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Duties of a Minister 2

17 Apr

DISCOURSE 1

“I charge thee, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ,

who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his

kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;

reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the

time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after

their own lusts shall the heap to themselves teachers, having itching

ears; and they shall turn ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto

fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work

of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry,”

<550401>2 Timothy 4:1-5.

 

PART 1

1 . The ministerial office is the most important to the human race of any

which is exercised on earth for, according to the order of the dispensation

of grace, the preaching of the gospel is indispensably necessary to raise

mankind out of the ruins of their fall, to deliver them from all the miseries

which spring from an everlasting banishment from God, and to bring them

to the eternal enjoyment of Him, the Sovereign Good, at whose right hand

are pleasures for evermore.

The ministers of the gospel are particularly charged with these high interests

of mankind: they are like those angels whom Jacob beheld on the sacred

ladder, ascending and descending to and from heaven: they are the mouth of

the congregation at the throne of God, and open the bosom of His mercies

upon the miseries of man. They officially speak in the name of Christ,

whom the Father always hears.

 

2 . In a word, my brethren, a faithful ministry is the greatest blessing God

can bestow upon a people: it is the greatest he ever did bestow, except the

gifts of his Son and of his Spirit. What were the peculiar blessings which

the Lord promised by his prophets to the Israelites, if they would turn to

him, and obey his laws? Were they not the conquest of nations the entire

destruction of their enemies, the final period of all the miseries and

calamities which afflicted them, and a country which flowed with milk and

honey for their own habitation? These were the magnificent promises he

made them; and yet they prevailed not upon them to yield obedience to the

divine law, nor restrained them from prostituting their homage to the gods

of the heathen. He then ceased to press upon them these promises, which

were so flattering, and so likely to operate on the minds of a people who in

general were influenced by worldly motives; but it was to make them one

promise more which was a thousand times greater and more precious than

all the rest:

“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, and I will give you

pastors accord in to mine heart, which shall feed you with

knowledge and understanding,” <240314>Jeremiah 3:14, 15.

 

3 . “Raise then in thy church, O most gracious Lord, a sufficiency of

faithful pastors according to thine heart; and particularly call forth from our

connection chosen vessels to carry the savor of Christ’s name to all people;

and, in separating them for the work of the ministry, separate them also for

the sanctification of those to whom they may be sent. We do not so much

request the end of any trials or calamities which afflict us; we ask not

favorable seasons, abundance, or prosperity; we only request a sufficiency

of holy ministers who will die by thy cause, and with them thou wilt give

us all things else.”

 

4 . If we thus consider the gospel in the light of the sanctuary, we shall not

be surprised at the awfulness of the charge which the apostle, in my text,

gives to Timothy, his spiritual son: “I charge thee before God,” the

omnipotent Jehovah, who sees and marks every word and action of our

lives, who tries the heart and reins; from whom no covert can screen us, no

darkness hide us; “but the night shineth as the day; the darkness and the

light are both alike” to him, <19D912>Psalm 139:12. I charge thee also before “the

Lord Jesus Christ,” your Redeemer, who shed his blood for you, and for

the souls intrusted to your care: before Him whose minister you are, and to

whom you must account for the use or abuse of all your talents: before Him

“who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom:”

before whose awful bar you must stand in the presence of an assembled

universe, when he shall appear on his throne with all the splendor and glory

of the King of kings, to establish the eternal reign of his saints, and to

banish all evil ones, and all evil, from the glory of his power for ever: when

thou, O Timothy, shalt receive the exceeding great reward of thy faithful

ministry, or the greater condemnation which awaits the abuse of the most

precious gifts which can be intrusted to man.

Let us now proceed to the particulars of the apostle’s charge, omitting to

enlarge upon the reasons which he gives in the 3d and 4th verses, as they

primarily respect the people, and would lead us into too large a field of

discourse.

