GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY,
January 11th, 1856.
RIGHT REV. AND DEAR SIR:
We have the honor to inform you that, at a Meeting of the Students of the General Theological Seminary, we were appointed a Committee to request for publication a Copy of your impressive Discourse, preached before the Trustees, Professors and Students, of the Institution, at the late Annual Matriculation.
We would express the sincere desire on the part of those who heard it, to have the Discourse in some permanent form, both as a remembrance of yourself, and that we may the more lay to heart the lessons of wisdom and self-devotion, which it so earnestly enforced.
Respectfully and faithfully,
Your sons in the Church,
WM. G. FARRINGTON,
WM. ALLEN JOHNSON,
RIGHT REV. HORATIO POTTER, D. D.
NEW-YORK, January 18, 1856.
MY DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS:
It is very grateful to me to find that the words which I felt it my duty to address to you at the late Annual Matriculation, were received so kindly, and with so earnest a purpose to lay them to heart. I never doubted that it would be so. May the adorable Head of the Church give us grace to act according to our convictions.
As the Faculty seemed cordially to concur in the satisfaction which you have expressed, I confess I am not displeased that the publication of the Discourse you ask for, should announce to the world the views we entertain [iii/iv] in regard to the sacred ministry, and, at the same time, be the means of pledging us all, and the Institution, in which we are so deeply interested, before the whole Church, for the earnest maintenance of those views, both in our doctrine, and in our life. Not as if such views were not always held and maintained in the Institution, but because it is often good for us to review and renew our resolutions, and to reiterate our public testimony to the truth of God.
I therefore comply with your request for a copy of the Discourse for publication; and with fervent prayers for your growth in grace and in knowledge, during this season of your preparation, and for your future use fulness, as ministers of Christ,
I remain most truly,
Your affectionate friend,
To Messrs. WM. G. FARRINGTON,
WM. ALLEN JOHNSON,
Committee of the Students of the Gen. Theol. Sem.
SUCH are the words which our blessed Lord uses, in His final intercessory Prayer, in reference to the eleven Apostles--"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Unquestionably, they must be considered as applicable to, and characteristic of, all who are called and dedicated to the work of the sacred ministry. Could anything be more impressive than the circumstances under which those significant words were uttered? It was at a critical point of time, intermediate between the conclusion of the life of instruction and miracle, and the commencement of the mysterious Passion, in which He bore the chastisement of our peace, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, for our redemption. The last supper, the washing of the disciples' feet, the institution of the holy sacrament of His blessed body and blood, His valedictory address and charge to the eleven, the most affecting discourse which ever fell from even His sacred lips,--all these were finished. It only remained to offer that final intercessory Prayer, which should precede the sacrifice, which should hallow Himself for the altar,--which should bespeak for the Apostles, and for all, who should believe on Him through their word,--all the benefits of His passion,--which should more clearly announce Him as the great Mediator and [5/6] Intercessor between God and man, and then to go forth to the final act of His full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. It is for the eleven that He prays, as they are gathered about Him, the representatives of all the future ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God: and of them He says, emphatically, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
To us, then, who are already set apart, and dedicated to the work of the ministry, and to you, who are candidates for this holy stewardship, belongs the character announced in the words of our Lord. As "ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God," we are required,--you are required, to be conformed to the divine pattern set by Christ himself. As He was not of the world--as He was not of its spirit--was not a participator in its business and pleasures--was not controlled by its influences--was not guided by its aims and principles--was not devoted to its ends, but was of another world, doing all things in a higher spirit, and with a view to holier and more enduring objects--so we, so you, are not to be of this world.
I beg you to consider what this character implies. Weigh well the import of those momentous words: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;" for they declare what your calling and profession are to be, and what are the terms on which alone you may hope to please and glorify God, or to benefit your fellow-men,--the terms, on which alone, in this ministry of reconciliation, you will find it at all possible to save either yourselves, or them that hear you--"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
Do not consider that I am preaching a sermon to you, and that I have taken up these words as an easy method of meeting the demands of the occasion; that, as a thrice-told tale, I am going to repeat to you one of those old familiar common places of holy Scripture, which people are always so ready to admit in terms, but ever prone to deny in their practice.
They are words soon spoken, easily assented to: no Christian thinks of objecting to them: no minister, or candidate for the ministry, but thinks he comprehends them, and has made up his [6/7] mind to realize them, and is realizing them in his life; and yet all the time, so strangely are the Church and the world intermingled, in consequence of the general profession of Christianity, we see things with a dim eye, and are in danger of being insidiously mastered and swayed by the spirit of the world, when we flatter ourselves that we are, in very deed, Christians--genuine followers of the Heavenly One!
It is after a great deal of reflection on the sacred ministry, and on the state of those who are candidates for that ministry, that I have selected these words, and come here, on this interesting occasion, to press them upon your notice--not because I have some elaborate and far-fetched discussion to present--not because I have any peculiarly novel argument or view to produce, but because I believe the truth contained in my text is, for those who are looking to the sacred ministry, one of the most momentous truths,--one of the most necessary for these times which any chief Pastor can possibly bring forward--"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
Of course I do not forget, that all Christians are described as being not of the world, but of God,--i. e., they take their spirit, their principles, their law, their supreme object--not from the world, but from God. But in a much higher sense does all this hold, of those who are expressly set apart from all common and worldly occupations--from all common and worldly pursuits, cares, pleasures, and consecrated and empowered as "ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." Every Christian dwelling is to be a holy habitation: a place of prayer and praise: a scene of sacred duty and enjoyment: a spot as far as may be free from the pollutions that are in the world;--but of the consecrated dwelling place of the Most High, the same things are to be affirmed in a much loftier sense. The House of God lays claim to something unspeakably more awful and heavenly than can be attributed to any ordinary Christian dwelling, however saintly the inmates.
And so with the unworldliness of the man of God, the ambassador for Christ; it is something very different from the unwordliness of the private Christian. The ordinary Christian must be [7/8] "diligent in business;" he may be much in the thoughts and employments that pertain to time, to temporal well-being; he may take an active part in political discussions and labors; he may fill important offices in the state; he may, without prejudice to his principles or to his influence, participate in certain gratifications, which seem designed to shed cheerfulness over this mortal scene, and to afford refreshment amid its cares and labors. But the Christian minister is removed from all these things; is, indeed, elevated far above them. An occupation, an amusement, which would be in no way unbecoming in the one, we all see and feel would be utterly incongruous with the character and profession of the other.
I do not offer this as a full statement of the difference between the ordinary Christian and the minister of God, in the matter of unworldliness, but to point out that there is something peculiar and transcendent in this respect in the character of those, who are to be on the earth as angels, ascending and descending between God and man,--bearing up prayer and praises from the one, and bringing down and dispensing the mysterious gifts of grace from the other. "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Look, I pray you, at the close resemblance between the Chief Shepherd and all inferior pastors, as stated by Himself: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the Truth." As Christ was sent into the world by the Father, so are all other pastors sent by Christ. As He is not of the world, so are they not of the world. As He sanctified Himself that they might be sanctified, so are they to be sanctified, in order that those, to whom they are sent, may be enlightened and reclaimed, and made holy.
See how Christ came into the world to be continually among men, conversing with them, ministering to them, doing them good, and yet living in a way altogether peculiar, and by Himself. We cannot think of Him as being anything more than a temporary visitant of this earth,--one who came from the heavens, who was [8/9] leading the life of angels, while visible here below,--and who, as soon as His great earthly task was done, reascended, as if by a kind of necessity, into the realms of bliss and glory. To sinful men He was always a mystery: "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." He was ever showing compassion and mercy, ever forgiving, ever speaking peace to the lowly--ever mild and condescending, where others were impatient and intolerant--and yet He was ever looked upon, if with love, yet with awe, as an incomprehensible and unearthly mystery. His divine life was as much a new revelation, as much a prodigy, as much a new and resistless power in the world, as was His teaching, or His miracles. His image, His manner of life, once seen, could never be forgotten. He was present at a marriage feast, He partook of the hospitalities which came in his way; everywhere He is full of gentleness and amenity, but everywhere he is the same divine and unearthly Being. We never lose the impression of something about Him, which is altogether different from the ways of common menaltogether above the spirit of the world.
