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SERMON LIII.

CHRISTIAN MINISTERS, TOKENS OF CHRIST'S PRESENCE.

PREACHED ON TUESDAY IN WHITSUNWEEK.

ST. JOHN X. 9.

"I am the door : by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall

go in and out, and find pasture.”

PERSONS who attend to the church services must have observed, that the lessons, epistles, and gospels for whitsunweek, especially those of this day, are selected in some measure with a view to the ministerial office, and to the doctrine of Holy Scripture concerning it. Yesterday's morning lesson, from the first epistle to the Corinthians, about the manifestation of the same Spirit by variety of gists; and also the evening lesson about the seventy elders of Israel, who received a gift of the Spirit to assist Moses, have both of them an evident reference to that subject. So has one of the lessons for this morning, beseeching Christians to know those who are over them in the Lord, and admonish them, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. But most especially is this the case with the epistle and gospel of the day : the epistle giving an account how the Holy Ghost was given, and could only be given, by laying on of the hands of the apostles; the gospel pointing out those apostles, as the persons trusted by the chief Shepherd with the whole care of the sheep.

Nor are there wanting good and plain reasons, why this particular subject should be so much in the church's mind, at this particular time.

First, this is, as you know, one of the Ember-weeks : next Sunday, the Sunday of the most holy trinity, is one of the ordination Sundays. We are therefore to fast and pray for a blessing on those who shall be ordained. And that our fasting and prayer may be accompanied with worthier notions of the blessings we seek, it is well we should be reminded of certain portions of Scripture, tel. ling us shortly, but very seriously, wherein lies the true greatness and sacredness of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

It is not that this ministry is sanctioned by the law of England, rather than any other, to instruct, and warn, and guide us : it is not that the same ministry always was, and is still, a mighty instrument in God's hand, for all the best works that have been done in the world : it is not for the love of peace and order, knowing there must be some ministry in the church, and thinking it best to hold by that which is established. These are all reasons of more or less weight; but neither in each separately, nor in all taken together, can they be truly called the reason why the ministry is so very great and sacred. The reason is, that Christ only is the door of the sheep; that our spiritual life entirely depends on a real, though mysterious, union with him ; to which union the ministration of the apostles, or of others ordained through them, is, ordinarily speaking quite necessary.

This being so, all the reasons which would otherwise make us to be greatly concerned for the well-being of Christ's ministry among us, are unspeakably heightened, and made more important and more affecting. And, of course, no more serious introduction to hearty prayer for bishops, and priests, and deacons, could have been contrived, than the reading of some of those Scriptures, which openly affirm these great things concerning the ministry of those whom Christ sends, as he has sent those three orders.

But again, this subject of the Christian ministry is connected very closely with the blessing of Whit-Sunday-is indeed a material part of that blessing. For by that ministry the blessing is continued down to these, and to all times. It was to the apostles that the Holy Spirit visibly came: through them the promise was made to the church, that he should abide in us for ever; and there. fore, if there were now no successors of the apostles in

case.

the world, that promise would seem to have become a dead letter, to have passed entirely away from us. But thanks be to Almighty God, that is far from being the

For as in the first days of the church, the visible gift of the Holy Ghost, to the apostles and some other disciples, was the external token, to the very senses of men, of his inward presence and abode in their hearts; so now the

presence of the apostles themselves, by their successors—the bishops principally, and under them the priests of the church—is a like external token, addressed also to the senses, of the same Spirit abiding in our hearts also. The apostles knew for certain, that the promised Comforter was present in their ministrations, to regenerate his people first, and afterward to strengthen and refresh them; because they saw the fiery tongues, they heard the sound as of a rushing mighty wind, they felt the power in themselves to speak with new tongues, and to work various miracles beside. We, in like manner—the word sounds a bold one, but I verily believe it is no more than Scripture plainly warrants us in affirming-we are sure that the same Holy Spirit is present also in our ministrations, for the same gracious purposes; we are sure of it, because we know that the hands of those whom Christ commissioned for that purpose were solemnly laid on our heads, and the same commission in part or in whole, given to us. So that we, as bishops or priests, do really stand in the place of the apostles, and the Word spoken to them is spoken to us.

Thus we see there is a double reason why Scriptures relating to the ministry and the succession, should be read in this week particularly :

First, to assist our prayers for those who are shortly to be ordained :

Secondly, to remind us, that through this ministry we have our portion in the precious gifts, brought from heaven by the Holy Ghost.

This ministry is, in part, the token and the mean of the continuance of the indwelling Spirit in the people of God. It is our pledge, that we enter in by the door;

according to that parable of our Lord which forms the gospel for the day. As in the epistle to the Hebrews we are instructed, that the only entrance into the holy of holies is through the veil, that is, the flesh of our Lord ;-we must be new born, and made members of his body (which, as the catechism teaches, we are in holy baptism), before we can be said to belong to his church and kingdom :so here, in his own parable, the church is the sheep-fold, and our Savior is the door. It is only through him we must pass, if we would go in and out, and find pasture. No irregular ways, no ways of men, whatever good they may do us in other respects, will admit us to the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

It is much to be observed, that our Lord distinctly represents himself as the door, by which both shepherd and sheep must enter. He that climbeth

up some other

way, is a thief and a robber; he only, that entereth in by the door, is the shepherd of the sheep. This is the leading idea of the parable.

And to give the key for explaining it, he adds afterward: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep ... I am the door: by me if any man come in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." By which it would seem, that it was quite as necessary for the shepherds, in their peculiar office, as it is for the sheep of the flock to enter in by the door. There must be some peculiar token and mean of grace, sealing the ministers of Christ for their office, by immediate communication with himself, like as there must be the holy sacrament of baptism, to seal every Christian for spiritual union with Christ.

This is what we should expect by the parable : and so in fact it has ever been in the church. Men enter into the fold of our Lord and Savior, as sheep, by baptism ; as shepherds, by ordination. In both cases through him, as the door.

Should it be said, by way of answer to this, that too many of those, who are duly ordained, have in all ages neglected or abused their privileges, and some have be

haved rather like thieves, who come on purpose to steal, and to kill, and to destroy Sand should the question be asked, as it sometimes is : Are we to call these bad men shepherds, merely because they have been ordained, and deny the name to good and charitable teachers, merely because they have not been ordained ?"—the answer to this may be perceived, on well considering our Lord's way of speaking, concerning the sheep of his flock themselves: “By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Yet we know that too many of those, who enter in by Jesus Christ, being baptized in their infancy, and so made members of him, do not continue in that salvation ; they neglect it; they receive God's grace in vain ; they refuse to go in and out, and find pasture; to walk quietly in the way of righteousness, and beside the waters of comfort: and yet all the while our blessed Lord's saying holds true concerning them also: they were saved, but they have forfeited their salvation.

Thus he speaks of the sheep; and the like turn may with reason be given to his account of the shepherds. “He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out: and when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” This is the natural and intended effect of God's calling a man to be a shepherd and bishop in his church; but it may be forfeited as the baptismal privileges may: and yet this will no more interfere with the reality and necessity of Christ's call by ordination, than the bad lives of too many Christians interfere with the necessity of holy baptism, and the reality of the grace then given.

If the ministers of Christ are unworthy, and do not their duty, let them look to it; but still they cannot unordain themselves : they are yet ministers of Christ, and the sacraments of our Lord, the tokens and means of our union with him, are continued among us through them. Their going wrong does not destroy their com.

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