Page images
PDF
EPUB

too many, both high and low, to pour contempt upon, or, at the very least, to disregard and desert the ordinances of religion. Allow me to inform you, that having subscribed a call to your minister, you stand pledged to attend upon hím. It is surprising to think that any should forget the terms in which that invitation runs, you entreat him “to take the charge of your souls,” and promise him “ all due obedience and submission in the Lord.” Now, I ask you, can a man honestly subscribe this, who seldom comes within the walls of a meetinghouse. One would be accounted infamous in the world, who should, in this manner, act in the face of a solemn obligation, or who should falsify even a verbal promise in any earthly natter : and to sign a call, and not fulfil its engagements,- is that less criminal, because it relates to religion and the service of God? And oh! how painful and mortifying must it be to a preacher, after spending hours and days, and, sometimes, nights, which should be devoted to rest and refreshment, in preparation for the sanctuary,—and then to be obliged to preach to empty benches ! How much it must tend to damp the ardour and freeze the zeal of the most faithful minister. Our Lord's attendance on the service of the synagogue, on the Sabbath day, was not merely accidental or occasional, but HABITUAL and STATED. When speaking of his attendance, the phrase

as his custom was.” Who can think slightingly of what Jesus treated with respect? or who dares to violate what he observed as the “ Holy of the Lord, honourable ?" or what language can be sufficiently strong to mark the guilt of those who trample on the Holy Sabbath, and who, yielding either to the business or the pleasures of a present life, refuse to place themselves under the sound of that Gospel, by which life and immortality are brought to light? A more avowed insult cannot possibly be offered to the Great Head of the Church, than to treat his ordinances as if they were unnecessary; and yet, this is the insult that every neglecter of the public ministry of the Word is offering, from Sabbath to Sabbath, to the King of Zion. Nay, my friends, were you to . spend God's boly day from early morn till eventide, in searching the Scriptures, and in acts of family and private devotion, this could form no sufficient excuse for so palpable a neglect of a direct institution of heaven. On the contrary, we have no hesitation in affirming, that your sacrifice would be an abomination to the Lord, and that the substitution of one class of means for another would be viewed by the Supreme Law. giver as an awful encroachment on the prerogative of Deity,

is,

It is, therefore, your bounden duty, from the call

you

have signed, and from the precepts of Scripture, to attend on the preaching of the Word. Take heed how

you
hear when

you

do attend. Oh! how necessary this exhortation in the present day; for, how many frequent preaching from curiosity, like the Athenians, “always eager to hear some new thing,” and who soon become dissatisfied with every preacher who is not extravagant in manner and violent in declamation ; who listen to a sermon with a criticising spirit, not careful to profit by it, but watchful to sit in judgment upon it. Swollen with spiritual pride, and deeming themselves complete masters of the most difficult points of doctrine, they scrutinize every sentence which drops from the preacher's lips, put each of his terms to the rack, examine the soundness of his orthodoxy with inquisitorial suspicion, and if they are able to fasten on an expression not precisely consonant with the niceties of their own religious phraseology, they deny their instructor to be evangelical,

pronounce him blind, and congratulate themselves upon their own scriptural attainments and keen-eyed sagacity. Eager to censure, and impatient to decide, what is the fruit which such hearers receive from the preaching of the Word ? Their presunption is flattered, and their ignorance confirmed ; and they have treasured up nothing but the guilt of abusing God's Holy Word, and changing the source of life into the occasion of their everlasting perdition. Attend, my friends, not so much to the manner of preaching as to the matter. Would

you not condemn the folly of a man, labouring under a dangerous malady, who, being ordered by his physician to swallow a certain medicine, and assured, that if he neglect to take it he cannot escape death, should amuse himself with admiring the flowers and ornaments on the outside of the vessel which contained it, and, in the meantime, suffer his disorder to increase for want of taking the remedy? The Word of God, my brethren, is your remedy, and unless you receive it into your hearts, you must perish by the spiritual malady under which

you

labour. Whatever be the truth which

minister delivers, apply it, so far as applicable, to yourselves, whether this portion or that portion of the sermon be applicable to your neighbours or not, is no concern of yours." As Nathan said to David, “ thou art the man," to whom whatever the preacher says is addressed. Apply it, therefore, to the benefit of your soul, accompanied with the fervent desire, that the Spirit of God may make it take deep

your

root in your heart, and preserve you from the doom of the unprofitable hearer.

Always submit with an humble and contrite heart to your minister's reproof, and with an honest endeavour to profit by it. You may expect to bear, if your minister discharge his duty aright, unwelcome truths from his lips,-truths which lay an embargo on your criminal pleasures, and which wage war against your favourite practices. Hear them, not with a rancorous animosity against the preacher, but with a resolution to profit, believing in charity that they are intended for your good. Let your indignation fall, where it ought to fall, on your own mean, and unworthy, and sinful conduct, which renders the reproof necessary, and not on your affectionate but faithful monitor. As an example :- look at the conduct of our Lord and his hearers. This moment they gaze with delight upon his super-angelic face--listen with rapture to the accents of his celestial voice,--and what follows ?--the moment he applies to them a pertinent and well-merited reproof, they are instantaneously converted into demons of hell. What !-meditate,-digest murder,--the murder of innocence, and truth, and wisdom! What! All of them ? -not one calm, moderate spirit to suggest milder counsels, to plead the cause of goodness,—to avert the hand of violence ? No, not one! They rose up and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. Instead of such conduct as this, submit, I repeat it, with an humble and contrite heart, to your minister's reproof, and with an honest endeavour to profit by it.

