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called the elders of the church, he reminded them of the manner, in which he had been with them, at all seasons, from the first day that he came into Asia, serving the Lord, with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations ;-and how he had kept back nothing, which was profitable ; but had shewed them, and taught them, publicly, and from house to house, testifying repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Having noticed the journey, on which he was bound to Jerusalem, the afflictions which he anticipated, and the support and consolation, which he derived from the gospel of the grace of God, he added : “ And now, bchold I know, that ye all, among whom I have gone, preaching the kingdom of God, shail see my face
In view of his fidelity, in not shunning to declare unto them all the counsel of God, he took them to record, that he was pure from the blood of all men. Having given charge to the elders of the church, in prospect of the evils which they would be called to encounter, after his departing ; and having commended them to God, and to the word of his grace, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all
. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all, for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more.
The following sentiment is naturally derived from the text :
The loss of a faithful minister is a sore affliction.
The sentiment may be usefully illustrated, by the following considerations,
1. The truth of it may appear,. from the nature and importance of the relation, subsisting between a Christian minister, and the people of his charge. His relation to them is that of a watchman to their souls. Their spiritual and eternal interests are specially committed to his care. Having the heart and the conscience of a faithful minister, and habitu
ally feeling the awful responsibility, which is attached to his station, he must view the souls of his people, as a trust of infinite value.. Their relation to him must be felt to be extremely interesting, by all who are not past feeling, because they are given over to a reprobate mind. Impressed with any just sense of the account, which he must render, to the chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls, they must feel for themselves, the answerable account, which they also must render, for their improvement of his ministry. Having that confidence in him, to which he is entitled, when proved and found faithful, they must view the relation between him, and themselves, to be one of the most important, which ever exists among men. They must feel themselves warranted to look up to him, as their spiritual guide and instructor, and that they are bound to receive the word, from his mouth, as the word of God. Indeed, he to them the messenger of the Lord of hosts--the ambassador of peace and salvation, who is divinely authorized, to comfort those who mourn in Zion, and beseech sinsinners, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled unto God.
2. The strength of attachment, which a church and people must be supposed to have, to such a minister, will render the loss of him sorely afflictive. His being faithful implies, that he is a good man-one who is influenced, in performing the duties of his trust, by charity out of a pure heart. He has the same spirit of disinterested regard to Christ, and to the souls for whom he died, which Paul had, for his kindred according to the flesh, when he could declare, with nothing less than the solemnity of an oath, that he had great heaviness, and continual sorrow in his heart for them ; and when his heart's desire and prayer to God for them was, that they might be saved. Every faithful minister of Christ has the same disinterested and excellent spirit, which enabled Paul to say to the Corinthians : "I will very gladly spend, and be spent for your souls, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” Viewing a minister, in a relation so endearing, and having a just confidence in him, as one, whose heart is so closely united to them, and so much devoted to their best, even their eternal interest, how affectionate inust be their attachinent to him. How much endeared, by such means, was St. Paul, to the church at Ephesus. He had been with them, so long, and so faithfully discharged the duties of a watchman, that they could not see him taking his leave of them, without those tears, and affectionate salutations, which demonstrated how liighly they esteemed him in love, for his works' sake. But they were scarcely more attached to him, than many have been to their spiritual guides, in all subsequent ages. The faithful minister, who is with his charge, at all seasons; who not only dispenses the word of life to them, statedly, on the sabbath, but has frequent occasions, to bear a part in their joys, and their sorrows ; to visit their sick, and their dying, and to sympathize with their mourners, must become greatly endeared to them. There are few other relations among men, which furnish the means of uniting, at once, the affection and esteem of so many hearts.
3. A faithful minister of Christ is a great blessing. Much good is rationally expected from his ministry: much is often accomplished, by means of it. He so lives, that none have just occasion for saying, “ Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" The influence of his example, and of the truths, which he is continually commending to the consciences of those who hear him, must be no less friendly to their present peace, their edification and comfort, than to their final salvation. How rich a blessing was Paul, to the church at Ephesus ! How many were instructed; how many were comforted ; how many were eternally saved, by means of his la
bors! How much light and joy must' he have imparted, during the years which he abode with them, and preached unto them the unsearchable riches of Christ ! The measures, which are often pursued by destitute flocks, to obtain, and to support, a faithful minister, sufficiently evince, that their apprehensions accord with this view of the subject. How great must be the blessing to them, considered as sinners, involved in guilt and darkness, to have one for their spiritual watchman, who, like Paul, will not shun todeclare unto them all the counsel of God ; and who will thence use the means, which are best adapted, for the instruction and salvation of their souls. How much good is often accomplished, by the blessing of God, on the faithfulness of such a minister. How much influence is exerted by him, which is rendered effectual by the grace of God, for putting vice and irreligion to shame, for arresting the progress of error, when it cometh in like a flood, for promoting the kingdom of righteousness and peace, and advancing the glory of God, in the salvation of sinners. How often is his ministry rendered a savor of life, to the souls of his hearers ; and how comforting and instructive his administration of the word and ordinances of the gospel, to these who have received the truth, in the love of it ; to those, who are daily becoming meet for the society of angels, and preparing to find their heaven of heavens, in the presence of God, and of the Lamb.
4. The loss of a faithful minister is a sore affiction, because it is many times followed by the most unpleasant consequences, to the people of his charge. They are left by him, as sheep having no shepherd. Hence the danger they are in of being scattered abroad, or of being led astray, and even destroyed, by wolves, in sheeps' clothing. Such were some of the circumstances, which rendered the final departure of St. Paul so calamitous, and distressing, sto
the church of Ephesus. Hence we find him saying, in his last interview with them : “ For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Such are some of the evils, to which a church and people are specially exposed, by the loss of a faithful minister. Hence the exisortation of St. Paul, in his epistle, which was afterwards written to the Ephesians, that they should henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about, with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, should grow up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ."
But the loss of a faithful minister not only exposes his bereaved charge to much evil, from the in.luence of false teachers, who are always ready to beguile the unwary; but they are also in imminent danger of being embroiled, divided, and scattered, by men who speak perverse things, to promote some favorite interest of their own. For this cause said the aposile, in an epistle, which he wrote to the church at Ephesus, while a prisoner at Rome;"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation, wherewith ye are called ; with all lowliness, and meekness ; with long suffering, forbearing one another in love ; endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit, in the bond of peace.—Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good, for the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from among you, with all malice.”
Nothing renders the loss of a faithful minister more calamitous, and justly afflictive to his bereaved charge, than the danger, to which they are suddenly exposed, of becoming a people divided against them