November 15th, 1744.
On 1 Cor. iii. 9.
We are Labourers together with God.
Printed at the Desire of the DISSENTERS.
A short ACCOUNT of the CONSTITUTION, and some of the PROCEEDINGS of the REFORMED PRESBYTERY.
Printed in the Year, MD CC XLV.
And some of the
HAVING found myself obliged to secede from the Associate Presbytery, for the Reasons contained in my Dissents against their Proceedings lately published; the Revd. Mr. John M‘Millan and I, in Conjunction with certain Elders, upon the 1st. of August 1743. did erect ourselves into a Presbytery, by the Name of The Reformed Presbytery, upon this Narrative, That in regard the above-mentioned Ministers and Elders met together, are of the same Mind as to the Doctrine of our holy Religion, and the proper Form of Presbyterian Government, immediately under Christ, the sole Head of his Church, and the Obligation they stand under by our Solemn and National Covenants, to promote the true Religion, according to the Word of God, and to carry on our Covenanted Reformation: And considering that Ministers of the Gospel should not only exert themselves in their Master’s Service, by preaching his holy Word, and instructing his People; but also, by exercising the Keys of Government and Discipline; for doing which, they have Power and Authority from our Lord Jesus Christ, and that his Church may be constituted by a few in Number, being two or three, who may expect his divine Presence from his Promise, Matth. xviii. 20. For where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them; and who may constitute the Church, as appears from ver. 17, 18, 19. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church, but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen Man, and a Publican. Verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on Earth, shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on Earth, shall be loosed in Heaven. Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on Earth, as touching any Thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven. Therefore, the above Persons did, by solemn Prayer, constitute themselves into a Reformed Presbytery, under Christ their Head, in order to exercise Government and Discipline in Christ’s Name, and by his Authority solemnly assumed the Keys of Doctrine, Discipline, and Government, as flowing immediately from Jesus Christ, the alone King and Head of his Church, depending upon his promised Presence, Matth. xxviii. 18, 19, 20, And Jesus came, and spake unto them, saying, All Power is given unto me in Heaven and in Earth. Go ye therefore and teach all Nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all Things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the End of the World. Amen. Zech. iii. 7. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, If thou wilt walk in my Ways, and if thou wilt keep my Charge: then thou shalt also judge my House, and shalt also keep my Courts, and I will give thee Places to walk among these that stand by. And they thereupon gave to one another the Right Hand of Fellowship. The Presbytery having chosen their Moderator and Clerk, entered upon the Consideration of the Necessity of calling young Men to come under Trials, in order to their being licensed to preach the Gospel: Mr. Alexander Marshall being sufficiently attested with respect to his regular and exemplary Conversation, by the Revd. Mr. John M‘Millan and many others, and also having attended the Divinity-Hall for a competent Number of Years, had the ordinary Pieces of Tryal assign’d him, which he at different Times underwent and delivered before the Presbytery, wherein he was approven; and having finished his Tryals to their Satisfaction, he was upon the 11th. of April 1744, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, licensed to preach the Gospel, and thereafter by the Appointment of the Presbytery, preached in the ordinary Places in their Bounds. Upon the 27th of June of the said Year, a Petition from the Elders and People of the united Societies was given in to the Presbytery, representing, That they had several Times heard the said Mr. Alexander Marshall to their Satisfaction; and therefore, craving the Presbytery to appoint one of their Number, to moderate a Call for them to him: Whereupon, the Presbytery appointed their Moderator to preach at Crawford-John, the 30th Day of July thereafter, and did moderate the said Call.
An harmonious Call was accordingly moderated and sign’d to the said Mr. Marshal, which being reported to the Presbytery on the 1st of August 1744. they approv’d and sustain’d the same, and appointed him thereafter to undergo such Pieces of Tryal before the Presbytery as they thought necessary. At this Meeting of Presbytery, a Commission from the old Dissenters in Ireland was given in, craving in the most pressing Manner, that the Presbytery would allow them Supply, after so long a Time that they had wanted a faithful Minister to dispense Gospel-Ordinances among them; upon which the Presbytery appointed the Revd. Mr. Thomas Nairn, Minister of the Gospel, and the said Mr. Alexander Marshall Probationer, to visit the said Societies with Preaching, &c. as they should be enabled.
These two accordingly went to Ireland, where they remain’d for some Weeks, and after their Return, upon the 29th of October, Archibald M‘Fall as a Commissioner from Ireland, gave in to the Presbytery a Paper sign’d by 146 Persons of the Presbyterian Persuasion, thanking the Presbytery for the Supply they had got by the said Mr. Nairn Minister, and Mr. Marshall Probationer, their dispensing Gospel-Ordinances among them, whereby their Souls had been refresh’d; and signifying their Readiness to receive and submit to a Gospel Minister, in case the Presbytery should send them one; and in the mean Time, craving further Supply. The Presbytery appointed the Revd. Mr. John M‘Millan to write to them, exhorting them to Steadfastness, and through Grace to separate themselves from the Abominations of the Day, and in Conjunction with their Friends in Ireland, to essay Covenanted Duties, assuring them that the Presbytery would be as helpful to them, in dispensing Gospel-Ordinances among them as their Circumstances would allow.
