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ner. You find the ministry, a work that requires not only patient industry, but wise conduct and happy address. Difficulties meet us in the closet, even when our own minds are competently furnished with divine knowledge, so as to adjust the composition of our discourses, as that the understanding of our hearers may be enlightened, their conscience convinced, and their affections impressed ; that the ignorant may be instructed, that the careless may be awakened, that the hypocrite may be detected, that the mourner may be comforted, the dejected revived, the backslider restored, the confirmed christian yet more established ; in a word, that every one may have his Portion of meat in due season *, and every one, so far as may be, accords ing to his own taste too; at least, that what we say, while it is intelligible to the meanest, may not be justly contemptible to the more refined, but that things and Words may be sought out so far as faithfulness will permit, acceptable to both t. And how hard is it, to unite all these views, especially amidst such a diversity of sentiments, as well as circumstances! And this, not only where those are in question, who have apparently Made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience I, and whom in some respects it might be infamy to please ; but even where, among the best of men, different apprehensions of things, con. scientiously received and retained, will lead one to disrelish what another most wishes to hear, and possibly in some instances, one to censure even because another applauds.
It may on all these accounts, and many others, be difficult to instruct, and it will be still more difficult to reprove. Gene. ral hints given in public will by guilty consciences be interpreted as personal reflections, and perhaps aggravated into open' abuse, and occasions of declared enmity : And private applications will be evaded, discouraged, and very probably resented. The corruptions of the heart will rise against the most friendly efforts of cure ; and those wounds which most absolutely require a deep search, will be least patient even under the gentlest touch. Your solicitude to please God will, in many instances, displease men. Your heart will be grieved by many unsuccessful labours. And to close the melancholy scene, you will probably see some, of whom you had very agreeable hopes, falling away from all regard to serious religion; and perhaps may find yourself obliged, though with a reluctant heart, to bear your part, in separating some from your communion, whom you gathered into it with the greatest
joy, and in whom you blessed yourself as the seals of your ministry.
These are difficulties, which may arise from within ; and besides these, the prejudices of the world will lie strongly against you from without. Many eyes will be upon you, to observe your conduct. By some your slips will be magnified into crimes ; and if you walk so cautiously, though who can promise himself that he shall, as to escape any just blame, malice will create occasions of censure, perhaps in some instances even from your solicitude to avoid it. Your zeal will be called bigotry, and your candor hypocrisy ; your humility affectation ; and your activity will be imputed, either to a high opinion of your own abilities, or to a vain desire of outshining others, or to a low pursuit of popularity from arrogant or interested principles. Such treatment have the best of men found; and such must you expect, unless Satan lose his influence over the world by much swifter degrees, than we have any warrant to hope that he will. But this naturally leads me to warn you,
3. Of the oppositions, which you may meet with in your ministry.
These may indeed, in different circumstances, be more or less extreme : But something of this kind is at all events to be expected ; and it will be our wisdom to provide against the worst. Gird up therefore the loins of your mind*. Remember, that you are Putting on your harness t; and God only knows, to what combats you may be called.
We have long enjoyed halcyon days, through the favour of providence, and the equity of our civil governors; to whom I hope, we are grateful for it, as we ought. But he that rules in the heavens can only say, how soon clouds may gather, and how soon tempests of thunder and lightning may burst upon us. Sometimes, you know, a storm arises on a sudden, and the deadness of the preceding calm increases both its terror and its strength. So sinful a people as we must confess ourselves to be, can never have reason to wonder, at any public and national calamity, which may break in upon us in a moment. But should circumstances more gradually change, You, Sir, and our younger brethren, may live to see an Enemy in the sanctuary of the Lordi; may live to see our religious liberties trampled under foot, and with them undoubtedly our civil, for they are twins that will live and die together. You may perhaps be called to resist unto bloods, to glorify God in the flames,
and to teach your flock christian courage and fidelity, not by words, but by martyrdom. Such things you may suffer, as a protestant, as a christian.
And more peaceful times have their trials too, though perhaps not equally severe. I do indeed hope, that mutual love is growing, among the various denominations of christians, and particularly between us, and our brethren of the establishment. And may the blessings of the God of peace rest on the men who cultivate it, on both sides !-But we cannot hope to see the time, when all shall be so moderate and so equitable, as not to think and judge with some severity of those, whose conscience obliges them, though in the modestest manner, to maintain different forms of worship and discipline, even where the great articles of faith are the same.--And a different judgment relating to the articles of faith may draw down yet severer censures and opposition, from those whose judgment in worship and discipline agrees ever so well.—And I must faithfully warn you, Sir, that if you go on to assert, as I hope you always will, those great doctrines of the gospel to which you have now borne a public testimony, I particularly mean the Deity and atonement of Christ, the ruin of our nature by the original apostacy, and our restoration by the agency of the blessed spirit; you are not to imagine, that any moderation of temper, or any other personal virtue, or all your zeal for the service of the common cause of christians, protestants, or dissenters, will atone for what some will imagine so great a crime ; or shelter you from the affected contempt, and severe reproaches of some angry people, who amidst all their professions of the most unbounded charity will think yours an excepted case, or will rather chuse to be injurious to you than consistent with themselves.—But It is after all a very small matter, to be judged of man's judgment: He that judgeth us is the Lord *: And that is the most solemn thought of all, concerning which I am lastly to admonish you, even
4. The awful account, which you are shortly to give up to him, from whom you have received your ministry.
We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ f: And if he account with the meanest of his servants, we may assure ourselves, he will do it with his stewards. And let us remember, that when the books are opened, it will not only be found upon record there," that such a congregation was at such a time committed to this, or that minister;" but a particu
he then founties, or the e
lar register will in effect be produced of every soul consigned to our care: So many heads of families, together with such chil. dren, and such servants.” And then our conduct will be reviewed, and examination made, “ how far we have answered our trust." Should it be found, that we have neglected and abused it, the displeasure of our great Lord and master will rise in proportion to its importance, and to the opportunities we have had of doing good in it. Opportunities, which though we may not perhaps so thoroughly examine, as to conceive of their full extent, he most circumstantially knows. And surely, if it be then found, as it undoubtedly will, a fatal thing to have betrayed the bodies, or the estates of men, when committed to our care; much more will it be so, to have betrayed, and by betraying to have destroyed, so far as in us lay, immortal souls. This is a matter of such weight, that when we seriously think of it, and compare it with those criminal neglects, which conscience will charge even on the best of us, there is just reason for us with one voice to cry out, Enter not into judgment with thy servants, O Lord; for in thy sight can none of us be justified *. And when you, my brother, think of it, in such a mo. ment as this you may find your heart ready to fail ; and even may be tempted to draw back, and say, Who shall stand to minister before this holy Lord God + ? Lest he break forth upon us, and we die I. But I would not leave you under the distress of such a view, and therefore conclude,
III. With a few hints addressed to you by way of encouragement, to animate you to go forth with courage and cheerfulness, notwithstanding these awful views which I have been giving you of your office.
And, through the goodness of our divine Master, I have many considerations of great importance to urge here. As,
1. That you have an unerring rule in the word of God, from whence your instructions, admonitions, and directions, are to be drawn.
You well know, that Scripture was given for this end, that the man of God, that is, the christian minister, might be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work $, various as the good works of his office are. The best of human writings have their defects, and their blemishes: But in this respect, as well as others, it is true, that As for God, his way is perfect, and the word of the Lord is tried ||. When we read the most excellent moral and religious writings of the heathens, we find a great deal
* Psal. cxliii. 2. f1 Sam. vi. 20. Exod. xix. 24. $2Tim. ii, 16, 17, || Psal. xviii. 30.
of error and superstition, which mingles compassion with our admiration. When we read the merely human writings of the most celebrated ancient and modern divines, there is much to exercise our caution, and our candor. As for any new theological hypothesis, we generally find, on a more accurate examination, the proofs of its falsehood, proportionable to the confidence with which it is advanced, and the importance to which it pretends. And where men write with the greatest caution and modesty, though such generally err the least, yet there is something defective, or something redundant; something unguarded, or something overstrained: So that, though they may be useful companions in our journey, we dare not commit our. selves to any one of them as our guide; and they often differ so much among themselves, as to encrease our perplexity, and indeed to give us painful apprehensions as to our safety, or theirs; did we not recollect, that various paths, after having divided a while, may so run into each other, as to lead to the same place, though some may be more direct than others. But of scripture it may be said, as of its great original, that in it There is perfect light, and no darkness at all *. Oh how happy are you, that have in so small a bulk, the oracles of eternal truth, and particularly the volume of the New Testament, which may so easily be carried about with you, to entertain you abroad, as well as at home; to talk with you, When you lie down, and when you rise upt; to be the Man of your counsel I when you are preparing to instruct your flock in public, and more privately to guide and advise them in the most intricate circumstances! This is like the pillar of fire, to direct your way amidst the darkest night; and like the pillar of cloud, to refresh your soul amidst the most painful labours and most scorching heats. Let it be followed faithfully ; and you, and that part of the Israel of God over which you preside, will be happily conducted, through all the windings, through all the fatigues of the wilderness, till your feet and theirs stand upon Mount Zion. Consult it, my dear brother, and reverence it as you ought; and you will be safe, not only under the shelter and guard of aged wisdom, but in every change that can be apprehended or imagined.
2. You have also for your encouragement the daily prayers of many, whom you have reason to think not destitute of an interest at the throne they address.
You have your share, I trust, in all the prayers, which are daily put up by the church, under its various forms, for * 1 John i. 5. + Deut. vi. 7.
Psal. cxix, 24.