Elihu Thayer (1747-1812) graduated from Princeton in 1769. He was minister at a Congregational church in Kingston, NH from 1776 through 1812. The following sermon was preached by Rev. Thayer in 1790 on the occasion of the ordination of another minister.
PREACHED AT THE
OF THE REVEREND
PETER SANBORN, A.M.
PASTOR OF THE THIRD CHURCH IN
JUNE 9, 1790
BY ELIHU THAYER
PASTOR OF THE FIRST CHURCH IN
JEREMIAH I. 17.
THOU THEREFORE GIRD UP THY LOINS AND ARISE, AND SPEAK UNTO THEM ALL THAT COMMAND THEE; BE NOT DISMAYED AT THEIR FACES, LEST I CONFOUND THEE BEFORE THEM.
ALL mankind are designed for an endless existence. They are furnished with a natural capacity for a most sublime and refined happiness — a happiness consisting in the knowledge and enjoyment of God; and which shall last and increase forever. It is therefore an object of unspeakable importance, especially, when we consider that endless misery is the only alternative.
Of this happiness man was originally possessed, for he knew his Maker, and loved him with all his heart — his affections were disinterested, and pure as the crystal stream — he was happy in the love and enjoyment of his Maker, and the continuance of the Divine favour was promised to man in a way which reason pointed out. But man being in honor abode not — he soon forsook God the Fountain of good — he became God’s enemy — he forfeited God’s favour, and plunged himself into a labrynth of evils, from which to extricate himself, and regain Divine favour, was infinitely above the comprehension of any finite mind.
At this gloomy and interesting period, the great Jehovah began to display his perfections to the view of angels and men, so as he had never done before, by exhibiting to their view, a glorious scheme of redemption, which ‘till now, had been an eternal secret in his own breast; for he had laid the plan of redemption before the foundation of the world, and constituted own Son a Mediator, to vindicate his character and condemn sin, and so open a consistent medium for divine gracious communications to guilty men, whereby they might be restored to the image and forfeited favour of God.
In addition to the foregoing expressions of Divine benevolence and grace to a fallen world, God was pleased to inspire, and send forth ministers, to instruct mankind into the nature of his character — the holiness, justice and goodness of his law — the infinite propriety of his being loved with all the heart and of being obeyed in everything — the unreasonableness of the sinner’s temper and conduct, and, so of his desert of eternal damnation, together with the glorious scheme of redemption, in which mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace embrace each other.
And because mankind in their fallen, guilty state, are naturally afraid of God, the divine goodness and mercy are displayed, in sending messengers to them, who are of their own species, and whose terror, therefore, may not make them afraid.
And, since the human heart is naturally averse from truth, they will be liable to the esteemed, and treated as enemies who came to men in God’s name with his friendly instruction; and, as the glory of God and the salvation of the sinner stand in close connection with a faithful discharge of the trust reposed in the messengers, we often find God solemnly charging those whom he appoints to the office of ambassadors, to take heed to their instructions, and conduct with all boldness, fidelity and caution : and the vast importance of fidelity to God and man in the ambassadors of Christ is frequently presented, by pointing out the tremendous consequences of unfaithfulness, both to themselves and others.
In the words which I have chosen as the subject of our present meditations, we are presented with an example of this kind. The PROPHECY is introduced, with an account of Jeremiah’s appointment to be God’s messenger to the nations, as in verse 4th. “Thus the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, before I formed the in the belly, I knew thee, and before thou camest forth of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
We then find the humble prophet dissident of his qualifications, and trembling in the view of the important and arduous work to which he was called, entering this objection, “Ah, Lord God, behold I cannot speak, for I am a child.”
Upon this it may be remarked, that Christ’s ministers do not run, before they are sent; but, instead of being confident of their own abilities and qualifications, are ready to question both; and no wonder, when we consider, that, by being invested with this sacred office, they become the constituted guardians of the souls of men, which are to exist forever, and the happiness of which in some important respects, depends upon the faithful discharge of their office; and that the honor of God and the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom, are its immediate objects.
