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prejudiced against him, should unbecomingly join issue with his accusers, and charge him with extravagance and fanaticism; he will answer after St. Paul, with all due respect, “I am not mad: but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. And I would to God, that not only thou, but also all who hear me this day were altogether such as I am, except these bonds,” Acts xxvi, 24, 29.
After a pastor has had experience of these difficult trials, he is then in a situation to confirm younger ministers in the manner of St. Paul: “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. At my first answer no man stood with me; but all men forsook me: notwith. standing, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me: that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear the Gospel : and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever,” 2 Tim. i, 12; iv, 16, 18.
Behold the inconvenience and dangers to which not only Christian pastors, but all who follow the steps of the Apostle Paul, will be exposed in every place, where the bigoted or incredulous occupy the first posts in Church or state! And whether we are called to endure torments, or only to suffer reproach in the cause of truth, let us endeavour to.sup. port the sufferings that shall fall to our lot, with that resolution and meekness, of which St. Paul and his adorable Master have left us such memorable examples.
TRAIT XXXV. His courage in consoling his persecuted brethren. PERSUADED that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus,” and par. ticularly his ministers, “shall suffer persecution,” 2 Tim. iii, 12, the good pastor looks for opposition from every quarter ; and whenever he suffers for the testimony he bears to the truths of the Gospel, he suffers not only with resolution, but with joy.
The more the god of this degenerate world exalts himself in opposi. tion to truth, the more he disposes every sincere heart for the reception of it. The Gospel is that everlasting rock upon which the Church is founded, and against which the gates of hell can never prevail ; and though this rock is assailed by innumerable hosts of visible and invisible enemies, yet their repeated assaults serve only to demonstrate, with increasing certainty, its unshaken firmness and absolute impenetrability. A clear sight of the sovereign good, as presented to us in the Gospel, is sufficient to make it universally desirable. The veil of inattention, however, conceals, in a great measure, this sovereign good, and the mists of prejudice entirely obscure it. But by the inhuman conduct of the persecutors of Christianity, their false accusations, their secret plots, and their unexampled cruelty, these mists are frequently dissipated, and these veils rent in twain from the top to the bottom. Error is by these means unwittingly exposed to the view of the world ; while every im. partial observer, attracted by the charms of persecuted truth, examines into its nature, acknowledges its excellence, and at length triumphs in the possession of that inestimable pearl which he once despised. Thus the tears of the faithful, and the blood of confessors, have been generally found to scatter and nourish the seed of the kingdom.
Ye zealous defenders of truth ! let not the severest persecutions alarm your apprehension, or weaken your confidence, since every trial of this kind must necessarily terminate in your own advantage, as well as in the establishment and glory of the Christian faith. Error, always accompanied with contradictions, and big with absurd consequences, will shortly appear to be supported by no other prop than that of preju. dice or passion, or the despotism of a usurped authority, which renders itself odious by the very means employed for its support. The more the partizans of every false doctrine sound the alarm against you, the more they resemble a violent multitude opposing the efforts of a few who are labouring to extinguish the fire that consumes their neighbours' habitations; the different conduct of the one and the other must, sooner or later, manifest the incendiaries. Error may be compared to a vessel of clay, and truth to a vase of massy gold." In vain is calumny en. deavouring to render the truth contemptible by overheaping it with every thing that is abominable; in vain would prejudice give error an amiable appearance by artfully concealing its defects : for whenever the hand of persecution shall furiously hurl the latter against the former, the solid gold will sustain the shock unhurt, while the varnished clay shall be dashed in pieces. The experience, however, of seventeen ages has not been sufficient to demonstrate to persecutors a truth so evident; nor are there wanting inexperienced believers in the Church who are ready to call it in question, and who, “when persecution ariseth because of the word,” are unhappily observed to lose their Christian resolution. But, “why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing, the kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed? He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn,” and make their malice serve to the accomplishment of his great designs, Psalm ii, 1–4.
