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Ministerial Work and Sufficiency:

Database

Ministerial Work and Sufficiency:

James Dodson

A

SERMON,

 

PREACHED JANUARY 26, 1832,

 

AT THE

 

ORDINATION AND INSTALLATION

 

OF THE

 

REVEREND JOHN McMASTER,

 

IN THE

 

REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH,

SCHENECTADY.

 

 

BY GILBERT McMASTER, D. D.

PASTOR OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH,

DUANESBURGH.

 

PUBLISHED BY REQUEST.

 

LITTLE & CUMMINGS, ALBANY;

J. C. MAGOFFIN, SCHENECTADY.

1832.

 

 


SERMON.

 

2 Cor. ii. 16.WHO IS SUFFICIENT FOR THESE THINGS?


The gospel of the grace of God is a message of salvation to guilty man. Concerning those who are authorized to proclaim this message, the Spirit of inspiration instructs us to speak with admiring joy: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.


Of those who, as heralds, carried this message of grace to the nations, Saul of Tarsus, subsequently an Apostle of Jesus Christ, was one of the most distinguished. In his untired progress, under the standard of the Captain of salvation, now planted upon the ramparts of Corinth, he proclaimed deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound. His voice was heard by the bewildered votaries of false philosophy, the drudges of Mammon, and the victims, whom the laws of an abominable idolatry had chained to the car of the impure Venus. Of those various classes, it is reasonable to think, many embraced the overtures of mercy; and, along with the believing sons of Israel, in that place, we know the Corinthians constituted a large and flourishing church of the true and living God. In the organization and settlement of that church, Paul employed eighteen months of his invaluable ministry. Leaving its various congregations, under the care of qualified pastors, he returned to Asia.

The time was not yet come for the church’s continued peace. Advantage was taken, by the enemy, of the Apostle’s absence. Factions arose. One party took the name of Paul, another that of Apollos, a third that of Cephas, and a fourth, with higher pretensions, indeed, but no less carnal than the others, assumed that of Christ.[1] Bad principles and bad practices were encouraged. Unsound and factious leaders in schism, the more effectually to succeed in their evil purposes, assailed the personal reputation and the ministerial character of the absent Apostle; and that church, distinguished as it was, for numbers, wealth, talents, and spiritual gifts, presented a mournful spectacle of alarming disorder. This state of things gave occasion to Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians. The effect of that letter upon many, perhaps upon a great majority of the church, was happy. A malefic influence still operated at Corinth. False teachers, ministers of Satan,[2] without the ministerial office and its sacred gifts, or perverting and abusing them, continued to promote and lead an erroneous and a factious spirit. They made themselves eminent; but their eminence was a bad one. Rebuke to the wicked was called for; direction and comfort to the friends of truth and order were necessary; and all of these were dispensed by the Apostle.

Having, with gratitude to the Lord, adverted to the success of his ministry, amidst many trials, he asserts the validity of his office, and his acceptance with God. In a style of united beauty and grandeur, he introduces to notice the triumphs of grace, through the gospel of salvation. He borrows his imagery from the triumphal processions of the Roman generals. He was himself a remarkable monument of the mercy of God, and of the power of divine grace, in subduing the sinner to obedience of faith. He directs our attention to the Captain of the Lord’s host, riding in his chariot of salvation among the nations. Paul was carried along, as an example of Messiah’s conquests; and, at the same time, his ministry, its gifts, exercise, and abundant fruits, were like the fragrant odours, burnt upon the altars and poured in the conqueror’s way, in the day of his triumph. This view of the subject is predicated upon a somewhat different version of the verb in verse 14, rendered, causeth us to triumph, according to the construction used in this place, the more literal rendering is, to triumph over us; and the reader of the Greek Testament knows, that the word is so translated in our authorized version of Col. ii. 15—triumphing over them.

The effects of the gospel ministry are, however, contemplated as very different upon different characters. The discoveries of the Bible leave no man precisely as they find him. They either bring salvation to those who believe, or leave the rejecters of offered mercy more hardened, under greater guilt, and exposed to a deeper damnation. But awfully different as these results are, the faithful minister of Christ will be approved of God. We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And, viewing the objects and results of the ministry, the Apostle, in an interrogatory exclamation, asksWho is sufficient for these things? The Apostle purposed, by this interrogation, both to rebuke the false Apostles, who, in their evil work, had assumed the garb of the ministers of Christ, and, while showing by implication, that those pseudo-teachers, were inadequate to the responsible work of the ministry, to assert that he, with his fellow labourers, called, qualified, and sustained by a divine agency, was sufficient for it: for, adds he, however it may be with others, we are not of them who corrupt the word of God. We are sufficient for these things.

In the discussion of the subject, I solicit your attention while I endeavour, first, to give an outline of the work and aims of the christian ministry; and, in the second place, attempt to furnish an answer to the inquiry, Who is sufficient for these things? And, O spirit of grace, descend and aid us in speaking and in hearing, that all may be edified, and God, by us, be glorified. We propose laying before you,

I. An outline of the work and aims of the christian ministry. Our remarks, under this head, shall be the following:

1. The preaching of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, is the first and most important work of the ministry.—Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Go ye and teach all nations,—and, lo, I am with you always, unto the end of the world. Hear with what intensity of thought Paul spoke upon this subject,—Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. He fixed not upon what was extraordinary in his character,—his gift of tongues, his power of prophecy and miracles, or his visions in the third heavens; but upon what was common to him with every authorized minister of Christ,—the preaching of the unsearchable riches of Christ to perishing men, among the nations of the earth. This he knew to be his great and distinguishing duty, and to abide in it, amidst privations and dangers, he felt an obligation engaging his mind, his conscience and his heart; so that with emphasis he could say—Yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.

The preacher bears upon his spirit, and proclaims to the nations the name of the God of love. The import of that name you may learn from the lips of Him whose it is. While Moses was placed in the cleft of the rock, and was covered by the divine hand, the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty. The gospel, in its revealings, brings before us the plans and the actings of mercy, in favour of ruined man, before the foundations of the world. It brings to light the mysterious thoughts of God respecting us. It spreads before our minds the proof of the incarnation of the Son of God, of his substitutionary obedience unto death, of his resurrection and triumphant ascension to the Father’s right hand; of his investiture as Immanuel, with all power over the created universe; of the dispensation of the Spirit, in the application of the benefits of redemption; and the map of the better country, with all its glories and all its joys, as the inheritance of the saints, it satisfactorily explains. And for what purpose is all this? To persuade the sinner to believe in the name of Jesus Christ; to induce him to lay down his weapons of rebellion; to effect his reconciliation with God. The proclamation of salvation is full, it is free, it is addressed to every description of character. Ho! every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come buy without money and without price. The chief of sinners is not excluded from this pressing invitation. We urge upon all its immediate acceptance; and pressingly warn the sinner against delay, under the imposing, but delusive hope, of being better prepared, by some qualifying moral excellence, at another day. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.—Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

This is the ministration of the spirit which exceeds in glory, and by it, we have the fruits of the Spirit. This gospel embraces the motives which the Holy Ghost employs, to persuade man to a state of reconciliation with his Maker. To be employed in the name of God, in bringing to the view of sinners the mysteries of an eternity past, and the prospective glories of an eternity to come, and thus, by the ordination of the Redeemer, be the appointed instrument of establishing peace between Almighty God and the immortal soul; and of maintaining that peace, through the exercise of the ministry, may well occasion the inquiry, Who is sufficient for these things? The solemnity of the subject grows upon us, when we look back to the concurrence, in this work of prophets, Apostles, and of angels,—angels who still are ministering spirits for their heirs of salvation; and contemplate, over all these, the Son of God, the Spirit of God, the great Jehovah, condescending to concur with, and give efficacy to, the ministry in this blessed work: For we are labourers together with God.[3]

2. The conducting of the various parts of the church’s public worship, together with the settlement and administration of her order, according to the word of God, is another important portion of the work of the ministry. See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.[4] To the authorized ministry belong these services, as well as the preaching of the word. Mere ability will not justify intrusion into the one, any more than into the other. How shall they preach except they be sent? It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests, the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense.[5] A disregard of this, in either case, in addition to intolerable disorder, must be followed with other evils, from the naming of which, at present, I refrain. The ministry is a stewardship in the church: We are ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Though God be essentially and necessarily every where, yet he does not appear every where, under the aspect of the God of love to fallen man, declaring his purpose to save and bless him. It is in Zion’s public walks and private retreats, that God is thus seen. And in these, especially in her public administrations, those invested with the ministry act in a conspicuous manner, between men and their Creator. We have seen that the minister is God’s messenger, bringing the Lord’s message. He likewise selects for the congregation, their hymn of praise; and is their mouth to God in prayer, pouring forth before his throne their confessions of sin, their supplications, and their thanksgivings for his kindness. The solemnity produced upon the spirit of the individual worshipper, the salutary effects upon the assembled congregation, and the influence extended to society at large, by the solemn acts of public devotion, in which the religious assemblies of a whole land present themselves, before the heart-searching Judge of all the earth, in the humble acknowledgement of their transgressions, imploring the compassion of God for themselves, their kindred, their enemies, their country, the church of God, and sinful, suffering man in every land, cannot be easily calculated; and I am inclined to think, are not generally appreciated, as they ought to be, in their happy results. These solemnities of the city of our God, are conducted in the exercise of the ministry, and require, for their right performance, special qualifications of mind. Who is sufficient for them?

