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the New Testament, must acknowledge are used to denote the same office. There is no intimation, that the people had not liberty to choose their ministers, and present them to Timothy, who was authorized to set them apart to the work to which they had been chosen, by ordaining them, and solemnly committing to them the gospel of Christ.
It seems he was to be acquainted with the characters of those to whom he committed this important trust; and be satisfied that they were faithful men, and able to teach. It will be the business of the following discourse, to explain these qualifications, and then to add some practical remarks, and particular addresses, suitable to the subject, and to the present occasion.
First, they who are introduced into the office of public Christian teachers, must be faithful men. and uprightness, by which temper of mind a person should be Faithfulness signifies sincerity influenced, both in entering into the pastoral office at first; and in performing all the duties of it, through the course of his ministry.
Faithfulness implies sincere, good, and upright views and motives, in entering into this sacred employment. The faithful man's desire and design must be, the promotion of the great ends of the gospel ministry, which are to honor God; to build up the kingdom of Christ, and advance the salvation of men.
Now, in order to his being truly governed by these motives, is it not evidently necessary, that he be a man of real goodness of heart, of undissembled piety and religion? Must not a man, who is destitute of renewing grace, if he is acquainted with the springs of action, in his own mind, be sensible, that he hath no real concern for the glory of God, and the advancement of the kingdom of his Son? How can he then, from upright and faithful motives, take upon him the pastoral office? Can he honestly consider himself qualified to serve Christ, in this employment, when he hath no consciousness of a sincere affection to him? Can he view himself as a fit person, to preach those doctrines, which are, in general, disagreeable to the governing temper of his mind; and the sanctifying influence of which he hath not experienced on his own heart? Can he justly conceive, that he is a suitable instrument, to inculcate and promote that holy, spiritual, and divine life, to which he is a stranger, and which he refuses to maintain? Certainly not.
Must not that faithfulness then, which should possess a man who enters into the work of the ministry, imply that he finds in himself, a sincere and ardent love to his divine Master, in whose service he is engaging? That he hath diligently endeavored to become acquainted with that service, and feels an affection to it? That he bath reason to think that, through grace, he is in some good measure qualified to perform it? And that he finds a
readiness to devote all his powers and abilities to it? And finally, that he hath formed solemn resolutions to promote it to the utmost of his capacity, depending on the spirit and grace of Christ to assist him in, and carry him through it? Will not such be the views, and motives of the faithful man, in undertaking the work of the gospel ministry?
Faithfulness will also appear in prosecuting this work, and performing all the parts of it. Let me here mention some particulars.
1. He will be faithful in his studies, that he may rightly understand the doctrines and duties of that holy religion of which he is a teacher. His studies indeed must have been employed upon these subjects, previous to his undertaking the work; otherwise he could not undertake it with integrity and uprightness. But his diligence in studying the sacred Scriptures, before he took upon him the pastoral charge, will not excuse him from it, through the whole course of his ministry. There will always be room for improvement in religious knowledge. If his mind is agreeably furnished, it may, by proper industry, be more richly and abundantly furnished, with those treasures of wisdom and knowledge which are inexhaustible, in the sacred oracles. He will not imagine that he hath arrived at perfection, in his acquaintance with divine truth, and that there is no room for further light to enter into his mind.
Fidelity in studying the inspired writings, will dispose him carefully to guard against all prepossessions in favor of, or in opposition to, particular religious tenets. He will not, as may be
too much the case with some, search the Scriptures, with a view to find arguments, in support of a system of doctrine, which he had before adopted; or endeavor to force them to speak a language agreeable to it; but he will yield himself up to the word of God, to be led by its light, though in consequence of it, he should be obliged to renounce some favorite sentiment, which he had long entertained, or to embrace others, against which he had been prejudiced. He will take his religious opinions from the sacred volume, and not wrest it, in order to vindicate those which he had before adopted.
Diligence in his studies will also be necessary, in order to provide useful entertainment for the people of his charge; from one season of public instruction to another. He could not content himself, if he could satisfy them, by delivering broken, incoherent discourses, which cost him no labor. He will prepare beaten oil for the sanctuary;" well-studied and correct compositions, suited to impart clear light, and important edification. This is one thing, in which his faithfulness will appear.
2. It will also, by a care to preach the pure, uncorrupted gospel. He will not be of those who corrupt the word of God,
or handle it deceitfully. 2 Cor. xi. 17. He will take heed to his doctrine, and endeavor to show uncorruptness.
Indeed the most upright and faithful minister may be mistaken, in his apprehension, in some less weighty points in theology; and Inay deliver sentiments, not perfectly consonant to the standard of divine truth: But this will not be through want of desire to know the truth, as it is in Jesus, or of industry, in searching for it. He will not voluntarily advance error, or mislead his people, in the smallest article of faith or practice. And his fidelity will undoubtedly preserve him from dangerous and fundamental errors. Being disposed to do the will of his divine Master, he will assist him to know his doctrine.
3. He will discover his faithfulness, in delivering the whole truth. It will be his desire, as it was the apostle's, to declare to his people all the counsel of God, and to keep back nothing that would be profitable to them. Acts xx. 20. He will not artfully conceal certain truths, to answer a particular purpose. Nor will he dwell continually on others, because he can discourse on thei with more ease, and less study; or because they are more grateful to his hearers, and tend to render him popular. This would not consist with faithfulness to God, and to the souls committed to his charge; yet I may add,
4. That he will aim to treat, most frequently, on those subjects which be considers as peculiarly weighty, and necessary to the edification of his people. All Christian doctrines are not equally useful and important. There are the weightier matters of the gospel, as well as of the law, both as to faith and practice. These he will make the most frequent subject of his public discourses. It would be too assuming in me to attempt to determine what these are. Permit me, however, modestly to suggest, that among these, I conceive are to be numbered, the apostasy of the human race by the disobedience of their first progenitors; the gospel method of man's recovery through the mediation of Christ; the terms of the gospel covenant, which are, repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, and evangelical obedience; the work of the Holy Spirit in renewing the hearts of men; the progress of holiness through the Christian life; those instrumental duties and ordinances, which tend to beget and increase true grace; the moral and positive precepts of Christianity; the important change by death; the judgment of the great day; and a future state of rewards and punishments. These will generally take place of matters of smaller importance: and these will exclude questions foolish and unlearned, and a strife about words, which tend rather to subvert the hearers, than to promote godly edifying.
5. The Christian minister should show his faithfulness, by accommodating his instructions to the different characters and circumstances of his people. He will endeavor to "approve himself
to God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, by rightly dividing the word, and giving to every one his portion in due season." 2 Tim. ii. 15.
Those of tender age, whose faculties are not matured, he will teach, with condescension and gentleness, the first and easy principles of religion; as babes are fed with milk, affording a soft and easy nourishment. Thus he will obey the command of Christ, "Feed my lambs," and imitate the example of the gentle Shepherd, who "gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom." Isaiah xl. 11.
Strong meat will he prepare for those of riper age, those doctrines which their matured minds, and improved understandings, are able to comprehend, and apply for their several uses in the Christian life.
The secure and thoughtless he will endeavor to awaken and persuade, by the terrors of the Lord; and by an alarming representation of their danger; while they continue in impenitency and unbelief, that they may be excited to fly for refuge to the hope set before them, before it be too late.
Are any under deep concern of mind about their spiritual state, brought to a lively conviction of their sin and guilt; and in the language of our Saviour, "weary and heavy laden;" he will endeavor to lead them to him, by the gentle and alluring invitations of his gospel, that they may "find rest to their souls." He will labor to comfort mourners in Sion; to "lift up the hands that hang down, and to strengthen the feeble knees," by administering the reviving cordials of Christ's religion.
The providential circumstances, under which particular families or persons are, will engage the attention of the faithful watchman; and by occasional discourses, adapted to their situation, he will strive to assist them in making a good and religious improvement, both of prosperous and afflictive dispensations.
Nor will he neglect to explain and inculcate relative duties, and what may be called the duties of the times, which hold an important place, in practical religion. To these he will warmly urge a due regard, that all may fill their several places and stations, with propriety and usefulness. On this the beauty and comfort of social life greatly depend, whether in small family circles, or in larger societies, and extensive communities.
With courage and plainness, he will reprove the openly vicious; knowing that there is a time to "rebuke sharply," as well as to "instruct with meekness."
6. A good minister will show his faithfulness, by the manner, as well as by the matter of his preaching. He will be careful to use such a style, as is suited to the capacity of his hearers, that they may easily enter into his meaning, and improve by his discourses. This will engage him, on the one hand, to avoid language which is incorrect, low and vulgar; and on the other,
that which is abstruse, or towering, and bombastic, and crowded with technical terms, and phrases, above the comprehension of men in common life. He will consider himself as "debtor to the learned and the unlearned."
He will aim at such earnestness, animation and pathos, in the turn of his compositions, and in his speaking, as tend to engage and fix the attention of his audience, and to impress their minds with a sense of the importance of what is delivered. He will endeavor to have his voice duly modulated, his manner of pronunciation unaffected and natural, and his gesture easy and graceful. These things, if not of so much consequence as what hath been mentioned before, yet are not of so trifling consideration, as to fall below the notice of a faithful minister. But the pulpit will not be the only place in which his faithfulness will display itself. I may add,
7. He will show it by a care to maintain a regular Christian discipline in the church. He will guard against assuming more rule and authority, than belong to his office; against "lording it over God's heritage." At the same time, he will not meanly cringe to the humors of his people, but will "magnify his office," and be known in his place.
He will examine with faithfulness and candor, those who seek admission to church privileges, governing himself herein wholly by the rules of the gospel. In the administration of the seals and censures of Christ's church, he will labor to conduct with such integrity and prudence, that all, if possible, may be convinced, that he "doth nothing through partiality."
Finally. He will show himself faithful, in all the more private duties of his profession. He will be easy of access to all who apply to him, for counsel and advice in their spiritual concerns, and labor to speak a word in season to them. He will studiously avoid all haughty and forbidding airs; but on the contrary will show such familiarity and condescension, as will conciliate the love of his people, without exposing him to contempt. He will seek, by frequent visits, to know the state of his flock, both that he may have opportunity to give private advice and instruction, and also that he may be the better able to accommodate his public discourses to their several cases and circumstances. He will take a kind and sympathetic part with them in their troubles; and be no stranger to houses of mourning and chambers of sickness. He will diligently lay hold on such occasions, when their hearts are made tender and impressible, by the rod of God upon them, to speak to them of the concerns of their souls, and of another world. He will "weep with those that weep," and so "bear their burdens as to fulfill the law of Christ." In a word,
He will labor to be "an example to the flock, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity." 1 Tim.