ASSISTANT MINISTER OF ST. PETER'S CHURCH, PHILADELPHIA.
JESPER HARDING, PRINTER.
Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 1 Corinthians, iv. 2.
THE period allotted by the charter to the congregation for the expression of an opinion adverse to the proceedings of the vestry, in their late election of a pastor, having passed away, I may regard myself as now in the providence of God, and with the consent of both vestry and congregation, a permanent and settled minister in this church.
My own sentiments, as well as the proprieties of the occasion and your expectations, demand of me a course of observations appropriate to this event.
The reciprocal duties of pastor and people can seldom be made matter of useless contemplation, but such a topic is peculiarly adapted to the position in which I now stand. I should violate my own feelings, however, did I not in the outset express my cordial acknowledgments for the gratifying unanimity with which I have been invited to renew my pastoral relation to this church. Since my withdrawal from the united churches in 1828, for a different but most important sphere of duty, I have cherished no slight degree of regard and interest for the congregations which composed that parish, and it is matter of the highest gratification, that in the providence of God I am permitted to resume my ministerial functions among those who are already endeared to me by a former relationship, and many of them by personal friendships and domestic intimacies, and thus to find that in the interval of the separation the attachment unbroken on my part has been equally permanent and inflexible in those whom I now address. May the blessing of the Almighty rest upon us all, and the spirit of peace, and harmony, and love, ever characterize the connexion now resumed.
 The words which I have read to you as my text, suggest a course of remarks appropriate to our new relationships--"Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."
The stewards of the divine mysteries constitute the persons whose office the apostle is here aiming to illustrate. The ministers of the gospel are called stewards, because by an express commission from Christ, the gospel is entrusted to them as dispensers of its truths and grace, of its earthly consolations and heavenly hopes. They hold it in trust for the benefit of men--for the spiritual good of the church and people of God--for the eternal salvation of the sinful children of our race. For the manner in which they execute this trust, they are accountable here on earth to the church, and at the final day to God.
With a view then of evincing the necessity of your earnest prayers for your pastor, and at the same time of unfolding the general principles by which, in the fulfilment of his ministerial duties, the gospel requires that he should be governed, I propose to set before you, in a plain and unvarnished manner, some of the particulars in which this faithfulness of a steward must be displayed.
I. The Christian pastor must be faithful in the exposition and enforcement of the doctrines of the gospel.
The gospel is a combined system of doctrine and duty. It unfolds man's relations to God. It develops the principles designed for his control and government. These doctrines and principles form the basis of the course of action, exacted by religion. Practical godliness is built upon them; and indeed they are so intimately connected, that we do not hesitate to predict the line of conduct of men from a previous knowledge of their views and opinions. Hence it is that, contrary to a common fallacy which asserts the valueless character of doctrines in religion, the truths of the gospel constitute its most important and essential features. If mutilated, or modified, or falsified, the conduct of the individual cannot fail to share in the change. Thus if I discard the doctrine of our Lord's divinity, it is not possible for me to render him the required worship. If I [4/5] reject his atonement, I cannot rely, in the faith demanded, upon his all-prevailing merits. If I disavow the corruption of human nature, I shall hardly be induced to adopt the prescribed means of counteracting its baleful influence on my heart and life. If I give no heed to the doctrine of a spiritual influence, I shall not seek that grace by which alone I can be renewed in the spirit of my mind, and enabled to follow the holiness without which no man can see the Lord. Here then we see the necessary relation of doctrine to duty, and when we remember that the command of Christ our master is explicit to the point of teaching the truths as well as precepts of his gospel, no steward of the divine mysteries can hope to be faithful to his trust without an honest, fearless unequivocal exposition of the doctrines of the gospel. Many of these doctrines are, I know, repulsive to an unconverted mind; some appear obscure and mystical; some appear to lie far off from the regions of practical righteousness; and some are apt to strike the mind as degrading to the human character. And yet "Christ crucified," the very text of the whole Christian proclamation, involving the entire circle of its doctrines, must be the starting point of pastoral instruction. All the positions and truths which emanate from this, must be honestly presented to your reflections. However irksome, however humiliating, however distasteful, exactly in the light in which the scriptures present them, must they be offered to your minds. Here is a point in which I may not accommodate, suppress, or change. Your eternal interest, and my own fearful responsibility to God, require of me that I be found faithful.
