صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

But because it will tend both to the further clearing of this, and the text itself, I shall next shew you in what' respects the members of the church are divers, and then in what respects they are all one, or in what they are united.

And as the text tells you, that the members are many numerically, so they are divers in their respects.

1. They are not of the same age or standing in Christ. Some are babes, and some are young men, and some are fathers, (1 John ii. 12-14.) Some are novices, or late converts, and raw Christians, (1 Tim. iii. 6,) and some are of longer standing, that have "borne the burden and heat of the day." (Matt. xx. 12.)


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

2. The members are not all of the same degree of strength, Some are of small understanding, that reach little further than the principles of holy doctrine, and have need to be fed with milk, being unskilful in the word of righteousness: Yea, they have need to be taught the very principles again, not as being without a saving knowledge of them (for they are all taught of God, and these laws and principles are written in their hearts); but that they may have a clearer, more distinct and practical knowledge of them, who have but a darker, general, less effectual apprehension. (Heb. v. ́11—13; vi. 1.) And some being at full age, are fit for stronger meat," that is harder of digestion. (Heb. v. 14.) Who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Some have faith and other graces but as a grain of mustard-seed," and some are thriven to a greater strength. (Matt. xviii. 20; xii. 31.) Some grow in grace, and are able to resist a temptation, and do or suffer what they are called to, (2 Pet. iii. 18,) being "strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man, according to the glorious power of grace," (Ephes. iii. 17; Col. i. 11,) being "strong in faith, giving glory to God." (Rom. iv. 20.) Having accordingly "strong consolation," (Heb. vi. 18.). And some are "weak in the faith," apt to be offended, and their consciences to be wounded, and themselves in greater danger by temptations, whom the stronger must : receive, and take heed of offending, and must support them, and bear their infirmities." (Rom. xiv. 1, 2. 21; xv. 1; 1 Cor. viii. 7. 10-12; ix. 22; 1 Thess. v. 14; Acts xx. 35.) 3. Moreover the members have not all the same stature

[blocks in formation]

or degree of gifts; nor in all things the same sort of gifts; some excel in knowledge, and some in utterance; some in one sort of knowledge, and some in another; and some are weak in all. But of this the chapter speaks so fully, that I need say no more but refer you thither.

4. The members are not altogether of the same complexion. Though all God's children be like the Father, being holy as he is holy, yet they may be known from one another. Some are naturally more mild, and some more passionate: some of colder and calmer temper, and some so hot, that they seem more zealous in all that they say or do: some of more orderly, exact apprehensions, and some of more confused; some of quick understanding, and some dull. (Heb. v. 11.)

5. The members are not all of the same degree of spiritual health. Some have much quicker and sharper appetites to the bread of life than others have some are fain to strive with their backward hearts before they can go to secret duties, or hold on in them, and before they can get down the food of their souls: and some go with cheerfulness, and find much sweetness in all that they receive: some are of sounder understandings, and others tainted with many errors and corrupt opinions: as appears in Paul's writings to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and others. Some relish only the food that is wholesome, and some have a mind of novelties, and vain janglings, and contentions, needless disputes, like stomachs that desire coals and ashes, or hurtful things. Some in their conversations maintain their integrity, and walk blamelessly, and without offence. (Luke i. 6; Phil. 2. 15.) And some are overcome by temptations, and give offence to others and grievously wound themselves; as David, Lot, Noah, Peter, &c. And being overcome with creature-respects many good men walk not uprightly in some things, nor according to the truth of the Gospel, and others that are good also are led away in a party by the example of their miscarriages, and the high estimation of their parts and persons, (Gal. ii. 11-14.) Some are firm and stedfast in the truth, and some hold it with shaking, and are of looking behind them, and sometimes are declining and going backward, and have need to be called upon to return to their first love, and to strengthen the things that remain: yea, some

grow to forsake many excellent truths; and neglect many weighty duties, yea, to oppose these truths and duties, and speak against them, as thinking them to be none. Hence it follows that some live in a holy peace and joy, as health is mostly accompanied with ease; when others live in continual lamentations and complaints; and some in too much stupidity and carelessness; and some with dangerous mixtures of an ungrounded, misguided, deluding peace.

6. Hence also it follows, that the members are not all of the same usefulness and serviceableness to the church and cause of Christ. Some are as pillars to support the rest, (Gal. ii. 9; 1 Thess. v. 14,) and some are a trouble to others, and can scarce go any further than they are guided and supported by others. Some lay out themselves in the helping of others: and some are as the sick, that cannot help themselves, but trouble the house with their complaints and necessities, which call for great and continual attendance. Some are fit to be teachers of others, and to be pastors of the flock, and guide the Lord's people in the way of life, and give the children their meat in season, rightly dividing the word of truth. And some are still learning, and never come to much knowledge of the truth, and do no great service to God in their generations: yea, too many weary their teachers and brethren by their frowardness and unfruitfulness and too many do abundance of wrong to the church, and Gospel, and the world by their offensive miscarriages: yea, too many prove as thorns in our sides, and by some error in their understandings, cherished and used by the too great remnant of pride, self-conceitedness, passion and carnality, are grievous afflicters of the church of Christ, and causes of dissention; one saying I am of Paul, and another I am of Apollos, and another I am of Christ, as if Christ were divided, or else appropriated to them, and Paul or Apollos had been their saviours, (1 Cor. iii. 1-5.) Some live so as that the church hath much benefit by their lives, and much loss by their death: and some are such troublers of it, by their weakness and corrupt distempers, that their death is some ease to the places where they lived. And yet all these may be truly godly, and living members of the catholic church.

7. Moreover, the members are not all the same in regard of office. Some are appointed to be pastors, teachers, elders,

overseers, to be stewards of God's mysteries, and to feed the flock, taking heed to them all, as being over them in the Lord, as their rulers in spiritual things. (Ephes. iv. 11; Acts xiv. 23; Tit. i. 5; 1 Cor. iv. 1; Acts xx. 17. 28; 1 Thess. v. 12; Heb. xiii. 7. 17.) And some are the flock, commanded to learn of them, to have them in" honour, and highly esteem them for their work sake, and to obey them." (1 Thess. v. 12; Heb. xiii. 17; 1 Tim. v. 17.) In this chapter saith Paul," If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole where hearing, where were the smelling? Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?" (1 Cor. xii. 17. 29.) As there are diversity of gifts, so also of offices: for God hath designed men to use the gifts they have in such order and manner as may edify the church. All the body is not the bonds, or nerves, and ligaments, by which the parts are joined together. (Eph. iv. 16.) All are not " pastors and teachers, given for perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, and edifying of the body of Christ." (Ephes. iv. 11—13.)


8. Consequently the members have not all the same employment: magistrates must rule by force, and ministers must guide or rule by the light and force of the word of God all must not administer sacraments: all must not be the overseers of the flock. Masters and parents have their own work, and servants and children have theirs. Nay, difference of understanding may cause a great deal of difference among ministers and people in the manner of God's worship, when yet all worship him acceptably and in sincerity. Some may be too much ceremonious in meats, and drinks, and observation of days. (Rom. xiv. and xv.) In gestures, vestures, and other circumstances, sinfully laying much more in these than God would have them: and others may be as rigorous against them: and others more temperate between both. Some may pray and praise God in forms composed by themselves or others, or read them in a book: and some may abhor all this as unlawful; and some may be so wise as to know that it is a matter that God hath left in itself indifferent, and is to be determined according to the suitableness of times and persons. And thus many modal circumstantial differences there may be in the true worshipping of God, by the members of this one universal church.

9. And from what is said already, it follows, that all the


members of the church are not all equally to be honoured and loved. Even among the elders, there are some that are worthy of double honour, and some of more than they. (1 Tim. v. 17.) Some are of high and excellent gifts and graces; and as more of God doth shine forth in them, so a greater love and honour is due to them. Some are so eminently self-denying, and of public spirits, and wholly carried to the service of God, and the good of the church, that few others are "like-minded, naturally caring for the people's state, but all do too much seek their own, and too little the things that are Jesus Christ's." (Phil. ii. 20, 21.) The body hath some parts that are less honourable, and less comely:" (1 Cor. xii. 22-24 :) though these also have their honour and comeliness: those that most honour God shall be most honoured; (1 Sam. ii. 30; Job xii. 26;) and they that will be the "servants of all, shall be the greatest." Luke xxii. 26; Matt. xxiii. 11.)

10. To conclude, from all this imparity it will follow, that the members will not have an equal degree of glory, as not having an equal preparation and capacity. All are not in Abraham's bosom, as Lazarus was. 66 To sit on Christ's right hand and left in his kingdom will not be the lot of all, but of those to whom the Father will give it." (Matt. xx. 23.) All are not to sit on thrones, in full equality with the apostles. (Luke xx. 30.) There are of the first for time of coming in, that shall be last of dignity, and of the last that shall be first. (Matt. xix. 30; xx. 16.) All shall not be rulers of five cities, but only they that have double five talents. (Matt. xxv.) And thus I have shewed you the disparity of the members, wherein they differ.

Secondly. I am now to shew you the unity of them, and of the body which they constitute. The members of the catholic church are united in all these following respects:

1. They have all but one God, the fountain of their being and felicity, and are all related to him as children to one Father, reconciled to them, and adopting them in Jesus Christ. (John i. 12.) "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." (Gal. iii. 26.) "There is one God and Father of all," &c. (Gal. iv. 5, 6; Eph. iv. 6.)

2. The members of the church have all one Head, the Redeemer, Saviour, Mediator, Jesus Christ. (Ephes. iv. 5.) As the commonwealth is denominated from the unity of the

« السابقةمتابعة »