« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
meet with a favourable reception; and this hour be so usefully filled up, that we may recollect it with pleasure, and give an account of it with joy.
I will not take up a moment of your time in critical inquiries, and questions that minister strife rather than edifying: it is sufficient to observe, that, among the excellent duties which the Apostle had been recommending as the fruit of faith, he comes to those which people owe to their former and present pastors. With respect to those that are “fallen asleep in the Lord,” he thus exhorts them': “ Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” (ver. 7.) And having enlarged upon this, and recommended and enforced it from other topics, he proceeds, in the verse in which our text is, to remind them of their duty to their present ministers.
If I had intended this discourse for you, whose souls ministers are to watch for, the former part of this verse would have suggested several very important considerations: “Obey them which have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.” Obey them, not as lords over God's heritage, but as examples to the flock; not as temporal princes, but spiritual guides. Receive them as ambassadors for Christ, and reverence in them the authority of their divine Master. They presume to make no laws of their own, but only explain and enforce the laws of Christ: and as far as they do so, they may demand obedience and submission ; and every instance of disrespect and contempt offered to them, is an affront to God. As our Saviour has expressed it “ He that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me."
But as I am now called upon to address myself more immediately to those who have the rule over you, the middle clause is more suitable to our purpose: “ For they watch for your souls, as they that must give account.” In which we have, ."
1. The ministerial office described-watching for souls. · II. The grand motive to fidelity and diligence in the discharge of it—as they that must give account.
1. The ministerial office described ;
And that in a manner that shows the importance and difficulty of it. It appears to be a laborious and painful employment, and requires affection, patience, and fidelity, in him that undertakes it. He is called a “ watchman :” he is to watch, not for ap. plause, not for profit, not for power ; far other and far nobler views has the spiritual watchman --he watches for souls. Watching implies danger: watching for souls, implies that there are enemies lying in wait to devour and destroy them.-And surely I peed not stay to prove this. Every one's observation, every one's experience, will abundantly confirm the melancholy truth. Never were souls nearer perishing ; never were those objects of compassion more numerous; never was there a louder call upon the ministers of the Gospel to be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that' are ready to die. Infidelity and profaneness never ran in a wider channel, never rushed in a more impetuous torrent, than at present. Never was religion more controverted ; never was it less practised. Man
kind, to avoid preciseness, have fallen into licentiousness, and, through an aversion to mysteries, have run away from godliness. And even among Christians themselves for some there are who have pot" bowed the knee to Baal,” though they have so effectually disguised themselves that we scarcely know where to find them) - I say, among Christians themselves, what a criminal languor and coldness prevails ! what a cowardly symbolizing with the customs of the world, lest their “speech should bewray them," and they should be pointed at for saints !-And, Sirs, do not your eyes affect your hearts? Can you see
Can you see “your brother have need, and shut up the bowels of your compassion from him?! How, then, “dwelleth the love of God in
But I will not anticipate what will more natu. rally occur under some one or other of the follow, ing particulars ; in which I propose briefly to show, How this watchfulness discovers itself; or, In what respects a faithful minister watches for the souls of his people. And this he does,
I. In his public ministrations.
He never enters, the pulpit but with this exhortation strongly impressed upon his heart; “ 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.” ,,(1 Tim. iv. 16.) When he looks round upon his auditory, he fancies them crying to him, as the men of Macedonia, ”Come and help us :” he therefore fills up those precious moments, not in idle amusements and unprofitable, speculations, but in declaring to them “the whole counsel of God," and, in the warmest endeavours
“ to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." (Acts xxvi. 18.). Sometimes he paints, the deplorable guilt and wretchedness of fallen man in such gloomy, but natural, colours, that Conscience, convinced of the fatal resemblance, cries out."O, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver, me?” At other times he calls in all the thunders of Mount Sinai to his assistance: “lifts up his voice like a trumpet;" “cries aloud, and spares not ;" "shows his people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sips ;” and displays the terrors of the Lord in such formidable array, that the sinner, pricked to the heart, falls down, and, trembling, cries out, “What shall I do to be saved ?" While to others, whose minds are tender, and susceptible of more generous sentiments and impressions, he represents, in the most amiable and engaging light, the goodness and mercy of God, the condescension and love of the Redeemer, and the unsearchable riches of Gospel grace ; and with these cords of love draws so sweetly, and yet so powerfully, that the soul, captivated with the pleasing constraint, readily yields, and says,
“ Draw me, O Lord, and I will run after thee.” He solicitously watches the effect of every address of this kind, and rejoices when he sees it at any time set home, like “a nail fastened in a sure place,” by the Master of assemblies.
Not that he confines his preaching entirely to these: like "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,” he rightly divides the word of truth, and gives to every man his portion in due season. : He marks with pleasure the progress of growing Christians, and takes every opportunity to assist and for
ward them. He makes it his business to acquaiut himself with their particular doubts, temptations, and distresses ; and introduces subjects that will be most likely to afford them satisfaction and sup* port. Where any, through the weakness of grace, or the violence and surprize of temptation, have fallen from their stedfastness, and are wandering in the destructive mazes of sin and folly; he does not presently leave them to perish, and that without remedy, but, like the man in the parable, who left the ninety and nine in the wilderness, he “goeth after that which is lost, until he find it; and when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders re® joicing.” With equal diligence the faithful ministèr seeks, and with equal pleasure accomplishes, the recovery of the back-slider.-Nor does he think the lambs of his flock beneath his notice. The charge to Peter “ feed my lambs,” is fresh in his memory; and he has sufficient warrant for his conduct in the example of his Master, who caused little children to be brought to him, and took them up in his arms, and blessed them: he, therefore, holds out to them the sincere milk of the world ;": and grudges' not his time and pains, in giving them “ line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little," as they are able to bear it. And thus he comes to his people in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of peace.”—He does, indeed, labour in the word and doctrine. He studies to find out acceptable words, not so much to please the ear, but to mend the heart : and he never comes down from that sacred place, but he can truly say, “I preach not myself, but Christ Jésus my Lord."