« EelmineJätka »
after hearing St. Paul, who was far superior to the Baptist, exclaiming in the humility of his soul, “ I live not; but Christ liveth in me,” how can we sufficiently express our astonishment at the conduct of those titular apostles, who either set up a vain philosophy in the place of Christ, or employ the cross of their Lord as a kind of pedestal for the support of those splendid monuments, by which their pride is endeavouring to perpetuate the memory of their eloquence. 'Self-conceited orators! When shall we rank you with the faithful ministers of the humble Jesus? When shall we behold the character you have assumed, and the conduct you maintain, sweetly harmonizing with each other? When shall we hear you addressing your flocks with the unaffected simplicity and condescension of the great apostle : “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and,” far from elevating ourselves above you, on account of the commission we have received, « ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake,” 2 Cor. iv, 5. Then we might with propriety salute you as humble imitators of St. Paul, as zealous ministers of the Gospel, and as faithful servants of that condescending Saviour, who “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” Matt. xx, 28. .
His universal love. True Christians are distinguished from Jews, Mohammedans, and all other worshippers, by that spirit of universal love, which is the chief ornament and glory of their profession. But among evangelical pastors this holy disposition appears in a more eminent degree. They feel for the inconsiderate and the sinful that tender compassion of which Christ has left us an example. Their conduct answers to that beautiful de. scription of charity with which Paul presented the Corinthian Church, and which may be considered as an emblematical representation of his own character from the time of his conversion to the Christian faith. Universal love is that invigorating sap, which, passing from the true vine into its several branches, renders them fruitful in every good work. But this Divine principle circulates through chosen ministers with peculiar force, and in more than ordinary abundance, as so many principal boughs, by which a communication is opened between the root and the lesser branches.
The faithful pastor entertains an affecting remembrance of those benevolent expressions which the good Shepherd addressed to the Apostle Peter, and in the person of that apostle to all his successors in the ministry, repeating them even to the third time: “Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep.” As though he had said, The greatest proof you can possibly give of your unfeigned attachment to me, is, to cherish the souls which I have redeemed, and to make them the objects of your tenderest regard. Such is the affectionate precept which every faithful minister has received together with his sacred commission, and to which he yields a more ready and cheerful obedience, from a firm dependence upon the following solemn declaration of his gracious Master: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, he shall say" to all the chil. dren of love, “Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye bave done good
unto one of the least of these my brethren,” whether their wants were corporal or spiritual, “ ye have done it unto me,” Matt. xxv, 31, 40.
The love of the evangelical pastor, like that of St. Paul, is unbounded. "God,” saith that charitable apostle, “ will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth : I exhort, therefore, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men : for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour," 1 Tim. ii, 4. But not content with submitting to the exhortation of St. Paul, with respect to the duty of universal prayer, he endeavours to copy the example of that apostle in labouring for the salvation of all men: “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” i Cor. ix, 22. Being by regeneration “a partaker of the Divine nature," 2 Pet. i, 4, he bears a lovely, though imperfect resemblance to his heavenly Parent, whose chief perfection is love. Like the High Priest of his profession, he breathes nothing but charity; and like the Father of lights, he makes the sun of his beneficence to rise upon all men. To describe this lesser sun in its unlimited course, and to point out the admirable variety with which it distributes its light and its heat, is to delineate with precision the character of a faithful pastor.
His particular love to the faithful. The universal love of the true minister manifests itself in a particular manner, according to the different situations of those who are the objects of it. When he finds the whole conduct of professing Christians conformable to the nature of their sacred profession, “he loves them with a pure heart fervently,” 1 Pet. 1, 22, and giving way to the effusions of holy joy, he expresses his affection in words like these : “Brethren, we are comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith : for now we live if ye stand fast in the Lord.” And “what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before God,” i Thess. iii, 7, 9. In these expressions of St. Paul an astonishing degree of affection is discovered. “Now we live;" as though he had said, We have a two-fold life, the principal life which We receive immediately from Christ, and an accessory life, which we derive from his members through the medium of brotherly love. And so deeply are we interested in the concerns of our brethren, that we are sensibly affected by the variations they experience in their spiritual state, through the power of that Christian sympathy which we are unable to describe. Thus when sin has detached any of our brethren from Christ, and separated them from the body of the faithful, we are pene. trated with the most sincere distress : and, on the contrary, whenever they become more affectionately connected with us, and more intimately mited to Christ our common head, our spirits are then sensibly refreshed and invigorated with new degrees of life and joy.
Reader, dost thou understand this language ? Hast thou felt the power of this Christian sympathy ? Or has thy faith never yet produced these genuine sentiments of brotherly love? Then thou hast spoken as a per. son equally destitute of sensibility and truth, whenever thou hast dared to say, “I believe in the communion of saints.”
TRAIT XVII. His love to those whose faith was wavering. WHEN a minister, after having been made instrumental in the conversion of sinners, perceives their faith decreasing, and their love grow. ing cold, he feels for them what the Redeemer felt when he wept over Jerusalem. Not less concerned for the remissness of his believing hearers, than St. Paul was distressed by the instability of his Galatian and Corinthian converts, he pleads with them in the same affectionate terms: “Ye know,” ye who are the seals of my ministry, “ how I preached the Gospel unto you at the first. And ye despised me not, but received me as an angel of God. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? For I bear you record, that if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you," I tell you with sorrow, that after all my confidence in you, “I stand in doubt of you,” Gal. iv, 13–20. “Our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompense in the same (I speak as unto my children) be ye also enlarged. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel ? Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. We beseech you, therefore, brethren, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain,” 2 Cor. vi, 1, 11-18.
This language of the Christian pastor is almost unintelligible to the minister who is merely of man's appointing. Having never converted a single soul to Christ, he has neither spiritual son nor daughter, and is entirely unacquainted with that painful travail which is mentioned by St. Paul. His bowels are straitened toward Christ and his members, and having closely united himself to the men of the world, he considers the assembly of the faithful as a company of ignorant enthusiasts. But, notwithstanding the spiritual insensibility of these ill-instructed teachers, who never studied in the school of Christ, there is no other token by which either sincere Christians or true ministers can be discerned, except that fervent love which the Galatians entertained for St. Paul before their falling away, and which that apostle ever continued to entertain for them. “By this,” saith our Lord, “shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another,” John xiii, 35.
TRAIT XVIII. His love to his countrymen and his enemies. St. Paul, like his rejected Master, was persecuted even to death by the Jews, his countrymen, while he generously exposed himself to innumerable hardships in labouring for their good. These furious devotees inspired with envy, revenge, and a persecuting zeal, hunted this apostle from place to place, as a public pest. And when the Gentiles, on a certain occasion, had rescued him out of their hands, forty of the most hardened among them engaged themselves by an oath, neither to eat nor drink till they had assassinated him. But, notwithstanding the most indubitable proofs of their bloody disposition toward him, his fervent charity threw a veil over their cruelty, and made him wish to die for his persecutors. “I declare,” saith he, “ the truth in Christ, 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 my. self were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,” Rom. ix, 1-3. As though he should say, “It is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” Gal. iii, 13. Thus Christ himself became accursed for us, and I also would lay down my life for my brethren, " that I'may have fellowship with him in his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death,” Phil. iii, 10; “and filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, in my flesh, for his body's sake, which is the Church,” Col. i, 24. It is by expressions so charitable, and by actions which demonstrate the sincerity of those expressions, that Christians avenge themselves of their enemies, and work upon the hearts of their countrymen.
If the sentiments of every sincere disciple of Christ are expressed in the preceding language of St. Paul, how deplorable then must be the state of those Christians, whose anxiety either for their own salvation, or for that of their nearest relations, bears no proportion to that eager concern which this apostle manifested for the salvation of his bitterest persecutors! And if good pastors feel so ardent a desire to behold all men actuated by the spirit of Christ, without excepting even their most malicious enemies, what shall we say to those ministers who never shed a single tear, nor ever breathed one ardent prayer for the conversion of their parishioners, their friends, or their families ?
TRAIT XIX. His love to those whom he knew only by report. Though the true minister takes a peculiar interest in every thing that Concerns the salvation of his countrymen, yet his Christian benevolence is far from being confined within the narrow limits of a particular country. He desires to bear the name of his Saviour to the ends of the earth; and if he is not able to do this by his personal addresses, he will do it, at least, by his earnest wishes and his constant prayers. If Providence have not yet fixed him in a particular Church, he writes, in the manner of St. Paul, to the inhabitants of the most distant countries: “I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that I” consider myself as a * debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians; both to the wise and the unwise. And as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome,” where error and impiety have fixed their throne. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ : for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” Rom. i, 13–16. if he writes to stranger converts, whose faith is publicly spoken of in the world, he declares his sincere attachment to them, and his longing
desire to afford them every spiritual assistance, in terms like these : “God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers. Making request, if, by any means, I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you, by the mutual faith both of you and me,” Rom. i, 9–12.
If the Apostle Paul, when he knew the Romans no otherwise than by report, expressed so ardent a desire to see them for the sole purpose of inciting them to seek after higher degrees of faith and piety; what must be the disposition of those ministers who feel no desires of this nature, even for the members of their own flock ? And in how great an error are those Christians, who frequently assemble together, either in their own houses, or in more public places, for the very purpose of mutually forgetting the restraints of piety, losing their time in frivolous conversation, and debasing their minds by puerile amusements! Farther: if the new nature of the regenerate excites in them that lively concern for the salvation of their neighbours, which St. Paul expressed for the salvation of those who inhabited the remotest parts of the earth, is it becoming in the faithful to stifle the motions of that commendable zeal which Christian charity alone can inspire ? And if there are to be found among us dignified teachers, who, far from seconding a zeal so necessary in our day, are rather disposed to extinguish the first sparks of it, wherever they are discernible; whom may they be said to take for their model, Paul the apostle, or Saul the Pharisee? Doubtless Saul, the agent of a bigoted sect, and the open persecutor of the faithful.
TRAIT XX. His charity toward the poor in giving or procuring for them temporal relief.
Though our Lord came principally to save the souls of sinners, yet he was by no means unmindful of their bodies. “ He went about doing good,” in the most unlimited sense, daily relieving, with equal care, the corporal and spiritual maladies of the people. Thus, when he had distributed the word of God to those who were hungering and thirsting after - righteousness, he expressed an anxious concern for the support of those among his followers who were sensible of no other wants, except such as were of a temporal nature : "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat”—and not content with barely expressing his concern for their corporal necessities, he wrought an astonishing miracle for their immediate relief, Mark viii, 2. The true minister cheerfully imitates the conduct of his gracious Master, by a strict and affectionate attention to the spiritual and temporal wants of his people. “James, Cephas, and John," saith St. Paul, “ gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go unto the heathen: only they would that we should remember the poor : the same which I also was forward to do," Gal. ü, 9, 10.
When the liberality of St. Paul toward his necessitous brethren was