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carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds: casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," 2 Cor. x, 4, 5.
The true minister, following the example of St. Paul, after having experienced the power of these victorious arms, exhorts every soldier of Christ to provide himself with the same spiritual weapons. "Finally, my brethren, be strong in tho'Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand. For we wrestle not merely against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace: above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." And that you may perform heroical service with these arms, "pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit," Eph. vi, 10-18.
So long as the faithful minister, or servant of Christ wears and wields these Scriptural arms, he will be truly invincible. But no man can gird himself with these invisible weapons, except he "be born of the Spirit;" nor can any Christian soldier employ them to good purpose, unless he be first endued with all that Divine power which flows from the love of God and man: he must feel, at least, some sparks of that fire of charity which warmed the bosom of St. Paul, when he cried out, " Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. Forthe loveofChristandofsoulsconstrainethus," 2Cor.v,13,14. "From the time that the eyes of St. Paul were opened to a perception of the Gospel," says Mons. Romilly, pastor of a church in Geneva, " we find him no longer the same person. He is another man, he is a new creature who thinks no more but on Gospel truths, who hears nothing, who breathes nothing but the Gospel; who speaks on no other subject, who attends to no other thing but the voice of the Gospel; who desires all the world to attend with him to the same voice, and wishes to communicate his transports to all mankind. From this happy period, neither the prejudices of flesh and blood, neither respect to man, nor the fear of death, nor any other consideration is able to withstand him in his course. He moves on with serenity in a path sown thick with reproaches and pain. What has he to fear? He despises the maxims of the world, nay, the world itself; its hatred as well as its favour, its joys as well as its sorrows, its meanness as well as its pomp. Time is no longer an object with him, nor is his economy regulated by it. He is superior to every thing; he is immortal. Though the universe arms itself against him, though hell opens its abysses, though affliction assaults him on every side, he stands immovable in every storm, looking with contempt upon death, conscious that he can never die. Superior to all his enemies, he resists their united attempts with the arms of the Gospel, opposing, to time and hell, eternity and heaven."
TRAIT VII. His power to bind, to loose, and to bless, in the name of the Lord.
THE armour of God, described in the preceding article, is common to all Christians; but the true minister is girded with weapons of a peculiar temper. As a Christian, his sword is the word of God in general; but, as a minister, it is especially those parts of the Gospel by which he is invested with authority to preach the word of God, and to perform the functions of an ambassador of Jesus Christ. "Go," said our blessed Master to his first disciples, "and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth my doctrine shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned," Mark xvi, 15, 16. "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," Matt. xxviii, 18. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth Him that sent me," John xiii, 20. "Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth," according to the spirit of my Gospel, "shall be loosed in heaven," Matt, xviii, 18.
Behold from whence the ministers of Christ have authority to absolve true penitents, and to excommunicate obstinate sinners. An authority which some have called the power of the clergy; a power which unrighteous pastors so much abuse, and which the faithful never presume to exercise but with the utmost solemnity: a power which, nevertheless, belongs to them of Divine right, and which can be denied them with no more reason than they can refuse the sacramental cup to the people. Such, at least, is the judgment of many excellent and learned divines, among whom may be reckoned Mons. Ostervald and Mons. Roques. It may, however, be inquired with propriety in this place, Can ecclesiastics be justified in still making use of their authority in these respects, unless they do it with prudence and impartiality? And would it not become them to exercise the ecclesiastical discipline, in an especial manner, upon unworthy pastors, following the maxim of St. Peter, "The time is come, that judgment must begin at the house of God!" 1 Pet. iv, 17.
Invested with the authority which Christ has conferred upon him, the true minister is prepared to denounce the just judgments of God against obstinate sinners, to console the dejected, and to proclaim the promises of the Gospel to every sincere believer, with an energy unknown to the worldly pastor, and with a power which is accompanied by the seal of the living God. Thus, when such a minister clearly discerns the profound malice of another Elymas, he^s permitted to say, with the authority of an ambassador of Jesus Christ, "O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? Behold! the hand of the Lord shall be upon thee," Acts xiii, 10,11. But the true minister is careful never to abuse this lawful power. "We can do nothing," says St. Paul, "against the truth, but for the truth; I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use harshness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction," 2 Cor. xiii, 8, 10. The denunciation of vengeance is to the minister of Christ what the execution of judgment is to the God of love, his painful and strange work.
The good pastor, conscious that the ministration of mercy exceeds in glory the ministration of condemnation, places his chief glory and pleasure in spreading abroad the blessings of the new covenant. He knows that the promises are yea, and amen, in that beneficent Redeemer, who gave the following charge to his first missionaries: "Into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him: if not, it shall turn to you again," Luke x, 5, 6. The wishes and prayers of a minister who acts and speaks in conformity to the intent of this benign charge, really communicate the peace and benediction of his gracious Master to those who are meet for their reception: and, according to the degree of his faith, he can write to the faithful of distant Churches with the confidence of St. Paul,—I am persuaded that "when I come unto you, I shall come m the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ," Rom. xv, 29. Whenever he salutes his brethren, his pen or his lips become the channel of those evangelical wishes which flow from his heart: "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ," Phil, i, 2. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all," 2 Cor. xiii, 14. Thus the true minister approves himself a member of the royal priesthood, a priest of the Most High, "after the order of Melchisedec," who blessed the Patriarch Abraham: or rather, a ministering servant of the Son of God, who was manifested in the flesh, that "in him all the families of the earth might be blessed."
