Project Canterbury







ON SUNDAY, July 15, 1787


The Day on which the first ORDINATION was held

By the Right Revd. Doctor Samuel Provost,










Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2007

II TIM. IV. 5.

Watch thou in all Things: endure Afflictions; do the Work of an Evangelist; make full Proof of thy Ministry.

THE great Design of the Christian Institution is to recover Mankind from a State of Ignorance and Disorder, and to unite all true Believers in one regular and well-instructed Community, under Jesus Christ, the Lord and Governor of the Church. The Christian Society, like all other Societies that are poorly regulated, has its own peculiar Laws to direct the Conduct of its Members, and is furnished with its own proper Officers, whose Business is to explain and inculcate the Law, and carry it into Execution. While our Saviour remained on Earth, in his own Person, he instructed and governed his Church; and just before his glorious Ascension, He fully authorized his Apostles to succeed Him in the great Work of the Christian Ministry--to go forth and confirm the Faithful, instruct the Ignorant, and convert the Unbelieving. "Go ye," says He, "and teach all Nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the [3/4] Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all Things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the End of the World." It is true, St. Paul was not present when this Divine Commission was given; but still, he repeatedly asserts, "that he was not a Whit behind the very Chiefest of the Apostles--that he was not called to this Apostleship by Man, nor by the Will of Man, but immediately by a Voice from Heaven, which said unto him, Depart, for I will send thee far hence, to bear my Name before the Gentiles, and Kings, and the Children of Israel."

ON all proper Occasions, therefore, he asserted the Dignity of his Office; and with unremitting Diligence performed every Duty which was peculiar to the first dignified Messengers of the Lord Jesus. He was divinely inspired with a perfect Knowledge of all the Truth, and was invested with the Power of working Miracles, to convince the Gainsayer, and to give Weight and Efficacy to the Doctrines which he taught. He carried the glad Tidings of the Gospel through almost every Part of the widely-extended Roman Empire. He collected Believers from among the Jews and Gentiles. In many of the capital Cities he founded Churches, ordained Ministers and settled them there, with Instructions to continue the great Work which he had so successfully begun. Thus Timothy was established at Ephesus, and Titus in Crete; and [4/5] St. Paul's Epistles to those primitive Shepherds and Bishops of the Church, were intended to instruct them in every Part of their Ministerial Duty, and engage them to persevere stedfastly in the arduous Task to which they had been called; as it is expressed in the Text, "To watch in all Things over the Flocks committed to their Care, to endure patiently the Afflictions which might arise in the Course of their Ministry, to do the Work of Evangelists or Teachers of the Church, and in all Respects, to make full Proof of their Divine Commission."

THUS we find, that from the first Establishment of Christianity in the Earth, a Distinction took Place between the Ministers of Religion, and the great Body of the People, for whose benefit they were ordained and set apart to their Holy Office. Among the Jews, the Priesthood was confined to one particular Tribe; and no Man could invade the Rights of this Tribe, or encroach upon their peculiar Offices, without incurring the Resentment of Almighty God: And among Christians also, no Man has a Right to take this Honour unto Himself, unless he be called of God, and regularly appointed to the Work of the Ministry by those, to whom Christ and his Apostles have conveyed this spiritual Authority. God is a God of Order, and not of Confusion. The Religion which comes from Him is, in all Things, not only sure, but well-ordered. However vague and indeterminate, on this Subject, the [5/6] Notions of many may be; however ready they may appear to receive, in the Character of a Christian Minister, merely upon his own Authority, any Man who comes with confident Pretentions of a Commission on High; be assured, that such Principles and Practices are a direct Violation of the Primitive Institutions of the Christian Society; they tend to introduce Disorder and Confusion, and open a wide Door for Ignorance and Enthusiasm to enter, and mislead the People to their own Destruction. Christ commissioned his Apostles to go forth and preach the Gospel: They appointed others to succeed them in the same glorious Work; and if we may rely upon the universal Testimony of ecclesiastical History, we know, that those Persons only were deemed duly authorized publicly to teach and administer the Holy Sacraments, who were ordained to that sacred Office by solemn Prayer and Imposition of the Bishop's Hands. Should the Christian Priesthood, at any Time, be degraded in the Estimation of the People, by the Facility with which some Persons assume a Station to which they have not been regularly appointed, surely we shall not be called presumptuous for vindicating what we deem our just Rights against all Pretenders. It will not be imagined that we are actuated by Sentiments of Pride and Vain-glory, as wishing to make ourselves Lords over God's Heritage; but, in the Language of the Apostle, "that we magnify our Office," only with an Intention to render our Ministrations more effectual in promoting the present and eternal Felicity of those who are committed to our Care.

