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Duties of a Minister 6

17 Apr

DISCOURSE 3

“Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry,

<550405>2 Timothy 4:5.

 

 

PART 1

 

  1. In my former discourses on St. Paul’s charge to Timothy, we

considered the necessity of true zeal in all the public duties of the ministry,

and in our intercourse with the people of the world, and the necessity of

watchfulness and enduring afflictions. We come now to enlarge on the two

remaining particulars of the charge, “Do the work of an evangelist, “make

full proof of thy ministry.”

 

  1. The apostle’s solemn and pointed manner of writing to Timothy, not

only for his own sake, but for the benefit of the church in all ages, will

appear the more necessary and indispensable, if we recollect that the

corruption of the ministry has been alway the grand source of the corruption

of a people, of the general depravation of their manners, and of the

extinction of all the faith.

 

  1. Those who are acquainted with the religious history of Christendom,

well know, that in proportion as the ministers of a church are holy, holiness

will reign among the people. The purity of Christianity, wherever it has

flourished, never has begun to decay but with the fall of the ministry; and

disorder has generally begun at the house of God. Thus it is in a

considerable measure we who decide, if I may so speak, on the salvation or

damnation of the people: upon us, in some sense, depend the increase or

diminution of the reign of Jesus Christ upon earth, the consummation or

destruction of his work, the utility or inutility of his blood and mission, the

glory or reproach of his religion, and all the designs of God concerning the

salvation of man.

 

  1. From the moment we enter on the ministry of the gospel, we become

either holy pillars to support the feeble, or stones of offense against which

the strong themselves may break in pieces: we become either brazen

serpents raised on high, to heal through grace the plagues of the multitude,

or golden calves placed in the camp of the Lord, to be an occasion to them

of apostasy, wickedness, and idolatry. We are so situated, that we can

neither stand nor fall alone: the destiny of those souls over whom we are set

is in a considerable degree awfully attached to ours!

 

  1. Now, what a frightful situation is this for an unfaithful pastor! He may

continually say to himself, “I am employed in the church to destroy and not

to build up: I am become the tempter and murderer of those souls of whom

I ought to have been instrumentally the savior and the father. I am charged

with a dispensation of the gospel, and yet only make every thing which

should facilitate the salvation of souls turn out to their ruin; and I, in effect,

employ against religion all that which religion has intrusted me with for its

maintenance and support.” Behold here, without exceeding the truth, the

character of a bad minister. Certainly, my brethren, a bad minister is the

greatest plague which the wrath of God can suffer to spring up among any

people.

 

  1. But the more the situation of an unfaithful pastor is to be deplored, the

more full of consolation is the character of a true minister of the Lord Jesus

Christ. He continues on earth the mission and ministry of his adorable

Master. He co-operates with him in the consummation of the happiness of

the saints, in the edification of his mystic body, and in the accomplishment

of all his designs of mercy toward man. He is instrumentally here below, as

Christ himself, a savior of his people, a reconciler of heaven and earth: and

when he shall one day appear before the throne of the great Judge of quick

and dead, with all his own, he will be able to say to him with confidence,

“Behold me, and the children thou hast given me. Those that thou gavest

me I have kept, and none of them is lost. I render them back to thee,

because thou didst deliver them to me, that they might be sanctified through

thy truth, and might sing with all thy redeemed the eternal praises of thy

grace.”

 

  1. O what a heavenly calling, my brethren, is ours! But our duties are as

great and as heavenly as our vocation. Let us, then, together animate each

other, both by the eminence and importance of our ministry, and by the

glorious and comfortable fruits which are the consequences of its faithful

administration!

 

  1. Can we now be surprised at the repetition, in effect, which we find in

the apostle’s charge; or rather the different points of view in which he holds

forth the duties of the gospel ministry?

1st. “Preach the word.”

2dly. “Be instant in season, out of season: reprove, rebuke, exhort,

with all longsuffering and doctrine.”

3dly. “Watch in all things.”

4thly. “Endure affliction.”

5thly. “Do the work of an evangelist.”

6thly. “Make full proof of thy ministry.”

 

The first four of these we have enlarged upon. We now come to the fifth,

— “Do the work of an evangelist.”

The word “evangelist,” in its most comprehensive sense, implies a preacher

of glad tidings, or, in other words, a preacher of the gospel, with all his

concomitant duties. In the apostolic age, it more particularly signified an

extraordinary minister, appointed to assist the apostles in preaching and

publishing the gospel — in watering what the apostles planted: and in this

sense also it contained a very extensive meaning. But, at present, it is

generally applied to those inspired writers who were employed by the Spirit

of God to record the life and actions of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must

here, however, consider the word in its most enlarged sense; for Timothy

was, without doubt, in every point of view, a minister of the gospel.

 

  1. IN CONSIDERING THIS DIVISION OF OUR SUBJECT,

WE SHALL, FIRST, TAKE A REVIEW OF THE NUMEROUS

ADVANTAGES OF A ZEALOUS GOSPEL MINISTRY.

 

  1. A faithful minister, who consecrates himself to every good word and

work, who enters into the minute examination of all the miseries and wants

of his brethren, and labors to find a remedy for them all — represent, if you

can, all the works of salvation and mercy among men, of which such a

minister will be the instrument, through the blood of the covenant and the

grace of the Spirit! He heals those hearts which are sick and alienated from

God: he pierces the darkness with which shame so often covers the

indigent, and in affording them, by the means at least of his benevolent

friends, a secret succor, spares them even the confusion of being relieved:

 

useful institutions for the instruction or relief of the poor and the stranger,

which come within his circle, find in his care, or in his zeal, resources

which establish them, or which preserve them from falling, and give them a

new solidity. O what public disorders does he prevent; what occasions of

salvation does he improve! He stirs up the pious, and makes them useful in

the conversion or sanctification of others; he presides at every holy

enterprise; he is, as it were, the soul of piety in his circuit; even the greater

part of those sinners who attend his ministry, but still live in sin or vanity,

feel a hope that some day they shall be converted by his means.

 

He

animates all; he finds remedies for all. There is no public good within his

circle, and consistent with his calling, to which he does not sacrifice

himself; no good undertaking which he prevents; no sinner who does not

appear worthy of his zeal. In short, there is nothing which can quench or

stop his divine ardor, or the holy fervor of his love; “and there is nothing

hid from the heat thereof,” <191906>Psalm 19:6.

 

  1. We read, <121321>2 Kings 13:21, that the corpse of a man being thrown near

the dead body of Elisha, it instantly revived; those eyes which death had

closed, open again; his tongue is unloosed; and we see him come from the

abode of death, and again enjoy life and light. Alas, my brethren, carcasses

the most putrefied, souls in which spiritual death and the corruption of sin

have reigned abundantly longer, can hardly approach a holy minister, an

ambassador of God, dead to himself, to the world and all its hopes, but

they instantly, through grace, feel a virtue go from him, a breath of life

which begins to reanimate them, to inspire into them good desires, and to

rouse them from their lethargy; and which, in those who are faithful to these

beginnings, will produce the fruits of grace and salvation.

 

  1. And then his example! His piety, his disinterestedness, his mortified

spirit, his modesty, his ministerial gravity, have such a secret, constant,

powerful in influence, that he may be truly said to be sent for the salvation

of many. It is true, that neither the example nor labors of the holiest

ministers can have the least influence in the regeneration or salvation of

souls without the unction of the Holy Spirit; but the person, the words, the

actions of a devoted ambassador of Christ, are all anointed, and breathe

forth the savor of Jesus’ name. What a happiness must it be to a people

when God raises among them holy ministers, whose deep piety and

crucified lives serve, so to speak, as spectacles to angels and men They are

a continual gospel before their eyes! “Do,” therefore, “the work of an

evangelist.”

