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real converts, among those who profess the genuine gospel, is comparatively very small: according to the import of that alarming declaration, Many are called, but few are chosen.
On the other hand, should you meet with many and great discouragements, take heed that you do not indulge a desponding temper, as if you
had been of no use in the ministerial work. With discouragements you certainly will meet, unless Providence were to make your case an exception to the general course of things; which you have mo ground to expect. Very painful discouragements, for instance, may sometimes arise, from the want of liberty and savour in your own mind, when performing public service. This, there is reason' to suppose, is not uncommon. 1, at least, have had frequent experience of it; and, once, to such a degree, that I began to think very seriously of giving up the ministry: supposing that the Great Shepherd had nothing further for me to do, either in the pastoral office, or in preaching the word at large.—This exercise of mind, though exceedingly painful for some weeks, was both instructive and useful. Before that well-recollected season, I had frequently talked about the necessity of divine influence, to render a minister savoury in his own mind, as well as profitable to others; but then I FELT it.
Be not discouraged, then, as though some strange thing happened unto you, that never befel a real minister of Christ; if a similar trial should occur in the course of your ministry. For it may be to you, as I trust it was to me, of no inconsiderable benefit: because I reckon, that whatever curbs our
pride, makes us feel our insufficiency, and sends us to the throne of grace.-Seldom, alas! have I found any remarkable degree of savour, and of enlargement in public service, without experiencing, more or less, of self-elatement and self-gratulation on that account. Instead of complaining, therefore, that I have not more liberty in my work, or more success attending the performance of it; I have reason to wonder at the condescending kindness of God, in that he gives to my extremely imperfect labours the least saving effect, and that he does not frequently leave me to be confounded before all my hearers. Such, Brother, have been the feelings and reasonings of my own mind, and such my confessions before God
many a time.
It is not unlikely that, in a course of years, some of your people, who had expressed a warm regard to your ministry, and perhaps considered you as their spiritual father; may become, without any just reason, your violent opposers, asperse your ministerial character, and wish to be rid of you. This, though very trying, is far from an unexampled case: no, not with regard to much greater men, and far better ministers, than either of us. Witness the language of Paul, in various parts of his two Epistles to the Church at Corinth, and in his Letter to the Galatian Churches. Witness also the Life of that excellent man, Mr. President Edwards, of New England.
Among the dissatisfied, it is probable, some will complain of your ministry being dry, legal, and of an Arminian cast: while others, it may be, will quarrel with it under a supposition, that you dwell too much on the doctrines of divine grace, and verge toward Antinomianism. My own ministry, however, has been the subject of loud complaint, in these opposite ways, and that at the very same time.-Nor have we much reason to wonder at it. For if a minister, to the best of his ability, display the glory of sovereign grace, in the election, redemption, and justification of sinners; he will be sure to offend the pride of multitudes, who are seeking acceptance with God by their own obedience. Persons of this character will probably draw the same inferences from his doctrine, and form the same objections against it, as those by which the ministry of Paul was opposed. If it be so, they will cry, Why does God yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? Let us do evil that good may come; and continue in sin, that grace may abound. The law is made void, and personal holiness is quite superfluous.
Does the same preacher insist upon the necessity of that holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord-upon that conformity to the example of Christ, and that spiritual-mindedness, without which all pretensions to faith in the Son of God are vain? the covetousness and carnality of others will be disgusted. They will pronounce him legal, and consider his doctrine as inimical to the prerogatives of sovereign grace: and this, because he maintains, that evangelical truths have a holy influence on all who believe them; or, in the language of James, that faith without works is dead.
Again: you may, it is highly probable, have painful opportunities of observing, that while some of your people embrace pernicious doctrines, verge to wide extremes, and are exceedingly desirous of making proselytes to their novel peculiarities; others of them are giddy and flighty, rambling about from one place of worship to another, admiring almost every fresh preacher they hear; but quite dissatisfied with your ministry, though they hardly know for what.---Nor is there any reason to doubt, that others, among the objects of your pastoral care, will administer occasions of grief, by formality and lukewarmness in their profession; by their pride, extravagance, or sensuality; by their envy, avarice, or injustice; or, finally, by malevolent attacks, in unfounded charges upon your own character, as in the case of Paul, among the Corinthians. You must guard, however, against desponding discouragement, when any of these painful particulars occur to your notice. Nay, , should a variety of them appear at the same time, you must not conclude that God has deserted your ministry, and entirely forsaken your church. But, while firmly determined to promote the exercise of strict and impartial discipline; and while careful, except the case be quite peculiar, never to bring the bad conduct of any individual into your public discourses; examine your own ways-humble yourself before God*_increase your pastoral exertions-cry mightily to the Father of mercies for assistance endeavour, as it were, to levy a tax upon these trials; that they may, at least, afford private advantage to your own soultand, then, leaving your cause with God, be of good courage. * 2 Cor. xii. 20, 21,
I said, Endeavour to levy a tax upon your trials. For even malevolent attacks, and unfounded charges, upon a Christian's character, if his own temper be under proper government, may prove an occasion of promoting his best interests. In such cases, and for this end, it behoves him to examine his heart and ways, to see whether he have not contracted the guilt of some greater evil, than that which is falsely laid to his charge. If, on impartial inquiry, his conscience attest the affirmative; it will soon appear, that he has much less reason to redden with indignation at his accuser's unfounded charge, than he has to admire the goodness of God in permitting an arrow to be aimed at his character, which he can easily repel by the impenetrable shield of a good conscience; while greater evils of his heart, or conduct, for which he cannot but severely condemn himself, are entirely hidden from his accuser. Besides, the Christian, in such a predicament, may justly say, • Though free from the charge alleged, it is not owing to the superior holiness of my heart; but must be ascribed to divine, preserving care.'
A Christian, therefore, who, in such a conjuncture of circumstances, is wisely seeking his own emolument; will be disposed to consider the unrighteous allegation, as a gracious, providential warning, lest at any time he be really overtaken of that very, evil, with which, at present, he is falsely accused. -- Little do we know of the spiritual danger to which we are continually exposed; the temptations by which we may be, unawares, powerfully assaulted; or how near we may be to the