« PreviousContinue »
Peculiarities in the Ministry of Christ incidental
to his divine Nature.
Nothing is more humiliating to a mind truly fixed upon God, than the mixture of earthly leaven which often works within us, and debases the character of our most spiritual pursuits. It continually reminds us of the state of imperfection to which man has been reduced since sin came into the world; so that at the highest pitch of human attainments there is reason to complain of the contracted scope of our faculties, and in the purest moments of heavenly communion we are constrained to acknowledge the intrusion of low and worldly associations. Like the apostles whose eyes were heavy at the moment of the transfiguration of their Lord, it would seem as if the mind of man were not able to contemplate with a steady
PECULIARITIES IN THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST. 57
gaze the highest glories of heaven, even when revelation has removed the veil which shrouded them.
Those in particular who exercise the ministerial office, have occasion to feel more than others this infirmity. At every step they experience that they are men of like passions with their fellow-men, whom it is their duty to keep within the bounds of Christian moderation. They themselves have need to learn daily in the school of Christ, and yet they are called upon to bring out of their storehouse things new and old for the instruction of others. They hear their conscience whispering to them at every recurring instance of their own ignorance of spiritual knowledge, Art thou a master in Israel, and knoweth not these things ? Are the members of their respective flocks subject to be led astray by the temptations of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life? The shepherds and guardians of God's fold are themselves exempt from none of those trials, and are insensible to none of those allurements which lead away captive the souls they have in charge. Are men averse by nature from the things which belong to their peace? Their teachers also have their own besetting and prevailing affections, which obstruct the progress of spirituality in their souls, and occupy them with those grovelling pursuits by which the world detains them from more heavenly considerations. Are others harassed with occasional doubts and unbelief, or tempted to a sinful compliance with the prejudices of their fellow-men in opposition to the claims of duty ? They, too, like the chosen leader of the Israelites', are liable to an unadvised distrust of God's power, or of his faithfulness to his promises ; or, like the apostle to the circumcision", they may be inclined to overlook the intrusion of dangerous error, through fear of giving offence to received opinions. Are others forced to exercise a perpetual vigilance, lest the great enemy of salvation should find some outwork of the heart unguarded, and enter in, and sow tares among the wheat unawares ? They, too, be they even like Paul himself in zeal and devotion and heavenlymindedness, are obliged to keep under their body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means when they have preached to others, they themselves should be castaways.
It is precisely in this respect that the ministry of Christ differs from every other ministry. Every other ministry is derivative, - Christ's alone is original, and distinguished throughout by a manifestation of perfect independence. Other teachers are as earthen vessels from which the water of life is poured forth in a scanty, and it may be, in a polluted stream. But Christ is the fountain from which they are all supplied; the parent source of every fertilizing rill which waters the spiritual vineyard.
Of his fulness have all we received 3.' Other teachers, however high and honourable their office, and however important the word which is given them to speak, are still but messengers, subordinate to some superior power, and sent as
stewards under the will of another to execute a particular commission. Christ alone is the head of his own church, supreme in authority, and rendering account to no one for the exercise of his sovereignty. Other teachers have gifts differing according to circumstances of situation, of talent, of opportunities of usefulness. Some have the word of wisdom, some the word of knowledge, some faith, some discerning of spirits, some the interpretation of tongues. Some are apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers 4. But Christ united in himself all these diversities of gifts, and performed alone all these differences of administrations ; he combined in his own person whatever was excellent in the character of each, and afforded in all an example of faultless perfection. He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth : he that cometh from heaven is above all. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God; for God giveth not the Spirit by mea
* 1 Cor. xii. 8. Eph. iy. 11.