Be tender of the character of your minister, and of min. isters in general. A stain on their character is most hurtful to religion, and a bar to their usefulness. You ought not rashly to receive and circulate a report against them. Do not, however, mistake me. I do not mean, by this, to ask indulgence for the unworthy. No, I freely give such up to that reproach and contempt which they deserve. You have an unquestionable and inalienable right to inquire into, and to satisfy yourself concerning your minister's character, and its conformity to the unerring standard,--the Word of God: but ever recollect, that, while he is a minister, he is only a man, and liable to like failings and infirmities as yourselves. If you look at the appointment of Aaron, you will be surprised at his being set apart to the sacred office of the ministry. We behold bim, at the moment of his appointment, an abettor of idolatry; and even after his instalment in it, meanly and wickedly envying the distinction which was put upon bis meek and gentle brother, and, with Miriam his sister, heading a revolt from his just authority. Alas! were perfect men only to minister before God, the altar must soon be deserted. Were not sinful men to be addressed by sinful men, the world must speedily be destitute of preachers; but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. As you see, then, how much depends on a minister's character, be tender and sparing of it. Neither easily receive nor hastily circulate an unfavour. able report, but refuse your ear to, and testify your abhorrence of, every unfounded, malicious, and injurious report.

Remain firm, and steady, and constant, in your attachment to your minister. To any person acquainted with human nature, this advice must at once appear necessary. For 0, how deceitful the buman heart! How fickle and faithless is human friendship! My Christian friends, I know you not, and, therefore, can have no reason to suspect you; but I wish to delineate human nature before you, that you may learn wisdom ; and- I must say, from a knowledge of the world, and from Scripture examples, that he who depends on foreign aid, and builds his felicity on the affection, or ability, or coustancy of others, erects a house upon the sand, which the washing of the very next tide levels with the ground. Friendship in a Hush of zeal, promises all encouragement and support. The hour of need comes, and we have recourse to the heart which fondly cherished us. It has waxed cold, it is alienated,it acknowledges you no longer. Your mountain stood strong in a prince's favour. What shall not be done to the man whom the king delights to honour ? Such is the stability of friendship, that this very person whom the king delights to honour to-day, is hanged on a gibbet to-morrow. Look as a farther proof of this truth, at the history of Job :-“When I went out of the gate through the city; when I prepared my seat in the street, the young men saw me and hid themselves, and the aged arose and stood up; when the ear beard me, then it blessed me, and when the eye saw me, it

gave witness to me. Unto me men gave ear, and waited and kept silence at my counsel. They waited for me as for the rain, and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain. I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the

army.” But mark, my friends, the sad reverse," They that are younger than I have me in derision; and now am I their

[ocr errors]

from me,

my

song, yea, I am their by-word. They ablor me, they flee

and
spare not to spit in face.”

You see, here, a most amazing proof of my observation, “ the fickleness of human friendship;" and, in many instances, I will not say in all, he who trusts in popular favour feeds on the wind, and embraces the east wind. Take another example,-the example of Christ. Behold ! every ear is attentive, and every eye in the synagogue is fastened with wonder and delight on the face of Jesus. Anon, they are filled with wrath against Him. Now all bear him witness, and dwell upon the gracious words which proceed out of his mouth, and their cry to-day is, “Let us take him and make him a king, for never man spake like this man;"—to-norrow, their cry is, “Away with him,-crucify him ! -not this man, but Barrabbas!" And how often, my hearers, bas it fared with the servants as it did with their Master. The world, in this case, preserves no medium, but, according to the prevailing humour of the time and place, bas elevated men of the ministerial profession to the highest rank, heaped applause and wealth upon them, or pursued them into corners, loaded them with unmerited approach, and accounted them as the off-scourings of the earth. Of such conduct, I again repeat it, I have no reason to suspect you, as I know you not; nor by such observations as these is it my intention to claim for your minister more respect than he shall deserve; but, wbile his conduct is such as becomes the ministerial character, and his duty performed, as I have described, I trust you will continue to respect and love him. To conclude,-As you

minister are now united in one of the closest and most endearing bonds of union,-as you are one in the faith of the Gospel, be one in the practice of piety; and as, without the blessing of God nothing can go on aright, let your conjoined prayers ascend to heaven in one stream of incense for a mutual blessing, and let each, in pria vate, wrestle with God for the other. Study this grace-to be helpers of each other's faith, that in eternity you may be sharers and helpers of each other's joy. And now, -as you know your respective duties, happy will you be, if you discharge them. What a delightful prospect !-to behold a min. ister and his flock united in affection and love, discharging with punctuality their respective duties, and testifying, by every word and by every action, that they are mutually pleased with their choice, and that it is their chief study to make each other happy here, ana prepared for a blessed here.

and your

« PreviousContinue »