Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. Acts 20.28
Though some think that Paul's exhortation to these elders doth prove him their ruler, we who are this day to speak to you from the Lord, hope that we may freely do the like, without any jealousies of such a conclusion. Though we teach our people, as officers set over them in the Lord, yet may we teach one another, as brethren in office, as well as in faith. If the people of our charge must 'teach and admonish and exhort each other daily,' no doubt teachers may do it to one another, without any super-eminency of power or degree. We have the same sins to mortify, and the same graces to be quickened and strengthened, as our people have: we have greater works to do than they have, and greater difficulties to overcome, and therefore we have need to be warned and awakened, if not to be instructed, as well as they. So that I confess I think such meetings together should be more frequent, if we had nothing else to do but this. And we should deal as plainly and closely with one another, as the most serious among us do with our flocks, lest if they only have sharp admonitions and reproofs, they only should be sound and lively in the faith. That this was Paul's judgment, I need no other proof, than this rousing, heart-melting exhortation to the Ephesian elders. A short sermon, but not soon learned! Had the bishops and teachers of the Church but thoroughly learned this short exhortation, though to the neglect of many a volume which hath taken up their time, and helped them to greater applause in the world, how happy had it been for the Church, and for themselves! In further discoursing on this text, I propose to pursue the following method:
First, To consider what it is to take heed to ourselves.
Secondly, To show why we must take heed to ourselves.
Thirdly, To inquire what it is to take heed to all the flock.
Fourthly, To illustrate the manner in which we must take heed to all the flock.
Fifthly, To state some motives why we should take heed to all the flock.