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“I charge thee, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall the heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry,” 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
PART 1 . The ministerial office is the most important to the human race of any which is exercised on earth for, according to the order of the dispensation of grace, the preaching of the gospel is indispensably necessary to raise mankind out of the ruins of their fall, to deliver them from all the miseries which spring from an everlasting banishment from God, and to bring them to the eternal enjoyment of Him, the Sovereign Good, at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore.
The ministers of the gospel are particularly charged with these high interests of mankind: they are like those angels whom Jacob beheld on the sacred ladder, ascending and descending to and from heaven: they are the mouth of the congregation at the throne of God, and open the bosom of His mercies upon the miseries of man. They officially speak in the name of Christ, whom the Father always hears. 2 . In a word, my brethren, a faithful ministry is the greatest blessing God can bestow upon a people: it is the greatest he ever did bestow, except the gifts of his Son and of his Spirit. What were the peculiar blessings which the Lord promised by his prophets to the Israelites, if they would turn to him, and obey his laws? Were they not the conquest of nations the entire destruction of their enemies, the final period of all the miseries and calamities which afflicted them, and a country which flowed with milk and honey for their own habitation? These were the magnificent promises he made them; and yet they prevailed not upon them to yield obedience to the divine law, nor restrained them from prostituting their homage to the gods of the heathen. He then ceased to press upon them these promises, which were so flattering, and so likely to operate on the minds of a people who in general were influenced by worldly motives; but it was to make them one promise more which was a thousand times greater and more precious than all the rest: “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, and I will give you pastors accord in to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding,” Jeremiah 3:14,15. 3 . “Raise then in thy church, O most gracious Lord, a sufficiency of faithful pastors according to thine heart; and particularly call forth from our connection chosen vessels to carry the savor of Christ’s name to all people; and, in separating them for the work of the ministry, separate them also for the sanctification of those to whom they may be sent. We do not so much request the end of any trials or calamities which afflict us; we ask not favorable seasons, abundance, or prosperity; we only request a sufficiency of holy ministers who will die by thy cause, and with them thou wilt give us all things else.” 4 . If we thus consider the gospel in the light of the sanctuary, we shall not be surprised at the awfulness of the charge which the apostle, in my text, gives to Timothy, his spiritual son: “I charge thee before God,” the omnipotent Jehovah, who sees and marks every word and action of our lives, who tries the heart and reins; from whom no covert can screen us, no darkness hide us; “but the night shineth as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike” to him, <19D912> Psalm 139:12. I charge thee also before “the Lord Jesus Christ,” your Redeemer, who shed his blood for you, and for the souls intrusted to your care: before Him whose minister you are, and to whom you must account for the use or abuse of all your talents: before Him “who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom:” before whose awful bar you must stand in the presence of an assembled universe, when he shall appear on his throne with all the splendor and glory of the King of kings, to establish the eternal reign of his saints, and to banish all evil ones, and all evil, from the glory of his power for ever: when thou, O Timothy, shalt receive the exceeding great reward of thy faithful ministry, or the greater condemnation which awaits the abuse of the most precious gifts which can be intrusted to man.
Let us now proceed to the particulars of the apostle’s charge, omitting to enlarge upon the reasons which he gives in the 3d and 4th verses, as they primarily respect the people, and would lead us into too large a field of discourse.
I. 1. First, “Preach the word” — The word of God, which is able to save the soul. You are not ignorant, my brethren, what multitudes of immortal beings have been brought by this divine word “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” In those happy moments when a whole congregation has been softened by this quickening fire, and the hearts of the people all opened to receive the word, a single expression has pierced to the quick, and produced its full effect. hundreds of thousands in the course of the present revival have been enlightened by it, and have been undeceived concerning the abuses and pernicious maxims of the world, which they once thought innocent, because authorized by the common usage of mankind, or by the preaching of blind guides. Innumerable have been the profanations and disorders which have been prevented; and innumerable the precious souls which have been drawn out of the abyss of misery and sin in which they had so long lain. It is impossible for any but God to number of the cries of compunction which have arisen from awakened hearts, or the holy desires inspired into them. Scores of thousands have been brought to God, and established in grace, who either have been safely lodged in Abraham’s bosom, or are now living witnesses of Christ’s power to save. It is impossible to enumerate the graces and blessings which have been conferred upon the world, and especially from these kingdoms, by the means of the present revival. Surely it may be said of every faithful minister, as it was of his Lord, that “he is set for the rising again of many in Israel,” Luke 2:34. 2 . The good which one single minister, true to the cause in which he has engaged, can do in the course of his life by a faithful ministry of the word, is not easily to be described. How many of the ignorant he may instruct, how many sleepy consciences arouse, how many daring sinners confound; how many mourners he may bring into the liberty of the children of God, how many believers confirm in grace, yea, lead into the enjoyment of perfect love! Blessed be the Lord, we have had our ministers, who were formed according to the model of Jesus Christ, according to his simplicity, his unction, his sacred zeal. We have had ourWESLEYS, ourFLETCHERS, our\parGRIMSHAWS, and ourWALSHES. Every thing was borne down by their holy eloquence, and by the power of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them. The villages, the towns, the cities, could not resist the impetuosity of their zeal, and the eminent sanctity of their lives; the tears, the sighs, and the deep compunction of those who heard them, were the commendations which accompanied their ministry. The strictness of their manners left nothing for the world to say against the truths which they delivered. The simplicity of their spirit, and the gentleness of their conversation and conduct toward others but severity toward themselves, belied not the gospel of which they were ministers. Their examples instructed, persuaded, and struck the people almost as much as their sermons: and the Spirit of God, who inflamed their hearts, the divine fire with which they themselves were filled, spread itself through the coldest and most insensible souls; and enabled them almost everywhere to raise chapels, temples to God, where the penitents and believers might assemble to hear them, and each return inflamed like themselves, and filled with the abundance of the Spirit of God. O what good is one apostolic man capable of working upon earth!
There were no more than twelve employed to begin the conversion of the world. 3 . Elijah, ascending to heaven, and leaving his spirit of zeal to his disciple Elisha, was designed as a type of Jesus Christ; who, after he had ascended to the right hand of the Father, sent down on his disciples that spirit of zeal and of fire which was the seal of their mission; by which they were to set on fire and purify the world, and carry to all nations the knowledge of salvation and the love of truth and righteousness. Scarcely are they thus filled with the Holy Spirit, but these men, before so timid, so careful to hide themselves, to withdraw themselves from the fury of the Jews, leave their retreat like generous lions, know danger no more, bear in their countenance an intrepidity in the way of duty which sets at defiance all the powers of the earth, boldly bear their testimony for Christ before the assembly of chief priests, and depart from the council, rejoicing to be thought worthy to suffer reproach for Jesus’ holy name. 4 . Judea cannot satisfy the ardor and extent of their zeal. They pass from city to city, from nation to nation; they spread themselves to the extremities of the earth; they attack the most ancient and most authorized abuses; they tear away from the most barbarous people the idols which their ancestors had at all times adored. They overturn the altars which continual incense and homage had rendered respectable; they preach up the reproach and foolishness of the cross to the most polished nations, who piqued themselves most upon their eloquence, philosophy, and wisdom. The obstacles which all things present to their zeal, instead of abating it, only give it new force, and seem everywhere to announce their success: the whole world conspires against them, and they are stronger than the world: crosses and gibbets are shown them, to put a stop to their preaching; and they answer that they cannot but declare what they have seen and heard; and they publish on the housetops what was confided to them in secret: they now expire under the axe of the executioner: new torments are invented to extinguish with their blood the new doctrine which they preach; and their blood preaches it still more after their death; and the more the earth is watered with it, the more does she bring forth new disciples to the gospel.
