Page images

The ne

tice of favorite sins; and, if left to himself, he would do neither the one nor the other.

The question put by the prophet to the rebellious Jews, both affirms and confirms the doctrine we wish to illustrate and defend. cessity of a divine agency in the production of spiritual life: “ Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil.”

Faith in Jesus Christ is another doctrine of our holy religion inseparably connected with pardon and acceptance with God. What that faith is, and the benefits it bestows, are variously but distinctly set forth in the Scriptures. It is usually defined to be the consent of the mind to the truth of a proposition to be believed; or, in other words, the reliance of the heart upon the truth of God. Paul defines faith to be, “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen:” (Heb. 11:1.) We can comprehend faith more clearly in its actings than in its essence. Its actings are presented in the word of God, under different exercises of the mind, and members of the body, as seeing, hearing, walking, running, &c.

That faith, which is the gift of God, is made the agent or medium of our justification and sanctification; for, “ being justified by faith, we have peace with God:” (Rom. 5:1.) Faith is the active principle of a renewed nature. It works by love and overcomes the world: “ Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory:” (1 John 5:4.) Mental conviction, or moral suasion, never reaches the unbelief and turpitude of the heart. Devils and gospel sinners have this kind of faith, and still remain unchanged in the principles of action, as well as the objects of desire. " It is with the heart man believeth unto righteousness:” (Rom. 10:10.) With this doctrine of the renovation of the heart by faith in Christ, the Old Testament perfectly accords. The prophet Ezekiel delivers this consolatory message to the captive Jews, which he had received of the Lord, (Ezek. 11: 19, 20,) “I will give them one heart, and will put a new spirit within you, and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them.”

This faith, which is imparted to the soul in the act of regeneration or the new birth, is the work of the Holy Spirit: “ For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death:” (Rom. 8:2.) It is unbelief that hides sin and the Savior from the soul. To bring men off from placing some hope of acceptance with God on their own personal merit is among the most difficult and doubtful enterprises of the gospel ministry. Paul and his brethren labored hard to gain this point among the Jewish professors with but little success.

To tell a poor sinner, wounded by the law and a guilty conscience, that all his penitence and prayers will avail him nothing, that Christ is the ark of safety, the end of the law for righteousnes to all that believe, rather irritates than relieves the anguish of his pharisaical heart.


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Every redeemed sinner must be reduced to the painful alternative of the prodigal--starve, or return, just as he was in his rags and wretchedness. Ask every penitent in this assembly, where he found pardon and peace with God; he will tell you at the cross of Christ. There the clouds of unbelief broke and the shadows flew away. The sinner must be humbled and divested of self-must see and feel, that all attempts to save himself are unavailing, and, like Peter when sinking beneath the billows, must cry out, “ Lord help or I perish;” or like the woman in the gospel, who, having in vain spent all her living to obtain a cure, “ when she heard of Jesus, came into the press behind and touched his garment; for she said, if I may but touch his clothes I shall be whole:” (Mark 5:17.) The nature and actings of faith are happily exemplified in the case of the woman of Canaan, whose importunity carried her over all discouragements: “O woman! great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour:” (Matt. 15:28.)

Another doctrine connected with the office of the ministry, and one on which much stress should be laid, is that of sanctification, or gospel holiness. The Lord commanded Moses to say to the children of Israel, " Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy:" (Lev. 19:2.) Every thing devoted to God ought to be holy. Holiness is inseparably connected with our spiritual regeneration, our justification and peace with God. The Scriptures assure us, that “ without holiness no man shall see God”- _Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.” Holiness is the highway of every Christian grace: as every member of the natural body groweth up to manhood, so every grace of the spirit tendeth to the perfection of holiness in Christ Jesus. It is a confirmation of the hope we entertain of our being in Christ. Paul declares his union with Christ to be the source of spiritual life; for, says he, “ 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


himself for me:" (Gal. 2:20.)

Brethren, there is a material difference between gospel holiness, which includes tenderness of conscience, holy zeal, and godliness, and that frigid formality, with which many a professor is clothed. All pretensions to conversion, love of God and the brethren, are equivocal without the fruits of godly living.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, who is in heaven." We have

many inducements to a holy life. Heaven is a holy place: nothing unclean shall enter there. Angels are holy beings. Our own Christian character and influence in society, depend much on a holy life. The place and comfort of our own souls depend greatly on the consistency that exists between our profession and deportment in the world. The peace and prosperity of the church rise or fall according to the true character of its members. The promise our Savior made to the multitude, in his admirable sermon on the mount, is well calculated to excite the hope and animate the heart of every believer: “ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This was Job's confidence in the hour of his deepest affliction: “ Though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: (Job 19:26.) This blessed hope casts a refulgent light around the Christian in the darkest vale.

Ministers of the gospel ought especially to be holy men, and reflect the light of their divine Master. Priests of old, when entering upon the services of the Tabernacle,or Temple, were first washed and then anoint. ed, in token of their purity and consecration to God. Ministers of the New Testament are received and set apart for Temple service, in the hope that they have been washed in a purer laver, and anointed with a more fragrant ointment; even the blood of the Lamb.

To you, my dear friends of this congregation and members from other churches, we would say, Be advancing in the divine life; in knowledge; in holiness; and finally, in every Christian


To enable you to do this, you have the stated means of grace, faithfully and affectionately dispensed among you.

When this is the case, would it be an unreasonable thing in your minister to look for fruit in some degree proportionate to the labor he has performed? How would an instructor of youth feel, who had, for years, been counselling and encouraging his pupils to advance in the path of science and virtue, which would lead them to the highest attainments, if, after all his efforts expended on them, they were to remain stationary, or, like some ricketty children of whom there was little hope, were rather to decline. If any thing can bruise and break the heart of a pious minister, it must be such fruitless results in the field of his labor.

In conclusion, in the name and by the authority of our divine Master, I urge you and myself onward, in the path of increasing holi


It would be impossible, in the course of a single sermon, to give so much as the outlines of ministerial duty. Brethren, neither you nor myself have been able to see the extent or feel the entire force of its obligation. It comprehends the relations we sustain toward God and our fellow men, both in time and eternity.

2. We come now, in the second place, to consider some of the trials and troubles incident to the gospel minister. Were we to trace the history of Moses and the prophets, of Jesus Christ and his apostles, we should find none of this long list exempted; no, not even from the severest trials and troubles that could be inflicted on a human being. The troubles of a gospel minister begin early in life. In fact they may truly be said to be coeval with his holy office, and run parallel with it. The greater number of useful ministers are the descendants of poor but pious parents; consequently many of them experience great difficulties in obtaining an education to fit them for the work of the ministry. By the time they have acquired it, they have no patrimony left. In the ardor of their hearts to preach the gospel of peace, they enlist in this spiritual warfare, having nothing of their own to shield

them from want and insult, nor to comfort them in times of trial and distress, in the unexplored fields of ministerial labor, but a good con. science and a holy zeal for the glory of God, and a tender concern for the salvation of men. In this missionary situation they remain until sad experience proves that their necessary wants can no longer be supplied. They then yield to what they apprehend to be duty; to invitations and calls for a settlement. The deficiency of a scanty promise of support soon drive them to the fields, like the Levites of old, or some other method of acquiring a support. How painful must these dark providences and dispensations be to men, who have hearts imbued by the Holy Spirit, and capacities fully ample to preach the gospel!

To see a young man just setting out on the pathway of duty, crippled as it were, his strength paralyzed, before he has made one full experiment of what he could do in the vineyard of God, is a circumstance in the history of the times greatly to be deplored. Let this brief delineation serve as a specimen of the personal trials of ministers in New Testament times.

Brethren, be of good cheer; better days await the church and her faithful servants, as we shall sec hereafter. The man of God shall rise from this mournful vale, of tears, and standing with his feet upon Mount Nebo, shall be above these clouds, that so cover and perplex his mind. Then and there God will show him the land of promise; a land of light and liberty, and of corn, wine, and oil; which, when his eyes behold, his soul shall dilate with joy and gladness.

The want of success is another circumstance in the experience of a faithful minister, which often pains his heart and withers his hopes. That his honest and persevering efforts make such slight impressions on the minds of his mixed and wavering audience, the bulk of whom neither comprehend nor feel the force of those doctrines which are sufficient to make angels weep. (The gospel surely contains doctrines so well suited to the condition of poor and perishing sinners, and so consonant to the conclusions of sound reason and conscience, that it is believed it must and will succeed.) But, alas! after repeated trials, the desponding and unsuccessful speaker has to take up the lamentation of the prophet, “ Who hath believed our report,” &c. The great bulk of our hearers oftentimes go away with cold indifference to what they have heard, with an apparent levity of manners, indicative of disrespect both for the man and his message. And what gives still greater poignancy to this neglect is, that the glory of God in the salvation of a sinner is unnoticed and disregarded. When the Savior is offered in all the beauty and amiableness of his mediatorial character—when the nature of his love for the salvation of his enemies is illustrated by his agony and bloody sweat in the garden-his cries on Calvary-and by the whole scene of the crucifixion; how few, how comparatively few, are made sensible of the amazing price of man's redemption? That minister who can stand at the cross of Christ, exhausted and foiled, and see his infatuated hearers, with measured steps, pressing down that broad and seductive road that leads to chambers of darkness and keen despair, without feeling a deep depression and sorrow of heart, must be a monster and not a minister.

Brethren, our own salvation is endangered if we, through fear or affection, fail to apprise professors of their duty and their danger; to urge upon them the claims of that Master whom they profess to love and serve. How can they love the Savior, whose precepts and examples they fail to regard, while they live in the neglect of meditation and prayer, the greatest privileges conferred on mortals. To refuse the means of such near and intimate communion with the God of grace is a manifest rejection of his favor and friendship. Many other omissions of Christian duty linger round the character and conscience of the reputed disciples of the Lord Jesus. We are set to watch for souls as they who must give an account.

If Paul thought it necessary to charge Timothy-a young minister of pre-eminent talents and grace, as in the presence of God and the elect angels—with what plainness and force of brotherly affection, ought we to urge each other to the full and faithful discharge of ministerial duties, whatever it may cost us. In all human probability, this is the last time I am to stand before you in this attitude. The number of my months is nearly filled; the measure of my days is nigh run out; and my departure is close at hand. Suffer me, therefore, as a senior member of your body, to offer you some counsels and encouragements drawn from close observations and reflections of more than a half century.

In the honesty of my heart, before God, I counsel you to beware of the world and its fascinations. He who knew the force of temptations the world might present, warns his people to beware of its deceitful charms.

If the world like a deceitful whirlpool, draws you within its eddy, no skill or strength of your own can ever save you from the increasing velocity that draws to destruction. The riches of a good man lie in a happier clime. Paul, a man of ardent love, of indefatigable labor, like his Master, was poor as to this world; but he had a crown of glory awaiting him, which God the righteous Judge would bestow on him as soon as he entered the gates of heaven. This was more than a counterbalance for all his numerous and unprecedented afflictions, and will be to you also, whosoever of you prove faithful to God and the souls of men.

Should you not meet with that comfort and encouragement the very nature of your office seems to demand, leave your case with him who judgeth righteously, and learn with Paul, in whatever state or condition you are placed, therewith to be contented. You have not enlisted in this holy war to please or profit yourselves, but him who hath called you to be soldiers: “ Therefore endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ: No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier:" (2 Tim. 2:3, 4.)

« PreviousContinue »