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Matthew, v. 13.
YE ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH.
There are few public occasions more interesting to the great mass of the people in New England, than the ordination of a minister. And this circumstance, I cannot but regard as a delightful proof, that the fervent piety, the strong attachment to religious institutions, and the elevated tone of christian feeling which distinguished our venerated ancestors, has not wholly lost its influence amidst the widespread error, and the abounding profligacy of our own times.
The occasion to which I have referred ought, indeed, to be regarded as one deeply interesting to all. It presents to public view the consecration of a man, whom a church of Christ has duly called, to the high and responsible office of a christian pastor ;—the public ratification of a union, more solemn in its nature, and more momentous in its consequences, than any other which exists among
men: and all this, under those religious forms, which we believe to be authorized by the great head of the church.
The present, you are aware, christian friends, is one of the occasions to which I have referred. And I have thought that, perhaps, I could not better sustain the part to the performance of which I stand pledged, than by calling your attention to the memorable declaration of our divine Lord which I have just repeated; “ Ye are the salt of the earth.” This, I conceive, he meant should be applied to his disciples directly, and really, to the whole succession of faithful christian ministers, (including, perhaps, faithful christian people) in every age of the world. And the import of the declaration as it respects the ministry, I understand to be, that as salt mixed with many natural substances tends to their preservation, so this ministry, when sustained by the spirit of the Gospel, is that powerful agent which overcomes the moral corruption of mankind, and restores them to comparative health and purity. say, when sustained by the spirit of the Gospel, because as salt, when it has lost its savor, becomes wholly inefficacious, so the ministry, with whatever form and pageantry
may be maintained, becomes useless, or worse than useless, when the vital principle of it, devotion to Christ and to the souls of men, is wanting. “Wherewith shall it be seasoned ? What learning, what eloquence, wliat earthly skill can supply the place, or secure the effects of real godliness, in those who minister at the altar?
The prominent, and at the present time, the appropriate topic presented by the text, is THE INFLUENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY. to discuss; and I shall consider,
This I propose
1. The nature of that influence.
3. The circumstances which are necessary to render it powerful and efficacious, and
4. Some of its important results.
1. I shall consider the nature of that influence which properly belongs to the christian ministry.
Influence, in general, is the power that directs and modifies the objects on which it acts ;-—thus, any one mind, when highly gifted, is a powerful agent in directing other minds, and in forming them to good or to evil.
The influence of the christian ministry is a moral influence, composed of that purity of example, that sanctity of character, and those mighty energies of revealed truth, which, in their combined operation, are adapted to the purpose of bringing mankind from a state of sin to the knowledge and service of God. While this, like every other created influence, derives all its efficacy from him who constituted it, it still acts in perfect coincidence with the laws of the human mind. It is, if I may so express it, dependent power of the highest and best kind; and as really produces the moral effects which we ascribe to it, as natural causes produce the effects which we
ascribe to them. It is, in one word, the visible and palpable medium, through which God acts in the great work of reclaiming to himself a world of sin
The apostle tells us, “it hath pleased God by the foolishness of preaching” (and I suppose in this term he means to include all the appropriate duties of the christian ministry) “ to save them that believe.” Our unhappy race had become involved in spiritual death, and it was needful that there should be some power to arouse them, to pour upon them the light of truth, and to recall them to the paths of holiness and peace. Now, to accomplish this most benevolent purpose, the Head of the Church instituted the ministry of reconciliation, commissioned it to preach the Gospel to every creature, and gave to it the animating promise, ** Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” And that ministry, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord, not in the excellency of man's wisdom, but in the wonder working name of Jesus of Nazareth, has gone forward with its great work, and has multiplied the trophies of its power,
in every christian land ;-yes, and it shall go forward mighty and resistless, like the river of God sweeping away all refuges of lies, and causing a fairer, and brighter, and holier creation to spring up under the influence of its healing
It is the Gospel, it is the doctrine of Jesus Christ and him crucified, it is the amazing fact of the death of the Son of God, that acts by it and through it. Who then can doubt that it will go on,
conquering and to conquer, till he comes whose right it is to reign ?
But if the influence of the christian ministry be intended to accomplish this high and holy purpose, if it be employed as the instrument of heaven's mercy in saving mankind by such means as that mercy has provided, then, surely, it is incumbent on us to consider
2. The proper sphere of its operation.
It is quite evident, that the ministry may be active, may, in some respects, be efficient too, and yet fail of accomplishing the beneficent end of its institution.
Its grand object may either not be pursued, or not be pursued by such methods as God has appointed. From an improper direction of its energies, mankind may remain as unholy, as worldly minded, and as far from the kingdom of heaven as ever. The question therefore, what is the proper sphere of its operation, involves, I had almost said, every thing that is useful or important in the ministry itself.
The object to be kept in view, we have already seen, is the emancipation of mankind from spiritual death, and their introduction into the glorious liberty of the children of God. The ministry, therefore, is legitimately employed, only, when its aims and energies are directed to the accomplishment of this. For this it was instituted ; and on this should centre its desires, its hopes, and its efforts. Men are not called to the sacred office, in order that they