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them now and then for a few days, and then remove to a convenient distance, and say, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease; eat, drink, and be
Some years ago, I was asking a plain man, Ought not he who feeds the flock, to eat of the milk of the flock ?" He answered, “Friend, I have no objection to that. But what is that to him who does not feed the flock? He stands on the far side of the hedge, and feeds himself. It is another who feeds the flock. And ought he to have the milk of the flock? What canst thou say for him?” Truly, nothing at all. And he will have nothing to say for himself, when the great Shepherd shall pronounce that just sentence, “ bind the unprofitable servant hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness.”
I have dwelt the longer on this head, because a right intention is the first point of all, and the most necessary of all; inasmuch as the want of this cannot be supplied by any thing else whatsoever. It is the setting out wrong; a fault never to be amended, unless you return to the place whence you came, and set out right. It is impossible therefore to lay too great a stress upon a single eye, a pure intention; without which, all our sacrifice, our prayers, sermons, and sacraments, are an abomination to the Lord.
I cannot dismiss this important article, without touching upon one thing more. How many are directly concerned therein, I leave to the Searcher of Hearts.
You have been settled in a living or a curacy for some time. You are now going to exchange it for another. Why do
you do this? For what reason do you prefer this before your former living or curacy ? “Why, I had but fifty pounds a year where I was before, and now I shall have a hundred.” And is this your real motive of acting ? The true reason why you make the exchange? “ It is : and is it not a sufficient reason?” Yes, for a Heathen; but not for one who calls himself a Christian.
Perhaps a more gross infatuation than this was never yet known upon earth. There goes one, who is commissioned to be an ambassador of Christ, a shepherd of neverdying souls, a watchman over the Israel of God, a steward of the mysteries which angels desire to look into. Where is he going ? “ To London, to Bristol, to Northampton.” Why does he go thither? “ To get more money.” A tolerable reason for driving an herd of bullocks to one market rather than the other ; though if a drover does this, without any farther view, he acts as an Heathen, not a Christian. But what a reason for leaving the immortal souls, over whom the Holy Ghost had made you overseer! And yet this is the motive which not only influences in secret, but is acknowledged openly and without a blush! Nay, it is excused, justified, defended; and that not by a few, here and there, who are apparently void both of piety and shame; but by numbers of seemingly religious men, from one end of England to the other !
2. Am I, secondly, such as 1 ought to be, with regard to my Affections? I am taken from among and ordained for men, in things pertaining to God. I stand between God and man, by the authority of the great Mediator, in the nearest and most endearing relation both to my Creator and my fellow-creatures. Have I accordingly given my heart to God, and to my brethren for his sake? Do 1 « love God with all my soul and strength ?" And my neighbour, every man, as myself? Does this love swallow me up! Possese me whole? Constitute my supreme happiness ?. Does it animate all my passions and tempers, and regulate all my powers and faculties? Is it the spring which gives rise to all my thoughts, and governs all my words and actions ? If it does, not unto me, but unto God be the praise. If it does not, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
At least, do I feel such a concern for the glory of God, and such a thirst after the salvation of men, that I am ready to do any thing, however contrary to my natural inclination, to part with any thing, however agreeable to me, to suffer any thing, however grievous to flesh and blood, so I may save one soul from hell? Is this my ruling temper at all times and in all places ? Does it make all my labour light? If not, what a weariness is it! What a drudgery! Had I not far better hold the plough?
But is it possible this should be my ruling temper, if I still love the world? No, certainly. If I“ love the world, the love of the Father is not in me.” The love of God is not in me, if I love pleasure, so called, or diversion. Neither is it in me, if I am a lover of honour or praise, of dress, or of good eating and drinking. Nay, even indolence, or the love of ease, is inconsistent with the love of God,
What a creature then is a covetous, an ambitious, a luxurious, an indolent, a diversion-loving clergyman! Is it any wonder that infidelity should increase, where any of these are to be found? That many, comparing their spirit with their profession, should blaspheme that worthy name whereby they are called? But “woe be unto him by whom the offence cometh! It were good for that man if he had never been born.” It were good for him now, rather than he should continue to turn the lame out of the way, “ that a mill-stone were hanged sbout his neck, and he were cast into the depth of the sea !”
3. May not you, who are of a better spirit, consider, 3dly, am I such as I ought to be, with regard to my practice ? Am I in my private life, wholly devoted to God? Am I intent upon this one thing, to do in every point “not my own will, but the will of him that sent me?” Do I carefully and resolutely abstain from every evil word and work? “ From all appearance of evil ?” From all indifferent things, which might lay a stumbling-block in the way of the weak? Am I zealous of good works ? As I have time, do I do good to all men ? And that in every kind, and in as high a degree as I am capable ?
How do I behave in the public work whereunto I am called? In my pastoral character? Am I a pattern to my flock, “in word, in behaviour, in love, in spirit, in faith, and purity ?” Is my word, my daily conversation, “ always in grace, always meet to minister grace to the hearers ?”
Is my behaviour suitable to the dignity of my calling? Do I walk as Christ also walked? Does the love of God and man not only fill my heart, but shine through my whole conversation? Is the spirit, the temper which appears in all my words and actions, such as allows me, to say with humble boldness, herein “ be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ?” Do all who have spiritual discernment take knowledge, (judging of the tree by its fruits,) that the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God;" and that “in all simplicity and godly sincerity I have my conversation in the world ?” Am I exemplarily pure from all worldly desire? From all vile and vain affections ? Is my life one continued labour of love ? One tract of praising God and helping man? Do I in every thing “see him who is invisible?” And,“ beholding with open face the glory of the Lord, am I changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord ?”
Brethren, is not this our calling, even as we are Christians? But more eminently as we are ministers of Christ? And why (I will not say, we do fall short, but why) are we satisfied with falling so short of it? Is there any necessity laid upon us, of sinking so infinitely below our calling ? Who hath required this at our hands ? Certainly not he by whose authority we minister. Is not his Will the same with regard to us, as with regard to his first ambassadors? Is not his Love, and is not his power still the same, as they were in the ancient days? Know we not, that “ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever?" Why then may you not be as “burning and as shining lights,” as those that shone seventeen hundred years
Do you desire to partake of the same burning love, of the same shining holiness? Surely you do. You cannot but be sensible, it is the greatest blessing which can be bestowed on any child of man. design it? Aim at it? “ Press on to this mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus ?” Do you constantly and earnestly pray for it; then as the Lord liveth, ye shall attain. Only let us pray on, and “tarry VOL. XI.
at Jerusalem, till we be endued with power from on high.”. Let us continue in all the ordinances of God, particularly in meditating on his Word, in “ denying ourselves, and taking up our cross daily,” and, “ as we have time, doing good to all men :" and then assuredly the great Shepherd of us and our flocks, will make us “ perfect in every good work, to do his will, and work in us all that is well pleasing in his sight!” This is the desire and prayer of
Your Brother and Servant
JOHN WESLEY. London, Feb. 6, 1756.