Chapter 2: What it is to take heed to all the flock.

2.0. What is implied and presupposed
2.0.1. Every flock have their own pastor
2.0.2. The flock be no larger than the pastors can oversee
2.1. Of the end of this oversight: pleasing and glorifying God
2.2. Of the subject of this work
2.2.1. To excite them to seek durable treasure
2.2.2. To acquaint them with the means of attaining it
2.3. Of the objects of it
2.3.1. The unconverted
2.3.2. the converted
2.3.2.1. the young and weak
2.3.2.2. those under particular trials
2.3.2.3. those declining in religion
2.3.2.4. those exercised with great temptations
2.3.2.5. the disconsolate
2.3.2.6. the strong
2.4. Of the work itself.
2.4.1. Public preaching
2.4.2. Sacraments
2.4.3. Public prayer, praise, and benediction
2.4.4. Oversight of the members distinctly
2.4.4.1. Knowing them
2.4.4.2. instructing the ignorant
2.4.4.3. advising them who seek advice
2.4.4.4. looking to particular families
2.4.4.5. resisting seduction
2.4.4.6. encouraging the obedient
2.4.4.7. visiting the sick
2.4.4.8. comforting the distressed
2.4.4.9. privately admonishing offenders
2.4.4.10. public discipline
2.4.4.10.1. more public reproof
2.4.4.10.2. persuading the person to suitable expressions of repentance
2.4.4.10.3. praying for them
2.4.4.10.4. restoring the penitent
2.4.4.10.5. excluding and avoiding the impenitent
2.5. The manner and necessity of these acts.
2.5.1. Footnote on excommunication in the early church

HAVING showed you what it is to take heed to ourselves, and why it must be done; I am next to show you what it is to take heed to all the flock, wherein it consists, and how it must be exercised. It was necessary first to consider what we must be, and what we must do for our own souls, before we speak of what we must do for others. “Lest one, whilst healing the wounds of others, should catch the infection himself through a negligence of his own safety; or, whilst helping his neighbours, should forget himself, or should fall whilst raising others up.” Yea, lest all his labours come to naught, because his heart and life are naught that perform them. “For there are some who examine spiritual precepts with diligent care; but those things which they clearly comprehend they trample upon by their manner of life. They teach hastily what they have learned by study without labour, and oppose by their morals what they preach in words. Hence it is that when the shepherd walks upon the brink of a precipice, the flock follow him there too.” When we have led them to the living waters, if we muddy it by our filthy lives, we may lose our labour, and yet they be never the better. “To disturb the water with the feet, is to corrupt by a bad life the knowledge of divine things which was acquired by study.”

2.0. What is implied and presupposed

Before we speak of the work itself, we must begin with what is implied and presupposed.

2.0.1. Every flock should have their own pastor

It is here implied, that every flock should have their own pastor (one or more) and every pastor his own flock. As every troop or company in a regiment must have their own captain and other officers, and every soldier knows his own commander and colours; so it is the will of God that every church have their own pastors, and that all Christ’s disciples know their own teachers that are over them in the Lord. The universal church of Christ consists of particular churches, guided by their own overseers; and every Christian must be a member of one of these churches. “They ordained them elders in every church,” Tit. i, 5. Though a minister be an officer in the universal church, yet he is in a special manner the overseer of that particular church which is committed to his charge.*

(*In the Methodist connection, all the societies in a circuit constitute the flock of each superintendent, with his fellow labourer or labourers. Over these they are appointed overseers for the time being; these are to feed and to take heed to every individual of them. To all that hear them in every place, they are faithfully to preach the word, and do all the good they can, that they may bring them to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus; but those in society are their special care, and have a claim on them for every part of the ministerial work; not only public teaching, but also private and personal visiting and instruction.)

From this relation of pastor and flock, arise all the duties which we mutually owe to each other. As we must be true to our trust, so must our people be faithful to us, and obey the just directions that we give them from the word of God.

2.0.2. Flocks must be no greater than we are capable of overseeing

When we are commanded to take heed to all the flock, it is plainly implied, that flocks must be no greater, regularly and ordinarily, than we are capable of overseeing or taking heed of. That particular churches should not be greater, nor ministers fewer, than is consistent with taking heed to all; for God will not lay upon us impossibilities: he will not bind us to leap up to the moon, touch the stars, or number the sands on the sea-shore. If it be the pastoral work to oversee and take heed to all the flock, then surely there must be such a proportion of pastors assigned to each flock, or such a number of souls in the care of each pastor, as he is able to take such heed to as is here required. It would have been well for the church had the rule here laid down by the apostle been carefully attended to; had the labourers always been able and faithful, and in proportion to the people intrusted to their care, so that they might have taken heed to all the flock.

Having told you what is here implied, I come next to the duty itself. This taking heed to all the flock is, in general, a very great care of the whole, and every part, with great watchfulness and diligence, in the use of all those holy actions and ordinances which God requires us to use for their salvation. More particularly, this work may be considered, (1.) In respect to the subject matter of it. (2.) Its object. (3.) The work itself, or the actions which we must perform. (4.) The end of it.

I shall begin with the last, as being first in our intention, though last attained.

2.1. Of the end of this oversight: pleasing and glorifying God

The ultimate end of our pastoral oversight is that which is the ultimate end of our whole life, even pleasing and glorifying God, with which is connected the glory of the human nature of Christ, the glorification of his church, and of ourselves in particular: and the more immediate end of our office is the sanctification and holy obedience of the people of our charge—their unity, order, beauty, strength, preservation, and increase; and the right worshipping of God, especially in the solemn assemblies. By which it is manifest, that before a man is capable of being a true pastor of a church, according to the mind of Christ, he must have such a high estimation of these things, as to make them the great and only end of his life.

1. The man, therefore, who is not himself taken up with the predominant love of God, is not himself devoted to him, and does not devote to him all that he has and can do—the man who is not in the habit of pleasing God does not make him the centre of all his actions, nor live to him as his God and happiness; that is, the man who is not a sincere Christian himself, is utterly unfit to be pastor of a church: and, unless in a case of the greatest necessity, the church should not admit such, so far as they can discover them. A man who is not heartily devoted to God and his service and honour, will never apply himself as he ought to the pastoral work; nor indeed can he, while he remains such, do any part of that work, nor speak one word in Christian sincerity: for no man can be sincere in the use of the means, who does not regard the end. A man must love God above all, in order to serve him before all.

2. No man is fit to be a minister of Christ who is not of a public spirit as to the church; does not delight in her beauty, nor long for her felicity. As the good of the commonwealth must be the end of the magistrate, so must the felicity of the church be the end of her pastors. They must rejoice in her welfare, and be willing to spend and be spent for her sake.

3. No man is fit to be pastor of a church who does not set his heart on the life to come, and regard the matters of everlasting life above all the things of this present world; and who is not sensible, in some measure, how much the inestimable riches of glory are to be preferred to the trifles of time: for he will never set his heart on the work of men’s salvation, who does not himself heartily believe and value that salvation.

4. He who does not delight in holiness, hate iniquity, love the unity and purity of the church, abhor discord and divisions, and take pleasure in the communion of saints, and the public worship of God with his people, is not fit to be pastor of a church: for none of these can have the true views and motives of a pastor, and therefore cannot do the work. The relation that subsists between the end and the means, and how necessary the knowledge of the one is to a right use of the other, is well known.

2.2. Of the subject of this work

The subject matter of the ministerial work is, in general, spiritual things; matters relative to our pleasing God, and the salvation of our people. It is not about temporal and transitory things. Our business is not to dispose of commonwealths, nor to touch men’s purses or persons by our penalties: but it consists only in these two things:—(1.) In revealing to men that happiness, or chief good, which must be their ultimate end. (2.) In acquainting them with the right means for the attainment of that end, helping them to use them, and deterring them from the contrary.

2.2.1. To excite them to seek durable treasure

It is the first and great work of the ministers of Christ to acquaint men with that God, who made them and is their happiness: to open to them the treasures of his goodness, and tell them of the glory that is in his presence, which all his chosen people shall enjoy; that thus, by showing men the certainty and the excellence of the promised felicity, and the perfect blessedness of the life to come, in opposition to the vanities of this present life, we may turn the stream of their thoughts and affections, bring them to a due contempt of this world, and excite them to seek durable treasure. And this is the work that we should lie at with them night and day. Could we once get them right in regard of the end, and their hearts set unfeignedly on God and heaven, the chief part of the work were done, for all the rest would undoubtedly follow. Here we must diligently show them the vanity of their sensual felicity, and convince them of the baseness of those pleasures which they prefer to the delights of God.

