Page images

and man, which influences us to think and act, either as members, or as ministers, of Jesus Christ. The character of the christian is determined according to the strength or weakness of his faith. If the faith of St. Paul had been weak or wavering, his portrait would have been unworthy of our contemplation : he would necessarily have fallen into doubt and discouragement; he might probably have sunk into sin, as St. Peter plunged into the sea; he must, sooner or later, have lost his spiritual vigor; and have made the same appearance in the church, as those ministers and christians, who are influenced by the maxims of the world. The effects of faith are still truly mysterious, though our Lord has explamed them in as intelligible a manner, as their nature will permit. "He that abideth in me," by a living faith, and in whom I abide," by the light of my word and the power of my spirit, "the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. If any man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and" being " withered, is cast into the fire and burned. Herein is my father glorified, that," united to me as the branches to the vine, " much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."

ye bear

Penetrated with these great truths, and daily cleaving more firmly to his living head, the true minister expresses what the natural man cannot receive, and what few pastors of the present age are able to comprehend, though St. Paul not only experienced it in his own heart, but openly declares it in the following remarkable passage: "I am crucified with Christ nevertheless, I live; yet, not I, but Christ liveth in me and the life, which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."


[ocr errors]



EVERY professor of christianity is acquainted with the honour, which our Lord conferred upon the apostle Paul, in not only calling him to a participation of the christian faith, but by appointing him also to publish the everlasting Gospel. A just sense of this double honour penetrated the heart of that apostle with the most lively gratitude...." I give thanks," saith he, "to Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious. But I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief: and the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant in me, with faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus. Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them, which should hereafter believe on him to everlasting life." The evangelical ministry to which St. Paul was immediately called, is in general the same, through every age enlightened by the Gospel, and consists in publishing the truth after such a manner, that the wicked may be converted, and the faithful. edified. The commission which the great apostle received from Christ, contains, essentially, nothing more than the acknowledged duty of every minister of the Gospel. Leave out the miraculous appearance of our Lord; pass over the circumstance of a commission given in an extraordinary manner; substitute the word sinners for that of gentiles, and instead of Jews, read hypocritical professors; and you will perceive, that, with these immaterial alterations, the commission of St. Paul is the commission of


every faithful minister in the church. Observe the tenor of it. In person, or by my ambassadors, in a manner either extraordinary, or ordinary, "I appoint thee a minister, and a witness of those things which thou hast seen," or experienced," and of those things, in the which I will appear to thee; and I will deliver thee from the hands of the people, and from the gentiles," i. e. from the hands of hypocritical professors, and from ignorant sinners, " unto whom I now send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from the darkness of error, to the light of truth, and from the power of Satan to God." i. e. from sin, which is the image of Satan, to holiness, which is the image of God, "that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them, which are sanctified, by faith that is in me." Such was the office to which St. Paul was appointed, more especially among the gentile nations; and such, without doubt, is the office of every pastor, at least, within the limits of his particular parish. As for taking the ecclesiastical habit, reading over some pages of a liturgy,solemnizing marriages, baptizing infants,keeping registers, and receiving stipends, these things are merely accidental and every minister should be able to say with St. Paul, "Christ sent me not, principally," to baptize, but to preach the Gospel."

It is evident from various passages in the different offices of our church, that our pious reformers were unanimously of opinion, that Christ himself appoints, and, in some sort, inspires all true pastors; that He commits the flock to their keeping, and that their principal care is the same with that of the first evangelists, namely, "the conversion of souls." And truly, the same Lord, who appointed his disciples as apostles, or occular witnesses of his resurrection, has also appointed others as pastors, or witnesses of a Secondary order, and suffragans of the first evangelists. If the witnesses of a higher order were permitted to see Christ after his resurrection, those of

a secondary order have felt the efficacy of his resurrection," being raised together with him," or regenerated through the reception of a "lively hope, by the rising again of Christ from the dead. So that every true minister, who bears his testimony to the truths of the Gospel, whether it be from the pulpit, or before tribunals, is supported by his own particular experience of Christ's resurrection, as well as by a conviction founded upon the depositions of the first witnesses. Now this conviction, and this experience, are by no means confined to the ministering servants of God; but the hearts of the faithful, in their several generations, have been influenced by them both; if it be true, that they have constantly stood prepared, to seal with their blood these two important truths, Jesus Christ" died for our sins, and rose again for our justification." Millions of the laity have been called to give this last proof of their faith, and, beyond all doubt, it is abundantly more difficult to bear testimony of the truth upon a scaffold, than from a pulpit.

If St. Paul and the other apostles are considered as persons of a rank far superior to ours, they themselves cry out, "O sirs! we also are men of like passions with you." If it be said, that God inspired the apostles with all the wisdom and zeal necessary to fulfil the duties of their high vocation; it may be replied, that our churches implore for their established pastors the same wisdom and zeal, grounding such prayers upon the authority of many plain passages of Holy Scripture. "Now unto him, that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all, that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end."

Moreover, it is an error to suppose, that the apostles needed no augmentation of that divine light, by which spiritual objects are discerned. St. Paul who was favoured with an extraordinary inspiration,

and that sufficient to compose sacred books, in which infallibility is to be found, writes thus to believers : Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, Even as also I am known. An humble, but happy confession which, on the one hand, will not suffer us to be discouraged, when we are most sensible of our inadequate light, and teaches us, on the other, how necessary it is to make incessant application to the Father of lights: equally guarding us against the pride of some, who imagine themselves to have apprehended all the truth; and the wilful ignorance of others, who pronounce spiritual knowledge to be altogether unattainable.

Now if the apostle Paul could but imperfectly discern the depths of evangelical truth, and if angels themselves" desire to look into these things:" who ean sufficiently wonder at the presumption of those men, who are so far persuaded of their own infallibility, that they regard all truths, which they are unable to fathom, as the mere reveries of fanaticism? But, turning our eyes, at present, from the pernicious error of these self-exalted christians, let us consider a subject, in which we are more interested, than in the extraordinary vocation of St. Paul to the holy ministry.



"THE harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few: pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into his harvest." Retaining in memory these remarkable words of our Lord, the conscientious man is incapable of thrusting himself into the holy ministry, without be

« PreviousContinue »