Master Sermon List
by John Owen
John Owen (1616-1683)
'Owen on the Holy Spirit', as the work has generally been called, is perhaps one of the best known, and most highly esteemed of Owen's treatises. 'We are favoured with many excellent books in our tongue', wrote John Newton to a correspondent, 'but I with you agree in assigning one of the first places as a teacher to Dr Owen. I have just finished his discourse on the Holy Spirit which is an epitome, if not the masterpiece of his.
Of ordinary gifts of the Spirit The grant, institution, use, benefit, end, and continuance of the ministry.
The consideration of those ordinary gifts of the Spirit which are annexed unto the ordinary powers and duties of the church doth in the next place lie before us. And they are called ordinary, not as if they were absolutely common unto all, or were not much to be esteemed, or as if that were any way a diminishing term; but we call them so upon a double account:
1. In distinction from those gifts which, being absolutely extraordinary, did exceed the whole power and faculties of the souls of men, as healings, tongues, and miracles; for otherwise they are of the same nature with most of those gifts which were bestowed on the apostles and evangelists, differing only in degree. Every true gospel ministry hath now gifts of the same kind with the apostles, in a degree and measure sufficient to their work, excepting those mentioned.
2. Because of their continuance in the ordinary state of the church; which also they shall do unto the consummation of all things. Now, my design is to treat peculiarly of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But because there is a gift of Christ which is the foundation and subject of them, something must be spoken briefly unto that in the first place. And this gift of Christ is that of the ministry of the church; the nature of which office I shall not consider at large, but only speak unto it as it is a gift of Christ; and this I shall do by some little illustration given unto that passage of the apostle where this gift and the communication of it is declared: Eph. iv. 7-16, "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
There is no other place of Scripture wherein at one view the grant, institution, use, benefit, end, and continuance of the ministry is so clearly and fully represented. And the end of this whole discourse is, to declare that the gift and grant of the ministry and ministers, of the office and the persons to discharge it, is an eminent, most useful fruit and effect of the mediatory power of Christ, with his love and care towards his church. And those of whom the apostle speaks ("Unto every one of us") are the officers or ministers whom he doth afterward enumerate, although the words may in some sense be extended unto all believers; but principally the ministry and ministers of the church are intended. And it is said, unto them is "grace given." It is evident that by "grace" here, not sanctifying, saving grace is intended, but a participation of a gracious favour with respect to an especial end. So the word is frequently used in this case by our apostle, Rom. xv. 15; Gal. ii. 9; Eph. iii. 8. This gracious favour we are made partakers of, this trust is freely, in a way of grace, committed unto us; and that "according to the measure of the gift of Christ," unto every one, according as the Lord Christ doth measure the gift of it freely out unto them. Thus in general was the ministry granted unto the church, the particular account whereof is given in the ensuing verses. And,
First, It is declared to be a gift of Christ: "And he himself gave," Eph. iv. 11. It is the great fundamental of all church order, power, and worship, that the gift and grant of Christ is the original of the ministry. If it had not been so given of Christ, it had not been lawful for any of the sons of men to institute such an office, or appoint such officers. If any had attempted so to do, as there would have been a nullity in what they did, so their attempt would have been expressly against the headship of Christ, or his supreme authority over the church. Wherefore, that he would thus give ministers of the church was promised of old, Jer. iii. 15, as well as signally foretold in the psalm from whence these words are taken. And as his doing of it is an act of his mediatory power, as it is declared in this place, and Matt. xxviii. 18, so it was a fruit of his care, love, and bounty, 1 Cor. xii. 28.
And it will hence follow, not only that offices in the church which are not of Christ's giving by institution, and officers that are not of his gift, grant, by provision and furnishment, have indeed no place therein, but also that they are set up in opposition unto his authority and in contempt of his care and bounty; for the doing so ariseth out of an apprehension both that men have a power in the church which is not derived from Christ, and that to impose servants upon him in his house without his consent, as also that they have more care of the church than he had, who made not such provision for them. And if an examination might be admitted by this rule, as it will one day come on whether men will or no, some great names now in the church would scarce be able to preserve their station.
