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FOR THE CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.,
ON CHRIST'S CURING THE BLIND MAN.
(Continued from page 55.] . WHAT hath been said with regard to baptism applies equally well to all the other means of grace, as the worship of God, and the holy eucharist, in a particular manner. It is a mean appointed by God to serve as a continual medicine for our spiritual maladies. To be received indeed, in faith and love unfeigned, or it will not be effectual. The medicines of the soul are not like those of the body; they must be received in faith, or they have no effect ; but when so received, God acknowledges and blesses his own appointment to our growth in grace, in knowledge; virtue and holiness. The eyes of men's benighted understandings are more and more opened; the wounds of sin are healed by degrees ; they gain new strength from day to day to resist temptations; and they become more and more sound in the faith ; nearer and nearer unto perfect men in Christ, having all their spiritual senses quickened, to know good and evil, and to serve God in fear. This appears to be the intention and effect of the sacred rite, when received in faith. The power and wisdom of God can surely make it effectual to these purposes ; and we must not doubt his promise. What shall we say then of those, who from day to day, and from year to year, neglect or refuse to avail themselves of this medicine of the soul ? Is it because they have no faith in God's promise, or because they fear they are not worthy; or yet because they do not want to be healed of their spiritual maladies ? We have reason to think that all these considerations have some influence. Some wish to enjoy the pleasures of sin a little longer, and so will not repent and lead such a life as may entitle them to hope that God will accept of their service; some fear they are not worthy, and do not put on resolution enough to become so in their own estimation : while many others, not sufficiently considering or rightly understanding the nature of the institution, have no proper faith in the promises of God. They do not consider it as one of the means of grace. They do not understand that God through it com. municates the aids of his Holy Spirit to the soul, as we have endeavoured to shew: not understanding what they are to expect from its efficacy, it is not wonderful that they have no faith. And no doubt this want of faith often originates in men's unwillingness to suppose that God works by means. Let us then attend more particularly to this point. The very nature of man points out the propriety, and indeed, in some sense, the necessity of this method of communication between God and man. While we remain in this world, we are not pure spirits, but mixed beings, consisting of body and soul, The body is material, and must be operated upon by material things. Hence the necessity of material symbols as emblems of things spiritual, and not discernible by bodily senses. Such were sacrifices under the law. Such was the tree of life, in the Paradisiacal state, before man fell, when he had all his spiritual faculties entire : and such
are the symbols and rites of the gospel. The soul in our present state is not operated upon, but through the medium of the senses. We cannot communicate our thoughts to each other, but by signs and representations, either to be seen or heard. And God has chosen to operate on our souls in the same way: not but what possibly he might have done otherwise, being all-powerful and all-wise. But this method seems most consonant to our natures. It is a method to which, from necessity, we are accustomed. A method suited of course to our propensities, and likely to have a powerful effect. If people would seriously consider this circumstance, they would not make so light of the instrumental parts of religion as they often do. Nor would they be so apt to resolve the whole into the immediate ope. ration of God's spirit on the soul, without the intervention of any means. On the one hand, they would not be tempted to explain away the external sacred rites of the gospel, into mere lifeless and unmeaning forms which signify nothing, and produce no effect ; nor on the other, would they reject and set at naught the gospel, because it requires such external rites. They would not be so likely to reduce religion to a mere shadow of speculative notions and opinions resting in the head, without affecting the heart : nor would they neglect so frequently the practice of the positive duties which God requires, until they come to think them of no importance. An empty faith would not be so likely to usurp the place of practical obedience. Consider the sacred symbols and ordinances of the gospel as acts of condescension in God, adapting his dispensations to our wants and necessities, while clothed in a material, mortal, and perishing body; and we shall receive them with gratitude. Our religion will be as it were embodied, and show itself in our actions. It will have something to strike the senses, and maintain a lively impression on the soul ; something more than words, and abstract notions, which make but a slight impression on most men, while surrounded by so many sensible objects. Tell men they owe to Almighty God, worships and adoration they acknowledge it, yet they do not feel the force of the obligation. Bring them to comply with God's appointments in solemn and reverential acts of adoration, and it attaches their feelings to his service : so apt are we to be influenced by sensible things more than by reason and reflection. Such is the nature of man, to which God has adapted the religion of his appointment.
