Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

tion required to prompt us to be faithful" servants of Jesus Christ," than the recollection of the words of St Paul, that we are "separated unto his Gospel," that upon us is conferred the high honour of being the messengers of the salvation of God,-of being the commissioned teachers of those truths which descended in all their purity from Heaven,-of being “separated" from the rest of our fellow-men to convey, according to the appointed means of sacred institution, the spiritual influences of divine grace? It is negligence and inattention merely, which can hide from us the supreme honour of making our characters and conduct correspond, in some weak degree at least, to the high dignity of such an office,-which can conceal from us that no moral or intellectual effort which we can possibly make, is in any respect commensurate to the purity of the offices which we discharge, or the excellence of the truths which we teach ;-and that, exert ourselves as we may, we shall still fall infinitely short of what those ought to be who are "separated unto the Gospel of God."

The apparent easiness of clerical duties in many situations, while it is apt to make the

[ocr errors]

world at times think slightly of our office, is no less apt, perhaps, to impose upon ourselves. What can be done, and done decently too, without much exertion, we are naturally enough disposed to do with as little exertion as is barely necessary; and the passions and the prejudices of the age in which we live, seem to point to many other employments of understanding and of activity, as of a higher class than those which belong to the office of a minister of Christ.

It is not now, indeed, the age (and we may thank God that it is not) when the clergy can any longer intermingle in the intrigues of worldly policy, or conceal, under the apparent harmlessness of the dove, the crooked windings and snares of the serpent; but are there no enterprises of Christian benevolence which can give scope to all the energy of mind and of thought? and are those who are "separated unto the Gospel of God," and to whom, in the spirit of that Gospel, nothing ought to be indifferent, which can minister to the good of men; are they without any field before them on which the highest energies of the most cultivated understanding may be employed, while they can

trace with humility, but with ardour, the unfolding plans of divine Wisdom and Providence, and have it in their power to be" fellow-workers with God" himself in the distribution of his stupendous" gifts unto men ?"

The truth is, that there is no occupation in which man can be engaged, which affords so lofty, so wide, and so unceasing an exercise for every useful and honourable species of ability, as the office of a minister of the Gospel. There is, in one view, no splendour of genius, no strength of judgment, no depth of learning, no powers of eloquence, no activity of beneficence, which will not find their full employment in drawing from those fountains of living water, and spreading their streams over a thirsty land; and, on the other hand, in the exquisite benevolence of Heaven, there is no minister of Christ, however ordinary his natural endowments, who, if he exercises them with faithfulness and humility, will not yet become, within the sphere allotted to him, one of the greatest blessings and benefactors of mankind!-In this view of the subject, indeed, we may find it difficult to comprehend what temptations can be so powerful as to withdraw us from a service

of so much interest and dignity; yet the experience, I fear, of all who have entered upon this holy office, will but too clearly convince them, that there are dangers in their way, which even the wisest and best have not at all times had the resolution to withstand. Our office, to be filled as it ought, would, in truth, require the zeal, the purity, and the wisdom of Angels; and, alas! it is in the hands of weak, and sinful, and fallible men!

III. It may be of importance, then, that I should, in a few words, consider, in the third place, the nature of those dangers which lie in the way of the faithful discharge of the clerical office. They partly arise from those secret infirmities which lurk at the bottom of every human character, and which, whatever may be our serious thoughts and opinions, are always starting up in some form or other, scarcely visible, perhaps, to ourselves; and whatever we say, or think, or feel, are, in reality, (unless we have the wisdom to discover, and the grace to resist! them,) shaping the bent of our lives, and the course of our destinies: Vanity, in all its varied forms, sometimes misleading us into the irregu

larities of enthusiasm; sometimes advancing our own unauthorized views, instead of the simplicity of Gospel truth; or, sometimes seeking for distinction in paths remote from the ob} jects of our profession-Indolence and self-indulgence, which are ever ready to lower the scale of our duties, and to tax us no higher than our inclination may be willing to payand in some circumstances of the clerical profession, the common allurements of worldly Ambition, which, instead of permitting us to be

66

separated unto the Gospel," insensibly con. verts the Gospel itself into the minister of its own unhallowed ends: These, and similar infirmities which are ever lying in wait to betray us, have all a tendency to separate us from the purity of the Gospel of Christ, and to make us the servants of other masters.

Other dangers arise from the world in which we live, and in which we ought to live, but

66

separated" from its vices and its follies. Its constant tendency is to bring us down from the level of the Gospel, from that "city set upon an hill," to the lower level of its own maxims and habits, so that the "salt of the earth" too often "loses its savour," and is fitted for no

E e

« VorigeDoorgaan »