What shall we say, then, of the acts of Heaven’s authorized ambassador, in placing the deals of God’s covenant upon the saints? See the infant offspring of believers in Jesus, the Redeemer, upon the footing of the assurance that the promise belongs to them as well as to their fathers, presented along with the penitent adult, upon whom the name of Abraham’s God had not been called, at the baptismal water. What expression of grace more affecting to the heart, than the sight of little children, whom the compassionate Saviour invites to be brought unto him, having, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the blessed and blessing Spirit, the symbol of the redeeming blood and consecrating grace of the Redeemer, solemnly applied to them! This, indeed, is not regeneration, but it is an instructive sign of the application of the blessings of the new covenant, and a confirming seal, well adapted to strengthen the faith of the church, in the promise of God to her and her hallowed progeny. For the promise is unto you, and to your children.[6] See the symbols of the broken body of Christ, and of his blood, shed for many, for the remission of sin, spread upon the sacred table; and God and man uniting in covenant, over the emblems of the sacrifice offered and accepted, for the expiation of human guilt. In the various parts of this solemn transaction, those in the ministry occupy a distinguished place; and feeling, if left to themselves, their utter incompetency to act up to the exalted devotion, demanded by the occasion, they humbly exclaim, Who is sufficient for these things?

The inquiry finds ample justification, when the ministers of the sanctuary assemble to settle her order, upon a scriptural basis; to fix her terms of fellowship, according to her inspired constitutional principles; to open her gates of righteousness, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth, may enter in, and enjoy her high and blessed communion; and to exclude from her sacred fellowship the profane. Walk about Zion, and go round about her; tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces.[7] Measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.[8] In these administrations difficulties occur, and press upon the heart of the officers of the church of God, with a weight unfelt by their brethren, who are strangers to the responsibilities under which they act. To save the sacred things of the temple of the Lord from desecration, by the profane, and to avoid the cruel expulsion of the sanctified, though imperfect, mourners in Zion, offer our consideration perplexities upon which we could long dwell. But I spare your patience, and hasten forward to a third remark.

3. The aims of the christian ministry. To understand this part of our subject, attend to the information contained in the sacred record. We aim at the perfecting of the saints,—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 fulness of Christ.[9] The conversion of sinners, the beautifying of Zion, and the extension of a happy moral influence over every department of society, are what we propose.

It is with immortal man the ministry has immediately to deal; immortal man, as a sinner, whose carnal mind is enmity against God; and, in his fallen state, totally destitute of ability and disposition to recover himself. He is exposed, at the same time, to God’s righteous judgment. No act of the sinner, no criminal disposition disqualifying him for perfect obedience, can nullify the authority of the law arising out of the relation between him and his Creator, nor can they abridge its demands upon him. As long as this relation exists, so long the law, springing out of it, will continue to demand what is proper to the relation. The absurdities of an opposite position drive from its adoption, the mind that suffers itself to reason them out. Sin unfits for perfect obedience, and therefore, it is said, it would not be just in the Judge of the world, to demand of the transgressor such obedience! If unjust to demand it, then there is no transgression. Follow this thought forward, and you will find, according to it, that exactly in forward, and you will find, according to it, that exactly in proportion as the rebel against God, by sin, unfits himself to serve the Lord, so he is released from obligation and exempted from guilt; the more debased in sin, the more innocent he becomes! Such is the result of a false principle.

Degenerate man, however, is capable of being a subject of renovating grace, and of being fitted to enjoy the glories of “the land which is very far off.” The gospel addresses him as such, and bringing into view the eternal federal transactions of the adorable Trinity, in his behalf, urges upon his attention the means of escaping from the wrath to come, and of the re-establishment of peace and friendship with God.—Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.[10]

In this exercise of the ministry, we aim at the conversion and justification of sinners through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The commission of Paul casts light upon the subject:I will send thee, said his Lord, far hence unto the Gentiles, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me.[11] This conversion implies the implantation of a supernatural principle of spiritual life in the soul,—the law of the spirit of life,[12]—the influence of which is extended throughout the whole man, diffusing vitality and light, both of which are manifested in action, corresponding with the relations and powers of the renovated spirit. The Redeemer acts upon the soul of the sinner by the Holy Ghost, who makes it his dwelling place; the soul, created anew, reacts upon the Saviour by a living faith, and thus the union between the Saviour and his purchased seed is completed.—This union, according to the aspects under which it is contemplated, is denominated, moral, spiritual, mystical, federal, legal and indissoluble. This state of union presents the believing sinner interested in the righteousness of his Redeemer—that righteousness is placed to his account, and plead by faith at the bar of God, secures his full and irreversible justification. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we MIGHT BE JUSTIFIED. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are IN CHRIST JESUS.[13]

Thus in view of the ministry are two great departments, upon which it appropriately acts: the world, as under the influence of the prince of the power of the air; and the commonwealth of Israel, the special empire of the Son of God.—To bring men from the world to the church, from under the power of Satan unto God, is indeed an achievement worthy of that ministry which is the purchase of Christ, and the employment of those gifts which are the fruits of the Spirit.—From Zion’s towers the soldiers of the cross assail the world, in its unhallowed principles, immoral pursuits, and debasing effects. Clad in the armour of light, they enter the nations, unfurl the banner of the Prince of peace; nor will they cease until all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of God, bowed before Immanuel, and confessed him Lord of all. Upon his head are many crowns. Men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed.

This ministry shall continue, and be actively employed, until the edification of the church be completed; until the last living stone, in this building of God, shall be laid in its proper place, polished, and formed into a correspondence with the perfection of beauty. The idea is a mistaken one, that the ministry must always, or even chiefly, be employed upon the unformed blocks of hardened sinners’ stony hearts! There is a living temple to be beautified and perfected. God who decks our fields in robes of verdure, gives the flowers their tints of beauty, their vigour and their fragrance; and who adorns the midnight sky with starry splendour, will not leave his own peculiar habitation in unsightly ruins. It is the business of his ministers to repair the desolations of Zion. The Lord has promised it shall be done. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. In the work of the ministry, in many quarters, at this day, mistakes prevail. One of these is, the almost perpetual dwelling upon the subject of legal obligation, to the neglect of evangelical privilege; the exhibition of the devil and his angels, rather than of Jesus and his saints; the delineations of Tophet, its caverns, its darkness, its clanking chains, its fires, and despair; in preference to the vivid views of Immanuel’s land, furnished by the graphic pencil of inspiration, with its tree of life, its living streams, its light, its purity, its associations, employments, glories and unceasing joys. It is incumbent upon us to remember that there are, in our assemblies, saints as well as sinners; that if the one class needs to be alarmed, the other requires to be nourished and comforted; that if the obligations of the law are to be enforced, it is but in subordination to the grace of the gospel. Let, then, the principal occupy the most conspicuous place. Endeavour to makes saints what they ought to be; present the church of God in her robes of beauty, and the influence of her truth will be more extensive, and the effects more happy and permanent. Unfold the terrors of the Lord; but rest more upon the persuasive motives of the gospel of the grace of God, as the medium by which the Spirit of adoption enters the heart, with his reconciling influence, to effect a vital union with the Son of God. Let us be ministers of a gracious gospel, rather than of a condemning law.

