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Sermon 78

Sermon 78.

THE OFFICE OF A BISHOP A GOOD WORK.

7 TIM. in. I. This is a true saying, if a man desire the Office of a Bishop, he desireth a good work.\\

IT is agreeable to the common sense and common practice of mankind, that persons should be invested with important offices by some solemn and significant ceremony: and it is an instance of the wisdom and condescension of the great God, that he deals with men in their own manner, and models his transactions with them, into the form of their transactions with one another.

* Phil. ii. 16. f Acts xxvi. 18. * 2 Cor. i. 12. § Col. iii. 4.

II Hanover, Virginia, June 9, 1757.—At the ordination of the Reverend Mr. John Martin, to the ministry of the gospel.

Certus est hie sermo, si quis episcopatum desiderat, prseclarum opus desiderat. Beza.

Fidelis est sermo, quod si quis concupiscit presbyterium, opus bonum conenpisrit. Them, ex Syr.

M m

Thus, in particular, he has appointed, that the investiture of persons with the sacred and important office of the gospel ministry, should be performed by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, attended with solemn fasting and prayer. To this St. Paul refers, when he exhorts Timothy "not to neglect the gift that was in him, which was given him by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery ;"* at which solemnity, it seems, St. Paul presided; fov, in> his second epistle, he gives the same exhortation to the same person, in terms that imply thus much : "I put thee in remembrance, once more, that thou stir up the gift of God, that is in thee, by the putting on of My hands."t Thus Paul himself and Barnabas were set apart for their mission to the Gentile world.^ "While the prophets and teachers of the church of Antioch were ministering to the Lord, and fasting, the Holy Ghost said, separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted, and prayed, and laid their hand* upon them, they sent ther» away." This is probably included in " the doctrine of laying on of hands," which the apostle enumerates among " the first principles of the doctrine of Christ :"§ and to this he refers, when he enjoins Timothy,|| "Lay hands suddenly on no man." This solemn rite was used for the like purpose under the law of Moses, and from thence was transferred to the gospel church. Thus, when Joshua was nominated his successor, the Lord commands Moses, "Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upen him } and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation ; and give him a charge in their sight. And Moses did as the Lord commanded him; and he took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and he laid his hands uflon him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded."! This solemn rite was used also upon other occasions both under the Old and New Testament: as in the authoritative benedictions of the patriarchs and prophets, under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit ;** in miraculously healing the sick ;tt and especially in communicating the gifts of the Holy Spirit, not only to the persons invested with the ministerial office, but to the primitive ehris

tians in general.* And hence the imposition of hands generally attended, or soon followed upon, baptism, in the apostolic age.

This is the best precedent lean recollect for annexing a solemn charge to the imposition of hands. Indeed, a charge given in so solemn a posture, is so weighty and affecting, that methinks it is impossible not to feel it at the time; or for those that have once felt it, ever to forget it afterwards.

It is evident, that in the ordinary ages of the church, when miracles are bee ome needless for the confirmation of our religion, the imposition of hands in investing persons with the ministerial office, cannot answer all the same purposes, in the same extent as in the apostolic age of miracles and inspiration. The hands of a bishop or a presbytery cannot now confer the Holy Ghost, or any of his miraculous gifts ; and the high and extravagant pretensions of this kind that have been made, have cherished superstition and enthusiam in some, and exposed the institution itself to the ridicule and contempt of others. But though the institution cannot now answer all the same purposes, in the same extent, as in the apostolic age, yet there is no reason to lay it entirely aside, or to esteem it an idle insignificant ceremony. It may still answer some ends, common to the ordinary and extraordinary ages of the church. And there may be sundry purposes even now, so analogous to the miraculous purposes of the primitive institution, that it may be very proper still to retain it, on account of this analogy. It may now serve, as well as in miraculous ages, as a solemn ceremony and significant sign of a man's consecration to the sacred office. It may now serve, as well as in miraculous ages, as a solemn rite in ministerial benedictions, or in the presbytery's earnest prayer to God for his blessing upon the person so peculiarly devoted to his service; after the example of Christ, the patriarchs and prophets. And it may also be used now, as properly as ever, as a significant sign and seal of the ordinary gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, which are the privilege of the church of Christ, and particularly of its ministers in . ill.ages. Of this it may still be a sign; as baptism is still a sign of regeneration and the forgiveness of sins ; and therefore otill observed, though it be not now followed with such miraculous effects, as in the apostolic age. When the ends of an ordinance an be substantially answered, there is always a good reason for

its continuance, to whatever circumstantial variations it may be subject.

Upon such principles as these the generality of christians in all ages have looked upon ordination by the laying on of hands, as a divine institution still in force. This is the solemnity, that has occasioned our present meeting: and, I hope, that in so large an assembly, there are not a few, who have been, and still are, wafiing up their earnest prayers to God, that his efficacious blessing may attend a solemnity so important in itself, and so unusual in this colony.*

My text will furnish materials for a discourse adapted to this occasion. "This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." To explain and improve the sundry parts of which shall be my present business.

—" The office of a bishop."—What is meant by this office, or what rank a bishop should bear in the christian church, is a debate that has been managed with great learning and plausibility ; and, alas! with much uncharitableness and fury, on both sides, for a long time. I am not able to add any thing new to the argumentative part of the controversy : and I am sure I am not disposed to add any thing to the heat and fury of it. But the present occasion renders it necessary for me to declare my sentiments upon this point, with the reasons of them; in order to'Shew you the principles, on which the validity of presbylerian ordination, to be solemnized at the close of this hour, is founded.

