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keep watch over his flock by night. And this he must do, though the drought consume him by day, and the frost by night, and his sleep depart from his eyes; as the patriarch Jacob speaks.
In like manner, it is not enough for the Christian shepherd to teach, both publicly and privately, the fall and recovery of man; be must do much more. He must take the care, the inspection, the oversight, the guidance of the flock every moment; he must suit his instructions to the age, the temper, the circumstances, the prejudices, the duties, the calling, the temptations, the sorrows of each ; he must deny himself, become all things to all men, be instant in season, out of season, be apt and ready to teach both publickly and from house to house; and in meekness instruct those that oppose themselves, if peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth. He must “ do all that in him lieth, to bring all committed to his charge unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among them, either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life?.”
And, O what skill, what diligence, what wisdom, what compassion, what a tender heart, what a well-balanced presiding mind; above all, what ardent love to the great Shepherd, and to the flock for his sake, doth the minister require for the due discharge of his high office ! It is true, little comparatively can be done at once in an immensely extensive parish; but something may be attempted, and much more may be accomplished, by wise and persevering efforts, than might at first be expected. God blesses the shepherd's honest diligence; whereas despair is the enemy of all exertion.
7 Ordination Service.
The catechizing of children, the encouragement of schools, the preparing of the young for confirmation and the Lord's supper, the visiting of the sick, the directing and consoling of the afflicted in conscience, the distribution of Bibles, prayer-books, and religious books and tracts; the increasing, if possible, the necessary accommodation for public worship with the increase of population; the guarding the sanctity of the Sabbath ; the preventing the entrance and diffusion of false doctrine and heresy; the preserving the flock in the unity of the apostolical reformed church, of which they are members ; these all come under the comprehensive expression, Taking the oversight thereof; and all these, as subservient to the great doctrines of the Gospel, by which only they can be made
efficient and salutary, are indispensably obligatory on the minister of Christ.
But we proceed to consider,
II. THE TEMPER, OR SPIRIT, OF THE CHRISTIAN SHEPHERD, as inculcated by the Apostle in the text.
For the manner of discharging his duties is almost as important as the duties themselves.
There are three principal faults, which mark a bad shepherd: backwardness or reluctance to his work; sordid love of gain ; harshness and tyranny. In order to be a good shepherd, he must be cheerful, and willing in his office ; heartily devoted to the real interests of his flock; gentle and compassionate in his guidance of them.
Thus the Christian shepherd must, in the language of our Apostle, take the oversight of the flock, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being a lord over God's heritage, but being an ensample to the flock. That is, he must be free from backwardness of mind, from the love of gain, from ambition ; and he must uniformly act with cheerfulness in his work, devotion of heart, humility.
The Christian minister is not to be reluctant and backward to his work; led by constraint, contrary to the bent of his mind. He is not to
look on his duty as a burdensome task, and undertake it, in consequence of external solicitations, against his will. He must not shrink from the discharge of his office from false modesty, the love of ease, or a preference for some other calling. He is not to make it the forlorn hope, when other occupations fail ; driven to it by necessity, and discharging it with awkwardness and distaste. He is not to confine himself to what he is obliged to perform by the letter of the law, or to what, if omitted, would expose hiin to rebuke from his superiors in the church.
A shepherd who should act thus, would infallibly be a bad shepherd, would neglect, in a thousand important circumstances, the comfort and welfare of his flock, and would on the first convenient pretext give up an office which he misunderstood and disliked. And if a Christian minister thus conducts himself, his course of duty will be tame, heartless, indolent. Such an one may be a man of literature, a man of science, a man of refined taste, a man of amiable manners, a man of pleasant and agreeable conversation,- because in all these things he has a willing mind ;-but in his peculiar work, in the cure of souls, he will do as little as he can ; he will be backward, dull, careless, inefficient.
The true shepherd acts not by constraint, but willingly; he has a preference for his holy
vocation; he considers it to be the highest honour to be permitted to instruct and guide the souls for which Christ died; he thanks Christ Jesus his Lord who enabled him, for that he counted him faithful, putting him into the ministry. The cure of souls is not a business to which he is driven, but a choice in which he delights; he is not forced by circumstances from without, but led by principles from within; He “ trusts that he is moved to it by the Holy Ghost 8.” Sense of obligation to divine mercy, gratitude for redemption, love to a crucified Saviour, views of the infinite value of souls, compassion for the state of mankind, impressions of the nearness of death and eternity, make him a cheerful, willing, shepherd of his Master's flock.
But the second part of the minister's temper is, that he must not act for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. For a man may be willing, in a certain sense, to undertake this office, and yet that willingness may spring from a base and unworthy source; he may have his eye principally on the temporal support afforded by the state to the ministers of the Gospel. He may be free from constraint, as to outward force ; and yet have no readiness, no promptness, no devotion of heart to the spiritual work of the
8 Ordination Service.