After Mr. Marshall’s Tryals were over, his Edict was served, and no Objection being made to his Admission, he was solemnly ordained by Prayer, and laying on of the Hands of the Presbytery, and Mr. Nairn, on that Occasion, preached on 1 Cor. iii. 9. (which Sermon is herewith published) and after suitable Exhortations, both to Mr. Marshall and the People, he was receiv’d and admitted to the Presbytery, as a Member thereof.
1 Cor. iii. 9.
We are Labourers together with God.
THE Apostle, a great Promoter of Peace in the Church of Christ, after he had beseeched the Church of Corinth by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Unity in Opinion, Love, and Expression, 1 Cor. 1.10, he tells them, that he was inform’d there were Contentions among them, verse 11, It hath been declared unto me of you, my Brethren, by them which are of the House of Cloe, that there are Contentions among you. Now the Cause of these Divisions was, the having Men’s Persons in Admiration, factiously crying up one Minister above another, naming themselves the Followers of this and that Man, setting up Teachers one against another, and even Christ against his Ministers, verse 12, Every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ, which ought not to be, for he saith, chapter 3.21, Let no Man glory in Men, i.e. in any Teacher whatsoever, for all Things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the World, or Life, or Death, or Things present, or Things to come, all are yours. Now this too common Evil, especially where there is a collegiate Ministry, he doth reprove in the Church of Corinth, chapter 1.13, while he saith, Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you, or were ye baptized in the Name of Paul? And finding Contention in this Matter, of so dangerous Consequence among People, and how readily it is kept up and fomented when once it is rais’d, he sees it needful to reprove it again in this Chapter, as an Evil that declares them carnal, verse 3, For ye are yet carnal, for there is among you Envying, and Strife, and Divisions, i.e. ye are in a great Measure so, and these Evils that prevail amongst you prove it to a Demonstration; Envying as the Root bearing Strife, and Strife breeding Divisions and Factions. There is nothing so like the Devil as an envious Man, with his Cloven-foot to make Division where he comes, which is notourly exemplified in some Persons who were once join’d to this Society, but they went out from us, because they were not of us, for if they had been of us, no doubt they had continued with us. Paul did not affect what we call Popularity, to have People following him to the slighting of other faithful Ministers, as many do at this Day. He would neither have them striving about him, or Apollos his Follow-Labourer, because such Conduct was an Evidence that they were carnal and walked as Men. And to remedy this carnal kind of Strife, he proposes several Things to be considered, for keeping them in a just Esteem of all faithful Ministers, without overvaluing or despising any of them. (1.) He tells in his own and Apollos’s Name, what they are with respect to People’s Faith, not the Authors or Lords of it, but Ministers by whom they believed, even as the Lord gave to every Man, i.e. they were only Helpers of their Faith, as the Lord was pleas’d to furnish them with Gifts, and to give a Blessing to their ministerial Endeavours, and therefore they ought not factiously to boast of their Gifts, or to make Parties on that Account. (2.) To consider what their Work was in the Field of the Church; ’tis to plant and water, they cannot give Increase, or procure the Success of their ministerial Endeavours; so then, neither is he that planteth any Thing, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the Increase. We must not understand the Apostle speaking this absolutely, but comparatively; they are not any Thing, i.e. any Thing of themselves alone, without the Concurrence of the Spirit, what excellent Gifts soever they have, they cannot of themselves make the Word they preach effectual. O! how many Souls find both Ministry and Ministers to be nothing as to them and if it be any Thing, ’tis God, and not his Ministers, that makes it so. (3.) He tells that Ministers whether they plant or water are one, verse 8, i.e. one in Office and Work, serving one Master, having one and the same End and Design in their Service; therefore, they should not be factiously divided either among themselves, or by their Hearers.
Altho’ there is a Variety and Diversity in the Gifts of Christ’s Ministers, yet the Intent and Design of their Ministry being one, they all ought to agree as one. They should be one in Doctrine, and one in Affection, aiming at one and the same Mark, namely, the Glory of God and Men’s Salvation: And it follows, every Man shall receive his own Reward according to his own Labour. Though God grants not to all them the like Success, yet every one of them shall be rewarded, not according to their Success, but according to their Labour, verse 8. If they labour faithfully, God will reward them proportionably, though few or none have believed their Report. [Isa. 53.1.]
