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of men encompassed with infirmities. The Apostle's own concessions give a favorable pretext to the objection, and seem to require some abatements of the rigour of the above rules. "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect." Daily experience too makes us sensible that we are men of like passions and imperfections with others. But surely it must be owned, that it is our duty to aim at the highest pitch of holiness attainable in the present state. And we who are patterns to others cannot justify ourselves at the bar of conscience, much less before God, who is greater than conscience, by diving in a superficial and dissipated manner.
I proceed to shew, in the SECOND place, the peculiar importance of the above plan of conduct to the ministers of Christ.—First, It will settle a firm and agreeable serenity in our bosom. How sweet and beneficial such a possession is, and the influence of a correct and regular plan of conduct in preserving, and heightening it, may be learned from the passage in Paul's second Epistle to the Corinthians: "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of "our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not "with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had "our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to "you wards." It is easy to figure the wretchedness and misery of a man whose mind is continually distracted with war and discord within his own breast. His situation in some respect is more horrible and gloomy than death itself. That indeed tears the soul from the body, but this tears the health and life from the soul. Religion must be a joyless thing to him. For, however eminent his profession is, sin being in possession of the dominion, the real pleasures and joys of religion will be lost. How dull and insipid a state this must be in a minister of Christ, is not difficult to imagine. The dissolute and unreserved slaves of the devil have manifestly the advantage of him; they get at least a taste of such impure and gross pleasures as sin can afford, but an unholy minister of the gospel gets not even that much. As much religion as to make sin bitter is essential to his character, but a constrained and aukward formality supplies him with nothing to sweeten his loss of the pleasures of sin, nor comfort him under it.
Secondly, It will pour in upon the mind a strong and manly assurance in displaying the perfection of the law of God. It is certainly the duty of a minister to set before his hearers, in a clear and distinct manner, the purity and perfection of the divine law. Nothing is more dangerous for him than to lower the standard of holy obedience, and accommodate it to the taste and opinions of an effeminate and irregular age. Our Saviour hath sufficiently directed our conduct in this matter. "Be ye perfect," saith he, "as "your Father which is in heaven is perfect." His sermon on the mount is a summary of strict and pure religion, free of the corrupt glosses and abatements which had been introduced to favor the corruptions of that period. Now his example is undoubtedly for our imitation. A principal part of our work lies in setting the law of God in a fair and distinct light; and what so likely to qualify and dispose us to do it with confidence and assurance, as a stedfast and uniform perseverance in obedience to it ourselves? Nay, it is impossible to do it, either with pleasure or success, if our ordinary behaviour contradict our doctrine. The sense of having acted wrong will sting our minds with many discouraging and insupportable reflections, and leave in our countenances all the outward symptoms and expressions of timidity and self-reproach; whereas uniform and regular conduct will beget a firmness and independency of mind which will enable us to preach with a manly and impartial freedom, with a genuine and well supported dignity.
Thirdly, It will increase our power of doing good. A pious and holy life has mighty energy, and sweetly overcomes all opposition. Did the world behold ministers consistent and uniform in their whole behaviour, resolute and determined in every part of their duty, inflexibly honest and well fortified against corrupt influence, such venerable, though imperfect images of God would melt and penetrate their souls. Persons of the highest, as well as meanest capacities, would stand in awe and submit themselves. Those whom no other methods could win, and were perhaps determined to despise and neglect them, or thwart their laudable and pious designs, would not be able to stand out long against the charms of uniform unconquerable goodness.
Fourthly, It will give a commanding and actuating influence to our example. A just and regular conversation is a most powerful and persuasive sermon, and expressed in a language which men of all nations equally understand. It even explains what other sermons mean, instead of needing to be explained by them. It has been sometimes observed, that the common people are but poor judges of a man's ability or learning; but they are very good judges of his life. They can see the beauty and propriety of a virtuous conduct, when they cannot comprehend a rhetorical description of it. Come then, brethren, let us make it our ambition to hold forth the word of life continually, and so to exhibit the religion of Jesus in our practice, that all who behold us may have an easy opportunity of reading the laws of Christ every day. This will not only secure the love and confidence of the better sort of our people, but in many instances give us an irresistible superiority over those among them who are wicked and unreasonable. Hence we read that "Herod "feared John," even when he cast him into prison; and feared him, as the evangelist informs us, purely on this account, "because he knew that he was a just and holy "man."