In this endeavour to edify the body of Christ, there will be an uniform aim at oneness in the faith,—the doctrine,—and acknowledgment of the Son of God. This unity has not yet been attained. It was sought in the apostolic church; but, except in her form of sound words, was not perfectly found. Since the apostolic age, it has been taught by the wisdom of councils and authority of states. It is yet a desideratum, something desirable but not possessed. In vain has it been sought by the decrees of princes and their cabinets; forming for the church a state religion, and urging its acceptance by the twofold motive high political advantages, to its recipients; and the appendages of disabilities and pains, in various degrees, as the portion of those who should refuse it. The failure of this scheme is matter both of observation and of history. It is happy that it is so. But still this unity, in doctrine and profession, is an object of sincere desire and earnest pursuit. It is, indeed, very foolishly expected, by some, from the mad, not to say unprincipled measure, of abolishing all creeds and confessions of faith. Nor will the scheme be more successful, that would crowd the page of the terms of Zion’s fellowship, with all the truths which a cultivated mind, in the recesses of the study, or in the conflicts of controversy, may be able to deduce from first and obvious principles. To such deductions we are not enemies; but let them have their appropriate place. They will be, as all such abstractions have been, found, too refined to be felt by the common mind. It is upon the platform, which directly rests upon the first and obvious principles of the evangelical revelation, that we must exhibit the whole order, beauty, harmony and power, of the system of grace, so as to bring its influence over the various departments of the household of faith. Thus acted the Apostolic church, and thus acted the Reformation churches; and to this example must all who have departed from it, retrace their steps. Guided by these lights, the church shall advance forward, approximating to her destined perfection of stature; aiming at the desired unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God. But to have this, in its fulness, is reserved for the celestial state. There she shall appear without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.[14]

To this there will be an approximation, in the glory of the millennial day. It will then be felt, as it never was before, that There is one body, and one Spirit; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.[15] In effecting this happy state, a more extensive knowledge, and a more fervent love of truth, will have a place; and what has sometimes been too little regarded, an enlightened estimate of the powers and attainments of the believer in the present life, and a candid judgment of what is reasonable to expect and require, in order to a pure, efficient, and extended communion of saints. But after all, it is in heaven “where all bless’d union is,” that complete harmony, in thought and action, will be found among the redeemed of the Lord. There shall be no night there, nor darkening cloud to rest upon the mind; no unhallowed passion to disturb the composure of the soul, nor carnal interest to rouse to conflict; nor imperfect language to be misunderstood. There the ministry shall have its consummation, in the full attainment of its end. But for the employment of these means, which shall issue in such a consummation, we may well inquire, Who is sufficient?

Before concluding this part of the discussion, I beg the indulgence of my audience, while I add another remark.—Through this ministry, and in the employment of its various gifts, it is the purpose of God, in pursuit of that consummation, to which we have adverted, to direct the principles of the gospel to all the departments of social life, and, in the diffusion of its benign spirit, to extend over them a blessed influence. The gentle, yet powerfully influential, doctrines of the gospel, the solemn worship of the Sabbath, the principles of order embraced in the discipline of the house of God, the character of the ministers of the sanctuary, and the example of purity, rectitude, benevolence and peace, set by consistent christians, are felt by the mass of society; and upon it, in some measure, they stamp their own features of moral worth. Their influence reaches the halls of legislation, is felt, often with seriousness, and expressed with dignity, on the bench of justice; nor is it a stranger in the chair of state. It is the moral influence accompanying the law going forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Man’s temporal and eternal interests are connected together in this world, as much as are his soul and body. They are, indeed, distinct, and belong to distinct departments; and must be managed under distinct considerations. But in neither must God be forgotten. The church and the commonwealth contemplate these distinct interests, respectively, according to their respective objects and ends. Social order, whether ecclesiastical or civil, is moral order. Without interference with what is peculiar to either, the two departments may and must, existing in the same land, recognize each other’s being. It is the decree of Heaven that it should be so. Whilst the state vouchsafes to the church many advantages, the church is the distinguished medium and agent, in extending a moral influence over man. This influence is in progress. It is this that is purifying the principles of moral action, the institutions of society; and which shall issue in the acclaim that shall usher in the morning of the millennial age:—The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.[16] This is the union of church and state which the little politician fears, and not without reason; for when society arises in the grandeur of moral power, and the citizens, in general, act in correspondence with the high attributes of their moral nature, and in accordance with the dignity of their immortal hopes, the place of such, boasting of not being obliged to know the law of their God, shall be undistinguished; while the enlightened and liberal statesman, enjoying the confidence of a community that know, love, and obey the law of the God of Heaven, which is the law of their nature, shall fill with honour of himself and advantage to the commonwealth, his appropriate place. Society thus organized, and under such influence, in righteousness, peace and happiness, will distantly anticipate the character of the better country. Such a social state the christian minister labours to form; in his labours he is sustained by christian principle, christian sentiment, and christian effort.—The aim shall, under the smiles of approving Heaven, be crowned with success. We dissemble not. It is our desire that men should be christians indeed. It is our purpose thus to raise a public opinion, of that lofty moral bearing, which, while benignant toward every partaker of our imperfect nature, will frown into their hiding places, all avowed impiety of character and profligacy of morals. Righteousness shall flow down our streets as a mighty stream. But remembering our frailty, and the magnitude of this work, we again are urged to inquire—Who is sufficient for these things?

II. The second part of this discussion proposes to furnish an answer to the inquiry of the text: Who is sufficient for these things? In the business of life, the objects of man’s highest ambition are found in the interesting secrets of cabinets, state purposes of extensive bearing; and in their actings, in the exposition of public law, negotiation of treaties, conducting of military expeditions, and the establishment and maintenance of peace. For the transaction of these affairs, appropriate qualifications are requisite; and those who possess them are, by states acting wisely, sought out and employed. It would be passing strange if, in the more deeply interesting concerns of the special empire of God, no peculiar qualifications were requisite for their profitable transaction; but that all its high and solemn means and ends, should be left to the disposal of imbecility, folly, or at best, to the improvidence of chance. Such we are assured is not the case. In the provisions of the kingdom of our Lord, are concentrated those principles of order, which, in the development, give security to all the social interests of man. Among these provisions will be found that of a well qualified ministry. To a participation in this, he can have no claim, who is destitute of ministerial gifts, who has no call, or who perverts his powers for the subversion of the gospel, its order and its influence.—But he, whom the Church’s head has invested with the ministerial office, qualified by spiritual gifts, and sustained in a course of faithful labour, by the presence of his Spirit, is authorized humbly, yet confidently, to say, I am sufficient for these things. I can do all things, through Christ which strengtheneth me.[17]

1. This sufficiently implies an investiture with the ministerial office. How shall they preach except they be sent? Do you ask, what is to be understood by the ministerial office? I reply: it consists in the spiritual relation, constituted by a special and regular call, of a person duly qualified, to the whole work of the ministry.[18] This relation is spiritual and it is supernatural. It flows from the arrangements of the covenant of grace, is conversant about spiritual objects, and is alone effectual, in the attainment of its end, through the aids of the Spirit of Christ. The relation is to ministerial labour, and to the whole of it. It consists not in the connexion that may exist between a minister and a particular people. Such people may undervalue, neglect, contemn, or reject the ministry; but their conduct affects not the validity of the office.Many circumstances, of an unhappy character, may interpose to suspend its exercise, and yet the relation to its employment remain; and justify the resumption of its exercise when those circumstances cease to operate. “Action is transient, but relation is permanent.” This relation is to the whole employment of the ministry. The keys of both doctrine and order, belong to the minister of Christ.

To the constitution of this relation, two things are indispensably requisite: qualifications and presbyterial ordination. Without qualifications, ordination cannot take place; or if attempted, it is a nullity. Withhold ordination, and, no matter what the gifts may be which an individual possesses, there is no relation to ministerial employment; no call to the work. This is well understood in civil life. It is not the possession of great intellectual and moral endowments, that authorizes a citizen to occupy the legislative floor, or to hold the helm of state. It is not the earnest desire of such to be so employed, in order to benefit his fellow citizens, that will justify the assumption of power. If not selected, and, under the solemnities of an appeal to God, administered by competent authority, inducted into office, he would be adjudged an usurper. In like manner there is no possession of the ministry, without a special and regular call. This call, essentially, consists in ordination by the imposition of the hands of the Presbytery. This is the call of God. What have sometimes been enumerated, as forming the call of God, are rather to be viewed as qualifications—or preparatives for the call. In making it upon any, to the ministry, God speaks through the medium of his authorized organs. No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.[19] The call is either ordinary or extraordinary. If ordinary, it is made in the observance of the usual order of the house of God, in such case provided; if extraordinary, let extraordinary proof be given of it. If neither of these exist, then it is profane usurpation of sacred things. Attention to this subject is peculiarly demanded, on the part of christians, in times of religious excitement; when every gifted brother, forgetting his proper place, is prepared to seize the ministerial office, and, with unconsecrated hands, employ its most important and difficult parts. Such efforts of mistaken zeal, may increase the excitement, add to the tumult, and extend the confusion; but perfect the saint, or edify the body of Christ, it cannot. I have not sent these Prophets yet they ran:—I sent them not, nor commanded them:—therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.[20]

