[Sketch of a Sermon addressed to the Church at Moulton
on the Ordination of Mr. (now Dr.) Carey, August 1, 1787.]
"Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." Psalm lxviii. 18.
SOME think it refers to Gods goings forth in behalf of his people Israel, leading them forth to victory, taking their enemies captive, and enriching them with the spoils. Suppose it be so, we are warranted to consider it as mainly referring to Christ, for so the apostle Paul has applied it, Ephesians iv. 8.
The apostle not only applies it to Christ, but proves it applicable. Thus he reasons, verses 9, 10, "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended," &c. The captivity which he led captive was our spiritual enemies who had led us captive Satan, death. And, having obtained the victory, he proceeds to divide the spoils. Gifts to men. As David made presents. And hence comes our ordinances, ministers, &c. There was a glorious fulfilment immediately after his ascension, in a rich profusion of gifts and graces to his church, like David's presents. Here it is "received;" in Ephesians "gave." He received that he might give, received the spoil that he might distribute it. But as I wish to appropriate the passage to the work allotted me, the whole of that to which I would at this time call your attention will be contained in two things:
I. THE GREAT BLESSING OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.
1. Ministers are received for and are given to you by Christ. As men, and as sinful men, ministers are as nothing, and wish not to make any thing of themselves; but as the gifts of Christ it becomes you to make much of them. (1.) If you love Christ, you will make much of your minister, on account of his being his gift. A gift designed to supply Christ's absence in a sort. He is gone, ("ascended,") but he gives you his servants. By and by you hope to be with him, but as yet you are as sheep in the wilderness. He gives you a shepherd. (2.) If you fear God, you will be afraid of treating your pastor amiss, seeing he is the gift of Christ. God took it ill of Israel for despising Moses, Numbers xii. 8. He is my servant.
3. Consider your unworthiness of such a blessing. You are men, mere men, and, what is more, rebellious men, who had joined with Satan. And must you share the spoils? It is not usual to divide the spoils amongst rebels . . . . Men that put him to death had these gifts given to them. And we should all have done the same. Some of you, it is likely, have been vile and abandoned characters, and yet, &c. . . .
4. The end of it: "That the Lord God might dwell among them." "But will God indeed dwell with men?" God had not dwelt with the world, nor in it, while sin bore the rule; but Christ's mediation was for the bringing it about. "Will God indeed dwell with men?" He will; and how? It is by the means of ordinances and ministers. A church of Christ is God's house, and where any one builds a house it is a token that he means to dwell there. What a blessing to a village, a country, for God to build a house in it. It is by this that we may hope for a blessing upon the means to the conversion of our children and friends, and for the edification of believers.
II. POINT OUT SOME CORRESPONDING DUTIES AS ANSWERING TO THESE YOUR PRIVILEGES.
1. Constant and diligent attendance at the house of God. If the house of God be God's dwelling, let it be yours, your home. If God gives you a pastor, do you thankfully receive and prize him. He hath not dealt so with every village.
2. Cheerfully contribute to his support. Christ has given you freely, and you ought to give him freely. Consider it is not as a gift, but as a debt; and not as done to him, but to Christ.
3. Follow those things which make for peace, with which the presence and blessing of God are connected.
4. Shun those things that tend to provoke the Lord to withdraw his gifts, and to cease to dwell among you.