 

  1. FROM HENCE APPEARS THE NECESSITY OF EMINENT

ZEAL; IN ORDER TO INFLAME WITH DIVINE LOVE THE

HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE, AND TO BEAR DOWN ALL THE

OBSTACLES WHICH OPPOSE THE SPREAD OF THE

GOSPEL.

 

  1. Frozen discourses will never set on fire the souls of the hearers. Indeed,

how can those ministers even appear to the people as animated with that

divine fire which carries the sparks of grace to the coldest and most

insensible hearts, who themselves are all ice in the practice of every duty;

and who feel not themselves all alive for the salvation of either their

brethren or themselves? If we fill up our public duties with an air of

custom, of weariness, of reluctance, (which is inseparable from a life of

lukewarmness,) and of unfaithfulness in the pastoral office, we shall leave

the same dispositions in those who hear us. Our labors will rouse neither

our faith nor piety, and will leave the same spiritual death on the minds of

our audience. Alas! my brethren, even in a holy and fervent minister, it calls

for prodigies of zeal, application, patience, and labor to bear down all the

obstacles which the world, the devil, and the present corruption of

manners, oppose to the success of his ministry. What then can the

cowardly, idle minister promise himself from his baseness and idleness?

What fruit can he expect from a field to which he never puts but a feeble,

languishing hand; and which seems to be intrusted to him, to be the sport of

his cruel neglect, rather than the object of his care?

 

  1. “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee

out of my mouth,” <660316>Revelation 3:16, says Christ. If a private professor,

who lives in the spirit of lukewarmness, is unfit for the kingdom of heaven,

and is rejected out of the mouth of Christ, as a lukewarm and disgusting

drink which raises the stomach; what is a minister good for, who does the

particular work of God negligently? What an object of disgust for a God

who is jealous of his gifts! What an afflicting spectacle to that part of the

church of God which beholds it — to see a place in that ministry which is

designed for zeal, for labor, and for the salvation of souls, filled by a

lukewarm, idle minister, instead of a faithful laborer; instead of one who

would have enlarged the kingdom of Jesus Christ who would have

snatched from their miseries a glorious number of sinners, who would have

edified and built up believers, and been the glory of Christ. <470823>2 Corinthians

8:23.

 

  1. Could the gospel have been spread through so large a part of the world,

and the foolishness of the cross have triumphed over numerous and great

nations, if those apostolic men who have preceded us had regarded the

oppositions which the people, yea, which the whole pagan world, made to

the progress of the gospel? Where should we have been, if difficulties

insurmountable by human prudence had abated their zeal or suspended their

labors; or if, in the persuasion of finding us as we were, savage and

rebellious, they had unhappily left us to the darkness of our primitive

ignorance? Do you fear inconveniences? But what is there to fear for a

pastor who fills up his ministry with edification and fidelity? “What?” it

may be answered, “Contempt, reproaches, and contradictions.” But these

are his glory, and form part of the present consoling reward of his zeal.

“What?” it may be added, “Evil treatment and insults of various kinds.”

 

But

these are the most honorable seals of his apostleship. I grant, however,

3dly. 1. That all this zeal should be continually guarded; and that the

universal maxim, which binds every private member of the church of

Christ, should be particularly written on the hearts of his ministers — “Let

your moderation be known unto all men,” <500405>Philippians 4:5. There is a

modesty which should run through the whole character of a minister of

Christ, and should manifest itself in all his words and actions; yea, even

upon those occasions when he most unbends his mind.

 

  1. Nothing is of more importance than the moderation and modesty of

ministers who are consecrated to the Lord. The same decency, the same

circumspection, the same majesty, which accompanies them in their public

duties, should follow them everywhere; and as they are everywhere to

consider themselves as the ambassadors of Christ, they ought everywhere

to support the dignity of this character, in the wisdom of their words, in the

chaste decency of their dress, and in the seriousness of all their actions. I

have already, in a former discourse, spoken on this subject; but I would

wish to enlarge a little farther, on account of its importance.

