« PreviousContinue »
them ; every one being sentenced and recompensed according to his works, either in receiving and wearing a crown of eter. Dal joy and glory, or in suffering everlasting shame and pain,
I come now to the next thing proposed, viz.
III. To give some reasons why we may suppose God has so ordered it, that ministers and the people that have been un. der their care, shall meet together at the day of judgment, in such a manner and for such purposes.
There are two things which I would now observe.
1. The mutual concerns of ministers and their people are: of the greatest importance.
The Scripture declares, that God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. It is fit that all the concerns, and all the behavior of mankind, both public and private, should be brought at last before God's tribunal, and finally determined by an infallible Judge : But it is especially requisite that it should be thus, as to affairs of very great importance.
Now the mutual concerns of a Christian minister and his church and congregation, are of the vastest importance: In many respects, of much greater moment than the temporal concerns of the greatest earthly monarchs, and their kingdoms or empires. It is of vast consequence how ministers discharge their office, and conduct themselves towards their people in the work of the ministry, and in affairs appertaining to it. It is also a matter of vast importance, how a people receive and entertain a faithful minister of Christ, and what improvement they make of his ministry. These things have a more immediate and direct respect to the great and last end for which man was made, and the eternal welfare of mankind, than any of the temporal concerns of men, whether public or private. And therefore it is especially fit that these affairs should be brought into judgment and openly determined and settled in truth and righteousness; and that to this end, ministers and their people should meet together before the om piscient and infallible judge.
2. The mutual concerns of ministers and their people have a special relation to the main things appertaining to the day of judgment.
They have a special relation to that great and divine person who will then appear as Judge. Ministers are his messengers, sent forth by him ; and, in their office and administrations among their people, represent tris person, stand in his stead, as those that are sent to declare his mind, to do his work, and to speak and act in his name : And therefore it is especially fit that they should return to him to give an account of their work and success. The king is judge of all his subjects, they are all accountable to him : But it is more es, pecially requisite that the king's ministers, who are especially intrusted with the administrations of his kingdom, and that are sent forth on some special negotiation, should return to him, to give an account of themselves, and their discharge of their trust, and the reception they have met with.
Ministers are not only messengers of the person who at the last day will appear as Judge, but the errand they are sent upon, and the affairs they have committed to them as his ministers, do most immediately concern his honor, and the interest of his kingdom : The work they are sent upon is to promote the designs of his administration and government ; and therefore their business with their people has a near rela. tion to the day of judgment ; for the great end of that day is completely to settle and establish the affairs of his kingdom, to adjust all things that pertain to it, that every thing that is opposite to the interests of his kingdom may be removed, and that every thing which contributes to the completeness and glory of it may be perfected and confirmed, that this great King may receive his due honor and glory,
Again, the mutual concerns of ministers and their people have a direct relation to the concerns of the day of judgment, as the business of ministers with their people is to promote the eternal salvation of the souls of men, and their escape from eternal damnation ; and the day of judgment is the day appointed for that end, openly to decide and settle men's etermal state, to fix some in a state of eternal salvation, and to bring their salvation to its utmost consummation, and to fix others in a state of everlasting damnation and most perfect misery The mutual concerns of ministers and people have a most direct relation to the day of judgment, as the very design of the work of the ministry is the people's preparation for that day: Ministers are sent to warn them of the approach of that day, to forewarn them of the dreadful sentence then to be pronounced on the wicked, and declare to them the blessed sentence then to be pronounced on the righteous, and to use means with them that they may escape the wrath which is then to come on the ungodly, and obtain the reward then to be bestowed on the saints.
And as the mutual concerns of ministers and their people have so near and direct a relation to that day, it is especially fit that those concerns should be brought in to that day, and there settled and issued ; and that in order to this, ministers and their people should meet and appear together before the great Judge at that day.