We may easily know what the office of a bishop is, in a certain church, for which I have the sincerest benevolence and veneration, though I. cannot think and practise in some little things as she does. In that church, we know, a bishop is an officer of a distinct and superior order among the clergy; as distinct from the rest of the clergy, as a colonel from a captain, or a justice of the peace from a constable; and superior to them in hHi revenues, in his civil rank, and in ecclesiastical authority. As to his reve^ nues, they generally amount to two or three thousand pounds sterling per annum, while many of the inferior clergy have hardly the fiftieth part of that income. As to his civil rank, he is a peer of the realm, and a member of the House of Lords. His ecclesiastical authority extends to many things, which the common clergy are supposed incapable of; such as, the over-sighioi the clergy in his diocese, (which may perhaps include some hun|

* This was the first prcsbvterian ordination in Virginia.

dreds of them) as they over-see the laity—the power of ordaining priest and deacons, and degrading them; of confirming catechumens; of holding spiritual courts, Sec. At the head of this hierarchy is an archbishop, who oversees these overseers, and has pretty much the same power over the bishops as they have over the common clergy. The bishops are supposed to be so much engaged in these more honourable duties of their function, that they are very seldom employed in the lower and more laborious duties of the pastoral office, such as preaching the word, and administering the sacraments. This is a brief view of the office of a bishop, in that church, from which we have the misfortune to dissent i and the church of Rome has pretty much the same no tion of it; which certainly cannot add to its popularity among protestants.

But the inquiry now before us, is not, Vvhat is meant by an English bishop; but what is meant by an apostolic New Testament bishop ?• Whether it be indeed a distinct superior order of ministers ; or whether it be a name common, and equally applicable, to ministers in general, without distinction ?—whether certain acts of authority are peculiar to a bishop, according to the apostolic constitution ? or whether they equally belong to all ministers of the gospel? You see this inquiry will lead you to your bibles: and I hope, you are all so far protestants, as to join with the great Chillingworth in saying " The Bible ! the Bible! is the religion of protestants."

It is a strong presumption, in my view, that Jesus Christ never intended to establish a superior order among his ministers; but, on the other hand, that they should all stand upon equal ground; in that he checks the proud contention of his disciples for superiority in the following strong terms: " Ye know, that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them ; and they that are great, exercise authority upon them : but it shall not be so among you ;"* that is, in civil courts, there are officers of various orders, and various ranks of nobility : but among you, the officers of my kingdom, it shall not be so: but you shall be all of one order. . .,

But that which appears decisive in this point is, that the term bishop, in the New Testament, does not, in one instance, signify a superior order of ministers ; but is indisputably applied to all ithe ministers of the gospel in general.

* Matt. xs. 25, 26.

i

The officers of the apostolic church were of two kinds, ordinary and extraordinary: and both are enumerated by the Apostle. The ascended Redeemer gave some Apostles; and some prophets ; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers.* The aposto/ate was an extraordinary office, and ceased with the twelve who were invested with it by Christ himself. To this office belonged the administration of the word and sacraments, and the exercise of discipline. But besides these ordinary duties of the ministerial office, there were some grand peculiarities that belonged to the apostles. They were the immediate witnesses of Christ's resurrection ; and therefore it was an essential qualification for their office, that they had seen him after his resurrection; which St. Paul intimates in that query, " Have not I seen Jesus Christ our Lord ?"t They were also endowed with the gift of tongues, and other miraculous powers of the Spirit, which they were enabled to communicate to others. Thus they were qualified to be the first founders of the church, and propagators of the gospel among all nations. But it needs no proof, that they had no successors in these extraordinary parts of their office; and consequently, the superiority of the apostles cannot be urged as an argument for the superiority of bishops over the rest of the clergy, in ordinary ages: nor can it be pretended, without intolerable arrogance, that bishops, without one of the distinguishing qualifications of the apostles, are their successors in office.

The next rank of officers, namely profihets, were persons inspired with the knowledge of things future. And it is not pretended, that theirs was an office of perpetual standing in the church.

As for the evangelists, they were itinerant ministers,or commissaries under the apostles, who travelled among the churches, and made such regulations as were wanting. This seems to have been the only peculiarity of their office: and in other respects it does not appear, that they were superior to the common ministers of the gospel. Therefore it is not to my purpose to enquire, whether their office should be still continued in the church or not.

The ordinary ministers of the gospel, are those whom the apostle here calls pastors and teachers. They are denominated from their office. Because the churches under their care, are Often represented as flocks, which they were to feed, guide, and

• Eph. iv. 11. + 1 Cor. ix. 1.

guard; therefore they are called pastors or shepherds. Because it was, their office to teach the great doctrines and precepts of the gospel ; therefore they are called teachers. Because the term [VjeovSt/Tsjo*] elders, which properly signifies elders in age; did at length become a respectable term for honourable officers, like the Roman word, Senator; or rather because those were generally ordained to the ministry who had been of longest standing in the churches, and were properly [n-jso.jStirsgai] elders, in Christianity, if not in age, in opposition to the [rwpalw] no-vices, who were but lately introduced into the church, and were buljuniors in Christianity; therefore the ministers of the gospel are often called [irgtCiSuTsgot] elders. And because it was their office to over-sec, to visit, and take care of their churches, as a shepherd does his flock: therefore they were called [m.mmtm] bishop&, or overseers. Wherever the word bishop occurs in our translation of the New Testament, it is always \iitunwxt{\ in the original : and the proper signification of this word, is an overseer, or inspector. So it is sometimes translated, particularly in the Acts. " Take heed to the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.* The original word is tm<rx.am;, the same which is elsewhere translated bishops. So also, " Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not through constraint, but willingly."t Here again the original word is immoirwlif, which indeed, properly signifies taking the over-sight; but might be rendered discharging the office of a bishofi, with as much propriety as tmnumi is any where rendered bishop. You see, then, that the title of bishop, according to its original signification, which is, an over-seer, does not denote a superior order of clergy; but is applicable equally to all the ministers of the gospel in general, whose common duty it is to take the oversight of their flocks.

