Page images
PDF
EPUB

lar,

shall we define it? Shall we say, with the schools, that it is, recta ratio rerum agibilium particularium? Or is it, an habitual consideration of all the circumstances of a thing ?

Quis, quil, ubi, quibus auxiliis, cur, quomodo quando ? And a facility of adapting our behaviour to the various combinations of them? However it be defined, should it not be studied with all care, and pursued with all earnestness of application ? For what terrible inconveniences ensue whenever it is remarkably wanting?

9thly, Next to prudence or common sense, (if it be not included therein,) a clergyman ought certainly to have some degree of goodbreeding : I mean, address, easiness, and propriety of behaviour, wherever his lot is cast: perhaps one might add, he should have, (though not the stateliness : for " he is the servant of all,” yet) all the courtesy of a gentleman, joined with the correctness of a scho

Do we want a patern of this ? We have one in St. Paul, even before Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa. One can scarce help thinking, he was one of the best bred men, one of the finest gentlemen in the world. O that we likewise had the skill to “ please all men, for their good unto edification !"

In order to this, especially in our public ministrations, would not one wish for a strong, clear, musical voice, and a good delivery, both with regard to pronunciation and action? I name these here because they are far more acquirable, than has been commonly imagined. A remarkable weak and untunable voice has, by steady application, become strong and agreeable. Those who stammered almost at every word, have learned to speak clearly and plainly. And many who were eminently ungraceful in their pronunciation, and awkward in their gesture, have in some time, by art and labour, not only corrected that awkwardness of action, and ungracefulness of utterance, but have become excellent in both, and in these respects likewise the ornaments of their profession.

What may greatly encourage those who give themselves up to the work, with regard to all these endowments, many of which cannot be attained without considerable labour, is this : they are assured of being assisted in all their labour, by him who “ teacheth man knowledge.” And “ who teacheth like him ?” Who, like him, “ giveth wisdom to the simple ?" How easy is it for him, (if we desire it, and believe that he is both able and willing to do this,) by the powerful though secret influences of his Spirit, to open and enlarge our understandings; to strengthen all our faculties; to bring to our remembrance whatsoever things are needful, and to fix and sharpen: our attention to them ; so that we may profit above all who depend wholly on themselves, in whatever may qualify us for our Master's work.

(2.) But all these things, however great they may be in themselves, are little in comparison of those that follow. For what are all other gifts, whether natural or acquired, when compared to the grace of God? And how ought this to animate and govern the whole intention, affection, and practice of a minister of Christ?

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

1. As to his Intention, both in undertaking this important office, and in executing every part of it, ought it not to be singly this : to glorify God, and to save souls from death? Is not this absolutely and indispensably necessary, before all and above all things ? “If his eye be single, his whole body," his whole soul, his whole work “ will be full of light.” God “who commanded light to shine out of darkness,” will “ shine on his heart;" will direct him in all his ways, will give him to see the travail of his soul and be satisfied. But if his eye, his intention be not single, if there be any mixture of meaner motives, (how much niore, if those were or are his leading motives in undertaking or exercising this high office!) his whole body, his whole soul will be full of darkness, even such as issues from the bottoinless pit : let not such a man think, that he shall have any

blessing from the Lord. No; the curse of God abideth on him. Let him not expect to enjoy any settled peace, any solid comfort in his own breast : neither can he hope, there will be any fruit of his labours, any sinners converted unto God.

2. As to his Affections. Ought not a “steward of the mysteries of God,” a shepherd of the souls for whom Christ died, to be endued with an eminent measure of love to God, and love to all his brethren? A love the same in kind, but in degree far beyond that of ordinary Christians ? Can he otherwise answer the high character he bears, and the relation wherein he stands? Without this, how can he go through all the toils and difficulties which necessarily attend the faithful execution of his office ? Would it be possible for a parent to go through the pain and fatigue of bearing and bringing up even one child, were it not for that vehement affection, that inexpressible Etern, which the Creator has given for that very end? How much less will it be possible for any pastor, any spiritual parent, to go through the pain and labour of travailing in birth for, and bringing up many children, to the measure of the full stature of Christ, without a large measure of that incxpressible affection, which “ a stranger intermeddleth not with ?”

