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You are a church of ancient standing, and therefore are acquainted both with the duty and practice of it. God hath guided you to call them to office over and among you, who have been long experienced in the work of the ministry; so that I am sure neither they nor you stand in any need of my instruction, as to particular duties. Therefore I shall speak a word in general unto that which is the foundation of all our station, work, and duty, from these words, in
1 Cor. xii. 11.-But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. There is this disadvantage in preaching upon a particular occasion, especially for one who hath no more strength than I, that either we must omit insisting on the particular explication of the text, or be prevented in that which we aim at particularly from it. Both cannot be done ; therefore I shall only give you the substance of the words, in that proposition which I intend to insist upon; namely,
That it is the work of the Spirit of God in all ages of the church to communicate spiritual gifts, and abilities to those who are called, according unto his mind, to the ministry of the church, to enable them unto all evangelical administrations, to his glory, and the edification of the church.
Had I time, I would inquire into these two things : 1. Whether the Holy Ghost doth indeed continue to communicate spiritual gifts, distinct from natural endowments, and acquired abilities, to the discharge of the work of the ministry, to his glory, and the edification of the church. And, 2. Whether these spiritual gifts and abilities, so communicated, be not the material call to the work of the ministry, antecedently required to the formal call thereunto.
As to the first, It is opposed by them, who say, that these spiritual gifts we talk of, are nothing indeed but men’s natural and acquired abilities, with an ordinary blessing of
• This sermon was preached at an ordination, April 3, 1678.
God upon their ministry; and for other spiritual gifts, there are none.
As to the second, It is denied, that there is, or ought to be, an outward way, and order for calling men to the office of the ministry, and that a compliance therewith makes their call good, valuable, and lawful, whether they have of these gifts we talk of or no. And in these two lie all the con, tests about church order and worship, that we have in the world.
But I shall only speak in the general unto the above proposition, viz. That it is the work of the Holy Spirit, in providing of an able ministry of the New Testament, for the use of the church to the end of the world, to communicate to them who are called according to his mind, spiritual gifts and abilities, to enable them to the discharge of their duty, in the administration of all ordinances, to the glory of Christ, and the edification of the church. The proving of this one proposition, in which is the life of all gospel order, is all I shall do at this time.
And I shall do it in these following observations, prin- . ciples, and deductions from it.
First, Our Lord Jesus Christ hath faithfully promised, Matt. xxviii. 20. that he will be present with his church unto the end of the world. It is his temple and habitation 'wherein he dwells, and in which he walks. And this is that which essentially and fundamentally differenceth his church from any other assembly or society of men whatever. Let men cast themselves into what order they please, and let it be the order that they apprehend prescribed unto them in the Scripture; or let them invent a better for themselves, as they think ; and let them derive their title to power and authority whence they will; if Christ be not present with them, when they have done, they are 'no gospel church.? They want a foundation; and where there is no foundation, the higher they raise the building, or the more glorious they make the appearance of it, the sooner it will tumble down, and come to nothing. I shall not repeat those promises of Christ's presence now; they are known unto you: and this is the great interest of any church, to secure the promised presence of Christ with them. You have, I hope, under the conduct of the Holy Spirit of God, been guided in your
choice of such persons as are able and faithful to go before you in the work of the Lord: but your design ought to be, that thereby you might receive pledges of the presence of Christ with you, else all other things will be of no value. There are some who are little solicitous about these things. Do but build a house in such a frame, and say certain words, and suppose
Christ is immured there; and there is a church built and made. But the observance of all outward rules and orders, according to the gospel, will not constitute a church, unless Christ be taken into it. Moses built a tabernacle according to the mind of God; 'according unto all that God commanded him, so did he;' Exod. xl. 16. But when he had framed it exactly, and set it up, and put every thing in its place, it was but an ordinary tabernacle, till the glory of God entered into it. And so it was with Solomon's temple; it was but an ordinary house, until the glory of God entered into it. And suppose we could frame our church societies, according to the rule of the gospel, as Moses framed the tabernacle according to the pattern shewed him in the mount; they would be no churches of Christ, unless the glory of Christ enter into them. Here is our difference and advantage, the glory of God entered into the tabernacle and temple of old, in clouds and darkness, but the glory of God enters into the gospel church, under the New Testament, in light. This is the first head; Christ hath promised to be with his church, to the end and consummation of all things.
