Of the Office of Apostle, and particular Pa∣stours; and of the Peoples esteeme of their Minister.
2 COR. 1. 16.
WE proceed to a second Observation from this relation made by Paul of the manner how he intended to performe his promise of visiting of them. For it's plain, that Paul by this instance doth declare, that he had an universal commission to oversee all those Churches in several places and countreys which he had planted. And therefore in this particular his Office was distinct from ordinary Pastours, which were appointed for particular Cities and Churches, who were to have their or∣dinary residence with them, and so were in a peculiar manner to give an account for their souls, as their proper charge. God then did not, or doth not require of ordinary Pastours, that they should like Paul travail from countrey to countrey for the propagating of the Gospel, but in a di∣ligent and faithfull manner to watch over their own flock at home. From whence observe, *
That the Office of an Apostle, and an ordinary Pastor, were among other things distinguished in this, that the one had an universal charge over all Church∣es; the other was limitted to a particular flock.
I say, [Among other things] for there were several particulars wherein Page 506 Apostles and Pastors are diversified, as their immediate call, their ocular testi∣mony and witnesse of Christ; their power to work miracles; their infallibility in Doctrines: All which are not now to be looked for in an ordinary Pastor. Only that which I am to take notice of, is their illimited and universal power, which the Apostles had; they were supream Governors in the Church; yet even their Authority was but ministerial, not magisterial. Therefore their name declareth they were but as Embassadors sent, and so were not to do any thing in their own name, but the name of Christ who sent them.
The opening of this Doctrine may serve for information and practical im∣provement. And
First, We are to take notice that the Apostles had an universal commission, to go*and preach to all Nations, to disciple them, to plant Churches; And therefore they were in constant travails up and down; for they were the leaven, to leaven the whole world. They were like the Sunne whose light and heat have influence upon the whole earth. It is true, they divided their labours, some going into one part, and some into another, so that thereby the word of God prevailed more powerfully, than the Emperours sword. Christ indeed saith, He was sent only to the l•st sheep of Israel; but the Apostles were sent to all the lost men of the word; and that grace of God which before was inclosed within the borders of Judea, was upon Christs ascension publickly offered to all Nations. This was that mystery, which the Apostles at first perceived not; but when throughly in∣structed, then they began to call nothing, or man unclean. It was then neces∣sary, for the carrying on of this universal and illimited grace of God, to have such Officers, that should also be universal and illimited; that should go up and down preaching the Gospel of Christ; the goodness of God herein mercifully appearing, that no Nation though never so barbarous, and in such remote parts of the world, were shut out from this glorious light.
Secondly, The Office of the Apostles, though thus differing from all other Offi∣ces,*yet it did virtually and eminently contain all; therefore they could do what the Pastor and Teacher did. Hence Peter cals himself an Elder, 1 Pet. 5. 1. And John the Apostle (for we take it for granted, it was he that was the Penman of them) in his two last Epistles styleth himself only Elder So that the Apostles they did preach, they did administer Sacraments; and thus what any other Of∣ficer did, they also could do. Even as Philosophers say, the vegetative and sensi∣tive soul, is contained in the rational after a more eminent manner.
Thirdly, The Apostles therefore had in their Office, that which was ordinary,*and that which was extraordinary. In their extraordinary they had no successours; in this particular of universal inspection and over-sight to Churches, they had none. This Question indeed is greatly disputed by Saravia, and others that ad∣here to his opinion, who affirm, That though the Apostles had many extraordi∣nary and personal priviledges, yet their Office was perpetual, even as that of the Pa∣stors. There being (say they) the same perpetual grounds for one as well as the other. But that doth not appear probable. The first constitution and planting of Churches, requiring that peculiar Office, which planted Churches do not: Even as miracles were then required, but not now; and if any Nation were in these later dayes to be converted, there would be required no more an Apostle to do this, then miracles to confirm his Doctrine. As it was with the people of Israel, while they were at first to be an imbodied people, and before they were fully planted in the Land of Canaan; they had extraordinary Officers, and the Lord wrought wonderfull miracles amongst them, but he did not so after∣wards.
