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In a word, if ministers wish to set every creature and every object in its truest, noblest, and most important light: if they wish to form their people for the service and enjoyment of God in this world, and that which is to come, let them make it their main object in all their preaching, to unfold, in the clearest manner possible, the character and perfections of the incomprehensibly glorious and blessed God.
This leads me to apply my discourse to him, who is now to be set apart to the sacred work of the gospel ministry in this place.
You are this day to commence a steward of the mysteries of God. These you are to dispense, and not to conceal. For, you very well know, that it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. And faithfulness in a steward of the mysteries of God, principally consists in unlocking, unfolding, and, in the clearest manner, displaying, the whole character, and whole counsel of God. This is the point in which all faithful ministers are united, and in which they stand eminently distinguished from all unfaithful teachers. Among those who have been allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, some have been faithful, and some unfaithful, in every age of the Christian church. Some have appeared on the Lord's side, and some on man's side. Some have justified the ways of God, and condemned the ways of men; and some have condemned the ways of God, and justified the ways of
Faithful ministers have spoken for God, but unfaithful ministers have spoken against him. How many thousand volumes have been written, and how many thousand sermons have been preached against the character, the perfections, and designs of the incom
prehensibly great and glorious God? The mouths of this ungodly world have been always pouring forth their hard speeches against their Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge. Ten thousand times more has been said against God, in our rebellious world, than against any other being in the universe.
If your heart glows with love to the greatest and best of beings, how will you delight to wipe off the aspersions which have been cast upon the bright and spotless character of the Deity?
Unto you is this grace given, that you should preach the unsearchable riches of the gospel of the glory of the blessed God. Prudence prompted by gratitude, will therefore, never lead you to inquire, how you may, in the easiest manner conceal any part of the divine character, or divine will, but on the other hand, how you may in the clearest and happiest manner possible, declare the whole counsel of God.
The same moment, in which the gospel shall be committed to your trust, the souls of men will be committed to your trust. And you cannot fulfil one of these trusts without fulfilling the other; nor betray one of these trusts without betraying the other. Be entreated then to be faithful, and feed your people with the good knowledge of God.
The God whom you will serve in the gospel of his Son is the ever present, the all seeing and heart searching God, therefore so speak, not as pleasing men, but God which trieth your heart Approve yourself to God, a workman, that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, and giving to every one a portion in due season. In a word, be thou faithful unto death, and God himself whom you serve, shall be your shield, and exceeding great reward.
I now turn my discourse to the church and people in this place.
MEN AND BRETHREN,
God, in his unsearchable providence, has been pleased to leave you long as a flock without a shepherd. You have been called to pass through many trying scenes, and to surmount great obstacles in the way of the re-settlement of a gospel minister. But now a brighter prospect is opening before you, and you are called to rejoice; but to rejoice with trembling. For this man, upon whom your hearts and hopes are fixed, may be set up, like his divine master, for the fall, as well as rising of many in this place. If he proves faithful, as we hope he will, the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed, and the real characters of all will be tried. Are you prepared for the trial? Do you wish to know whether you are friends or foes to that God, whose favor is life, and whose frowns are worse than death? This you must know, this you will know, sooner or later. For, God has determined that the inhabitants of heaven, of earth, and of all worlds, shall know how they feel towards his great and amiable character.
Be pleased, then, to open your minds to those divine mysteries, which your pastor, in faithfulness to God, and in friendship to you, shall clearly exhibit, from time to time, for your instruction, and godly edifying. Receive the truth in love, and the truth will make you free; and if the truth make you free, you will be free indeed. If you love God, God will love you, and come and make his abode with you. For he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God and God in him. Let me entreat each individual, therefore, to accept the advice and consolation, which Eliphas offered to Job.
"Acquaint now thyself with God, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee. Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart. If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up; yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence. Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and cause his light to shine upon all thy ways.
To conclude, let us all remember this, that we must see God. God has laid a foundation to exhibit his whole character before the minds of intelligent beings. And can we suppose, that he is not able to carry into execution his great design? He has already made some of his creatures see the glory, and feel the weight of his character. In the other world, the eyes of all his creatures are always open, and their minds always awake. They rest not day nor night from seeing and feeling the presence and perfections of the Deity. This is the only ignorant and stupid part of the creation of God. And we shall not long remain in our present unfeeling, torpid state. Our eyes will soon be opened, never to be closed. Our minds will be awakened, never to sleep again. The present objects which now obscure our sight of God, and divert our attention from him, will soon be removed, and a flood of light will break in upon our astonished minds. Then it will be as impossible not to see God, as not to exist; and as impossible not to feel the weight of his character, as not to see it. But who that are enemies to God, can see him, and live? For our God is a consuming fire. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Now is the only time for sinners to become reconciled to God, and secure his favor. Therefore, as
though God did beseech you by us, we Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
pray you in Amen.
Preached at the Ordination of the Rev. ELI SMITH, to the Pastoral Care of the Church in Hollis, November 27, 1793.
ECCLESIASTES xii, 11.
The words of the wise are as goads.
SOLOMON was a man of superior wisdom, which he displayed in the beginning of his reign, as a Prince; and in the close of his reign, as a preacher. Having passed through a great variety of scenes and collected a large stock of useful knowledge, he was eminently qualified to preach upon the vanity of the world and the importance of religion with peculiar pungency. This distinguishing quality, which discovers the strength and clearness of his mind, and characterizes all his writings, justly entitles him to the highest rank among the sacred teachers. Accordingly, Ezra, or some other inspired writer, tell us, that he not only "taught the people knowledge," but taught them, with so much force and pungency, that "his words were as goads, or nails fastened" by those prophets, or "masters of assemblies" who received their sentiments and language from the immediate inspiration of the "chief shepherd and bishop of souls." Though none, who are destitute of the wisdom of Solomon, can expect to reach his supreme excellency in preaching; yet every wise minister will imitate his noble example, and endeavor to penetrate and impress the minds of his hearers. And to illustrate this general observation, I shall,
I. Show that every wise preacher will aim to impress the minds of his hearers, and,