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I. 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.
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 he 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 him, and continued in thorough obedience in 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 sprit 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 selfdenial 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 labors, 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 seme 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 honor, 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 had 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. "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 Matt. 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 he 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," Mark i. 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. 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 the 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 Matt. 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 with his blood which he sweat in his agony; as prayers were wont to be offered up 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 Psal. 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. 38. So abundant was he in labors, 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 a half of his public ministry was so filled with action and labor, 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 labor, 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. Philip. 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, labors and sufferings 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 duties of religion: being much in declaring the great provocation and danger of spiritual pride, and a self-righteous 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 worldly 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 cross, and despised the shame; his delight in the prospect of the eternal salvation of souls, more than countervailing the dread he had of his extreme sufferings. Many waters could not quench his love, neither could the floods drown it, for his love was stronger than death; yea, than the mighty pains and torments of such a death.
I now proceed to the
II. Thing proposed in the handling this subject, which was to give to give some reasons why ministers of the gospel should follow the example of their great Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
1. They should follow his example, because he is their Lord and Master. Christ, as he is a divine person, is the Lord of heaven and earth, and so one of infinite dignity, to whom our supreme respect is due; and on that account he is infinitely worthy that we should regard, not only his precepts, but example. The infinite honorableness of his person recommends his virtues, and a conformity to them as our greatest dignity and honor.
Christ is more especially the Lord of Christians; who are therefore under special obligations to follow him. He is their shepherd, and surely the flock should follow their shepherd. He is the captain of their salvation; and it becomes soldiers to follow their captain and leader. He is their head; not only their head of rule and authority, but their head of influence and communication, their vital head, and Christians are members of his body; but members, as partakers of the life and spirit of the head, are conformed to the head.
But Christ is still in a more peculiar manner the Lord and Master of ministers of the gospel, as they are not only members of his church, but the officers of his kingdom, and the dignified servants of his family. It is the manner of a people to imitate their prince, but especially the ministers of his kingdom, and officers of his household. It is the duty of the whole army to follow their general, but especially of those officers that have a commission under him.
2. Ministers of the gospel are in some respects called and devoted to the same work and business that Christ himself was appointed to. Ministers are not men's mediators; for there is but one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus: they are not our priests to make atonement and work out righteousness for us; for Christ by one offering has perfected forever them that are sanctified; they are not lords over God's heritage; for one is their master, even Christ. But yet ministers of the gospel, as Christ's servants and officers under him, are appointed to promote the designs of that great work of Christ, the work of salvation. It is the work that ministers are devoted to; and therefore they are represented as co-workers with Christ. 2 Cor. vi. 1," We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." Christ is the Saviour of the souls of men; ministers also, are spoken of in Scripture as saving men's souls. 1 Tim. iv. 16, " In doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee." Rom. x. 14, "If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them." 1 Cor. ix. 22, "That I might by all means save some." And whereas it is said, Obad, 21, "saviours shall come upon Mount Zion;" ministers of the gospel are supposed to be there intended.
The work of ministers is in many respects like the work that Christ himself was appointed to, as the Saviour of men; and especially the same with the work which Christ does in his prophetical office; only with this difference, that ministers are to speak and act wholly under Christ, as taught of him, as holding forth his word, and by light and strength communicated from him. Christ himself after his baptism, followed the work of the ministry: he was a minister of the true sanctuary, Heb. viii. 2; he spake and acted as his Father's minister; was a minister of the gospel, and as such preached and administered sacraments. Pastors of churches are ministers of the same gospel; but in their ministry they act as the ministers of Christ. Jesus Christ is the great Bishop of souls; ministers are also bishops under him. Christ came into the world that he might be the light of the world; ministers are set to be lights unto the churches, and are
also said to be the light of the world, Matt. v. 14.
Christ is the bright and
Seeing therefore it is thus, that the work that ministers are called and devoted to, is no other than the work of Christ, or the work that Christ does, certainly they ought to do his work; which they do not, unless they imitate him, and do as he does, or as he hath set them an example.
3. The example of Christ is most worthy of ministers' imitation. His example was perfect, without error, blemish or defect; and therefore worthy to be made our rule, and to be regarded and followed without exception, limitation or reserve; unless in those things which he did that were proper to his peculiar office. Christ's virtue was not only perfect, but was exercised in those circumstances, and under those trials, that rendered his virtuous acts vastly the most amiable of any that ever appeared in any creature whether man or angel. If we consider the perfection of the virtue that Christ exercised, his virtue did exceed that of the most eminent saints, more than the purest gold exceeds the meanest and foulest ore: and if we consider the manner of its exercise, and the trials under which it was exercised, and the blessed fruits it has brought forth, so his virtue exceeds that of all other perfectly innocent creatures, and even of the brightest angel, as the sun in its glory exceeds the stars.
And this example was set us in our own nature, and so is especially fitted for our imitation. There was in the man Christ Jesus, who was one of us, and dwelt among us, such exercises of virtue as became our state and circumstances in the world, as those who dwell in frail flesh and blood, and as members of human society, and dwellers in such a world of sorrow and death.
And then these amiable exercises of virtue in Christ, were exhibited chiefly in the things which he did in that work wherein ministers are called to act as co-workers with him. The bright and glorious example of Christ that is set before us, is chiefly in what he did during the three years and a half of his public ministry; and in the devotion, heavenly-mindedness, humility, patience, meekness, forgiveness, self-denial and charity, which he exercised in the labors and sufferings he went through for the good of the souls of men: and therefore is especially set for the imitation of those who are set apart that they may make it the whole business of their lives to seek the same good of souls.
4. Ministers should follow that example of Christ which has been spoken of, because if they are fit for ministers, and are such as have any right to take that work upon themselves, Christ has set them this example in what he has done for their souls. "I have given you an example (says Christ in the text), that you should do as I have done to you." Ministers should be animated in this work by a great love to the souls of men, and should be ready to spend and be spent for them; for Christ loved them, and gave himself for them: he loved them with a love stronger than death. They should have compassion to men under their spiritual miseries, as Christ had pity on them. They should be much in prayer for the people of their flock, considering how Christ prayed and agonized for them, in tears of blood. They should travail in birth with the souls that are committed to their care, seeing their own salvation is the fruit of the travail of Christ's soul. They should exercise a meek and condescending spirit to the mean and weak and poor, and should as it were wash the feet of Christ's disciples; considering how Christ condescended to them, when they