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office is that in which His servants must fulfil theirs; and the difference between the hireling and the good shepherd, whose own the sheep are, must ever be remembered—whilst the one, in the hour of danger, seeing the wolf coming, fleeth; the other abides with them to the death.
The Church does not confine herself alone, however, to this expression to designate the office of her ministers. There are others, which she takes from holy Scripture, by which the same duties are implied, though under different similitudes. Thus they are said to be ambassadors for Christ, ministers of Christ, stewards of the mysteries of God, &c.; and as by the term shepherd we learn the largeness of their office, and the spirit in which it should be exercised, so by the others we understand more specifically the nature of their duties. The ambassador is the minister of peace; the faithful steward is the wise dispenser of his master's goods, according to the necessities of his household. We understand, therefore, in general, that the whole office of the pastor of Christ's flock is one of self-denial, demanding great watchfulness and great tenderness; and we know in particular that its ministry is a ministry specially of reconciliation, and that one of its necessary qualifications is wisdom.
It is with you, then, as sheep of the flock of Christ, as those for whom He has laid down His life, whom He hath bought with the price of His precious blood, that I, as your pastor, have to do—not as strangers nor aliens from the family of God, but as children, whose birthright is the inheritance which the Lord reserves in heaven, to be manifested in the day of the
revelation of Jesus Christ, and who may justly claim to be nourished with the food that God has provided
The ministry which the Lord has committed to the Church is one of reconciliation. The message is, that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;" and the exhortation is, that, seeing this, men should be reconciled to God: thus bearing out the express declaration of our Lord himself, that “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” This message of mercy the Church is commissioned to bear to all men ; the very office that is put upon her, that of an “ambassador for Christ,” always serving to remind her that the present dispensation is one of grace and long-suffering, and offering a pledge to every one, that, so long as she shall appear in this character, God is at enmity with none, and that judgment is stayed. It is not to what may be done
-it is not to any possibility to be hoped for—it is not to a reconciliation or pardon to be yet obtained, that the Church has to direct the attention of men, but to a work already wrought; to this fact—that God, through that mighty work, is at peace with them, and would have all to come to the knowledge of it and live.” A ministry is a service, and the ministry of this reconciliation, accomplished for men in Jesus Christ, is a dispensing of all the blessings and benefits which flow from it to every man, according to his actual and spiritual necessities, and the measure of God's love ; so that there shall ever be store and ap
pliance of comfort to the afflicted, strength to the weak, and knowledge to the ignorant. And if it be the office of the Church thus to stand for God towards all men, much more is it the peculiar duty of the pastors of the Church to consider and care for those gathered within her pale and constituted into holy membership in her body by baptism, as the children of God, who are under their care, because they are children who are not to be sought, that they may be brought into the Church, but, being already in it, are to be nourished up to the stature of men in Christ. It is true, that there are those, too many, alas ! who will stray from the pastures of God, who must be sought till they are found; it is true, that, ignorant of their standing before their heavenly Father, yielding to their own lust, or ensnared by the tempter, thousands upon thousands of God's children fall into a worse than heathen condition, by so much worse as the grace, which they have received in baptism, renders their estate so much the higher: these, with a sorrowing heart and travailing spirit, the pastor must follow, in the spirit of the Crucified One, till they be reclaimed; but this does not alter the fact, that as the shepherd tends the flock, which has been purchased, and for whom pastures are already provided, so the Christian pastor is to minister to those who are not their own," who have been bought with the blood of Christ, whose true inheritance is the blessing of peace, and who are called to live in the faith, not of a work yet to be wrought, but of one already accomplished. Sanctification is the act of God's grace towards all His children, who by water
and the Holy Ghost are made members of that body mystical whereof Christ is the Head, and are brought into fellowship with Him who is ever holy in Himself and in the sight of the Father. It is not a condition attained through actual and personal holiness, but a condition, by the faith of which, as already bestowed of God's grace, all strength unto righteousness is acquired. Every member of the Church should remember, that to the knowledge and realization of this he is called; and every pastor of the Church should remember also, that in this respect his duties differ materially towards those who are baptized and those who are not. It is not meant by this that Christ has not died for all: most assuredly He has; He has redeemed the whole creation out of the hand of Satan ; He was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil; and in the day when the fruits of this redemption shall be revealed, none shall be found to have perished, and nothing to have been lost, through any exclusiveness in the redemption, or any partial limiting of its benefits.
Men have lost sight of the Church as the body of Christ, and, by consequence, of that which rightly constitutes membership of, and fellowship with Him, the living Head : hence the sacraments of baptism and the body and blood of the Lord are little more, in the estimation of many, than rites, having some greater solemnity than others, the true grounds of which they cannot define; hence, also, the ministries of the Church have no higher claim to their attention, than such as may be afforded by so much more than a common amount of intellect or oratorical
powers, as may be exhibited by those who stand in them. Thus, virtually, the Church is to them as nothing in the world ; the sacraments without significance and efficacy; and private judgment as competent to the informing and nourishing the spirit, as any ministry appointed thereto by the Lord: not that such conclusions are asserted in so many wo
words, but for all practical purposes they are come to. In this condition of things no account whatever is taken of the acts of God's grace in His Church, which acts are independent of all human efforts and personal merits ; nor of that separation which by them He has made between those who are within the pale of that Church visible on earth, and those who are not: hence men are divided into two great classes—the converted and the unconverted. The coming down of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, and the gift of ministries made by the Lord when “He as
up on high,” by which the Church was constituted to be His body, in fulness of memberships and completeness of spiritual power, pass for nothing; the preaching of the Gospel is all in all, and by that is meant, not the “ Gospel of the kingdom,” the only Gospel which our Lord commanded to be declared—but such a system as, excluding utterly all right consideration of the nature and constitution of the Church and the privileges of baptized men, afflicts many of God's children with groundless fears
, through the ignorance or denial of their true spiritual standing, and builds up others in conclusions which have no true scriptural grounds.
The revelation of God in Jesus Christ is eminently