Imatges de pàgina
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Lord Jesus," who is the great Lord of the harvest, whose sovereign province it is to send laborers into his vineyard. This apostle had a clear, a special, an extraordinary call to this work. The call he had accepted ; and to the service he had devoted his life. Therefore to wear it out, or even to lay it down, in that sacred employment, was not so painful to his mind and apprehension, as the thought of quitting the work or doing the duties of it slightly. He had set out in the Christian course; he had engaged in the Christian ministry. To finish these well was his great object. This so strongly engaged his attention and pursuit, as to give him a noble elevation of soul, above the obstructions and discouragements which might lie in the way. He expected his life would be spent, and perhaps shortened by a diligent and faithful performance of his duty as a Christian, and especially as a Christian minister. He laid his account in this, and the event proved his calculation just.

Paul went to Jerusalem. After he had preached the gospel there, for a season, and with some success, the Jews in a tumultuous manner seized him, and brought him before their ecclesiastical court. They accused him of subverting their system of religion, and of teaching things contrary to the law of Moses. He made a clear, rational, and animated defence. But finding it did not satisfy the partial, bigoted judges before whom he was brought, he appealed to Cæsar, the Roman emperor. while, he was sent to Rome, to take his trial there. His trial was long delayed. During the delay, he enjoyed some liberty. He improved it, in promoting a cause which lay near to his heart, and was dearer to him than his life. He preached the gospel, planted Christian churches, and wrote epistles. After a while he was confined a prisoner at Rome. In prison he wrote several of those invaluable epistles, which we have in the New Testament, and which constitute part of the sacred canon. After he was liberated from this confinement, which continued about two years, he travelled over great part of Italy, preaching the gospel, and founding churches. He went to Spain, io Crete, to Philippi, to Macedonia; and at length, returned to Rome, about the year of the Christian era 65. The sacred history doth not particularly inform us, what brought on his second imprisonment at Rome, and his death. But some of the ancient fathers, and particularly St. Chrysostom, tell us, in their writings, that he having converted, by his ministry, a cupbearer, and a concubine, of the emperor Nero, who was a bitter enemy, and cruel persecutor of Christianity, he was so enraged, that he ordered Paul to be seized, and committed to prison : that from prison he was brought forth, and beheaded, at a place called the salvian waters, on the 29th day of June, A. D. 66: that he was buried at Ostium ; and that afterwards, when

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the Roman empire became Christian, a magnificent church was built over his tonb, which Mr. Calmet, in his dictionary, says continues to this day. Thus this great apostle to the Gentiles, “ finished his course, and the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus," by the honors of martyrdom. No man, it is likely, ever did as much in spreading the gospel, and promoting the cause of Christ, as he. That his sufferings, in his cause were exceedingly great and pressing, we may collect from the history of the acts of the apostles, and from several of his own letters, before he sealed his testimony to the truth and goodness of that cause, by his blood.

But is this a just picture of what the ministers of Christ's religion are to expect, and of what they do in general suffer ? In answer to this inquiry, it may be said, that there hath been no small similarity between the services and sufferings of this eminent servant of Christ, and those of many, who were his brethren and companions, “in the kingdom and patience of Jesus ;” especially in the early days of Christianity, when its promoters generally met with warm opposition, and cruel persecution. The case has been very different, at some periods, and in some countries since. This difference hath been strikingly obvious, in our happy land, in which the principles of religious liberty have been so well understood and maintained ; and in which, the faithful ministers of the gospel, instead of being persecuted, have been honored, and encouraged, by men of the best and most respectable characters in civil stations.

But can we hence pronounce, that laborers, in this part of Christ's vineyard, have no trials and difficulties, connected with their profession and employment? This would undoubtedly be carrying the matter too far, and saying what is universally found by experience not to be true.

Indeed for one, in that profession, to exhibit a long and dark catalogue of the trials and troubles which attend it, might lead some to suspect, that he aimed to make a merit to himself, in the fortitude and patience with which he meets, and bears such trials and troubles. I wish not to fall under such an imputation, or suspicion. Still, I do not conceive it arniss for one, in the profession before mentioned, to suggest some of the burthens and difficulties which can hardly be separated from it. This may tend to excite a proper degree of candor and tenderness, in his fellow Christians towards hiin, and to engage their prayers for him. “ He who wears the shoe, best knows where it is strait and pinches,” to use a common remark; or to use one of Solomon's, 1. The heart knoweth his own bitterness."

No small part of the difficulty of a gospel minister's work and office, consists in properly “taking heed to himself.” To maintain that spirituality, that devout and pious frame of mind, and that sober, circumspect course of conduct, which the Christian character requires, and which is peculiarly requisite, to support and adorn the ministerial, is no easy thing, even for a good man. Great watchfulness, fervent prayer, and help from above, are necessary to it. The ministers of religion are compared to "a city set on a bill which cannot be hid.” Many eyes are upon them. These are not always the eyes of candor and friendship, but too often of suspicion and malevolence. What minister can be always so circumspect and cautious, as to avoid creating, though without intending it, a number of little piques and enemies, against himself? He may do it sometimes, even by an inflexible discharge of necessary duties. And if his character must be taken from those whom he has thus innocently, perhaps laudably offended, all his virtues will be thrown into the background, and his foibles magnified with the utmost virulence of malice, and resentment.

No part of his professional business, which a Christian minister has to perform, is without its attendant trials and difficulties. He must, through a great proportion of his time, apply himself to close study." This is easy employment,” some may be ready to pronounce ;

and those would be most likely to pronounce such an opinion with confidence, who know least of the matter.