And as the original sense of the word will admit of this application; so we find, in fact, that it is applied promiscuously to all ministers without distinction; and that the very same persons, -who in some places are called presbyters or elders, are in other places called bishops : and consequently a presbyter and a bishop, in the sense of the New Testament, signify the very same person. Of this I shall give you a few instances. A remarkable* one of this kind, you have in the passage just quoted for another purpose.^ St. Paul being oa his way to Jerusalem, was

*. Chap. xx. 28. t * Pet. v. 2- J fr^vrt^;.

desirous of an interview with the ministers of the Ephesian church: and therefore we are told," From Miletus.he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church." Observe the persons he sent for, were the elders or presbyters* of the church: and these were the persons that came: for it is added, "when they (the presbyters) were come to him, he said unto them," Ye know after what manner I have been with you at all seasons." And thus he goes on in a very affecting discourse to them; and then, addressing himself to the very same persons a little before called elders or presbyters, he exhorts them to "take heed to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers." Here, as I observed before, the original word rendered overseers, is the same with that which is translated bishops, in other places, in the New Testament. And it is undeniably evident, that the very same persons who are called [[«{s<r/3u!s{ifs] presbyters or elders in the seventeenth verse, are called {iminwiMf] bishops, in the twenty-eighth; and, consequently, a scripture bishop, and a presbyter or elder, are the same thing, or denote the same office.t

A like instance we have in the Epistle to Titus. "For this cause," says St. Paul, " left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders or presbyters\ in every city ."§ He then proceeds to describe the qualifications of those, whom Titus should ordain elders or presbyters. "If any man be blameless, the husband of one wife," &c. And still speaking of the same point, he immediately adds, "For a bishop must be blameless." Here it is evident, that by bishop he means the same person, and the same office, as by elder or presbyter just before. In this sense, his argument is conclusive, and the transition natural; and stands thus: "Ordain only such to the office of a presbyter or bishop, who are blameless; for a bishop or presbyter must be blameless." But if we suppose, that by these two titles he means two offices of a distinct order, the argument is languid, and the transition impertinent;

* Acts xx. 17. compared with verse 28.

+ This is the remark of Jerome, Clirysostome, Theodoret, Oecumenius, and Theophylact. And Dr. Whitby, though a strenuous advocate foi modern episcopacy, pleads strongly in support of the remark, against Dr Hammond; who, indeed, asserts the same thing, though very pre posterously; insisting that here, bishops are called presbyters, but no presbyters bishops. Vid. Whitby in loc.

\ .jT(jvrfSuligii;. § Chap. i. 5—7.

for it would stand thus: "Ordain no man a presbyter unless he be blameless, for this reason, because a bishop, an officer of a distinct and superior order, must be blameless." This would be as weak and impertinent, as if I should say, no man should be made a deacon, to look after the poor, unless he be a scholar, because a minister of the gospel must be a scholar. We therefore conclude, that an apostolic bishop signified no more than a presbyter, or an ordinary minister of the gospel.

We may also draw the same conclusion from a passage in Peter: "The elders," or presbyters, "who are among you, I exhort," says he, " who also am an elder," or co-presbyter :* "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not through constraint, but willingly." I had occasion to tell you before, that the original Word here used [W««Mirev7ss] might be rendered discharging the office of a bishop, with as much propriety as any word in the New Testament is rendered bishop. And as the apostle expressly calls those, to whom he directs his exhortation, presbyters, it unavoidably follows, that the discharging the office of a scripture-WsAq/j, belongs to presbyters, or to the ministers of the gospel in common, and consequently, that both these terms denote one and the same office.

From these instances, I think it evident, that according to the truly primitive and apostolic plan, all the ministers of the gospel are of the same order, and that there should be no superiority among them but what may be among persons of the same order. Were it necessary, and did my time allow, I might confirm this opinion by the testimonies of some of the fathers, particularly of those who lived nearest to the apostolic age. Though it must be owned, that the distinction between bishops and presbyters, was early introduced into the church; and the gradation still went on, till at length the bishop of Rome usurped the character of universal bishop, and exalted himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped.t Indeed, the episcopal scheme gives room, and consequently lays a temptation, to ambitious men, to climb, till they come to the top of the hierarchy. But when all minister are upon a level, and their office is not attended with secular honours and riches, they have not such room, or temptation to, N n

* Ep. v. 1, 2. o-«ftirg«r|3i/ls|o?. -j- 2 Thess. ii. 4.

ambition; and the highest character they can aspire to, is, that of humble, laborious servants of Christ, and the souls of men.

Having discovered, that the office of a bishop in my text, signifies the same with that of an ordinary minister of the gospel,* it may be proper briefly to mention the principal powers and duties of this office.

To the office of a gospel minister then, it belongs to preach the word: to administer the sacraments; to concur in the ordination of persons, duly qualified to this office; and to rule the church of God. The two first particulars are hardly disputed i but upon the two last, it may be necessary to offer a few observations.

It has been urged by the patrons of diocesan episcopacy, that the ordination of ministers, and the government of the church, are acts of authority, peculiar to the superior order of bishops. But if, as has been proved, there be no such superior order, according to the original constitution of the New Testament, it follows, that ministers must be ordained, and the church governed, by presbyters; or there can be no ordination, or church government at all.

That ordination is the act of a presbytery, appears from sundry passages of scripture. The apostles were all upon an equality; and they concurred in this act. Thus Paul and Barnabas jointly ordained elders in every city, with fasting. and prayer.f Timothy, as I observed before, was ordained by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery,^ in which St. Paul presided.§ And Paul and Barnabas were ordained to their mission among the Gentiles, by the prophets and teachers, or, as they may be called, the presbytery, of Antioch.||

Ordination is universally acknowledged to belong to them that have the government of the church of Christ committed to them. But this, we find, is committed to the ministers of the gospel in general: therefore, so is ordination. St. Paul speaks of it as the province of elders or presbyters to rule or preside! well, no less than to labour in the word and doctrine.** When he is writing to a particular church, "them that have the rule over you" or your

* That the ancient church understood the text in this sense appears from the Syriac version, in which tTigxemi, the office of a bishop, is rendered presbyterium. So Tremellius translates it :—Si quis concupiscit/>rs*6y/erium, opus bonum concupiscit.

t Acta xiv. 23. \ 1 Tim. iv. 14. § 2 Tim. i. 6. || Acts xiii. 2, 3. f .xt.owrena xeurPvltpi, 1 Tim. r. 17. ** Wfuiu, Heb. xiii. 7, 17, 24 guides,* a frequent phrase for its ministers. He mentions it as a necessary qualification of .ministers in common, "that they rule" or presidet " over their houses well: for," says he, "if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" This implies, that it belongs to the province of every minister, to rule and take care of the church of God, as the master of a house does of his family. So also, wherever submission and obedience is required on the part of the people, it implies a power to rule on the part of the elders or presbyters. Thus, it is said, "submit yourselves—to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth ;** or, as it may be more properly rendered, to every fellow-worker [with us] and labourer ;\ that is, according to the use of the word elsewhere,§ every "labourer in word and doctrine." "Obey them that rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account."|| "We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.,'IF You see, from these instances, that to labour in the word and doctrine, and to rule the church of God, are duties that belong to one and the same office, namely, that of presbyters, or ordinary ministers of the gospel: and therefore, all the acts of church government, and particularly that of ordination, belong equally to them all in general.

Here I would observe, that by the power of church-government, I do not mean, nor does the New Testament design, a power to lord it over God's heritage—a power to dictate and prescribe, in matters of faith and practice, what Jesus Christ, the great head of the church, has not prescribed in his word—a power over the persons or estates of the laity; or to govern the church with the secular arm. Such a power has been usurped by ambitious ecclesiastics, and many countries still groan under the tyranny. But this is not the power with which Christ has invested his ministers. They only have power to admit new members into the church, upon finding them properly qualifiedpower to instruct, advise, comfort, and admonish their charge,

according to their circumstances—a power of using proper measures with offending members to bring them to repentance—to exclude them from the peculiar privileges of the church, if they continue obstinately impenitent; and to re-admit them upon their repentance. These are the principal acts of the governing power of ministers of the gospel- And what is this, but a power essential to all societies, in which there is any order or decorum? A power of ruling, without oppressing; of executing Christ's laws, not of imposing laws of their own; in short, a power of doing good?

I now proceed to the other parts of my text; in considering which I shall have the happiness of being more practical.

"If any man desire the office of a bishop." The word here rendered desire,* is very strong and emphatical ; and signifies to catch at—to reach after—to be carried away with eager desires. And this naturally leads me to say something of those inward struggles and perplexities—those eager desires, and agonies of zeal, which honest souls generally feel before they enter into the ministry ; and by which it pleases God to qualify them for it. I have now nothing to do with those unhappy creatures, who desire and catch at the sacred office as a post of honour, profit, or ease; or, as the last shift for a livelihood, when other expedients have failed. Such deserve to be exposed in severer terms than I am disposed to use ; and I cannot but tremble to think what account they will be able to give to the great Bishop of souls, and Judge of tht universe.

But, as to those honest souls, who engage in it with proper motives and views, they are generally determined to it after many hard conflicts and reluctations. Some of them had the advantage of an early education, with a view to some other office. But when it pleases God to rouse them out of their security, and bring them under the strong but agreeable constraints of the love of Christ —when their eyes are opened to see the dangerous situation of a slumbering world around them; and their hearts are fired with a generous zeal for the honour of God and Jesus Christ, and the salvation of their perishing fellow-sinners; then they begin to cast about, and inquire, in what way they are most likely to promote these important interests: and as the ministry of the gos

egtyilxt Hederic. et Patric. reddunt epya per porrigo, extendoi tfyoftx per porrigor, extender, porrectis tnanibus capto.

pel appears to them the most promising expedient for this purpose, they devote their whole life, and all their accomplishments, to this humble despised office, and give up all their other prospects, whatever tempting scenes of riches, grandeur, or ease, might lie open before them.

Others have been put to learning in their childhood by their parents, and by them have been intended for the church, in order to get a living; when neither party had a view to the sacred office from just and honourable motives, but considered it in the same light with other trades. Thus many commence ministers of the gospel, from the very same principles that others commence lawyers, physicians, or merchants. But, when it pleases God to awaken the careless youth to a serious sense of religion, and qualify him in reality for that office, which he presumptuously aimed at from sordid motives, or in complaisance to his parents; then, though the office he chooses be the same, yet the principles and reasons of his choice are very different: now they are sublime, disinterested, and divine. Others have spent their early days equally thoughtless of God, of a liberal education, and of the ministerial office. But when they are brought out of darkness into light, and fired with the love of God, and a benevolent zeal for the salvation of men, then they begin to languish and pine away with generous anxieties, how they may best promote the glory of God, and be of service to the immortal interests of mankind, in the world. And while they are thus perplexed, the agitations of their own thoughts, or perhaps the conversation of a friend, turns their minds to the sacred office. "Oh that I might have the honour of employing my life, and all that I am and have, in recommending that dear Redeemer, who, I hope, has died for me, and had pity on this once perishing soul of mine. Oh! that it might be my happiness to contribute something towards promoting his cause in the world, and saving souls from death. Oh! if it should be but one soul, I should count it a sufficient reward for all the labours of my whole life." These are the noble motives that operate upon such a person to desire the office of a bishop. But alas ! a thousand discouragements rise in his way. His being so far advanced hi life, his want of an early education, the difficulty of acquiring a competency of learning in his circumstances : these appear as insuperable obstructions in his way ; and oblige him frequently to give up all hopes of accomplishing his desire. But when he has relinquished the desperate project, his uneasiness returns; bis panting desires revive; and he can obtajv no rest, till he is at length constrained to make the attempt, in the name of God, and leave the issue to him. He hopes lie shall either have his zealous desires gratified, in building up the church of God; or, at least, that he shall be approved in his generous, though unsuccessful endeavour, and hear it said to him, as it was to David, " Thou didst well, that it was in thine heart."*

