« FöregåendeFortsätt »
poses. It is chiefly before men that he lifts up his hands, and affects to pour out a prayer from the fulness of his heart; while the true minis. ter divides his time between the two important and refreshing occupa. tions of preaching and prayer; by the former, making a public offer of Divine grace to his hearers, and by the latter, soliciting for them in secret the experience of that grace. Such was the manner of the blessed Jesus himself, who, after having reproved his disciples for the low degree of their faith, retired either into gardens, or upon mountains, praying that their “faith might not fail.” The good pastor, who con. stantly imitates the example of his Divine Master, is prepared to adopt the following language of St. Paul, in addressing the flock upon which he is immediately appointed to attend : “ For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith ; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be filled with all the fulness of God," Eph. iii, 14, 19... “And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are, by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God,” Phil. i, 9, 11. By prayers, like these, the Apostle Paul was accustomed to water, without ceasing, the heavenly seed which he had so widely scattered through the vineyard of his Lord, manifesting an increas. ing attachment to those among whom he had at any time published the tidings of salvation, and breathing out, in all his epistles to distant Churches, the most earnest desire that God would “fulfil” in them “all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power; that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ might be glorified in them, and they in him," 2 Thess. i, 11, 12.
Pastors who pray thus for their flocks, pray not in vain. Their fer. vent petitions are heard ; sinners are converted, the faithful are edified, and thanksgiving is shortly joined to supplication. Thus the same apostle : “I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ : that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge. So that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. i, 4,7. “Having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and your love unto all the saints, I cease not to give thanks for you,” Eph. i, 15, 16.
Worldly ministers. have no experience of the holy joy that accompa nies these secret sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. But this can by no means be considered as matter of astonishment. Is their attachment to Christ as sincere as that of his faithful ministers? Are they as solicit. ous for the salvation of their hearers? Do they teach and preach with equal zeal? Do they pray with the same ardour and perseverance ?
- TRAIT X. The fidelity with which he announced the severe threatenings and consola
tory promises of the Gospel. The worldly minister has neither the courage nor the tenderness of the true pastor. He is fearful of publishing those truths which are calculated to alarm the careless sinner; and he knows not in what manner to apply the promises of the Gospel for the relief of those who mourn. If ever he attempts to descant upon the consolatory truths of the Gospel, he only labours to explain what is nearly unintelligible to himself; and all his discourses on subjects of this nature are void of that earnest per. suasion, and that unction of love which characterize the ministers of Christ. On the other hand, his dread of giving offence will not suffer him to address sinners of every rank with the holy boldness of the Prophet Samuel: “If ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you. If ye still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed," 1 Sam. xii, 15, 25. The faithful pastor, on the contrary, conscious that the harshest truths of the Gospel are as necessary as they are offensive, courageously insists upon them, in the manner of St. Paul, “ Thinkest thou, O man, that doest such things, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?”Know this, that. “after thy hardness and impenitent heart thou treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revela. tion of the righteous judgment of God;" for “ indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish shall be upon every soul of man that doeth evil,” Rom. ii, 3, 5, 9. “If every transgression,” under the first covenant, “ received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first begun to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him ?” Heb. ü, 2, 3. *This ye know, that no unclean person, nor covetous man, bath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God: let no man deceive you with vain words ; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience," Eph. v, 5, 6. «See that ye refuse not him that speaketh ; for if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth," viz. the Prophet Moses ;.“ much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven,” viz. the Saviour Jesus Christ.Wherefore let us serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire,” Heb. xii, 25, 29.
But though the true minister courageously announces the most severe declarations of the word to the unbelieving and the impenitent; yet he is never so truly happy, as when he invites the poor in spirit to draw forth the riches of grace from the treasury of God's everlasting love. “God hath not,” saith St. Paul, “ appointed us to wrath ; but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,” i Thess. v, 9. “ This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save singers," 1 Tim. i, 15. “Ye are not come unto the mount that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest. But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh
better things than that of Abel. Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assur. ance of faith,” Heb. xii, 18, 24; X, 19, 22. . “ If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth : who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us,” Rom. v, 10; viii, 32, 34.
When these exhilarating declarations are found insufficient “to revive the heart of the contrite,” the evangelical preacher fails not to multiply them in the most sympathizing and affectionate manner. «I say unto you," continues he, “all manner of şin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: for the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin,” Matt. xii, 31; 1 John i, 7. “And by him all, who believe, are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” Acts xüü, 39. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” Rom. viii, 1 : “for where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,” Rom. v, 20.
Such are the cordials which the faithful evangelist administers to those who are weary and heavy laden : precious cordials which the worldly pastor can never effectually apply ; which he either employs out of sea. son, or renders useless by such additions of his own, as are contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.
His profound humility. THERE is no evil disposition of the heart, with which the clergy are so frequently reproached, as pride. And it is with reason that we oppose this sinful temper, especially when it appears in pastors, since it is so entirely contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, that the Apostle Paul , emphatically terms it, “The condemnation of the devil,” 1 Tim. iii, 6.
