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2 TIYOTHY, II: 2.
The things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same
commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
The things which Timothy had heard of Paul, was the gospel of Christ. The men, to whom he was to commit this gospel, were the elders and teachers of the church, whom he was appointed to ordain. The import of the text, therefore, is, that the ministers of Christ should be faithful men, who are able to teach others also. The duties of their office require this. They are commissioned to interpret the sacred oracles ; to open to men the true paths of salvation; and to gather a church to be the pillar and ground of the truth, and the light of the world. Where this office has been wisely and faithfully discharged, our divine religion has been like the sweet star, which hung o'er Bethlehem's towers, shedding forth a heavenly radiance, and guiding to the promised Saviour. It has spread abroad light as the morning; roused the intellectual world from the slumber of ages ; wrested from the prince of darkness his captive sons, and recalled them to the allegiance of heaven. But wherever the ministry has been debased by ignorance, or corrupted by heresy and impiety, christianity has been divested of her divine simplicity and beauty; and be
rest of her power to guide the understanding, and to win the heart. The lights of the church have dimly shone through the mists of error; the moral horizon has been overcast with clouds, and rent with storms and tempests. These things teach us, that the sacred office is the most responsible trust, ever committed to human hands. The purity of the christian doctrines, the preservation of the public morals, the progress of Christ's kingdom through the earth, and the glory of God in his redeemed church, are inseparably connected with its wise and faithful execution. I need, therefore, offer no apology, for being guided in my remarks, by the general import of the text, and discoursing, at this time, on the qualifications and faithfulness of a gospel minister. The limits of a single discourse, however, will permit me only to glance at a few of the points, embraced in this plan ; and to place here and there a landmark, to guide him, who desires, and intends to be faithful to the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made him overseer.
The first and most important qualification of a minister is true piety. On this point, there is a universal agreement among all those, who are worthy of the christian name. By piety, I mean something more than a mere belief of the truth, or warm, indiscriminate zeal; something more than strong sectarian feeling, or a good moral deportment, and the kindly exercise of the social affections. I mean a radical moral change of heart, produced by the powers of the Holy Ghost, and accompanied with a firm belief, and a cordial reception of the great doctrines of grace, together with a life of self-denial and practical godliness. The piety of a minister should be like the path of the just. A
dawning light, which shineth more and more unto perfect day. A wise and appropiate division of his time, will aid the pastor in cultivating his moral affections. Without this, indeed, nothing will be done as it should be, in the closet, in the study, or among his people. The piety of many a minister has sunk into an ungodly apathy, and his intellectual character to a premature dotage, for the want of energy and decision enough to make, and to maintain a wise and proper division of his time. In making this division, a supreme regard should be had to the hours of devotion. Unless these are fixed and sacredly regarded, the concerns of his own soul, will be neglected. His heart will become like the field of the slothful, and the vineyard of the man void of understanding. His piety, instead of resembling the verdure of spring, will be like the seared foliage of autumn. The frosts of moral death will spread their chills over every feeling and every action; and he will fail to accomplish the great end of the ministry. The influence of the christian ministry on the world, is chiefly a moral influence. The most brilliant talents, the most “exact and varied learning," will be, to a great extent, useless, unless accompanied with the energies of a living piety. Lucid reasoning on truth, elegant moral discussions, appeals to conscience and to feeling, accompanied by all that is pleasing in voice and action ; unless flowing from a heart fired with zeal for God, and love for souls, will fall from the preacher's lips, cold and powerless as the moon-beams on mountains of ice. The minister of Jesus, who would be the honored instrument of building up the church, and saving souls, must make a business of cultivating his own piety. He must be
emptied of self, that he may be filled with the fullness of God. He must have a deep and living fountain of piety opened in his own heart, which continually sends forth its sacred streams, in his public discourses and private addresses; and make his whole ministry speak the language of Paul, when he says, Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they may be saved. Without this, he will be left to struggle in the mighty work of the ministry, for which an angel is insufficient, uncomforted and unsupported by the cheering influences of the Holy Spirit.
Next to piety, the most important qualification of a minister, is an ability to interpret the word of God, so as to convey to others the true intent and meaning of the Holy Ghost. In the first age of the church, there were inspired interpreters of divine truth. This gift must now be attained by study and much prayer. Besides a critical knowledge of the languages, in which the scriptures were written ; it requires much collateral information. In the sacred books, there are some things hard to be understood. They abound with allusions to the history of the Jews, their geog : raphy and scenery, to their customs, manners, and religion. Many of the choicest moral sentiments, are conveyed in parables and imagery purely oriental. To understand these, the interpreter must not only be familiar with whatever belonged to the Jewish people, or their country; but needs some acquaintance with Egypt, Arabia, and Chaldea, where the people of God journeyed, or were held in bondage. No man can be sure that he teaches those things, which Christ and his apostles taught, unless he is able to understand and to explain the sacred scriptures. Many of the