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devoted to; and therefore they are represented as co-workers with Christ. 2 Cor. vi. 1. "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." Christ is the Saviour of the souls of men : ministers also, are spoken of in scripture as saving men's souls. 1 Tim, iv. 16. “Ju doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee." Rom. x. 14. “ If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.” 1 Cor. ix. 22. “That I might by all nieans save some." And whereas it is said, Onad. 21, “Saviours shall come upon inount Zion;" ministers of the gospel are supposed to be there intended.
The work of niinisters is in many respects like the work that Christ himself was appointed to, as the Saviour of men; and especially the same with the work which Christ does in his prophetical office; only with this difference, that ministers are to speak and act wholly under Christ, as taught of him, as holding forth his word, and by light and strength communicated from him. Christ himself, after bis baptism, followed the work of the ministry: He was a minister of the true sanctuary, (Heb. viii. 2,) he spake and acted as his Father's minister; was a minister of the gospel, and as such preached and administered sacraments.
Pastors of churches are ministers of the same gospel; but in their ininistry they act as the ministers of Christ. Jesus Christ is the great Bishop of souls; ministers are also bishops under him. Christ came into the world that he might be the light of the world ; ministers are set to be lights unto the churches, and are also said to be the light of the world. Matth. v. 14. Christ is the bright and morning star; ministers are stars in Christ's hand. Christ is the messenger of the covenant ; ministers are called messengers of the Lord of hosts. Christ is his people's shepherd, the good shepherd, the great shepherd of his sheep. Ministers are also frequently called shepherds, and are directed to feed the flock of Christ, which he purchased with his own blood.
Seeing therefore it is thus, that the work that ministers are called and devoted to, is no other than the work of Christ, or the work that Christ does, certainly they ought to do his work ; which they do not do, unless they imitate him, and do as he does, or as he hath set them an example.
3. The example of Christ is most worthy of ministers' imitation. His example was perfect, without error, blemish, or defect; and therefore worthy to be made our rule, avd to be regarded and followed without exception, limitation, or reserve; unless in those things which he did that were proper to his peculiar office. Christ's virtue was not only perfect, but was exercised in those circumstances, and under those trials, that rendered his virtuous acts vastly the most amiable of any that ever appeared in any creature whether man or angel. If we consider the perfection of the virtue that Christ exercised, his virtue did exceed that of the most eminent saints, more than the purest gold exceeds the meanest and foulest ore: And if we consider the manner of its exercise, and the trials under which it was exercised, and the blessed fruits it has brought forth, so his virtue exceeds that of all other perfectly innocent creatures, and even of the brightest angel, as the sun in its glory exceeds the stars.
And this example was set us in our own nature, and so is especially fitted for our imitation. There was in the man Christ Jesus, who was one of us, and dwelt among us, such exercises of virtue as became our state and circumstances in the world, as those who dwell in frail flesh and blood, and as members of human society, and dwellers in such a world of sorrow and death.
And then these amiable exercises of virtue in Christ, were exhibited chiefly in the things which he did in that work wherein ministers are called to act as co-workers with him. The bright and glorious example of Christ that is set before us, is chiefly in what he did during the three years and an half of his public ministry; and in the devotion, heavenly-mindedness, humility, patience, meekness, forgiveness, self-denial, and charity, which he exercised in the labours and sufferings he went through for the good of the souls of men : And therefore is especially set for the imitation of those who are set apart that they may make it the whole business of their lives to seek the same good of souls.
4. Ministers should follow that example of Christ which has been spoken of, because if they are fit for ministers, and are such as have any right to take that work upon themselves, Christ has set them this example in what he has done for their souls. "I have given you an example (says Christ in the text) that you should do as I have done to you.” Ministers should be animated in this work by a great love to the souls of men, and should be ready to spend and be spent for them; for Christ loved them, and gave himself for them: He loved them with a love stronger than death. They should have compassion to men under their
. spiritual miseries, as Christ had pity on them. They should be much in prayer for the people of their flock, considering how Christ prayed and agonized for them, in tears of blood. They should travail in birth with the souls that are committed to tbeir care, seeing their own salvation is the fruit of the travail of Christ's soul. They should exercise a meek and condescend
ing spirit to the mean and weak and poor, and should as it were wash the feet of Christ's disciples; considering how Christ condescended to them, when they were wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and abased himself to wash their feet.
The chief trials of Christ's virtue, and so their most bright and eminent exercises, were in the abasement, labour, and suffering, that he was the subject of for our salvation. Which certainly may well endear those virtues to us, and greatly engage us to imitate that example: So thethings where of this example consists, were things by which we have infinite benefit, without which we should have been unspeakably miserable for ever and ever, and by virtue of which we have the glorious privilege of the children of God, and have a full title to the crown of exceeding glory, and pleasures for evermore, at God's right hand.
nll. I now proceed, as was proposed, in the third place, to apply what has been said to myself, and others that are employed in this sacred work of the gospel ministry, and to such as are about to undertake it, or are candidates for it; and particularly to him that is now to be solemnly set apart to this work in this place.