But though this groupe of discouragements may be peculiar to such, as devote themselves to the service of the church, after that early part of life which is most favourable to a liberal education, is unhappily lost; yet, there are other discouragements, which all meet with, more or less, who enter into this office with proper views. They are deeply sensible of the difficulty of a faithful discharge of this office—of its solemn and tremendous consequences, both with regard to themselves, and their hearers, .which made even the chief of the apostles to cry out, " and who is sufficient for these things ?"t—of the various opposition they may expect from the world, who love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil, J and especially of their want of proper abilities to discharge, with honour and success, an office so difficult and so important. These discouragements, which strike them back, and the impulses of a generous zeal, which push them on, often throw them into a ferment, and agitate them with vari^ ous passions; so that they can enjoy no ease in the thoughts either of prosecuting or declining the design. Now they give it up in discouragement: But immediately they are seized with agonies of zeal, and resolve, in a dependance upon divine strength, to break through all discouragements, and make the attempt, at all adventures. Again, their fears arise, and strike them off" from the design. Again, their zeal revives, and impels them to pursue it. They can find no heart for any other pursuit. Or, if they fly to some other business, like Jonah to Tarshish, to avoid the mission, Providence appears against them, and raises some furious storm, that oversets all their schemes ^ till, at length, they are constrained to yield, and surrender themselves to God, to be used by him according to his pleasure. Jf they had resolved with Jeremiah, " I will not make mention of him, nor speak in his name," they find, like him, that " the word of God is in their heart, as a burning fire shut up in their bones, and they are weary with forbearing, and they cannot stay."§

* 1 Kings viii. 18. \ 2 Cor. ii. 16. \ John iii. 19. § Jer. ix. 9.

We find many of the great and good men of antiquity in such a struggle, when God was about to send them upon a mission for him. Moses forms a great many excuses—from his own meanness; "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt ?"*—from the incredulity of those to whom he was sent; "Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice ;"t—from his want of qualifications for the mission; " O my Lord, I am not eloquent; I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."\ And when all these excuses are removed, he prays to be excused at any rate; "O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the,hand of him whom thou wilt send."§ As, if he had said, 'employ any one in this mission, rather than me.' We repeatedly perceive the same reluctance in Jeremiah, "Ah! Lord God," says he, " I cannot speak, for I am a child."|| And elsewhere, in a passage that has rather a harsh sound, according to our translation,^ but should be rendered thus; "Thou hast persuaded me, O Lord, and I was persuaded:" that is, to undertake the prophetical office : " Thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed;" prevailed over all my reluctance. "I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in my heart, as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." So Ezekiel tells us, that when he went to discharge his office, "he went in bitterness, and in the heat of his spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon him," and he could not resist the almighty impulse.**

Thus, you see, with what reluctance those generally engage in the sacred office, who are justly sensible of its importance and difficulty, and of their own weakness. Men, whose choice is directed by their parents, or proceeds from the love of popular applause—from avarice, or some other low, selfish principle, may rush thoughtlessly into it; and in the presumptuous pride of selfconfidence, imagine themselves equal to the undertaking. But those honest souls, who know what they are going about, and what they themselves are, if they reach after this sacred office, it is with a trembling hand. They do indeed desire it, most ardently desire it; but it is when they are under the sweet constraints of the love of Christ, and the souls of men. This bears

them away, like a torrent, through all difficulties; and they would willingly hazard their lives in the attempt. But notwithstanding this ardour, their hearts frequently fail, and recoil ; and, at such times, nothing but necessity could push them on.

Through such struggles as these, my brethren in the gospel, have you entered into that office, which you are now painfully discharging. Your desire after- it was indeed ardent and inextinguishable: but Oh! what strong reluctance, what hard conflicts have you felt when you compared your own furniture with the work you had to do? And these discouragements have appeared to you, perhaps, in so affecting a light, even since you have been invested with your office, that you would most willingly have resigned it. But " necessity is laid upon you; yea, woe unto you, if you preach not the gospel."* Therefore, in a humble dependence upon divine assistance, you resolve to continue in it, whatever discouragements arise from a sense of your own imperfections, or from the unsuccessfulness of your labours in the world. And at times you feel, that God is with you, as a mighty terrible one; and causes his pleasure to prosper in your hands; and renders your hardest labours your highest delights: and then, O then, you would not exchange your pulpit for a throne nor envy ministers of state, if you may be but ministers of the glorious gospel. Then " you magnify your office ;"t and count it a very great grace, that you, who are so little among the saints. should be employed to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. You find, indeed, that the office of a bishop is a good work—good, pleasant, benevolent, divine.

But still it is a work. So the apostle calls it in my text, "The office of a bishop a good work." "It is the name of a work, not of a dignity,"t says St. Augustine. If a man desire the office of a bishop from right principles, he desireth—not a secular dignity—not a good benefice—not a post of honour or profit—not an easy idle life—but he desireth a work: a good work indeed it is; but still it is a work.

