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given us. John, 17: 8. He spake to us that which he had seen with his Father. John, 8:38. What man can tell the bosom counsels and secrets of God? Who but he that eternally lay in that bosom can expound them? Besides, other prophets had their times assigned them to rise, shine, and set again by death; "Your fathers, where are they? And do the prophets live for ever?" Zech. 1: 5. But Christ is a fixed and perpetual sun that gives light in all ages of the world; for he is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Heb. 13:8. Yea, and the very beams of his Divinity shone with awfulness upon the hearts of them that heard him ; so that his very enemies were forced to acknowledge, that never man spake like him.” John, 7 : 46.
3. It implies that Christ is the original and fountain of all the light which is ministerially diffused by men. Ministers are but stars which shine with a borrowed light from the sun : so speaks the apostle, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor. 4:6. Those that teach men, must be first' taught by Christ. What Paul received from the Lord, he delivered to the church. 1 Cor. 11 : 23. Jesus Christ is the chief Shepherd, 1 Pet. 5:4; and all the under shepherds receive their gifts and commissions from him. These things are manifestly implied in Christ's prophetical office.
II. We shall next inquire how he executes and discharges this his office, or how he enlightens and teaches men the will of God.
1. Our great Prophet hath revealed unto men the will of God variously; not holding one uniform and constant tenor in the manifestations of the Father's will, but "at sundry times, and in divers manners.” Heb. 1: 1. Sometimes he taught the church immediately, and in
his own person. John, 18 : 20. He declared God's righteousness in the great congregation. Psa. 22 : 22. And sometimes mediately by his ministers and officers, deputed to that service by him. So he dispensed the knowledge of God to the church before his incarnation : it was Christ that in the time, and by the ministry of Noah, "went and preached to the spirits in prison.” 1 Pet. 3:19; that is, to men and women then alive, but now separated from the body, and imprisoned in hell for their disobedience. And it was Christ that was with the church in the wilderness, instructing and guiding them by the ministry of Moses and Aaron, Acts, 7:37, 38; and so he has taught the church since his ascension. He is not now personally with us, yet he still teaches us by his officers, whom, for that end, he has set and appointed in the church. Eph. 4:11, 12.
2. He has dispensed his blessed light to the church gradually. The discoveries of light have been monuurgas, that is, in many parts or parcels; sometimes more obscure and cloudy; as to the Old Testament believers, by visions, dreams, Urim, Thummim, vocal oracles, types, sacrifices, &c. which, though they were comparatively but a weak, glimmering light, and had no glory compared to that which now shines, 2 Cor. 3:7-11, yet were sufficient for the instruction and salvation of the elect in those times; but now is light sprung up gloriously in the Gospel dispensation : "And we all, with open face, behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord.” It is to us not a twilight, but the light of a perfect day; and still is advancing in the several ages of the world. I know more, saith Luther, than blessed Austin knew; and they that come after me, will know more than I know.
3. Jesus Christ, our great Prophet, has manifested to us the will of God plainly and perspicuously. When he was on earth he taught the people by parables, and " without a parable he spake nothing.” Matt. 13 : 34. He clothed sublime and spiritual mysteries in earthly metaphors, bringing them thereby to the low and dull capacities of men, speaking so familiarly to the people about them, as if he had been speaking earthly things to them. John, 3: 12. And so, according to his own example, would he have his ministers preach, "using great plainness of speech," 2 Cor. 3: 12, and by manifestation of the truth, "commending themselves to every
man's conscience.” 2 Cor. 4 : 2. Yet he does not allow them to be rude and careless in expression, pour. ing out indigested, crude, immethodical words: no, a holy, serious, strict, and grave expression befits the lips of his ambassadors; and who ever spake more weightily, more logically, or persuasively, than that apostle, by whose pen Christ has admonished us to beware of vain affections and swelling words of vanity ? But he would have us stoop to the understanding of the meanest, and not give the people a comment darker than the text: he would have us rather pierce their ears than amuse their fancies; and break their hearts, than please their ears. Christ was a very plain preacher.
4. Jesus Christ dispensed truth powerfully ; speaking "as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Matt. 7:29. They were cold and dull preachers, their words did even freeze between their lips ; but Christ spake with
power ; there was heat as well as light in his doce trine : and so there is still, though it be in the mouth of poor, contemptible men. " The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds.” 2 Cor. 10 : 4. His word is still
quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword; and piercing, to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.” Heb. 4 : 12. The blessed apostle imitated Christ; and being filled with his Spirit, spake home and freely to the hearts of men: so
cry, nor lift
many words, so many claps of thunder, (as Augustine said of him,) which made the hearts of sinners shake and tremble. All faithful and able ministers are not alike gifted in this particular; but, surely, there is a holy seriousness and spiritual grace and majesty in their doctrine, commanding reverence from their hearers.
5. This Prophet, Jesus Christ, taught the people the mind of God in a sweet, affectionate, and persuasive manner : his words made their hearts burn within them. Luke, 24 : 32. It was prophesied of him, "He shall not
up, nor cause his voice to be heard on high. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.” Isa. 42:2, 3. He knew how to speak a word in season to the weary soul. Isa. 50 : 4. He gathered the lambs with his arms, and gently led those that were with young. Isa. 40:11. How sweetly did his words fall on the melting hearts about him! he drew with cords of love, and with the bands of a man: he discouraged none, upbraided none that were willing to come to him; his familiarity and free condescensions to the most vile and despicable sinners, were often made a matter of reproach to him. Such is his gentle and sweet carriage to his people, that the church is called the Lamb's wife. Rev. 19:7.
6. He revealed the mind of God purely to men: his doctrine had not the least mixture of error to debase it; his most enviously observant hearers could find nothing to charge him with: he is " the faithful and true witness," Rev. 1:5; and he has commanded his ministers to preserve the simplicity and purity of the Gospel, and not to blend and sophisticate it. 2 Cor. 4: 2.
7. He revealed the will of God perfectly and fully, keeping back nothing needful to salvation. So he tells his disciples, "All things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you.” John, 15:15. He was faithful, as a Son, over his own house.” Heb. 3:6.
INFERENCE 1. If Jesus Christ, who is now passed into the heavens, be the great Prophet and Teacher of the church, we may justly infer the continual necessity of the Gospel ministry; for by his ministers he now teaches us, and to that intent has fixed them in the church, by a firm constitution, there to remain to the end of the world. Matt. 28 : 20. "We pray you in Christ's stead," 2 Cor. 5 : 20. These officers he gave the church at his ascension, that is, when he ceased to teach them any longer with his own lips; and so set them in the church, that their succession shall never totally fail : for so the word ebeto, he hath set, 1 Cor. 12 : 28, plainly implies. They are set by a sure establishment, a firm and unalterable constitution, and it is well they are; for how many adversaries in all ages have endeavored to shake the very office itself, pretending that it is need. less to be taught by men, and wresting such a scripture as this to countenance their error: "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and daughters shall prophesy," &c. Joel, 2:28, 29. But if an Old Testament prophecy may be understood according to a New Testament interpretation, that prophecy no way opposes, but actually confirms the Gospel ministry. How the apostle understood the prophecy, may be seen in Acts, 2:17, where he applies it to the Spirit that was poured out on the day of Pentecost upon the apostles.
God has given ministers to the church for the work of conversion and edification, "till we all come in the unity of the faith, unto a perfect man.” Eph. 4:11-13. So that when all the elect are converted, and all those converts become perfect men; when there is no error in judgment or practice, and no seducer to cause it, then, and not till then, will a Gospel ministry be useless. Indeed, as one has well observed, there is not a man that opposes a Gospel ministry, but the very being of that man is a sufficient argument for the continuance of it.