« PreviousContinue »
In their Character their loss is inestimable. It is the loss of Evangelical virtue ; of the esteem of all the wise and good ; and of the approbation of God.
Inestimable, also, is their loss of Hope. They reject the Redeemer; and are, therefore, left to stand on the ground of their owu obedience. But they have never obeyed; and are, therefore, condemned by the law, which they have only broken. Rea. son decides, that God does not love, and cannot reward, bad
This decision Revelation repeats in thunder. But Infidels are all sinners. The only objects before them are, of course, annihilation, or endless woe.
“There is,” saith Solomon, "a way, which seemeth good to a man: but the end thereof is a bitter death.” Were the Gospel as untrue, as Infidels assert ; they would be no gainers. If it should be true; what will become of them? What must be the feelings of an Infidel on a dying bed, if he is then in possession of sober thought; and solemnly remembers his comtempt for the Saviour, and his rejection of the offers of life? With what emotions must he enter Eternity?
III. This subject furnishes every minister of the Gospel instructions of supreme importance.
Some of these I shall address immediately to the Pastor elect.
You have heard, my friend, and brother, an imperfect representation of that Gospel, to the ministration of which you are this day solemnly called, of the purity of its precepts, the excellence of its doctrines, and the glory of that divine kingdom, of which it contains the history. Let me address to you these allimportant considerations with the freedom, and the affection of a friend, and a minister.
Let me remind you, that in the Gospel, as in a mirror, clear and undeceiving, is imaged in the strongest manner, and in living colours, the dignity of your office; not a dignity, fostering ambition, nor flattering pride ; but a dignity, existing wholly in the mind, shining in every meek and humble grace, and adorning a life, consecrated to God, and useful to mankind. In all your efforts for the salvation of men, you are here taught to regard
yourself as a fellow-labourer with angels; as co-operating with the Redeemer. He also preached the Gospel; and although “his name is above every name,” adorned his office with far other splendours than pomp and pride. Let me urge on you his perfect example, and the exalted subject of his preaching, as a divine combination of motives, indispensably necessary to so imperfect a creature, as man, to do nothing, which will not become the disciple of such a Master.
Among the attributes, which form a dignified character, none is more essential than faithfulness. To this excellence every inducement is presented by the revealed system. It points you to an all-seeing God, intent with an awful and searching eye upon every part of your conduct; an infinitely faithful Redeemer, present in every trial, and every distress, to accomplish the salvation, which you preach; a cloud of witnesses, faithfully spending, and cheerfully sacrificing, their lives for the same desirable purpose ; the immortal life of your own soul, and the souls of your congre. gation, placed in colours of life before your eyes, and appealing with immense solemnity and endearment to your heart. Your great duty, which is “the manifestation of the truth,” will call you continually to encounter many temptations, from the love of popularity, the fear of offending, and the desire of seeing peace in your days. In the same system are the means, and the notives, by which you may avoid them, set before you in the strongest light. It may be profitable, on this solemn occasion, to remind you, that you are there considered as a stranger here below; destitute of an abiding city; and wandering through the wilderness of human life to that invisible world, where every faithful minister will find his eternal residence. Between that world, and the present, it is the only channel of communication. It opens the gates of those regions, which spirits unembodied and immortal inhabit. It teaches you, that in that world you will need dig. nity, recommendation, and enjoyment, infinitely more than in this; and that the qualifications, which will confer these blessings on you there, are very different from those, which will produce them here. To the inhabitants of that world it will be a matter
of perfect indifference, whether you have here dwelt in a palace, or in a shed; have ruled an empire, or fed a flock. So different are the views, and manners, of that world from the same things in this, that to have been “rich in faith," to have been " an heir of the promises, and to have performed faithfully the solemn office, which you have chosen, will be higher dignity, a stronger recommendation, and a source of more extensive enjoyment, than to have swayed the sceptre of a world. If you suitably realize these considerations ; no others will move you ; “neither will you account even your life dear to yourself; so that you may finish your course with joy, and the ministry, which you receive of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.”
In the faithful manifestation of the truth you will undoubtedly experience many distresses from insensibility, opposition, and evil speaking. The great preacher informs you, that, “ if the world hate you, it hateth him also; and that it is enough for the servant, if he be as his Lord. He hath not left you comfortless. He hath prayed the Father; and He hath given you another Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth ; that he may abide with you for ever, Seek earnestly to be purified ; labour earnestly to purify yourself ; that you may become a temple fitted for the inhabitation of this divine guest. From him will you derive the peace, which Christ left to his disciples ; the joy, which he alone can give, and which the universe is unable to take away. Grudge not, therefore, the worldling his wealth, the statesman his power, the philosopher his science, the man of taste his villa, or the sensualist his dainties. To you the Gospel unfolds treasures, which are real, and unlimited; influence, which will extend through immortal ages; science, sublime, immense, and rapturous; a mansion in the house of God; and an eternal banquet, gathered from that Eden, which his own right hand hath planted. Here enjoyment will be your interest, your honour, and your duty. Here intemperance and satiety cannot exist. Here indulgence is bounded only by the capacity.
In the Gospel, to the ministration of which you are this day to be consecrated, is embodied that exhalted science, which you
are especially concerned to attain. Immensely different from the cold speculative systems of philosophy, which, although they sometimes amuse the head, have no connection with the heart; the doctrines, involved in this science, are all practical, divinely efficacious on the character, and means, at the same time, of expanding, ennobling, and purifying, the soul. At every step, as you advance in this knowledge, it will make you not only more learned, but more virtuous, and more useful. Every step, also, will be a step of delight. Here, and here only, truth outruns all the efforts of fiction, in beauty, sublimity, and glory. Whatever is great to the view of the intellect, whatever is sublime to the eye of imagination, whatever is ravishing to the feelings of the heart, is found here, in degrees, which cannot be limited. In the pursuit of this truth the mind is not merely delighted, but enraptured ; is not merely elevated, but ennobled; does not merely look on, but, while it looks,“ is changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.” These are, “ the things” into which“ angels desire to look.” Shall not men, infinitely interested in them, shall not ministers, whose first duty it is to communicate them to others, follow their example! Those, who would resemble angels, must love the employments of angels. Unite, then, with these exalted beings in studying the divine system of truth, contained in the Gospel. Here you will find all, which you need, under God, to make you a blessing in this world, and to assure you in the world to come of an inheritance in the kingdom of glory.
The same system of truth cannot but inspire you with the strong. est benevolence to the people, committed to your charge.
We hope, we trust, you preach a God, who has pardoned you; a Saviour, who has died for you; doctrines, which you firmly believe; and precepts, which you faithfully intend to obey ; endless misery, from which you hope to escape, and endless happiness, in which you hope to share. Make, then, their interest your own; feel for them, as for yourself. Think what it is to be saved; what it is to perish. Recollect daily, that they may be your companions in heaven ; and that through eternity you may enjoy the
transport of remembering, that you have been the instrument of their salvation. Through eternity they may remember, that under
your ministry they were born of God; made heirs of endless life and fitted for the glory of heaven. Think what a consummation of your ministry it will be to lead them up to the throne of judgment, at the final day ; and to say to him, who died on the cross, " Behold, here am I, and the children, whom thou hast given me." Think what it will be through endless ages to have their blessings heaped upon your head.
With these solemn considerations always in full view, you will labour, earnestly, to “come forth” to this people “in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Peace.” Your sermons, before they are brought to the house of God, you will water with your tears, and embalm with your prayers. You will “ plant the seed" of life “ with all humility of mind; and with many tears,” you will beseech the Author of all blessings to “give the increase.” You will remember, you will feel that you are appointed by the great Shepherd to “watch this flock in the fear of God, as one who must give an account.” But what must be the account, given by a minister, at the bar of God, of a wasted life; of squandered talents ; of sloth, and cowardice, in his master's service; of a perverted Gospel ; of an abused ministry; of faithless sermons ; and of a neglected flock, left by himself to error, sin, and ruin, precluded from eternal life, lulled into the sleep of death, and led to perdition !
With these awful considerations in view, who, that deserves the name of a minister, who that deserves the name of a man, can fail of delivering the message of God boldly, fervently, faithfully, with the deepest tenderness, with the strongest yearnings of affection. Must not his heart beat; must not his voice tremble; when he rehearses to dying creatures, hastening to the judgment, the terrors of the final day, and the burnings of devouring fire ? Must not his bosom heave; must not his eye kindle; must not his tongue glow; when he repeats the wonders of redemption, the sufferings of the cross, the excellency and loveliness of the Redeemer, the mercy of a forgiving and sanctifying God, and