consider the great account that you are to give to Christ at the last day, and your danger, if not faithful in the execution of your office, says God, his blood will I require at thine hand. If you warn not the wicked, what a heavy charge is this! If you suffer enemies to come in, and destroy your trust, life, in this case, must go for life; on the other hand, how happy will you be when dying, if you can say, I am pure from the blood of all men. Here is a charge, and every one must give an account of the charge committed to him: the question will be put to every minister, at last, as was in another case said to David, what hast thou done with these few sheep committed to thee in the wilderness? Oh miserable will the case of that shepherd be! if any of the flock be lost on his account, if any of them shall stand up in the last day, and cry, there is the servant, the steward of thy house, that famished and starved my soul; but brother, better things are hoped of you, and things that accompany salvation, tho’ I thus speak.

Sixth, Consider again your great reward: great and massy is the crown of glory that will be set on their head, who are found faithful and diligent. Be thou faithful unto the death, and I will give thee a crown of life. They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the starts for ever and ever. [Dan. xii.3.] As the painful nurse gets her wages, tho’ the child die, so, tho’ Israel should not be gathered and saved, yet these ministers that have been helped to act faithfully for God, however low and mean a figure they make in this world, shall make a great one in the next, and be crowned with immortal glory: considering therefore both your danger and reward, know your commission, arise speak unto them all that I command thee, and be not dismayed at their faces, for I am with thee, saith the Lord.

Seventh, Consider the rich assistance that are promised and allowed to gospel-ministers: under a sense of your burdens, trials, and weaknesses, you must cry to God who has promised to help,—My grace is sufficient for thee.—Set out then, and hold on in the Lord’s way and strength, all your strength lies in the mighty God of Jacob his being with you, as it was with Gideon, the angel of the Lord said unto him, the Lord is with thee—and the Lord looked upon him and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites, have not I sent thee? Lay all the trial of faith on Christ for help, depend solely upon him, without him you can do nothing; but thro’ him strengthening, you may do all things. He is a rich and bountiful master, and sends none a warfare on their own charges, there is all fullness treasured up in him, when therefore you want a blessing, you know where to find it; yea, he has put this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. Confide in his promise, Lo! I am with you alway—

Eighth, Be intent on the exercises proper to your station; read the scriptures much, for they are able to make the man of God both wise and perfect, by them you will be able to fight against satan’s temptations, and to stop the mouths of the gainsayers—Give a close application to studies, ministerial abilities are not now rained down like manna—exercise yourself to godliness, to be a man of God, and not to be godly, is a solecism [blunder]—study both personal and relative godliness.—Be much in the duty of prayer, hereby you will keep up a correspondence with heaven, when you come to your people, let it be from being on the mount with God. Let prayer begin, form, and finish all your sermons. It was a saying of one of the fathers, That temptation, meditation, and prayer made a good minister.

Lastly, Let me again urge it on you, be faithful to your Lord and master, whose servant you are, and whose message you bear. Keep close to the instructions of his mouth, that you may be able to say, What I have received of the Lord, that I have delivered. Let nothing bribe, or fright you from the faithful discharge of your trust, neither the favour nor frowns of men. Act as says the apostle, ‘but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God which trieth our hearts,’ [1 Thess. ii.4, 5, 6.], and to conclude, let me with all the tenderness and importunity of a father,—of a brother, entreat and exhort you in the words of Paul, ‘O Timothy keep that which is committed to thy trust,’ [1 Tim. vi.20.], to your trust is committed the mystery of the doctrine of Christ, with his sacred institutions, and holy commandments; this trust you must keep sound and entire, suffering no part of it to be lost, but as you have opportunity, declare all the counsel of God, and O keep it pure, and distinct; let it not be adulterated with any additions, mixtures or alterations of mens’ invention, and tho’ from the particular circumstantiate state of the church, as to the time when, and the place where, you are called to this high station in the house of God, you may lay your account with much opposition in your work, from satan, wicked men, and even from the godly and professors of the day; yet in all trials, look for furniture from the blessed Head, encourage yourself in the Lord. ‘Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,’ [2 Tim. ii.1.] Finally, attend carefully to these apostolick directions, ‘but thou, O man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, holiness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.’ [1 Tim. vi.11, 12.] ‘Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.’ [2 Tim. i.13.] ‘Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,’ verse 15, ‘study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,’ and Chapter iv, verse 2, ‘Preach the word, be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine,’ verse 5. ‘but watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry,’ and 1 Timothy iv.12 to the end: ‘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 till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine: neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery. Meditate on these things, give thyself wholly to them, {98} that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine, continue in them, for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.’


CHARGE TO THE PEOPLE.

Second, To the people, My Friends, after a variety of trying providences, your eyes do this day see your teacher, and I trust, that God, according to his promise, has given you a pastor according to his heart, that shall feed you with knowledge and understanding; well then,—

First, Bless the Lord for his great kindness, in setting up another lamp in his sanctuary, O bless him for a gospel-ministry, it is one of the many gifts which our Lord Jesus Christ purchased to his church; one that he poured down from on high, after his ascension to glory; it is a sad evidence, that these have never got much good of the gospel, who will not bless the Lord for sending them faithful ministers; but these who do know the worth of souls, and have tasted the Jerusalem’s good, that ye have been privileged with, at times, will be exercised in thanking the Lord for this mercy, and it may be expected from you, who profess to have longed so much for a faithful ministry; tho’ many are as the Heath in the desert, which knows not when good comes.

Second, Look upon him whom God hath sent to you, as his ambassador, and servant. It is an argument that the treaty of peace; betwixt you and heaven, is not broken off, but that God hath designs of mercy in store for you. Do not only give him a hearing, and admit him to an opening up of his master’s commission and will, but be ready to believe and practice, the word of the Lord as faithfully declared to you, be not as those who said, As for the word that thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not obey it. And the more faithful your minister is, in point of sin and duty, let his message be the welcomer; the more close, searching, and trying he is, in his work, love him the more.

Third, Honour your minister, keep him in his own room, and expect not that from the servant, which you can only receive from the master himself; but reverence and esteem him for his work’s sake. ‘And we beseech you brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake, and be at peace among yourselves.’ [1 Thess. v.12, 13.] The office of the ministry is honourable, therefore shew reverence to them who are put into the ministry, beware of entertaining ill reports and slander of ministers, alas! the success of the gospel is much hindered by people’s entertaining these, and it is a considerable help to the kingdom of satan; but if need be, rather acquaint him of your offences humbly and meekly, and in private advise him if guilty; but do not despise him, says Paul to Titus, let no man despise thee.

Fourth, Take compassion on your minister, beware of grieving or making his heart sad. Ministers are not angels, but men of like passions with yourselves, be fuller of charity, than of censure; ministers have all that you have to do, about the saving of their own souls, and a great work besides, about the saving of yours; they have all your difficulties as Christians, and some that you are not acquainted with, temptations and trials that are peculiar to their station; they are men of sorrows, on many accounts, their own corruptions, the corruptions, strifes, and contentions of their people make them often go with a bowed-down back,—do what ye can to raise them up.

Fifth, Pray much for your minister, O petition the King of Kings, in favours of his ambassadors, for success to their negotiations; these stand fairest for getting good of the gospel, that join with the minister in private and secret; when united prayers are sent up to the throne of grace, the devil’s kingdom will fall.—How often, and how earnestly doth Paul beg the prayers of the churches? and if he did so, much more ought we to beg them, and you to grant them, for our necessities and weakness are greater than his were. ‘Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you, and that we may be delivered, from unreasonable and wicked men; for all men have not faith,’ [2 Thess. iii.1, 2.], pray that a door of utterance may be given, to make known the mystery of the gospel, and a door of entrance, that Christ in the word may be received into the heart. The work of the ministry is a work of the greatest weight, the greatest labour, the greatest difficulty and opposition, and the shoulders of ministers are not stronger than other men’s to support the weight of this burthen, therefore wonder not, when we cry out importunately for the help of your prayers.

Sixth, Encourage and help your minister, give him obedience and suitable entertainment, if he communicates to you in spirituals, grudge not to supply him in temporals; but especially, if ye can do any thing, help in the great work of winning souls: what can we do say you? why, be but won to Christ, and we are made glad, make haste to heaven, that your minister and you may meet joyfully before the throne of God and the Lamb. O encourage him in this, or else ye do nothing: accept the gospel offer at his hand: it is a great discouragement when ministers have to make the complaint, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed. Beware of refusing the messages he comes to you with, in his great Master’s name. As on the one hand, ministers are to keep back nothing of the counsel of God, so the people are to decline no part of their counsel, whether exhortation, reproof, advice, or instruction. It is not he, but God, that speaks to you by him, wait on the ordinances, and receive believingly the whole of the Lord’s counsel. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. I say, receive in faith, the whole of the Lord’s message, as ye would not make your minister go with that complaint, we have piped to you and ye have not danced, we have mourned to you and ye have not lamented; beware of giving him any such ground of complaint, either in secret, or openly at the last day; take heed how ye hear, if ministers are to take heed how they preach, so are ye how ye hear, laying aside all prejudices, receive the word in faith, and mix it with love, remembering that his word shall not return empty, but of every sermon that ye hear ye must give an account, one day; therefore, ‘obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account: that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you.’ [Heb. xiii.17.]—Particularly, I charge you, as you will answer it to God, that you strengthen your minister’s hands and encourage his heart, in the work of public testimony bearing for Christ,—his despised cause and interest, and hereby give evidence, that whatever were the means the Lord in holy sovereignty over-ruled to bring a number of you forward, to a more explicit and fuller owning of the reformation cause; yet that now, you have honestly, and with understanding, espoused the whole of the covenanted testimony of Christ in the land; as your minister is a worker with God, so you are bound by the oath of God, to work together with him, in upbuilding, maintaining and preserving against all injuries according to the extent of your power, the covenanted work of reformation, presently in a ruinous condition, therefore, whatever discouragement in respect of that he may have from without, let him have none from you; remember, that he acting in his place according to his duty, the Lord Jesus will account that done to himself, which is done to his minister. He that receiveth you receiveth me. To conclude, let all of us remember the duties belonging to each of us in our different stations, whether we are office-bearers or members in Christ’s household, and the duty we owe to God, his honour and glory in the world. May the Lord follow with his special blessing, and the power of his Spirit, what hath been delivered, and done in his name, since we met, and with the apostle’s prayer I leave you. ‘And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.’ [Acts xx.32.] Amen.