|« Prev||Chapter VII.||Next »|
Of spiritual gifts enabling the ministry to the exercise and discharge of their trust and office.
Unto the ministry so given unto the church, as hath been declared, the Holy Ghost gives spiritual gifts enabling them unto the exercise and discharge of the power, trust, and office committed unto them. Now, although I am not thoroughly satisfied what men will grant or allow in these days, such uncouth and bold principles are continually advanced among us, yet I suppose it will not, in words at least, be denied by many but that ministers have, or ought to have, gifts for the due discharge of their office. To some, indeed, the very name and word is a derision, because it is a name and notion peculiar to the Scripture. Nothing is more contemptible unto them than the very mention of “the gifts of the Holy Ghost.” At present I deal not with such directly, though what we shall prove will be sufficient for their rebuke, though not for their conviction. Wherefore our inquiry is, whether the Spirit of God doth effectually collate on the ministers of the gospel spiritual gifts, enabling them to perform and effect evangelical administrations, according to the power committed unto them and duly required of them, unto the glory of Christ and edification of the church. It is moreover inquired, whether the endowment of men with these spiritual gifts, in a degree and measure suited unto public edification, be not that which doth materially constitute them ministers of the gospel, as being antecedently necessary unto their call unto their office. These 499things, I say, are to be inquired into, because, in opposition unto the first, it is affirmed that these supposed gifts are nothing but mere natural abilities, attained by diligence and improved by exercise, without any especial respect unto the working of the Holy Ghost, at least otherwise than what is necessary unto the attaining of skill and ability in any human art or science, which is the ordinary blessing of God on man’s honest endeavours. And to the other it is opposed, that a lawful, ordinary, outward call is sufficient to constitute any man a lawful minister, whether he have received any such gifts as those inquired after or no. Wherefore, the substance of what we have to declare and confirm is, that there is an especial dispensation and work of the Holy Ghost in providing able ministers of the new testament for the edification of the church, wherein the continuance of the ministry and being of the church, as to its outward order, doth depend; and that herein he doth exert his power and exercise his authority in the communication of spiritual gifts unto men, without a participation whereof no man hath, de jure, any lot or portion in this ministration. Herein consists no small part of that work of the Spirit which belongs unto his promised dispensation in all ages; which to deny is to renounce all faith in the promise of Christ, all regard unto his continued love and care towards the church in the world, or at least the principal pleadable testimony given thereunto, and under pretence of exalting and preserving the church, totally to overthrow it. Now, the evidence which we shall give unto this truth is contained in the ensuing assertions, with their confirmation:—
First, The Lord Jesus Christ hath faithfully promised to be present with his church “unto the end of the world.” It is his temple and his tabernacle, wherein he will dwell and walk continually. And this presence of Christ is that which makes the church to be what it is, — a congregation essentially distinct from all other societies and assemblies of men. Let men be formed into what order you please, according unto any outward rules and measures that are either given in the Scripture or found out by themselves, let them derive power and authority by what claim soever they shall think fit, yet if Christ be not present with them, they are no church, nor can all the powers under heaven make them so to be. And when any church loseth the especial presence of Christ, it ceaseth so to be. It is, I suppose, confessed with and among whom Christ is thus present, or it may be easily proved. See his promises to this purpose, Matt. xxviii. 20; Rev. xxi. 3. And those churches do exceedingly mistake their interest who are solicitous about other things, but make little inquiry after the evidences of the presence of Christ among them. Some walk as if they supposed they had him sure enough, as it were, immured in their walls, whilst they keep up the 500name of a church, and an outward order that pleaseth and advantageth themselves. But outward order, be it what it will, is so far from being the only evidence of the presence of Christ in a church, that when it is alone, or when it is principally required, it is none at all; and therefore, whereas preaching of the word and the right administration of the sacraments are assigned as the notes of a true church, if the outward acts and order of them only be regarded, there is nothing of evidence unto this purpose in them.