Such was the spirit of the ministry and apostleship which they received, for these are in some sense but one and the same: every minister of the gospel is an apostle and ambassador of Jesus Christ among men. O that God would increase the number of those who are willing to preach and to die for Jesus Christ! “Preach,” then, “the word.”
II. But I proceed to the second particular contained in the apostle’s charge: “Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 1. BE ALWAYS READY AND ALWAYS ZEALOUS FOR THE PUBLIC DUTIES OF YOUR OFFICE. 1 . You are perhaps afraid of dissipation of mind, and of all the unavoidable dangers to which your zeal will expose you; but it is this fear, which, through grace, will support you under them: we cannot fill our office with fidelity and safety without possessing much of this holy, filial fear. You think yourself unworthy of a ministry so holy and so glorious; but it is this sentiment itself which makes you evangelically worthy of it. No one can exercise it in a manner worthy of God, who does not feel himself extremely unworthy of it. You have a taste perhaps for retirement; but is this the taste or the rule which should determine your duties? Are you become a public minister, that you should live to yourself alone? indeed, your taste for retirement, if properly used, and duly restrained, will, under the blessing of God, assure the success of your public labors. Perhaps you are diffident concerning your gifts; but is it not a great gift to possess an ardent desire for the salvation of souls? With a heart penetrated and inflamed by this desire, a minister will always succeed; it is in some degree a substitute for other talents: what shall I say? It forms them in him. Whereas, with the most shining talents, without this tender love for souls, this apostolic zeal, we are but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Only put yourselves into the hands of those who are appointed to govern; they will employ you according to your gifts and strength; it is not in you that in this instance it appertains to judge. Blessed be the Lord, the field is various; they will find out for you the place which suits you; and if nature has not bestowed on you all the powers of oratory, the grace of God, and the spirit of the missionary, will give you every thing necessary. 2 . Let us all, fathers and brethren, remember that, whatever be our talents, whatever be our views, we are essentially wrong if we suffer them to lead us out of the path of duty or the order of our station. We are commanded to “be instant in season, out of season:” a minister, therefore, must perish in the inutility of a life of retirement and repose; the duties of his ministry, and the wants of the church of God, permit him not to enjoy them. “Nothing is more opposed,” says St. Chrysostom, “to the spirit of the ministry to which the church of Christ has joined us, than a quiet and retired life, which many erroneously regard as the kind of life the most sublime and perfect.” No, my brethren, nothing is safe for us but that which God requires of us. True devotion is not the work of human taste and caprice; it is a divine gift, and always in the order of God. The distrust of ourselves is a great virtue when it makes us more attentive to the fulfillment of our duties; but it is an illusion, a vice, when it draws us from them. 3 . Let us now, my brethren, in concluding this division of our subject, call to mind the different sources from whence arises the defect of zeal in ministers of the gospel. Indeed, we cannot too often set them before our eyes; for they are the poisoned fountains from whence flow all the evils of the church of Christ.
The first is, the love of this world and its conveniences: no sooner does every thing commodious in the present life offer its tempting baits, but with too many that fire of zeal, that flame of love for the salvation of souls, vanishes away like the morning dew, to the astonishment of the discerning beholder.
The second is, a defect of the love of God: it must be nearly extinguished in our hearts, if we can daily behold the disorders and infidelity which continually dishonor the name and holy religion of our God, without embracing the most effectual method, if we be really called to the ministry of the word, to stem the torrent.
The fourth is, such a respect for men as makes us seek their friendship and esteem at the expense of truth; I mean that baseness of spirit which ties our tongues before them, and makes us prefer our own glory and our own interests to the love of Christ and the interests of his church. Fortitude, disinterestedness, a holy generosity, a wise and heroic firmness, are the constant fruits of the true ministerial grace and office; and if these sentiments be effaced from the heart of a minister, the grace of his vocation is utterly extinct.
The sixth is, a dull, lukewarm spirit: zeal is a holy fervor, which gives its first attention to ourselves. Alas! he who can indulge in himself a stupid, lethargic spirit, will make but a miserable reprover of the deadness of devotion which he observes in others.
The seventh, and last, is a timid and misinformed piety. Some refuse to devote themselves. wholly to the work of the ministry, or give it up when they have entered upon it, through a pious delusion. They make piety itself a pretext to dispense with the rules of piety: they are afraid to lose their own souls; but they are not afraid to lose the souls of those whom they are called of God to be the instruments of saving. They believe they ought to fly from those dangers to which the order of God, and of the church to which they belong, calls them: and this flight is the only danger of which they are ignorant, and yet the greatest they have to fear. 4 . In short, my brethren, it is in vain that our morals are otherwise irreprehensible: it is not sufficient to lead a prudent and regular life before the eyes of the world: if we be not penetrated with a lively sorrow at seeing the lost estate of the souls around us; if we do not arm ourselves with the seal of faith and love, and with that sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, to bring them out of their ways of error; if we do not exhort them “with all longsuffering and doctrine;” if we be not “instant in season and out of season”; if we content with our own fancied righteousness, we imagine ourselves safe in reproving and rebuking by our examples, or, like old Eli, in only softly condemning the vice of others; our pretended virtue or holiness, indolent, inactive, lethargic, is a crime, an abomination before God: we feel not ourselves charged with the interests of God upon earth; we live only for ourselves; we are no more ambassadors of Jesus Christ; we are easy, useless spectators of the reproaches cast upon him and his holy religion; and, by our silence and insensibility, consent to the crimes, and are partakers of the guilt, of those who crucify him afresh. No, my brethren let us not deceive ourselves; for, as I have already said, and must repeat again, however well regulated the life of such a minister may seem, he has but the appearance of piety; he has not the foundation and truth of it: he seems to live, but he is dead in the sight of God: men perhaps may praise him, but God curses him: the regularity of his life now lulls him to sleep; but a terrible sound, and the clamors of the souls which he has suffered to perish, shall one day awaken him thoroughly: he calms his mind, because he bears a cold, dry testimony in favor of evangelical truths; or because he compares the regularity of his life with that of many others called ministers; but he shall one day see that his righteousness was but that of a Pharisee, and shall in the end be ranked with the hypocrites and unprofitable servants, Matthew 25:30. 5 . Ah! What, my brethren! A minister of Jesus Christ, sent to do his work upon earth, to enlarge his kingdom, to advance the building of his eternal city for him to see the reign of the devil prevail over that of Jesus Christ in the place or places where he labors; and his faith, his love, his pretended piety to suffer him to be quiet and at rest! Can a minister of the gospel hear the name of Jesus, and the truth as it is in him whose place he fills, and whom he professes to love and honor, daily derided or denied by word or deed, and not be filled with zeal for the cause of his great Master so opposed! What shall I say? Certainly he would speak with the authority which the dignity of his office always gives him, and endeavor to inspire sentiments more worthy of religion in those perverse, corrupted men: or he would be a base coward, a prevaricator, a minister who betrayed his ministry, if a criminal insensibility, or a carnal or timid prudence, could on such occasions shut his mouth; and he all this time believe himself innocent of the blood of souls! Can a faithful shepherd see his sheep precipitate themselves into the abyss without running after them, and making them at least to hear his voice? Nay, when a single sheep had wandered, he would traverse the mountains, and endure the most painful toils, to bring it back again on his shoulders, Luke 15. No, my brethren, the man just now described is not a shepherd, not a minister of Jesus Christ; I reclaim the name; he is a usurper, who falsely bears that honorable title; and, notwithstanding all his profession, has willfully made himself a vessel of reprobation and shame, placed in the temple of God! 6 . But it may be urged, that a traveling preacher in our connection is responsible only for the societies under his care. The objector must certainly have forgotten, or never have read, the rules of a preacher, which we have all so solemnly promised to obey. The eleventh runs thus: — “You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work; and go always not only to those that want, but to those that want you most.
