the Son, hath life, but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." John iii. 36. Gospel ministers, by preaching faith and repentance, preach Christ. They should explain the nature, and properties of these graces, distinguishing a true and living faith, from a false and dead one-and evangelical repentance, from that which is only legal. They should show them to be terms or conditions of the new covenant. They should assist their people, in examining whether they are become sincere penitents, and true believers, or not. They should direct them to attend those means, in the use of which, persons are generally brought to exercise that "godly sorrow, which worketh repentance to life, not to be repented of;" and to "believe to the saving of their souls;" such as prayer-reading and hearing God's word. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Rom. x. 17. The great apostle Paul, who knew how to preach Christ to greatest advantage, speaks of his instructions, as consisting much in "testifying repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts xx. 21.

5. Moral duties were a principal subject of Christ's preaching. As he explained the moral law, and inculcated obedience to it, he might be called a legal preacher. He said he came not to destroy the law-not to vacate our obligations to obey it; but to point out its unchangeable nature and perpetual authority over us. A great part of his instructions were of a moral kind. Witness his Sermon on the Mount, as it is usually called, and many other of his discourses. He declared the character of all those to be bad; their state dangerous; and their hope built on the sand, who were not formed to a love of God's law, and a disposition to obey it. Matt. vii. ult. His ministers should preach it, as a faithful saying and worthy to be constantly affirmed, that they who have believed in Christ should be careful to maintain good works. Titus iii. 8. That the law is not made void through faith, but established; and that the grace of God in the gospel, contains additional motives to yield obedience to it. They should open, explain and enforce the various duties of morality, which relate to God, our neighbors and ourselves; and show them to be "good and profitable to men." In doing this, they do not neglect to preach Christ. They are not to be blamed as entertaining their hearers unprofitably. They who censure them on this account, do well to consider, that their censure doth not terminate on them, it extends to the infallible Teacher who came from God, whose example they imitate.

6. Our blessed Saviour preached an approaching day of universal judgment, and a succeeding state of everlasting rewards and punishments, according to the deeds done in the body. This was the subject of his discourse recorded in the 25th of Matthew, and in several other parts of the evangelical history. His min

isters must often entertain their hearers with the same solemn and important truths. They must teach them, that they are subjects of God's moral government-that they have certain talents committed to them-and that the day approacheth, when they must give account how they have improved them. They must represent Christ as the supreme and final judge, and show the certainty and solemnity of his second appearing-that we must all be convened before his enlightened tribunal-and all be treated according to our real character. Saints will be placed on his right handsinners on his left-and the everlasting condition of both determined, by an irreversible sentence from his sacred lips. "Then shall the Judge say to those on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, from the foundation of the world.-And to those on his left, Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal."

The ministers of the gospel should often call the attention of their hearers to the solemn process of "this great and terrible day of the Lord"-urge them to consider their own concern in itand to prepare for it, that they may "give up their account with joy." They must address, to their hopes and fears, those two great springs of action in the human mind, by the joys of heaven and the miseries of hell; that they may be excited to "fly from the wrath to come, and lay hold on the hope set before them." In doing this, they preach Christ, as they evidently pattern after him, who was a perfect, unerring instructor.-It seems to be more than time, that I proceed, in the third place :

III. To take notice of the general character, in which Christ's ministers are to consider themselves, and in which they are to act; as their people's "servants for Jesus' sake." Acting in this character, doth not imply, that they must be of a servile, abject spirit; disposing them timidly to yield to the humors and lusts of their people, in order to please them. This would be sinking vastly below the dignity of it. This would be, basely to betray the cause, which they are bound to support. To pretend to do this, "for Jesus' sake," would be strange indeed; since the apostle declares, if he "thus seek to please men, he is not the servant of Christ." Gal. i. 10. They must be careful to "magnify their office," and support the dignity of it, by a becoming boldness and fortitude, in reproving the vices, and opposing the evil dispositions of their people. There is a sense, in which they are rulers in the church. So they are called in 1 Tim. v. 17. People are directed to "submit to, and obey them." Heb. xiii. 17. They are to lead in the exercises of public worship-in supporting a

godly discipline-in receiving persons into the church-and in passing censures on obnoxious members.

However, acting in character as "their people's servants," seems ill to comport with pretensions to the whole power and authority of governing the church. They share this, in most cases, but in common with their private brethren. It will not consist with a haughty, magisterial temper and conduct. It forbids them "to lord it over God's heritage "To take state on themselves to distance their people as vastly below them— and forbid them to approach them, without signs of deep reverence and submission. It very ill agrees with those high-sounding titles, so common in the national established church: Right reverend Father in God-Lords' Spiritual, &c. It leads us rather to expect singular humility, gentleness and condescensionthat they instruct with meekness those who oppose them that they are easy of access to all; even to persons of tender age; in low circumstances; and of small abilities. "A law of kindness should be ever on their tongues; " and a sweet, placid temper be maintained, as far as possible on all occasions.

Their professing themselves their "people's servants," must be more than a fashionable compliment: Your humble servants. It is a declared readiness to serve them in their most important interests to do good to their souls, in all ways, in their power. This declaration they make when they enter on the sacred work; and they should be careful to act up to it in all their future labors.