Popes, cardinals, metropolitans, diocesan prelates, archdeacons, commissaries, officials, and I know not what other monstrous products of an incestuous conjunction between secular pride and ecclesiastical degeneracy, would think themselves severely treated to be tried by this rule; but so it must be at last, and that unavoidably. Yea, and that no man shall be so hardy as once to dare attempt the setting up of officers in the church without the authority of Christ, the eminency of this gift and grant of his is declared in sundry particular instances, wherein neither the wisdom, nor skill, nor power of any or all of the sons of men, can have the least interest, or in any thing alike unto them.
And this appears, 1. From the grandeur of its introduction, or the great and solemn preparation that was made for the giving out of this gift. It was given by Christ "when he ascended up on high, and led captivity captive," Eph. iv. 8. The words are taken from Ps. cxviii. 17, 18, "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." In the first place, the glorious appearance of God on Mount Sinai in giving of the law, his descending and ascending unto that purpose, is intended. But they are applied here unto Christ, because all the glorious works of God in and towards the church of old were either representatory or gradually introductory of Christ and the gospel. Thus the glorious ascending of God from Mount Sinai, after the giving of the law, was a representation of his "ascending up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things," as Eph. iv. 10. And as God then "led captivity captive" in the destruction of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, who had long held his people in captivity and under cruel bondage; so dealt the Lord Christ now in the destruction and captivity of Satan and all his powers, Col. ii. 15.
Only, whereas it is said in the psalm that "he received gifts for men," here it is said that "he gave gifts to men:" wherein no small mystery is couched; for although Christ is God, and is so gloriously represented in the psalm, yet an intimation is given that he should act what is here mentioned in a condition wherein he was capable to receive from another, as he did in this matter, Acts ii. 33. And so the phrase in the original doth more than insinuate: "Thou hast received gifts in Adam," in the man, or human nature. And signifies as well to give as to receive, especially when any thing is received to be given. Christ received this gift in the human nature to give it unto others. Now, to what end is this glorious theatre, as it were, prepared, and all this preparation made, all men being called to the preparation of it? It was to set out the greatness of the gift he would bestow, and the glory of the work which he would effect; and this was to furnish the church with ministers, and ministers with gifts for the discharge of their office and duty. And it will one day appear that there is more glory, more excellency, in giving one poor minister unto a congregation, by furnishing him with spiritual gifts for the discharge of his duty, than in the pompous instalment of a thousand popes, cardinals, or metropolitans. The worst of men, in the observance of a few outward rites and ceremonies, can do the latter; Christ only can do the former, and that as he is ascended up on high to that purpose.
2. It appears to be such an eminent gift from its original acquisition. There was a power acquired by Christ for this great donation, which the apostle declares, Eph. iv. 9, "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" Having mentioned the ascension of Christ as the immediate cause or fountain of the communication of this gift, verse 8, he found it necessary to trace it unto its first original. He doth not, therefore, make mention of the descending into the lower parts of the earth occasionally upon that of his ascending, as if he catched at an advantage of a word, nor doth he speak of the humiliation of Christ absolutely in itself, which he had no occasion for; but he introduceth it to show what respect this gift of the ministry and ministers, of the office, gifts, and persons, had thereunto. And Christ's descending into the lower parts of the earth may be taken two ways, according as that expression, "The lower parts of the earth," may be diversely understood: for "The lower parts of the earth," are either the whole earth, that is, those lower parts of the creation, or some part of it; for the word "lower" includes a comparison either with the whole creation or with some part of itself.
In the first sense, Christ's state of humiliation is intended, wherein he came down from heaven into these lower parts of God's creation, conversing on the earth. In the latter, his grave and burial are intended; for the grave is the lowest part of the earth into which mankind doth descend. And both of these, or his humiliation as it ended in his death and burial, may be respected in the words. And that which the apostle designs to manifest is, that the deep humiliation and the death of Christ are the fountain and original of the ministry of the church, by way of acquisition and procurement. It is a fruit whose root is in the grave of Christ; for in those things, in the humiliation and death of Christ, lay the foundation of his mediatory authority, whereof the ministry is an effect, Phil. ii. 6-11.
And it was appointed by him to be the ministry of that peace between God and man which was made therein and thereby, Eph. ii. 14, 16, 17; for when he had made this peace by the blood of the cross, he preached it in the giving these gifts unto men for its solemn declaration. See 2 Cor. v. 18-21. Wherefore, because the authority from whence this gift proceeded was granted unto Christ upon his descending into the lower parts of the earth, and the end of the gift is to declare and preach the peace which he made between God and man by his so doing, this gift relates thereunto also. Hereon doth the honour and excellency of the ministry depend, with respect hereunto is it to be esteemed and valued, namely, its relation unto the spiritual humiliation of Christ, and not from the carnal or secular exaltation of those that take it upon them.
