A CHARGE TO A CHURCH
“Thou hast ascended on high,” (Psalm 68.18) Some think it refers to God’s goings forth on behalf of His people Israel, leading them forth to victory, taking their enemies captive, and enriching them with the spoils. Suppose it be so, we are warranted to consider it as mainly referring to Christ, for so the apostle has applied it. Ephesians iv. 8.
The apostle not only applies it to Christ, but proves it applicable. Thus he reasons (verses 9 ,10), “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended,” etc. The captivity which He led captive was our spiritual enemies who had led us captiveÂ—Satan, death; and having obtained the victory. He proceeds to divide the spoils. Gifts to menÂ—as David made presents. And hence comes our ordinances, ministers, etc. There was a glorious fulfilment immediately after His ascension, in a rich profusion of gifts and graces to his church, like David’s presents. Here it is “received”; in Ephesians, “gave.” He received that He might give; received the spoil that He might distribute it. But, as I wish to appropriate the passage to the work allotted me, the whole of that to which I would at this time call your attention will be contained in two things:Â—
The great blessings of the Christian minister
1. Ministers are received for, and are given to you by Christ. As men, and as sinful men, ministers are as nothing, and wish not to make anything of themselves; but, as the gifts of Christ, it becomes you to make much of them. (1.) If you love Christ, you will make much of your minister, on account of his being His giftÂ—a gift designed to supply Christ’s absence in a sort. He is gone (“ascended”), but He gives you His servants. By-and-by you hope to be with Him, but as yet you are as sheep in the wilderness. He gives you a shepherd. (2.) If you fear God, you will be afraid of treating your pastor amiss, seeing he is the gift of Christ. God took it ill of Israel for despising Moses. Numbers xii. 8. He is “my servant.”
2. Ministers are not only given to, but received for you, of God the Father, as a covenant blessing, among the spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. In this view, consider that Christ received nothing at His Father’s hand but what cost Him dearÂ— cost Him his life. Or, if the allusion be to the dividing of the spoils, suppose we say. He received them as a conqueror receives the spoils at the hand of the foe. Your minister was one of those who, like yourselves, were brands consuming in the fire. Christ took him from your enemies and gives him to you. Make much of the gift on this account. “This I received of the Amorite”.
3. Consider your unworthiness of such a blessing. You are men, mere men, and what is more, rebellious men, who had joined with Satan. And must you share the spoils? It is not usual to divide the spoils amongst rebels. . . . Men that put Him to death
had these gifts given to them; and we should all have done the same. Some of you, it is likely, have been vile and abandoned characters, and yet, …
4. The end of it: “That the Lord God might dwell among them.” “But will God, indeed, dwell with men?” God had not dwelt with the world, nor in it, while sin bore the rule; but Christ’s mediation was for the bringing it about. “Will God, indeed, dwell with men?” He will and how? It is by the means of ordinances and ministers. A church of Christ is God’s house; and where any one builds a house, it is a token that he means to dwell there. What a blessing to a village, a country, for God to build a house in it. It is by this that we may hope for a blessing upon the means to the conversion of our children and friends, and for the edification of believers.
II. Point out some corresponding duties as answering to these your privileges
1. Constant and diligent attendance at the house of God. If the house of God be God’s dwelling, let it be yours, your home. If God gives you a pastor, do you thankfully receive and prize him. He hath not dealt so with every village.
2. Cheerfully contribute to his support. Christ has given you freely, and you ought to give him freely. Consider it is not as a gift, but as a debt, and not as done to him, but to Christ.
3. Follow those things which make for peace, with which the presence and blessing of God are connected.
4. Shun those things that tend to provoke the Lord to withdraw his gifts, and to cease to dwell among you.Â—Sketch of a Sermon addressed to the Church at Moulton, on the Ordination of Mr. (since Doctor) Carey, August 1st, 1787.