Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

may gain a livelihood, or make a figure in the world. They are not called to it as a mere appendage to a well organized society, to take a place in the funeral procession, to get up a Sabbath's entertainment, or, for the sake of companionship with the affluent and the refined. No;—they are invested with the high office of ambassadors for Christ. Their business is, to negociate peace and reconciliation between offending creatures and the offended majesty of heaven, to lead the thoughtless and the unbelieving to a knowledge of salvation, to point the perishing sinner to the heavenly paradise, and to lead the way by an example, in which lives and breathes the spirit of christianity.

It is, indeed, a subordinate end of the ministry to promote the temporal welfare of mankind, to watch over the interests of learning, and to patronise all institutions which are fitted to improve, refine, or elevate society. Although mental improvement be not religion, still, experience has shown that it is eminently subservient to it. The one so much promotes the other, that both flourish best when they exist together. The common school, therefore, to say nothing of higher institutions, will be an object of lively interest to the enlightened minister of Christ. Intellectual culture he will regard, at least, as preparatory to moral and religious culture; and while he is encouraging the young to gain a knowledge of the useful arts and sciences, he will not feel that he is neglecting his master's work, or that he is losing sight of the great object of his mission-the

[ocr errors]

preparation of immortal beings for the society of angels, and of just men made perfect.” Whatever services too, are required by enlightened patriotism or expanded philanthropy, are worthy the ambassador of him who wept over the approaching desolations of his own beloved Jerusalem ; and who was constantly employed in alleviating the pains, the sicknesses, and the sorrows of humanity. As the minister of a religion, which, in all its institutions, and doctrines, and precepts, breathes peace on earth, and good will towards men, he may well connect himself with every department of benevolence, and every labor of love ; he may well imitate his Lord in the social virtues, as well as in the sublimer, and more spiritual labors of his holy vocation. But still, every thing in the employments of a minister must have a subserviency to, and ultimate bearing on the immortal interests of man. The principal aim of his studies and his labors should be, to win souls to Christ and to heaven. This is the paramount object that should fire his soul, and call into action bis strongest energies, and engage his best powers. Of course, then, there are some things which are admired in other men, that cannot be reckoned among the prominent excellencies of the minister. It is, in my opinion, poor praise to say of him that he is the best farmer, or the best politician that can any where be found. Such was not Paul, and such can no man be, who is duly intent on his master's work. We are not formed with sufficient capacities to excel in every thing ; nor has the minister, amidst the

[ocr errors]

multiplied avocations of this busy and excited age, time for every thing. Having, therefore, been called to the most responsible office on earth, let him be content with well discharging its duties, and at the same time, let him be content with nothing less.

But it is time to consider,

3. What circumstances are necessary to render the influence of the christian ministry powerful and efficacious.

No inconsiderable part of mankind have believed, that, to secure its best effects, it must be wedded to the state,-must enjoy the patronage of the civil authority, and must be maintained under the imposing forms of a national establishment. But so thought not the puritan fathers of New England ; so thought not the Head of the church himself, as appears from that most comprehensive declaration, my kingdom is not of this world. Christianity is of heavenly origin ; it is itself a life giving power; it acts with its own irresistible energies, and needs no arm of man to promote its triumphs. Let there be, on the part of its ministers, a faithful inculcation of divine truth, a devotedness to their work which is inspired by a deep sense of the love of Christ, an example concentrating the virtues of the divine life, and reflecting the beauty of holiness, and, as no earthly power can aid, so no earthly power can prevent its glorious success.

But while we disclaim all foreign aid, there are circumstances connected with the ministry itself, in

dispensably necessary to secure the full benefit of its influence. And here I allude to the personal qualifications of those, who fill the sacred office. It is surely not enough, that men take upon themselves the name and habit of the ministry. Their usefulness depends upon the manner in which they perform its duties,-upon the ability and the disposition to act worthy their sacred calling. Who does not know, for instance, that a competent measure of learning is quite indispensable in the sacred

profession? The age of inspiration and of miraculous gifts is gone by. Religious, like all other kinds of knowledge, must now be gained by study, and by the vigorous use of the intellectual powers. Nor can any man successfully teach the ignorant, till he himself is taught ; or lead the blind, till he himself has been made to see. He must be mighty in the Scriptures, who would convince the unbelieving, or feed the flock of God with knowledge. He must know the errors of mankind, who would hope to counteract them. He must be acquainted with the waywardness of the human heart, who would bring it into subjection to Christ. He must be able in argument, and powerful in language, who would carry on a successful warfare with the darkness of this world. I may add too, the age in which we live is rapidly advancing in arts, in enterprise, and in intellectual improvements; and the minister who is behind it, can, of course, exert but a feeble influence upon its destinies. We must throw ourselves upon

the mighty current-we must be borne along

with it-we must partake of its impulse and its excitement, or our labors, however well intended, will be almost in vain. If an able ministry were ever necessary, it is peculiarly so at the present time; for, in the accomplishment of its high and holy purposes,

it has to oppose more vigor of intellect, more acuteness of argument, and more plausibility of error, than in any former age. The enemy has, at length, entrenched himself in learning and philosophy; and they who would assail him with success, must be able to wield his own weapons.

And as there must be learning to render the ministry powerful and efficacious, so also, there must be courage. A timid and compromising ministry cannot meet the exigencies of the age. Error is bold, and must be met with a fearless spirit. Unless the defenders of the truth can say with Paul, in view of the dangers and difficulties that surround them, none of these things move me ; unless they can endure as good soldiers the frowns, as well as flatteries of the world ; unless they can persevere through evil report, as well as good report, always vigilant, always resolute, always active, they will be compelled to yield the palm of victory to the enemies of the cross. But with all this boldness there must also be mingled the meek and gentle spirit of the Gospel. Such a spirit, whatever may be our first impressions, not incompatible even with a martyr's boldness. Who was more resolute, who less disposed to compromise in the discharge of his sacred duties, than St. Paul ? And yet, he declares to the church of

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »