صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

IX. Church-members should be constant in assembling together for religious worship; it is remarked of the members of the first christian church, to their honour, that they continued stedfastly in the apostles doctrines and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayer, Acts ii. 42. that is, they constantly attended on hearing the doctrines of the apostles, which they gladly received and persevered in; and kept up their communion with them and one another, and were not missing at the Lord's-supper, and at times of public prayer; though in aftertimes, an evil manner, a bad custom prevailed among some of those christian Hebrews; as to forsake the assembling of themselves together, which the apostle takes notice of to their dishonour, Heb. x. 25. a custom of bad consequence, both to communities and particular persons; for what one may do, every one may do, and in course public worship cease, and churches break up; and such a practice is very prejudicial and hurtful to individuals; it is not known what inay be lost by missing an opportunity or an ordinance; and what trouble and distress of soul may follow upon it, as the case of Thomas shews, who was not with the rest of the disciples when Christ first appeared to them; it is dangerous to indulge to an indifference to, and to any degree of neglect of the service of God in his house; the evil may grow, and at last issue in apostacy, as in the stony-ground-hearers.

X. There should be no respect of persons among members of churches in their assemblies, and when met together on church-affairs, with regard to rich or poor, greater or lesser gifts; there should be no over-bearing, no browbeating, nor any supercilious airs used; no affectation of superiority one over another, they being on an equal foot, in the same relation to one another, abating the difference of offices, Matt. xx. 26, 27. all the strife should be in honour to prefer one another; and such who are highest, with respect to spiritual gifts or worldly riches, should con descend to men of low estates, Rom. xii. 10, 16.

XI. It behoves them to strive together for the faith of the gospel, and earnestly to contend for it; and not part with any of the truths of Christ and doctrines of grace; and should be careful to keep the ordinances, as they were delivered, and not suffer any innovation in them, neither as to the matter and substance of them, nor as to the manner in which they are to be observed; and they should walk in them all with great unanimity and constancy, and should stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free, and not be entangled with any yoke of bondage, nor suffer any human inventions and unwarranted practices to be imposed upon them.

XII. It becomes them to be examples to each other in a holy walk and conversation, and in an observance of all the duties of religion. Holiness becomes the house of God, and the members in it; their light should shine both in the church and in the world, that others beholding their good works, may them, and glorify God: they that name the name of Christ, and profess to be his, should depart from all iniquity, doctrinal and practical; they should be con


cerned to walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, and shew out of a good conversation their works with meekness of wisdom; they should endeavour to fill up in a becoming manner, all stations and relations in life, civil or eccnomical, in the world and family; as of magistrates and subjects, of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants; as well as in the church, as pastors, deacons, and private members, and be careful to perform all duties relative to them; that so their fellow-members may not be grieved nor stumbled; nor the good ways of God be evil spoken of; nor the name of God, and his doctrine, be blasphemed; nor any occasion given to the adversary to speak reproachfully; and by a strict attention to these several duties of religion, they will shew that they behave themselves in the house of God as they ought to do.



HAVING treated of a church, as essentially considered, with respect to its matter and form, I shall now proceed to consider it, organically, or as an organized church, a corporate body, having its proper officers. In the first churches there were officers both extraordinary and ordinary; the extraordinary officers were apostles, prophets, and evangelists.

I. Apostles, 1 Cor. xii. 28. These had the first and chief place in the church, and the signs of the apostles were found with them: they had their call and mission from Christ, and were not of men, nor by men, but by Jesus Christ; and as they had their mission and commission immediately from Christ, so their doctrine; they neither received it from men, nor were taught it, but had it by the revelation of Christ; they were infallibly guided into all truth by the inspiration of the Spirit, and had the power of working miracles, in confirmation of all this; they went out by authority every where, preaching the gospel, to the conversion of multitudes, and were the first planters of churches, which others watered; they were not limitted to any particular church, but had the care of, and presided in all the churches wherever they came. This office is now ceased; the apostles have no successors in it: not such who are called lord bishops; for as the apostles had not their pompous titles, nor their grandeur nor their wealth, so neither have these lordly bishops their gifts, power, and authority; they have neither mission nor commission, nor work similiar to theirs.

