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"ful repentance. Riches are torn from us by the vio"lence of men, or elude us by their own instability. "Grandeurs moulder away of themselves. Glory and "renown at length lose themselves in the abysses of “an eternal oblivion. So rolls the torrent of this "world, whatever pains are taken to stop it. Every "thing is carried away by a rapid train of passing "moments; and by continual revolutions we arrive, frequently without thinking of it, at that fatal point, "where time finishes, and eternity begins! Happy "then the christian soul, who, obeying the precept of "Jesus Christ, loves not the world, nor any thing "that the world contains."*
But possibly, my young brethren, you may not look forward to this office from gainful motives, and yet your views may be still wrong. You may perhaps consider the temple of God as a place of repose, where you may loll your life away in ease and indolence. Ah! my young brethren, how grossly are you mistaken! How little do you know of the many cares, fatigues, and perplexities, which attend the sacred
* Archbishop Flechier.
Erasmus laments, that in his time (and I fear it is so in ours) many young preachers greatly mistook the nature of their calling in this and other respects. "Verum ad conciones sacras ad"mittuntur, interdum etiam assiliunt adolescentes, leves, indoc"ti, quasi nihil sit facilius quam apud populum exponere divinam scripturam, et abunde sufficiat perfricuisse faciem, et absterso "pudore linguam volvere. Hoc malum ex eo fonte manat, quod "non perpenditur quid sit ecclesiastici concionatoris tum dig, "nitas, tum difficultas, tum utilitas."
function! These are so many, that under the weight of them (to use the words of one of the fathers) "the "shoulders of angels themselves might groan."
Ministers are in scripture designed by the names of rulers, teachers, stewards, shepherds, servants, watchmen, labourers, soldiers, and the like, all of them expressive of both great trust and great toil. Whoever would exercise any one of them aright, must have many wearisome days, and restless nights; much fatigue of body, and anxiety of mind. But when they must all unite in one character; who, O God! is sufficient for all these things!
Our office is an office of labour. In it, the wicked and slothful servant are but one and the same character. In it, an idle hour must therefore be always set down as a guilty one; and every moment must be occupied, or God, conscience, and perishing souls may upbraid us; as the moments which we waste in trifles, and the breath which we spend in talk, might, if applied properly, be the means of saving souls. Our office is an office of labour. It obliges us to carry our children in our bosom, as a nurse her child; to suffer their murmurings and ingratitudes without abandoning them; to aim at uniting in duty and observance of the law, all the different humours and inclinations of which they are made up; and to double our diligence, in proportion as they study to render our diligence useless. Our office is a station of eminence, where it is difficult to stand, and unspeakably dangerous to fall. It is, besides, an incommodious elevation,
which exposes to the observation of the public, and
renders many things, in themselves lawful, to us not expedient; on account of the weakness of our brethren. And as we must often reprehend vice, we are often exposed to the hatred of those whom we ardently wish to save.
Our office is a dangerous charge, which renders us responsible to God for a vast number of souls, whose salvation or ruin must be in a great measure owing to us; so that we must be, in some degree, answerable for the sins of others as well as for our own. Our office is an awful dispensation, which commits to us the mysteries of God, and the fruits of the death of Christ; so that the least unfaithfulness becomes an abuse of his blood, and renders the inestimable benefits of his cross of none effect. It has a post of vigilance, which obligeth us to bear the spiritual armour of our sacred warfare always in our hands, to combat against flesh and blood, and spiritual wickednesses in high places, and against the corruptions of the age in which we live. Otherwise, the crimes which we tolerate become our own, and public vices, whatever may be our personal innocence, become our particular faults. "The labours of a minitser (says Luther) "exhaust the very marrow from the bones, and hasten forward old age and death."* These labours are fitly compared to the toil of men in harvest, to the labours of a woman in travail, and to the agonies or last efforts of soldiers in the extremity of battle. We
"Labores Ecclesiastici exhauriunt ab imis medullis, senium "mortemque accelerant."
must watch, when others sleep; we must study to paleness; we must preach to faintness. Instant in season and out of season, we must instruct the ignorant, reprove the wicked, exhort the negligent, alarm the presumptuous, strengthen the weak, visit the sick, comfort the afflicted, reclaim the wandering, and confirm the faithful. Is there on earth an office of greater labour: a situation less easy, or more dangerous than ours? Is there in the world a greater mistake, than to seek for rest here, where least of all it is to be found?
But, although you may not be moved by the hopes of gain or ease, yet still you may be incited by the prospect of honour. The reverence or respect annexed to the sacred office, when properly discharged, may perhaps allure you. If this be the motive of any of you, my brethren, it is, I fear, worse than any of those already mentioned. No Scylla or Charybdis ever feigned by the poets, could be more fatal to you than this rock, on which so many before you have made shipwreck. Nay, Satan himself could not have contrived a more effectual way to ruin you than this; for itis to set up yourself instead of Christ; it is to preach yourself instead of him. And what can be more provoking to the dread Majesty of heaven and earth, than to see a worm claim a preference to him, and his servant challenge more regard to himself, than to his
Teterrimus ille vanæ gloriæ spiritus longe infestior illo Sirenum portento quod poetæ confirgunt, Vid. CHRYSOST. de Sacred.
Maker and Master? The language of your selfish soul is not, "What shall I say, or how shall I say "it, so as to please and glorify God, and do most "good to the souls of men?" but, "What shall I say, " and how shall I deliver it, so as to be thought an "excellent preacher, and to be admired and applaud"ed by all who hear me?"*
Admiration and applause you may perhaps obtain, for these are crumbs which the master of the family sometimes throws to the most worthless animals in his house, for whom he had nothing greater in reserve. But then, when you have these, verily I say unto you, you have your reward. And a poor reward it is, of which the Spanish poet, Lope de Vega, has given us the real estimate. To this man, Fame had assigned one of the highest seats in her temple. No person of eminence visited Spain withot seeking his personal acquaintance. Men yielded him precedence when they met him in the streets, and women saluted him with benedictions when he passed beneath their windows. During a long life, all ranks seemed to have united in honouring, and almost idolizing him. But, of all these honours, hear his own sentiment, as he was about to leave them. "True honour," said he, "consists in doing and being good; and all the ap66 plauses which I ever received, I would willingly 66 exchange for the addition of a single deed of virtue to the actions of my life."
* See Bostwick's Sermon on the Influence of a Selfish Spirit upon Preaching.