Imágenes de páginas

Apollos was 'fervent in the Spirit.' He was a preacher who had zeal along with his knowledge,-who had heat as well as light. Happy conjunction of intelligence and fervour! Without the latter, nothing will be done; without the former, nothing will be done aright. Enlightened fervour on the part of ministers is what the church of God requires.



the priestly, prophetic, and regal offices, with | conduct them from stage to stage, and their feet which the Son is invested in the raising up of shall not slide. May the Lord save his church that wonderful man who is as a hiding-place from from the curse of a ministry that does not spirithe wind, and a covert from the tempest-as tually and experimentally know his way. rivers of water in a dry place-as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.' And we see the way of the Lord's gracious proceedings in that mighty, effectual call, which brings sinners out of darkness into his marvellous light-we see it in his free justification of the ungodly through the merits of Emmanuel—and in the purifying, enlightening, strengthening, cheering, of the souls of his people through the continual effusions of the Holy Ghost. If we take the second view, the way of the Lord is that which the Lord sets before us, and respecting which proclamation is made in his name, 'This is the way, walk ye in it!' It is the way of believing. When the jailer of Philippi asked for the way, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,' was the ready answer of Paul. It is the way of repenting. Except ye repent,' said Christ, ' ye shall perish.' 'Repent, and be converted,' said Peter, that your sins may be blotted out.' It is the way of privilege. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money! It is the way of prayer. Ask, and ye shall receive;knock, and it shall be opened unto you.' It is the way of gospel obedience. Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price; wherefore glorify God in your body, and your spirit, which are God's.' It is the way to Zion. Come unto me-I will give you rest.' 'I go to prepare a place for you.' 'The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads.'


It is sad to see an apathetic minister. It is surely no time for indolence and slumber on the part of the shepherd, when the wolf is among the sheep. Apathy there is none with the enemy of He is neither asleep, nor indifferent, nor He pursues his work of deceit and ruin with unfading zeal, and most malignant fervour. What treachery then is it, if, under these circumstances, the guardians of souls do not bestir themselves, or move, with any earnestness or ardour, for the protection and rescue of their charge!

Apollos 'spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord.' For this his knowledge qualified him; and to this his fervour of spirit inclined him.

The devoted minister does three things. He speaks the things of the Lord. He teaches the things of the Lord. He both speaks and teaches the things of the Lord diligently.

The careless minister may, at canonical seasons, speak the things of the Lord; but when he speaks, he does not teach; there is neither the ardour, nor the painstaking fulness and illustration that are necessary for conveying the truth to other minds. And he is not diligent. He does not watch for opportunities to give the knowledge that saves. He never works with the zeal of a lover of souls.

To know the Lord's way is essential for all. For lack of knowing it do the souls of sinners perish. It is not enough that ministers are acquainted with it. Vicarious knowledge conducts none to heaven. Yet it is most necessary that ministers understand it well. This is necessary in order to their own salvation; and also with a view to the salvation of their hearers. If they teach not the way aright, such as trust to their guidance will not find it. And how can theyMoreover, it is required in stewards, that a man teach the way, if they do not know it?

God must teach ministers, else they cannot know his way. It is not enough that the way of the Lord be described to them by men who have surveyed it; they require the knowledge of observation and experience. It is the province of the Spirit of the Lord to give them that knowledge. By him the way will be revealed to them; he will pour light into their minds so that their own eyes shall behold it; he will lead them in it,


be found faithful,' 1 Cor. iv. 2.

WHо can gainsay this? The rule is indisputable, that fidelity is the foremost qualification of a steward. The steward was one to whom was committed the care of his master's property, and of his master's interests; and to whom it fell to look to the welfare and proper nourishment of his master's family.

Let it be remembered, then, by every one who

is a steward, that it is required in stewards, that | absolute or irresponsible right; nor is it possible a man be found faithful.' Especially let them, for us ever to reach a station, or acquire an whose stewardship is of God, remember it. authority, higher than that of stewards. Ought this to disappoint us? Were we more than stewards, we should be gods!

But besides the general stewardship common to us all, there are particular stewardships. There is that of the head of a family. To him God has committed interests of great importance. God says to every parent: Take this child and bring it up for me. Take these children and educate them in my fear. Feed their souls with my word. Carry them to the wells of salvation. Set before them the rich provision of my grace. For this end I give thee all necessary authority and power; and I charge thee to see to their welfare, both for time and eternity.'


But who are they that have a stewardship from God? They are the children of men. They are those who have received the gifts of God. What things God has bestowed on us, he has not given so absolutely, as to set us free from responsibility for the way in which we use them. He has not divested himself of his own lordship over the things which his rational creatures possess. They are ours, indeed; but only in a subordinate sense. They are ours for a season;-they are ours for certain ends. We have no right to do with them what we please. God's will must regulate the use of them. God's glory is the cause to which they must be devoted. Have we wealth? In the truest sense it belongs not to us; it is God's. And there is the stewardship of the Christian We are stewards of our wealth; the proprietor is To him is entrusted the care of many God. Woe to the rich man that forgets he is a souls. He has to look to the well-being of the steward! He will never enter into the kingdom household of God. The Head-steward is Christ. of God. The man, who in the parable, was As the chosen and much beloved servant of the clothed in fine linen, and fared sumptuously every Father, he presides over the whole family in day, while holy Lazarus lay a despised beggar at heaven and earth,' goes in and out among them, his gate, thought himself to be the absolute lord and distributes to them bountifully out of that of his treasures, and dreamt not of a reckoning fulness which it hath pleased the Father should that was to come. But he did not cease to be a dwell in him. In token of his authority, he hath steward by forgetting that he was one; he neither the key of the house of David upon his shoulder; ceased to be a steward, nor escaped from the and he openeth, and no man shutteth, and shutteth, responsibility of a steward's obligations: the effect and no man openeth. But Christ has many stewof his criminal forgetfulness merely was to con-ards under him. The ministers of the gospel stitute him an unjust steward, and to consign him to that place of darkness and torment, where the unjust steward must expiate his sin. Have we influence? Indeed, who is there, that more or less, has it not? The man who is poor and of lowly station, may have little influence; but there is no man who has none. Such influence as we have must be exercised for God. The relations and circumstances whence our influence arises, are to be attributed to him; and the fruit of them should be employed in his service, and for his glory. In like manner, we are stewards with reference to our respective mental endowments. By many an unhappy child of genius has this truth been overlooked-been scorned; and the noblest qualities, and capabilities of mind, have been traitorously employed in reviling God, and casting doubt and darkness over the economy of his grace, and assailing the foundations of his throne. But these guilty proceedings cannot alter the truth; it remains a fact, that they who abuse and misapply the mental powers that God has conferred on them, are in the situation of stewards, and ought to be faithful as such. Nothing that we have, or can possess, belongs to us in

[ocr errors]

have a delegated authority as his deputy-stewards.
He has given them, as the symbols of their office,
and the means of exercising its duties, the keys
of the kingdom of heaven. He has thus made
them stewards of the mysteries of God.' Those
holy secrets, which are hid from the wise and
prudent, have been committed to them. By the
keys, they are empowered to unlock the repositories
of the gospel dispensation, and bring forth those
gladsome and glorious truths, which must have
been for ever unscrutable to the reason of man.
They are appointed to convey to sinners the pre-
cious knowledge of Jehovah, of his name, and his
way; to give out the reconciling intelligence of
his mercy and love, with his holiness, justice, and
truth, all happily blended in the cross of the cru-
cified Son. They are 'stewards of the manifold
grace of God.'
On them it devolves to dis-
pense the great ordinances, through which the
supply of God's manifold grace is communicated.
Through the channel of their ministrations, the
grace, whereby the secure are awakened, and the
dead are quickened; whereby the weak are
strengthened, and the sorrowful are cheered;
whereby the lame man leaps as an hart, and the

tongue of the dumb is taught to sing; through | the channel, we say, of their ministrations, the grace, which works these varied wonders, is accustomed to flow!

