Слике страница

dling with all wisdom. They enjoy the benefit, which there is, in the effectual and fervent prayers of those, who esteem them highly in love, for their work's sake. They enjoy the satisfaction, which there is, in observing their people growing in knowledge and grace, under their public and private instructions. And they sometimes enjoy that more noble and divine happiness, which results from the success of their labors in the conversion of sinners, of whom they had travelled in birth, till Christ was formed in them. These spiritual children are their reward, while they live and converse with them in this life; they will be their reward when they meet them in Heaven; they will be their reward, when they meet them at the day of judgment; and they will be their living and growing reward from that day forward forever. Such a prospect as this, supported and animated Paul, under all his labors and sufferings in the vineyard of Christ. Hence he writes thus to those, whom he had begotten through the Gospel, at Corinth. "For we which live, are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us but life in you.-Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you—for which cause we faint not." To the same persons he says again in this same epistle, "ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus." He calls the Philippian converts, "his joy and crown." And, in the pleasing language of raised expectation, he asks the Thessalonians, "what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, at his coming? "How glorious does the apostle now appear in

heaven, surrounded with the living fruits of his labors? And how glorious will he appear at the last day, when Christ shall present him and all his spiritual family to the view of the assembled universe, to be each other's joy and crown of rejoicing forever? We are no where told what shall be the particular reward of Moses, of Samuel, of David, or of any other eminent servants of God; but we know that Paul's reward shall finally

consist in the fruits of his labors in the work of the ministry. His work has carried, and will carry its own reward with it, as long as he and his people shall enjoy the mansions of heaven. Hence he might well say, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry." And all the ministers of Christ have the same reason to be thankful for their office, while they are now reaping, and expecting, hereafter to reap; such a living and growing reward of their labors, in the salvation of souls.

A few reflections will now conclude the subject. First, The office of the ministry, is the most desir able office in the world. "This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." There is no office that can be more desirable than this. It is every way suited to gratify all the desires of a pious and devout heart. It carries religion, learning, usefulness, and its own divine and permanent reward with it. And it gives the freest scope to the utmost exertions of all the powers and faculties of the soul. The general rebellion of our world, has opened the widest field for the ambassadors of Christ to employ all their gifts and graces, in beseeching sinners to become reconciled to God. Every minister of the gospel has a more important cause to plead than ever employed the eloquence of Demosthenes, or Cicero.

And if he gain his cause, he not only saves a soul from death, and recovers a subject to God; but also conquers the powers of darkness, and fills the world of light with joy. Besides, his works bear the stamp of immortality, and can receive no injury from the blasting power and influence of age. The works of Raphael and of Hogarth, are every day perishing under the mouldering hand of time. The laws and constitutions of Solon, of Lycurgus, of Numa, are no more. The works of Homer, of Milton, of Shakespeare, are constantly verging towards oblivion. Noah's ark, which was a hundred and twenty years in building, has, for ages and ages, been dissolved in dust. And Solomon's temple, the noblest monument of wealth and of art, has long since been razed to its foundation, and thrown into heaps of ruins. But the works of Paul, those living temples, which he raised up, have followed him to Heaven, where they still survive the ruins and ravages of time, and grow in beauty as they grow in age. His office therefore, was a good office; his work a good work. And whoever desires this work, desires the best work that ever employed the head, or heart, or tongue of man. "He that winneth souls is wise;" and he that desireth the office of winning souls, is wise in the choice of his office.

Secondly, The ministerial office needs no foreign aid, to recommend itself to those who are qualified for it. Some are ready to apprehend, that the ministry would soon become vacant, if it should once unhappily lose the protection and support of the civil power. Our learned youth, we are told, are turning their attention to law, physic and merchandize, and but few, and those too not of the most promising parts, are looking forward to the ministry. And what, we are asked, will soon become of the sacred office?

Who will desire it under so many worldy embarrassments and disadvantages? Our subject replies, those who desire a good work for the sake of a good work, and not for the sake of honor, ease, or filthy lucre. The ministerial office will live as long as religion lives, and will be filled with able and faithful men, as long as able and faithful men are in the world. The church has always had the best pastors, when there were no secular advantages to draw men into the ministry; and the worst spiritual guides, when there were the strongest worldly motives to preach the gospel. Hence there is no ground to fear that the ministerial office will ever suffer by being deprived of worldly appendages. 'The work of the ministry will always recommend itself to able and faithful men, who will esteem it a privilege to plead the cause of Christ, and promote the salvation of sinners. Why did Paul thank Christ for putting him into the ministry? Did the ministry in his day enjoy the smiles and support of the civil magistrate? Or did the office open the road to honor, opulence, or ease? Certainly this was not the case. chose the ministry therefore, because it was a good office in its own nature, independent of all human establishments. He often intimates, indeed, that the world called him a fool for his choice. But he thought it sufficient to reply, "Woe is me, if I preach not the gospel."


Thirdly, The ministerial office is no burden to the people. One who calls himself a moral philosopher, undertakes to prove in the face of stubborn fact, that the people of Israel were utterly unable to support their expensive priesthood. And many, at this day, seem to have the same opinion concerning the ministers of Christ. They look upon the institu


tion as a burden, and wish to be exempted from maintaining such a numerous set of men, whose support costs them, in their view, much more than they are worth. But if there be any weight in this objection, we presume to say, that it lies not against the office of the ministry, but against those only who unworthily sustain it. The office requires great and good men to fill it, who are endowed with the richest gifts and graces of Christ, and who are able to instruct the people in things, which infinitely concern them as rational and immortal creatures. And though individuals have disgraced their office, yet the ministers of Christ as a body, have actually done more to enlighten the minds, to restrain the corruptions, and to cultivate the virtues of mankind, than any other order of men in the world. This, every christian people are obliged to own, and especially the people in New-England. We have long sustained, and perhaps in some measure, still sustain the character of a sober, virtuous, and religious people. But this, under God, must be chiefly ascribed to the succession of able and faithful ministers, who have planted and watered our churches; and who have so firmly fixed us in the faith once delivered to the saints, that no deceivers have been able to eradicate from our minds the first principles of virtue and religion, or to turn us aside from the fundamental doctrines of divine revelation. We therefore, have no reason to complain of the ministerial office, from which we have derived, and do still derive such precious and important advantages. But, on the other hand, we have every reason to venerate the divine institution, to esteem the ministers of Christ highly in

See the Westminster Catechism, which has been generally adopted; the Massachusetts Confession of Faith; and the writings of Hooker, Shepard, Stoddard, Edwards.

« ПретходнаНастави »