Fifthly, It will raise again our profession to the credit and esteem which is due to it. Ministers who live and la bour as they ought are generally well thought of. An exemplary piety, and a shining conversation, preserve the poorest of them from contempt. Nothing, however is more visible than the disgrace our order at present is fallen into; nor has any thing contributed so much to it as a light and unguarded conduct on our own part. Appear ances are such as to warrant me to say so. This is a heavy reproach on our profession, and not to be wiped away by being angry, with the authors of it. Nothing but a real refutation of it by a just, and holy, and unblameable behaviour, will thoroughly efface it. True, indeed, we may be often blamed in the wrong place. Partiality and malice may go too far. Yet to speak without prejudice, it is more than probable that we have as much respect in general as we really deserve. Let us not complain so loudly of the harsh and uncharitable judgment of the world, as if a failure on our part were impossible. Under so grievous a load of public infamy, it becomes us to suspect ourselves, and reflect upon the words of the prophet, to see how far
they are applicable to us: "For the priest's lips should "keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his "mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But "ye departed out of the way; ye have caused many to "stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of "Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. Therefore have I also "made you contemptible, and base before all the people, "according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been "partial in the law."
Sixthly, It will exhibit a convincing and obvious proof of the reality, excellence, and efficacy of the religion which our office obliges us to teach. Description and argument, if they are not accompanied with visible representations of holiness in our own lives, will make but feeble impressions on our hearers. The bad opinion the world has received of ministers on all sides, contributes not a little to prejudice them against Christianity. When they cannot discern in the preacher of the gospel that strictness and holiness of life, that mortification and deadness to the world, that zeal and application to the duties of their of fice, that meekness, humility, and charity, which they hear them perpetually inculcating on others, they are apt to conclude, that religion has not the reality and efficacy which its advocates endeavour to persuade the world it hath. How is it possible to discover its beauty, or feel its virtue, when ministers are observed walking in the same road and frequenting the same haunts of diversion with themselves? When they observe men clothed with sacred characters paying no regard at all to propriety of conduct? when they see them mixing with the world, and living at large as others do? when they see them grasping at power, and scrambling for wealth; spreading sail to every wind, and ready to embark in any cause that will recommend them to those who are able to gratify their ambition or covetousness; how is it possible, I say, to behold the beauty of religion where the ministerial character is so universally and deeply overcast in shade and gloominess? Let us not then, brethren, any longer withhold from the world proper means of conviction. Let us dare to avow the sentiments of virtue, and obey the laws of Heaven, and the dictates of conscience, in the face of the sun. This is the way to awaken the attention of besotted and dreaming morials, and, by letting them see what godliness can do, beget in them convictions of its real worth and excellence.
Address to the Minister.
You have now been regularly introduced into the office of the holy ministry, and taken the oversight of this congregation, "not," I hope, "by constraint, but willingly; "not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind." Bear with me, while I charge you to take heed, and fulfil the ministry which you have received of the Lord.
Let it be your first care to attain a modest confidence of the truth and reality of religion, in your own soul.The plan of conduct recommended in the preceding discourse depends, in a great measure, upon a strong sense of the power of inward and experimental godliness.Hours of temptation may come, when all the furniture of your head, all the arguments treasured in your memory, all the reasonings your invention is able to command, all the elaborate writings your library can supply, will not keep your faith and hope firm, unless you have got the gospel wrought into your heart, and felt it to be the power and the wisdom of God in your own salvation. Of all men in the world, we are in most danger of losing impressions of the reality and importance. of divine things. Our office obliges us to be habitually conversant with them; but, alas! a carnal, worldly, wandering mind, has so much the ascendant, that we often do it in a very cold and unfeeling manner. And if a minister once settle in this stupid, insensible frame, his conscience contracts a hardness, which puts him so far out of the reach of conviction, that, in the ordinary methods of grace, he can scarcely be ever awakened, and, if saved at all, it must be with great peril, or even "so as by fire."
Touching the duties of your office, you are resolved, I hope, to keep nothing back from this people; but to declare to them the whole counsel of God for their salvation. This is the proper work of a ministry of the gospel of Christ. "I determined," says the Apostle, "to know "nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified." Is not this an agreeable and delightful employ? May we not rejoice that we are Messengers of such good news as these? "God was in Christ reconciling the world to him"self, not imputing their trespasses to them." How transporting are the joyful tidings we communicate to the