Ratified in Heaven

From Horae Homileticae, 146 (1832)

The exercise of blessing is that which every child of God should cultivate to the uttermost, but ministers above all should consider it as the distinguishing badge of their office. They are compelled indeed sometimes to “use sharpness,” but whether they rebuke, or whether they exhort, they should be actuated by nothing but a principle of love. Under the law, it was a very important part of the priestly office to bless the people, and God prescribed a form of words to be used by Aaron and his sons in the discharge of that duty… and there are no better words to express the scope and end of the Christian ministry.

God is here making known his will to Moses and directing him what orders to give to Aaron and his sons respecting the execution of their priestly office and there are two duties which he assigns to them.  The first is to bless the people in God’s name.  This was repeatedly declared to be their office and the constant practice of the apostles shows that it was to be continued…

In conformity to their example, the Christian Church has universally retained the custom of closing the service with a pastoral benediction. We are not indeed to suppose that ministers can, by any power or authority of their own, convey a blessing. They can neither select the persons who shall be blessed, nor fix the time, the manner or the degree in which any shall receive a blessing.  Rather, as stewards of the mysteries of God, they dispense the bread of life, assuredly expecting that their Divine Master will give a salutary effect to the ordinances of his own appointment. The direction in the text was confirmed with an express promise, that what they speak on earth, will be ratified in heaven.  And every faithful minister may take encouragement from this in the discharge of duty.  Clergy may consider God speaking to them: “You pronounce blessing to the congregation, and I will bless them.”

The second duty, to “put the name of God upon them,” is to challenge the people as “his portion, the lot of his inheritance” (Deut. 32:9). This every minister must do in most authoritative terms; and not only claim them as his property, but excite them with all earnestness to surrender up themselves to his service. Nor shall such exhortations be lost; for God will accompany them “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.”  And the people, constrained by a divine impulse, shall say, “I am the Lord’s” (Isa. 44:3-5). Moreover, in their intercessions for the people, ministers are also to urge this plea with God on their behalf (Dan 9:17-19Jer 14:9).  Thus are they to strengthen the connection between God and them and to promote that fellowship with God, which is the end, as well as means, of all spiritual communications…

The priests under the law, while they blessed the people, typically represented the office of Christ himself.  Christ as our High-Priest performs every part of the priestly office: and it is remarkable that he was in the very act of blessing his disciples, when he was taken up from them into heaven (Luke 24:50-51). Nor did Christ then cease, but rather began, as it were, to execute that office, which he has been fulfilling from that time to the present hour. St. Peter, preaching afterwards to a vast concourse of people, declared to them, that to bless them was the great end for which Jesus had ascended, and that he was ready, both as a Prince and a Savior, to give them repentance and remission of sins, Acts 3:26Acts 5:31. Let us then conceive the Lord Jesus standing now in the midst of us, and, with uplifted hands, pronouncing the benediction in the text; is there one among us who would not add, “Amen, Amen?” Nor let this be thought a vain and fanciful idea, since Christ has promised to be wherever two or three are gathered together in his name…


Though ministers are used as instruments to convey blessings, God himself is the only author and giver of them.  The very words, which the priests were commanded to use, directed the attention of all to God himself… We ought indeed to reverence God’s ministers as the authorized dispensers of his blessings (1 Thess 5:13). But we must look to God alone for the blessings themselves and we must endeavor to exercise faith on the Father as the fountain of them, on Christ as the channel in which they flow, and on the Holy Spirit as the agent, by whose divine energy they are imparted to the soul (Rev 1:4-5). At the same time we should remember the obligation which these mercies lay us under to devote ourselves entirely to the service of our gracious and adorable Benefactor.

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) was an English cleric, the most prominent evangelical Anglican leader of his time. He served Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge for 43 years, converting thousands of students, and inspiring many to ordained ministry, especially in the mission field.  He helped to organize the Church Missionary Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society. His great work was the Horae Homileticae, a sermonical commentary on the whole Bible. He is commemorated on November 12 on the calendars of several Anglican churches.


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