He therefore must be utterly void of understanding, must be a madman of the highest order, who on any consideration whatever, undertakes this office, while he is a stranger to this affection. Nay, I have often wondered that any man in his senses, does not rather dig or thresh for a livelihood, than continue therein, unless he feels at least, (which is ex remâ lineâ amare) such an earnest concern for the glory of God, and such a thirst after the salvation of souls, that he is ready to do any thing, to lose any thing, or to suffer any thing, rather than one should perish for whom Christ died.

And is not even this degree of love to God and man utterly inconsistent with the love of the world? With the love of money or praise ? With the very lowest degree of either ambition or sensuality! How much less can it consist with that poor, low, irrational, childish principle, the love of diversions? (Surely even a man, were he neither a minister, nor a Christian, should“ put away childish things.") Not only this, but the love of pleasure, and what lies still deeper in the soul, the love of ease, flees before it.

* 3. As to his Practice, “ Unto the ungodly, saith God, why dost chou preach my laws ?” What is a minister of Christ, a shepherd of souls, unless he is all devoted to God? Unless he abstain with the utmost care and diligence, from every evil word and work; from all appearance of evil; yea, from the most innocent things whereby any might be offended or made weak ? Is he not called above others, to be an “example to the flock,” in his private as well as public character ? An example of all holy and heavenly tempers, filling the heart so as to shine through life? Consequently, is not his whole life, if he walks worthy of his calling, one incessant labour of love? One continued tract of praising God, and helping man? One series of thankfulness and beneficence? Is he not always humble, always serious, though rejoicing evermore; mild, gentle, patient, abstinent ? May you not resemble him to a guardian angel, ministering to those “ who shall be heirs of salvation ?" Is he not one sent forth from God, to stand between God and man, to guard and assist the poor, helpless children of men, to supply them both with light and strength, to guide them through a thousand known and unknown dangers, till at the appointed time he returns with those committed to his charge; to his and their Father who is in heaven?

* ( who is able to describe such a messenger of God, faithfully executing his high office? Working together with God, with the great Author both of the old and new creation! See his Lord, the eternal Son of God, going forth on that work of omnipotence, and creating heaven and earth by the breath of his mouth! See the servant whom. he delighteth to honour, fulfilling the counsel of his will, and in his Name speaking the word whereby is raised a new spiritual creation. Empowered by him, he says to the dark, unformed void of nature, « let there be light: and there is light.” “ Old things are passed away: behold all things are become new." He is continually em- . ployed, in what the angels of God have not the honour to do, cooperating with the Redeemer of men, in “ bringing many children

to glory."

Such is a true minister of Christ. And such, beyond all possibility of dispute, ought both you and I to be.

II. But are we such ? What are we in the respects above named? It is a melancholy, but necessary consideration. It is true, many have written upon this subject; and some of them admirably well. Yet few, if any, at least in our nation, have carried their inquiry through all these particulars. Neither have they always spoken so plainly and homely, as the nature of the thing required. But why did they not? Was it because they were unwilling to give pain to those whom they loved? Or were they hindered by fear of disobliging? Orof incurring any temporalinconvenience ? Miserable fear! Is any temporal inconvenience whatever to be laid in the balance with the souls of our brethren? Or were they prevented by shame, arising from a consciousness of their own many and great defects ? Undoubtedly this might extenuate the fault, but not altogether remove it. For is it not a wise advice, “ Be not ashamed when it

concerneth thy soul ?" Especially, when it concerns the souls of thousands also. In such a case may God

“Set as a fint our steady face,

Harden to adamant our brow !" But is there not another hinderance ? Should not compassion, should not tenderness binder us from giving pain? Yes, from giving unnecessary pain. But what manner of tenderness is this? . It is like that of a surgeon, who lets his patient be lost, because he is too compassionate to probe bis wounds. Cruel compassion! Let me give pain, so I may save life. Let me probe, that God may

heal. (1.) Are we then such as we are sensible we should be, 1st, With regard to natural endowments? I am afraid not.

