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Duties of a Minister 7

17 Apr

PART 2

I now proceed to the last head of my subject “Make full proof of your

ministry.” So fulfill the whole, that none may charge you with the neglect

of your duty. Let the world see that you make it your own and only work to

win souls.

 

  1. How strong and comprehensive is this commandment! Should we not

therefore frequently examine ourselves concerning the purity of our zeal and

of our motives in respect to all the parts of our ministerial office — whether

“we make full proof of our ministry” in the sight of God as well as man?

 

When we enter on any employment, should we not first inquire, Will God

be glorified by this undertaking? Is it his work which I am entering upon?

 

Is that which I purpose to myself; really my duty? Does divine love

influence me to comfort the afflicted, to strengthen the weak, and to bring

sinners to Christ? Does divine zeal urge me to cultivate in secret the fruits of

my public labors; to support the rising conversation by spiritual discourse;

 

to heal domestic dissensions by the counsels of meekness and wisdom; to

reconcile fathers to their children; to restore to wives the affections of their

husbands; and to carry the peace of Jesus Christ into all the families I visit?

Does the spirit of ministerial vigilance and holy solicitude lead me into every

work of mercy and piety? Do I “make full proof of my ministry?”

 

  1. Do I visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions? <590127>James 1:27.

Do I prefer “the house of mourning to the house of feasting?”

<210702>Ecclesiastes 7:2. Can a father see his children on the point of being taken

from him, without running to their succor, and leaving with them at least

some farewell marks of consolation and tenderness? And is he a shepherd,

or a savage, who sees his infirm, perhaps dying sheep, and condescends

not to offer them at least his spiritual assistance? No, my brethren; a pastor

who neglects the sick of his flock must have a heart as hard as a stone, or as

light as vanity. “I was sick,” will Christ say, “and ye visited me not,”

<402543>Matthew 25:43.

 

And if a poor sinner on the verge of eternity, though not a member of our

society implore my assistance at that awful period; shall I refuse him my

hand? How little must I know of, or at least how little regard, the value of a

soul, if I do not fly to his rescue? for who knows but he may be called,

even by my instrumentality, at the last hour of the day? And what shall I

answer before the tremendous Judge at his awful bar, when all the intricate

threads of human events are fully unraveled, if I find that that immortal

soul, now lost for ever would have been saved if I had been faithful? Will

not his blood, will not his soul, be required at my hands? God enable us to

“make full proof of our ministry!” But again,

 

  1. Do I faithfully visit the poor? If such as neglect to feed the poor with

material bread, shall on the great day be placed on the left hand of the

Judge, how can those escape condemnation whose office is to dispense to

them spiritual bread, if they neglect so sacred a charge? I well know that the

generality of our traveling preachers are unable, out of their little pittance, to

afford much to the poor, for the supply of those temporal remedies or

comforts which their miseries demand; and therefore this is not what the

gospel particularly requires of them; nor do the poor in general, who know

them, expect it from them: though I have no doubt but you, my brethren,

give according to your ability, yea, and many of you, as the apostle says,

beyond it; softening at least by your cares, your sensibility, your advice,

and your prayers, the pains and distresses of your poorer brethren, and

suffering and sympathizing with those whom you cannot temporally

relieve. We are, you know, ministers of things future; and the riches which

God showers upon the people by our means, are the riches of grace and

eternal glory.

 

Let us then be, if possible, more ready to succor, with our prayers and

advice, those among our people whose poverty incapacitates them from

recompensing our labors, than those who might reward them by temporal

kindnesses, and at the same time least need our counsels. Let us not divide

our cares among our people according to the means they possess to

compensate for them but according to the need they have of the assistance

of our ministry. Let the name of the poor be honorable in our eyes.

 

Let us

not have the hardness of heart to add to the distresses of their situation that

of our neglect and indifference; but let us make ample amends for our want

of power to supply their bodily necessities, by our zeal and assiduity in the

things which relate to their souls: let us make them conscious that their

poverty is a title which only endears them the more to us, as making them

more dependent upon us, and ourselves in consequence more responsible

for them. Let us consider them as the most privileged part of our flock; as,

in their outward condition, most resembling Christ when he abode upon

earth in the flesh. Let us consider ourselves happy in a constant interest in

their prayers. “The Lord heareth the poor,” <196933>Psalm 69:33 says the

psalmist. When they are poor in spirit, also, then it is the voice of that dove

which is always heard and answered, that groans within them. Let us suffer

with them in compassionating their pain: let us remember that our mission,

like that of our adorable Redeemer, is peculiarly to the poor. “The Spirit of

the Lord is upon me,” says Christ by Isaiah, “because he hath anointed me

to preach the gospel to the poor; and “this day,” says he in the synagogue,

“is this scripture fulfilled in your ears,” <236101>Isaiah 61:1; <420418>Luke 4:18, 21.

 

“Go,” says our Lord to the disciples of John the Baptist,

“and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: the

blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed,

and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the

gospel preached to them,” <401104>Matthew 11:4, 5.

 

As if he had said to them, Your master is so perfectly acquainted with the

nature of the Messiah’s kingdom, and the entire crucifixion to the pomps

and vanities of the world which its members must necessarily experience,

that one of the strongest proofs to him that I am Christ, will be this — that

“the poor have the gospel preached unto them.” Let us then, my brethren,

be thankful that we labor among a people who are in general poor; for it is

among such that the grace of the Spirit of God is most abundantly shed

abroad. We receive, it is true, but little from their indigence; but the harvest

is always rich for Jesus Christ! Well did the primitive bishop, on the

demand of the Roman emperor, that he should deliver up all the treasures of

his church, bring to him the poor indigent members of his flock, who,

though destitute of worldly comforts, were rich in faith! So it has been, is,

and probably will be, till the great millennial year rushes in upon the world.

 

Let us then take delight in daily visiting the poor: let none of us manifest so

little faith and crucifixion to the world as to regard those ministers most

happy who labor among the rich. They may be better paid; but will their

usefulness be greater? They may find those who are most ready, because

most able to supply their temporal wants; but will they find those who are

most ready to profit by their instructions? The thorns and anxiety

accompanying riches, generally choke and stifle the word of God.

 

<401322>Matthew 13:22. The field may be more adorned, but the soil in general is

barren and ungrateful. While, on the contrary, a minister who faithfully

labors among a poor people, possessing simple and teachable spirits,

penetrated with a love of the great obvious and essential truths of the

gospel, and submissive in their indigence to the divine hand which corrects

them such a one, I say, has the consolation of daily seeing his ministry

abundant in fruits for heaven. Let us then consider it as one of our highest

duties to visit the poor: let us not account our labors in any wise

recompensed, but when they produce the fruits of life and salvation; and let

us not estimate concerning our duties or station, except by the gains we can

make thereby for Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

  1. When all these holy duties, privileges and vocations are duly estimated,

may not the minister of the gospel profitably enter into some such soliloquy

as the following? “I can neither through my unfaithfulness damn, nor

through grace save, myself alone. From the time that I enter the holy

ministry, I must necessarily be either a plague sent from God, or permitted

in his wise providence for the punishment of mankind, or a gift from

heaven for their blessing and felicity. I must resemble either that dragon in

the Revelation, who, in falling, drew with him the third part of the stars of

heaven, or that great antitype of the brazen serpent, Jesus Christ, who being

lifted up draws all who believe to himself, and heals all the diseases and

infirmities of the people. I have only this alternative.

 

“What a most powerful motive is this for fidelity in my office; for

watchfulness over my conduct; for zeal in my ministry; for filial fear

in my situation; for a continual renewal in the spirit of my vocation

for glowing hope, or confusion, in the expectation of the coming of

the great Bishop of souls, who will then demand from me an

account of the use or neglect of my talents, and who will present to

me those souls which he had intrusted to my care, either as my

condemnation, if they have perished through my neglect, or as my

glory and crown if they have under his grace found life and

salvation by the means of my ministry!”

 

5 .“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things

are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,

whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report,

if there be any virtue. and if there be any praise, think on these

things,” <500408>Philippians 4:8.

 

“Whatsoever things are true,” — hold in its purity that most sacred

depository of faith and truth, the holy word of God. Draw from the pure

sources, from the Scriptures, all the principles of holiness and morality, by

which you should regulate your own conduct, and that of your flocks.

Never depart from those rules of truth, without which all that bears the

name of piety is nothing but hypocrisy, and a scandal to others.

 

“Whatsoever things are honest,” — show a due reservedness in your

manners and conversations. Let nothing which is in the least degree

indecent, or contrary to the sanctity of your ministry, ever escape you. Bear

always on your countenance a holy modesty, and that ministerial gravity,

which make religion respectable even to those who love it not: avoid all

suspicious familiarities; and remember, that your willfully saying or doing

any thing which may cause suspicion, is a crime in a minister, which

innocence itself cannot justify.

 

“Whatsoever things are just,” — let the most delicate and in violable

equity be manifested in all your conduct, disinterestedness in all the

exercises of your ministry, prudence and love in your zeal, and an equal

affection (as ministers) toward all the faithful who are in trusted to your

care, as you are equally the spiritual fathers of them all; no animosity,

except against vice; no predilection, but in favor of holiness: no acceptance

of persons; but let the wants alone of your flocks regulate all your cares and

all your attention.

 

“Whatsoever things are pure,” — Inspire the people with a due respect

for all the ordinances of the gospel, by administering them yourselves in the

fear of God and with holy dignity. On all such occasions, appear as the

elders before the throne of the Lamb, struck with the majesty of God, and

expecting a revelation of his love to your own souls and those of the people;

 

and let such modesty, awe, and depth of piety be manifested in all your

administrations, that your people may learn from your whole deportment

what dispositions are necessary for themselves on such occasions. But,

above all, and in all, and through all, let us press upon every one the

necessity of holiness. Let us never forget our calling — that we were called

and sent forth to raise a holy people. Let all your doctrines, and all your

discipline, all your labors, and all your conversation, center in this. Let this

be the grand burden of your testimony — “Without holiness no man shall

see the Lord.”

 

“Whatsoever things are lovely,” — render yourselves amiable in the

eyes of your people, if you would be useful to them; amiable, not by

improper familiarities, but by partaking of their afflictions, and becoming

their comforters in all their distresses. Gain their hearts, and draw their

souls to Jesus Christ. Render not your sacred function odious by the

rudeness, the moroseness, or the caprice of your humors; nor contemptible,

by a baseness of sentiment. Refuse not upon any occasion, to the believers

or penitents who are committed to your charge, your assistance or advice,

since you owe to them your very life. Be their consolation, and they will be

yours; love them as your children, and they will love you as their fathers.

 

“Whatsoever things are of good report,” — Neglect nothing which

can preserve your reputation pure and spotless in the judgment of your

people. Abstain from every thing, even the most lawful, which can become

a cause of offense to your brethren. Remember that the fruit of your

ministry is in a great measure attached to the good opinion they have of

you. Disgrace not, therefore, our holy religion, by disgracing yourselves.

 

Let your examples prepare the way for the success of your instructions. Let

no one have occasion to reproach you for doing that which you are obliged

to testify against to others; and let the sweet savor of your lives spread

through your circuits, and become itself a constant censure of the vices or

faults of others.

 

In short, my brethren, if the remembrance of the glorious army of martyrs,

whose blood became the seed of the church, can affect you; if the example

of your late venerable father in the gospel [John Wesley], and of the first

Methodist preachers, who endured the heat and burden of the day, and bore

the ark of the testimony against an opposing world, can move you; if you

have ruling within you (as I doubt not you have) the principles of holiness

and truth — “if there be any virtue, think on these things.” If our most

excellent discipline, so faithfully enforced by your predecessors, inspire

you with a sacred emulation; if you be ashamed to degenerate from the holy

fortitude of those who have gone before you, whose praise is in all our

churches, — “if there be any praise, think on these things.” Then, under

almighty grace, you will continue to do honor to your holy ministry; you

will be the blessed means of sanctifying the people, and “the God of peace

will be ever with you.

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

 

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