[7] THE Minister of the Gospel who knows himself, and has a proper Sense of the Importance of his Office, will see as much Necessity for Humiliation, as for Boasting. He may rejoice in his Situation, but it will be with trembling. Is he elevated to a Post of Distinction in the Christian Church? He is, on that very Account, exposed to more Danger, and encompassed with greater Difficulties: He is equally obligated with others to discharge the Duties which are common to all Christians; and he is indispensably required to fulfil those sacred Engagements that are peculiar to the Character and Station by which he is distinguished in the Church. Of this Truth St. Paul appears to have been perfectly sensible; and, in the Words of the Text, which are very strong and expressive, enjoins upon his Son Timothy these sacred and peculiar Obligations: "Watch thou in all Things; endure Afflictions; do the Work of an Evangelist; make full Proof of thy Ministry."

AS these Words seem to comprehend the whole Duty of a Christian Minister, on which the Solemnities of this Day have rendered it necessary to discourse, I shall consider them exactly in the Order in which they lie before us: And, in the first Place, he is directed "to be watchful in all Things."

VARIOUS are the Characters by which the Ministers of Religion are designated in sacred Scriptures. They [7/8] are sometimes stiled the Apostles of the Churches and Ambassadors for Jesus Christ, as they are commissioned by him to transact his Business upon Earth, and to proclaim his Will among the Sons of Men. Sometimes they are denominated Stewards of the Mysteries of God, set over his Household the Church, in Order to supply them with spiritual Food in due Season. Sometimes they have received the Appellation of Shepherds of the Flock, whose Business is to nourish and protect those who remain in the Fold, and to seek and reclaim the lost Sheep which have erred and strayed from the right Way. And lastly, they are represented under the Character of Watchmen, set on High to warn the People of every approaching Danger. They are placed upon the Walls of Sion, whose Peace and Security depend, in a great Measure, upon their Vigilance; and hence arises the absolute Necessity of their being "watchful in all Things." Are dangerous Errors, with sly and insinuating Encroachments, stealing into the Church of Christ, that City of the Living God whose Walls and Battlements we are appointed to guard? Does Vice, with an undaunted Countenance and with Giant Strides, threaten to seize and destroy those who are committed to our Care? Do the people grow more remiss as the Danger becomes more imminent? Then let the Watchmen sleep not, nor slumber;--let them blow the Trumpet of Alarm, and let the Sound of Terror fly from one to another, till All who are now resting in heedless Security, awake to a proper Sense of the approaching [8/9] Danger, and stand ready to meet and repel the Enemy. Those who are appointed to watch in all Things for the Safety of the Church of Christ, ought to be exceedingly vigilant in the Discharge of their important Duty; because Things of inestimable Value are intrusted to their Care, for which they must hereafter be responsible to the great Lord of all. They have received a Commission to guard, not the Property of a great Man, the Wealth of a City, or even the Welfare of a Kingdom. The Church of Jesus Christ, which He purchased with his precious Blood; the Souls, the immortal Souls of Men are committed to their Care, of which it has been said, "What would it profit a Man, to gain the whole World, and lose his own Soul?" How ought this awful Declaration of the Almighty to sink deep into our Hearts, and be ever present to our Imaginations! "O Son of Man, I have set thee a Watchman unto the House of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the Word of my Mouth, and warn them from me. If thou dost not speak to warn the Wicked from his Way; that wicked Man shall die in his Iniquity, but his Blood will I require at thine Hand."

