« PreviousContinue »
wisdom, what compassion, what a tender heart, what a well-balanced presiding mind; above all, what ardent love to the great Shepherd, and to the flock for his sake, doth the minister require for the due discharge of his high office! It is true, little comparatively can be done at once in an immensely extensive parish ; but something may be attempted, and much more may be accomplished, by wise and persevering efforts, than might at first be expected. God blesses the shepherd's honest diligence; whereas despair is the enemy of all exertion.
The catechizing of children, the encouragement of schools, the preparing of the young for confirmation and the Lord's supper, the visiting of the sick, the directing and consoling of the afflicted in conscience, the distribution of Bibles, prayer-books, and religious books and tracts; the increasing, if possible, the necessary accommodation for public worship with the increase of population; the guarding the sanctity of the Sabbath ; the preventing the entrance and diffusion of false doctrine and heresy; the preserving the flock in the unity of the apostolical reformed church, of which they are members ; these all come under the comprehensive expression, Taking the oversight thereof; and all these, as subservient to the great doctrines of the Gospel, by which only they can be made
efficient and salutary, are indispensably obligatory on the minister of Christ.
But we proceed to consider,
II. THE TEMPER, OR SPIRIT, OF THE CHRISTIAN SHEPHERD, as inculcated by the Apostle in the text.
For the manner of discharging his duties is almost as important as the duties themselves.
There are three principal faults, which mark a bad shepherd: backwardness or reluctance to his work; sordid love of gain ; harshness and tyranny. In order to be a good shepherd, he must be cheerful, and willing in his office; heartily devoted to the real interests of his flock; gentle and compassionate in his guidance of them.
Thus the Christian shepherd must, in the language of our Apostle, take the oversight of the flock, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being a lord over God's heritage, but being an ensample to the flock. That is, he must be free from backwardness of mind, from the love of gain, from ambition; and he must uniformly act with cheerfulness in his work, devotion of heart, humility.
The Christian minister is not to be reluctant .and backward to his work; led by constraint, contrary to the bent of his mind. He is not to look on his duty as a burdensome task, and undertake it, in consequence of external solicitations, against bis will. He must not shrink from the discharge of his office from false modesty, the love of ease, or a preference for some other calling. He is not to make it the forlorn hope, when other occupations fail ; driven to it by necessity, and discharging it with awkwardness and distaste. He is not to confine himself to what he is obliged to perform by the letter the law, or to what, if omitted, would expose him to rebuke from his superiors in the church.
A shepherd who should act thus, would infallibly be a bad shepherd, would neglect, in a thousand important circumstances, the comfort and welfare of his flock, and would on the first convenient pretext give up an office which he misunderstood and disliked. And if a Christian minister thus conducts himself, his course of duty will be tame, heartless, indolent. Such an one may be a man of literature, a man of science, a man of refined taste, a man of amiable manners, a man of pleasant and agreeable conversation,- because in all these things he has a willing mind ;-but in his peculiar work, in the cure of souls, he will do as little as he can; he will be backward, dull, careless, inefficient.
The true shepherd acts not by constraint, but willingly; he has a preference for his holy
vocation; he considers it to be the highest honour to be permitted to instruct and guide the souls for which Christ died; he thanks Christ Jesus his Lord who enabled him, for that he counted him faithful, putting him into the ministry. The cure of souls is not a business to which he is driven, but a choice in which he delights ; he is not forced by circumstances from without, but led by principles from within; He “ trusts that he is moved to it by the Holy Ghost"
Sense of obligation to divine mercy, gratitude for redemption, love to a crucified Saviour, views of the infinite value of souls, compassion for the state of mankind, impressions of the nearness of death and eternity, make him a cheerful, willing, shepherd of his Master's flock.
But the second part of the minister's temper is, that he must not act for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. For a man may be willing, in a certain sense, to undertake this office, and yet that willingness may spring from a base and unworthy source; he may have his eye principally on the temporal support afforded by the state to the ministers of the Gospel. He may be free from constraint, as to outward force ; and yet have no readiness, no promptness, no devotion of heart to the spiritual work of the
& Ordination Service.
ministry; he may be nothing else, than a man seeking sordid gain from the church which he disgraces and dishonours. The Judaizing teachers in the primitive church taught things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake, supposing that gain was godliness. I have no man likeminded, said the Apostle Paul to the Philippians, who will NATURALLY care for your state; for all seek THEIR OWN, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.
Now, even an earthly shepherd, if he have no readiness, no alacrity, no warmth of heart in his work, but is merely led by the lowest and most mercenary motives, is incapable of all the higher ends of his employ; he seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep and fleeth, and the wolf cometh and scattereth the sheep; the hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling and careth not for the sheep.
In fact, in every generous pursuit, covetousness is a vice which incapacitates for all the ardour, the elevation of mind, the zeal, the effort, the spirit of enterprise, on which any great success depends. Avarice, therefore, like ingratitude, is odious even to the men of the world. The poet, the philosopher, the scholar, the artist, the warrior, the statesman is raised, even by inferior motives, above the degrading love of gain.
How much more, then, should the minister