Imatges de pÓgina

our direction, and in their conduct the safest general models for our imitation.

Invested by you with the office of a teacher of the brethren; called to the task of instructing, for the time, those whose business it is to instruct others; I have made choice of this passage, as calculated to convey to my esteemed fathers and brethren in the ministry, and to impress upon my own heart, some invaluable lessons in refer, ence to the duty of our office as ministers of the gospel of Christ; and I trust the consideration of the subject shall not be found altogether barren of instruction to such of our lay brethren as have met with us on this occasion.

The first important hint which the reading of this passage supplies, is the earnest and confirmed resolution with which the Apostle Paul devoted himself exclusively to the duty of his office: he determined to know nothing," to concern himself with nothing, more than the proper work of his ministry.

In this wise determination he has set an example which ought to be closely and carefully followed by every minister of the gospel. Experience sufficiently testifies the value of an undivided and zealous attention to any legitimate pursuit; and we rarely see that man attain excellence or distinction in his profession, whatever be the object of it, who does not uniformly give it all the ardour, and all the exertion, which it

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calls for. But, among the pursuits and professions of mortal men, highly valuable as many of them are, there is not one that, in the estimation of a reflecting mind, can, in point of importance, bear a moment's comparison with that which belongs to the minister of Christianity. He has taken upon him the task of “declaring unto men the testimony of God.” He is invested with the high character of an ambassador of Christ, and should feel the indispensable and paramount obligation of giving himself up to his embassy, and of using his utmost endeavours to fulfil his important commission. Indeed he who seriously considers the weighty trust reposed in him as a minister of the New Testament, he who habitually regards himself as called by Providence to beseech fallen, sinful men, “in Christ's stead, to be reconciled unto God,” will not readily suffer any minor interest or pursuit to mar his prime object, or interfere with the sacred vocation with which he is called.

There is an aim—there is a purpose-there is a character peculiar to our profession, which we should never lose sight of,—which we should never suffer society around us to forget, which ought indeed to be broadly marked upon every part of our conduct. It would be wrong, doubtless, to affect any unnecessary singularity of deportment, or any such avoidance of ordinary society, as might savour of monastic seclusion, or spiritual pride. Such conduct seems totally


at variance with the nature of our vocation. Designed as we are to be the “salt of the earth," it is decidedly our duty to mix up with society, and to take such a share in the passing affairs and intercourse of the world, as is clearly compatible with the sacred office we have assumed. By this moderate intercourse with mankind around us, (if we do not forget our proper aim and character, and so neglect our opportunities,) we may very materially increase our influence and our usefulness; we shall thus meet with various unexpected openings to improvement,--we shall find many occasions of contributing to the best interests, even of those to whom we have no other access, and who habitually keep themselves out of the reach of more formal and stated instruction.

. Experience may satisfy us, however, that there are dangers incident to the clerical character from a free intercourse with society; and especially in a church whose ministers have rarely been accused of any undue seclusion from the world. Intimately connected as we are, and as we should be, with the people of our respective charges, and possessing as we do, and as we ought, a perfect community of sentiment and interest with them, nothing but prudence and a just regard to the ministerial character, and a strong sense of duty, and the grace of God, can prevent our being occasionally drawn, more than our peculiar situation will properly admit of, into a dangerous vortex-the giddy round of concerns

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which terminate in time. Thus we may have known ministers of the gospel, and men of the most amiable dispositions, become, step by step, so engaged with the merely temporal concerns of their people,-so intent, perhaps, on the melioration of society, by the improvement of arts, or of agriculture, or so warmly interested in the passing party politics of the day, local or general,--in a word, so deeply embarked in secular affairs of one sort or other, as to sink the peculiarity of their professional character, and lose the minister in the man.

Let me not be understood to say, that a minister of the gospel may not give a moderate attention to any of those objects which have been mentioned. They are all matters of subordinate importance, in which, therefore, ministers must feel an interest in common with other men. And ours certainly is not the church whose ministers are subjected to any undue restraints, or obliged to stifle their sentiments, or check their legitimate exertions on any subject. But let such objects and pursuits be attended to only in their just subordination, and never suffered to thwart or interfere with that which is the great aim and object of the Christian ministry,—the promoting of the spiritual improvement of men, and restoring them to the love and service of a merciful God.

Nor let it be supposed by any that we would limit the labours of the gospel minister to the mere routine of preparing for the pulpit, and performing the stated and ordinary duties of the pastoral office. These, it is true, if they meet with that attention which they demand, cannot but occupy a considerable portion of his time and of his pains. But, so far as he may have leisure from his paramount vocation, he may very properly attend (and the increased and still increasing knowledge of the times indispensably requires that he shall attend,) to the cultivation of his own mind in the pursuits of general literature. And it may be reckoned as not only compatible with his duty, but as forming a component part of it, that he dedicate a due portion of his time, and means, and exertions, to the charitable institutions around him, whether they have respect to the personal comfort, or to the moral and intellectual improvement, of the poor. The history and the writings of St. Paul show him to have been a man of eminent learning, fit to reason with the philosophy, and to confound the sophistry of the times; and who, amidst his higher avocations, seems to have taken a deep interest in the management of the public charities. Yet he would not suffer any minor interests to thwart him in the pursuit of his main object-the publication of the gospel—the declaring to fallen man the gracious counsel of God. “For I determined to know nothing among you,” to busy myself about nothing, but the proper duty of my office. .

In the second place, we may observe, that in

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