His life is consecrated to one great object, and that is an object which is altogether different from the common aims of ordinary men: "His meat and drink is to do the will of Him that sent Him." Whether at a feast, or in the midst of the poor and afflicted, He ever wears the aspect of one who is in the world for a particular purpose, who is steadfast to one high aim, who is ever consistent with Himself, and ever separate from and above the world, in which for a time He lives and labors. While the World is ever walking after the flesh, He is ever seeking to win souls to walk in the Spirit, in newness of life. While the World is full of covetousness and self-seeking, He is ever revealing Himself a wonderful pattern of self-denial and self-sacrifice for the good of others. While the World is busy with the cares, and interests, and passions of time, He is wholly taken up with the concerns of eternity. He is come to be the Light of the world," to throw over it the brightness of His truth and holiness, and not to merely reflect its false lights, its gleams of folly and of sin. He is come to be the Saviour of the world in spite of itself; and, though it calumniate [9/10] and persecute Him, though it despise and reject Him, though it buffet and spit upon Him, though it mock Him with purple, and crown Him with thorns, in derision, and load Him with the dreadful burden of the cross, yet it seems to make no change in His meek and heavenly spirit no change in His one supreme purpose of laboring and suffering for the salvation of the guilty and the perishing. He goes steadily on to finish the work given Him to do, whether He advance amid the acclamations and plaudits of friends, or move on, with a scoffing multitude, to the dreadful eminence, on which He is to be nailed to the cross. Any such thing as a thought for His own ease and safety, any such thing as being touched and swayed by the passions of the world,--any such thing as a feeling of resentment, or ill will, or misanthropy, or contempt, or discouragement superseding His love and zeal for God and man,--or diverting Him for a single instant from His blessed ministry in man's behalf, is so utterly foreign to the appearance as well as to the known reality of His character, that we cannot suggest the thought without a feeling that it is irreverent to do so. Does not all this shadow forth what is to be the character of His ministers and stewards? "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." The minister of Christ is in the world for the self-same purpose, and no other, for which Christ, the Chief Shepherd, was in the world--to teach, to premonish, to guide the erring, to be a pattern of holiness, to go before the sheep in all holy and heavenly virtues, that they may follow him, to feed the perishing with the bread of life, to be ever suffering and losing, that others may gain. They are in the world--a vain, perishing world--whose life is as fleeting as a shadow,--in full strength and glory to-day, and vanished as a thing of nought, to-morrow,--I say, the ministers of Christ are in the world, as He was, with a clear view of its vanity and insignificance, with a distaste for its passions and pleasures, and having little or no concern with its temporal business;--they are in the world, just to show and to lead the way to Heaven just to help men in the work of their salvation just to be co-workers with God on the side of holiness and loyalty, and against the rebellious, blasting powers of sin and death. They are in the [10/11] world, but they are not of the world: "They are not of the-world," (said the adorable One who commissioned them, and who proposed Himself as their Pattern): "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
What have the ministers of Christ to do with pride and self-seeking? What have they to do with scheming and contriving for their own advancement? What have they to do with good or evil fortune in the things of this world? What have they to do with aping the silly fashions and vanities of the day? What have they to do with the gross manners, the irritable tempers, the sensual habits, the vulgar, ignoble thoughts, the idle words, the wretched bickering and jealousies, and the unkind judgments and harsh speeches of the men of this world? What have the ministers of Christ to do with studying how they may please themselves, and how they may win those places which will be most in the eye of the world, and most abundant in comfort and luxury? If every follower of Christ is commanded, on pain of rejection and reprobation, "to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," and that, too, with the promise that all other things needful shall be added unto him, with what fitness or decency can a Minister of Christ hold back from the work given him to do, (which he has been set apart and empowered, and bound by a vow to do,) until he can find where he may do it with the most comfort and on the best terms. What sort of spectacle is presented to the eye of God and holy angels,--to the earnest-minded in the Church, when, on the one side, churches are seen closed, stations left vacant, sheep wandering without a shepherd, souls perishing for lack of bread; and on the other, ten, twenty, thirty ministers of Christ, looking for fields of labor, standing all the day idle, asking, not where most and hardest work is to be done, but where a certain style of living can be maintained, and a certain scale of expense be provided for? What idea shall we form of that candidate for the sacred ministry--what hope of his future career--when we see him bestowing his thoughts and his affections upon domestic pleasures, pledging himself to the duties and responsibilities, and cares and embarrassments of a family, before he has been fully trained for his holy warfare--before he has earned a single comfort by [11/12] noble self-sacrifice--before he has gained the least assurance that he can command bread or shelter for a second life? What respect can we entertain for the youthful candidate--what hopes for the Church he is to serve--when we see him reversing the rule and order of our Lord, and seeking first how he may please her whom he hath chosen beforehand to be his wife, and how he may provide for her and for himself the comforts and elegancies which sensual habits and the opinion of the world have rendered necessary? and when we see him afterward holding back from the ministry of the Word--holding back, not from vows, but from the keeping of them--holding back from instant service, leaving breaches unfilled, because there is, in a worldly view, little honor and little profit in the post which implores his succour? Can we say of such, that they are conformed to the pattern of their master, Christ? Is it true of them that "they are not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world." They may boast of Apostolic succession, but are they of the true Apostolic stamp? Are they moulded after the fashion of those first preachers of righteousness, who took their conception and measure of the Christian ministry fresh from the life of its Divine Founder?--those holy men, who willingly suffered the loss of all things, and counted them but dross, that they might win Christ,--who counted not their lives dear unto them in the fulfilment of their ministry,--who combined the hardness and severity of John the Baptist, with the glowing love, the meekness and gentleness of the Lord, that bought them--are these effeminate, grovelling, sensual, self-seeking and self-indulgent, recreant soldiers of the cross fit to be numbered among those noble martyrs and confessors, or to be considered as in any respect of the same spirit? If the Christian ministry is, in itself, the noblest, the sublimest work to which mortal man can be called, where is the dignity, where is the heroism of it, when prosecuted in the temper I have exposed? A ministry so perverted and-abused, is, of all things, most base and ignoble. O degenerate age! O abused and afflicted Church, when those who come to serve at her altars, come in the hope and with the design of uniting the service of God with the service of mammon!
