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ed on them, in common with the other office-bearers of the church, and with the rest of their christian brethren. But in the instructions peculiarly intended for them, while many other duties are also enumerated, the greatest stress is always laid on this. To this, then, as the distinguishing duty of the ministerial office, I would, at present, call your attention; both that I may publicly acknowledge what I am bound, as a christian minister to fulfil; and may remind you of what you ought, as hearers of the gospel, to expect.-To attain these ends, the text will afford us much useful assistance; as it comprehends an excellent summary of the christian preacher's duty.
I. Says the apostle, "We preach not ourselves;
II." We preach Christ Jesus the Lord; and
Let us first, therefore, consider the christian minister's duty, in preaching the gospel, as it is negatively expressed, in the first of these clauses.
"We preach not ourselves," when, in preaching, we pursue not our own temporal interest,-our own personal reputation, or the promulgation of our own peculiar opinions.
1. If we preach not ourselves," our own temporal interest is not the object of our preaching.
Were the attainment of a comfortable independence a man's only motive, in becoming the minister of a christian congregation, how inconsistent would it be with the purposes, and the importance of such a charge? How languidly and imperfectly would he perform his duties? and how unsuccessful, in
all probability, would his labours be? In any employment or profession, it is understood that those, who engage in it, have a disposition and qualifications suitable to it, and a particular inclination towards it, independent of any view to the livelihood which it may afford: and without such qualifications and inclinations, it is not likely that they will be useful either to society or to themselves, in the occupation which they pursue. But as much as the soul is superior to the body, and the office of the ministry, in proportion, more important than other callings, so much the more ought there to be a disposition suitable to that office, and a strong predilection for it, in all those who exercise it; and so much the less ought it to be assumed from temporal and mercenary considerations. And if worldly interest be a minister's chief motive, how unhappy must be its influence on all his exertions? It will incline him to relax the severity of reproof; to preach the tenets which are most acceptable, though not most useful; to wink at the vices, and to humour the prejudices of his hearers. And on their faith and practice, how fatal must be the effects of such a procedure?
Again what is the end of preaching? It is to convert the unconverted, to instruct the ignorant, to comfort, and to edify the saints. How is this end, on the part of ministers, to be attained? By unremitting activity and industry; by unswerving fidelity and uprightness. But is this exertion and fidelity to be expected from one, who enters the ministry merely from worldly views? No: if he be supported by the state, he will yield to sloth; if by his congregation, he will fall into partiality,
"having mens persons in admiration, because of advantage."* It is only "the liberal, who devi"seth liberal things;"† the disinterested and sincere, who will be diligent and faithful. Mean and mercenary motives can never lead to exalted ends. "The vile person will speak villany, and his heart "will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to "utter error against the Lord; to make empty the "soul of the hungry; and he will cause the drink "of the thirsty to fail."‡
Although scripture teaches that "the labourer, "in word and doctrine, is worthy of his reward;"§ that they who" sow spiritual things, should reap " carnal things ;" and that "the Lord hath ordain
ed, that they which preach the gospel, should "live of the gospel;" yet it uniformly condemns those who teach for gain." The priests thereof," says Micah, concerning Zion, " teach for hire; and "the prophets thereof divine for money: there
fore, for your sake, shall Zion be plowed as a field; and Jerusalem shall become heaps."** Peter enjoins the elders of the church to "feed "the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof, "not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy
lucre, but of a ready mind."++ In these epistles to the Corinthians, we have the same doctrine exemplified by Paul-He sought "not his own pro
fit, but the profit of many, that they might be "saved" and to this he subjoins, "Be ye follow"ers of me, even as I am of Christ."§§ To the same effect he declares again, "I will not be bur"densome to you; for I seek not yours, but you."||||
Jude 16. § 1 Tim. v. 17, 18. ** Mic. iii. 11, 12.
§§ Ibid. xi. 1.
2 Cor. xii. 14.
Such is the language of revelation. How despicable, then, is the character, and how dreadful the condition of those, who make the preaching of godliness merely a matter of gain? In this life, they seek, and have their reward: but when the chief shepherd shall appear, to take account of their conduct to his flock, he may justly address them, as God did the wicked of old, What hast thou to do, to declare my statutes; or that thou shouldst "take my covenant in thy mouth ?"* And then shall the teachers, whose principle is "covetous"ness," know that their judgment lingereth not, " and their damnation slumbereth not."+
2. If" we preach not ourselves," we preach not to promote our personal reputation or fame.
The desire of fame, or a wish to be esteemed and well reported of, by our fellow creatures, is commonly reckoned a generous passion. It is certainly a natural one. In most men, it is very strong; and, if properly limited and directed, it is highly commendable. When we say, therefore, that we are not to make the promotion of our preaching, we mean not that we are to be indifferent to character; but that reputation is not to be the ultimate object of our desire, or to be pursued on its own account. When ambition of fame is the ruling motive of action, there is no principle more contemptible, or more pernicious. It will submit to every meanness; and teach men to practise every hypocritical art: nay, there is no crime, of which it may not lead them to be guilty. It makes them palliate the vices of one, excuse the folly of another, and assert the errors of a third; in order to * Psalm 1. 16. † 2 Peter ii. 3.
purchase incense in return. It induces them, without regard to consistency or dignity, to say and to unsay, to do, undo, according to the different dispositions, sentiments, and characters of those, with whom they may associate.-In a minister of the gospel, such a principle is peculiarly unbecoming, and is incalculably dangerous. Have we a commission from the Lord Jesus, the Lord of glory; and shall we prefer the applause of men to the praise of God? Shall we guide our conduct by the various and varying opinions of our fellow worms, in order to attract their admiration; rather than look forward, by a steady perseverance in truth and rectitude, "Well done, good and faithful servants," from the most High? If Herod met with an awful doom, while employing the false eloquence of shew, and the hypocritical strains of flattery, that he might obtain the impious shout of adulation, "It is the "voice of a God, and not of a man ;"* of how much severer punishment shall we be thought worthy, if, neglecting our embassy, as ministers of the gospel, we seek our own glory, rather than that of our master; and barter the souls of his immortal creatures, for an empty name to ourselves?
The opinions of men, are, moreover, so various, and so opposite, that the minister, who would preach to please all, must necessarily keep back much of the counsel of God; and must, besides, in private, agree with all. Well, therefore, did Christ say, "Wo unto you, when all men shall speak well "of you! for so did their fathers to the false proHis apostle expresses sentiments as de
* Acts xii. 12.
† Luke vi. 26.