It may properly be called a work, if we consider the duties of the office, which require the utmost assiduity, and some of which are peculiarly painful and laborious. It is the minister's concern, in common with other christians, to work out his own salvation ; to struggle with temptation; to be always in arms to

* 1 Cor. ix. 16. + Rom. ii. 13. f Nomen operis, non digitatis. i Numtn operis, non dignitatis.

bear down the insurrections of sin in his heart; and to discharge all the ordinary duties of the christian life, towards God, his neighbour, and himself. This work is as necessary, as important, as difficult to him, as to his hearers. And I appeal to such of you as have ever engaged in it, whether this alone be not extremely difficult and laborious. It is, indeed, noble and delightful; but still it is laborious. But besides this, there is a great, an arduous and laborious work peculiar to the office of a bishop, or minister of the gospel, which not only is sufficient to exhaust all his time and abilities, but which requires daily supplies of strength from above to enable him to perform it. To employ his hours at home, not in idleness, or worldly pursuits, but in study and devotion, that his head and heart may be furnished for the discharge of his office—to preach the word, instant in season and out of season, with that vigorous exertion, and those agonies of zeal, which exhaust the spirits, and throw the whole frame into such a ferment as hardly any other labour can produce—to visit the sick, and to teach his people in general, from house to house, in the more social and familiar forms of private instruction—to do all this, not as a thing by the bye, or a matter of form, but with zeal, fidelity, prudence, and incessant application, as the main business of life; deeply solicitous about the important consequences—to do this with fortitude and perseverance, in spite of all the discouragements of unsuccessfulness, and the various forms of opposition that may arise from earth and hell—to abide steady and unshaken under the strong gales of popular applause, and the storms of persecution—to bless, when reviled; to forbear, when persecuted; to entreat, when defamed ; to be abased as the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of all things ;* to give no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed; but in all things to approve himself as the minister of God ;f— to preach Christianity out of the pulpit, by his example, as well as in it, by his discourses; and to make his life a constant sermon. —This, this, my brethren, is the work of a bishop, or a minister of the gospel. "And who is sufficient for these* things? la not this a work that would require the strength of an angel ?f And yet this work must be done—done habitually, honestly, conscientiously, by us frail mortals, that sustain this office ; or else

we shall be condemned as slothful and wicked servants. This thought must forever sink our spirits, were it not that Christ is our strength and life. Yes, my dear fellow labourers, such weaklings as we may spring up, and lay hold of his strength; and we can do all things through Christ strengthening us.* This you have experienced in hours of dejection; and " unless the Lord had been your help, your souls, ere now, had dwelt in silence."t Hence, by the bye, you may see the reason why the Lord hath appointed, that they who preach the gospel should live by it: it is because, that time, those abilities, and those labours, which others lay out in providing for themselves and their dependants, must be laid out by them in serving others, by a faithful discharge of their office. If they thus devote themselves to the duties of their function, it is but just and reasonable that those for whom they labour, should provide for their subsistence while they are serving them. But if those who style themselves ministers, do not suffer their office to restrain them from secular pursuits; if it only employ an hour or two once a week, upon a day in which it is unlawful even for the laity to mind their worldly affairs; in short, if, notwithstanding their office, they have the same opportunities with other people, to provide themselves a living, I see no reason why they should be supported at the public charge—supported at the public charge, to serve themselves! They are a kind of supernumerary placemen, or pensioners, and drones in society. "The labourer is worthy of his hire •"\ but the loiterer deserves none. But this I mention by the bye.

You see, my brother,§ what it is you are now to engage in. You have desired the office of a bishop; and after many struggles and disappointments, the object of your desire appears now within your reach. But remember, it is not a post of honour, profit, or ease, that you are about to be advanced to; but it is a work. You are now entering upon a life of painful labour, fatigue, and mortification. Now you have nothing to do but to work for your Lord and Master : to work, not merely for an hour or two once a week, but every day, in every week, and through your whole life. If you enter into your closet, it must be to pray. If you enter your study, it must be to think what

* Phil. iv. 13. f Psalm xciv. IT.

* Luke x. t. 1 Tim. v. 18.

§ Here the address was particularly directed to Mr. Martin.

you shall say to recommend your Master, not yourself; and to save the souls that hear you. If you enter the pulpit, it must be not to "preach yourself, but Christ Jesus the Lord ;"* not to set yourself off as a fine speaker, a great scholar, or a profound reasoner, but to preach Christ crucified, and the humble, unpopular doctrines of Jesus of Galilee; and to beseech men, in his stead, to be reconciled to God; "to warn every man, and teach every man, that you may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."t If you go into the world, and mingle in conversation, it must be to drop a word for Christ; and let mankind see, that you live, as well as talk, like a christian. If you travel about from place to place, among necessitous vacancies, it must be to diffuse the vital savour of your Master's name, and not your own. If you settle, and undertake a particular charge, it must be to " watch for souls, as one that must give account ;"\ and industriously to plant and water that spot, which is laid out for you in the Lord's vineyard. Here, my friend, here is your work; and while you survey it, I doubt not but you are ready to renew the exclamation, " Who is sufficient for these things ?"§ This work will leave no blanks in your time, but is sufficient to employ it well. It will leave none of your powers idle, but requires the utmost exertion of them every one. It is the work . of your Sundays, and of your week days.—The work of your retirement, and of your social hours—the work of soul and body— of the head and the heart—the work of life and death : a laborious, anxious, uninterrupted work. But, blessed be God! it is, after all, a good work.

It is a good work, whether you consider—for whom—with whom—or for what you work.

The ministers of the gospel work for God, who is carrying on the grand scheme of salvation in our world. His immediate service is the peculiar business of their lives. Their office calls them to minister at his altar, while others are called even in duty to mind the labours and pursuits of this world. Of them it may be said, in a peculiar degree, what holds true of christians in common, in a lower sense, "They neither live to themselves, nor die to themselves ; but whether they live, they live unto the Lord ; or whether they die, they die unto the Lord: so that living and dying, they are the Lord's."|| Now, who would not

work for the God that made them, that gives them all their blessings, and that alone can make them happy through an immortal duration ? Who would not work for so good, so excellent, so munificent a master? Oh ! how good a work is this?

