THE MAN OF GOD
Preached in St. Thomas' Church, in the City of New-York,
INSTITUTION OF THE REV. GEORGE UPFOLD, M.D.
RECTORSHIP OF THE SAID CHURCH,
On Thursday, the 6th of March, 1828.
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012
New-York, 7th March, 1828.
RIGHT REV. SIR,
We have been appointed a committee, in behalf of the Vestry of St. Thomas' Church, to express to you the cordial thanks of that body for the very able and eloquent Sermon preached by you on the occasion of the Institution of the Rev. GEORGE UPFOLD, M. D. Rector of said Church; and also to solicit a copy for publication. Your compliance with this request will be particularly gratifying to the Vestry. And permit us to observe, that the Sermon contains, in our judgment, a lucid and correct exposition not only of ministerial duty, but of Christian doctrine and practice. The publication of it will therefore, we trust, greatly subserve the interests of true religion.
Your most obedient Servants,
DAVID HADDES, BENJAMIN M. BROWN,
Right Rev. Bishop HOBART, D. D.
7th March, 1828.
In the hope that my Sermon may in some measure tend to promote the interests of true religion, I comply with the request of the Vestry of St. Thomas' Church, which you have in such flattering terms conveyed to me.
I am, Gentlemen,
J. H. HOBART.
DAVID HADDEN Warden, BENJAMIN M. BROWN, Vestryman, of St. Thomas' Church.
MAN OF GOD, &c.
2 TIMOTHY iii. 17. The man of God.
WHAT an impression does this title convey of the character, the duties, and the responsibility of the minister of the Gospel! Various indeed, and most significant are the denominations under which he is set forth. The minister of Christ, denoting that from this divine Master he has received a commission for the work, the salvation of lost mankind, to which that Master devoted himself even unto death, and for which he still intercedes and reigns in Heaven—the steward of the mysteries of God, intrusted with the truths of God and the grace of his sacraments, which he is to dispense to God's spiritual family—the ambassador for Christ, proclaiming peace and reconciliation between man and his offended Maker through the mediation of the Lord Jesus—the [5/6] co-worker with Christ, engaged in that same blessed and exalted work of salvation which Christ, by the shedding of his blood, effected, and which, by the application of his merits and grace, he still dispenses to true believers—these titles, solemn and striking in their import, are all included in that most impressive one—the man of God.
The man of God—devoted to God, the almighty Being who made, and who rules, and who is to judge the world—devoted to God in spirit, and soul, and body, in all the powers of his understanding, in all the affections of his heart, and in all the service of his life—devoted to God for the purpose of doing God's work; his exalted, divine work of redeeming a fallen world; of translating men from the bondage of sin and Satan into the glorious liberty of the sons of God; of quickening and saving those dead in trespasses and sins; and of bringing the redeemed of the Lord, through the sins, and sorrows, and trials of this mortal life, to the glories of the heavenly Zion.
And thus wholly devoted to God, he displays this devotion in the Sanctuary, exercising the varied and momentous functions of a divinely [6/7] commissioned Ministry—in the flesh, leading divine worship—in the Pulpit, proclaiming divine truths—at the font of Baptism, admitting to the spiritual fold—in the Catechetical assemblage preparing the young for the "laying on of hands"—at the Lord's table, commemorating the great sacrifice—in the Social and Domestic circles of his flock, dispensing improvement and happiness—in the House of Mourning, administering consolation—in the Chamber of the Sick, supplying spiritual succours and comforts—at the Bed of the Dying, impressing the truths and consolations of eternity.
Behold the man of God in the Sanctuary, exercising a divinely commissioned ministry—a ministry for which not all the mighty of the earth, powerful as they are in the gifts of temporal distinction, can give him a commission; to which not all the people of the earth, resistless as they can be in bringing down the seat of the mighty, and in exalting to the throne of dominion the humble and the low, can elevate him. For what are all the mighty when Jehovah takes away their breath; what are all the people when Jehovah speaks, and stills their madness? The man of [7/8] God appears in the sanctuary, exercising divine functions. Divine power only can delegate him. And divine power does delegate him not only with the impress of holiness on the heart, but with the stamp of external authority—with a commission conveyed from the only source of spiritual power, even the Lord Jesus, the head of the mystical body over which he reigns—conveyed by a channel, traced to its divine source, through the same accredited records of historical fact by which the volume of inspiration is proved to have a divine origin. Thus commissioned, he stands forth in the sanctuary. To him the people must hearken, for they cannot doubt that he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts. In the overtures of grace and mercy which he holds forth they confide; for they are assured that to him is committed the ministry of reconciliation. The mysteries of grace, the means and pledges of salvation which he dispenses they revere and in full faith receive; for these means and pledges are administered by that steward whom God hath authoritatively set over his spiritual household.