But God, whose prerogative it is to assign to his creatures their work; and who is able, and stands ready to furnish them with the necessary wisdom and strength to discharge the duties of the office to which he appoints them, will admit of no excuse : hence God says to Jeremiah, Say not I am a child, for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak; then solemnly cautions him to guard against one of the most ensnaring enemies to the soul of a minister of Jesus, even the fear of man; “Be not afraid of their faces;” and immediately subjoins the encouragement to boldness and fidelity, without which, the stoutest heart must sink : “For I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.”
And being informed what he should speak, the former admonition, with the consequences of his providing disobedient, are repeated in the words of our text: “Thou therefore gird up thy loins and arise, and speak unto them all the words which I command thee; be not dismayed at their faces, left I confound thee before them.”
In this solemn charge given to Jeremiah, he was not distinguished from other prophets, or from the ministers of Christ in the gospel-day, as though he stood in need of such a caution and exhortation MORE than others who HAD BEEN, or SHOULD BE employed in the sacred office of preaching the Gospel: or, as though declaring God’s word in HIS DAY was attended with any PECULIAR difficulties; or the neglect of his duty followed with any UNCOMMONLY dreadful consequences; for we find the same exhortation and warning repeatedly given to the prophet Ezekiel, in the following solemn strain, “Son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words; through briars and thorns be with thee, and thou dwell among scorpions, be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks — and thou shalt speak MY WORDS unto them, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear;” and then he is reminded of the dreadful consequences of neglecting his duty, both to himself and to others; “I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel — therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, thou shalt SURELY DIE; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at your hands;” yet, for his encouragement it is added, “If thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul.”
The same charge, with little formal variation, has been given to the ambassadors of Christ in ages since by Christ himself, and by his apostles, who received from him authority to separate others to the work of the gospel-ministry.
Our text instructs us, that it is the duty of ministers of the gospel, faithfully to declare to mankind what God commands them, notwithstanding any difficulties to which it may expose them.
In illustrating this doctrine, it will be natural
I. To point out some of the difficulties which attend a faithful discharge of the ministerial office, and
II. Shew WHY a faithful declaration of what God commands, is indispensably the duty of the evangelical minister, notwithstanding any supposed difficulties
I. We shall point out SOME of those difficulties which the evangelical minister may expect to conflict with, in the faithful execution of his office.
It is taken for granted, that the minister who plainly and faithfully publishes the sentiments of the gospel, and withholds no part of his message, must meet with opposition, and contend with many difficulties : this is more than intimated in the words of my text. This is a truth upon which is founded all the exhortations to boldness, and all the threatenings against those who betray the trust reposed in the ambassadors of Christ, which we find so often repeated in the sacred oracles. It is here universally assented, or taken for granted, that in this respect the disciple will be his Master, and the faithful servant, as his Lord, in a greater or less degree, and frequently in a great degree.
The reason of this opposition, in general is because the faithful ambassador of Christ is engaged in a cause to which the human heart is totally opposed. The business of the gospel-minister, is to plead the cause of God and vindicate his character, against all the aspersions and misrepresentations of a revolted world, or to justify God in all his conduct, and condemn the sins of men; in doing which it will be nothing strange, if he excite the hatred, and expose himself to the resentment of wicked men, who hate the truth: and from such he may expect reproach, if not persecution. In suffering thus, he will only taste of the cup of Christ’s sufferings; for, when Christ plainly and impartially held up to the Jewish nation the holiness of God and his law, and told them that they were serpents, and a generation of vipers, deserving the damnation of hell, they were enraged at him, and persecuted him from city to city, and never rested, ‘till they had embrued [saturated] their hands in his blood.
