Слике страница

distinguishing qualities, as he knows the importance of their office justly requires. Paul, we are told, was a chosen vessel. Christ always meant to make him a minister. He raised him up to preach the gospel among the heathen nations. And accordingly we find, that he endowed him with those superior powers and talents, which were equal to his superior office; and which in the eye of the prince of critics, gave him a rauk among the celebrated orators of Greece and Rome. By this instance of his conduct, Christ has plainly told us, that in his view, there is no station nor employment of life, which requires better natural abilities, than the ministerial office. Nor can we conceive, that any one should need a clear perception, a penetrating judgment, a lively imagination, and all the powers of persuasion, more than a minister of the gospel, whose business it is, to understand, to explain, and to enforce the deep things of God, which carry life or death to every hearer. Christ therefore, who always acts with infinite wisdom and propriety in adapting means to ends, bestows a large portion of intellectual furniture upon those, whom he forms for the great and arduous work of preaching the gospel.

But the noblest powers of nature stand in need of the nurturing hand of education. The uninstructed mind resembles the unpolished diamond, before the artificer's hand has given the finishing stroke, to display its sparkling beauties. Sensible, therefore, of tite happy influence of instruction, to strengthen and enlarge, as well as to soften and refine the opening postÉrs of the mind, Christ has taken particular care from

that those, whom he designs for great and extensive service in his church and kingdom, should enjoy the benefit of a learned education. As he raised up Paul to be a pillar of the church, and a princi

[ocr errors]


age to

pal instrument of spreading the gospel through the world; so in order to furnish him for this great and arduous work, he brought him up at the feet of Gawaliel, the most noted and learned Rabbi in the Jew. ish nation. And no doubt Paul improved his time to the best advantage, and acquired a large stock of that human knowledge, which he found to be of eminent service afterwards, in preaching the gospel, and opening the great truths of divine revelation. I know, indeed, Dr. Campbell conjectures, that he derived most of bis learning from the Jewish Rabbies, who taught mere fables, traditions, and endless genealogies, which could be of no great service to a preacher of the gospel. But, if we only consider, that he was born in the famous city of Tarsus;* that there probably he spent his younger years in the study of the sciences; that he went into Judea merely to finish his education, and gain a more thorough knowledge of the religious sentiments of his own nation; that he was well acquainted with the heathen Poets, and able to quote them with beauty and propriety; and that he disputed the Epicurean and Stoic Philosophers in the city of Athens, which, as the seat of learning and of learned men, was called the eye of Greece; I say, if we only

; consider this, we shall be apăt to conclude, that Christ furnished him with large measures of human, as well as divine knowledge, to qualify him to preach the gospel in every part of the world. But besides Paul, we may mention many others, whom Christ has formed for his more immediate and especial service, by means of a public education. He educated Moses in the court of Pharaoh. He educated Samuel in the house of the Lord in Shiloh. He educated David in

See Bishop Watson's Theological Tracts, vol. ï, p. 182.

the court of Saul. He educated Solomon in the court of David. He educated the prophets in the schools of Samuel, of Elijah, and of Elisha, which were at Bethel, Jericho, and Gilgal.* He educated Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azaraiah in the academy in the city of Babylon. And to supply the defect of a learned education in the apostles and primitive ministers of the gospel, he miraculously endowed them not only with the gift of tongues, but also with the superior gifts of knowledge and of wisdom.† These instances plainly show, that Christ is a friend to learning, and that he commonly makes use of it, to qualify men for eminent service in his spiritual kingdom.

But, besides all these powers and improvements of nature, he also communicates his own spirit to his ministcrs, and makes them like-minded with himself. For this is one of his invariable maxims, "He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad." He vicw's

natural man as a real enemy to his cause and kingdom, and therefore totally unfit to preach the gospel, until he has experienced a saving change, and become heartily united to his person and interest. Of this, we have a clear and striking instance in the apostle Paul. Before his conversion, notwithstanding all his shining qualities, and literary improvements, he was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; and fit to be the minister of satan only, in whose cause and service, he was most heartily engaged. Christ therefore appeared to him as he was going to Damascus, and struck conviction into his conscience, laid open the plague of of his heart, destroyed his false hopes, and raised him from spiritual death to spiritual life. And this divine


* See Lewis'e Antiquities of the Hebrew Republic.

1 Cor. 12


change sanctified all his natural and acquired abilities, directed them to their proper use and end, united his heart to the cause of truth, and inspired him with holy zeal and fortitude to spread the triumphs of the cross in the face of a frowning world. Thus a good capacity, a good education, and a good heart, are the noble qualifications, which Christ bestows upon those whom he raises up, and employs in the sacred work of the gospel ministry.

We shall now, in the second place, as proposed, suggest several reasons, why the ministers of Christ are thankful for their office.

The first reason to be given is this, that the ministerial office bears a favorable aspect upon a life of religion and vital piety. The ministers of Christ hunger and thirst after righteousness, and desire to perfect holiness in the fear of God. They are thankful therefore for that employment, which serves to advance, rather than to obstruct their progress in the Christian and divine life. In this respect, we find a difference among the various callings, which divine providence requires various persons to pursue. Some useful and necessary employments seem rather unfavorable to piety and devotion, and throw obstacles in the way of that habitual intercourse and communion with God, which every Christian ardently desires to maintain and improve. The common business of merchants, of farmers, of mechanics, is apt to engross their attention and divert their minds from divine objects and leave them too little time and inclination for the secret duties of devotion. Some, who go down to the sea in ships, and others, who jeopard their lives in the high places of the field, lament the loss of those divine ordinances and numerous aids to piety, which they once enjoyed in the more retired and silent scenes of life. And the pious physician painfully feels the embarrassments of his calling, which so often rob him of his happiest hours in the closet and in the family, as well as in the house of God.

But the minister of Christ is freed from all these obstructions to piety, by the nature of his office, which gives him time, retirement, and all the means of secret, private, and public devotion. His main work is the proper food of a pious heart, and serves to nourish and strengthen every holy and religious affection. His daily business calls him to retirement, and in that retirement to commune with God and bis own heart, to search the scriptures, and meditate upon the glorious objects of eternity. His public office leads him to the house of God, and there to take the most active and animating part in the public exercises of religion. His own discourses, which should always flow warm from his own heart, give him an opportunity of de. riving the largest portion of spiritual instruction, from every subject, upon which he descants in public. His duty calls him to the houses of mourning, and to the chambers of the sick and of the dying; where all the feclings of benevolence, of compassion and friendship, are naturally awakened and improved. His duty also carries him among lively Christians, among mourning saints, and distressed sinvers; where the beauties of religion, the worth of souls, and the presence of God, serve to solemnize his mind, and to warm his heart with devout and heavenly affections. Besides all this, the peculiar difficulties, which attend bis office, yield bim a fair opportunity of improving his mind in some of the most amiable of the Christian graces. The difficulties, which he discovers in bis ludies; the difficulties, which he finds in discoursing

« ПретходнаНастави »