Secondly, Christ is thus present with his church, principally and fundamentally by his Spirit. There are three ways of the presence of Christ: 1. He is everywhere essentially present; present with all things by the immensity of his divine nature: Christ did not promise this, for it is not a subject for a promise. The promises are of what may be, and not of what cannot but be. This presence is necessary, and cannot be otherwise ; neither doth it make any alteration. It doth not make a church; it doth not make one place heaven, another hell; I speak of the immense presence of the divine nature. Again, 2. Christ is, or may be present in his human nature : this was that which brought a great entanglement on the spirits of his disciples. He told them, he would never leave them; and where but two
or three of them were assembled in his name, he would be among them ;' Matt. xviii. 20.
At length he comes, and tells them, “it is expedient for you that I go away ;' John xvi. 7. This filled their hearts with trouble; they knew not how to reconcile these things. Afterward they were told that he was so gone from them, as that they must not look for him, till the day of judgment; Acts iii. 21. There must be therefore some other presence of Christ besides the essential presence of his divine nature, and besides the presence of his human nature; how else shall the promise be accomplished ? saith Christ, I will tell you what that presence is, ‘I will send you the Holy Ghost,' to supply the presence of my human nature. It is the substance of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of John, to declare this. I will send you the Comforter to abide with you,' to enable you to all church work. Therefore though I am with you, and have instructed you, yet you can perform no church work at all until the Holy Ghost comes; • Abide at Jerusalem till you have the promise of the Spirit.' After the ascension of Christ, the apostles went about no church work, till they had received the Holy Ghost. And Christ hath no vicar, but the Spirit. The truth is, the world grew weary of him, and took the work out of his hands, for which he was promised; and he would have nothing to do in that which they call the church. I need not prove this; it hath been the faith of the Catholic church, from the first foundation of it, that the promised presence of Christ with his church was by his Spirit. Some begin to say in our days, that Christ is no otherwise present than by the outward ordinances of it, his word and sacraments. I grant he is present with them, as pledges of his presence, and instruments wherewith, by his Spirit, he doth effectually work. But to make them the whole presence of Christ with us, I do not know what better church state we have than the Jews, when they had the law of old.
Thirdly, This presence of the Spirit is promised, and given unto the church by an everlasting covenant;' Isa. lix. 21. “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord, My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of
thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.' To whom is this promise made? It is made unto the gospel church.
In the verse foregoing, "The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord : as for me, this is my covenant with them.' With whom? With them the Redeemer comes to in Zion, to redeem from iniquity. What is God's covenant with them? It is his word ; his word shall be in them.' Suppose this promise to cease, and God doth not continue his word to any people; will not their church state cease, which is built upon the doctrine of the prophets and apostles, which is the word of God? Yes, take away the foundation, the state must fall. God's covenant is broken with a people, where he doth not continue his word. But how is it with the Spirit of God?' He is also promised in the same covenant: now, suppose there be not a continuance of this promise, then I say, all covenant relation between God and a people, must be dissolved. For this is my covenant,' saith the Lord, &c. q. d. If I maintain a covenant with a people, I will give them my Spirit to abide with them for ever. That covenant whereby you are joined, is dependent on this great promise; and if this be not made good, your church state comes to an end, notwithstanding whatever outward order there may be among you: but he hath given his church a covenant which shall abide for ever.'
Fourthly, It is from hence, that the ministry of the gospel is 'the ministry of the Spirit;' 2 Cor. iii. 6–8. “Who hath also made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit.' There were never but two ministrations, or two ministries in the world, that were accepted of God, the one was the ministration of the letter, and of death ;' the other was, and is the ministration of the Spirit and of life;' and they were both glorious ministrations. That of the letter and death, was glorious from its institution. You know what a glorious institution it had at mount Sinai, from the manner of its performance, in a glorious sanctuary, or tabernacle, and temple : and from its signification, it was glorious. But the ministration of the Spirit, is much more glorious. There never were but these two ministrations. If there be a ministration that is not a