II. There were set in the churches, secondarily, prophets, 1 Cor. xii. 28. Eph. iv. 11. who had extraordinary gifts for explaining the word of God; for instruction and confirmation in the truths of it; and had the gift of tongues, to preach in them to all nations; such were in the church at Antioch, and such were Silas and Judas, Acts xiii. 1. and xv. 22. and who also had the gift of foretelling future events; as Agabus, and others, who were of great use to the

churches in those times, Acts xi. 28. and xxi. 10. This office is also no more; only the ordinary gift of interpreting the scriptures is sometimes called prophe sying, and those who have it prophets.

III. Evangelists: This name is sometimes given to the writers of the four gospels; two of which were apostles, Matthew and John; the other two, evangelists, Mark and Luke: evangelists were companions of the apostles in their travels, assistants to them in their work, and who were sent by them here and there, with messages from them to the churches, where they had been, and to finish what they had begun; for which purpose they were sometimes left in certain places; but not to reside and continue there. This office is now extinct; only that every truly gospel-preacher may be called an evangelist, or evangelizer. The ordinary officers of the church are pastors and deacons, and these only; though antichrist has introduced a rabble of other officers, the scripture knows nothing of.

I. Pastors: these are shepherds under Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls; who take the care of the flock, and feed it, as their name signifies; such were promised to be given under the gospel-dispensation; and such Christ has given to his churches, Jer. iii. 15. Eph. iv. 11. and still gives; to whom he says, as he did to Peter, Feed my lambs, feed my sheep, John xxi. 15, 16. These are the same with teachers, according to Eph. iv. 11. Some pastors and teachers; not some pastors and some teachers,, as if they were different; but and teachers, the xai, or and, being exegetical, explaining what is meant by pastors, even such who are teachers, to instruct in the knowledge of divine things; which is the pastor's work, to feed men with knowledge and understanding: and it may be observed, that in 1 Cor. xii. 28. where the several officers of the church are enumerated, mention is made of teachers, but pastors omitted, because they are the same; for they are not to be distinguished with respect to the place where they perform their work, as if the office of pastors was in the church, the flock they are to feed; but teachers or doctors in the school; whereas, it is certain, that a teacher is an officer in the church, as well as pastor, 1 Cor. xii. 28. nor are they to be distinguished as two distinct officers in the church, because of the subject of their ministry; the one, the pastor attending to exhortation, to things practical, and the teacher to things doctrinal, asserting, explaining, and defending the doctrines of the gospel, and refuting errors; since both belong to one and the same: if these were distinct, it should seem rather that teachers design gifted brethren, called to minister the word, but not to office-power; and are only assistants to pastors in preaching, but not in the administration of the ordinances; yet it is pretty plain, that those who have a commission to teach, have also a commission to baptize, and to attend to whatsoever Christ has commanded; yea, it may be observed, that even extraordinary officers are called teachers; as apostles and prophets.-These pastors and teachers are the same with bishops, or overseers, whose business it is to feed the flock, they have the episcopacy or oversight of, which is the work