Thus the Jews, in crucifying Christ, contributed to lay the grand foundation of the Christian Church; and afterward, by persecuting the Apostle Paul to death, gave him an opportunity of bearing the torch of truth to Rome, and even into the palaces of its emperors. And it was from Rome itself, as from the jaws of a devouring lion, that he comforted the faithful, who were ready to faint at his afflictions, and encouraged them to act in conformity to their glorious vocation. “I suffer trouble as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. It is a faith. ful saying ; for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him ; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner ; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel, according to the power of God, who hath called us according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. Whereunto I am appointed a preacher and an
apostle, for the which cause I also suffer these things ; nevertheless I am not ashamed. Thou, therefore, endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," 2 Tim. ii, 9-12; i, 8-12 ; ii, 3.
Happy is the faithful minister of Christ amid all the severe afflictions to which he is sometimes exposed! Though “ troubled on every side," yet he is not distressed ;” though “perplexed,” yet not in despair;" though “persecuted,” yet “not forsaken;" though “cast down," yet “not destroyed.” All the violent attacks of his enemies must finally contribute to the honour of his triumph, while their flagrant injustice gives double lustre to the glorious cause in which he suffers.
TRAIT XXXVI. His humble confidence in producing the scals of his ministry. A PASTOR must, sooner or later, convert sinners, if he sincerely and earnestly calls them to repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, though filled with indignation against sin, with compassion toward the impenitent, and with gratitude to Christ, he should, like St. Paul, in proportion to his strength, wrestle with God by prayer, with sinners by exhortation, and with the flesh by abstinence; yet, even then, as much unequal to that apostle as that apostle was unequal to his Master, he may reasonably despair of frequently beholding the happy effects of his evangelical labours. But if he cannot adopt the following apostolic language, “ Thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place;" he will at least be able to say in his little sphere, “We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish ; to the one we are the savour of death unto death ; and to the other the savour of life unto life,” 2 Cor. ii, 14-16. If he has not, like St. Paul, planted new vines, he is engaged with Apollos in watering those which are already planted; he is rooting up some withered cumberers of the ground, he is lopping off some unfruitful branches, and propping up those tender sprigs which the tempest has beaten down.
He would be the most unhappy of all faithful ministers, had he not some in his congregation to whom he might with propriety address him. self in the following terms :—“Do we need epistles of commendation to you? Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ, ministered not by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart,” 2 Cor. iii, 1–3. “ Are not ye my work in the Lord ? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you; for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus have I begot. ten you through the Gospel,” i Cor. ix, 2; iv, 15.
When a minister of the Gospel, after labouring for several years in the same place, is unacquainted with any of his flock, to whom he might modestly hold the preceding language, it is to be feared that he has laboured too much like the generality of pastors in the present day ; since “the word of God,” when delivered with earnestness and withoui
adulteration, is usually “quick and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow," Heb. iv, 12. “ He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is chaff to the wheat ? saith the Lord. Is not my word like a fire ; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces ? Behold, I am against them that cause my people to err by their lies and by their lightness: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord,” Jer. xxiii, 28–32.
Those ministers who are anxious so to preach and so to conduct themselves as neither to trouble the peace of the formal, nor to alarm the fears of the impenitent, are undoubtedly the persons peculiarly alluded to in the following solemn passage of Jeremiah's prophecy :" Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness. For both prophet and priest are profane ; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord. They walk in lies, (either actually or doctrinally, they strengthen also the hands of evil doers, that none doth return from his wickedness. From the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. They speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say unto them that (secretly] despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran : I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings,” Jer. xxiii, 9-22.
Behold the reason why nothing can so much afflict a faithful minister as not to behold, from time to time, unfeigned conversions effected among the people by means of his ministry. The husbandman, after having diligently prepared and plentifully sowed his fields, is sensibly afflicted when he sees the hope of his harvest swept away at once by a furious storm; but he feels not so lively a sorrow as the charitable pastor who, after having liberally scattered around him the seeds of wisdom and piety, beholds his parish still overrun with the noxious weeds of vanity and vice. If Nabals are still intoxicated ; if Cains are still implacalle ; if Ananiases are still deceitful, and Sapphiras still prepared to favour their deceit; if Marthas are still cumbered with earthly cares; if Dinahs are still exposing themselves to temptation, even to the detri. ment of their honour, and to the loss of that little relish which they once discovered for piety; and if the former still continue to approach God with their lips while their hearts are far from him-a good pastor, at the sight of these things, is pierced through with many sorrows, and feels, in a degree, what Elijah felt, when, overburdened with fatigue and chagrin," he sat down under a juniper tree, and said, It is enough, now, O Lord, take away my life : for I am not better than my fathers,' 1 Kings xix, 4.
Indifference, in a matter of so great importance, is one of the surest marks by which an unworthy pastor may be discerned. Of what consequence is it to a worldly minister whether the flock about which he takes so little trouble is composed of sheep or goats ?
Ile seeks not so
much to benefit his people, as to discharge the mere exterior duties of his office in such a way as may not incur the censure of his superiors in the Church, who, possibly, are not a whit less lukewarm than himself. And if a tolerable party of his unclean flock do but disguise themselves three or four times in a year, for the purpose of making their appear. ance at the sacramental table, he is perfectly satisfied with the good order of his parish, especially when the most detestable vices, such as extortion, theft, adultery, or murder, are not openly practised in it. This outward kind of decency, which is so satisfactory to the worldly minister, and which is ordinarily effected by the constraining force of the civil laws, rather than by the truths of the Gospel, affords the faithful pastor but little consolation. He is solicitous to see his people hunger. ing and thirsting after righteousness, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, and engaging in all the duties of Christianity with as much eagerness as the children of the world pursue their shameful pleasures or trifling amusements; and if he has not yet enjoyed this satisfaction, he humbles himself before God, and anxiously inquires after the reason of so great an unhappiness. He is conscious that if his ministry be not productive of good fruit, the sterility of the word must flow from one or other of the following causes : either he does not publish the Gospel in its full latitude and purity, in a manner sufficiently animating, or in simplicity and faith. Perhaps he is not careful to second his zealous discourses by an exemplary conduct : perhaps he is negligent in imploring the blessing of God upon his public and private labours; or probably his hearers may have conceived inveterate preju. dices against him, which make them inattentive to his most solemn exhortations ; so that, instead of being received among them as an am. bassador of Christ, he can apply to himself the proverb formerly cited by his rejected Master, “No prophet is accepted in his own country," where he is accustomed to be seen without ceremony, and heard without curiosity. If the fault appears to be on his own side, he endeavours to apply the most speedy and efficacious remedies, redoubling his public labours, and renewing his secret supplications with more than ordinary fervour of spirit. But if, after repeated trials, he is convinced that his want of success chiefly flows from the invincible hatred of his flock to the truths of the Gospel, or from the sovereign contempt which his parishioners manifest both to his person and labours, he is then justified in following the example of his unerring Master, who refused to exercise his ministry in those places where prejudice had locked up the hearts of the people against the reception of his evangelical precepts.
When, in such a situation, a pastor is fearful of following the example of our Lord, lest he should be left destitute of a maintenance, in how deplorable a state must he drag through the wearisome days of a useless life! If every sincere Christian is ready to take up his cross, to quit friends and possessions, yea, to renounce life itself, on account of the Gospel, can we consider that minister as a man really consecrated to the service of Christ, who has not resolution sufficient to give up a house, a garden, and a salary, when the welfare of his own soul and the interests of the Church require such a sacrifice ?
When a preacher of the Gospel counts less upon the promises of his Master than upon the revenues of his benefice, may we not reasonably