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an individual. - To this doctrine we may trace all the revivals of religion which have been known in every age, and in every country, from the earliest period down to the present time.
St. Paul in his preaching had regard to the state of the people, and, to use his own language, he fed them with milk, or with meat, according as he found the one, or the other, most suitable, but he never failed to tell any, to whom he addressed himself, of their lost estate, as sinners, and of their absolute necessity of an interest in the atonement of Christ. As the carnality of the Corinthian church made it expedient for him in his labors among them, to confine himself to the rudiments of religion, while he dealt out what he calls hidden wisdom among those who were perfect, or more advanced in knowledge, and experience, ministers would do well to follow his example, and bring nothing before their people, collectively, which is hard to be understood, unless it be that mystery of godliness, which is essential to their salvation.
A minister is not only a teacher to instruct his people; but a shepherd to take care of them. Though what relates to this office has been in part already noticed, it is of sufficient importance to be still farther considered. We have not been much acquainted with pastoral life, but it must be obvious to us all, that when a flock is under the care of a shepherd, it is necessary that the shepherd should be much with the flock. If a minister is connected with his people, as a shepherd is with his flock, then it is of consequence, that he should observe the conduct of the shepherd, and endeavor to conform to it.
This is a part of the business of a minister which is generally neglected, and by no one, perhaps, more than by the person who is now, speaking about it; yet at the hazard of being condemned out of his own mouth, he will offer some reasons to show how important it is for a minister to visit his people.
In the twenty third chapter of Jeremiah we read, Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people, Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them. In the eleventh
chapter of Zechariah, where judgments are predicted, the Lord says, For lo I will raise up a shepherd in the land which shall not visit those that be cut off; neither shall seek the •young one; nor heal that that is broken; nor feed that that standeth still. These passages are too plain to need any explanation, for every reader will infer from them, that the spiritual shepherd ought to visit his flock. The example of Christ too, will show us the same thing, for he went about teaching, and doing good. St. Paul also taught, not only publicly, but from house to house,
The advantages resulting from such an intercourse are obviously very great. There is no way in which a minister if he be prudent in his management can, so generally secure the esteem, and affection of his people.
Such private interviews will afford the best opportunities ļikewise, for him to discover the views, and feelings, of every one, upon the subject of religion, and therefore he will better understand how to adopt his preaching to his audience. Whatever knowledge a physician may have of diseases in general, he wants to attend to each particular case, before he undertakes to prescribe.
To the young, and to the aged, and to persons of all ages, and of all characters, it may be farther observed, a word might be dropped in conversation, which would be more thought of, and be more profitable than any instruction, publicly delivered.
As it was while men slept, that the enemy sowed tares among the wheat, it is, probably, owing in a great measure, to want of vigilance, and attention, in ministers that difficulties spring up, and continue, in societies, and in churches, and, that so many bad practices are introduced.
Should it be thought that I make too much to depend upon this matter, let it be recollected what has, commonly, been the consequence when a minister has made it his business to go around among his people, having nothing else in view, but to converse with them about their spiritual affairs. Has any experiment ever been made, which, has so invariably, resulted in a revival of religion.
We might dwell longer upon the duties of the pastoral office, but the time is so far elapsed, that the discourse must be brought to a conclusion with some very brief addresses.
Let me say to my brethren in the ministry, that we have undertaken a great work, and, that we are accountable for the manner in which we perform it, and for the motives which govern us in our conduct. If we have proper views of what is our own glory, we shall seek the glory of God. Let us be faithful, and we shall be strengthened as our labors may require, supported under trials; and rewarded in the great day.
I cherish the hope my dear Sir, that you who are about to be consecrated as the minister of Jesus Christ to this people, will be willing to spend your life in the service of your master. You must suppose, that I feel more than a common interest in your case; for I consider you as one of the lambs of my flock. Pardon me, that I paid no more attention to you at that early, and tender, season, when I might have been instrumental of doing you some good.
The circumstances of your establishment in this place are favorable to your usefulness; for you have the confidence, and affection of the people. The labors of your predecessors here, have been blessed, and we trust, that God will not suffer you to labor in vain, and to spend your strength for nought. Seek his glory, and in this way, you will be sure of obtaining his blessing. Take heed unto thyself; and unto thy doctrine; continue in them, for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
Though my heart aches when I recollect how unfaithful I have been in my Master's service, my own experience is to me sufficient testimony, that the employment of a minister is of all employments the most delightful.
The Mantuan Bard extolled a shepherd's life;
I congratulate the church, and the people of this society, that they are so happily united in the choice of a minister. I hope, my friends you will consider the nature of his business, and afford him all the encouragement which you can in the performance of it; for his success will be your advantage. Let us hear from you, that you are flocking into the kingdom of God. Let the light in this candlestick shine over all the surrounding country.
In some places the evening of such a solemn day as this, has been spent in mirth, and festivity. If this is an indica tion of a polished state of society, I hope the day is far distant, when this people will be sufficiently polished, for such a practice to be introduced among them. Far more consistent would it be, for all descriptions of people, to be importunately calling upon God to open their hearts to receive the glad tidings of salvation.
May God in mercy grant, that every individual in this assembly may be profited by the solemnities of this day.
A SERMON PREACHED AT THE DEDICATION OF THE NEW MEETING HOUSE IN WORTHINGTON,
DEC. 28th, 1825.
II. CHRONICLES ii, 4.
Behold, I build an house to the name of the Lord my God,
to dedicate it to him, and to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual shew-bread, and for the burntofferings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the Lord our God. This is an ordinance forever to Israel.
The God who made the world, has ever had a people in the world to worship him. Our first parents were created holy, and continued so, until they ate the forbidden fruit, For that sin, they were doubtless, brought to repentance, and restored to the favor of their Maker. As the Lord God made coats of skins, and clothed them, it is thought altogether probable, that the bodies of the animals were offered in sacrifice. Cain and Abel, the first that were born, brought their offerings unto the Lord, though with a very different temper of mind, and those offerings, in the New Testament, are called sacrifices.
Sacrifices before the flood might be burned upon the ground, for the first altar of which we have an account, is the one which Noah builded after he and his family came