We are those to whom these things especially belong : We may hear Christ saying to us this day, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have donc.” For the words of Christ in the text were not only spoken to the twelve, but are also spoken unto us. We have now had represented to us, though in a very imperfect manner, the example that Christ has set, and what reasons there are that we, above all others, should imitate it.
It is not only our great duty, but will be our greatest honour, to imitate Christ, and do the work that he has done, and so act as co-workers with him.
There are two kinds of persons that are given to Christ, and appointed and devoted of God to be his servants, to be employed with Christ, and under him, in his great work of the salvation of the souls of men; and they are angels and ministers. The angels are all of them, even the most exalted of them, subjected of God the Father to our Redeemer, and given to him as his servants, to be subservient to the great designs of his saving and glorifying his elect. Heb. i. 14. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent for to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation ?" And doubtless, they were created for this very end; God made them for his Son, to be subservient to him in this great work; which seems to be the chief design of all God's works. And the employment of ministers of the gospel in this respect, is like that of the glorious angels. The
principalities and powers in heavenly places, esteem it not any debasement, but their great honour, to be employed as Christ's ministers in this work; for therein they are employed as the ministers of God, in the greatest and most honourable of all God's works; that work of God wherein his glory is chiefly displayed, and which his heart was chiefly upon from eternity. It is the honour of the Son of God himself, that he is appointed to this work. It was because God the Father infinitely loved his Son, and delighted to put honour upon him, that he appointed him to be the author of that glorious work of the salvation of men. And when we consider the greatness, importance, and excellency of it, we have reason to be astonished at the condescension of God, that he would ever improve mere creatures as co-workers and ministers of Christ in this affair ; for who is sufficient for these things ? 2 Cor. ii. 6. “Who is fit, or worthy?
? Who is equal to a work of such dignity, and vast importance ?" Especially have we reason to wonder that God will employ, not only holy and glorious angels, but feeble, frail, sinful worms of the dust, in this work, who need redemption themselves : And yet the honour that is put upon faithful ministers, is, in some respects, greater than that of the angels : They seem to be that kind of servants that are the most dignified of the two. For Christ makes his angels to be ministering spirits unto them, unto the faithful ministers; and the angels are their angels : As faithful ministers of the gospel are not only ministers to the church, but dignified members of the church, that spouse of the King of glory, on whom the most glorious angels, the highest ministers in the court of heaven, are appointed to attend. And then Christ seems especially to delight to carry on his work of the salvation of souls, through the ministrations of men, who have that nature that Christ is united to, and that are of those sons of men with whom he had his delight before the world was made. So it is by the ministration of men, that the scriptures are given; they were the peninen of the holy bible; and by them the gospel is preached to the world: By them ordinances are administered, and, through their ministrations, especially, souls are converted. When Christ hiinself was employed in the work of the ministry, in the time of his humiliation, but few, comparatively, were brought home to him, immediately by his ministrations : It pleased Christ to reserve this honour for his disciples and ministers, after his ascension, to whom he promised that they should, in this respect, do greater works than he, Job: xiv. 12, and accordingly it was by their preaching that the Gentile world was converted, and Satan's kingdom overthrown. Thus God delights to perfect praise out of the
mouths of babes and sucklings, that he may still the enemy and the avenger."
It will be our great honour that we are called to this work of Christ, if therein we follow bin : for therein we shall be like the Son of God: But if we are unfaithful in this office, and do not imitate our Master, our offence will be heinous in proportion to the dignity of our office, and our final and everlasting disgrace and ignominy proportionably great; and we, who in honour are exalted up to heaven, shall be cast down proportionably low in bell.
Let us further consider, that our following the example of Christ in the work of the ministry, is the way to enjoy the sensible joyful presence of Christ with us. The disciples had the confort of Christ's presence and conversation by following him, and going where he went. When we cease to follow him, he will go from us, and we shall soon lose sight of him.
Our being conformed to Christ's example, will also be the way for us to be conformed to him, and partake with him in his privileges : It is the way for us to have his joy fulfilled in us. Cbrist, in doing the work to which the Father appointed him, obtained a glorious victory over his enemies, and having spoiled principalities and powers, triumphed over them. If we imitate his example, it will be the way for us in like manner to conquer principalities and powers, yea, to be much more than conquerors : It will be the way for us always to triumph in Jesus Christ. It will be the way for us to obtain success in our ministry, and actually to be made the happy instruments of the eterpal salvation of souls. Christ has not only told us, but shown us the way to success in our business, and the way to victory over all that oppose us in it. And our imitating Christ in our ministry, will be the way for us to be partakers with him in his glory; the way for us in like manner to be approved, and openly honoured and rewarded by God; the way to be brought to sit with Christ on his throne, as he is set down with the Father on his throne. And as Christ is now exalted to shine as the bright luminary and glory of heaven, so our following his example, will be the way for us to be exalted, to shine with him, “as the stars for ever and ever." Daniel xii. 3. And as Christ in heaven rejoices in his success, and will receive his church, presented to him without spot, as bis everlasting crown; so our imitating Christ in our work, will be the way to partake with Christ in this joy, and have the souls whose salvation we are the instruments of, to be our crown of rejoicing for ever. Thus Christ and we shall rejoice together in that world of glory and joy where there is no more labour or sorrow. And we must en