Imatges de pÓgina
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dence, of that love and obedience, which a faithful declaration of the gracious and sanctifying truth might have produced. Yes, my Brother, it is much to be suspected, that many ministers have recommended themselves to the fancies, the tastes, the affections of their hearers; who never deserved, and who never had, in a serious hour, the approbation of their consciences.

Be ambitious, therefore, of obtaining and preserving the suffrage of conscience in your favour, whether admired, and honoured with verbal applause, or not. For it is evident from observation, that a preacher who is endued with a competent share of learning and fine parts, a retentive memory and good elocution, may recommend himself to the admiration of great numbers; while their consciences, in the hour of solemn reflection, bear testimony against him. Because, as a minister may have all those engaging qualifications, while habitually proud and covetous, deceitful and vain: so the conscience never feels itself interested in the fine imagination, the genius, or the learning, which a minister discovers in his public services.It is worthy of remark, my Brother, that though none of us can command success to our labours, were we ever so pious, diligent, and faithful; and though it may not be in our power to obtain the applause of literature, of genius, or of address; yet, in the common course of things, if we be assiduous, benevolent, and upright in our labours, we may secure the approbation of conscience, in the generality of our stated hearers: which is an article of great importance to the tranquillity of a minis ter's own breast.

Now, my young Friend, if you keep conscience in view; if you remember that God himself is a witness of your latent motives, and of your public labours, you will not choose an obscure text, principally that you may have the honour of explaining it: nor will you select one which has no relation to the subject you mean to discuss, in order that your acumen may shine, by making it speak what it never thought.-The more you keep the approbation of conscience and the presence of God in your eye, the more dependent will you be on divine assistance, in all your ministerial addresses. Yes, bearing in mind, on every occasion of this kind, that your business here is to plead for the interests of evangelical truth, under the immediate inspection of Him who is THE TRUTH; you cannot but feel your incapacity, and look for assistance to God, whose cause you mean to promote. The more you keep the consciences of men and the presence of God in your view, the more will you be impressed with the importance of your subject, and the more earnest will you be in addressing your hearers: for that minister must have a strange set of passions, who does not feel himself roused by such considerations. The more you keep the approbation of conscience and the inspection of God remembrance, the less will you be disposed to indulge a light and trifling spirit, and the more devotional will you be, in the course of your administrations: for the ordinances of God are too sacred to become the vehicles of entertainment, and his Presence is too solemn to permit the smile of levity.

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Again: Keeping the consciences of men, and the Searcher of hearts in view, it will afford you much more pleasure to find, that persons who have been hearing you, left the place bemoaning their apostate state, and very deeply abased before the Most Holy; than to be informed, that they greatly admired you as a preacher, and loudly applauded your ministerial talents. Because, for a person to depart from public worship, in raptures with the minister's abilities, is no proof that he has received any spiritual benefit. But if, smitten with a sense of guilt, he cry out,-How shall I escape the wrath to come? God be merciful to me a sinner! Or if he exclaim, Who is a god like unto our God? How great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits? then it looks as if the preacher had "commended himself to his conscience, and as if the truth had reached his heart. For language of this kind, from a reflecting hearer, has a devotional aspect, and gives glory to God. It indicates a soul, either as being apprehensive of deserved ruin, or as rejoicing in revealed mercy; as having a good hope through grace, or as revering divine authority. Whereas, barely to admire and praise the preacher, is quite consistent with reigning depravity, and with rooted enmity to God. As it is written, They sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words-With their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.

Once more: In proportion as the approbation of conscience, and the inspection of God are properly kept in view, the pleasure you have, arising from verbal commendations of professed friends, and the pain of strong opposition from the avowed enemies of evangelical truth, will be diminished. For conscience does not often express itself in the language of noisy applause; which, when free from hypocrisy, is commonly the fruit of a weak understanding, under the influence of strong passions. Hence it is not unfrequent for those who have been the most liberal in praising a minister, to be found among the first who entirely desert his ministry. As to unfounded censures, and violent opposition; the testimony of a good conscience, and the countenance of Scripture, are adapted to afford the needful support.


Take heed to yourself, with regard to that suc-~ cess, and those discouragements, which may attend your ministry. Should a large degree of apparent success, through the favour of heaven, accompany your labours, there will be the highest necessity to guard against pride and self-esteem. A young man, of good ministerial abilities, and honoured with great usefulness, is in a delicate situation, respecting the prosperity of his own soul: for, through the want of experience and observation, such concurrence of pleasing particulars has proved to some very promising characters, the innocent occasion of disgrace and ruin. Shining abilities, and a blessing upon their labours, have rendered them popular. Popularity has intoxicated them with pride. Pride has exposed them to various temptations. Temptations have prevailed; and,

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either precipitated them into some enormous offence or laid the foundation of a gradual departure from the truth, and from the practice of real piety. If the former, their character has been killed, as by the stroke of an apoplexy. If the latter, their comfort and usefulness have been destroyed, as by a consuming hectic.* Agreeable to that saying, Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Remember, therefore, my Brother, that though it is your indispensable duty to labour and pray for prosperity in your work; yet, that a season of remarkable success will generally prove an hour of peculiar temptation to your own soul.-Take heed to yourself, at such a time, and watch the secret motions of your own heart. The number of your hearers may increase, and your church may flourish; while, in your own breast, devotional affections and virtuous dispositions are greatly on the decline: nor need I inform you, that every degree of such declension has a tendency to final ruin.


Besides, if there should be an appearance of extensive utility attending your labours, for which I sincerely pray; you may do well to remember the old proverb, All is not gold that glitters,' Numbers there are that seem to receive the word with joy, who, in time of temptation, fall away. -Many evangelical and popular preachers, I am very suspicious, have greatly over-rated the usefulness of their own labours. For, the longer I live, the more apprehensive I am, that the number of Si minister verbi laudatur, versatur in periculo, says the famous Augustine.

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