2. This ministerial office is of divine authority. It is from God. Paul was called to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God. Those invested with the ordinary ministry of the Church, are designated as receiving it from him. Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord.[21] They bear titles indicating a peculiar relation to the household of faith. Preachers, pastors and teachers; stewards and overseers.[22] In these characters peculiar qualifications are required;[23] and to them are assigned distinct and peculiar duties to perform.[24] To the members of the church, he likewise appoint special duties, toward those clothed with the ministry, and exercised in the discharge of its functions. 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.[25] To them the Redeemer addresses the promise of his special presence: Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.[26] All this goes to establish the truth of the divine origin and perpetuity of the ministry. It is from God as a special favour to man. It proceeds from the provisions of the covenant of grace, for the accomplishment of its ends; and, of course, is supernatural. It is a subject of promise: I will give you pastors according to my heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.[27] But we know of no promise in the book of God, addressed to fallen man, which is not a new covenant promise, and deposited in the hand of the Mediator of that covenant: For all the promises of God in him are Yea, and in him Amen. This aspect of the subject, now before us, is peculiarly interesting. It presents the Creator connecting, with his robes of majesty, the attire of grace; and coming down in the constitution of relationships, originating in special love, and for purposes of special favour. It is God’s own institution, and, in the possession of it, the minister of God is authorized to act in the things of God; and, so far, he is sufficient for these things.

3. The interest of the ministry is enhanced, when we are assured that it flows from the grace of God, by Christ Jesus. It is a peculiar gift of the son of God, as Mediator. It was he who said,—Go and teach all nations. He gave gifts unto men. He gave some, Apostles; and some, Prophets; and some, Evangelists; and some Pastors and Teachers;—for the work of the ministry.[28] It is, therefore, in his name, that ministerial acts are performed. In his name we ordain to office, and constitute our ecclesiastical courts; and in his name we apply the instituted seals of his covenant, to their appropriate subjects. In this the ministry of the Church and its exercise differ from other institutions of God. The matrimonial relation, and the authority of civil society, are both ordinances of God. They proceed from him as the God of nature, the author of the constitution of humanity, and, consequently, have their foundation, and immediate standard, in the principles of the primitive law of our common nature. Neither of them being founded in the grace of the new covenant, no recognition of any principle, peculiar to the system of grace, can be considered as necessary, to give validity to the marriage covenant; or to make legitimate a constitution of civil society.

I will not be understood, in these remarks, as speaking of what christianity demands, in every relation of life, of those who enjoy its light; nor of those who, in the exercise of those powers of self-government, which the Creator has given to men, have voluntarily pledged themselves to obey the Messiah, by a distinct recognition of his claims. I now refer to these institutions, as viewed in their source, and as existing upon their original and proper principles. While, then, we consider the relations of domestic, of civil, and political life, flowing from Jehovah, as Creator, Preserver, and Ruler of the world; we contemplate the ministry, with all its authority, derived from him as the God of grace; and to give this fact an emphatic expression, it comes to us directly from the Son of God, as the Lord of Zion:—the ministry which thou hast received of the Lord. He, indeed, employs subordinate agents, institutes, and forms, for its conveyance; but these, all these, without him, could convey no power, confer no spiritual office. The institution is his, and his presence with his own institution, sustains its validity, and gives to it efficacy. We are the ministers of Jesus Christ, and not the servants of men. Hence our sufficiency and confidence of success.

4. There is another aspect, under which this subject presents itself, which gives it a peculiar claim upon our regard, and lends to the ministry a feature of sufficiency, which we may not pass over unnoticed: it is not only a gift from the Saviour’s hand, but a gift from him when he had triumphed over Satan, over death and the grave; a gift, too, secured by the merit of his blood.

It may deserve a remark, and a passing remark will be sufficient, to bring to our recollection the fact, that the ministry, largely taken, as the Redeemer’s gift to men, embraced an extraordinary, as well as the usual ministerial power of the church. Extraordinary occasions called for extraordinary offices, extraordinary powers, and gifts. For ordinary occasions what is ordinary will suffice. The clouds of heaven and the rock at Horeb, supplied Israel with bread and water in the desert of Arabia; but when they had access to ordinary fountains and streams, the water of the rock ceased to follow them; when they had access to the corn of the field, the manna fell no longer around their camp. When a new dispensation was to be introduced into our world, to arrest the attention of men, and evince a mission from heaven, apostles and prophets, with the gift of tongues, of prophecy, and the power of miracles, were requisite. Public attention once aroused; the proof of the divine origin of christianity being completed; its doctrines, its worship, and its order settled; the ordinary ministry of the church,—to the establishment of which, as from God, the extraordinary was subservient,—is sufficient. The ordinary is permanent, because its ends are permanent; the extraordinary ceased, because its ends were temporary. But whether we consider the one or the other of them, it is the gift of Christ, it is his gift as exalted at God’s right hand. When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. He gave Apostles, and Prophets, and Pastors and Teachers.[29] But that he might, as the exalted Redeemer, be possessed of those gifts to bestow, remember the greatness of the price by which they were secured. It was at the expense of his precious blood. So says our Apostle. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended—first into the lower parts of the earth. He humbled himself;—he descended into our world; to a state of subjection; to one of ineffable suffering; to the darkness of the grave. By this humiliation, he procured his own economical exaltation, and all its blessed fruits;—these gifts among the rest. He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.[30] Brethren, treat not this ministry, which cost your Redeemer such a mighty sum, with despite. Let us, who are intrusted with the office, not profane it, by a dishonorable employment of it; or by the conveyance of it to unworthy subjects. Be it our care to magnify it, as a peculiar gift of our ascended Lord; and to value it, as sufficient, through his grace, to accomplish its high and holy ends.

5. In order to insure the sufficiency of the ministry, it is accompanied with appropriate gifts. Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.[31] This twelfth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, assures us of the ample furniture that is provided, to qualify for the due exercise of the ministry. The Lord of host sends none a warfare at their own charge. We have already adverted to something, in the ministry of the Church, when viewed in its full extent, of an extraordinary character. The time and circumstances requiring these, have long since passed; and what existed then, as needful for all times and all places, is continued. The ministry of feeding, teaching, and ruling, was that which really edified the Church, even in the age of miracles; and the ministry which embraces these, remains in the Church, and is necessary to her as a completely organized corporation. But this gift presupposes the communication and possession of others, indispensably requisite to qualify for its profitable employment. God, under no economy, ever proposed an end without, at the same time, providing adequate means for its attainment. If he calls Saul, to the throne of Israel, he sends his spirit, and gives him another heart. He gives him the spirit of a ruler, fitting him for the administration of the affairs of state, and qualifying him to lead the armies of Israel to victory. This spirit of civil rule, of military courage and conduct, the Lord did not recall from the son of Kish, until he had rejected him from being king. His Spirit furnishes ability to the ministers whom he calls, to serve in his church. The manifestation of the Spirit of given to every one of them to profit withal. It may not be altogether out of place to notice, that the Apostle is not speaking, in this portion of Scripture, of every individual of the family of man, nor even of every member of the Church of God; but of everyone invested with the ministry; nor is he speaking of the saving influences of the grace of God, but of those gifts which fit to discharge official duty.

6. Those qualifying gifts are spiritual. They are communicated, as we have just seen, by the Spirit of the Lord; the spirit of man is the subject in which they reside, and their tendency is the building up of the Church, in spiritual excellence and beauty, and are therefore denominated spiritual. With these gifts and their importance, the Church, and especially her officers and courts, should have an acquaintance more intimate than, perhaps, generally obtains. They are not mere intellectual talents of a high order; nor even those talents cultivated by literature and science. I go further, and venture to assert, that the saving grace of God itself, bestowed upon the soul, along with these, qualifies not for the exercise of the ministry. I hope I am not misunderstood. The importance of native talent, the value of literacy and scientific acquisitions, to the ministry, I will not be suspected of depreciating. And woe to that man, who, while a stranger to the saving work of the Spirit of God, upon his own soul, and, in his heart, an enemy to the Redeemer of men, shall venture to take a public stand on the walls of Zion, or, as a minister of the sanctuary, dare to serve at the altar of God. Heartless to himself must his work be. Terrible his doom at last, who, after having carried the torch of inspired truth, along the path that leads to heaven; lighting others to their everlasting rest, must himself return down, to the cells of the prison, there to dwell for ever, in chains, under the darkness of everlasting night. I suppose the minister approved of God, to possess talent, and that talent cultivated by education. Still I affirm, the highest natural powers, cultivated in the finest style, capable of the loftiest strains of eloquence, and profoundest deductions of reason, whatever their importance, and I know it is great, are not the peculiar gifts that qualify for the work of the ministry. And will you permit me again to say, the saving grace of the Spirit, which sanctifies the soul, is not the distinguishing qualification for ministerial employment.

