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instead of magnifying their infirmities and holding them up to ridicule or contempt, would it not be a more charitable and befitting office to pray for their amendment-to bend before the God of heaven in ardent yet humble hope, that they may be assisted by the Spirit of Divine Grace, and be taught the most effectual mode of accomplishing their high and holy calling? Instead of heaping calumny upon the church, would it not be wiser and more beneficial to implore God "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
If the ministers of the Established Church be indeed, as in my opinion they are often falsely represented, then most essential is it, that they should, in common charity, receive a tenfold portion of your earnest prayers, that there should be a deeper fervour for their improvement appended to your ordinary requests. Do not be persuaded that you are uninterested in the ministration of sacred rites-that you need not the agency of the consecrated servants of God. For, my brethren, "by faith are we not saved?" And are not the usual means of nourishing and increasing faith, obtained through the preaching of God's word?
"Whosoever," says St. Paul,
"shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved: but "how," he continues, "shall they call on Him on whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher ?"
The preaching of God's word is necessary, not only for their conversion who believe not, for the regeneration of those who are cold in faith or careless in spirit, but for the improvement of those also who are professed and zealous members of the church of Christ. It is an ordinance appointed by the Lord Himself to strengthen and establish them "in every good work." It is designed for the prevention of error, and for the augmentation of grace. It is meant as a memorial to the instructed, and as a guide to the uninformed. It was instituted, as the Apostle declares, that men should "be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; and the preaching of God's word was intended, likewise, that Christians "speaking the truth in love, may grow up with Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ."
Now, if faith and charity, if freedom from error and growth in grace, be propagated by the ministers of the gospel, if spiritual knowledge, whereby Christian duties are discerned, be con
veyed by the word which is preached, and spiritual strength to perform those duties be communicated by the sacraments administered; if, for instance, the individual before you be appointed by God, as a guide to direct his people in the way to heaven, as a pastor to feed his flock, as a watchman to prevent the peril of surprise, as a steward for the protection of the household of faith—if such and so numerous be the objects of my appointment, then must you, whom God has committed to my charge, be especially called upon to pray the Divine Being that He will bless my feeble endeavours, and pour upon me that necessary measure of grace which shall excite me to a diligent performance of my momentous obligations. The guilt which I incur by neglecting them is great, and many would be ready to affirm it. But I trust you will, with Christian forbearance, call to mind the arduousness of my duty in so extensive a field of usefulness; and that even St. Paul himself, in the consciousness of mortal weakness, was constrained to exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Unpardonable indeed must be the presumption of that man, who conceives himself qualified for a charge which even the Apostle of the Gentiles avowed himself unequal to fulfil! But this consciousness, while it urges us the more anxiously to implore the prayers of all genuine Christians should also instruct Christians themselves, to
supply "that fellowship of spirit "-those "bowels and mercies"-those acts of justice and of charity, which, by the goodness of God, may facilitate ministerial integrity of life and genuine soundness of doctrine.
And it ought to be remarked, that the prayers of the people for their ministers have a natural tendency to advance their own eternal interests; for he who, in private and in public, in the retirement of his closet and in the assembly of Christian worshippers, lifts up his hands and heart to the God of heaven in behalf of the ministers of the Gospel, will, in proportion, respect and venerate that word which they are commissioned to preach. He will regard it more decidedly as the light of his understanding, and the nourishment of his soul; as that admirable remedy which God provides for all his spiritual infirmities, and the unfailing upholder of his spiritual life. He will the more carefully attend to the word which His servants preach; he will treasure up in his memory the more tenaciously those sacred truths which are, in fact, the most assured, the most sublime, the most useful and important which the soul of man can entertain. He will not, however, receive them "as the word of man," but, as they are in truth, "the word of God, which effectually worketh also in them that believe." He will remember that, according to the assertion of our Lord," he that receiveth" those
whom Christ hath sent, by acknowledging their message, "receiveth" Christ Himself.
Such a hearer as I am describing to you, will seriously consider that the Gospel which is preached to him, is "not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead." He will not, therefore, dare to despise the inestimable treasure of divine wisdom, because of the "earthen vessels" in which it is conveyed to him. No, rather will he honour those vessels, mean and 'contemptible though they be, for the sake of that rich treasure which they communicate. He will be solicitous to shun those snares which the devil lays for the people of God, when he draws their attention to the weaknesses and defects of the preacher, rather than to the word of God which is preached. He will not permit himself to be carried away by a vain spirit of criticism, which lies diligently in wait to detect the least appear. ance of faulty reasoning, the slightest trace of an inaccurate expression, or of a tame or inflated thought. He will consider that he is not now in a place of entertainment, but in the house of God that he came not thither for amusement, but for edification; that it is not the business, and ought not to be the aim, of the preacher, to please his ear or divert his fancy, but to inform his judgment, and to amend his heart. He will, therefore, avoid to dwell on the defects of lan