« PreviousContinue »
perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Christ, in the words of the text, does not only intend to recommend this example of his to the disciples as Christians, or some of his professing people, but especially as his ministers. This is evident by those words he uses to enforce this counsel, “ Neither he that is sent, is greater than he that sent him.” In which words he manifestly has respect to that great errand on which he had sent them, when he bid them go and preach the gospel to the lost sheep of the flouse of Israel. Matth. X. 5, 6, and on which they were to be sent after his resurrection, when he said to them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.' The same errand that Christ has respect to John xx. 21. “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
And what confirms this is, that Christ elsewhere recommends to officers in his church, that are in that respect chief among his followers, the example which he set in his abasing himself to be as a servant that ministers to guests at a table, in his giving his life for us; Matth. xx. 27, 29. “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Compare Luke xxii. 25—28.
The work and business of ministers of the gospel is as it were that of servants, to wash and cleanse the souls of men : For this is done by the preaching of the word, which is their main business, Eph. v. 26. “ That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”
The words of the text thus considered, do undoubtedly lead us to this conclusion, and teach us this doctrine, viz.
That it is the duty of ministers of the gospel, in the work of their ministry, to follow the example of their great Lord and Master.
And this is what I would by divine assistance make the subject of my present discourse.
And I propose to handle this subject in the following method.
I. I would observe wherein ministers of the gospel ought to follow the example of Christ.
II. Give some reasons why they should follow his example.
III. I would endeavour to make a proper application of those things to myself, and others that are called to this work of the ministry.
IV. Show what improvement should be made of them by the people of this church and congregation.
1. Then, I would show wherein ministers of the gospel ought in the work of their ministry, to follow the example of their great Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
And here, 1. In general, ministers should follow their Lord and Master in all those excellent virtues, and in that universal and eminent holiness of life, which be set an example of in his human nature.
The ministers of Christ should be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of: The same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord. They should be of the same spirit of heavenly mindedness and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world : They should be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God: They should follow the example of his prayerfulness; of whom we read from time to time of his retiring from the world, away from the noise and applauses of the multitudes, into mountains and solitary places for secret prayer, and holy converse with his Father; and once of his rising up in the morning a great while before day, and going and departing into a solitary place to pray, Mark i. 35--and another time, of his going out into a mountain to pray, and continuing all night in prayer to God, Luke vi. 12. Ministers should follow Christ's example, in his strict, constant, and inflexible observance of the commands which God had given him, touching what he should do and what he should say; he spake nothing of himself, but those things which the Father had commanded him, those he spake, and always did those things that pleased bim, and continued in thorough obedience and the greatest trials, and through the greatest opposition that ever there was any instance of. Ministers should be persons of the same quiet, lamblike spirit that Christ was of, the same spirit of submission to God's will, and patience under afflictions, and meekness towards men, of the same calmness and composure of spirit under reproaches and sufferings from the malignity of evil men; of the same spirit of forgiveness of injuries ; of the same spirit of charity, of fervent love and extensive benevolence; the same disposition to pity the miserable, to weep with those that weep, to help men under their calamities of both soul and body, to hear and grant the requests of the needy, and relieve the afflicted; the same spirit of condescension to the poor and mean, tenderness and gentleness towards the weak, and great and effectual love to enemies. They should also be of the same spirit of zeal, diligence, and self-denial for the glory of God, and advancement of his kingdom, and for the good of mankind; for which things' sake Christ went through the greatest labours, and endured the most extreme sufferings.
2. More particularly should ministers of the gospel follow the example of their great Master, in the manner in which they
seek the salvation and happiness of the souls of men. They should follow his example of love to souls: Though it be impossible that they should love them to so great a degree, yet they should have the same spirit of love to them, and concern for their salvation, according to their capacity. Love to men's souls in Christ was far above any regard he had to his temporal interest, his ease, his honour, his meat and drink ; and so it should be with his ministers. They should have the same spirit of compassion to men under their spiritual calamities and miseries, that he had of whom we read, Mark vi. 34, “ That when he came out and saw much people, he was moved with compassion towards them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” The word translated moved with compassion, signifies, that he was most sensibly affected, and his inmost bowels moved with pity. And again we read, Luke xix. that when Christ was riding to Jerusalem, that wicked city, but a few days before his crucifixion, and was come to the descent of the mount of Olives, where he had a fair view of the city, when he beheld it, he wept over it, on account of the misery and ruin they had brought themselves into danger of by their sin; although the sin by which especially they had made themselves thus miserable, was their vile treatment of him; (for Jerusalem was a city that had been peculiarly injurious to him ;) and though Christ knew how cruelly he should be treated in that city before that week was past, how he there should be set at nought, and with great malignity bound, falsely accused and condemned, reviled, spit upon, scourged and crucified : Yet all does not prevent his most affectionate tears of compassion towards them. 6. When he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, (thou as wicked as thou art, and as vile as thou hast been in thy treatment of me; even thou,) the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes." (Compare Matth. xxiii. 37, and Luke xiii. 34.) One would have thought he would have been more concerned for himself than Jerusalem, who had such a dreadful cup to drink, and was to suffer such extreme, things by the cruelty of Jerusalem that week. But be as it were, forgets his own sorrow and death, and weeps over the misery of his cruel enemies.
Ministers should imitate their great Master in his fervent prayers for the good of the souls of men. We find it to be Christ's manner whenever he undertook any thing of special importance in the work of his ministry, first to retire and pour out his soul in extraordinary prayer to his Father. Thus when he was about to enter on a journey, and go a circuit throughout all Galilee, to preach in their synagogues, “ he rose up a great
while before day, and went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Marki. 35–39. And when he was about to choose his twelve apostles, and send them out to preach the gospel, he first went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. Luke vi. 12, &c. And the night before his crucifixion, wherein he offered up himself a sacrifice for the souls of men, he pours out his soul in extraordinary prayer, for those he was about to die for, as we have an account in John xvii. That wonderful and most affecting prayer of his, was not so much for himself as for his people. Although he knew what amazing sufferings he was to undergo the next day, yet he seems as it were to be unmindful of himself, and to have his heart all taken up with concern about his disciples; which he manifests in his spending so much time in comforting and counselling them, and praying for them with great affection, compassion, earnest care and fatherly tenderness. And the prayers that he made in the garden of Gethsemane, under the amazing view of the cup he was to drink the next day, seem to be intercessory ; especially the last of tbe three prayers which he there made, when being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground: When he did not pray that the cup might pass from him, as he had done before, but that God's will might be done. (Compare Luke xxii. 44, with Matth. xxvi. 42.) That prayer, as the apostle teaches us, Heb. v. 6, 7, was a prayer that he put up as our High Priest; and therefore must be a prayer of intercession for us, a prayer offered up with his blood which he sweat in his agony; as prayers were wont to be offered
with the blood of the sacrifices in the temple. His prayer at that time, Thy will be done, was not only an expression of submission, but had the form of a petition, as it is in the Lord's prayer. He prayed that God's will might be done in his being enabled to do the will of God, persevering in obedience unto death; and in the success of his sufferings; which might in an eminent manner be called the will of God, as it is in Psa. xl. 7,8. “Then said I, Lo, I come-I delight to do thy will, O my God."
Ministers should follow the example of Christ in his diligence and laboriousness in his work. “He went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil.” Acts x. 33. So abundant was he in labours, that oftentimes he scarcely allowed himself time to eat or drink; insomuch that his friends sometimes went out to lay hold of him, saying, “He is beside himself.” Mark iii. 20, 21. That three years and an half of his public ministry was so filled with action and labour, that one of his disciples that constantly attended him, and was an eye-witness of his activity, tells us that if all that he did should be written, the world would not contain the books.
Ministers should follow the example of Christ, in his readiness not only to labour, but suffer for the salvation of souls, to spend and be spent for them. In this respect the apostle Paul imitated his Lord and Master. Philipp. ii. 17. “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.” Col. i. 24. “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body's sake, which is the church.” 2 Cor. xii. 15. “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you.” Christ, in his prayers, labours, and suffer: ings for the souls of men, is represented as travailing in birth with them. Isai. liii. 11. “He shall see of the travail of his soul.” In like manner should ministers travail for the conversion and salvation of their hearers. They should imitate the faithfulness of Christ in his ministry, in speaking whatsoever God had commanded him, and declaring the whole counsel of God. They should imitate him in the manner of his preaching ; who taught not as the Scribes, but with authority, boldly, zealously, and fervently; insisting chiefly on the most important things in religion, being much in warning men of the danger of damnation, setting forth the greatness of the future misery of the ungodly; insisting not only on the outward, but also the inward and spiritual daties of religion ; being much in declaring the great provocation and danger of spiritual pride, and a selfrighteous disposition; yet much insisting on the necessity and importance of inherent holiness, and the practice of piety. Behaving himself with admirable wisdom in all that he said and did in his ministry, amidst the many difficulties, enemies, and temptations he was surrounded with, wonderfully adapting his discourses to persons, seasons, and occasions. Isai. 1. 4. “ The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary."
Ministers should follow their Master in his zeal, so wonderfully mixed and tempered with gentleness and condescension in his dealing with souls; preaching the gospel to the poor, and taking a gracious notice from time to time of little children. And they should imitate their Lord in his following the work of the ministry, not from mercenary views, or for the sake of wordly advantages, but for God's glory, and men's salvation ; and in having his heart engaged in his work; it being his great delight, and his meat to do the will of his Father, and finish his work, John iv. 34, and having his heart set on the success of his great undertaking in the salvation of souls ; this being the joy that was set before him, for which he run his race, endured the VOL. VIII.