Fourthly, But the Office of an ordinary Pastor, is to watch over his flock, to keep constant residence amongst them. Even the best Popish Writers do determine, That a Pastors residence with his people is Jure Divino. It is true, there are some Page 507 cases, when they may for a while be absent from them, viz. when they are cal∣led to consult in Synods and Councils about the publick advantage of the Chur∣ches of God, to stop the gangrene of errour, or any prophaneness endangering the whole body; but a voluntary absence from a people is a great sinne, and in∣consistent with all those ministerial duties that God doth require of them. How can they feed them? How can they admonish them? How can they rebuke them, and reprove, as occasion shall serve, unless present with them? That di∣stinction per se, vel per alium, will not hold at the day of judgement. It is not another mans diligence, another mans care that will save thee. Now when we say, his residence is necessary, we mean not his meer personal and bodily pre∣sence only. For if men be lazy and negligent, their presence is an absence. The Scripture speaks of Idol-shepherds, such have eyes, and see not; ears, and hear not; such have mouths, and speak not. Now these whether absent or present, it's much alike. Therefore this residence requireth a faithfull and diligent discharge of that weighty work, constant preaching, a faithfull dispensing of Ordinances: And besides this publick Ministry, as occasion doth require, a more personal and private dealing with their flock, that so no man might perish. We read of our Saviour, Joh. 4. that he did not despise a poor ignorant woman, but though weary, and wanting bread, yet attended to her conversion, saying, It was his meat and drink to do his Fathers will. People are not to interpret such private endeavours of their Ministers, as too much busie-medling or affectation of do∣minion. Yea it is your duty to go unto your Pastors of your own accord, to enquire about the salvation of your souls; no man needeth to teach you this, in respect of your bodies or estates, to go to Physicians and Lawyers. Certainly were not these things more unto men, than their souls, they would have as much recourse to their Ministers. Consider that place, and set it upon your hearts, Mal. 2. 7. The Priests lips should preserve knowledge, and they should seek the Law at his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts. You see here our Office, and your duty. Oh then, were men in more holy fear about their souls! What if I have not knowledge enough to salvation? What if I mistake godliness, thinking it to be that which it is not? What if I delude and flatter my own soul? Oh let me go to those that are the wise Physicians of my soul! Let me enquire so diligently, so exactly, that whatsoever I am deceived in, it may not be in mat∣ter of my soul!
Fifthly, Though a Paster is thus ordinarily to reside with his own flocke, and*above all things to attend thereunto, yet he is in some sense a Minister of the whole Church of God, and so is a debtour to the publick good thereof. We must in every Minister distinguish of the habitual and aptitudinal disposition that is in him by his Office, and the actual relation, or exercise thereof. It is true, that a Mini∣ster is not primo & per se, made a Minister of the Catholick visible Church, as some learned men think; for then his principal and proper duty would be to at∣tend upon the whole flock of Christ, and not this or that particular one; yet though he be not Pastor Ecclesiae universalis, as the Pope doth arrogantly as∣sume to himself, yet he is Pastor in Ecclesiâ universali, though he be not a Pa∣stor of the universal Church, yet he is a Pastor in the universal Church. Hence when he preacheth or administreth Sacraments in other Churches than his own, he doth it not as a private man, but as a Pastor in the Church, though not as a Pastor of that particular Church. The reason why a Minister may put forth mi∣nisterial acts, though not to his own people, ariseth from that habitual disposi∣tion, which he is put into by his Office. So that to be a Pastor of a people is not like that predicamental relation ad esse, which Logicians speak of; as if when a people (suppose) should be all consumed by the plague suddenly, that then a Pastors office doth wholly cease, not only to them, but to all other Churches; but it's rather under a transcendental relation, having an aptitudinal respect to Page 508 the whole Church of God. But I am not here to dilate on this, it is enough at present to know, that a Pastor is not so limitted to his own flock, as if he did not owe much also to other Churches; yea he is many wayes to advantage others also, by occasional preaching, by publick assistance in solemn Assemblies, by writing and many other wayes. Thus they are to be like some full fountains which are able not only to water the proper channel it emptieth it self into, but to overflow sometimes, as Jordan did to the refreshing of others. So that al∣though a Minister is bound to prefer his own flock first, and principally to at∣tend to them, as his own charge, yet what by prayer, direction and counsel, and what with many other edifying wayes, he is wholly to lay out himself for the good of others, and to be as precious ointment which cannot be hidden, but doth refresh standers by and strangers, as well as those that bear it about; or as musick doth not only delight those for whom it is purposely provided, and who are at the charge of it, but even others that are at a distance, or meer stran∣gers.
