john brine


 Sermon 5

 A Sermon Preached at an Ordination of Deacons
March 5, 1735.
Published at the Request of some who heard it. Printed, and
Sold by AARON WARD, at the King’s-Arms in Little-Britain.
London 1735.



 

“Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy
of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience,”
1 Timothy 3:8, 9.

 

I humbly beg leave of you, my brethren, who have been at this time solemnly called to, and invested with the office of deacons, to lay before you the qualifications which are necessary for persons in that capacity, the work that is proper to it, and to offer some things by way of encouragement to you therein from these words. The Apostle begins this chapter with observing the excellency of the office of a bishop, pastor, or overseer in a Church of Christ; and then gives the necessary characters of such who are in that function. After this he proceeds to mention the several virtues requisite to persons who serve the Church in the station of deacons, most of which are collected in the words now to be considered.

The method I shall pursue, in my discourse on this subject, will be this:

·         First, I shall observe the notation of the term deacon, with the various application of it.

·         Secondly, show what gave rise to this office in the church.

·         Thirdly, the qualifications of officers.

·         Fourthly, their proper work.

·         Fifthly, offer some things for your encouragement therein.

First, I begin with the notation of the word, and the different application of it: diakonov (diakonoo), deacon, signifies, a minister; from the verb diakonew (diakoneo), to minister speedily. Which imports, that persons in this office should closely, and eagerly pursue the duties of it; that they ought to minister to others, as with cheerfulness, so with expedition.

It is a title of office, service, or administration, and is variously applied. It is given to Christ; now I say, that Jesus Christ was a minister, diakonon (diakonon), of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, (Rom. 15:8). He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. The Apostle gives this name to magistrates; for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil: “Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same; for he is the minister, diakonoV (diakonos),of God to thee for good,” (Rom. 13:3-4). It is applied to preachers of the gospel; “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers, diakonoi, (diakonoi),by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man,” (1 Cor. 3:5)? Every true disciple and worshipper of Christ hath this title given to him; “if any man serve me let him follow me, and where I am there shall also my servant, diakonh (diakone), be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour,” (John 12.26).

The Apostle bestows this character on Phebe; I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant, diakonon (diakonon),a deaconess, of the church which is at Cenchrea. (Rom. 16:1). I am of opinion, that there were deaconesses in the primitive churches, whose business it was to visit the poor, afflicted, and aged sisters, and to administer relief to them; to acquaint the church with their necessities, and obtain help for them. Persons chose to this work were generally widows, such who had been married, and behaved in that station of life with chastity, diligence, and prudence, who are called “widows indeed,” (1 Tim. 5:3). It was required that they should be sixty years of age when appointed by the church to attend on this service; let not a widow be taken into the number, under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man (v. 9). The excellent and learned ecclesiastical historian Mr. Bingham speaking of them hath these words:

“There is some mention made of them in Scripture, by which it appears, that their office was as ancient as the apostolic age; St. Paul calls Phebe, a servant of the Church at Cenchrea, (Rom. 16:1); the original word is diakonov (diakonoe), answerable to the Latin word ministra (servant; assistance; Ed.]; which is the name given them in Pliny’s Epistle, which speaks about the Christians. Tertullian and some others, call them Viduae, widows; and their office, viduatus; because they were commonly chosen out of the widows of the Church. For the same reason Epiphanius, and the Council of Laodicea, call them presbotidav (presbotidao), elderly widows; because none but such were ordinarily taken into this office.” Not but that virgins were sometimes admitted to this service, as he afterwards observes. And Dr. Cave allows the same, whose account of them is this: “Their original was very early, and of equal standing with the infancy of the Church; such was Phebe in the Church at Cenchrea, mentioned by St. Paul; such were those two servant-maids spoken of by Pliny in his “Letters to the Emperor,” whom he examined upon the rack; such was the famous Olympias in the Church of Constantinople, not to mention anymore particular instances. They were either widows, and then not to be taken into the service of the Church, under threescore years of age, according to St. Paul’s direction, or else virgins, who having been educated in order to it, and given testimony of a chaste and sober conversation, were set apart at forty. What the proper place and ministry of these deaconesses was in the ancient Church, though Matthew Blasteres seems to render a little doubtful, yet certainly it principally consisted in such offices as these; to attend upon the women at times of public worship, especially in the administration of baptism, that when they were to be divested, in order to their immersion, they might overshadow them, so as nothing of indecency and uncomeliness might appear; sometimes they were employed in instructing the more rude and ignorant sort of women in the plain and easy principles of Christianity, and in preparing them for baptism; otherwise visiting and attending upon women that were sick, in conveying messages, counsels, consultations, relief (especially in times of persecution, when it was dangerous for the officers of the Church) to the martyrs, and them that were in prison. And these women, no doubt it was, that Libanius speaks of among the Christians, who were so very ready to be employed in these offices of humanity.” To these observations the words of Clemens Alexandrinus agree; we also know what things Paul requires of deaconesses in the first Epistle to Timothy. It has been thought proper by some congregations of late years, to appoint faithful women to such service among them, as the primitive churches did; nor can I apprehend that anything is justly to be excepted against that practice, since it appears to be apostolic. This name is especially given to the stewards of the church-treasure, and those who take care of the poor; which is one considerable branch of their work.

