Page images
PDF
EPUB

duct is very exceptionable, continue to be admitted at ftated times, to the feals of God's covenant.

How inexcuseable are we in this neglect? If the first Christians, without the help or fan&tion of an establishment, kept fo ftrict a difcipline, what might we do, who have the countenance and approbation of the civil power. In discipline then, be ftrict, regular, and impartial. Efpecially be impartial. It is commonly want of impartiality, that makes us fail in ftrictnefs. You will have many enemies to impartiality in difcipline. You will have the great and wealthy, many of whom, though they live in open

defiance of the laws and ordinances of Christ, yet will be much offended, and complain of it as a grievous injury, if by a judicial sentence you deprive them of his name. Nay, you will find in every congregation fome professing piety, who, though they are well pleased with, and commend the strict exercise of discipline in the case of others, yet when it comes to touch themselves, or their own relations, will use many arts to evade it. But if you be firm and unbiased in so good a cause, it will have a sensible effect.

This leads me to exhort you in the whole of your work, public and private, to beware of the fin of manpleasing. I do not say, beware of popularity: because, in the sense to which common language hath confined that word, it is but one half of the snare. Besides, in propriety of speech, popularity should fignify only being accepted and beloved, which in itself is neither duty nor fin, but a blessing. Man-pleasing fignifies, in Scripture, having this as the end and motive of our actions, rather than being acceptable to God. You ought, indeed, for edification, to avoid displeasing any without necessity. But as in this, so in every other thing, you should have a far higher principle, than merely courting the favor either of great or small, good or bad. It is, doubtless, a mean and despicable principle, to act only with a view of gaining the applause of the vulgar and ignorant. But I have often wondered, how some fhould so boldly and uncharitably lay this to the charge of their brethren, without considering how easy it is, with at least, equal justice, to presume that they are under the influence, and acting with a view to please the great. I am sure, there is a much stronger temptation to this than the formen And, if am not mistaken, fawning and servility hath been the road, in which ambitious and corrupt churchmen have travelled to preferment in every age. The truth is, they are equally detestable in the fight of God. But the last is much more destructive to the interest of religion than the first. The favor of the multitude can scarcely be obtained, without either the truth or the appearance of piety ; but the favor of the great is often obtained by filence, and suffering them in their crimes, being assistant in their pleasures, or subservient to their political designs.

To deliver you, Sir, from both, remember the condition on which you hold your office.

« Son of man, “ I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel : “therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them u warning from me. When I lay unto the wicked, Thou “ shalt surely die ; and thou givest him not warning, nor "speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way to save “ his life : the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, “ but his blood wili I require, at thine hand.”* Forget then the foolish accusations of popularity or vanity ;, and consider, that your people are daily carried to their graves, and you must give an account of every soul that perishes through your neglect.

To conclude, be much in earnest prayer to God, that he would fit you for your work, and crown your labours with success. Prayer is absolutely necessary the to stedfastness, and growth of every believer, and especially to a minifter. If you believe the gospel, you will believe that

every good gift cometh from above ;” that God only can make you an able and useful pastor ; and this will make you importunate with him for a plentiful measure of the Holy Spirit to fit you for his service. And I desire to join in praying, that God, for Christ's fake, would make you an "able minister of the New Testament,”-and help you to preach the gospel, not with the wisdom of “ words,”—but with “ the Holy Ghost sent down from “ heaven."

• Ezek. iii. 17, 18.

[blocks in formation]

YO

OU have heard the charge given to your minifter.

Are there then, so many duties incumbent on him hy his standing in the relation of a paftor to you ? is not the relation mutual ? And are there not feveral correl pondent duties incumbent on you as his people ? I beg your patience, while I put you in mind of a few of the most important and necessary.