[ocr errors]

The first shedder of the blood of souls was Satan. It is written of him, he was a murderer from the beginning.' How was he a murderer? Mainly by the spiritual ruin and death which he brought Alas, for the faithless stewards! Every stew-upon man. He overthrew the felicity of man, ard must render his account, and go upon his broke up his communion with the Creator, and trial. The faithful and the faithless, intermingled exposed him to the wrath and curse of the Alnow, will be separated then. To the former it mighty. Knowing the wages of sin to be death, will be said: 'Well done, good and faithful ser-he enticed man to the commission of it; the tempvant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, tation prevailed; and the transgressor died. Thus I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.' But no such greeting awaits the steward who has neglected his duty: Thou wicked and slothful servant,' his injured Lord will say, 'thou traitor to a most sacred trust, thou shalt have thy merited reward. Come hither, ye tormentors, that execute my wrath! Take ye this unprofitable and perfidious steward, and cast him into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!"

THIRTIETH DAY.-EVENING. "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God,' Acts xx. 26, 27.

he became a murderer-a destroyer of souls. True, the transgressor's doom was just, and he deserved to die; not less, however, on that account, was the tempter guilty of his blood. The devil was a murderer from the beginning: not merely at, but from, the beginning. He then assumed the vocation of a soul-destroyer, and he has not yet laid it down. He is busy still in his work of perdition, decoying myriads along the broad and easy way of death!

Is the foul spirit alone and unassisted? He is not alone; he is not without allies. Would that he were! He might show his malignity, that implacable adversary! But he could not do more, if all co-operation were refused him on the part of the race he seeks to ruin. It needs the help of man to shed the blood of souls. Who are they of human kind that contribute to this work of death? Unfaithful pastors do it. Souls are their charge. To take means for saving souls from perishing is their duty. If they neglect their charge, if they do not their duty, and if the souls entrusted to them are lost, can we hold them blameless-will not blood be most righte

son of their appointment is, because there is a roaring lion walking about in quest of souls to devour: and if they do not watch, if they sleep at their posts, if they are found secure and heedless in the hour of danger, and suffer the foe to make havoc of the flock without a true and proper effort to withstand him, are they not the slayers of their people, and guilty of their blood? Paul could say, 'I am pure from the blood of all men;' and every faithful minister of Christ can say so too. O that all who have office in the church could say it truly!

PAUL felt as a servant to whom a great trust had been committed. We find him here speaking under a strong sense of his responsibility. Looking forward to the time of reckoning, when his fidelity will be solemnly judged of, he is led to take an anxious, but, as it proves, a satisfactory view of the past, and he thinks of the issue of his trial without dismay. There was a day ap-ously required at their hands? One great reaproaching which behoved to affect most solemnly both him who had preached the gospel, and them who had heard it from his lips-a day when searching scrutiny would be taken as to the manner in which he had performed his functions, and they had dealt with their privileges and opportunities. Through the grace of God, Paul had a conscience that was void of offence. The witnesses of his upright discharge of his trust were before him. Those among whom he had exercised his office were in a situation for proving, and he now warns them that their testimony will be made use of to prove, that he had done his duty. 'I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.' You, to whom I have preached, are my witnesses; you that have believed, and you that have not believed, the words I have spoken, are my witnesses, that I have done what lay in me for your salvation, and that my hands are not stained with the blood of your souls!

The guilt which unfaithful ministers contract, is contracted by unfaithful churches also. They, too, may have to answer for blood-for the blood of souls. Have they received the word of life-that quickening word, which is powerful to break the slumbers of the dead in trespasses and sins? It is their duty then, to convey that word to such as have it not. Woe to them if they selfishly think to appropriate its benefits to them

[ocr errors]

selves, and are at no pains to communicate it to others, by whom its benefits are equally needed! Is not every church a candlestick? And ought not a candlestick to serve the purpose of distributing light? Does not the Lord say to every church that has his word, and on which the beams of the Sun of righteousness have descended, Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee?' If these things be so, what less than the blood of souls can that church have to answer for, which does not shine, sends forth no rays of spiritual light into the surrounding darkness, and leaves benighted millions to perish for lack of knowledge?

Parents may stain their hands with the blood of souls. They sometimes-often do it. We think with horror of those savage tribes among whom children are unnaturally massacred by the earthly authors of their being; but are we, after all, entitled to sit in judgment, and pronounce condemnation, upon them that do such things? Are we so free of all sin in that matter, 'as to be warranted in casting the stone of our censure at them? That species of infanticide, which relates to the bodily life, may indeed be unknown among us; but are we clear of a more dreadful wickedness still? Alas, there are, we fear, many whom God has made the guardians of souls-of souls that ought to be most dear to them, because the souls of the children sprung from their loins there are, we fear, many parents, who betray their trust, and must answer for the blood of their children's souls! But, with all these aids, the great destroyer would be unsuccessful, if sinners did not put their own hands to the work of their own undoing. This should never be forgotten, Satan, ungodly ministers, and unnatural parents, may be joined in a hideous confederacy to ruin souls, but it will be all in vain, and the evil will not be done, unless souls co-operate to ruin themselves. Only the soul that sinneth shall die. Its own transgression, its own impenitence, its own unbelief in the Son of God, will form the ground of a soul's condemnation, and the cause of its misery and perdition. The soul that perisheth, perisheth by its own act. When the blood of a sinner's soul is shed, it is the sinner himself that sheds it.

THIRTY-FIRST DAY.-MORNING. Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,' 2 Cor. iii. 6.

not pretend from any false humility to be ignorant, that he and his colleagues were 'able ministers;'-ministers who had the requisite qualifications, moral, intellectual, and spiritual, for the right and efficient discharge of the duties of their office. But then he takes no vain-glorious view. He is not puffed up with pride. He gives the praise to God. He speaks of himself, indeed, as an able minister, but he mentions also how that has come to pass: he is an able minister, because God hath made him one. The self-renouncing sentiments of the great apostle are yet more conspicuous in the preceding verse: 'Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.' These are not to be reckoned mere professions, of which it is enough to say that they evince a becoming modesty, and are graceful on the part of him from whom they come. Far less are they to be thought of as the thin veil beneath which he endeavours to hide his weakness and vanity. They are words embodying the rooted conviction of a humble Christian, and at the same time authoritatively conveying a momentous doctrinal fact. The same fact was expressed by the apostle on another occasion, when he said: 'By the grace of God I am what I am.' The general enunciation of the fact, thus stated with application to himself by Paul, is, that Christian ministers need a special work of God to qualify them for usefulness as his servants and ambassadors. It is more difficult to be an able minister of the gospel, in the true sense of the term, than to be an able functionary in secular things, be the office what it may. Difficult is not the word; it is impossible to be what a Christian minister ought to be, without an interposition from on high, and a bestowal of grace, such as in any other case is unnecessary.

'Able ministers of the new testament, says the apostle; and then he adds, what may be taken as explanatory, either of the last part of the expression, or of the first, 'not of the letter, but of the spirit.' Taken as explanatory of the words, the new testament,' his language signifies, that 'ministers of the new testament' differ from the teachers of the ancient dispensation, in respect of the difference subsisting between the economies, which are to each other as is the spirit to the letter.