The Apostle having said, that all Ministers were nothing in respect of giving Increase; and lest they should be thought nothing of, because nothing in that respect; therefore to magnify their Office, he tells in the Words of the Text, They are Labourers together with God; they are Labourers, which is a suitable Designation of such as plant and water God's Field, and agrees well with the Metaphor of a Husbandry, which the Church wherein they labour is called in the following Clause, Ye are God’s Husbandry: and as all faithful Ministers by whom the Church believe, are called Labourers, so likewise they are called Labourers together with God. This is not so to be understood, as if by any Power of their own they could produce any spiritual Effect, as if without God they could work Faith and Repentance in the Hearts of Sinners; but they work only by an external Application of the Ministry of the Word, and the Means of Grace to the Souls of Men. They are συνεργοι, Labourers together, as it is here well rendered, and Labourers together with God, because they concur with him in the same Work; not as Servants with a Fellow-Servant, but as Servants with their Lord and Master. He is the first and chief Worker, and they work with him as his Instruments; he needs not their Work, who can work all himself; but he is pleas’d to use them as Instruments in his Work, and they can do nothing without him working in them. As he is said to work with his Ministers, Matth. 16.20, so here they are said to work with him, and this the Apostle affirms, in his own, and in the Name of all faithful Ministers: Unfaithful Men are not worthy of the Name of Ministers, nor do they deserve the Designation of Labourers together with God; for it is faithful Ministers that are here resembled to Labourers, as the Church is resembled to Husbandry in the Clause immediately following.
DOCT. That faithful Ministers in God’s Church, are as Labourers in a Field or Husbandry.
So they are design’d in this Text, and Matth. 9.32, Pray therefore the Lord of the Harvest, that he will send forth Labourers into his Harvest. Again, the Apostle who calls himself here a Labourer, speaks of his labouring more abundantly, 1 Cor. 15.10, and labouring Night and Day, 1 Cor. 2.9. The Word signifies Labour unto Weariness, and Labour after Weariness.
For opening of this Doctrine, I shall shew,
I. Wherein faithful Ministers resemble Labourers in a Field.
II. Wherein they differ from them.
III. Make Application.
First, They resemble Labourers in a Field, 1. With respect to a Commission; no Work-man must go and labour in a Man’s Husbandry, or so much as break Ground without his Commission; so faithful Ministers go not to Work in Christ’s Church without his Commission; Jeremiah a faithful Man could say, As for me, I have not hastened from being a Pastor to follow thee, thou knowest, Jer. 17.16, where ’tis evident, that this Prophet did not thrust himself into the prophetical Office, and as he did not seek the Office of a Prophet, so when the Lord was pleas’d to call him to that Office, he did not decline it. The faithful Minister then has God's Call to the Work, For no Man taketh this Honour upon him, but he that is called of God as was Aaron. [Heb. 5.4.] And here I observe to you, that there is a twofold Call to the Ministry; the one is extraordinary, and the other ordinary. An extraordinary Call is, when the Lord endues Men with eminent and extraordinary Gifts, and either immediately by himself, or the Dispensation of some remarkable Providence, calls them forth to this Work. Thus the Apostles had an immediate Call from Christ himself, and Paul had an extraordinary Call by an immediate Voice from Heaven. Our first Reformers also had an extraordinary Call to labour in the Work of the Gospel; in as much as they were Persons more than ordinarily gifted, and countenanced of God.
2dly, There is an ordinary Call to the Ministry, which I conceive to be twofold. First, Internal, which stands in two Things, 1. In fit Qualifications for so weighty a Work, such as, (1.) Sanctity of Life, which fits and disposes a Person for the conscientious Discharge of the ministerial Office. And sure I am, there cannot be a more loathsome Sight than an unholy Minister, than to see a Man who pretends to urge Holiness upon others, and yet he himself is a Stain to Religion by a loose and ungodly Deportment. (2.) There must be Soundness of Doctrine, and such Parts of substantial Learning, as may put a Man in a Posture to teach, to speak a Word in Season, to convince Gainsayers, and use sound Speech, Words that cannot be condemned. (3.) There must be spiritual Skill and Wisdom, whereby a Man may shew himself a Scribe instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven. 2dly, The internal Call consisteth in a sincere Desire by the secret Workings of the Spirit of God after the ministerial Work, and that not out of Ambition, Covetousness, or any other selfish or carnal Design whatsoever, but out of an intire Regard to the Glory of God, and the Salvation of Souls.
2dly, External, which consists, (1.) In the Election of the Christian People, of whom the Minister is to have the Charge. (2.) Examination of their Fitness, that this Office be not intruded upon by ignorant Persons. (3.) In Approbation, when, upon Trial, Men are found able, fit and qualified to preach the Gospel of Christ, then, they are declared to be such, as the Apostle did Epaphras and Tychicus. (4.) In Separation and solemn Consecration by Fasting and Prayer, and Imposition of the Hands of the Presbytery, 1 Tim. 4.14, Neglect not the Gift that is in thee by Prophecy, with the laying on of the Hands of the Presbytery.