Secondly, This promised presence of Christ is by his Spirit. This I have sufficiently proved formerly, so that here I shall be brief in its rehearsal, though it be the next foundation of what we have farther to offer in this case. We speak not of the essential presence of Christ with respect unto the immensity of his divine nature, whereby he is equally present in or equally indistant from all places, manifesting his glory when, where, and how he pleaseth. Nor doth it respect his human nature; for when he promised this his presence, he told his disciples that therein he must leave and depart from them, John xvi. 5–8, whereon they were filled with sorrow and trouble, until they knew how he would make good the promise of his presence with them, and who or what it was that should unto their advantage supply his bodily absence. And this he did in his visible ascension, when “he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight,” Acts i. 9; when also it was given in charge unto them not to expect his return until his coming unto judgment, verse 11. And, accordingly, Peter tells us that the “heaven must receive him until the times of restitution of all things,” Acts iii. 21, when he will appear again “in the glory of his Father,” Matt. xvi. 27, even that glory which the Father gave him upon his exaltation, Phil. ii. 9–11, joined unto “that glory which he had with him before the world was,” John xvii. 5. In and upon this his departure from them, he taught his disciples how they should understand his promise of being present and abiding “with them unto the end of the world;” and this was by sending of his Holy Spirit in his name, place, and stead, to do all to them and for them which he had yet to do with them and for them. See John xiv. 16–18, 26–28, xv. 26, xvi. 7–15. And other vicar in the church Christ hath none, nor doth stand in need of any, nor can any mortal man supply that charge and office; nor was any such ever thought of in the world until men grew weary of the conduct and rule of the Holy Spirit, by various ways taking his work out of his hand, leaving him nothing to do in that which they called “the church.” But I suppose I need not handle this principle as a thing in dispute or controversy. If I greatly mistake not, this presence of Christ in his church by his Spirit is an article of faith unto the catholic church, and such a fundamental truth as whoever 501denies it overthrows the whole gospel; and I have so confirmed it in our former discourses concerning the dispensation and operations of the Holy Ghost, as that I fear not nor expect any direct opposition thereunto. But yet I acknowledge that some begin to talk as if they owned no other presence of Christ but by the word and sacraments; — whatever else remains to be done lies wholly in ourselves. It is acknowledged that the Lord Christ is present in and by his word and ordinances; but if he be no otherwise present, or be present only by their external administration, there will no more church-state among men ensue thereon than there is among the Jews, who enjoy the letter of the Old Testament and the institutions of Moses. But when men rise up in express contradiction unto the promises of Christ and the faith of the catholic church in all ages, we shall not contend with them. But, —
Thirdly, This presence of the Spirit is secured unto the church by an everlasting, unchangeable 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.” This is God’s covenant with the gospel church, to be erected then when “the Redeemer should come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob,” verse 20. This is a part of the covenant that God hath made in Christ the Redeemer. And as the continuance of the word unto the church in all ages is by this promise secured, — without which it would cease and come to nothing, — seeing it is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” Eph. ii. 20, so is the presence of the Spirit in like manner secured unto it, and that on the same terms with the word, so as that if he be not present with it, all covenant-relation between God and it doth cease. Where this promise doth not take place, there is no church, no ordinances, no acceptable worship, because no covenant relation. In brief, then, where there is no participation of the promise of Christ to send the Spirit to abide with us always, no interest in that covenant wherein God engageth that his Spirit shall not depart from us forever, and so no presence of Christ to make the word and ordinances of worship living, useful, effectual in their administration, unto their proper ends, there is no church-state, whatever outward order there may be. And hereon, —
Fourthly, The gospel is called the ministration of the Spirit, and the ministers of it the ministers of the Spirit: 2 Cor. iii. 6, “Who hath also made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit;” not of the “ministration of death,” but of that of the “Spirit,” which is “glorious,” verses 7, 8. There never 502was, nor ever shall be, any but these two ministrations in the church, — that of the letter and of death, and that of the Spirit and of life. If there be a ministration in any church, it must belong to one of these; and all ministers must be so either of the letter or of the Spirit. If there be a ministry pretended unto that is neither of the letter nor of the Spirit, it is antichristian. The ministry which was carnal, of the letter and death, was a true ministry, and in its place glorious, because it was appointed of God, and was efficacious as unto its proper end; that of the gospel is of the Spirit, and much more glorious; but if there be a ministration that hath the outward form of either, but indeed is neither of them, it is no ministration at all And where it is so, there is really no ministration but that of the Bible, — that is, God by his providence continuing the Bible among them, maketh use of it as he seeth good for the conviction and conversion of sinners; wherein there is a secret manifestation of the Spirit also.