2.2.2. to acquaint them with the means of attaining it

Having set before them the right end, our next work is to acquaint them with the means of attaining it. Here the evil of all sin must be made manifest; the danger that it has brought us into, and the hurt it has already done us, must be clearly set before them. Then we have to unfold to them the great mystery of redemption; the person, natures, incarnation, perfection, life, miracles, sufferings, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, glorification, dominion, and intercession of the blessed Son of God; as also the tenor of his promises, the conditions imposed on us, the duties which he has commanded us, and the everlasting torments which he has threatened to the finally impenitent neglecters of his grace. O what a treasury of his blessings and graces, and the privileges of his saints, have we to exhibit! What a blessed life of holiness and communion with God have we to recommend to the sons of men! And at the same time how many temptations, difficulties, and dangers, to disclose and assist them against! How many precious spiritual duties have we to set them upon, excite them to, and direct them in! How many objections of flesh and blood, and cavils of vain men, have we to refute! How much of their own corruptions and sinful inclinations to discover and root out! We have to disclose the depths of God’s bottomless love and mercy, the depth of the mysteries of his designs, and works of creation, redemption, providence, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification; the depth of Satan’s temptations, and the depth of their own hearts. In a word, we must teach them as much as we can of the whole word and works of God. O what two volumes are these for a minister to preach upon! How great, how excellent, how wonderful, how mysterious! All Christians are disciples or scholars of Christ; the church is his school; we are his ushers; the Bible is his grammar: this it is that we must be daily teaching them. The papists teach them without a book. Lest they should learn heresies from the word of truth, and falsehood from the truth of God, they must learn only the books or words of their priests. But our business is to teach them line upon line, and precept upon precept, that we may help them to understand this book of God. So much for the subject matter of our work.

2.3. Of the objects of it

The object of our pastoral care is all the flock; that is, the church, and every member thereof. We shall consider—(1.) The whole body or society. (2.) The parts or individual members.

1. Our first care must be about the whole: and therefore the first duties to be done are public duties, which are done to the whole. As our people are bound to prefer public duties before private, so are we much more: but this is so commonly confessed, that I shall say no more of it.

2. That which is less understood and considered, is, that all the flock, even each individual member of our charge, must be taken heed to, and watched over by us in our ministry. To this end it is presupposed necessary that (unless where absolute necessity forbids it, through the scarcity of pastors and greatness of the flock) we should know every person that belongs to our charge; how can we take heed to them if we do not know them? Or how can we take that heed which belongs to the special charge that we have undertaken, if we know not who are of our charge, and who not? How can we tell whom to exclude till we know who are included? Or how can we refute the accusations of the offended, who tell us of the ungodly and corrupt members of our churches, when we know not who are members, and who are not? Doubtless the bounds of our parishes will not tell us; neither will bare hearing us discover them, as long as those are used to hear who are members of other churches, or of none at all. Nor yet is participation of the Lord’s supper a sure mark, while strangers may be admitted, and many members accidentally kept back. Though much probability may be gathered from these circumstances, yet a more full knowledge of our charge is necessary where it can be had.

All the flock, being thus known, must afterwards be taken heed to. One should suppose that all reasonable men would be satisfied of this, and that it would need no farther proof. Does not a careful shepherd look after every individual sheep; a good schoolmaster look to every scholar, both with regard to instruction and correction; a good physician to every patient; and good commanders to every soldier? Why then should not the teachers, the pastors, the physicians, the guides of the churches of Christ take heed to every individual member of their charge? Christ himself, the great and good Shepherd, and Master of the church, who has the whole to look after, does nevertheless take care of every individual. In Luke xv, he tells us that he is the Shepherd who “leaveth the ninety and nine sheep in the wilderness, to seek after one that was lost;” or as the “woman who lighteth a candle and sweepeth the house, and searcheth diligently to find the one groat that was lost; and having found it, doth rejoice and call her friends and neighbors to rejoice.” And he also assures us that “even in heaven there is joy over one sinner that repenteth.” The prophets were often sent to single men. Ezekiel was made a watchman over individuals, and commanded to say to the wicked, “Thou shalt surely die.” Ezek. iii, 18, 19. Paul taught them “publicly and from house to house,” which was meant of his teaching particular families; for even the public teaching was then in houses: and publicly, and from house to house, signify not the same thing. The same apostle “warned every man, and taught every man in all wisdom, that he might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” Col. i, 18. Christ expounded his public parables to the twelve apart. Every man must “seek the law at the mouth of the priest,” Mal. ii, 7. We must give an account of our watching for the souls of all that are bound to obey us, Heb. xiii, 7. Many more passages in Scripture assure us that it is our duty to take heed to every individual person in our flock, and many passages in the ancient councils plainly tell us that it was the practice of those times, till churches began to be crowded, and became so large that they could not be guided as churches should be. But I will pass over all these, and mention only one passage in Ignatius to Polycarp: “Let assemblies be often gathered: seek after (or inquire of) all by name; despise not the men and maid servants.” You see it was then considred a duty to look after every member of the flock by name, though it were the meanest servant man or maid. The reasons for this I shall pass over now, because they will fall in when we come to the duty of catechising and personal instruction.

We are next to consider our work in reference to the several qualities of the object. And because we shall here speak of the acts with the object, there will need the less afterwards to be said of them.

2.3.1. The unconverted

The first part of our ministerial work lies in bringing unsound professors of the faith to sincerity, that they who before were Christians in name only, may be such indeed. Though it does not belong to us, as their pastors, to convert professed infidels to the faith, because they cannot be members of the church while they are such, yet it belongs to us, as their pastors, to convert these seeming Christians to sincerity, because they may be visible members of our churches. And though we be not absolutely certain that this or that man in particular is unsound, and unsanctified, yet, as long as we are certain that many such are in the church, and have too great reason to believe that it is so with several individuals whom we can name, we have therefore ground enough to deal with them for their conversion. And if we be certain by their notorious impiety that they are no Christians, and so to be ejected from the communion of such; yea, if they be professed infidels, yet we may deal with them for their conversion, though not as their pastors, yet as ministers of the gospel. So that for these reasons we may conclude, that the work of conversion is the great thing that we must first aim at, and labour with all our might to effect.

Alas, the misery of the unconverted is so great that it calls aloud for our compassion! They are in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity, and have yet no part nor fellowship in the pardon of their sins, nor the hopes of glory. We have therefore a work of the greatest necessity to do for them, even “to open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Christ,” Acts xxvi, 18, to soften and open their hearts to the entertainment of “the truth, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of it, that they may escape out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will,” 2 Tim. ii, 25. He who sees one man sick of a mortal disease, and another only pained with the toothache, will be moved more to compassionate the former than the latter, and will surely make more haste to help him, although he were a stranger and the other a son. It is so distressing to see men in a state of damnation, wherein if they should die they are eternally lost, that methinks we should not be able to let them alone either in public or private, whatever other work we have to do. I confess I am forced frequently to neglect that which would tend to the increase of knowledge in the godly, and may be called strong meat, because of the lamentable necessity of the unconverted. Who is able to talk of controversies or nice unnecessary points; yea, or of truths of a lower degree of necessity, how excellent soever, while he sees a company of ignorant, carnal, miserable sinners before his face, who must be changed or damned? Methinks I hear them crying out for help, and the most speedy help! Their misery speaks the louder, because they have not hearts to seek for help themselves. Many a time have I known that I had some hearers of nicer fancies, who looked for rarities, and were addicted to despise the minister if he told them not something more than ordinary; and yet I could not find in my heart to turn from the observation of the necessities of the impenitent, for the humouring of these; nor to leave speaking to the apparently miserable for their salvation, to speak to such novelists; no, nor even said so much as otherwise I should have done to the weak for their confirmation and increase in grace. Methinks, as Paul’s spirit was stirred within him when he saw the Athenians so addicted to idolatry, so it should cast us into one of his paroxysms to see so many men in such manifest danger of being everlastingly undone: and if by faith we did indeed look upon them as within a step of hell, it would more effectually untie our tongues than Creesus’s danger did the tongue of his son. He that will let a sinner go to hell for want of speaking to him, sets less by souls than the Redeemer of souls did, and less by his neighbour than rational charity will allow him to do by his greatest enemy. O, therefore, brethren, whomsoever you neglect, neglect not the most miserable! Whomsoever you pass over, forget not poor souls who are under the condemnation and curse of the law, and may look every hour for the infernal execution, if a speedy change do not prevent it. O, call after the impenitent, and ply this great work of converting souls, whatever else you leave undone!

2.3.2. The converted

The next part of the ministerial work is the building up of those who are already truly converted; and according to the various states of such, the work is various. In general, as they are either young and weak, or such as are in danger of growing worse, or already declining; so our work is all reducible to these particulars; confirmation, progress, preservation, and restoration.