3. It appears to be an eminent and signal gift from the immediate cause of its actual communication, or the present qualification of the Lord Christ for the bestowing of it; and this was his glorious exaltation upon his ascension. A right unto it was acquired by him in his death, but his actual investiture with all glorious power was to precede its communication, Eph. iv. 8, 10. He was first to ascend up on high, to triumph over all his and our adversaries, put now under him into absolute and eternal captivity, before he gave out this gift. And he is said here to "ascend far above all heavens," that is, these visible and aspectable heavens, which he passed through when he went into the glorious presence of God, or unto the right hand of the Majesty on high. See Heb. iv. 14, with our Exposition thereon It is also added why he was thus gloriously exalted, and this was that he might "fill up all things;" not in the essence of his nature, but in the exercise of his power.
He had laid the foundation of his church on himself in his death and resurrection, but now the whole fabric of it was to be filled with its utensils and beautified with its ornaments. This he ascended to accomplish, and did it principally in the collation of this gift of the ministry upon it. This was the first exercise of that glorious power which the Lord Christ was vested withal upon his exaltation, the first effect of his wisdom and love, in filling all things, unto the glory of God and the salvation of his elect. And these things are mentioned, that in the contemplation of their greatness and order we may learn and judge how excellent this donation of Christ is. And it will also appear from hence how contemptible a thing the most pompous ministry in the world is, which doth not proceed from this original.
4. The same is manifest from the nature of the gift itself; for this gift consisteth in gifts: "He gave gifts," Eph. iv. 8. There is an active giving expressed, "He gave;" and the thing given, that is, "gifts." Wherefore the ministry is a gift of Christ, not only because freely and bountifully given by him to the church, but also because spiritual gifts do essentially belong unto it, are indeed its life, and inseparable from its being. A ministry without gifts is no ministry of Christ's giving, nor is of any other use in the church but to deceive the souls of men. To set up such a ministry is both to despise Christ and utterly to frustrate the ends of the ministry, those for which Christ gave it, and which are here expressed; for,
(1.)Ministerial gifts and graces are the great evidence that the Lord Christ takes care of his church and provides for it, as called into the order and unto the duties of a church. To set up a ministry which may be continued by outward forms and orders of men only, without any communication of gifts from Christ, is to despise his authority and care. Neither is it his mind that any church should continue in order any longer or otherwise than as he bestows these gifts for the ministry. (2.) That these gifts are the only means and instruments whereby the work of the ministry may be performed, and the ends of the ministry attained, shall be farther declared immediately. The ends of the ministry here mentioned, called its "work," are, the "perfecting of the saints, and the edifying of the body of Christ, until we all come unto a perfect man." Hereof nothing at all can be done without these spiritual gifts; and therefore a ministry devoid of them is a mock ministry, and no ordinance of Christ.
5. The eminency of this gift appears in the variety and diversity of the offices and officers which Christ gave in giving of the ministry. He knew there would, and had appointed there should, be a twofold estate of the church, Eph. iv. 11, (1.) Of its first election and foundation; (2.) Of its building and edification. And different both offices 492and gifts were necessary unto these different states; for: (1.) Two things were extraordinary in the first erection of his church:- [1.] An extraordinary aggression was to be made upon the kingdom of Satan in the world, as upheld by all the potentates of the earth, the concurrent suffrage of mankind, with the interest of sin and prejudices in them. [2.] The casting of men into a new order, under a new rule and law, for the worship of God; that is, the planting and erecting of churches all the world over. With respect unto these ends, extraordinary officers, with extraordinary authority, power, and abilities, were requisite. Unto this end, therefore, he "gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists;" of the nature of whose offices and their gifts we have spoken before.
