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gospel being the ministration of the Spirit; and all gospel. ministrations are spiritual ministrations. The truth is, one reason why they are called so, and are so, is, because they are no way to be administered to the glory of Christ, but by the aid and help of these spiritual gifts. If the Lord Jesus Christ hath appointed carnal ordinances, such as are suited to the reason and strength of a man, there had been no need for him to promise the assistance of the Spirit. The spirit. of a man knows the things of a man ;' 1 Cor. ii. 11. All the things within the compass of a man, the spirit of a man will find them out, and give strength for the performance of them. Saith Christ, John vi. 63. My words, they are Spirit,' and all my offices and ordinances are spiritual; and thus there is a necessity of spiritual gifts for their administration: so that spiritual gifts and spiritual administrations live and die together. And the way whereby the world lost the spiritual ministrations of the gospel, was by the neglect and contempt of spiritual gifts, whereby alone they can be performed. This was the ground of the apostacy of the primitive church; they grew weary of spiritual ministrations. It is the most difficult and laborious ministry. Men's hearts waxing carnal, they grew weary of spiritual things; they did not care to wait upon Christ for supplies of grace, and the gifts of the Spirit; for these gifts are not grace, and in truth will flourish long in no other soil but where there is grace. As we should not have such a product of sin, were it not for original corruption, whence it grows, so flourishing gifts will not long grow, but in the soil of the Spirit. How many persons with gifts have flourished for a while, and then have withered; because they were planted in no good soil. It will be drudgery for any man to keep up spiritual gifts, where they have not a spiritual soil to grow in. The world grew weary of gospel ministrations, and would not keep up that way. What then? They found out imaginations suited to their inclinations; they will have prayer-books to read, ceremonies to perform, and a number of inventions to keep up a form of worship, without those spiritual gifts. We have an instance in the church of Rome, what various extravagant things they have done to make an outward show, when they had lost spiritual gifts. All forms of worship are nothing but to keep an outward appearance. They did not like to retain
these gifts in their minds, whereby alone spiritual worship is to be administered. The principle of the apostacy of all churches in the world is from a weariness of serving God by the aid and assistance of the Spirit.
Eighthly, That there is a communication of spiritual gifts in all gospel ordinances, we plead experience. We know how this is derided by profane scoffers: but we plead the experience of those, who are humble and holy, and have a spiritual acquaintance with these things. I hope I may plead against the world, the experience of this congregation. Have you had no experience of those ministrations? Have you never found in the administrations of those whom God hath called to go before you, evidences of the presence of Christ by his Spirit in the communication of gifts to them, to make them effectual to your edification and consolation? Have you not had a proof of the Spirit of Christ speaking in them? 2 Cor. xiii. 3.
It is intolerable presumption for men to think of carrying on gospel administrations without the supplies of the Spirit, as you, who are God's people, can testify. And there is no congregation of Christ, but can bear testimony to it, that the Spirit divides to every man as he will;' gives out, as he pleases, of his assistance. Let men therefore pretend never so much, that they are able to be ministers of the New Testament without any of those aids and assistances, whereof we have been discoursing; let them please themselves with the applause they may receive from persons unacquainted with the mystery and glory of these things; let them despise and condemn whatever is testified to the contrary; it is certain, where the gifts of the Spirit of God, as to the gospel ministrations of the church, are lost or neglected, Christ is so also, the Spirit of God is so also, and all the benefits of the gospel will be so too.
I have but one word to add, and that is of exhortation, unto those whom Christ hath called unto the work of the ministry, and whom you have called this day. I told you, at the beginning, I would not give them instruction, but I may give them a word of exhortation; and that is, to attend unto the ministry whereunto God hath called them, upon this foundation. And there are three motives I shall give them unto the work.