Secondly, That which gave rise to these officers in the Church, was the great increase of the disciples through the Apostles preaching.

When the number of believers was small, the Apostles performed those good offices which persons in this station are called to; but, upon a large addition of members to the Church, they were not able to attend on their ministry, and continue to take care of the poor saints. Now as they were peculiarly called to preach the Gospel, they judged it improper to engage in other services, which would unavoidably interrupt them in that their special business. And therefore they proposed to the Church, to choose persons who might be thought suitable for that trust. An account of which we have in these words: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, it is not reason that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among yourselves men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word,” (Acts 6:1-4).

Thirdly, The qualifications necessary to this office are many and great.

I. Gravity is required in such as serve the church in this capacity; likewise must the deacons be grave. The original word is semnov (semnoo), which is sometimes translated, honest; as for instance, finally, brethren. Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, semna (semna), (Phil. 4:8) It is highly proper that persons in this office should be of honest report, or men of known probity [honesty; Ed.] and strict honor, because they are entrusted with the church’s treasure, which ought to be faithfully expended in promoting those pious views, for which it is contributed; no part of it may lawfully be disposed of to serve other purposes upon any pretence whatever. And therefore, in the choice of men to this trust, regard is to be had to their integrity and inviolable justice. Farther, the word is used for sobriety and chastity; even so must their wives be grave, semna (semna), (1 Tim. 3:11); that is to say, sober, modest, and chaste. This is a very necessary part of a deacon’s character. Levity and frothiness in conversation is unbecoming all professors of religion, but especially such as are invested with office—power in a church of Christ.

II. Freedom from guile and hypocrisy, which is intended by these words, not double tongued, dilogouV (dilogous), the word signifies one who, out of the same mouth, breathes heat and cold, that is, contrary things. The Apostle hereby condemns feigned expressions of respect; the heart and the tongue ought to perfectly agree in our profession of friendship to others; we are commanded to love in reality, love not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth. This apostolic exhortation is too little regarded by many, who are at sometimes very liberal in their declarations of value and esteem, for such with whom they maintain a correspondence; and yet, by methods as ungenerous, as they are sly and designing, detract from their real worth, and sink their deferred reputation among men; which practice is a shame to the Christian religion. Those who are in the office of deacons, ought to be free from this abominable vice: it becomes them, to show all tokens of tenderness and compassion to the distressed, and to be as diligent in their endeavors to relieve them, as they are forward to declare their sympathy with them under their troubles; in imitation of their great Lord and Master, in whom there was no guile. Is it not an intolerable imposition upon the afflicted and low, to raise their expectations of assistance, by fair speeches, and, notwithstanding, heighten their distress by a willful neglect of their case?

III. Temperance is required in the character of a deacon; not given to much wine. The moderate use of any of the good creatures of God, is allowable; wine is as lawful to be drank as water, provided it be not to excess. So much is implied in the words of the Apostle; he doth not forbid drinking of wine, but only a greedy and excessive use of it: he advises Timothy to it, “drink no longer water but a little wine, for thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmities,” (1 Tim.5:13). Our Lord, who was a perfect pattern in all virtues, did not deny himself the use of this, as may be collected from what the Pharisees maliciously objected to him; “The Son of Man is come eating and drinking, and ye say, behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners,” (Luke 7:34). Immoderate and excessive drinking is absolutely unlawful, it is a leading vice, and generally draws after it many great evils; besides that, it is a shameful abuse of the bounty of providence, and of the person himself who is guilty thereof; and therefore all professors of religion ought to carefully avoid it, but particularly such as are invested with any office in the church of Christ.

IV. Persons in this capacity should be clear of avarice [greed; Ed.], not covetous. The same qualification is necessary to a bishop: the Apostle gives it as a part of his character, mh aiscrokerdh (me aischrokerde), (1 Tim. 3:3), the same word as is here used not greedy of filthy lucre. It Is very requisite that persons in this function should not be of an avaricious disposition; because that might prove a strong temptation to them to desert their service in the Church, it being seldom in their power to provide for themselves and families in such a manner as men of trade and secular business are able to do; and they perhaps, not less capable of it, if they thought proper to devote themselves to it. A free and generous temper is required in a Deacon, no less than in an Elder, for which there are special reasons: these officers are to receive the collections of the Church, and dispose of them to those ends for which they are made; therefore it is proper that they should excite the members to true generosity, by a liberal contribution according to their ability; for it is well known, that example has a far greater influence upon men than precept: besides this, if they are backward in communicating of their substance to pious uses, it must be a check upon them when called to stir up others to works of charity and beneficence; and an exorbitant love of money, may tempt them to act an unfaithful part, in their distributions of the church’s treasure. From whence it is easy to collect, that covetous persons are wholly unfit for this office; and, that a community is guilty of the greater imprudence in the choice of those who be so.

V. They ought to be such persons as govern their families well; let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well, (1 Tim. 3:12). In order to which, it is needful that they behave with prudence, sobriety and caution, to be exemplary in real virtue and religion. It is the duty of all parents and masters of families, to instruct their children and servants in what manner to demean themselves, to sharply reprove them for sin, and to cherish all appearance of concern about the eternal welfare of their souls; as a connivance at an evil in those under our care and government, necessarily involves us in guilt, it will certainly occasion the enemies of the Gospel to reflect on our holy profession. It is more especially the duty of officers in the Church of Christ, to discountenance all unlawful actions, and to encourage undissembled piety in those about them; the man who neglects to maintain a due decorum in his own, is a very improper person to be entrusted with any authority in God’s house; for it is hardly to be supposed, that he who is negligent in exercising his power over those that are under his immediate and constant inspection, will be diligent and faithful in his watch over such as are not so near to him. And therefore it must be allowed, that it is requisite deacons should govern their domestics well, and wisely.

VI. It is necessary that these officers should be men of sound principles, holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience. Here I shall inquire,

1. What is intended by faith?

2. What a mystery is?

3. Observe that there are mysterious doctrines in divine revelation.

4. That these are to be embraced, and steadfastly held by the deacons of the Church.

5. In a pure conscience.

1. Faith is taken in different senses.

(1) It is to be understood of a new and spiritual principle wrought in the saints by divine power, which believes in and accepts of Christ as the alone Saviour of sinners: thus, in these words; “by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,” (Eph. 1:8). The nature and actings of this grace, cannot be spiritually discerned by any but those who are the subjects of it: all unregenerate persons are unacquainted with this grace, for it far exceeds the reach of the unsanctified understanding. It is held in a pure conscience. The exercise of this gracious principle purges our consciences, which are naturally defiled; “And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith,” (Acts 15:9).

(2) The Gospel is sometimes designed by it: as for instance, do we make void the law through faith, i.e. the Gospel, God forbid; yea, we establish the law, (Rom. 3:31). This is the sense in which we are to take it here.

2. A mystery is something that is incomprehensible and inexplicable: some affix no other idea to an evangelical mystery than, that it is a matter which has been secret and hid, and suppose, that upon a discovery of it, we may be able to fully understand and account for it, they will not allow that its nature is incomprehensible, but think, that it immediately ceases to be a mystery, when once it is revealed. This is done with a manifest design to subvert all such notions or principles contained in revelation, which are not to be comprehended by reason: but this is much too low a sense of the word, as it is applied to the Gospel in the inspired writings. There are many things of whose existence in nature we cannot possibly doubt, which are yet unaccountable, mysterious, and inexplicable; for the proof of which, we need not look any farther than ourselves; the constitution and frame of human nature is really so. Let such as object to any doctrine (which is supposed to be a branch of revealed truth) because it is mysterious, and not capable of demonstration by reason, first acquaint us, how the soul, which is immaterial, is united to the body, in man? What are the bands and ligaments of that union, which it is certain there is between these two parts so very different in their nature? How the soul actuates and moves every member of the body at pleasure? How it is that the mind becomes affected with the indisposition of the body, and that with the disorder of the soul? Which are things as indisputable as they are inexplicable. I say, let those persons, before they reject mysteries in revelation, clearly explain these things to us. If they decline this as a task to which they are unequal; must they not grant that their own make is a standing evidence against their incredulity in divine things? Which is cherished by this vain pretence, that nothing is to be credited that is incomprehensible.

