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Duties of a Minister

28 Jun
Many years ago we felt that God wanted us to work with pastors, church leaders and missionaries. To this end we not only pursued further education but started www.dakotascba.com and this one to provide information to help that group of leaders grow in Christ and their faith.

While we cannot judge these people, we are left wondering why some of them are in the ministry at all as their performance of their duties and treatment of the people in their charge is less than godly.  To this end we publish this series on THE DUTIES OF A MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL BY THOMAS COKE, LL. D. (Ages Software Electronic edition) .

All the information related in that little book may not apply to each minister, church leader or missionary but we are confident that much of what is written will help those who serve God in these positions and bring them back to the correct perspective of their office and how they are to go about fulfilling their calling.

But before we get to the first discourse on the duties of a minister of the gospel, we have a few words we would like to say. First, we would like to take you to 1 Kings 2 and provide the words of King David to his son as words to govern the pastors, church leaders and missionaries as they go about their duties:

1 When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. 2 I am about to go the way of all the earth, he said. so be strong, show yourself a man, 3 and observe  what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, (NIV)

These words are timeless and not for just Solomon’s ears. If they were they would not have been recorded in the Bible. They are wise words for all those called to a leadership position in the church. Of course, those who hear these words must make sure that they are truly know and are walking in his ways, that they are not listening to subjective opinion or their own personal ideas and that they are not letting denominational doctrines color the ways and knowledge of God.

Second, in conjunction with this series we will be posting up some excerpts from E.M. Bounds on our www.dakotascba.com  as prayer is vital for church leaders and not just the dutiful prayers done at prayer meetings and gatherings of church men and so on; but prayers of a humble man who yearn to do their duty correctly and want to truly please God in their stewardship of his people.

There are probably a great many books out there on prayer and how to pray but prayer needs to come from the heart, from purity and a longing to see God win and develop as many people as possible. Prayer is not to be the abdicating of responsibility and passing the buck to God and hope that he sends a miracle instead of using humans to do his will.

Too often church leaders forget that God has chosen to use humans and they walk away from a situation that God has brought to them or they find alternative solutions than just getting involved and showing that God cares.

People will not see that God cares about them unless his people actually get involved and obey God’s instructions. Why did God choose to use humans? One, If he sent a miracle each and every time someone needs him, it is too easy to credit the wrong source and people will not be saved but go after the alternative. Two, the people receiving the miracle will see how God’s people just sit on the sidelines and did nothing bringing further disrepute to the people of God.

Those are but two of the many reasons why God chose people. The main idea is that God made it the best way to communicate his love and caring to his creation.

Third, the prayer on every pastor’s, church leader’s and missionary’s heart should be similar to the prayer that Solomon made when he was made king of Israel. We quote 1 Kings 3:

5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared  to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, Ask  for whatever you want me to give you.6 Solomon answered, You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful a  to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 7 Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen,  a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning  heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours. 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.

Being a church leader is not an easy duty to fulfill and great humbleness is required and the realization that one cannot perform their duties to their fullest without divine wisdom, discernment and understanding.

Church leaders cannot rely upon their own understanding cultural practices or even secular thought that may be considered wise. They need to walk with God as David spoke and bring his words to the people so that the people know what is required of them and which is the correct way to go

Christianity is a top down faith and although at times God may raise up common believers to positions of wisdom, etc., it is the leadership that usually sets the godly example. The leadership guides the people and if the leadership doesn’t get it right then few in the congregation will as well. God provided leadership and leaders for his people for a reason. They are not for ego trips or promotion s of superiority but positions to be filled by those who know how to lead God’s way and by people who listen to King David’s admonition to his son.

Good leaders make all the difference. So enjoy the following series and glean from those pages what you can and grow in knowledge of Jesus and your faith.

DISCOURSE 1

“I charge thee, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ,

who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his

kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;

reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the

time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after

their own lusts shall the heap to themselves teachers, having itching

ears; and they shall turn ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto

fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work

of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry,”

<550401>2 Timothy 4:1-5.

PART 1

1 . The ministerial office is the most important to the human race of any

which is exercised on earth for, according to the order of the dispensation

of grace, the preaching of the gospel is indispensably necessary to raise

mankind out of the ruins of their fall, to deliver them from all the miseries

which spring from an everlasting banishment from God, and to bring them

to the eternal enjoyment of Him, the Sovereign Good, at whose right hand

are pleasures for evermore.