Observe! It is not your business only to preach so many times, and to take care of this or that society, but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and, with all your power, to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord.”
PART 2. A FAITHFUL MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL WILL BE “INSTANT” FOR THE CAUSE OF HIS GREAT MASTER, IN EVERY COMPANY INTO WHICH HE MAY HAPPEN TO FALL. 1 . Our manners, our walk, our language, our whole exterior conduct, should upon all occasions support the holy dignity of our calling. The most accustomary familiarities of the world, the discourses of pleasantry the most entertaining, are for us real indecencies: all that is unworthy of our ministry is at all times unworthy of us. Some ministers persuade themselves that it is necessary to accommodate themselves to the taste, the language, and maxims of the world, that they may not appear bad or morose company: but remember, my brethren, a minister is never in his place while he suits the taste of the world; never, unless he be what is called bad company for the world. From the time that the world seeks him, adopts him, associates with him, and is pleased with his company, he gives a certain proof that he respects not the propriety and decency which should invariably accompany his office. And we may continually observe, that those ministers whom the world seeks, whom the world applauds, and with whose company the world in general is delighted, are carnal men, who have reserved nothing of their holy vocation but the name: the spirit of the world shows itself in their whole exterior deportment; it discovers itself in the impropriety of their dress, in the lightness of their conversation, and even of their walk: nay, often in the little true gravity and sanctity manifested in the performance of their public duties. “If ye were of the world” says Christ, “the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you,” John 15:19. No, my brethren, the men of the world seek not the company of a holy and respectable minister; nor is he desirous of associating with them. It is when they want consolation under affliction: it is when the approaches of death make them feel themselves near to eternity: ah! it is then they have recourse to a holy minister; they then regard not those of whom they were before so fond; they are then conscious that such ministers can be of no service to them; that they may be good for the things of the world, but are useless as to the things of heaven. Depend on it, my brethren, it always costs us something of the dignity and holy gravity of our office to purchase the friendship and suffrages of men of the world: it is not they who will abate of their prejudices and false maxims to unite themselves to us; it is we only who must abate of the holy rules of the gospel to be admitted to their societies. Let us, then, never lay down before the eyes of the men of the world the holy gravity of our vocation, or the due and respectable appearance of a minister of Jesus Christ: let them not be able to distinguish between the minister in the pulpit and the minister in his usual commerce with mankind. Let them find him throughout the same; throughout respecting his character, and making it respectable to others; throughout discovering the spirit of piety, yea, even by his presence alone. 2 . Then, my brethren, if we be at any time witnesses of those vices which the customs of the world justify, we have a right to condemn them. If the people of the world, whether rich or poor, indulge themselves before us in such discourses as are but too common, and which offend either piety, Christian love, or modesty, our character authorizes us to reprove them.
Nor will the world in general find fault with us, if we endeavor to sanctify their conversations with pious, edifying remarks; for, as it is somewhere observed in the Apocrypha, the Lord has dispersed us among the Gentiles, among the people of the world, who know not God, that we may make known the wonders of his holy law. No, my brethren, it does not become a good minister to depart from the company of the people of the world, without having mixed with their discourse some spiritual and edifying reflections. When a minister is duly touched with the truths he preaches; when he daily meditates upon them at the footstool of the throne; when he is penetrated with an ardent, holy desire for the salvation of souls, it will be difficult for him to see them wonder and perish, without at least complaining to them, without taking occasion from their errors and prejudices to say to them some word of salvation. And how know you, but a simple and edifying reflection, delivered at a time when he expects it not, may become to your brother a word of eternal life? He may be on his guard if he hear you in public, and come prejudiced against the truths you are delivering; but in a familiar conversation, truth takes the sinner unawares.
