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conclude, that he is walking in the footsteps of Balaam, rather than in those of St. Paul? And is it for such a man to declare the statutes of the Lord, or to recite the words of his covenant? Psalm 1, 16. Is he not attempting to publish, before he effectually believes, the truths of the Gospel? And has he not a front of brass, when, with the dispositions of a Demas, he mounts the pulpit, to celebrate the bounty of that God who supplies the wants of " sparrows, who feeds the young ravens that call upon him," opening his hand and filling all things living with plenteousness? Let such a one consider, that the character of a virtuous preceptor, or an honest tradesman, is abundantly more honourable than that of a mercenary priest.
In general, it may be reasonably supposed, that if a pastor faithfully exercise his ministry in any place, to which he has been appointed by the providence of God, he will either benefit those among whom he is called to labour, or his hardened hearers will, at length, unite to drive him from among them, as the inhabitants of Nazareth forced Jesus away from their ungrateful city. Or if he should not be forcibly removed from his post, as was the case of our Lord in the country of the Gadarenes, yet believing it incumbent upon him to retire from such a part, he will seek out some other place in his Master's vineyard, that shall better repay the pains of cultivation, whatever such a removal may cost him in the judgment of the world. And, indeed, such a mode of conduct was positively prescribed by our Lord to his first ministers, in the following solemn charge: "Into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words; when [slighted and reproached by its unworthy inhabitants,] ye [are constrained to] depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet," as a testimony against those who prefer the maxims of the world before the precepts of the Gospel, Matt. x, 11, 14.
If any pastor refuse to adopt this method of proceeding, after patience has had its perfect work; if he still fear to give up an establishment, as the sons-in-law of Lot were afraid of forsaking their possessions in Sodom, he then acts in direct opposition to the command of Christ; he obstinately occupies the place of a minister, against whom, very probably, less prejudice might be entertained, and whose ministry, of consequence, would be more likely to produce some salutary effect; he loses his time in casting pearls before swine; and instead of converting his parishioners, he only aggravates the condemnation due to their obduracy.
The faithful pastor, however, is not soon discouraged, though he beholds no beneficial consequences of his ministry. His unbounded charity suffers, hopes, and labours long, without fainting. The more sterile the soil appears, which he is called to cultivate, the more he waters it, both with his tears and with the sweat of his brow; the more he implores for it the dew of heaven, and the influences of that Divine Sun which spreads light and life through every part of the Church. It is not, therefore, (let it be repeated,) till after patience has had its perfect work, that a conscientious minister takes the final resolution of quitting his post, in order to seek out some other situation, in which his labours may be attended with the greater profit.
HE who is not yet prepared to die for his Lord, has not yet received that "perfect love" which "casteth out fear:" and it is a matter of doubt, whether any preacher is worthy to appear in the pulpit, whose confidence in the truths of the Gospel is not strong enough to dispose him, in certain situations, to seal those truths with his blood. If he really shrink from the idea of dying in the cause of Christianity, is it for him to publish a Saviour, who is "the resurrection and the life?" And may he not be said to play with his conscience, his auditors, and his God, if, while he is the slave of sin and fear, he presents himself as a witness of the salvation of that omnipotent Redeemer, who, "through death, has destroyed him that had the power of death;" and who, by his resurrection, has "delivered them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage?" Heb. ii, 14, 15. Love, in the language of Solomon, "is strong as death:" but the true minister glows with that fervent love to Christ and his brethren, which is abundantly stronger than those fears of death which would prevent him, in times of persecution, from the faithful discharge of his ministerial functions. Such was the love of St. Paul, when he cried out to those who would have dissuaded him from the dangerous path of duty: "What mean ye to weep, and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus," Acts xxi, 13. "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus," Acts xx, 22-24. "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation, through your prayer, and the supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation, that Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. And if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all," Phil, i, 19-21; ii, 17.
Thus "the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep: but he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep," John x, 11, 12. Happy is that Church whose pastor is prepared to tread in the steps of "the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls!" St. Paul would not have been ashamed to acknowledge such a one as his companion and fellow labourer in the work of the Lord.
The suxel suspense of his choicc bettreen life and death.
Whatevrr desire the faithful pastor may have to be with Christ, and "^ resi from his labours, yet he endures with joy his separation from the person of his Saviour, through the sacred pleasure he experiences in the service of his members. The sweet equilibrium in which his desire was suspended between life and death, is thus expressed by the Apostle Paul: "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord," 2 Cor. v, 1-6. "Yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better: nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all, for your furtherance and joy of faith," Phil, i, 22-25.
It is chiefly when believers have the unconquerable love of St. Paul, "that all things work together for their good." Whether they live, or whether they die, every occurrence turns out a matter of favour. If they live, it is that they may support their companions in tribulation, and insure to themselves a greater reward, by maintaining, for a long season, the victorious fight of faith. If they die, it is that they may rest from their labours, and come to a more perfect enjoyment of their Master's presence. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them," Rev. xiv, 13. And in the meantime, blessed are the living who live in the Lord: for they are honourably engaged in those important conflicts which will daily add to their spiritual strength, and augment the brilliancy of their final triumph.
TRAIT XXXIX. The constancy of his zeal and diligence to the end of his course.
Living or dying, the faithful servant of Christ never acts unworthy of his character. "Blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, a child of God without rebuke, he shines," to the end of his course, "as a light in the world," Phil, ii, 15. He beholds death, whether it be natural or violent, always without fear, and generally with pleasure, regarding it as a messenger appointed for his safe conduct into that glorious state, where they rejoice together who have continued faithful to the end. He is anxious only that his Lord may find him occupied in the grand business he was commissioned to per form: and the nearer his hour approaches, the more earnest he is that he may finish his ministry with joy. If he be no longer able to exhort the brethren in person, he writes to them in the manner of St. Peter: "I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things," the doctrines, precepts, threatenings, and promises of the Gospel, "though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing, that shortly I must put off this tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me," 2 Pet. i, 12-14. He desires, at such a season, to address the faithful, and especially young ministers, as St. Paul addressed the Corinthians and Timothy: "My beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord," 1 Cor. xv, 58. "Thou, Timothy, hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry; for I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my de> parture is at hand," 2 Tim. iii, 10-12; iv, 5, 6.
Thus triumphantly St. Paul advanced toward the end of his course. And thus the faithful minister, pouring fresh oil into his lamp as the night advances, goes forth to meet his approaching God, whom his faith already considers as a merciful Judge, and his hope as a munificent Rewarder.
TRAIT XL. His triumph over the evils of life, and the terrors of death.
THE living faith that sustains a good pastor, or a believer in Christ, amid all the difficulties and afflictions of life, causes him more especially to triumph at the approach of death in all its terrific appearances. Ever filled with an humble confidence in Him, who is the resurrection and the life, he frequently expresses the assurance of his victorious faith, at this solemn season, in the manner of St. Paul: "Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ," 2 Cor. ii, 14. "Knowing, that He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you: therefore we faint not: but though our outward man perish, yet the inner man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," 2 Cor. iv, 14. Thus holding up the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one, and to receive the piercing arrows of the angel of death, he expects his last hour without fear or impatience; cheerfully leaving the time, the place, the manner, and the circumstances of this concluding trial, to the disposal of that God whose wisdom, goodness, and power, are all combined to insure him the victory. Whether he be called by the providence of God, in a chamber or upon a scaffold, to taste the bitter cup of which his Master drank so deeply, he prepares himself to accompany a suffering Saviour, encouraged with the hope that he shall not be tempted above his strength; and that, if he should suffer and die with the King of glory, he shall also rise and reign together with him.
At length the fatal shaft is thrown,—whether by accident, by disease, or by the hand of an executioner, is of little consequence; the true Christian, prepared for all events, sees and submits to the order of Providence. He receives the mortal blow, either with humble resignation, or with holy joy. In the first case, his soul is sweetly disengaged from its earthly tabernacle, while he breathes out the supplicatory language of happy Simeon, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." But in the second case, he leaves the world in a state of holy triumph, crying out in the fullest assurance of faith, My persuasion takes place of sight, and without the help of vision I endure, as seeing him that is invisible; as effectually sustained, as though, contemplating with Stephen an open heaven, I saw the Son of man standing at the right hand of God, ready to save and glorify my soul. Of these two manners of holy dying, the most enviable appears to have been the lot of St. Paul, if we may judge from the anticipated triumph he describes in several of his epistles, and particularly in the last he addressed to Timothy from Rome, where he received the crown of martyrdom. "I desire to depart and to be with Christ, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death," Phil, i, 13; iii, 8-10. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: to whom be glory for ever and ever," 2 Tim. iv, 7, 8,18. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or the sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus," Rom. viii, 35, 39. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. xv, 55-57.
Thus the great apostle went forth to meet his last trial, counting it an honour to suffer in the cause of truth, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. The enemies of Christianity rendered him at last conformable to Christ in his death :* but while they severed his head from his body, they united his happy spirit more intimately to that exalted Jesus, who had once met him in the way, and who now was waiting to receive him at the end of his course. Happy are the faithful, who, like this faithful apostle, live unto the Lord! yet happier they, who, like him, are enabled to die unto the Lord!" Their works do follow them, while they rest from their labours," and wait in peace the resurrection and the sublime rewards of the righteous.
* Tradition informs us, that St. Paul, in the second journey he made to Rome, received the crown of martyrdom under the Emperor Nero, about thirty-fivo yean after the crucifixion of our blessed Lord. St. Clement, the contemporary of St. Paul, speaks of that apostle in the following terms, in his first epistle to the Corinthians: "By means of jealousy, Paul has received the prize of perseverance. Having been seven times in bonds; having been evil entreated and stoned; having preached in the east and in the west, he has obtained the glorious prize of his faith. After having instructed all the world in righteousness, coming into the west, he has suffered martyrdom under those who command; and thus quitting the world, after having shown in it a great example of patience, he has gone into the holy place."