RSS

Duties of a Minister 5

17 Apr

PART 2

I now proceed to consider the next grand particular in the apostle’s charge

to Timothy: “Endure afflictions.”

 

  1. We have reason to bless God that we are not called to suffer like the

faithful ministers of Christ in former ages. A spirit of civil and religious

liberty has accompanied even the spirit of infidelity; whereby the enemies of

revelation have, in a considerable degree, disarmed and incapacitated

themselves from injuring the church of God: and the earth has been made in

a wonderful manner to help the woman. <661216>Revelation 12:16. We have

succeeded to the ministry of that noble army of martyrs, who suffered “for

the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God,” <662004>Revelation 20:4; and we

are sent forth like them as “sheep in the midst of wolves,” <401016>Matthew

10:16. No thanks are due to our opponents, if we be not persecuted like our

predecessors. If we had reason, like the martyrs of old, to fear the barbarity

of the enemies of our religion — if the most cruel torments were the only

recompense we could promise ourselves in this life for all our zeal and

labors, we also should be brought to the alternative of renouncing Jesus

Christ, and the sacred ministry with which he has honored us, or to face

these dangers with holy joy. But, on the contrary, what in comparison have

we to suffer? Only the insults occasionally of the vilest of the people, which

will not touch even the skirts of our clothes, if we suffer them not to affect

our hearts; and those crosses which are indispensably necessary to keep us

at the feet of Jesus Christ, and to render us fit instruments for His service

who will not give his glory to another.

 

  1. If we will be disciples, much more ministers of Christ, we must daily

take up his cross. Without this, he refuses to acknowledge us as his

disciples, or to make us partakers of that glory into which he entered not

himself but by the way of the cross.

“Whosoever doth not bear his cross, says Christ,

“and come after me, cannot be my disciple,” <421427>Luke 14:27.

“If [we be] children,” says St. Paul, “then heirs; heirs of God, and

joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may

be also glorified together,” <450817>Romans 8:17.

 

1 . But, perhaps, you will say,” I am too weak to endure afflictions.” Alas!

it is because we are weak; because the least disappointment in our favorite

pursuit makes us revolt against the will of Providence; because

contradiction raises our anger, or commendation and success our vanity and

pride, that the Lord sees it necessary we should pass through tribulation and

trials.

 

  1. In short, what is it to be weak in the present sense of the word? It is to

love ourselves excessively: it is to live more by nature than by faith: it is to

suffer ourselves to be conducted by the vivacity of our own natural

inclinations, and not by the wisdom from above. Now, with this excessive

fund of self-love, if the Lord were not to manage our weakness, and to

humble us by affliction; if he did not strike our bodies with some habitual

languor, to render the world insipid to us; if he did not prepare for us some

losses in our substance; if he did not defeat some of our most favorite

projects; if he did not place us in such situations, that the most trying and

yet unavoidable duties should fill up our happiest hours; if he were not to

raise up a against us opposition by false brethren or by true brethren in a

word, if he were not to fix between us and our weakness some kind of

barrier, which might be strong enough to arrest and retain us, we should

soon be deceived by our false peace and prosperity; we should soon be

without a bridle for ourselves or our desires. The same weakness and selflove

which make us so sensible of trials and afflictions would make us still

more sensible of; and less prepared for, the dangers of pleasure and

prosperity.

 

  1. If; therefore, we be discouraged under trials and afflictions, let us not

endeavor to excuse ourselves, by saying we are weak. The weakness of our

hearts arises only from the weakness of our faith; the soul of a Christian

should be a strong soul, proof against persecutions, reproaches, infirmities,

and death itself. The Christian may be oppressed, but he cannot be

subdued; you may snatch from him his goods, his reputation, his whole

fortune, yea, his life itself; but you cannot rob him of the treasure of faith

and grace which lies at the bottom of his heart; and abundantly compensates

for all his frivolous and temporary losses: you may, perhaps, make him

shed tears of sensibility and sorrow, for religion does not extinguish the

feelings of nature; but his heart in an instant resists, disavows, as it were,

his weakness, and turns even his tears into tears of piety. What shall I say?

A Christian rejoices even in tribulations; he regards them as marks of the

benevolence and watchful providence of him God, as precious sureties of

future promises, and as the happy characters of his resemblance of Jesus

Christ.