THE improvement I would make of the things which have been observed, is to lead the people here present who have been under my pastoral care, to some reflections, and give them some advice suitable to our present circumstances; relating to what has been lately done in order to our being separated, as to the relation we have heretofore stood in one to another ; but expecting to meet each other before the great tribunal at the day of judgment.
The deep and serious consideration of that our future most solemn meeting, is certainly most suitable at such
time as this ; there having so lately been that done, which, in all probability, will (as to the relation we have heretofore stood in) be followed with an everlasting separation.
How often have we met together in the house of God in this relation? How often have I spoke to you, instructed, counselled, warned, directed, and fed you, and administered prdinances among you, as the people which were committed to my care, and whose precious souls I had the charge of ? But in all probability this never will be again.
The prophet Jeremiah, chap. xxv. 3. puts the people in mind how long he had labored among them in the work of the ministry : “ From the thirteenth year of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah, even unto this day (that is, the three and twentieth year) the word of the Lord came unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking.", I am not about to compare myself with the prophet Jeremiah ; but in this respect I can say as he did, that “ I have spoken the word of God to you, unto the three and twentieth year, rising early and speaking." It was three and twenty years, the 15th day of last February, since I have labored in the work of the ministry, in the relation of a pastor to this church and congregation. And though my strength has been weakness, having always labored under great infirmity of body, besides my insufficiency for so great a charge in other respects, yet I have not spared my feeble strength, but have exerted it for the good of your souls.. I can appeal to you as the apostle does to his hearers, Gal. iv. 13. 6 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh, I preached the gospel unto you." I have spent the prime of my life and strength in labors for your eternal welfare. You are my witnesses, that what strength I have had I have not neglected in idleness, nor laid cut in prosecuting worldly schemes, and managing temporal affairs, for the advancement of my outward estate, and aggrandizing myself and family ; but have given myself wholly to the work of the ministry, laboring in it night and day, rising early and applying myself to this great business to which Christ appointed me. I have found the work of the ministry among you to be a great work indeed, a work of ex. ceeding care, labor and difficulty : Many have been the heavy burdens that I have borne in it, which my strength has been very unequal to. God called me to bear these burdens; and I bless his name, that he has so supported me as to keep me from sinking under them, and that his power herein has been manifested in my weakness; so that although I have often
been troubled on every side, yet I have not been distressed perplexed, but not in despair ; cast down, but not destroyed.
But now I have reason to think my work is finished which I had to do as your minister : You have publicly rejected me, and my opportunities cease.
How bighly therefore does it now become us, to consider of that time when we must meet one another before the chief Shepherd ? When I must give an account of my stewardship, of the service I have done for, and the reception and treat, ment I have had among the people he sent me to ; And you must give an account of your own conduct towards me, and the improvement you have made of these three and twen, ty years of my ministry. For then both you and I must ap, pear together, and we both must give an account, in order to an infallible, righteous and eternal sentence to be passed upon us, by him who will judge us with respect to all that we have said or done in our meeting here, all our conduct one towards another, in the house of God, and elsewhere, on Sabbathdays, and on other days; who will try our hearts and manifest our thoughts, and the principles and frames of our minds, will judge us with respect to all the controversies which have sub, sisted between us, with the strictest impartiality, and will ex. amine our treatment of each other in those controversies ; There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, nor hid which shall not be known ; all will be examined in the search, ing, penetrating light of God's omniscience and glory, and by him whose eyes are as a flame of fire ; and truth and right shall be made plainly to appear, being stripped of every veil; and all error, falsehood, unrighteousness, and injury shall be Jaid open, stripped of every disguise ; every specious pre. tence, every cavil, and all false reasoning shall vanish in a moment, as not being able to bear the light of that day. And then our hearts will be turned inside out, and the secrets of them will be made more plainly to appear than our outward actions do now. Then it shall appear what the ends are which we have aimed at, what have been the governing prins ciples which we have acted from, and what have been the dispositions we have exercised in our ecclesiastical disputes