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A Gospel Ministry The rich GIFT of the Ascended SAVIOUR Unto His CHURCH.

As it was Represented in a SERMON preached August 2. 1715. By Mr. BENIAMIN COLMAN, On a Day of Prayer kept by His Con­gregation, to implore the Divine Conduct and Blessing with them, in their Election of Another into the Pastoral Office among them.

BOSTON: Printed by T. Fleet and T. Crump, for Samuel Gerrish, on the North Side of the Town-House. 1715.

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IT seems to me but a piece of Justice to Ac­knowledge the free Ʋse I have made of Mr. Hen­ry's Expositions, thro' the following Discourse.

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The Gospel Ministry The rich GIFT of the Ascended SA­VIOUR unto His Church.

EPH. IV. 8, 11.

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led Captivity Captive, and gave Gifts unto Men.—

And he gave some Apostles: and some Prophets: and some Evangelists: and some Pastors and Teachers.

THE Text speaks of the Ascention of our Lord JESUS CHRIST into Heaven, where He is set down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; the Glory of which As­cent is here meditated in the blessed Fruits and Effects of it to the sinful Children of Men.

Three things here offer to our Conside­ration.

[Page 4] 1. A Prophecy of our Saviour's Ascension is referr'd to; and a very Illustrious one it is, in the 68. Psal. 18. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led Captivity captive; thou hast received Gifts for Men, yea for the Rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.

THE Apostle in the Text quotes these words of David, who saw the day of our Lord's Ascension, and spake of it in Spirit as a thing past, it was so sure and certain to be in God's appointed time.

2. IN the Text the Accomplishment of this Prophecy is supposed and taken for granted, which amounts to an Assertion of its. Fulfil­ment, in the person of Christ. To Him the Holy Ghost here applies it, as one of the In­stances wherein the Spirit of Christ in the Prophets did testify before the Glory that should follow his Sufferings.

THE Psalmist had spoken of Christ Pro­phetically in the second Person. Thou hast as­cended, &c—. The Apostle applies it to him Historically in the third Person; when He ascended up on high, He led &c—.

AND to satisfy us that the Prophecy of the Psalmist was of Christ truly, and can bear no other Application ultimatly, the Apostle argues in a Parenthesis between the [Page 5]two Verses of my Text; which I have pre­sum'd to omit in the reading them just now to you; Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same that ascended up far above all Heavens, that he might fill all things. Which is as much as to say, that David in Spirit spake of Him who first came down from Heaven to our Earth, and here in our flesh descended into the Grave, from whence he rose and ascended bodily far a­bove all visible Heavens; unto the presence and Throne of God. Thus we see the Pro­phecy and its Accomplishment; that David's words did indeed mean Christ's Ascention, and were fulfilled in it.

3. LET us observe the glorious things which are spoken concerning the Ascention of Christ:

  • 1. That he led Captivity Captive.
  • 2. That he received and gave Gifts to men. And
  • 3. These Gifts are specify'd, He gave some A­postles, and some Prophets, and some Evange­lists, &c.

THERE is doubtless and Allusion in the words unto the Usages and Custom of Generals and Conquerors, who after great and illustri­ous Victories obtained by them were wont to Triumph; and in their triumphant Entries [Page 6]into the Capital City of the Empire to which they belong'd and for which they fought, they us'd to be follow'd by the Captives whom they had taken in the War; and to make shew of the Riches, the Spoils they had taken from the Enemy, and to add unto the pomp of the day they made public "Largitives and Donatives to their Souldiers, and scatter'd their Magnificence and Boun­ty among the Crouds.

IT may seem probable that these sort of Triumphs were in use in David's time, and the most famous One of his Reign might be on that occasion whereon the 68. Psalm was composed, namely the Translation of the Ark (the Type of Christ's Mediation) into the Tent which he had pitched for it in Sion. The Roman Triumphs were of a later Date, but answer'd so exactly to the Description here given by David, of the leading the Captives in procession, and the scattering Gifts among the Multitude that we may think the Nations received the Custom from him; whose Victories in war well deserv'd a Triumph; and were singled out by God to be the Types of the Spiritual Victory of Christ over the powers of Darkness. This seems to me more worthy to be said, than [Page 7]that the Holy Ghost manifestly alludes unto the Roman Conquerors: which tho' it might have pass'd had our Text been first deliver­ed by the Apostle who liv'd under the Roman Empire; yet what Allusion to their Triumphs cou'd David make who liv'd so long before them, unless you will allow too that he pro­phesied of them.

DAVID was a famous Type of Christ, and that Great Solemnity of his Reign, the carrying of the Ark in pomp to Sion, was an illustri­ous Type of our Lord's Ascention into Hea­ven David on that triumphant Occasion celebrated all the Victories that God had gi­ven him over His and his Church's Ene­mies, and ascribed all the Glory of them to God and to the Ark of his strength. This was now ascending on High, even the Ark, from a humble and obscure state wherein it had long been, into a Royal Tent which he had pitch'd for it in that Hill of Sion which God had chosen, the Mount which he lov'd. Now to grace that Procession and Ascent of the Ark, we may suppose that the King bro't forth the train of Captives, even such as before had often led many an Israelite into Captivity. Thus Captivity was led Captive, and the Spoils taken from them [Page 8]were carry'd to Sion, and there Dedicated to God, for the building of the Temple in after days, where the Lord God might dwell a­mong them. Of Him David had receiv'd these Victories and these Spoils; and to Him he ascribes the glory of the one, and to His ser­vice and spicial honour he Consecrates the o­ther. Of which Spoils that David gathered and Dedicated, which were of Silver and Gold and Brass, Solomon afterwards adorn'd the Temple, and made its holy Vessels.