We may, therefore, inquire in what sense the ministration of the gospel is called the “ministry of the Spirit.” Now, this cannot be because the laws, institutions, and ordinances of its worship were revealed by the Spirit, for so were all the ordinances and institutions of the old testament, as hath been proved before, and yet the ministration of them was the ministration of the letter and of death, in a worldly sanctuary, by carnal ordinances. Wherefore it must be so called in one of these respects either, — 1. Because it is the peculiar aid and assistance of the Spirit whereby any are enabled to administer the gospel and its institutions of worship according to the mind of God, unto the edification of the church. In this sense men are said to be made “able ministers of the new testament,” — that is, ministers able to administer the gospel in due order. Thus in that expression, “ministers of the Spirit,” the “Spirit” denotes the efficient cause of the ministry, and he that quickeneth it, verse 6. Or, — 2. It may be said to be the “ministration of the Spirit,” because in and by the ministry of the gospel the Spirit is in all ages administered and communicated unto the disciples of Christ, unto all the ends for which he is promised. So Gal. iii. 2, the Spirit is received by “the teaching of faith.” Take it either way, and the whole of what we plead for is confirmed. That he alone enableth men unto the discharge of the work of the ministry, by the spiritual gifts which he communicateth unto them, is the first sense, and expressly that which we contend for; and if, in and by the ministration of the gospel in all ages, the Spirit is communicated and administered unto men, then doth he abide with the church forever, and for what ends we must farther inquire.
Fifthly, The great end for which the Spirit is thus promised, administered, 503and communicated under the gospel, is the continuance and preservation of the church in the world. God hath promised unto the Lord Christ that his kingdom in this world should endure “throughout all generations,” with the course of the sun and moon, Ps. lxxii. 5, and that “of the increase of his government there should be no end,” Isa. ix. 7; and the Lord Christ himself hath declared his preservation of his church, so as that “the gates of hell should not prevail against it,” Matt. xvi. 18. It may therefore be inquired whereon the infallible accomplishment of these promises, and others innumerable unto the same end, doth depend, or what is that means whereby they shall be certainly executed. Now, this must be either some work of God or man. If it be of men, and it consist of their wills and obedience, then that which is said amounts hereunto, namely, that where men have once received the gospel, and professed subjection thereunto, they will infallibly abide therein in a succession from one generation unto another. But besides that it must be granted that what so depends on the wills of men can have no more certainty than the undetermined wills of men can give security of, which indeed is none at all, so there are confessed instances without number of such persons and places as have lost the gospel and the profession thereof; and what hath fallen out in one place may do so in another, and consequently in all places where the reasons and causes of things are the same. On this supposition, therefore, there is no security that the promises mentioned shall be infallibly accomplished. Wherefore the event must depend on some work of God and Christ. Now, this is no other but the dispensation and communication of the Spirit. Hereon alone doth the continuance of the church and of the kingdom of Christ in the world depend. And whereas the church falls under a double consideration, — namely, of its internal and external form, of its internal spiritual union with Christ and its outward profession of obedience unto him, — the calling, gathering, preservation, and edification of it in both respects belong unto the Holy Spirit. The first he doth, as hath been proved at large, by his communicating effectual saving grace unto the elect; the latter, by the communication of gifts unto the guides, rulers, of officers, and ministers of it, with all its members, according unto its place and capacity. Suppose, then, his communication of internal saving grace to cease, and the church must absolutely cease as to its internal form; for we are united unto the Lord Christ as our mystical head by the Spirit, the one and self-same Spirit dwelling in him and them that do believe. Union unto Christ without saving grace, and saving grace without the Holy Spirit, are strangers unto the gospel and Christian religion; so is it to have a church that is holy and catholic which is not united unto Christ as a mystical head. Wherefore the very 504being of the church, as unto its internal form, depends on the Spirit in his dispensation of grace; which if you suppose an intercision of, the church must cease. It hath the same dependence on him as to its outward form and profession, upon his communication of gifts; for “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord,” or profess subjection and obedience unto him in a due manner, “but by the Holy Ghost,” 1 Cor. xii. 3. Suppose this work of his to cease, and there can be no professing church. Let men mould and cast themselves into what order and form they please, and let them pretend that their right and title unto their church power and station is derived unto them from their progenitors or predecessors, if they are not furnished with the gifts of the Spirit, to enable their guides unto gospel administrations, they are no orderly gospel church. Wherefore, —
