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TO THE ONE WE ARE THE SAVOUR OF DEATH UNTO
DEATH ; AND TO THE OTHER THE SAVOUR OF LIFE
O strangely has the world been divided in its opinion concerning the Gospel, that the ministers of Jesus Christ, whose business it is to preach it, have always found themselves in a difficult situation; for which no man can be sufficient without the gifts of fortitude, and prudence, and patience, from the Spirit of God, to support and assist him in his office. Christianity always had, and always will have its adversaries : it corrects the false opinions, and controuls the licentious morals of unconverted nature; therefore nature rises up against it; and as nature is the same in all ages and in all parts of the world, time and place make but little difference in this respect. The difficulty was certainly greater to the Apostles than it is to us. The heathen religion was then in possession of the world ; and all its abominable practices had the sanction of custom and establishment; so that the opposition then carried on against the Gospel was more active and vi. rulent, as well as more powerful, than it is now. But error and vice are still the adversaries of true religion as they were then; and therefore the difficulty must
remain to all the successors of the Apostles, go, long as error and vice shall have any power and interest upon earth. God who gave to his ministers the know ledge of the truth, and all good men who love the truth, will be ready to encourage them for their work's sake; but evil will be as near at hand to discourage and resist them. The Apostle, having this case under his consideration, is shocked with the difficulty, and cries out, who is sufficient for these things ? Who cani endure to stand in this fearful and troublesome situation, with the sun shining on one side of him, and a cold tempestuous wind beating against him on the other? What patience can hold out against, what constitution can long survive, such a trial? Yet such must be the trial, in some degree, of every true preacher of God's word ; and as it has been my lot to preachi amongst you, I hope with some profit, I am sure with much sincerity, it will be for our common advantage to consider the difficulties to which I am exposed in common with every other minister of a parish : that having considered them, you may be ready (as I have reason to think you will be) to do all in your power to lessen them. The better I shall succeed in my duty, the greater will be your advantage; and that as well in this world as in the next. .
However well disposed and tractable the people of a parish may be, all will not be alike. Some will respect their minister for God's sake; for the church's sake, and for his work's sake : they will attend with pleasure to his doctrine, and his advice will sink into their ears. He found them good, and his instructions will make them better: they will profit by his admoni. tions, and even bear his reproofs, if such should be necessary, without being offended. But it will not be so with all : others there are who will judge differently; some from an untractableness of natural temper: some from worldly interest: some from an unhappy turn in their education, or from a total neglect of it, under careless and ungodly parents; more from bad customs, and long established habits of vice or self-indulgence. Hence it will always happen, that if a minister in his preaching bears hard upon any particular sin, as the course of his duty may require, and describes the folly, misery and shame of it; every sin will find a friend in some corner, of the church who will take its part, and be offended with the preacher. If he speaks against drunkenness, “ there,” says the drinker, “ he meant to reflect upon me :" that stroke upon covetousness, was intended for me, says another : in that remark upon the pernicious conseyuences of fornication, he meant to expose me, says another. Thus they bring themselves to a persuasion, that their minister is their enemy, and means to be severe upon them: for no other reason, but because they cannot help being severe upon themselves. Hear how the Apostle states this difficulty in a few words : am I therefore, says he, become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? Suppose we see a man straying out of the road, while he is going on business of the last importance, and has no time to lose ; and we call out to him to tell him he is wrong, and use all our endeavours to put him in the right way; ought that man to take us for his enemies? We should think him a strange man if he did. Is the shepherd an enemy to the straying sheep, when he would bring it back from the error of its ways in safety to the fold? But suppose that which should be a sheep, is a wolf, or a swine : such, indeed, have an interest against being brought back; and, instead of respecting their guide as a friend, will turn again and rent him. Some such there will be found in
all places. Every minister must expect to have som amongst his flock, who are more nearly allied to the forest than the fold ; who never intend to reform themselves, and do not even wish to be better than they are; even as the swine gives itself no trouble to acquire the character of the sheep. What will such do? What can they do, but endeavour, out of favour to themselves, to lessen the influence of their minister ? There are several ways of doing this : of which the most common and obvious is to impute all his zeal to an evil motive; to pride, hypocrisy, or ill nature: to any thing rather than to sincerity and charity. Another way is to take advantage of some accident or appearance, and raise reports to his disadvantage. There never did, nor ever will live that man upon the earth, whose life could be secure from misreprentation : and truth misrepresented answers all the purposes of defamation better than a lie, because there is some apparent foundation of reason and fact to build upon. Another artifice is that of ridicule. There is in most men, through the depravity of their nature, almost as great a propensity to laugh, as there is in monkies to chatter; and therefore they are very easily provoked to it. Children laugh at that which is nothing; and many with older heads upon their shoulders laugh at that which is next to nothing: some laugh when they ought to pray: and others when they ought to cry. I could tell you of a Wit, (now gone to answer for his folly) who even ridiculed the providence of God *, and the doctrine of future rewards and punishments in another life : Yet this is the engine which many people employ, to lessen the efficacy of the Gospel, and the influence of those
* VOLTAIRE, in his Candide, which is a satire upon the belief both of a particular and general Providence.
that preach it. Not only the ministers of God, but even God himself is made an object of ridicule !
Thus you see how every preacher is liable, from the nature of his office, to suffer from the tongue of slan. der. They who hate the truth, must never be expecto ed to love those that publish it: and of those whom they do not love, they will be tempted to speak evil. Hence you will understand the propriety of that declaration of our blessed Lord "woe be unto you when all men speak well of you :” for the world at large ne. ver will speak well, but of those who make all things easy, and give them no disturbance; false prophets who speak smooth things, and care for nothing but themselves, will be well spoken of.
It is another misfortune upon the minister of a parish, that with frequent use his voice and manner be: come familiar, and consequently lose something of their force and influence upon the audience. When he comes first to a place, he is gladly received and eagerly attended to : just as any other thing would be that is new. But when curiosity abates, as it always must do with familiarity and repetition, such as have no deeper root than this to their attachment, must grow indifferent, and will fall away, perhaps into total in attention. The public is so fond of novelty, and more in this than any nation of Europe, that they are apt to over-rate what is new, and having begun with inexpeJience and indiscretion, they end with disappointment. Imagination, that deceitful faculty, is always at work to cheat men with vain expectations: they look for more than they can find, and thence suspect, at last, that they have found nothing. They expect a preacher to be all perfection, and exempt from the e rors of mortality; but preachers are exposed to the same cross accidents with other men, from the vicissitudes and.