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strengthen his hands in his work; and are ready to say to him, when called to exert himself in the more difficult parts of his work, as the people of old to Ezra the priest, when they saw him bowed down under the burden of a difficult affair, Ezra x. 4, "Arise, for this matter belongeth to thee: we, also, will be with thee: Be of good courage, and do it." They spare no pains nor cost to make their pastor's outward circumstances easy and comfortable, and free from pinching necessities and distracting cares, and to put him under the best advantages to follow his great work fully and successfully.

Such a pastor and people, as it is between a couple happily united in a conjugal relation, have a mutual sympathy with each other, a fellow-feeling of each other's burdens and calamities, and a communion in each other's prosperity and joy. When the people suffer in their spiritual interests, the pastor suffers he is afflicted when he sees their souls in trouble and darkness: he feels their wounds: and he looks on their prosperity and comfort as his own. 2 Cor. xi. 29. "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" 2 Cor. vii. 13. "We were comforted in your comfort." And, on the other hand, the people feel their pastor's burdens, and rejoice in his prosperity and consolations; see Phil. iv. 14, and 2 Cor. ii. 3.

(3.) This union is like that which is between a young man and a virgin in its fruits.

One fruit of it is mutual benefit: They become meet helps one for another. The people receive great benefit by the minister, as he is their teacher to communicate spiritual instructions and counsels to them, and is set to watch over them, to defend them from those enemies and calamities they are liable to; and so is, under Christ, to be both their guide and guard, as the husband is of the wife. And, as the husband provides the wife with food and clothing, so the pastor, as Christ's steward, makes provision for his people, and brings forth out of his treasure things new and old, gives every one his portion of meat in due season, and is made the instrument of spiritually clothing and adorning their souls. And, on the other hand, the minister receives benefit from the people, as they minister greatly to his spiritual good by that holy converse to which their union to him as his flock leads them. The conjugal relation leads the persons united therein to the most intimate acquaintance and conversation with each other; so the union there is between a faithful pastor and a Christian people, leads them to intimate conversation about things of a spiritual nature. It leads the people most freely and fully to open the case of their souls to the pastor, and leads him to deal most freely, closely, and thoroughly with them, in things pertaining thereto. And this conversation not only tends to

their benefit, but, also, greatly to his. And the pastor receives benefit from the people outwardly, as they take care of, and order his outward accommodations for his support and comfort, and do, as it were, spread and serve his table for him.

Another fruit of this union, wherein it resembles the conjugal, is a spiritual offspring. There is wont to arise from the union of such a pastor and people, a spiritual race of children. These new-born children of God are, in the Scripture, represented both as the children of ministers, as those who have begotten them through the gospel; and, also, as the children of the church, who is represented as their mother that hath brought them forth, and at whose breasts they are nourished; as in Isa. liv. 1, and lxvi. 11. Gal. iv. 26. 1 Pet. ii. 2, and many other places.

Having thus briefly shown, how the uniting of faithful ministers with Christ's people, in the ministerial office, when done in a due manner, is like a young man marrying a virgin, I proceed now to the

II. PROP. viz. That this union of ministers with the people of Christ, is in order to their being brought to the blessedness of a more glorious union, in which Christ shall rejoice over them as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride.

1. The saints are, and shall be, the subjects of this blessedness. Of all the various kinds of union, of sensible and temporal things that are used in Scripture, to represent the relation there is between Christ and his church; that which is between bridegroom and bride, or husband and wife, is much the most frequently made use of, both in the Old and New: Testament. The Holy Ghost seems to take a peculiar delight in this, as a similitude fit to represent the strict, intimate, and blessed union that is between Christ and his saints. The apostle intimates, that one end why God appointed marriage, and established so near a relation as that between husband and wife, was, that it might be a type of the union that is between Christ and his church; in Eph. v. 30, 31, 32-"For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they two shall be one flesh." For this cause, i. e. because we are members of Christ's body, of his flesh and of his bones, God appointed that man and wife should be so joined together, as to be one flesh, to represent this high and blessed union between Christ and his church. The apos-: tle explains himself in the next words, "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church." This institution of marriage, making the man and his wife one flesh, is a great mystery; i. e. there is a great and glorious mystery hid in the design of it: and the apostle tells us what that glo

rious mystery is" I speak concerning Christ and the church:" as much as to say, the mystery I speak of, is that blessed union that is between Christ and his church, which I spoke of before.

This is a blessed union indeed; of which that between a faithful minister and a Christian people is but a shadow. Ministers are not the proper husbands of the church, though their union to God's people, as Christ's ambassadors, in several respects resembles the conjugal relation: but Christ is the true husband of the church, to whom the souls of the saints are espoused indeed, and to whom they are united as his flesh and his bones, yea, and one spirit; to whom they have given themselves in an everlasting covenant, and whom alone they cleave to, love, honour, obey, and trust in, as their spiritual husband, whom alone they reserve themselves for as chaste virgins, and whom they follow whithersoever he goeth. There are many ministers in the church of Christ, and there may be several pastors of one particular church; but the church has but one husband, all others are rejected and despised in comparison of him; he is among the sons as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood; they all are barren and worthless, he only is the fruitful tree; and therefore, leaving all others, the church betakes herself to him alone, and sits under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to her taste; she takes up her full and entire rest in him, desiring no other.The relation between a minister and people shall be dissolved, and may be dissolved before death; but the union between Christ and his church shall never be dissolved, neither before death nor by death, but shall endure through all eternity; "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but Christ's conjugal love and kindness shall not depart from his church; neither shall the covenant of his peace, the marriagecovenant, be removed." Isa. liv. 1.-The union between a faithful minister and a Christian people is but a partial resemblance even of the marriage union; it is like marriage only in some particulars: but with respect to the union between Christ and his church, marriage is but a partial resemblance, yea, a faint shadow. Every thing desirable and excellent in the union between an earthly bridegroom and bride, is to be found in the union between Christ and his church; and that in an infinitely greater perfection and more glorious manner.-There is infinitely more to be found in it than ever was found between the happiest couple in a conjugal relation; or could be found if the bride and bridegroom had not only the innocence of Adam and Eve, but the perfection of angels.