In the first place, It is evidently your duty diligently to attend upon his ministry. It is plainly impossible that you can profit by him, if you do not hear him. I am forry that there are many in these days, who pour contempt upon the ordinances of Christ's institution. But in par: ticular, there hath been, of late, a great and remarkable defertion of public worship by those of higher rank. There is a happy opportunity in this case to put all such among you in mind, thåt having fubfcribed a call to their minister, they stand bound by consent to attend upon him. Is it not surprising to think, that any should forget the terms in which that invitation runs. You intreat him “ to take " the charge of your fouls, and promise him all due obe“ dience and submission in the Lord.” Can a man honeftly subscribe this, who seldom comes within the walls of any church? One would be counted infamous in the world, who should act in the face of a figned obligation, in any other matter, or who even should fallify a folemn promise. And, is it less criminal, because it relates to eligion and the service of God ? It is indeed seldom resented or punished by men, because the offence is not immediately against them, but it remains to be punished by that righteous God, “ To whom vengeance belongs " and who will not be mocked."

In the next place, my brethren, let me intreat you to bé tender of the character of your minister, and of ministers in general. As their office makes the guilt of their fins great, and as a stain on their character is most hurt. ful to religion, on both accounts, you ought not rafhly to receive an accusation against them. I do not mean to ask indulgence to the unworthy, I give them up freely to that reproach and contempt which they justly deserve. But let it fall upon the person, and not upon the office. Do not transfer the faults of particulars to the whole order. It is easy to observe the different reception which the faults or miscarriages of ministers' meet with; from persons differently disposed. The good are affected with grief and concern for the offence, or filled with zeal and indignation against the finner. But loose and careless persons disparage the profesion, and bless themselves in their own uniformity and consistency of character. You may spare your reflections, “ That ministers are but men, ministers

are but like other men,” and the like, when, I assure you, we deny it not.

We have all the same great interest at stake. We often speak the more earnestly to you, left, while we preach the gospel to others, we ourfelves should be cast-aways; and many times defcribe the workings of a deceitful, wandering, slothsul, worldly mind, by taking the copy from our own.

It falls very properly in my way on this occasion, to take notice of a reproach thrown upon ministers, by the mistake or perversion of two of the questions usually put at an ordination, and which you have just heard put to your neinifer. They are fupposed by many to be fuch as no man can answer with truth, and so quite improper to be put at all. The first of them is in the following terms, “ Are not zeal for the honor of God, love " to Jesus Christ, and defire of faring your souls, your

[blocks in formation]

great motives, and chief inducements, to enter into the “ function of the holy ministry, and not worldly designs “ and interests.” This is maliciously interpreted to fuppofe, that a minister in accepting of a fixed charge, hath no view or intention, primary or secondary, of being provided of a maintenance. This would be both unnatural and unreasonable.

They that serve at the altar, must live by “ the altar.” The plain meaning is, That the great motives of a minister, in consecrating himself to this employment, and accepting the particular station alligned him, ought to be the honor of God, and interest of religion, as expressed above. And surely, that this should be cafe, hath nothing in it incredible in our country, the provision for the ministry not being so large, but a man of tolerable abilities hath a much greater hazard of Kling to wealth and dignity in many other employments. But alas ! how ignorant are they who cavil at this question? Do they not know that every Christian is bound habitually and supremely to regard the glory of God in all his actions. This is not peculiar to ministers, except so far as they ought to beexemplary in every thing. Wo to every man in this assembly, be his employment what it will, if he does not habitually point his whole actions to the glory of God. “ not your own; ye are bought with a price ; therefore “ glorify God with your bodies, and your spirits, which are " God's."*

The other question is this, “ Have used any undue “ methods by yourself or others, in procuring this call.?” It is impossible to find fault with this question, but by leaving out the word, undue. And indeed, it is so far from being wrong, that there would be no harm if it were more particularly explained. It was probably intended to discourage all briguing and solicitation, other than a man's real character does for itlelf, or the free unbiased judgment of others, inclines them to do in his behalf. I apprehend it does not reach a reproof to all those, who either promote or hinder settlements from political connections, or in expectation of temporal favors: and to those who, by promises or threatenings, endeavor to influence their inferiors

“ Ye are

you used

1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.

« PreviousContinue »