1 Samuel 9:18
Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray you, where the seer's house is.
There is a striking resemblance between the outlines of the Mosaic, and of the Christian Church. Each arose upon a Divine basis. Each had its form of imitation and symbolic rites. Each had its three orders of ministers in the sanctuary. And each boasts of a Divine Being at its head. As in the one, so in the other, the covenant is in the hands of a Mediator, and its principles and laws are deposited in a sacred code. There is, indeed, in the Christian Church, a higher degree of spirituality than is found under any other dispensation. Here, the daily sacrifice and oblation cease, absorbed, in their significance, in that great sacrifice, of which, to the eye of faith, they all were figures. But in the constitution of this Church, our blessed Lord did not overlook the ancient pattern of heavenly things, nor forget the nature of man.
1. The first point to which I would call your attention, is the fitness and utility of Religious Ordinances. There are in truth, no such obvious, simple, and universal means of preserving communities distinct, and manifesting their members to the world and to each other, as characteristic rights and peculiar badges. Nature prompts to the use of them; for the savage of the woods has the song and the ceremonies of his ancestors, and by the gashings and daubings with which he disfigures his form, denotes his tribe. Reason and policy have discovered their utility; for the armies of the ambitious have their uniforms and their standards; and almost every nation has its mode of naturalising subjects, its oaths of allegiance, and its arms. Indeed so fit and necessary are they, that few communities continue long without them, or survive the loss of them; and they who denounce all rites as useless, are obliged to recur to peculiarity of dress, of phrase, or of gesture, when they would be known to each other, and distinguished from the world. Hitherto our observations have been of a general nature applicable go any community. What, then, shall we say of the propriety and importance of rites and ordinances, in the service of religion? To the Jews, God appointed a system of ceremonies, to connect them together, and shadow forth the sublime subjects of faith to their understandings. And our adorable Redeemer instituted for His followers a baptism, which should represent their "death unto sin, and new birth unto righteousness"; and a supper, in which they should commemorate the foundation of all their hopes and joys, His offering Himself in the body once for all. Religious ordinances are of unspeakable advantage, in uniting members of the same body, and attaching them affectionately to each other. They form a kind of visible chain connoting men together; the first and last links of which are connected with God. Community of interest begets confidence; and while we are pursuing the same objects, under consciousness of the saint infirmities, but with reliance upon the same hopes, we are filled, involuntarily, with affection for each other. This strikingly illustrated in the natural tendency, and no doubt was strong in our Redeemer's view at the gracious institution, of the Lord's Supper.
2. There arises from the nature of the Christian ordinances, a peculiar necessity for an authorised ministry. These sacraments are of high and holy import. Like the ark of the covenant, they are not to be carried by unhallowed hands. They are seals of an engagement between God and men. They are compacts between the Almighty Father and His repentant children, in which He pledges Himself, upon condition of their faith and obedience, to give them the pardon of their sins, the blessings of His Spirit, and the enjoyment of eternal life. And who can sign the covenant of such mercies unto men, but they who act in God's behalf? And who can act in God's behalf, but they who act by God's authority? Not, that in those to whom this ministry is committed, there is any elevation above the ordinary qualities of their fellow beings. "We have this treasure," says St. Paul, speaking of the great Christian behests entrusted to the ministry, "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
3. Here we are brought to notice the obligations, which the truths we have been considering devolve upon ministers and people. The first and most obvious inference is, that it is incumbent upon us all to respect and observe the institutions of the Gospel. But the truths we have been considering, press upon our observation the holiness, and importance, and duties of the ministry. They are the keepers of the fountain, which is set open for mankind to wash in from sin and from uncleanness, and they are the dispensers of the word, by which we are instructed in righteousness, and begotten again to the blessed hope of everlasting life. Under the Christian dispensation, much more than under the Jewish economy, should there be written upon the foreheads of the priesthood, and upon all their sacred vestments, "Holiness unto the Lord." But, finally, we must remark, that there arises from what has been said, an obligation upon the people to abide by, and cooperate with those, who are regularly appointed to minister in holy things. In vain will God have instituted ordinances in the Church, in vain will He have established in it pastors and teachers, if the body of Christians neglect, or profane, these sacred institutions, or with Gallio's temper, "care for none of these things."
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer's house is.