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sibility, and a larger one, which appertains to him who is appointed to minister the Gospel to be Christ's mouth unto the church. He is the angel of the church in right of that very ministry, and every church ought to have such an one ; and there is no intimation that it should have more than one such. Herein, therefore, standeth our superiority to the eldership; even in this, that upon the minister of the word there is superinduced, if he be al. ready an elder, a new office, function, and dignity alto gether. It is not by deprivation of the elder's dignity; it is not by an oversight of a different and higher kind than theirs; but it is by a new function in the house of God, to which they have neither call nor orders, that the minister of the word taketh precedency of them. As a minister of the word, he instructs them, the deacons also, and all the church; and they, the deacons also, and all the church, ought to hear him as the angel of Christ, who is the angel of God. But when he acteth in the capacity of a bishop or elder merely taking oversight, he hath no precedence in their councils of such a kind as to impose a negative, or to weigh further with his judgment than any of them do.
I have reflected much upon this subject; and I have, likewise, discoursed much of it to divines of both the churches established in this land. And to me, and likewise to others, it hath yielded no small consolation, and afforded no small strength, to see our office as ministers of the word so distinctly defined as it is in this vision. For, as bath been argued many times, this vision is essentially universal as respecteth both time and place. Those who make so much of the Apostolical age, and the extraordinary gifts, can have no argument here, where all the Apostles, all the seventy, and all the deacons may well be supposed to have been no more. But what is universal is universal; and I will not allow one jot of this vision to be cast in any narrower mould. Whatever dignity, therefore, a minister in the Church of Scotland claims over the elders thereof; whatever dignity a bishop in the Church of England claims over the priests thereof; whatever dignity any man, in any church, claims over those in whose hands the care of watchmen is given, that dignity he hath in no other right than as a minister of the word ; and I do utterly reject the discipline of those churches which consider that the office of an elder en. titles bim to minister the word. It is the radical error of the Independent scheme of church government, to give men, in right of elders, the right of ministers, which is, in fact, to do away with the ministerial office altogether. And methinks it may be seen in the character of their ministry which hath almost no knowledge of doctrine beyond what is necessary for an elder's office; that is, eshortation and admonition.
I observe, further, that there were many elders and many deacons in the churches which the Apostles planted. But in none of the churches addressed by our Lord, doth there scem to have been more thap one in whose mouth was the word of doctrine. And long after this, or, at least, some time after it, in those canons called Apostolic, which are considered of most authority in the church, and, most likely, reach near to the Apostolical times, it is a crime of the highest penalty for any presbyter or elder to take upen him to minister the word, or set up another altar within the diocese of him who was already appointed to that dignity. For example, if any of the elders of the church of Ephesus, of whom there were many in Paul's time, and, it is likely, not fewer in John's, had taken upon him the ofice of him who is called angel, he is, by the Apostolical canons, sentenced to excommunication, with every one who did adhere to him. I consider all the conclusions concerning the church, which we may be able to derive from this vision as the more valuable on two accounts. First, because, at the time the vision was given, the church was not taking, but had taken, form ; had been proved with heresies and schisms manifold; and, therefore, we may well believe that the state of things spoken of in these churches is consistent with that ordinance which the Lord intended to continue. Secondly, because this vision was intended to instruct not the seven churches and the seven ministers, but all the churches and all the ministers of Christendom. On this account, as being posterior in time, but still more as being universal id purpose, and further on in the progress of revelation, I am not at pains to confirm the lessons which it teachieth from the other Apostolical writings. But it is manifest from the very constitution of the church, and the ordination of elders and deacons at the hand of those who
preached the doctrine, as Tiniothy and Titus, that the dignity and nobility of office, and that from which the others emanate, doth go with the preaching of the word. I find, also, the distinction taken anongst the elders (1 Tim. v. 17) in these words: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double bonour, especially they who labour in word and docirine,” where place of superior eminence is given on this very account. I find, also, in the Second Epistle of Timothy, a particular instruction given with respect to the office of teaching distinct from those given with respect to the office of bishop and deacon: “ The things that thou bast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” But the thing needeth not confirmation. There was an angel, and only one, in each of those seven churches, in whom the church is looked upon as represented, in whose person it is spoken to with words of judgment. Now this is enough to teach me that it should be so in every church, in every city, and in every town, where Christiaus gather together to hear the word, and to receive the sacraments, and to keep the other ordinances of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.”—The sword is in all countries the symbol of the office of the magistrate or judge, who have it on solemn occasions carried before them. To this, distinct reference is made by the Apostle Paul (Rom. xiii. 4): “He (the ruler or power) is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain : for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” As such a minister of God, as the great revenger, into whose hands God hath committed the execution of his judgments, the Son of Man is here set forth with the symbol of the sword. The Father doth reveal him to us as the great Vindicator of his righteous and holy government, who shall yet come “in flaming fire, taking vengeance upon them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power," (2 Thess. i. 8, 9.)
