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SUMMARY OF SERMON LVII.
HEBREWS, CHAP. XIII.-VERSE 17.
The duty itself, and obedience prescribed; which may relate either to the government, or to the doctrine, or to the conversation of the persons specified: the first seems chiefly intended in the text.
Obedience and ecclesiastical government. What this imports we may understand by considering the terms whereby it is expressed, and those whereby its correlate (spiritual government) is signified; by examples and practices relating to it; by the nature and reason of the matter itself.
Beside the word neideolai, (commonly used to signify all sorts of obedience) here is added the word in elkeiv, serving to explain it, and which signifies to yield, give way, or comply : this point enlarged on. The obedience due to spiritual governors may likewise be inferred from the various titles attributed to them, as prelates, pastors, &c.
Such obedience also primitive practice asserts to them: for what authority the holy Apostles did assume and exercise, the same we may reasonably suppose derived to them, in kind, though not in peculiarity of manner: this point enlarged on.
It may farther be observed that accordingly, in continual succession from the first ages, the primitive bishops did generally assume such power, and the people readily yielded obedience.
This kind of obedience is also required by the reason of things, the condition of the church, and the design of the Christian religion,
1. Every Christian church is a society : now no society can stand prosperously without government; and no government can exist without a correspondent obligation to submit to it.
2. The state of religion under the gospel is the kingdom of heaven : Christ our Lord is King of the Church : he visiteth and ordereth it by spiritual governors, his substitutes, whom, after his ascension, he settled to administer affairs in his name,
3. Again, for the honor of God, the commendation of religion, and benefit of the people, it is needful that in all religious performances things should (according to St. Paul's rule) be performed decently, and according to order; which cannot be accomplished without a determination of persons, modes, and circumstances, &c.
4. It is also requisite that all Christian brethren should conspire in serving God with mutual charity, concord, and consent; that, as the Apostles so often prescribed, they should endeavor to keep unity of spirit in the bond of peace, &c. : but if there be no government, dissensions and animosities will arise, and no unanimity or concord can exist.
5. Farther, in consequence of these things, common edification requires such obedience : it is the duty of governors to order all things to this end, that is, to the maintenance and encouragement of piety : for this purpose their authority was given to them, and therefore it must be deemed conducive to it: this topic enlarged on and explained.
By the nature of things also, this obedience will appear needful : for,
Consider obedience ; what it is, whence it springs, what it produces.
It is in itself a thing very good and acceptable to God; very just and equal; very wise, comely, and pleasant. It cannot but be grateful unto God, who is the God of love, order, and peace : it is a just and equal thing, that every member of society should submit to the laws and orders of it, on which
terms he is supposed to enter it, &c. It is extreme iniquity and ingratitude when our spiritual governors with anxious care and toil are promoting our happiness, that we should vex and trouble them by perverse behavior : it is great folly thus to indispose and hinder them from effectually discharging their duty to our advantage.
Obedience moreover is a comely and amiable thing, yielding much grace, procuring great honor to the church, highly adorning religion; since it is a goodly sight to behold things proceeding orderly, and every person moving evenly in his rank, &c. It is also a very pleasant and comfortable thing to live in obedience, by which we enjoy tranquillity and satisfaction of conscience, &c.
The causes also and principles from which obedience arises do much commend it, springing, as it does, from the most Christian dispositions of soul.
In fine, innumerable and inestimable are the benefits accruing from this practice, in its support of the church, and in its instigation to virtue: obedience of the primitive Christians duly stated; the authority of the church in those days, and fear of its anathemas, &c.
If, on the other hand, we consider the nature, sources, and consequences of disobedience, it will conduce to the same effect, persuading us to the practice of this duty.
Disobedience is in itself a heinous sin, being the transgression of a command on which God lays great stress. It is in its nature a kind of apostacy from Christianity and rebellion against our Lord.
Punishment of those described, who under the Mosaical dispensation would do presumptuously, &c. : (Deut. xvii. 12.)
It is a sin pregnant with divers sins, and involving the breach of many great commands, proposed in the New Testament with the very design to guard and secure obedience : this explained. It is also a practice issuing from the worst dispositions of soul,
most opposite to the spirit of our religion, as well as to reason and humanity.
The fruits also which it produces are extremely bad for the interests of religion, and the welfare of the church.
It is immediately and formally a violation of order and peace. It breeds great disgrace to the church, and scandal to religion. It corrupts the minds and manners of men : for when the banks of discipline are broken down, what can we expect but a deluge of impious doctrine and wicked practice, &c. ?
It tends to the dissolution of the church, and destruction of Christianity. If we consult obvious experience, we shall see what spoils of faith, good conscience, common honesty and sobriety this practice has caused : corruption of the age dila
To the guilt of disobedience towards spiritual rulers, that of disobedience to the prince, and to the laws of the country also, must be added : this topic enlarged on to the end.
OF OBEDIENCE TO OUR SPIRITUAL GUIDES
HEBREWS, CHAP. XIII.- VERSE 17.
Obey them that have the rule over you.
I PROCEED to the duty itself, the obedience prescribed, which may (according to the extent in signification of the word neiOcobai) be conceived to relate either to the government, or to the doctrine, or to the conversation of the persons specified ; implying that we should obey their laws, that we should embrace their doctrine, that we should conform to their practice, according to proper limitations of such performance, respectively.
We begin with the first, as seeming chiefly intended by the words:
Obedience to ecclesiastical government : what this doth import we may understand by considering the terms whereby it is expressed, and those whereby its correlate (spiritual government) is signified; by examples and practice relating to it, by the nature and reason of the matter itself.
Beside the word neileabai, (which is commonly used to signify all sorts of obedience, chiefly that which is due to governors,) here is added a word serving to explain that, the word Üreisely, which signifieth to yield, give way, or comply; relating (as it seemeth by its being put indefinitely) to all their proceedings in matters concerning their charge. In other places, parallel to our text, it is expressed by úmor doce oai, the