« AnteriorContinuar »
one direction. Hence we perceive many an old wealthy churl living to himself, and repelling every application for a divine or benevolent object : Who is David ? and who is the son of Jesse ? There be many servants now-a-days that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh, that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men whom I know not whence they be?.
When I see such a spirit in aged people, recollecting that eyery principle, as was said, tends to matnrity, I cannot help considering it as a strong indication that they have all their lives been under the dominion of this vice, only that it has been checked by a regard to appearances, and it may be by other vices; and that they are now fast ripening for destruction.
But in what way, it will be asked, are the third class, namely, professors of religion, subject to this sin, more than other men ? As a fact, it has long impressed my mind ; and I conceive it is not difficult to be accounted for. Supposing a person to be merely a professor, whatever impedes his evil propensity in all directions but one, will be certain to strengthen it in respect of that one. This is exactly the case as to a profession of religion. If you would be thought a Christian, you must not be 'a drunkard, nor a debauchee, nor a gamester, nor a liar, nor a blasphemer; nor an injurious person ; but you may love the world more than God : for this being confined to things between God and your own conscience, dnes not fall under human cognizance, or though it may affect your liberality to men, yet as the discipline of the New Testament leaves every man to judge of his own ability, and to give what he gives, not as if it were of necessity, but willingly, you may here live undetected, and with a little management, unsnspected, by your brethren. Of this, the case of Judas Iscariot will furnish you with a notable example !
In this view, perhaps, Dissenters from the Established Church, may be more in danger of indulging in covetousness than in most other evils. They are shut out from things which are princpally adapted to feed other dispositions as well as this ; such as promotion in the church, in the army, and in the navy. The chief openings for them are found in manufactures, trade, and hasbandry: open
ings which it is certainly very lawful for them to embrace ; bat which, in case of success attending them, are often great temptations to covetousness.
I close with two remarks: -First : That the danger of falling into covetousness is not confined to the mere professor : a Christian may be greatly impeded by it in his way to heaven ; and, like Lot, whose heart was seduced by the well-watered plains of Sodom, may die under a cloud. Lastly : That the most effectual preserv. ative from this sin, as well as others, is believingly to converse with the doctrine of the cross. By this the world was crucified to the apostle, and he unto the world.
THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.
Having been engaged in the work of preaching the gospel for nearly forty years, and feeling that according to the course of nature it cannot be long ere I shall have to give an account of my stewardship, your readers will accept of a few serious and affectionate thoughts on this most important subject.
A remark which I once heard from the lips of that great and good man, the late Mr. Abraham Booth, has often recurred to my recollection. “I fear,” said he, there will be found a larger proportion of wicked ministers, than of any other order of professing Christians !” It did not appear to me at the time, nor has it ever appeared since, that this remark proceeded from a want of charity, but rather from a deep knowledge of the nature of Christianity, and an impartial observation of men and things. It behooves us, not only as professing Christians, but as ministers, to examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith. It certainly is possible, after we have preached to others, that we ourselves should be cast away! I believe it is very common for the personal religion of a minister to he taken for granted ; and this may prove a temptation to him to take it for granted too. Ministers, being wholly devoted to the service of God, are supposed to have considerable advantages for spiritual improvement. These they certainly have; and if their minds be spiritual, they may be expected to make greater proficiency in the divine life than their brethren.. .
But it should be remembered, that if they are not spiritual, those things which would otherwise be a help, will prove a hindrance. If we study divine subjects merely as ministers, they will produce no salutary effect. We may converse with the most impressive truths, as soldiers and surgeons do with blood, till they cease to make any impressions upon us. We must meditate on these things as Christians, first feeding our own souls upon them, and then imparting that which we have believed and felt to others ; or, whatever good we may do them, we shall receive none ourselves. Unless we mix faith with what we preach, as well as with wbat we hear, the word will not profit us. It may be on these accounts that ministers, while employed in watching over others, are so solemnly warned against neglecting themselves : Take heed unto YOURSELVES and to all the flock, &c.—Take heed UNTO THYSELF, and unto the doctrines; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee..
It is a very discriminating account of the work of the ministry that is given us in 2 Cor. iv. 5. We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord ; and ourselves your servants for Jesus's sake. It may prove in the end that this is the character of every faithful pastor, and that every one who is not faithful preaches himself, rather than Christ Jesus the Lord. It is true that none, except a few gross impostors, would think of holding up themselves as the way of salvation, instead of Christ ; but there are more ways of preaching ourselves than this: Christ may be the topic of our preaching, and the object of our zealous commendation, while self is the governing principle of the whole discourse,
If worldly advantage be our object, whatever be the subjectmatter of our preaching, we certainly preach ourselves, and not Christ. It is true, there is but little food for this lust in the far greater part of our congregations, whether in or out of the establishment ; yet there doubtless are cases in which it is otherwise. Some have made their fortunes in this way; and if such was their end, they have had their reward. If this had not been a possible case, Paul would not bave disavowed it as he does : Not a cloak of covetousness, God is witness !
If we make the ministry subservient to a life of ease and indolence, we preach ourselves rather than Christ. We may get but little for our labour, and yet, being fond of a life of sloth, (if a life it can be called,) it may be more agreeable to us than any other pursuit. It is from this disposition that many ministers have got into the babit of spending a large part of every week in gossiping from house to house ; not promoting the spiritual good of the people, but merely indulging themselves in idle talk. I might add, it is from this disposition and practice that a large proportion of the scandals among ministers have arisen. Had there been no danger from these quarters, we should not have met with another of Paul's solemn disavowals: Our exhortation was not of uncleanness.
If the applause of our bearers be the governing principle of our discourses, we preach ourselves, and not Christ. To be acceptable is necessary to being useful; and an attention to manner, with this end in view, is very proper : but if the love of fame be our governing principle, our whole ministry will be tainted by it. This subtle poison will penetrate and pervade our exercises, till every one perceives it, and is sickened by it, except ourselves. It will inflate our composition in the study, animate our delivery in the pulpit, and condescend to fish for applause when we have retired. It will even induce us to deal in flattering doctrine, dwelling on what are known to be favourite topics, and avoiding those which are otherwise. It is a great inatter to be able to join with the apostle in another of his solemn disavowals : For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor of men sought ue glory.
Finally: If our aim be to make proselytes to ourselves, or to our party, rather than converts to Christ, we shall be found to bave preached ourselves, and not him. We certainly have seen much
Vol. VIII. . . 19
of this species of zeal in our times: Men speaking perverse things, to draw aray disciples after them. Nor do I refer merely to men who would be thought singularly evangelical, and even inspired of God; who are continually holding up themselves as the favourites of heaven, and denouncing judgment on all who oppose them; and the tepor of whose preaching is to persuade their admirers to consider themselves as the dear children of God, and all who disapprove of them as poor blind creatures, knowing nothing of the gospel. Of them and their followers I can only say, If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. But men who have paid great atten. tion to the scriptures, and who have preached and written many things on the side of truth, bave nevertheless given but too evident proof that the tenor of their labours has been to make proselytes to themselves, or to their party, rather than converts to Christ.
We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord! Let Christ be not only the theme of my remaining ministry, but the exaltation of him and the enlargement of his kingdom the great end of my life: "If I forget Thre, Oh my Saviour, let my right hand forget; if I do not remember THEE, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!'
THOUGHTS ON THE MANNER IN WHICH DIVINE TRUTH
IS COMMUNICATED IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
It is a fact which must have struck every attentive reader, that God has not communicated his mind to us by giving us a set of principles, arranged in the form of a scheme ; or that we have no such creed as formally includes all the things necessary to be believed