2.3.2.1. the young and weak

Many of our flock are young and weak: though of long standing, yet of small proficiency and strength; and indeed it is the most common condition of the godly. Most of them stick in weak and low degrees of grace; and it is no easy matter to get them higher. To bring them to higher and stricter opinions is very easy; that is, to bring them from the truth into error, on the right hand as well as on the left: but to increase their knowledge and gifts is not easy, and to increase their graces is the hardest of all. It is very troublesome and dangerous to be weak: it exposes us to many snares, abates consolation and delight in God, prevents our enjoying the sweetness of his ways, makes us go to work often with much backwardness, and come off with little peace or profit. It causes us to be less serviceable to God and man, to bring less honour to our Master and profession, and do less good to all about us. We find little benefit by the means we use; we too easily play with the serpent’s baits, and are insnared by his wiles. A seducer will easily shake us; and evil may be made to appear to us as good, truth as falsehood, sin as duty; and so, on the contrary, we are less able to resist and stand an encounter; we sooner fall; we rise with greater difficulty; and are more apt to prove a reproach to our profession. We know less of ourselves, and are more liable to mistake our own state, not observing corruptions when they rise and gain advantage. In a word, we live to less profit both to ourselves and others, and are also unwilling and unready to die.

Seeing then, the case of weakness and inability in religion is comparitively so deplorable, how diligent should we be to cherish and increase the grace of such! The strength of Christians is the honour of the church. When men are inflamed with the love of God, live by a lively working faith, set light by the profits and honours of the world, love one another with a pure heart fervently, can bear and heartily forgive a wrong, and suffer joyfully for the cause of Christ; when they study to do good, and walk inoffensively in the world, as ready to be servants of all for their good, becoming all things to all men in order to win them, and yet abstaining from the appearances of evil and seasoning all their actions with a sweet mixture of prudence, humility, zeal, and heavenly spirituality; O what an honour are such to their profession! What ornaments to the church; and how eminently serviceable to God and man! Men would sooner believe that the gospel is indeed a word of truth and power, if they could see more such effects of it as these upon the hearts and lives of men. The world is better able to read the nature of religion in men’s lives, than in the Bible. They who obey not the word may be won by the conversation of such. It is therefore a necessary part of our work, to labour more for the perfecting of the saints, that they may be strong in the Lord, and fitted for their Master’s use.

2.3.2.2. those under particular trials

Another sort of converts who need our special help are those that labour under some particular distemper, which keeps under their graces, and makes them temptations and troubles to others, and a burden to themselves. Alas, too many such there are! Some are particularly addicted to pride, some to worldly-mindedness, some to this or that sensual desire, and many to frowardness and disturbing passions. It is our duty to do what we can for the assistance of all these; partly by dissuasions and clear discoveries of the odiousness of the sin, and partly by suitable directions concerning the remedy, to help them to the conquest of their corruptions. We are leaders of Christ’s army against the powers of darkness, and must resist all the works of darkness wherever we find them, though it be in the children of light. We must be no more tender of the sins of the godly than the ungodly, nor any more befriend or favour them. By how much more we love the persons above others, by so much the more must we express it in the opposition of their sins. And yet even here we must expect to meet with some who are very tender and difficult to deal with, especially when iniquity has got head, and made a party, and many have fallen in love with it: they will be as pettish and impatient of reproof as some who are worse, and will even interest piety itself in their faults, and say that a minister who preaches against them preaches against the godly—a most heinous crime this, to make God and godliness accessory to their sins! But the ministers of Christ must do their duty, notwithstanding their peevishness; and must not so far hate their brother as to forbear the plain rebuking of him, and suffer sin to lie upon his soul. Though it must be done with much prudence, yet done it must be.

2.3.2.3. those declining in religion

Another sort to whom we must attend, are declining Christians, who either have fallen into some scandalous sin, or else abated the1r zeal and diligence, and show us that they have lost their former love. As the case of backsliders is very distressing, so our diligence must be great for their recovery. It is distressing to them to lose so much of their life, peace, power, and usefulness, and to become so serviceable to Satan and his cause. It is distressing to us to see that all our labour is come to this, and that when we had taken so much pains with men, and had such hopes of them, all should be so far frustrated. And it is most distressing of all, to think that God should be dishonoured by those whom he has so loved, and done so much for; that the enemy should get such advantage over them, that Christ should be so wounded in the house of his friends, the name of God evil spoken of among the wicked, and all who fear him reproached for their sakes! Besides, partial backsliding has a natural tendency to total apostacy, and will effect it, if special grace prevent it not. The more distressing the case of such is, the more lies upon us, and so much the more must we bestir ourselves for their effectual recovery. To “restore those who are overtaken with a fault, in the spirit of meekness,” Gal. vi, 1, 2, and yet to see that the sore be thoroughly searched and healed, and the joint properly set again, whatever pain it cost; and in all this to look to the honour of the gospel, and see that they rise by such free and full confessions of true repentance, that some reparation may thereby be made to the church, and their holy profession, for the wound they had given them by their sin requires much skill and faithfulness.

2.3.2.4. those exercised with great temptations

Another part of the ministerial work is to deal with those who are fallen under some great temptation. Much of our assistance is needful to our people in such a case; and therefore every minister should be a man that hath much insight into the tempter’s wiles. We should know the great variety of them, and the cunning craftiness of all Satan’s instruments who lie in wait to deceive, and the devices of the grand deceiver. Some of our people lie under temptations to error and heresy, especially the young, unsettled, and most self-conceited; and those who are most conversant or familiar with seducers. Young, unsettled Christians, are commonly of their mind, who have most interest in their esteem, and most opportunity of familiar talk to draw them into their way: and, as they are tinder, so deceivers want not the sparks of zeal to set them in a flame. A zeal for error, and opinions of our own, is natural, and easily kindled and kept alive: but it is far otherwise with the spiritual zeal for God. O what a deal of holy prudence and industry is necessary in a pastor, to preserve the flock from being tainted with heresies, and from falling into pernicious conceits and practices; and especially to keep them in unity and concord, and prevent the rising and increase of divisions! If there be not a remarkable conjunction of accomplishments, and a skilful improvement of parts and interests, it will hardly be done, especially in such times as ours, when the sign is in the head, and the disease is epidemical. If we do not publicly maintain the credit of our ministry, and second it by unblameable and exemplary lives, and privately meet with seducers, and shame them; if we be not able to manifest their folly, and do not closely follow our staggering people before they fall; how quickly may we give great advantage to the enemy, and let such an inundation of sin and calamity, as will not easily be again cast out!

Others lie under a temptation to worldly-mindedness; others to gluttony and drunkenness; and others to uncleanness: some to one sin and some to another. A faithful pastor therefore should have his eye upon them all, and labour to be acquainted with their natural temperament, and also with their occasions or affairs in the world, and those with whom they live or converse, that so he may know where their temptations lie, and then speedily, prudently, and diligently help them.

2.3.2.5. the disconsolate

Another part of our work is to comfort the disconsolate, and to settle the peace of our peoples’ souls, and that on sure and lasting ground. To which end the quality of the complainants, and the course of their lives must needs be known; for all people must not have the same consolations that have similar complaints. But of this I have spoken already elsewhere; and there is so much said by many, especially by Mr. Bolton, in his Instructions for Right Comforting, that I shall say no more.

2.3.2.6. the strong

The rest of our ministerial work is with those who are strong; for they also have need of our assistance, partly to prevent their temptations and declinings, and preserve the grace they have; partly to help them to a farther progress and increase; and, partly to direct them in the improving of their strength for the service of Christ, and the assistance of their brethren; as also to encourage them, especially the aged, the tempted, and afflicted, to hold on, and to persevere, that they may attain the crown. All these are the objects of the ministerial work, and must be taken heed to.

2.4. Of the work itself

Having done with our work in respect of its objects, I am next to speak of the acts themselves.

2.4.1. Public preaching

One part of our work, and that the most excellent, because it tends to work on many, is, the public preaching of the word. A work this which requires greater skill, and especially greater life and zeal, than any of us bring to it. It is no small matter to stand up in the face of a congregation, and deliver a message of salvation or damnation, as from the living God in the name of our Redeemer. It is no easy matter to speak so plain that the ignorant may understand us, so seriously that the deadest hearts may feel us, and so convincingly that contradicting cavillers may be silenced. I know it is a great dispute whether preaching be proper to the ministers or not. The decision seems not very difficult. Preaching to a congregation as their ordinary teacher, is proper to a minister in office; and preaching to the unbelieving world, (Jews, Mohammedans, or Pagans) as one who has given up himself to that work, and is separated and set apart to it, is proper to a minister in office: but preaching to a church, or to infidels, occasionally, as an act of charity, upon an extraordinary or special call, may be common to others. The governor of a church, when he cannot preach himself, may, in a case of necessity, appoint a private man, pro tempore, to do it, who is able, as Mr. Thorndike has shown. But no private man may obtrude without his consent, who, by office, is the guide and pastor of that church. A master of a family may preach to his own family, a schoolmaster to his scholars, and any man to those whom he is obliged to teach; so that he go not beyond his ability, and do it in a due subordination to church teaching, and not in a way of opposition and division. A man who is not of the trade, may do some one act of a tradesman, in a corporation, for his own use, his family, or friend; but he may not separate himself to it, or set it up and make it his profession, to live by it, unless he have been apprentice, and made free. For though one man of ten thousand may do it of himself as well as he that has served an apprenticeship, yet that is not usually the case: and the standing rule must not bend to extraordinary cases, lest it undo all; for that which is extraordinary and rare in such cases, the law looks upon as a non-ens. But the best way to silence such teachers, is for those to whom it belongeth, to do it themselves so diligently, that the people may not have need to go a begging; and to do it so judiciously and affectingly that a plain difference may appear between them and the others, and that those men’s works might be shamed by theirs: and also by adding holy lives, and unwearied diligence to high abilities, that they may keep up the reputation of their sacred office, so that neither seducers nor tempted ones may fetch matter of temptation from our blemishes or negligence.