THESE things, tho' the Glories of the Kingdoms of this world were but a low fi­gure and shadow of the Ascention of the Messiah, the Son and Lord of David. When He ascended on high, even to the right Hand of God, above all Heavens, He did as Con­querors us'd to do and more; He led Capti­vity Captive; He led those Captive that had led us so, and if He had not interpos'd would have led us so for ever; He made o­penly a shew of Principalities and Powers, of Satan, Sin and Death spoiled of their power over His Subjects; utterly broken for ever and led in Chains: He appear'd then more than a Conqueror, for every Conqueror was not allow'd a Triumph, and all Believers too who follow. His Chariot with their Ho­sanna's [Page 9]are more than Conquerors thro' Him, they too are Triumphers; for thanks be to God who causeth us always to Triumph in Christ.

THOU hast received Gifts for men, yea for the Rebellious; says the Psalmist; He gave Gifts unto men; says the Apostle. He received and and He gave; He gave that which He had received; for it was given Him to bestow: Joh. 17.2, 22. As thou hast given him,— that he shou'd give—: and the glory which thou gavest me I have given them.

GIFTS for Men, not for Angels: Henry. For Men in General, not for the Jews only, but for the Gentiles also. Gifts in Man, as the Margin reads it in the Psalms; i. e. in the humane Nature, which the Son of God was pleas'd to cloath Himself in, in whom (as Mediator) all fulness dwells, that from His fulness we all might receive.

YEA for the Rebellious: for those that had been Rebels, and now were in Rebel­lion; had forfeited any claim to the least Favour, but had deserv'd and incurr'd wrath to the uttermost; for Rebels of the Gentiles in particular who had been Enemies in their minds by wicked works; even these has He reconciled. So they say, the Generous Con­querors [Page 10]of old in the day of their Triumph, were wont not only to reward their Friends and faithful Souldiers with munificent Gifts, but to show Acts of Grace also to their very Captives. The ascending Saviour gave His Divine Gifts even for and to His Crucifiers.

THAT the Lord God might dwell among them; says the Psalmist. That He might set up a Church in a rebellious world,Henry. in which He would dwell by His Word and Ordinances, as of old in the Sanctuary. So says the Apostle in the verses after our Text; these Gifts from the Ascended Saviour were given for the per­fecting of the Saints, for the work of the Mini­stry, for the Edifying the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, &c—. That is in one word, for the building up a Church, and for the Edification of Souls in Know­ledge Faith and Holiness unto Salvation.

AND now we come more particularly to consider what these Gifts of the Ascend­ed Saviour to His Church were, and those the Apostle specifies and enumerates: He gave some Apostles, some Prophets, &c—.

YOU observe that only Offices are named, but Qualifications are supposed; Christ never gave Offices without a suitable [Page 11]measure of Gifts for the discharge of them; which are here therefore represented in their variety and diversity; some Ordinary, others Extraordinary.

1. Extraordinary Offices and divine Gifts agreeable to them: some Apostles, some Pro­phets, some Evangelists.

THE Apostles had an Immediate Call to their Office,Pool. a Universal Com­mission, Infallibility in teaching, and the power of working Miracles; they were Prophets and more than Prophets, being commissioned and gifted in an excellent manner for the first founding of the Chri­stian Church in all parts of the World.

NEXTLY Prophets: These also were Extraordinary Officers, whom God endow­ed to foretel things to come, and expound the writings of the old Prophets; they In­terpreted Scripture by Immediate Revela­tion.

Thirdly Evangelists. These likewise were Extraordinary Officers, ordained by the A­postles as their Companions and Assistants in preaching the word and planting Churches in the places where they had travelled. Such we esteem Timothy and Titus and Apollos and others to have been.

[Page 12] THESE Extraordinary Gifts and Officers were necessary in the first planting of Chri­stianity, and ceased with that Extraordinary Occasion for them.

2. THE Ordinary and standing Officers of the Church of Christ follow: Pastors and Teachers: Bishops and Elders: who are set over the Churches as Guides and Instru­cters, to rule and teach. They are one and the same Office, and accordingly joyned by the Holy Ghost.

IN short, The Institution of a Gospel Mi­nistry is the thing here taught, and that it is the Gift of our Ascended Saviour to His Church, and to continue in it to the End of the World.

I will only add, to carry on the Harmony between the Psalmist and the Apostle, be­tween the Prophecy and its Fulfilment; That this variety of Offices and Gifts; Superior and Inferior,Mollierus. Ordinary and Extraodinary, the one ex­celling so much the other in Glory, for the building of the Spiritual Temple of Christ; do well answer unto the Princely Gifts which David dedicated for the building of Solomon's Temple, and the Ark's. Ascent thereinto and final Rest therein. The Apostles, Prophets [Page 13]and Evangelists, and the Gifts of Inspirati­on, Tongues, Prophecies, Miracles, &c. these shine like the Consecrated Gold; and let it suffice Us the Ordinary Ministers of Re­ligion, and be accounted too great Riches committed to us, if we may but be used and serve as the Silver Vessels in the house of God, and may but be able to bring our Of­ferings of Brass or Hair.

BUT I hasten to the Doctrine, hoping you will forgive me that I have been so tedious in commenting upon such a Copious Text.

DOCT. That the Institution of a Gospel Mi­nistry, and Qualification of persons smith are to be esteemed among The Rich Gifts of our Ascended Saviour to a sinful World, and the glorious Fruits of His Ascention. When he ascended on high, He gave Gifts [...] some Apostles, &c.

WE may take the Doctrine into these fol­lowing Proposions.

  • 1. That our Lord Je­sus Christ has Instituted and Ordained a Gospel Ministry.
  • 2. That He furnishes and qualifies Men for it, with a variety of Di­vine and Heavenly Gifts.
  • 3. That they are the rich Gift of Christ unto a sinful World.
  • [Page 14] 4. That it is the glorious Fruit of His As­cention.