If any other reasons are necessary to be offered why God thus appointed sensible signs or symbols, as means of grace, they may be found in this consideration : It was in order to try our faith, whether or no we will believe in the promises and power of God, to save by little as well as great means. The faith of Adam, in paradise, was tried in this way, and we are still on the same trial : not indeed that God wants to make the experiment for his own information, but that it is necessary for us, in order to acquire the habit of faith and dependance on God. In this world we are at school, and have to learn, as the first and most important thing, that we are dependent creatures. When we have learned this, we are fit for entering on our state of manhood in another world, in which our dependence on God will be visibly our whole enjoyment. Tothis end, our pride must be subdued; we must be brought to be habitually sensible that we now depend on him, and must obey his will, or not expect any of the blessings of the spiritual life. And surely nothing is more likely to produce this effect, than that he should require of us certain acts of homage, to which he promises the bestowment of his favours. Will you then put faith in bis promise, or will you not? If you do, and comply with his commands, you act as worthy children of so great and good a Parent, and are contracting a habit which will fit you to be admitted into his immediate presence, in a state of more perfect manhood. But if your pride rebels; if with Naaman, the Syrian, you say in your hearts, are not the waters of Damascus better than these? may I not wash in them and be clean? If you turn away in a rage, or in contempt, from the gospel ordinances, because they are a small thing, and in themselves of no significancy or power to infuse holiness; remember you deserve and shall meet with the same reproof as fell upon him My Father, if the Prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it ? how much rather then, when he only says to thee, wash and be clean? To expect that God should exert his Almighty power for our salvation, while we do nothing, suits very well with our pride and indolence of disposition. But this does not appear to be his design. Let us then comply in sincerity with all his appointments, and look to his power for the effects he promises. If he bids us wash in the pool of Siloam, let us wash and receive sight. If he tells us the waters of baptism are sanctified to the mystical washing away of sin, let us not linger nor delay in coming to them, and bringing ours ta partake in their benefits. If he tells us that so many as come worthily to the Lords table, are partakers in his body and blood, to the purifying and refreshing of their souls ; let us not keep back whenever we have opportunity, because it may seem a small matter to convey such blessing as are promised. In fine, let us put full and entire faith in all God's promises; comply with all his appointments, and then we may hope to be made partakers in all the blessings of the gospel dispensation. Our sins shall be pardoned, our spiritual infirmities healed by the great Physician of souls ; our blindness removed, our lameness made whole, and we become fit for the presence of God above.
(Continued from page 53.] - FROM the Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch, let us proceed to the history of St. Paul's travels, which takes up most of the remainder of the Acts. And here again we shall find a manifest distinction between the orders of ministers. In the beginning of his travels, when Barnabas accompanied him, John, whose surname was Mark, attended on them as their minister, or deacon, Acts. xiii. 5. This person was an Evangelist or Teacher, as we learn from several expressions of St. Paul, who mentions him as one of his fellow-work: ere, Col. iv. ll, and says, 2 Tim. iv. 11, he was profitable to him for
the ministry.* Yet still he being of the lowest order of ministers, the two Apostles are always mentioned as principals in the business they were upon. Thus Sergius Paulus, deputy of Paphos, being desir. ous to hear the word of God, is said, (Acts. xiii. 7,) to call for Barnabas and Paul, without any mention of Mark. And this is the more to be observed, because when any of the second order are joined with the Apostles, they are represented as their associates, and not their ministers, as may be observed of the Elders at Jerusalem.
