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SER M. of their labours, which God and the laws have assigned LXXXIX.
I said indeed, that all their labours, without God's blessing, will be to little purpose ; and I had God's authority for say
ing so. Do but consult the first chapter of the prophet [ver. 6.] Haggai; there the Lord tells the Jews, that they had sown
much and brought in little ; and that he that earned wages put it into a bag with holes, because the house and service of
God was neglected. Chap. 3. 10. And the Lord, by Malachi His prophet, challenges the
people to try Him, His power, and goodness : “Bring ye," saith He, “all the tithes into My store-house, that My service may be kept up; and prove Me, if I will not open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room to receive it."
We know very well what unthoughtful people are ready to say to this, that this is preaching for ourselves. But it is really preaching for them, and for their benefit, or else this Bible which I have in my hand is not the Word of God.
We shall, therefore, now go on to consider, what encouragement a minister of Christ has to go on in the way of his duty, notwithstanding all outward discouragements he may meet with.
And, indeed, one great happiness it is for a minister of God, that the duties he promiseth to perform will help to change his heart, and create in him those dispositions which will make him faithful to his great Master. For example:
He promises to read the holy Scriptures daily. He will then have daily before his eyes, the example, the instructions, and the precepts of Jesus Christ, the rewards and punishments of the life to come.
When he instructs the youth in the catechism of the Church, he will be obliged to let them see how far we are fallen from grace, and what pains we must take to be restored to the image of God, as ever we hope to be saved; and when he doth this to any saving purpose, he cannot but be convinced, how much he himself is concerned in so necessary a work, and change of heart and life.
It will be impossible to converse with poor and needy people, as he will be obliged to do, without partaking of that Spirit of Jesus Christ, who went about doing good ; without being meek and humble, as knowing, that if any one of us are in better circumstances than another, it is purely the gift of God, and for the benefit and good of others.
When he reads Divine Service with devotion, he will beget devotion in himself, as well as in those that hear him.
When his sermons are plain and practical, they will necessarily affect his own heart, as well as the hearts of his hearers.
Every child he baptizeth will put him in mind of the vows that are upon himself.
And the administration of the Lord's Supper cannot be performed as it ought to be, without filling his soul with holy and devout thoughts, as well as with an boly fear, lest he should offer the prayers of the faithful with polluted lips, or distribute the bread of life with unclean hands. And the oftener he celebrates this holy mystery, the more will his love for Jesus Christ, whose love and death he commemorates, be increased.
In visiting sick and dying persons, he will be put in mind of his own mortality; and in endeavouring to fit them for the account they are to give of their lives, he will of necessity be put in mind of a much greater he himself must soon give of his own.
When he reproves, exhorts, admonishes others, he can hardly do it without being put in mind of the words of the Apostle : “ Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not Rom. 2. 21. thyself?”
If he is diligent in prayer, which he has promised faithfully to be, God will certainly enlighten his mind with saving truths and graces. And an earnest desire to save souls will cause him to be beloved of God, and honoured by men, assisted by the Holy Spirit, and rendered able to give an account with joy, and see the fruit of his labours.
In short; the faithful discharge of these duties will secure our peace, and our hope in God, and make our account less dreadful.
Let us now consider the duties which God requires of Christians for this care He hath shewn to appoint His own ministers “to watch for their souls, as they that must give
SER M. an account.” Hear what our Lord Christ Himself saith to
His ministers: “Whosoever shall not hear your words, it 14, 15, 40. shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of
judgment, than for that people.” And for Christians' better encouragement, He assures them, that he who receives His ministers receiveth Him Himself, and God that sent Him.
In them, therefore, God is received, heard, or despised.
Their authority, while they govern themselves by His Word, 1 Thess. 4. is the authority of God. “He therefore that despiseth,”
(they are St. Paul's words,) “ despiseth not man, but God.” And therefore the same Apostle directeth Christians to esteem them very highly in love for their works' sake.
And then for their right to an honourable maintenance,
St. Paul assures all Christians, that the Lord Himself or[1 Cor. 9. dained, “that they which preach the Gospel should live of 14.)
the Gospel.” And therefore, when we tell people of the great sin of defrauding the ministers of God, and of denying the rights which the laws of God and man have appointed them, we are doing our duty as faithfully, as when we set before them the sin of stealing, of adultery, or of any other breach of the commands of God, which will be followed with a curse in this life, and, if not repented of, with damnation hereafter.
I shall detain you no longer, than while I conclude this discourse with these following observations :
In the first place, you will observe how necessary it was, that the Church of God should appoint certain times, which should be solemnly observed by all Christians, for begging of God to send faithful pastors to serve in the sacred ministry, such as may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth the glory of God, and set forward the salvation of men. And every man would do well, before he reproaches any clergyman for his conduct, to ask himself this question : Have I myself done my duty, and joined with the Church of God to pray for all such as are called to the ministry, that they may live worthy of their vocation ?
In the next place, we must beg all that hear us to consider, that the contempt of God's ministers will end in the contempt of God Himself, of His Word, His worship, and of every thing that belongs to Him.
In short; Christians' respect for their pastors, and the ministers of God, ought to be very great, as they expect God's blessing; but then the ministers of God ought to make it their great endeavour to deserve this respect, by a sober, prudent, serious, godly, and pious life and conversation; ever remembering, that by a mean, light, and foolish conduct, unbecoming the dignity of one who calls himself, and ought to be, God's ambassador to men, he will render the ministry contemptible, and cause men to be guilty of that disrespect and sin which he complains of.
Lastly; we should all consider, that a man may have a lawful call to the ministry, and as such, ought to be obeyed in things pertaining to God; and yet, for want of answering the ends of his calling, he may oppose the great and gracious design of God, who would have all men to be saved.
May God of His great mercy preserve this Church from such pastors, and give all those, who have been, or are to be, ordained to His immediate service, grace, that in the exercise of their ministry they may depend upon God, ever pray for His guidance and blessing, and be instruments of bringing glory to God, and many souls to salvation, through Jesus Christ.
To Whom, &c.
PREACHED AT AN ORDINATION.
THE DUTIES OF MINISTERS AND PEOPLE.
1 Cor. iv. 1.
Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and
slewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.
The duties which belong to us as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, and to you, as you are the flock committed to our charge, and as we are over you in the Lord; these duties are so great, and so necessary to be known and remembered, that one cannot well omit such an occasion as this, of repeating, and recommending them to your serious consideration, as well as to our own.
"Let a man,” saith the Apostle, that is, let every Christian, "account of us as the ministers of Christ.” Account of us; that is, esteem and treat us, not as their ministers or servants, but as the ministers of Christ. Account of us, not only of St. Paul, but of all the ministers of Christ, to whom He has promised His Spirit unto the end of the world; for we are stewards of the mysteries of God; and, if we are God's
stewards, you know what follows, our Lord Himself will (Matt. 10. tell you: “He that despiseth you, despiseth Me, and God
that sent Me."
But then we are not to think, that because we are the ministers of Christ, and God's stewards, that therefore we may do what we please. No: for it is required in servants and stewards that a man be found faithful : faithful to his character, faithful to the vows he takes upon him when he enters into his Lord's service; faithful, with regard to the mysteries with which he is entrusted, to the Lord whose ser