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while he not only charges them to do what he says, but to be what he is. This will receive much illustration froin its contrary.
A minister who has a careless, untender walk, defeats, by his life, the intent of his preaching. Though in rea. fon, it cannot justify any one in disobeying wholesome instructions, that the instructor despises them himself ; yet it is one of the most common excuses men make for themselves, and few excuses seem to set their consciences more at ease. Loose and careless persons think themselves quite at liberty to despise the reproofs of their pastor, if, while he teaches others, he teaches not himself.
Nay, not only is it thus with the profane, but even those who have the greatest regard for religion, are not so much affected with the same truths, when spoken by one they think indifferent about them, as when spoken by one, who seems to feel what he speaks, and who lives as he teaches.
Experience greatly confirms the whole of this reasoning—for wherever an eminently pious minister has lived, and laboured long, there is commonly to be found the most knowing, serious, sober-minded, and judicious people ; nay, the very memory of such a minister is often long continued after he is gone, and his example is proposed by his hearers to their children's children.
From all these considerations, I conclude, that the most important qualification of a good minister, is, to be a believing preacher, and that, if he saves his own soul, he will be the probable mean of saving them that hear him.
I proceed now, to make some improvement of the subject.
Reverend Fathers and Brethren, As we would wish our people to do, let us take heed how we hear, and make a faithful application to ourselves, of what hath been said upon the subject. Let it
engage us to a serious examination of ourselves, lest while we preach the gospel to others, we ourselves should be reprobates. This ought to be the subject of our frequent and serious thoughts, for several reasons. We are in danger of thinking ourselves too easily safe, by comparing that outward regularity, to which our office itself, even from secular motives, obliges us, with the licentious extravagance of profane finners. We are in danger of miltaking our frequent thinking and speaking of the things of God, in the way of our calling, for an evidence of true religion, in ourselves. We may also, perhaps, mistake those gifts with which God hath furnished us, for the benefit of his own people, as the fruits of the Spirit, and of gracious dispositions in our hearts. A minister is as much liable to self-deceit as others, and in some respects more so. We have therefore much need, often to make trial of our state, as well as to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure.
But let us beware of imagining, that this discourse is only applicable to such, as have no real faith in Christ. God forbid! that there were any minister among us, a complete unbeliever, counting the gospel a fable. But faith, and every other gracious disposition grafted upon it, are capable of many degrees of improvement and strength ; and in proportion to the strength of our faith, and the impression we have of divine things, will be our diligence, and consequently our success, in the work of the ministry. Let us therefore impress our minds, with a more and more lively sense, of the important truths which we teach and hear. Let us not starve ourselves, while we are feeding others : but study to arrive at a greater degree of love to God, and delight in him; a greater conformity to his blessed image, in purity of heart, and integrity of life. Let us in a special manner, study to attain to more and more intimate communion with
God in secret, which is the sign of our dependence upont him, and the very exercise of love to him, which is the mean of constancy, and the source of joy in religion.
Above all, let us set our affections upon the things that are above, where our Redeemner fits, at his Father's right hand. As our profession is to be pilgrims, and strangers in the earth, to live by faith, and not by fight ; let us study, to raise our hopes of, and desire after, the heavenly inheritance. By this, we shall not only believe, but know and feel the value of true religion, which cannot fail to make us diligent in seeking the good of others.
Oh! my brethren, what reason have we to be inwardly alhamed at the weakness of our faith, and the coldness of our love, as they shew themselves, by our indifference in the duties of our office? We are often ready both to complain and wonder, that our hearers are so little affect
ed with the most awful considerations; that they can · hear with indifference of everlasting happiness, and fit
without fear under the denunciations of eternal wrath ; that we cannot persuade them, it is of importance to think what shall become of them for ever. But is it not also to be wondered at, that we ourselves can often speak of these things with so little emotion? Can we ever be sufficiently affected with the danger of our hearers, when we consider, that we must either save them by convincing and converting them now, or deliver our own souls, by witnessing, justifying, and perhaps pleading for their con. demnation at the last day? However plain and simple these truths are, of the final judgment of ministers and people, they are quite unfathomable in their meaning i and importance to both. It is strange that we can think of them without the deepeft concern, or even fpeak of them without tears.
Let us pray that the Lord would increase our faith, that believing we may speak, and that our speech may
be with such efficacy, by the blessing of God, as many finners may be thereby brought to everlasting life; that we may approve ourselves to Him that fent us ; and that when Christ, the chief Shepherd shall appear, we may receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
MAN IN HIS NATURAL STATE.
JOHN WITHERSPOON, D.D.LL. D.
Rev. ii. 17. Because thou fayeft, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing ; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
TN order to preach the gospel with success, it is necef
1 fary, that we should begin, by establishing the great and fundamental truths, on which all the rest are built, and to which they constantly refer. Nay, it is necessary that we should often look back to these, and see that we be not off the foundation, or that it be not weakly, or imperfe&ly laid. Of this fort, I take the guilt, misery, and weakness of our nature to be ; and therefore have chofen the words now read, as the subject of discourse, in which the Spirit of God reproves the sufficiency, and self-righteousness of the church of Laodicea.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased in goods, &c. I suppose you will all easily understand, that the words are figurative, and are spoken entirely with a view to the spiritual state of that church. In this light, let us consider what is precisely their meaning.
We may either suppose, that this charge is brought against the church of Laodicea, because there were many there, under the profession of the gospel, who were notwithstanding, still in a natural unrenewed state-strangers to the power of religion ; of which, their being thus unhumbled, and insensible of their guilt and misery, was the evidence; and for which, the remedy is prescribed in the following words : I counsel thee to buy of me gold, tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the foame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes witli eye-falve, that thou mayest see.
Or we may suppose, that this reproof was in a great measure applicable to them all in general, believers and unbelievers ; the best of them, being exceedingly prone to trust in themselves, that they were righteous ; instead of that humble dependence on the merit and grace of their Redeemer, which ought not only to be the refuge of the sinner, but the confidence of the saint. And there is no question, that this is a proper caution to profesling Christians in every age, to beware of splitting on the rock of self-sufficiency.
But as this disposition reigns in the heart of every one that is yet at a distance from God, is the foundation of their security and impenitence, and is what they must be