My young friends! deem not that I am bringing charges against [12/13] you. Let us keep to the Apostolic rule. Let us "judge nothing before the time. "With me or with you, it should be "a very, small thing that we are judged of man's judgment." Christ, who commissions and sends us forth, is to judge us. The secret counsels of our hearts are open and manifest to Him--"It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. Let us account of ourselves as the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God!" (Wonderful calling and profession), and let us strive so to fulfil our blessed, awful ministry, that, at the last, we may indeed "have praise of God." [Ep. for the day.]
I have drawn a hateful picture, (not an imaginary one, I am sorry to say,) that you may recognise its loathsome features, and mark it well, as something which is to be forever reprobated and shunned. Think kindly and hopefully of each other, and of other Christian ministers, and reserve all your severity of judgment each for himself.
I am not saying, that you are bound to refuse all the comforts of this life. You will do little toward saving yourself or others, by making yourself an austere, unsympathising recluse. Our blessed Lord lived among men, and, though altogether of another and a higher Spirit, ever showed Himself gentle and tender. He accepted their kind offices, and more than repaid them with His spiritual blessings. Neither am I saying that you are bound to renounce all openings to wider usefulness, all calls to more responsible duties, all offers of more ample provision for the wants and uses of this life. All that I mean is, beware of putting such things first in your esteem. Beware of M---- king them the primary object of your thoughts and aims. Leave all such things to Him whom you serve. Throw yourselves frankly, manfully, into your great work, taking no counsel with flesh and blood;--and then, if, after faithful service, such things come to you, unsought, and unthought of--if responsibility and influence solicit your servicestake them, if you will, with a solemn sense of your unworthiness, and of your obligation to more arduous and devoted labor. When you are sent, or called, go forth in faith, as did Abraham, not asking, and not caring, what is before you, and leaving all to the God [13/14] of your life. If you do not feel that you can enter the ministry in this spirit, turn back, and leave the work for those who have the heart to undertake it aright. Much as the Church needs laborers, she needs no self-seekers, no servants of Mammon in her train?
And, O, my young friends, if you "are not of the world, as Christ was not of the world," if you are to be stewards of the mysteries of God,--standing between your fellow-men and the very gates of Heaven, cultivate Christian humility and Christian magnanimity. Be at once lowly in spirit, and lofty in your temper and aims. Put off your shoes from off your feet, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground. Walk reverently and softly before the Lord. Live above the little passions and vanities of the world. In this blessed retreat, whose stillness and leisure, whose precious opportunities you will never know how to value aright, until you have gone forth and become involved in the cares and distractions of life--in this season of your preparation, surrounded by libraries, and by learned and godly men, make the most of your privileges. Be men of study, and meditation, and prayer. Let all be sweet, and reverend, and graceful, in your intercourse here with each other: so that when strangers, earnest spirits, come to be added to your number, they may admire your beautiful, loving order; and feel that they have come to a Holy School, fit for the training of those who are to bear the vessels of the Lord.
O LORD, WE BESEECH THEE MERCIFULLY TO RECEIVE THE PRAYERS OF THY PEOPLE WHO CALL UPON THEE; AND GRANT THAT THEY MAY BOTH PERCEIVE AND KNOW WHAT THINGS THEY OUGHT TO DO, AND ALSO MAY HAVE GRACE AND POWER FAITHFULLY TO FULFIL THE SAME, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. Amen.
ALMIGHTY AND EVERLASTING GOD, BY WHOSE SPIRIT THE WHOLE BODY OF THE CHURCH IS GOVERNED AND SANCTIFIED; RECEIVE OUR SUPPLICATIONS AND PRAYERS, WHICH WE OFFER BEFORE THEE FOR ALL ESTATES OF MEN IN THY HOLY CHURCH, THAT EVERY MEMBER OF THE SAME, IN HIS VOCATION AND MINISTRY, MAY TRULY AND GODLY SERVE THEE, THROUGH OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST. Amen.