2.4.2. Sacraments

Another part of our pastoral work is to administer the holy mysteries, or seals, of God’s covenant, baptism and the Lord’s supper. This also is claimed by private usurpers: but I will not stand to discuss their claim. A great fault it is among ourselves; some are careless in their manner of administration, others totally neglect them, and others lay such a stress on circumstances as to make them a matter of much contention, even that ordinance where union and communion is so professed.

2.4.3. public prayer, praise, and benediction

Another part of our work, is to guide our people, and be as their mouth in the public prayers of the church, and the public praises of God; as also to bless them in the name of the Lord. This sacerdotal part of the work is not the least, nor to be thrust into a corner, as by too many of us it is. A great part of God’s service in the church assemblies, was wont in all ages of the church, till of late, to consist in public praises and eucharistical acts in holy communion: and the Lord’s day was still kept as a day of thanksgiving, in the hymns and common rejoicings of the faithful, in special commemoration of the work of redemption, and the happy condition of the gospel church. I am as sensible of the necessity of preaching as most others; but yet methinks the solemn praises of God should take up much more of the Lord’s day than they do in most places: and, methinks, they who magnify gospel privileges, and a life of love and heavenly joys, should be of my mind in this; and their worship should be evangelical, as their doctrine pretends to be.

2.4.4. Oversight of the members distinctly.

Another part of the ministerial work, is to have a special care and oversight of each member of the flock; the parts whereof are these:—

2.4.4.1. Knowing them

We must labour to be acquainted with the state of all our people as fully as we can. To know the persons and their inclinations, and conversation; to know what are the sins that they are most in danger of, and what duties they neglect for the matter or manner, and what temptations they are most liable to: for if we know not their temperament and disease, we are likely to prove but unsuccessful physicians.

2.4.4.2. instructing the ignorant

We must use all the means we can to instruct the ignorant in the matters of their salvation; by plain familiar words; by giving or lending, or otherwise helping them to books that are fit for them; by persuading them to learn catechisrns; and those that cannot read, to get help of their neighbours; and by prevailing with their neighbours to afford them help, who have opportunities, and are willing to attend for that purpose.

2.4.4.3. advising them who seek advice

We must be ready to give advice to those who come to us with cases of conscience, especially the great case which the Jews put to Peter, and the jailer to Paul and Silas, “What must we do to be saved?” A minister is not only for public preaching, but to be a known counsellor for their souls, as the lawyer is for their estates, and the physician for their bodies; so that every man who is in doubts and straits, should bring his case to him, and desire resolution. Not that a minister should be troubled with every small matter, in which judicious neighbours can give them advice as well as he; no more than a lawyer or physician should be troubled with every trifling or familiar case, where others can tell them as much as they: but, as when their estate or life is in danger, they should go to ministers;—as Nicodemus came to Christ; and as was usual with the people to go to the priest, whose lips must preserve knowledge, and at whose mouth they must ask the law, because he is the messenger of the Lord of
hosts. And because the people are grown unacquainted with the office of the ministry, and their own necessity and duty therein, it belongs to us to acquaint them therewith, and to press them publicly to come to us for advice in cases of such great importance to their souls. We must not only be willing to put up with the trouble, but draw it upon ourselves by inviting them to come. What abundance of good might we do, could we but bring our people to this! And, doubtless, much might be done in it, if we did our duty. How few have I ever heard who heartily pressed their people to their duty in this! A sad case, that people’s souls should be so injured and hazarded by the total neglect of so great a duty, and ministers scarce ever tell them of it, or awaken them to it! Were they but duly sensible of the need and weight of this, you would have them more frequently knocking at your doors, opening their cases to you, making known their sad complaints, and begging your advice. I beseech you to stir them more up to this for the future. and perform it carefully when they seek your help. To this end, it is very necessary that we should be acquainted with practical cases, and especially with the nature of true grace, and able to assist them in trying their states, and in resolving the main question that concerns their everlasting life or death. One word of seasonable and prudent advice given by a minister to persons in necessity, has done more good than many sermons.

2.4.4.4. looking to particular families

We must also have a special eye upon families, to see that they be well ordered, and the duties of each relation performed. The life of religion, and the welfare and glory of church and state, depend much on family government and duty. If we suffer the neglect of this, we undo all. What are we likely to do ourselves towards the reforming of a congregation, if all the work be cast on us alone, and masters of families neglect that necessary duty of their own, by which they are bound to help us? If any good be begun by the ministry in any soul in a family, a careless, prayerless, worldly family, is almost sure to stifle, or at least very much hinder it. Whereas, if you could but get the rulers of families to do their part, and take up the work where you leave it, and help forward with it, what abundance of good might be done? I beseech you therefore to do all that you can to promote this business, if you desire the true reformation and welfare of your parishes. To which end let these things be performed. [1.] Get certain information how each family is ordered, and how God is worshipped in them, that you may know how to proceed in your care over them for their farther good. [2.] Go now and then among them when they are likely to be most at leisure, and ask the master of the family whether he pray with them, or read the Scriptures, or what he does. Labour to convince the negligent of their sin: and if you have opportunity, pray with them before you leave them, and give them an example of what you would have them do, and how; and get a promise of them, that they will be more conscientious therein for the future. [3.] If you find any unable to pray in tolerable expressions, through ignorance and want of practice, persuade them to study their own wants, and get their hearts affected with them, and to go often to those neighbours who do pray, that they may learn; and in the meantime endeavour to get them to use a form of prayer, rather than none. Only tell them that it is their sin and shame that they have lived so negligently as to be unacquainted with their own necessities, and not know how to speak to God in prayer, when every beggar can find words to ask an alms; and therefore tell them that this form is but for necessity, as a crutch to a cripple, while they cannot do so well without it: but they must not resolve to take up there, but to learn to do better as soon as they can, seeing prayer should come from the feeling of the heart, and be varied both according to our necessities and observations. Yet it is necessary for most of those who have not been brought up where prayer has been used, to begin at first with the use of a form, because otherwise they will be able to do nothing at all, and from a sense of their inability wholly neglect the duty, though they desire to perform it: for many persons can offer up some honest requests in secret who are not able before others to speak tolerable sense. And I will not be one of them who would rather the duty were wholly neglected, or profaned and made contemptible, than encourage such to use a form, either recited by memory or read. [4.] See that they have some profitable and moving book, besides the Bible, in each family: if they have not, persuade them to buy some of small price and great use; such as Whately’s New Birth, and Dod on the Commandments, or some small moving sermons. If they be not able to buy them, give them some, if you can: if you cannot, get some gentlemen or other rich persons to do it; and engage them to read them at night when they have leisure, and especially on the Lord’s day. [5.] By all means endeavour to prevail with them to get all their children taught to read English. [6.] Direct them how to spend the Lord’s day; how to despatch their worldly business so as to prevent encumbrances and distractions; and when they have been at the assembly, how to spend the time in their families. The life of religion lies much in this, because poor people have no other considerable portion of leisure time; and therefore, if they lose this, they lose all, and will remain ignorant and brutish. Especially persuade them to these two things: If they cannot repeat the sermon, or otherwise spend the time profitably at home, that they take their family with them, and go to some godly neighbour who spends it better, that by joining with them they may have more help: that the master of the famtly will every Lord’s-day night cause all his family to repeat the catechism to him, and give him some account of what they have learned in pubiic that day. [7.] If there be any in the family who are known to be unruly, give the ruler a special charge concerning such; and make them know what a sin it is to connive at and tolerate them.

Neglect not, therefore, this necessary part of your work. Get masters of families to perform their duty, and they will save you much labour with the rest, or at least greatly farther the success of your labours. If a captain can get his lieutenant, cornet, and other inferior officers to do their duty, he may rule the soldiers with less trouble, than if all lay upon his own hand alone. You are not likely to see a general reformation, till you secure family reformation. Some little obscure religion there may be in here and there one; but while it sticks in single persons, and is not promoted by these societies, it is not likely to prosper, nor promise much for future increase.

