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OF OBEDIENCE TO OUR SPIRITUAL GUIDES AND
HEB. xiii. 17.
Obey them that have the rule over you.
SERM. OBEDIENCE unto spiritual guides and governors is a duty LVI. of great importance; the which to declare and press is very seasonable for these times, wherein so little regard is had thereto I have therefore pitched on this text, being an apostolical precept, briefly and clearly enjoining that duty; and in it we shall consider and explain these two particulars: 1. The persons to whom obedience is to be paid. 2. What that obedience doth import, or wherein it consisteth and together with explication of the duty, we shall apply it, and urge its practice.
I. As to the persons, unto whom obedience is to be performed, they are, generally speaking, all spiritual guides, Heb. xiii. or governors of the Church, (those who speak to us the word of God, and who watch for our souls, as they are described in the context,) expressed here by a term very significant and apposite, as implying fully the nature of their charge, the qualification of their persons, their rank and privileges in the Church, together consequently with the grounds of obligation to the correspondent duties toward them. There are in holy Scripture divers names and phrases appropriate to them, each of them denoting some eminent part of their office, or some appertenance thereto;
but this seemeth of all most comprehensive; so that unto SERM. it all the rest are well reducible: the term is youevo, that LVI. is, leaders, or guides, or captains; which properly may denote the subsequent particulars in way of duty, or privilege, appertaining to them.
Luke xxii. 26.
1 Thess. v.
1. It may denote eminence of dignity, or superiority to others that they are, as it is said of Judas and Silas in the Acts, ἄνδρες ἡγούμενοι ἐν ἀδελφοῖς, principal men among the Acts xv.22. brethren: for to lead implieth precedence, which is a note of superiority and pre-eminence. Hence are they styled Torres, presidents or prelates; oi guro, the first, or prime 1 Tim. v. men; oi is, the greater, majors, or grandees among us: Rom. xii.8. He, saith our Lord, that will be the first among you, let him 1 Thess. v. be your servant; and, He that is greater among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth 27. serve; where ὁ μείζων and ὁ ἡγούμενος (the greater and the leader) are terms equivalent, or interpretative the one of the other; and our Lord in those places, as he prescribeth humility of mind and demeanour, so he implieth difference Phil. ii. 29. of rank among his disciples: whence to render especial respect 13. and honour to them, as to our betters, is a duty often enjoined. 1 Tim. v. 2. It doth imply power and authority: their superiority is not barely grounded on personal worth or fortune; it serveth not merely for order and pomp; but it standeth upon the nature of their office, and tendeth to use: they are by God's appointment enabled to exercise acts of power; to command, to judge, to check, control, and chastise in a spiritual way, in order to spiritual ends, (the regulation of God's worship and service, the preservation of order and peace, the promoting of edification in divine knowledge and holiness of life;) so are they yuvor, as that word in common use (as the word y, of kin to it) doth signify, captains and princes, importing authority to command and rule; (whence the Hebrew word xw, a prince, is usually rendered by it; and youevos, Matt. li. 6. is the title attributed to our Lord, to express his kingly
function, being the same with gays, the prince, tain;) hence are they otherwise styled xugou
or cap- Acts v. 31.
(gover-1 Cor. xii.
SERM. nors), ionowo (overséers, or superintendants, as St. Hie LVI. rome rendereth it,) pastors, (a word often signifying rule, Acts xx.28. and attributed to civil governors,) #geobregoi (clders, or senaMatt. ii. 6. tors; the word denoteth not merely age, but office and authority,)oi eλouvres, such as take care for, the curators,
1 Pet. v. 2.
2 Sam. v.2. or supervisors of the Church: hence also they are signally and specially in relation unto God styled doño (the servants,) διάκονοι (the ministers,) ὑπηρέται (the officers,) λειτουργοί (the 2 Tim. ii. public agents,) oixovópos (the stewards,) ouvagyoì (the coadju
1 Tim. iii.
Rom. xv. tors, or assistants), #giolaçs (the legates,) yyɛλ01 (the angels, or messengers,) of God; which titles imply, that God by 2. iii. 9. vi. them, as his substitutes and instruments, doth administer
1 Cori iv. 1.
1. xvi. 16. the affairs of his spiritual kingdom: that as by secular ma
2 Cor. vi.4.
Gal. iv. 14,
Tit. i. 2. gistrates (his vicegerents and officers) he manageth his uniApoc. i. 29. versal temporal kingdom, or governeth all men in order to their worldly peace and prosperity; so by these spiritual magistrates he ruleth his Church, towards its spiritual welfare and felicity.
