Duties of a Minister 4

17 Apr


“Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an

evangelist, make full proof thy ministry,” <550405>2 Timothy 4:5.



In my discourse on the former part of the apostle’s charge to Timothy, I

considered the zeal which the ministers of the gospel should constantly

manifest for the salvation of souls; particularly in all the public duties of

their office, and by the improvement of every opportunity afforded them to

bear a testimony for God to the people of the world. We now proceed to

speak upon the remaining particulars of this solemn charge.


  1. “Watch thou in all things.” The duty of watchfulness cannot be too

strongly impressed on every private Christian; for, without the constant

exercise of it, the life of God cannot possibly be preserved in the soul. But

to enlarge on the duty as it respects the private character would carry me

beyond the limits of a discourse; and therefore I shall chiefly consider it as it

belongs to the office of a minister of the gospel.

The spirit of our ministry is a spirit of separation from the world; of prayer

and secret intercession for the souls of men, and, especially for the church

of Christ; of labor; of firmness and fidelity; of knowledge; and of piety. Our

watchfulness, therefore, as ministers, should be particularly directed against

those things which oppose the above essential properties of the spirit of our







1 . That unction from above which reserves us, sanctifies us, sets us apart

for the ministry, (and if we have not received it we are no ministers,)

withdraws us also from all the other public functions of society; not that we

cease from being citizens of our country, or from the obedience and

submission due to the king, and all that are in authority — to the powers

that are; for “the powers which be are ordained of God,” <451301>Romans 13:1;

but the ministry of the word is become our great employment; the public

temples of God, “where his honor dwelleth,” are our places of public

resort; the visitation of the sick and the poor, and all the other works of

piety and charity, our subordinate tasks; and prayer and praise our

recreation and pleasure.


2 . All things then should be holy in a minister of the gospel, and separated

from common use. His tongue should only discourse of God: useless

conversations at least, however harmless in themselves, defile his tongue;

as, under the law, a holy vessel would have been defiled by common

meats. His eyes have entered into covenant not to behold vanity; or if they

do, they lose, without genuine repentance, the right of entering into the

interior of the tabernacle, to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus

Christ. In short, the whole person of a minister of Christ should be a living

example of true religion, which ought always to be surrounded with

decency, gravity, and respect.


3 . This, then, is the first point — to watch against the desire of worldly

things: for the cares, the solicitudes, the employments of the world, when

you enter into them, will rob you of your unction, however your natural or

improved talents may remain; and will not only profane, but in time entirely

destroy all the genuine virtue of your vocation, and bring you thoroughly

under the yoke of the world. The vessels and ornaments which were used

in the temple under the law were never appropriated to common use; it

would have been a crime which would have defiled their consecration: now

a minister of the gospel, consecrated to God by his own blessed Spirit, in a

manner infinitely more holy than that of the sacred vessels and ornaments

under the law, defiles and profanes abundantly more his consecration, if he

makes his person, his talents, his spirit, his heart, to serve to dead works

and the common employments of the world. O thou holy doctrine of the

cross, how little art thou known by those ministers who enter into the

affairs, agitations, and commotions of this miserable world! The apostle has

warned them in vain, that


“no man who warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this

life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier,”

<550204>2 Timothy 2:4.


Alas! these become principal actors on the stage of the world. The

dispensers of the truths and blessings of Heaven become the ministers of

carnal views and projects: those whom God has charged with the eternal

interests of the people, neglect them, and make it their glory to spend their

strength in carrying on worldly affairs.







Although it is the privilege of a faithful minister to have a river of peace

continually flowing in his soul, yet, paradoxical as it may appear, his life, at

the same time, is a life of prayer, lamentation, and complaint. The Prophet

Isaiah, on a prophetic view of the great millennium, “when all flesh should

come to worship before the Lord,” cried out,

“Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her;

rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her,”

<236610>Isaiah 66:10, 23.

When we see so large a part of the inhabitants of the globe lying in the

wicked one, covered with heathen or Mohammedan darkness; — or, what

is still worse, when we see infidelity reigning in the midst of the blaze of

gospel day, it is impossible, if we breathe the true spirit of the gospel

ministry, but we shall be daily, yea, habitually praying between the porch

and the altar, with groanings which cannot be uttered. <290217>Joel 2:17;

<450826>Romans 8:26. Jesus Christ, the prince and model of ministers, wept over

Jerusalem, when he saw her hardened in her blindness. Yes, my brethren,

as long as Satan reigns upon earth, the true ministers of God will more or

less mourn and lament. As long as the children of Israel, on the plain,

employ themselves in dances and revels, forget the God of their fathers,

and madly prostitute their homage to the golden calf, the true Moseses on

the mountains will tear their garments — will break their hearts before the

Lord. “The world will rejoice,” says Christ to his apostles: its children will

run on dancing and sending forth cries of joy, till they precipitate

themselves into the abyss. Let their laughter and their sports be their

portion: let that holy sorrow which is consistent with constant joy in the

Holy Ghost be ours. The world, in the midst of which we live, will be

continually to us a spectacle of grief and concern; and even when they

persecute us not, though crosses and gibbets do not attend us, their entire

depravation will itself alone be an unexhausted source of lamentation before






  1. We fill a laborious office. The church of Christ upon earth is a vineyard,

a field, a harvest, a building which should be daily rising and growing to

perfection, and a holy warfare — all terms which announce cares and

fatigues; all symbols of labor and application.


  1. This the time of a minister of the gospel is due to the church: all the days

and moments which he employs in the commerce of the world, in

dissipation, or in the vanities of worldly society, except where occasional

duties call him, are days and moments which were due to the salvation of

his fellow-creatures, and of which those souls which suffer through his

neglect will demand a strict account at the tribunal of Jesus Christ. By the

divine unction he has received, and by his devotion of himself to the

ministry — the church of Christ has acquired, a peculiar property in his

person, his leisure, his occupations, and his talents. These are all now

consecrated things, which form part of the property of the church of God.

He is only the depositary of them, and has no right to dispose of them at his

pleasure: he is responsible for them to God and his church. It is not for

himself that he has been numbered among the ministers of Christ, but for

the church, that he may bear his part in her toils and ministry. He degrades

the title she has given him when he abandons the labors she has appointed

for him: he ceases to be a minister, from the moment he ceases to be a

laborer: he spends in worldly commerce and frivolous occupations that time

on which rolls the salvation of the souls among whom he should have toiled

— that time on which depends the eternal destiny of his brethren — that

time to which God has attached the salvation of sinners, the strengthening

of the weak, and the perfecting of the strong. “May the Spirit of the Holy

One increase our zeal!”







  1. We are appointed to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, in season and out of

season, with all longsuffering and doctrine.” The public vices should

always find us inflexible, inexorable. The countenance of a minister of

Christ should never blush at the reproaches which never fail to accompany

the liberty and faithful execution of his office. He bears written on his

forehead, with much more true majesty than the high priest of the law,

HOLINESS TO THE LORD, <022836>Exodus 28:36. The divine unction which the

Spirit of God has bestowed upon him for the ministry of the gospel is a

grace of strength and courage it inspires the soul marked by this divine zeal

with an heroic disposition, which raises it above its own natural weakness;

which puts into it noble, great, and generous sentiments, worthy of the

dignity of its ministry; and gives it an elevation of mind which raises it

above the fears, the hopes, — the reputation, — the reproaches, and every

thing else, which rule over and regulate the conduct of the generality of

men: yea, which bestows upon us that ministerial vigor and apostolic fire

which so gloriously manifested themselves in the founders and first heroes

of our divine religion.


  1. Now this spirit of firmness and fidelity is precisely the character the

most opposed to the spirit of the world. For the spirit of the world is

continually shown in a commerce of attentions, complaisance, art, and

management: it seems to have hardly an opinion of its own: it can overlook,

if not applaud, an improper sentiment covered with art and delicacy: it can

bend, yea, accustom its ears to the witty, but cruel touches of smooth

malevolence; and can suffer, without reproof, rebuke, or exhortation, the

preference which is daily given to the gifts of nature over those of grace. In

short, the minister (so called) who will live in the bustle of the world, must

think, or at least speak, as the world does: he must not discover the firm

and serious spirit of a minister of God: if he did, he would soon become its

butt and its laugh; and all his worldly plans would be entirely defeated. No:

we, who should be the salt of the earth, would in such case be obliged to

lend ourselves, to accommodate ourselves, and to putrefy with the children

of this earth. We who are called to be the censors of the world, would soon

become in some sense its panegyrist: we, who should be the lights of the

world, would by our open suffrage, or by our base, dastardly silence,

perpetuate its blindness: in short, we, who should be instrumentally the

resource and salvation of the world, would miserably perish with it.


  1. Nothing, my brethren, so softens the firmness and fidelity of the

ministerial spirit as the busy commerce of the world. We enter by little, and

imperceptibly, into its prejudices, its excuses, and all its vain reasonings.

The more we meddle with it, the less we find it culpable. We can at last

even plead for its softness, its idleness, its luxury, and its ambition. We

begin, like the world, to give soft names to all these passions and

indulgences; and that which confirms us in this new system of conduct is,

that we have the universal plaudit of worldly men; for they will give to our

baseness and cowardice the specious names of moderation, elevation of

spirit, and a talent for making virtue amiable; while they give to the contrary

conduct the odious names of littleness, rusticity, excess, and hardness of

heart, only fit to withdraw men from goodness, and render piety hateful or

contemptible. Thus we treat obligingly a world which gives to our baseness

and unfaithfulness all the honors due to prudence; and we believe it not to

be so guilty as is commonly imagined among believers, from the time we

love its esteem. For, alas! my brethren, there are too few of the Sauls and

Barnabases who would not relax from the truth, though they thereby caused

themselves to be stoned even by those people who, a few moments before,

would have offered incense to them as gods just descended from heaven!


  1. The spirit of ministerial firmness and fidelity is therefore absolutely

incompatible with the busy commerce of the world: you will no more find

any thing there to reprove, in proportion as you familiarize yourselves with

those things which are reprehensible in it: you will lose the views of those

great rules of conduct which have governed the faithful ministers of God in

all the ages of the church: you will no longer cultivate those seeds of divine

science which, through grace, have helped to make you useful in the Lord’s

vineyard: the Scriptures, and the writings of the best divines, will became

strange and tiresome: you will soon have lost your taste for them; and you

will prefer to those serious studies, so conformable to your ministerial

duties, books which, to you, should be comparatively vain and frivolous;

but which render you more serviceable and agreeable to the world to which

you have delivered up yourself. These observations lead me to a fifth

reflection on this head; namely, that,






  1. The lips of a minister of the gospel are the public depositories of the

doctrines of divine truth: we are required, like the prophet, to devour the

book which contains the law and the gospel, notwithstanding all the

bitterness which may accompany our studies and watchings: we must

nourish our souls with the bread of the word of God, as it were by the

sweat of our brow; and adorn our souls internally with the divine law, as

the Jewish priests adorned themselves eternally with their sacred garments.

The divine writings are the basis and substance of our gospel ministry,

which we may compare to the two great lights which God has set in the

firmament: like them, we should rule over the day and the night; over the

day, in guiding the faith and piety of believers; and over the night, in

clearing our minds from all darkness of error, and filling them with spiritual

light. We are the chief interpreters of the divine law and gospel, the guides

of the people, the seers and prophets appointed by Christ to clear their

doubts, and from the divine word to discover to them the whole will of



  1. But can these titles be supported in the hurry of worldly commerce?

Alas! nothing is so fatal as that to a taste for study and retirement. I am not

now speaking of profound studies, of sounding all the depths of antiquity

for the elucidation of the doctrines and discipline of Christianity, or of

furnishing the church of God with new and useful publications: these are

not the things which the spirit of your vocation exacts from you: these are

studies and talents manifested in an eminent degree by only a small number

of the wisest ministers whom God has raised up to be general lights of their

age. But I say that for those common, ordinary studies, which are

indispensably necessary to qualify a minister to “divide the word of truth

aright, and to give to each their portion of meat in due season;” in short, to

be in a situation to exercise his functions with light and success: I say that

for these studies he must have a spirit accustomed to think, to meditate, and

to be with and in himself; he must fly from that commerce with the world

which soon annexes to his books a weariness which is insupportable; he

must have a desire of increasing in divine knowledge; a character of mind

which is an enemy to frivolous employments; a habit of retirement and

reflection; an arrangement of life, whereby he can give an account to

himself of his progress, and whereby the moments set apart for the different

duties of his situation will always find them selves in their own place, and

conformable to their destination; in a word, a kind of uniform, occupied,

regulated life, which can in nowise have the least alliance with the perpetual

variations and derangements of a worldly life and conversation.








  1. By this spirit of piety, I understand not only blamelessness of morals,

but that candor of conscience, that tenderness of religion, that taste of God,

that delicacy of soul, which the appearance alone of evil alarms. Behold that

spirit of piety, which is the soul and safeguard of our ministry!


  1. We live, as it were, in a continual commerce with holy things. But what

a life of prayer, of retirement, of circumspection, of faith, and of rigorous

attention to the senses, ought we not to lead, that we may be always

prepared for our holy duties! All the dispositions, desires, and affections of

our hearts, should be purified, sanctified, consecrated by the unction of the

Holy Spirit, residing within us. How can we appear before the

congregation of the Lord, in their name to raise ourselves up to the footstool

of the eternal throne, there to humble ourselves with the dominions and

powers of heaven into a sort of self-annihilation, there to sing praises with

them to the majesty of God, when just before we were drawn a hundred

different ways through the dirt of the world? How can we in such case

ascend the pulpit, and manifest to the people all the seriousness and grief of

true zeal? With what grace can we speak of a death to the world, of

avoiding the dangers to which it exposes us, and the snares which Satan

there lays in our way, of the necessity of prayer, retirement, and

watchfulness, of the eye which should be plucked out, of the hand and foot

which should be cut off; <401808>Matthew 18:8, 9, of the account we must render

even for every idle word, <401236>Matthew 12:36, and in short of all those

crucifying maxims so unknown to the world, and so contrary to its

manners? To be good preachers of Jesus Christ, and of him crucified, we

must ourselves be fastened to the cross of Jesus Christ: to inspire a taste of

God, and the things of heaven, we must feel them ourselves: to touch the

hearts of the people, our own hearts must be touched with the living coal.


  1. I grant, as observed in my former discourse, that our itinerant plan

keeps us at a considerable distance from the world in general. But among

the families which we visit, are there not, in most of them, some who do

not make even a profession of religion? How cautious should we then be

that we do not enter into their spirit, thereby hardening them against the

truth, and injuring the minds of those who are truly religious! And of our

own people, alas! all are not Israel who are of Israel. To such, instead of

indulging them in their vain conversation, how closely, how faithfully

should we speak, as being peculiarly responsible for their souls! If in a

family there be any mourners in Zion, how dangerous, how dreadful would

it be for such to hear any thing trifling from the lips of him to whom they

are looking for a word of comfort! No time can be lost in laboring to bring

such to Christ. All reading and study should be laid aside, while the

opportunity is afforded us of leading to the Savior’s blood an immortal soul

under the convincing operations of the Holy Spirit. Such occasions should

be peculiarly prized — occasions of fixing jewels of the highest value in our

crown of glory, for


“they that turn many to righteousness shall shine

as the stars for ever and ever,” <271203>Daniel 12:3.


Again, when we meet with souls which enjoy the love of God, how careful

should we be to feed them with spiritual food, — how careful to say

nothing which might injure the tender spiritual life within them, or grieve

that holy Comforter who has thus far brought them on their way to heaven!

But, especially, when we meet with those who have drunk deep of the

waters of life, and live in close fellowship with God, then we should

improve the precious moments for the welfare of our own souls; and from

their spiritual observations learn more to enlarge in our public addresses on

the most important of all subjects, Christian experience. Here is a field of

action! Here are opportunities for doing good! What mighty privileges do

we enjoy as traveling preachers! “May the Lord enable us to improve them

to the uttermost, for his glory and the salvation of millions!”


  1. But I must here observe, once for all, that these discourses are

addressed only to ministers of the gospel. The private members of the

church of Christ have a different calling; and if they improve the means

which the Lord affords them, he will preserve them in the midst of all their

business; and use many of them in their respective stations in his church for

the advancement of his kingdom upon earth. One grand truth which I have

been laboring to establish is this, — that when any receive a full call to the

ministry, it is their duty to sacrifice every secular employment to it; and if

not, that divine unction which they received for their office — that peculiar

apostolic spirit which, according to their measure, was bestowed upon

them, and which none can comprehend but those who possess it, will soon

be extinguished; and they themselves will incur the guilt of unfaithfulness to

the vocation of God, in the high office to which he has called them, or in

which he has been pleased to station them.

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


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