Christ and his saints, standing in such a relation as this one to another, the saints must needs be unspeakably happy. Their mutual joy in each other is answerable to the nearness of their relation and strictness of their union. Christ rejoices over the

church as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, and she rejoices in him as the bride rejoices in the bridegroom. My text has respect to the mutual joy that Christ and his church should have in each other: for though the joy of Christ over his church only is mentioned, yet it is evident that this is here spoken of and promised as the great happiness of the church, and therefore supposes her joy in him.

The mutual joy of Christ and his church is like that of bridegroom and bride, in that they rejoice in each other, as those whom they have chosen above others, for their nearest, most intimate, and everlasting friends and companions. The church is Christ's chosen, Isa. xli. 9. "I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away ?" chap. xlviii. 10. "I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." How often are God's saints called his elect or chosen ones? He has chosen them, not to be mere servants, but friends; John xv. 15. "I call you not servants ;-but I have called you friends." And though Christ be the Lord of glory, infinitely above men and angels, yet he has chosen the elect to be his companions; and has taken upon him their nature; and so in some respect, as it were, levelled himself with them, that he might be their brother and companion. Christ, as well as David, calls the saints his brethren and companions, Psalm cxxii. 8. "For my brethren and companions' sake I will now say, Peace be within thee." So in the book of Canticles, he calls his church his sister and spouse. Christ hath loved and chosen his church as his peculiar friend, above others; Psalm CXXXV. 4. "The Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure." As the bridegroom chooses the bride for his peculiar friend, above all others in the world; so Christ has chosen his church for a peculiar nearness to him, as his flesh and his bone, and the high honour and dignity of espousals above all others, rather than the fallen angels, yea, rather than the elect angels. For verily, in this respect, taketh not hold of angels, but he taketh hold of the seed of Abraham;" as the words are in the original, Heb. ii. 16. He has chosen his church above the rest of mankind, above all the Heathen nations, and those that are without the visible church, and above all other professing Christians, Cant. vi. 9. "My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her." Thus Christ rejoices over his church, as having obtained in her that which he has chosen above all the rest of the creation, and as sweetly resting in his choice; Psalm cxxxii. 13, 14. "The Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it.—This is my rest for ever."


On the other hand, the church chooses Christ above all others; he is in her eyes the chief among ten thousands, fairer than the sons of men: she rejects the suit of all his rivals, for his sake her heart relinquishes the whole world; he is her pearl of

great price, for which she parts with all; and rejoices in him, as the choice and rest of her soul.

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Christ and his church, like the bridegroom and bride, rejoice in each other, as having a special propriety in each other. All things are Christ's; but he has a special propriety in his church. There is nothing in heaven or earth, among all the creatures, that is his, in that high and excellent manner that the church is his They are often called his portion and inheritance; they are said, Rev. xiv. 4, to be "the first-fruits to God and the Lamb." As of old, the first-fruit was that part of the harvest that belonged to God, and was to be offered to him; so the saints are the first fruits of God's creatures, being that part which is in a peculiar manner Christ's portion, above all the rest of the creation, James i. 18. "Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." And Christ rejoices in his church, as in that which is peculiarly his, Isa. lxv. 19. "I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people." The church has also a peculiar propriety in Christ: though other things are hers, yet nothing is hers in that manner that her spiritual bridegroom is hers. Great and glorious as he is, yet he, with all his dignity and glory, is wholly given to her, to be fully possessed and enjoyed by her, to the utmost degree that she is capable of: therefore we have her so often saying in the language of exultation and triumph, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." Cant. ii. 16. and vi. 3. and vii. 10.

Christ and his church, like the bridegroom and bride, rejoice in each other, as those that are the objects of each other's most tender and ardent love. The love of Christ to his church is altogether unparalleled: the height and depth and length and breadth of it pass knowledge: for he loved the church, and gave himself for it; and his love to her proved stronger than death. And on the other hand, she loves him with a supreme affection: nothing stands in competition with him in her heart; she loves him with all her heart. Her whole soul is offered up to him in the flame of love. And Christ rejoices, and has sweet rest and delight in his love to the church; Zeph. iii. 17. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy: he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." So the church, in the exercise of her love to Christ, rejoices with unspeakable joy; 1 Pet. i. 7, 8. "Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believe him, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory."

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Christ and his church rejoice in each other's beauty. The church rejoices in Christ's divine beauty and glory. She as it were, sweetly solaces herself in the light of the glory of the sun VOL. VI.


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