There is no amiable disposition which our Lord more strongly recom mended to his followers, than lowliness of mind. From his birth to his death, he gave himself a striking example of the most profound humility, joined to the most ardent charity. After having washed the feet of his first disciples, that is, after he had taken the place of a slave at their feet, he addressed them ås follows: Know ye what I have done unto you? Ye call me Master and Lord : and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his Lord ; neither he that is sent, greater than he that sent him," John xiii, 12-16. Again he says to the same effect, « Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your
minister: and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister," Mark X, 42; , 45.
Real Christianity is the school of humble charity, in which every true minister can say, with Christ, according to his growth in grace, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” And unhappy will it be for those who, reversing Christianity, say, by their example, which is more striking than all their discourses, "Learn of us to be fierce and revengeful, at the expense of peace both at home and abroad.” They who receive the stipends of ministers, while they are thus endeavouring to subvert the religion they profess to support, ren. der themselves guilty, not only of hypocrisy, but of a species of sacrilege.
It is supposed that St. Peter had the pre-eminence among the apostles, at least by his age: it is certain that he spake in the name of the other apostles, that he first confessed Christ in two public orations; that our Lord conferred particular favours upon him; that he was permitted to be one of the three witnesses of his Master's transfiguration and agony; and that on the day of pentecost he proved the power of his apostolic commission, by introducing three thousand souls at once into the kingdom of Christ. Far, however, from arrogating, upon these accounts, a spiritual supremacy over his brethren, he assumed no other title but that which was given in common to all his fellow labourers in the ministry : “ The elders which are among you,” says he, “I exhort, who am also an elder: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind : neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock," 1 Peter v, 1, 3. A piece of advice this, which is too much neglected by those prelates who distinguish themselves from their brethren, yet more by an anti-christian pride, than by those ecclesiastical dignities to which they have made their way by the intrigues of ambition.
All pastors should seek after humility with so much the greater concern, since some among them, seduced with the desire of distinguishing themselves as persons of eminence in the Church, after making certain ecclesiastical laws contrary to the word of God, have become persecutors of those who refused submission to their tyrannical authority. Observe here the injustice of some modern philosophers, who, misrepresenting the Christian religion, a religion which breathes nothing but humility and love, set it forth as the cause of all the divisions, persecutions, and massacres, which have ever been fomented or perpetrated by its corrupt professors. Disasters, which, far from being the produce of real Chris. tianity, have their principal source in the vices of a supercilious, uncha. ritable, and anti-christian clergy. .
The Church will always be exposed to these imputations, till every ecclesiastic shall imitate St. Paul, as he imitated Christ. That apostle, ever anxious to tread in the steps of his Divine Master, was peculiarly distinguished by his humility to God and man. Ever ready to confess his own native poverty, and to magnify the riches of his grace, he cries out, “Who is sufficient for these things ?” Who is properly qualified to discharge all the functions of the holy ministry? “Such trust have we in Christ to Godward : not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made
us able ministers of the New Testament: not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life," 2 Cor. ii, 16 ; iii, 4,6. “Who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man ? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth : but God thạt giveth the increase,” 1 Cor. iii, 5, 7. “I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle : but by the grace of God I am what I am," 1 Cor. xv, 9. « God hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ : but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us,” 2 Cor. iv, 6, 7.
If the humility of St. Paul is strikingly evident in these remarkable passages, it is still more strongly expressed in those that follow :-“Ye see, brethren, that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to con. found the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are : that no flesh should glory in his presence," i Cor. i, 26, 29. “Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, who am nothing, who am the chief of sinners, is this grace given, that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ,” Eph. iii, 2 ;' 2 Cor. xii; 1 Tim. i, 15.
Reader, if thou hast that opinion of thyself, which is expressed in the foregoing passages, thou art an humble Christian. Thou canst truly profess thyself the servant of all those who salute thee; thou art such already by thy charitable intentions, and art seeking occasions of demonstrating, by actual services, that thy tongue is the organ, not of an insi. dious politeness, but of a sincere heart. Like a true disciple of Christ, who concealed himself when the multitude would have raised him to a throne, and who presented himself, when they came to drag him to his cross, thou hast a sacred pleasure in humbling thyself before God and man, and art anxious, without hypocrisy or affectation, to take the lowest place among thy brethren.
The humble Christian, convinced of his wants and his weakness, feels it impossible to act like those proud and bashful poor, who will rather perish in their distress, than solicit the assistance of their brethren. St. Paul had nothing of this false modesty about him. Penetrated with a deep sense of his unworthiness and insufficiency, after imploring for himself the gracious assistance of God, he thus humbly solicits the prayers of all the faithful :-“Brethren, pray for us," 1 Thess. v, 25. “I beseeeh you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together in your prayers for me,” Rom. xv, 30. “Pray always for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly as I ought to speak," Eph. vi, 18, 19. “You also [con. tinuing] to help by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf,” 2 Cor. i, 11.