I. OUR Lord Jesus Christ has Instituted and Ordained a Gospel Ministry, to continue in His Church, and for the Edification of it unto the End of the World.

THE Saviour of Men has had, hath, and ever will have a Church in the World. This has existed the same, under the various Me­thods and Dispensations of Religion and of the Covenant of Grace, which have been from Adam to this day, and so will it be by the power and grace of God unto the End of Time. In this Church of the Living God there ever has been the Ministry of Men, and of some particular persons whom God has called, endowed, and in diverse manner authorized to Minister in holy things unto others, for their Souls Good. Of the Patri­archal Age we can say but little more than this, that the venerable Fathers of the seve­ral Religious Families and Tribes have been esteemed both Princes and Priests to them; no doubt praying with and blessing their hou­sholds, instructing and charging them accor­ding to the will of God, receiving their Offerings and offering up Sacrifices, and lead­ing in the Spiritual Sacrifices of praise unto [Page 15]God. No doubt too, but there were Extra­ordinary Prophets raised up and inspired and sent by God with His will in their mouths upon Occasion; as well as more Ordinary Revelations of Heaven to the Holy Men that walked with God, as Enoch, Noah and Abra­ham did.

ENOCH prophecy'd in his day of the Judgment yet to come, the second Coming of our Lord; as the Apostle Jude informs us. Noah was a Preacher of Righteousness in his Generation, and the Longsuffering of God endured them for a great while under the Endeavours of his holy Ministry. Abraham we know was a faithful Father to his nu­merous Houshold, to instruct them in and command them after him to keep the way of the Lord.

AND thus things continued untill the Descent of the House of Israel into Egypt; where neither were their Posterity left al­together we may think without Instruction; but when God visited them by the Mission of Moses, and had bro't them thence by an outstretched Arm, He then came down on Sinai, and gave them the Law by the disposition of Angels, in thunders and light­nings; which threw them into such terrors [Page 16]that they humbly beso't of God that He would no more speak unto them immediate­ly Himself, but by the Mouth and Ministry of Moses; solemnly promising that they would obediently hearken unto all that he should speak to them in the Name of the LORD. GOD approv'd of this discreet and wise Motion which they made, and took up Moses into the Mount, and there and thence forward instructed him in His whole Mind and Will for the Religion and Government of that His chosen People.

HE then Instituted among them, as His Ordinances of Worship and Sabbaths, so the Ministry of the Priests and Levites; who were to serve at His Altar, and to teach thro' the Land in their several Dispersions the Statutes and Commandments of God. Their lips were to preserve Knowledge, and the people were to seek the Law at their Mouth. God inspired also His Holy Prophets; and sent them with particular Revelations and Messages, as it pleased Him; and thus the Ministry of Religion continued in the House of Aaron, even till the coming of Christ.

OUR LORD JESUS was that Great Pro­phet which God had promis'd to His people [Page 17] Israel that He would raise up of their Brethren, like unto Moses, and put his words in his mouth, and require it of them that should not hearken unto him.

NOW as soon as our LORD began His publick Ministry, He also called and Ordain­ed the twelve Apostles, and sent them forth to preach the Kingdom of God; and after them the Lord appointed other Seventy also, and sent them two and two before His face, into every City and Place, whither He him­self wou'd come. Thus they ministred un­der Christ all the time that the Lord went in and out among them, unto the day that they saw Him taken up into Heaven. Just before which, He renewed His Commission unto them, and extended it unto all whom He shou'd call to minister in holy things e­ven to the End of the World. Mat. ult. And Jesus came and spake unto them saying; All power is given to me in Heaven and in Earth; go ye therefore and teach all nations, Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of—.

HERE our Lord first asserts His own Commission and Authority, and then seals His to us. He did not go beyond His power, nor did He assume or usurp any; but all power is given to Him in Heaven and Earth. [Page 18]He has a legal Title, and a full Possession; He is Invested in it, Inaugurated and En­throned for ever. And He gives Commi­ssion not only to the Apostles, tho' to them primarily, as the chief Ministers of His King­dom; but to their successors also, the Mi­nisters of the Gospel from age to age, to the worlds End. He assures them of His Spiri­tual Presence with them in their preaching His Word, and administring His Institu­tions; and that it shall be constant and per­petual; lo, I am with you always even to the End, &c. His Spirit is with His servants to assist them, and in His Ordinances to give them Success and Efficacy.

AGREEABLY to this Commission the whole New Testament abounds with the Ac­counts of the Ministry of the Apostles & Evan­gelists, their Ordaining and Instructing and sending others to preach the Gospel; the Qualifications Duties and Labours incum­bent upon Ministers are laid down, and Ex­hortations and Charges given unto fidelity in this sacred Office; many Titles and Names of honour and trust are given them; they are called Ministers of Christ, Stew­ards of the Mysteries of God, Ambassadors for Christ, Overseers, Watchmen for Souls [Page 19]that must give an Account, and Labourers in the Word and Doctrine, and Angels of the Churches; And finally, Christian peo­ple are upon all these Accounts required to Acknowledge them and highly Esteem them in love, to count them worthy of double Honour, to Communicate for their Sup­port, and to obey and submit to them.

THUS our Lord Jesus has Instituted a Gospel Ministry in His Church.

II. He furnishes and qualifies Men for it with a variety of Divine and Heavenly Gifts; He gifts them for His Church, and gives them to His Church.