AND if this Station be an honorable One, is it not also encompassed with its own peculiar Pains, Distresses, and Dangers? St. Paul, in his Directions to Timothy, might well proceed by charging him, patiently "to endure Afflictions." It is true, in the primitive Days of Christianity, [9/10] while the bloody Scourge of Persecution was almost continually over them, the Pastors of the Churches, fixed as they were in the most conspicuous Stations, were, on that Account, exposed to the most severe Afflictions. "He that desired the Office of a Bishop, might indeed be said to desire a good Work;" and yet, when he assumed the Exercise of this distinguished Office, he commonly entered upon the high Road to Martyrdom. But as every Occupation in Life is beset with its own peculiar Inconveniences and Trials, the Ministers of the Gospel are not exempted from the common Lot of all Men; but must expect to endure Afflictions in Circumstances the most prosperous, and even under the most unrestrained Enjoyment of all the Rights and Privileges of our Holy Religion. They are subject to all the Calamities which are incident to other Men; and the Nature of their Office exposes them to many a secret and bitter Pang, of which others are entirely insensible:--They have undertaken a Work, in the Contemplation of which St. Paul exclaims, "Who is sufficient for these Things?" For the Advancement of the blessed Gospel, it is expected they should be ready at every Call, and become the Servants of all Men in Christ Jesus:--They are frequently set up as a Mark, against which the Shafts of Censure and Reproach are directed; and, though sorely wounded, they must with caution express any Resentment:--Though subject to like Passions with other Men, they are to lead the way in the hazardous Warfare against the World, the [10/11] Flesh, and the Devil. While others, from their respective Occupations, can amass Wealth, and elevate themselves and Families above the wasting Cares and Anxieties of Life; they must rest contented, in their best Estate, with a bare Competency; and are more frequently doomed to struggle with all the Ills of straitened Circumstances, and at last to die with the Heart-rending Expectation, that those who are dearer to them than Life, are now to become Pensioners on the Bounty of a selfish World. And to all this Toil and Anxiety, is too often added the Mortification of finding every Effort ineffectual to promote the Gospel-Kingdom upon Earth; Men refusing to receive Instruction, and presumptuously saying unto the Almighty, "Depart from us, for we desire none of thy ways;" as it is expresses in the Words which immediately precede the Text, "They endure not found Doctrine; but after their own Lusts they heap to themselves Teachers, having itching Ears. They turn away their Ears from the Truth, and are turned unto Fables."

BUT, though compelled to endure Affliction; in the Midst of many Difficulties and Discouragements; though our Ministrations are not always attended with that complete Success which the pious Heart would desire; we have still sufficient Reason to rejoice in the Lord, and to glory in the great Work which we have undertaken. We have the Satisfaction to reflect, that we are occupied in [11/12] the noblest and most important Business that can possibly engage the human Mind; and we can but entertain the delightful Hope, that, (although we come in Weakness, and in Fear, and in much trembling,) in the Hands of God, we shall be made the happy Instruments of turning many from Darkness to Light, and from the Power of Satan to the Knowledge and Love of the Truth. And under these Encouragements, the Christian Minister will not shrink from the Difficulties of his task, but will rather cheerfully embrace the remaining Part of St. Paul's Directions, and "faithfully do the Work of an Evangelist, and make full Proof of his Ministry." The Work of an Evangelist! What an arduous, what an exalted, and, at the same Time, benevolent Employment is this! It is to combat the Powers of Ignorance, and Error, and Vice, the great Adversaries of human Felicity:--It is to publish among the Sons of Men, the Will and Pleasure of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe:--It is to bring a Message of Salvation to a ruined World! And much previous Study, and many amiable and excellent Qualities, are absolutely necessary, in Order to enable us to discharge this Duty in the most effectual Manner.