2.4.4.5. resisting seduction

Another part of the work of our private oversight consists in vigilantly opposing seducers; seeking to prevent the infection of our flock, and speedily reclaiming those who begin to itch after strange teachers, and turn into crooked paths. When we hear of any who lie under the influence of their temptations, or who are already deceived by them, we must immediately, with all our skill and diligence, labour to recover them. The means I shall point out in the directions at the end.

2.4.4.6. encouraging the obedient

Another part of our oversight lies in the due encouragement of those who are humble, upright, obedient Christians, profit by our teaching, and are an honour to their profession. We must, in the eyes of all the flock, put some difference between them and the rest, by our praises, special familiarity, and other testimonies of our approbation, and rejoicing over them, that we may encourage them and excite others to imitate them. God’s graces are amiable and honourable in all, even in the poorest of the flock as well as in the pastors; and the smallest degrees must be cherished and encouraged, but the highest more openly honoured and propounded to imitation. They who have slighted the most gracious because they were of the laity, while they claimed to themselves the honour of being their clergy, though adorned with little or none of that grace which shone in them; as they thereby showed themselves to be proud and carnal, so did they take the direct way to debase themselves by self-exaltation, and to bring the office itself into contempt. For if there be no honour due to the real sanctity of a Christian, much less is there any due to the relative sanctity of a pastor.

2.4.4.7. visiting the sick

Another part of our oversight consists in visiting the sick, and helping them to prepare either for a holy life or a happy death. Though this be the business of all our life and theirs, yet at such a season it requires extraordinary care both of them and us. When time is almost gone, and they must be now or never reconciled to God, and possessed of his grace, O how much it concerns them to redeem those hours, and lay hold upon eternal life! And when we see that we are likely to have but a few days or hours more to speak to them, in order to their endless state, what man who is not an infidel or a block, but would be with them, and do all he can for their salvation in that short space.

Will it not awake and melt us to compassion to look upon a languishing man, and think that within a few days his soul will be in heaven or hell? Surely it will try the faith and seriousness of ministers and others to be with dying men! There they have many opportunities of discerning whether they themselves are in good earnest about the life to come. So great is the change which is made by death, that it should awaken us to the greatest sensibility to see a man near it, and should provoke us, in the deepest pangs of compassion, to do the office of inferior angels for the soul before it departs from the flesh, that it may be ready for the convoy of superior angels, to transmit it to the prepared glory when it is removed from sin and misery. When a man is almost at his journey’s end, and the next step puts him into heaven or hell, it is time for us to help him, if we can, while there is hope. Could they have any hope that it would be their ultima linea rerum, and that they would have no more to suffer when that dismal day is past, they might have such abatements of their terror as to die like brutes. But it is so far otherwise, that death itself is the smallest matter that they need to care for.

And as their present necessity should move us to take that opportunity for their good, so should the advantage that sickness and the foresight of death afford. There are few of the stoutest hearts but will hear us on their death-bed. They will then let fall their fury, and be as tame as lambs, who were before as untractable as wasps or madmen. A man may speak to them then who could not before. I find not one in ten of the most obstinate and scornful wretches in the parish, but, when they come to die, will humble themselves, confess their fault, seem penitent, and promise if they should recover to do so no more. If the very meditation of death be so effectual in time of health, how much more when it comes in as it were at the window, and looks men in the face! O how determinately will the worst of them seem to cast away their sins, promise reformation, and cry out against their folly, and against the vanity of this world, when they see that death is in good earnest with them and that they must die without delay! Perhaps you will say that these forced changes are not genuine, and therefore we have no great hope of doing them any saving good. I confess it is very common to be frighted into ineffectual purposes at such a season without being converted to fixed resolutions. It should make both them and us the more diligent in the time of health.

It will also be useful to ourselves to read such lectures of our own mortality. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, for it tends to make the heart better when we see the end of all living, and what it is that the world will do for those who sell their salvation for it. When we see that death spares none, it will excite us the better to consider the use of faith and holiness, which are to prepare us for death and heaven, that we escape hell, and be happy for ever.

Because I do not intend a directory for the whole ministerial work, I will not here tell you particularly what must be done for men in the last extremity, but only remind you of these three or four things.

(1.) Delay not till strength and understanding are gone, and the time so short that you scarce know what to do; but go to them as soon as you hear that they are sick, whether they send for you or not.

(2.) When the time is so short that there is no opportunity for attempting their conversion in that distinct way which is usual with others, nor to press truths upon them in such order, we must therefore be sure to insist upon those truths which must do the great work; showing them the certainty and glory of the life to come, the way in which it was purchased for us, and the great sin and folly of their having neglected it in the time of health; and yet the possibility which there is of obtaining it, if they do but close with it heartily as their happiness, and with the Lord Jesus as the way thereto; abhoring themselves for their former evil, and now unfeignedly resigning themselves up to him to be justified, sanctified, ruled, and saved. Three things must be chiefly insisted on. [1.] The end; the certainty and greatness of the glory of the saints in the presence of God, that their hearts may be set upon it. [2.] The sufficiency and necessity of the redemption by Jesus Christ, and the fulness of the Spirit, which they may and must be made partakers of. This is the principal way to the end, and the nearer end itself. [3.] The necessity and nature of repentance, faith, and resolutions for new obedience, according as there shall be opportunity. This is the subservient way, or the means that, on our part, must be performed. [4.] Labour, upon their being convinced and brought to serious deliberation, to engage them by solemn promise to Christ, and new obedience according to their opportunity, especially if you see any likelihood of their recovery. [5.] If they do recover, be sure to put them in mind of their promises. Go to them purposely to set them home upon their heart, and reduce them to the performance: and whenever you see them remiss, go to them and remind them of what they formerly said. Because it is of such use to them who recover, and has been a means of the conversion of many a soul, it is very necessary that you go also to them whose sickness is not mortal, as well as to them who are nearer death; that so you may have some advantage to move them to repentance, and engage them to newness of life, and may afterwards have this to plead against their sins. As a bishop of Colen is said by Æneas Silvius to have answered the Emperor Sigismund, when he asked him what was the way to be saved; that “he must be what he purposed or promised to be when he was last troubled with the stone and the gout.”

2.4.4.8. comforting the distressed

Another part of our ministerial oversight consists in the right comforting the consciences of those who are troubled, and settling our people in a well-grounded peace. But this I have spoken of elsewhere, and others have done it more at large.

2.4.4.9. privately admonishing offenders

Another part of this oversight consists in reproving and admonishing those who live offensively or impenitently, and in receiving the information of those who have admonished them more privately in vain. Before we bring such matters to the congregation, or to a representative church, it is ordinarily most fit for the minister to try himself what he can do privately, to bring the sinner to repentance, especially if it be not a public crime. A great deal of skill is here required, and difference must be made according to the various tempers of offenders; but with the most it will be necessary to begin with the greatest plainness and power, in order to shake their careless hearts, and make them see what it is to dally with sin; to let them know the evil of it, and its sad effects; its cruelty, unreasonableness, unprofitableness, and other aggravations; what it is that they do against God and themselves. For the manner, the following directions may be here applied.

2.4.4.10. Public discipline

The next part of our oversight lies in the use of church discipline; which, after the aforesaid private reproofs, consists: In more public reproof—persuading the person to suitable expressions of repentance—praying for them—restoring the penitent—excluding and avoiding the impenitent.

2.4.4.10.1. More public reproof

And for reproof, these things must be observed: that the accusations of none, no, not the most respectable and best in the church, be taken without proof nor rashly entertained, nor that a minister should make himself a party till he have sufficient evidence of the case. It is better to let many vicious persons go unpunished, or uncensured, when we want full evidence, than to censure one unjustly, which we may easily do if we go upon presumptions, which is sure to bring on the pastors the scandal of partiality, and of unrighteous and injurious dealing, and thereby cause all their reproofs and censures to become contemptible. (2.) Let there be therefore a less public meeting of chosen persons (the officers and some delegates of the church on their behalf) to have the hearing of all such cases before they be made more public. Once a month, at a set place, they may come together to receive whatever charge shall be brought against any member of the church, that it may be considered whether it be just, and the offender may be spoken to then; and if the fault be either less public, or less heinous, so that a less public profession of repentance may satisfy, then, if the party shall there profess repentance, it may suffice. (3.) But if it be not so, or if the party remain impenitent, he must be reproved before all, and there again invited to repentance. This duty is not the less because our brethren have made so little conscience of the practice of it. It is not only Christ’s command to tell the church, but Paul’s to rebuke such before all; and the church had constantly practised it till selfishness and formality caused them to be remiss in this and other duties together; and the Reformers have as much stood up for it as the rest; yea, and we are as deeply engaged by vows, covenants, prayers, and other means, for the execution of it, as any who have gone before us. Austin says, “Those sins which are committed before all, must be reproved before all, that all may fear. Reprove in secret them who offend thee in secret; for if thou alone knowest the guilty person, and would reprove him before others, thou art not a corrector, but a betrayer.” Gregory the Great, in his register, says, “Public sins are not to be done away by private correction: but they who offend openly must be openly reproved; that, while they are amended by public reproof, others, who have transgressed by imitating them, may be corrected: for, while one is reproved, many are amended; and it is better that one should be condemned for the safety of many, than that many should be exposed to danger through the licentiousness of one.” Isidore says, “He who, when admonished privately, does not amend of his fault, must be publicly reproved; so that the wound which could not be healed privately must be cured in public.” If any one say we shall thus be guilty of defaming men by publishing their crimes; I answer, in the words of Bernard, “When vice is found fault with, and thence a scandal ariseth, he himself is the cause of the scandal, who did that which ought to be reproved, not he who gave the reproof. Therefore fear not that you act contrary to charity, when you punish the offense of one according as it deserves, for the peace of many; for it is better that one should perish than that unity be destroyed.” There is no room for a doubt whether this be our duty, or whether we are unfaithful as to the performance of it. I fear many of us, who would be ashamed to omit preaching or praying, do not consider what we have done by living in the wilful neglect of this duty and the rest of discipline so long. We little think how we have drawn the guilt of swearing, and drunkenness, and fornication, and other crimes, upon our own heads, for want of using God’s means for the cure of them. As Gregory says, “He who does not correct things which ought to be done away, commits them; and he incurs the guilt of a perpetrator who neglects to amend what he might correct.” Another says: “If you know me to have done any thing improperly or wickedly, and do not blame me for it, you yourself are to be reproved.” Plaut.

