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Duties of a Minister 3

17 Apr

PART 2

  1. A FAITHFUL MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL WILL BE

“INSTANT” FOR THE CAUSE OF HIS GREAT MASTER, IN

EVERY COMPANY INTO WHICH HE MAY HAPPEN TO

FALL.

 

1 . Our manners, our walk, our language, our whole exterior conduct,

should upon all occasions support the holy dignity of our calling. The most

accustomary familiarities of the world, the discourses of pleasantry the most

entertaining, are for us real indecencies: all that is unworthy of our ministry

is at all times unworthy of us. Some ministers persuade themselves that it is

necessary to accommodate themselves to the taste, the language, and

maxims of the world, that they may not appear bad or morose company: but

remember, my brethren, a minister is never in his place while he suits the

taste of the world; never, unless he be what is called bad company for the

world. From the time that the world seeks him, adopts him, associates with

him, and is pleased with his company, he gives a certain proof that he

respects not the propriety and decency which should invariably accompany

his office. And we may continually observe, that those ministers whom the

world seeks, whom the world applauds, and with whose company the

world in general is delighted, are carnal men, who have reserved nothing of

their holy vocation but the name: the spirit of the world shows itself in their

whole exterior deportment; it discovers itself in the impropriety of their

dress, in the lightness of their conversation, and even of their walk: nay,

often in the little true gravity and sanctity manifested in the performance of

their public duties. “If ye were of the world” says Christ, “the world would

love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you

out of the world, therefore the world hateth you,” <431519>John 15:19.

 

No, my

brethren, the men of the world seek not the company of a holy and

respectable minister; nor is he desirous of associating with them. It is when

they want consolation under affliction: it is when the approaches of death

make them feel themselves near to eternity: ah! it is then they have recourse

to a holy minister; they then regard not those of whom they were before so

fond; they are then conscious that such ministers can be of no service to

them; that they may be good for the things of the world, but are useless as

to the things of heaven. Depend on it, my brethren, it always costs us

something of the dignity and holy gravity of our office to purchase the

friendship and suffrages of men of the world: it is not they who will abate

of their prejudices and false maxims to unite themselves to us; it is we only

who must abate of the holy rules of the gospel to be admitted to their

societies. Let us, then, never lay down before the eyes of the men of the

world the holy gravity of our vocation, or the due and respectable

appearance of a minister of Jesus Christ: let them not be able to distinguish

between the minister in the pulpit and the minister in his usual commerce

with mankind. Let them find him throughout the same; throughout

respecting his character, and making it respectable to others; throughout

discovering the spirit of piety, yea, even by his presence alone.

 

2 . Then, my brethren, if we be at any time witnesses of those vices which

the customs of the world justify, we have a right to condemn them. If the

people of the world, whether rich or poor, indulge themselves before us in

such discourses as are but too common, and which offend either piety,

Christian love, or modesty, our character authorizes us to reprove them.

Nor will the world in general find fault with us, if we endeavor to sanctify

their conversations with pious, edifying remarks; for, as it is somewhere

observed in the Apocrypha, the Lord has dispersed us among the Gentiles,

among the people of the world, who know not God, that we may make

known the wonders of his holy law. No, my brethren, it does not become a

good minister to depart from the company of the people of the world,

without having mixed with their discourse some spiritual and edifying

reflections. When a minister is duly touched with the truths he preaches;

when he daily meditates upon them at the footstool of the throne; when he is

penetrated with an ardent, holy desire for the salvation of souls, it will be

difficult for him to see them wonder and perish, without at least

complaining to them, without taking occasion from their errors and

prejudices to say to them some word of salvation. And how know you, but

a simple and edifying reflection, delivered at a time when he expects it not,

may become to your brother a word of eternal life? He may be on his guard

if he hear you in public, and come prejudiced against the truths you are

delivering; but in a familiar conversation, truth takes the sinner unawares.

Candor, meekness, and simplicity, with the grace of God, will sometimes,

in private discourse, give to a truth, when least looked for, a strength which

it would not otherwise have. The unforeseen arrow is the most sure to reach

its mark. At least, you have done honor to your ministry, and been faithful

to that command of God, “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation.”

 

3 . When I entered on this division of any subject, I only intended to touch

it cursorily. But, considering the magnitude of it, and how seldom it has

been fully treated, I afterward determined to enlarge. And need I here

remind you, brethren, of that peculiar characteristic of the Methodists, that

they are a race of reprovers. It is their reproach, it is their honor, it is the

glory of the cross they bear, that every Christian, of every sect and party,

who dares to become a reprover of vice, is immediately stigmatized with the

name of Methodist. May we never lose that cross, that glory, till vice is

banished from the world, and “the earth is full of the knowledge of the

Lord, us the waters cover the sea!”

 

4 . “But is there not reason to fear, that by becoming thus importunate, we

shall often expose the truth to the contempt and derision of those to whom

we speak?” No, my brethren. A dissipated worldly preacher, I allow, could

but with an ill grace introduce observations of a spiritual nature into the

conversations of people of the world. He has by his vain conduct lost his

right. He would render himself ridiculous indeed, if he should labor to

recall to the minds of others truths which he himself appears to have

forgotten. The doctrines of piety would blush in his mouth; he would be

heard with contempt; and might be asked with a sneer, “Is Saul also among

the prophets?” <091011>1 Samuel 10:11,12. But, on the contrary, a holy minister

gives respectability to all his wise and edifying counsels; the men of the

world themselves will grant him attention, and, even if tired, will not be

surprised; they may reject the truth, but must in secret esteem him who

declares it.

 

I grant that this duty, as well as every thing else, should be guided by

Christian prudence. Christian love, which only desires to be useful, labors

to find out the most opportune moments; and many such will present

themselves in the course of the useless conversations of the men of the

world. They speak together of their affairs, their projects, their

embarrassments, their subjects of complaint against their enemies or

competitors, of their disappointments, and of their misfortunes. Now,

cannot the Spirit of God, which actuates a holy minister, find in all this

innumerable occasions to deplore the sad and agitated life of those who love

the world; to describe to them the peace, the sweetness, the consolations of

a holy Christian life; and to mourn over them, as enjoying no genuine

happiness in the present life, but preparing for themselves in this world a

thousand disturbances, a thousand pains, and misery eternal in the next?

 

5 . On the other hand, my brethren, there are occasions when the fear of

offending should be entirely banished. A minister of the gospel is a public

character, charged with the interests of the glory of God, and the honor of

religion, among men: he ought, therefore, never to suffer men of the world,

whoever they may be, to pass without a bold, though holy, reproof, when

the respect due to the majesty of God is wounded, when the precious and

sublime doctrines of the gospel are treated with derision, when vice is

justified, or holiness and virtue turned into ridicule: in short, when

licentiousness or impiety in discourse dishonors the presence of God and

the presence of his ministers. Ah! it is then that the piety and dignity of a

minister should no more prescribe to him any other measure or bounds but

that of zeal — the zeal which is the flame of love, mixed with the just

indignation of a lover of God. It is then that, charged by his office with the

interests of religion, he should know no one after the flesh; he should forget

the names, the titles, the distinctions of those who forget themselves; he

should remember that he is appointed of God a preacher of righteousness,

and endued with power from heaven to oppose all manner of sin: and,

especially, to set himself with a sacred intrepidity against that impious and

detestable pride which would exalt itself against the knowledge of God.

 

Whatever persons they be who do not treat with respect in your presence

that which is the most respectable of all things in the universe, should not

be respected by you: we ought to hear them with that kind of indignation

with which we believe Christ himself would have heard them. I am

persuaded that the pointed strength of reproof is the only kind of propriety

which our character then imposes upon us; We are not then required to use

soft expressions, “Nay, my son, it is no good report that I hear.” Whether

they will hear, or whether they will forbear, we should deliver our own

souls.

 

It is esteemed honorable by the world to support the interests of a friend

pointedly and boldly, if he be insulted in our presence. Have we then at

such a time a right to impose silence with firmness on the calumniator?

Shall we not disgrace ourselves, and be accounted treacherous, yea, base

and dastardly cowards, if we can suffer our friends to be abused in our

presence without undertaking their defense? And shall we not have the same

zeal to stop the mouth of the impious, and support aloud the interests of

Jesus Christ? Can we imagine that we are his friends, according to that

saying of our Lord, “Henceforth, I call you not servants, but I have called

you friends?” <431515>John 15:15; — can we suppose that we have performed all

which that tender and honorable title requires, by dissembling, — by

contenting ourselves with strengthening through our dastardly silence the

insults with which he is treated, and by sacrificing, through a dishonorable

weakness, through the fear of man, his name and his glory? No, my

brethren, we are not the friends whom Jesus Christ has chosen — this title

disgraces us, if his insulted name does not rouse in us all our love and all

our zeal for his adorable person.

 

6 . O that I could impress these important truths with the fullest conviction

upon all our hearts! What a flame would soon be kindled in the world!

What could not a thousand traveling preachers in Europe and America do

for their Master, if all were thoroughly filled with this spirit of holy zeal!

But should we confine our observation to these alone? Certainly, our local

preachers, exhorters, and even our leaders, are in their respective degrees

called to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. The whole together probably make

not less than fifteen thousand lights to illuminate the world. O that they

were all faithful. “O God, inspire them all with the love of thy glory!” Yes,

fathers and brethren, I know and rejoice in the mighty good which has been

wrought upon the earth by your instrumentality: but you may still do

abundantly more: yea, we might all of us have already been much more

useful than we have been. “Lord, humble us before thee for our past

unfaithfulness.”

 

7 . But I must here observe, brethren, that a minister faithful to his duty,

who respects his office, and loves the people intrusted to his charge, will

find but little time to sacrifice to the useless conversations and dissipated

spirit of the world. He seldom appears among the people of the world; for,

having no taste for their pleasures or amusements, or even for their

company, the unavoidable calls of duty or propriety which require him to be

among them are but rare. We cannot often be in their company, without not

only injuring the divine life within us, but more or less debasing ourselves

and our sacred office in their eyes. All corrupt as the world which lieth in

the wicked one is, it exacts from us virtue without spot, without clouds,

and even without any of those infirmities which are inseparable from

humanity.

 

8 . The more the world is indulgent to itself, the more severe it is in respect

to us: it believes that it may indulge itself in every thing, and yet in us will

pass over nothing. It has perpetually upon us the eyes of malevolent

censors. A word out of order, a simple inattention, the least motion which

may be construed into impropriety, a compliment paid without due

reflection, become in us faults which will not soon be forgotten. The men

of the world, if possible, will give a shade to all our words and actions;

draw from them the most invidious consequences; and even in those

moments when we relax ourselves in their favor from the gravity of our

character they will attribute the whole to a taste of their spirit, and to a secret

approbation of their views which we dare not avow, rather than to

condescension and complaisance toward them. They will at last be bold

enough to tempt us to imitate them in the liberties they take; will treat our

precautions and reserve as the fruits of a minute and contracted spirit; and

for the little we abate in the dignity of our character for the sake of pleasing

them, they will in our absence pay our complaisance with the most insolent

derisions and dishonorable reflections.

 

9 . There is nothing, therefore, my brethren, more deceitful than the idea of

gaining the esteem and good opinion of the world, by familiarizing

ourselves and mixing often with it. The more the world sees us, except in

our public duties, the more will it either hate or despise us. It hates us from

the instant it feels that we will not put up with its manners. Let us very

rarely have any thing to do with it, and we shall appear in its eyes with

greater dignity, and be treated with greater respect. Let us attend to every

due and proper call which the world may justly require of us, as well as to

all the demands of charity and good works; but let us always conduct

ourselves as the ambassadors of Jesus Christ, as in some sense filling his

place. It is then only that our ministerial character, under the grace and

providence of God, will be to us a safeguard against every temptation. But

if we seek the world for the sake of the world, we must conform to its taste

and its manners. We should be badly received upon the present ground,

were we to carry there that holy gravity which should never forsake us. We

should derange its pleasures, disconcert its assemblies, and its liberty of

speech. We should be an intolerable burden to it. Our presence alone would

be horrible; and it would say of us, as the enemies of holiness say of the

righteous man in the Wisdom of Solomon, “He is grievous to us to

behold!” There is no alternative. We must die to the world; or partake of its

spirit. We cannot serve God and mammon.

 

  1. I am very conscious, brethren, that our itinerant plan is to be preferred

to any other in this as in a thousand respects. We are seldom tempted to be

in the world. We must love it exceedingly if we find many occasions to be

in it. Our time is spent between the mount, the multitude, and our own

people. We almost continually reside in families which look for, and which

love and honor, the seriousness and gravity of their preacher. It is their

delight to converse with us on the things of God: if it were not so, they

would be disgraceful members of our society. Yes, it is food to the souls of

our people to have what they have heard in the pulpit pressed upon them in

conversation at the fireside: and we should be the most inexcusable of men,

if we did not improve these precious opportunities among the families we

visit. The Methodist preachers,” said the late Revelation Charles Wesley to

me once “do not fully consider all the blessings of their situation; one of the

greatest of which,” added he, “is that wall of contempt with which you are

surrounded, and which preserves you from a thousand temptations to

which the clergy in general are exposed, by keeping the world at a distance

from you.” But though our calls to mix with the men of the world are but

rare, let us never on such occasions betray our Master, but conduct

ourselves as faithful servants, ambassadors, and friends of Jesus Christ.

 

  1. I may sum up the whole in these words of the apostle,

“But thou, O man of God, flee these things, and follow after

righteousness, godliness, love, patience, meekness,”

<540611>1 Timothy 6:11.

If you were of the world, its interests, its prejudices, its vanities, would be

your portion: you would be obliged to conform to its maxims and language,

to justify it, and to rise up against all those who dare condemn it: but you

are men of God; you are in the world, but you are not of the world: you are

charged in the midst of it with the interests of God, with the care of his

glory, and with the honor of his spiritual worship. The ambassador of a

king speaks only in the name of him employer: he knows no other man

while he acts from the authority, and is concerned with the interests, of the

kingdom he represents: he lays aside the private character, and appears

always in his public capacity. And shall we, brethren, who are ambassadors

 

for the King of kings, men of God in the midst of a world which is at war

with him — shall we lay aside our holy and public character with which he

has invested its, and become men of the world, his enemies, friends? Shall

we blush to speak the language of Him who employs us? Shall we suffer

him to be insulted in our presence without supporting his interests and his

glory — without using the authority with which he has clothed us to set

ourselves with a holy zeal against the despisers of his name, his laws, and

his truth? Shall we, my brethren, forgetting the majesty of Him we

represent, and the honor he has conferred upon us by intrusting his

embassy and authority to us — shall we authorize by our conduct the

maxims of the world, his enemy? Shall we appear to hold intelligence with

it, that its errors and prejudices may prevail over his divine doctrines, and

sacred morals, of which he has made us the public dispensers and

defenders? No, my brethren; let us bear our holy title of men of God, as it

were, upon our foreheads, and through all the minutest particular of our

conduct: let us throughout be men of God: let all our most common actions,

conversation, fellowship, and commerce with mankind, be ennobled and

sanctified by this holy and honorable character: let us never abase ourselves

by laying it aside for a moment; and let us remember that the world will

always respect it in us as long. as we respect it in ourselves.

 

  1. Destroy, then, O our God, in the hearts of thy ministers the strength of

all those obstacles which the world, the flesh, and the devil incessantly

oppose to that zeal which renders them instruments of thy mercies to

mankind: inflame them with that spirit of fire and wisdom which thou didst

shed abroad in the hearts of thy first disciples: let the succession of this

apostolic zeal be transmitted with increasing abundance in thy church, with

the succession of that ministry which thou hast promised to be with always,

even unto the end of the world. <402802>Matthew 28:23. Send forth more laborers

into thy vineyard, men “mighty in deed and word,” whom the world may

not intimidate, whom all the powers of the earth may not be able to shake,

whom worldly interests may never influence, whom thy glory and the

salvation of souls may regulate and animate in all their undertakings; and

who will esteem the opinions of men as nothing, but as far as they

contribute to make thee adored and glorified in all ages!

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

 

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