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(1.) There is in God, to meet with our wants, an all-sufficiency of grace and ‘mercy to pardon us :' Tit. iii. 3, 4. The apostle having made a description of what we were before our conversion to God, and notwithstanding all the paint we put upon ourselves, has given us a character as black as bell; 'We ourselves were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.' How were we delivered ? · The kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared.' God, who is rich in grace, of his mercy wherewith he loved us in Christ, notwithstanding that cursed condition of ours, pardons, sanctifies, and saves us. There is an allsufficiency of grace and mercy in God, I say, to pardon us. Where is there a believer that cannot say, he has found God all-sufficient to pardon sin?
(2.) There is an all-sufficiency of spiritual strength in God to support us.' Here lies our great strait and perplexity, the experience of our own weakness, of the unspeakable variety of temptations wherewith we are exercised, of oppositions that we meet withal, especially in such a time wherein the floods lift up their voice and rage. Who shall be able to go through all these difficulties? these remaining trials, temptations, troubles of our pilgrimage? How shall we be able to withstand them? I know not how it is with others, but it is a wonder to myself, that my soul is alive, considering what is come already: But there is the residue of the Spirit with God.' He tells you, Isa. xl. 28. to the end, that he will not faint in this work of giving out grace and spiritual strength; ' He will give power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he will increase strength. He is able to carry us through all, and cause us to sing, because of his majesty, in the very fire.
(3.) There is an all-sufficiency of goodness and beauty in God to satisfy our souls. We are scattering away our affections upon every high hill, and under every green tree, Jer. ii. 20. looking for, and seeking after satisfaction from perishing things; but we find them all vanity and vexation of spirit: they will appear so unto us. But, “How great is his goodness? How great is his beauty ? Zech. ix. 17. O the excellency and desirableness of God to satisfy and fill all the affections of our hearts in every state and condition !
(4.) And lastly, there is an all-sufficiency in God 'to reward us' when we shall be here no more. The lion lies at the door, death is ready to seize upon us. Let our condition be what it will, we are entering into eternity: but God hath engaged himself by covenant to be our God; he hath promised to carry us through the dark shade, and to crown our souls with glory. ‘Be thou faithful to death, and I will give thee a crown of life.'
Wherefore, he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive,
and gave gifts unto men.--Eph. iv. 8. The design of these words is to shew, that the gift of the ministry, and of ministers, of the office, and persons to discharge that office, is an eminent fruit of the exaltation of Christ, and a great expression and pledge of his care and love towards his church; and that is my doctrine, which I shall speak unto from them.
First, It is a gift, 'Avròs édokn, ver. 11. 'He himself gave.' The foundation of the ministry is in the gift of Christ. Let me answer that question which he put once to the Pharisees, • The baptism of John, is it from heaven? or is it of men ? In like manner, I say, the ministry, is it from heaven? or is it of men ? The answer is, in the text, He gave; it is the gift of Christ. It is also the great promise, that he would do 80 ; Jer. iii. 15. “I will give you pastors according to my own heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.' When shall that be? When,' saith he, 'I shall take you, one of a city and two of a family, and bring you to Zion,' as it is said in ver. 14. Or, when I shall call you by the gospel, then I will give you pastors according to my own heart. And that this is a promise of the gospel, and so intended in that place of Jeremiah, you may see, chap. xxiii. 4. where the promise is repeated, I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them.' Ver. 5. When I raise unto David a righteous branch, a king that shall reign and prosper.' It is the great promise that, under the gospel, Christ would give ministers to his church.
It may be said, we know how Christ gave apostles when he was on earth; he called them, chose them, sent them; but how doth Christ now continue to give ministers to his church? That we may not claim an interest in a gift, and a privilege that we have no right unto-I say, by four ways
• This sermon was preached at the ordination of a minister, Jan. 23, 1673. VOL. XVII.
or means doth Christ continue to give ministers in all ages unto his church. The church is to consider them as that which is the bottom and foundation of the duties they perform, and of the work undertaken this day.
First, He doth it ‘by the standing law, ordinance, and institution of the gospel,' whereby he hath appointed this office of the ministry in the church, as the great Mediator of it. All the saints in the world, all the disciples of Christ, neither could nor ought (whatever necessity they could have thought they had seen of it, whatever congruity from the light of nature) to have appointed teachers nor officers among them, neither could it ever have been blessed unto their advantage, if Christ had not, by a standing ordinance and law, appointed such an office : and if that law comes to an end, if its obligation ceases, the work of the ministry, and the whole office of it must cease also : but if this ordinance be, as the ordinances of heaven,' of the sun, moon, and stars, that change not, it shall never be altered in this world. It is plain then, the neglect of the work and office of the ministry is so far a rebellion against the authority of Christ. ‘All power,' saith he, Matt. xxviii. 18, 19. ' is given to me in heaven and earth; therefore go preach the gospel, and I am with you to the end of the world: He is exalted, and he gives some to be pastors and some to be teachers, until all the elect of God are brought unto the unity of the faith, and unto a perfect man; unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Secondly, The second thing he doth, is 'the giving spiritual gifts' unto men, whereby they may be enabled unto the discharge of the office of the ministry, as to the edification of the church, in all the ends of it. Gifts make no man a minister; but all the world cannot make a minister of Christ, without gifts. If the Lord Jesus Christ should cease to give out spiritual gifts unto men for the work of the ministry, he need do no more to take away the ministry itself; it must cease also: and it is the very way the ministry ceases in apostatising churches, Christ no more giving out unto them of the gifts of his Spirit; and all their outward forms and order, which they can continue, are of no signification in
Thirdly, Christ doth it by giving power unto his church
to call persons to that office, by him appointed and prepared by the gifts he bestows. And you may observe three things concerning this power.
1. That this power in the church is not despotical, lordly, and absolute. It is not from any authority of their own; but it consists in an absolute compliance with the command of Christ; it is but the doing what Christ hath commanded, and that gives virtue, efficacy, and power unto it. Look not upon us as though, by our power and our virtue, may the church say, we have made this man a minister this day. It is in the name and authority of Jesus Christ alone by which we act; in obedience unto that, he is so constituted and appointed,
2. There is no power in any church to choose any one whom Christ hath not chosen before; i.e. No church can make a man formally a minister, that Christ hath not made so materially; if I may so say. If Christ hath not preinstrueted and prefurnished him with gifts, it is not in the power of the church to choose or call him. And where these two things are, where the law of Christ is the foundation, and where the gifts of Christ are the preparative; thereupon the church calls, and persons are constituted elders by the Holy Ghost, and overseers of the flock, as in Acts xx. 28. Because he gave the law of the office, and because he gave these gifts to the officers, therefore are they constituted by the Holy Ghost. They were the ordinary elders of the ehurch of Ephesus, to whom the apostle gives in charge to feed the flock of God, over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers.'
3. The way whereby the church doth call or constitute any person into this office thus appointed, is by giving themselves up unto him in the Lord, which they testify by their solemn choice and election by suffrage: the way, I say, is by submitting themselves unto him in the Lord, witnessing it by their solemn suffrage in the choice of him. 2 Cor. viii. 5. And this they did,' saith the apostle, viz. the saints of Macedonia, 'not as we hoped,' much beyond our expectation,' but first gave their ownselves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. It is the great work you have to do, let me tell you, of this church, in your calling of an officer, to give up yourselves unto him by the will of God, to be led, guided, in