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Á CHARGE DELIVERED AT THE ORDINATION OF THE
AT ASHBURTON, DEVON, JULY 20, 1785.
Well, my dear Sirs; and what is it you expect from me ? After all that you have been hearing of the dignity and duty of the ministerial office; and after all the petitions that have been put up on your behalf to God, for grace to help in time of need ; what can you look for more ?-Perhaps you crave our sympathy; or perhaps you expect congratulation. Your circumstances call for both. You have pains and pleasures, joys and griefs, before you ; which will alternately lift you up and cast you down. Some of each you have already met with, and more you may expect. --Will you then allow one that hath been almost forty years a labourer in the Lord's vineyard—(I blush to publish it: and well I may---to think that in so long a time so little work hath been done !) ---But will you for a moment forget my unworthiness, and allow a fellow-labourer to remind you of some of the discouragements, and some of the pleasures, commonly attendant on the office you have undertaken. . You will hardly believe me when I tell you, that your first and principal discouragement will arise
It was many
from yourselves: and yet I can assure you that other ministers have found it so.
* True' (you look as if you wished to tell me)--• true: if we had commenced Ministers before we • had commenced Christians; if we had begun to • preach a Saviour to others before we were savingly ' acquainted with him ourselves :---in short, if we
were to this hour unconverted, then you might • talk to us of inward discouragements; for to be • sure it must be a tiresome drudgery to such a person to be always preaching, or praying, or talking or thinking about religion. But we humbly hope that is not our case. We hope God hath been pleased to reveal his Son in us. ' years ago that we first : -I know it; and I should pity you indeed if it had been otherwise: yet, for all that, I repeat it again, you will find frequent and great discouragement from your own hearts. Warm as they are just now, and strong as they beat for Christ and souls; so that you could gladly spend and be spent in their service, and grudge every day and hour that you are not, like your divine Master, going about doing good ; believe me, it may not be always so. Your spirits may flag; your zeal may cool; your pace may slacken ; your attention may be diverted, by trifles that you now think of with contempt and detestation ; and you may need some faithful friend, or some rousing providence, or some fresh gale of heavenly influence, to quicken you in your way, and “strengthen the things which remain, that were ready to die.” 1. There are also discouragements to be expected from your people.
- From our people !--Can we ever meet with any thing from our dear people to give us a moment's « uneasiness ?-Impossible !-Why, never was there ! a more affectionate people in the world. In the little time that we have been among them, we have received a thousand civilities; and their kindness is daily increasing. Our labours seem agreeable to them, and their behaviour highly so to us: * and surely nothing can interrupt the present har
mony. We are determined, one and all, to go * hand in hand, mutually striving together in our
prayers, and with one mind and one voice to glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christi'
I hope you will; and it would look invidious to you and them so much as to mention what the great Apostle experienced, and declared-Gal. iv. 15. No, no; it is not from that quarter the discouragements I now mean, originate. They continue your warm and hearty friends ; are ready upon every occasion to show you all the respect and kindness in their power ; they like your preaching, and attend constantly at church ;-but-but, what are they the better for it? You are to them “ a lovely song, as one that plays well upon an ipstrument :” they hear your words ; but they do them not. You see some of them lying in wickedness, dead in trespasses and sins: your bowels yearn towards them; and you would fain pluck them as brands out of the burning. You pray earnestly, Sabbath after Sabbath, that the Lord would choose out acceptable words for you; and you come forth, sometimes with such terrors of the Lord as you fancy must make them tremble, and at other times
with such arguments of love as you think they never can resist. You think with yourselves, · Now surely they must feel : this sermon will have glorious success !'. But no such thing : not a single soul is affected by it; or if they are, it is but as the morning cloud or the early dew, which soon passes away. They are all love and zeal for'a little while: ! Oh, they would not but be Christians for the world! They will follow Christ whithersoever he goetb.'. And for a week or two—it may be for a year or two (if it hold sunshine and fair weather so long), they may keep up a tolerable decent appearance: but at length, when the novelty of religion is a little over, you see them drop off, like leaves in autumn. They take offence at some trifle or another, and away they go into the world again, and “walk no more with Jesus.”
Again-What! more discouragements yet? · When will you have done ? Our hearts are ready • to break at the prospect of those you have already * mentioned, and have we more to expect ? Yes indeed, there are more behind ; but they are such as, perhaps, after what you have heard already, you will not think worth heeding. I say then, you will meet with discouragement from the world.
There have been times when a minister, like a soldier, carried his life in his hand ; when his love and loyalty to his divine Master were put to the severest trial; and when it was no unfrequent thing for a minister to go from the pulpit to: a prison, and from the prison to a stake. That was a trying time indeed. What a poor figure should we make, if such times were to come over again! Through the good providence of God, I have
no need to fortify you against such discouragements as these.
Bút, since those days of fire and faggot, there have been times when faithful ministers have been reduced to say, with the Apostle, “ Lo, we have Teff all, and followed thee.” They were not permitted to continue their ministry among their beloved people, nor enjoy the emoluments belonging thereto, without such compliances as their consciences would not allow of. That, too, was an awful period in British history, when above two thousand learned, laborious, and useful ministers, were separated from their flocks; deprived of their estates; plundered of their goods; driven from their families; and many of them forced to fly into foreign countries, to avoid a jail at home. I hope I need not insist upon this neither. We have long enjoyed the benefit of a toleration : and it was a saying of his late Majesty, and hath been heard and adopted by our present Sovereign, · That no person should be molested for his religion while he sat upon the throne.'--I will not suppose that you are likely to meet with any such discouragements.
But there are others, which perhaps you may not entirely escape. There is, for example, the trial of cruel mockings; which, in many cases, is almost as hard to be borne as bonds and imprisonment. When your hearts have been warmed with zeal for Christ, and compassion to precious, perishing souls; and you haveexerted yourselves with unusual vehemence in beseeching sinners to be reconciled to God; for one and another to turn off with a sneer, and endeavour to draw off others too, with a... What will this babbler say? He bath a devil, and is mad: