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affectionately entreat, we do also authoritatively enjoin, your acceptance of it, and your submission to it: and we affirm, that, if ye reject this Gospel, ye do it at your peril, and with a certainty of incurring God's everlasting displeasure m.] 2. As stewards over his family
[This also is a character belonging to us“, and a character with which a measure of authority is of necessity connected. Under that character we must, at the peril of our own souls, be faithful to you, and to our God, whose servants we are p. Whatever we judge to be the portion most requisite for your spiritual health, that we must administer, whether it be instruction or exhortation, consolation or reproof. We must no further seek to please you, than will be for your real welfare?: if we go beyond this, we cannot be servants of Jesus Christ'. Of course, in the exercise of discipline, there will be some things which will be more clear, and some which will be of a more dubious character. In those which are clear, and where the word of God has precisely marked the course to be pursued, the submission of the people to the sentence of the minister should be willing and unreserved: and in those which, though not expressly defined by God, are necessary for the maintenance of order, a willing deference should be paid to the judgment of him on whom the great responsibility rests, and to whom authority has been committed by God himself for the good of the wholes. “Not that ministers are to be lords over God's heritage,” or to “have dominion over the faith” of any man": but still, even in dubious matters, a degree of submission is due to them, that order may be observed, and the affairs of the Church be well administered, for the good of the whole* This is the kind of rule which a parent exercises in his family; and in a spirit of paternal love must it be exercised by ministers in the house of God.]
These observations will acquire additional weight, if we attend to, II. The considerations with which this duty is
Two considerations are here urged, as motives to a cheerful acquiescence in the duty prescribed :
m Heb. ii. 3. 1 Pet. iv. 17, 18.
n 1 Cor. iv. 1. 0 Luke xii. 42. P 1 Cor. iv. 2. 9 Rom. xv. 2. . Gal. i. 10.
s 2 Cor. x. 8. and xiii. 10. 1 Tim. v. 17. t 1 Pet. v. 3.
u 2 Cor. i. 24. * 1 Cor. xvi. 15, 16. y 1 Tim. iji. 5.
1. The return due to them,
[Ministers have taken upon themselves to seek to the uttermost the spiritual and eternal welfare of those who are committed to their care: and, when duly impressed with the importance of their office, they " watch for souls as those that must give account." When they undertake this office, they know, that if any perish through their neglect, the blood of those who perish will be required at their hands?. Under this fearful responsibility, "they watch for souls,” trembling lest, through their ignorance, or sloth, or cowardice, any have the truth withheld from them, or the means of salvation unprofitably dispensed to them. They feel their insufficiency, and are ready at times to regret that ever they made themselves answerable to so awful an extent. But a " dispensation having been committed to them, they know that a woe attends them,” if they discharge not their office with fidelity and diligenceb.
Now then I ask, Is nothing due from you to such friends and benefactors? When they, from love to your souls, and from an ardent desire to impart unto you the blessings of salvation, make “themselves your servants for Christ's sake," renouncing all worldly cares, pleasures, and advantages, and consecrating all their time and talents exclusively to you, is there no love, no respect, no deference to be shewn to them? This, I am sure, is not God's judgment respecting them : for he requires, that "you esteem them very highly in love for their work's saked." and if you refuse them this tribute, you are guilty of gross injustice to them, and of vile ingratitude to God, whose commission and authority they bear.
If you suppose that their living of the altar is a sufficient recompence, I must observe, that there is scarcely a faithful servant in all the Church of God who might not turn his talents to a far better account, if pecuniary emolument be the standard by which his recompence is to be estimated. As for the " shepherds who feed themselves, and not the flock," I speak not of them : I leave them to their own fearful responsibilitye: but of faithful pastors, I affirm, that, if they could have the whole world for their hire, they would despise it all in comparison of one soul, whom they may present to God as begotten by their ministry and saved by their efforts'. I say, then, ye are debtors to them to a great amount: if they have been your spiritual fathers, ye owe them your own souls? : and
Ezek. iii. 17-21. and xxxiii. 7-9. a 2 Cor. ii. 16.
1 Cor. x. 16, 17. c 2 Cor. iv. 5. 1 Thess. v. 12, 13. e Jer. xxiii. 1, 2. Ezek. xxxiv. 1-10. Zech. xi. 17. 11 Tim. iv, 10. with 1 Thess. ii, 19, 20. & Philem. ver. 19.
if they are only your instructors, yet, as watching with all tenderness and fidelity for your souls, their griefs and their joys should be the griefs and the joys of you all".] 2. The benefit accruing to yourselves-
[Daily do they go to God, to give up, as it were, an account of the stewardship committed to them: and this they do either with joy or grief, according as they find success or disappointment in their ministerial labours. See what grief St. Paul experienced when his people walked disorderlyi: and, on the other hand, with what ecstatic joys he was filled, when they walked worthy of their high callingk! So it is with every ininister, in proportion as he approves himself faithful to his God. And how deeply are your interests involved in these exercises of your minister's soul! When he sees you disobedient to the word, and regardless of his paternal admonitions, how do his hands hang down, and his spirit sink within him! Truly, it is “with grief,” and “ with groanings,” (as the word imports,) that he goes to his God from day to day. And the whole of his ministry, in its ardour, in its unction, in its whole character, is lowered, when he has to labour amongst a proud, a worldly, a contentious, a gainsaying people. His mouth is stopped; and, instead of finding an enlargement of mind, and a liberty of utterance towards them, he is constrained rather to speak only in tears of anguish', and, as it were, in the groans of one that is travailing in birth m.
