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THE FULFILMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.
A CHARGE delivered at the Ordination of James DRUMMOND, of Chigwell.
BY JOHN CAMPBELL.
MY DEAR FRIEND, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. I, therefore, feel that for me to address you, in the presence of ministers of such standing and experience, is a violation of propriety. They alone possess the authority and competency which the business requires, and I am constrained to feel that I usurp their province. May I hope that they and this congregation will excuse me for having listened to your request, and, perhaps, you for making it? In a strange land, you found yourself alone, and not possessed of those friendships with the ministers of the country which time alone can bless you with. In me you recognised a friend of long standing ; -- we were, during many years, fellow-citizens, and we had fellowship in much besides, as studied, successively, at the Universities of St. Andrew's and of Glasgow, and, while in the latter, attended the same theological academy pertaining to the Independent Body. You often preached the word to my former charge, resided in my house, and, on my resignation, the tender of which indeed you read to them, your lot being to supply the pulpit that day, had your studies been completed, every hand among my people had been held up for you as my successor. These facts may, in some degree, apologize for you and myself on the present occasion, and avert the charge of impropriety on your part, and of arrogance on mine.
What shall I then say ? “ Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received of the Lord, that thou fulfil it.” (Gal. iv. 17.) Scholars are aware of the conflicting sentiments which exist among critics upon the text. These we shall pass with one remark,—that the proper rendering is, “Take heed to the ministry, which thou hast received of, or in the Lord, that thou mayest fulfil it ;' heed is the means, fulfilment the end. Under the former I comprehend all that relates to agency or instrumentality. Let this, then, engage your special notice. In your case I assume two things, because I know them, that God hath given you abundant capacity for the work of teaching, -and that, having enjoyed the means of its cultivation, the result of their employment has been honourable success. What is done, however, must be viewed as the beginning, rather than the end. While you rest on the centre of your present acquirements, you will go on, by constant exertion, to seek the enlargement of their circumference. As yet you have reached the end of no path on which you have entered; forgetting, therefore, what is behind, you will pass on to that which is before. In all your attempts you will attend to the doctrine of proportions; let the foundations expand as the structure rises,— let gifts and graces advance by alternate steps, that both may make a parallel progress. The foundation I hold to be personal religion, and the superstructure all that constitutes accomplishment, and increases aptness to teach. There is much in our nature, and not a little in our circumstances, which prompts the improvement of the latter to the neglect of the former, —and the desire to shine, rather than to burn. The judges of holiness are few, and the lovers of it not numerous, in the world; its praises, among men, are faint, and its emoluments small.
Hence we are under strong temptation to cultivate the tree of knowledge, while we suffer the tree of life to pine away; the former expands its boughs, which are laden with fruit, the latter is a shrivelled sapling, leafless and dying. Such a state of things, my brother, is sad indeed; men may praise and admire, but Jesus Christ will denounce and condemn. While we listen to the din of our own praises, we shall feel them a fire that consumes the heart, rather than a shower that refreshes it. That this woful condition become not yours, let me exhort you,
1st. To take heed always to the state of religion in your own heart, that it be prosperous and flourishing. If this require much, it will render much again. It is, in fact, the ground-work of all excellence. It is the chief element of pastoral competency. It is the sure passport to the esteem and confidence of all good men. It is the foundation of personal safety, and inward peace; and will be crowned, at judgment, with the approbation of God. Abilities below mediocrity, a very humble measure of mental culture, a slender portion
of various knowledge, a tolerable mastery of the native tongue, and a deep acquaintance with the word of God, — these, united to personal piety, real, deep, enlightened, fervent, growing, will form a preacher of a very high order, of an order, superior to that which is attainable by a man of the most exalted genius, and that genius polished in the highest degree, and arrayed in all the accomplishments of a scholarship the most profound, splendid, and diversified, sustained and embodied in an eloquence of the most efficient character, while piety is doubtful or defective. This sublime and apostolic sanctity, united to lofty genius, and great powers of persuasion, constitutes our men of renown, - men, necessarily few in number in every age, and, therefore, still more largely the objects of esteem and admiration. It is not duly considered how much the eloquence of these distinguished persons owes to their piety; the former, without the latter, would resemble Samson shorn of his locks. It is the holy unction, with which the Lord has anointed their persuasive tongues, that has created an interest so intense, and ministered a pleasure so exquisite, even amidst an ungodly world, to whom they have been as a lovely song, as men that played well on an instrument, — for they have heard the word, but have not received it. Men of the world, with equal endowments, and exercising their gifts on the same themes, would, compared with these, appear as fabulists, and be treated accordingly. Our most celebrated orators, in the senate or at the bar, would make a sorry exhibition before a popular assembly, addressing them on the affairs of the soul and of eternity. Such men would labour under a three-fold defect, - a want of spiritual knowledge, of spiritual feeling, and of powerful legitimate impulse, which can be derived only from principle. Of this we have a remarkable illustration in a distinguished Scottish preacher. He laboured, or slumbered, as you know, in a certain parish for many years, unhonoured and unknown,- he was pitied by the pious, and neglected by the carnal multitude ; yet, at that time, he was no ordinary man ; he was the original genius, the splendid orator ; but he laboured under the three-fold incapacity which has been referred to. He had no knowledge of the truth,—none of the unction which accompanies it; and all his abilities existed, or were exercised, to no purpose.