And when his apostles, the prime-ministers of his kingdom, took up the cross, and stood forth in defense of their Master and his cause, and publicly vindicated the character and ways of God, and condemned mankind in revolting from God; and for all their impenitent exercise, they had to suffer those indignities which even capital offenders are commonly exempted from by the laws of humanity. The same aversion from truth, which displayed itself in so many horrid forms, in the unreasonable rage and resentment which Christ endured, fired a wicked world against his ministers, and they soon were reduced to the pressing alternative, either to abjure Christ, and renounce Christianity, or sacrifice their lives in his cause. And as human nature is the same in all ages, and the carnal mind enmity against God; and, of consequence, opposed to the cause of tr5uth and righteousness, the work of the faithful minister must be laborious, and attended with many difficulties. The many different and clashing religious principles and systems which have prevailed in every age of the church, and the variety of discordant tastes and tempers which are to be found in almost every society, will throng the way of the faithful minister with difficulties; to remove which it will require firmness and revolution, joined with the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove.
To expose error in all its flattering forms, so as to convince, as well as to stop the mouths of gainsayers; to administer instruction and reproof, in those numerous critical cases which will fall in a minister’s way, so as to force conviction directly upon the conscience — that we love the man, while we expose his iniquity — This is labor! This is work indeed, which requires real benevolence, joined with uncommon prudence and discretion.
Nor do all the difficulties which attend the ministerial office and work, arise from the necessity of much painful application in order to get an acquaintance with the gospel-scheme, which the minister of Christ is to explain and inculcate: but he must expect opposition from the enemies of God and his people; for all the powers of darkness are combined against Christ, and, of consequence, against his ministers: They will therefore have to maintain a constant conflict, not only with flesh and blood — with their own selfish carnal inclinations, which will be ever tempting them to betray, or neglect the cause of God; but with principalities and powers, with spiritual wickednesses in high places.
The glorious Gospel of the blessed God is wisely and directly calculated to vindicate God’s injured character, to do honor to the divine law, and fix blame on the sinner.
It is a system of truth, and therefore directly crossing to the human heart : those, therefore, who bring into view the true character of God, and avoid falsehood and flattery in their description of human nature, and hold up plainly before men their total opposition to God and his law, and their infinite criminality and just exposedness to eternal wrath, together with their absolute dependence upon the sovereign mercy of God, through Christ, for every favor: The minister who inculcates these plain, pinching and soul-humbling doctrines of the gospel, must expect to meet with more or less opposition : for the enemies of the gospel will ever oppose its advocates in some form or other.
The ministers of Jesus has often to bear the scorn and derision of infidels, and be stigmatized as religious madman — a wild enthusiast, or self-righteous Pharisee, by the free-thinkers and the free livers of every age. Neither is he liable to the contempt and derision, to the reproach and persecution of those with whom he has no particular connection, but often from his nearest relations, his brethren according to the flesh. Nor is the painful reflection of apparently laboring in fain, and spending his strength for naught; or, rather of proving a favor of death unto death to his hearers, one of the least trials which press upon the heart of the faithful minister. O how killing to the spirits of the friend of the souls of men is to think, that the gospel by him dispensed should prove the occasion of aggravating the damnation of any of his hearers, or prove unto them a favor of death unto death. This is a trial which is felt by the benevolent heart ONLY. Such are the difficulties and trials to which the ambassadors of Jesus have been exposed, and with which they have had to encounter, as the history of ages shews, and to these they will ever be exposed, ‘till the happy era arrives, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. 1
II. To offer some reasons WHY it is the indispensable duty of Christ’s ministers to stand ready to declare what God commands them, notwithstanding all supposed difficulties.
The Gospel-minister is not to shun to declare the whole counsel of God, whether sinners will hear, or whether they will forbear; they are bound by the authority and command of God, to stand ready to do it, eve in the face of the greatest difficulties and dangers.
“Gird up thy loins and arise” is the command of god to the prophet whom he had appointed to the office of an ambassador.
The expression is metaphorical, borrowed from the custom of the oriental nations, who, wearing long loose garments, were wont to gird them about their loins, that they might not hinder them in travelling, or working, and is here applied to the mind, and signifies a readiness and preparation for spiritual work — a readiness to obey the commands of God, without hesitation or delay.
And there are several important reasons which render a faithful declaration of what God commands indispensably the duty of the gospel-minister.
PARTICULARLY. The honor of God makes it necessary that his ministers faithfully deliver their messages.
When God sends men upon his errands, they cannot neglect to comply with his command, either by varying, or with-holding any part of what they are directed to speak, without reflecting dishonor upon God; for such conduct in any supposeable instance, is a practical declaration, that God’s directions are not the dictates of infinite wisdom. And, for a minister to vary his message, in order to accommodate it to the taste of the depraved heart, would carry in it the same reflection.
The honor of God is also connected with the faithful discharge of the ministerial office, another way.
One principal thing God had in view, in the work of redemption, was, to display himself; or exhibit himself to his rational creatures, in his majesty, fullness and glory. And the glorious gospel, which is the message he puts into the mouth of his ministers, is, taken together, in the best manner calculated to bring DIETY into view; for, it is a declaration of his character and will, and for his designs respecting rational creatures : so far, therefore, as this is neglected, God is dishonored and his perfections concealed; for the bible, like a wisely contrived and complicated machine, appears beautiful, when each part is viewed in its connections and dependencies upon the rest, and the wisdom of the contriver is easily seen in his work; but if any essential part be removed, the wisdom and skill of the contriver cannot be discovered; so, leave one essential doctrine out of the bible, and the connection and beautiful consistency of the whole is destroyed, and nothing appears in worthy of the wisdom of God. Hence arises the importance that the ministers of God’s word, the ambassadors of Christ, should attend diligently to the scheme of divinity delineated in the sacred oracles, and acquire a consistent scheme of religious knowledge — a scheme consistent with itself, founded upon, and drawn from the sacred scriptures, holding up the truth, carefully, plainly, and fully; since either ignorance of the important and leading doctrines of the bible, or a neglect to publish them, tends directly to destroy one great end of the Holy Spirit in inditing [writing] the Scriptures; even a manifestation of the perfections of God.
Another reason why the minister of Christ is obliged to adhere to the directions of God’s word, and faithfully delver the messages it contains, even the most self denying, which are in general the most important, is, because the exhibition of the glory and grace of Christ as mediator in THIS WORLD greatly depends thereon.
MINISTERS are ambassadors for Christ. Their business is, to carry his messages, and hold up to sinners the infinite mercy of the Mediator in the work of redemption.
In order to this, it appears to be necessary that they should bring into view the infinite amiableness of the Deity, the holiness of his law, and the evil of, and the infinite criminality of the sinner and his desert of eternal punishment. If these things are not seen, how can the glory and grace of the Mediator appear?
For the gift of Christ, and his obedience and death; even all that he did in redemption, were acts of infinite mercy and grace, only on the supposition that the human race deserved eternal damnation, for there is no grace in saving from a punishment which is not deserved; and mankind deserve eternal death, only on the supposition that sin is an infinite evil, and sin is not an infinite evil, unless that law, of which sin is a transgression, and which requires us to love God with all the heart, on pain of eternal punishment, is holy, just, and perfectly equitable.
FURTHER. The goodness of this law can be defended, only upon the principle, that God is infinitely amiable in himself; even antecedently to a consideration of redemption. If, therefore, we leave out either of these doctrines, the cross of Christ will necessarily appear the most foolish, shocking event that ever took place in any part of the creation of God.
This view of the matter furnishes us with another reason, WHY a faithful discharge of the ministerial office is indispensably the duty of the ambassador of Christ.
It is necessary, because a neglect here, leaves those to whom the messages are sent, destitute of the necessary means of instruction and conviction, and becomes the occasion of their eternal ruin. The ambassador of Christ, therefore, by not attending to his duty, and carefully examining and understanding the nature of the messages with which he is charged, and delivering them without any essential alteration, not only reflects dishonor upon God, and keeps out of view the grace of the Redeemer, but stands chargeable with the blood of souls. The Gospel is perfectly adapted to the case of mankind; and the business of the evangelical minister, is to get an acquaintance with this divine system, and to draw stores from this treasury, and give to every man his portion in due season. He is to instruct the ignorant, and to hold up before the impenitent their infinite criminality, and their imminent danger, as well as the remedy revealed in the gospel. And where this is neglected, and the people perish for want of vision, they indeed die in their iniquities, but their blood will be required at the watchman’s hand.
If he who is set to decry dangers, and to give timely notice of approaching evils, neglects this business of his office, he betrays the cause of his Master and the souls of his flock. And when we consider the inexpressible worth of the human soul, and its capacity for advancing in knowledge, in holiness and happiness without end, and how much depends upon its being faithfully and plainly instructed, together with the probable consequences of neglect in the shepherd! How strongly do these things bind him to the utmost fidelity and caution!
We may add, that fidelity in a watchman is indispensably necessary, because it is immediately connected with his own salvation, and the contrary with his eternal destruction. The unfaithful, or slothful minister, neglects his own salvation, in neglecting that of his people.
If he shrinks from duty, to escape danger his danger will thereby be enhanced, for he is set to “watch for souls as one that must give an account.”
And when we consider how nearly the honor of God, the glory of the Mediator, and the eternal happiness of mankind are connected with a strict adherence to God’s word, and a faithful dispensation of it, without any essential addition, diminution, or alteration, we need not wonder that an inspired apostle should boldly stand forth and anathematize the person, even if an angel from heaven, who should preach any other gospel than that which he had preached. Nor need we wonder, that the Holy Ghost closes the cannon of the new testament, with a warning to ministers, as well as to others, carefully to avoid adding anything TO, or detracting anything FROM the doctrines of the gospel, in this expressive language “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of this book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy City, and from the things which are written in this book; he that testifieth these things which are written in this book; he that testifieth these things saith, surely I come quickly.” Bur if such are the difficulties and duties of the ambassador of Jesus, it will be here natural to enquire, who is the man, and what is his character who will surmount the former, and patiently and faithfully discharge the latter?
And here it is plain at first blush, that he who is an enemy to God himself, and in heart on the side of, and disposed to justify a revolted world, is not the MAN who will stand forth in the cause of God, in the midst of evil report and good report, honor and dishonor; and, amidst all the frowns and flatteries of the world, vindicate God’s character and law, and condemn sin in all its various forms, and enforce his doctrines, by a holy life.
It can never be supposed that a traitor, at heart, should prove a faithful soldier in the field of battle, against those in whose interest his heart is engaged, much less that he should be faithful, if called to act as a general in the camp, where he has a thousand opportunities and temptations to betray his trust.
That a man should sacrifice his ease, health, reputation, the favor of his friends, and, it may be, his life, in support of a cause, and in vindication of a character to which he is disaffected, can never be supposed, or rationally expected.
Nothing short of supreme love to God, and a hearty zeal for the good of mankind, will be sufficient to render the minister of the gospel steadfast and immoveable under such trials as these : accordingly we find, that Christ considers every natural man, as being totally unqualified for the work of the ministry, and has therefore, in all ages, formed his own ministers for the noble employ, by sanctifying their hearts, and communicating them his own Spirit, as appears, among other instances, from that of Jeremiah and the apostle Paul.
Indeed, without this necessary qualification, a minister may attend to the easier parts of his office, and perhaps gain the approbation and applause of the world, and render himself vastly popular. But when private interest (that tool of the human heart) must be given up, and perhaps all that is near and dear in the world sacrificed to the cause of truth, then where is the man who will stand by the truth, and steadfastly vindicate it, unless he loves God and his religion supremely? From such an one ONLY, can such a sacrifice be expected. Hence, the man who will act the part of the faithful minister, is no other than the godly man, whose heart has been renewed by Divine power and grace, and glows with love to God and man, it is necessary he should be under the influence of disinterested affection, in order to treat his fellow men with that tenderness and affection which the nature and importance of his office require.
