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may tend to debase their ministry; not using any scurrilous words, or contemptuous behaviour towards them; because the disrespect cast upon them is an affront to their master, whose person they represent.
It may be we are deprived of other opportuniPray for,
ties of doing them any substantial service, yet it is in the power of the meanest of us all to address to heaven in their behalf; that they may be defended from the malice and ill-will of bad men ; that they may have the countenance and protection of the great and powerful; that their zealous labours in God's vineyard may be attended with success, and that they may turn many to righteousness, according to the gospel of Christ.
We must obey our spiritual governors in all their injunctions that are contained within the bounds of their commission ; in submitting to that disci
pline they shall inflict, either to recover us from a state of folly, or to preserve us from falling into such a state ; from a pure sense of that right they have to command, entrusted to them by our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of that great penalty we are liable to by our contempt; for he that despiseth them, despiseth him that sent them. We are accordingly charged to obey them that have the rule over us, and to submit ourselves, because they watch for our souls, as they that must give an account.
VI. From whence we learn that it is no dimiThe priest- nution to greatness of birth, or any personal excel
lency, to be devoted to the ministration of God's
holy word and facraments. We speak here particularly of the christian priesthood; whose priests are called
the ministers of Christ, stewards of the mysteries Under the of God, to whom he hath committed the word of gospel.
reconciliation, the glory of Christ, ambassadors for Christ, in Christ's stead, co-workers with him, angels of the churches. Because they act by commission from him, they are his officers and immediate attendants, and in a particular manner the servants of his house. They
They are employed in his particular business, impowered and authorized to negociate and transact for God, in all the outward administrations of
hood is honourable,
the covenant of grace, or of reconciliation, between God and man, by commission from Jesus Christ.
Thus under the gospel they are instituted to dispense spiritual food for the nourishment of christians, to feed them with God's holy word and facraments,
Why orspeak the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world; which is committed to their care to be preserved entire from being maimed or perverted, as the facraments are to be rightly and duly administred to his people. For which end and purpose they were ordained by Christ himself, the great Shepherd and Bishop of our fouls
, who glorified not himself to be an high priest; but had his commiffion from God the Father, and after his resurrection, invested his apostles with the same commiffion his Father had given him before ; which evidently contains an authority of ordaining others, and a power of transferring that commission upon others so long as the world endures. Wherefore, without his express commission, no man ought to take upon
himfelf, or communicate to others, a power to sign and seal covenants in the name of Christ.
VII. The apostles and their successors exercised this commission in all places, and even in opposition to the rulers that then were ; so that the church subsisted quired of as a distinct fociety from the state till the fourth them who century. Whence we infer, that great purity of life is required of those that are invested with such an honourable character, whereby they may in some measure be qualified to administer in holy things, and by their example, guide those they instruct by their doctrine, which is of Christ; ard that it is an argument of a prophane temper to contemn those who are commissioned by God himself to that facred office.
VIII. For though they may be inferior to others in some human accomplishments; yet God hath promised particularly to assist then in the faithful discharge by God. of their holy office, and has blessed them with many personal qualifications to challenge our esteem and respect. For, as long as piety and virtue, learning and knowledge, have any credit and reputation in the world, and men are concerned that others should be formed to the fame valuable
What is re
service to men.
principles, that their minds should be cultivated, and their manners regulated ; so long the clergy will have a good title to the honour and esteem of all those that are truly wise and good. Did we only consider the method of their
very of superior education, we shall find it would give them great
advantages for their improvement in all sorts of necessary and polite learning, and raise them above the level of those with whom they are equal in other circumstances ; and the subject of their constant studies being matters of piety and religion, it is reasonable to suppose, they live under more lively and stronger impressions of another world, than the rest of mankind; and experience sufficiently convinces us how much the nobility and gentry of the kingdom are beholden to their care for those impressions of piety and knowledge,
which are stamped upon their education, and difTheir great fufed into their families. For, even in the most
ignorantages, what learning flourished was in their
body, and by their care was conveyed down to us. They have been in the most dissolute times the greatest examples of piety, and we have yet remaining eminent monuments of their magnificent, as well as useful charities.
