Imatges de pàgina

readiness to devote all his powers and abilities to it? And finally, that he hath formed solemn resolutions to promote it to the utmost of his capacity, depending on the spirit and grace of Christ to assist him in, and carry him through it? Will not such be the views, and motives of the faithful man, in undertaking the work of the gospel ministry?

Faithfulness will also appear in prosecuting this work, and performing all the parts of it. Let me here mention some particulars.

1. He will be faithful in his studies, that he may rightly understand the doctrines and duties of that holy religion of which he is a teacher. His studies indeed must have been employed upon these subjects, previous to his undertaking the work ; otherwise he could not undertake it with integrity and uprightness. But his diligence in studying the sacred Scriptures, before he took upon him the pastoral charge, will not excuse him from it, through the whole course of his ministry. There will always be room for improvement in religious knowledge. If his mind is agreeably furnished, it may, by proper industry, be more richly and abundantly furnished, with those treasures of wisdom and knowledge which are inexhaustible, in the sacred oracles. He will not imagine that he hath arrived at perfection, in his acquaintance with divine truth, and that there is no room for further light to enter into his mind.

Fidelity in studying the inspired writings, will dispose him carefully to guard against all prepossessions in favor of, or in opposition to, particular religious tenets. He will not, as may be too much the case with some, search the Scriptures, with a view to find arguments, in support of a system of doctrine, which he had before adopted; or endeavor to force them to speak a language agreeable to it; but he will yield himself up to the word of God, to be led by its light, though in consequence of it, he should be obliged to renounce some favorite sentiment, which he had long entertained, or to embrace others, against which he had been prejudiced. He will take his religious opinions from the sacred volume, and not wrest it, in order to vindicate those which he had before adopted.

Diligence in his studies will also be necessary, in order to provide useful entertainment for the people of his charge ; from one season of public instruction to another. He could not content himself, if he could satisfy them, by delivering broken, incoherent discourses, which cost him no labor. He will prepare « beaten oil for the sanctuary ;” well-studied and correct compositions, suited to impart clear light, and important edification. This is one thing, in which bis faithfulness will appear.

2. It will also, by a care to preach the pure, uncorrupted gospel. He will not be of those who corrupt the word of God, or handle it deceitfully. 2 Cor. xi. 17. He will take heed to his doctrine, and endeavor to show uncorruptness.

Indeed the most upright and faithful minister may be mistaken, in his apprehension, in some less weighty points in theology ; and inay deliver sentiments, not perfectly consonant to the standard of divine truth: But this will not be through want of desire to know the truth, as it is in Jesus, or of industry, in searching for it. He will not voluntarily advance error, or mislead his people, in the smallest article of faith or practice. And his fidelity will undoubtedly preserve him from dangerous and fundamental errors. Being disposed to do the will of his divine Master, he will assist him to know his doctrine.

3. He will discover his faithfulness, in delivering the whole truth. It will be his desire, as it was the apostle's, to declare to his people all the counsel of God, and to keep back nothing that would be profitable to them. Acts xx. 20. He will not artfully conceal certain truths, to answer a particular purpose. Nor will he dwell continually on others, because he can discourse on thein with more ease, and less study; or because they are more grateful to his hearers, and tend to render him popular. This would not consist with faithfulness to God, and to the souls committed to his charge ; yet I may add,

4. That he will aim to treat, most frequently, on those subjects which he considers as peculiarly weighty, and necessary to the edification of his people. All Christian doctrines are not equally useful and important. There are the weightier matters of the gospel, as well as of the law, both as to faith and practice. These he will make the most frequent subject of his public discourses. It would be too assuming in me to attempt to determine what these are.

Permit me, however, modestly to suggest, that among these, I conceive are to be numbered, the apostasy of the human race by the disobedience of their first progenitors ; the gospel method of man's recovery through the mediation of Christ; the terms of the gospel covenant, which are, repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, and evangelical obedience ; the work of the Holy Spirit in renewing the hearts of men ; the progress of holiness through the Christian life; those instrumental duties and ordinances, wbich tend to beget and increase true grace; the moral and positive precepts of Christianity ; the important change by death ; the judgment of the great day; and a future state of rewards and punishments. These will generally take place of matters of smaller importance : and these will exclude questions foolish and unlearned, and a strife about words, which tend rather to subvert the hearers, than to promote godly edifying.

5. The Christian minister should show bis faithfulness, by accommodating his instructions to the different characters and circumstances of his people. He will endeavor to "approve himself to God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, by rightly dividing the word, and giving to every one his portion in due season. 2 Tim. ii. 15.

Those of tender age, whose faculties are not matured, he will teach, with condescension and gentleness, the first and easy principles of religion; as babes are fed with milk, affording a soft and easy nourishment. Thus he will obey the command of Christ, “ Feed my lambs,” and imitate the example of the gentle Shepherd, who “gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom.” Isaiah xl. 11.

Strong meat will he prepare for those of riper age, those doctrines which their matured minds, and improved understandings, are able to comprehend, and apply for their several uses in the Christian life.

The secure and thoughtless he will endeavor to awaken and persuade, by the terrors of the Lord ; and by an alarming representation of their danger; while they continue in impenitency and unbelief, that they may be excited to fly for refuge to the hope set before them, before it be too late.

Are any under deep concern of mind about their spiritual state, brought to a lively conviction of their sin and guilt; and in the language of our Saviour, “weary and heavy laden;" he will endeavor to lead them to him, by the gentle and alluring invitations of his gospel, that they may “find rest to their souls.” He will labor to comfort mourners in Sion ; to up

the hands that hang down, and to strengthen the feeble knees," by administering the reviving cordials of Christ's religion.