If we were, how many stumbling-blocks would be removed out of the way of serious infidels ? Alas, what terrible effects do we continually see of that common, though senseless imagination, “ The boy, if he is fit for nothing else, will do well enough for a parson ?" Hence it is, that we see (I would to God there were no such instance in all Great Britain or Ireland) dull, heavy, blockish ministers; men of no life, no spirit; no readiness of thought; who are consequently the jest of every pert fool, every lively airy coxcomb they meet.

We see others whose memory can retain nothing; therefore they can never be men of considerable knowledge. They can never know much even of those things which they are more nearly concerned to know. Alas! they are pouring the water into a leaky vessel; and the broken cistern can hold no water. I do not say with Plato, That "all human knowledge is nothing but remembering." Yet certain it is, that without remembering, we can have but a small share of knowledge. And even those who enjoy the most retentive memory, find great reason still to complain,

“ Still comes so slow, and life so fast does fly;

We learn so little, and forget so much.” And yet we see and bewail a still greater defect, in some that are in the ministry. They want sense; they are defective in understanding; their capacity is low and shallow : their apprehension is muddy and confused : of consequence thev are utterly incapable, either of forming a true judgment of things, or of reasoning justly upon any thing. O how can these who themselves know nothing aright, impart knowledge to others? How instruct them in all the variety of duty, to God, their neighbour, and themselves? How will they guide them through all the mazes of error, through all the entanglements of sin and temptation ? · How will they apprize them of the devices of Satan, and guard them against all the wisdom of the world?

It is easy to perceive, I do not speak this for their sake; (for they are incorrigible) but for the sake of parents, that they may open their eyes and see, A blockhead can never do well enough for a parson.” He may do well enough for a tradesman ; so well as to gain fifty or a hundred thousand pounds. He may do well enough

for a soldier; nay, (if you pay well for it,) for a well-dressed and very well-mounted officer. He may do well enough for a sailor, and may shine on the quarter-deck of a man-of-war. He may do so well in the capacity of a lawyer or physician, as to ride in his gilt chariot. But, o ! think not of his being a minister, unless you would bring a blot upon your family, a scandal upon our church, and a reproach on the gospel, which he may murder, but cannot teach.

Are we such as we are sensible we should be, 2dly, With regard to acquired endowments? Here the matter (suppose we have common understanding) lies more directly within our own power. But under this, as well as the following heads, methinks, I would not consider at all, how many or how few, are either excellent or defective. I would only desire every person who reads this, to apply it to himself

. Certainly some one in the nation is defective. Am not I the man?

Let us each seriously examine himself. Have I, 1, such a knowledge of Scripture, as becomes him who undertakes so to explain it to others, that it may be a light in all their paths ? Have I a full and clear view of the analogy of faith, which is the clue to guide me through the whole ? Am I acquainted with the several parts of Scripture ; with all the parts of the Old Testament and the New! Upon the mention of any text, do I know the context, and the parallel places? Have I that point at least of a good divine, the being a good textuary? Do I know the grammatical construction of the four gospels ? Of the Acts? Of the Epistles ? And am I a magter of the spiritual sense (as well as the literal) of what I read? Do I understand the scope of each book, and how every part of it tends thereto ? Have I skill to draw the natural inferences deducible from each text? Do I know the objections raised to them or from them by Jews, Deists, Papists, Arians, Socinians, and all other sectaries, who more or less corrupt or cauponize the word of God? Am I ready to give a satisfactory answer to each of these objections ? And have I learned to apply every part of the sacred writings, as the various states of my hearers require ?

2. Do I understand Greek and Hebrew ? Otherwise how can I undertake, (as every minister does,) not only to explain books which are written therein, but to defend them against all opponents? Am I not at the mercy of every one who does understand, or even pretends to understand the original ? For which way can I consute his pretence? Do I understand the language of the Old Testament? Critically? At all ? Can I read into English one of David's psalms ? Or even the first chapter of Genesis ? Do I understand the language of the New Testament? Am I a critical master of it? Have I enough of it even to read into English the first chapter of St. Luke? If not, how many years did I spend at school ? How many at the university? And what was I doing all those years! Ought not shame to cover my face?

*3. Do I understand my own office? Have I deeply considered before God, the character which I bear? What is it to be an am

« PreviousContinue »