The Mosaic institutions formed an economy of externals, a carnal system addressing itself to other hand, addresses itself more directly and the senses; the Christian dispensation, on the strongly to our inner man, and holds immediate communion with our understandings and hearts. And the two economies were intimately conPAUL could not disguise from himself, and he does nected: the former was a sort of material vehicle,

containing within it, until the time of their dis- | but he will make for the substance, the heart, the embodiment, the principles and vitalities of the latter; and hence they stood related as body and soul, or as letter and spirit.


spirit of the gospel. To see a great work of the Spirit of God will be his ardent desire; to promote the commencement of such a work among men, and to further its progress, will ever be his aim. On these various grounds is the faithful pastor a minister of the spirit. And what shall we say of the pastor, who is not only faithful, but who finds that his exertions are attended with success? He is a minister of the spirit indeed. Through his instrumentality, the enduring realities of new covenant privilege and grace are conveyed to sinners; it is not with the barren and unsubstantial letter that the souls he has the care of are fed; he is truly a steward to them of God's spiritual bounty; and his services are honoured as the channel by which the Holy Ghost takes his way to their hearts.


THIRTY-FIRST DAY.-EVENING. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,' Acts i. 14.

If, again, we take the language of the apostle as explaining what he means by able ministers of the new testament,' it either implies, that the ministers of the new testament constitute two classes; the one embracing those who are ministers of the letter, and the other those who are ministers of the spirit; and sets forth that Paul and his coadjutors, as being able ministers of the new testament, were ministers of the spirit: or it implies, that when the Lord makes his servants efficient and successful, they cease to be ministers of the letter merely,—which, without his blessing on their labours, is all that they can be,-and become ministers of the spirit, to those whose conversion and salvation, they are instrumental in accomplishing. This view presents the minister of ، the letter' in two aspects; either as a minister that is unfaithful, or as one that is unsuccessful. The minister who preaches legal doctrine, sending his hearers to the old and abrogated covenant of works for peace and safety to their souls, and who unduly magnifies the externals and the ceremonies of religion, as though our heavenly God. life depended mainly upon them, is, most assur-Spirit should come in a plenteous shower, and edly, a minister of the letter. In another sense, the minister of the letter' is he, whose labours, though assiduous, God sees meet not to bless, whose exhortations and warnings, though affectionate and evangelical, are attended by no saving influences from on high, and whose complaint is like the prophet's: 'Who hath believed our report? To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?' The minister thus unhappily circumstanced, delivers his message, indeed, and faithfully proclaims what is contained in the oracles, in which his directory and instructions are found; but he gives his people all the while nothing beyond the letter of holy Writ: to him it is not granted to dispense that secret energy of the word, which makes it sharper than a two-edged sword, and like unto a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces.

For what did they pray? For the Spirit of
Christ had left them a promise that the

now they were looking and longing for its fulfilment. Did they well? Yes, they did well. Christ's promises are worth waiting for and seeking after. His promises are sure, and great, and precious. And what a promise was this! The promise of the Spirit! The third Person of the Godhead to be the substitute of the second! Christ's own departure to be compensated for by the advent of the Holy Ghost the Comforter! Or rather, Christ's presence to be restored to his people on a better footing than before, by means of his Spirit's descent among them, and indwelling in their hearts! The apostles and other disciples, both male and female, held frequent meetings after the resurrection of our Lord. They were much in each other's company. And they assembled chiefly to pray. They were of one mind as to the efficacy of prayer. And there was a dominant wish in the hearts of them all. It was that the Spirit might come-that the

In corresponding aspects may the 'minister of the spirit' be viewed. The enlightened and truehearted servant of Jesus, cannot himself rest, neither will he be content to see his people rest-Lord would fulfil his promise, spoken of old by ing, in an outward round of formal religion; he will aim at the subjection of every soul to the truth, and at establishing the hidden and silent, but mighty and prevailing power of godliness in the inner man. He will not exalt that nominal, shadowy righteousness, which is of man; nor will he, in his doctrine, abide in the letter, the form;

the mouth of his prophet, saying, 'I will pour my Spirit upon all flesh,' and renewed to themselves from his own mouth, when he said, 'It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send him unto you.' That wish-that ardent desire-formed itself into

« AnteriorContinuar »