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proper to his office as a minister of Providence, as long as he lives; as a young man gives himself to a virgin when he marries her. And the church of Christ in general, as constituted of true saints through the world, though they do not deliver up themselves to any one particular minister, as universal pastor, yet) cleave to and embrace the ministry of the church with endeared affection, high honour, and esteem, for Christ's sake They joyfully commit and subject themselves to them; they resolve to honour and help them, to be guided by them and help them so long as in the world; as the bride doth in marriage deliver up herself to her husband. And the ministry in general, or the whole number of faithful ministers, being all united in the same work as fellow helpers to the grace of God, may considered as one mystical person, that espouses the church as a young man espouses a virgin : as the many elders of the church of Ephesus are represented as one mystical person, Rev. ii. 1, and all called the angel of the church of Ephesus; and as the faithful ministers of Christ in general, all over the world, seem to be represented as one mystical person, and called an angel, Rev. xiv. 6. “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell upon the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people."-But,
2. More especially is the uniting of a faithful minister with a particular Christian people, as their pastor, when done in a due manner, like a young man marrying a virgin.--It is so with respect to the union itself, the concomitants of the union, and the fruits of it.
(1.) The union itself is in several respects like that which is between a young man and a virgin whom he marries.
It is so with respect to mutual regard and affection. A faithful minister that is in a Christian manner united to a Christian people as their pastor, has his heart united to them in the most ardent and tender affection. And they, on the other hand, have their hearts united to him, esteeming him very highly in love for his works' sake, and receiving him with honour and reverence, and willingly subjecting themselves to him, and committing themselves to his care, as being under Christ, their head and guide.
And such a pastor and people are like a young man and virgin united in marriage, with respect to the purity of their regard one to another. The young man gives himself to his bride in purity, as undebauched by meretricious embraces; and she also presents herself to him a chaste virgin. So in such an union of a minister and people as we are speaking of, the parties united are pure and holy in their affection and regard one to another. The minister's heart is united to the people, not for filthy lucre or any worldly advantage, but with a pure benevolence to them, and desire of their spiritual welfare and prosperity, and complacence in them as the children of God and followers of Christ Jesus. And, on the other hand, they love and honour him with a holy affection and esteem; and not merely as having their admiration raised, and their carnal affection moved by having their curiosity and other fleshly principles gratified by a florid eloquence, and the excellency of speech and man's wisdom; but receiving him as the messenger of the Lord of Hosts, coming to them on a divine and infinitely important errand, and with those holy qualifications that resemble the virtues of the Lamb of God.
And as the bridegroom and bride give themselves to each other in covenant ; so it is in that union we are speaking of between a faithful pasto, and a Christian people. The minister, by solemn vows, devotes himself to the people, to improve his time and strength, and spend and be spent for them so long as God, in his providence, shall continue the union: and they, on the other hand, in a holy covenant, commit the care of their souls, and subject themselves to him.
(2.) The union between a faithful minister and a Christian people, is like that between a young man and virgin in their marriage, with respect to the concomitants of it.
When such a minister and such a people are thus united, it is attended with great joy. The minister joyfully devoting himself to the service of his Lord in the work of the ministry, as a work that he delights in: and also joyfully uniting himself to the society of the saints that he is set over, as having complacence in them, for his dear Lord's sake, whose people they are ; and willingly and joyfully, on Christ's call, undertaking the labours and difficulties of the service of their souls. And they, on the other hand, joyfully receiving him as a precious gift of their ascended Redeemer. Thus a faithful minister and a Christian people are each other's joy, Rom. xv. 32. “That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed." 2 Cor. i. 14. “As you have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye are ours.
Another concomitant of this union, wherein it resembles that which becomes a young man and virgin united in marriage, is mutual helpfulness, and a constant care and endeavour to promote each other's good and comfort. The minister earnestly and continually seeks the profit and comfort of the souls of his people, and to guard and defend them from every thing that might annoy them, and studies and labours to promote their spiritual peace and prosperity. They on the other hand, make it their constant care to promote his comfort, to make the burden of his difficult work easy, to avoid those things that might add to the difficulty of it, and that might justly be grievous to his heart. They do what in them lies to encourage his heart, and
strengthen his hands in his work; and are ready to say to him, when called to exert himself in the more difficult parts of his work, as the people of old to Ezra the priest, when they saw him bowed down under the burden of a difficult affair, Ezra x. 4, “ Arise, for this matter belongeth to thee: we, also, will be with thee: Be of good courage, and do it." They spare no pains por cost to make their pastor's outward circumstances easy and comfortable, and free from pinching necessities and distracting cares, and to put him under the best advantages to follow his great work fully and successfully.
Such a pastor and people, as it is between a couple happily united in a conjugal relation, have a mutual sympathy with each other, a fellow-feeling of each other's burdens and calamities, and a communion in each other's prosperity and joy. When the people suffer in their spiritual interests, the pastor suffers : he is afflicted when he sees their souls in trou. ble and darkness : he feels their wounds : and he looks on their prosperity and comfort as his own. 2 Cor. xi. 29. is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not ?" 2 Cor. vii. 13. “We were comforted in your comfort." And, on the other hand, the people feel their pastor's burdens, and rejoice in his prosperity and consolations ; see Phil. iv. 14, and 2 Cor. ii. 3.
