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are baptized, and those infidels who are communicants: since, before he can lead them to that faith which worketh by love, as St. Paul was accustomed to lead unprejudiced heathens, he must first unmask them with a holy severity, as the blessed Jesus was accustomed to unmask the Pharisees of his day.
6. If unregenerate Christians are heathens by their worldly disposilions; if they are Pharisees by their presumption, and confirmed in their Pharisaism by the fallacious opinions they indulge of their prerogative under the Gospel; it follows that every modern pastor is. called to a performance of the twofold duty above described, and if this be the case, how unreasonable is it to imagine, that the ministers of our own time have a much less difficult task before them than those who were formerly commissioned to publish the Gospel!
7. All pastors have an important task assigned them, and, till this is performed, they are required to labour without fainting. Observe in what this task consists:—"He that descended from heaven," saith St. Paul, " gave some apostles, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come, [both pastors and flocks,] unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," Eph. iv, 11-13. When every Christian has attained to this exalted state, the ministers of the Gospel may then assert their work to be complete, and need no longer imitate the diligence of St. Paul. But while we are surrounded with baptized swearers, Sabbath breakers, slanderers, gamesters, drunkards, gluttons, debauchees, blasphemers, and hypocrites, who are using every effort to render Christianity despicable before infidels, and execrable in the eyes of philosophers; at such a time, it cannot be reasonably imagined, that any individual labourer is permitted to stand idle in the spiritual vineyard. And yet, in this very time of universal degeneracy, there are not wanting many among us, who inconsiderately cry out: "St. Paul, without doubt, had reason to labour with unremitting assiduity for the conversion of idolatrous heathens; but we are converted already, and see no necessity for that burning zeal, and those strenuous efforts among our modern teachers, which were formerly commendable in that apostle."
8. If it be objected, that Christians are here represented in a more deplorable point of view, than candour or observation can warrant; we make our appeal to those proclamations which have been made with a view to repress the single sin of profaning the name of God, by impious oaths and horrible imprecations. These must undoubtedly be considered as public testimonies of public guilt. In such proclamations, all Christian governments, whether Catholic or Protestant, equally complain, that all the civil laws by which they have endeavoured to enforce the law of God, have proved insufficient to prevent the overflowings of a crime as insipid as it is disgraceful. In vain have new penalties and punishments been decreed; in vain are they constantly held forth from the pulpits of preachers and the thrones of kings; this despicable vice still reigns undisturbed among us, insulting over the broken laws of earth and heaven. Now, if it has hitherto been found impossible to prevent the commission of a sin, which has neither pleasure nor profit to plead in its favour, what can we expect concerning all those thousand vices which allure with promises of both? Are not dissimulation and perjury, injustice and covetousness, lasciviouaness and luxury, apparent among the members of every Church 1 Do not rapine, revenge, and murder, defile every part of Christendom, in spite of prisons, banishment, and death? It is a truth too notorious to be controverted, that every crime, with which human nature has ever been polluted, is still continually practised in the most enlightened parts of the world.
We might here mention, if it were necessary, the contempt m which marriage is held, the instability of that holy estate, and the facility with which so sacred a bond is broken. We might go on to bewail the frequent commission of suicide in Christian communities. But to speak ofthese, with many other sins which are increasing around us to an alarming degree, would be only to echo back those sad complaints which are every day breathed from the lips of the righteous. The above remarks may possibly appear uncharitable to some: but, if they be without foundation, how many unmeaning expressions do we find in our liturgy! What hypocrisy in our public confessions! What false humility in our prayers!
From all these observations, it is evident that the most heathenish manners are common among Christians, so called, and that the most scandalous vices are prevalent, even in those countries where reformed Christianity has erected its standard. Let the impartial inquirer then declare, whether it be not peculiarly necessary to preach repentance among those whose rebellion against God is accompanied with perfidiousness and hypocrisy?
1. WERE it even certain, that professing Christians in general walk according to their holy vocation, would it be commendable in pastors to show less concern for the salvation of Christ's apparent disciples, than was anciently discovered by St. Paul for the conversion of persecuting heathens? Christians are our brethren. The Church, our common mother, has nourished us with the same spiritual milk, and calls us to a participation of the same heavenly inheritance. Christians are no more strangers; and even those who are bad citizens, and unfaithful domestics, are, nevertheless, in some sense citizens of the same city with ourselves, and "of the household of God," Eph. ii, 19. Hence, as we compose but one household, so whenever we are disposed to neglect any part of this family, we may apply to ourselves the following words of the apostle: "If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel," 1 Tim. v, 8. Let ministers, then, be placed in the happiest imaginable circumstances, and it will still become them to cry out, with the pious benevolence of St. Paul, "As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the'household of faith," Galatians v, 10.
2. We may here pursue the idea which Christ himself has given us, by comparing his Church to a vineyard. If it be necessary to graft those stocks which are naturally wild, is it less necessary to cultivate those which have been already grafted? We see the husbandmen bestowing most culture upon those vines which produce the most excellent fruit. Let ministers attend to this general rule: and since they only can be fruitful in the sacred vineyard, who receive the word of God in faith, let them study to train up believers to the highest state of maturity. Thus the heavenly husbandman is represented as purging every fruitful branch, "that it may bring forth more fruit," John xv, 2.
3. The word of God must be offered to sinners as a remedy suited to the disease of their souls: but to the faithful it must be administered as nourishing food. Hence, as the order of grace resembles that ot nature, it is necessary, in a spiritual sense, to minister nutriment to the healthy in much greater quantities, than medicine to those who are diseased. Thus believers, who constantly hunger and thirst after greatei degrees of grace, should more frequently receive the living word, that they "may abound yet more and more in knowledge," till they are "filled with the fruits of righteousness," Phil, i, 9-11.
4. We find the following expressions in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans: "I am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able to admonish one another. Nevertheless, I have written the more boldly unto you, as putting you in mind. And I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established," Rom. xv, 14, 15; i, 11. Now, if St. Paul could express so earnest a desire to instruct those Christians, who were perfect strangers to him, and who were already so Divinely enlightened; far from being imitators of this great apostle, do we not forfeit all pretensions to charity, while we suffer those ignorant Chris. nans to perish "for lack of knowledge," Hos. iv, 6, who are not only of our neighbourhood, but probably of our very parish?
5. Though St. Paul was assisted with miraculous endowments, yet how anxiously did he endeavour to fill up the twofold duties of a believer in Christ, and a minister of his Gospel! And shall we refuse to labour with equal earnestness, whose gifts are so mean, and whose graces are so inconsiderable? Appointed, like the primitive preachers of Christianity, to be "fishers of men," is it not perfectly reasonable that we should manifest as great activity with our feeble lines, as St. Paul was accustomed to discover in the use of his capacious net? If that apostle, filled with holy zeal, was enabled to convert more sinners by a single discourse, than many pastors are known to convert in a thousand sermons, should we not, by our uncommon assiduity, supply, as much as possible, the want of that incomprehensible energy which accompanied his ministerial labours?
6. Ministers are compared to labourers, who go forth to cultivate the lands of their master. Now St. Paul, as the foremost of these labourers, wrought night and day with an extraordinary instrument, which marked out furrows of an uncommon depth, and ploughed up entire provinces on a sudden. He made the fullest proof of his ministry, and by the most astonishing efforts spread the seed of the Gospel "from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum," Rom. xv, 19. How vast a difference between the former and latter pastors of the Christian Church! Many of us are content to stand altogether idle, till "the night cometh, in which no man can work," John ix, 4; while others, who are disposed to some little
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occupation, employ themselves as workmen who have need to be utterly ashamed of their insignificant labours, 2 Tim. ii, 15. At best, we hold but a tardy instrument; an instrument which, with immense toil, will but barely graze the earth we are called to cultivate. And shall we, thus unhappily circumstanced, permit our ploughshares to gather rust during six successive days, and then leisurely employ them by an hour upon the seventh? Surely such a mode of conduct is as contrary to common sense as to the example St. Paul has left us.
7. So astonishing is the inconstancy, the weakness, and the depravity of the human heart, that in spite of all the persevering industry of this apostle in the vineyard of his Lord, it still brought forth briers and thorns, to the anguish of his soul. "Behold," saith he to the Corinthians, "the third time I am ready to come unto you for your edifying. For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: and lest when I come my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented," Rom. xii, 14-21.
We shall close this chapter by proposing the following queries, which may be reasonably grounded upon the preceding passage. If the natural and supernatural talents of St. Paul; if his zeal, his diligence, and his apostolic authority, were insufficient to engage his flock to conduct themselves as followers of Christ; if their want of piety drew from him tears of lamentation, and obliged him to renew his painful efforts with redoubled solicitude; can those pastors be said to possess the spirit of the Gospel, who behold with indifference the disorders of that falling Church which Christ has purchased with his own blood 1 And if the extraordinary labours of St. Paul were not sufficient fully to answer the design of the sacred ministry, is it not presumption indeed to imagine, that our trivial services are sufficiently complete?
WHEN we attack a prejudice that is obstinately defended, it is frequently as needful to multiply arguments as it is necessary in a siege to multiply assaults. Pursuing this method, we shall endeavour, upon new grounds, to establish the doctrine contended for in the two last chapters.
1. After exhorting Timothy to labour without ceasing, St. Paul assigns the following reason for such injunction: "Know," saith he, "that in the last times" of the Christian Church, "men," who make a profession of faith, "shall be lovers of their own selves, despisers of those that are good—lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." Now, if Timothy was exhorted to use all diligence in opposing those evils which were then only making their approach, is it reasonable that we should be remiss, who are unhappy enough to see those last times, in which the decay of piety, predicted by the apostle, is become universal? On the contrary, is not this the moment in which we should strenuously resist the overflowings of ungodliness, and fortify those who are not yet swept away by the impetuous torrent?
2. When the great apostle benevolently carried the word of God to sinners of every different nation, he thereby armed against himself the authority of magistrates and priests, as well Jewish as Pagan. His universal philanthropy exposed him to the most cruel persecutions. Thousands and ten thousands were set in array against him, and the inhabitants of every kingdom seemed determined to resist or destroy him in his spiritual progress. He saw these surrounding dangers; but he saw them without discovering any symptom of fear; and rather than discontinue his painful labours, he cheerfully proceeded to encounter every threatening evil. We, on the contrary, are appointed to build up the children of the kingdom in their most holy faith. And shall we labour less because we can labour with less danger? Shall we neglect the duties of our sacred function because our superiors in Church and state permit us to convert sinners, command us to preach the Gospel, erect us temples for the public celebration of Divine worship, and allow us salaries, that our ministry may never be interrupted by secular cares? The ministerial services, which St. Paul performed with such unabating zeal, when his reward was imprisonments and stripes, must we be unpaged to discharge by emoluments and honours? And, after all, shall we limit our constrained obedience precisely to that point, which will merely secure us from public depositions and disgrace?
3. What was the error of Demas; a man as notorious by his fall among the evangelists as Judas among the apostles? Demas "loved this present world," 2 Tim. iv, 10, and, ceasing to imitate the diligence of St. Paul, ungratefully left him to labour almost without a second. And will unfaithful evangelists presume, that they may imitate without fear the apostasy of Demas, and renounce with impunity the example of St. Paul? If such be their unhappy persuasion, we submit the following queries to their serious consideration:—Are the souls of men less valuable; is sin of any kind less detestable, or the law of God less severe in the present day, than in the earlier ages of the Christian Church? Have pastors a right to be remiss while the night of incredulity is blackening around them? Are the attacks of antichristian philosophers less frequent and audacious at present than in former times? Or, finally, is the appearance of our omnipotent Judge no longer expected in the world?
4. If the apostles and primitive pastors have removed many threatening impediments out of our way: if they have procured for us our present advantages, by the most amazing exertions, and at the prodigious price of their blood; surely it can never be imagined that they acted with so much resolution, and suffered with so much constancy, that we might become the indolent readers of their unparalleled history. Was it not rather, that, animated with a becoming sense of their great example, we might make the highest improvement of our inestimable privileges?
5. The mountains are now laid low, the valleys are filled up, the crooked ways are made straight, and we have only to carry that salvation to sinners, for which such wonderful preparations have been made. And are we negligent in running the errands of everlasting love? And are we backward in bearing the happiest tidings to the most hapless of