HE is the True Light which lighteth e­very Man that cometh into the World: the Original and Fountain of every kind and degree of worthy Gifts, wherewith one Per­son and another are Adorned and Enriched. Whether they be common Gifts or saving Graoes, they are all derived and received from Jesus Christ. The Endowments of An­gels as well as those of Men are so; In Him was life, and the life was the light of Men. "That life which is the light of Men comes "from Jesus Christ: the life in Man is light, for he is made a living Soul. The light of Reason is common to Men and all reason­able [Page 20]Creatures, and derived from the Eternal Logos or Word, by whom and for him, the Thrones and Dominions in Heaven were created as well as Man upon Earth. By the Publication of the Gospel, and by the Ope­ration of His Spirit, He lighteth all those that are enlightned to Salvation. Our Lord Jesus both in His Eternal God-head, and also as Mediator and Redeemer, is the giver of every good Gift to us, and of His fulness we all have received and Grace for Grace. All Apostles, and all Believers after them: both the favour of Apostleship, and fitness for it.

CHRIST calls none to any Trust and Office in His Kingdom whom He does not gift and qualify for their place in it. If Qualifications be wanting, we may be sure they have no Divine Call and Separation of God thereunto. I mean here some com­petent measure of Gifts, for whose are e­qual to this high and holy Service? When God has called men to Extraordinary Offi­ces and Service, He has gifted them in ex­traordinary manner; as He did the Pro­phets and Apostles. But a more common and ordinary Measure of suitable Gifts may suffice for more common and ordinary Trusts and Services; which therefore are to be [Page 21]acquired in the use of ordinary Means, by diligent study and prayer, under the com­mon gracious Influences of the Holy Spirit. Inspiration is not to be look'd for on any ordinary Occasion, nor the gift of Tongues, nor the working of Miracles.

CHRIST will give that which is requi­site where He calls any one to His Ministry; but He requires and expects too Diligence and Labour with many Prayers and humble Dependance on Him on our part; and that we have an awful sense of the great Know­ledge and Learning necessary, especially in the Holy Scriptures; and greater measures yet of Sanctity and Holiness, and the con­tinual Divine Influence to Incline, Spirit and Animate us, and also to succeed and prosper us; that our studies and labours may not be in vain in the Lord.

HE the Head of all glorious Influence to the Church chuses whom He will send and imploy in it, He makes men to differ in Gifts, which in various Manner and Mea­sures He bestows as pleases Him, on whom He will; and then by whom He will He worketh.

THE Holy Spirit of Grace is pour'd out on the Church for that End; to furnish some [Page 22]for the Edification of others, and by their Ministry to bring in the Elect to believe and be saved. The Holy Ghost is substituted ‘and given forth by our Lord Je­sus Personally to promote and effectuate His Mediation for God with Men.Dr. Scot. He is now the other Ad­vocate to inforce the Ministry of Men on Christ's behalf:’ even the Spirit of Truth, which abides with His Church for ever to this End. He qualify'd and furnish d the A­postles for their service, and so He does Or­dinary Ministers for theirs till the worlds End. As long as Christ shall have a Church up­on the Earth, the Holy Ghost is vitally uni­ted to it, as One speaks well, even as the Soul to the Body; for as there is one Body, the Church, so there is one Spirit; as our Context has it: and this one blessed Spirit of Grace works every saving and gracious Ef­fect that is produced by the Ministry of Men; Enlightning, Sanctifying, Quickning and Comforting the Souls of His chosen and called, and being in them the Spirit of Supplication. He is the Spirit of the Son sent forth into the hearts of the Elect.

BUT He works in and by the Ministry of Men. Not that He needs them or their [Page 23]Ministries to him, but this is the Reasonable and Gracious way which He Himself has ordained and sanctify'd unto our Use. We must look and wait for Him in His own way, and therein expect His free and effica­cious Operations. He will work by whom He will work, and whom He will use He prepares for the use which He pleases to make of him.

AS the Father sanctify'd and sent Christ in­to the world, and gave Him the Spirit with­out Measure; so Christ hath sent His Mi­nisters, and furnish'd them with measures of Gifts and Graces from His Holy Spirit.

HEAR how graciously and with what Solemnity our Saviour speaks of it in His Prayer for His Apostles, and in them for all that should believe in him thro' their word: Joh. 17.17, 18, 19. Sanctify them thro' thy truth, thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world; and for their sakes I sanctify my self, that they also might be sanctify'd thro' the truth.

THE blessed Prayer is, Sanctify them as Ministers to thy Service; qualify them with Christian Graces and Ministerial Gifts; own them in the Office and let thy Hand go with them: For this cause I Sanctify, i. e. [Page 24] devote my self an Offering that they may be qualified from above and accepted with God both as Saints and Ministers. Thus Christ gave Himself for His Church to sanctify it. And for the Sanctification of Believers He sanctifies His Ministers: Joh. 21, 22. Jesus said again to them, Peace be unto you; as my Father hath sent me, even so have I sent you (Qualify'd and Furnish'd as well as Autho­riz'd and Commission'd;) and when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said unto them, receive the Holy Ghost.

III. THE Ministers of Christ, whom He qua­lifies and furnishes with Ministerial Gifts and Graces are a very rich Gift of Christ to a sinful World. Manifold is the Riches of His Grace unto them whom He qualifies, and when He has so Inriched them Great is the Rich­ness of His Gift in them unto the Souls of Men. All His Gifts to them is so much Grace to His Church, and to render them a Gift worthy of Himself, and of His love un­to Souls.

LET me lay before you two Texts here; for I cannot pretend to enter into a proper Method or Enlargement on this head, on which a great many worthy things might be copiously said: The first Text shall speak [Page 25]the greatness of the thing for God to furnish a Ministry, the second to give it to His Church. The first is in the 2 Cor. 3.5, 6. Not that we are sufficient of our selves to think any thing, as of our selves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able Mi­nisters of the New Testament. The other is in the 1 Cor. 3. ult. Therefore let no man glo­ry in man, for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas—, all are yours, and ye are Christs, and Christ is Gods. Thus God forms a glorious Ministry in the world, to be His glorious Gift to it.