II. I ask your attention to another most important train of reflection, when I announce that the Christian pastor must be faithful in enforcing that moral and spiritual requirement of the gospel, which exacts the change from sin to holiness.
On the foundation of Christian doctrine is to be erected a Christian character. This character comprehends moral actions and spiritual graces. It is the infusion of the spirit of Christ into our hearts, and the embodying of his example in our lives. It reaches far beyond the limits of mere outward [5/6] morality, touching the springs of action within us, regulating and controlling thoughts, tempers, feelings, motives,--that inner region where none can enter but conscience and God. There is a country often but little explored by the individual possessor, and into which none are permitted to intrude, except just so far as he shall permit. It is surrounded by impenetrable and insurmountable barriers, moveable indeed from within, but wholly impregnable from without. No earthly force, no human skill can effect an entrance without the will and act of the possessor. That country lies in the bosom of every individual. It is a country, the real condition of which can be known to God only. He has pronounced it to be naturally barren and desolate, a miserable uncultivated waste, with a soil indeed capable of the highest culture and of the richest products, but, in its ordinary state, overrun with weeds, or marked by stunted trees, and immature and tasteless fruits. To subdue this rugged soil, mere human efforts are wholly unavailing. The principles of earthly morality do not penetrate to the heart. They build fences for the outer man only. They can only create external character. Now the religion which comes from God, the only being who knows or can fully know the condition of man, aims to enter this interior territory, and to restore it from desolation to fruitfulness. It tells us that the external ornaments of human character are nothing without this inward melioration of the moral system. It requires that we should look to the complex machinery of the inner man. It aims to control ill-regulated passion, to subdue unholy tempers, to dispossess the mind of corrupt habits, to purify the motives, to elevate the affections, and to infuse purity into the polluted temple, that it may be rendered fit for the indwelling of the Spirit of God. It charges its ministers, therefore, to urge this great requisition of a radical and fundamental change in the human character, and the due and diligent use of the means by which it is to be effected. It charges them to present the features of this character to their view, and to unfold the necessity, the tests, and the influence of this moral transformation.
Here then, my brethren, is another point, in regard to which I must endeavour to be found faithful. I may not proclaim [6/7] to you the flattering notion of your exemption from the necessity of this moral change. I may not sink the inherent and acquired sinfulness of your natures in either your moral elevation, or intellectual distinctions. I may not say to you that the religion of the Son of God consists merely in outward moralities or constitutional benevolence. I may not encourage you in the fond delusion that the attainment of your salvation is compatible with unbroken worldliness, or is to be secured by mere transient devotions, and occasional charities. Far from all this, I must, at the awful peril of everlasting wo, declare to you all the counsel of God. I must urge you to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, to repent and turn to God, to cast off the works of darkness, to tread the rugged path of Christian holiness and self-denial, to be baptized into the spirit, and to put on Christ, aiming to be like him, holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sin. I must preach to you as rebels to be pardoned by his mercy through Christ, and as sinners to be renewed and sanctified by the power of his Spirit, before you can hope to escape from final condemnation, and secure the salvation of your souls. Thus only, can I, as a steward, be found faithful to you and to Him.
III. But let me direct your attention to another particular in regard to which the Christian pastor must strive to be found faithful.
He must be faithful in urging upon his people conformity to the ordinances of the gospel.
Our blessed Lord established certain positive institutions in his Church, which from their very nature, as well as from his express word, must continue, so long as his spiritual kingdom shall exist on earth.
The sacraments of Baptism and of the Lord's Supper belong to this class. When the commission under which the apostles acted, and to which all ministerial authority now existing in his church must be traced, was first proclaimed by the divine founder of our Faith, it was in these words,--"Go ye and teach (or make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." This is the only appointed mode of initiation into [7/8] the church of Christ--the only method of making disciples. And until some other plan issuing from the commandment of Christ, shall be established on similar authority, the Christian pastor not only can adopt no other, but is bound strictly and faithfully to employ and to urge that which is appointed.--The same specific and unequivocal authority exacts conformity to the other Christian sacrament, which I am bound to urge upon your consciences.