The providential circumstances, under which particular families or persons are, will engage the attention of the faithful watchman ; and by occasional discourses, adapted to their situation, he will strive to assist them in making a good and religious improvement, both of prosperous and afflictive dispensations.

Nor will he neglect to explain and inculcate relative duties, and what may be called the duties of the times, which hold an important place, in practical religion. To these he will warmly urge a due regard, that all may fill their several places and stations, with propriety and usefulness. On this the beauty and comfort of social life greatly depend, whether in small family circles, or in larger societies, and extensive communities.

With courage and plainness, he will reprove the openly vicious ; knowing that there is a time to "rebuke sharply,” as well as 10 « instruct with meekness."

6. A good minister will show his faithfulness, by the manner, as well as by the matter of his preaching. He will be careful to use such a style, as is suited to the capacity of his hearers, that they may easily enter into his meaning, and improve by his discourses. This will engage bim, on the one hand, to avoid language which is incorrect, low and vulgar; and on the other,

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that which is abstruse, or towering, and bombastic, and crowded with technical terms, and phrases, above the comprehension of men in common life. He will consider himself as “ debtor to the learned and the unlearned.”

He will aim at such earnestness, animation and pathos, in the turn of his compositions, and in his speaking, as tend to engage and fix the attention of his audience, and to impress their minds with a sense of the importance of what is delivered. He will endeavor to have his voice duly modulated, bis manner of pronunciation unaffected and natural, and his gesture easy and graceful. These things, if not of so much consequence as what hath been mentioned before, yet are not of so trifling consideration, as to fall below the notice of a faithful minister. But the pulpit will not be the only place in which his faithfulness will display itself. I may add,

7. He will show it by a care to maintain a regular Christian discipline in the church. He will guard against assuming more rule and authority, than belong to his office; against “lording it over God's heritage.” At the same time, he will not meanly cringe to the humors of his people, but will “magnify his office," and be known in his place.

He will examine with faithfulness and candor, those who seek admission to church privileges, governing himself herein wholly by the rules of the gospel. In the administration of the seals and censures of Christ's church, he will labor to conduct with such integrity and prudence, that all, if possible, may be convinced, that he “doth nothing through partiality.”

Finally. He will show himself faithful, in all the more private duties of his profession. He will be easy of access to all who apply to him, for counsel and advice in their spiritual concerns, and labor to speak a word in season to them. He will studiously avoid all haughty and forbidding airs ; but on the contrary will show such familiarity and condescension, as will conciliate the love of his people, without exposing him to contempt. He will seek, by frequent visits, to know the state of his flock, both that he may have opportunity to give private advice and instruction, and also that he may be the better able to accommodate bis public discourses to their several cases and circumstances. He will take a kind and sympathetic part with them in their troubles; and be no stranger to houses of mourning and chambers of sickness. He will diligently lay hold on such occasions, when their hearts are made tender and impressible, by the rod of God upon them, to speak to them of the concerns of their souls, and of another world. He will 6

He will “weep with those that weep," and so “bear their burdens as to ful6ll the law of Christ.” In a word,

He will labor to be “ an example to the flock, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.” i Tim. iv. 12. It will be his care to go before them, in the uniform practice of all the virtues of a Christian life, that there may be a bappy agreement between his doctrive and behavior, and that they may be instructed by the latter as well as the former. The minister who is negligent in this, must be very much wanting in faithfulness to God, to his people, and to his own soul. He will, as it were, pull down with one hand, what he builds up with the other. A careless, irregular walk and conversation will prevent the good influence of his preaching, and probably do more to obstruct, than the other to promote “pure religion and undefiled, before God and the Father.” I proceed to consider the

Second qualification of a gospel minister, mentioned in the text. Ability to teach. The time will not allow me to enlarge on this ; and there may be the less occasion for it, as several thoughts have been already suggested, in speaking of a minister's faithfulness, which would have naturally occurred under this head. A man very deficient in ability to teach, could not act an upright and faithful part, in endeavoring to get into the sacred employment. Nor can several of those articles of fidelity, which have been mentioned, be exbibited by a person of very small abilities. With great propriety, therefore, the apostle unites faithfulness, and ability to teach, as necessary to meet in the person qualified for the pastoral office. What I conceive proper to be said on the latter of these, will be included in the three following particulars.

1. He must be endowed with good natural powers of mind. However unable we may be to assign a philosophical reason for it, yet the thing is indisputable, that men's intellectual powers of mind are not all of the same strength and size. Whether it be owing to the different structure of those parts of the animal frame, which are peculiarly employed in mental exercises, or to some other latent cause, still it is evident, that men are not all equally capable of thinking, reasoning, understanding, and acquiring knowledge. Those of very small and low mental powers cannot be justly considered as fit for the ministerial office. They are not so able to teach, as those ought to be, who act in this character of public instructors. However pious and faithful they may be in their disposition, it is not to be supposed, that they can make such acquirements in useful knowledge, particularly of the holy Scriptures, as to enable them to teach others, to advantage and edification, in the things of religion. Their small abilities may be useful in some other department.

I mean not to intimate, that none may be useful, as public religious teachers, whose talents are not of the first weight and magnitude, and who are not of very shining and distinguished parts. But the greater their abilities are, if they are sanctified by God's grace, and made faithful men, the more useful, we may reasonably expect they will be. But men whose natural powers

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