Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

it may tend to debase their ministry; not using any fcurrilous words, or contemptuous behaviour towards them; because the disrespect caft upon them is an affront to their master, whose person they represent.

It may be we are deprived of other opportuniPray for, ties of doing them any substantial service, yet it is in the power of the meaneft of us all to addrefs to heaven in their behalf; that they may be defended from the malice and ill-will of bad men; that they may have the countenance and protection of the great and powerful; that their zealous labours in God's vineyard may be attended with success, and that they may turn many to righteousness, according to the gofpel of Chrift.

We must obey our spiritual governors in all their injunctions that are contained within the bounds of their commiffion; in fubmitting to that discipline they fhall inflict, either to recover us from a ftate of folly, or to preserve us from falling into fuch a state; from a pure fenfe of that right they have to command, entrusted to them by our Saviour Jefus Chrift, and of that great penalty we are liable to by our contempt; for he that defpifeth them, defpifeth him that fent them. We are accordingly charged to obey them that have the rule over us, and to fubmit ourselves, because they watch for our fouls, as they that must give an account.

And obey their minifters.

VI. From whence we learn that it is no diminution to greatnefs of birth, or any perfonal excellency, to be devoted to the miniftration of God's holy word and facraments. We fpeak here particularly of the chriftian priesthood; whofe priests are called the minifters of Chrift, ftewards of the myfteries Under the of God, to whom he hath committed the word of gospel. reconciliation, the glory of Chrift, ambassadors for Christ, in Christ's ftead, co-workers with him, angels of the churches. Because they act by commiffion from him, they are his officers and immediate attendants, and in a particular manner the fervants of his houfe. They are employed in his particular bufinefs, impowered and authorized to negociate and tranfact for God, in all the outward administrations of

the

The priest

hood is honourable,

the covenant of grace, or of reconciliation, between God and man, by commiffion from Jefus Christ.

Thus under the gospel they are inftituted to difpenfe fpiritual food for the nourishment of chriftians, to feed them with God's holy word and facraments, to fpeak the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world; which is committed to their care to be preserved entire from being maimed or perverted, as the facraments are to be rightly and duly adminiftred to his people. For which end and purpose they were ordained by Christ himself, the great Shepherd and Bishop of our fouls, who glorified not himself to be an high prieft; but had his commiffion from God the Father, and after his refurrection, invested his apostles with the fame commiffion his Father had given him before; which evidently contains an authority of ordaining others, and a power of transferring that commiffion upon others fo long as the world endures. Wherefore, without his exprefs commiffion, no man ought to take upon himfelf, or communicate to others, a power to fign and feal covenants in the name of Christ.

Why ordained.

VII. The apostles and their fucceffors exercised this commiffion in all places, and even in oppofition to the rulers that then were; fo that the church fubfifted as a distinct fociety from the state till the fourth century. Whence we infer, that great purity of life is required of thofe that are invefted with fuch an honourable character, whereby they may in fome measure be qualified to administer in holy things, and by their example, guide those they inftruct by their doctrine, which is of Chrift; and that it is an argument of a prophane temper to contemn those who are commiffioned by God himself to that facred office.

Are affifted

VIII. For though they may be inferior to others in fome human accomplishments; yet God hath promised particularly to affift them in the faithful discharge by God. of their holy office, and has bleffed them with many perfonal qualifications to challenge our esteem and refpe&t. For, as long as piety and virtue, learning and knowledge, have any credit and reputation in the world, and men are concerned that others should be formed to the fame valuable

N 2

principles,

What is re

quired of them who

take orders,

principles, that their minds fhould be cultivated, and their manners regulated; fo long the clergy will have a good title to the honour and esteem of all those that are truly wife and good.

fervice to

men.

Did we only confider the method of their very education, we shall find it would give them great advantages for their improvement in all forts of neceffary and polite learning, and raise them above the level of those with whom they are equal in other circumstances; and the subject of their constant studies being matters of piety and religion, it is reasonable to suppose, they live under more lively and stronger impreffions of another world, than the rest of mankind; and experience fufficiently convinces us how much the nobility and gentry of the kingdom are beholden to their care for thofe impreffions of piety and knowledge, which are stamped upon their education, and difTheir great fufed into their families. For, even in the most ignorantages, what learning flourished was in their body, and by their care was conveyed down to us. They have been in the most diffolute times the greatest examples of piety, and we have yet remaining eminent monuments of their magnificent, as well as useful charities. And should it happen that the minifters of God may not act fuitably to the dignity of their character, yet we must not contemn them: for, their character should certainly defend them from contempt, and the relation they have to God, should fecure them from ill treatment, in order to which it is neceffary to confider, that as there is an inherent holiness, whereby mens actions and affections are in fome measure conformable to the laws of God, in which sense good men in all ages were esteemed holy; fo there is a relative holiness, which confifts in fome peculiar relation to God's fervice, which may be ascribed to things, times, places, and perfons. Thus the TRIBE OF LEVI was called the holy tribe, as thofe, that are dedicated to the service of Chrift under the gospel, are called God's ministers; not that it was always true of them, that they walked before God in purity and piety, and turned many from iniquity; for too

often

[ocr errors]

Of fuperior

education.

How related to God.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

often they have gone out of the way, and caufed many to stumble at the law; but because they had a particular relation to God in the performance of that worship, which was then paid to him by his appointment. Wherefore,

IX. God knowing the hearts of men long before, did in his infinite wisdom invest another order or degree of men with a power to punish the evil doer, and for the praise of them that do well, which is ftyled the fovereign magiftracy, whose fupremacy confifts in ruling all eftates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclefiaftical or temporal; to exercise their civil power in ecclefiaftical caufes, as well as over ecclefiaftical perfons, and in restraining with the civil sword the stubborn and evil doers. Wherefore, all perfons in their dominions, fpiritual as well as temporal, are fubject to their authority; because when men become ministers in the church, they do not cease to be fubjects of the state to which they belong. Every foul must be subject to the higher powers, which includes an apostle, an evangelist, or a prophet, as well as a tradesman, a gentleman, &c. Yet, by vir tue of this fupremacy, the miniftring of God's word or of the facraments, is not given to princes, because they are not invested with, nor have a fovereign difpofal of, the power of orders. Let it therefore be observed, that the pow- Cannot exer of the magistrate, when most full and abfolute, ecute the does not extend either to use themselves, or com- priest's of municate to others, thofe fpiritual powers, which Chrift left only to his apoftles and their fucceffors in the church that we best fhew our efteem of God's ordinance, and testify our value for the benefits of the priesthood, when we not only reverence their perfons, but devoutly attend their spiritual administrations.

fice.

evil mini

It would be therefore the greatest piece of prefumption imaginable, to pretend to fign and feal covenants in God's name, without receiving any power and May punish authority from him in order thereto; as well as the highest infult to God's power, to plead that the attendance at the altar, is an exemption from the cognizance of the civil powers, And,

fters,

N 3

Now

The civil magiftrates power in ec

clefiaftical

affairs,

Now as to that objection, that many minifters are obnoxious for their wicked lives. It is granted: what then? Does their wickednefs void the ordinances of God? No. For though they may be bad men, yet the effect of Chrift's ordinances is not taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from fuch who receive the facraments rightly, and by faith, which are effectual by reason of Christ's inftitution and promise, although they be miniftred by evil men. We may compare it to a pardon paffed by an immoral king, or a fentence pronounced by a wicked judge, which are always looked upon as valid to all intents and pofes; because their efficacy depends not upon the qualifications of thofe in commiffion, but upon the fovereign authority, from whence they both receive their commiffion fo to do.

pur

pre

In like manner, the advantages we receive by their miniftrations, and the relation they have to God, should still ferve fome refpect for the perfons even of bad ministers. And therefore, as long as minifters are cloathed with flesh and blood, as well as other men, we ought not to be prejudiced against religion; because fome few are overcome by the follies and infirmities of mankind; but let us turn our eyes to the many remarkable inftances of piety and devotion, of charity and fobriety, eminent among the facred order: and they will rather confirm us in our holy faith; fince they, who have had the greatest opportunities to examine the grounds of religion, fhew forth the truth and excellency of it, by their holy lives, fuitable to their doctrine; confidering at the fame time, that the great difficulties and labours of their holy employment can never be fupported, nor the hazards and dangers they are expofed to fufficiently conquered, without the particular affiftance of the holy Spirit of God.

How we anuft behave

But where we have a thorough information of their fcandalous lives, it is doubtless a better de◄ towards fuch. monftration of chriftian zeal, to make proof of it before their lawful fuperiors; that, being found guilty, they may by juft judgment be depofed; than either

by

See the 26th art. of the church of England.

Whofe evil

lives fhould not deter us from our du

ty.

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »