Imatges de pÓgina
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is applied in the New Testament to the elders or presbyters, as having the oversight of the flock; and they are the order who, in all places and at all periods, (until little more than two centuries since,) have exercised the powers of ordination and of supremacy in government. If they had not been originally vested with these powers, an attempt to usurp them would have been marked by the decided resistance of those over whom they thus claimed lawless dominion. The usurpation, in all places where the cross of Christ had been planted—in the extreme regions of Europe and Asia, in remote Egypt, and in the sequestered vallies of India -so as to leave no trace of any equality in the ministry, would have been morally impossible; and if it had, it would have constituted an era memorable for a radical change in the apostolic constitution of the ministry-an era that would have been prominent, and easily distinguished; and not, as now, to be searched for in vain on the page of history.

Subordinate to this first order of the ministry, we trace, in the apostolic history, the appointment of elders or presbyters, who were originally called also Bishops or Overseers, as having the oversight of the flock; but this name afterwards became appropriate to the first order of the ministry. This is the order which is called, in ecclesiastical language, Priests, because they celebrate that which the Gospel has proportionably to the Levitical sacrifice, the offering of which belonged to the priests the spiritual oblation of the body and blood of Christ under the symbols of bread and wine. And in this power of celebrating the holy communion, the order of priests is principally dis

tinguished from that of deacons. These are also an order of the ministry, as they were set apart by the laying on of hands; and it appears from the Acts of the Apostles that they preached and baptized, having all the powers of the ministry but the celebration of the holy communion, and the pronouncing the sentence of absolution and benediction, which are peculiar to the priest's office.

The nature of the priest's office, and the duties of the people in respect to it-its necessity, and the estimation in which it should be held-I proceed now to consider, with reference

1. To the worship and ordinances of the church; 2. To the preaching of the word; 3. And to parochial duties.

1. The reciprocal duties of a minister and his congregation, in reference to the worship and ordinances of the church.

It has pleased God, in accommodation to our nature, most powerfully affected by appeals to our senses, and in order to impress us with more clear and lively views of the spiritual blessings which he dispenses, to constitute visible signs and seals, sacraments and ordinances, by which the blessings of his mercy and grace are certified and conveyed to us. In the services of the church, offering homage, supplication, and praise to the Father of our spirits, we thus hold that communion with him, whereby our souls are purified from the dross of worldly feelings, elevated above the transitory objects of time, and consoled under the changes and trials of this sublunary state, with the foretaste of the glories that await us in an enduring, and pure, and perfect existence. Quickening and che

rishing the holy dispositions and graces of our hearts, the worship and ordinances of the sanctuary on earth, in which God vouchsafes to dwell by the communications of his grace, prepare us for the enjoyment of those displays of his glory with which the High and Holy One fills the temple that is eternal in the heavens.

In this view of the exalted nature and tendency of the worship and ordinances of the church, how important is it that the steward of these sacred mysteries, the organ of the people in their supplications to the throne of grace, the servant of the Most High, commissioned to bless the people in his name, should be diligent and faithful in the administration of the ordinances of the church, and should unite reverence, humility, and fervour in conducting the worship of the sanctuary. While he is impressed with a deep conviction of his unworthiness, and cherishes a lively view of the mercies of the God of his salvation, he should be penetrated with a profound sense of the exalted glories of that Being whose worship he is celebrating; all the affections of his soul should be awakened when, in the services of the temple, he approaches the majesty of that God whose glories cherubim and seraphim cannot worthily celebrate; and his manner, grave, unaffected, but fervent, should be calculated to excite in the worshippers the exalted spirit of devotion which animates his own heart, when he invokes and adores the God of all goodness and mercy.

But in vain will prove the most reverential and faithful ministration of the worship and ordinances of the church, unless the congregation unite in rendering homage to God in the worship of the temple,

and devoutly seek to obtain a title to his mercy and the influences of his grace in the ordinanees of that church, union with which, as the body of Christ, is the divinely constituted mean of union with him, its head. Christ is the Head of the church, the Saviour of the body, as the apostle declares; and united to the body, we are united, in the exercise of penitence and faith, to the divine Head, from whom flow all the blessings of grace, and consolation, and eternal life.

If then, while in deep solicitude for their salvation, the ministering servant of the Most High invokes, for the assembled congregation, the grace and mercy of God their Saviour; if, while humbled with the emotions of penitence, he pronounces the penitential confession, and, animated with the view of the Divine goodness and mercy, offers the sacred hymns of praise; if, while he is engaged in exercises the most awful and interesting, the congregation are unaffected by solemnities in which they ought to take the deepest interest; if, while he offers to them, in the ordinances of the church, the inestimable blessings of mercy and grace, they refuse to come to the holy feast which he spreads before them-they do more than contemn the ministrations of a worm of the dust-they contemn the most high God, whose commission he bears, and whose ordinances he dispenses; they do more than deprive themselves of the inestimable consolations which are derived from communion with God in the worship of his holy temple, and exclude themselves from his fold on earth: rejecting the pledges of his favour and love, and the means of his grace and mercy, they render themselves unworthy to be admitted to his presence, and to

enjoy the light and glory of his countenance in his celestial temple; and their portion will be in outer darkness. Brethren, take heed lest, by neglecting the worship and the ordinances of the sanctuary, this condemnation be incurred by you.

2. Important also are the duties of the Christian minister and his congregation, in reference to the preaching of the word.

Watching over his flock as one who is to give account, the Christian minister will faithfully dispense to his people the word of life. The preaching of the word is one of the divinely constituted means of awakening the careless, of consoling the depressed, and of advancing the servants of God in the holy graces and virtues of their high vocation. Preach the word; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering, was the solemn injunction of Paul to Timothy. If the minister of Christ is negligent, or inattentive, or careless in dividing to his people the word of truth, how can it be expected that they will be acquainted with the doctrines of salvation, with the principles of that holy society, that body of Christ with which they are united, and thus be able to resist the assaults of heresy and schism? Heavy is the wo denounced against him, who, having assumed the sacred office of a dispenser of the word of God, neglects to declare with zeal and faithfulness the truths of salvation.

It is then the duty of the divinely commissioned servant of the Most High to unfold the whole counsel of God-to proclaim it with plainness, with force and fervour. It should be his first care to make men sensible that they are fallen and guilty

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