And should it happen that the ministers of God may not act suitably to the dignity of their cha
racter, yet we must not contemn them: for, their character should certainly defend them from contempt, and the relation they have to God, should secure them from ill treatment, in order to which it is necessary to consider, that as there is an inherent holiness, whereby mens actions and affections are in some measure conformable to the laws of God, in which sense good men in all ages were esteemed holy; fo there is a relative holiness, which consists in some peculiar relation to God's service, which may be ascribed to things, times, places, and persons. Thus the Tribe of Levi was called the holy tribe, as those, that are dedicated to the service of Christ under the gospel, are called God's ministers; not that it was always true of them, that they walked before God in purity and piety, and turned many from iniquity; for too
How related to God.
often they have gone out of the way, and caused many to stumble at the law; but because they had a particular relation to God in the performance of that worship, which was then paid to him by his appointment. Wherefore,
IX. God knowing the hearts of men long before, did in his infinite wisdom invest another order or degree
The civil of men with a power to punish the evil doer, and magiftrates for the praise of them that do well, which is styled power in ec the sovereign magistracy, whose supremacy consists in ruling all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal ; to exercise their civil power in ecclesiastical causes, as well as over ecclesiastical persons, and in restraining with the civil sword the stubborn and evil doers. Wherefore, all persons in their dominions, spiritual as well as temporal, are subject to their authority; because when men become ministers in the church, they do not cease to be subjects of the state to which they belong. Every soul must be subject to the higher powers, which includes an apostle, an evangelist, or a prophet, as well as a tradesman, a gentleman, &c. Yet, by virtue of this supremacy, the ministring of God's word or of the sacraments, is not given to princes, because they are not invested with, nor have a sovereign disposal of, the power
of orders. Let it therefore be observed, that the pow- Cannot exer of the magistrate, when most full and absolute, ecute the does not extend either to use themselves, or com- priest's ofmunicate to others, those spiritual powers, which Christ left only to his apostles and their successors in the church : that we best shew our esteem of God's ordinance, and testify our value for the benefits of the priesthood, when we not only reverence their persons, but devoutly attend their spiritual administrations.
It would be therefore the greatest piece of presumption imaginable, to pretend to sign and feal covenants in God's name, without receiving any power and May punisha authority from him in order thereto; as well as the highest insult to God's power, to plead that the attendance at the altar, is an exemption from the cognizance pf the civil powers, And,
evil mini. sters,
Now as to that objection, that many ministers are ob
noxious for their wicked lives. It is granted : Whose evil lives thould what then? Does their wickedness void the ordinot deter us nances of God? No. For though they may
be from our du- bad men, yet the effect of Christ's ordinances is
not taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such who receive the facraments rightly, and by faith, which are effectual by reason of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministred by evil men *.
may compare it to a pardon passed by an immoral king, ora sentence pronounced by a wicked judge, which are always looked upon as valid to all intents and purposes; because their efficacy depends not upon the qualifications of those in commission, but upon the sovereign authority,
from whence they both receive their commission so to do.
In like manner, the advantages we receive by their ministrations, and the relation they have to God, should still preserve some respect for the persons even of bad ministers. And therefore, as long as ministers are cloathed with flesh and blood, as well as other men, we ought not to be prejudiced against religion ; because some few are overcome by the follies and infirmities of mankind; but let us turn our eyes to the many remarkable instances of piety and devotion, of charity and sobriety, eminent among the sacred order : and they will rather confirm us in our holy faith ; since they, who have had the greatest opportunities to examine the grounds of religion, shew forth the truth and excellency of it, by their holy lives, suitable to their doctrine ; confidering at the same time, that the great difficulties and labours of their holy employment can never be supported, nor the hazards and dangers they are exposed to fulficiently conquered, without the particular assistance of the holy Spirit of God.
But where we have a thorough information of
their fcandalous lives, it is doubtless a better dewwards such. monstration of christian zeal, to make proof of it
before their lawful superiors ; that, being found guilty, they may by just judgment be deposed; than either
by See the 26th art. of the church of England.