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whatsoever ye shall loose on earth,' according to the spirit of my Gospel, “shall be loosed in heaven.' (Matt. xviii. 18.)
Behold, from whence the Ministers of Christ have authority to absolve true penitents, and to excommuni. cate 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 placeCan 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 ecclesiastical 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 ?' (1 Pet. iv. 17.)
Invested with the authority, which Christ has conferred upon him, the true Minister is prepared to denounce the just judgments of God against obstinate sinners, to console the dejected, and to proclaim the promises of the gospel to every siricere 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 subtlety, 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.' (Acts xiii. 10, 11.) But the true Minister is careful never to abase this lawful power. We can do nothing,'
write these things being absent, lest being present, I should use harshness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.' (2 Cor. xiii. 8. 10.) The denunciation of ven geance is to the Minister of Christ, what the executio of judgment is to the God of love, his painful and strange
The good Pastor, conscious that the ministration of mercy exceeds in glory the ministration of condemnatio. places his chief glory and pleasure in spreading abroed 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, first 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." -(Luke x. 5, 6.) The wishes and prayers of a Minis. ter, who acts and speaks in conformity to the intent of this benign charge, really communicate 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 per. suaded that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.'- (Rom. xv. 29.) 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.'—(Phil. i. 2.) • The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.'—(2 Cor. xiii. 14.) 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 Abra. ham: Or rather, a ministering servant of the Son of God, who was manifested in the flesh, 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 dependance has invented, may thy Ministers perpetually carry about them the love, the gravity, and the apostolic authority, which belongs to their sacred character. May all the benedictions, which thou hast commissioned them to pronounce, cause them still to be received, “as angels of God.'—(Gal. iv. 14.) Far from being despised as hypocrites, shunned as troublesome guests, or feared as men of a covetous and tyrannical
ition, 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 !'-(Rom. x. 15.)
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 Chris. tian 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:' (1 Cor. xiv. 1, 3:) 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 injunction — 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.' (Rom. xii. 14;
The Earnestness with which he began, and conti
nued to fill up the duties of his Vocation.
The true penitent, having renounced himself for the honour of following his exalted Lord, stands faithfully in his own vocation, whether it be secular or ecclesiastie. Ile is prepared, upon all occasions, to perform the will of his gracious Master : And if he is commissioned to act as a minister of Christ, after furnishing himseli with the whole armour of God,' he will expose hiteself, without fear, to the most threatening dangers, that he may compel sinners to come in to the marriage supper of the Lamb. " I rejoice,' saith St. Paul, “in my sufferings for the body of Christ, which is the Church, whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispez. sation of God, which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery, which hath been hid from ages, but which is now made manifest to his saints; to whom God would make known, what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wis. dom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus; whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working which worketh in me mightily. For 1 would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you,' and for all those among whom the word of God is preach. ed, that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, even of the Father and of Christ; in whium are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col. i. 24, 29.; ii. 1, 2, 3.)
Such are the great ideas, which the apostle Paul entertained of the ministry he had received ; and observe the
assiduity, with which he discharged the duties of so important an office— Ye know,' says he, speaking to the pastors, to whom he committed the care of one of his flocks, ‘from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations : And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore I take you to record, this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves; for I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves,' unfaithful pastors, enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Therefore, watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.' (Acts xx. 18, 31.) In every place he discharged the obligations of a minister with the same application and zeal, travelling from city to city, and from church to church, bearing testimony to the redemption that is in Jesus,' and declaring the great truths of the gospel. When the synagogues were shut against him, he preached in the schools of phi. losophers, upon the sea shore, on shipboard, and even in prisons; and while he dwelt a prisoner in his own house at Rome, he received all that came in unto him, to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the Law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.' (Acts xxviii. 23.)
Thus the Son of God himself once publicly laboured for the conversion of sinners, sometimes going through all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel.' (Matt. vi. 31.) And at other times instructing the multitudes, who either followed him into the fields, or resorted to the house where he lodged ; " for there were many coming and going, and they had no