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knowledge is infinitely more important and more excellent and useful, than that of the greatest statesmen or philosophers, even that which is spiritual and divine: They are set to be the means of bringing men out of darkness into God's marvellous light, and of bringing them to the infinite fountain of light, that in his light they may see light : They are set to instruct men, and impari to them that knowledge by which they may know God and Jesus Christ, whom to know is life eternal.
Another use of light is to refresh and delight the beholders. Darkness is dismal: the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is to behold the sun. Light is refreshing to those who have long sat in darkness: They therefore that watch and keep awake through a dark night, long and wait for the light of the morning; and the wise man observes, Prov. xv. 30, “ That the light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart.” Spiritual light is especially refreshing and joyful. Psalın xcvii. 11. “ Light is sown for the righteons, and gladness for the upright in heart.” They that see the light of Christ, the star that hath arisen out of Jacob, are refreshed and do rejoice, as the wise men that saw the star that showed them where Christ was, Matth. ii. 10. “ And when they saw
. the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy."
Ministers are set in the church of God to be the instruments of this comfort and refreshment to the souls of men, to be the instruments of leading souls to the God of all consolation, and fountain of their happiness : they are sent as Christ was, and as co-workers with him, to preach good tidings to the meek, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, and to comfort all that mourn: They are to lead those that “ Jabour and are heavy laden" to their true rest, and to speak a word in season to him that is weary: They are set to be ministers of the consolation and joy of the saints. 2 Cor. i. 24. “ We have not dominion over your faith; but are helpers of your joy." The third use of light is to direct. 'Tis by light that we see
“ He that walks in darkness knows not whither he goes," and is in danger of stumbling and falling into mischief. 'Tis by light that men see what to do, and are enabled to work; in the night Christ tells us no man can work. Minis
. ters are set to be lights to men's souls in this respect also; as Zacharias observes of John the Baptist, Luke i. 79, “ To guide our feet in the way of peace.” Ministers have the record of God committed to them that they may hold that forth, which God has given to be to man as a light shining in a dark place, to guide them in the way through this dark world, to regions of eternal light. Ministers are set to be instruments of conveying to men that true wisdom spoken of Job xxviii. “Which cannot
where to go :
be gotten for gold, nor shall silver be weighed for the price thereof; which cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire..
I proceed now to the
11. Thing proposed, viz. to show what is implied in a minister of the gospel's being a burning light.
There are these two things that seem naturally to be understood by this expression, viz. that his heart be filled with much of the holy ardour of a spirit of true piety; and that he be fervent and zealous in his administrations.
1. That his heart be full of much of the holy ardour of a spirit of true piety. We read of the power of godliness. True grace is no dull, inactive, ineffectual principle; it is a powerful thing; there is an exceeding energy in it; and the reason is, that God is in it ; it is a divine principle, a participation of the divine nature, and a communication of divire life, of the life of a risen Saviour, who exerts himself in the hearts of the saints, after the power of an endless life. They that have true grace in them, they live ; but not by their own life; but Christ lives in them: his Holy Spirit becomes in them a living principle and spring of divine life: the energy and power of which is in scripture compared to fire. Matth. iii 11. “ I indeed baptize you with
I water; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” True piety is not a thing remaining only in the head, or consisting in any speculative knowledge or opinions, or outward morality, or forms of religion; it reaches the heart, is chiefly seated there, and burns there. There is a holy ardour in every thing that belongs to true grace : true faith is an ardent thing, and so is true repentance; there is a holy power and ardour in true spiritual comfort and joy; yea, even in true Christian humility, submission and meekness. The reason is, that divine love or charity is the sum of all true grace, which is a holy flame enkindled in the soul : It is by this therefore especially, that a minister of the gospel is a burning light; a minisister that is so has his soul enkindled with the heavenly flame; his heart burns with love to Christ, and fervent desires of the advancement of his kingdom and glory: and also with ardeut love to the souls of men, and desires for their salvation.
2. The inward holy ardour of his soul is exercised and manifested in his being zealous and fervent in his administrations: for, he is a burning light : which implies that his spiritual heat and holy ardour is not for himself only, but is communicative and for the benefit of others : he is ardent, as he is a light, or in the performance of the duties of that office wherein he is set to be a light in the church of Christ. Ilis fervent zeal, which has its
foundation and spring in that holy and powerful flame of love to God and man, that is in his heart, appears in the fervancy of his prayers to God, for and with his people; and in the earnestness and power with which he preaches the word of God, declares to sinners their misery, aud warns them to fly from the wrath to come, and reproves, and testifies against all ungodli. ness; and the unfeigned earnestness and compassion with which he invites the weary and heavy laden to their Saviour; and the fervent love with which he counsels and comforts the saints; and the holy zeal, courage, and steadfastness, with which he maintains the exercise of discipline in the house of God, notwithstanding all the opposition he meets with in that difficult part of the ministerial work; and in the diligence and earnestness with which he attends every duty of his ministerial function, whether public or private.
But I hasten to the
III. Thing proposed in the handling of this subject, viz. To show what is implied in a ininister's being a shining light.
There are three things that seem'to be valurally signified by it.
1. That he be pure, clear, and full in his doctrine. A minister is set to be a light to men's souls, by teaching, or doctrine : and if he be a shining light in this respect, the light of his doctrine inust be bright and full; it must be pure without mixtures
; of darkness, and therefore he must be sound in the faith, not one that is of a reprobate mind; in doctrine he must show uncorruptness; otherwise his light will be darkness: He must not lead his people into errors, but teach them the truth only, guiding their feet into the way of peace, and leading them in the right ways of the Lord.
He must be one that is able to teach ; not one that is raw, ignorant, or unlearned, and but little versed in the things that he is to teach others; not a novice or one that is unskilful in the word of righteousness; he must be one that is well studied in divinity, well acquainted with the written word of God, mighty in the scriptures, and able to instruct and convince gainsayers.
And in order to be a shining light he must be one that really knows what religion is; one that is truly acquainted with that Saviour and way of salvation, that he is to teach to others, that he may speak the things that he knows, and testify the things that he has seen, and not be a blind leader of the blind : He must be one that is acquainted with experimental religion, and not ignorant of the inward operations of the Spirit of God, nor of Satan's devices; able to guide souls under their particular difficulties. Thus he must be a scribe well instructed in things that pertain to the kingdom of God; one that brings forth out of his treasures, things new and old. VOL. VIII.
And in order to his being a shining light, his doctrine must be full, he must not only be able to teach, but apt to teach, ready to instruct the ignorant, and them that are out of the way, and diligent in teaching, in public and private; and careful and faithful to declare the whole counsel of God, and not keep back any thing that may be profitable to his hearers.
Also his being a shining light implies that bis instructions are clear and plain, accommodated to the capacity of his hearers, and tending to convey light to their understandings.
2. Another thing requisite in order to a minister's being a shning light, is that he be discreet in all his administrations. T'he fervent zeal that thus should animate and actuate bim in his administrations should be regulated by discretion: He should not only be knowing, and able to communicate knowledge and formed to do it; but also wise, and know how to conduct himself in the house of God, as a wise builder, and a wise steward. And as he is one that God hath sent forth to labour in his field, and committed the care of his vineyard to, so he should conduct himself there as one whom his God doth instruct to discretion: He should not only be as harmless as a dove, but as wise as a serpent ; showing himself a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth; and one that knows how to govern the church of God, and to walk in wisdom towards those that are without. 3. Another thing implied in a minister's being a shining light
, is that be shines in his conversation: If he shines never so much in his doctrine and administrations in the house of God, yet if there be not an answerable brightness in his conversation, it will have a tendency to render all ineffectual. Christ, in Matth. v. 14, 15, 16, says to his disciples (having undoubtedly a special respect to those of them that were to be sent forth to preach the gospel)
“Ye are the light of the world :-Men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house." And how does Christ direct them to give light to others ? “Let your light,". says he, “so shine before men, that others seeing your good works, may glorify your Father which is in heaven." And he tells the same disciples again, John xv. 8, “Herein is my Father
. glorified, that ye bear much fruit." And how should they bring forth fruit? Christ tells them, verse 10, “If ye keep my conmandments, ye shall abide in my love," and verse 14, “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you."
God sent his Son into the world to be the light of the world these two ways, viz. By revealing his mind and will to the world, and also by setting the world a perfect example. So
ministers are set to be lights, not only as teachers, but as ensamples to the flock, 1 Peter v. 3.
The same things that ministers recommend to their hearers in their doctrine, they should also show them an example of in their practice. Thus the apostle says to Timothy, 1 Tim. iv. 11, “ These things command and teach ;" and then adds in the next verse, “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” So he directs Titus, in his teaching, to recommend sobriety, gravity, temperance, patience, and other virtues, in the beginning of the 2d chapter of Titus. But then adds in the 7th verse, all things showing thyself a pattern of good works.'
We see in natural bodies, that when heat is raised in them to a high degree, at length they begin to shine: And, as I observed before, a principle of true grace in the soul is like an inward heat, an holy ardour of an heavenly fire enkindled in the soul: This in ministers of the gospel ought to be to that degree, as to shine forth brightly in all their conversation; and there should as it were be a light about them wherever they go, exhibiting to all that behold them, the amiable, delightful image of the beauty and brightness of their glorious master.
I proceed to the
IV. Thing proposed, which is to show that the excellency of a minister of the gospel consists in his being thus both a burning and a shining light.
This is manifest in two things:
1. Herein his ministry is acceptable and amiable in the sight of God and men.
When light and heat are thus united in a minister of the gospel, it shows that each is genuine, and of a right kind, and that both are divine. Divine light is attended with heat; and so, on the other hand, a truly divine and holy heat and ardour is ever accompanied with light.
It is the glory of the sun that such a bright and glorious light, and such a powerful, refreshing, vivifying heat, are both together diffused from that luminary. When there is light in a minister, consisting in human learning, great speculative knowledge and the wisdom of this world, without a spiritual warmth and ardour in his heart, and a holy zeal in his ministrations, his light is like the light of an ignus fatuus, and some kinds of putrifying carcases that shine in the dark, though they are of a stinking savour.. And if on the other hand a minister has warmth and zeal, without light, his heat has nothing excellent in it, but is rather to be abhorred; being like the heat of the bottomless pit ; where, though the fire be great, yet there is no light. To be hot in this manner, and not lightsome, is to