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THE POSSESSIONS AND PRIVILEGES OF CHRISTIANS.
1 Cor. III. 21, 22.-All things are yours; whether
Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come ; all are yours.
(Preached at Brechin, February 17, 1799; in the evening after the
celebration of the Lord's Supper.)
IN lately discoursing to you, from a passage in the second of these epistles, we had occasion to remark that the Corinthian believers had fallen into factions and parties, distinguishing themselves by the names of those, under whose ministry they had been converted or edified.* One said, “ I am of " Paul ;” another, “ I am of Apollos; a third, “ I “ am of Cephas;" and a fourth, “I am of Christ.”+ In various parts of both epistles, the apostle reproves them for cherishing this party spirit, and following these divisive courses. The passage now read contains a reproof to this effect, peculiarly delicate and powerful—“Let no man glory in men; for all things " are yours; whether Paul, Apollos, or Cephas." These are not to be considered as your masters or leaders, but as servants and instruments, appointed by Christ, for your benefit. This idea suggests to the apostle's mind other privileges and possessions of Ses the prescding sermon.
$ ? Cor. i. 12
the church; which are also enumerated with the same view, to reprove division, and to unite in love--" The world” is yours, as far as it can promote your good. “Life” is yours, as the period of your preparation for heaven.
66 Death” is yours, as the gate through which you pass to that region of bliss. “ Things present" are yours, for the furtherance of your sanctification. Things to come" are yours, to constitute your everlasting glory. And lest aught should have been omitted, the comprehensive assertion is repeated, “all are yours.” While, as the security for the whole, and as another reason against glorying in men, it is added, " ye
are Christ's."-Boast not, therefore, of one teacher or apostle above another; for they are all your servants. Think not so meanly of your rights and your endowments, as to plume yourselves on your connexion with any human guides; for their services are but a small portion of the vast inheritance, with which your Lord invests you.
This passage, then, containing a true record of inventory of the christian's possesssions and privileges, I propose, as a mean of confirming your attachment to Jesus, by the help of God, to close the public addresses, on this day of our high solemnity, with a plain illustration of the particulars.
I. Christians have a right to the ministry of the gospel, as one of their privileges—“ Paul, Apollos, 6 and Cephas are yours.
The ministry, is an institution of Jesus Christ. He ordained it for his people's behoof; for their conversion from their sins; and for their edification and comfort, when converted. While he ministered himself, he twice selected for this office &
number of his disciples :* and when he ascended up on high, “ he gave some, apostles; and some,
prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pas
tors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, “ for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of “the body of Christ.”+ Whatever talents, therefore, may be bestowed on ministers, are given for your advantage. Nay, whatever sufferings or comforts they experience, are also for your sakes. For “whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation & and salvation, or whether we be comforted, it is “ for your consolation and salvation.”I
Of the value of this privilege, of the utility of a gospel ministry, I have reason to believe, that many now present are highly sensible ; and are also sincerely thankful for the enjoyment of it. Were it not for this sacred institution, who would shew
you the way of salvation, lead your public devotions, or dispense to you the ordinances of the gospel? To ministers are committed the oracles of God. They are ambassadors for Christ. It is, therefore, their business, and ought to be their pleasure, to preach to you the unsearchable riches of Christ; and entreat you to be reconciled to God. They claim no authority over your consciences, no dominion over your faith: but they declare to you the purposes of your existence; they preach the doctrine of the Lord Jesus; and they remind you of your duty; solemnly exhorting you to “search the scriptures, "' whether these things” which they affirm, be so.
But what need is there to say more? The return of this solemn occasion cannot fail to impress upon * Sce Matt. I. 1, &c.; and Luke 2. 1. † Eph. iv. 15, 12. } 2 Cor. i. 6.
$ Acts qvii. II.
you the advantage of the christian ministry. For it must remind you of the loss of the fathers, who were accustomed to preside in it; whom ye esteemed, and in whom ye long rejoiced, as burning and shining lights* In the sense of your loss, you may trace the greatness of your privilege.
But we value mercies most, when they are taken away. Suppose, then, that this were removed. How would you feel, were the whole sacred order to be at once abolished ? were God, in his dread providence, to cut off by persecution, or by some terrible calamity, all the teachers of religion? Would you not account the loss severe? nay, would you not reckon it a sore judgment of the Almighty ? How would you relish silent sabbaths? how feel, when there were no living monitors, to remind you of the things pertaining to your everlasting peace; none to dispense to you the bread and the water of life? Such was the state of the children of Judah, when they “ hung up their “ harps upon the willows;" when they “ sat “ down by the rivers of Babylon, and wept, while “ they remembered Zion.”+ But they had “ for“ saken the Lord, and burned incense unto other
gods.” They respected not the persons of the “ priests; they favoured not the elders,"S Thus it is, even now, in a neighbouring land. The adversary mocks at her sabbaths : infidels have spoiled her sanctuaries; and have made of them stalls, for horses, and magazines for war.l. This,
* The Rev. Messrs. Bisset aud Bruce, ministers of Brechin ; of whom had died, and the latter, from the infirmities of age, had resigned, but a short time before. + Psalm ckxxvii: 1, 2. $ 2 Chron. xxxiv. 25. § Lam. iv. 16.
| The reader need hardly be reminded that these words refer to the ima pious decrees, subsisting when this discourse was preached, by which the
however, is " for the sins of her prophets, and for “ the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the “ blood of the just in the midst of her.”* And the church of Corinth is now no more" Her adver“ saries are the chief; her enemies prosper." “ The " Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths " to be forgotten in her.”+ But the Corinthians had imbibed the precepts of a false philosophy; and forsaken the simplicity of the gospel. In the privilege of the ministry they had been highly favoured. They had Paul, zealous and active; Apollos, eloquent and persuasive; Peter, full of fervour and courage. But instead of following them as guides to Christ, they set up their names as the distinctions of party. And now the candlestick of this favoured people is removed out of its place.
Brethren, profit by these examples. Learn from them to respect the ordinance of the ministry ; and to attend devoutly on the institutions, in which the ministry was appointed to preside. But, at the same time, beware of attaching yourselves, like the Corinthians, to particular persons; as if your salvation were inseparable from their ministration. Pray to God to preserve his faithful servants, and to crown their labours with success. Pray to him to fill his church with“ pastors, according to his own heart ; · which shall feed it with knowledge and under:
standing :"I " withal praying also for us, that French legislators abolished the Christian Sabbath, pronounced death an etermal sleep, and applied the sacred 'edifices, with all their utensils, to military uses. Perhaps the restoration of the forms of religion, such as they are, which has since taken place, proceeds from principles little better ; but it ab least presents a spectacle, less offensive to the Christian eye ; and must be more favourable to the state of morals in general. * Lam. iv. 13.
+ Ibid, i. 5; and ii. 6.