Great God! grant that the whole company of Christian pastors may be men after thine own heart. Leaving to the ignorant those compliments which a slavish dependence has invented, may thy ministers perpetually carry about them the love, the gravity, and the apostolic authority, which belongs to their sacred character. May all the benedictions which thou hast commissioned them to pronounce, cause them still to be received "as angels of God," Gal. iv, 14. Far from being despised as hypocrites, shunned as troublesome guests, or feared as men of a covetous and tyrannical disposition, may that moment always be esteemed a happy one, in which they enter any man's habitation :' and whenever they make their appearance upon these charitable occasions, may those who compose the family, each seeking to give the first salute, cry out, " How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace!" Rom. x, 15.
The power of pronouncing exhortations and blessings is not the exclusive privilege of pastors, but belongs to all experienced believers. The patriarchs had a right to bless their children; and Jacob blessed not only his sons'and grandsons, but also the king of Egypt himself. If the followers of Christ, then, are deprived of this consolatory power, the children of ancient Israel were more highly privileged than the members of the Christian Church, who are called, nevertheless, to receive more precious benedictions, and to be, as our Lord expresses it, "the salt of the earth," and "the light of the world." When St. Paul writes to believors, "Desire spiritual gifts; but rather that ye may prophesy: for he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, to exhortation, and comfort," 1 Cor. xiv, 1,3, he doubtless excites them to ask of God that overflowing charity, and that patriarchal authority, without which it is impossible for them fully to comply with the following apostolic injunction, "Bless and curse not, knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing;" and without a high degree of which they cannot sincerely obey those distinguished precepts of our blessed Lord, "Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you," Rom. xii, 14; 1 Pet. iii, 9 ; Matt, v, 44. •
The earnestness with which he began, and continued to JUl up the duties of
The true penitent, having renounced himself for the honour of following his exalted Lord, stands faithfully in his own vocation, whether it be secular or ecclesiastic. He is prepared, upon all occasions, to perform the will of his gracious Master: and if he is commissioned to act as a minister of Christ, after furnishing himself with "the whole armour of God," he will expose himself, without fear, to the most threatening dangers, that he may compel sinners to come in to the marriage supper of the Lamb. "I rejoice," saith St. Paul, "in my sufferings for the body of Christ, which is the Church, whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery, which hath been hid from ages, but which is now made manifest to his saints; to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus; whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working which worketh in me mightily. For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you," and for all those among whom the word of God is preached, "that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, even of the Father and of Christ; in whom arc.hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. i, 24, 29; ii, 1, 2, 3.
Such are the great ideas which the Apostle Paul entertained of the ministry he had received; and observe the assiduity with which he discharged the duties of so important an office: "Ye know," says he, speaking to the pastors, to whom he committed the care of one of his flocks, " from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore Ttake you to record this day that
1 am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves; for I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves," unfaithful pastors, "enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Therefore, watch; and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears," Acts xx, 18, 31. In every place he discharged the obligations of a minister with the same application and zeal, travelling from city to city, and from church to church, bearing testimony to "the redemption that is in Jesus," and declaring the great truths of the Gospel. When the synagogues were shut against him, he preached in the schools of philosophers, upon the sea shore, on shipboard, and even in prisons; and while he dwelt a prisoner in his own house at Rome, "he received all that came in unto him, to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening," Acts xxviii, 23.
Thus the Son of God himself once publicly laboured for the conversion of sinners, sometimes going through all "Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel," Matt, vi, 31. And at other times instructing the multitudes, who either followed him into the fields, or resorted to the house where he lodged; "for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat," Mark vi, 31. And when, through the pleasure of bringing the Samaritans acquainted with spiritual truth, he disregarded the necessities of nature, his disciples requesting him to partake of the food they had prepared, received from him this memorable answer: "I have meat to eat that ye know not of: my meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work," viz. the glorious work of enlightening and saving of sinners, John iv, 31, 34.
Thus St. Paul was diligently and daily occupied in fulfilling the duties of his apostolic vocation; and thus every minister of the Gospel is called to labour in his appointed sphere. It remains to be known, whether all who do not labour, according to their ability, are not condemned by the following general rule: "If any will not work, neither should he eat,"
2 Thess. iii, 10. For these words signify, applied to the present case, that they who will not labour as pastors, should by no means be permitted to eat the bread of pastors; an evangelical precept this, which deserves the strictest attention, as the bread of pastors is, in some sort, sacred bread, since it is that which the piety of the public has set apart for the support of those who have abandoned every wortdly pursuit, that they might dedicate themselves freely and fully to the service of the Church.
The manner in which he divided his time between prayer, preaching, and
The minister of the present age is but seldom engaged in publishing to his people the truths of the Gospel; and still more rarely in supplicating for them the possession of those blessings which the Gospel pro