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2 TIMOTHY ï. 15.
IT must have been a source of great satisfaction to Timothy, to receive instruction relating to the duties of his office, from such a man as Paul ; who, in addition to a mind naturally capacious and penetrating, was blessed with wisdom, derived from a good education, long experience in the ministry, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Great, however, as were the advantages, which Timothy received from the writings of this A. postle, they were not peculiar to him. Every minister, with the scriptures in his hand, may receive the same instruction, which the Apostle gave to Timothy. In his epistles to Timothy and Titus, with what he occasionally communicated upon this subject in his other writings, we have, it is presumed, the substance of all his instructions respecting the work of the ministry. Nor are these “scriptures of any private interpretation.” The substance of what Paul has written upon the ministerial office, is as applicable to ministers, at the present day, as it was to Timothy, when he preached at Ephesus. We may, therefore, consider his exhortation in the text, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God," as addressed to every one, who enters the sacred office. As the truth, which these words contain, ought to be clearly understood,
and the obligation which they impose, deeply felt, it is proposed on this occasion to shew,
1. What this exhortation of the Apostle implies.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God.” With- . out any laboured criticism upon these words, we may safely assert, that they require,
1. That ministers should make it their primary object to please God. This is an idea, which lies upon the very face of the text. It appears to be the design of the Apostle, in these words, to specify the grand object, which ministers ought always to have in view, and to which they should direct all their exertions. This is not to please themselves, or to please their hearers, or to please mankind in general, but to please God. This is the most pure, the most noble, and the most important object, which they can have in view ; and the only supreme object, which the scriptures allow them to have in view. If, “ whether they eat or drink, or whatsoever they do, they are to do all to the glory of God;" if every duty, which they perform, is to be done “heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;" if “none of them are to live unto themselves, or to die unto themselves; but, if whether they live, they are to live unto the Lord, or whether they die, they are to die unto the Lord,” there can be no doubt, that to please God is to be their primary object. This they should keep constantly in view, in all their studies, in all their preaching, in all their intercourse with their people, and in all their secular concerns.
They are to strive to please God, not merely as the means of securing their own happiness ; (this would be nothing less than making their own pleasure the
supreme object of their regard ;) but they are to strive to please him, from a supreme regard to his pleasure. They are to seek to please God, because this is a du. ty in itself right. They are to act under the influence of that love to God, which delights in his pleasure ; which delights in his pleasure as a supreme object of its regard ; which would delight in his pleasure, even if no personal good were anticipated as its consequence.
The exhortation in the text implies,
2. That ministers should seriously and constantly consider how they may please God; “ Study, study to show thyself approved unto God.” The form of expression here used clearly intimates, that it requires much thought and care to determine always what course of conduct would be the most pleasing to God; and that ministers should constantly exercise their minds with a view to ascertain this important point. In the great work, in which they are engaged, they often find themselves in circumstances, in which it is impossible for them to know what is duty, without serious, prayerful, and persevering examination. Indeed, plain as is the path of duty, it never was designed, that any minister should know it, who will not study to find it out. By seri. ous, prayerful, and persevering study, the duty of a minister, in almost any circumstances, is easily known; but, without this kind of examination, the instances are numerous, in which it is impossible for him to know it. So various and nameless are the circumstances, in which ministers are placed, that they cannot be taught their whole duty by general rules, unless the principles, on which these general rules are founded, be daily and seriously considered in reference to particular cases, that have never been specified.
In his intercourse with his people, a minister needs, every day and every hour of the day, seriously to consider how he may please God. Among the sick, and with those in health ; on occasions of joy, as well as of mourning; in the company of saints, and among the world, this should be an object of his constant solicitude. If he is not habitually on his guard, he may manifest a disposition contrary to the spirit of the gospel-he may speak unadvisedly with his lipshe may neglect important opportunities of doing good
-he may thoughtlessly adopt a course of conduct, which is peculiarly displeasing to God, and ruinous to the souls of men.
It requires much study in a minister to know, in all their variety, what are the doctrines, which God approves; and when he has once acquired an extensive and familiar knowledge of these, great mental exertion is necessary to exhibit them in a manner the most pleasing to God, and best calculated to win souls to Christ. There is a portion of divine truth, and a manner of presenting it, exactly suited to all the variety of cases, to which a minister is to apply the word of God. There is a portion for the stupid, a portion for the awakened, a portion for the self-righteous, a portion for the humble, a portion for the disconsolate, a portion for the joyful, a portion for the aged, a portion for the young, a portion for the saint, and a portion for the sinner. Now to know the truths most suitable to be applied in these, and in all other cases—the time most proper for bringing them forward-and the manner, in which they may be exhibited to the greatest effect, requires much study. When we consider the danger there is of a minister's misunderstanding, or misapplying the holy scriptures, how peculiarly pertinent does the exhortation of