Many a sanctified female, and many a holy man,—and not destitute of talent,—may be found, upon whom, nevertheless, ordaining hands may not be laid. Bolingbroke, though an enemy of the Bible, was able, learned and eloquent. He, too, would not have feared, as a mere advocate, to have measured pens, in defence of the doctrines of grace, with mitred prelates.[32] But that noted lord had no peculiar ministerial gifts. Ministerial gifts consist of something, not only distinct but also in kind, different, from those talents, and acquisitions, to which I have referred. All of these, in their respective spheres, are important to the ministry. They constitute the groundwork where ministerial gifts exist; but of themselves—excuse the repetition of the thought—of themselves do not authorize the investiture of their possessor with that sacred office. How defective, then, are those administrations, in which nothing is sought but talent on the one hand, or piety on the other; and, one or other of these being found, as may be the aims and policy of parties, nothing beyond is required. Nor are those free from blame, who rest satisfied with the union of these in the candidate for sacred orders. When the church shall seriously turn her attention to the necessity of those gifts, in her ministry, and estimate them, as they deserve, her ministrations shall be found better directed, and more efficient in all that is desirable for her edification; while she will enjoy exemption from the effects of many follies, by which her order, peace, and happiness, have been disturbed.

Let us remember, my brethren, that God, in order to qualify for their important work, the ministers of his sanctuary, has provided great variety of these spiritual gifts; which, in various measures and degrees, are dispensed by him to them. These gifts are the purchase of the church's blessed Redeemer, communicated by his spirit, and though different from natural talent, the acquisitions of education, and the sanctifying grace of the new covenant, yet, nevertheless, impart a sacredness to the ministry, and, to it are all important; qualifying those invested with it for the spiritual labours,—the edification of God’s house,—that spiritual edifice in which he will for ever dwell. There are diversities of gifts,—but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.[33]

7. What are these gifts? To attempt the enumeration of all that is needful, in the public servants of the family of God, to fit them to act according to the exigencies of his children, would not be discreet; and, were I qualified for the task, the advanced hour, and the business of the day, forbid its execution. In reply to the query, I shall offer but a few remarks. It will be kept in mind, that I speak of the usual ministry of the Church, and of its ordinary and necessary gifts. These relate to the work of which we have already spoken;—the dispensation of doctrine, the conducting of the worship and order of the house of God; and for the profitable, and acceptable discharge of these services, they give a fitness.

To his ministry the Redeemer has committed the word,—the doctrine of reconciliation.[34] This embraces the whole scheme of evangelical truth. To the preaching of this truth, so as to be a workman, that needeth not to be ashamed, an intimate acquaintance with it, in its various parts, its numerous relations, and extensive bearings, is demanded; furnishing material for the instruction of men, in the whole circle of all that relates to their faith in the Son of God, and to their obedience, as subjects of the moral government of God. This is implied in the word of knowledge,[35] stated by Paul, as one of the gifts of the Spirit. This gift is traced in the disposition, peculiar aptitude, and ability, of the minister of God, to investigate the oracles of inspiration; and in the success, with which he apprehends the several doctrines of the Gospel, in their evidence and various aspects. He is thus qualified, by himself knowing the truth, to teach others also. This gift of knowledge is something beyond what the ordinary members of the church possess, is spiritual, and yet it is not saving; for it shall vanish away.[36] But that knowledge of the true God—and of Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, shall survive the stroke of death, expand, bloom, and bear fruit for ever, in the heavenly state.

Ability, as a wise steward, rightly to divide the word of truth, is a spiritual gift. Wisdom implies knowledge; but knowledge is not always accompanied by wisdom. In every department of social life, our intercourse with man furnishes examples, of great aptness in the acquisition of knowledge; yet often an almost total destitution of capacity, to make any good use of it. When such an one is called upon for counsel, the fountains of information will be readily opened, the stream will flow, and it is a thousand to one, if, through defect of wisdom, the waters swell not beyond their banks, carrying confusion and ruin in their course. The word of wisdom, in the exhibition and application of revealed truth, is a ministerial gift, bestowed by the Spirit, and without which mere knowledge must be without avail.

This implies an enlightened apprehension of the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, and the application of them demand for peculiar seasons, persons, and circumstances. Among those, with whom we have to deal, are men in every condition and rank of life; sinners in almost every stage of obduracy; saints of every grade—old men deeply versed in the life of Godliness;—young men in the manhood and vigour of sanctified activity;—babes in their weakness, with all their thoughtless and confident inexperience. The manner of the application of grace to these, and its modes of operation are various. The Holy Ghost is a voluntary and sovereign agent, acting upon man's moral nature, according to his numerous faculties, his varied and varying circumstances. To be safe from delusion, to guard against the veriest,—and most dangerous,—quackery, in applying, ministerially, the healing leaves of the Tree of life, to the maladies of the soul, the minister of religion must be in a competent measure acquainted with the ways of the Spirit’s acting in his work of grace. I mean not merely from his own experience; for should he erect that into an universal standard, the effects are likely to be very mischievous. Such a course must issue in limiting the views of Spirit’s agency, to what rises little above a mechanical process. But I do mean a special acquaintance with the views of the work of the Holy Ghost upon the heart, as delineated in the word of God, and made to be understood by his peculiar influence, shedding light upon the mind, by his own revelation. Of those powerful onsets of temptation, by which the saint is assailed, their sourcestheir facilities, and tendencies, it behooves the watchmen of Zion not to be ignorant. Of that machinery and agency, internal and external, which are abroad, and in very active operation against the glory of God, as manifested in the salvation of man, it becomes him to be apprized. The appropriate exhibition of the provisions of the Gospel, in all these cases and under all these circumstances, is rightly to divide the word of truth; and to do so requires the spiritual gift of spiritual wisdom and knowledge in the mystery of Christ. Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing.[37] Such are able ministers of the New Testament, sufficient for their sacred work.

Among those communications of the Spirit, qualifying for the work of the ministry, is that to which reference is often made, in the sacred page, under the name of plainness, openness, and boldness; for by these, and other terms, we render the παρρησια, parrhesia[38] of inspiration. Without utterance and boldness in unfolding the commission of Heaven, the ministry would be of little value. That Paul might continually possess it, he sought the prayers of the Ephesian church:—That I may open my mouth BOLDLY, to make known the mystery of the Gospel. For it the assembled Apostles prayed:—Grant unto thy servants, that with all BOLDNESS they may speak thy word.[39] But, brethren, let us bear in recollection, that this utterance is something very different from flippancy of tongue, or the arts of the rhetorician’s school; and this boldness is very remote from the reckless hardihood which is stranger to discretion. This gift implies an understanding of the message brought, and a due apprehension of the season and proper circumstances of its exhibition. The minister of the Redeemer knows it to be God’s message, and that he is the Lord’s messenger to men. With a solemnity becoming the subject, its author, and its results; with a fidelity corresponding to his responsibilities; with a fulness and plainness, becoming the occasion; he speaks the truth of God, with an earnest desire, that it may be felt to be the word of God, and not of man. He feels himself a watchman in the city of God; he sees the enemy entering at the gate; in another quarter, he discovers the flames kindled by the incendiary: he knows it will disturb the repose of the citizen to give the alarm, and, very probably expose himself to reproach and resentment, for interfering with their peaceful slumbers. He, however, is deeply impressed with a sense of his responsibility, knows the danger, looks to final results, raises his voice, gives the alarm; he does so in season; the city is saved; and, in his boldness, he is approved of God.

In exercising the power of government, in the empire of our Lord, spiritual direction and aid are as requisite, as in the dispensation of gospel doctrine, God has set governments,—governors,—in his church;[40] and it behooves them, according to the nature of that power which belongs to Zion’s government, to possess the spirit of rule. He whose name is—Counsellor,—upon whose shoulder the government rests, shall sit upon the throne of David, to order his kingdom, and to establish it with judgment. The Spirit of the Lord rests upon him, as the Spirit of Counsel; and, from his fulness, his ministers are authorized to seek and to expect supplies of the Spirit of wisdom and of judgment. Had this been always regarded and duly improved, in applying the Bible principles of order, instead of the temporary expedients of human device, Jerusalem would, ere now have presented more of the character of the quiet habitation, which is yet to her matter of promise and subject to prayer.

