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• He that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me."
But as I am now called upon to address myself more immediately to those wbo have the rule over you, the middle clause is more suitable to our purpose :
“For they watch for your souls, as they that must give account.” In which we have,
1. The ministerial office described—watching for souls.
II. The grand motive to fidelity and diligence in the discharge of itas they that must give account.
1. The ministerial office described ;
And that in a manner that shows the importance and difficulty of it. It appears to be a laborious and painful employment, and requires affection, patience, and fidelity, in him that undertakes it. He is called a “ watchman :” he is to watch, not for applause, not for profit, not for power ; far other and far nobler views bas the spiritual watchman-he watches for souls. Watching implies danger: watching for souls, implies that there are enemies lying in wait to devour and destroy them.-And surely I need not stay to prove this. Every one's observation, every one's experience, will abundantly confirm the melancholy truth. Never were souls nearer perishing ; never were those objects of compassion more numerous ; never was there a louder call upon the ministers of the Gospel to be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. Infidelity and profaneness never ran in á wider channel, never rushed in a more impetuous torrent, than at present. Never was religion more controverted'; never was it less practised. Man
to avoid preciseness, have fallen into licentiousness, and, through an aversion to mysteries, have run away from godliness. And even among Christians themselves—(for some there are who have not “ bowed the knee to Baal,” though they have 30 effectually disguised themselves that we scarcely know where to find them)- I say, among Christians themselves, what a criminal languor and coldness prevails! what a cowardly symbolizing with the customs of the world, lest their "speech should bewray them," and they should be pointed at for saints !-And, Sirs, do not your eyes affect your hearts ? Can you see
your brother have need, and shut up the bowels of your compassion from him ? How, then, “dwelleth the love of God in
But I will not anticipate what will more naturally occur under some one or other of the follow: ing particulars ; in which I propose briefly to show, How this watchfulness discovers itself; or, In what respects a faithful minister watches for the souls of his people. And this he does,
I. In his public ministrations.
He vever enters the pulpit but with this ex bortation strongly impressed upon his heart: " Take heed unto thyself and unto thy doctrine : continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim. iv. 16.) When he looks round upon his auditory, he fancies them crying to him, as the men of Macedonia, “Come and help us :” he therefore fills up those .precious moments, not in idle amusements and unprofitable speculations, but in declaring to them “the whole counsel of God," and in the warmest endeavours
“to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." (Acts xxvi. 18.) Sometimes he paints the deplorable guilt and wretchedness of fallen man in such gloomy, but natural, colours, that Conscience, convinced of the fatal resemblance, cries out “ O wretchy ed man that I am! who shall deliver me?” At other times he calls in all the thunders of Mount Sinai to his assistance: “lifts up his voice like a trumpet;" “ cries aloud, and spares not ;” “shows his people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins ;” and displays the terrors of the Lord in such formidable array, that the sinner, pricked to the heart, falls down, and, trembling, cries out, “What shall I do to be saved ?" While to others, whose minds are tender, and susceptible of more generous sentiments and impressions, he represents, in the most amiable and engaging light, the goodness and mercy of God, the condescension and love of the Redeemer, and the unsearchable riches of Gospel grace ; and with these cords of love draws so sweetly, and yet so powerfully, that the soul, captivated with the pleasing constraint, readily yields, and says,
“ Draw me, O Lord, and I will run after thee.” He solicitously watches the effect of every address of this kind, and rejoices when he sees it at any time set home, like “a nail fastened in a sure place,” by the Master of assemblies.
Not that he confines his preaching entirely to these: like "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,” he rightly divides the word of truth, and gives to every man his portion in due season. He marks with pleasure the progress of growing Chrisțians, and takes every opportunity to assist and fora
ward them. He makes it his business to acquaint himself with their particular doubts, temptations, and distresses; and introduces subjects that will be most likely to afford them satisfaction and support. Where any, through the weakness of grace, or the violence and surprize of temptation, have fallen from their stedîastness, and are wandering in the destructive mazes of sin and folly; he does not presently leave them to perish, and that without remedy, but, like the man in the parable, who left the ninety and nine in the wilderness, he “goeth after that which is lost, until he find it; and when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders rejoicing.” With equal diligence the faithful minister seeks, and with equal pleasure accomplishes, the
recovery of the back-slider.-Nor does he think the lambs of his flock beneath his notice. The charge to Peter “ feed my lambs,” is fresh in his memory; and he has sufficient warrant for his conduct in the example of his Master, who caused little children to be brought to him, and took them up in his arms, and blessed them: he, therefore, holds out to them “ the sincere milk of the world ;” and grudges not his time and pains, in giving them “ line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little," as they are able to bear it. And thus he comes to his people in “the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of peace.”-He does, indeed, labour in the word and doctrine. He studies to find out acceptable words, not so much to please the ear, but to mend the heart : and he never comes down from that sacred place, but he can truly say, "I preach not myself, but Christ Jesus my Lord.” VOL. II.
2. In his private conversation.
He cannot satisfy himself with general addresses, which are generally disregarded ; but, like a faithful shepherd, looks well to the state of his flock, and acquaints himself with the character and circumstance of every soul committed to his care. His whole aim and design is usefulness; what he longs for is, to see “ Christ formed in them ;” and he has no greater joy. It is, as it were, his very life, to see them stand fast in the Lord, and grow in grace, and improve under his instructions: and therefore he teaches, not only publicly, but “ from house to house:” is “instant in season, and out of season; reproving, rebuking, exhorting, with all long-suffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim. iv. 2.) He talks of God's righteousness all the day long, and makes kuown the glorious majesty of his kingdom ; and is an “example to the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, iu faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. iv. 12.) His visits are not merely to pass an hour in trifling and impertinent conversation : he brings salvation to the house he enters, and enforces his public discourses with close and particular application. Like a “scribe well instructed in the kingdom of God,” he “ brings out of his treasure things new and old ;” and always leaves the company pleased and instructed. In imitation of his divine Master, he is meek and lowly ; invites the weary and heavy laden to come to him, and often goes himself to them; and, by his affable and condescending behaviour, encourages the. bashful soul to discover its secret burthens; and then, . with a generous tenderness, pours wine and oil into the bleeding wound-comforts those that mourn in