Man of God! shall the dignity of thy office, thus stamped with the authority of the Most High, wake thee arrogant, supercilious, overbearing? [8/9] Who is it that made thee to differ? Rich indeed is the treasure committed to thee, but earthen is the vessel that contains and often sullies it. Weak, fallible, sinful, guilty, thou too like the humblest of the souls committed to thy charge, must come to the foot of the cross, lay there thy boastful pretensions, and as a sinner cry for mercy to him who only is mighty to save. "Lord, my God, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, and yet thou hast honoured thy servant with appointing him to stand in thy house." Be inflexible, bold, undaunted in the exercise of thy high functions; but gentle, humble, condescending, tender in the spirit and the manner with which thou dost discharge them.
Behold the man of God, conducting in the Desk the Worship of the sanctuary—conducting it under the impression that he is thus brought into the more immediate presence of the Lord of Hosts; that he comes near to that glorious Jehovah whom no man can see and live; that he speaks to that dread Being whose majesty confounds unnumbered hosts; and that, therefore, emotions like those which prostrate Cherubim before the throne, should distinguish his spirit, his [9/10] manner, his utterance with solemnity, with reverential fear, with chastened and holy fervour. He considers that he is the divinely commissioned delegate of the needy and dependent creatures, the guilty and corrupt sinners assembled before him; to present, to the Being who made, who rules, and who is to judge them, the supplications which want sends forth, the confessions which guilt utters, the prayers for mercy and grace which conscious sin dictates; and above all, the lively homage and praises of hearts overflowing with gratitude and love to that Lord, who through that beloved Son whom he freely gave as the offering that justice demanded, "forgiveth all their sin, healeth all their diseases, redeemeth their lives from destruction, and crowneth them with mercy and loving-kindness." Feeling most deeply the responsibility of addressing so great and glorious a Being, of presenting the confessions, supplications, and homage of the assembled worshippers of the Most High, he is grateful that he can take the words which the wisdom and piety of the Church hath provided, and in which many Saints who are now at rest prepared themselves for Heaven, and will finally join in its adorations.
 In the Pulpit, the man of God realizes most deeply his awful commission—charged with declaring the whole counsel of the merciful yet great and terrible God—charged with the salvation or perdition of immortal Souls. "Woe is me," he exclaims, overwhelmed with his awful responsibility, "for I am a frail and sinful man." Man of God! thy sufficiency is of thy divine Master.
What a range, almost boundless, of deeply momentous and sublime truths is the Man of God to explore, and to present to the view of his people! The Being, the attributes, the government of HIM who dwelleth in light inaccessible, whose dominion is the unnumbered worlds of infinite space—the awful mystery of the divine nature subsisting in the three co-equal, co-eternal Persons—the stupendous scheme of redemption in the incarnation of the eternal Son—the spotless virtues, the unparalleled sufferings, the inconceivable agonies that marked his character, his life, his death upon the cross—the inscrutable but universal and all-sufficient propitiation for sin which that cross effected—the pledge which his resurrection afforded, that this propitiation divine justice accepted—the glorious results of his ascension [11/12] in his exaltation to supreme and universal rule, as the Head of that spiritual body in which, under ministers, and ordinances constituted by him, his redeemed are to be assured of mercy and of grace, and to be trained up for that kingdom of glory of which he will be the everlasting Head, and they the blest and immortal members—the splendid event of the descent of the divine Spirit, with miraculous powers to confound and to convert the world; with spiritual grace to draw all men to the God who made and who is to judge them; to abide with the Church for ever, quickening, renewing, strengthening, comforting, all the people of God—the spiritual and divine principles, and qualifications by which guilty, and corrupt, and impotent man is to be interested in this great salvation, and made meet for its blessings; even that deep and effectual repentance in which, by the agency of the divine Spirit, the change is effected in the heart and in the life from sin to holiness; that humble, entire, and lively faith in Jesus Christ, his merits, his truth, his mercy, his grace, which leads to the cultivation of that universal holiness, and that unrestricted and devoted obedience, by which only man can glorify his Maker, and be qualified for immortal [12/13] joys; and in the exercise of all which, the ministry and ordinances of the Church become to him the pledges of the divine mercy and favour, and the means of continual supplies of divine succours and consolations—these are the awful and interesting truths with which the man of God is charged.
Displaying and enforcing these truths, he prepares his people for that awful event which he unfolds to them—that Judgment when, the earth dissolving, the elements melting, the heavens passing away, the Son of God comes, the glory of the Godhead encircling him, unnumbered hosts attending him, and decides the destiny of the myriads of mankind; exalts them, penitent, humble, holy, to that Heaven, where, with him, their glorified Redeemer, they shall reign in matchless purity and felicity for ever and ever; or dooms them, impenitent, ungodly, to that Hell, where, with the devil and his angels, they dwell for ever in the fire that is never to be quenched.
Judgment, Heaven, Hell, are the themes that arm with terrific force the warnings of the man of God to the ungodly; and that invest with the most attractive power his consolations to the righteous.
All the truths of the pulpit, involving the divine [13/14] nature and counsels, the spiritual and eternal world—all its objects aiming at awakening the impenitent, converting the ungodly, comforting the pious, saving the souls of men—demand a fidelity, a moral courage, a firmness, an impartiality, a prudence, an earnestness, a zeal, a cultivated, enlightened, and well furnished intellect, a persuasive, simple, commanding eloquence, after which the man of God, with infinitely higher motives than human applause, should most sedulously, unceasingly, perseveringly aim; but in regard to which, he will have in deep, but when he has done his best, not mortified humility to exclaim—I have not attained. Who is sufficient for these things? Make thou thy strength, O God, perfect in my weakness. O give thou the increase.
At the font of Baptism, the man of God takes his most interesting station, to welcome "little children" into that "kingdom" which the blessed Lord who gave himself for them, pronounced to be theirs; where by divine power in this laver of regeneration, sin is mystically washed away, so that they receive a title to its pardon, and the grace of the divine Spirit to subdue its dominion; and adopted into God's spiritual family, are made [14/15] the children of his love, and heirs of an heavenly inheritance. What an exalted and grateful office also to bring to this fountain of spiritual blessings those of riper years; who hitherto "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise," now turning by true repentance to that God to whom they have been enemies by wicked works, and in lively faith to that Saviour whom they have hitherto contemned, seek for admission into that spiritual society, in which, as the body of Christ, their union is sealed with its divine Head, and the spiritual privileges of pardon, adoption, and eternal life confirmed to them. The man of God, vested with the high instrumentality of translating the subjects of sin and Satan and the heirs of death, into that fold of salvation where they are made "members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of Heaven," adores that inscrutable but sovereign power which thus mercifully through the most feeble instruments and the most humble signs conveys such infinitely exalted blessings. Yet under the solemn recollection that this sacramental regeneration of baptism must be perfected by "the renewing of the Holy Ghost," by abolishing the whole body of sin, by daily proceeding in all [15/16] virtue and godliness of living, how fervently does he unite in the supplications which invoke for the subjects of baptism this spiritual renovation—how earnestly does he press upon them the exhortations which enforce this indispensible change from sin to holiness, this entire and supreme devotion of the soul to God.
And therefore does he go from the baptismal font to the Catechetical Assemblage—delighting to discharge that thrice repeated injunction of his blessed Lord, that thrice constituted test of love to his divine Master—"Feed my lambs." Gathering them statedly around him; with condescension, patience, assiduity, affectionate zeal, taking for his guide the formulary of instruction provided by the Church; he impresses on the young "members of Christ" the import of this high distinction; the nature of that spiritual society in union with which, as the body, they become united to Christ the head; the exalted privileges conveyed and pledged to them of "children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of Heaven;" and the spiritual and holy obligations which their baptismal covenant imposed as the condition of finally enjoying its privileges; leading them through the [16/17] articles of the Christian faith, which they are pledged to believe; the commandments of God, which they are set apart to observe; the holy spirit of that prayer in which they are to invoke the grace, without which they can do nothing, from their "Father in Heaven;" and displaying the nature of those sacraments which are the means and pledges of the blessings of salvation. And when their minds are imbued with this sacred lore, and their hearts are quickened and purified by its holy influence; when impressed with their duties to the God that made them, the Saviour that redeemed them, the Holy Ghost that sanctifies them; to that God, that Saviour, that divine Spirit, they are ready to devote themselves by renewing the obligations of the baptismal consecration, with what alacrity does the man of God bring them to the chief officer in Christ's mystical body, to receive, in the "laying on of hands," spiritual benediction and grace. What a reward in this scene for all the labour and self-denial which he hath bestowed on the young members of Christ's fold—to behold them not ashamed of their Christian profession; assuming it before man; ranging themselves under the banner of their crucified Lord; solemnly set apart for his service, for the high [17/18] contest for the prize of glory; the blessing and grace of Heaven descending on them. Oh! may not the man of God, with this scene before him in the emotions of humble but grateful joy, pour forth the fulness of his heart—Here, my God, are the children which thou hast given me; here, my Saviour, the lambs, thou didst command me to feed.
My brethren in the ministry of the Lord, difficult in many respects are the duties which we have to discharge; severe the trials, often not known to the world, to which we are called; and yet most elevated and exalted are the scenes in which official duty places us. For from the affecting rite that devotes anew the lambs of Christ's fold to him their Saviour; the man of God passes to the sublime mystery of the Holy table, where he who gave himself for us, the incarnate Son of God is present—not in that body, into which the bread is said to be changed which was offered on the cross; not in that blood, which the wine is said to be changed that was shed from his side; not in that divinity which now abides in his glorified human nature in Heaven. This is a doctrine as absurd as it is [18/19] impious. But Christ is spiritually present under the emblems of the bread and wine; conveying and assuring to all the faithful the efficacy of that body which was offered, of that blood which was shed, of that incarnate Divinity which now reigns in Heaven. The rite which thus brings down the Saviour to the faithful, in all the tenderness of his mercy, in all the power of his grace, in all the soothing and elevating consolations of his love, to nourish and strengthen them to everlasting life; which thus commemoratively renews the great sacrifice which was once and can be but once offered, and that takes away the sin of the world, and which commemoratively celebrated, assures to the soul its pardon, its peace, its sanctification, its eternal felicity, blessings of the one great sacrifice of the Lamb of God—this rite—we, brethren—sinful men, are commissioned to celebrate. It is an office with which an angel would be honoured. It is an office which an angel should call forth his highest powers worthily to perform. Oh! with what pure hearts, with what clean hands, with what firm faith, with what lively and grateful love, with what intense devotion of soul of body and of spirit, should we celebrate the rite that commemorates the sacrifice of an [19/20] incarnate God. Spirit of grace! fit us for the mysterious and holy work!
Passing from the temple, where he discharged these exalted duties, let us lead the man of God to the Social and Domestic Scene. There we behold him evidencing in every word and action his purpose of doing good and dispensing happiness; there sometimes conveying the sober lessons of instruction, sometimes unbending in innocent pleasantry; never countenancing, and prudently reproving violations of decorum, but never rudely repelling them; in all the varied scenes of social and domestic intercourse, bringing into constant operation that wisdom which he may learn from the serpent, yet preserving that harmlessness which is taught by the dove; in all his conversation, deportment, and conduct, dignified, elevated, holy as the man of God—but still humble, gentle, frank, unassuming, artless as the little child to whom the Lord commanded his disciples to be likened.
Go with the man of God to the House of Mourning. There he comes with that spirit of his Master, which sorrows with all the sorrows [20/21] of his people, which is afflicted in all their afflictions; that sympathy which not more heartily rejoices with those that rejoice, than weeps with those that weep. He comes with the words of celestial promise, with the look of mildness and the deportment of tenderness, to "bind up the broken-hearted, and to comfort those that mourn," to comfort them with the inspiring words of unfailing truth and power that the Lord does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men; that sorrow may endure during this night of their probation, but that joy will come in that morning of eternal reward and felicity, where all tears shall be wiped from the eyes of the redeemed of the Lord, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. And his is the beneficent office to turn the mourners from the vain and often corrupting pleasures of this transitory scene, to the abiding, satisfying, and pure felicities of the eternal world; from the changes and troubles of this their state of exile, to the enduring fulness of bliss in their heavenly home. Man of God—thou mayest be as an angel of light and consolation to the dark house of the afflicted, leading its sorrowing inmates to that God who is a strength and refuge, a very present help in time of trouble.
 In the Chamber of the sick, how varied the cases that call for the exercise of the spiritual skill of the man of God! The soul, as lethargic in its spiritual, as the body in its animal sensibilities; or tremblingly sensitive to the things that belong to its eternal peace—sometimes sunk in the apathy of ignorance; or agitated with a full view of all the awful truths of God's word—sometimes presuming on infinite mercy; or distrusting almighty grace—sometimes loaded with sins, and yet at ease; or sinking under their burden into the agonies of despair—sometimes impenitent, though soon to render its last account; or convulsed with the throes of remorse and contrition—sometimes deprecating the summons of death; or bursting forth in the prayer, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Oh! how acutely in all these cases does the man of God feel his responsibility! With what solicitude, with what caution, with what assiduity, does he apply the warnings and the invitations, the threats and the promises of the Gospel, the justice and the mercy of God, the compassion of the Saviour, and the indignation of the infinite Judge—applies them in the fervent prayer that the great spiritual Physician may make them by his all-powerful [22/23] grace the means of converting the sinful soul, of strengthening and comforting the faithful servant of the Lord.
At the Bed of the Dying, what a group does the man of God often behold collected—the husband clasping the beloved object soon to be torn for ever from his embrace; the wife, in shrieks of despair, calling on the husband not to leave her—the parent commending, in silent agony, his only hope to God; the child, in the bitterness of sorrow, bending to the last blessing of his departing parent—the brother soothing the dying agonies of a sister beloved; a sister receiving the expiring sigh of a brother dearer to her than life. Oh! the spirit of the man of God is melted into grief, and he too weeps. But he forgets not that his is the high office to shed light and comfort on this scene of woe. Sorrow not, children of affliction, as those that have no hope; those that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him; their corruptible having put on incorruption and their mortal immortality. And thou departing soul—in this last trial, fall not from thy Saviour. Commend thyself to him who is mighty to sustain thee in this the hour of death, in the day of judgment—him, [23/24] the resurrection and the life, who hath promised that they who believe in him shall never die. To the blest place of the departed he will conduct thy soul; from the tomb of corruption he will raise thy mortal part; it shall put on glory and immortality at the resurrection at the last day; mortality shall be swallowed up of life; thou shalt be for ever with the Lord. Oh! what offices more benign, more tender, more exalted, than those of the man of God at the bed of the dying Christian!
And in the various stations in which the man of God exercises his high functions, are there not the weightiest duties incumbent on the people? The divine commission which he bears, are they not to honour? In the worship which he celebrates, are they not to join? The words of truth which he delivers, are they not to hear? To the font of regeneration, are they not to bring with them those that God has given them? The young whom he instructs, are they not to be humble and docile? The faithful to whom he offers the bread denoting the broken body, and the wine setting forth the shed blood of the Redeemer, are they not gratefully to partake of these life-giving symbols? [24/25] In the social and domestic circle, are they not to welcome him their spiritual friend and father, and provide in his domestic relations for his ease and comfort, and for the ease and comfort of those dependent on him! In the house of mourning, shall they refuse his consolations? In the chamber of the sick, will they exclude his ministrations of mercy? At the bed of the dying, will they not call him to hold forth the life-giving grace of the Almighty Deliverer? If most responsible are the functions of the man of God, most responsible also the duties which the people owe him.
On this congregation I would fain impress the conviction that in all these respects, peculiarly great has been, and we think, will be their responsibility. For the responsibility of the people is proportioned to the fidelity, assiduity, and zeal, with which the man of God exercises among them his high functions. The extent to which that fidelity, assiduity, and zeal, were carried by him [The Rev. Cornelius R. Duffie, the late Rector of the Church.] who once stood in this sacred place, the commissioned servant of the Most High, let your mourning, affectionate, and grateful recollections, [25/26] brethren, tell. Your responsibility in these respects, we pray, we believe, (the evidences that have passed before us, warrant the belief,) will not be diminished. For not a little remarkable is the similitude between your late and your present pastor, that by their talents, piety, fidelity, and zeal, they drew around them flocks devotedly and tenderly attached to them. One of these pastors has gone to the resting-place of the just. Long, long, may it be, before you mourn another disruption of the ties that bind a faithful pastor to a kind and affectionate people. And yet it is our duty to remind you of the event (it will be your everlasting interest seriously to consider it,) which will seal both pastor and people to the judgment of the great day. Lord of mercy and power, may that event find neither pastor nor people unprepared—Their loins girt, ready to meet thee; their lamps burning, shining with all the graces and virtues of thy Spirit, may they, at thy coming, enter into thy joy.