An ancient sage, who knew what it is to apply his mind to a great variety of subjects, to acquire science, and investigate truth, remarks, “that much study is a weariness to the flesh.” Close exertion of the mind preys rapidly on the body. It relaxes and weakens the various springs of the animal machine. It impairs the powers of digestion ; hence crudities abound, producing that very afflictive and variegated tribe of disorders, called nervous and hypochondriac, by which no class of men suffer so much, as the sedentary and studious. They often become strangers to quiet repose, and refreshing sleep. All the springs of life are weakened, and the period of it frequently accelerated. Great students seldom enjoy a healthful, vigorous state of body, for any considerable space of time. Their lot is often an early old age, and premature death.

Will it not require the vigorous employment of all the powers of the Christian pastor's mind, to search out the various truths and duties contained in the sacred oracles ? To show their harmony and connection? In weekly compositions, to assort and arrange them, in plain and familiar language ; and in a manner adapted to the different ages, characters and circumstances of his people ? To endeavor, by a proper application of them, to awaken the thoughtless and secure ; to lead the weary and heavy Jaden to rest and safety in Christ; to remove from hypocrites their false hopes and confidences, that they may build on the sure cornerstone, laid in Zion; to comfort the meek and humble followers of Jesus, when their spirits are depressed, with gloomy apprehensions of their state and character; and to guide all into that way of salvation revealed in the gospel ? The person who supposes such services can be performed, and such stated instructions prepared, without much close study, and great application of mind, judges quite erroneously. He must have paid very liule attention to the matter.

As to the labor of public speaking, from Sabbath to Sabbath, and on other days of social worship, some may suppose it light and inconsiderable. Do such judge rightly? Do they judge by experience ? The experiment will show such an opinion to be unfounded, and must have taught all who have made it, that to stand for several hours, and to speak, with a voice loud and forcible enough to be heard, by a large assembly, require no small exertions of strength; and that few things will sooner spend and exhaust it. Not only the lungs, and other organs of speech, are kept on the strain; but the powers of the mind must, at the same time, be vigorously exercised. There must be a constant concern to speak elearly and properly. In most assemblies the preacher has the additional trial, of seeing some before him, whose attention he is not able to gain, by his best endeavors, to prepare useful instructions, and to deliver them with propriety; some who, either fall asleep, or appear quite heedless and inattentive, “hearing as though they heard not ;” others who, if they hear, it is not with the best disposition ; it is rather with a view, to watch for faults, and to make uncandid remarks, than to be instructed, and excited to a faithful performance of duty. A mere mistake, in the speaker, will, by such persons, be magnified into a crime ; and any little impropriety, or uncouthness, in his accents, pronunciation, or gesture, will be more noticed, than the most useful and important sentiments; will be remembered longer, and be mentioned oftener, either to censure, or ridicule the performer. The present speaker, however liable he may be to such remarks, has the satisfaction to think, there are as few, among his stated hearers, disposed to make them, as in most assemblies.

But there is another thing, which may be still more likely to excite unfriendly feelings, in many persons towards their minister, and consequently be an exercise to his faith and patience. His office obliges him to be plain and faithful in his public addresses, to reprove the vicious, to warn them of their danger, to call them to repentance, to urge on them the performance of neglected duties, and to press such a virtuous and godly conversation, as is contrary to a carnal heart, and a corrupt disposition. Such exhortations and admonitions will generally be ungrateful to the more loose and vicious part of an audience. Will they not be apt to

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feel, towards their religious instructor, much as Ahab did towards the prophet Micaiah, though they should not express their feelings, in so plain terms? “I hate him, for he always prophesieth evil concerning me."

Still more difficult it may be, for a Christian minister to give private counsel, exhortation and reproof, without awakening the resentment of those whom he addresses, and bringing on himself the pointed marks of their displeasure. Yet faithfulness to God, and to them, will not suffer him to neglect this difficult and painful duty.

The service, to which a minister is often called, of visiting and conversing with the sick, frequently involves in it great difficulties, trials, and temptations. He many times finds persons, in sore distress, both of body and mind. Their situation strongly excites com passion. His heart must be hard and unfeeling indeed, not to be tenderly moved. As to many of these persons, he may have no ground, from their former lives and conversation, to judge favorably of their spiritual state. He wishes to speak words of comfort to them, and to apply the promises of the gospel, to dispel their fears, and ease their pained minds. His bowels of pity and tenderness almost constrain him to do it. But he is anxious, lest this should produce a false peace, and lead them to rest on deceptive hopes ; lest it should prevent that sense of guilt and danger, which they ought to entertain, in order to lay them low, humble, and penitent, at the feet of divine mercy, and to excite them to employ their remaining moments, and their last breath, in ardent cries to a compassionate God and Saviour, for pardoning mercy, and sanctifying grace. What can the minister do? If he deals plainly and faithfully, though from the most benevolent motives, he may be deemed cruel : He may grieve and offend the sick persons, and their surrounding friends. Those who have never been called to perform the part of a gospel minister's duty, which we are considering, will hardly conceive the difficulties which in many cases attend it. Great wisdom is requisite so to unite fidelity and tenderness; that a dangerous presumption may not be encouraged, nor a fatal despondency produced, in the last and important days, and hours of sickness, and of life.

Another thing, in the situation of a minister of religion, will, by persons acquainted with human nature, be considered as painful and self-denying, viz. his being obliged to give up his independence, so far as many of his people seem to expect ; so far as to make himself subservient to their call, their will, and, too often, to their humor ; so far as to have scarcely any time which he can call his own ; so far as not to be allowed to claim many of the common rights of human nature, with that free and independent

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