pastors are to do; which office of a bishop is a good work; and is the only office in the church distinct from that of deacon.And these bishops are the same with elders; when the apostle Paul had called together at Miletus the elders of the church at Ephesus, he addressed them as overseers, εES, bishops, Acts xx. 17, 28. and when he says, he left Titus in Crete, to ordain elders in every city, he proceeds to give the qualifications of an elder, under the name of a bishop; A bishop must be blameless, &c. plainly suggesting, that an elder and a bishop are the same, Tit. i. 5-7. and the apostle Peter exhorts the elders, to feed the flock of God, taking the oversight, enσons, acting the of part a bishop, or performing the office of one, 1 Pet. v. 1, 2.-These pastors, teachers, bishops, and elders, are called rulers, guides, and governors. A pastor, or shepherd, is the governor and guide of his flock; a teacher, and a ruling elder are the same, 1 Tim, v. 17. One qualification of a bishop is, that he know how to rule his own house; or how shall he take care of the church of God, to rule that well, which is a considerable branch of his office? 1 Tim. iii. 1-5. these, indeed, are not to lord it over God's heritage, or rule according .to their own wills, in an arbitrary manner; but according to the laws of Christ, as King of saints; and then they are to be respected and obeyed; Remember them that have the rule over you, and obey them; for they are over the churches in the Lord, and under him as the great Lawgiver in his house; and though they are described as such who have the rule over churches, and are guides to them, Heb. xiii. 7, 17. yet they are the churches servants, for Jesus's sake, 2 Cor. iv. 5.-These are sometimes called the angels of the churches; so the pastors, elders, bishops, or overseers of the seven churches of Asia, are called the angels of the seven churches; and the pastor, elder, bishop, or overseer of the church at Ephesus, the angel of the church at Ephesus, Rev. i 20. and ii. 1. so called because of their office, being sent of God, and employed by him in carrying messages of grace to the churches, and publishing the good tidings of silvation. They are said to be ministers of Christ, or his under-rowers, as the word ungeras, signifies, 1 Cor. iv. 1. the church is the ship or boat, which they work; Christ is the pilot, who is at the helm, under whom, and by whose direction they row; and the oars they row with are the word, ordinances, and discipline they administer. And in the same place,-They are called, Stewards of the mysteries of God; and sometimes, Good stewards of the manifold grace of God; that is, of the more sublime truths of the gospel, and the various doctrines of divine grace, 1 Pet iv. 10. so a bishop or elder is called a steward of God, Tit. i. 7. a steward in his house or family, to give to every one in it their portion of meat in due season: and which office requires wisdom and faithfulness, to execute it aright, Luke xii. 42. 1 Cor. iv. 2. Concerning these persons may be observed,

I. The qualifications of them for their office; which, as it is a good office, the necessary qualifications should be found in those who are put into it, and which the apostle directs to, 1 Tim. iii. 1. &c. Some of which,

[ocr errors]

1. Respect the internal and spiritual character and accomplishments of a bishop or elder. As, 1. He must not be a novice; which does not mean a young man; for such an one was Timothy himself, to whom the apostle writes, who was more than an ordinary officer, even an evangelist; hence he says, Let no man despise thy youth, 1 Tim. iv. 12. but the word vɛopuros, translated novice, signifies, one newly planted', that is, in the church of God; there must be time, after such a plant is planted, to observe whether it has taken good root, and how it grows and thrives, and whether a plant of Christ's heavenly Father's planting. A bishop or elder should be first of some standing in the church, before he is called to such an office, that his gifts, grace, and conduct may be known, lest being lifted up with pride, elated with the high station he is advanced to, and with the gifts he is supposed to have, he fall into the condemnation of the devil; fall by pride as he did, and under the same sentence, and be degraded from his office. 2. He must have a competency of knowledge and understanding in divine things, for a pastor is to feed men with knowledge and understanding; and therefore must have a good share of it himself, that so he may be able to teach others also, 2 Tim. ii. 2 this is a principal part of his work, to teach and instruct men in the knowledge of evangelical truths; in which he should be assiduous; He that teacheth, on teaching, Rom xii. 7. and for this he must have a ministerial gift; which is not natural parts, nor human learning, nor grace in common with other christians; which, though all needful and useful, yet neither of them separately, nor all together, will qualify a man to be a public teacher of the word. He must have a special and peculiar gift from Christ; such as he received at his ascension, and gives to men, to ordinary ministers of the word; and it was according to the measure of such a gift, though a large one, the apostle Paul himself was made a minister of the gospel, and to such a gift he ascribes his being one, Eph. iii. 7, 8. and iv. 8. 7, 3. He must not only be able to teach, but he must be apt to teach; which aptitude lies in a good degree of elocution, and a free utterance of speech; fot it is of little avail what is a man's capacity, what the furniture of his mind, and what stock of knowledge he has, unless he can clothe his ideas with proper words to convey the understanding of them to others; the royal preacher sought to find out acceptable words; such as were suitable to express his meaning, and to give delight and pleasure, as well as yield profit to them that heard him; and especially the taught words of the Holy Ghost are to be made use of. Apollos was an eloquent man, and mighty in the scrip-. tures, well versed in them, and which greatly improved his gift of elocution; a good textuary makes a good preacher; a free and ready utterance is necessary; such an one is like the scribe and housholder, Matt. xiii. 52. The apostle Paul himself desired the Ephesians to pray for him, that utterance might be given him, Eph. vi. 19.

Novam plantam, Grotius; Nuper baptizatum & ascriptum in numerum christianorum,


« السابقةمتابعة »