The ministers of the gospel are particularly charged with these high interests

of mankind: they are like those angels whom Jacob beheld on the sacred

ladder, ascending and descending to and from heaven: they are the mouth of

the congregation at the throne of God, and open the bosom of His mercies

upon the miseries of man. They officially speak in the name of Christ,

whom the Father always hears.

2 . In a word, my brethren, a faithful ministry is the greatest blessing God

can bestow upon a people: it is the greatest he ever did bestow, except the

gifts of his Son and of his Spirit. What were the peculiar blessings which

the Lord promised by his prophets to the Israelites, if they would turn to

him, and obey his laws? Were they not the conquest of nations the entire

destruction of their enemies, the final period of all the miseries and

calamities which afflicted them, and a country which flowed with milk and

honey for their own habitation? These were the magnificent promises he

made them; and yet they prevailed not upon them to yield obedience to the

divine law, nor restrained them from prostituting their homage to the gods

of the heathen. He then ceased to press upon them these promises, which

were so flattering, and so likely to operate on the minds of a people who in

general were influenced by worldly motives; but it was to make them one

promise more which was a thousand times greater and more precious than

all the rest:

“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, and I will give you

pastors accord in to mine heart, which shall feed you with

knowledge and understanding,” <240314>Jeremiah 3:14, 15.

3 . “Raise then in thy church, O most gracious Lord, a sufficiency of

faithful pastors according to thine heart; and particularly call forth from our

connection chosen vessels to carry the savor of Christ’s name to all people;

and, in separating them for the work of the ministry, separate them also for

the sanctification of those to whom they may be sent. We do not so much

request the end of any trials or calamities which afflict us; we ask not

favorable seasons, abundance, or prosperity; we only request a sufficiency

of holy ministers who will die by thy cause, and with them thou wilt give

us all things else.”

4 . If we thus consider the gospel in the light of the sanctuary, we shall not

be surprised at the awfulness of the charge which the apostle, in my text,

gives to Timothy, his spiritual son: “I charge thee before God,” the

omnipotent Jehovah, who sees and marks every word and action of our

lives, who tries the heart and reins; from whom no covert can screen us, no

darkness hide us; “but the night shineth as the day; the darkness and the

light are both alike” to him, <19D912>Psalm 139:12. I charge thee also before “the

Lord Jesus Christ,” your Redeemer, who shed his blood for you, and for

the souls intrusted to your care: before Him whose minister you are, and to

whom you must account for the use or abuse of all your talents: before Him

“who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom:”

before whose awful bar you must stand in the presence of an assembled

universe, when he shall appear on his throne with all the splendor and glory

of the King of kings, to establish the eternal reign of his saints, and to

banish all evil ones, and all evil, from the glory of his power for ever: when

thou, O Timothy, shalt receive the exceeding great reward of thy faithful

ministry, or the greater condemnation which awaits the abuse of the most

precious gifts which can be intrusted to man.

Let us now proceed to the particulars of the apostle’s charge, omitting to

enlarge upon the reasons which he gives in the 3d and 4th verses, as they

primarily respect the people, and would lead us into too large a field of

discourse.

I. 1. First, “Preach the word” — The word of God, which is able to save

the soul. You are not ignorant, my brethren, what multitudes of immortal

beings have been brought by this divine word “from darkness to light, and

from the power of Satan unto God.” In those happy moments when a

whole congregation has been softened by this quickening fire, and the

hearts of the people all opened to receive the word, a single expression has

pierced to the quick, and produced its full effect. hundreds of thousands in

the course of the present revival have been enlightened by it, and have been

undeceived concerning the abuses and pernicious maxims of the world,

which they once thought innocent, because authorized by the common

usage of mankind, or by the preaching of blind guides. Innumerable have

been the profanations and disorders which have been prevented; and

innumerable the precious souls which have been drawn out of the abyss of

misery and sin in which they had so long lain. It is impossible for any but

God to number of the cries of compunction which have arisen from

awakened hearts, or the holy desires inspired into them. Scores of

thousands have been brought to God, and established in grace, who either

have been safely lodged in Abraham’s bosom, or are now living witnesses

of Christ’s power to save. It is impossible to enumerate the graces and

blessings which have been conferred upon the world, and especially from

these kingdoms, by the means of the present revival. Surely it may be said

of every faithful minister, as it was of his Lord, that “he is set for the rising

again of many in Israel,” <420234>Luke 2:34.