There are but few parts of our religion with which men are more disposed to take unwarrantable liberties than with its positive institutions. Moral precepts commend themselves at once to the judgment of the conscience, but positive ordinances rest only on authority, the reason of them is not so obvious, the connexion between their intended influence and their native character is not so readily seen. Hence men are apt to think, and to affirm as a kind of justification of their neglect, that religion does not require these things. Even well disposed minds are sometimes led away by this delusion, and because these means of religion are not the end, imagine, contrary to both scripture and analogy, that the former may be neglected consistently with the attainment of the latter.
Now, in opposition to this and all other errors on this topic, the faithful pastor, basing his instructions on the written word of God, must proclaim the whole truth in regard to the Christian sacraments. It will be my duty, brethren, to warn you against neglecting the instructions of Christ your master on these points. I cannot be faithful to him without an honest and candid exposition of your duties in this behalf. I cannot be faithful to you without earnestly and affectionately striving, in public and private, to bring you to a just appreciation of the guilt and danger of despising, through wilfulness or carelessness, these solemn appointments of God your Saviour.
IV. I proceed to a particular of ministerial duty equally important and difficult, when I allege that the Christian pastor must be faithful in warning his flock against the evil customs and perilous seductions of this sinful world.
That evil customs and dangerous allurement exist, who that looks from the mere outside of society, and especially who that [8/9] has ever penetrated within its mystic circle, can entertain a doubt? Now, whilst the world is a source of temptation, it is also a scene of duty. Here lies our Christian probation. Here lie many of our engagements. Here is the sphere of usefulness. Here is the field of battle. Some have retired in dismay from this scene of conflict, and sought in the retirement of cells and convents, exemption from its many perils and temptations. The authority of scripture, the social nature of man, and the arrangements of providence, equally forbid such a course. There is no adequate ground for the belief that the great captain of our salvation approves of such a desertion of the post in which he has placed his soldiers.
But, my brethren, there are evils, and delusions, and false principles, and corrupt and corrupting fashions, so prevalent in the world, that no minister of Christ can possibly fulfil his stewardship without watching them most narrowly, without proclaiming their danger, and without honestly warning the immortal beings entrusted to his care--not to sacrifice on this fatal altar their eternal salvation. This is a delicate portion of ministerial duty. All men see not with the same eyes. The progress of spiritual light is often slow.--Much dimness of vision remains even in the ripened Christian. On the other hand, the clear principles of the gospel relating to this topic must be unfolded, and whilst on the one side there is danger of rushing to the extreme of austerity and unchristian rigour, there is still greater danger on the other of weakening the gospel by worldly influence and worldly association. My duty is to set before you faithfully the great principles by which your Christian course is to be regulated. I am placed here, brethren, not to countenance or connive at sin in any shape, but to rebuke, reprove, exhort with all long suffering and gentleness. I am to remind you clearly and unequivocally, that what is sinful is to be abandoned without a moment's delay, at the peril of eternal death; whilst in matters not sinful in themselves you are to be controlled by considerations connected with your advancement in holiness, and with the tendency of such things to bring discredit on the faith of Christ, to impede the progress of Christian truth, and to offend the weaker [9/10] brethren around you. Without warring against the world so as rather to mar than promote the influence of true religion, I am to remember for myself, and to impress upon you, the declaration that "the friendship of the world is enmity with God," and to implore you in the earnest language of St. Paul--"Be not conformed to this world--but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds."
V. I turn to another point of no slight importance, when I allege that the Christian pastor must be faithful in presenting to the people of his charge the claims and demands of the church of Christ.
The church, as such, has claims upon her members which cannot be neglected without injury to her, nor without the violation of their obligations by them.
