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der my warmest christian friends ashamed of owning me. Hold thou me up, O Lord, and I shall be safe! Ah! Brother, there is little reason for any of us to be high-minded; and, therefore, Happy is the man that feareth always.
Take heed to yourself, with regard to the diligent improvement of your talents and opportunities, in the whole course of your ministry. It behoves you, as a public teacher, to spend much of your time in: reading and in study. Of this you are convinced, and will act, I trust, agreeably to that conviction. For suitable means must be used, not only in your public ministry, in season and out of season, for the good of others; but with a view to the improvement of your own mind, in an acquaintance with divine truth. Yes, my Christian Friend, this is necessary, that your ability to feed the flock with knowledge and understanding, may be increased; that your own heart may be more deeply tinctured with evangelical principles; that you, may be the better prepared for every branch of pastoral duty, and for every trying event that may Occur. For who can reasonably deny the necessity of diligence in the use of means, adapted, respectively, to promote your own ministerial improvement, and to obtain the great objects of your pastoral office; any more than to a rational prospect of success, in the management of secular business? Be, then, as careful to improve opportunities of both obtaining and imparting spiritual benefits, as the prudent and assiduous tradesman or mechanic is, to promote the legitimate designs of, his professional calling.
If a minister of the gospel behave with christian decorum, possess tolerable abilities for his work, and, having his heart in it, be habitually industrious; there is reason to conclude that, in the common course of Providence, he shall not labour in vain. As nobody, however, wonders that a merchant, or a manufacturer, who, having no pleasure in his employment, neglects his affairs, and behaves as if he thought himself above his business, does not succeed, but becomes bankrupt; so, if a minister be seldom any further engaged, either in the study of truth, or in the public exercises of religion, than seems necessary to his continuance, with decency, in the pastoral station; there is no reason to wonder, if his public devotion be without savour, and his preaching without success. The church of which such a minister is the pastor, seems completely warranted to cry in his ears, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.*
Take heed to yourself, respecting the motives by which you are influenced in all your endeavours to obtain useful knowledge. For if you read and study, chiefly that you may cut a respectable figure in the pulpit; or to obtain and increase popular applause; the motive is carnal, base, and unworthy a man of God. Yet, detestable in the sight of Him who searches the heart as that motive is, there will be the greatest necessity for you to guard against it as a besetting evil. It is, perhaps, as hard for a minister habitually to read and study with becoming diligence, without being under this corrupt Col. iv. 17. Compare chap. i. 2.
influence; as it is for a tradesman prudently to manage a lucrative business, without seeking the gratification of a covetous disposition: yet both the minister and the tradesman must either guard against these pernicious evils, or be in danger of sinking in final ruin.
Besides, whatever be the motives which principally operate in your private studies, it is highly probable those very motives will have their influence in the pulpit. If, when secretly studying the word of God, it was your chief concern to know the divine will, that you might, with integrity and benevolence, lay it before your people for their benefit; it is likely the same holy motive will attend you in public service. But if a thirst of popularity, or a lust of applause, had the principal influence in the choice of your subject, and in your meditations upon it; there will be no reason for surprise, if you should be under the same detestable bias, when performing your public labour.
Study your discourses, therefore, with a devotional disposition. To this you are bound by the very nature of the case, as a christian minister. For, when the Bible is before you, it is the word of God on which you meditate, and the work of God you are preparing to perform.-It is reported of Dr. Cotton Mather, 'That in studying and preparing them, he would endeavour to make even that an exercise of devotion for his own soul. Accordingly his way was, at the end of every paragraph, to make a pause, and endeavour to make his own soul feel some holy impression of the truths contained in it. This he thought would be an excellent means of delivering his sermons
with life and spirit, and warming the hearts of his people by them: and so he found it.'*
It is, indeed, an easy thing for a preacher to make loud professions of regard to the glory of God and the good of immortal souls, as the ruling motive in his ministerial conduct: but experience has taught me, that it is extremely difficult for any minister to act suitably to such professions. For as that pride which is natural to our species, impels the generality of mankind to wish for eminence, rather than usefulness, in this or the other station; so it is with ministers of the word. Forty years ago I saw but little need of this caution, compared with that conviction of its necessity which I now have. A preacher of the real gospel, I am fully persuaded, may appear exceedingly earnest and very faithful in his public labours, as if his only design were to promote the cause of truth, the happiness of men, and the honour of God; while, nevertheless, he is more concerned to figure away at the head of a large body of people in the religious world, than to advance the genuine interests of Jesus Christ, and the felicity of his fellow mortals.-What is it but this detestable pride, that makes any of us ministers take more pleasure in perceiving our labours made useful to the rich, the learned, and the polite; than to the poor, the illiterate, and the vulgar? It is, I presume, principally, because it adds consequence to our own characters, to have wealthy, well-educated, and polished persons in our churches. Jesus, however, in the time of his personal ministry, was far from being influenced by any such motive; and Abridgement of Dr. C. Mather's Life, p. 38.
equally far from showing the least predilection for persons of promising dispositions, on any such grounds. Witness his behaviour to Nicodemus, to the young Ruler, and to the Nobleman at Capernaum.*
I will add, what is it but the same depravity of heart, which frequently renders us much more attentive to our wealthy friends, than we are to our poor brethren, in times of affliction? even though we be well assured, that there is little danger of the rich being overlooked in their sorrows. Hoary as I now amt in the ministry, and accustomed as I have been to hear conscience cry out against me, for this, that, and the other omission of duty; I do not recollect that it ever charged me with neglecting any person in plentiful circumstances, when deeply afflicted, and requesting my visits. But, alas! I do recollect having frequently heard conscience, with a frowning aspect, and an angry tone, either demanding, 'Wouldst thou be thus backward to undergo some little inconvenience, in visiting a wealthy patient? Or declaring, 'That afflicted brother would not, through mere forgetfulness, have been recently disappointed of thy presence, conversation, and prayers, had he not been an obscure and a poor man. Had he been less deserving of thy compassionate regard, he would have been favoured with it.' Alas, my Brother, there is reason to fear, that few ministers, on this ground, stand perfectly free from censure, at the bar of a tender conscience!
* John iii. 1-12. Mark x. 17-22. John iv. 46-50. †A. D. 1805.