« EdellinenJatka »
which he takes, will be an occasion of stumbling to others, a grief to Christians, a dishonour to his office, a violation of his duty, and an occasion, which will be taken by the enemies of Christ, to blaspheme. In a word, he ought ever to keep in mind, that, if he adorns the doctrine of the Gospel, he will glorify God, and prove the means of good to the Church, and to his own soul. If, on the contrary, he disgraces that doctrine; let him remember, that he will dishonour God; injure the Church; wrong his own soul; destroy the efficacy of his preaching; and, instead of promoting, probably prevent, the salvation of his fellow-men.
1. From these observations we learn, that the Ministerial office is of great utility to mankind.
Of course he, who holds it, ought with extreme caution to avoid every thing, by which it may be either disgraced, or in any other manner prevented from its proper efficacy to accomplish its illustrious ends. At the same time, all others are bound to regard it with respect. The hatred and contempt, therefore, the obloquy and ridicule, with which this office has been so often loaded, are unmerited, and misplaced ; and ought to cover their authors with shame, confusion, and remorse.
2. These observations prove, that it is, also, an office, attended with great difficulties, and demanding, for the faithful and effica. cious discharge of it, many important qualifications, and many laborious efforts.
Hence it ought never to be assumed without solemn consideration; a thorough examination of the difficulties, which it involves, the self-denial, with which it must be attended ; and a fixed determination to discharge its duties faithfully, and to sustain its difficulties with unshaken fortitude. Hence, also, every Minister is bound to 'seek assistance from God in daily prayer. God only can enable him to discharge his duty faithfully, comfortably, or usefully; and he will thus enable him, if his aid be sought aright.
In the same manner, his people are bound to ask for him the same blessings. Thus Paul directs the Churches, to whom he wrote, to pray for him without ceasing, that he might be a good, useful, and faithful Minister of Christ.
A young man, who thinks of devoting himself to this solemn employment, in such a manner as he ought to think, will natural. ly ask, Who is sufficient for these things? The answer to this interesting inquiry is given by St. Paul. We have this treasure in earthen dessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. All these difficulties have ever existed, and usually in greater degrees than in this country: and they have all been successfully encountered by faithful men, even when possessed of moderate talents. Such men, in very great numbers, have been eminently successful ministers of righteousness. Every person, solemnly devoting himself to this office, may for his consolation be assured, that the grace of God will be glorified in his weakness, and will be sufficient for him in every difficulty. Let him also remember, that, when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, he shall receive a crown of glory, that fadeth not away.
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.
OFFICERS OF THE CHURCH.
Acts vi. 1-6.
And in those days, when the number of the disciples were multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministralion. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason, that we should leave the word of God and serve tables., Wherefore, brethren, look you out among you seden men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the mi. nistry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude ; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch ; Whom they set before the Apostles ; and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
This passage of Scripture is the history of the transaction, in which Deacons were instituted in the Christian Church; and is
in my view the only instance in which their origin is mentioned. Dr. Mosheim indeed, and several other respectable writers suppose that Deacons existed before this time, and are spoken of by Christ, Luke xxii. 26, in the following passage. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. Here the word for younger is vewrigos, and for he that doth serre, diaxovwv.
διακονων. The latter word he supposes to be unanswerably explanatory of the former, and to denote here appropriately the office of a Deacon in the Christian Church. Mezwu, also, the Greek word for greatest, he considers as denoting a Ruler or Presbyter; because it is explained by myxuevos chief, and contrasted to diaxovwv.
In conformity to this interpretation he supposes, that the young men, who carried Ananias and Sapphira to their burial, were deacons in the proper sense. In support, and as he thinks in absolute confirmation, of this opinion he observes, that St. Peter says, And likewise ye younger submit yourseldes to the el. der. Here the words used are veuregon and wpro Buregor : the latter meaning, as he apprehends, the Elders of the Church, and the former the Deacons. To all this he adds, that this sense of the word vEwregos might be confirmed by numberless citations from Greek and Roman writers, and a variety of authors sacred and profane.
From these considerations, Dr. Mosheim concludes, that there were Deacons in the Church, antecedently to the transaction, recorded in the text. These, he observes, were elected from among the Jews who were born in Palestine, and were suspected by the foreign Jews of partiality in distributing the offerings, which were made for the support of the poor. Hence was derived, in his view, the murmuring of the Grecian, or Hellenistic Jews against the Hebrews, mentioned in the text. To remedy this disorder, seven other Deacons were chosen by order of the Apostles; of whom, he supposes, six are by their names determined to have been foreigners; and the other was a proselyte from Antioch.
This account must be allowed to be both ingenious and plausible. I cannot, however, think it just; for the following reaSODS.
1. It seems to me incredible, that Christ should have formed an order of officers in his Church by his own immediate appointment, and yet that no writer of the New Testament should have furnished us any account, nor even any hint, concerning this fact.
The passage quoted from St. Luke is, to say the most, not an account, but a mere recognition, of the fact. At the same time, the words in their customary acceptation are capable of a better, as well as a more obvious, meaning than that, annexed to them by Dr. Mosheim. His interpretation of the text is, He that performs the office of a Presbyter, or an Elder, among you, let him not think himself superior to the Ministers or Deacons.
The amount of this interpretation is no other, than that Christ requires the Presbyter not to think himself, as an officer of the Church superior to a Deacon. But this certainly cannot be just. The superiority of the former to the latter, both in station and authority, i every where disclosed in the Scriptures. The Presbyter, therefore, cannot but know this, and plainly ought to think it, because it is true. If Dr. Mosheim intends, that the Elders should feel that humble disposition only, which the words evidently indicate ; I answer, that humility is unquestionably the great thing, here inculcated by the Saviour. But this is much more naturally, and forcibly, inculcated, if we take the words in their common acceptation, than by supposing them to denote these officers. The general phraseology, greatest and chief, the younger and he that serveth, indicates to every man the spirit and deportment, enjoined by Christ, as perfectly as they can be indicated. When we are told, that the greatest is bound to feel and act, as a youth, or child, ought to feel, and act; and that he, who is chief, ought to behave with the modesty and humility of him, whose business it is to serve ; humility is certainly inculcated with as much explicitness and force, as language admits. Christ, accordingly, adopted this very manner of instruction concerning the same subject on other occasions. In Mark ix, 34, we are informed of a dispute, which the Disciples had among themselves, who should be greatest. Christ, to reprove this foolish ambition, called the twelve, and said unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and serdant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them; and when