 

  1. All the precepts of the gospel require strength from above; and if we

have not sufficient to support the crosses which the Lord is pleased to lay

upon us, we have not sufficient for those other duties which the gospel

prescribes. It requires strength of grace to pardon an injury; to speak all the

good we can of those who calumniate us; or to hide the defects of those

who would destroy our reputation or usefulness. It requires strength of

grace to fly from a world which allures us; to snatch ourselves from

pleasures, or to oppose inclinations, which would draw us into evil; to

resist customs to which the usage of the world has given the authority of

laws or to use prosperity in a Christian spirit. It requires strength of grace to

conquer ourselves; to repress the rising desire; to stifle the pleasing

sentiments; continually to recall to the strict rules of the gospel a heart which

is so given to wander. In short, were we to review all the precepts of the

gospel, there would not be one which does not suppose a strong and

generous soul, fortified by grace. Throughout it is necessary that we do

violence to ourselves. The kingdom of God is a field, which must be

cleared and rooted up; a vineyard, in which we must bear the heat and

burden of the day; a career, in which we must perpetually and valiantly fight

the battles of the Lord. In a word, the whole life of a true disciple of Jesus

Christ bears the character of the cross; and if we lose for an instant this

strength of grace, we fall. To say then that you cannot endure afflictions

because you are weak, is to say that you are destitute of the spirit of the

gospel.

 

  1. But, besides this, my brethren, however weak we may really be, we

should have a confidence in the goodness of our God, that he will never

prove, afflict, or try us beyond our strength; that he always proportions the

afflictions to our weakness; that he gives his chastisements, as he does his

judgments, in weight and measure; that in afflicting he wills not to destroy

us, but to purify and save us, and qualify us for greater usefulness in his

church; that he who aids us, himself bears the crosses which he himself

imposes upon us; that he chastises us as a father, and not as a judge; that the

same hand which strikes us, supports us; that the same rod which gives the

wound, brings the oil and the honey to soften it. He knows the character of

our hearts, and how far our weakness goes; and, as in afflicting us his will

in Christ Jesus is our sanctification, <520403>1 Thessalonians 4:3, he knows how

far to weigh his hand, and lay the burden upon us.

 

  1. Alas! What other design can our gracious Lord have in afflicting his

ministers and disciples? Is he a cruel God, who takes pleasure in the

sufferings of his servants? Is he a barbarous tyrant, who finds his grandeur

and safety only in the tears and blood of the subjects who adore him? It is

then for our benefit alone that he punishes and chastises us; his tenderness

suffers, if I may so speak, from our woes; and yet his love is so just and

wise, that he still leaves us to suffer, because he foresees that by

terminating our afflictions he would in the end increase our misery, and

prevent our usefulness and glory. He is like a skillful surgeon, who has

pity indeed on the cries and sufferings of his patient, and yet cuts to the

quick all that he finds corrupted in the wound; he is never more kind or

beneficent to his servants than when he appears to be most severe; and it is

indubitably evident that afflictions are necessary and useful to us, since a

God so good and so kind can resolve to lay them upon us. We read in the

histories of the martyrs, how weak girls could set at defiance all the

barbarity of tyrants! how children, before they were able to support the

labors of life, could run with joy to meet the rigors of the most dreadful

deaths! how old men, sinking already under the weight of their bodies,

seemed, by their cries of triumph, to feel their youth renewed like that of an

eagle, in the midst of the torments of slow martyrdoms! And are you weak,

my brethren? Then that weakness itself if you be faithful to the grace of

God, will bring glory to the faith and religion of Jesus Christ. It is on that

account that the Lord has chosen you, to make known in you and by you

how much stronger grace is than nature. He

 

“hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;

and hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things

which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which

are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to

bring to naught the things that are, that no flesh should glory in his

presence,” <460127>1 Corinthians 1:27-29.

 

 

  1. If you were born with any spiritual strength, you would do no honor to the

power of grace; that patience which is now the pure gift of God, would then

be justly attributed to man. Thus, in a sense, the weaker we are, the fitter

instruments we become for the designs and glory of God. He delights to

choose the feeble for his greatest purposes, that man may attribute nothing

to himself; and that the vain constancy of the wise and the philosophers may

be confounded by their example. His first disciples were but feeble lambs

when he sent them into the world, and exposed them in the midst of

wolves. These are the earthen vessels which the Lord is pleased to break,

like those of Gideon, that in them the light and power of faith might shine

with greater splendor and magnificence. And if you enter into the designs of

his mercy and wisdom, your weakness, which in your eyes justifies your

murmurs or unfaithfulness, would prove one of the sweetest consolations

of your trials.

