« PreviousContinue »
fine, those who in temper and deportment resemble the ancient seducers branded in the Scripture, those evil men, who did seduce and were seduced, &c.—such persons as these, arrogating to themselves the office of guides, and pretending to lead us, it is not safe to follow, whatever pretences to special illumination they may hold forth, whatever specious guises of sanctity they may bear, &c. This may suffice concerning the persons to whom obedience must be performed.
OF OBEDIENCE TO OUR SPIRITUAL GUIDES
HEBREWS, CHAP. XIII.--VERSE 17.
Obey them that have the rule over you.
OBEDIENCE unto spiritual guides and governors is a duty of great importance ; the which to declare and press is very seasonable for these times, wherein so little regard is had thereto : I have therefore pitched on this text, being an apostolical precept, briefly and clearly enjoining that duty; and in it we shall consider and explain these two particulars : 1. The persons to whom obedience is to be paid. 2. What that obedience doth import, or wherein it consisteth: and together with explication of the duty, we shall apply it, and urge its practice.
I. As to the persons unto whom obedience is to be performed, they are, generally speaking, all spiritual guides, or governors of the church, (those' who speak to us the word of God, and who watch for our souls,' as they are described in the context,) expressed here by a term very significant and apposite, as implying fully the nature of their charge, the qualification of their persons, their rank, and privileges in the church, together consequently with the grounds of obligation to the correspondent duties toward them. There are in holy Scripture divers names and phrases appropriate to them, each of them denoting some eminent part of their office, or some appertenance thereto ; but this seemeth of all most comprehensive; so that unto it all the
rest are well reducible : the term is yoúpevou, that is, leaders, or guides, or captains; which properly may denote the subsequent particulars in way of duty or privilege appertaining to them.
1. It may denote eminence of dignity, or superiority to others : that they are, as it is said of Judas and Silas in the Acts, άνδρες ηγούμενοι εν αδελφούς, principal men among the brethren;' for to lead implieth precedence, which is a note of superiority and pre-eminence. Hence are they styled a pocotwTES, presidents or prelates; oi apūrou, the first, or prime men; oi pelzovs, the greater, majors, or grandees among us: · He,' saith our Lord, • that will be the first among you, let him be your servant;' and, · He that is greater among you, let him be as the
younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve;' where ο μείζων and ο ηγούμενος (the greater and the leader) are terms equivalent, or interpretative the one of the other; and our Lord in those places, as he prescribeth humility of mind and demeanor, so he implieth difference of rank among his disciples : whence to render especial respect and honor to them, as to our betters, is a duty often enjoined.
2. It doth imply power and authority: their superiority is not barely grounded on personal worth or fortune; it serveth not merely for order and pomp; but it standeth on the nature of their office, and tendeth to use : they are by God's appointment enabled to exercise acts of power ; to command, to judge, to check, control, and chastise in a spiritual way, in order to spiritual ends, (the regulation of God's worship and service, the preservation of order and peace, the promoting of edification in divine knowlege and holiness of life ;) so are they iyoúpevot, as that word in common use (as the word iyeuwv, of kin to it) doth signify, captains and princes, importing authority to command and rule; (whence the Hebrew word "wa, a prince, is usually rendered by it; and ó nyoóuevos is the title attributed to our Lord, to express his kingly function, being the same with åpxnyòs, the prince, or captain :) hence are they otherwise styled kußeprhoets (governors), ÉTIOKOTOL (overseers, or superintendents, as St. Hierome rendereth it), pastors, (a word often signifying rule, and attributed to civil governors,) #peoßúrepor (elders, or senators; the word denoteth not merely age, but
office and authority), oi éminello ūvres, such as take care for, the curators, or supervisors of the church : hence also they are signally and specially in relation unto God styled doulou (the servants), διάκονοι (the ministers), υπηρέται (the officers,) λειτουρyoi (the public agents), olkovópor (the stewards), ouvepyoi (the coadjutors, or assistants), apéoßeis (the legates), áyyeli (the angels, or messengers), of God; which titles imply that God by them, as his substitutes and instruments, doth administer the affairs of his spiritual kingdom : that as by secular magistrates (his vicegerents and officers) he manageth his universal temporal kingdom, or goverueth all men in order to their worldly peace and prosperity ; so by these spiritual magistrates he ruleth his church, toward its spiritual welfare and felicity.
3. The word also doth imply direction or instruction : that is, guidance of people in the way of truth and duty, reclaiming them from error and sin : this, as it is a means hugely conducing to the design of their office, so it is a principal member thereof: whence didáokadou, doctors, or masters in doctrine, is a common name of them; and to be didaktikoù, able and apt to teach, (ixavoi didákat, and mpóvuoi), is a chief qualification of their persons ; and to attend on teaching, to be instant in preaching, to labor in the word and doctrine, are their most commendable performances : hence also they are called shepherds, because they feed the souls of God's people with the food of wholesome instruction; watchmen, because they observe men's ways, and warn them when they decline from right, or run into danger; the messengers of God, because they declare God's mind and will unto them for the regulation of their practice.
4. The word farther may denote exemplary practice ; for to lead implieth so to go before, that he who is conducted may follow; as a captain marcheth before his troop; as a shepherd walketh before his flock, as a guide goeth before the traveller, whom he directeth; hence they are said to be, and enjoined to behave themselves • as patterns of the flock;' and the people are charged to imitate and follow them.
Such in general doth the word here used imply the persons to be, unto whom obedience is prescribed : but there is farther some distinction to be made among them; there are degrees
and subordinations in these guidances ; some are in regard to different persons both empowered to guide, and obliged to follow or obey.
The church is acies ordinata, a well marshalled army; wherein, under the 'captain-general of our faith and salvation,' (the Head of the body, the sovereign Prince and Priest, the Arch-pastor, the chief Apostle of our profession, and Bishop of our souls,) there are divers captains serving in fit degrees of subordination; bishops commanding larger regiments, presbyters ordering less numerous companies; all which, by the bands of common faith, of mutual charity, of holy communion and peace, being combined together, do in their respective stations govern and guide, are governed and guided : the bishops, each in his precincts, guiding more immediately the priests subject to them; the priests, each guiding the people committed to his charge : all bishops and priests being guided by synods established or congregated on emergent occasion; many of them ordinarily by those principal bishops, who are regularly settled in a presidency over them; according to the distinctions constituted by God and his Apostles, or introduced by human prudence, as the preservation of order and peace (in various times and circumstances of things) hath seemed to require : to which subordination the two great Apostles may seem to have regard, when they bid us υποτάσσεσθαι αλλήλοις, "to be subject to one another;' their injunction at least may, according to their general intent, (which aimeth at the preservation of order and peace,) be well extended so far.
Of this distinction there was never in ancient times made any question, nor did it seem disputable in the church except to one malecontent, (Aerius,) who did indeed get a name in story, but never made much noise, or obtained any vogue in the world ; very few followers he found in his heterodoxy; no great body even of heretics could find cause to dissent from the church in this point; but all Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, Donatists, &c. maintained the distinction of ecclesiastical orders among themselves, and acknowleged the duty of the inferior clergy to their bishops : and no wonder, seeing it standeth on so very firm and clear grounds; on the reason of the case, on the testimony of holy Scripture, on general tradition