On the other hand, in what tender strains did the Apostle address those who had received his word with power, and evinced its influence by a holy and heavenly conversation! He was amongst them “as gentle as a nursing mother; and was so affectionately disposed towards them, that he was willing to impart to them, not the Gospel only, but his own soul also, because they were dear unto him"." How would words, proceeding from him in such a strain, " distil as the dew," and penetrate their inmost souls! And when he felt such enlargement of heart towards them, what corresponding feelings would be generated in their soulso! Such then are still the feelings of faithful ministers in this day. They experience either straitness, or enlargement, according as their people evince a disposition that becomes the Gospel, or a state of mind tending to obstruct its influence. And therefore, if you seek nothing but your own “ profit," you should, by a
profit,” you should, by a loving, submissive, and obedient spirit, encourage the efforts of your minister, and impart comfort to his soul.
h 2 Cor. ii. 3.
i 2 Cor. ii. 4.
k 1 Thess. ii. 9, 10. n 1 Thess. ii. 7, 8.
But it is not to the present world only that this consideration must be confined. For though it is true, that a glorified soul can feel no grief, any more than God himself can, yet, for the purpose of impressing our minds, this idea may be predicated of them, as well as of him. And O! think of the joy with which they will present to God their obedient children in the last day P, and the grief with which they will appear as “swift witnesses” against such as were intractable and disobedient9! Verily, their griefs will be “unprofitable indeed to you," when the very word which they have spoken to you will be found only “a savour of death" unto you, and the means of your more aggravated condemnation'.] “Suffer ye then a word of EXHORTATION”.
[How long we shall stand in our present relation to each other, God alone knows: but this we know, that I must give up an account to God of my labours, as you also must of your improvement of them. O that I may be found faithful! and may you also so improve my ministry, that I may give up an account of you with joy, and not with grief! Imagine not your work done, when you have heard the word delivered to you. In reality, both your work and mine is then but just begun. We must watch for each other, and each of us for ourselves. And O! may you never have occasion for that painful reflection, “How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof, and have not obeyed the voice of my teacher, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed ines!" And may I so watch, and so labour, that, like the Apostle himself, I may " be pure from the blood of all ment !") p Isai. viii. 18. Phil. ii. 16.
9 Mal. iji. 5. I 2 Cor. ii. 15, 16.
s Prov. v. 12, 13. t Acts xx. 26. N. B. If this were the subject of a Visitation Sermon, there should be a suitable Address to Ministers also.
MMCCCLI. CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES IMPROVED IN PRAYER. Heb. xiii. 20, 21. Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
IN reading the epistles of St. Paul, we cannot but observe how continually he begins and ends them with prayer. At the same time, we cannot but be struck with the extraordinary fulness and grandeur of his prayers. In truth, there is in them, for the most part, such a vast accumulation of recondite matter, that it is extremely difficult to obtain any thing like an adequate comprehension of them. His prayers in the epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, are pre-eminently distinguished in this view. But that which I have now read, if not equal to the others in grandeur, is extremely interesting, on account of the richness and variety of matter contained in it. In unfolding it to your view, I shall notice, I. His representation of the Deity, whose blessings
he imploresThe very name which he here assigns to God is deserving of particular notice
(Under the Old-Testament dispensation, Jehovah was more generally called “ The Lord of Hosts :" but, under the New Testament, he is commended to us rather under the endearing character of the “ God of Peace." Between him and us a reconciliation has been effected, by the mediation of his dear Son --- and so perfect is that reconciliation, that nothing but love is felt in his bosom towards us. In truth, every one of his attributes finds in this mystery its sublimest exercise ; so that he is altogether a “ God of Peace;" not having any more of adverse feeling towards us, than if mercy had been his only attribute
-] But what has he done to assure our souls of “peace ?"
[To death and the grave had Jesus been consigned as our Surety and our Substitute. And, if he had continued in the grave, however we might believe that he had undertaken for us, we could have no assurance that his sufferings had been accepted in our behalf
. But Jehovah, having “ brought him again from the dead," has given us a proof, that what the Lord Jesus has done and suffered for us, has been effectual for our complete redemption Now we see, that “that great Shepherd of the sheep,” who " had laid down his life for them,” is re-invested with his office, which during his imprisonment in the grave seemed to have been suspended ; and “ all power is given to him," to save to the uttermost" all who are brought into his fold, and committed to his care. Now we know, that whatever they need for protection, for