Ministers also work for Jesus Christ. It was he that originally gave them their commission ; it was he that assigned them their work: it is he that is interested in their success. It is Ms work they are engaged in ; the great work of saving sinners, in which he himself worked, for three and thirty painful, laborious years: and to promote which, he suffered all the agonies of crucifixion. And, blessed Jesus! who would not work for thee? for thee, who didst work and suffer so much for us! Oh! while we feel the constraints of thy love, who, can forbear crying out with Isaiah, " Here am I; send me."* Send me to the ends of the earth; send me among savage barbarians; send me through fire and water; send me where thou wilt: if it be for thee, here, Lord, I go: I would undertake the hardest work, if it be for thee : for Oh ! what work can be so good, so grateful, so pleasant?

Again, the ministers of the gospel work for the souls of men. To do good to mankind, is the great purpose of their office. It is their business to serve the best interests of others, to endeavour to make men wise and good, and consequently happy, in time and eternity } to make them useful members of civil and religious society, in this world ; and prepared heirs of the inheritance of the saints in light : in short, to refine and advance human nature to the highest possible degree of moral excellence, glory, and happiness. Is not this the most generous beneficent office in all the world? And how good, how pleasing, and how delightful must it be, in this view, to a benevolent soul! It is an office the most friendly to civil government, and the happiness of the world in general. And if ecclesiastics have often proved firebrands in society, and disturbers of the peace of mankind, it has not been owing to the nature, design and tendency of their office, but to their being carried headlong by their own avarice or ambition, or some other slordid lust, to abuse it to purposes directly contrary to those for which it was intended and adapted. Every minister of the gospel ought to have a benevolent, generous, patriotic spirit, and be the friend of human nature, from noble and disinterested views: otherwise, his temper and his office appear a shocking contrariety to each other. But when they agree,

* Jsa. vi. 8.

lie is a public blessing to the world, and an immortal blessing to the souls of men. Thus, you see, this office is a good work, if we considers/or whom the work is done.

Let us next consider, with whom the ministers of the gospel work ; and we shall see how good their employment is. They are -workers together with God,* engaged in carrying on the same gracious design, which lay so near his heart from eternity; for the execution of which, he sent his Son into the world; has appointed various means of grace, under the various dispensations of religion, during the space of near six thousand years; and manages all the events of time, by his all-ruling providence.

They are also co-workers with Jesus Christ: promoting the same cause, for which he became man $ for which he lived the life of a servant, and died the death of a malefactor and a slave. Jesus, their Lord and master, condescended to be their predecessor in office, and to become the preacher of his own gospel. They are engaged, though in an humbler sphere, in that work, which he is now carrying on, since his return to his native heaven. And whenever the pleasure of the Lord prospers in their hands, he actually works with them, and is the author of all their successes. He sends his Spirit to "convince the world, by their means, of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment,"f and to make his gospel powerful for the salvation of those that hear it. Oh! were it not for his concurrence, all the little religion which is in the world, would immediately expire; and the united efforts of all the ministers upon earth, would not be able to preserve one spark of it alive.

They may also be called fellow-workers with the Holy Sftirit, whose great office it is to sanctify depraved creatures, and prepare them for the refined happiness of heaven. While they are speaking to the ear, He speaks to the heart; and causes men to feel, as well as to hear, the gospel of salvation.

They also act in concert with angels: for what are these glorious creatures, but " ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them, that shall be heirs of salvation V'\ An angel once condescended to call a minister of the gospel his fellow-servant. "I am thy fellow-servant" says the angel to John, (the fellow-servant) of thy brethren the prophets."§ And when these servants of an humbler order have finished their painful ministration on earth, they shall join their fellow-servants of a higher class in the

court of heaven, and, perhaps, share in the much more exalted forms of angelic ministration. This seems implied in that text where the angel of the Lord protests to Joshua the high-priest, "saying, thus saith the Lord, if thou wilt keep my charge, and if thou wilt walk in my ways, then thou shalt keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by."* And who are they that stand by? You are told, " The angel of the Lord stood by." Among these, therefore, Joshua had places given him to walk, as the companion and fellow-servant of angels.

Ministers also are engaged in that work, in which the apostles went before them. In this good cause, they travelled over sea and land, they laboured, they spent their lives, and at last gloriously departed. Yes; my fellow-labourers, they felt the generous toils, and braved the heroic dangers of your office, long before you. In this good cause, thousands of martyrs have shed their blood— thousands of ministers, in various ages, and in various countries, have spent their strength, their life, their all.

In short, all the good men, that ever have been, that now are, or ever shall be, upon earth, concur in the same good work with you, according to their respective characters. To make men wise, holy, and happy, is their united effort—the object they have in view, in their prayers, in their instructions, in their conversation, and in all their endeavours.

All good beings, in the whole compass of the vast universe, befriend your design: and none are against it but fallen spirits on the earth and in hell. And must not this be a good work in which such a glorious company concur? and Oh! who would not work in such company? with God, with Christ, with the Holy Spirit, with angels, with apostles, with martyrs, with all good men upon the face of the earth? Who would be so shocking a singularity, as not to join with this assembly in the work? Or who can question its goodness, since such an assembly join in it?

The office of a bishop will farther appear a good work, if it be considered for what it is that ministers work. They do not indeed work for a reward upon the footing of personal merit; but they hope for it on the plan of the gospel, through Jesus Christ. In this view, like Moses, they have "a respect to the recompense of reward."t God will not forget their honest

* Zech. iii. S—7. f H«b. "• 26.

though feeble, and frequently unsuccessful, labours in his own work. "They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever."* If a cup of cold water, given to the meanest disciple of Christ, shall not be unrewarded, what rich rewards must be prepared for those, vho employ their time, their abilities, their life, their all, in the most important, benevolent and laborious services for his church which he has purchased with his own blood? Crowns of distinguished brightness, and thrones of superior dignity, are reserved for them: and in proportion to their labours here, will be their glory and felicity in the world to come. In serving their divine Master and the souls of men, they are serving themselves ; and in promoting the interests of others, they most effectually promote their own. Thus, their duty and interest—the interest of mankind and their own, are wisely and graciously united, and mutually promote each other. And thus it appears, their laborious and painful work is good—good in itself; good for the world; and good for themselves. To sum up the whole—whatever contempt the ministerial office has lain under; how much soever it has been disgraced, and rendered useless, and even injurious, by the unworthy conduct of such as have thrust themselves into it, from base and mercenary views; yet, it is in itself, and in its natural tendency, the most noble, benevolent, and useful office in the world. To be the minister of Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, is a greater honour, than to be prime minister to the most illustrious monarch upon earth. To save souls from death, is a more heroic exploit, than to rescue enslaved nations from oppression and ruin. To make a multitude of wretched, perishing souls rich with the unsearchable treasures of Christ, is a more generous eharity, than to clothe the naked, or feed the hungry. To' refine depraved spirits, and improve them into a fitness for the exalted employments and enjoyments of heaven, is a higher pitch of patriotism, than to civilize and polish barbarous nations, by introducing the arts and sciences, and a good form of government among them. To negotiate a peace between God and man, and prevent the terrible consequences of the unnatural, unequal war, that has so long been waged between them, is a more benevolent and important service than to negotiate a peace between contending nations—to stop the current of human blood, and heal the deadly Wounds of war. Let those therefore, who are called te this bless

* Dan. xii. 5.

ed work, join with St. Paul, though in a humbler order, and thank the Lord Jesus Christ, who hath enabled them, for "that He counted them faithful, putting them into the ministry."* Let them "magnify their office," not by assuming airs of superiority, or by making ostentatious claims to powers that they have nothing to do with, but by rejoicing more in it, than in crowns and thrones—by supporting it with dignity, that is, acting up to their high character; and by so exercising it, as to render it an extensive blessing to the world. This will be the best expedient to keep themselves and their office above contempt, and to gain the approbation of God and man.

But when we reflect upon the dignity, the importance, the difficulty, and the grand consequences of this office, it may render us who sustain it, peculiarly sensible of our constant need of supplies of divine grace, to enable us to discharge it. Alas! we know nothing of ourselves, if we imagine we are equal to it. St. Paul, with all his apostolic furniture, humbly acknowledges, "We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves : but our sufficiency is of God: who alone hath made us able ministers of the New Testament."t "Who is Paul," says he, "or who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?" Observe, their success was just as the Lord gave to every man. "Neither is he - that planteth any thing, nor he that watereth: but God that gives the blessing:" He is all in all.^. "If I laboured more abundantly than others," says he, "it was not I, but the grace of God which was with me."§ Thus, my brethren, it becomes us to be always dependent upon divine grace. It becomes us to be often on the knee at the throne of mercy, petitioning for help and success : and if we are, in any measure, blessed with either, we should arrogate nothing to ourselves, but ascribe all the glory to him, who condescends to distribute gifts to men, and to crown these gifts with his divine blessing.

Hence, also, my brethren of the laity, you may see how much ministers need the assistance of your prayers. Even the great St. Paul did not disdain to ask the prayers of common christians, but repeats his request over and over. And I, from much more urgent necessity, as the mouth of these my brethren, beg this charity of you for myself and them. Surely you cannot deny it,

.especially as yourselves will reap the advantage in the issue: for whatever ministerial abilities God may bestow upon us, in answer .to your prayers, they .are to be employed for your service : and it is our being so poorly qualified to serve you, that extorts this request from us, an,d is the cause of many a weeping, melancholy hour to us.

You must, also, hence see, that it is your concern to concur with ministers of the gospel in promoting the benevolent and important ends of their office. Endeavour so to attend upon their ministrations, as that you yourselves may be saved by them. And endeavour by your conversation and example, and all meth•ods in your power, to make them useful to others. Oh! let us all, ministers and people, form a noble confederacy against the kingdom of darkness, and make a vigorous attack upon it, with our united forces. Let us all.enlist volunteers—as good soldiers, under Jesus; and in our post, whether high or low, do all we can

to promote his kingdom. Amen.

'

AN HYMN

BY THE AUTHOR OF THE SERMON FOREGOING,

(Varied from Dr. Doddridge. J

WITH grateful hearts come let us sing,
The gifts of our ascended King;
Though long since gone from earth below,
Through every age his bounties flow.
The Saviour when to Heav'n he rose
In splendid triumph o'er his foes.
His gifts on rebel men bestow'd,
And wide his royal bounties flow'd.
Hence sprang th' apostles' honour'd name,
More glorious than the hero's fame;
Evangelists and prophets hence
Derive tiie blessings they dispense.
In humbler forms, to bless our eyes,
Pastors from hence and teachers rise;
Who, though with feebler rays they shine,
Still gild a long-extended line.
From Christ their various gifts derive,
And fed by Christ their graces live:
While, guarded by his mighty hand,
'Midst all the rage of hell they stand.
Thus teachers, teachers shall succeed
When we lie silent with the dead!
And unborn churches, by their care,
Shall rise and flourish large and fair.
Pastors and people, join and sing,
This constant, inexhausted spring,
Whence through all ages richly flow
The streams that cheer the church below.

P p