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or even from improvements in science. I hope all that hear me this day, know the delight of serving a friend whom we highly esteem and love; many of us, I question not, do particularly know how agreeable it is to find some opportunity of expressing our cordial sense of those favours, which it is impossible for us fully to repay. Let us judge by that, how delightful it must be to these good men, when their hearts were full of the most lively and penetrating sense of a Redeemer's love, to see themselves in such a situation, as that their whole lives should be spent in serving his interest, and every day of them should do something to promote it.
And the influence which their labours had upon the happiness of mankind, must also add a most delightful relish to them. Our nature is so constituted by the wise and gracious author of it, that some degree of pleasure inseparably attend every attempt for the real improvement of any part of his creation, even the meanest. It is pleasant to view a spot of ground, which from a barren and useless wild has been manured and cultivated, planted and adorned by human industry, so that it is reduced to a fruitful garden or field; and he who hath laboured to effect it, reviews it with double satisfaction. It is much more delightful to have been instrumental in forming and cultivating the mind, and reducing those who were once little better than savages to discipline and arts, to the improvements and elegances of life, whereby they may as it were be broken into men; but surely the apostles must with incomparably greater satisfaction look round about them, and see whole regions enlightened by the rays which they had diffused; thousands of their fellow-creatures recovered from darkness and ignorance, superstition and vice, and formed to wise, regular, noble sentiments, subjected to God, united to Christ, and conducted into the ways of peace and life by their means. Accordingly, I doubt not, but you have often observed in how sublime and pathetic a manner St. Paul expresseth himself on this occasion, in the name of his brethren as well as in his own, in the progress of this epistle. We approve ourselves, says he, the ministers of God, in all the various circumstances through which we pass, in honour and dishonour, treated indeed by the world, as deceivers, yet conscious to ourselves that we are true, and the great patrons of truth; as obscure and unknown to a proud and insolent world, who affect to overlook us with sovereign contempt, yet well known even by the happiest tokens to those blessed souls who are brought home to God by our means; as dying daily, yet behold we live, through the singular interposition of our great Lord for our preservation; as sorrowful on account of various calamities that surround us, and yet in spirit always rejoicing, because though we appear in the world as poor in these things, yet we are making rich in grace and glory *. Blessed leaders in the army of Christ! Who would not emulate such a character and state? Who would not wish for your hardships and trials, might his supports and success be proportionable to yours? Such were the pleasures they found in preaching Christ Jesus the Lord ; and undoubtedly their generous minds delighted to do it in the condescending manner we have described. To converse with their flock in such a free, easy, obliging way, as their brethren, as their servants for Jesus sake, on the foot of equal and respectful friendship, suited their taste and their temper much better than all the homage, and all the revenues, which secular power could have given, and secular terror could have extorted.
I only add in the conclusion of this head, that the apostles were influenced to such a conduct by a regard to their own eternal interest.
That great important concern which swallowed up all others in their mind, and with which nothing here seemed by any means worthy to be compared. Paul himself did not think it unfit to reflect, and to say, a Necessity is laid upon me, and woe unto me if I preach not the gospel t. He well knew, that if such vigilance was expected from a jewish prophet, that the souls who perished by his neglect should be by God Required at his hand I, the danger of such a neglect under the christian disa pensation, would be yet greater in proportion to the clearer degree of evidence with which Life and immortality was brought to light . He therefore, and his associates in this important work, made it their care, as himself expresseth it, To watch for souls as those that must give an account, and were exceedingly solicitous, that they might do it with joy and not with grief II. They looked on their converts as those who should be their Crown and rejoicing in the day of the Lord I ; and their delightful companions in the glories of the heavenly world. And when, conscious that through the divine assistance they had fought the good fight, and finished their course, and kept their fidelity, they were humbly bold to look forward with cheerful expectation as well as desire, To that crown of life which the Lord had laid up for all his faithful servants, that love his appearance **. Such may our hopes be, my fathers and brethren, and such our triumphs in the near views of death and eternity. Our days are passing away apace, and no secular powers or advantages can prolong them; nay, perhaps, were we in the number of the richest and greatest of those that call themselves the ministers of Christ, life might run out only so much the sooner, while on the one hand the baits of luxury, and on the other, the cries of the oppressed, might concur to shorten it. When this scene of vanity is closing, when we are to exchange every ornament for the dress of death, and all the amusements and cares of mortality, for the solemnities of the eternal state ; in that awful hour, I say, it will be no grief of heart to us, that we have chosen in all humility to serve Christ and the souls of men, rather than to make our names great, and our families wealthy: And when we come to appear in the presence of that great Redeemer, who hath been witness to all our conduct, and all our designs, we shall really find that we have lost nothing by whatever we have sacrificed to his cause and interest. The applause of thousands is but an empty sound when compared with that of Well done, good and faithful servant *, and all the honours and possessions which the greatest princes could bestow, would be lighter than vanity, when laid in the balance with that unfading crown of glory, which every faithful minister may expect, when Christ the chief Shepherd shall appear t.
* 2 Cor. vi. 8–10.
+ 1 Cor. ix. 16.
Ezek. iii. 18.
52 Tim. i. 10.
I have dilated so much on these pleasant and copious topics, that I have hardly left myself time,
III. So much as to mention the reflections which may naturally arise from what we have been hearing. You will easily apprehend they are such as these;
How greatly is the truth of christianity confirmed by the character of those who were first employed in the publication of it; who gave the greatest evidence that can possibly be imagined of their being entirely devoted to the sacred cause of truth and piety, and expressed, as we have heard, the most disinterested and self-denying zeal in the service of both.
How happy is it for the christian cause, that these original monuments are still preserved, and that we are not left to form an idea of its ministers merely from the general history of succeeding and distant ages, or by the canons and decrees of the greatest part of ecclesiastical councils ; which are commonly drawn up with so different å spirit, that, were we to judge by them alone, charity would have inclined us to hope,
* Mat. xxv. 23.
+ 1 Pet. v.4.
that those who called themselves the chief successors of the apostles, had never heard of the character of those holy men ; but had rather formed their conduct, and even their maxims too, I will not say by the jewish, but by the heathen priesthood.
Nevertheless let us bless God, that in the midst of so general a depravation, there have been in all ages, and particularly in our own, a select remnant, who have not defiled their garments, nor prostituted their sacred character and office to those idols of jealousy, which have been so shamefully erected even in the house of the Lord. Persons, so far as I can judge, of all denominations, both of established and separate churches, at home and abroad, who have been, and are in their respective spheres, burning and shining lights; men of God, who however differing in opinion, in discipline, or in worship, have agreed to love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, to bow their hearts and souls to the obedience of his laws, to value the souls committed to their care, serving them in humility and love, candidly excusing the frailties of their brethren, praying, that Wherein they were otherwise ninded, than reason and scripture directed, that God would in his own time and way reveal it unto them, and in the mean time labouring, that whereunto they had already attained, they might walk by the same rule, and might mind the same thing *
Let us daily bow our knees in the most importunate supplications to the God of grace and of peace, that this happy number may be increased, and as he is from time to time laying those in the dust, who were once the joy of our assemblies, and the glory of their profession, let us tenderly feel, let us deeply lament the desolations of his sanctuary t. And let us earnestly pray, that he would raise up in all the churches a generation of faithful and laborious, serious and spiritual, candid and evan
; * Phil. iii. 16.
+ N. B. This sermon was preached a few days after the death of that great man of God, the truly reverend and excellent Mr. David Some of Harborough, whom God was pleased to favour with a serene and cheerful exit, suited to the eminent piety and usefulness of his life. His dying command hath silenced the attempt which some of his surviving friends would gladly have made, to embalm his memory for the instruction of those that are yet to come; but I am well satisfied, that considering how very generally he was known, he has left a most honourable testimony in the hearts of thousands, that he was one of the brightest ornaments of the gospel and the ministry which the age hath produced ; and that all who had any intimacy with him, must have esteemed his friendship amongst the greatest blessings of life, and the loss of him amongst its greatest calamities. He died May 29, 1737, in his 57th year; and surely I have never seen greater reason to cry out, My Father, my Father! the cha. riots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. VOL. III.
gelical ministers, that Instead of the fathers there may be the children *, by means of whom a people that are yet to be born may see the salvation of our God in its genuine glories.
And this, in connection with the subject before us, might also lead us farther to reflect, how important a part of an education for the ministry it is, to endeavour to lead young people into the knowledge of this Jesus, whom their office obligeth them to preach and to serve. Polite literature is not by any means to be neglected, nor will it be despised by any but those who know not what it is, yet surely it is not the one thing needful. The sacred scriptures are the grand magazine whence the most important, and therefore I think by far the greatest number of academical lectures are to be drawn. And they who are honoured with a charge of so great importance to the church should sorely be concerned, that those of the rising age, in whose hands this invaluable treasure of the gospel is to be deposited, may not rest in a cold speculative acquaintance, either with the evidences, or contents of it; but may feel its vital transforming power, and speak of this great Redeemer as of one on whom they have themselves believed, and whom their own souls do most cordially love.
But I must wave the prosecution of these copious reflections, to conclude with two, which are yet more immediately the concern of those who attend the gospel ordinances; and which I would particularly recommend to you my friends of this society, who are now, through divine providence, so well settled with a workman that needs not be ashamed, and one whom you so highly and justly esteem.
Think how solicitous you should be to know and acknowledge Christ Jesus as your Lord.
I know you think it your happiness often to hear of him, O let it not be in vain. Own his authority in your lives as well as your assemblies, or those who have most frequently preached him to you, will be the swiftest and severest witnesses against you in that dreadful day, when all that have not bowed to his sceptre must fall by his sword.
And, to add no more, think also how willing you should be to use the assistance of your ministers, as your servants for Jesus sake.
Do not neglect to attend on their ministrations, and thereby shut out wisdom and piety at its first entrance. Do not increase their burden by any unkind usage, lest, by weakening their spi.