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EPH. iv. 11, 12.
And he gave some, apostles; and some. prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
IT is impossible to read this plain statement without perceiving, that our Lord Jesus Christ intended his disciples to be formed into a society, under rulers and governors appointed by himself; for they are expressly called " the body of Christ ;" and the several a officers, by whose ministration they were to be "edified" and "per"fected," are said to have been "given by "him."
The Apostle does not indeed here enumerate the different orders of the priest
a See Note XIII. Appendix.
hood, as we find them afterwards established; because it was not his object to instruct the Ephesians in the particular form of ecclesiastical government ordained by Christ; but to convince them that it was their duty to maintain the b❝ unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." And this he does, by shewing them that they were members of a society, expressly instituted for the preservation of unity; and for that reason provided by its divine Founder with ministers of different ranks, and separate duties; each of whom in his station was to labour for the peace and good order of the Church; and to lead its members, by degrees, to that perfection of knowledge and practice, which he afterwards calls “the
measure of the stature of the fulness of "Christ."
The text therefore, speaking of the Church as a visible society framed by Christ; and declaring that they who bear rule in it, officiate by virtue of a commission received from him; naturally di
Eph. iv. 13.
b Eph. iv. 3.
rects our thoughts to that subject, which it is the design of the present discourse to illustrate. If the Church be a visible society, it must have a visible form of government; that form of government must be administered by certain fixed and lawful authorities; and to that government every man, who continues a member of the society, is bound to conform; and to obey the power, by which it is administered.
These propositions are assumed as the basis of the whole argument; and they lead us to inquire, what was the form of Church government which our Saviour instituted; and who were the rulers appointed by him to uphold its authority.
That no doubt might remain in the mind of Christians, as to the nature of that Church into which they were admitted, it is spoken of in the Scriptures under various names, which all illustrate the same truth; that it is a spiritual incorporation, of which Christ is the head. It is called the d❝ kingdom of heaven," the
d Matt. xiii. 11.
e❝ dominion of Christ," the f" city," the g "house," and the h" household of "God:" every one of these terms conveys the idea of association, and declares the head or governor of this society to be the Lord Christ.
To distinguish it however from mere temporal governments, all of which may in some sense be called the kingdom of God, since he ruleth over all; and to convince us that the sovereignty of Christ over his Church is of a more specific and particular kind, than the superintendance of God's providence over secular kingdoms; we are told in the text, and in other parts of Scripture, that the Church is “the "body of Christ," k united to him, and under his influence, as the natural body is joined to the head, and directed by it; and that by virtue of our admittance into it, we are all become members of this one body, and are therefore bound to obey him, and to love one another.
f Heb. xii. 22.
i Eph. i 23.
e Dan. vii. 14.
h Eph. ii. 19.
g Heb. x. 21.
Col. i. 24.
1 Rom. xii. 5.