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of your dying bed, or extinguish the flames of hell, when you are sinking amidst them?
Do you say, I am too young, and religion will make me unlovely? Oh, no. The rose on the cheek of beauty was never half so beautiful or fragrant as when bathed in the tears of repentance, or blushing with the first tints of hope.
"And now if you will deal kindly and truly with my Master, tell me, and if not tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or the left." Gen. xxiv. 49.
JEREMIAH III. 15.
I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
THE prophet is addressing the ten tribes, and promises, in the name of God, that if they will return to him by repentance, he will give them pastors after his own heart, through whose agency he will edify and save them.
But the church is in all ages the same, and what was the richest promise to Israel is the richest that God can now make to his people.
It can then need no apology, if I make it my object on this occasion to MAGNIFY the pastoral office.
I would premise, that the pastoral office seems the only ministerial office intended to be permanent.
I. What, then, are the duties of the pastoral office?
1. To edify the body of Christ; to mature the Christians for their heavenly state.
The idea is a mistaken one, that the conversion of sinners is a more pressing object than the edification of the Church. God has promised them that he will guide them with his counsel, and afterward receive them to glory.
He has promised his Son, I know, that he shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; and this promise the Father will fulfil. But the pastoral office has primary reference to the flock that is to be fed. This flock, I know, must be constantly replenished
from the world. "Other sheep have I, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring in, that there may be one fold and one shepherd." Hence, while these other sheep are to be gathered in, and gathered through a preached gospel-for by the foolishness of preaching God will save them that believe it is still true that God has associated with the permanency of the Church, a permanent pastoral office. We might divide the duties of the office into more or less. I should choose to say that the pastor must lead, and feed, and guard, and heal.
1. He must lead. A pastor may not be ignorant of the leading doctrines of the gospel, and must make plain to the Church the truths she may believe, and the precepts she must practice, to please her Lord.
2. He must feed them. The business of feeding the flock of God, over which a bishop is made the overseer, consists very much in so presenting divine truth to the Church as to draw out the holy affections of the heart, and lead on, to a perfect conformity to the will of God, and to the image of Jesus Christ, his sacramental multitude. They must promptly hear the shepherd's voice, when there is any danger that they may stray.
3. He must guard. To guard the flock, implies on the part of the pastor a constant vigilance, that shall espy every approaching danger, and every foe that may lurk in ambush to destroy or injure any interest of the Church.
4. To heal, embraces those arduous and difficult duties that grow out of the errors and the general depravity of the people of God.
All these are implied in edifying the Church of the living God; and the whole is to be done, as far as human agency is concerned, through the skilful use of God's truth. God's people are spoken of as built up in the most holy faith. They are said to be rooted and grounded in the truth. And the promise is, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
No other means than truth will effectually move the Christians on any point, when we wish them to put forth their energies. A song will not do it, nor a prayer. A healthful and continued action requires solid food.
We can easily see how truth, in the hands of the Holy Ghost, must do the whole work. If he becomes idolatrous-truth shows him God, shining in the face of Jesus Christ. If proud-truth shows him the rock whence he was hewn, and the hole of the pit whence he was digged. If he cease to care for sinners-truth shows him the terrors of the Lord: he learns the sinner's end in
the sanctuary of the Most High. If he becomes worldly, or lustful, or envious, or ambitious, or sluggish-on each and every of these points he must be assailed and put right by the law of the Lord, which is perfect, converting the soul.
And the power that brings the wanderer back, must hold him. "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold with thy free spirit; then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee." Not only now, but in heaven, the truth, and the Spirit through the truth, must keep him holding on for ever.
But not cold, speculative or philosophical truth will do this. We have no such in the Bible. It is spiritual, and practical, and experimental truth, that renovates the heart. When David, in the dark hour, encouraged himself in the Lord his God, it was not by a cold, philosophical speculation on the attributes of God; but some practical review of the Divine operations-how God interposed for Abraham, and Jacob, and Moses, and Joshua.