I shall here only add, that it was necessary that these officers should have their immediate call and authority from Christ, antecedent unto all order and power in the church, for the very being of the church depended on their power of office. But this, without such an immediate power from Christ, no man can pretend unto. And what was done originally by their persons is now done by their word and doctrine; for the church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief comer-stone," Eph. ii. 20. (2.) There was a state of the church in its edification, which was to be carried on, according to the rules and laws given by Christ, in the ordinary administration of all the ordinances and institutions of the gospel. To this end Christ gives ordinary officers, "pastors and teachers," who by his direction were "ordained in every church," Acts xiv. 23. And these are all the teaching officers that he hath given unto his church; or if any shall think that in the enumeration of them in this place, as also 1 Cor. xii. 28, our apostle forgot popes and diocesan bishops, with some others, who certainly cannot but laugh to themselves that they should be admitted in the world as church-officers, he must speak for himself.
"But whereas the other sort of officers was given by Christ, by his immediate call and communication of power unto them, it doth not appear how he gives these ordinary officers or ministers unto it." I answer, he did it originally, and continueth to do it, by the ways and means ensuing:
(1.) He doth it by the law and rule of the gospel, wherein he hath appointed this office of the ministry in his church, and so always to be continued. Were there not such a standing ordinance and institution of his, it were not in the power of all the churches in the world to appoint any such among them, whatever appearance there may be of a necessity thereof; and if any should have attempted any such thing, no blessing from God would have accompanied their endeavour, so that they would but set up an idol of their own. Hereon we lay the continuance of the ministry in the church. If there be not an ordinance and institution of Christ unto this purpose, or if, such being granted, yet the force of it be now expired, we must and will readily confess that the whole office is a mere usurpation. But if he have given "pastors and teachers" unto his church, to continue until all his saints in all ages "come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," Eph. iv. 11-13, and hath promised to be with them, as such, unto the consummation of all things, Matt. xxviii. 18-20; if the apostles by his authority ordained elders in every church and city, Acts xiv. 23, Tit. i. 5, and who therein were made overseers of the flocks by the Holy Ghost, Acts xx. 28, having the charge of feeding and overseeing the flock that is among them always, until the chief Shepherd shall appear, 1 Pet. v. 1-5; if believers, or the disciples of Christ, are obliged by him always to yield obedience unto them, Heb. xiii. 7, 17; with other such plain declarations of the will of the Lord Christ in the constitution and continuance of this office; this foundation standeth firm and unshaken as the ordinances of heaven, that shall not be changed.
And whereas there is not in the Scripture the least intimation of any such time, state, or condition of the church, as wherein the disciples of Christ may or ought to live from under the orderly conduct and guidance of the ministers, it is vain to imagine that any defect in other men, any apostasy of the greatest part of any or all visible churches, should cast them into an incapacity of erecting a regular ministry among them and over them; for whereas the warranty and authority of the ministry depends on this institution of Christ, which is accompanied with a command for its observance, Matt. xxviii. 18-20, all his disciples being obliged to yield obedience thereunto, their doing so in the order and manner also by him approved is sufficient to constitute a lawful ministry among them. To suppose that because the church of Rome and those adhering unto it have, by their apostasy, utterly lost an evangelical ministry among them, that therefore others unto whom the word of God is come, and hath been effectual unto their conversion, have not sufficient warranty from the word to yield obedience unto all the commands of Christ (which, when we have talked of power and authority whilst we please, is all that is left unto us in this world), or that in so doing he will not accept them and approve of what they have done, is an assertion fit for men to maintain who have a trade to drive in religion unto their own especial advantage.
(2.) The Lord Christ giveth and continueth this office by giving spiritual gifts and abilities unto men, to enable them to discharge the duties and perform the work of it. This is that which I principally design to confirm in its proper place, which will immediately ensue. All I shall say at present is, that spiritual gifts of themselves make no man actually a minister; yet no man can be made a minister according to the mind of Christ who is not partaker of them. Wherefore, supposing the continuance of the law and institution mentioned, if the Lord Christ do at any time, or in any place, cease to give out spiritual gifts unto men, enabling them in some good measure unto the discharge of the ministry, then and in that place the ministry itself must cease and come to an end. To erect a ministry by virtue of outward order, rites, and ceremonies, without gifts for the edification of the church, is but to hew a block with axes, and smooth it with planes, and set it up for an image to be adored. To make a man a minister who can do nothing of the proper peculiar work of the ministry, nothing towards the only end of it in the church, is to set up a dead carcass, fastening it to a post, and expecting it should do you work and service.