First, It is the most difficult ministration of any that a person can be called unto; as it is great, so it is difficult. Any way of administration is easy in comparison of this of spiritual gifts; easy to flesh and blood. What an easy ministration, with all their altars and services, hath the church of Rome provided for their ministers? so to read, and so to sing, come as they will, prepared or not prepared, having hearts and minds filled with what they will; this is a ministry for them easier than any trade, and in this, their natural endowments and abilities are employed. But if we intend the ministers by the gifts received from the Holy Ghost, the matter and root wherein alone they will grow must be carefully preserved. If grace decays in our hearts, a ministry in gifts will grow burdensome and unpleasing to ourselves, as well as useless to the congregation. We must look well unto the soil, or it will be of no advantage that we have this ministry committed to us. It is required there be no unuseful ministers. Hand and heart must be always filled with the work; 'Meditate on these things;' 1 Tim. iv. 15. If you have undertaken the work of the ministry, you must be meditating on it. Unless you are in these things continually, you will not make faithful dispensers of the word. A man may preach a very good sermon, who is otherwise himself; but he will never make a good minister of Jesus Christ, whose heart and mind is not always in the work. Spiritual gifts will require continual ruminating on the things of the gospel in our minds, which makes it a difficult ministry; that our hearts and minds may be cast into the mould and form of these things, which we are to deliver to others. And it is surprising, how a little necessary diversion will unfit the mind for this work.
Secondly, As it is a very difficult work to carry on to a right improvement of it, so it is a glorious work; let the world deride it as they will. The great design of the apostle in 2 Cor. iii. is to shew, it is much more glorious than the old ministration was. Really, that was a very glorious ministration. But this ministry that is committed to us hath more glory in it, being the ministration of the Spirit,' whereby souls are converted by the power of grace, and holy converse with God kept up. It is much more glorious than beholding the high-priest in Solomon's temple being
under the eye of the Holy God, who is Judge of these ministerial gifts; therefore do not divert from them by any means.
Thirdly, It is the only ministry that is indeed effectual unto the edification and building up of the church; Eph. iv. 8, &c. This is the great end for which gospel ministers are appointed, till all are brought,' by their ministry, 'to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.' The Lord prosper it in your hands.
Give me leave to speak one word unto you that are the church. Know what you are to do, in reference unto those you have called, and made officers this day. Pray unto God for a fresh communication of gifts unto them; they are capable of it. It is a renewed act of grace, that prepares and opens the soul for receiving new communications of God's grace, for the administration of the holy things of Christ in the congregation. Pray much for them to that end and
And I will give you pastors according to my heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.—Jer. iii. 15.
ALL the names of the officers of the church under the New Testament have a double signification, a general and more large signification, and a special signification. As for instance, diákovos, a 'deacon,' hath a general signification; it signifies any minister or servant: and it hath a special signification, when it denotes that peculiar officer, which was instituted in the church, to take care of the poor. And so the name of a pastor hath a more general, and a more special signification. In general, it signifies any teacher or officer in the church, ordinary or extraordinary; in special, it signifies that peculiar officer in the church, which, as such, is distinguished from a teacher. He gave some to be pastors and teachers;' Eph. iv. 11. For there is a distinction between pastor and teacher, not as to degree, but as to order. I do not use the distinction in the sense of those who make bishops and presbyters differ in degree, but not in order; but it is a distinction as to that beautiful order, which Christ hath instituted in his church. Christ hath instituted a beautiful order in his church, if it were discovered and improved. And I have wished sometimes, I could live to see it; but I do not think I shall. Yet this I would recommend to my brethren, as the way to discover the order of Christ in the church; and there is no way to discover it, but by the harmony that there is between gifts, office, and edification. The original of all church order and rule is in gifts; the exercise of those gifts is by office; the end of all those gifts and offices is edification.
Now, I believe, I can demonstrate, that all ordinary spiritual gifts, that Christ hath given to his church, are reducible to four heads, and all of them are for the exercise of
This sermon was preached at an ordination, Sept. 8, 1682.