If any say, “There is little probability that public personal reprehension should do good to them, because they will be enraged by the shame,” I answer, [1.] Philo, a Jew, could say, (de Sacrif. Abel and Cain,) “We must endeavor, as far as we are able, to save those from their sins that shall certainly perish; imitating good physicians, who, when they cannot save a sick man, do yet willingly try all means for cure, lest they seem to want success through their own negligence.” [2.] It ill becomes creatures to represent the ordinances of God as useless, or to reproach his service instead of doing it, and set their wits against their Maker. God can make use of his own ordinances, or else he never would have appointed them. [3.] The usefulness of this discipline is apparent, because it defames sin, and humbles the sinner; and manifests the holiness of Christ, his doctrine, and his church before all the world. [4.] What would you do with such sinners; give them up as hopeless? That would be too cruel. Would you use other means? Why, it is supposed that all others have been used without success; for this is the last remedy. [5.] The church of Christ found sufficient reason to use this course even in times of persecution, when our carnal reason would have told them that they should then, above all times, have forborne it, for fear of driving away all their converts. [6.] The principal use of this public discipline is not for the offender himself but for the church. It tends exceedingly to deter others from the like crimes, and keep pure the congregations and their worship. Seneca could say, “He transmits vice to posterity who pardons present faults:” and elsewhere, “he hurts the good who spares the wicked.” If you say that it will but restrain them as hypocrites, and not convert them; I answer, it may preserve others; and who knows how God may bless his ordinance, even to those concerned. The restraint of sin is also a benefit not to be contemned. “I will dare (said Seneca the moralist), to show the offender his faults: if I cannot totally destroy his vices, I will restrain them. They may not totally end, but they may cease for a time; and perhaps, by a habit of ceasing some time, they may end at last.”

2.4.4.10.2. persuading the person to suitable expressions of repentance

After the duty of public reproof, the person or persons must be exhorted to repentance, and to the public profession of it for the satisfaction of the church. for as the church is bound to avoid cormmunion with impenitent and scandalous sinners, so when they have had the evidence of their sin, they must see some evidence of their repentance; for we cannot know them to be penitent without evidence; and what evidence is the church capable of but their profession of repentance first, and their actual reformation afterwards? Both of which must be expected.

2.4.4.10.3. praying for them

To these may most fitly be adjoined the public prayers of the church, and that both for the reproved before they are rejected, and for the rejected, that they may repent and be restored. But we are now upon the former. Though this is not expressly affixed to discipline, yet we have sufficient discovery of God’s will concerning it in the general precepts. We are commanded to pray always, and in all things, and for all men, and in all places, and all things are said to be sanctified by it. It is plain therefore that such a great business as this should not be done without prayer. And who can have any just reason to be offended with us, if we pray to God to change their hearts, and pardon their sins. It is therefore, in my judgment, a very laudable practice of those churches which for the three next days desire the congregation to join in earnest prayer to God for the opening of the sinner’s eyes, softening of his heart, and saving him from impenitence and eternal death! And though we have no express direction in Scripture just how long we shall stay, to try whether the sinner be so impenitent as to be necessarily excluded, yet we must follow the general directions, with such diversity as the case and quality of the person and former proceeding shall require, it being left to the discretion of the church, who are in general to stay till the person manifest himself obstinate in his sin: not but that a temporary exclusion, called suspension, may often be inflicted in the mean time: but before we proceed to an exclusion à statu, it is highly proper in most cases that prayer be made for three days, and patience exercised towards him who is to be excluded.

And indeed I see no reason why this course should not be much more frequent than it is; and that not only with regard to those who are members of our special charge, and consent to discipline, but even those who deny our pastoral oversight and discipline, and yet are our ordinary hearers. For so far as men have Christian communion, or familiarity with us, so far are they capable of being excluded from that communion. Though the members of our special charge have more full and special communion, and so are capable of a more full and special exclusion; yet all those who dwell among us, and are our ordinary hearers, have some communion. For as they converse with us, so they hear the word, not as heathens, but as Christians, and members of the universal church into which they had been baptized: and they join with us in public prayers and praises, and in the celebration of the Lord’s day. From this therefore they are capable of being excluded, or from part of this, at least morally, if not locally. For the precept of avoiding, and withdrawing from and not eating with such, is not restrained to the members of a governed church, but extended to all Christians who are capable of communion.

When these ungodly persons are sick, we have daily bills from them to request the prayers of the congregation: and if we must pray for them against sickness and temporal death, I know no reason why we should not much more earnestly pray for them against sin and eternal death. That we have not their consent is no reason: for that is their sin and disease; and we do not consider it sober arguing to say, “I may not pray for such a man against his sickness, because he is sick;” or, “If he were not sick, I would pray against his sickness.” No more is it to say, “If he were not impenitent so as to refuse our prayers, I would pray that he might be saved from his impenitence.” I confess I do not consider myself to have so strict a charge over this sort of men, who renounce my oversight, as over those who own it; and that is the reason why I have not called more of them to public repentance, because it requires in general more time to examine the matter of fact, and to deal with the person first in private, that his impenitence may be discerned, than I can possibly spare from the duties which I owe to my special charge, to whom I am more indebted. But though I cannot use any such discipline on all that sort, nor am so much obliged to do it, yet some of them who are most notoriously and openly wicked, where less proof and shorter debates are requisite, I intend to deal thus with hereafter, having found some success in that way already. But specially to all those whom we take for members of that particular church of which we are pastors, there is no question but this is our duty. And therefore where the whole parish are members, discipline must be exercised on the whole.

I confess much prudence is necessary in such proceedings, lest we do more hurt than good; but it must be Christian prudence that orders duties, and suits them to their ends, and not such carnal prudence as shall enervate or exclude them. It may be fit therefore for younger ministers to consult with others, for the more cautious proceeding in such works. And in the performance of it we should deal humbly even when we deal most sharply, and make it appear that it is not from any lordly disposition, nor an act of revenge for any injury, but a necessary duty which we cannot conscientiously avoid: and therefore it will be meet that we disclaim all such animosities, and show the people the commands of God, obliging us to what we do.

“Neighbours and brethren, sin is so hateful an evil in the eyes of the most holy God, how light soever impenitent sinners make of it, that he has provided the everlasting torments of hell for the punishment thereof; and no less means could prevent that punishment than the sacrifice of the blood of the Son of God, applied to those who truly repent and forsake their sins; and therefore God, who calls all men to repentance, has commanded us to exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin; and that we do not hate our brother in our heart, but in any wise rebuke our neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him; and that if our brother offend us, we should tell him his fault between him and us alone; and if he hear not, take two or three; and if he hear not them, tell the church and if he hear not the church, he must be to us as a heathen or a publican; and those who sin we must rebuke before all, that others may fear; and rebuke with all authority; yea, were it an apostle of Christ that should openly sin, he must be openly reproved, as Paul did Peter; and if they repent not, we must avoid them, and with such not so much as eat.*

(*Heb. iii, 13; Lev. xix, 17; Matt. xviii, 17; 1 Tim. v, 20; Titus i, 15; Gal. ii, 11, 14; 2 Thess. iii, 6, 12, 14; I Cor. v, 11, 13.)

“According to these commands of the Lord, having heard of the scandalous practices of N. N. of this church, or society, and having received sufficient proof that he has committed the odious sin of ……; we have seriously dealt with him to bring him to repentance, but to the grief of our hearts perceive no satisfactory success of our endeavours—he still remains impenitent, or still lives in the same sin, though he verbally profess repentance. We do therefore judge it our necessary duty to proceed to the use of that farther remedy which Christ has commanded us to try; and hence we desire him in the name of the Lord, without any farther delay, to lay aside his obstinacy against the Lord, and to submit to his rebuke, and lay to heart the greatness of his sin, the wrong he has done to Christ and to himsef, and the scandal and grief that he has caused to others; and how unable he is to contend with the Almighty, and prevail against the holy God, who to the impenitent is a consuming fire; or how he can save himself from his fiery indignation! And I earnestly beseech him, for the sake of his own soul, that he will but soberly consider what he can gain by his sin and impenitence; whether it will pay for the loss of everlasting life, and how he thinks to stand before God in judgment, or appear before the Lord Jesus when death shall snatch his soul from his body, if he be found in this impenitent state? when the Lord Jesus himself, in whose blood they pretend to trust, hath told such with his own mouth, that except they repent, they all shall perish. And I beseech him, for the sake of his own soul, and as a messenger of Jesus Christ, require him, as he will answer the contrary at the bar of God, that he lay by the stoutness and impenitence of his heart, and unfeignedly confess and lament his sin before God and this congregation! And this desire I here publish, not out of any ill will to his person, as the Lord knows, but out of love to his soul, and in obedience to Christ, who has made it my duty; desiring that, if it be possible, he may be saved from his sin, from the power of Satan, and from the everlasting wrath of God, and may be reconciled to God and to his church; and, therefore, that he may be humbled by true contrition, before he be humbled by remediless condemnation.”

Thus, or to this purpose, I conceive our public admonition should proceed; and in some cases, where the sinner looks upon his sin as small, the aggravation of it will be necessary, especially the citing of some texts of Scripture to that purpose. And in case he either will not be present, that such admonition may be given him, or will not be brought to a discovery of repentance, and to desire the prayers of the congregation, it will be necessary that, with such a preface as this already expressed, we desire the prayers of the congregation for him ourselves; that the people would consider what a fearful condition the impenitent are in, and have pity on a poor soul that is so blinded and hardened by sin and Satan, that he cannot pity himself; and think what it is for a man to appear before the living God in such a case; and therefore that they would join in earnest prayer to God, that he would open his eyes, and soften and humble his stubborn heart, before he be beyond remedy: and accordingly let us be very earnest in prayer for such, that the congregation may be provoked affectionately to join with us; and who knows but God may hear our prayers, and cause the sinner’s heart to relent; however, the people will perceive that we do not make light of sin, nor preach to them from mere custom or formality. If ministers would be conscientious in thus carrying on the entire work of God self-denyingly, they might make something of it, and expect a greater blessing. But when we shrink from all that is dangerous or ungrateful, and shift off all that is costly or troublesome, we cannot expect that any great matter should be done by such a carnal, partial use of means; and though some may be here and there called home to God, yet we cannot expect that the gospel should prevail, and run, and be glorified, where it is so lamely and defectively carried on.

2.4.4.10.4. restoring the penitent

When a sinner is thus admonished and prayed for, if it please the Lord to open his eyes and give him remorse, before we proceed to any farther censure, it is our next duty to proceed to his full recovery, where these things must be observed. (1.) That we do not discourage him by too much severity, nor yet by too much lenity make nothing of discipline, nor help him to any saving cure; but merely slubber it over. If therefore he have sinned scandalously but once, if his repentance seem deep and serious, we may in some cases restore him at that time; that is, if the wound he has given to the credit of the church be not so deep as to require more ado for satisfaction, or the sin so heinous as may cause us to delay. But if it be so, or if he have lived long in the sin, it is most proper that he wait in patience a convenient time before he be restored. (2.) And when the time comes, whether at the first confession, or after, it is meet that we urge him to be serious in his humiliation, and set at home upon his conscience, till he seem to be truly sensible of his sin: for it is not a vain formality, but the recovery and saving of a soul, that we expect and labour for. (3.) We must see that he beg the communion of the church, and their prayers to God for his pardon and salvation. (4.) And that he promise to flee from such sins for the time to come, and watch more narrowly, and walk more circumspectly. (5.) Then we have these things more to do: To assure him, of the riches of God’s love, and the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to pardon and wash away his sins; and that, if his repentance be sincere, the Lord pardons him, of which we are authorized as his messengers to assure him: to charge him to persevere and perform his promises, avoid temptations, and continue to beg mercy and strengthening grace: to charge the church that they imitate Christ in forgiving, and retain (or, if he were cast out, receive) the penitent person into their communion, and that they never reproach him with his sins, nor cast them in his teeth, but forgive and forget them as Christ does.

2.4.4.10.5. excluding and avoiding the impenitent

The next part of discipline, is the rejecting and removing from the church’s communion those who, after sufficient trial, remain impenitent; where note, (1.) That if a man have sinned but once in a scandalous manner, it is only a profession of repentance that we can expect for our satisfaction; but if he be accustomed to sin, or have often broke such promises, then it is an actual reformation that we must expect. And therefore he who will refuse either to reform, or to profess and manifest repentance, is to be taken by us as living in his sin; for a heinous sin but once committed is morally continued in till it be repented of, and a bare forbearing of the act is not sufficient. (2.) Yet have we no warrant to rip up matters that are worn out of the public memory, and so make that public again which has ceased to be so, at least not in ordinary cases. (3.) Exclusion from church communion, commonly called excommunication, is of divers sorts, or degrees, more than two or three, which are not to be confounded, of which I shall not now treat. (4.) That which we are most commonly called to practise is, only to remove an impenitent sinner from our communion, till it shall please the Lord to give him repentance. (5.) In this inclusion, or removal, the minister, or governors of that church, are authoritatively to charge the people in the name of the Lord to avoid communion with him, and to pronounce him one whose communion the church is bound to avoid; and the people’s duty is obediently to avoid him, in case the pastor’s charge contradict not the word of God. So that he has the guiding or governing power; and they have a discerning power, whether his charge be just; and an executive power, for it is they that must execute the sentence in part by avoiding the rejected, as he himself must execute it by denying him those church ordinances and privileges whereof he is the administrator. (6.) It is very convenient to pray for the repentance and restoration of the person or persons excommunicated. (7.) And if God shall give them repentance, they are gladly to be received into the communion of the church again.

2.5. The manner and necessity of these acts.

Of the manner of all these I shall say no more, so much having been said of them already; and for the manner of other particular duties, of which I have said little or nothing, you have much already, particularly in the Directory of the late Assembly.

O that we were but so far faithful in the practice of this discipline, as we are satisfied both of its matter and manner; and did not reproach it by our negligence, while we write and plead for it with the highest commendations. It is worthy our consideration, who are likely to have the heaviest charge concerning this matter at the bar of God? Whether those deluded ones who have reproached and hindered discipline by their tongues, because they knew not its nature and necessity; or we who have vilified it by our constant omission, while with our tongues we have magnified it? If hypocrisy be no sin, or if the knowledge of our Master’s will be no aggravation of the evil of disobedience, then are we in a better case than they. I will not advise the zealous maintainers and obstinate neglecters and rejecters of discipline to unsay all that they have said, till they are ready to do as they say; nor to recant their defences of discipline, till they mean to practise it; nor to burn all the books that they have written in favour of it, and all the records of their costs and hazards, lest they rise up in judgment against them to their confusion. But I would persuade them without farther delay to conform their practice to these testimonies which they have given, lest the more they are proved to have commended discipline, the more they be proved to have condemned themselves, for neglecting it.

I have often marvelled that the men who have been much offended at the books that have been written for free admission to the Lord’s supper, or for mixed communion in that one part, have not been more offended at as free admission to other parts of church communion. I should think that it is a greater profanation to permit an obstinate, scandalous sinner, to be a stated member of that particular church, without first private, and then public admonition, prayer for him, or censure of him; than for a single pastor to admit him to the Lord’s supper, if he have no power to censure him, as these suppose. I should think that the faithful practice of discipline in the other parts would soon put an end to the controversy about free admission to the Lord’s supper, and heal the hurt which such discourses have done to our people. For those discourses have more modesty than to plead for a free admission of those who are already censured or rejected; but only of those who have yet their standing in that church, and are not censured. And if, when they forfeit their title to church communion, we would deal with them in Christ’s appointed way, till we had either reclaimed them to repentance or censured them to be avoided, it would be past controversy then that they were not to be admitted to that one act of communion in the supper who are justly excluded from the whole. But as long as we leave them uncensured members, and tell a single pastor that he has no power to censure them, we tempt him to think that he has no power then to deny them that communion with the body which is the common privilege of all uncensured members.

And as we thus ourselves oppose discipline in part, or cherish church corruption in part, one party being for the free admission of them, while members, to the sacraments, and the other as freely permitting them to enjoy other parts of church communion, while they exclude them from the sacrament; so some have learned to tie these ends together, and, by holding both, set open the doors of church and chancel, pluck up the hedge, and lay the vineyard common to the wilderness. It has somewhat amazed me to hear some, whom I took for reverend and godly divines, reproach as a sect the sacramentarians and disciplinarians! And when I desired to know who they meant, they told me, them who will not give the sacrament to all the parish, and make distinction by their discipline. I thought the tempter had obtained a great victory if he had but got one godly pastor of a church to neglect discipline, as well as if he had got him to neglect preaching; much more if he had got him to approve of that neglect: but it seems he has got some to scorn at the performers of the duty which they neglect. As the ungodly were wont to reproach the diligent by the name of Puritans, so these reproach the faithful pastors by the name of disciplinarians. I could wish they would remember what the ancient reproaches were, both symptomatically and effectively, and accordingly judge impartially of themselves, and fear a participation of the judgment that befell them. Sure I am, if it were well understood how much of the pastoral authority and work consists in church guidance, it would be also discerned, that to be against discipline is tantum non to be against the ministry; and to be against the ministry is tantum non to be absolutely against the church, and to be against the church is near to being absolutely against Christ. Blame not the harshness of the inference till you can avoid it, and free yourselves from the charge of it before the Lord. Was not Christ himself the leader of these disciplinarians, who instituted discipline, and made his ministers the rulers or guides of his church, and put the keys of the kingdom into their hands; commanded the very particular acts of discipline, and required the people to submit to them, and obey them in the Lord? What would these men have said, if they had seen the practice of the ancient church for many hundred years after Christ, who exercised a discipline so much more rigorous than any among us do, and that even in the heat of heathen persecutions; which, if they read only the ancient canons, and Cyprian’s epistles, they may soon see, though they look no farther.*

2.5.1. Footnote on excommunication in the early church

(*Excommunication in the primitive church was intended to bring men to submission; upon which they were gradually received as they passed through the several courses of penitential discipline assigned them.

“When a crime was known to have been committed, which was thought to deserve a censure, if the party came not of his own accord, he was convened by the bishop, first in secret; and if he thereupon submitted and reformed, all was well; otherwise he was admonished and persuaded in the presence of two or three witnesses: and if those endeavours also proved ineffectual, the whole church was made acquainted with his case, and interested in it; and then, if, after all, he continued obstinate, the highest sentence of excommunication was finally pronounced against him, under which he continued as much disregarded as a mere heathen, till he was softened into submission, and bent to discipline: and when he so submitted, there were various degrees of penance assigned him, in proportion to his crime. As he was first received into the church through the door of baptism, so in this case he was restored to it through a course of penitential discipline; the constituent parts of which were, confession, segregation, and absolution.

“The church was willing to convince her enemies, that she did not intend by her mildness to encourage sin; that she did not easily admit to her communion such as walked disorderly; and therefore, that the extraordinary contrition of the penitent did not mollify the execution of his sentence; but he was to continue in some cases three, in some nine, and in others above twenty years in a state of segregation. Hence we learn, that when sins were committed which were thought to deserve an ecclesiastical censure, the consequence was a separation of the delinquent from the rest of the assembly in public worship. He had a peculiar station assigned him, and was to leave the congregation when the hymns, lessons, lectures, and prayers for the catechumens were despatched: but before he departed, a solemn prayer was put up to God for him, and for all in his circumstances and station, and also an imposition of the chief minister’s hands upon him.

“This, indeed, and this alone, seems to have been originally the proper station of penitents, and was called prostration. They were considered as such when within this class; and the church unquestionably then took notice of them, as of persons under its care. Heathens might stand without the church door, or just within it, as hearers, if they pleased, while the hymns were sung, the Scriptures read, or the sermon preached by the bishop, or any of his presbyters.

“Now the excommunicates were, I presume, in this respect, upon the same footing with heathens; and both alike might enter the church thus far, while they both were alike considered. But when the party excommunicated was softened into submission, he was longer in recovering the privileges he had forfeited, than he was at first in gaining them; nor could he be readmitted to communion upon such easy terms as those on which he was first admitted. Hence the penitent passed through more stages, and was longer detained from communion, than the catechumen. As he had contracted more guilt, by abusing his knowledge of the gospel, he was obliged to submit to a longer separation, and to pass through more degrees of it, than even a heathen; and, therefore, while the one was allowed to enter the church as a hearer, the other was for some time detained at the church door, and was not permitted to proceed beyond it.

Basil himself, who lived in the middle of the fourth century, hath lineally described to us all the stations of penance, which, by that time, were got into full and current use; since he does not recite them as novel practices, but as the established rules of the then prevailing discipline. The case he mentions was of such as had offended by incontinence, who, for the first year, were to be excluded entirely from the whole service, and to stand weeping at the church door, begging the prayers of the ministers and people: this was the station of mourners. In the second year they were admitted to that of hearers; in the third, to that of the prostrate, called, by way of eminence, the penance; in the fourth, they were permitted to stand with the faithful, while they communicated, but might not partake with them: this I have termed the station of consistentes, or by-standers. Thus, at last, they were restored in full to all their privileges, and allowed to communicate. Not that all these stages were in every case necessary to be passed through; no, but according to the nature and quality of the sin, as it was more or less enormous, the offender was directed to stand from the very first, either among the mourners or hearers, or among the prostrate; whereas, sometimes they were permitted to skip all these three, and only to stand by the faithful, while they communicated, without being allowed to join with them. This was the station which was next in order to that of full communion.”—See The Penitential Discipline of the Primitive Church, by a Presbyter of the Church of England.

“The way of punishing by excommunication was not originally instituted by our Lord, or his apostles, but had been anciently practised among the Jews. It was variously expressed by ancient writers. Such persons were said to be separated from the body of Christ, to be wholly cut off from communion, to be thrown out of the church, and to be anathematized. This separation, and the penance that accompanied it, was greater or smaller, longer or shorter, according to the nature of the crime; sometimes two, three, ten, fifteen, twenty, or thirty years, and sometimes for the whole life; nay, in some cases, it was not taken off at death, but persons were left to the judgment of God, without any testimony of their reconciliation to the church: though herein the severity was mitigated, not only by private bishops, but by the great Council of Nice, which ordained that penitent persons should not be denied the communion at the hour of death. If the person offending happened to be in orders, he forfeited his ministry; and though on his repentance he was restored to communion, yet it was only as a lay person; for he never recovered the honour and dignity of his office. Thus Cornelius, bishop of Rome, giving Fabias, of Antioch, an account of the clandestine and schismatical ordination of Novatian, tells him that one of the bishops who ordained him returned after to the church, bewailing his offence with tears in his eyes, whom, at the instance of the people, he received into lay communion. Cyprian, writing about this very case, relates of Trophemus, (who was either the bishop mentioned by Cornelius, or one of his colleagues,) that, returning to the church with great demonstrations of repentance, he was readmitted, but no otherwise than in the capacity of a layman. And, speaking elsewhere of Basilides’s repentance, he tells us, he had no thoughts of retaining his bishopric, declaring he was very well dealt with, if, upon his repentance, he might but communicate as a laick, and be received among the number of the faithful. This, St. Basil tells us, was an ancient canon and practice of the church; and accordingly ordains, that a deacon guilty of fornication should be deposed from his office; and, being thrust down into the rank ofthe laity, should in that quality be admitted to the communion.”—See Cave’s Primitive Christianity.

It will probably be objected, that they went far into the extreme of severity in the exercise of church discipline. Perhaps in some respects they did; but do not we go as far in many respects into the opposite extreme? And was not theirs the safest of the two? Did it not manifest a greater concern for souls, and tend more to preserve the peace and purity of the church?—But suppose they carried it to an extreme, there is no necessity that we should. There is a plain and broad medium. Let us follow the Scripture rule—go as far as the word of God authorizes us, and we are sure to be safe.)

And it was not then, no, nor after, under Christian magistrates, taken to be a useless thing; nor would it appear such now, if it were displayed in its strength and beauty by a vigorous practice: for it is a thing that is not effectually manifested to the ear, but to the eye; and you will never make men know well what it is by mere talking of it—till they see it, they will be strangers to it. As it is in the military art, in navigation, and in the government of commonwealths, which are so little known till learned by experience.

I know that when the church began to be tainted with vain inventions, the word discipline began to have another signification, suited to their own various rules of life and austere impositions, of touch not, taste not, handle not; but it is the ancient and truly Christian discipline that I am contending for. So much for the acts of pastoral oversight.

From what has been said, we may see that the pastoral office is another kind of thing than those men have taken it to be, who think that it consists in preaching and administering sacraments only; much more than they have taken it for, who think it consists in making new laws or canons to bind the church, as if God had not made us laws sufficient; and as if he had committed the proper legislative power over his church to ministers or bishops, whose office is but to expound, and apply, and execute in their places the laws of Christ.

Chapter 1 CONTENTS Chapter 3

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