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The Duty of a Paftor to his people. Preached at the Ordination of the Reverend GEORGE BRAITHWAITE, M.A.
March 28, 1734.
2 TIMOTHY IV. 16.
Take heed unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine ; for in doing this, thou
Malt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
HE part of the work of this day assigned to me, is to give a word of exhortation to you, my Brother ; who have been at this time folemnly
ordained a paftor or overseer of this church. Your long standing, and usefulness in the ministry, might justly excuse every thing of this kind, did not custom, and the nature of this day's service, seem to require it. You will therefore suffer a word of exhortation, though it comes from a junior minifter, since you know in what situation we are; our senior ministers are gone off the stage of this world, who used to fill up this place, and whose years best became it : Our fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? Give me leave to address you in the words of the great apostle of the Gentiles to Timothy, Take heed unto thyself, and unto tby do&trine ; for in doing this, thou shalt both fave tbyfelf, and them that bear thee; since this epistle was written, not for his fake only, but for the use and service also of other ministers of the gospel in succeeding ages; that they might know how they ought to behave themselves in the bouse of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth. In it the apostle gives a large account of the proper qualifications of the officers Vol. II. B
of churches, bishops, and deacons; and in this chapter descends to some particular advice and directions to Timothy, and which are designed for the benefit and advantage of other preachers of the word, and pastors of churches. I shall not take any notice of them here, seeing I Mall have occasion to make use of them in some parts of the following discourse ; and shall therefore immediately attend to the words of my text, in which may be obferved,
1. A charge or exhortation given to Timothy.
I. Here is a charge or exhortation given, which consists of three parts :
First, To take heed to himself.
Thirdly, To continue therein. First, The apostle exhorts Timothy to take heed to himself. This is not to be understood of him merely as a man, that he Mould take care of his bodily health, his outward concerns of life, or make provision for his family, if he had any; not but that these things are to be equally regarded by a minister of the gospel, as by any other person. Though he ought to be diligent in his studies, laborious in his work, and preach the gospel in season and out of season; yet he ought to be careful of the health of his body, and not destroy his natural constitution. The words of the wise man are applicable to our present purpose, be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself over-wise, why Mouldest thou destroy thyself ^ ? The apostle Paul, in this epistle, advises Timothy to take care of himself in this sense, seeing he had much work upon his hands, and but of a weakly constitution ; he exhorts him, that he would drink no longer water, but use a little wine, for his stomach's sake, and his often infirmities"; and it is alike true of a minister as of any other man, what is elsewhere faid, If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he bath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. But this is not what the apostle has here in view, when he says take heed to thyself.
Nor is this exhortation given to Timothy under the character of a believer, or private christian. There are some things which are common to ministers, and private christians; their cases, in some respects, are alike, and cautions to them are equally, necessary: they have the same corruptions, are subject to the same temptations, and liable to the same daily failings and infirmities; and therefore - such, whether ministers or people, who think they stand, should take heed left they fall. Unbelief, and distrust of divine providence, presence, power, and
asistance * Eccles. vii. 160 o i Tim. v. 23.
si Tim. v. 8.
assistance, have a place in the hearts of ministers as well as others, and sometim:s rise to a considerable pitch, and do very much prevail; when such advice as this must be needful, take beed, brethren, left there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. There are many instances which might be produced, in which this exhortation would appear to be suitable to Timothy, and so to any other gospel minister, considered as a believer and a chrifsian.
But I apprehend, that the apostle regards him in his ministerial capacity, as a preacher of the word; and is desirous, that he would take heed to himself, as a minister, and to the ministry which he had received in the Lord, that he fulfil it. It becoines a minister of the gospel to take heed to his gifts bestowed upon him, by which he is qualified for his work, that he does not lose, but use and improve them; to his time, that he spends it aright, and does not squander it away; of the errors and heresies which are in the world, that he is not infected by them; to his spirit, temper, and pallions, that he is not governed by them; to his life and conversation, that it be exemplary, becoming his office, and makes for the glory of God; and to the flock committed to his care, which is the other part of himself.
1. A minister ought to take heed to his gifts bestowed upon him, whereby he is qualified for the work of the ministry. Jesus Christ, when he ascended on high, received gifts for men, such as were proper to furnish, and fit them for ministerial service, and he has given them to men, he gave some apostles, and Some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors, and teachers ° : that is, he gave gifts, to qualify them for these several offices; and he still continues to give gifts to some, by which they become capable of discharging the work and office of pastors of churches ; and where these are given, they ought to be taken
Now, a minister of the gospel should take heed to his gifts, that he does not lose them. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance'. Gifts of special and saving grace are irreversible; God never repents of them, or revokes them, or calls them in ; where they are once bestowed, they are never taken away ;
but gifts ficting men for public work and usefulness, as they may be where true grace is not, so they may be removed, when faving grace never will. This we may learn from the parable of the talents, where our Lord says, Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to bim whicb batb ten talents. For unta every one that batb shall be given, and he shall have abundance : But from bim that bath not shall be taken away even that which be bath. We therefore to the Idol
& Matt. XXV. 29, 30.
f Rom. xi. 29.
