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FAITHFUL MINISTERS SEEK THE SALVATION OF
ORDINATION OF REV. JAMES TUFTS, WORDSBOROUGH, VT., NOVEMBER 4, 1795.
For I seek not yours, but you. - 2 CORINTHIANS, xii. 14.
The false teachers who had crept into the church of Corinth, endeavored to sink the reputation of the apostle Paul. This laid him under the disagreeable necessity of speaking in his own defence. He first reminds the Corinthians of the miracles which he had publicly wrought, to confirm his divine mission. He next appeals to the reproaches, necessities and persecutions which he had cheerfully endured in promoting the cause of Christ. And, in the last place, he meekly but confidently professes his pure and disinterested motive in preaching the gospel. “Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you; for I seek not yours but you." Though his enemies charged him with preaching from mer. cenary motives, yet he was conscious to himself that he had preached with a uniform desire to promote the salvation of souls. And as in water face answereth to face, so does the heart of one faithful minister to another. They all propose the same noble and benevolent end in preaching, that the apostle Paul proposed; though they are far from being agreeably wise, faithful and successful in pursuing it. Agreeably, therefore, to the spirit of the text, I shall endeavor to illustrate this plain and practical truth; that faithful ministers preach the gospel with a desire to promote the salvation of souls.
The great apostle frequently and solemnly declares that this was
his governing motive in preaching the gospel. To the Corinthians he says, “ Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you; for I seek not yours, but you; for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” Again he demands, “ Think ye that
excuse ourselves unto you? We speak before God in Christ; but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying." To these same persons he makes the same profession, in his first epistle to them. “Though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; yea, wo is unto me if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward, then? Verily, that when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made my. self servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 10 them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law; to the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” When he had called the elders of the church of Ephe. sus to Miletus, he said unto them, “ Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you, at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews; and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." “ 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.” His appeal and profession to the Jews was still more solemn and striking. “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh."
“Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." VOL. I.
Thus Paul uniformly and sincerely aimed, in preaching the gospel, to promote the salvation of his hearers. And this is the great object which all faithful ministers pursue, in the course of their ministry. Like the primitive preachers, they “warn every man, and teach every man in all wisdom, that they may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." They consider their hearers as probationers for eternity, and labor to promote their future and eternal good. This is so evident that nothing farther need be said to illustrate it. But yet it may be proper and useful, on this occasion, to inquire why faithful ministers preach the gospel with a desire to save the souls of men.
In answer to this inquiry, I would observe, first : Faithful ministers desire to reach the end of their appointment. Christ hath let them know that he instituted their sacred order to prepare men for a future and eternal state. For this purpose he hath given them their commission to preach the gospel. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." This general commission is explained by Christ's particular commission to Paul, which runs in this solemn form, "Rise, and stand upon thy feet; for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee; to open
their eyes, and to turn them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” This design of the min., istry is confirmed by another passage in the fourth of Ephesians. "Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." some, apostles, and some, prophets, and some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." These passages represent ministers as appointed for the great purpose of preparing man to appear in the beauties of holiness, in a future state. And this design of their appointment, all faithful ministers sincerely wish to answer. They desire to fall in with the designs of Christ, and to be workers together with him, in accomplishing the purposes of his grace.
of his grace. So Paul professes in the name of all his faithful brethren in the ministry : “ Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we
6 And he gave As every
pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
Secondly: The end which faithful ministers propose to themselves, in entering into the ministry, is, to promote the salvation of souls. They undertake to preach the gospel, not of constraint, but willingly; not to gain wealth, or applause, but to gain the souls of men. They have seen their own hearts, and their perishing state by nature. They have felt their own need of a Saviour, and found the hope and relief which the gospel affords to believing, penitent, broken hearted sinners. They know, by their own experience, the perishing state of sinners, and the infinite importance of the gospel. They feel a tenderness and compassion for their fellow men. They wish to be instrumental in turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. And it is this sincere love to souls, which induces them to undertake the great and difficult work of preaching the gospel.
Now, the end which any one proposes in any employment, he naturally desires to accomplish. The faithful attorney, who undertakes his calling to maintain justice between man and man, always pursues this object, in all his pleas and exertions. And the faithful physician, who practices the healing art, to cure the disorders and preserve the lives of his fellow men, always seeks the life and health of his patients. So a faithful minister, who enters upon his work from the pure motives of benevolence and compassion, will always aim, in all his preaching, to save the souls of his hearers. As soon as Paul was converted he wished to convert others. And, therefore, as soon as he was called to preach, he instantly obeyed the call.“ But when it pleased God,” says he, “who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me, by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” It was love to souls which induced Paul to preach, and this love constrained him to seek the salvation of his hearers. And all, who enter into the ministry from the same motive, uniformly pursue the same end. They carry about with them, and especially into the pulpit, a sincere and ardent desire to save the souls of men. Like Paul, they travail in birth for souls; and, like him, their heart's desire and prayer to God is, that sinners, through their preaching, may be saved.
Thirdly: Faithful ministers desire to fulfil the weighty obligations which are laid upon them, when the souls of men are
committed to their care and instruction. Then they are charged to take heed unto themselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made them overseers, to “ feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Yea, they are charged before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom, to preach the word; to be instant in season and out of season; to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine. Under the impression of these obligations, they maintain an habitual sense that they watch for souls as those who must give account. And this creates in them an ardent desire to fulfil the ministry which they have received of the Lord Jesus, and to promote the salvation of those whom he hath committed to their trust, and for whom he hath suffered and died.
Fourthly: Faithful ministers place their own happiness in the salvation of their people. They often look forward, and anticipate the joy of meeting those whom they may be instrumental of saving, at the right hand of Christ. And they can hardly form an idea of a greater satisfaction than this. "Paul frequently mentions the pleasure which he anticipated in seeing the fruit of his labors in the salvation of souls. He says to the Corinthians, “As ye also have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus." Again, he exhorts the Philippians to live a holy and exemplary life, giving this as the reason, “that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain." In another place he calls them his "joy and crown." And “what,” says he, to the Thessalonians, " is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming ?” Thus Paul placed his own happiness in the salvation of his hearers; which enabled him to say with sincerity to the Jew, that he desired to gain the Jew; to the Gentile, that he desired to gain the Gentile; to the weak, that he desired to gain the weak; and to the Corinthians, that he sought not theirs, but them. He considered every person whom he was instrumental of converting, as a part of his future and eternal reward, and therefore most sincerely desired, in his preaching, to save the souls of men.
As God had expressly given him those who once sailed with him, so he expected that he would give him all whom he should ever be instrumental of turning from darkness to light. And all faithful ministers have the same glorious recompense of reward set before them, to stimulate their desires and endeavors to promote the salvation of their hearers. The more they turn to righteousness, the brighter will they shine,