Sixthly, The communication of such gifts unto the ordinary ministry of the church in all ages is plainly asserted in sundry places of the Scripture, some whereof may be briefly considered. The whole nature of this work is declared in the parable of the talents, Matt. xxv., from verse 14 to 30. The state of the church from the ascension of Christ unto his coming again unto judgment, — that is, in its whole course on the earth, — is represented in this parable. In this season he hath servants whom he intrusteth in the affairs of his kingdom, in the care of his church, and the propagation of the gospel. That they may, in their several generations, places, and circumstances, be enabled hereunto, he gives them, in various distributions, talents to trade withal, the least whereof was sufficient to encourage them who received them unto their use and exercise. The trade they had to drive was that of the administration of the gospel, its doctrine, worship, and ordinances, to others. Talents are abilities to trade, which may also comprise opportunities and other advantages, but abilities are chiefly intended. These were the gifts whereof we speak; nor did it ever enter into the minds of any to apprehend otherwise of them. And they are abilities which Christ, as the king and head of his church, giveth unto men in an especial manner, as they are employed under him in the service of his house and work of the gospel. The servants mentioned are such as are called, appointed, and employed in the service of the house of Christ; that is, all ministers of the gospel, from first to last. And their talents are the gifts which he endows them withal, by his own immediate power and authority, for their work. And hence these three things follow:— 1. That wherever there is a ministry that the Lord Christ setteth up, appointeth, or owneth, he furnisheth all those whom he employs therein with gifts and abilities suitable to their work; which he doth by the Holy Spirit. He will never fail to own his institutions, with gracious supplies, to render them effectual. 2. That where 505any have not received talents to trade withal, it is the highest presumption in them, and casts the greatest dishonour on the Lord Christ, as though he requires work where he gave no strength, or trade where he gave no stock, for any one to undertake the work of the ministry. Where the Lord Christ gives no gifts, he hath no work to do. He will require of none any especial duty where he doth not give an especial ability; and for any to think themselves meet for this work and service in the strength of their own natural parts and endowments, however acquired, is to despise both his authority and his work. 3. For those who have received of these talents, either not to trade at all, or to pretend the managing of their trade on another stock, — that is, either not sedulously and duly to exercise their ministerial gifts, or to discharge their ministry by other helps and means, — is to set up their own wisdom in opposition unto his, and his authority. In brief, that which the whole parable teach-eth is, that wherever there is a ministry in the church that Christ owneth or regardeth, as used and employed by him, there persons are furnished with spiritual gifts from Christ by the Spirit, enabling them unto the discharge of that ministry; and where there are no such spiritual gifts dispensed by him, there is no ministry that he either accepteth or approveth.
Rom. xii. 4–8, “As we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy,” etc. It is indifferent, as to our present purpose, whether the apostle treat here of offices or of duties only; the things ensuing, which are plain and obvious in the text, are sufficient unto the confirmation of what we plead for:— 1. It is the ordinary state of the church, its continuance [on] being planted, its preservation and edification, that the apostle discourseth about; wherefore what he speaks is necessary unto the church in all ages and conditions. To suppose a church devoid of the gifts here mentioned, is to overthrow the whole nature and end of a gospel church. 2. That the principle of all administrations in the church-state described is gifts received from Jesus Christ by his Spirit; for, declaring the way whereby the church may be edified, he layeth the foundation of it in this, that “to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ:” for the apostle exhorts those unto whom he speaks to attend unto those duties whereby the church may be edified, and that by virtue of the gifts which they had received. All the whole duty of any one in the church lies in this, that he act according to the χάρισμα that he is made partaker of. And what these χαρίσματα are, as also by whom they are bestowed, hath been already fully declared. 5063. That these gifts give not only ability for duty, but rule and measure unto all works of service that are to be performed in the church. Every one is to act therein according to his gift, and no otherwise. To say that this state of the church is now ceased, and that another state is introduced, wherein all gospel administrations may be managed without spiritual gifts, or not by virtue of them, is to say that which, de facto, is true in most places; but whether the true nature of the church is not overthrown thereby is left unto consideration. 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11, is a parallel testimony hereunto, and many others to the same purpose might be pleaded, together with that which is the foundation of this whole discourse, Eph. iv. 7–16, etc. Only let it be remembered, that, in this whole discourse, by “gifts” I do understand those χαρίσματα πνευματικά, those spiritual largesses, which are neither absolutely natural endowments nor attainable by our own industry and diligence.