(3.) He doth it by giving power unto his church in all ages to call and separate unto the work of the ministry such as he hath fitted and gifted for it. The things before mentioned are essentially constituent of the ministry; this belongs unto the outward order of their entrance into the ministry who are by him called thereunto. And concerning this we may observe the things following: [1.] That this power in the church is not despotical or lordly, but consists in a faculty, right, and ability, to act in this matter obedientially unto the command of Christ. Hence all the acting of the church in this matter is nothing but an instituted means of conveying authority and office from Christ unto persons called thereunto. The church doth not give them any authority of its own or resident in itself; but only, in a way of obedience unto Christ, doth transmit power from him unto them who are called. Hence do they become the ministers of Christ, and not of the bishops, or churches, or men, holding their office and authority from Christ himself, by the law and rule of the gospel; so that whosoever despiseth them, despiseth him also in them.
Some would have ministers of the gospel to receive all their authority from the people that choose them, and some from the bishops who ordain them, and whence they have theirs I know not. But this is to make them ministers of men and servants of men, and to constitute other masters between them and Christ. And whereas all church power is originally and absolutely vested in Christ, and in him solely, so that none can be partaker of the least interest in it or share of it without a communication of it from him unto them, neither popes, nor prelates, nor people, are able to produce any such grant or concession of power unto them from him as that they should have an authority residing in them and in their power, to dispose unto others as they see cause, so as they should hold it from them as a part or efflux of the power vested in them. It is obedience unto the law of Christ, and following the guidance of his previous communication of gifts as a means to communicate his power unto them who are called to the ministry, that is the whole of what is committed unto any in this kind. [2.] The church hath no power to call any unto the office of the ministry, where the Lord Christ hath not gone before it in the designation of him by an endowment with spiritual gifts; for if the whole authority of the ministry be from Christ, and if he never give it but where he bestows these gifts with it for its discharge, as in Eph. iv. 7, 8, etc., then to call any to the ministry whom he hath not so previously gifted is to set him aside, and to act in our own name and authority. And by reason of these things the Holy Ghost is said to make men overseers of the flocks who are thus called thereunto; because both the communication of power in the constitution of the law, and of spiritual gifts by internal effectual operation, are from him alone, Acts xx. 28. [3.] The outward way and order whereby a church may call any person unto the office of the ministry among them and over them, is by their joint solemn submission unto him in the Lord, as unto all the powers and duties of this office, testified by their choice and election of him.
It is concerning this outward order that all the world is filled with disputes, about the call of men unto the ministry; which yet, in truth, is of the least concernment therein: for whatever manner or order be observed herein, if the things before mentioned be not premised thereunto, it is of no validity or authority. On the other hand, grant that the authority of the ministry dependeth on the law, ordinance, and institution of Christ, that he calls men unto this office by the collation of spiritual gifts unto them, and that the actings of the church herein are but an instituted moral means of communicating office-power from Christ himself unto any, and let but such other things be observed as the light and law of nature requireth in cases of an alike kind, and the outward mode of the church's acting herein need not much be contended about.
It may be proved to be a beam of truth from the light of nature, that no man should be imposed on a church for their minister against their wills or without their express consent, considering that his whole work is to be conversant about their understandings, judgments, wills, and affections; and that this should be done by their choice and election, as the Scripture doth manifestly declare, Num. viii. 9, 10, Acts i. 23, 26, vi. 3-6, xiv. 23, so, that it was for some ages observed sacredly in the primitive churches, cannot modestly be denied. But how far any people or church may commit over this power of declaring their consent and acquiescency unto others to act for them, and as it were in their stead, so as that the call to office should yet be valid, and provided the former rules be observed, I will not much dispute with any, though I approve only of what maketh the nearest approaches to the primitive pattern that the circumstances of things are capable of. [4.] The Lord Christ continueth his bestowing of this gift by the solemn ordinance of setting apart those who are called in the manner declared, by "fasting and prayer, and imposition of hands," Acts xiii. 2, 3, xiv. 23; 1 Tim. iv. 14. By these means, I say, doth the Lord Christ continue to declare that he accounts men faithful, and puts them into the ministry, as the apostle speaks, 1 Tim. i. 12.
There are yet remaining sundry things in the passage of the apostle which we now insist on, that declare the eminency of this gift of Christ, which may yet be farther briefly considered, as,
6. The end why it is bestowed; and this is expressed, (1.) Positively, as to the good and advantage of the church thereby, Eph. iv. 12; (2.) Negatively, as to its prohibition and hinderance of evil, verse 14.
(1.) In the end of it as positively expressed three things may be considered: [1.] That it is for the gathering of the saints into complete church-order. The subject matter of this part of their duty is the saints; that is, by calling and profession, such as are all the disciples of Christ. And that which is effected towards them is their coagmentation, jointing, or compacting into order. So the word signifies, Gal. vi. 1. And this effect is here declared, Eph. iv. 16. It is true, the saints mentioned may come together into some initial church-order by their consent and agreement to walk together in all the ways of Christ, and in obedience unto all his institutions, and so become a church essentially before they have any ordinary pastor or teacher, either by the conduct of extraordinary officers, as at first, or through obedience unto the word (hence elders were ordained among those who were in church-state, that is, thus far, before, Acts xiv. 23); but they cannot come to that perfection and completeness which is designed unto them. That which renders a church completely organical, the proper seat and subject of all gospel worship and ordinances, is this gift of Christ in the ministry.
But it may be asked, Whether a church before it come unto this completeness, before it hath any minister in office, or hath by any means lost the ministry among them, may not delegate and appoint some one or more from among themselves to administer all the ordinances of the gospel among them and unto them, and by that means make up their own perfection?
[2.] The church being so completed, these officers are given unto it "for the work of the ministry." This expression is comprehensive, and the particulars included in it are not in this place to be inquired into. It may suffice unto our present purpose to consider that it is a work, not a preferment; and a work they shall find it who design to give up a comfortable account of what is committed unto them. It is usually observed that all the words whereby the work of the ministry is expressed in the Scripture do denote a peculiar industrious kind of labour, though some have found out ways of honour and ease to be signified by them. And, [3.] Both these are directed unto one general issue. It is all "unto the edification of the body of Christ." Not to insist on the metaphors that are in this expression, the excellency of the ministry is declared, in that the object of its duty and work is no other but the body of Christ himself; and its end, the edification of this body, or its increase in faith and obedience, in all the graces and gifts of the Spirit, until it come unto conformity unto him and the enjoyment of him. And a ministry which hath not this object and end is not of the giving or grant of Christ.
(2.) The end of the ministry is expressed negatively, or with respect unto the evils which it is ordained for our deliverance from, Eph. iv. 14. [1.] The evil which we are hereby delivered from is, the danger of being perniciously and destructively deceived by false doctrines, errors, and heresies; which then began, and have ever since, in all ages, continued to infest the churches of God. These the apostle describes, 1st. From the design of their authors, which is "to deceive;" 2dly. Their diligence in that design, "They lie in wait to accomplish it;" 3dly. The means they use to compass their end, which are "sleights and cunning craftiness," managed sometimes with impetuous violence, and thence called a "wind of doctrine." And, [2.] The means hereof is our deliverance out of a child-like state, accompanied with, 1st. Weakness; 2dly. Instability; and, 3dly. Wilfulness. And sad is the condition of those churches which either have such ministers as will themselves toss them up and down by raise and pernicious doctrines, or are not able by sound instructions to deliver them from such a condition of weakness and instability as wherein they are not able to preserve themselves from being in these things imposed on by the "cunning sleights of men that lie in wait to deceive." And as this ministry is always to continue in the church, verse 13, so it is the great means of influencing the whole body, and every member of it, unto a due discharge of their duty, unto their edification in love, verses 15, 16.
Designing to treat of the spiritual gifts bestowed on the ministry of the church, I have thus far diverted unto the consideration of the ministry itself as it is a gift of Christ, and shall shut it up with a few corollaries, As,
1. Where there is any office erected in the church that is not in particular of the gift and institution of Christ, there is a nullity in the whole office, and in all administrations by virtue of it,
2. Where the office is appointed, but gifts are not communicated unto the person called unto it, there is a nullity as to his person, and a disorder in the church.
3. It is the duty of the church to look on the ministry as an eminent grant of Christ, with valuation, thankfulness, and improvement.
4. Those who are called unto this office in due order labour to approve themselves as a gift of Christ; which it is a shameless impudence for some to own who go under that name.
5. This they may do in labouring to be furnished,
(1.) With gracious qualifications;
(2.) Useful endowments;
(3.) Diligence and laborious travail in this work;
(4.) By an exemplary conversation, in,
[4.] Readiness for the cross, etc.