« PreviousContinue »
too scrupulous delicacy or reserve, refrain from expressing the real sentiments which exist in my mind? It may do you good that I should utter them. I do feel deeply (I will not say as deeply as I ought) my great responsibility before God, on your account. I think of St. Paul's charge to the elders of the church at Ephesus; "take heed unto yourselves, and all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood." I think of the same apostle's admonition to Timothy; "take heed unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine; continue in them, for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee." I think of his message to Archippus; "take heed of the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it." Nor can I ever forget that affecting question thrice proposed to Peter, by our blessed Lord? "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, yea Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, feed my lambs. He saith unto him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he said
unto him the third time, lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, feed my sheep." You can tell what feelings these considerations ought to excite. I shall abstain from saying more about myself in this respect, though God knows it would not be from any vanity if I were to continue the subject, for "I have nothing to glory of." I could only condemn myself for not sufficiently feeling the weight of my burthen; indeed I may truly say, "I am with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." "Who is sufficient for these things?" only he "whose strength is made perfect in weakness."
But I may speak more freely of another feeling that possesses my mind. Putting out of view my own responsibility, and the consequences of negligence in the ministry, as they would affect myself personally, I feel a great interest and anxiety for yourselves. When I consider that so many persons, all destined for eternity, either in heaven or in hell, are depending on me, on me, in great measure, for instruction, for reproof, for correction, for exhortation, for encouragement, I feel how awfully great is my responsibility; how almost every word ought to be weighed and considered; how important it is that I should endeavour to fix
your attention, and to engage your interest; and knowing the momentous nature of the subjects on which I am addressing you, often am I distressed and disheartened, when I observe any symptoms of indifference and inattention among you; I think with myself, "surely this is a most serious matter, it ought not to be so lightly regarded; what can I do to rouse them, and make them consider?" And then it is so seldom that I have you thus before me, only one day in seven, and for so short a time. What can I say, to make an impression on your minds? I cannot bear that these precious minutes should be wasted-every one of them is so valuable; hundreds of persons listening to hear something about the salvation of their souls, many of them having no other opportunity of instruction; at work from morning to night, unable to read even when they have a little leisure time; in short, depending almost entirely upon what they may hear at church, for information concerning that which should be the great end and business of their lives. How very important that they should be well instructed in the little time which they have for it! (And I will observe by the way, here, my brethren, how much to be desired it is that that they should not miss one of these opportunities by their own wilful negligence, in absenting themselves from church.) How in
cumbent upon us that we should take heed not to waste the valuable seasons by occupying your minds with any unedifying topics, but that we should set before you such weighty considerations as may, by God's blessing, be of real benefit, and help to make you wise unto salvation!
And such, I trust, is *our constant endeavour. Yet how often, it is to be feared, do you go away unimproved; pleased, perhaps, but not profited; according to that complaint which is made of the unprofitable hearers in the prophet Ezekiel,— 'They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words but they will not do them;" "And lo thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument, for they hear thy words, but they do them not." You remark perhaps on leaving the church, that you have heard a good sermon; and I, my friends, do most earnestly desire to address to you "good sermons," good in the sight of God, (whom I heartily pray to help me in the preparation of them,) sound in doctrine, convincing in argument, persuasive in exhortation, sermons that shall do you good, that by the mighty influence of the blessed spirit, shall
• “Our," in allusion to a most valuable assistant, who shared his pastoral labours in the parish.
bring the solemn truths of religion home to your hearts, and help you forward in the way of godliness. I wish you would never remark any other point of goodness in a sermon; I wish you would attest its excellence in no other way, but by the blessing that it has been instrumental in conveying to your own souls. What satisfaction can it be to me, what advantage can it be to you, that a sermon should be good in any other sense? that it should be ably, elegantly written, or forcibly and impressively delivered? Yes, indeed, it may be a sad consolation to the preacher, that he has laboured to do his utmost, and only been disappointed through the carelessness of his hearers. But what does it avail them that the sermon is good, if "the word preached does not profit them?" It had been better for them that they had never heard it; for every time that they hear the word of God, they receive a fresh call to repentance and conversion, every one of which must be accounted for at the day of judgment.
Christ says that the word which he has spoken shall judge men in the last day. And surely it is reasonable to think that the oftener this word has been set before them, and pressed upon their notice, the more grievous is their sin in disregarding it. "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him will much be required;" this applies to all God's