AND do but consider the End to which He forms it, and the glorious Effect which under His Blessing it produces, and it will appear to be an Illustrious and Magnificent Gift of Heaven. It is instituted in the hand of the Holy Ghost, and under that Revelation which God has made of Himself and of His Will and Grace to men, to be the means of the Illumination, Conversion and Salvation of the World. And what can be more Noble or Important than this End? at least what more glorious in our Eyes, to whom is the word of this Salvation sent, and the Mini­stry of Reconciliation committed? One Soul is of an Invaluable Price; but what then is [Page 26]the Salvation of Millions of Immortal Spi­rits, that were perishing in Ignorance, Corruption and Spiritual Bondage and Death!

MEN and Brethren, if your Souls are of any worth in your own Eyes, so must you value and set a price on the means of your Instruction unto the Kingdom of God, the means of their Sanctification, and Perseve­rance in Grace unto Glory.

THESE are the Servants of the most High God, which shew you the way of Salvation: God has Endowed, Commissioned and sent them on that service to you; at the urgent ne­cessity and on the account of the perishing Condition of your Souls, and their own too, and a Million Millions of others besides you: and will you not reverence this Gift of Christ to you? how should you believe in Christ and be saved, if these were not sent to preach Him to you, and as Ambassadors from Christ to beseech and pray you in Christs stead to be reconciled to God?

WE then as workers together with God beseech you not to receive His Grace in vain: not to make light of it, not to treat it with Con­tempt. Look not upon Us nor our Office as a mean or insignificant thing, but suffer [Page 27]me to speak in God's behalf and to magni­fy my Office, this Ministry which we have receiv'd of the Lord Jesus.

SAY not,— this foolishness of Preaching, seeing is pleases God by it to save them that believe. Weak as it is, by it God has con­founded the pride of the world, for the world by wisdom knew not God. But in the preached Gospel, God and the way of your Recovery from Sin and Hell, to Holiness and Heaven, is revealed; and the glory both of His Grace and Justice is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. Let a man therefore so account of us as of the Ministers of Christ, and Stewards of the Myste­ries of God; if so be that we may but be found Faithful; which we are while we stand to and act up to our Commission. And I will just read to you how the Apostle teaches us to stand by it, and triumph in it, and there­in commends our Ministry to the Consci­ences of our People: It is in the Close of the 2 Chap. of the 2 Epistle to the Corinthians, and the beginning of the 3. Chap. Now thanks be to God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his Knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto GOD a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we [Page 28]are the savour of Death unto Death, and to the other the savour of Lise unto Life: and who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many which corrupt the word of GOD; but as of Sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

DO we begin again to commend our selves? or need we as some others Epistles of Commenda­tion to you, or Letters of Commendation from you? Ye are our Epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: for as much as ye are ma­nifestly declared to be the Epistle of Christ, mi­nistred by us, written not with Ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in Tables of Stone, but in fleshly Tables of the Heart. And such Trust have we thro' Christ to God-ward.

O might We bespeak You after this man­ner, who are our respective Charges, and had we this proof of our Mission to you from God in your Consciences; we should need no more to convince you, we should desire nothing more to satisfy you of the greatness of the Gift of Christ to His Church in the Ministry which He has Ordained in it.

IT only remains now in the fourth and last place to Observe,

IV. THAT this blessed Gift of God to His Church, an Instituted Gospel Ministry, and Per­sons [Page 29]qualify'd by Him for the Ministerial Office, are the glorious Fruit of the Ascention of our Lord Jesus Christ. When he ascended on high, He gave &c. He purchas'd them by His Death, He received them at His Ascention, and be­ing set down at the right hand of God He shed forth of His Holy Spirit. So while He was here on Earth He inform'd His Disci­ples that it was to be, and so He fulfilled His glorious Promise after He was taken from them. I will only lay before you the Prophecy and Promise, and the Event.

FOR the first let us look into the parting gracious Discourses of our Lord to His Disci­ples, just before His Apprehension and Cru­cifixion, and His Divine Prayer with and for them, as it is recorded by the Evangelist John. There our Lord tells His Disciples, that He would pray the Father, and He should give them another Comforter to abide with them for ever; even the Spirit of Truth. Joh. 14.15. This "was the Great New Testament promise, as that of the Messiah was of the Old Testament. Christ was the Consolation of Israel which the faithful were waiting for before He came into the world, and now that He was leav­ing the world and going to the Father He promis'd His Church another Comforter to [Page 30]supply His Bodily Presence, and to abide with them in His Absence. Another Para­clete, another Advocate, another Master and Teacher, or Exhorter; another Patron as some render it; This blessed Gift He promis'd upon His leaving them; the Spirit of Truth in all His saving Gifts and Operations. v. 18. I will not leave you Comfortless, I will come un­to you. Not only visit and comfort them once and again after His Resurrection; but after His Ascention be coming daily to them in His blessed Spirit, the visits of His Grace. Again, v. 25. These things have I spoken to you, being yet present with you; but the Comfor­ter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things. Here He bids them expect another Teacher on His Departure: one that should come in His name; as His Substitute, A­gent, Representative; for He is the Spirit of Christ, to carry on his undertaking: He was to teach them all things, and be in them the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation; to accomplish them for, assist them in, and carry them thro' their Ministry.

AGREEABLY we read again, Joh. 15.26, 27. When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit [Page 31]of Truth which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me; and ye also shall bear wit­ness—&c. Mr. Henry says, That we have more in this Verse concerning the HOLY GHOST, than in any one Verse besides in the Bible. Here is an account of him in his Essence or Subsistence rather, He the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father: The Emanation of Divine Light, the Ener­gy of Divine Power: as Heat and Influ­ence are of the Sun and yet are one with it. Again here is an account of this blessed Spi­rit in his Mission, Office and Operations. He was speedily then to come in a more plen­tiful Effusion of his Gifts, Graces and Pow­ers, than had ever yet been. Christ had been long the O Ercomenos, He that should come, but now the Holy Spirit was He. I will send him, said Christ, scil: upon my Ascention. I will pray the Father and he shall give him. It was to be the fruit of his Dominion, and Intercession within the vail. The Spirit was promis'd to come from Christ the Mediator, upon the Apostles, to instruct them in their preaching, to enable them for working, and to carry them thro' their Sufferings and Te­stimony. He testifies of Christ to this day in the preached Gospel, and by the mouth of his Ministers.

[Page 32] BUT there is yet a farther passage of our Saviours, wherein he told his Disciples that his own Departure was necessary unto the Coming of the Comforter, and that the Coming of the Spirit was absolutely necessary to the carrying on his Interest on Earth; for that he was to receive of him and to shew it unto them. Joh. 16.7, 14. Never­theless, I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not a way, the Com­forter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will convince the world &c. He shall not speak of himself—but he shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine and shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine, therefore said I, that he shall take of mine and shew it unto you.

THUS the Spirit of Grace was to come from the glorify'd Redeemer, to glorify him on Earth, by converting the world to him, by the Ministry of Men. The Gifts and Graces of the Spirit in the Apostles, and their prea­ching and writing under his blessed Influ­ence, were to display the power and glory of the Ascended Saviour; for in Operation as well as Essence He derives from the Son; He communicates and applies what Christ pur­chas'd; as Christ therefore has purchas'd [Page 33]all Spiritual Blessings and they are deli­vered to him by the Father, so they are de­livered by him to the Holy Spirit to be con­veyed to us, and conferred according to the Divine Eternal Purpose and Council, both as to persons, and as to ways and means; both foreknown; the one Chosen in Christ, the other Ordained by him.

TO have done, the last Order that our Saviour left with his Apostles just before his Ascention was that, Luk. 24.49. Behold I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry you at Jerusalem till ye be endued with power from on high. And Act. 1.4. He commanded them to wait for the promise of the Father, which said he ye have heard of me.

AND thus you see that this was the Pro­mise and Prediction of our LORD while he continued here on Earth with his Disciples, that after his Ascention the Holy Spirit should be poured out to qualify his Ministers for, and carry them through, and succeed them in their Ministry.

AND now let us see the Event, the Illu­strious Event, wherein this glorious Promise was fulfilled; which was upon this famous day of Pentecost, ten days after our Lord's Ascention: when the Disciples being met [Page 34]together in one place, assembled on the first Day of the Week for Worship, (as no doubt they had continued in Supplications and Prayers night and day, waiting obediently for the Descent and Supply of the Holy Spi­rit) suddenly there came a sound from Heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting; and there ap­peared cloven Tongues like as of fire and sat upon them; and they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with Tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This miraculous Event made a great Noise instantly in the City, up­on so great a Festival, and the multitude gathered together, dispersed Jews out of every Nation under Heaven, who were amazed and confounded to hear these unlearned Galileans speak to them the wonderful works of God, in the several Languages of the Nations where they were dispersed. But Peter stood up, in­spired and filled with the Descended Spirit of Truth and Grace, and explain'd the a­mazing Occurrence to them: He told them in short, That God had raised up the Crucified Jesus from the Dead, and had exalted him to his own right hand in the highest Heavens; for they had often seen and convers'd with Him after his Resurrection, and at last they saw [Page 35]him ascend bodily into Heaven; and that now having receiv'd of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he shed Him down upon them in what they now saw and heard.

THUS the Holy Ghost was given when Je­sus was glorified, i. e. after his Ascention, and not till then; i. e. in the fullest Effusion of his Heavenly Gifts and Graces. And there­fore we are to esteem the instituted, quali­fy'd and prosperous Ministry of the Gospel, to be the Gift of Christ as Ascended, reigning and Interceding for us at the right hand of God, and made the Head and fountain of all divine Influence and saving Blessings to the Church: as we read, Eph. 1.22, 23. And hath put all things under his feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things unto his Church; Which is his body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

AND thus I have in the plainest manner I could, but I fear too tedious, opened and prov'd the Doctrine; That the Institution of a Gospel Ministry, and the Qualification of Persons for it are to be esteemed among the rich Gifts of the Ascended Saviour. And now I should pro­ceed to apply the Doctrine.

BUT such a world of awful and just Re­flections offer themselves upon the great Truths [Page 36]that have been set before you, that I am a­fraid to venture even upon the hinting at them after this length which I have already allow'd my self. And yet I needs must.

1. We see (my Brethren) the Glory of the Lord Jesus, and his Grace to us: 1. His Glory: in the verity of his Resurrection and Ascen­tion, the perfection of his Sacrifice, the height of his Exaltation, the dignity of his State, his high Dominion, Supremacy, and Exercise of Rule and Government, both in the Kingdom of Providence and Grace. Let us look to Him where he is, and where we hope e're long to be, and behold his Glory.

2. WE see his gracious care of, and love and mercy to a miserable sinful world, that He has instituted a Ministry of Religion in it, that he has given forth his Holy Spirit to sanctify Persons thereunto, gift and qualify them for it; incline and spirit, succeed and prosper them in it. He is the Rock, his work is perfect. To Him we must ascribe all the Glory that there is to be seen in Men or Means. They that are qualify'd and call'd and us'd by him, must put it far from them­selves; and people must turn off their Eyes from their Ministers, to their Ascended Sa­viour, for who is Paul or who is Apollos, save [Page 37]Ministers by whom ye believed. If Peter and John were here to preach to you by Inspi­ration, to work Miracles, and which is more to convert Thousands at a time to Christ; yet would they not suffer you to look ear­nestly at them, as if by their power or holi­ness any thing were done; no, they would tell us, but God has glorified His Son Jesus, and to his Name, thro' Faith in his Name, must every Divine Effect be solely attributed.

2. OUR Doctrine does great Honour to the Mi­nisterial Office, and to them that are in it, or are designed for it. Who would not desire to be a part of this precious Gift to a perishing world for the Salvation of Souls! I thank Christ Je­sus our Lord, said Holy Paul, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me in­to the Ministry! O the glorious Gospel of the blessed God (says he) committed to my trust. Ministers are Angels, and Stars in the Church; high and awful is their Station; they must serve with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

3. THE means of Education are a blessed Gift of Heaven to a Land: Our Schools, our Colleges and the Sons of the Prophets there that excell in Diligence, in Science and in early Piety. The Schools had Elijahs last Visitation be­fore his Ascention, and ever since our Lord's [Page 38]Ascention they have His. There he selects the happy favourite Youth, adorns him with Gifts and Graces, inclines and devotes him to sacred Services, designs him his eminent Use and Services in the World, and calls him forth from thence into his Church and King­dom among Men, makes him a burning and a shining Light and sets him up in his Can­dlestic, to give light in the world. How many such rich Gifts of Christ have the Churches receiv'd from our College? how singular a Blessing has it herein been made unto the Land?

4. OUR Doctrine would put persons on dedi­cating themselves to the Holy Work of the Mini­stry, and Parents on devoting their goodliest Sons thereunto: Give them, O give your selves, un­to the service of your Ascended Lord, that he may make you worthy Gifts unto his Church. And O what Diligence should Can­didates for the Ministry be put upon in the use of proper means, study, prayer, humility, with purity of Aim and Intention at the glory of God, usefulness in the world, the benefit of others, and the saving your own Souls? Yea how thankful should they be for the Gifts of God to them, natural and ac­quired Parts, the love of Study, an Inclina­tion [Page 39]to his Service, a hearty and fervent de­sire to do good in the world, and especially to labour in the Salvation of Souls. Again, how careful should they be to do nothing which may provoke God to deny unto them his Gifts, or to take them away from 'em? but to do every thing whereby they may keep themselves in the love of God, and come behind in no Gift.

5. THE Doctrine would direct people in chu­sing a Minister or Pastor, to be over them in the Lord: which as it is their undoubted right, so they are accountable to Christ how they improve it for the good of their own Souls and their Families. They ought surely to covet earnestly the best Gift of Heaven they can find prepared for them and offer'd to them. Chuse One who may be indeed a Gift of Heaven to you: One whom Christ has gifted and accomplisht for his work, One that most visibly shines in the Spirit of Christ and of Grace, One whom you may hope Christ will own, One that has a zeal for Christ and Holiness, and for the Souls of Men.

TOO many there are that are ready to intrude without either Gifts or Graces into the sacred Work of the Ministry; and too many [Page 40]seem careless whether the Person whom they chuse have either, if so be they may but have him cheap. Such a Person may be se­parated to the Ministry of the Gospel by the hands of Men, and I may add by the pro­fane will of a People, but Christ never gave nor sent him. Great care should be taken that unqualify'd persons be not received into this Holy Office, for Christ will disown and disclaim their being his Gifts to men.

6. OUR Doctrine would comfort and encou­rage those that are in the Ministry, and desire to be found Faithful in the wighty Trust: You have (my Reverend Brethren and Fathers) the glorious LORD and SAVIOUR in the Heavens to be looking to and relying on, to supply you with Gifts and Graces, to support and comfort you in all your Diffi­culties, to protect and defend you in his Service, and to succeed you in his Work. He reigns above, and has said to you, All power is given to me in Heaven and Earth, go ye therefore. In this his Might and Name go forth therefore and go on. You and your work are his special Care, and while he go­verns the World, his gracious Eye is upon the little Flock his Church therein. This Man at the right hand of God stands also among [Page 41]the Myrtle trees in the bottom; and Angels re­ceive their Orders and make their Motions as the Needs of his humble and feeble Rem­nant do require. He walks in the midst of his golden Candlestics, and he holds the Stars in his right hand. Rev. 2.1. In his hand which speaks his tender Care of them, his right hand which speaks his power.

7. HOW Diligently should Ministers improve all their Gifts for Christ; labouring to approve themselves as the Gifts of so glorious a Lord unto His Church: For Men do not light a Candle to put it under a Bushel. How lamentable was it that the Shield of Saul was at last vilely thrown away as tho' He had not been Anointed with Oyl! ‘Having therefore gifts differing according to the Grace of God which is given to us, let us wait on our Ministring, on Teaching, on Exhortation, and on the Rule committed to us, with Diligence. Let us, as becomes our Relation to God and Souls, follow after Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Patience, Meek­ness; fight the good Fight and lay hold on Eternal Life. Let us study to be Examples to the flock, in Word, in Con­versation, in Spirit, in Faith, in Purity. Let us preach the word, be instant, in [Page 42]season &c. reprove, rebuke &c. Let us hold fast the faithful word, and feed the flock of God that is among us, his Lambs and his Sheep, willingly and of a ready mind.’

LET us study how to behave our selves in the house of God, and to shew our selves approved workmen that need not be asha­med &c. Let us be sound in the Faith, always speaking the things which become sound Doctrine; with meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; being gentle unto all men, apt to teach. Let us labour to be­come mighty in the Scriptures; and to preach not our selves but Christ Jesus the Lord, and our selves the servants of Souls for Jesus sake. Let us give attention to Reading, to Exhortation, to Doctrine; shewing Uncoruptness, Gravity, Sincerity, and sound Speech which &c. Let us o­pen our mouths boldly, to make known the Mystery of the Gospel; that thereof we may speak so as we ought to speak; as able Ministers of the New Testament, not of the Letter, but of the Spirit. Let us meditate therefore on divine things, and give our selves to Prayer and to the Ministry of the word; let us give our [Page 43]selves wholly to them and continue in them, that we may both save our selves and those that hear us.