Let us hear himself:-“ I was not sensible that all the vehemence, with which I urged the virtues and proprieties of social life, had the weight of a feather on the moral habits of my parishioners; nor was it, till I got impressed with the utter alienation of the heart in all its desires and affections from God, — till reconciliation with Him became the distinct and prominent object of my ministry;" in one word, till he preached the preaching that God bade him, that he discovered the gospel to be mighty through the Spirit to the renovation of man. From that day he began to blaze like a meteor; and, having obtained help of God, he has shone with the light and lustre of a leading star to the present time. New views of God, of the gospel, and of humanity, originated new feelings; the principles of truth imparted a fresh impulse, and the whole man was changed. The honest peasantry began to wonder, and inquire what had befallen their minister; and people crowded, from all the regions round about, to hear the testimony of this remarkable man, and avowed convert, who seemed to have undergone some great and mysterious transformation throughout the whole constitution of his being. New treasures of every kind were disclosed within him ; floods of sublime emotion, — fields of brilliant imagery, - mines of inexhaustible and original conception, and superhuman powers of exertion.
The rod of the evangelical ministry is the tone of their feeling, the unction of their utterance,—whether their style of preaching arise to eloquence or not, - and the wellspring of this is their piety. Of the reality of your piety I doubt not, nor did I ever hear it questioned, nor in measure is it deemed below the common standard judged necessary to the ministry. Hold fast, then, whereunto you have attained, and seek for an augmentation of the life of God within you. Improvement in personal holiness is virtual improvement in everything, it will impart fresh spirit, power, and tenderness to all your exercises. The rich indwelling of the Spirit of God within you, the full, and deep, and daily deepening impression of the entire system of gospel truth on the soul, the experienced efficacy of its healing power, and the energy of its might, in the contest with corruption and the principles of sin in your own bosom,—these will open up a source of wisdom, of unutterable value to you for preaching, and pastoral purposes, enabling you to hold a language understood by all that know the Lord, and without which you can neither comprehend their case nor yield them relief, to descend into depths and to penetrate recesses, into which the man of mere unsanctified ability, however great, cannot possibly enter. Thus will you become qualified to ascertain, describe, and rectify the disorders of a renovated soul; to guide the perplexed, and bind up the broken-hearted. The instruction to be thus obtained, will constitute no small proportion of the whole matter of your general ministration, and, to many, that which is most acceptable, if not always most salutary. Further, this spirituality of mind and perception will be exceedingly serviceable to you in expounding the word of God; it will illumine much that is dark, and, while it discloses the provisions of the grace of God, it will teach to appreciate their value. Indeed, this is the qualification necessary, above any other, to the right conduct of that whole branch of your ministry, denominated experience; nor can the other branches be managed successfully without it. It is true the science of doctrine, like other sciences, may be acquired by industrious intelligence; and the science of practical morality, which is the application of certain laws to action, may also be attained ;—this practice may be detailed and urged from gospel motives, with considerable accuracy and harmonious adjustment. Yes, and the science of experience, with the diction consecrated to it, may be mastered, in such perfection, as to deceive the weak, and perhaps, in a measure, the more discerning; but the thin disguise will not hold out, nor the ill assorted system hang well together. The faltering voice and the fettered foot will proclaim that without are fightings, and within are fears, and that the speaker treads an unknown path in a strange territory, and is seeking his way by aid of map, compass, and conjecture; and, then, that unction which is omnipotent in preaching, will be absent. There may be fire, but it will be false ; there may be unction, but it will be spurious. The air and essence of reality will be wanting, both in preaching and in prayer. No cord will be touched, no heart moved. Every discerning auditor will be conscious to a whisper within him that the minister believes not a word of what he utters, that he is acting a part, and even that very wretchedly. Such a state of things must issue in contempt now, and confusion hereafter. You have now done with your academic studies, and are thereby delivered from whatever tended to deadness or distraction. You are also freed from the disadvantages attendant on intinerant labour, so unfriendly to regular study, and, perhaps, to the culture of piety. You have now the means of prosecuting both. Consider, then, I beseech you, the language of Paul, “Give thyself wholly to these things, that thy profiting may appear unto all.” If you do this you will profit, and that profit will be manifest.
A humble man, acting on this principle, will, in course of time, achieve wonders. Though his individual acquisitions be small, the sum of them will become great through accumulation. Only let your motto be “ This one thing I do,” and, by the help of God, you will become rich in the abundance of your gifts and graces. Pray the Lord day and night to establish this conviction in your soul, that you have but one thing to do-to take heed to your ministry, that you may fulfil it. Let the thought of his come upon you every morning as soon as you recover consciousness, and all the day let it impel you with unresisted power. If during the little hour of human life you would