« ZurückWeiter »
all the faithful ministers of Christ : But you may assure yourself, that you are more particularly and distinctly remembered, by your christian friends to whom you are related in ministerial bonds. You need that remembrance ; and they consider that you need it. In their families, in their closets, they see not a day, in which they do not supplicate earnestly for the blessing of God on your person, your studies, and your labours. When you come to them in the house of God, you may consider yourself, if you will pardon the expression, as raised on the wing of their prayers; and may hope to experience, in answer to them, some new unction from above. How great an encouragement, amidst the daily consciousness of our own unworthiness! whether we consider it, as testifying their love, and so securing in a great measure their candor to us ; or as effectual to obtain those fresh supplies of divine assistance, which they have sought. Nor can I conclude this head without saying, that it is happy, when the minister, amidst all his various cares, is as constant, as earnest, and as affectionate, in praying for the whole people committed to his care, as many a pious, and it may be, obscure christian in each of our assemblies is, in strive ing with God for a blessing on his minister.
3. You may also expect the countenance, esteem and friendship, of all good men that thoroughly know you.
I put in this limitation, because the misrepresentations of character which ignorance and malice may draw, often alienate the minds of very deserving people from each other; so that they turn away with some distaste from they know not whom, or what. But where a valuable character is known, (and that of a faithful minister will always be such), it must command esteem and affection ; and prejudices which had been conceived against it, will melt away before the radiancy of it, like snow before the sun. Be diligent and resolute in the execution of your office, and you will find favour, and good acceptance, in the eyes of God, and of worthy men ; and perhaps, should your reputation be aspersed by the ignorant and the malicious, you may find that providence will exert itself to Bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your honour, as well as your salvation, as a lamp that burneth*. You will be sure of a peculiar share in the affection and veneration of the Aock over which you preside. They will look upon you, as the gift of God to the society : They will consider you, as, in some measure, the representative of our Lord Jesus Christ himself; of whom every faithful minister is indeed a living image. They will therefore Esteem you very highly in love for your work's sake *. The maintenance they give you, will be cheerfully offered, in proportion to their respective abilities, as the tribute of gratitude, and the pledge of endearment. Your afflictions will be the common grief, and your prosperity their joy ; and each of them will look upon himself as obliged in duty to approve himself, the guardian of your character, and of your peace. Their hearts, as well as their houses, will be open to you ; their countenances will tell you, better than any words can do it, how welcome you are to them; and every proper token of respect will be cordial, in proportion to the degree in which it is unconstrained. And where this is the case, you will have no cause to envy any dignities or revenues, which mere power may command, but which no superior splendor and abundance can render equally sweet. Above all must it encourage you, to reflect,
* Is. lxii. 1.
4. That you have the promise of your master's presence, and may trust in him for the communication of his Spirit.
He hath told his ministers, He will be with them always, even unto the end of the world t: And you may rest on the veracity of a word, that shall continue, though heaven and earth shall pass away I. Christ will meet you ; Christ will strengthen you. He will feed and cheer your soul; that you may be enabled to feed and to cheer those that he has committed to your care. It is not a mere empty sound : Your brethren, and your fathers, among whom you stand this day, can from their own experience attest the truth of the promise. He has softened our fatigues : He has sweetened our afflictions; and carried us with songs in our mouths through scenes, at the very distant prospect of which we should have trembled. Having obtained help from Him, we continue even to this day $, the living, the cheerful witnesses of his power, his goodness, and his faithfulness, Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus ||. And remember,
5. That in consequence of this, you may expect such considerable improvements in personal religion, as shall be a rich equivalent for all your labours, and for all you can resign for the ministry, or suffer in it.
It must be nourishing to the soul, if it be spiritually alive, to be so continually conversant with spiritual and divine things. Your meditations, your, prayers, and your public discourses, your private converses on religious subjects and occasions, together with the administration of both the sacraments, will all have a great tendency, under a divine blessing, to make good impressions on your own heart, and to advance you in a holy and devout temper. While you are thus daily Watering others, you will be watered yourself *; as I doubt not but you will remember, that while you Teach others, you teach yourself also t. While the daily cares of others in their secular callings, have an apparent tendency to divert their minds from God, yours will tend directly to him, and give you advantages, beyond what can easily be imagined, for being Continually with him 1: Such ad. vantages indeed, that, were the nature, and the value of them sufficiently known, men would be ready to contend for the ministry, as for a sacred prize. They would esteem it among the greatest privileges of a plentiful estate, that it might give them opportunities of being educated for it, and of being independent in it; while that independency was considered as some additional security for their fidelity. And the zeal, with which persons of the highest rank among us would then press forward to this work, would bring us into a necessity of directing into some other channel that provision, which the wise charity of some public benefactors, the living and the dead, has made for the support of poor students for the ministry: A charity, which in the low ebb to which religion is fallen amongst us, may almost, under God, be called the hope of our churches, even for the very next generation. Especially would the richest and greatest esteem it their honour and their happiness, did they consider what I am in the last place to mention to you, my dear brother, viz.
* 1 Thess. v. 13. + Mat, xxviii. 20.
