« VorigeDoorgaan »
their work may be marred in their hands, religion despised, and sinners hardened.
Use 1. As to you that are already in this honourable office, and you that are now to be ordained to it, I exhort you to labour rightly to discharge your duty. To press thiş exhor. tation, I offer the following motives,
Mot. 1. Consider it is a sacred office in the house of God, to which God has called you; and therefore let us together take that exhortation, Acts XX. 28. Take heed thereforg unto yourselves, and to all the flock pyer which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. The office is honourable in itself, however the world esteem of is, David though a king, would have thought it no disparagen ment to him, when he said, A day in thy courts is better than a thousand : I had rather be a door-keeper in the housg of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness,' Psal, lxxxiv. 1o. But it has work annexed to it; and being sacred, it is not to play with. Labour to approve yourselves to your Lord and master.
Mat. 2. Ye have thereby a fair occasion to be serviceable to God and to advance Christ's kingdom, and suppress that of the devil, in the congregation, And O what should we not do to do good to souls?. Jam. v, 20. * Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner froin the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multi, tude of sins. I think that now, of a considerable time, I and my brethren of the eldership might have said, “The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish, so that we are not able to build the wallo Neh, iv. 10; and iç has gone near to the sinking of some of our spirits. But now that God has inclined the hearts of so many to come over and help us , if we take courage in our Master's work, to ply it faithfully, diligently, zealously. and prudently, and the Lord bless us with unity among 9yk. selves, and real zeal for his honour, to put to our shoulders jointly to the work, we may hope, by the blessing of God, to see a more promising face on this congregation, sin more discouraged, and piety more increased.
Mote ult. You and I must give an account to our great Master, how we have carried ourselves in his work, Heb. xii. 17. If we be faithful we shall not want our reward from Vol. III.
the chief Shepherd, who will give us a crown of life. If we be unfaithful, woe will be unto us for betraying our trust.
I give you a few advices.
1. Remember always that it is God whom ye have to do with. This will make you little to regard men's feud or favour, if ye do your work agreeable to God's will.
2. Study to act in dependence on the Lord; for he sends none a-warfare on his own charges. Eye his promised assistance, when ye set about your work.
3. Labour to believe, that the way of uprightness and faithfulness is the sure way.
• When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him,' Prov. xvi. 7. • He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth him,' Prov. xxviii. 23. Let men's corruptions say what they will, their consciences will speak in favour of faithful dealing.
4. Watch over your own persons, that in your personal walk ye be blameless and exemplary, 1 Tim. iii. 1, 2, 3. If ye be untender in your walk, ye will do more hurt than ye can do good. Being honoured to be governors in the house of a holy God, ye must be holy as the master is holy; tender in your words, circumspect in your actions, and there. fore watchful over your hearts.
5. Watch over your families. Every one that has a family is obliged to this, and you in a special manner, 1 Tim. iii. 4, 5. The sinful practices of those of your family will reflect a peculiar dishonour on you, and by you on your Lord and Master. Therefore your families should be a church wherein God is to be duly worshipped morning and evening; and good discipline kept up by admonition, reproof, and watchfulness.
6. Ye must watch over one another, each over his fellow-elders, knowing, that any thing scandalous in one of the society reflects a dishonour on the whole, and by them on the Lord himself. And if ye be not careful on that side, there will be little good of your watching over the flock. And therefore strict discipline among yourselves is absolutely necessary.
Use II. As to you the people, I would exhort you to make conscience of your duty towards your officers. Alas! for the little conscience that is made of that among us. I am sure we may find matter of mourning this day in that matter.
Instead of honouring of them, many despise and pour contempt on them, more than otherwise they would do ; thus vilely treating their sacred office.
Instead of submission and obedience, what refractoriness and spurning of discipline for scandalous offences! Some cannot endure to be told of their faults; but if we admonish or reprove them, even privately, they are made worse instead of better ; and rather than take a reproof, they will give up with ordinances.
Instead of being careful of their reputation, some will bawl out upon them, and abuse them on every occasion. And there is nothing with many more readily received, than the vomit of malicious and spiteful spirits against ministers and elders, which is greedily licked up, 1 Cor. iv. 13.
Hence it is, that men's hands are weakened, and they are discouraged in their work, while they see the people of that temper, Hos. iv. 4.
And hence it is, that it is so very hard to get men to undertake the office of elders; for they see that if they engage therein, they must be the very butt of the malice and spite of bitter spirits; and that if they will be faithful, they engage themselves in a fighting life, and that the stream will go against them. But allow me to put you in mind of three things.