As a society, called into being by Christ himself, and declared by him to be lasting as the probationary state of man, it is obvious that her perpetuity, so far as it is made dependent upon human exertions, cannot be secured except by such a course of action and effort, as is calculated to establish and to expand her influence. Christians then owe duties to the church of Christ springing from that relation which Christ himself established, and it is part of the obligation of every minister of God to present to their attention these duties as well as others. The church claims the sincere and earnest prayers of all her members for the divine blessing on her concerns. She claims the employment of their influence and talents in her behalf. She claims the application of a portion of their wealth for her support. She claims from them the patronage of her various institutions, to promote the welfare of mankind. She claims the influence of their example in conforming to her ordinances and appointments. She claims the enlightened, cordial and predominant attachment of every individual among them. As one of her ministers I am bound affectionately to urge these claims, and to remind every person baptized in the name of Christ that he is subject to all the obligations of the Christian covenant. So long as you are required to do good "to the household of faith," the means and agency of this beneficence must be assiduously employed. I [10/11] cannot be faithful to my master or to his church, if I hesitate in regard to all these particulars honestly to point out your duty, and earnestly to exhort you to its performance.
With us, too, the church sustains a distinctive character. We are severed from surrounding Protestants by peculiarities of doctrine, discipline and worship, which, resting on the firm basis of Scriptures, require that they be guarded with caution and sustained with zeal and perseverance. Hence it is, brethren, that we as Episcopalians are precluded from associating in religious enterprises, without danger of a sacrifice of principle, with those who hold contrary doctrine, discard our discipline and reject our form of worship. It is not in a spirit of bigotry, or of illiberality, or of sectarianism, but from the sober impulses of Christian duty, from the clear convictions of expediency, and from an honest desire to be found faithful in my stewardship, that I shall aim to produce among you by every means in my power, an enlightened, sober, zealous attachment to the doctrine, and discipline, and polity, and policy of the church. When I look abroad over the unceasing agitations of the Christian world; when I witness the inroads of a reckless spirit of innovation; when I see the Protestant societies of Christendom breaking up into disjointed fragments; and hear as it were the distant rumblings of an approaching tempest of disorganization and change, I can see no better security under God, for the preservation of our church from its desolating fury, or for the promotion of your spiritual and eternal welfare, than a steady and temperate attachment to her distinctive character and policy on the part of both her ministry and her members, and a zealous and earnest endeavour on the part of both to understand and to sustain all her institutions. I cannot join in any popular notion which would throw aside her ministry, her episcopacy, her liturgy as inferior matters, unessential to the maintenance of piety in the heart or its diffusion in the world, because I am persuaded that if any thing is to preserve us from the surrounding fires of fanaticism which glare upon us from so many quarters, it will be precisely those features which enthusiasm within and hostility without are striving to mar and to obliterate.
VI. But, my brethren, there is still another important [11/12] particular in which I am to endeavour to be found faithful. Among the solemn questions proposed to me when commissioned with the ministerial authority under which I now address you, was this--"will you maintain and set forward, as much as lieth in you, quietness, peace, and love, among all Christian people, and especially among them that are or shall be committed to your charge?"
To the question I have answered--"I will so do, the Lord being my helper." [Ordination service.]
Here then is a duty of most serious and solemn import. The promotion and the preservation of peace and love among this people especially, are what is exacted of me under the two-fold influence of my general obligation as a Christian, and my special engagements as a Christian minister. It must be my aim to advance this blessed influence among you by the frequent inculcation of this duty, by pointing out the causes which are apt to exclude it, and by urging on you individually and as a body the means by which union, and harmony, and peace can be best preserved. I need not direct your attention now to the value of this inestimable blessing, for who that has witnessed the ruthless effects of disunion and religious contests, rousing as they do the spirit, and conducted, as they often are, in the policy of the world; who that has ever witnessed the distractions of a church, or the discords of a congregation, or the jarrings of a family, can hesitate to admit the wisdom as well piety of our Lord's reiterated injunctions to cultivate love and harmony, or to admire the affectionate spirit of St. John in urging the grace of Christian love upon the disciples of our faith.--But even here, brethren, such is the pervertibility of the best and richest blessings of grace, I am compelled to insert a caution, and to remind you that even peace, holy and godlike as it is, is not to be pursued at the sacrifice of principle. I may not seek to lull you into quiet and repose by any delusive doctrines, or by yielding a ministerial sanction to unholy practices, or unscriptural principles. I must urge peace with one another on the only solid foundation of peace with God. If, as sometimes happens, and as our divine master has forewarned us will sometimes [12/13] happen, the very effort to serve God faithfully shall rouse hostility and occasion discord, while we endeavour to cherish in our own bosoms this blessed companion of the good and holy, we must remember that it is too great a sacrifice even for peace to surrender the holy and immutable principles of Christian truth, and that the same divine scriptures which teach the duty of Christian love, have proclaimed, also, that we must "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." In the records of the long eventful life of the venerable rector of this church, few things can be more grateful than the reflection that sixty years' connexion with this congregation have not witnessed a single controversy amongst its members.--May the same blessed spirit continue to prevail.
