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the case, I have no reason to expect that he will delight in me, so as to make me a blessing.'
Finally: Whether we possess the land, or not, it will be possessed. Though some of the Israelites perished in the wilderness, that did not overturn the councils of God: the next generation entered into his rest. And though there should be so much selfishness, false doctrine, unbelief, or inactivity, about us, as that God should take no delight in us, and refuse to give us the land, yet our children may possess it. God's word will be accomplished. Deliverance will arise to the chnrch of God, whether we do ourselves the honour of serving it, or not. But why do I thus speak? Surely it is the desire of many in this country, and of many in this assembly, to be active, and so to act as to be approved of God.
THE OBEDIENCE OF CHURCHES TO THEIR PASTORS
EXPLAINED AND ENFORCED.
[Delivered to the Baptist Church meeting in Cannon Street Birmingham, June 23, 1802, at the ordination of Rev. Thomas Morgan, to the Pastoral Office.]
HEB. xiii. 17.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account; that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
It is not usual, I believe, for ministers, in their ordinary labours, to dwell upon the obligations of the people of their charge towards them. They feel, probably, that, on such a subject, they might be suspected of partiality to themselves; and, if such a suspicion were indulged, however just and proper their admonitions might be, they would be but of little use, and might operate to their disadvantage. Nor is it a subject that a humble and holy man would ordinarily choose, even though there were no danger of misconstruction: he had rather inspire, in his people, the love of Christ, and of one another, hoping, that, if this prevailed, it would constrain them to whatever was proper towards himself. It does not follow, however, that this species of Christian duty ought never to be insisted on the glory of God, the success of
the church, and the spiritual advantage of individuals will be found to be involved in it. No man could more strenuously renounce an undue assumption of power than the apostle Paul: in many instances, he forebore to insist upon the authority that Christ had given him; yet, when addressing the churches in the behalf of others, he uniformly insists upon the treatment which private members owe to their pastors, as well as upon other relative duties. To this I may add, if there be any one time in which an exhortation on this subject is peculiarly seasonable, it is when the relation between pastor and people is publicly solemnized. I shall, therefore, proceed to explain and inforce the exhortation which I have read to you.
I. Let us endeavour to ascertain WHERIN CONSISTS THAT OBEDIENCE AND SUBMISSION WHICH IS REQUIRED OF A PEOPLE TOWARDS
THEIR PASTOR. The very terms rule, obey, and submit, may be grating, in the ears of some; and true it is, that there have been great abuses of these things: a great deal of priestly domination has been exercised in the name of Christ. Yet there must be rule in the church of Christ, as well as in other societies. Without this, it would not be a body, growing up unto him in all things which is the head, even Christ; but a number of scattered bones. Or, if all aspired to rule and guidance, the question of the Apostle would here be applicable: If the whole were an eye, where were the hearing? But now hath God set the members, every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. Christian ministers are called overseers, as having the oversight of the flock, and the principal direction of its concerns.
The church of Christ, however, is not subject to a despotic government. Ministers are forbidden to lord it over God's heritage. The power that was given them, and all other officers, or. dinary or extraordinary, was for edification, and not for destruction. There are three things which are necessary, in order that the authority of a pastor be legitimate and unobjectionable: namely, that he be freely chosen by the church; that the standard by which he rules be not his own will, but the will of Christ; and that the things which he urges on others be equally binding on himself.
First: It is necessary that your pastor be freely chosen, by you, to his sacred office. If he had been imposed upon you by any human authority, against or without your own consent, I should not be able to prove, from the scriptures, that you were bound to obey, or submit to him. Should it be alleged, that pastors are represented as the gifts of God. and such as the Holy Spirit hath made overseers; I should answer, True; but the Holy Spirit performs this work, not immediately, but mediately, by inclining the hearts of his people to choose them. No one, indeed, pretends that it is done immediately. Human choice is, in all cases, concerned; and the only question is, whether it be by that of the people, or of some one, or more, that shall choose on their behalf. The primitive churches elected their own officers. The apostles ordained them; but it was by the suffrage of the people. The power of election was with them; and with them it continued, during the purest ages of the church. If the primitive pastors had been chosen by the apostles, it had also been their province to have rejected or silenced them, as occasion should require; but when false teachers arose among the Corinthians and the Galatians, we do not find these churches, not even the purest part of them, applying to the Apostle, but the Apostle to them, for their removal. The false teachers of primitive times, ingratiated themselves with the people, and despised the apostles: an incontestable proof this, to every one acquainted with human nature, where the powers of election and rejection lie. If your pastor, I say again, had been imposed upon you by any buman authority, against or without your own consent, I should not be able to prove, from the scriptures, that you were bound to obey, or submit to him. But it is not so. You have heard him and known him; and, from an observation of his spirit and conduct, and an experience of the advantages of his ministry, you have chosen him to watch over you in the Lord.
Secondly: The rule to which you are required to yield obedience and subjection, is not his will, but the will of Christ. Pastors are that to a church, which the executive powers, or magistrates, Vor. VII.