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promising appearances vanish: their goodness is "like the morning cloud and early dew, which "passeth away:" "having no root in themselves, "in time of temptation they fall away;" and it is well if " their last state be not worse than their "first." From the time when this declension begins, they, more and more shun their former friend and counsellor; they begin to associate with other companions, and seek for more soothing instructions; and at length they return " like the sow "that is washed to her wallowing in the mire."
Few ministers who have faithfully laboured for several years in the same place, escape this trial; and many could point out several who have thus grie vously disappointed their hopes, weakened their hands, and almost sunk their hearts in discouragement. Should I be now be speaking to any of this description, I call upon you, my fellow-sinners, with all earnestness, to remember your deceased minister. You have special cause to do this. You will soon meet him at the tribunal of God; and, if he be found" pure from your blood," how awful must your account be! Once more you are warned: being dead, he once more speaks to you, and says, 'Prepare to meet me at the judgment-seat of Christ.' I am only the interpreter of his words. Yet, yet, there is hope: the door is not shut. "To-day, if "ye will hear the Saviour's voice, harden not your "hearts." But should you slight this warning, it is probable you will be left without further disturbance, till you " lift up your eyes in hell, being in "torment."
Time would fail should I enlarge on the example which pious ministers exhibit to their flocks; the proofs which they give that they are decidedly in earnest in the important cause ; and that they "seek not their's but them." " Many things of this kind must be better known to you concerning our departed friend and brother, than they can be to me; and some things, which might here be mentioned, will fall in more properly under our next head.
III. We therefore proceed to consider the exhortation, " Whose faith follow."
Faith, in some places of scripture, signifies the doctrine of faith: "Striving together for the faith "of the gospel:" l "Contend earnestly for the "faith once delivered unto the saints." 2 And, though the word here rendered "follow," which properly signifies imitate, leads us rather to explain the exhortation concerning the grace of faith, and its effects ; yet the instruction contained in the firstmeaning is so scriptural and so important, that we may fairly be allowed to inculcate it on the present occasion; especially as the words immediately following the text are, "Be not carried "about with divers and strange doctrines."
Far be it from me to propose either the creed of my deceased brother, or my own, as the standard of truth, which you are unreservedly to follow.
But in all those points in which, after " receiving "the word with all readiness of mind, and search"ing the scriptures daily whether those things "were so," you were convinced that he taught you none other things than what the apostles preached and wrote, and the primitive Christians embraced; there beware lest, being " led away by "the error of the wicked, you fall from your own "stedfastness." In the grand outlines of the word of God, which we before stated; and in all things materially affecting either the foundation of hope, or the rule and motives of duty; I cannot doubt that he taught you the doctrine of scripture. It behoves us "to prove all things, "and to hold fast that which is good." But, it is also highly desirable that we should " not be as "children, tossed to and and fro, and carried about "with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of "men, and cunning craftiness, by which they lie "in wait to deceive."—The apostle, addressing the elders of Ephesus, who " would see his face "no more," says, "I know that, after my depar"ture,—of your own selves men shall rise speak"ing perverse things to draw away disciples after "them: therefore watch."
1 Phil. i. 27. • Jude 3.
It may then be supposed that, at present also, the removal of ministers will make way for the attempts of false teachers; men who "privily "bring in damnable heresies." Some will attempt to render the gospel rather more agreeable to the self-wisdom and self-righteousness of the human heart; modifying and explaining away, in some small degree, to preserve plausibility, the humiliating doctrines of grace. Others will make unscriptural allowance to human passions: and represent the strait gate as rather wider than our Lord has stated it to be.
Thus on each side, the removal of faithful ministers makes way for declensions, in doctrine or practice, among their people. And as the celebrated author of the Pilgrim's Progress has described it, the road in ' by-path meadow' seemed for a time to be exactly in the same direction as the rough road of which the pilgrims were weary; but it gradually turned off, and at length led to the castle of Despair.
Should you then, my beloved brethren, meet with any, in your present circumstances, who deviate from the doctrine to which you have been accustomed, even in a small degree, I do not say, reject them; but bring the deviation, and the doctrine deviated from, to the infallible oracles of God, and to the throne of grace by frequent prayer: and do not admit even what may appear a trivial deviation, till you are in this manner convinced that it accords with the word of God.
It is however, still more evident that the apostle exhorts Christians to imitate the faith of their deceased pastors, both in the grace of faith and in its fruits. Could they say, "We believe, and '' therefore we have spoken ;" "We look not to "the things which are seen, but to the things "which are not seen?" copy their example. See to it that you also aim at and pursue the objects of faith and not of sense. Did they "set God "always before them," and "endure as seeing "him that is invisible f" see that you also habitually act as under the eye, and in the presence of God; thus resisting temptation, overcoming the fear of men, and triumphing over the allurements of worldly objects. Did they "lay aside every "weight, and run with patience the race set before "them, looking unto Jesus?" see that you thus look to the Saviour, to his righteousness and atonement, as your only ground of confidence before God; to his example, for your direction and animation; to his love which "passeth know"ledge," for motives and encouragement; and to his fulness of grace, for wisdom and strength, and sufficiency for every good work. Thus endeavour to realize the apostle's experience, "I am "crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet "not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that "I live in the flesh I five by the faith of the Son "of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Did the faith of your ministers work by love, love of Christ, love of the brethren, love of all men? See that your faith is thus proved living and operative; and that your love of Christ constrains you to all devoted obedience, as "living to him "who died for you and rose again."
In short, by whatever effects they shewed that they believed the doctrine which they preached, and were influenced by it in their habitual conduct; do you shew that you believe the same truths in the same influential and practical manner. But, "as in many things we offend all," if you observed any particulars in which they failed, either in the exercise or the fruits of faith, in these do not follow them.
I am fully persuaded that your deceased minister himself would, if he could address you, join in this part of the exhortation especially. He would say, 'Imitate my faith and obedience: but, as I never professed to be perfect, be sure you do not copy my defects; but follow me, as far as I have followed Christ, and no further.'—We proceed then,