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(PREACHED ÅT SAINT WERBURGH'S CHURCH,
DUBLIN ; MARCH 23, 1806 ; WHEN AN ORDINATION WAS HELD, BY THE RIGHT HON. AND RIGHT REV. THE LORD BISHOP OF KILDARE ; AND ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT THE REQUEST OF HIS LORDSHIP, AND OF THE GENTLEMEN THEN ORDAINED.).
TAKE HEED UNTO THYSELF, AND UNTO THE DOCTRINE ;
CONTINUE IN THEM; FOR, IN DOING THUS, THOU SHALT BOTH SAVE THYSELF, AND THEM THAT HEAR THEE.
IT is the great object of the Christian
ministry, to advance true religion in the hearts of men : to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God.
The world, we are told in scripture, lieth in wickedness; and it is the office of Christ's ministers, to awaken it from this deadly sleep, to rouse it from this perilous condition. The poor are too commonly sunk in ignorance; and it is our happy privilege to communicate to them the glad tidings of salvation. The affluent are often hurried away by deceitful vanities; and it is our high allotment, to recal them to soundness of mind, to reason with them, concerning righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come. The whole family of Adam have offended against their Almighty Governor ; but he hath graciously proclaimed an amnesty, and to us he hath committed the ministry of reconciliation. Whether, therefore, we consider the magnitude of the duty, the dignity of the office, or the majesty of him, whose commission we bear, it surely becomes every individual who undertakes this high and holy ministration, to lay to heart the apostolic warning of the text; to take
heed unto himself, and unto the doctrine; to take heed, and to continue in them; conscious, that, by no other means, can he save his own soul, and the souls of those who hear him.
I. Take heed unto thyself. Prove thyself, first, as a Christian, that thou art, indeed, in the right faith ; that things distant, future, and invisible, are so presented to thy mind's eye, and so impressed upon thy heart, as to overcome the allurements and attractions of the visible world ; that the facts revealed in Scripture, have a real influence upon thee, elevating thy affections to high and heavenly things ; that God is the supreme object of thy love, the prime source of thy happiness, and the end of all thy actions; that Christ dwelleth in the thary, a living principle of holiness and wisdom; that through the gracious influence of his spirit, there is formed within thee a perennial fountain of goodness, springing up into everlasting life, and sending forth
its happy streams through'erery portion of thy conduct. This, should assuredly be the chief solicitude, as of every Christian, so especially, of every Christian minister: of each individual amongst those, who are ordained to shine as lights of the world; who are placed on a high spiritual eminence, as a city set on a hill; the noiseless, yet powerful energy of whose example, should operate like the salt of the earth, purifying every thing within the sphere of its influence; in a word, who'are overseers of the flock of Christ, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Take heed unto thyself. Not merely to the common decencies of life ; not simply to the performance of outward duties; not primarily to the maintenance of a conversation honest in the sight of all men ; but take heed unto THYSELF; to the good treasure within, to the hidden man of the heart. This is the scriptural philosophy. Make the tree good, and
the fruit will also be good ; if thine eye be single; thy whole body shall be full of light; if thy governing principle be pure, simple, and uniform, then, and not otherwise, thy whole conduct will at once exemplify and adorn the doctrine of Christ. To a mind thus regulated, there is no need of multiplied precepts. For, he that has the love of God reigning in his soul, is master of all the distinctions of morality. (1)
But, to acquire this principle, to attain this love, is no slight and easy matter. The very gifts of God's ordinary providence, are not commonly bestowed on those who content themselves with lazy wishes, and half-formed resolutions. Activity, assiduity, unremitting perseverance, are generally indispensable prerequisites for the attainment, even of a competence in wealth, or of a decent mediocrity in human knowledge. And shall we, then, presume upon receiving God's most excellent gifts, without labour and exertion ? Or is it a trifling