But a renewed and sanctified heart, though essential, is not the ONLY essential qualification of the minister of Jesus; for “The priests lips shall preserve knowledge.” But his lips cannot express more knowledge than the heart conceives. The qualified minister is therefore acquainted, not only with God, and his own heart, but with his BIBLE, and understands the scheme of religion therein delineated. Hence it is a Divine direction to the ministers of Christ, to commit the gospel-ministry to “faithful men, and such as are able to teach others also.” But a knowledge of the sciences of history and of the languages in which the sacred scriptures were originally written, are, by all good judges, confessedly important, in order to such an acquaintance with the sacred classics as becomes a minister of the gospel : but in order to this, a man must be possessed of a good natural capacity. These all enter into the character of the qualified gospel-minister, as is evident, because, without a good capacity, no man in the short term of a few years, can acquire such a fund of speculative knowledge, as the instructive minister is supposed to possess : And the ignorant minister is unable, whatever his disposition may be, to execute the office of a gospel bishop; and, without a good heart, he will not be faithful, whatever his natural capacity and natural acquirements may be. With these noble qualifications, the ministerial office MAY be executed with credit and success; but, without them, it can NEVER be expected.
From this view of the subject, it appears, that, the governing motives by which Christ’s ministers are influenced to enter upon the work of the gospel-ministry, are, supreme love to God, and a benevolent regard to the good of mankind. And as these motives have a proper influence upon NONE but such as are renewed in the spirit of their minds, and are Christ’s disciples indeed; such only are likely to surmount the obstacles of the ministerial office, and answer the end of its institution. They therefore, in distinction from others, are the men whom Christ hath chosen to be stewards in his house. And it is plain that they who enter upon this important work without a cordial attachment to the glory of God, and the good of mankind, run therefore they are sent, and enter upon an employ for which they are by no means qualified, though their natural powers and acquirements be ever so great.
We may learn also from this subject, the importance of persons having some satisfactory evidence to themselves that they are God’s friends, before they presume to enter upon the sacred work of the gospel-ministry, in which employ, especially, it is required that a man be found faithful
We may learn likewise, from this subject, the importance of caution in recommending those ONLY to the use of the churches, as preachers of the gospel, who are persons of real and improved abilities, and, in a judgment of charity, friends to God and the souls of men. Has it not been owing to a neglect here, that the sacred office, in the minds of many, hath sunk into so great contempt? And doth it not become the ministers of Jesus, to see to it that they give no offence in this particular, that the ministry be not blamed?
But, omitting other obvious remarks, which are naturally suggested by the subject before us,
SUFFER me, Dear Sir, to address a few things to you, who are now to have committed to you, the most sacred and honorable, the most arduous and difficult; and, of all others, the most important work of the gospel-ministry; and may they be written on your heart in indelible characters.
You have heard some of the obstacles of the work, to which you are now about to be separated, described, and the indispensable importance of your surmounting them, together with the necessity of supreme love to God and his cause, and the heroic virtues of the real Christian, to discharge the sacred office with credit and success.
The honor of God, and the glory of the Redeemer, but especially your own salvation and that of this people, are deeply interested in the transactions of this day, and of your future life.
In the execution of your office, you must be prepared for trials, for, you may expect to meet with opposition and trials, from the corruptions of your own heart, from the temptations and snares of satan, and from the ignorance and wickedness of men. The work you are engaging in, is a difficult work, and requires much patience and fortitude. It is a GREAT WORK, and requires painful study and close and constant application. It is a GOOD WORK, and requires benevolence in the execution of it; and, without supreme love to God, whose cause you are to plead, and whose character you are to vindicate and without cordial benevolence to the souls of men, for whole eternal salvation you are to pray and preach, and labour, and be instant in season and out of season, you will betray the cause of God and the souls of your flock.
Without these grand pre- requisites, you will never stand with your loins girt, to sacrifice your own ease and private interest to the glory of God and the good of your fellow creatures : But, with a heart swallowed up in affection to God, and his glorious cause, you will not shun to declare the whole counsel of God to this people — you will do it with satisfaction, and do all that in you lies to make them wise undo salvation.