This much is expressed by the sword, without any respect to the position which is given to it of proceeding out of his mouth. The radical meaning of the symbol, is power going forth in acts of righteous severity. There is no civilized nation which doch not kvow what is meant by the power of the sword. It cannot be misinterpreted by any man of common sense and common knowledge. Nothing but the bliodness of a sect or school can turn it out of this meaning into the very opposite meaning of grace and mercy in the preaching of the Gospel. And yet such a fast hold have the false hopes of converting the whole world and bringing about the Millennium by preaching taken of men's minds, that, with the greatest coolness and indifference, they do so misinterpret this symbol; which ariseth not merely from great ignorance of, and daring liberties with, the word of God, but chiefly from a low and inadequate view of the purpose of God, and of the office of Christ; which, they think, consist not well with any great stroke of judgment upon the wicked, but standeth in a gradual enlightening of the whole world with the beams of his grace and truth. But what and if the whole world should reject the light of the beams of the gracious Sun of Righteousness? Is not this the condemnation ? And is this condemnation to issue also in grace? It is to issue in the revenge of him, who hath said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” They virtually deny a judg. ment of the quick who thus think. For the judgment of the quick is another and a different mystery from the judgment of the dead. But without going about to spend our time in endeavouring to undeceive those who love to be deceived, and would fain have it to be as they desire, instead of seeking to desire only God's revealed will, I refer to the two instances in which Christ presents him. self with this sword, acting, or about to act, towards the church. The one is to the church of Pergamos (Rev. ii. 12), to which writing he taketh to himselt' no othér title what. ever but this one, “ He that hath the sharp sword with two edges." And in the charge to the angel of that church he thus proposeth to use it (ver. 16): "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” Now, I ask any man of common sense, if this can mean any thing but a threatening of judgment ? Can it mean, that if they did not repent, he would come and preach the Gospel and convert them? Such liberties to take with the word of God, is the most terrible of all profanations. I dare not be guilty of it. I dare not overlook it. I dare pot but rebuke it. The other instance when Christ presents himself acting with this sword, is in the destruction of the apostate kings, and the apostate ministers of Christendom: when he is coming against them and their armies, accompanied with the glorious company of his saints, it is written (Rev. xix. 15), “ And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations : and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." Here are three symbols to express the same or kindred actings of one mood of the Godhead, the mood of wrath ; of one office of Christ, the office of executiug that wrath. The one of these symbols is the sword from his mouth, of which the effect is to smite the nations; and the nature of this smiting is thus described (ver. 21): “ And the remnant was slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his Houth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." I know that this can be misinterpreted into an act of mercy and grace; because I know men who do so misin, terpret it, and men and ministers whom I believe to be orthodox and evangelical: but how they dare to do it, is what I cannot understand ;- for the words are the strongest possible to express consuming wrath, and they are the part of an action, of which the other part is “to cast the beast and the false prophet alive into a lake of fire buruing with brimstone." These being ihe heads of the confede. rate agaivst God and his anointed, have therefore the sorest judgment; the kings who gave their power to the united apostasies of infidelity and papacy, have their lives taken from them, and lie in their graves till the resurrection of the dead after the Millennium ; but the others have their portion in the lake of fire before it, and feel during all that while the torments and the tortures of hell, which Satan kuoweth not till after the thousand years are fulfilled.