3. The Gospel is a mystery, or chain of truths which far transcend our reason. We are so far from denying this, that it is our avowed principle. In this light it is constantly represented by the Apostle: thus he speaks of it; “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints, To whom God would make known, what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Col. 1:26, 27): And elsewhere; “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world, to our glory,” (1 Cor. 2:7). The revelation of the scheme of salvation by a crucified Jesus, is in it full a mystery; it doth not bear this name merely because it was eternally hid in the divine mind where it was formed: ff all sacred truths were reducible to the reason of man, it might be justly expected that persons of superior understandings would most readily embrace them, and give the best account of them; whereas the contrary of that is true. Hence are those words of the Apostle; but the natural man yucikoV de anqrwpoV (psudhikos de anthropos), the man of soul, (1 Cor. 2:14), i.e. a person furnished with the utmost strength of reason, receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Which, in my opinion, is a sufficient proof, that the things of God are far above the reach of the most improved understanding, and greatest genius; and discovers the great vanity of those who plead the sentiments of polite persons, in their favor. Doctrines of the greatest importance are very mysterious and incomprehensible, among which are these:

(1) The Doctrine of the Trinity, or the proper deity and distinct personality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Concerning the divinity and personality of the Father, there is no dispute; and I apprehend, that if the scriptural account of the deity of the Son were diligently, and with due humility attended to, no objections would ever be advanced against it; because it is as expressly asserted in the sacred oracles as any truth therein contained; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). The works performed by Christ, the perfections which reside in him, and the religious worship which is given to him distinctly from the Father, clearly evince his proper deity. And since the same attributes are said to be in the Holy Spirit, as are in the Father and Son, and the same humble worship is to be paid to him, as distinct from them both, we have no just reason to doubt of his real divinity and distinct personality. This doctrine is a great mystery; but because we cannot explain how it is consistent with the unity of the divine essence, will it be safe or prudent for us to refuse credit to the clearest evidence for it in the Word of God? Surely, no.

(2) The union of the divine and human nature in the Person of the Mediator, is a glorious truth, and as great a mystery; the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, (John 1:14). The man Christ Jesus subsists in God, and God resides in him, in a manner not to be explained or conceived of by us; in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, (Col. 2:9). The Apostle pronounces this a great mystery; great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh. Let it be observed, that the thing itself is so; which is more than some seem willing to allow, who suppose that a mystery in Scripture, only intends something which has lain hid and reefer [sic], and that there is nothing mysterious or inexplicable in its nature. As for those who grant that the union of Christ with God, is ineffable and inconceivable, they have the less reason to object to the doctrine of the Trinity; because that cannot be accounted for and explained by us. Upon the same reasoning they may as well deny the union of Christ with God, as his proper Deity, and distinct Personality from the Father; which they would do well to consider.

(3) The whole of salvation by Christ crucified, is a mystery: the imputation of our sins to him, the infliction of the punishment due to us upon him, and our discharge from guilt on account thereof, the justification of our persons by his obedience, are precious truths, but very wonderful and mysterious; natural men, though ever so much improved in knowledge, esteem them irrational and unintelligible notions. Thus the Apostle acquaints us, that the cross of Christ, or the Doctrine of Redemption by his blood, was treated with contempt by the wise and learned; we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, (1 Cor. 2:23). Reason concludes, that a charge of guilt to an innocent person, and punishing of him as if he was the real offender, is an unaccountable method by which the criminal is to be discharged, and wholly freed from an imputation of offence. Nor doth it determine more in favor of accounting the righteousness of one perfectly holy, to sinful men, and acting towards them as righteous therein. There are mysteries not to be understood without divine illumination; the knowledge of them is a free gift, and he is a happy person who is enabled to spiritually discern and embrace them. In these doctrines he clearly sees divine wisdom and goodness are most eminently displayed; to him Christ as crucified is the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

(4) The Doctrine of the Resurrection is a great mystery. The body of man is composed of dust, to that it returns at death, and is changed into numerous forms; how far those particles of matter which once made up the body of a man may be separated, or with what a multitude of other bodies they may be mixed, none can tell. And therefore if reason is consulted in this article of faith, it is no wonder if it be thought an incredible thing. It is only a strict regard to the infinite knowledge and power of God, that will bring men over to the belief of it, the difficulties which attend it to human view, are too many and great. And yet this is a fundamental doctrine, and necessary to be believed, as is most clearly asserted by the Apostle; “…if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen, and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith also is vain,” (1 Cor. 15:13-14).

