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THE DUTY AND ADVANTAGE OF REMEMBERING DECEASED MINISTERS:
IN THE CHURCH OF ST. MARY, WALLINGFORD,
ON OCCASION OP THE DEATH
REV. THOMAS PENTYCROSS, M. A.
DURING MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS VICAR OF THAT PARISH.
HE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH. IIEB. XI. 4.
HEBREWS XIII. 7, 8.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.
The pastoral office is "the ministry of recon"ciliation:" faithful ministers are the " ambassa"dors," or at least, the envoys or messengers, " of "God" to sinners, " beseeching them in Christ's "name to be reconciled to God:" and the stated parish-minister, if diligent and faithful, is an accredited resident ambassador, or envoy, of peace among his people. Some thoughts on this subject occupied our attention the last time that I was called to preach among you.1
But now, alas! your messenger of peace is called home by his Lord. I pray God that he may speedily be succeeded by another, who may enter into his labours with zeal and success: else, according to the doctrine laid down on that subject, the recall of the ambassador of peace may be considered as the forerunner of war, against those who slighted and rejected his intreaties to be reconciled unto God.
1 Referring to a Sermon preached in Oct. 1807. on 2 Cor. v. 19, 20.
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death "of his saints :" the event is very important; all things respecting it are ordered in subserviency to the glory of God, and their eternal good; and it often involves consequences of the greatest moment to survivors. This especially must be the case, when a faithful pastor is taken away from the flock over whom he hath long and affectionately presided.
The lamented removal of my dear brother, your late pastor, calls on me and you to inquire what useful view we can take of the afflictive event, which may tend to console you under your present sorrows, and direct you in your future conduct. It behoves me also to consider what improvement may be made of the dispensation, in impressing the minds of those (of whom, I fear, there are numbers,) who have not hitherto profited by his labours; that while " he, being dead, yet speak"eth," I may be his faithful interpreter to them and to you.
The text which I have selected will, I trust, when duly considered, appear suited to the purpose: and, I doubt not, many will unite with me in prayer, that I may be enabled clearly and fully to declare the truth and will of God, and " rightly "to divide the word of truth;" and that a special blessing may be vouchsafed: that so the decease of your pastor may prove the occasion of spiritual and eternal life to many in this numerous assembly.
It is the general opinion of expositors, in which I decidedly concur, that the words of the text relate to the duties of the people, not to their pastors when living and labouring among them, but respecting those who had been removed by martyrdom, or by natural death. Some think that James the son of Alpheus, the apostle, who, after our Lord's ascension, spent the greatest part of his life at or near Jerusalem, had suffered martyrdom just before the writing of this epistle; and that some reference is made to him. However that may be, it is worthy of notice that Peter, the chief apostle of the circumcision, wrote epistles to the very churches which St. Paul had founded, assuring them that it was the " true grace of God "in which they stood ;"1 and that Paul, the great apostle of the gentiles, wrote to the Hebrew Christians, to excite their affectionate and reverential remembrance of their deceased pastors, and to inculcate obedience to such as survived. No doubt many of their respective flocks (as generally is the case,) supposed that some great difference subsisted between these labourers in the several parts of the same vineyard: but the apostles themselves endeavoured to shew them that they were of one heart and soul in the work, and desired exceedingly to strengthen each other's hands; though external circumstances and situations occasioned apparent differences in their conduct, which the people were apt to misunderstand.
The reasons for concluding that our text refers to deceased, and not surviving ministers, may be
1 1 Pater, i.,1. v. 12 VOL. VI. 2 F