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As you should take heed to yourself, respecting the principles on which you act, and the ends at which you aiın, in your preparations for the pulpit; so it behoves you to be still more careful in these respects, when you enter on public service. For then you professedly appear, as a guilty ereature, to adore at the feet of Eternal Majesty; as a minister of the Divine Jesus, to perform his work; and as the servant of this church, to promote the happiness of all its members. Endeavour, therefore, always to enter your pulpit under the force of this conviction : 'I am an apostate creature, and going to worship the omniscient God: a wretch who deserves to perish, yet looking to sovereign mercy: a sinner called by the gospel, and trusting in the great atonement; confessedly insufficient for the work on which I am entering, but relying on the aids of grace. This will produce deep solemnity, tempered with devout delight: which mixture of holy awe and sacred pleasure should accompany the Christian, and especially the Christian Minister, whenever he approaches the Supreme.
Remarkable and important is that saying: Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire. Very observable also is the language of David: I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy. May the import of these passages united, exert its force on your very soul, whenever you take the lead in public worship! Then your graces as a Christian, and your gifts as a minister, will be exercised at the
same time. Your graces being excited, you have communion with God: your gifts being exerted, the people are edified. — Whereas, were you to enter the pulpit merely to exercise your ministerial talents, though others might be fed by the truths delivered, your own soul would starve. This, I fear, is the case of many who preach the gospel.
But, what a figure, in the eye of Omniscience, must that preacher make, who is not habitually desirous of exercising devout affections in the performance of his public work! Like an index on the high-road, he directs others in the way to heaven; but he walks not in it himself. He may prophesy with Balaam, or preach with Judas; his learning and knowledge, his natural parts and spiritual gifts, may excite admiration and be useful to others; but, being destitute of internal devotion, his heart is not right with God, and he is a wretched creature. Sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal, is the character by which he is known in sacred Scripture.
When, however, commencing public service, it is needful to remember, that you appear, not only as a worshipper of God, but as a minister of Christ. Being such, it is your indispensable duty to preach Christ, and not yourself: that is, with sincerity and ardour, to aim at displaying the glories of his Person, and the riches of his grace; the spirituality of his kingdom, and the excellence of his government: not your own ingenuity, or eloquence - your parts, or learning. Guard, then, my Bro. ther, as against the most pernicious evil; guard, as for your very life, against converting the gospel ministry into a vehicle to exhibit your own ex
cellence; or prostituting the doctrine of Christ crucified to the gratification of your pride, or that it may be a pander to your praise. For who can estimate the magnitude of that guilt which is included in such conduct? Yet, with this enormous and horrible evil, I cannot forbear suspecting, many ministers are more or less chargeable. Nay, to the commission of this outrage on the honour of Christ and of grace, every minister should consider himself as liable. For so polluted are our hands, that, without grace preventing, we defile every thing we touch. So depraved are our hearts, that we are in danger of committing a robbery on the glory of our divine Lord, even when it is our professed business to exalt it.
As, when entering on public devotion, you should endeavour to act becoming your character, under the notion of a guilty creature, in audience with the King Eternal; and as a minister of Christ, whose business it is to display his glory; so you are further to consider yourself as the servant of this church. When standing up to address your people, it should ever be with an earnest desire of promoting their happiness. They having chosen you to the pastoral office; you having accepted their invitation; and being now solemnly ordained to the important service; that mutual agreement, and the interesting transactions of this day, should operate as a threefold motive to the faithful performance of your public work. Yes, you are bound affectionately to aim at doing them good, by laying divine truth before them in such a manner as is adapted to enlighten their minds, to affect their hearts, and to promote their edification.
Though the occasional exercise of your ministerial' talents in other places, may be both lawful and commendable; yet, as it is here only that you stand in the pastoral relation, you ought, except in extraordinary cases, to fill this pulpit yourself; and not leave the deacons to procure supplies, in a precarious manner, while you are serving some other community. It is here, as a public teacher, that your proper business lies; and here, at the usual times of assembling, your voice must be heard. - When the pastor of a church discovers an inclination to avail himself of almost any pretext for being absent from his people, in order to serye others; he gives reason of suspicion, whatever his pretences may be, that, either filthy lucre, or a lụst of popularity, has too much place in his heart; and that he accepted the pastoral office, rather as an article of convenience, than as matter of duty. It is, indeed, much to be lamented, that though Dissenting Ministers in general justly exclaim against the non-residence and the holding of pluralities, which are so common among the clergy; yet the conduct of some pastors among the Nonconformists, makes near approaches to that of pluralities in our National Establishment, and is a violation of pastoral duty.
You should seek, with peculiar care, to obtain the approbation of conscience in each of your hearers; as appears by the following words :-By manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. This illustrious passage presents us with a view of Paul in the pulpit; and a very solemn appearance he makes. He has just been adoring in secret, at the feet of the Most High; and, recent from converse with the Most Holy, he is now going to address his fellow sinners. Penetrated with the importance of his office, and the solemnity of his present situation, he manifestly feels-he seems to TREMBLE. Nor need we wonder: for the subject on which he is to speak, the object he has in view, and the witness of his conduct, are all interesting and solemn to the last degree, TRUTH, Conscience, and God-the most important and impressive thoughts that can enter the buman mind -pervade his very soul. Evangelical truth is the subject of his discussion; the approbation of CONSCIENCE is the object of his desire; and the omniscient HOLY ONE is the witness of his conduct. An example, this, which you, and I, and every minister of the word are bound to imitate. Make it your diligent endeavour, then, to obtain the approbation of conscience, from all that hear you: for without deserving that, none of your public labours can be to your honour, or turn to your own account, in the great day of the Lord.
A minister may say things that are profoundly learned, and very ingenious; that are uncommonly pretty and extremely pleasing to the generality of his hearers; without aiming to reach their consciences, and to impress their hearts, either by asserting divine authority, or by displaying divine grace. When this is the case, he obtains, it may be, from superficial hearers, the reward which he sought; for he is greatly admired and applauded. But, alas! the upawakened sinner is not alarmed; the hungry soul is not fed; and the Father of mercies is defrauded of that reverence and confi