Seventhly, These gifts, as they are bestowed unto that end, so they are indispensably necessary unto gospel administrations; for, as we have proved, they are spiritual, and not legal or carnal. And spiritual administrations cannot be exercised in a due manner without spiritual gifts; yea, one reason why they are spiritual, and so called, is, because they cannot be performed without the aid and assistance of the Holy Spirit in and by these gifts of his. Had the Lord Christ appointed administrations of another nature, such as were every way suited unto the reason of men, and to be exercised by the powers thereof, there had been no need of these spiritual gifts; for the spirit of a man knoweth the things of a man, and will both guide and act him therein. And whereas these administrations are, in their nature, use, signification, and efficacy, spiritual, it is by spiritual gifts alone that they may be managed. Hence these things do live and die together; where the one is not, there neither will the other be. Thus, when many, perhaps the most who were outwardly called unto office in the church, began to be carnal in their hearts and lives, and to neglect the use of these gifts, neither applying themselves unto the attaining of them, nor endeavouring to excite or increase what they had received by diligence or constant exercise, refusing to trade with the talent committed unto them, they quickly began to wax weary of spiritual administrations Hereon, in compliance with many corrupt affections, they betook themselves unto an outward, carnal, ceremonious worship and administration of ordinances, which they might discharge and perform without the least aid or assistance of the Holy Ghost or supply of spiritual gifts. So, in the neglect of these gifts, and the loss of them which ensued thereon, lay the beginning of the apostasy of the Christian church as to its outward profession; which was quickly completed 507by the neglect of the grace of the Spirit, whereby it lost both truth and holiness. Nor could it be otherwise; for, as we have proved, the outward form and being of the church, as to its visible profession, depend on the reception and use of them. On their decay, therefore, the church must decay as to its profession, and in their loss is its ruin. And we have an instance in the church of Rome what various, extravagant, and endless inventions the minds of men will put them upon to keep up a show of worship, when, by the loss of spiritual gifts, spiritual administrations are lost also. This is that which their innumerable forms, modes, sets of rites and ceremonies, seasons of worship, are invented to supply; but to no purpose at all, but only the aggravation of their sin and folly.
In the last place, we plead the event, even in the days wherein we live; for the Holy Ghost doth continue to dispense spiritual gifts for gospel administrations in great variety unto those ministers of the gospel who are called unto their office according unto his mind and will. The opposition that is made hereunto by profane scoffers is not to be valued. The experience of those who are humble and wise, who, fearing God, do inquire into these things, is appealed unto. Have they not an experiment of this administration? Do they not find the presence of the Spirit himself, by his various gifts in them, by whom spiritual things are administered unto them? Have they not a proof of Christ speaking in them by the assistance of his Spirit, making the word mighty unto all its proper ends? And as the thing itself, so the variety of his dispensations manifest themselves also unto the experience of believers. Who sees not how different are the gifts of men, the Holy Ghost dividing unto every one as he will? And the experience which they have themselves who have received these gifts, of the especial assistance which they receive in the exercise of them, may also be pleaded. Indeed, the profaneness of a contrary apprehension is intolerable among such as profess themselves to be Christians. For any to beast themselves [that] they are sufficient of themselves for the stewardly dispensation of the mysteries of the gospel by their own endowments, natural or acquired, and the exercise of them, without a participation of any peculiar spiritual gift from the Holy Ghost, is a presumption which contains in it a renunciation of all or any interest in the promises of Christ made unto the church for the continuance of his presence therein. Let men be never so well persuaded of their own abilities; let them pride themselves in their performances, in reflection of applauses from persons unacquainted with the mystery of these things; let them frame to themselves such a work of the ministry as whose discharge stands in little or no need of these gifts; yet it will at length appear that where the gifts of the Holy Ghost are excluded from their administration, 508the Lord Christ is so, and the Spirit himself is so, and all true edification of the church is so, and so are all the real concerns of the gospel.
And so have we, as I hope, confirmed the second part of the work of the Holy Ghost with respect unto spiritual gifts, — namely, his continuance to distribute and communicate unto the church to the end of the world, according unto the powers and duties which he hath erected in it or required of it.
|« Prev||Chapter VII.||Next »|