« ZurückWeiter »
approved themselves " as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers and yet true; as unknown and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed ; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all
If this exhibition should contrast with the agents frequently employed in modern times in the propagation of the Gospel, whether at home or abroad, I am not concerned to apologize for the statement, but to maintain its truth. If we expect to enjoy primitive success, we must be furnished with primitive instruments. Nor ought we to despair of obtaining them. The Redeemer, who was exalted to give gifts to men, is still upon his throne, and possessed of all the plenitude which ever belonged to him. “We have the same principles to form them, the same great cause to animate them, and the same Holy Spirit to endow and qualify them, as well as to bless their efforts. The standard of intellectual and spiritual fitness,
2 Cor, vi. 4--10.
both for the foreign and home ministry, has been placed too low; the consequence has been, that comparatively, a small number of suitably-qualified persons have engaged in it. Men of an inferior grade have thought themselves, and have been thought by others, fit for an undertaking, for which the event has shewn that many of them never were designed. Thus, much distress has arisen to themselves, and much disappointment has been occasioned to others. By elevating the standard, we shall not discourage, but call forth a holy emulation. The unsuitable may be kept back, a smaller number of aspirants may appear; but the few choice spirits that may devote themselves to the work, will be worth a host of feeble, contracted, and grovelling souls. The higher and the more honourable that we place the cause, the more likely are we to operate on the right sort of men to engage in it. If the arduousness and difficulties of the enterprize be great, the more careful should be the selection of instruments. Better allow a post to remain vacant, for a time, than fill it with an unqualified labourer. The turning point in determining a foreign arrangement especially, should be, not this place must be occupied, and this is the only person we have; but this is the fit instrument for the work to be done.
If these observations are just, then it is very clear that for the important office of propagating the Gospel among the heathen, we require men of some standing and experience in the christian profession. The work cannot be done by, and ought not to be devolved on, raw conscripts, who have seen no service, who have given no proofs of moral courage, self-denial and endurance. Some evidence ought to be had of what a man is capable of sacrificing and bearing, and how he is qualified for conducting himself in difficult circumstances, before he is trusted as a leader, or has the charge of a distant and important out-post devolved upon him. Full proof ought to be furnished of his disinterestedness, his superiority of mind to petty interests and petty grievances; and of the well-sustained influence of christian principle upon his character, before we commit to him the most important charge which can be entrusted to man. Let such agents be produced and put in active operation; and “prove me now herewith saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”*
3. Having seen what is necessary as to the active instruments, employed in the work of Christ, in order to secure the divine blessing, let us next consider, what should be the state of the community which employs these agents, that this end may be gained. Let the characters and exertions of the
* See Note [Z]
officers of an army be what they may, if not properly sustained by the body of the troops, success cannot be expected. There may be a great deal of skill and generalship displayed in manoeuvering, and no small courage in facing danger; but if there is a real want of resources and spirit in the camp, all must end in disappointment and defeat.
The connexion between the state of religion in a christian congregation, and the blessing of God upon the efforts of its minister, is not sufficiently regarded. That connexion, I believe to be most intimate and influential. When the testimony of the pulpit to the purity, the power and the blessedness of genuine piety, is corroborated by the lives of those who occupy the pews, its effect must be considerably increased. When the appeal is made, “Ye are witnesses," and felt to be re-echoed to the call of the preacher, it is like the voice of many waters, proclaiming in deep and solemn sounds the message of God to men. When the spirit of love, and of power, and of a sound mind pervades a congregation; when the fruits of righteousness and peace are abundantly brought forth, it will always be found, that the word of the Lord has free course and is glorified. When the disciples “ walk in the fear of the Lord, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost,” they will invariably “be multiplied."*
* Acts ix. 31.
When a different state of matters exists, the contrary effect may be expected to ensue. When the coldness and apathy of death surround the pulpit; when all is form and worldliness, and hypocrisy; when there is no love, no union, no zeal-let the fidelity of the preacher be apostolic, its effect on the mass of persons who hear the Gospel, will be greatly counteracted or destroyed. While he appeals to the Gospel, the world are appealing to the lives of its professors. While he is describing its effects in love, and lowliness, and joy, they are thinking of the strife and secularity, and unhappiness of those who profess to believe in these things. The consequence is, “ the heavens above become as brass, and the earth beneath as iron,” and all is sterility and desolation.
The influence of the state of a single congregation on the ministry of the Gospel in its circle, has only to be extended and applied to the christian church as a whole on the state of the world at large. I am aware tke parallel may fail in a few points, but it is sufficiently accurate to answer the purpose of my argument. If there be any justice in that argument, it will then follow, that the church is not yet prepared for the fulness of the divine blessing on the world. The testimony of its labourers and public heralds is not corroborated or justified by its character, by its expectations, or its efforts. Without entering into minute details, or uttering reflections on any