Secondly, They resemble Labourers in a Field, in respect of Instructions; for as the Labourer takes his Instructions from the Master of the Field, whose Servant he is, and whose Commission he bears, so it is with the faithful Minister of the Gospel, he takes his Instructions in the ministerial Work from Christ only, whose the Church is, and whose Servant he only is in his Work in the Church. And as it is a bold Invasion of Christ’s Supremacy and sole Headship over his Church, to impose Instructions on his Servants about their ministerial Work (as was done with the Indulged Ministers in this Land) so it is unworthy of the Servants of Jesus Christ, to accept Instructions from Men in their Work, and not from Christ only; for thus they become the Servants of Men, accommodating themselves rather to their Pleasure, than that of their Master Christ. Hence says the Apostle, If I yet please Men, I should not be the Servant of Christ. The Ministers become Men-Pleasers by Flattery and Falsehood, or accommodating their Doctrines to the Humour and Dispositions of Men; but the pleasing of God is our great Work and Business, and therefore let us mind that. ’Tis true we are to please Men whether great or small for their Good and to Edification; but surely we must please our Lord and Master Christ first, and only in a Consistency with his Pleasure, become all Things to all Men, that we may gain some, not to make a present Gain of them, but that they may be eternal Gainers by us; it is not to exalt ourselves, but that Christ may be exalted in the Hearts and Lives of the Hearers, that we are to seek in and by our Ministry to please all Men.
Herein the Apostle Paul gave us an Example, and in Imitation of him, let us seek to please all Men for their Good to Edification.
Thirdly, They resemble Labourers in their Work: 1st. As the Labourer’s Work is to plow the Ground, so the faithful Minister’s Work is to plow up the Fallow-ground of People’s Hearts; and make deep Furrows of Conviction by the Plough of the Law’s Terrors and Threatnings, to drive Sinners out of themselves, and from all Confidence in the Works of the Law, that so by Faith in Christ, they may obtain Righteousness and Life. 2dly, The Labourer’s Work is to scatter the good Seed he gets from his Master on the Ground; so the faithful Minister rightly divides the good Seed of the Word of God, as the Apostle directs, 2 Tim. 2.15, Study to shew thyself approved of God, a Work-man that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
The original Word rightly to divide, some think a sacrificial Word, alluding to the right dividing the Sacrifice which was laid upon the Altar, separating the precious from the vile, and severing the Parts that were not to be offered, from them that were, and cutting out the Sacrifice in such Manner as all had their Share in them. Thus the pure Word of God is to be rightly divided, and faithful Ministers are to give everyone his Portion, to every Hearer his Due, methodizing and distributing Truth as God would have it, Terror to whom Terror is due, Comfort to whom Comfort belongs. 3dly, As the Labourer’s Work is to pull the Weeds out of the Field, so faithful Ministers by Discipline, are to pull the Weeds of Sin and Wickedness out of the Church. 4thly, As the Labourer’s Work is to oversee the Field that nothing hurt it, so ’tis faithful Ministers’ Work to oversee the Church; therefore they are called Overseers and Watchmen, because they oversee and watch, that no Error which is contrary to sound Doctrine be brought into the Church, nor dead Forms contrary to the Power of Godliness.
Fourthly, Faithful Ministers resemble Labourers of the Ground, in that whereabout their Work is conversant; for as the Labourer has a Part of good Ground that he labours, and reaps Fruits of it, and he hath also other Ground that is hard to labour, wherein he loses the Seed and his own Pains too, so it is with faithful Ministers, there are some fruitful they labour among, Aaron’s Rod blossomed and brought forth Fruit, but there are others of their Charge, of whom they have Reason to complain, that they are so hardened and obdured, their Labour on them is in vain, and their Strength spent for nought.
Fifthly, They resemble them in the Manner of their Work; 1st, As the Labourer’s Working is with Diligence, so is the faithful Minister’s; hence says the Apostle, Acts 20.20, I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from House to House; he taught publickly in the Synagogues, and privately from House to House, like a good Shepherd labouring to understand the State of his whole Flock and of every Lamb in it, that no Soul might miscarry through his Neglect. 2dly, As the Labourer’s Work is constant all the Days of the Year, so is the faithful Minister’s, he finds daily some needful Work to do about God’s Husbandry. 3dly, The Labourer’s Work is toilsome, and O! the Fatigue and Toil that a faithful Minister undergoes, which few know or are sensible of. 4thly, As the Labourer’s Work is spending, so the faithful Minister is willing to spend and to be spent in his Work for Christ. He is willing to spend his Time, his Strength, his Pains, yea his Life, in his great Master’s Service. O! how tender are some Ministers of their Carcasses, how fearful of their Skin, how sparing of their Pains for Fear of shortning their Days and hastening their End! whereas the Lamp of our Lives can never burn out better than in lighting others to Heaven. Is it not better that our Flesh consume with Industry and Usefulness, than wear out with Rust and Idleness? Such are unfaithful Ministers who are not willing to spend and be spent for precious Souls. 5thly, Tho’ the Labourer’s Work be toilsome yet it is pleasant, and he is grieved to be put from it by stormy Weather; so it is with the faithful Minister, his Master’s Work is as Meat to him for Pleasure, and it much grieves him to be laid by through Storms of Persecution.
