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and stewards, to signify the various duties of leading, of guiding, and instructing the people of their charge. A work which contains so many and so important branches of duty, must be a very difficult and laborious work; and of course, must require those who undertake it, to give themselves wholly to it. But how ministers must give themselves wholly to their work, is the point which falls first under consideration.
And here I shall begin with observing,
1. That ministers must give themselves wholly to their work, by giving their hearts to it.
No man ever gives himself wholly to any business, to which his heart is opposed. No man therefore ever gives himself wholly to the ministry, while his heart disrelishes the duties and designs of that sacred employment. The minister then, who gives himself wholly to his work, loves the gospel and feels heartily engaged to promote its great and important designs. He pursues the ministry, “not of constraint, but wil. lingly.” Not because no other business happens to fall in his way, but because there is no other business in the world, to which his heart is so much attached. He loves his work. He enjoys a pleasure in discharging every branch of duty, which belongs to his office. Christ, as a preacher, gave himself wholly to his work. Accordingly, we find him pursuing it with pleasure and delight. He came weary and faint to Jacob's
, well; but yet he chose to feed and nourish the souls of others, rather than to feed and nourish his own body. For while his disciples went to procure refreshment, he sat down and taught the woman of Samaria, with saving success. And when they returned and invited him to eat, he replied, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”
Paul likewise gave his heart so much to the ministry ás to esteem it a great and distinguishing privilege. “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, says he, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting nie into the ministry." His life was bound up in his work. This he intimates to the Thessalonians. “Brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress, by your faith. For we now live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” And as his benevolent heart was filled with joy, at the prospect of men's being saved; so it was wounded with sorrow and deep distress, at the prospect of their being lost. Hence he says to the Jews, “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." The truth and sincerity of this declaration appears from another still more solemn and striking. “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Nor did he feel less tenderness and concern for those in Galatia, whom he addresses with more than paternal affection. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you.” Such are the feelings of those who give themselves wholly to the ministry. Their hearts are so absorbed in their work, that it becomes the source of their bighest joys and deepest sorrows.
2. Ministers must give themselves wholly to their work, by giving their thoughts to it.
This the apostle plainly suggests in the text. “Meditate upon these things.” Men always meditate upon their supreme object of pursuit. That to which any person wholly devotes himself, naturally engrosses all his thoughts and attention. His mind is perpetually recurring to it, and, with difficulty, is diverted from it. It follows him into all places and into all companies, and directs the whole course of his conduct. The husbandman, who gives himself wholly to his calling, employs his thoughts more than his hands, in his daily business. This lies upon his mind not only in the hours of labor, but in moments of leisure. He is perpetually thinking and contriving how to plan and perform his business, with the greatest ease and dispatch. He has his fields, his pastures, and meadows in habitual contemplation; and wracks his invention to discover the best modes of cultivation and improvement. He lays himself out to provide laborers and all
necessary implements to carry on his work. In short, his business employs his thoughts when he lies down, and when he rises up; when he goes out, and when he comes in; when he is at home, and when he is abroad.
So the minister of the gospel should give all his thoughts and attention to his work. Heshould meditate uponthe nature and import ance of his business, as well as upon his own peculiar gifts and talents, in order to discover the best rules and modes of conduct for him to observe, in the discharge of his office. He should often reflect upon the circumstances, connexions and movements of his people, and endeavor to learn, as far as possible, the peculiar genius, disposition, character and capacity, of each individual. He should watch the most favorable seasons of giving them advice, instruction, consolation and reproof. He should attentively eye the hand of God, that the voice of his discourses may follow the voice of God in his providence. He should lay himself out in his work, and be always studying to furnish himself more and more for every branch of his office. He should embrace every opportunity of acquainting himself with the most perfect and best approved models of preach ing; and provide all the helps which he can possibly obtain, both from men and from books. In a word, his eyes, his ears, his heart should be always open to any thing, and to every thing which can either assist or encourage him in his sacred employment,
3. Ministers must give themselves wholly to their work, by giving their studies to it.
The apostle exhorts Timothy “to give attendance to reading.” This includes study and thinking, and every mode of intellectual improvement. Ministers should be men of reading and close application. They cannot carry their studies and researches too far, provided they neither injure their health, nor infringe upon
the other branches of their duty. But they like all other men, should always read with a particular reference to their own profession. The farmer, the merchant, the politician, and the minister, may read the same books, and read them with equal advantage, if each will read with a direct view to his own particular calling. Ministers may read any book, they may study
. any subject, which can serve to furnish them for the duties of their office. This should be their invariable and ultimate object in reading both sacred and profane authors.
They are to read the scriptures, and examine every chapter, every verse, and every word, not merely to direct their own faith and practice; but to direct the faith and practice of others. They are to read the various system of divinity, not merely to know the vari. ous opinions of men; but to discover and maintain the truth in opposition to error.
They are to read philosophy, not merely to shine in that particular science;
but to enlarge their views of the works and character of the great Jehovah. They are to read metaphysics, not merely to learn the art of sophistry; but to be able to meet the enemies of truth upon their own ground, and with their own weapons. They are to read history, not merely to know what has happened in the several ages of the world; but to discover the hand of God and the heart of man, in all the revolutions of time. They are to read politics, not merely to become politicians; but to be able to explain and inculcate the various duties of all ranks and classes of men. They are to read deep and well written tragedies, not merly to gratify their taste and consume their time; but to discover the secrets of human nature, and the nearest passages to the human heart. They are to read the most elegant writers in general, not merely to gain flowers to adorn their subjects; but to supply them with the best words and with the best images, to illustrate the sentiments which they wish to inculcate. These spoils taken from the enemies of truth, they may lawfully employ in the service of God; just as he employed the spoils of his enemies, to furnish his tabernacle and temple, and to clothe his priests. And indeed if they do give themselves wholly to their work, they will consecrate all their literary acquisitions and improvements to the work of the sanctuary.
4. Ministers must give themselves wholly to their work, by devoting all their time to it.
They may employ their whole time in their work, because it is a work which may be done, not only on the first and the last, but on every day of the week. In this respect, it is a peculiar employment. Other men are required to labor only six days in seyen; but ministers are obliged to spend all their time in the discharge of their office. When God consecrat