2 . The good which one single minister, true to the cause in which he has

engaged, can do in the course of his life by a faithful ministry of the word,

is not easily to be described. How many of the ignorant he may instruct,

how many sleepy consciences arouse, how many daring sinners confound;

how many mourners he may bring into the liberty of the children of God,

how many believers confirm in grace, yea, lead into the enjoyment of

perfect love! Blessed be the Lord, we have had our ministers, who were

formed according to the model of Jesus Christ, according to his simplicity,

his unction, his sacred zeal. We have had our WESLEYS, our FLETCHERS, our

GRIMSHAWS, and our WALSHES. Every thing was borne down by their holy

eloquence, and by the power of the Spirit of God, who spoke through

them. The villages, the towns, the cities, could not resist the impetuosity of

their zeal, and the eminent sanctity of their lives; the tears, the sighs, and the

deep compunction of those who heard them, were the commendations

which accompanied their ministry. The strictness of their manners left

nothing for the world to say against the truths which they delivered. The

simplicity of their spirit, and the gentleness of their conversation and

conduct toward others but severity toward themselves, belied not the gospel

of which they were ministers. Their examples instructed, persuaded, and

struck the people almost as much as their sermons: and the Spirit of God,

who inflamed their hearts, the divine fire with which they themselves were

filled, spread itself through the coldest and most insensible souls; and

enabled them almost everywhere to raise chapels, temples to God, where

the penitents and believers might assemble to hear them, and each return

inflamed like themselves, and filled with the abundance of the Spirit of

God. O what good is one apostolic man capable of working upon earth!

There were no more than twelve employed to begin the conversion of the

world.

3 . Elijah, ascending to heaven, and leaving his spirit of zeal to his disciple

Elisha, was designed as a type of Jesus Christ; who, after he had ascended

to the right hand of the Father, sent down on his disciples that spirit of zeal

and of fire which was the seal of their mission; by which they were to set

on fire and purify the world, and carry to all nations the knowledge of

salvation and the love of truth and righteousness. Scarcely are they thus

filled with the Holy Spirit, but these men, before so timid, so careful to hide

themselves, to withdraw themselves from the fury of the Jews, leave their

retreat like generous lions, know danger no more, bear in their countenance

an intrepidity in the way of duty which sets at defiance all the powers of the

earth, boldly bear their testimony for Christ before the assembly of chief

priests, and depart from the council, rejoicing to be thought worthy to

suffer reproach for Jesus’ holy name.

4 . Judea cannot satisfy the ardor and extent of their zeal. They pass from

city to city, from nation to nation; they spread themselves to the extremities

of the earth; they attack the most ancient and most authorized abuses; they

tear away from the most barbarous people the idols which their ancestors

had at all times adored. They overturn the altars which continual incense

and homage had rendered respectable; they preach up the reproach and

foolishness of the cross to the most polished nations, who piqued

themselves most upon their eloquence, philosophy, and wisdom. The

obstacles which all things present to their zeal, instead of abating it, only

give it new force, and seem everywhere to announce their success: the

whole world conspires against them, and they are stronger than the world:

crosses and gibbets are shown them, to put a stop to their preaching; and

they answer that they cannot but declare what they have seen and heard; and

they publish on the housetops what was confided to them in secret: they

now expire under the axe of the executioner: new torments are invented to

extinguish with their blood the new doctrine which they preach; and their

blood preaches it still more after their death; and the more the earth is

watered with it, the more does she bring forth new disciples to the gospel.

Such was the spirit of the ministry and apostleship which they received, for

these are in some sense but one and the same: every minister of the gospel

is an apostle and ambassador of Jesus Christ among men. O that God

would increase the number of those who are willing to preach and to die for

Jesus Christ! “Preach,” then, “the word.”

II. But I proceed to the second particular contained in the apostle’s charge:

“Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all

longsuffering and doctrine.”

