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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

The servant's ministerial authority cannot be denied


It must be obtained also, that the ministers have a right to preach in this unfixed manner, wherever they have a call; their relation now, in this disturbed state of the church, being to be considered more extensively, than in its unsettled condition. For understanding which, we must distinguish a three or fourfold relation, that a minister of the gospel stands into. First, He is a minister of Christ, and steward of the mysteries of God, 1 Cor. iv. 1. having his commission from Christ as his master: and this relation he hath universally, wherever he is. Secondly, He is a minister of the catholic church, though not a catholic minister of it, which is his primary relation; for that is the church, in which ministers are set, 1 Cor. xii. 28. and to which they are given, Eph. iv. 11, 22. Thirdly, He is a minister of the particular church whereof he is a member; and so in Scotland, a minister is a minister of the church of Scotland, and is obliged to lay out himself for the good of that church. Fourthly, He is a minister of the particular congregation, whereunto he hath a fixed relation in a constitute case of the church: this last is not essential to a minister of Christ, but is subservient to the former relation; but when separated from such a relation, or when it is impossible to be held, he is still a minister of Christ, and his call to preach the gospel stands and binds. See Mr. Durham's digression on this particular, on Rev. chap. 2. pag. 89. &c. in quarto. For though he be
not a catholic-officer, having an equal relation to all churches, as the Apostles were; nevertheless he may exercise ministerial acts authoritatively, upon occasions warrantably calling for the same, in other churches, as heralds of one king, having authority to charge in his name where-ever it be: especially in a broken state of the church, when all the restriction his ministerial relation is capable of, is only a tie and call to officiate in the service of that church whereof he is a member; and so he hath right to preach every where, as he is called for the edification of that church. The reasons are, 1. He hath power from Christ the master of the whole church; and therefore, wherever the master's authority is acknowledged, the servant's ministerial authority cannot be denied; at least in relation to that church, whereof he is a member as well as a minister. 2. He hath commission from Christ principally for the edification of Christ's body, as far as his ministry can reach, according to the second relation. 3. His relation to the whole church is principal, that which is fixed to a part is only subordinate, because it is a part of whole 4. His commission is indefinite to preach the gospel, which will suit as well in one place as in another. 5. The same great ends of the church's great good and edification, which warrants fixing of a minister to a particular charge in the church's peaceable state. 6. Else it would follow, that a faithful minister, standing in that relation to a disturbed and destroyed church, and all his gifts and graces were useless in that case, which notwithstanding are given for the good of the church. 7. Yea, by this, when his fixed relation cannot be kept, it would follow, that he ceased to be a minister, and his commission expired; so that he should stand in no other relation to Christ, than any private person so qualified, which were absurd: for by commission he is absolutely set apart for the work of the ministry, so long as Christ hath work for him, if he continue faithful. 8. This hath been the practice of all the propagators of the gospel from the beginning, and of our reformers in particular; without which they could never have propagated it so far: and it was never accounted the characteristic of apostles, to preach unfixedly; because in times of persecutions, pastors and doctors also might have preached wherever they came, as the officers of the church of Jerusalem did, when scattered upon the persecution of Stephen, Acts viii. 1. did go every where preaching the word, ver. 4. Since therefore they may and must preach, in this unfixed manner, they must in this broken state look upon all the godly in the nation, that will own and hear them, to be their congregation, and embrace them all, and consult their conveniency and universal advantage, in such a way as all equally may be admitted, and none excluded from the benefit of their ministry. And therefore they must go to the fields with it.

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