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3. 'Zeal for Christ.' He that comes as an ambassador from Christ, in Christ's stead, will have zeal for all the concerns of Christ in the church; for his worship, for the purity of his ordinances, for the conversion of souls, and for the building up of the saints. This is required of them who are thus a gift from Christ.
This is the first thing that my text doth suggest unto me, namely, that the ministry is the gift of Christ.
And having proceeded so far, I will here stay a little, and desire the church would attend to their work and duty. After which, if God give strength, I will speak somewhat more unto the eminency of this gift, according as it is set out in this text.
[Then the church assented to the election, by the lifting
up of their hands; and the Doctor went on.]
I have shewed you, that the ministry and ministers are a gift that Christ himself gave the church. I shall now shew you, which was the second part of my proposition, that it is a great and eminent gift,' or an eminent fruit of the exaltation and mediation of Christ.
First, It appears to be so, from the 'great and glorious preparation' that was made for it. When did Christ give this gift? 'When,' saith he, he ascendeth up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.' The words are taken out of Psal. lxviii. 17, 18. 'The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men.' The words you see in the first place are spoken of God himself, applied by our apostle to Christ, upon these two grounds. 1. Because it was peculiarly the Son of God, who appeared so to the fathers under the Old Testament. It was he who appeared to Abraham, and gave him the promise; and to Moses in the bush: it was he who gave the law at mount Sinai; and appeared to Joshua for the conquest of Canaan, where the church was to be set up: so it was still the same person, though the articles were varied. 2. Because whatever was done in a way of solemnity under the Old Testament, was a representation, or a means of introducing of things that were to be done under the New. How did God lead captivity captive, on the glorious giving
of the law upon mount Sinai? That was the day wherein he made his people free. They had no rule, no order, no polity before that, but were under the relics of that captivity which they underwent in Egypt. God now had conquered Pharaoh, and triumphed gloriously over him in the Red Sea, over him and his host, who had kept the people so long in bondage. He led captivity captive, and brought forth his people into liberty, though it was but an initial liberty; it was a bondage in comparison of what was to ensue; but it was the beginning of liberty to them: and all this was to represent the glorious conquest at the ascension of Christ, expressed, Col. ii. 15. And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it, or in himself.' When he spoiled Pharaoh, he triumphed over him gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. It was the same divine person who did that as a type of what he would do, when he should spoil principalities and powers, Satan, death, hell, sin, and all the spiritual adversaries of the church, triumphing over them; then did he lead captivity captive. And therefore you may observe the change of the words, which all do who speak to this thing. In the Psalms, it is said, 'Thou hast ascended on high, and led captivity captive, and received gifts for men.' In my text it is said, 'He ascended on high, and led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.' Though Christ be spoken of as God in the sixty-eighth Psalm, wherein he was incapable of receiving gifts; yet it was in a mystery and prophecy, that he should be in that state and condition wherein he should receive them, and receive them that he might give them; as in Acts ii. 32. When he was exalted on the right hand of God, and received the gift of the Spirit,' he then gave it out unto men.
What is all this great preparation now for? What is it the apostle ushers in upon this theatre of glory? Nothing less than the giving of ministers unto the church. He ascended up on high, and led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. What I pray! some to be pastors and teachers. There is a greater glory in giving a minister to a poor congregation, than there is in the instalment and enthroning of all the popes and cardinals, and metropolitans that ever were in the world let their glory be what it will, Christ is upon
his theatre of glory in the communication of this office, and these officers.
Wherein will you say is this glory? You see no beauty, no comeliness in it: no more did the unbelieving world in the person of Christ, nor ways of Christ. Was there not a great deal of glory in the setting apart of Aaron unto his service, in all his glorious garments and ornaments, with all the solemnity of sacrifices that was used therein? doubtless there was. But, saith our apostle, 'It had no glory in com parison of the ministry of the Spirit. This is a glory that doth excel;' 2 Cor. iii. 10. The reason why we see not the glory of it is, because we are carnal. It is a spiritual glory. God himself presides over the work of this day. 'I will place my tabernacle with them, and I will walk with them, and be their God;' Levit. xx. 13. If we are the church and tabernacle of God, God walks among us this day; Christ is among us by his special presence. Where two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them;' Matt. xviii. 20. And much more may his presence be expected in so great a transaction of his authority, as this we are now engaged in. The holy and elect angels are present with us, to give glory to the solemnity. Hence our apostle charges Timothy, 1 Tim. v. 21. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, to observe these things.' Why before the elect angels? because they are present as witnesses in the collation of authority from Christ. Thou hast thousands of witnesses more than thou seest; there are more eyes upon thee than thou takest notice of; God is present, Christ is present, the elect angels are present. These things are the true and faithful sayings of God. Here then is glory and beauty, in that it is not only a gift, but an eminent gift. That is the first thing in my text.
Secondly, It is glorious and eminent from the foundation and spring of it, which is the humiliation and death of Christ. Now that he ascended, what is it, but that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth.' Why doth the apostle mention here Christ's descending? Was it to take the advantage of a word? because, having mentioned his ascension, will he mention also his descension? no, that is not the way of the Holy Ghost. There was no reason to
mention it absolutely in this place: it must be with reference to the end, that was under consideration. There is something, saith he, in Christ's descending into the lower part of the earth, that doth contribute to this great gift of the ministry.
The lower part of the earth may have a double interpretation. 1. The earth may be spoken of with reference to the whole world. 2. Some part of the earth may be spoken of with reference to some other part.
If you take it in the first sense, Christ's descending into the lower part of the earth, i. e. into this lower part of the creation, which the earth is; then it is the incarnation of Christ, and his humiliation, that he intends; which is so expressed, John iii. 13. No man hath ascended up into heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man,' &c. Christ's descending and coming down, was by taking our nature upon him; so it may be here. He descended into the lower part of the earth, i. e. He came and assumed our nature, and was here in a state of humiliation.
Or, 2. The lower part of the earth intends a comparison between some part of the earth itself; and so may be taken for the grave; he descended into the grave. The burial of Christ, which was a great and evident testimony of his real death, is that which is intended; and so I look upon it in this place. The very descent of Christ into the grave, which is the lowest part of the earth that mankind descend into, is the apostle's meaning.
And observe from hence, that the death of Christ hath a great influence into this gift of the ministry. It is a branch that grew out of the grave of Christ: let it be esteemed as lightly as men please, had not Christ died for it, we had not had a ministry in the world.
And two ways the ministry relates to the death of Christ. 1. Because it was necessary unto his receiving of that power, whereby alone he was able to give ministers. See that at large, Phil. ii. 6-10. It was his humbling himself unto the death, even the death of the cross,' that was required to that exaltation,' whereby he had power to give ministers. The mediatorial authority of Christ, whereby he was enabled to give ministers to the church, was founded in his death. And, 2. It respects his death, because the very end of the
ministry is, to preach that peace to mankind, which was made by the death of Christ; Eph. ii. 14. He is our peace,' he hath made peace for us; and, in ver. 17. 'came and preached peace to those who were afar off, and to those who were nigh.' How did Christ come and preach peace to the Gentiles, to them that were afar off? It was no otherwise than by instituting the office of the ministry, and sending his ministers to preach peace to them. And we that are ministers may know the near relation of our office to the death of Christ, which will greatly direct us in the work we have to do; which is, I say, to preach that peace that was made with God by Christ. This is another thing in the text that sets forth the beauty, glory, and eminency of this great gift of Christ.