3. The word also doth imply direction, or instruction; that is, guidance of people in the way of truth and duty, reclaiming them from error and sin: this, as it is a means hugely conducing to the design of their office, so it is a Eph. iv.11. principal member thereof: whence dodoxa, doctors, or 1 Cor. xii. masters in doctrine, is a common name of them; and to
1 Tim. iii.
Rom. xii. 7. be didazrizol, able and apt to teach, (ixavoi didážai, and zgóðupo,) is a chief qualification of their persons; and to attend on teaching, to be instant in preaching, to labour in the word and doctrine, are their most commendable performances: hence also they are called shepherds, because they feed the souls of God's people with the food of wholesome instruction; watchmen, because they observe men's ways, and warn them when they decline from right, or run into danger; the messengers of God, because they declare God's mind and will unto them for the regulation of their practice.
28. ii. 2.
2 Tim. ii. 1 Tim. iv. 13, 16. v.
2 Tim. iv.
Col. i. 28.
4. The word farther may denote exemplary practice; for to lead implieth so to go before, that he who is conducted may follow; as a captain marcheth before his troop; as a shepherd walketh before his flock, as a guide
goeth before the traveller whom he directeth; hence they SERM. are said to be, and enjoined to behave themselves as patterns of the flock; and the people are charged to imitate 1 Pet. v. 3. and follow them.
1 Tim. iv.
Tit. ii. 7.
Such in general doth the word here used imply the per- Phil. iii. 17. sons to be, unto whom obedience is prescribed: but is farther some distinction to be made among them; are degrees and subordinations in these guidances; are in regard to different persons both empowered to guide, and obliged to follow, or obey.
Heb. iii. 7.
some 1 Thess. i.
1 Cor. xi. 1.
Heb. iii. 1.
The Church is acies ordinata, a well marshalled army; wherein, under the Captain-general of our faith and salva-1 Pet. v. 4. tion (the Head of the body, the sovereign Prince and Priest, the Arch-pastor, the chief Apostle of our profession and Bishop of our souls,) there are divers captains serving in fit degrees of subordination; bishops commanding larger regiments, presbyters ordering less numerous companies; all which, by the bands of common faith, of mutual charity, of holy communion and peace, being combined together, do in their respective stations govern and guide, are governed and guided: the bishops, each in his precincts, guiding more immediately the priests subject to them; the priests, each guiding the people committed to his charge: all bishops and priests being guided by synods established, or congregated, upon emergent occasion; many of them ordinarily by those principal bishops, who are regularly settled in a presidency over them; according to the distinctions constituted by God and his apostles, or introduced by human prudence, as the preservation of order and peace (in various times and circumstances of things) hath seemed to require to which subordination the two great apostles may seem to have regard, when they bid us vτorácσoða áλλ2015, to be 1 Pet. v. 5. subject to one another; their injunction at least may, ac- Phil. ii, 3. Eph. v. 21. cording to their general intent, (which aimeth at the preşervation of order and peace,) be well extended so far.
εὙποτασσέσθω ἕκατος τῷ πλησίον αὐτοῦ καθὼς καὶ ἐτίθη ἐν τῷ χαρίσματι aire. Clem. ad Corinth. p. 49.
Of this distinction there was never in ancient times made any question, nor did it seem disputable in the Church, Cyr. Ep. except to one malecontent, (Aerius,) who did indeed get a name in story, but never made much noise, or obtained any vogue in the world; very few followers he found in his heterodoxy; no great body even of heretics could find Ep. 27, 65. cause to dissent from the Church in this point: but all Ari. ans, Macedonians, Novatians, Donatists, &c. maintained the distinction of ecclesiastical orders among themselves, and acknowledged the duty of the inferior clergy to their bishops and no wonder, seeing it standeth upon so very firm and clear grounds; upon the reason of the case, upon the testimony of holy Scripture, upon general tradition and unquestionable monuments of antiquity, upon the common judgment and practice of the greatest saints, persons most renowned for wisdom and piety in the Church.
Reason plainly doth require such subordinations; for that without them it is scarce possible to preserve any du rable concord or charity in Christian societies, to establish any decent harmony in the worship and service of God, to check odious scandals, to prevent or repress baneful factions, to guard our religion from being overspread with pernicious heresies, to keep the Church from being shattered into numberless sects, and thence from being crumbled into nothing; in fine, for any good time to uphold the profession and practice of Christianity itself: for how, if there be not settled corporations of Christian people, having bulk and strength sufficient by joint endeavour to maintain the truth, honour, and interest of their religion; if the Church should only consist of independent and incoherent particles, (like dust or sand,) easily scattered by any wind of opposition from without, or by any commo tion within; if Christendom should be merely a Babel of confused opinions and practices; how, I say, then could Christianity subsist? how could the simple, among so discordant apprehensions, be able to discern the truth of it? how would the wise be tempted to dislike it, being so mangled and disfigured? what an object of contempt and