This government, as in the hands of the ministry, is in its character far removed from lordly domination. Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.[41] Did the administration of the government of the Church, merely consist in forming enactments, or in taking up the decrees of assemblies, subordinate or superior, already made,—decrees often formed with no great judgment,—and urging them, mechanically and with violence, under the terrors of ecclesiastical censures, or civil pains, the task would require no special interference of divine agency. Such, however, it is not. The peculiar mediatorial empire of our Lord, is both spiritual and supernatural, and upon principles spiritual and supernatural it must be governed. Hence the necessity of spiritual and supernatural gifts, to qualify the ministry for its employment, in the application of those principles to their proper ends.

The constitution of the church must be understood, her prudential regulations must be in accordancewith her constitutional law, as laid down in the word of God. It must, likewise, be kept in view, that this system of law contemplates man as imperfect, and as known to be imperfect, during the whole period of his connexion with this visible organization of grace. It proposes the melioration of man’s condition. It is for the edification of the church of God. It is, of course, in its tone of thought, of speech, and of action very remote from all that is violent. Infinitely distant from the temper of the inquisitor, with guards, prisons, chains, and executioners in his train; the administration of this government is meek as he whose it is, patient as the Lamb of God, affectionate and spiritual as the Spirit of love. It is the address of spiritual law to the spirit of the moral being, to his mind, his conscience, and his heart; in order to the healing of the spiritual maladies of the inner man, the promotion of growth in grace, the edification and the beautifying of the temple of the Lord. To effect this, by a wise administration, requires a participation in the gifts of that Spirit, who rests upon the Redeemer, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.[42]

According the doctrines of the Gospel, and under the superintendence of this spiritual rule, a hallowed worship, such as that to which we have before adverted, is rendered to God in the assemblies of his people. Under the influence of the Spirit of grace and supplications, poured upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, each saint yields an acceptable worship. To go before the congregations of the saints, in their exalted devotions, and to conduct them into the presence of him who dwells in the sanctuary, requires a portion of those spiritual gifts. For this they are provided, and for this end they are bestowed.

My dear brethren, when we merely look over a brief table of the contents of what is required of the ministers of the house of God, their responsibilities, and the results of their actings, we may exclaim—Who is sufficient for these things! And, with confidence, we may reply: no man, assuredly, who is a stranger to the spiritual gifts, provided for the ministry, or whom the Lord has not called to its work; for none will the Church’s exalted Head recognize, as possessing his ministry, upon whom his Spirit has not descended in the communication of those spiritual gifts. But are not those whom he qualifies, calls, and accompanies, sufficient for the ministerial work? Are we not justifiable in affirming this, when we see them invested with an office, which originates from God, which proceeds from him as the God of grace, which flows in the channel of the covenant of redemption, is the purchase of his Son, by the price of his precious blood, the gift of his hand who is exalted in the heavens, who is the brightness of the divine glory and the express image of the Father’s person; an office accompanied with qualifying spiritual gifts, sustained and sanctified, and made effectual, by the presence and blessing of the Spirit of the Saviour? A ministry thus originating and thus qualified, and sustained, is valid, and is sufficient to attain its end; for it is those gifts, exercised by the ministry, in a preached gospel, a pure and sacred worship, and a firm and spiritual government, that God blesses and renders efficient, in building upon Zion, by the conversion of sinners and progressive holiness of saints.

And now, brethren, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the servants of his house, and according to the order of his kingdom, established by himself, conveys this ministry to those upon whom he has caused his spirit to pass, in bestowing his gifts. And, that such a minister may be given to the church to day, in this place; in the name of the Son of God, we shall proceed to set apart the candidate before us; employing, while we supplicate the throne of mercy, the ordinance of the imposition of the hands of the Presbytery, because Apostles, in like case did so; we employ it as a significant institute, by which the Redeemer is pleased to convey the office;—as a moral sign, indicating the minister of the Sanctuary;—as an act by which we offer up to God and to his service in the gospel, as a consecrated oblation, the brother we ordain; and finally, as an authoritative and ministerial blessing of him, thus presented before the Lord and his people.[43] Till this be done I defer the application of the subject.[44]

 

THE APPLICATION.

I. THE CHARGE TO THE MINISTER.

 

You now stand, my brother, before us, and the whole Church of God, in a new relation. This relation is interesting, and its responsibilities are great. To this people, whose Pastor you are now constituted, you are bound by many ties; the force of those ties will increase, as you and they advance together, along the way to the place of final rest. To the connexion now formed, and its results, my dear sir, I cannot be indifferent. With this people, my intercourse has been familiar, pleasant, and, I trust, not without spiritual advantage. Most of them,—and some of them, for many years,—were of the flock committed to my pastoral care. The strength of those ligaments, which years of religious intercourse throw around the heart, and the tenderness, resulting from the hallowed intercourse of the pastor, with the parents and the children of his flock, in the days of their sorrows and of their joys, experience alone can make us feel and understand. The power of these you will progressively experience.

You will indulge me, my young brother, occupying the place which I now do, in addressing you as a minister of Jesus Christ, just entering on the public service of his church, upon the solemn subject of your accountability. To that Redeemer, who you are, and whom you have engaged to serve in the gospel of his grace, you are amenable, and he will hold you amenable at that tribunal, before which all nations must appear; where all secrets shall be revealed; and where every character shall be judged. He holds you responsible for the assertion of his claims;—the exhibition and maintenance of his truth, committed to your trust;—the precious souls, put under your care; your deportment in his church; and the preparation you make, for an enlightened, faithful and wise, discharge of official duty. Upon each of these topics, I earnestly, but respectfully, and affectionately, offer a few remarks.

The assertion of Immanuel’s claims. You are, to day, constituted a public servant of Christ, the Mediator. In that character, the Son of God has upon men in every relation of life, extensive and peculiar claims. It behooves you, as his minister, to understand those claims, in their nature, origin, and extent; to assert them with fidelity; to maintain them with dignity; with manly firmness to urge them; and, bringing into full view those hallowed motives, usually blessed, by the Spirit of grace, for that end, endeavour, with earnestness, to persuade men, in every rank and condition of life, to do homage to Messiah;—to believe in him, as their Saviour, and obey him as their Lord.

The exhibition and maintenance of the system of truth, committed to your trust. The system of evangelical truth, revealed in the Bible, embraces or, in its connexions, carries along with it the whole code of morals, and all the machinery of the natural and moral relationships of life; as well as what is peculiar to the supernatural arrangements of mercy, for the redemption of sinners. The truth of this whole system is intrusted to you. To understand its principles, to expound their bearing, and to seek their full application, are required of you. You are not unapprized of the combination of agencies,—powerful agencies,—under the direction of the father of lies, for the purpose of opposing the diffusion of this truth, and of counteracting the acquisition of its knowledge. To the chambers of man’s dark and unbelieving mind, the access is ready for the prince of darkness; and, once admitted, he there finds fit material upon which to operate. His emissaries are numerous, unceasing in their activity, various in their means, and imposing in their manner. The infidel, the votaries of Anti-Christ, and the victims of the several forms of the errors of delusion, are all upon their respective fields, and all are harnessed and active, and hostile to the truth, as it is in Jesus. The cause must not be tamely yielded. Take away from the several arts and sciences, their respective truths, and what would remain? Abandon the truths of our holy religion, and it is gone, with all its cheering hopes, and blessed effects.

Gospel truth is the great mean, employed by the Holy Ghost, in the sanctification of the soul. Sanctify them,—it is the Saviour’s own prayer, in behalf of his imperfect people,—Sanctify them through thy truth. There is not one truth of christianity, which stands not in an important relation, to some point of christian character. Keep back any one truth, and the character, in that point, will remain unimproved. Every truth is a beam of light from the Sun of righteousness, in which his character, under some of its interesting aspects, is beheld. Insofar as any truth of the gospel is prevented from falling upon the intellectual eye, just so far, the character of the Redeemer is concealed, remains unknown, faith in him is prevented, and the progress of sanctification obstructed. And, my brother, if such be the effects of simple shunning to declare the truth, how much more disastrous, to introduce error in its place!misrepresentation of the Son of God, false views of his saving work ,and further perversion of character in man, must be the dreadful results; and with this additional aggravation,—the production of mistaken hopes, in reference to subjects of the most solemn and lasting import.