VII. There remains another point which I ought not to omit. It is, that I must be found faithful in striving to exemplify, in my own character and life, those holy and heavenly principles which, I am commissioned here to proclaim to you.
Men are apt to expect that if the graces of Christianity are exemplified any where, they must be so in the ministry. And often, too, but little allowance in their case is made for those imperfections of nature and errors of judgment which belong not less to them than to others. There is indeed no peculiar line of moral obligation, or of spiritual requirement, exacted of the Christian ministry essentially different from that which binds the consciences of other Christians. The path of salvation is one. They rely upon the same atonement, they are required to comply with the same conditions, and they are commanded to maintain the same holy character. They are subject to the same infirmities, and share in the same corrupt nature, and have to meet the same general scene of temptation. But although this be true, yet in many things the peculiarity of their position gives immense weight to the example of Christian pastors, and if they disbelieve the doctrines which they preach, or violate the principles which they utter, or neglect the duties which they inculcate, or substitute a worldly character for the humble and holy one which God [13/14] enjoins, the result cannot but be deeply injurious to the cause of Christ and of his church, as well as fatal to themselves.--It is, therefore, by striving to be able to say with St. Paul, "brethren, be ye followers of us even as we are of Christ," by a zealous and holy life, by circumspect and guarded demeanour, by adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour, that we shall most effectually labour to promote the church of God and the salvation of your souls.
Such, my brethren, are some of the points of ministerial duty, in regard to which I must strive to be found faithful.--When I look from the magnitude of the duties, to the feebleness of the agent, or when I suffer my mind to rest upon the fearful responsibility of the station, or when I turn to the awful result of unfaithfulness in this stewardship, or when I bring before my view the extent of mental exertion and physical effort which the faithful instruction of this people will demand, I may well, without affectation, declare that the contemplation is enough to make me shudder. What is to be the issue of the relationship now established? Am I to be the favoured instrument of leading the thoughtless among you to consideration?--the sinful to repentance? Am I destined to be the agent to turn many to righteousness? Am I to be successful in urging the young to seek after God; in calling off the mature from the ways of sin, and disentangling them from coils of worldliness; or in rousing the lethargic spirit of the aged sinner to consecrate the remnant of his days to the service of his Saviour? Am I to rejoice in the view of a zealous, united, docile and holy people, warm in prosecuting the great work of salvation, ready to spend and be spent in the service of Christ, opening their minds to the instructions, and their hearts to the grace of the gospel, submissive to its ordinances, enlightened by its knowledge, and controlled in temper, habit, and life by its holy principles? Or,--tremendous alternative!--if not thus a savour of life, am I to be a savour of death?
Well is it for us that we are not permitted to lift the veil which hides the future from our knowledge. It is only for me faithfully to labour in this my stewardship. The final issue is with God.
 I ask from you then a candid reception of my solemn message. I ask from you an honest consideration of the topics which it will be my duty to present. I ask from you a patient attention to the doctrines which I shall here unfold, and to the duties which I shall here urge. I ask you to remember when listening to the language of entreaty, or to the terms of reproof, or to the denunciations of sin, or to an exposure of the follies and evils of the world, or to the warnings against impenitence and wickedness, which may proceed, in public or in private, from the lips of him who now addresses you, that he speaks as a steward of the divine mysteries, for your spiritual and eternal good, in virtue of a commission from God, and at the peril of his own salvation. I ask you to remember that it is required in Christian stewards that a man be found faithful--faithful to his own conscience--faithful to his people--faithful to his GOD.