« VorigeDoorgaan »
had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of
. John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.
Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation : Let every one fly out of Sodom: “ Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”
WATCHMAN'S DUTY AND ACCOUNT:
HEB. xiii. 17.
They watch for your souls, as they that must give account.
After the Apostle had in this epistle particularly and largely insisted on the great doctrines of the gospel relating to the person, priesthood, sacrifice, exaltation and intercession of Christ, and the nature, privileges and benefits of the new dispensation of the covenant of grace, as answering to the types of the Old Testament; He improves all in the latter part of the epistle to enforce christian duties and holy practice, as his manner is in most of his epistles. And after he had recommended other duties to the christian Hebrews, in this verse he gives them counsel with regard to their duty towards those that were set over them in ecclesiastical authority ; Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.-By them that had the rule over them, the Apostle means their ecclesiastical rulers, and particularly their ministers and pastors that preached the word of God to them; as is evident by verse 7. Remember them that have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God : and also by the words of the text, that immediately follow in the same verse, in which the employment of those that have the rule over them, that they are to obey and submit to, is represented. Concerning which may be observed,
1. What it was their pastors were conversant about, in the employment they were charged with, viz. the souls of men. The employments that many others were engaged in were about the bodies of men ; so it is with almost all the particular callings that mankind do follow; they are in one respect or other to provide for men's bodies, or to furthur their temporal
* Preached at the Ordination of the Rererend Mr. Jonathan Judd, to the Pastoral Office over the Church of Christ, in the New Precinct at Northamp. ton, June 8, 1743
interests; as the business of husbandmen, sailors, merchants, physicians, attorneys, and civil officers and rulers, and the innumerable trades and mechanical arts that are practised and pursued by the children of men : but the work of the ministry is about the soul, that part of man that is immortal, and made and designed for a state of inconceivable blessedness, or extreme and unutterable torments throughout all eternity, and therefore infinitely precious; and is that part of man in which the great distinction lies between man and all the other innumerable kinds of creatures in this lower world, and by which he is vastly dignified above them; it is such beings as these that the work of the ministry is immediately conversant about.
2. How ministers in the business they have to attend are to be employed about men's souls, they are to watch for them ; which implies that they are committed to their care to keep, that they may be so taken care of that they may not be lost, but eternally saved.
3. A grand argument to induce and oblige them to faithfulness in this employment, they must give account ; i.e. they must give an account to him that committed those souls to their care, of the souls they were betrusted with, and of the care they have taken of them.
Therefore that we may the better understand the nature of that work of a minister of the gospel and pastor of a church, and the grand inducement to faithfulness in it, spoken of in the text, and know the better what improvement we ought to make of these things, I would I. Show that ministers of the gospel have the souls of men com
mitted to their care by the Lord Jesus Christ. II. I would show to what purpose Christ thus commits the pre
cious souls of men to the care of ministers. III. That the way in which Christ expects that ministers should
seek that these purposes may be obtained, with respect to
the souls committed to them, is by watching for them. IV, I would observe, how when the time of their employment
is at an end, they must give an account to him that committed the care of these souls unto them.
And then make application of the whole. 1. Ministers of the gospel have the precious and immortal souls
of men committed to their care and trust by the Lord Jesus Christ. The souls of men are his; he is the creator of them: God created all things by Jesus Christ. He created not only the material world, but also those things that are immaterial and invisible, as angels and the souls of men. Col. i. 16. For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible ; whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers ; all things were created by him and for him.
God is the creator of men in both soul and body; but their souls are in a special and more immediate manner his workmanship, wherein less use is made of second causes, instruments or means, or any thing pre-existent. The bodies of men, though they are indeed God's work, yet they are formed by him in a way of propagation from their natural parents, and the substance of which they are constituted is matter that was pre-exist. ent; but the souls of men are by God's immediate creation and infusion, being in no part communicated from earthly parents, nor formed out of any matter or principles existing before. The Apostle observes the difference, and speaks of earthly fathers as being fathers of our flesh, or our bodies only, but of God as being the father of our spirits. Heb. xii. 9. Furthermore we have
had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? Therefore God is once and again called the God of the spirits of all flesh, Numb. xvi. 22. and chap. xxvii. 16. And in Eccl xii. 7. God is represented as having immediately given or implanted the soul, as in that respect differing from the body, that is of pre-existent matter ; Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. And it is mentioned in Zech. xii. 1. as one of God's glorious prerogatives, that he is he that formeth the
spirit of man within him. And indeed the soul of man is by far the greatest and most glorious piece of divine workmanship, of all the creatures on this lower creation. And therefore it was the more meet that, however second causes should be improved, in the production of meaner creatures; yet this, which is the chief and most noble of all, and the crown and end of all the rest, should be reserved to be the more immediate work of God's own hands, and display of his power, and to be communicated directly from him, without the intervention of instruments, of honouring second causes so much as to improve them in bringing to pass so noble an effect. It is observable that even in the first creation of man, when his body was formed immediately by God, not in a course of nature, or in the way of natural propagation ; yet the soul is represented as being in a higher, more direct and immediate manner from God, and so communicated that God did therein as it were communicate something of himself: The Lord God formed man (i. e. his body) of the dust of the ground, (a mean and vile original) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life ; (whereby something was communicated from an infinitely higher source, even God's own living spirit or divine vital fullness) and so man became a liring soul.
The souls of men being thus in a special manner from God, God is represented as having a special propriety in them, Ezek. xviii. 4. Behold all souls are mine : As the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine.
And as the souls of men are more directly from God, by the more special and immediate exercise of his divine power as a creator, and are what he challenges as his by a special propriety, and are the most noble part of the lower creation, and are infinitely distinguished from all other creatures here below in that they are immortal beings: so they are, above all other creatures which God hath made in this world, the subjects of God's care and special providence.
Divines are wont to distinguish between God's common and special providence. His common providence is that which he exercises towards all his creatures, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate, in preserving them, and disposing of them by his mighty power, and according to his sovereign pleasure. His special providence is that which he exercises towards his intelligent rational creatures, as moral agents : of which sort are mankind alone, of all the innumerable kinds of creatures in this lower world : and in a special manner the souls of men; for in them only is immediately seated reason and intelligence, and a capacity of moral agency; and therefore they in a peculiar manner are the subjects of God's special providence that he exercises in this lower world. And it is to be observed that God's common providence is subordinated to his special providence ; and all things in this world are governed and disposed of in subordination to the great ends God has to obtain with respect to the souls of men. And it is further to be observed, that as the creation of the world was committed to the Son of God by the Father, so is the government of it; and in a peculiar manner the affairs of God's special providence, are left in his hands; and so the souls of men, that are the peculiar subjects of his special providence, are committed to his care; and more especially such souls as are of Christ's visible kingdom or church, which is often in the scripture represented as the field and vineyard that he is the owner of, and has taken the care of. And what Christ's value is for men's souls appears by what he has done and suffered for them.
But these souls that Christ has made, and that are committed into his hands of the Father, and that are so precious in his account, he commits to the care of ministers. There is a certain order of men that are so dignified and honoured by him, as to have so great a trust reposed in them. He, as it were, brings those souls as an infinitely precious treasure, and com. mits them to them to take care of; as a prince commits his treasure, his jewels, and most precious things into the hands of one of the dignified servants of his household: or as the father