 

  1. “Lord,” you would say to him all your days, “I ask not that proud

reason or philosophy, which seeks all the consolations of its pains in the

glory of suffering with constancy. I ask not that insensibility of heart which

either feels not its miseries, or despises them. Give me, Lord, that sweet

simplicity, that tender sensible heart, which appears so little fit to support its

tribulations and trials: only increase thy comforts and thy graces. Then, the

weaker I appear in the eyes of men, the greater wilt thou appear in my

weakness; and the more will the children of this world admire the power of

faith, which alone can raise the feeblest and most timid souls to that point of

constancy and firmness which philosophy has never been able to attain.”

“Endure,” therefore, “afflictions.”

 

  1. 1. Nothing is more common, than for ministers and private professors

to justify their murmurs or unfaithfulness, by the character or peculiarity of

the afflictions themselves. We easily persuade ourselves that we could bear

crosses of another nature with resignation; but those which the Lord has

laid upon us are of such a character as can yield no consolation; that the

more we examine what passes among men, the more singular we find our

trials or afflictions to be, and our situation almost without example.

 

  1. But to remove this feeble defense — of self-love, so unworthy of

genuine faith, I would answer, That the more extraordinary our trials or

afflictions are, the more clearly may we discover the hand of Providence in

them; the more evidently may we observe the secret designs of a God ever

attentive to our interests; the more may we presume, that under such new

events he conceals new views and singular designs of mercy, for the

welfare of our souls, and for our future usefulness in his church.

 

  1. Now, what is the most powerful consolation under trials and afflictions?

“God sees me.” He counts my sighs; he weighs my afflictions; “he puts my

tears in his bottle;” he blesses the whole to my present sanctification and

usefulness in his church, and to my eternal happiness. Since I have felt his

heavy hand upon me, in so singular a manner that there seemed to be no

resource remaining here below, I feel myself more than ever under his

immediate inspection. O! if I had enjoyed a more tranquil situation, his eyes

would not have been upon me as they are at present; perhaps I should have

been forgotten, and confounded among those who have their portion in this

world. Lovely sufferings! which, in depriving me of all human succor,

restore to me my God, and make him my refuge and resource through his

blessing. Precious afflictions! which, in making me forget the creatures,

have rendered me, through the co-operation of rich and suffering grace, a

continual object of the remembrance and mercies of my Lord!

 

  1. But is there any one among us who wishes that he may not be called to

endure afflictions? Alas! take care that the Lord does not hear thee in his

wrath: take care that he does not punish thee in granting thee thy desire; that

he does not find thee unworthy of his temporal afflictions; for

“whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,

and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth,” <581206>Hebrews 12:6.

 

  1. To all these truths, so consoling to an afflicted soul, I could still add, my

brethren, that if our pains and trials appear excessive, it is only through the

excess of corruption in our affections, which gives strength to our

sufferings: our losses or afflictions become so grievous to us, only through

those attachments which bind us to external objects; and the excess of our

sorrows or chagrin is always the excess of an unjust love of the creatures.

Alas, brethren, the woes and afflictions of others are too often nothing in

our eyes. We do not observe that the trials of thousands around us are

greater than our own; that our afflictions have innumerable resources,

which theirs have not; that in our habitual infirmities, or in our trials in the

church, we find in the number of persons who are still attentive to our

wants, an abundance of comforts denied to others — when we have lost a

warm and faithful friend, we have many ways to soften our bitterness:

when persecuted by our relations or families, we can find in the tenderness

an confidence of our friends and brethren, attentions and kindness which

we found not at home. In short, we have an abundance of human sources

of satisfaction, to compensate for our trials; and if we put into the scale, on

one side our comfort, and on the other our afflictions, we shall find that our

comforts, if improved, far overbalance our sorrows,

 

BESIDE THE CONSOLATIONS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.

 

  1. Truly, my brethren, it is not only the excessive love of ourselves, but

hardness of heart toward our fellow creatures, which magnifies in our eyes

our own afflictions. Let us daily enter under the unfurnished and miserable

roofs of the poor, where shame frequently conceals miseries the most

frightful and affecting: let us go to those asylums of wretchedness, where

calamities seem to be heaped together: it is there we shall learn what we

ought to think of our own afflictions: it is there that touched with the excess

of so many and great miseries, we shall blush to have given names to the

lightness of our own: it is there that our murmurs an unfaithful attentions

will change into expressions, and into the very spirit of gratitude and

thankfulness: and, less occupied with the thoughts of those light crosses

which we bear, than with the many from which we have been delivered, we

shall almost begin to fear the indulgence of our God, so far from

complaining of his severity. Endure,” therefore, “afflictions.”

