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SERM. when He thinks fit, and save a sincere soul without them; XCVIII.
yet it is most sure, He will never save that man who despiseth His ordinances, or wilfully neglects to make use of them, although administered by men of like passions with Himself.
I will only mention one other great blessing of a standing [Matt. 5. ministry. YE (saith our Saviour) ARE THE SALT OF THE 13.)
EARTH; that is, ye are designed to preserve the world, as much as possible, from corruption, as salt does other bodies; and by that means prevent the judgments of God from fall. ing upon them.
And it is most certain, (I wish we had not too sad a proof of it amongst ourselves,) it is most certain, that the more the ministers of God are despised, and the ordinances of God neglected; where Church discipline is either contemned or discountenanced, there iniquity will abound, the kingdom of Satan will be re-established, and, as sure as we live, judg. ments will follow.
Thus I have set before you some of the many blessings, as well as the works, of a minister of God. It is true, these blessings will be more visible, if every minister of God would faithfully perform what his duty requires of him, and what he solemnly promised at his ordination.
But then consider, good Christians, that the personal failings of men do not make void the commission they have received from God. Even a civil magistrate, in things lawful, is to be obeyed, because he has authority from above, though he should not be regular in his private life. It is the commission, the power, the business he is sent about, and the authority that sends him, which we are to look at, and not at the failings of the man.
Be assured of it, therefore, Christians, if you, on your part, do not hinder God's graces and blessings from falling upon you, God will certainly vouchsafe them to you upon the prayers of His own ministers, and through the ordinances by them administered.
Do not,' saith Maimonides, say, what availeth the blessing of this simple priest ; for the blessing does not depend upon him, but upon the most holy God, who has ordained him to bless you.'
You see, therefore, the great profaneness of those, who go about to prostitute the ordinances of God, by making them the common business of all Christians.
Well then, if the minister of God does, with a real effect, bless all those that are disposed to receive His blessing, and repair to the Church to receive it ; how unhappy are they, who, for their sins, are shut out of the Church, as well as they who deprive themselves of the blessing of God, by wil. fully absenting from the public ordinances.
Little do Christians consider what they lose by doing so.
You have seen, good Christians, our work and our burden. You are, or may be, partakers of the blessings of our ministrations. Let us beseech you, not to add to our burden, which is great enough, God knows, if we perform it as we should do ; do not add to our trouble, by despising our ministry, or make it useless to yourselves, by your ungodly lives.
When you remember, that we are Christ's ministers, remember also that the Master is always dishonoured when His servants are slighted.
It has always been the devil's aim, to discountenance, by his agents, the ministers of the Gospel; he knowing very well, that as bad as the world is, it would be ten times worse, if there were none to stand in the gap, none to tell men their duty, none to keep up order and discipline.
Suffer yourselves, Christian brethren, to be instructed, to be admonished, to be reproved, by those that are in Christ's stead. And if any of you should have the misfortune to fall into sins inconsistent with Christianity and salvation, suffer yourselves to be reformed by godly discipline; and bless God that He has appointed a sure way, if it is not your own faults, of restoring you to peace and pardon.
And if the duties of Christianity, or the difficulties of our proper callings, affright us, let us call to mind that Scripture question, “Who can dwell with everlasting burnings ?” and (Is. 33. 14.] all the difficulties we fear will vanish.
In short, this is the time in which we are to choose what we are to be, and where we must be, to all eternity.
Christians may flatter themselves, that their salvation is in their own hands; and that they can make their peace
SERM. with God when they please. They will find to their cost XCVIII.
that they have a work to do, and to finish, even before they come to die.
It is an exceeding great comfort to the serious part of the living, when they can lay their dead friends in the grave, in sure and certain hopes of a blessed resurrection.
And blessed be God, that this is the case before us. This good man's life, as a Christian, has been unblameable; as a pastor, for threescore years, laborious and exemplary; always resident upon his cure, always contented with his condition, and never eager to increase his work and his burden, at the hazard of his soul.
But his life, his virtues, and his character, are so well known, not only to this 'congregation, but to this whole land, that I shall not injure his memory by recounting only a part of them.
One would only wish and hope, (if the evil tempers and times we are fallen into did not discourage us from hoping for it,) that he may have many followers, as a Christian, as a minister of Christ, as a neighbour, and as a friend; in all which capacities, he has most worthily discharged himself.
And now, his good name and his good works do follow him; and all we must follow him very soon, either with or without these witnesses of our behaviour in this world.
I have but one word or two more to add. First, to you, my brethren ; and it is to put you, and myself, in mind of a truth which we shall all believe when we come to die; that is, that our final sentence will, in a great measure, depend
upon the faithful discharge of our ministry. What is our 1 Thess. 2. hope, saith St. Paul, “What is our hope, or joy, or crown, or
rejoicing? Are not ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming;" that is, all the hope we shall then have, of our being accepted of God, is this,—that we have faithfully discharged our duty to the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made us overseers. The care of our flocks must be our glory or our shame, our crown or our condemnation.
And with you, good Christians, who are our flock,
I would leave this wholesome admonition of the Apostle; 1 Thess. 5. “We beseech you, brethren, to know," that is, acknow
edge, “ those which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly for their works' sake;" for it is they that must give an account; that they may do it with joy, and not with grief. for that wili be no profit to you.
The good Lord grant that we may all so live, as that we may die in peace, and rest in hope, and rise in glory; for the Lord Jesus' sake. To Whom, &c.
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PREACHED AT THE FUNERAL OF THE REV. DR. WALKER,
VICAR-GENERAL, AND RECTOR OF BALLAUGH.
ST. PAUL'S COMFORT IN THE PROSPECT OF DEATH APPLICABLE
TO EVERY FAITHFUL MINISTER OF CHRIST.
Phil. i. 21.
For to me to live is Christ ; and to die is gain, 20. 26; 2 Tim. 4.8; That is, to me, the motive I have to desire to live is the 1 Thess. 2. 19; Phil. 2. service of Christ; but to die in His service would be my 16.
St. Paul shews, in these words, what a most comfortable prospect of death he had ; that he was well assured he should be a gainer by it. He was ready and willing either to live or die, as it should be most for the glory of God and the good of his flock.
It will be well worth our pains to enquire,
First, upon what foundation this assurance of St. Paul was founded.
And, secondly, whether every minister of Christ may not be able to say the same thing, and with some reasonable assurance, if it is not his own fault.
I. We will first enquire, upon what foundation this comfortable assurance of St. Paul was built.
And, in the first place, he himself tells us long before this, Acts 23. 1. what was his greatest comfort in life : “I have lived in all good
conscience before God unto this day ;" that is, I ever sin-
a Jew; when I persecuted the Church of (Acts 26. Christ; “When I did many things contrary to the name of