1. Whose part you act in that matter. It is the part of Satan against these men and yourselves too. Can you fall upon a more expedite way to advance the kingdom of the devil in the congregation, than to discourage and weaken the hands of those that are set over you in the Lord? Is there a fairer way to rout the army, than to make their leaders useless ?
2. Whose servants they are. They are clothed with a commission from the King of the church; and the contempt poured on them reaches to their Master ; 'He that despiseth you (says he), despiseth me,' Luke x. 16. Will the laws of the land avenge the affronts done to a petty officer, who comes to execute the sentence of a civil court? did David severely avenge on the Ammonites the maltreating of his servants, whom he sent on a congratulatory message to them as ye find in 2 Sam. x? and will not the Lord Jesus resent
in his wräth the maltreatment of those that are clothed with his commission ?
3. Lastly; Are yë not the professed subjects of the kingdom of Christ? Why then will ye not submit yourselves to the laws of his house? Why will ye not be obedient in the Lord to those whom he sets over you, complying with their exhortations, admonitions, and rebukes? Luke xix 27. Why do not ye strengthen their hands in the Lord's work? If ye have any interest in Zion's King, it is the work of our common Lord, which you are obliged to in a private way, as well as they by virtue of their oflice; and therefore ye árè bound to co-operate with them in what serves to prothote the interest of that King, whose servants you profess to be.
I proceed now to consider the relation betwist political fathers and their children, that is, magistrates and subjects.
First, I shall shew the duty of subjects to magistrates.
1. They owe them singular respect and honout, 1 Pet. ii. 19. They are to be honoured by us in our hearts, thinking of and esteening them reverently, and carrying a reverent fear and awe of them within our breasts, 1 Sam. xxvi, 16, 19. Prov. xxiv: 21. And this is to be expressed in a respectful behaviour towards them in word and deed.
The grounds of this are specially two. (1) The ordihahce of God, whereby they are set abové ús in the way of power and authority, Rom. xiii: and subjects ought to walk in a conscientious regard to the superiority that God bas given their rulers over them. (2.) The image of God that shines in their dominion and eminency above their subjects, Psal. Ixxxii. 6. They are God's vicegerents on earth, whose office bears a representation of God's dominion.
2. Subjects owe them the charity to construct the best of their actions that they will bear, and to beware of passing a tash judgment of their administrations. Notable is the inStance of it in David, i Sam. xxvi. 19. Now therefore, I präy thee, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant: if the Lord have stirréd thee up against me, let him aècept an Offering: but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the Lord; for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go serve other gods.' The liberty that many take in speaking of magistrates, and wresting their actions still to the worst side, is what proceeds not from the spirit of the gospel, but is contrary to the word, an effect of their own pride and pres sumption, Exod. xxii. 28. Eccl. $. 20. 2 Pet. ii. 10. Jude 8. This is also highly reasonable, and hath these grounds. (1.) That candour and charity we owe to all men, but in a special manner to out superiors, requires it, 1 Cor. xiii. 5, 7. (2.) Our unacquaintedness with the springs of public bus Ŝiness, secrets of government, and reasons of state, Prov. *xv. 3. And natural modesty, as well as religion, teaches men not to answer a matter before they hear it, Prov. xviii. 13. This dutiful children will allow to their parents, wives to their husbands, servants so their masters, and inferiors to their superiors; and why should not magistrates have it toor
3. Subjection, loyalty, and obedience to their just laws and commands. It is bad religion where loyalty to the magistrate must stand in place of all religion towards God; but it is also bad religion where people's pretended religion towards God justles out their loyalty to the magistrate, Rom. xiii. 5. This duty Papists exempt churchmen from ; and no wonder, for it is a part of the character of Antichrist, 2 Thess. ii. 4; but the scripture subjects ministers to the magistrates, as having souls as well as others, Rom. xili.
Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.'
4. The payment of their tribute, Rom. xiii. 6, 7. This is a debt of thankfulness, and justice too, for the benefits of government which the subjects enjoy, without which the government cannot be supported, but all would go into confusion.
5. Defending of them in danger, each one according to his station, 2 Sam. xviii. 3. 1 Sam. xxvi. 15.
6. Lastly, Prayer to God for them; supplications for supply of wants, prayers for good things to thern, intercessions for turning away of evil from them, and thanksgivings for mercies bestowed on them, 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2. There is a reason for it too; for the welfare of subjects is wrapt up in theirs, ib. Much depends on their management, God's honour, our own good; and their high place has many dangers, difaculties, spares, and temptations.
Use. Let me therefore exhort you in the words of the apostle, i Pet. ii. 13, 14. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the