Is it thus then, that Pastors are personally to attend to their flock? Then let it be an Use of Exhortation, to you that are the people, readily to submit unto, and en∣tertain them in all their ministerial labours. If we are to preach, you are to hear; if we are to reprove, to admonish, to instruct, then it's your duty to be willing in all these things. Why then is it that many are so unwilling, so froward and opposite to the Ministers of God in their faithfull discharge of their Office? Are we from house to house, from person to person, as occasion may require, thus to promote your souls good? Why are people so averse to this? They are not willing to be disquieted, they would be let alone in their ignorance and prophane∣ness. Thus we take more pains than we have thanks for: They would like us better, if we would meddle lesse, if every man were left alone to his own self. But though happily you may say to other private Pastors, What have you to do to instruct us, to meddle with us, look to your own selves? Yet you cannot say thus to those whom God hath set over you; they must admonish, reprove, in∣struct, whether you love them or not, for so doing. So that it argueth horrible negligence in people, when the more lazy, the more careless a Ministry is, they like it the better; They love no zeal, no diligence, no forwardness in such as watch over them. And whereas the Devil goeth up and down like a rearing Lion, to seek whom he may devour; yet these are angry at the shepherds of their souls, who would deliver them out of his paws. If you were but sensible in what thral∣dom you are in to your lusts, how difficult to get any bolts or fetters off from you, as also how many oppositions are in the way to Heaven; how hardly even a righteous man is saved, then you would say, all ministerial labours are too lit∣tle to provoke thee in this way.
The second Use is of Admonition to the Ministers of the Gospel, that they would look upon Paul as a special president to follow. How ought it to quicken us up a∣gainst all dulness, laziness and wearisomness in our work, when we have such an example as Paul before us? How often may we blush and mourn, to see our selves fall so short of Paul's diligence, zeal and courage in the wayes of God? For though we are not called with him to passe from countrey to countrey, from Church to Church, to advance the kingdom of Christ, yet within our sphere we are to imitate him; and as we see here in the Text, where there was the lesse need of his presence, to continue the lesse while, as in Macedonia; and where there was the greater necessity of his pains and labour, to continue the longer while. Thus ought we to discern of mens conditions, to consider who needeth more instruction, and more reproof than others, and so accordingly to apply our selves. Oh how happy is it when prudence and zeal meet both together in the Officers of the Church! This is to be Luther and Melancthon joyned in one person.
Page 509 We come to the last particular observable in these words, and that is the con∣sequent event, rather than the final cause of this his journey unto them, which is to be brought on his way toward Judea. You have this also mentioned in his for∣mer Epistle, 1 Cor. 16. 6. as being an expression of love, which he did much regard; and vers. 11. he speaketh of Timotheus, that he should conduct him. The original is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. To be lead on forward with respect in his way: and we have it often instanced in Rom. 15. 24. I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way by you. We read also of this loving respect shewed to Paul and Barnabas by the Church, Act. 15. 3. and especially Act. 21. 5. The Dis∣ciples brought Paul and all his companions on their way with wives and children. This shewed their affectionate love towards them. Yea that is an observable ex∣pression of John Epist. 3. 6. Whom if thou bring on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well. In the original it is, Worthy of God; thereby implying, that it was more than a meer civil expression, or courteous act of humanity. They did look at God in those eminent servants whom they did thus respect.
Now in this expression there are two things implied,
1. Their cordial affections to them as friends. This going along with them, did demonstrate how much they loved their company, that they were unwilling ever to be taken from them.
2. It was a matter of honour and respect to their Officers; it shewed they esteem∣ed of them more, than of the great and noblemen of the world; yea they look∣ed upon it as their own honour, that they had such an Apostle. From whence observe,
That where the Ministry hath wrought spiritually upon a people, it worketh*great love and honour to those that were the instruments thereof.
Not that the Ministers of God are to look so much at external reverence, and civil respect, but chiefly to the heart-affection of a people, and their souls in∣ward esteem of them. Paul speaketh of this respect he had from the Galatians upon the first work of his Ministry upon them, though they did abate afterwards of this love, Gal. 4. 14. You received me as an Angel of God, yea as Jesus Christ. I bear them record, that if it had been possible, they would have plucked out their own eyes, and have given them to Paul. What hyperbolical expressions of love are here spoken of? But all this is, where the Ministry hath had its spiritual effi∣cacy; otherwise you cannot discern a man better never to have reaped any good by the preaching of the Gospel, than that he never knew yet what a converting, a quickning Sermon meant: for if he had, he would never be so malicious, so op∣posite to the Ministers of the Gospel, as he is; he never getteth good by them; and therefore it is no wonder, that he hath no higher thoughts of them. But if through their Ministry he hath been converted, he hath been edified in godlines, then how dear and precious are their thoughts of such?
Use of Admonition, Try thy affections to the Ministry, by the profit thou reap∣est by it. Is it any wonder to hear an ignorant person, a prophane persons revile or oppose the preachers of the Gospel? How can it be otherwise? They never found any soul-saving benefit by their pains. Hence the Apostle to convince such Christians as were staggering, and beginning to fall off from the truth, and their affections to him, calleth to mind what good they once were made partakers of by his labours, If ever they were converted, if ever they received the Spirit of God, it was through his ministry. Therefore thrive and profit by their labours, and then despise them, if thou canst.