You are set for the defence of the Gospel: and toward no portion of the trust reposed in you, dare you be treacherous. Hear the injunctions of your Lord: Buy the truth and sell it not. Earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.[45] It remains as the reproach of an evil age, that—They were not valiant for the truth upon the earth.[46] Conflict is not pleasant, though sometimes indispensable. Constitutional and habitual reluctance to it, must give way to the call of duty. In obeying this call, and while feeling the importance of every truth, you contend for each, it will not be forgotten, that though every doctrine of the Bible be equally true; yet, relatively, every doctrine has not the same importance. In this respect, there is a greater and a less. Every truth of the gospel is a component part of the system, and, consequently, essential to its completion; but every truth is not fundamental. In the christian system there are fundamental and finishing truths. The enlightened and discreet advocate, while he pleads for every article of truth, will endeavour to regulate his zeal, by the nature and circumstances of the subject. The necessity of buckling on the armour of the soldier, and appearing in the habiliments of war, have been admitted. This, however, is not always, nor generally, necessary. We must take care not to convert the message of love, which we bear from the God of peace, to wretched man, into a wrangling dispute;—we must not embitter the streams of the sanctuary, by mingling with them the waters of Marah. Be always ready to make your defence, but render your reasons with meekness and fear.

In the exhibition of truth, your object will be to teach, and your manner, of course, such that your hearers may learn. Instruction is the first thing, in your public ministry, at which you must aim. Till man be informed upon the subject of religion, he can neither exercise its graces nor discharge its duties. It will not be forgotten, that the chief means which many enjoy, of becoming acquainted with the doctrines of salvation, are the instructions of the house of the Lord. The business of life leaves little more time to many christians, than is requisite for the devotions of the closet and the family. My dear sir, assume not as a fact, that all your hearers are extensively and accurately informed, upon the subjects you discuss. This remark, perhaps, will apply more especially, to that portion of your audience which may have been engaged, in the machinery of instruction, so imposing and, in many respects so laudable, employed in late years. Keep the Sunday school, the tract, and the religious journal of the week, in their proper place, and they are noble auxiliaries in promoting the cause of Christ; but while they, generally, give little that is distinctive, in the religion of the Bible, it is too often found, that they interfere with the more particular, affectionate, and profitable instruction of the domestic fireside. Aware of the defects, in the popular modes of the day, it becomes the public instruct, distinctly to inculcate first principles; to take care of confounding doctrines that are, though related, in themselves different; and always to connect his exhortations, with some known principle. I mean not that he should always deal in elementary knowledge. He has men as well as babes to instruct, and while for the latter he must furnish milk, for the former he must have meat.[47]

You, my dear sir, will not rest in the exhibition of a mere lifeless skeleton of sound doctrine. The cold, dry theory will effect little. In the christian system there is a flush of vitality; and you will endeavour to present it, in its glow of life and beauty. It is thus calculated to affect the heart. Let Christ be the centre of your ministrations, and make him the subjects of your discussions. Tell your hearers who Jesus is, what he has done, is doing, and will affect for his church. In the exposition of those doctrines, strictly evangelical, you cannot avoid preaching Christ; every promise conducts you to him, as its centre. In treating of obligation and duty, be no less careful to show their connexion with the Redeemer. The love of Christ constraineth us. When your subject calls you to follow the Creator, in the fields of nature, remember these were all spread out by the Son of God; and while formed by his hand, as the God of nature, it was with the ultimate intent of making the whole a theatre, upon which should be displayed the scheme, the actings, and riches of grace. When you trace the record of the attributes of God, in the works of his hands, remember there is a more illustrious testimony of them, in the person of Christ;—the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Seek the application of divine truth, to the souls of men, which issues in their transformation into the image of God. For this application you are not responsible. You are accountable for the full, seasonable, and faithful exhibition of truth, you are held amenable for its defence, against the enemy; but for its effect upon the heart, you are not. This truth is adapted to be the mean of regenerating influence; that influence is from the Spirit of God, and its dispensation is in his, not your hand. Look to him to make his own word effectual to the salvation of ransomed sinners.

The precious souls of men put under your care. Watch for them as one that must give account. Reflect, with attention, upon the value of the immortal spirit. Could the world be gained in exchange for its loss, it would be no compensation. Often review the evidence you possess, of the actings of the love of God toward ruined man; the descent and the sufferings of the eternal Son, in the place of guilty rebels; the expense of Zion’s ample provision; and, in your preparations for the pulpit, and in your communications from it; consider, O consider, the possibility of some thoughtless sinner hearing you, who stands upon the brink of perdition, and who may never again hear the message of grace. Raise the voice of warning, point to the way of life, and urge the acceptance, the immediate acceptance, of God’s proffered mercy. Watch, too, for those within the bond of the covenant, and whose faces are turned toward Zion:instruct, admonish, comfort, and cheer them on their way.

Your deportment in the Church of God. You enter upon the stage of public action, at a very interesting period, and you find the Church in a very peculiar condition. Her state is one of universal agitation. Old landmarks of party are removed. This state of things, so far, is not to be deplored. Did parties exist, or continue, with the settled purpose of half a century back, the Church could never appear as one. It is faction, with its causes and effects, that is shaken. In the Church of God are those things that cannot be shaken. These shall remain. Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken—that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.[48] Still, faction is in active operation, and schisms multiply; vigorous efforts, too, in favour of truth and order are made; and, by the side of these, in company with wild disorder, new forms of error are springing up. For the factions and schisms that deform, weaken, and perplex, the Church of God, you and I, my brother, are not responsible. They exist independently of us;most of them were formed long before we were born. But for their evils we shall be held accountable, should we employ our influence, whatever that may be, to perpetuate them. Our actings should be directed to the healing of the wounds of the daughter of Zion; and, in doing this, something more must be attempted, than the exposure of those wounds to the public gaze. Let care be taken, however, by whomsoever it may be attempted, that they be not slightly healed. No schemes that imply an abandonment of principle can ever avail, in improving the condition of the Church. An enlightened, faithful, and candid application of truth, will be found, at last, the most effectual mean of healing her painful maladies.

The treasures of that truth are laid up in this inspired volume. In those subordinate standards of the Church, to which you have just given your unhesitating pledge, is found an admirable compend, of the leading doctrines of the oracles of God. In seeking a better state of the Church, you will regard the models of her holier times, and, especially, study the prophetic delineations of her millennial state. The splendid edifice of the Reformation offers to the sight, an imposing and instructive object of contemplation; in your subscription to our terms of fellowship, you take your stand by a venerable pillar of that goodly fabric;—a pillar not the less revered and loved, by good men, that upon it are inscribed the martyrs’ names. As a friend of that reformation which attained much, and aimed at more, take its great and consecrated principles, and, guided in their application, by the voice of God, speaking distinctly in his word and by his providence, I charge you to go forward. Keep yourself, and, as far as you can, the Church of God, and the consciences of the people of God, unshackled by peculiar individual views; and, I add, by transient acts or incidental expressions of public bodies, under the influence of passing circumstances. Treat such with deference,—submit to inconveniences, if honestly you may, rather than disturb the social peace; but yield not your influence, in causing what is the private opinion, and not of public authority; what is incidental only, and not permanent, to rest, as an incubus, distressingly upon the public conscience. God has the conscience free from the doctrines and commandments of men, that are in anything contrary to, or beside the word of God. For this reformers plead, and for it martyrs died. It is a part of our inheritance, which we may not alienate. Standing upon this ground, endeavour to keep pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances, as God hath appointed in his word. Labour to build up the temple of the Lord, upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.

The preparation you make for the discharge of official duty. Live near, my brother, to your God. Look to the Spirit for his aid. Cultivate living godliness. Look to the Spirit for his aid. Remember that the gifts of the Spirit are neither experienced by their subject, nor seen by others, separate from the operations of the mind, where they dwell; and, therefore, to expect the possession of these gifts, without the due use of means, would be worthy of the enthusiast alone. You will, then, strive to excel. Study carefully and daily the oracles of God. Read them in the original languages of the sacred records. Examine the history of the Church. Make yourself acquainted with the various departments of Theological literature. Aim, in your ministry, at permanent utility, and not at temporary effect. Study your discourse well. Read, write, speak; but especially, think. Be not the minister of a mere party, but of the Church of God, which he purchased with his blood. Over every department of Zion, look with an eye of kindness and of candour. Be a lover of every good man, a friend of every friend of God, and promoter of every good work. Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.[49] Be a man of prayer, be humble, be faithful unto death. May God, my dear friend, prolong your life, support you under its trials, make you greatly useful, and, at last, bestow upon you an unfading crown of life.

 

II. THE CHARGE TO THE PEOPLE.

 

My brethren, you have heard a little, today, respecting that ministry, and its gifts, which your Redeemer gave for the edification of his Church. You have likewise, before you, one invested with that ministry; and, we trust, endowed with a portion of those gifts, to lead you in the way of eternal life. This you have long sought. Value the gift, Esteem him very highly for his work’s sake; and give suitable expressions of that esteem.

