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PREACHED AT AN ORDINATION.
RECIPROCAL OBLIGATIONS OF CHRISTIAN MINISTERS AND
HEB. xiii. 17.
See Deut. 33. 11;
1 Cor. 1. 1;
They watch for your souls, as they that must give an account.
29; Luke 6. words—Christian pastors, and the people of their flock. The 39; 10. 20; first have very great reason to be concerned for the account 11; 17. 16 ; they must one day give of the souls of those that are com- 2 Cor. 6. 3 mitted to their care. And the second should consider, how 1 Thess. 5.
13; 1 Tim. much they owe to the good providence of God, for appoint- 4. 14, 16. ing His own ministers, under the most strict obligations, to WATCH FOR THEIR SOULS; and what account they also must give, if they have not profited by their pastor's care.
And may that Holy Spirit, who has given us this warning, enable me to speak upon these two particulars, so as to edify both myself and you that hear me; for we are all of us, you see, concerned in an account we must give to God, that we may
have this account very much in our minds. We shall begin with the account we ourselves are to give of the souls committed to our care. And what bishop, what priest, what minister of God, can seriously think of this without trembling?
Many are the duties of our sacred calling; many are the temptations we meet with to neglect them. The mischiefs that follow such neglects are many and great; and the punishment, without repentance and amendment, to be dreaded above all things.
These are, indeed, very great discouragements for any man to undertake so great a charge; but then the reward of a faithful discharge of these duties will be so very great (as
SERM, the Holy Spirit assures us), and the helps so certain, and
We will first consider the ends for which men are ordained to the ministı y, that they themselves, and all Christians, may see the great blessing they enjoy, who live under a godly ministry.
They are ordained for these great ends :
To preserve the knowledge of the true God amongst men: which is entirely lost amongst so many heathen nations.
They are appointed to make Jesus Christ and His Gospel, and the goodness and mercy of God manifested therein, known unto men.
They are to keep men's consciences awake, by setting before them the certainty and the terrors of a judgment to come.
They are to convince men of the great corruption of our nature; and that we must be converted, and become new creatures, before God will take any pleasure in us;
And that this life is the only time allotted us for this work, to be restored to the image of God by a true conversion, by a true and sincere repentance, and by works meet for repentance.
Now, the way they are appointed by God to do these things is,
First; by their sermons and other pious instructions : secondly; by their good examples : thirdly; by a godly discipline : and lastly; by their prayers.
First; by their sermons and other pious instructions. A
minister of Jesus Christ ought very seriously to think of the Hos 4. 6. complaint God made: “My people are destroyed for lack of
knowledge.” This, God knows, may be said of too many Christians. They perish, for want of knowing the bondage of man by sin, the manner of our redemption by Jesus Christ, and the power of God's grace to deliver us: subjects which can never be insisted on too often.
On the other hand, sermons will be of little or no use, if they are not plain, and suited to the necessities, and to the capacities, of the people to whom we preach, and if they tend not to the salvation of their souls; either to humble, and cast them down, under the sense of the danger they are in on account of their sins; or to raise them up, by letting them see the necessity and comfort of closing with the terms and promises of the Gospel. To such sermons as these it is that God gives His blessing.
St. Paul mentions another way of teaching, which, to be sure, he found the blessed effects of ; " he taught from house Acts 20. 20. to house," as well as in the Church. And certainly, a private instruction very often makes the deepest impression upon the minds of men; and, in many cases, may be of more use than ten sermons.
The next way by which a minister of God is to teach his people is BY HIS GOOD EXAMPLE. “Ye are,” saith our Lord (Matt. 5.
13.) to His disciples, “ Ye are the salt of the earth.” What is the meaning of this ? Why, it is to keep others from corruption, as salt does the things that are liable to be corrupted and spoiled.
It was for this reason the Apostle enjoins Titus, to shew Chap. 2. 7. himself in all things a pattern of good works.
Sermons, though never so good, are not always understood or minded by common people; but a good, a sober, a pious life and example is a language that every body understands.
How often doth our Lord, in His last prayer for His disciples, repeat these words, “They are not of the world, even (John 17.
