« VorigeDoorgaan »
sheen. A third time he saith, Lovest thou me? Now Peter was grieved when the question was pressed a third time, and he said, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith again, Feed my shrep. Thus kindly did the good Physician probe the wounds of his apostle, with a view to prevent his relapse into self-confidence, to reinstate him in the good opinion of the church, and to comfirm him in his apostleship. Finally, to render the stability of this great man incontestable, and that all might know he was now a tried and approved stone, Jesus predicted the death whereby he was to glorify God, and concluded with the exhortation, Follow me.
The sorrows of the church were now converted into joy; and the resurrection of Christ being established by infallible proof, his apostles were animated with the hope of seeing the throne of David re-established. Therefore, on the very morning of his ascension, they asked him, Lord, wilt thou, at this time, restore the kingdom to Israel? To which he replied, that it was not for them to know the times and the seasons, which the Father had put in his own power; but that when the Holy Ghost should fall upon them, they should receive power and bear witness of him to the ends of the earth. Then ascending to heaven in the presence of five hundred witnesses, he cast a further light on the true nature of his kingdom, and for ever convinced them, that it was not of the world. While wrapt in astonishment they gazed on their ascending Lord, two angels checked their admiration at an event for which they ought to have been prepared; and declared, that Jesus should hereafter come, in the same manner in which they bad seen him ascend. Happily freed from those stubborn prejudices which had hitherto obscured their views, they returned to. Jerusalem with sentiments far easier to conceive than to express. There, daily expecting the promise of the father, they spent the peaceful interval which preceded the day of Pentecost, in the exercises of brotherly love, godly exhortation, and fervent prayer,
[To be continued.]
RELIGIOUS AND MORAL DISCUSSIONS.
ON THE EXCELLENCE OF THE CLERICAL OFFICE. The office of a Christian Minister is unquestionably the most exalted situation to which the mind of man can aspire. If it be regarded in its absolute and intrinsical character, it will appear to possess every thing which can invest the person who fills it with solemnity and importance. The man who obeys the call of providence in entering upon such a condition, receives a dispensation to which the truest dignity is attached. He is made, in a peculiar sense, the servant of God; and, embarked in a cause which involves the glory of his grace, he becomes an organ through which the will of the Almighty is communicated to the moral and intelligent part of his creation. He has indeed no original matters of revelation to impart, no new and hitherto undiscovered truths to divulge; but he has to deliver a recorded message, to enforce a prescribed law, and to exhibit, declare, and expound, the written and published statutes of the Most High. In acting according to his instructions, he is empowered to take the highest ground, and to magnify his office by delivering his commission in the name of the Lord. The mild and beneficent spirit of the gospel throws an amiable grace round this pre-eminence, and commends him to the world under the dignified yet acceptable character of the ininister of reconciliation and the messenger of peace. The infirmities of nature, in which he must ever participate with those whom he instructs, constitute no objection to the reasoning employed. The panegyric which has been drawn belongs to the condition and not to the man. Should the party wbo engages in it be found unequal to its duties, or faithless to its interests, neither his incompetency nor his treachery will prove, that what has been advanced is not strictly true. He may disgrace himself, and excite prejudice against the trust he has abused, in weak minds or depraved hearts; but the wise and good will know how to separate the individual from the minister, and to distinguish between the vicious hireling and the pastor after God's own heart.
The clerical office is further ennobied by being rendered at once distinct and indelible. There is something which expresses the reputed importance of this station, in that regulation by which the individual who enters upon it becomes, as it were, separated from the mass of his secular brethren. Conscious, as it should seem, of that sanctity which belongs to " a steward of the mysteries of God,” he devotes himself to the various and interesting duties of his profession. His situation is of such a nature as to indicate the
peculiar veneration with which his office is regarded, and the line of separation which is drawn between him and others. Men of loose principles and dissolute lives immediately see the impropriety of any approach in a person of the sacred order, to a character like their own. Indeed the indignation expressed against secular employments, worldly ambition, or fashionable amusements, in this description of men, is so much homage paid to the office they sustain; and the ministers of religion may consider themselves as not a little flattered by that distinction, which renders actions immoral in them that would be regarded as innocent in the rest of mankind.
To these considerations must be added, the consequences which depend upon the exercise of the clerical profession. As an instrument, under providence, of removing blindness from the understanding and hardness from the heart, and thereby making way for that grace which brings salvation, this office is entitled to peculiar respect. Its preponderance, in such a view, over other conditions of honour and usefulness must be estimated by the relative value of things seen and things unseen, of things temporal and things eternal. Patriotism has many claims to our homage, but piety more; and the man who has saved a falling state appears considerable, only till he is placed beside him who has saved a perishing soul. That immortal substance for which Christ died, and for which every faithful pastor labours, has a value which no human calculation can reach; and he who sustains its awful functions acquires, in that capacity, a degree of importance proportioned to those mighty issues which depend upon his ministration.
It should not at the same time be forgotten, that so far as the temporal interests of mankind can be meliorated, the clerical office seeks that melioration. Peace, sobriety and decorum, social union and civil subordination; in a word, private integrity and public virtue are among the duties to which the disciple of Christ must attend in his way to eternal life. The preacher therefore finds it no inconsiderable part of his official employment, to strengthen the bonds of political and moral obligation; and thus the office which he bears is ennobled by beautifying the face of society upon earth, while it is forming a community for the kingdom of heaven.
The candidate for a profession thus dignified by intrinsical cxcellence, public distinction, and moral importance, should deeply revolve the nature of that office to which he aspires. He should contemplate the christian priesthood in all the variety of its relations and requirements. He should consider its connexion respectively with God and man, and the honour which it derives from
both. He should view it in its subordination to Christ, the Apostle and High Priest of the profession; and in its dependence upon the Spirit, under whose ministration it ranks. In thus regarding the dignity, he will, as a consequence, be led to see the responsibility, of this calling. If conscience have had its influence in the election which he has made, he will not have decided upon a question of such moment to himself and others without the most serious and self-inquiring delibcration. If his views be enlightened and pure, he will have consulted his heart upon the sacrifices he must make, the diligence he must exercise, the humility he must practise, and the judgment he must endure.
In anticipating the condition upon which he is to enter, he will be abashed at the thought of his pretensions to such a distinction, nor dare to proceed without a large measure of fear and trembling. He will look forward with apprehension to the course of his ministry; and dread, lest spiritual pride, worldly mindedness, or carnal timidity, should lead him to sully the purity, abuse the privileges, or compromise the duties, of so important a station. Under this sense of his inadequacy, and these forebodings of his infirmity, he will find relief and direction in falling prostrate before the Great Head of the church; and seeking his qualifications, as Paul sought his, “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
Nor is it only in the contemplation of this profession that such views should govern the mind: the same sentiments should accompany the minister through the whole of his clerical career. The functions which he exercises must not be regarded as less solemn, because they are more familiar. Still the place on which he stands is holy ground; still those rites, which he so frequently performs, are sanctified means for sovereign ends, and symbols of great and awful realities. That these impressions may be encouraged, he will find it expedient to have in remembrance, “ unto how high a dignity, and to how weighty an office and charge," he has been called. By refreshing his recollection with those views under which he once regarded the duties of his profession, he will escape that formality which a rotation of performances is too apt to produce, and rise to the true tone and spirit of his employment. Thus will those considerations, which miglit seem likely to inflate him, in reality humble and quicken him. He will find motives for personal self-abasement in those very circumstances which give him an official distinction; and, awakened to diligence by a thousand incentives connected with the solemnity of his station, he will always abound in the work, till he finaliy enters into the joy, of his Lord.
CONVERSATIONS IN THE INVISIBLE WORLD.
CRUDELIS AND MARTYR. Pure spirit of light, said Crudelis, once the degraded and patient sufferer, now the triumphant Martyr! The sight of thy dignified felicity, contrasted with my own despair, adds a bitterness to all my woes.
Martyr. Ah! Could the inhabitants of the earth have ascers tained the eternal distinctions of character that separate disembodied spirits, methinks their conduct in the former state of existence would have been more befitting a life of short probation for eternity. You, unhappy Crudelis, would rather have plunged your body into a fiery furnace, than have stretched out the arm of power and oppression against the faithful disciples of Jesus.
Crudelis. Then, alas, were the days of my authority; and I confess with anguish, they were misemployed to the purposes of cruelty!
Martyr. Had you given attention to the language of inspired truth, you would have known that the interest of all his people lay near the Redeemer's heart; and that he had engraven their names on the palms of his hands.
Crudelis. Sometimes I remember-Oh memory! too faithful memory! What alarming pictures of the days of former years dost thou now present to my tormented soul! Were memory extinct, the half of hell would be gone.
Martyr. Yes: While a retrospect of the past affords a joy unspeakable to all the spirits of light, who walk the fields of paradise, it is replete with tragical misery to the damned. It would not be consistent with the government of the Eternal, to extinguish your sense of pain: it is by memory you must recognise the cause of all your miseries.
Crudelis. I remember, alas! that, in the other world, I was sometimes a little impressed with that appeal which the divine Being made to the rulers of the earth, when I considered myself as an enemy to God, and the monarch of an extensive empire: “ Why do the kings of the earth take counsel together against the Lord? He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” But the most terrible espressions of divine wrath were forgotten by me, while perpetually moving in the giddy circle of licentions mirth, and thoughtless dissipation. Oh that I should ever listen to the detestable adulation of courtiers and parasites, while I turned a deaf ear to the solemn voice of the Omnipotent! The scene is changed; wofully changed! Earthly