« AnteriorContinuar »
Duties of ministers and particular classes of persons. person.
BUT above all others whatsoever, does it concern us that are ministers, to see to it that we are partakers of this work, or that we have experience of the saving operations of the same spirit, that is now poured out on the land. How sorrowful and melancholy is the case, when it is otherwise? For one to stand at the head of a congregation of God's people, as representing Christ and speaking in his stead, and to act the part of a shepherd and guide to a people, in such a state of things, when many are under great awakenings, and many are converted, and many of God's saints are filled with divine light, love, and joy, and to undertake to instruct and lead them all, under all these various circumstances, and to be put to it, continually to play the hypocrite, and force the airs of a saint in preaching, and from time to time, in private conversation, and particular dealing with souls, to undertake to judge of their circumstances, to try to talk with those that come to him, as if he knew what they said; to try to talk with persons of experience, as if he knew how to converse with them, and had experience as well as they; to make others believe that he rejoices when others are converted, and to force a pleased and joyful countenance and manner of speech, when there is nothing in the heart, what sorrowful work is here! O how miserably must such a person feel! What a wretched bondage and slavery is this! What pains, and how much art must such a minister use to conceal himself! And how weak are his hands! Besides the infinite provocation of the Most High God, and displeasure of his Lord and Master, that he incurs, by continuing a secret enemy to him in his heart, in such circumstances, I think there is a great deal of reason, from the scripture, to conclude,
that no sort of men in the world, will be so low in hell, as ungodly ministers: every thing that is spoken of in scrip: ture, as that which aggravates guilt, and heightens divine wrath, meets in them; however some particular persons, of other sorts, may be more guilty than some of these.
And what great disadvantages are unconverted ministers under, to oppose any irregularities, or imprudences, or intemperate zeal, that they may see in those that are the children of God, when they are conscious to themselves, that they have no zeal at all? If enthusiasm and wildness comes in like a flood, what poor weak instruments are such ministers to withstand it? With what courage can they open their mouths, when they look inward, and consider how it is with them ?
We that are ministers, not only have need of some true experience of the saving influence of the Spirit of God upon our heart, but we need a double portion of the Spirit of God at such a time as this; we had need to be as full of light, as a glass is, that is held out in the sun; and with respect to love and zeal, we had need at this day, to be like the angels, that are a flame of fire. The state of the times extremely requires, a fullness of the divine Spirit in ministers, and we ought to give ourselves no rest till we have obtained it. And in order to this, I should think ministers, above all persons, ought to be much in secret prayer and fasting, and also much in praying and fasting one with another. It seems to me it would be becoming the circumstances of the present day, if ministers in a heighborhood would often meet together, and spend days in fasting and fervent prayer among themselves, earnestly seeking for those extraordinary supplies of divine grace from heaven, that we need at this day: and also if, on their occasional visits one to another, instead of spending away their time in sitting and smoking, and in diverting, or worldly, unprofitable conversation, telling news, and making their remarks on this and the other trifling subject, they would spend their time in praying together, and singing praises, and reli
gious conference. How much do many of the common people shame many of us that are in the work of the ministry, in these respects? Surely we do not behave ourselves so much like Christian ministers, and the disciples and embassadors of Christ, as we ought to do. And while we condemn zealous persons for their doing so much at censuring ministers at this day, it ought not to be without deep reflections upon, and great condemnation of, ourselves: for indeed, we do very much to provoke censoriousness, and lay a great temptation, before others, to the sin of judging and if we can prove, that those that are guilty of it do transgress the scripture rule, yet our indignation should be chiefly against ourselves.
Ministers, at this day in a special manner, should act as fellow-helpers, in their great work. It should be seen that they are animated and engaged, and exert themselves with one heart and soul, and with united strength, to promote the present glorious revival of religion and to that end should often meet together, and act in concert. And if it were a common thing in the country, for ministers to join in public exercises, and second one another, in their preaching, I believe it would be of great service. I mean that ministers, having consulted one another as to the subjects of their discourses, before they go to the house of God, should there speak, two or three of them going, in short discourses, as seconding each other, and earnestly enforcing each others' warnings and counsels. Only such an appearance of united zeal in ministers, would have a great tendency to awaken attention, and much to impress and animate the hearers; as has been found by experience, in some parts of the country.
Ministers should carefully avoid weakening one another's hands. And therefore every thing should be avoided, by which their interest with their people might be diminished, or their union with them broken. On the contrary, if ministers have not forfeited their acceptance in that character, in the visible church, by their doctrine or behavior, their brethren
in the ministry ought studiously to endeavor to heighten the esteem and affection of their people towards them, that they may have no temptation to repent their admitting other ministers to come and preach in their pulpits.
Two things that are exceeding needful in ministers, as they would do any great matters, to advance the kingdom of Christ, are zeal and resolution. The influence and power of these things, to bring to pass great effects, is greater than can well be imagined: a man of but an ordinary capacity, will do more with them, than one of ten times the parts and learning, without them more may be done with them, in a few days, or at least weeks, than can be done without them in many years. Those that are possessed of these qualities, commonly carry the day, in almost all affairs. Most of the great things that have been done in the world of mankind, the great revolutions that have been accomplished in the kingdoms and empires of the earth, have been chiefly owing to these things. The very sight or appearance of a thoroughly engaged spirit, together with a fearless courage and unyielding resolution, in any person that has undertaken the managing any affair amongst mankind, goes a great way towards accomplishing the effect aimed at. It is evident that the appearance of these things in Alexander, did three times as much towards his conquering the world, as all the blows that he struck. And how much were the great things that Oliver Cromwell did, owing to these things? And the greater things that Mr. Whitefield has done, every where, as he has run through the British dominions (so far as they are owing to means), are very much owing to the appearance of these things, which he is eminently possessed of. When the people see these things apparently in a person, and to a great degree, it awes them, and has a commanding influence upon their minds; it seems to them that they must yield; they naturally fall before them, without standing to contest or dispute the matter; they are conquered as it were by surprise. But while we are cold and heartless, and only go on in a dull manner, in an
old formal round, we shall never do any great matters. Our attempts, with the appearance of such coldness and irresolution, will not so much as make persons think of yielding: they will hardly be sufficient to put it into their minds; and if it be put into their minds, the appearance of such indifference and cowardice does as it were call for and provoke opposition. Our misery is want of zeal and courage; for not only through want of them, does all fail that we seem to attempt, but it prevents our attempting any thing very remarkable, for the kingdom of Christ. Hence, oftentimes it has been, that when any thing very considerable, that is new, is proposed to be done for the advancement of religion, or the public good, many difficulties are found out, that are in the way, and a great many objections are started, and it may be, it is put off from one to another; but nobody does any thing. And after this manner good designs or proposals have oftentimes failed, and have sunk as soon as proposed. Whereas, if we had but Mr. Whitefield's zeal and courage, what could not we do, with such a blessing as we might expect?
Zeal and courage will do much in persons of but an ordinary capacity; but especially would they do great things, if joined with great abilities. If some great men, that have appeared in our nation, had been as eminent in divinity, as they were in philosophy, and had engaged in the Christian cause, with as much zeal and fervor as some others have done, and with a proportionable blessing of Heaven, they would have conquered all Christendom, and turned the world upside down. We have many ministers in the land that do not want for abilities; they are persons of bright parts and learning; they should consider how much is expected, and will be required of them, by their Lord and Master, and how much they might do for Christ, and what great honor and how glorious a reward they might receive, if they had in their hearts a heavenly warmth, and divine heat, proportionable to their light.