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The church and congregation in this place, will now indulge me in a free and friendly address to them, on this solemn occasion.
BRETHREN AND FRIENDS, Behold the man, whom you have so unanimously chosen to take the pastoral care of your souls. Receive him as a messenger of the Lord of Hosts, and seek the law at his mouth. Esteem him highly in love for his work sake. Consider him as a minister as well as a man, and pay respect to the minister in the man, Cease not to pray for him, and to join with him in building up the Redeemer's kingdom. In this, and in this alone, you may reasonably desire him to be one with you: and in this, and in this alone, will he be willing to join with you, if he is a faithful servant of God. Never desire him to regard you more than God; and never become his enemies because he tells you the truth. This will be distressing to him, and destructive to yourselves. He cannot serve you any longer than he serves God. If you should be so unwise as to desire him to conform to your unreasonable wishes, and so successful as to bring him to a conformity, you will injure both him and yourselves. It appears from what has been said, however, that the people are extremely prone to corrupt their ministers: and this affords ground to fear, that this people, who have been so remarkably unanimous in the choice of him, who is now to be set over them in the Lord, may nevertheless become disposed to weaken his hands and discourage his heart, in the service of their souls. Should you endeavor to do this, and succeed in it, how dreadful will be your situation, when you come to see, at the last day, that you have grieved the heart and destroyed the influence of one, who desired, and
endeavored to promote, your eternal good! But, on the other hand, what can afford you greater joy,than to be presented before the universe, as friends to God, and to them who were workers together with him in building up his kingdom? You and your pastor are both in danger. He is in danger from you, and you are in danger from him. The connexion which may be this day formed between you, will be infinitely interesting to you all. We beseech you, brethren and friends, to take heed how you hear your minister, how you feel towards him, and how you treat him. He can do but very little without you. He' needs your love, your prayers, and your assistance. He is called, like young Samuel, to bear the messages of God to you, in a day of great declension. And if it be his heart's desire and prayer to God, that you may be saved; let it be your heart's desire and prayer to God, that he may be both faithful and successful. And if you receive a prophet in the name of a prophet, you shall receive a prophet's reward. Amen.
Preached at the Ordination of the Rev. JOSEPH EMERSON, to the Pastoral
Care of the Third Congregational Church in Beverly, September 21, 1803.
EPHESIANS iii, 10, 11. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
THE Jews were the seed of Abraham, to whom the promises of the Messiah were made; and from this circumstance they were led to imagine that salvation was confined to them, in distinction from all other nations. This was their prevailing opinion, both before and after the crucifixion of Christ. Nor were the apostles themselves, at first, altogether divested of this pational predjudice. But Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles, was early favored with more enlightened and enlarged views of the gospel. He knew that it comprised the whole counsel of God; that it was intended for the benefit of all nations, and that it would, in its final operation, give the brightest display of the divine attributes to all intelligent beings. This sublime idea of the gospel inspired him with gratitude to Christ, for giving him the peculiar privilege of unfolding the great scheme of salvation to all men, whether Jews or Gentiles: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world
hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the cternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
These last words, in this connexion, naturally lead us to inquire, who are meant by the church; when God formed his purpose of redeeming the church; and why he formed this gracious design.
1. Let us consider who are meant by the church.
Paul sometimes uses this appellation to denote a single society of Christians; but he more commonly uses the term to denote the whole number of the elect, or all who shall finally be sanctified and saved. This portion of mankind he considers as composing the church universal, which is a spiritual body, of which Christ is the spiritual head. To this purpose he speaks in the first chapter of this Epistle. He says, “God hath set Christ at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body.” In this comprehensive sense the apostle uses the term church in the text. He means to signify by it the whole church of the first-born in heaven, or all who shall be set up as monuments to display the riches of divine grace to the whole intelligent creation.
Let us next inquire,
II. When the Deity formed his purpose of redeeming the church from among men.
God was under no natural necessity of forming this or any other purpose. His nature did not irre
sistibly constrain him either to create or to redeem the world. It depended solely upon his will, whether he should bring angels and men into existence; whether he should make them in his own mortal image; whether he should suffer any of them to fall into sin; and whether, if any of them should fall into sin, he would save the whole or only a part of the guilty, through the sufferings and death of a mediator. In a word, God was perfectly free and voluntary in forming the whole scheme of redemption, Hence it is called "his purpose, his counsel, and the good pleasure of his will." But still it is a question, when he formed this benevolent purpose, whether in time, or in eternity. The text tells us it was in eternity: “According to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” All the elect are said “to have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.” Christ is called "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." And St. John tells us, "he saw an angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth.” These are plain declarations that the gospel scheme of salvation was formed in eternity; which perfectly accords with every just idea of the divine character, God was self-existent, independent, and absolutely perfect, from eternity. He was infinitely able to form his whole plan of operation, before he began to oper: ate; and no good reason could possibly exist for his neglecting, a single moment, to fix all future events, Indeed, his own moral rectitude laid him under moral obligation to form the glorious scheme of redemption, from the early days of eternity. But here, perhaps, some may be ready to doubt, whether it be proper to distinguish the divine purpose from the divine nature; or whether actual willing, choosing and determining Occa.