Candor, meekness, and simplicity, with the grace of God, will sometimes, in private discourse, give to a truth, when least looked for, a strength which it would not otherwise have. The unforeseen arrow is the most sure to reach its mark. At least, you have done honor to your ministry, and been faithful to that command of God, “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” 3 . When I entered on this division of any subject, I only intended to touch it cursorily. But, considering the magnitude of it, and how seldom it has been fully treated, I afterward determined to enlarge. And need I here remind you, brethren, of that peculiar characteristic of the Methodists, that they are a race of reprovers. It is their reproach, it is their honor, it is the glory of the cross they bear, that every Christian, of every sect and party, who dares to become a reprover of vice, is immediately stigmatized with the name of Methodist. May we never lose that cross, that glory, till vice is banished from the world, and “the earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord, us the waters cover the sea!” 4 . “But is there not reason to fear, that by becoming thus importunate, we shall often expose the truth to the contempt and derision of those to whom we speak?” No, my brethren. A dissipated worldly preacher, I allow, could but with an ill grace introduce observations of a spiritual nature into the conversations of people of the world. He has by his vain conduct lost his right. He would render himself ridiculous indeed, if he should labor to recall to the minds of others truths which he himself appears to have forgotten. The doctrines of piety would blush in his mouth; he would be heard with contempt; and might be asked with a sneer, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 1 Samuel 10:11,12. But, on the contrary, a holy minister gives respectability to all his wise and edifying counsels; the men of the world themselves will grant him attention, and, even if tired, will not be surprised; they may reject the truth, but must in secret esteem him who declares it.
I grant that this duty, as well as every thing else, should be guided by Christian prudence. Christian love, which only desires to be useful, labors to find out the most opportune moments; and many such will present themselves in the course of the useless conversations of the men of the world. They speak together of their affairs, their projects, their embarrassments, their subjects of complaint against their enemies or competitors, of their disappointments, and of their misfortunes. Now, cannot the Spirit of God, which actuates a holy minister, find in all this innumerable occasions to deplore the sad and agitated life of those who love the world; to describe to them the peace, the sweetness, the consolations of a holy Christian life; and to mourn over them, as enjoying no genuine happiness in the present life, but preparing for themselves in this world a thousand disturbances, a thousand pains, and misery eternal in the next? 5 . On the other hand, my brethren, there are occasions when the fear of offending should be entirely banished. A minister of the gospel is a public character, charged with the interests of the glory of God, and the honor of religion, among men: he ought, therefore, never to suffer men of the world, whoever they may be, to pass without a bold, though holy, reproof, when the respect due to the majesty of God is wounded, when the precious and sublime doctrines of the gospel are treated with derision, when vice is justified, or holiness and virtue turned into ridicule: in short, when licentiousness or impiety in discourse dishonors the presence of God and the presence of his ministers. Ah! it is then that the piety and dignity of a minister should no more prescribe to him any other measure or bounds but that of zeal — the zeal which is the flame of love, mixed with the just indignation of a lover of God. It is then that, charged by his office with the interests of religion, he should know no one after the flesh; he should forget the names, the titles, the distinctions of those who forget themselves; he should remember that he is appointed of God a preacher of righteousness, and endued with power from heaven to oppose all manner of sin: and, especially, to set himself with a sacred intrepidity against that impious and detestable pride which would exalt itself against the knowledge of God.
Whatever persons they be who do not treat with respect in your presence that which is the most respectable of all things in the universe, should not be respected by you: we ought to hear them with that kind of indignation with which we believe Christ himself would have heard them. I am persuaded that the pointed strength of reproof is the only kind of propriety which our character then imposes upon us; We are not then required to use soft expressions, “Nay, my son, it is no good report that I hear.” Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, we should deliver our own souls.
It is esteemed honorable by the world to support the interests of a friend pointedly and boldly, if he be insulted in our presence. Have we then at such a time a right to impose silence with firmness on the calumniator?
