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brethren, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God : for I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power ; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
The true minister, following the example of St. Paul, after having experienced the power of these victorious arms, exhorts every soldier of Christ to provide himself with the same spiritual weapons. " Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand. For we wrestle not merely against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace : above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench ‘all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” And that you may perform heroical service with these arms, “pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.'
So long as the faithful minister, or servant of Christ, wears and wields these scriptural arms, he will be truly invincible. But no man can gird himself with these invisible weapons, except he be born of the Spirit ; nor can any
Christian soldier employ them to good purpose, unless he be first endued with all that divine power, which flows from the love of God and man: he must feel, at least, some sparks of that fire of charity, which warmed the bosom of St. Paul, when he cried out : “ Whether we be
beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ” and of souls constraineth us."
“ From the time, that the eyes of St. Paul were opened to a perception of the gospel,” says Mons. Romilly, pastor of a church in Geneva, we find him no longer the same person. He is another man, he is a new creature,
who thinks no more but on gospel truths ; who hears nothing, who breathes nothing but the gospel ; who speaks on no other subject, who attends to no other thing but the voice of the gospel ; who desires all the world to attend with him to the same voice, and wishes to communicate his transports to all mankind. From this happy period, neither the prejudices of flesh and blood, neither respect to man, nor the fear of death, nor any other consideration, is able to withstand him in his course. He moves on with serenity in a path sown thick with reproaches and pain. What has he to fear, he despises the maxims of The world, nay the world itself; its hatred as well as its favour, its joys as well as its sorrows, its meanness as well as its pomp.
Time is no longer an object with him, nor is his economy regulated by it. He is superior to every thing; he is immortal. Though the universe arms itself against him, though hell opens its abysses, though affliction assaults him on every side, he stands immovable in every storm, looking with contempt upon death, conscious that he can never die. Superior to all his enemies, he resists their united attempts with the arms of the gospel, opposing to time and hell, eternity and heaven.”
His power to bind, to loose, and to bless, in the name of
the Lord. The armour of God, described in the preceding article, is common to all Christians : but the true minister is girded with weapons of a peculiar temper. As a Christian his sword is the word of God in general, but, as a minister, it is especially those parts of the gospel, by which he is invested with authority to preach the word of God, and to perform the functions of an ambassador of Jesus Christ. “ Go,” said our blessed Master to his first disciples, "and preach the gospel to every creature. He, that believeth" my doctrine “shall be saved: but he that believeth not, shall be damned. All
power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Verily, verily I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever
shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth,” according to the spirit of my gospel, “ shall be loosed in heaven."
Behold, from whence the ministers of Christ have authority to absolve true penitents, and to excommunicate obstinate sinners. An authority, which some have called the power of the clergy; a power, which unrighteous pastors so much abuse, and which the faithful never presume to exercise but with the utmost solemnity; a power which, nevertheless, belongs to them of divine right, and which can be denied them with no more reason, than they can refuse the sacramental cup to the people. Such at least, is the judgment of many excellent and learned divines, among whom may be reckoned Mons. Ostervald, and Mons. Roques. It may however be inquired, with propriety, in this place,-Can ecclesiastics be justified in still making use of their authority in these respects, unless they do it with prudence and impartiality? And would it not become them to exercise the ecclesiastic discipline, in an especial manner, upon unworthy pastors, following the maxim of St. Peter : “The time is come, that judgment must begin at the house of God ?"
Invested with the authority, which Christ has conferred upon him, the true minister is prepared to denounce the judgments of God against obstinate sinners, to console the dejected, and to proclaim the promises of the gospel to every sincere believer, with an energy unknown to the worldly pastor, and with a power, which is accompanied by the seal of the living God. Thus, when such a minister clearly discerns the profound malice of another Elymas, he is permitted to say, with the authority of an ambassador of Jesus Christ; “O full of all subtilty, and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord ? Behold! the hand of the Lord shall be upon
thee." But the true minister is careful never to abuse this awful power. “ We can do nothing,” says St. Paul, “ against the truth, but for the truth : I write these things being absent, lest being present, I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.” The denunciation of vengeance is to the minister of Christ, what the execution of judgment is to the God of love, his painful and strange work
The good pastor, conscious that the ministration of mercy exceeds in glory the ministration of condemnation, places his chief glory and pleasure in spreading abroad the blessings of the new covenant. He knows, that the promises are yea, and amen, in that beneficent Redeemer, who gave the following charge to his first missionaries : “ Into whatsoever house ye enter,
say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him: if not, it shall turn to you again.” The wishes and prayers of a minister, who acts and speaks in conformity to the intent of this benign charge, really communicates the peace and benediction of his gracious Master to those who are meet for their reception; and according to the degree of his faith, he can write to the faithful of distant churches, with the confidence of St. Paul,--I am persuaded that “when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” Whenever he salutes his brethren, his pen or his lips become the channel of those evangelical wishes which flow from his heart : “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. The
of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.” Thus the true minister approves himself a member of the “royal priesthood," a priest of the Most High, “after the order of Melchisedec,” who blessed the patriarch Abraham : or rather, a ministering servant of the Son of God, who was manifested in the
fiesh, that " in him all the families of the earth might be blessed.'
Great God ! grant that the whole company of Christian pastors may be men after thine own heart. Leaving to the ignorant those compliments, which a slavish dependence has invented, may thy ministers perpetually carry about them.the love, the gravity, and the apostolic authority, which belong to their sacred character. May all the benedictions, which thou hast commissioned them to pronounce, cause them still to be received, in every place as angels of God.'
Far from being despised as hypocrites, shunned as troublesome guests, or feared as men of a
a covetous and tyrannical disposition, may that moment always be esteemed a happy one, in which they enter any man's habitation : and whenever they make their appearance upon these charitable occasions, may those who compose the family, each seeking to give the first salute, cry out, —" How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace.'
The power of pronouncing exhortations and blessings is not the exclusive privilege of pastors, but belongs to all experienced believers. The patriarchs had a right to bless their children; and Jacob blessed not only his sons and grandsons, but also the king of Egypt himself. If the followers of Christ then are deprived of this consolatory power, the children of ancient Israel were more highly privileged than the members of the Christian church, who are called, nevertheless, to receive more precious benedictions, and to be, as our Lord expresses it, “the salt of the earth," and "the light of the world.” When St. Paul writes to believers, “Desire spiritual gifts; but rather that ye may prophesy : for he that prophesieth, speaketh unto men to edification, to exhortation, and comfort;" he doubtless excites them to ask of God that overflowing charity, and that patriarchal authority, without which it is impossible for them fully to comply with the following apostolic injunctions: "Bless and curse not,-knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing ;'-and without a high degree of which they cannot sincerely obey those distinguished precepts of our blessed Lord,—"Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you."