II. Having thus inquired respecting the duties of the pastoral office, and shown that its office is to guide the Church to heaven, let us now inquire whether the Church can safely dispense with this office? Why may not evangelists, the only proposed substitute, serve all her interests, and protect her honor, and guide her to the marriage supper? I take the negative of this question, for the following reasons:
1. Evangelists cannot feel the pastoral affections. Their home is the Church at large; and their regards to the Church can have no more locality than their persons.
2. Evangelists cannot have the leisure to study extensively the word of God. They cannot give themselves to reading, and become mighty in the Scriptures. They may gain a kind of knowledge that will render them invaluable ministers of the word of life, and take lessons extensively on human manners and human
3. They cannot become familiar with the business of administering the discipline of the Church, and know how to meet the cases of toil and sorrow which so frequently rend piecemeal the churches of Jesus Christ.
4. They cannot feel the responsibilities that are indispensable to the guidance and safe conduct of the churches through this wilderness. Must all matters in the Church of Christ be done accord
ing to his own laws? they must be done by the men who will remain on the spot to bear the blame if they are done wrong.
5. It is doubtful whether the churches will hold in sufficiently high respect and affection, for their own good, a changing and fluctuating ministry. If there is no portion of the parental relation, there can be but little of that filial respect that begets confidence, and tractableness, and the desirable trust and submission.
1. But it has been said, that the pastoral relation has cradled the Church to sleep; and some wise men have believed that, to unsettle the ministry, and supply the place of the pastors with evangelists, is the remedy.
This, it would seem, is being wise above what is written. God has appointed the office, and could not but know perfectly whether his churches would be safe under his own regulations. As well might we say that none are so unfit to bring up children as their parents, and discard at once all the domestic relations.
2. But a perpetual change in the ministry will furnish the churches a perpetual novelty in the mode of exhibiting the word of life. This is by no means certain-and if certain, not certainly a good.
3. But if we thus hold the lash over ministers, we shall press them up to duty, and make them more faithful. Perhaps not. They may be rendered mercenary; and be driven, some of them, to hypocrisy, by the want of a pice of bread; but will not, we apprehend, be rendered, by this means, more faithful to Jesus Christ or to his flock.
1. Let, then, the churches love their pastors, and tenderly cherish them, and pray for them.
2. Let the pastors care supremely for the eternal salvation of their people, that the high and holy office may result in the presenting to Christ, at last, a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.
3. How dreadful this office, to negotiate between God and man, as God's ambassador !
Too dreadful to be lightly entered upon.
Too dreadful to be entered unprepared.
Too dreadful to be coveted.
And yet, too honorable to be avoided, when the call is plain.
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion."
1 PETER IV. 18.
If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
On the truth of God we found a hope that his people will all reach heaven, not to shine with equal light, and not to glow with equal transport in the throne of the blessed. Some of God's people will shine with full-orbed glory, while others will shine with the diminished light of a more distant star. It is promised to the people of God that those who have turned many to righteousness, shall shine in the kingdom of their Father, and as the stars, for ever and ever; and yet the smallest amount of that exalted glory will surpass the highest hopes of every humble believer. His expectation is, he shall be "saved, as though by fire." He is a brand plucked out of the fire, and if he may reach heaven, at any price, it is the height of his ambition. If he may only stand at the portals of that happy world, and gaze for ever upon one of the glories of that cluster to the name of Jesus, and study out that one rich attribute of the Savior, it will be heaven enough for him; and yet his hope is to reach that "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," when he dares to entertain any hope at all. The fact is, a great deal must be done yet for the people of God to bring them to heaven. But this will be done by the Holy Ghost, "who hath taken their feet out of the horrible pit and the miry clay, and put a new song into their mouth." This first gift of a Savior promises all the rest, "He that spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all, how shall he not freely give us all things with him?" But let us look a little at the process of this work.
I. The people of God will be saved with difficulty.
1. Owing to their strong remaining corruptions. These must