Remember, Sir that the business of your life will be, to feed Christ’s sheep, and his lambs, with knowledge and understanding. You are to “watch four souls as one that must give an account!” A consideration, big with the most mighty excitements to diligence and fidelity. Take heed to your heart, to your head and to your lips: see to it that you are acquainted with the way in which you are to lead others _ seek diligently, carefully and prayerfully, to know the truth, and to feel the efficacy of it upon your own heart. Embrace all advantages for intellectual improvement, that your tongue may be like the pen of a ready writer; and, remember that you are not only to PREACH, but to LIVE religion delineate your doctrines in a humble, holy and devout life. You will have little reason to expect that your hearers will be benefited by the doctrines you deliver, unless you evidence to them, by your example, that you believe them yourself. Great is the efficacy of example, and let the benevolent doctrines you deliver, be ever enforced, BY, and exemplified IN, a holy life, that your hearers may follow your example, as well as EMBRACE the doctrines you deliver, with safety and advantage.
And, O my Brother, never shun difficulties, to avoid danger, when your duty to God, or the interest of the souls of men require you look them in the face. The way of duty is, invariably, the way of safety; and, unfaithfulness, the direct way to lasting disgrace. Be sober, therefore, be vigilant, be valiant. Watch for souls, and never forget the tremendous consequences of “doing the work of the Lord deceitfully,” by flattering sinners that they can perform duty, and remain impenitent, or comply with any divine precept, while they reject Christ.
Neglect not to shew to the sinner his total depravity his absolute dependence and his infinite criminality and danger, as well as remedy provided, remembering the awful import of these words “When I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die, and thou givest him not warning — the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hands,” at the same time reflecting, that your fidelity may probably be followed with glorious happy consequences to your flock : But, however this may be, if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wicked way, but die in his iniquities, thou shalt delivered thy should. Be thou faithful unto death, and thou shalt receive a crown of life.
The address, of course, turns to you, beloved brethren, by whom we are invited, this day to set over you in the Lord, the man you have chosen.
We cordially rejoice with you in the joy of the day, that you are to have the ordinances of the gospel re-settled among you. See to it, that you, and your minister, fall not out by the way. Consider him as a present made you, by Christ; and treat him as such. Consider the arduous nature of his work, and the many difficulties which will necessarily attend him in the faithful discharge of it. Remember that he is but a man, and will need all the assistance you can give him. Exert yourselves, therefore, to encourage his heart. And, O, never be guilty of the impiety of thinking, or treating him as an enemy, for telling you the truth, though directly crossing to all the natural biases of the human heart, for he is to come to you, not in his own name, but in the name of Christ. He is to deliver, not his own messages, but the messages of Christ. And Christ will consider himself as being treated by you, as you treat his minister. Love him, therefore, and pray for him : Attend his instructions with a friendly spirit, and so improve them, that you, and your minister may meet, and rejoice together in the day of the Lord.
A word to this assembly will close the discourse.
You, who are now convened to attend the ordination of a minister of Jesus, are one day to be gathered at the bar of God, to give an account of the improvement you shall have made of the gospel, which is put into the hands of Christ’s minister to publish : And this gospel will then prove a favour of life unto life, or of death unto death to you, according as you RECEIVE or REJECT it: Receive it, therefore, with love, and improve it with fidelity and carefulness; repent of sin, and be happy for ever.
A M E N
1 It is not, however, to be supposed, that faithful ministers ONLY, will meet with opposition; or, that opposition to a watchman is of itself a proof that he is faithful; for, an unjust man, or wicked minister, is as truly an abomination to the just, as he who is upright in the way, is to the wicked, and therefore each may expect opposition from the other, but the grounds of opposition, in these cases, will be totally different. The faithful minister will be opposed, because he is faithful. But the wicked minister may expect opposition from the just, because he deserves it.