1. BE ALWAYS READY AND ALWAYS ZEALOUS FOR THE

PUBLIC DUTIES OF YOUR OFFICE.

1 . You are perhaps afraid of dissipation of mind, and of all the unavoidable

dangers to which your zeal will expose you; but it is this fear, which,

through grace, will support you under them: we cannot fill our office with

fidelity and safety without possessing much of this holy, filial fear.

You

think yourself unworthy of a ministry so holy and so glorious; but it is this

sentiment itself which makes you evangelically worthy of it. No one can

exercise it in a manner worthy of God, who does not feel himself extremely

unworthy of it. You have a taste perhaps for retirement; but is this the taste

or the rule which should determine your duties? Are you become a public

minister, that you should live to yourself alone? indeed, your taste for

retirement, if properly used, and duly restrained, will, under the blessing of

God, assure the success of your public labors. Perhaps you are diffident

concerning your gifts; but is it not a great gift to possess an ardent desire for

the salvation of souls? With a heart penetrated and inflamed by this desire, a

minister will always succeed; it is in some degree a substitute for other

talents: what shall I say? It forms them in him.

Whereas, with the most

shining talents, without this tender love for souls, this apostolic zeal, we are

but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Only put yourselves into the

hands of those who are appointed to govern; they will employ you

according to your gifts and strength; it is not in you that in this instance it

appertains to judge. Blessed be the Lord, the field is various; they will find

out for you the place which suits you; and if nature has not bestowed on

you all the powers of oratory, the grace of God, and the spirit of the

missionary, will give you every thing necessary.

2 . Let us all, fathers and brethren, remember that, whatever be our talents,

whatever be our views, we are essentially wrong if we suffer them to lead

us out of the path of duty or the order of our station. We are commanded to

“be instant in season, out of season:” a minister, therefore, must perish in

the inutility of a life of retirement and repose; the duties of his ministry, and

the wants of the church of God, permit him not to enjoy them. “Nothing is

more opposed,” says St. Chrysostom, “to the spirit of the ministry to which

the church of Christ has joined us, than a quiet and retired life, which many

erroneously regard as the kind of life the most sublime and perfect.” No,

my brethren, nothing is safe for us but that which God requires of us. True

devotion is not the work of human taste and caprice; it is a divine gift, and

always in the order of God. The distrust of ourselves is a great virtue when

it makes us more attentive to the fulfillment of our duties; but it is an

illusion, a vice, when it draws us from them.

3 . Let us now, my brethren, in concluding this division of our subject, call

to mind the different sources from whence arises the defect of zeal in

ministers of the gospel. Indeed, we cannot too often set them before our

eyes; for they are the poisoned fountains from whence flow all the evils of

the church of Christ.

The first is, the love of this world and its conveniences: no sooner does

every thing commodious in the present life offer its tempting baits, but with

too many that fire of zeal, that flame of love for the salvation of souls,

vanishes away like the morning dew, to the astonishment of the discerning

beholder.

The second is, a defect of the love of God: it must be nearly extinguished in

our hearts, if we can daily behold the disorders and infidelity which

continually dishonor the name and holy religion of our God, without

embracing the most effectual method, if we be really called to the ministry

of the word, to stem the torrent.

The third is, a defect of love to mankind: for can those who are chosen of

God to the great work of snatching immortal spirits out of the burning, love

them, an yet calmly see them perish?

The fourth is, such a respect for men as makes us seek their friendship and

esteem at the expense of truth; I mean that baseness of spirit which ties our

tongues before them, and makes us prefer our own glory and our own

interests to the love of Christ and the interests of his church. Fortitude,

disinterestedness, a holy generosity, a wise and heroic firmness, are the

constant fruits of the true ministerial grace and office; and if these

sentiments be effaced from the heart of a minister, the grace of his vocation

is utterly extinct.

The fifth is, the indulgence of some secret vice; for what true zeal can that

preacher have against the vices of the world, who indulges himself in any

secret sin?

The sixth is, a dull, lukewarm spirit: zeal is a holy fervor, which gives its

first attention to ourselves. Alas! he who can indulge in himself a stupid,

lethargic spirit, will make but a miserable reprover of the deadness of

devotion which he observes in others.

The seventh, and last, is a timid and misinformed piety. Some refuse to

devote themselves. wholly to the work of the ministry, or give it up when

they have entered upon it, through a pious delusion. They make piety itself

a pretext to dispense with the rules of piety: they are afraid to lose their own

souls; but they are not afraid to lose the souls of those whom they are called

of God to be the instruments of saving. They believe they ought to fly from

those dangers to which the order of God, and of the church to which they

belong, calls them: and this flight is the only danger of which they are

ignorant, and yet the greatest they have to fear.

4 . In short, my brethren, it is in vain that our morals are otherwise

irreprehensible: it is not sufficient to lead a prudent and regular life before

the eyes of the world: if we be not penetrated with a lively sorrow at seeing

the lost estate of the souls around us; if we do not arm ourselves with the

seal of faith and love, and with that sword of the Spirit which is the word of

God, to bring them out of their ways of error; if we do not exhort them

“with all longsuffering and doctrine;” if we be not “instant in season and out

of season”; if we content with our own fancied righteousness, we imagine

ourselves safe in reproving and rebuking by our examples, or, like old Eli,

in only softly condemning the vice of others; our pretended virtue or

holiness, indolent, inactive, lethargic, is a crime, an abomination before

God: we feel not ourselves charged with the interests of God upon earth;

we live only for ourselves; we are no more ambassadors of Jesus Christ;

we are easy, useless spectators of the reproaches cast upon him and his

holy religion; and, by our silence and insensibility, consent to the crimes,

and are partakers of the guilt, of those who crucify him afresh. No, my

brethren let us not deceive ourselves; for, as I have already said, and must

repeat again, however well regulated the life of such a minister may seem,

he has but the appearance of piety; he has not the foundation and truth of it:

he seems to live, but he is dead in the sight of God: men perhaps may praise

him, but God curses him: the regularity of his life now lulls him to sleep;

but a terrible sound, and the clamors of the souls which he has suffered to

perish, shall one day awaken him thoroughly: he calms his mind, because

he bears a cold, dry testimony in favor of evangelical truths; or because he

compares the regularity of his life with that of many others called ministers;

but he shall one day see that his righteousness was but that of a Pharisee,

and shall in the end be ranked with the hypocrites and unprofitable servants,

<402530>Matthew 25:30.

5 . Ah! What, my brethren! A minister of Jesus Christ, sent to do his work

upon earth, to enlarge his kingdom, to advance the building of his eternal

city for him to see the reign of the devil prevail over that of Jesus Christ in

the place or places where he labors; and his faith, his love, his pretended

piety to suffer him to be quiet and at rest! Can a minister of the gospel hear

the name of Jesus, and the truth as it is in him whose place he fills, and

whom he professes to love and honor, daily derided or denied by word or

deed, and not be filled with zeal for the cause of his great Master so

opposed! What shall I say? Certainly he would speak with the authority

which the dignity of his office always gives him, and endeavor to inspire

sentiments more worthy of religion in those perverse, corrupted men: or he

would be a base coward, a prevaricator, a minister who betrayed his

ministry, if a criminal insensibility, or a carnal or timid prudence, could on

such occasions shut his mouth; and he all this time believe himself innocent

of the blood of souls! Can a faithful shepherd see his sheep precipitate

themselves into the abyss without running after them, and making them at

least to hear his voice? Nay, when a single sheep had wandered, he would

traverse the mountains, and endure the most painful toils, to bring it back

again on his shoulders, <421501>Luke 15. No, my brethren, the man just now

described is not a shepherd, not a minister of Jesus Christ; I reclaim the

name; he is a usurper, who falsely bears that honorable title; and,

notwithstanding all his profession, has willfully made himself a vessel of

reprobation and shame, placed in the temple of God!

6 . But it may be urged, that a traveling preacher in our connection is

responsible only for the societies under his care. The objector must certainly

have forgotten, or never have read, the rules of a preacher, which we have

all so solemnly promised to obey. The eleventh runs thus: — “You have

nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work;

and go always not only to those that want, but to those that want you most.

Observe! It is not your business only to preach so many times, and to take

care of this or that society, but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as

many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and, with all your power,

to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord.”

PART 2

2. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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 June 28, 2017 in academics, Bible, church, comparative religions, faith, family, leadership, theology

 

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