Sixthly, and Lastly, Faithful Ministers resemble Labourers in the Account they must make; for as the common Labourer must be accountable to his earthly Master, so must faithful Ministers give an Account to their Lord from Heaven, Heb. 13.17, And they watch for your Souls, as they that must give Account. There is a great Shepherd, a chief Shepherd, even Christ the Prince of Shepherds, to whom all inferior Shepherds must give an Account of their Office, of their Work, and of the Flock committed to their Charge, and very different Accounts will be given by the Ministers of God at the great Day; some with Joy, others with Grief, according as Souls have been thriving or barren and unprofitable under their ministerial Labours.
But O happy Minister that shall then have the Approbation of the great Shepherd, to whom he shall say, Well done good and faithful Servant, and who shall get from him a Crown of Glory that fadeth not away!
I come now to the II. Thing propos’d, namely, to shew wherein the Labourers in God’s Husbandry, and the Labourers in a common Field differ:
First, Other Labourers have a natural Sufficiency for their Labour, but God’s Labourers have it not. The best of Men that ever God employed in the ministerial Work, have been most sensible of their utter Insufficiency for it, yea, have been ready to sink under the Difficulties that attend it. 2 Cor. 2.16, And who is sufficient for these Things? that is, none are sufficient without proportionable Strength and Help from God, neither Man nor Angel: To preach the Gospel as it ought is a mighty Work, a weighty Work; if any think otherwise, it is either their Ignorance or Inadvertency that makes them think so. What! is it an easy Matter to search in to the deep Things of God, the deep Mysteries of the Gospel, which have an unfathomable Deep? Is it easy to instruct the Ignorant, to convince the Obstinate, to resolve the Doubting, to reduce the Wandering, to know the State of our Flock, to visit the Sick as we ought, to speak to them, and pray for them as Persons upon the Confines of Eternity? If we consider how a Gospel-Minister ought to excel in Knowledge, in Utterance, in Prudence and Conduct, in exemplary Piety, in patient Contending with a People’s Frowardness and Perverseness, we may well cry out with the Apostle, Who is sufficient for these Things? We are so far from being sufficient for these Things, that we have no Sufficiency so much as to think one good Thought, or to think any Thing which is truly and spiritually good: hence says the Apostle, 2 Cor. 3.5, Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any Thing as of ourselves, but our Sufficiency is of God.
Secondly, Other Labourers find their Husbandry passive, but Labourers with God find the Husbandry making active Opposition to them, strong Holds and high Imaginations opposing, resisting and hindering the Success of their Labours, and particularly, the stubborn Will of Sinners is so strong an Hold, that no Power but an almighty Power can influence it to surrender, Psalm 110.3, Thy People shall be willing in the Day of thy Power.
Thirdly, The Instruments of the Labourers are effectual by human Influence, but the Weapons of Christ’s Labourers have no Efficacy, except divine Power be interpos’d, as appears from 2 Cor. 10.4, For the Weapons of our Warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong Holds. verse 5, Casting down Imaginations, and every high Thing that exalteth itself against the Knowledge of God, and bringing into Captivity every Thought to the Obedience of Christ. ’Tis as possible to make an Impression with your Finger upon a Wall of Brass, as for the best Sermon in the World, to make an effectual Impression upon a Sinner’s Will, without the Co-operation of the holy Spirit. ’Tis the Spirit that gives Success and Efficacy; there is a real and spiritual Power, and energetical Presence of Christ in his own Institutions.
Fourthly, Other Labourers are generally respected for their Labours; but here it is not so; for these that are the most faithful of God’s Labourers are ill-accounted of, and contemned by the World. As long as there is a Devil in Hell and wicked Men upon the Earth, all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer Persecution: but surely the Dregs of this Cup has been in all Ages reserved for the faithful Ministers of Christ Jesus; as if to preach, were nothing else, than to stir up the Rage, and be blotted with the Obloquies of Men. Hence says the Apostle, We are made as the Filth of the World, and are the Offscouring of all Things. The Word, say some, signifies that Dirt Scavengers do rake together in the Streets, and carry to the Dung-hill. Such a base and vile Esteem had the World of the most faithful Labourers in God’s Husbandry; and can any of the present Labourers complain of hard Usage from the World, when they consider what the Apostles suffered in the World, who did more Service to God in one Day, than perhaps they have done all their Days.
Fifthly, The Lord’s Labourers differ from other Labourers in their Work, which is better than what others labour in, namely, the Word and Doctrine, this is spiritual and heavenly Work, and therefore the most honourable, hence the Apostle requires, 1 Tim. 5.17, Let the Elders who rule well be counted worthy of double Honour, especially they who labour in the Word and Doctrine. Some think the Apostle in this Requisition, alludes to the First-born, who was the Priest of the Family, and had a double Portion amongst his Brethren, the Levites succeeded them, and the Ministers of the Gospel these, who, when laborious in governing and teaching the Church of Christ, are worthy of more Honour than the unkind World are willing to confer upon them, who instead of double Honour, sometimes deny them civil Respect.
Sixthly, In that which their Labour is taken up, viz. the Souls of Men, the far better Part. Physicians are taken up about the Body, Lawyers about worldly perishing Estates; but Labourers together with God, their uptaking Work is about the Soul, and the eternal Concerns thereof. Heb 13.17, Obey them that have the Rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your Souls, &c. As Jacob watched over Laban’s, so do these faithful Labourers over Christ’s Flock by Day and Night.
Seventhly, They differ from them in their Gain by their Labours; other Labourers gain but a small Matter, and ’tis not certain, but faithful Ministers’ Gain is certain, and every one of them shall receive according to their Labour. And it is also very great, for it amounts to no less than to the Salvation of their own Souls, and of the Souls of them that hear them, who shall be their Crown of Rejoicing in the Presence of our Lord Jesus at his Coming. [1 Tim. 4.16; 1 Thess. 2.19.]
Eighthly and Lastly, They differ from all other Labourers to their unspeakable Advantage, for that they are Labourers together with God. I shall touch a little at the Import of this Phrase, and proceed to the main Work of the Duty, reserving a Word of Application till afterwards. 1st. It imports that God is the Master of the Work, for we labour not with him as a Fellow-Servant, but with him as our Master. 2dly, It imports he is with his Servants at Work, as he hath promised, Matth. 28.ult, Lo I am with you to the End of the World. He is with them by the Blessing and Assistance of his Spirit, to protect, encourage, and reward them, in the faithful Discharge of their Trust. 3dly, Their labouring together with God imports, that he sees and knows his Servants Labours. They labour, as of Sincerity, and as in his Sight, and he sees and notices their Labours, so as to approve of them, Matth. 25.21, Well done, thou good and faithful Servant. 4thly, That he actually has his Hand at the Work, else they could not be Labourers with him. They are Workers together with him, and he worketh with them, Matth. 16.20, And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them. He works with his faithful Labourers by directing them, assisting them, guiding their Lips, influencing their Minds, quickening their Affections, setting home their Instructions, and crowning all their Endeavours with his Blessing. O! ’tis sweet Working in Fellowship with Christ and his holy Spirit. 5thly, That they shall not want their Reward, for no good Master misses to reward them that work with him, Isa 49.5, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the Eyes of the Lord. His faithful Labourers shall shine for ever and ever in heavenly Glory, Dan. 12.3. Lastly, It imports their being helped in their Labours, for in their Labouring together with him, they are as Apprentices who cannot work but with the Master’s Help, or as a Learner to write, who has the Master leading his Hand: hence says Christ, John 15.15, Without me ye can do nothing. Therefore the Apostle, who all his Life in the Flesh, lived by the Faith of the Son of God, had, no doubt, an Eye to needful Help from him, when he saith, We are Labourers together with God.
Here the Sermon was intermitted for a little, and I proceeded as follows,
After Prayer and singing of Psalms, I intimated to the Elders and People of the united Societies, that they did some Time ago petition the Reformed Presbytery, to appoint one of their Number to moderate a Call to one to take part in the Ministry with us among them; which the Presbytery granted accordingly, and appointed me to preach at Crawford-John, and moderate the said Call; and they having at the said Moderation, given their Consent by the lifting up of their right Hands, to Mr. Alexander Marshall to be one of their Ministers, did thereafter sign a Call to him in my Presence, and before two Witnesses not of this Community; which Call I attested, and being given in to the Presbytery, it was sustain’d by them as orderly proceeded in, and put in the Hand of the said Mr. Marshall; and Trials being appointed him by the Presbytery, wherein he acquitted himself to their Satisfaction, the Presbytery appointed his Edict to be served, which being done accordingly, and no Objection made to his Admission, the Presbytery resolve this Day, (it being a Day set apart by them for Fasting and Prayer) to proceed to his Ordination, after demanding from the said Mr. Marshall, and his giving satisfactory Answers to the Questions agreed upon by the Presbytery, and also the People concern’d, signifying their Adherence to their former Choice of him to be their Minister, and Willingness to submit to him in the Lord. These Questions being put to the said Mr. Marshall, and he having declared himself, and promised his Endeavours by the Lord’s Help; I demanded of the Christian People, to signify their Willingness to receive and acknowledge him as their Minister, to obey, submit to, and encourage him in all the Parts of his Office, when he shall be set apart to the ministerial Work amongst them.
Accordingly all the People concerned who were then present, did signify the same by lifting up their right Hands.
The said Mr. Marshall being by Prayer, and the laying on of the Hands of the Presbytery, solemnly set apart to the Work of the Ministry, and commended to the Grace of God, we gave him the right Hand of Fellowship, and the Elders and such of the Christian People as had Access took their Minister by the Hand. I returned to the Pulpit, and essayed the Improvement of the Doctrine formerly delivered, by an Address,
I. To our Revd. and Dear Brother Mr. Alexander Marshall, including ourselves, in a few Inferences.
II. To the People of our Concern.
First, With Respect to ourselves. Since we are Labourers it is not suitable for us to be idle: Unwillingness to work exposeth Labourers to Disgrace, hinders the Master’s Work, gives Advantage to Enemies, provokes the Master to put them away and hire others in their Room.
Secondly, Neither is it becoming us to meddle and dip in other Employments. Labourers of the Ground have no Leisure for other Affairs, much less Labourers in God’s Husbandry, wherein having Work that may take them up wholly, they should therefore wholly give themselves to it, and not entangle themselves with the Affairs of this Life, which exceedingly puts out of Case for the Lord’s Work, and without disentangling ourselves of these Affairs, we can neither please our Master, nor profit his Husbandry as we ought. Therefore says the Apostle, No Man that warreth entangleth himself with the Affairs of this Life, that he may please him that hath chosen him to be a Soldier, 2 Tim. 2.4. Such a Life of Freedom from Incumberance by secular Affairs, should the Labourers with God desire and endeavour after: they are spiritual Soldiers warring under Jesus Christ their Captain and Commander; now Soldiers must be as free as may be from Distractions, they must put off their Fetters before they put on their Armour. The Work of these that labour with God lies in the Affairs of the other Life; now he that is entangled about the Affairs of this Life, will do little about the Affairs of the next.
Thirdly, From this Doctrine we may see, what sort of Men Ministers should be. Labourers should understand their Work; so the Priest’s Lips should preserve Knowledge. [Mal. 2.7.] Labourers should observe the Labouring-season, so should Ministers observe the fit Seasons of their Work. Labourers should not be lazy, but willing to work, and not to neglect the Husbandry for any Thing; so should it be with the Labourers in God’s Husbandry.
Fourthly, Are we Labourers? then let us ply ourselves to our Work and Labour, let us mind our Business, set about it in good Earnest, stick to it, and lay out ourselves to do all the Good we can to the Souls of Men; but more particularly, 1st. Let us ply our Work believingly, having the Faith of the Promise of Assistance, and the Promise of Acceptance through Christ. Psalm 71.16, I will go in the Strength of the Lord God; that is, relying only upon his Strength, John 15.5, Without me ye can do nothing. Matth. 28.20, And lo, I am with you alway even to the End of the World. 2dly, Let us do it with all our Might, for our Work is great as you heard. 3dly, Let us do it in Sincerity, for we are in our Master’s Sight, therefore says the Apostle, 2 Cor. 2.17, But as of Sincerity, but as of God, in the Sight of God speak we in Christ. 4thly, With all Courage, for our Opposition is great, we have Flesh and Blood, Principalities and Powers to contend with; let us then quit ourselves like Men and be strong. 1 Cor. 16.13. 5thly, With Heedfulness and Deliberation, for we are in Hazard to do Ill by rash-meddling, 1 Tim. 4.16, Take heed unto thyself and unto thy Doctrine. Col. 4.17, And say to Archippus, take heed to the Ministry which thou hast received of the Lord. 6thly, With Constancy and Diligence, that we may fulfil our Ministry. The Colossians must say to Archippus, Take heed to the Ministry to fulfil it; that is, perform all the Parts of our Duty with Care and Faithfulness, persevere in Diligence, particularly, publick Preaching and private Inspection. 7thly, Let us ply our Work and Labour with Unanimity, for we are Servants of one Master, and Labourers together with God. Let us then thus ply our Work as becomes Labourers. 1. The Case of the Lord’s Husbandry calls for it, for how much hard Ground have we to break up, high Places to level, and how do Briars and Thorns abound everywhere? what Need of watering has the Husbandry every Day? 2. We have but our Day in the Vineyard as others had before us, and how short while it may continue we know not; Zech. 1.5, Your Fathers where are they? and the Prophets do they live for ever? Our Bodies are earthen and frail, because form’d of the Dust of the Earth; we that preach eternal Life to others, are dying Men ourselves, and whilst the Word of Life is in our Mouths, many Times Death is in our Faces. 3. Our Account is great, and that of the greatest Trust, and happy shall we be, if in the Day of our Account, our great Lord and Master shall both commend and reward us, saying, Well done, good and faithful Servants, enter into the Joy of your Lord; and so find to our eternal Joy and Satisfaction, that our Labour has not been in vain in the Lord.
I shall now address myself to the People, God's Husbandry, as the Apostle calls you.