Luke xvi. 17,
Acts xxvi. 22.
2 Tim. ii. 1.
6. The glorious expectation and hope, which closes the whole prospect.
What if every other hope, but that of religious improve. ment, were in a moment to vanish? What if nothing should remain, between this and the grave, but the view of labours, of reproaches, of tribulations, of persecutions? What if you were to conflict, through the whole of your course, with the malice of enemies, the coldness and ingratitude of friends, the incorrigible obstinacy of sinners, the perverseness and imperfections of those, whom, if any are such, we must hope to be christians ? Here is enough to balance all. Death is approaching: Death, that stripped Aaron of his garments and of his burdens together, and ended all his painful pilgrimage. Be faithful unto death, says our divine Master, and I will give thee a crown of life ß. Oh think every day, of the extasy with which you shall receive that crown, and of the high everlasting exultation with which you shall wear it. Think of the joy, with which, after a life of persevering fidelity to him, your separate spirit shall ascend into his presence, e'er yet this body, the instrument of his service, shall be laid in the grave. Think of the congratulations, with which your venerable predecessors, your eminently pious parents, and those of your Aock who have fled upwards before you, will then meet you, and hail your arrival. And think, how. Jesus will, by one smile and embrace, overpay all the labours and sufferings of a long protracted life. Think of the complacency and delight, with which you will look down on the field which you have cultivated, and on the growing harvest you have left behind; while perhaps some of the blessed fruits of your labours may be running on from age to age, so as to be the means of propagating christianity to the last rounds of time. And Oh think, above all, of the great day of the Lord, When the chief Shepherd shall appear, that he may confer on you, and on all those who have faithfully discharged their ministry, a crown of glory that fadeth not away *. Then, when every christian of the lowest station and character shall receive his proper share of honour and reward, what may you expect, if you faithfully improve your ten talents; when those of your people whom you have converted or edified, appear with you as your Joy and your crown in the presence of the Lord t, and are honoured with the public applause and remunerations of the eternal and universal Judge in the face of the whole assembled world? All the pageantry of human greatness passes away like a dream; The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood : But human souls are durable and immortal; and they that have turned many of them to righteousness, shall have, in each, an everlasting ornament, and decked with a new lustre from each, Shall shine as the stars for ever and everg.
* Prov. xi. 25.
Psal. Ixxii. 23.
Rev. ii. 10.
+ Rom. ii. 21.
May that God whom we serve, through the riches of his grace, give us all a portion in the triumph of that day! And may he add to all the joy, which the most unworthy of his servants is humbly bold to expect in it, that of seeing you, my dear brother, giving up an account of a faithful and happily successful ministry! To encourage and assist you in the discharge of which, may these plain hints conduce, through the blessing of him, who knows how, from the least and most inconsiderable seeds, to call up a rich and plentiful harvest! Amen.
* 1 Pet. v. 4.
t 1 Thess. ii. 19.
Acts ii. 20.
Dan. xii. 3.
Relating to the usual Methods of Ordination among the Protestant Dissenters.
As in the beginning of the charge I have touched upon the decent solemnities attending the methods of ordination generally used among the protestant dissenters, it may not be improper to give a brief account of them ; especially as I have been earnestly desired to do it, by a pious and learned clergyman of the established church; who apprehends, it may obviate some mistakes, and promote that mutual candor among christians of different denominations, which both of us concur to wish, and labour to promote. There is indeed a little variety in the usages of different places; but that which I hare generally seen, does, I believe prevail in most of our churches, with the exception, and sometimes no more than the transposition, of a few circumstances.
It very rarely happens, that a minister among us is admitted to the pastoral office, till he hath spent some years, as a kind of candidate for it; and, so far as I can recollect, more undertake it after, than before their twentysixth year is completed. But as our theological students generally employ either four or five years in preparatory studies after they have quitted the grammar-schools, so they are examined by three or four elder ministers before they begin to preach*. A strict enquiry is made into their character, and into their furniture ; both with respect to the learned languages, especially the sacred, and also as to the various parts of natural and moral philosophy; but above all, into their acquaintance with divinity; and some speci. men of their abilities, for prayer and preaching, is generally expected.
An unordained minister is seldom chosen to the pastoral office in any of our churches, for in the members of each of these societies the whole right of election lies, till he has resided among them some months, or perhaps some years ; preaching statedly to them, and performing most other ministerial offices, excepting the administration of the sacraments.
When the society, which generally proceeds with entire unanimity in this great affair, has received what it judges competent satisfaction, the sevesal members of it join in giving him a solemn and express call to take upon him the pastoral inspection over them. And if he be disposed to accept it, he generally signifies that intention to neighbouring pastors; whose concurrence he desires in solemnly setting him apart to that office.
Previous to the assembly for this sacred purpose, his credentials and testimonials are produced, if it be required by any who are to be concern. ed; and satisfaction as to his principles is also given to those who are to carry on the public work, generally by his communicating to them the consession of his faith which he has drawn up; in which it is expected, that the great doctrines of christianity should be touched upon in a proper order, and
* See the dedication to my sermons on the Evil and Danger of neglecting Ben's Souls, &c. . 10.