(3.) This union is like that which is between a young man and a virgin in its fruits.
One fruit of it is mutual benefit: They become meet helps one for another. The people receive great benefit by the minister, as he is their teacher to communicate spiritual instructions and counsels to them, and is set to watch over them, to defend them from those enemies and calamities they are liable to ; and so is, under Christ, to be both their guide and guard, as the husband is of the wife. And, as the husband provides the wife with food and clothing, so the pastor, as Christ's steward, makes provision for his people, and brings forth out of bis treasure things new and old, gives every one his portion of meat in due season, and is made the instrument of spiritually clothing and adorning their souls. And, on the other hand, the minister receives benefit from the people, as they minister greatly to his spiritual good by that holy converse to which their union to him as his flock leads them. The conjugal relation leads the persons united therein to the most intimate acquaintance and conversation with each other; so the union there is between a faithful pastor and a Christian people, leads them to intimate conversation about things of a spiritual nature. It leads the people most freely and fully to open the case of their souls to the pastor, and leads him to deal most freely, closely, and thoroughly with them, in things pertaining thereto. And this conversation not only tends to their benefit, but, also, greatly to his. And the pastor receives benefit from the people outwardly, as they take care of, and order his outward accommodations for his support and comfort, and do, as it were, spread and serve his table for him.
Another fruit of this union, wherein it resembles the conjugal, is a spiritual offspring. There is wont to arise from the union of such a pastor and people, a spiritual race of children. These new-born children of God are, in the Scripture, represented both as the children of ministers, as those who have begotten them through the gospel; and, also, as the children of the church, who is represented as their mother that hath brought them forth, and at whose breasts they are nourished ; as in Isa. liv. 1, and lxvi. 11. Gal. iv. 26. 1 Pet. ii. 2, and many other places.
Having thus briefly shown, how the uniting of faithful ministers with Christ's people, in the ministerial office, when done in a due manner, is like a young man marrying a virgin, I proceed now to the
II. PROP. viz. That this union of ministers with the people of Christ, is in order to their being brought to the blessedness of a more glorious union, in which Christ shall rejoice over them as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride.
1. The saints are, and shall be, the subjects of this blessedness. Of all the various kinds of union, of sensible and temporal things that are used in Scripture, to represent the relation there is between Christ and his church; that which is between bridegroom and bride, or husband and wife, is much the most frequently made use of, both in the Old and New Testament. The Holy Ghost seems to take a peculiar delight in this, as a similitude fit to represent the strict, intimate, and blessed union that is between Christ and his saints. The apostle intimates, that one end why God appointed marriage, and established so near a relation as that between husband and wife, was, that it might be a type of the union that is between Christ and his church ; in Eph. v. 30, 31, 32—“For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife ; and they two shall be one flesh.” For this
i. e. because we are members of Christ's body, of his flesh and of his bones, God appointed that man and wife should be so joined together, as to be one flesh, to represent this bigh and blessed union between Christ and his church. The apostle explains himself in the next words, " This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” This institution of marriage, making the man and his wife one flesh, is a great mystery ; i. e. there is a great and glorious mystery hid in the design of it: and the apostle tells us what that glo
rious mystery is—" 1 speak concerning Christ and the church:” as much as to say, the mystery I speak of, is that blessed union that is between Christ and his church, which I spoke of before.
This is a blessed union indeed ; of which that between a faithful minister and a Christian people is but a shadow. Ministers are not the proper husbands of the church, though their union to God's people, as Christ's ambassadors, in several respects resembles the conjugal relation : but Christ is the true husband of the church, to whom the souls of the saints are espoused indeed, and to whom they are united as his flesh and his bones, yea, and one spirit; to whom they have given themselves in an everlasting covenant, and whom alone they cleave to, love, honour, obey, and trust in, as their spiritual husband, whom alone they reserve themselves for as chaste virgins, and whom they follow whithersoever he goeth. There are many ministers in the church of Christ, and there may be several pastors of one particular church; but the church has but one husband, all others are rejected and despised in comparison of him; he is among the sons as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood; they all are barren and worthless, he only is the fruitful tree; and therefore, leaving all others, the church betakes herself to him alone, and sits under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to her taste; she takes up her full and entire rest in him, desiring no other.The relation between a minister and people shall be dissolved, and may be dissolved before death ; but the union between Christ and his church shall never be dissolved, neither before death nor by death, but shall endure through all eternity; “ The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but Christ's conjugal love and kindness shall not depart from his church; neither shall the covenant of his peace, the marriagecovenant, be removed.” Isa. liv. 1.-The union between a faithful minister and a Christian people is but à partial resemblance even of the marriage union; it is like marriage only in some particulars : but with respect to the union between Christ and his church, marriage is but a partial resemblance, yea, a faint shadow. Every thing desirable and excellent in the union between an earthly bridegroom and bride, is to be found in the union between Christ and his church, and that in an infinitely greater perfection and more glorious manner. There is infinitely more to be found in it than ever was found between the happiest couple in a conjugal relation; or could be found if the bride and bridegroom had not only the innocence of Adam and Eve, but the perfection of angels.
Christ and his saints, standing in such a relation as this one to another, the saints must needs be unspeakably happy. Their mutual joy in each other is answerable to the nearness of their relation and strictness of their union. Christ rejoices over the