When Paul parted from Barnabas, he took with him Silas, or Sil. vanus. This man was a Prophet, (Acts xv. 32,) and consequently was of the order next below the Apostles. For, 1 Cor. xii. 23, God placed in the Church, first Apostles, secondly Prophets, thirdly Teach. ers. Afterwards St. Paul admitted some others into his company, and especially Timotheus or Timothy, Acts xvi. 3. He was an Ēvangelist; and preached the gospel to the Corinthians, 2 Cor. i. 19, but still he ministered as a Deacon to St. Paul, Acts xix. 22, so that now there were in this company an Apostle, a Prophet, and a Deacon. When these are mentioned together, it is always in this oredr, Paul, Silva. nus, and Timotheus ; Silvanus being superior to Timothy, as Paul was to Silvanus. And the two former of these are all through the Acts described as principals in preaching the gospel and planting Churches. And this agrees with what St. Paul tells the Ephesians, ch. ii. 20, that they are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone ; making the Prophets, or Presbyters the copartners of the Apostles in the foundation of the Christian Church. Hence Paul and Silas only were apprehended at Philippi, as being the chief persons, though Timothy was then in their company, Acts xvi. 19. In the next chapter they are all mentioned together, Paul, Silas and Timothy in the same order: yet the disciples at Thessalonica are said to consort with Paul and Silas. Afterwards Paul and Silas are sent away by night, without any mention of Timothy; who being only their Deacon or Minister, may be considered as included in their company, when those whom he attended are spoken of. It is also probable that there were several other Deacons, or Evangelists of less note, in this company, whose names are not mentioned with the rest, particularly St. Luke, the writer of this history, who repeatedly speaks of the company in the first person. We endeavoured, says he, to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel unto them: By which he plainly intimates that he himself was among them, though no man is mentioned by name but Paul and Silas. In other places, where Paul only is mentioned, having then no Apostle or Prophet with him, there were several other minsters of the lowest order in the company. Thus, (Acts xix.) the planting and increase of the Church at Ephesus, is ascribed entirely to St. Paul, when it is plain, ver. 22, that not only Timothy, but also
* This word might better have been rendered deaconship, as all know, who are acquainted with the original language. Both here and elsewhere in this enquiry, ministry and ministring would be nearer the original text, by being understood to mean the office and exercising the office of a deacon.
Erastus, with others who ministered, attended on him as Deacons ; so that in St. Paul's travels we constantly find several orders of ministers; sometimes Apostles with one or more Deacons, as when Paul and Barnabas travelled with Mark : sometimes an Apostle, a Proph. ct, or Presbyter, and one or more Deacons, as when Paul and Silas, with Timothy, and others of the lowest order, went together; sometimes an Apostle attended by Deacons only, as in the latter part of this history, where none but Paul and his Deacons are mentioned.
We may further observe, that there are several other passages, both in the Acis and Epistles, from which it is manifest, that in all places, where a sufficicent number of people had been converted, to be formed into regular Churches, there were orders of standing and fixed ministers appointed. Thus Paul and Barnabas returning to visit the Churches they had lately planted, ordained Elders in every Church, Acts xiv. 23. James, who writes to the twelve tribes, whereever scattered abroad, speaks as one in authority, and directs the sick among them io send for the Elders of the Church to pray over them, and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord, James v. 14; so that in all places where the twelve tribes were scattered, which was all over the Roman empire, there were Elders in the Church when this epistle was written. Peter, who writes to the Churches scattered in various places, exhorts the Elders to feed the flock of God, and the younger, or inferior, to be obedient to their Elders, 1 Pet. v. 2, 5.St. Paul having called the Elders of Ephesus to Miletus, gives them a solemn charge, as though he had authority over them, to take care of the flock over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseere, Acts xx. 17. 28. He tells Titus, who in the conclusion of the epistle is said to be ordained first Bishop of the Church of the Cretans, that he had left him in Crete, to set in order the things that were wanting, and to ordain Elders in every city, chap. i. ver. 5. so that in the extensive island of Crete, there were to be Elders in every city; and Titus was to ordain them all; which seems to indicate that one Elder could not ordain another. In the epistles to Timothy this matter is made still more clear and plain. At the close of the second epistle we are told that he was ordained first Bishop of the church of the Ephesians. And he received his orders, not merely by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, 1 Ep. iv. 14. but (2 Ep. i. 6.) by the laying on of St. Paul's hands, who was not a mere Presbyter, but was invested with full apostolical power. These epistles mention three distinct orders of ministers in that Church. In the first was Timothy himself, who appears to have been raised to that office on purpose to superintend the Churches in that place, when St. Paul was about to leave them. Inferior to himn were two other officers, which appear to have been at his disposal ; and accordingly that great Apostle gives him particular instructions respecting them. The power of ordination and of church government appears to have been committed to him, though there had been Elders previously appointed in the same place. He is instructed how to proceed in ordaining men to the ministry, as though that business devolved wholly upon him. Lay hands suddenly on no man, says the great Apostle to him ; as though none but he had the authority of laying