Shall we not disgrace ourselves, and be accounted treacherous, yea, base and dastardly cowards, if we can suffer our friends to be abused in our presence without undertaking their defense? And shall we not have the same zeal to stop the mouth of the impious, and support aloud the interests of Jesus Christ? Can we imagine that we are his friends, according to that saying of our Lord, “Henceforth, I call you not servants, but I have called you friends?” John 15:15; — can we suppose that we have performed all which that tender and honorable title requires, by dissembling, — by contenting ourselves with strengthening through our dastardly silence the insults with which he is treated, and by sacrificing, through a dishonorable weakness, through the fear of man, his name and his glory? No, my brethren, we are not the friends whom Jesus Christ has chosen — this title disgraces us, if his insulted name does not rouse in us all our love and all our zeal for his adorable person. 6 . O that I could impress these important truths with the fullest conviction upon all our hearts! What a flame would soon be kindled in the world!
But should we confine our observation to these alone? Certainly, our local preachers, exhorters, and even our leaders, are in their respective degrees called to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. The whole together probably make not less than fifteen thousand lights to illuminate the world. O that they were all faithful. “O God, inspire them all with the love of thy glory!” Yes, fathers and brethren, I know and rejoice in the mighty good which has been wrought upon the earth by your instrumentality: but you may still do abundantly more: yea, we might all of us have already been much more useful than we have been. “Lord, humble us before thee for our past unfaithfulness.” 7 . But I must here observe, brethren, that a minister faithful to his duty, who respects his office, and loves the people intrusted to his charge, will find but little time to sacrifice to the useless conversations and dissipated spirit of the world. He seldom appears among the people of the world; for, having no taste for their pleasures or amusements, or even for their company, the unavoidable calls of duty or propriety which require him to be among them are but rare. We cannot often be in their company, without not only injuring the divine life within us, but more or less debasing ourselves and our sacred office in their eyes. All corrupt as the world which lieth in the wicked one is, it exacts from us virtue without spot, without clouds, and even without any of those infirmities which are inseparable from humanity. 8 . The more the world is indulgent to itself, the more severe it is in respect to us: it believes that it may indulge itself in every thing, and yet in us will pass over nothing. It has perpetually upon us the eyes of malevolent censors. A word out of order, a simple inattention, the least motion which may be construed into impropriety, a compliment paid without due reflection, become in us faults which will not soon be forgotten. The men of the world, if possible, will give a shade to all our words and actions; draw from them the most invidious consequences; and even in those moments when we relax ourselves in their favor from the gravity of our character they will attribute the whole to a taste of their spirit, and to a secret approbation of their views which we dare not avow, rather than to condescension and complaisance toward them. They will at last be bold enough to tempt us to imitate them in the liberties they take; will treat our precautions and reserve as the fruits of a minute and contracted spirit; and for the little we abate in the dignity of our character for the sake of pleasing them, they will in our absence pay our complaisance with the most insolent derisions and dishonorable reflections. 9 . There is nothing, therefore, my brethren, more deceitful than the idea of gaining the esteem and good opinion of the world, by familiarizing ourselves and mixing often with it. The more the world sees us, except in our public duties, the more will it either hate or despise us. It hates us from the instant it feels that we will not put up with its manners. Let us very rarely have any thing to do with it, and we shall appear in its eyes with greater dignity, and be treated with greater respect. Let us attend to every due and proper call which the world may justly require of us, as well as to all the demands of charity and good works; but let us always conduct ourselves as the ambassadors of Jesus Christ, as in some sense filling his place. It is then only that our ministerial character, under the grace and providence of God, will be to us a safeguard against every temptation. But if we seek the world for the sake of the world, we must conform to its taste and its manners. We should be badly received upon the present ground, were we to carry there that holy gravity which should never forsake us. We should derange its pleasures, disconcert its assemblies, and its liberty of speech. We should be an intolerable burden to it. Our presence alone would be horrible; and it would say of us, as the enemies of holiness say of the righteous man in the Wisdom of Solomon, “He is grievous to us to behold!” There is no alternative. We must die to the world; or partake of its spirit. We cannot serve God and mammon. 10. I am very conscious, brethren, that our itinerant plan is to be preferred to any other in this as in a thousand respects. We are seldom tempted to be in the world. We must love it exceedingly if we find many occasions to be in it. Our time is spent between the mount, the multitude, and our own people. We almost continually reside in families which look for, and which love and honor, the seriousness and gravity of their preacher. It is their delight to converse with us on the things of God: if it were not so, they would be disgraceful members of our society. Yes, it is food to the souls of our people to have what they have heard in the pulpit pressed upon them in conversation at the fireside: and we should be the most inexcusable of men, if we did not improve these precious opportunities among the families we visit. The Methodist preachers,” said the late Revelation Charles Wesley to me once “do not fully consider all the blessings of their situation; one of the greatest of which,” added he, “is that wall of contempt with which you are surrounded, and which preserves you from a thousand temptations to which the clergy in general are exposed, by keeping the world at a distance from you.” But though our calls to mix with the men of the world are but rare, let us never on such occasions betray our Master, but conduct ourselves as faithful servants, ambassadors, and friends of Jesus Christ. 11. I may sum up the whole in these words of the apostle, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, love, patience, meekness,” 1 Timothy 6:11.
If you were of the world, its interests, its prejudices, its vanities, would be your portion: you would be obliged to conform to its maxims and language, to justify it, and to rise up against all those who dare condemn it: but you are men of God; you are in the world, but you are not of the world: you are charged in the midst of it with the interests of God, with the care of his glory, and with the honor of his spiritual worship. The ambassador of a king speaks only in the name of him employer: he knows no other man while he acts from the authority, and is concerned with the interests, of the kingdom he represents: he lays aside the private character, and appears always in his public capacity. And shall we, brethren, who are ambassadors for the King of kings, men of God in the midst of a world which is at war with him — shall we lay aside our holy and public character with which he has invested its, and become men of the world, his enemies, friends? Shall we blush to speak the language of Him who employs us? Shall we suffer him to be insulted in our presence without supporting his interests and his glory — without using the authority with which he has clothed us to set ourselves with a holy zeal against the despisers of his name, his laws, and his truth? Shall we, my brethren, forgetting the majesty of Him we represent, and the honor he has conferred upon us by intrusting his embassy and authority to us — shall we authorize by our conduct the maxims of the world, his enemy? Shall we appear to hold intelligence with it, that its errors and prejudices may prevail over his divine doctrines, and sacred morals, of which he has made us the public dispensers and defenders? No, my brethren; let us bear our holy title of men of God, as it were, upon our foreheads, and through all the minutest particular of our conduct: let us throughout be men of God: let all our most common actions, conversation, fellowship, and commerce with mankind, be ennobled and sanctified by this holy and honorable character: let us never abase ourselves by laying it aside for a moment; and let us remember that the world will always respect it in us as long. as we respect it in ourselves. 12. Destroy, then, O our God, in the hearts of thy ministers the strength of all those obstacles which the world, the flesh, and the devil incessantly oppose to that zeal which renders them instruments of thy mercies to mankind: inflame them with that spirit of fire and wisdom which thou didst shed abroad in the hearts of thy first disciples: let the succession of this apostolic zeal be transmitted with increasing abundance in thy church, with the succession of that ministry which thou hast promised to be with always, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:23. Send forth more laborers into thy vineyard, men “mighty in deed and word,” whom the world may not intimidate, whom all the powers of the earth may not be able to shake, whom worldly interests may never influence, whom thy glory and the salvation of souls may regulate and animate in all their undertakings; and who will esteem the opinions of men as nothing, but as far as they contribute to make thee adored and glorified in all ages!