 

  1. 1. First, “Preach the word” — The word of God, which is able to save

the soul. You are not ignorant, my brethren, what multitudes of immortal

beings have been brought by this divine word “from darkness to light, and

from the power of Satan unto God.” In those happy moments when a

whole congregation has been softened by this quickening fire, and the

hearts of the people all opened to receive the word, a single expression has

pierced to the quick, and produced its full effect. hundreds of thousands in

the course of the present revival have been enlightened by it, and have been

undeceived concerning the abuses and pernicious maxims of the world,

which they once thought innocent, because authorized by the common

usage of mankind, or by the preaching of blind guides. Innumerable have

been the profanations and disorders which have been prevented; and

innumerable the precious souls which have been drawn out of the abyss of

misery and sin in which they had so long lain. It is impossible for any but

God to number of the cries of compunction which have arisen from

awakened hearts, or the holy desires inspired into them. Scores of

thousands have been brought to God, and established in grace, who either

have been safely lodged in Abraham’s bosom, or are now living witnesses

of Christ’s power to save. It is impossible to enumerate the graces and

blessings which have been conferred upon the world, and especially from

these kingdoms, by the means of the present revival. Surely it may be said

of every faithful minister, as it was of his Lord, that “he is set for the rising

again of many in Israel,” <420234>Luke 2:34.

 

2 . The good which one single minister, true to the cause in which he has

engaged, can do in the course of his life by a faithful ministry of the word,

is not easily to be described. How many of the ignorant he may instruct,

how many sleepy consciences arouse, how many daring sinners confound;

how many mourners he may bring into the liberty of the children of God,

how many believers confirm in grace, yea, lead into the enjoyment of

perfect love! Blessed be the Lord, we have had our ministers, who were

formed according to the model of Jesus Christ, according to his simplicity,

his unction, his sacred zeal. We have had our WESLEYS, our FLETCHERS, our

GRIMSHAWS, and our WALSHES. Every thing was borne down by their holy

eloquence, and by the power of the Spirit of God, who spoke through

them. The villages, the towns, the cities, could not resist the impetuosity of

their zeal, and the eminent sanctity of their lives; the tears, the sighs, and the

deep compunction of those who heard them, were the commendations

which accompanied their ministry. The strictness of their manners left

nothing for the world to say against the truths which they delivered. The

simplicity of their spirit, and the gentleness of their conversation and

conduct toward others but severity toward themselves, belied not the gospel

of which they were ministers. Their examples instructed, persuaded, and

struck the people almost as much as their sermons: and the Spirit of God,

who inflamed their hearts, the divine fire with which they themselves were

filled, spread itself through the coldest and most insensible souls; and

enabled them almost everywhere to raise chapels, temples to God, where

the penitents and believers might assemble to hear them, and each return

inflamed like themselves, and filled with the abundance of the Spirit of

God. O what good is one apostolic man capable of working upon earth!

There were no more than twelve employed to begin the conversion of the

world.

 

3 . Elijah, ascending to heaven, and leaving his spirit of zeal to his disciple

Elisha, was designed as a type of Jesus Christ; who, after he had ascended

to the right hand of the Father, sent down on his disciples that spirit of zeal

and of fire which was the seal of their mission; by which they were to set

on fire and purify the world, and carry to all nations the knowledge of

salvation and the love of truth and righteousness. Scarcely are they thus

filled with the Holy Spirit, but these men, before so timid, so careful to hide

themselves, to withdraw themselves from the fury of the Jews, leave their

retreat like generous lions, know danger no more, bear in their countenance

an intrepidity in the way of duty which sets at defiance all the powers of the

earth, boldly bear their testimony for Christ before the assembly of chief

priests, and depart from the council, rejoicing to be thought worthy to

suffer reproach for Jesus’ holy name.

 

4 . Judea cannot satisfy the ardor and extent of their zeal. They pass from

city to city, from nation to nation; they spread themselves to the extremities

of the earth; they attack the most ancient and most authorized abuses; they

tear away from the most barbarous people the idols which their ancestors

had at all times adored. They overturn the altars which continual incense

and homage had rendered respectable; they preach up the reproach and

foolishness of the cross to the most polished nations, who piqued

themselves most upon their eloquence, philosophy, and wisdom. The

obstacles which all things present to their zeal, instead of abating it, only

give it new force, and seem everywhere to announce their success: the

whole world conspires against them, and they are stronger than the world:

crosses and gibbets are shown them, to put a stop to their preaching; and

they answer that they cannot but declare what they have seen and heard; and

they publish on the housetops what was confided to them in secret: they

now expire under the axe of the executioner: new torments are invented to

extinguish with their blood the new doctrine which they preach; and their

blood preaches it still more after their death; and the more the earth is

watered with it, the more does she bring forth new disciples to the gospel.

Such was the spirit of the ministry and apostleship which they received, for

these are in some sense but one and the same: every minister of the gospel

is an apostle and ambassador of Jesus Christ among men. O that God

would increase the number of those who are willing to preach and to die for

Jesus Christ! “Preach,” then, “the word.”

  1. But I proceed to the second particular contained in the apostle’s charge:

“Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all

longsuffering and doctrine.”

 

  1. BE ALWAYS READY AND ALWAYS ZEALOUS FOR THE

PUBLIC DUTIES OF YOUR OFFICE.

 

1 . You are perhaps afraid of dissipation of mind, and of all the unavoidable

dangers to which your zeal will expose you; but it is this fear, which,

through grace, will support you under them: we cannot fill our office with

fidelity and safety without possessing much of this holy, filial fear.

 

You

think yourself unworthy of a ministry so holy and so glorious; but it is this

sentiment itself which makes you evangelically worthy of it. No one can

exercise it in a manner worthy of God, who does not feel himself extremely

unworthy of it. You have a taste perhaps for retirement; but is this the taste

or the rule which should determine your duties? Are you become a public

minister, that you should live to yourself alone? indeed, your taste for

retirement, if properly used, and duly restrained, will, under the blessing of

God, assure the success of your public labors. Perhaps you are diffident

concerning your gifts; but is it not a great gift to possess an ardent desire for

the salvation of souls? With a heart penetrated and inflamed by this desire, a

minister will always succeed; it is in some degree a substitute for other

talents: what shall I say? It forms them in him.

 

Whereas, with the most

shining talents, without this tender love for souls, this apostolic zeal, we are

but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Only put yourselves into the

hands of those who are appointed to govern; they will employ you

according to your gifts and strength; it is not in you that in this instance it

appertains to judge. Blessed be the Lord, the field is various; they will find

out for you the place which suits you; and if nature has not bestowed on

you all the powers of oratory, the grace of God, and the spirit of the

missionary, will give you every thing necessary.

 

2 . Let us all, fathers and brethren, remember that, whatever be our talents,

whatever be our views, we are essentially wrong if we suffer them to lead

us out of the path of duty or the order of our station. We are commanded to

“be instant in season, out of season:” a minister, therefore, must perish in

the inutility of a life of retirement and repose; the duties of his ministry, and

the wants of the church of God, permit him not to enjoy them. “Nothing is

more opposed,” says St. Chrysostom, “to the spirit of the ministry to which

the church of Christ has joined us, than a quiet and retired life, which many

erroneously regard as the kind of life the most sublime and perfect.” No,

my brethren, nothing is safe for us but that which God requires of us. True

devotion is not the work of human taste and caprice; it is a divine gift, and

always in the order of God. The distrust of ourselves is a great virtue when

it makes us more attentive to the fulfillment of our duties; but it is an

illusion, a vice, when it draws us from them.

 

3 . Let us now, my brethren, in concluding this division of our subject, call

to mind the different sources from whence arises the defect of zeal in

ministers of the gospel. Indeed, we cannot too often set them before our

eyes; for they are the poisoned fountains from whence flow all the evils of

the church of Christ.

 

The first is, the love of this world and its conveniences: no sooner does

every thing commodious in the present life offer its tempting baits, but with

too many that fire of zeal, that flame of love for the salvation of souls,

vanishes away like the morning dew, to the astonishment of the discerning

beholder.

 

The second is, a defect of the love of God: it must be nearly extinguished in

our hearts, if we can daily behold the disorders and infidelity which

continually dishonor the name and holy religion of our God, without

embracing the most effectual method, if we be really called to the ministry

of the word, to stem the torrent.

 

The third is, a defect of love to mankind: for can those who are chosen of

God to the great work of snatching immortal spirits out of the burning, love

them, an yet calmly see them perish?

 

The fourth is, such a respect for men as makes us seek their friendship and

esteem at the expense of truth; I mean that baseness of spirit which ties our

tongues before them, and makes us prefer our own glory and our own

interests to the love of Christ and the interests of his church. Fortitude,

disinterestedness, a holy generosity, a wise and heroic firmness, are the

constant fruits of the true ministerial grace and office; and if these

sentiments be effaced from the heart of a minister, the grace of his vocation

is utterly extinct.

 

The fifth is, the indulgence of some secret vice; for what true zeal can that

preacher have against the vices of the world, who indulges himself in any

secret sin?

 

The sixth is, a dull, lukewarm spirit: zeal is a holy fervor, which gives its

first attention to ourselves. Alas! he who can indulge in himself a stupid,

lethargic spirit, will make but a miserable reprover of the deadness of

devotion which he observes in others.

 

The seventh, and last, is a timid and misinformed piety. Some refuse to

devote themselves. wholly to the work of the ministry, or give it up when

they have entered upon it, through a pious delusion. They make piety itself

a pretext to dispense with the rules of piety: they are afraid to lose their own

souls; but they are not afraid to lose the souls of those whom they are called

of God to be the instruments of saving. They believe they ought to fly from

those dangers to which the order of God, and of the church to which they

belong, calls them: and this flight is the only danger of which they are

ignorant, and yet the greatest they have to fear.

 

4 . In short, my brethren, it is in vain that our morals are otherwise

irreprehensible: it is not sufficient to lead a prudent and regular life before

the eyes of the world: if we be not penetrated with a lively sorrow at seeing

the lost estate of the souls around us; if we do not arm ourselves with the

seal of faith and love, and with that sword of the Spirit which is the word of

God, to bring them out of their ways of error; if we do not exhort them

“with all longsuffering and doctrine;” if we be not “instant in season and out

of season”; if we content with our own fancied righteousness, we imagine

ourselves safe in reproving and rebuking by our examples, or, like old Eli,

in only softly condemning the vice of others; our pretended virtue or

holiness, indolent, inactive, lethargic, is a crime, an abomination before

God: we feel not ourselves charged with the interests of God upon earth;

we live only for ourselves; we are no more ambassadors of Jesus Christ;

we are easy, useless spectators of the reproaches cast upon him and his

holy religion; and, by our silence and insensibility, consent to the crimes,

and are partakers of the guilt, of those who crucify him afresh. No, my

brethren let us not deceive ourselves; for, as I have already said, and must

repeat again, however well regulated the life of such a minister may seem,

he has but the appearance of piety; he has not the foundation and truth of it:

he seems to live, but he is dead in the sight of God: men perhaps may praise

him, but God curses him: the regularity of his life now lulls him to sleep;

but a terrible sound, and the clamors of the souls which he has suffered to

perish, shall one day awaken him thoroughly: he calms his mind, because

he bears a cold, dry testimony in favor of evangelical truths; or because he

compares the regularity of his life with that of many others called ministers;

but he shall one day see that his righteousness was but that of a Pharisee,

and shall in the end be ranked with the hypocrites and unprofitable servants,

<402530>Matthew 25:30.

 

5 . Ah! What, my brethren! A minister of Jesus Christ, sent to do his work

upon earth, to enlarge his kingdom, to advance the building of his eternal

city for him to see the reign of the devil prevail over that of Jesus Christ in

the place or places where he labors; and his faith, his love, his pretended

piety to suffer him to be quiet and at rest! Can a minister of the gospel hear

the name of Jesus, and the truth as it is in him whose place he fills, and

whom he professes to love and honor, daily derided or denied by word or

deed, and not be filled with zeal for the cause of his great Master so

opposed! What shall I say? Certainly he would speak with the authority

which the dignity of his office always gives him, and endeavor to inspire

sentiments more worthy of religion in those perverse, corrupted men: or he

would be a base coward, a prevaricator, a minister who betrayed his

ministry, if a criminal insensibility, or a carnal or timid prudence, could on

such occasions shut his mouth; and he all this time believe himself innocent

of the blood of souls! Can a faithful shepherd see his sheep precipitate

themselves into the abyss without running after them, and making them at

least to hear his voice? Nay, when a single sheep had wandered, he would

traverse the mountains, and endure the most painful toils, to bring it back

again on his shoulders, <421501>Luke 15. No, my brethren, the man just now

described is not a shepherd, not a minister of Jesus Christ; I reclaim the

name; he is a usurper, who falsely bears that honorable title; and,

notwithstanding all his profession, has willfully made himself a vessel of

reprobation and shame, placed in the temple of God!

 

6 . But it may be urged, that a traveling preacher in our connection is

responsible only for the societies under his care. The objector must certainly

have forgotten, or never have read, the rules of a preacher, which we have

all so solemnly promised to obey. The eleventh runs thus: — “You have

nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work;

and go always not only to those that want, but to those that want you most.

Observe! It is not your business only to preach so many times, and to take

care of this or that society, but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as

many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and, with all your power,

to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord.”

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Posted by on April 17, 2016 in academics, Bible, church, leadership, theology

 

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