We are your servants, for Jesus' sake, is the profession; not for our own; not with a principal view to personal emolument. This suggests that love to Christ, a desire to promote his glory, and to build up his kingdom, should be our leading motives in the ministerial work. Noble and worthy motives indeed! Before Christ sent forth Peter to preach his gospel, he interrogated him"Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" Upon his answering, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee:" He said, Feed my sheep-feed my lambs. John xxi. 15. Ministers should have supreme love to Christ: When, from this principle, they feed his sheep and lambs, they serve their people "for Jesus' sake."

[ocr errors]

And when they consider what he hath done and suffered, to save lost souls-how " he took on him the form of a servant, and became obedient to death," for this purpose-when they consider this, as the foundation of their own hope of salvation-what will they not be willing to do! what will they not be ready to suffer, to carry this design into effect! This will have influence in all their labors.

With what holy zeal will it fill their public instructions! How will they cry aloud and not spare, to awaken stupid and secure

sinners, and to show them their danger! How earnestly will they entreat them to be reconciled to God! How pathetically will they represent the riches of his grace in Christ! How tenderly will they administer the comforts and cordials of the gospel, to the true disciples of Christ, to cheer their souls, and animate them to run with patience and alacrity the race set before them; In a word, what life and vigor will appear in all their ministrations, in the house of God!

Nor will these motives operate only on their public labors : They will excite them to the most vigorous exertions, to serve their people, and do them good, in private ways. They will render them diligent in their studies, and fervent in their prayers for them. They will make them desirous to know the state of their flocks, and willing to take pains for that purpose. They will stir them up to the difficult and laborious duty of making pastoral visits. They will carry them often to families of affliction, and into chambers of sickness, that they may improve the most favorable opportunities of administering private counsel, exhortation and comfort; while their hearts are made soft by the rod of God upon them, and their ears opened to discipline. They will be influenced thereby, cheerfully to perform the humblest offices, which tend to promote the spiritual good of their people. They will condescend to men of low degree, and be ready to teach the weakest, as well as the wisest; as it were "to gather the lambs in their arms, and carry them in their bosoms;" and tenderly to watch for every soul committed to their care.

Yea, they will be animated to perseverance in this difficult and arduous work. They will not soon quit it, on account of the trials and discouragements they meet with in it; but be desirous, if it be the will of God, to serve him in the gospel of his Son, to their dying day; and to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, till their lips be closed in the silent grave; hoping to bring many of their people to know him, and believe on him here, that they may be admitted into his presence hereafter, to celebrate his praises for ever. Thus they should approve themselves their servants, for Jesus' sake.

And now by way of reflection:

1. What hath been offered, may suggest something of the difficulty, as well as importance, of the ministerial work. To collect from the sacred Scriptures, the various doctrines and duties of Christianity-to place them in a clear and consistent point of light -and to apply them properly, to persons of various characters, so as to give to each his portion in due season, must require great skill, and close application of mind. In order to any one's doing this, he need have a clear head, as well as a pious heart,-he

need have good natural abilities, and some peculiar advantages of education; as also a studious and contemplative disposition. He need feel the power of divine truths on his own mind, and be filled with superlative love to Christ.

Those who cannot look on themselves, to be in some good measure, possessed of these qualifications, do wrong to seek admission into the ministry; and others cannot be justified in encouraging them to enter into it. We cannot reasonably expect the work of the Lord should prosper in their hands: There is great danger of its suffering, through their unskilful and unfaithful management of it.

2. Is it not seasonable, my fathers and brethren in the ministry, on this occasion, to examine ourselves, how far we have acted up to the apostle's example, in our text? Whether we have been duly careful," not to preach ourselves "—not to deliver our own notions and sentiments, for gospel truths-not to seek our own advantage and reputation, more than the honor of our divine Master, and the edification of his kingdom. Whether we have endeavored, faithfully to "preach Christ Jesus the Lord;" by treating on his person, natures and offices, as the Son of God, and Saviour of lost men-by explaining his example, and recommending it to the imitation of his followers-by teaching the same doctrines, and inculcating the same duties which he did? Whether we have, in our public and private labors, approved ourselves the sincere and faithful servants of our people, for Jesus' sake?

Upon a serious review of our ministerial conduct, and a recollection of our ordination vows, I hope we stand acquitted of habitual and allowed unfaithfulness, to our divine Master, or to the people of our charge. But alas! who of us doth not find himself to have been negligent and slothful in many articles of duty? Too much influenced by worldly motives? Too little warmed and animated with love to Christ, and compassion to precious and immortal souls?

So far as we have been enabled to be faithful, let us thank God, and take courage. So far as we are conscious of sinful imperfection and negligence, let us be deeply humbled for it, and seek pardon through the blood of the great sacrifice, which was shed for the priesthood, and for the congregation. Let us now renew our vows and resolutions, for greater fidelity and diligence, in time

to come.

3. Do the faithful ministers of the gospel "preach Christ, and not themselves?" How attentive should people be to their instructions? It is not pretended, that people are bound to receive all that they deliver, with an implicit faith, for gospel truth. They must hear, and judge for themselves. But so much deference is undoubtedly due to those that are set over them, in

« VorigeDoorgaan »