« AnteriorContinuar »
language in speaking of the relation between a minister and bis church. It is called, “thy candlestick;" because he is responsible for its condition; not that it ceases to be Christ's, or is less bis, but rather more, because he hath entrusted it to a responsible keeper. Yet that Christ may teach the church to reverence his appointed one, he calls the church his, “thy" candlestick, and threatens the whole church in Ephesus with an entire removal or moving away, if its angel repented not; which is exactly the language used of a kingdom in the Old Testament, and exemplified in the history of Judah and Israel, who were ever visited for the errors of their kings. This doth teach us, that Christ deputeth his power ecclesiastical unto mi. nisters or angels of the churches; not for the dignifying or beautifying or accomplishing of themselves, but for the instruction, correction, and edification of the churches under their care : as it is written, " for the perfecting of the saints; for the work of the ministry; for the edifying of the body of Christ.” This is the end of all power, civil or ecclesiastical ; the good of all those over whom it is appointed, not the aggrandizement of those who are appointed to it: for God, being himself all goodness, and exercising himself only unto the good of his creatures, cannot for any less worthy end depute that power unto another : therefore Christ doth well represent himself as ever walking up and down in the midst of the churches. This he doth, to observe their comely order. As heretofore Jehovah was in the midst of the camp of Israel, so is Christ now in the midst of the churches; and for the same purpose, of observing that all things be done according to his mind, and that there be no uncleanness in the midst of us; as it is written, Deut. xxxiv. 13, “ For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy, that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.” So also the Apostle, speaking of the saints, doth say (2 Cor. vi. 16), “ For ye are the temple of the living God; as God bath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” This promise made unto the children of Israel from the time they entered into covenant with God, God hath fulfilled to his church unto this day. To Him to whom he hath given the congregation, to Immanuel, God with us; to Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever, hath it appertained to represent God unto the church,—formerly as Jehovah, and latterly as Jesus.—Now let it be understood by every Christian church, that the Lord Jesus Christ is walking in the midst of us; in our assemblies is present, and from the meetings of the elders is not absent;-whatever is said, heareth ; whatever is done, marketh ; yea, and whatever is thought, discerneth full well: for "lie knoweth what is in man, and he needeth not that any should testify of man.” And this his unwearied travel in the midst of his churches, is well designated by his feet of brass ; of fine brass, which never tarnisheth, but ever shineth ; like the pure metal which floweth from the furnace. O but he walketh amongst us, not as the inquisitor general of God, but as the comforter and upholder of his saints; that they may feel ever encouraged and strengthened in every good word and work. God walked in the camp of Israel “ to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee;" so Christ walketh in the midst of the churches. God besought them not to offend him, and drive him away from the midst of them ; 80 Christ beseecheth us. We shall see in the epistles how loth he is to depart; therefore let the churches not be disturbed by his presence, but comforted and confirmed. Yet in such a presence of him whom her soul loveth; of him to whom she is betrothed; of him who hath loved her unto the death, in the lowest pit, and from the highest heavens; in his presence, let her be attired with her beautiful garments; let her be clothed with light as with a garment, and be girded with truth as with a girdle. This is the substance of the thing conveyed, by his walking in the midst of the churches. He would be known as our “ refuge and our strength, and a very present help in the time of need ;" that we may never be greatly moved ; that we may rejoice in the Rock of our salvation; that we may never be afraid of our enemies; and that the shout of a King may be heard among us. Not for fear, I say, but for the banishment of fear ; not for overwhelming dread, but for soul-assuring confidence; not for apprehensive alarms, but for strong and holy affections; in one word, for all those ends of grace, mercy, and goodness, which in his in
carnation Christ manifested, and for those higher ends of power and glory which, since his ascension, the father hath appointed him to bring about,-doth Christ make himself known as he that walketh in the midst of the churches.
While thus every saint, while thus every member of the church, should feel Christ in these attributes of love and holiness, of comfort and sustentation present with him, inasmuch as he is a member of the church, and so feels assured of prospering in every righteous way, this knowledge of an ever present, ever observant Head, should especially work all carefulness and constancy in the hearts of those in whose hands the ordering of the churches is vested. For while Christ would comfort his sheep with the assurance that though all should forsake them, he will not: though minister, and elders, and deacons, should be found cold or lukewarm and indifferent, heedless of their trusts,and unholy in their lives, still he, the great Shepherd, is with them, is with every solitary believer, is with every handful of sorrowful believers, to do for them all offices whatever which their office-bearers neglect. Though this lesson, I
I say, of one above all ordinances he taught, yet it is not the object of the ordinance-head to set his ordinance of government aside, but contrariwise to bring it forward as the great means of well-being to the flock; and therefore he desireth the flock to look at it, and reverence it, and weigh well whether it be accomplishing its end or not. If it be, to bless God for the light of his countenance lifted up on them, in his goodly and sufficient ordinance ; if not, to mourn God's judgment resting upon them, his hand stretched out for evil and not for good, and under the deep sense of a famine of the word, or of wrath, or displeasure of some kind, to be bowed down before the Lord, and to be ex• ercised with prayer and fasting. But, ah me! that I should have to find so much fault. How soon do the rebellious and recreant humours of the flock arise against their rulers if in any thing they fail or offend in their duties ! Will ye not believe, o ye members of Christ, that let patrons be what they may, and presbyteries be what they may, Christ sendeth
you the minister who is sent to you ? A minister cometh not by chance. Is he a' dumb dog ? then Christ wisheth that a dumb dog should watch over you. Is he a greedy dog, which can never have enough? then such is
the pleasure of the Head of the Church, for your chastisement;--but ye are not chastened, if ye murmur and rebel; for your purification in the furnace of trial; but ye are not purified, unless ye be patient. But no, saith the rebel insubordinate spirit of these days, we will have a minister to our mind; our itching ears shall be tickled ; we will dissent from the church, we will secede and separate ourselves. Will ye? Then do it at your peril, ye impatient of correction : ye rebels under the rod, do it, and offend the Head of the Church, and set up a standard for yourselves ; evil, sore evil, betideth such a spirit in the church. O that I might be enabled to set forth worthy discourse on these seven epistles, then shall. I have done my poor mother church, as well as every other church good service, in finding and bringing back her people to her in the day of her calamity; and I will teach the many parishes of poor Scotland, which are grieved with a profitless ministry, how to be exercised under such a dispensation, with prayer, and mourning, and fasting, instead of flying away to an opposite standard, when the battle sets hard against us. I love the church of my fathers, her breach is great, but it may be made up again ; her wound is grievous, but I trust not incurable.
While thus I have beat about, as it were, to touch at many ports, some will be accusing me of forgetting the proper object of my voyage. Let me therefore recollect myself, and set forth again. It may be asked, But how doth Christ, who is at the right hand of God, or how can he who, as the God-man, is, limited to space, be every where present, carrying on this work of present superintendency? The answer often rendered to this question, that he is so present in his Godhead, is in truth no answer at all ; for if it mean any thing, it is, that his Godhead can be active when and where his manhood cannot be active ; which is to make his Godhead a separate person, and likewise his manhood. If they mean to say that Godhead is every where, they speak a great truth; but not in the person of the Son, but in the person of the Father is Godhead's absolute incomprehensible properties now inherent. The Son, being of the same Godhead, bath, for his part, emptied himself, and come into the limited region of the Christ ; he as the Christ is ever spoken of, as the Christ he ever acteth. It is a common error, and therefore the more to be denounced, to speak of him as now acting in his Godhead, and anon acting in his manhood. I indite it, in any theological court, of flat Nestorianism. Besides, to tell me, that Godhead is every where present in the churches, is to give me no information whatever, until I shall first know what Godhead is. Now, it is of the essence, and it is the very essence, of Godhead to be incomprehensible ; and therefore, in order to my know. ing it, and being comforted by that knowledge, Godhead must come into the comprehensible and intelligible region, which having done in the person of the Son, as Christ, whom I can understand, it becometh necessary to teach me how this person, now limited to the conditions of manhood, can be present in efficient activity, in many places, yea, in all places, at one and the same time. This question to answer, requires the knowledge of the person and office of the Holy Ghost, who, being of the Godhead, doth for the purpose of carrying out that very manifestation of Godhead, which Christ is, condescend out of the absolute and incomprehensible to become the agent for carrying the mind and very life of Christ into every region of creation where God pleaseth to be known, as he is capable of being known by a creature. Christ is God comprehensible, God in outward creature life. The Holy Ghost doth give himself to be used by Christ, for the purpose of communicating that life of God to the creatures. By means of the Holy Ghost therefore acting for the end of revealing and conmunicating the living embodied Godhead, Christ is present in the churches, in all the churches, how many soever they be. He is present as the word of the faithful minister. He is present as the life of that word in every faithful hearer; he is present with his authority in
every faithful ruler ; and he is present with obedience in the faithful menibers of the church. He is present, even Christ is present, as a regenerator in baptism to every believer ; and he is present, as a nurse or feeder in the Lord's Supper, to every believer ; and he is present in every sentence of the church, to execute the judgment threatened upon the impenitent, and to restore such as are penitent. He, even Christ, I said, is present, the life and the substance of every ordinance of the church, and he is all