First, Since we are Labourers, then, Suffer us to labour you. Labourers labour the Husbandry, you are God’s Husbandry, we are his Labourers, therefore we say not amiss, when we say, suffer us to labour you, i.e. by the Word and Doctrine; and we plead with you that you would suffer it. To this Purpose the Apostle shuts up and closes his Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 22, And I beseech you, Brethren, suffer the Word of Exhortation. And he speaks of a Time like to the Time wherein our Lot is to live, in which Men will not endure sound Doctrine, but after their own Lusts, shall they heap to themselves Teachers, having itching Ears, 2 Tim. 4.3. Therefore we beseech you, suffer us to labour you with Word and Doctrine. The Ground you tread upon suffers Labouring, though it cannot know the Benefit of it, how much more, should ye suffer Labour, who are capable to know the Good of it. If ye cannot endure to be laboured, we must tell you, that you’ll be barren, and bring forth nothing but Thorns and Briars, which will bring you near to Cursing, Heb. 6.8. In this Case, you’ll provoke God to lay you waste, to be eaten up and trodden down, as he threatens the barren Vineyard, Isa. 5.6. Some complain that we labour them severely; to such we answer, this is not our Choice, but ’tis People’s Hardness, and their being full of Briars and Thorns so deeply rooted, which obliges us to Severity when softer Methods cannot prevail; that if possible, they may be made profitable Ground; besides, our Master commands us so to labour such, and we must obey him, and not gratify the corrupt Humour of Men. Jude verses 22,23, And of some have Compassion, making a Difference; and others save with Fear. We are to use Gentleness towards some, and give sharp Admonitions to others, who are more hardened in their sinful ways: if we should be so unfaithful to perishing Souls, as for Fear of their Anger to let them alone, till they be all over-grown with Thorns, and have their End Destruction, they would curse us to Eternity. But however Men’s Lusts quarrel our severe Labouring of them, yet, We hope we are made manifest to God, and we trust also, are made manifest in your Consciences, 2 Cor. 5.11.
Secondly, We beseech your Assistance in our Labours; but more particularly, 1st, We beseech your Assistance who are Elders; this is the Design of your Office, to be Helps with these that labour in the Word and Doctrine; and there is no Part of our Work except Preaching, and administring the Sacraments, but, by your Office you are obliged to take Part in for our Help. 2dly, We entreat the Assistance of Masters of Families, by private Worship, Instruction and Discipline; that each of your Families may be a little Church. 3dly, We beseech the Assistance of particular Persons, by their exhorting one another, Heb. 10.25, and manifesting their Love to their Neighbour, in reproving him, and not suffering Sin to lie upon him, Lev. 19.17. In a Word, we entreat Assistance in our Labour from all of you; for, 1. We profess our Insufficiency for it, and who is sufficient for these Things? 2. ’Tis God’s Husbandry wherein we labour, and in it all Hands should be at Work. 3. After all your Assistance, we have still enough ado; great and many Opposites to wrestle with, the Devil and all he can stir up against us in our Work. 4. ’Tis your Interest that the Husbandry thrive, if ye do not concern yourselves in it, I have no more to say, but, that in this Case you cannot expect to thrive yourselves. 5. If you will assist us you shall not want your Reward; your Labour who will contribute any Thing for advancing the Work of the Lord, shall not be in vain in the Lord.
I again beseech you, Brethren, to assist us these two Ways: 1st, By being fruitful under our Hands, this will greatly encourage our Hearts, and strengthen our Hands. 2dly, Brethren, pray for us. Our Work is a Work of the greatest Weight, of the greatest Labour, of the greatest Difficulty and Opposition; and alas! our Shoulders are not stronger than other Men’s, to stand under the Weight of this Burden: and therefore wonder not, when we cry out importunately for the Help of your Prayers. We are Labourers together, therefore let us join together in our Labour that we may be strong; few join us in it, we have therefore the more Need to join together and be so doing; and thus we may expect the more of the Master’s Presence and Blessing with us, and find the unspeakable Benefit and Comfort of it. This leads me to the Application of the last Thing in the Words; namely, our Labouring together with God.
This lets us see, (1.) That however contemned we are by the World, yet our Office is honourable: O! that we may find Grace to walk worthy of such a Vocation, and so to carry as in the faithful Observation of the Duties thereof, to magnify the same, carefully guarding against every Thing, that may reflect Dishonour on such an honourable Office. (2.) Being Labourers together with God, is great Encouragement to us to labour; for though the Work be great, and we have few for us, and many against us, yet he with whom we labour, is All-sufficient for all the Work, to make up the Want of other Assistants, and to carry on the Work, maugre all the Opposition of its Enemies, and to enable in all Duties and Difficulties in following our Work. But let us take Care to labour according to his Instruction, as we would be with him, and have him with us in all our Labours; and have Boldness to boast and say, If God be for us, who can be against us? If we are Labourers together with God, then, ’tis not below the greatest to labour together with us; yea, ’tis their Honour so to do, as thereby, they come with us to be also Labourers together with God. (4.) That we may conclude, you should with all Gladness embrace a faithful Minister; for, since he is a Labourer together with God, you may expect God to come to you with him, and that his Labours among you thro’ God’s Presence and Blessing, shall be successful to the saving of your Souls.