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Mount Zion.” The church has but one Priest; but yet in Isaiah lxvi. 21, speaking of the ministers of the Gentile nations, it is said, “ I will take of them for priests and Levites.” The church has but one Judge, for the Father. hath committed all judgment to the Son; yet Christ tells his apostles, that they shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
When the text speaks first of ministers marrying the church, and then of Christ's rejoicing over her as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride; the former is manifestly spoken of as being in order to the latter; even in order to the joy and happiness that the church shall have in her true bridegroom. The preaching of the gospel is in this context spoken of three times successively, as the
great means of bringing about the prosperity and joy of the church; once, in the first verse,
66 For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salyation thereof as a lamp that burneth ;” and then in the text; and lastly in the two following verses, $ I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall neyer hold their peace day nor night. Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence; and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”
The text thus opened affords these two propositions proper for our consideration on the solemn occasion of this day.
I. The uniting of faithful ministers with Christ's people in the ministerial office, when done in a due manner, is like a young man's marrying a virgin.
II. This union of ministers with the people of Christ is in order to their being brought to the blessedness of a more glorious union, in which Christ shall rejoice over them, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride.
I. Prop. The uniting of a faithful minister with Christ's people in the ministerial office, when done in a due manner, is like a young man's marrying a virgin.
I say, the uniting of a faithful minister with Christ's people, and in a due manner; For we must suppose that the promise God makes to the church in the text, relates to such ministers, and such a manner of union with the church; because this is promised to the church as a part of her latter day glory, and as a benefit that should be granted her by God, as the fruit of his great love to her, and an instance of her great spiritual prosperity and happiness in her purest and most excellent state on earth. But it would
be no such instance of God's great favour and the church's happiness, to have unfaithful ministers entering into office in an undue and improper manner. They are evidently faithful ministers that are spoken of in the next verse, where the same are doubtless spoken of as in the text; “ I have set watchmen on thy walls, o Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night.” And they are those that shall be introduced into the ministry at a time of its extraordinary purity, order, and beauty, wherein (as is said in the first, second, and third verses) her “ righteousness should go forth as brightness, and the Gentiles should see her righteousness, and all kings her glory, and she should be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of her God.”
When I speak of the uniting of a faithful minister with Christ's people in a due manner, I do not mean a due manner only with regard to external order; but its being truly done in a holy manner, with sincere upright aims and intentions, with a right disposition, and proper frames of mind in those that are concerned ; and particularly in the minister that takes oflice, and God's people to whom he is united, each exercising in this affair a proper regard to God and one another.-Such an uniting of a faithful minister with the people of God in the ministerial office, is in some respects like a young man marrying a virgin.
1. When a duly qualified person is properly invested with the ministerial character, and does in a due manner take upon him the sacred work and office of a minister of the gospel, he does, in some sense, espouse the church of Christ in general. For though he do not properly stand in a pastoral relation to the whole church of Christ through the earth, and is far from becoming an universal pastor; yet thenceforward he has a different concern with ihe church of Christ in general, and its interests and welfare, than other persons have that are laymen, and should be regarded otherwise by all the meinbers of the Christian Churchi. Wherever he is providentially called to preach the word of God, or minister in holy ihings, he ought to be received as a minister of Christ, and the messenger of the Lord of Hosts to them. And every one that takes on him this office as he ought to do, espouses the church of Christ, as he espouses the interest of the church in a manner that is peculiar. He is under obligations, as a minister of the Christian church, beyond other men, to love the church, as Cbrist her true bridegroom bath loved her, and to prefer Jerusalem above his chief joy, and to imitate Christ, the great shepherd and bishop of souls and husband of the church, in his care and tender concern for her welfare, and earnest and constant 'abours to promote it, as he has opportunity. And as be,
in taking office, devotes himself to the service of Christ in his church; so he gives himself to the church, to be hers, in that love, tender care, constant endeavour, and earnest labour for her provision, comfort, and welfare, that is proper to his office as a minister of Providence, as long as he lives; as a young man gives himself to a virgin when he marries her. And the church of Christ in general, as constituted of true saints through the world, (though they do not deliver up themselves to any one particular minister, as universal pastor, yet) cleave to and embrace the ministry of the church with endeared affection, high honour, and esteem, for Christ's sake. They joyfully commit and subject themselves to them; they resolve to honour and help them, to be guided by them and help them so long as in the world; as the bride doth in marriage deliver op herself to her husband. And the ministry in general, or the whole number of faithful ministers, being all united in the same work as fellow helpers to the grace of God, may be considered as one mystical person, that espouses the church as a young man espouses a virgin : as the many elders of the church of Ephesus are represented as one mystical person, Rev. ii. 1, and all called the angel of the church of Ephesus: and as the faithful ministers of Christ in general, all over the world, seem to be represented as one mystical person, and called an angel, Rev. xiv. 6. " And I saw. another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the ererlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell upon the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." -But,
2. More especially is the uniting of a faithful minister with a particular Cbristian people, as their pastor, when done in a due manner, like a young man marrying a virgin. It is so with respect to the union itself, the concomitants of the union, and the fruits of it.
(1.) The union itself is in several respects like that which is between a young man and a virgin whom he marries.
It is so with respect to mutual regard and affection. A faithful minister, that is in a Christian manner united to a Christian people as their pastor, has his heart united to them in the most ardent and tender affection. And they, on the other hand, have their hearts united to him, esteeming him very highly in love for his works' sake, and receiving him with honour and reverence, and willingly subjecting themselves to him, and committing themselves to his care, as being under Christ, their head and guide.
And such a pastor and people are like a young man and virgin united in marriage, with respect to the purity of their regard one to another. The young man gives himself to his bride in purity, as undebauched by meretricious embraces; and she also presi·nts herself to him a chaste virgin. So in sucb an union of a minister and people as we are speaking of, the parties united are pure and holy in their affection and regard one to another. The minister's heart is united to the people, not for filthy lucre, or any worldly advalitage, but with a pure benevolence to them, and desire of their spiritual welfare and prosperity, and complacence in them as the children of God and followers of Christ Jesus. And, on the other hand, they love and honour bim with an holy affection and esteem; and not merely as having their admiration raised, and their carnal affection moved by having their curiosity, and other fleshly principles, gratified by a florid cloquence, and the excellency of speech and man's wisdom; but receiving him as the messenger of the Lord of Hosts, coming to theni on a divine and infinitely important errand, and with those holy qualifications that resemble the virtues of the Lamb of God.
And is the bridegroom and bride give themselves to each other in covenant ; so it is in that union we are speaking of between a faithful pastor and a Christian people. The minister, by solemn vows, devotis himself to the people, to improve his time and strength, and spend and be spent for them so long as God in his providence shall continue the union : And they, on the other hand, in a holy covenant commit the care of their souls, and subject themselves to him.
(2.) The union between a faithful minister and a Christian people, is like that between a young man and virgin in their marrige, with respect to the concomitants of it.
When such a minister and such a people are thus united, it is attended with great joy. The minister joyfully devoting bimself to the service of his Lord in the work of the ministry, as a work that he delights in : and also joyfully uniting himself to the society of the saints that he is sit over, as having complacence in them, for his dear Lord's sake, whose people they are; and willingly and joyfully, on Christ's call, under. taking the labours and difficulties of the service of their souls. And they, on the other hand, joyfully receiving him as a precious gift of their ascended Redeemer. Thus a faithful minister and a Christian people are each other's joy, Rom. XV. 32. “ That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.” 2 Cor. i. 14. “ As you have ack.iowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye are ours.'
Another concomitant of this union, wherein it resembles that which becomes a young man and virgin united in marriage, is mutual helpfulness, and a constant care and endeavour to promote each other's good and comfort. The minister earnestly and continually seeks the profit and comfort of the
souls of his people, and to guard and defend them from every thing that might annoy them, and studies and labours to promote their spiritual peace and prosperity. They, on the other hand, make it their constant care to promote his comfort, to make the burden of his difficult work easy, to avoid those things that might add to the difficulty of it, and that might justly be grievous to his heart. They do what in them lies to encourage his heart, and strengthen his bands in bis work ; and are ready to say to him, when called to exert himself in the more difficult parts of bis work, as the people of old to Ezra the priest, when they saw him bowed down under the burden of a difficult affair, Ezra x. 4, “ Arise, for this matter belongeth to thee: we also will be with thee: Be of good courage, and do it.” They spare no pains nor cost to make their pastor's outward circumstances easy and comfortable, and free from pincbing necessities and distracting cares, and to put him under the best advantages to follow his great work fully and successfully.
Such a pastor and people, as it is between a couple happily united in a conjugal relation, have a mutual sympathy with each other, a fellow-feeling of each other's burdens and calamities, and a communion in each other's prosperity and joy. When the people suffer in their spiritual interests, the pastor suffers: he is afflicted when he sees their souls in trouble and darkness: he feels their wounds : and he looks on their prosperity and comfort as his own. 2 Cor. xi. 29.“ Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” 2 Cor. vii. 13. “ We were comforted in your comfort." And, on the other hand, the people feel their pastor's burdens, and rejoice in his prosperity and consolations; see Phil. iv. 14, and 2 Cor. ii. 3.
(3.) This union is like that which is between a young man and a virgin in its fruits.
One fruit of it is mutual benefit: They become meet helps one for another. The people receive great benefit by the minister, as he is their teacher to communicate spiritual instructions and counsels to them, and is set to watch over them, to defend them from those enemies and calamities they are liable to; and so is, under Christ, to be both their guide and guard, as the busband is of the wife. And as the husband provides the wife with food and clothing; so the pastor, as Christ's steward, makes provision for his people, and brings forth out of his treasure things new and old, gives every one his portion of meat in due season, and is made the instrument of spiritually clothing and adorning their souls. And, on the other hand, the minister receives benefit from the people, as they minister greatly to his spiritual good by that holy converse to which their union to him as his flock leads them.