(5) The change which will pass upon the saints who shall remain, and be alive at the second coming of Christ, is a mystery; Behold, I shew you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, i.e. die; but we shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump (for the trumpet shall sound) and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed, (1 Cor. 15:51, 52). I apprehend the secrecy of this matter, before this revelation of it, is not the only reason why the Apostle calls it a mystery; for if so, it must be concluded, that there is nothing wonderful and mysterious in the thing itself, which no person, as I conceive, can imagine; for if our present frame be considered as mortal, and naturally tending to corruption and death, we shall see evident cause to allow [that] it is exceeding wonderful that all shall not die: as it is impossible corruption should inherit incorruption, it is absolutely necessary that our corrupt bodies should be freed from those qualities which now attend them. But then, how can we apprehend this wilt be done without our dying, and being reduced to dust as others are, especially that this surprising change should be wrought in a manner so sudden as the Apostle declares it will be. Certainly there is not any, taking the thing in this view, but will readily grant it to be a great mystery.

4. It is necessary that deacons should embrace, and steadfastly hold these heavenly truths. Every officer in a Christian community, we may reasonably suppose, has some particular interest in, and influence upon the members; and therefore may, with the more care, bring them over to his opinion; consequently it is very proper that his sentiments should be just, and, in all things of importance, agreeable to divine revelation; if not, what less than the spread of error can be expected from him? Hence there is special reason why these officers should hold the mystery of faith. All the saints are called upon to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to them; such as are chosen to office, are more especially under obligation to propagate and defend evangelical doctrines, the form of sound words ought to be held fast by them, and not departed from upon any score whatever.

5. They ought to hold the mystery of faith in a pure conscience, the word is suneidhsin (suneidesin), which is sometimes put for the whole heart, soul and spirit, working inwardly upon it fell by way of reflection; “And herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men,” (Acts 24:16); that is to say, a heart clear from guilt upon a most serious reflection on my conduct. The heart of every man is naturally polluted, and the conscience is defiled by sin contracted, and cannot be pure but as sanctified by the grace of God, and cleansed by the blood of Christ; therefore these doctrines are to be embraced and held with the heart, as made holy by the operations of God’s Spirit upon it. The head is not the seat of evangelical truths when they are received in a spiritual manner, but the soul, the heart, and mind. Persons who have thus believed them, will never be prevailed upon to part with them, either through the flattery of pretended friends, or the ill treatment of avowed enemies.

Fourthly, The business of deacons is to serve tables (Acts 6:2-3); that is to say, those which are to be furnished by the Church.

1st. The Table of the Lord. Christ hath instituted a solemn ordinance, by which his people commemorate his sufferings and death; of which institution the Apostle gives this account, “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread: And when he had given thanks he brake it, and said, take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come,” (2 Cor. 11:23-26). The great care, wisdom, and love of Christ, appear in this appointment; his evident design therein, is the consolation of the saints; it is, that their faith may be strengthened in his favor to them; and that they may increase in an abhorrence of sin, which was the cause of his passion and death. The deacons are to provide everything necessary for the celebration of this institution, but not at their own private expense, for that is the common concern of the community; therefore nothing more is to be expected from them in this particular, than to furnish the Table, and acquaint the Church with the charge, and bear their part in defraying of it. These officers are also to communicate the bread and wine to the several members of the society.

2ndly. It is a branch of their work to relieve the poor out of the Church’s stock raised for that purpose. The saints are commanded to show tenderness and compassion to the afflicted and low, it is the will of God that they should assist the necessitous, that is an acceptable service to him; to do good and communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased, (Heb. 13:16). This is a duty not only incumbent on those who abound in riches, though a larger contribution is justly to be expected from them; because much is required of such to whom much is given: but persons of a lower rank are under obligation to perform acts of charity, even those who live by, the labor of their hands; “Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth,” (Eph. 4:28). A warm affection to Christ, sincere love to the saints as his members, and a true sense of divine bounty towards us, will certainly prevail with us to cheerfully, and without grudging, practice this beneficence. It is the deacon’s business to receive the collections made by the Church, and assist such therewith whose circumstances call for help; and therefore, that the community may be put to no unnecessary charge, it is proper that these officers should visit the members who apply for assistance, and examine whether it is needful, or if their poverty arises from profuseness and indolence, which, if they find upon examination, they must reprove these persons and exhort them to frugality and diligence, that the Church may not be burdened with the cases of such: besides, visiting the poor members is necessary on another account; viz. that none may suffer by their too great modesty, which will not allow them to ask for that assistance which they really want; some such persons these are, though perhaps their number is not equal to that of those who are guilty of the other extreme: again; it may encourage the indigent and afflicted, to be visited by their brethren. If any shall think, that deacons are not obliged to this by virtue of their office, I apprehend they are greatly mistaken. Whatever is given to the poor, it ought to be with pity, and sweetness of disposition; not with sharp and unkind words, because the grief occasioned by rough language, may far exceed the service done them by what is communicated to them; and then also let it be considered, that the Lord loveth a cheerful giver.