 

  1. If the sacred writings, by which we shall be judged, make every idle

word a transgression; if the gospel exacts from every private Christian such

circumspection, reserve, and modesty in conversation — what does it not

require from the immediate ministers of Jesus Christ! The lips of ministers

are, next to the word of God, the depositaries of divine knowledge, which

they are incessantly to administer to the people; and when the Spirit of God

calls them to the ministry, he says to them in some sense, as formerly to the

prophet,

 

“I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the

shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the

foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people,”

<235116>Isaiah 51:16.

 

That is to say, to the end that you may make — as a new heaven and a new

earth, or at least as a part of it, — the people intrusted to your care; that you

may accustom them to regard me as the only God who deserves their

affections and homage; that they may learn to regard themselves as a holy

people, consecrated to me alone; that the heaven and earth which they

behold are the works of my liberal hand, which, with all things they

contain, deserve not their affections; and that I have prepared for them a

heaven infinitely more glorious and eternal, where they shall enjoy, with

my redeemed, pleasures for evermore. What follows from hence but that

our tongue is no more our own; that it is consecrated to the Word of God,

and the edification of the people; that witticisms and vain discourses are

unlawful amusements in the mouths of believers; but that they are

profanations in ours!

 

  1. Far be it from me to speak against the relaxations of innocent society:

but that which I would say, my brethren, is this — that our conversation

should be always marked with a peculiar character of piety, gravity, and

modesty; that, in conversing, we should with a holy joy endeavor to edify

each other; and all around us, with words of love and truth; and that we

should banish from our discourse all profane and immoderate joy, and all

the low and all the genteel pleasantries of the world.

 

  1. I would just add, that all our relaxations, even when we most unbend

our minds, should have in them a peculiarity of decency, reserve, and

seriousness. I know that both the soul and body need relaxation but those

moments which we give to nature are neither useful nor permitted, but as

they dispose us for our duties, and prepare us for farther toil. Repose is

appointed for us, to the end that we may gain new strength to continue our

course; and therefore every kind of relaxation which tends to estrange us

from it, to discourage us, or to inspire us with a distaste of our toil and

public labors, is to us improper, yea, criminal.

 

  1. But as for you, my brethren, permit me to finish this head of my

discourse with those words of the apostle, “Ye have not so learned Christ,”

<490420>Ephesians 4:20. No, brethren: it is not thus that you dishonor your

ministry: it is not thus that you turn into a stumblingblock the sacred

character which you have received from Jesus Christ for their salvation.

Continue, then, my brethren, to conduct yourselves before your people in a

manner worthy the holiness and gravity of your vocation. We live in times

when infidelity moves with gigantic strides; when the licentiousness of the

public manners leaves us nothing to avoid the malignity of suspicion, and

the contempt of the world, but this respectable gravity, modesty, and piety,

supported throughout the minutest particulars of our conduct and manners.

 

Irreligion is come to a point; and the world is charmed to find so many

ministers like themselves. It seems to be a victory and gain to them, when

they can persuade themselves, or when they can perceive, that any ministers

tread under foot the duties of their station. They see not that the

unfaithfulness and misconduct of ministers consecrated to the service of

religion is the greatest judgment God can inflict upon a people, except the

entire removal of the candlestick of the gospel. <660205>Revelation 2:5. Let none

of us then, my brethren, increase the blindness of the world, by confirming

it in its errors through our example. O! let none of us become stones of

stumbling, and the most grievous plagues to those to whom we should be

guides in the way of salvation!

 

  1. In a word, my brethren, feed the flock which is in trusted to your care,

with the tenderness of fathers, with the vigilance of guides, and with all the

modesty, simplicity, and holiness, which becomes ministers of Jesus

Christ. Let your example, under the grace of God, give you assurance of

the fruit and success of your ministry: appear not occupied or touched with

any thing but their salvation: forget, as it were, your own temporal interests;

or never put them in the balance with the interest of their souls. Consider

yourselves as theirs. Your calling, your mission, your functions, are only

for them: give yourselves then wholly to them, as if you were created only

for their benefit. “Do the work of an evangelist.”

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

 

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