 

III. 1. I will conclude this head of the apostle’s charge with the following

important reflection: That God, in all the trials and afflictions which he lays

upon, or suffers to happen to, his zealous ministering servants, has but two

ends in his view and in his gracious intention; first, their sanctification and

eternal happiness; secondly, their usefulness in his church. Every thing he

permits or does for them here below, he does it, or permits it, only to

facilitate these gracious designs: every agreeable or afflictive event which

any way concerns them, he has prepared for them, to make them more

holy, useful, and eternally glorious. All his plans concerning them have

reference to these purposes alone: all that they are in the order of nature,

their birth, their talents, the age in which they live, their friends, and their

vocation — all these, in his views of mercy toward them, and mercy toward

the world, have entered into his divine impenetrable designs for the eternal

salvation of themselves and others; and not all the powers of earth and hell,

no, NONE BUT THEMSELVES, can possibly defeat or counteract them. All this

visible world itself was only made for the world which is to come: all that

passes here has its secret connection with eternity: all that which we see is

only the figure of things invisible. This world would not be worthy of the

care of an infinitely wise and merciful God, but as far as, by secret and

wonderful connections, its various revolutions tend to form that church in

the heavens, that immortal assembly of the redeemed, where he will be

eternally glorified: he acts not in time but for eternity; and he is in this the

great model which we should in ever thing follow.

 

  1. “Ah! When shall it be, O our God, that our souls, raised by faith above

all the creatures, shall no more adore but thee in and through them all; shall

no more attribute to them events, of which thou alone, in thy immediate or

permissive providence, art the author; shall acknowledge in all the various

situations in which thou hast placed us the adorable conduct and wisdom of

thy providence; and in the midst of crosses themselves shall taste that

unutterable peace which the world and all its pleasure can never bestow!”

 

  1. Religion alone, my brethren, can afford us solid comfort under all our

trials and afflictions. Philosophy may stop our complaints, but can never

truly soften our grief. The world may stupefy our anxiety, but can never

heal it; and in the midst of all its employments or amusements, the secret

sting of sorrow will remain always deeply plunged in the bottom of the

heart. God alone can prove the effectual comforter of all our pains; and is

there need of any other for the faithful soul? Weak mortals, by their vain

discourse and ordinary language of tenderness and compassion, may speak

to the ears of the body; but it is the God of all consolation who alone knows

how to speak to the heart.

 

  1. It would perhaps be presumption in me to call any afflictions heavy

which I have experienced; and it was probably owing to my want of grace,

that they to me appeared to be great. But I can bless God that ever I was

tried and afflicted; and hardly know for which to thank him most, his

disguised or undisguised mercies. O how he has broken my stubborn will,

and humbled my proud heart, and moderated my ambitious views, (though

all seemed to be for his glory,) by trials and afflictions! And I doubt not but

many of my brethren, as well as myself, (though not in the same degree

with me, because they did not equally need it,) can bear testimony to the

grace and power of God in the use of this profitable. means. Let us, then,

my brethren,

“endure afflictions:” let us “take unto us the whole armour of God,

that we may be able to withstand in the evil day;

and having done all, to stand,” <490613>Ephesians 6:13.

 

  1. “O God, it is thou alone who canst support us under all our trials: we are

weakness itself without thee. It is thy grace alone which can sanctify the

means, and make our afflictions profitable. Lord, teach us to depend wholly

upon thee: it is with thee alone we desire to forget all our trials, all our

pains, all the creatures. But, alas! too often have we wished that the foolish

projects of our own hearts should serve as the rule of thine infinite wisdom!

We have wandered, and been lost in our thoughts: our imaginations have

formed a thousand flattering dreams; our hearts have run after phantoms.

We have desired more favor from men, more health of body, more talents,

more glory, as if we had been wiser and better acquainted with our true

interests than thou, O omniscient Lord God! We have not entered, as we

might, into the gracious designs of thy love in our favor. But O! from this

time thou shalt be our only comforter; and we will seek, in the meditation of

thy holy law, those solid and lasting consolations which the creatures can

never afford. Lord, take us into thyself; be thou the joy of our hearts, be

thou the delight of our eyes, be thou our portion for ever! Even so, Lord

Jesus. Amen.”

Advertisements
 
Comments Off on Duties of a Minister 5

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

 

Comments are closed.

 
%d bloggers like this: