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perpetration of some awful evil, from which we have commonly imagined ourselves to be most remote. Neither, on the other hand, is it possible for us thoroughly to understand all the ways and means, by which our heavenly Father communis cates those hidden provisions of preventing grace, which are continually administered for our preservation.* But, alas! how seldom it is that any of us have humility and wisdom sufficient, thus to im prove such an event!
Once more : Take heed that you pay an habitual regard to divine influence; as that without which you cannot either enjoy a holy liberty in your work, or have any reason to expect success. We have heard with pleasure, that the necessity of such an influence, to enlighten, to comfort, and to sanctify the human mind, makes one article in your theological creed. An article, doubtless; of great importance. For as well might the material system have sprung out of nonentity, without the almighty fiat; as an assemblage of holy qualities arise in a depraved heart, without supernatural agency. As well might the order, harmony, and beauty of the visible world be continued, without the perpetual exertion of that wisdom, power, and goodness which gave them birth, as the holy qualities of a regenerate soul be maintained and flourish, independent of the Divine Spirit.
Now, my Brother, as the knowledge of any truth is no further useful to us, than we are influenced by it, and act upon it; as doctrinal sentiments are not beneficial, except in proportion as they become practical principles, or produce correspon* Dr. Owen's Sermons and Tracts, p. 49.
dent feelings and affections in our own hearts; so you should endeavour to live continually under the operation of that sacred maxim, Without NE ye can do nothing. With humility, with prayer, and with expectation, the assistance of the Holy Spirit should be daily regarded. In all your private studies, and in all your public administrations, the aids of that Sacred Agent should be sought. Consistency of conduct, peace in your own breast, and success in your own labours, all require it: for, surely, you do not mean, merely to compliment the Holy Spirit, by giving his work a conspicuous place in your creed. Were you habitually to study and preach your discourses, without secret, previous prayer for divine assistance; the criminality of your neglect would equal the inconsistency of your character. If Christianity be the religion of sinners, and adapted to their apostate state, it must provide, as well for our depravity, by enlightening and sanctifying influence, as for our guilt, by atoning blood.
Our Lord, when addressing his disciples, relative to the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, says, He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. By which we are led to infer, that when a minister sincerely seeks and mercifully obtains divine assistance in preaching the word, his discourses will have a sweet savour of Christ and his offices—will display his mediatorial glories--will exhibit his excellent characters, and condescending relations, that are suited to the necessities of miserable sinners. Thus he will feast the mental eye, and excite admiration of the San viour's Person and undertaking, in the believing heart; even though the elocution and mariner of the preacher be of an inferior kind.—Hence you may learn, my Brother, how to appreciate those discourses, which, whether heard from the pulpit, or perused from the press, frequently excite admiration of the minister's talents; but are far from raising the same passion to an equal degree, by exhibiting the personal and official excellencies of the adorable Jesus.
Nor can you pray over your Bible in a proper tranner, when ineditating on the sacred text; without feeling a solemnity in your ministerial employment. That solemnity should always attend you in the pulpit : fòr, a preacher who trifles there, not only affronts the understanding of every sensible and serious hearer, but insults the majesty of that Divine Presence in which he stands. Guard, therefore, against every appearance of levity in your public work. In all your studies, and in all your labours; watch agaitist a spirit of self-sufficiency, from which that profane levity often proceeds. Remember, that your ability for every spiritual duty, and all your success, must be from God. To himn your eye must be directed, and on his promised aid your expectations of usefulness must be formed. In thus acting the part of a Christian, while you perform the work of a Minister for the benefit of others, your own soul will feel itself interested in the doctrities yoii preach, and in the duties you inculcate; in the promises you exbibit, and in the reproofs you administer.
I will now, my Brother, for a few minutes, direct your attention to another divine precept, and then conclude. Paul, when addressing Titus in the
language of apostolic authority, says, Let no one despise thee. * A singular and remarkable saying ! No one; whether a professed Christian, an unbe: lieving Jew, or an idolatrous Gentile. Observe, however, it is not said, Let no one envy, or hate, or persecute thee; but, let no one DESPISE thee. How, then, was Titus to preserve his character from contempt? By the penal exercise of miraculous powers, on those who dared to treat him with indignity? No such expedient is here intimated. By assuming lordly titles, appearing in splendid robes, taking to himself state, and causing the vulgar to keep their distance? Nothing less. For that would have been directly contrary, to an established law of Christ, and inconsistent with the nature of his kingdom. But it was, as the apostle in another place plainly intimates, by. becoming a bright example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity or love, in spirit, in faith or fidelity, in purity.* Or, by being pre-eminent among those who adorned the doctrine of God our Saviour.
Yes, a minister of the gospel, who takes heed to himself—to his christian character, to his official duties, and to his various relations in life, whether domestic, religious, or civil; is not very likely to be sincerely despised by those that know him. His supposed religious oddities may be treated with contempt, and he may be hated for his conscientious regard to evangelical truth, and to the legislative authority of Jesus Christ: but the manifest respectability of his moral character will find an advocate in the breast of each that knows him, * Titus ii. 15.
† 1 Tim, iv. 12.
and especially in the hour of serious reflection. For, a series of conduct, bearing testimony to the reality of religious principle, to the fear of God, and to the social virtues reigning in his heart, will generally secure him from deliberate contempt. Hence it has been observed, by an author of eminence in his literary station : 'It was a pertinent advice that Paul gave to [Titus,] however oddly it may appear at first:
-Let no one despise thee. For we may justly say, that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, if a pastor is despised, he has himself to blame.'*
Yes, and how respectable soever for literature and science, if he entered upon his office, chiefly under the influence of secular motives; or if he be habitually trifling and vain, proud or covetous ; if, in his general conduct, there be more of the modern fine gentleman, than of the primitive pastor; and much more of the man of this world, than of the man of God; he deserves, under the pastoral cha. racter, to be despised. For the feelings, and sympathies, and turn of his heart, are neither congenial to those of the Great Shepherd, under whom he should serve, and with whom, in order to feed the flock, he must have frequent spiritual intercourse; nor adapted to meet the necessities of any people, that know the Chief Pastor's voice.t He is a a man of the world; and, as such, a Cure in the National Establishment seems more congenial to him, than a Pastoral Charge among the Dissenters. For, a Protestant Dissenting Minister, who is not
* Dr. G. Campbell's Lectures on Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 174.
t John X. 4.