Treat him with courtesy and kindness; and let the spirit which dictates this treatment, in actual intercourse, be equally operative, in the recesses of the family. In no case indulge the temper of cruel censure; nor give way to the propensities of needless criticism. Teach the younger portions of your households to respect him. In this I make no demand upon you, but what is due to his intellectual and moral worth; and, in giving it, some, perhaps, may not be aware of the extent, to which they are serving the best interests of their families. It is the work of the Devil, to sink the standing and reputation of the ministers of religion; and if he can persuade parents to act that part, which induces their children to think lightly of those servants of God, his work, with them, is well nigh done. Disrespect for the messenger is easily transferred to the message; and many a father may gather the fruits of his foolish jests, or ill timed criticisms, passed at the expense of ministerial reputation, in the irreligion, the profanity, or infidelity of his son.

You will, according to your ability and his necessities, contribute to the support of your minister in temporalities. Money is not his object. It it were, he would not seek it in the service of the Church. But he must have a maintenance; and if he spend his time and labour, in the service of the Church, from her he has a right to expect that maintenance. You will never propose the question—Upon how little can our minister live? But—How much is requisite to make him useful? Your ability and his necessity, for this, will be the measure of your liberality. You have, indeed, according to your numbers and means, at present devised liberal things. The spirit you have manifested, in devoting of your substance to the support of the gospel, is worthy of much praise. Will you, however, permit me to say, that the sacrifice you offer at the altar of religion, is, in this respect, small, compared with that of your pastor. I speak not of the expenses, and his years of toil, in the acquisition of an education; allow me only to refer to a young man of fine character, of an active and cultivated mind, voluntarily binding up his hands, from the use of those means of acquiring property, which, in other professions, are just and honourable; and devoting himself to the service, the laborious service of the Church, in the gospel, expecting no temporal compensation, beyond a simple, and very limited, maintenance. You, brethren, I know are capable of appreciating this spirit; and I am sure, today, you feel, that should the time ever come, when you could be so insensible to all that is just, and generous, and pious, as to refuse that maintenance, you could expect nothing but blasting and mildew, to pass upon your spiritual interests, sending leanness to your souls. But of this enough. You know what you do, in this, is not matter of gratuity, but of right; and that the man, who is worthy of taking a part of this ministry, cannot be mercenary. His eye is fixed on loftier, and holier objects.

For the successful pursuit of those objects of high moral interest, you and your pastor have great facilities. The spirit of the age, opening wide the door of free inquiry; prosperity in every department of industry, furnishing ample means; the happy frame of our civil institutions, and the general spirit of their administration; the tone of christian sentiment, becoming more decided in favour of the claims or moral order, upon public regard, all associate in cheering you forward; while, from other considerations, assurance is given, that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. Fidelity in the discharge of every duty is, indeed, required, and the blessing of God upon you, and upon the labours of your minister, is indispensable.

You owe attention to the message your pastor brings you. In the house of God, guard against habits of inattention, resist a spirit of slumber, take care of indulging in dissipation of thought. Should your pastor discover evidences of these,—and where they exist, they cannot be long concealed,—he will be discouraged; and what is worse, the day and ordinances of God being profaned, the Spirit will be grieved and provoked, and you in danger of being left by him, to please yourselves in lifeless forms. Give your pastor all due countenance, in the discharge of his duties. Sustain him, in fully and faithfully, endeavouring to declare the whole counsel of God, in reproving sin, and in maintaining a firm, temperate, and well directed discipline, in the house of God.

You will receive your pastor, in the visits he may make you, with respect. You will calculate upon such intercourse; but your demands must not be unreasonable. You will not expect him to follow the example of those who, unmindful of the great work of the ministry, and too regardless of its honour, are ever on the wing, in what they denominate familiar visits. These visits however gratifying at the moment, to personal feeling, are found unprofitable. They are not an adequate compensation for the defects of the pulpit on the Lord’s day. The minister who takes not time to study, cannot show himself approved either to God or man,—a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.[50] Vapid ministrations must be followed by an uninstructed people. You will honour your minister, in his pursuit of a more appropriate and better course.

He has a claim upon your prayers. Remember him when you approach the throne of grace in your closets, in your families, in your prayer meeting. Your pastor’s success, as a minister of Christ, and your profiting under his care, depend upon the blessing of God. Paul may plant, Apollos may water; but God alone can give the increase. Prayer is a special mean, of bringing down the promised blessing, upon him and you. Neglect it not. Have distinctly before your minds your wants, your temptations, your dangers; and in prayer bring them all before your Maker. There is reason to fear that the feebleness, the faithlessness, the want of success, complained of in many ministers, may too often be referred to the judgment of God, upon a prayerless people.

Consider, with solemnity, my brethren, why this gospel is sent to you. It is that you may believe in the Son of God, and that believing, you may be saved. Be not satisfied with hearing discussions, however able, nor in attending on administrations, however regular; unless, in them, you have fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the blessed Spirit, the one true, and living God of Israel. Aim uniformly, and aim in an humble, yet confident, reliance upon the grace of God, in your Redeemer, to bring every thought and imagination to the obedience of faith. Adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour, in all things. May the blessing of God your Saviour, in all things. May the blessing of God rest upon you, and the pastor he has given you today, making you perfect in every good word and work. 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.Amen.


FOOTNOTES:


[1] 1 Cor. i. 12, and iii. 34.

[2] 2 Cor. xi. 15.

[3] 1 Cor. iii. 9.

[4] Heb. viii. 5.

[5] 2 Chron. xxvi. 18.

[6] Gen. xvii. 7. Acts. ii. 39.

[7] Psal. xlviii. 12, 13.

[8] Rev. xi. 1.

[9] Eph. iv. 12, 13.

[10] 2 Cor. v. 20.

[11] Acts xxii. 21, and xxvi. 18.

[12] Rom. viii. 2.

[13] Gal. ii. 16. Rom. viii. 1.

[14] Eph. v. 27.

[15] Eph. iv. 4-6. Isa. xi. 9.

[16] Rev. xi. 15.

[17] Phil. iv. 13.

[18] Vide Jus Divinum Minis. Evang.

[19] Heb. v. 4.

[20] Jer. xxiii. 21, 32.

[21] Col. iv. 17.

[22] Rom. x. 14. Eph. iv. 11. 1 Cor. iv. 1. Acts xx. 28.

[23] 1 Tim. iii. 6, & iv. 15.

[24] 1 Pet. v. 2.

[25] Heb. xiii. 17.

[26] Mat. xxviii. 20.

[27] Jer. iii. 15.

[28] Eph. iv. 8-12.

[29] Eph. iv. 8, 11.

[30] Phil. ii. 8, 9.

[31] Cor. xii. 1. 4. 7.

[32] Lord Bolingbroke is said to have been an admirer of the talent and learning, displayed in the Institutes of Calvin. In conference one day with the celebrated lady Huntingdon, he said; “My Lady, when you please to command my pen, it shall be drawn in your service, and admitting the Bible to be true, I shall have apprehension of maintaining the doctrines of predestination and grace, against all your reviles.”—Haweis’ Ch. Hist.

[33] 1 Cor. xii. 4, 11.

[34] 2 Cor. v. 19.

[35] 1 Cor. xii. 8.

[36] 2 Cor. xiii. 8.

[37] Luke xii. 42, 43.

[38] See 2 Cor. iii. 12. Col. ii. 15. Eph. vi. 19.

[39] Act. iv. 29.

[40] 1 Cor. xii. 28.

[41] Matt. xx. 25, 27.

[42] Isa. xi. 2.

[43] Vide Jus Divinum Min. Evang.

[44] After singing a portion of a psalm, the candidate, Mr. John M’Master, having given satisfactory answers to the queries of the Formula, appointed by Synod, to be put at ordination, was ordained to the office of the holy ministry, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the alone Head of the Church; in virtue of the authority derived to him, in that character, from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; with prayer, and by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery. He was, at the same time, installed Pastor of the Church; and received as a member of the Western Presbytery, of the Eastern Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church; after which the Moderator of Presbytery, Dr. M’Master, who presided in the solemnities of the day, concluded the service, with a charge to the Pastor and the people, as an application of the ordination sermon.

[45] Prov. xxiii. 23. Jude, ver. 3.

[46] Jer. xi. 3.

[47] Heb. v. 12, 14.

[48] Heb. xii. 26, 27.

[49] Phil. iv. 8.

[50] 2 Tim. ii. 15.