Shepherd", the shepherd of no account, who is good for nothing; for an idol is nothing in the world; who leaveth the flock, makes no use of his gifts, deseros his station, forsakes the flock; the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right
eye ; his arm shall be clean dried up, and bis right eye shall be utterly darkened. All his light and knowledge, his abilities and usefulness, shall be taken from him. Hence the apostle exhorts Timothy, to keep by the holy Gbost the good thing which was committed to him; by which he means, not grace, but either the gospel, or the gift of preaching it; grace cannot, gifts may be lost.
Moreover, a gospel minilter should take heed to his gifts, that he uses them: Neglezt not the gift that is in thee, says the apostle to Timothy; which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery k. A minister may be tempted to neglect, lay aside, and disuse his gifts, for want of fuccess in his work, or because of the night and contempt which may be cast upon him, or by reason of the rage, fury, and persecutions of men ; something of this nature was discouraging to Timothy in the exercile of his gifts, which occafioned the apostle to put him in remembrance, that, says he, thou ftir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the putting on of my hands ; for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a found mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner ; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God'. As if he should say, “ Let not that gift which God has bestowed upon thee lie dormant, and be “ neglected by thee, through a timorous and cowardly fpirit ; but boldly and “ bravely preach the gospel of the grace of God, though thou art sure to en“ dure much affiction and perfecution." Wo to that man, who, from any consideration whatever, wraps up his talent in a napkin, and hides it in the earth ; such an one Christ, at the great day of account, will call wicked and flotbful; and give orders to cast such an unprofitable servant into outer darkness, where shall be weeping and gnasning of teeth ".
Besides, a minister ought not only to take heed that he uses his gifts, but also that he improves them; and, indeed, they are generally improved by using. Gifts, like pieces of armour, through disuse, grow rusty', but the more they are worn the brighter they are. There are several things which have a tendency to improve, and, with the blessing of God, do improve fpiritual gifts, such as prayer, meditation, and reading. These the apoftle directed Timothy to, for the improvement of his mind : Till I come, fays he, give attend.
* Tim. iv. 14.
Zech. xi. 173
* 2 Tim. i. 14. 1 2 Tim. i. 6—8.
m Matt. xxv. 26, 30. » Adde, quod ingenium longa rubigine læsum
ance to reading, to exhortation, to doetrine •; meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly 10 them”, or, be thou in thein ; be constantly intent upon them, that thy profiting may appear to all”, or in all things, that is, in all parts of uleful knowledge. It is the duty of ministers to stir up the gift of God which is in them? Gifts are sometimes like coals of fire, covered and buried in alhes, to which there is an allusion in this passage', which must be stirred up, or blown off, that they may revive and be re-inflamed, and so communicate more light and heat. It is true, ministers cannot procure gifts for themselves, nor increase them of themselves; but God is pleased to give to his servants greater abilities, more light and knowledge, in the diligent use of means, for unto every one that bath, that is, that has gifts, and makes use of all proper methods to improve them, shall be given, and be all bave abundance.
2. A minister ought to take heed to his cime, that he spends it aright, and does not squander it away. Time is precious, and ought to be redeemed, and diligently improved, by all sorts of men; but by none more than the ministers of the gospel, who should spend it in frequent prayer, constant meditation, and in daily reading the scriptures, and the writings of good inen; which are transmitted to posterity for the benefit and advantage of the churches of Christ. They should give themselves up wholly to these things, and daily and diligently study 10 shew themselves approved unto God, workmen that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth'. They ought not to spend their time in an unprofitable manner, or in needless and unnecessary visits. It is a mistake which prevails among church-members, that they must be visited, and that very often : if ministers are not continually calling on them they think themselves neglected, and are much displeased; not considering, that fuch a frequency of visits, as is desired by them, muft be the bane and ruin of what might otherwise be a very valuable ministry; and at the same time furnishes an idle and lazy preacher with a good excuse to neglect his studies, and chat with a great deal of peace and quietness of conscience, whilst he fancies he is about his ministerial work. I would not be understood, as though I thought that visits were needless things, and that they are no part of a minister's work: I am fensible, that he ought to be diligent to know the state of his flock; and that it is his business to visit the members of the church, at proper times, and on proper occasions; what I complain of, is the too great frequency of visits as is desired, and when they are unnecessary
ri Tim. iv. 15. P Εν τυτσις εσθαι. 9 Ey 7oo.
82 Tim. i. 6. • Verbum corag wauggar etiam modeste eum officii admonet. Significat autem ignem cineribus
tectura excitare, sopitam faviilam in flammam proferre. Aretius in 2 Tim. i. 6. In the same sense as here is the word used in Marc. Antonin. de feipfo. l. 7,8. 2. Vid. Gataker. Annotats in ibid.
! 2.Tim. ii. 15.