3rdly . Another part of their business, is to take care of the minister’s table. It is very evident, that a minister of the Gospel ought to be provided for by those who enjoy the benefit of his ministrations; “Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth in all good things,” (Gal. 6:6). The temporal assistance which a diligent preacher of the divine Word receives from those who attend upon his ministry, is not to be compared with the advantage of his instructions, as is observed by the Apostle, treating on this argument; “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things,” (1 Cor. 9:11). It belongs to the deacons to consider, whether the Elder of the Church is agreeably furnished with the accommodations of life, and if he is not, to recommend the consideration of his [strained] circumstances to the members, in order to obtain a more liberal contribution from them, that he may not be pressed with difficulties; which, in no small degree will incommode [inconvenience; Ed.] him for the discharge of his important service. And if there be any of the society that either wholly neglect to bear a part in the minister’s support, or do not contribute to it according to their ability, they ought to reprove such, and exhort them to a faithful performance of their duty in this so just and reasonable a thing. It must be confessed, that some considerable difficulties will attend a strict and religious regard to the duties proper to this office, and therefore that you, my brethren, who have been now invested therewith, may not conclude that you have undertook a trust to which you shall prove unequal. I proceed,

Fifthly, To offer a few things for your encouragement in this undertaking.

1. The service to which you are called is Christ’s; his interest, and the good of his people are concerned in this matter. That being duly considered, will be sufficient of itself to inspire you with courage, and raise you above all the troubles which you are apprehensive will necessarily attend the execution of your office. We are all under infinite obligations to him; how great were the sufferings to which he freely submitted upon our account! What a variety of precious benefits do we receive from him! Our deliverance from eternal ruin cost him his life. A vast treasure of grace he expends upon his people to meeten [to render fit; Ed.] them for heaven, and will eternally communicate to them, to complete their happiness there. Therefore what work (wherein his honor is interested) shall we esteem too arduous for us to undertake, or what difficulties too great to encounter with? So we may but be instrumental in advancing the cause of One to whom we are thus highly obliged. If these things have their proper weight upon our minds, we shall think his yoke is easy and his burden is light, (Matthew 11:30).

2. He that has called you will certainly assist you in his service, and therefore you have no reason to be discouraged: Christ, the Head of the Church, has a fulness of grace in his hands; which is abundantly more than equal to the wants of his servants and members. Whatever exercises he brings upon his people, he is able and determined to afford them suitable support; as their days are, their strength shall be, (Deut. 33:25). And whenever he directs any in his providence to engage in his sacred work, he furnishes them for it. I am apprehensive, my brethren, that your minds may be struck with some concern, by hearing the qualifications that are necessary for persons who undertake this office and the duties proper to it, as being conscious of your own inability. But consider that your Lord is able to communicate every needful virtue, and to carry you through those difficulties which appear to you insuperable; his grace is sufficient for you, and his strength will be made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). It is with me unquestionable, that your eyes are directed to him from whom all your strength is derived. And may you of his fulness receive, and grace for grace, (John 1:16).

3. The office is difficult, but the honor arising from the proper discharge of it is great. I am very far from thinking that it is prudent or safe for us, to embark in the cause of religion with a view to acquire applause from men, or to raise our reputation in the world; that is an evident sign of a base and low disposition of mind. But then, it is lawful to animate and raise our spirits under a prospect of the troubles to which we expose ourselves, in an adherence to the interest of Christ, by considering, that it is an unspeakable honor put upon us, to be called to the meanest post in his house: thus the Psalmist did, as appears by his own words; “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand: I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness,” (Ps. 84:10).

I unfeignedly wish, that you may be enabled to use the office of deacons well, and so purchase to yourselves good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus, (1 Tim. 3:13).


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