Let us remember how we have been charged awfully unto all this, and have obliged our selves, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall judge the quick and the dead, at his Appearing and Kingdom: And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a Crown of Glory which fadeth not away.

8. WITH what Thankfulness and Esteem ought persons to entertain the Ministry of Christ? and reverence their faithful Pastors, as the preci­ous Gift of the Ascended Saviour to them? Peo­ple and places should carefully seek the settlement of the Gospel among them, ho­nourably support the Ministry thereof, give a hearty welcome and receive gladly the Salvation bro't to their Houses; and every way encourage and comfort the Hearts of their Ministers in the work of the Lord; especially by esteeming them highly in love for the Words sake, and yielding a willing sub­jection to their Instructions, Admonitions, Counsels, and profiting under the same.

LET it not be that Heaven casts its Pearls before Swine, that do but turn and rend instead [Page 44]of reverencing the feet of them that bring the glad Tydings of Peace. Too many are the places that put far from them the Ministry of Christ, and count themselves unworthy of Eternal Life; they ignorantly and profanely despise the Gospel, for they do not know the Gift of God: they abuse, revile and vi­lify him that wears the name of a Minister. But this is as Christ himself was rejected of Men, and if they have called the master of the House Beelzebub, what shall they not call them of his Houshold? But Christ resents highly the Contempt done unto his Heavenly Gift: Luk. 10.10, 11. Into whatsoever City ye enter and they receive you not, go out into the streets of the same and say, Even the very dust of your City which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be you sure of this, that the Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

VERILY there are too many that do not seem to esteem their Ministers, however fur­nish'd and faithful they be, as the rich Gift of Christ to them: in some places they starve them, rating them and their Labours at a vile and cheap price; in some places they grieve and break the hearts of their Ministers by personal disrespects, in others by Conten­tions and Quarrels among themselves; and [Page 45]let me add, that if it be only by Unprofitable­ness under the Labours of your Ministers you show the little regard you have, and the small account you make of them and of Him that sends them. But beyond all, How evil is it to revile, disparage and expose to con­tempt, to bely and slander the Ministry of a Land; and thro' the Grace of God too a Body of Ministers second but to few places of like numbers, for Ministerial Gifts and Graces, Diligence and Labours both as to Study and Preaching, and other Instances of a Pastoral Fidelity and Watch; to repre­sent them in Satyr to their Churches thro' the Land as Traitors to Christ and to the Churches, ignorantly or knowingly betray­ing them in their best Interests which they ought to defend and maintain; to represent them as a part of the Army of Gog and Ma­gog compassing about the Camp of the Saints of God and the beloved Gity; to make the Churches believe (if they can indeed be made to believe it) that their Ministers are dange­rous Persons, not to be trusted by reason of their corrupt Principles or Designs: how Evil must this be? For indeed were this true, it must then be confessed that the pre­sent Ministry of this Land is no Gift of Christ [Page 46]unto these Churches, but a sore and heavy Judgment on them. The word of God unto his Ministers under this present trial is that, 2 Cor. 6. [...], 8. Approving your selves as the Mini­sters of Christ in much Patience;— by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report, as deceivers and yet true, as unknown and yet well known.

9. AND lastly, We learn from our Doc­trine the Reasonableness of our present Prayers to God this day. We are come together to ask a great and blessed Gift from our Ascended Saviour to this sinful Flock of His; even the Union of our hearts in the Election of some Person into the Pastoral Office among us, whom He shall please to qualify and accomplish herefor, encline and spirit unto fidelity herein, and make a rich and singular Blessing to us and our Chil­dren after us: to the Town also together with us, and to the Land. Such Gifts are with our Lord Jesus to bestow, and he dispenses them from Heaven freely even to the Rebel­lious. He himself has bid us pray the Lord of the Harvest that he will thrust forth Labourers into His Harvest: and he has promis'd to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him, and to give his people (and his repenting back­sliding people too) Pastors after his own Heart. Jer. 3.15.

[Page 47] WE come this day to pray for all our Holy Brethren, both Ministers and People together, that the Lords Ministers may be cloathed with Righteousness and Salvation, and his Saints be made to shout for joy: to pray for the Candi­dates for the Ministry in particular, that our Colleges may be replenished with every good and perfect Gift from God the Father of Lights, and that the Spirit of Grace may rest in double Portions on the Sons of the Prophets.

WE are here this day to confess our utter unworthiness to receive any such Gift from God, which yet he has bid us most earnest­ly to covet and to seek. We are here to be­wail all the forfeitures we have made of such a Mercy. We therefore seek it only in the Name of our Ascended Saviour, and from his gracious Hands, of his fulness, and the riches of his glorious Grace. If we do not ask amiss, surely we may receive; for it is a Petition every way agreeable to his Holy Will. Why has Christ received such Gifts for Men but to bestow them? Why has he gifted Men but to give them to his Church? or why else has he inclined them whom he has gifted to give themselves to the Service of the Church? Ask then with Humiliation, [Page 48]Faith and true Desire, and receive, that your Joy may be full. Such a Gift was always meant to be sought and obtain'd by Prayer; and the Gift is greatned to us when it is thus obtained.

THE united Prayers of our Brethren with us this day should strengthen our Faith and fervency in the Prayers of the day. For has not our Lord said unto us concerning the Acceptableness and Efficacy of joynt Prayer with God, with which words I will Conclude, Mar. 18.19. I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on Earth, as touching any thing that ye shall ask, it shall be done for you of my Father which is in Heaven.

IF two agree it shall be done, how much more if many agree in the Petition. Let us Agree my Brethren. God unite our hearts to make one Voice in Prayer; and God unite our hearts to his own Glory in the Choice proposed by us.

FINIS.

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