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implore for their established pastors the same wisdom and zeal, grounding such prayers upon the authority of many plain passages of Holy Scripture: “Now unto him, that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end.'
Moreover, it is an error to suppose, that the apostles needed no augmentation of that divine light, by which spiritual objects are discerned. St. Paul, who was favoured with an extraordinary inspiration, and that sufficient to compose sacred books, in which infallibility is to be found, writes thus to believers : “Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.” An humble, but happy confession! which, on the one hand, will not suffer us to be discouraged, when we are most sensible of our inadequate light, and teaches us, on the other, how necessary it is to make incessant application to the Father of lights : equally guarding us against the pride of some, who imagine themselves to have apprehended all the truth; and the wilful ignorance of others, who pronounce spiritual knowledge to be altogether unattainable.
Now if the apostle Paul could but imperfectly discern the depths of evangelical truth, and if angels themselves “ desire to look into these things :" who can sufficiently wonder at the presumption of those men, who are so far persuaded of their own infallibility, that they regard all truths, which they are unable to fathom, as the mere reveries of fanaticism ? But, turning our eyes, at present, from the pernicious error of these self exalted Christians, let us consider a subject, in which we are more interested, than in the extraordinary vocation of St. Paul to the holy ministry.
REFLECTIONS Upon the ordinary vocation to the holy ministry. “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few: pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." Retaining in memory these remarkable words of our Lord, the consci.
entious man is incapable of thrusting himself into the holy ministry, without being first duly called thereto by the Lord of the harvest, the great “Shepherd and Bishop of souls."
The minister of the present age is not ordinarily called to the holy ministry, except by carnal motives, such as his own vanity, or his peculiar taste for a tranquil and indolent life. Perhaps his vocation to the ministry is principally from his father or mother, who have determined that their son shall enter into holy orders. Very frequently, if the candidate for holy orders had sincerity enough to discover the real inclination of his heart, he might make his submissions to the dignitaries of our church, and say, "Put me, I pray you, into one of the priest's offices that I may eat a piece of bread."
It is not thus with the real believer, who consecrates himself to the holy ministry. He is not ignorant, that "Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest :" and he is perfectly assured, that no man has a right to take
upon himself the sacerdotal dignity, “but he that is called of God," either in an extraordinary manner, Aaron and St. Paul, or, at least, in an ordinary manner, as Apollos and Timothy. As it is a matter of the utmost importance, to understand by what tokens this ordinary vocation to the holy ministry may be discovered, the following reflections upon so interesting a subject may not be altogether superfluous.
If a young man of virtuous manners is deeply penetrated with this humiliating truth: “ All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” If, further, he is actually convinced of this consolatory truth : “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." If his natural talents have been strengthened by a liberal education; if the pleasure of doing good is sweeter to him than all the pleasures of sense; if the hope of "converting sinners from the error of their way," occupies his mind more agreeably than the idea of acquiring all the advantages of fortune; if the honour of publishing the gospel is superior, in his eyes, to the honour of becoming the ambassador of an earthly prince: in short, if by a desire, which springs from the fear of God, the love of Christ, and the concern he takes in the salvation of his
neighbour, he is led to consecrate himself to the holy ministry; if, in the order of providence, outward circumstances concur with his own designs; and if he solicits the grace and assistance of God with greater eagerness than he seeks the outward vocation from his superiors in the church, by the imposition of hands; he may then satisfy himself, that the great High Priest of the Christian profession has set him apart for the high office to which he aspires.
When, after serious examination, any student in theology discovers in himself the necessary dispositions mentioned above; then, having received imposition of hands, with faith and humility, from the pastors, who preside in the church, he may solidly conclude, that he has been favoured with the ordinary vocation. Hence, looking up to the source of the important office, with which he is honoured, he can adopt with propriety the language of St. Paul: "I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, for that he hath counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry. Though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me, yea, wo is unto me if I preach not the gospel :" for then I should be found unfaithful to my vocation. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ.” And, if he becomes not like that wicked and slothful servant, who refused to administer to the necessities of his master's household, he will be able at all times to say: "Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.”
A person of this description, searching the depths of the human heart, of which he has acquired a competent knowledge by the study of his own, meditating with attention upon the proofs, and with humility upon the mysteries of our holy religion, giving himself up to the study of divine things, and above all, to prayer, and to good works; such a pastor may reasonably hope to grow in grace and in the knowledge of that powerful Saviour, whom he earnestly proclaims to others. Nor is it probable that such a one will labour altogether in vain.. Gradually instructed in the things which concern the kingdom of God, he will become like the father of a family, bringing forth out of his treasures things new and old; and whether he speaks of the old man, the earthly nature, which he has put off with such extreme pain, or the new man, the heavenly nature, which he has put on with equal joy, he will speak with a conviction so powerful, and a persuasion so constraining, that the careless must necessarily be alarmed, and the faithful encouraged.
His entire devotion to Jesus Christ.
The true Christian called to become a disciple of the blessed us, rather than refuse the offered privilege, renounces his all. If this token of devotion to Christ is discernable in the character of every true Christian, it is still more conspicuous in the character of every true minister. Such a person, inwardly called by the grace of God to a state of discipleship with Christ, and outwardly consecrated to such a state by the imposition of hands, gives himself unreservedly up to the service of his condescending Master. He withstands no longer that permanent command of our exalted Lord, to which his first disciplės showed so cheerful a submission, Follow me. Nor is he discouraged, while Christ continues, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take
cross, and follow me. No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. He that loveth father and mother, son or daughter, more that he is either a true minister, or a real member of Jesus Christ.
is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” If there be found any pastor who cannot adopt the solemn appeal of the first ministers of Christ; “Lo we have left all and followed thee," that man is in no situation to copy the example of his forerunners in the Christian church, and is altogether unworthy the character he bears : since without this detachment from the world, and this devotion to the Son of God, he flatters himself in vain,
Observe the declaration of one, whose attachment to his divine Master deserves to be had in everlasting remembrance : “ Those things which were gain to me, I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus
Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, having the righteousness which is of God by faith. For none of us,” true Christians or true ministers, “liveth to himself, or dieth to himself :" but
whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord.”
Professing to be either a minister, or a believer, of the gospel, without this entire devotion to Jesus Christ, is to live in a state of the most dangerous hypocrisy : it is neither more nor less than saying, Lord ! Lord! without having a firm resolution to do what our gracious Master has commanded.
His strength and his arms. The ministers of the present age are furnished in a manner suitable to their design. As they are more desirous to please than to convert their hearers, so they are peculiarly anxious to embellish the inventions of a seducing imagination. They are continually seeking after the beauty of metaphors, the brilliancy of antithesis, the delicacy of description, the just arrangement of words, the aptness of gesture, the modulations of voice, and every other studied ornament of artificial eloquence. While the true minister, effectually convinced of the excellence of the gospel, relies alone, for the effect of his public ministry, upon the force of truth, and the assistance of his divine Master.
Observe the manner in which St. Paul expresses himself upon this subject : “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken ; we also believe, and therefore speak. And I,