16.] as I am not of the world;" but to teach His ministers how different their lives ought to be from the lives of worldly people; that they should avoid not only scandalous sins (for then they are plainly ministers of Satan), but all that is offensive, vain, trifling, and useless, every thing that is unbecoming the character of a minister of Jesus Christ.
DISCIPLINE, in the next place, is another means which God hath put into the hands of His ministers, in order to keep men from ruining themselves and others.
It is true, no man can be forced to forsake his sins and be converted. But when men become careless of their own salvation, the Church owes this case to her children, to hinder them as much as possible from corrupting others, and
SERM. leading them to hell. And a minister of God doth in some LXXXIX.
measure become guilty of those sins, which he doth not hinder by all means becoming the Spirit of the Gospel.
And if people would but consider the ends of Church discipline, it would be matter of joy and thankfulness that God has appointed His ministers to take especial care of this matter; for the ends of discipline are, to endeavour to convert sinners, that their souls may be saved; to hinder the plague of wickedness from spreading; and that the judgments of God upon the land may be prevented by the repentance of its inhabitants, and that God in all things may be glorified.
But if, instead of seeing these good ends of Church discipline, people will be uneasy and angry, when they are called to an account and rebuked for crimes which would otherwise ruin them, and the ministers of Christ looked upon as their mortal enemies; they must know, that just so the devil
treated Christ Himself, when He commanded him to leave Luke 8. 28. the man whom he had taken possession of; “What have I
to do with Thee,” said he to our Lord, “art Thou come to torment me?”
In one word : if baptism be accounted a blessing, Church discipline is so too: they being both appointed by the same Spirit of God, by the same author of our salvation, the Lord
Jesus Christ. Matt. 18. And Christians would do well to think of it, that not to
shew their dislike and abhorrence of every thing that may offend God, or injure our neighbour, is to join in the sin, and in the guilt that attends it; which every man doth, who converses with wicked men without scruple. They harden the sinner, and hazard their own salvation.
Now, God having lodged a power in the pastors of the Church, to prevent as much as is in their power the growth of wickedness, it is their duty to do this; that is, as was said before, by all means becoming the Spirit of the Gospel; by exhortation, by reproof, by rebukes, private and public, by denying them the public worship; and, when none of these methods will reform them, by shutting them out of the Church, and the communion of the faithful, by a solemn excommunication.
And no Christian must say that he values and loves the Church of Christ, or Christ Himself, when he opposeth this authority of her pastors, and the discipline which He Himself has appointed; nor must any minister of Christ think himself excused from remissness in this duty, by the opposition he may meet with; we being all answerable for the wickedness occasioned by the neglect of this means of grace, and ought to consider that we have more souls besides our own to answer and account for.
To these means of grace there is another, never to be forgot or omitted; and this is, the duty of praying daily for a blessing upon our labours, and upon our flock, and upon all other means of grace and salvation. Without this we shall be forced, when we come to die, to use the words of St. Peter to our Saviour : “We have toiled all the night,” Luke 5. 5. all our lives, " and have taken nothing.”
Grace we cannot give : that is the gift of God, and must be prayed for. We must pray, therefore, for His grace and blessing upon our studies, upon our sermons, upon ourselves; that we may be living examples of all the graces and virtues which we recommend to others. We must pray for a blessing upon the discipline of the Church ; for sinners, that they may be converted; for such as are in error, that they may see the truth; and that God may increase the number, and the graces, of such as love and fear Him. And we should never forget to pray, that God may bless the persons of all those, who by their own labours do mi. nister to our necessities.
And let us remember, that this was a most especial charge and duty upon the priests under the law of Moses. A morning and evening sacrifice was appointed to be offered, for every soul in Israel, who through necessity, distance of place, or sickness, could not attend upon the temple service; pursuant to which, our Church has laid the same charge upon her ministers, as every clergyman knows who consults her canons and rubrics.
And when people are satisfied that their pastors do pray for God's blessing upon them, their families, and labours (without which, all their labours will be to little purpose), they will not be so apt to grudge them that fruit and recompence