THE Evangelist, or Teacher of the Gospel, will begin his Work, by cultivating and cherishing in his own Bosom a Spirit of ardent Piety and Charity; of Reverence to God, and sincere Regard for the Welfare of Men. He will go forth under a deep and awful Impression of the [12/13] Importance of his divine Vocation:--He will devote himself to the Study of the sacred Scriptures, and to the Acquisition of Knowledge, from whatever Quarter it may be derived; well knowing, that Wisdom commands Respect, and that without this, Instruction and Admonition fall with little Weight and Efficacy:--He will temper Boldness with Discretion, Zeal with Prudence, and will strive to blend human Accomplishments with divine Qualifications. The Wisdom which is from above he will endeavour to recommend to the Acceptance of Men, by the Charms of Language and the attractive Graces of Eloquence. He will be anxious to adapt his Address to all Sorts and Conditions of Men, as their respective Necessities may require; comforting the Afflicted with Tenderness; instructing the Ignorant with Meekness; and correcting the Vitious with affectionate Earnestness and Gravity. In the Course of his Teaching, he will attempt to lay no other Foundation than that which is already laid; but upon the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, and him crucified, will build the beautiful Superstructure of moral Duty. Though St. Paul pathetically enquires, "Who is sufficient for these Things?" in the Delineation of this Character, I have held that great Apostle continually in View. We may not presume to equal, but still, we may nobly emulate this perfect Example. Not to enter into a minute Description of his whole Ministry, let us attend to one particular Instance of his Mode of public Teaching. On a certain Occasion, we are informed, [13/14] "He went into a Synagogue of the Jews, and spake boldly, disputing, and persuading the Things concerning the Kingdom of God." A Consciousness of the Dignity of his Office, and the Importance of his Subject, inspired him with Boldness:--He disputed with all the Force of Reason and Argument, with which extensive Learning could furnish him:--He persuaded by all the Charms of Eloquence, endeavoring to affect the Passions, and thus engage the Heart on the Side of Virtue and Religion. And the Subject of his Preaching was nothing less than the Kingdom of God; the Kingdom of Grace in this World, and of Glory hereafter. Let us, my respected Brethren in the Christian Ministry, hold this excellent Pattern continually in View, and we cannot fail of performing our allotted Task, to the Glory of God and the Good of Men. And, as in every Course of Life, it is a Matter of much Consequence to begin our Progress well, let me recommend it particularly to you, who are now going to devote yourselves to the sacred Work of the Gospel; who are now to be ordained Ambassadors for Christ, and Stewards of the Household of God. You offer yourselves, no Doubt, to this Divine Employment, impressed with a serious Sense of its Magnitude, its Difficulty, and its Importance. Would you, in the most effectual Manner, do the Work of Evangelists? Would you make full Proof of your Ministry? Emulate the Example, listen to the Exhortation of the great Apostle; "Let no Man despise thy Youth, but be thou an Example [14/15] of the Believers in Word, in Conversation, in Charity, in Spirit, in Faith, in Purity. Give Attendance to reading and to exhortation. Take Heed unto thyself and unto thy Doctrine; for in doing this, thou shall both save thyself and them that hear thee." The Church to which you have the Happiness to belong, and in the Ministry of which you are about to engage, is now complete, by the Establishment of a regular Episcopacy; and you are offered unto the Lord the first Fruits of that Ministry, which, we trust, will be transmitted pure and spotless to our latest Posterity. Oh, may the Offering be acceptable in the Sight of God! May He bless us, and prosper the Work of our Hands! Go forth to your sacred Employment with Emotions of Gratitude and Delight; and wherever you go, carry a good Report of our Sion: Strive to make her the Joy and Glory of the Land; till all Men shall acknowledge that God is in the Midst of her, where He is worshipped in the Beauty of Holiness.

AND, if from what has been said, it be evident to you, my Christian Brethren of every Class and Denomination, that the Business of the Ministers of the Gospel is difficult, and important, and of extensive Utility; ought it not to be your Study and Delight to render their Burden easy and their Work successful? Is it unreasonable to request and hope, that you will make every candid Allowance for the Infirmities of human Nature? that you will wish to elevate them above the wasting Cares of Life, so [15/16] that they may devote their whole Time and Attention to their Divine Vocation? that you will respect them as the Messengers of the Lord of Hosts, and receive their Exhortations with Meekness and Affection? that you will be careful to bring forth all the good Fruits of Piety and Charity, so that they may give an Account of their Ministry with Joy, and not with Grief? and may consider you, at the final Judgement, as their Glory and their Crown of rejoicing?--Let us all unite our most strenuous Endeavors, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ may run and be glorified, till the Earth be filled with the Knowledge of the Lord, as the Waters cover the Sea. By this Gospel both Priest and People must be saved; the Salvation which it offers is equally necessary for all Men.


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