BY SAMUEL CABLE,
IT must be acknowledged by every reflecting person, on whose mind the gracious light of Christianity has in any measure dawned, that there is no duty, which, under the Gospel dispensation, man is called upon to perform towards his fellow creatures, at once so interesting, so arduous, and so vitally important, as ministering to them in holy things. The sacred volume of inspiration, in various parts, treats specifically on this subject. In the pages of the Old Testament, that prelude to a brighter dispensation, we read of Prophets being qualified for the execution of their "high behests," by having their "lips touched by sacred fire from off the altars of Jehovah," or "as by the finger of God himself." And in the New Testament there is a variety of passages, which bear directly on the sacred functions of those, who are separated from their brethren for the work of Evangelists. At one time, in these holy pages of revelation, We may [3/4] hear the voice of the blessed Jesus, the great "Shepherd and Bishop of the souls" of his people, addressing itself, in the tone of authoritative command, to his first Apostles, "go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature;" at another, in the persuasive language of love, appealing to one of his favoured disciples, "feed my lambs," and again and again repeating the feeling injunction, "feed my sheep." The inspired epistles also abound with passages enforcing the faithful discharge of the ministerial office. The great Apostle of the Gentiles often touches on this solemn subject. In his Epistle to Titus, he tells him that "in all things, he must shew himself a pattern of good works," "that in doctrine," he must exhibit "uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned," and that he must "exhort and rebuke with all authority." In this place, I might multiply to a very great extent quotations from his writings; but it might with justice be said, that no passage in the whole divine volume more completely embraces all those points to which it might be needful on the present occasion to advert, than the weighty admonition conveyed to Archippus, a teacher of the Gospel, by the Apostle, in his address to the Colossian Church,--whatever might have been; the peculiar circumstances which drew forth this "warning voice" to his fellow-labourer in the spiritual vineyard,--"take heed to the ministry, which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it."
 The words of my text contain three branches: the first expresses a solemn admonition--"take heed to the ministry;" the second reminds us of the authority of the minister's commission--"which thou hast received of the Lord:" and the third is an injunction calculated to add weight and extent to the opening admonition--"that thou fulfil it."
In dependence, then, on God's gracious blessing, for enabling me to convey an impression to the minds of those to whom my subject is on the present occasion peculiarly applicable, I would briefly discourse on the several parts of the text in succession.
First--the solemn admonition: "take heed to the ministry." The ministry here spoken of by: the Apostle, is that service in the Church of Christ, to the faithful discharge of which, every man binds himself by the most indissoluble ties, when he becomes, according to due order, invested with the character of a minister of the Gospel of Jesus. Under such circumstances, to this ministry he must take heed; or, in other words, have the eye of his mind constantly fixed on its varied duties.
It is impossible, when we reflect on the condition in which man is by nature, and on the amazing objects of the ministerial duties, to conceive a more important admonition. Man, indeed, is "far," very far, "gone from original righteousness." Truly his understanding is darkened, his will perverted, his affections depraved. He is an alien from his God. But the ample [5/6] means of restoration to the favour of God here, and of his salvation hereafter, have been graciously devised by a merciful providence; and m every age of the Church, man has been divinely appointed to be the minister of good to his fellow-men. Moses, the servant of the Lord, conducts the chosen race from the house of bondage, and leads them onward in their course to the land of promise: the Prophets spake of the promised seed, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and afforded comfort to the faithful in the expectation of the coming Redeemer: the blessed Jesus, the eternal Son of God, took on him the form of man, that he might go about doing good to the sons of men; in short, that in the end he might offer a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for sin: men were appointed by the divine and risen Saviour, to preach the glad tidings of his everlasting Gospel: and men are, in this our day, the only visible heralds, by which the unsearchable riches of Christ are to be conveyed to a perishing world. "The treasure is contained in earthen vessels."
It is, as I apprehand, in this view of man, as he is by nature, and as he may become through, the operation of divine grace; it is in this view of the minister, as contrasted with the duties and obligations of the ministry, that the admonition before us appears so important, and I may well add, so awful and appalling. Man--such as he is described in the sacred Scriptures--such as in truth experience proves him to be--has, in the case of the Minister, to perform duties, from the [6/7] difficulties of which the highest order of Angels surrounding the throne of Omnipotence, might be disposed to shrink. But he is appointed of God--he is sustained of God--he is animated of God. Every man, however, who is a minister of Christ Jesus, or who is about fully to enter on the sacred duties of that most sacred calling, and is justly impressed with a sense of his own weakness and insufficiency, and of the unspeakable holiness of the profession, would thankfully receive the reiteration of these words--whether they were sounded in his ears by the tongue of an Angel, conveyed to his heart by the still small voice of the spirit of grace, or brought to his recollection by the faultering lips of his humblest brother--"take heed to the ministry."
I would advert, in the second place, to the authority of the minister's commission: "which," says the Apostle, in allusion to the ministry, "thou hast received in the Lord."
The Apostle here intimates, that the person to whom his admonition was first conveyed, "had received the ministry in the name, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ;" and the same assertion may with the utmost propriety be made of every person, who, in strict conformity with the primitive institutions of Christianity, and with a heart influenced aright, eaters on the sacred office. The passage is, indeed, eminently calculated to impress the mind of the sincere minister, with the apprehension of the sacred source, from which he has received his highest commission; to keep alive, and operative, [7/8] the recollection of those solemn vows, by which he binds himself to the service of the sanctuary; and to induce him fondly to cherish in his mind the declaration, "that he trusted he was inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, to take upon him tile office, and ministration;" and thus, consequently, to act as a most powerful stimulus to the unwearied performance of duty.
I would not, however, be mistaken. The ordinary operations, indeed, of the spirit of God, are not open to the palpable observation of man. "The wind," says the blessed Jesus to the enquiring Nicodemus," "bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every man that is born of the Spirit." So, it may be added, is every man, who, in the language of our Ordination service above alluded to, is inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost. Motive, too, in its very nature, is beyond the scrutiny of man. It is cognizable alone, before the awful tribunal of God. It is impossible, therefore, without the highest presumption, to determine on its operation in the case of others; nay, such is its subtlety, that it is exceedingly difficult in our own cases. It is enough for his own satisfaction, that the minister--when he enters into that examination of heart, which he is bound to recommend as a solemn duty to others--be convinced of the lawfulness of his call, and of the soundness and purity of his motives. But it is evident that others will be disposed to form favorable or unfavorable conclusions of the [8/9] motives which have actuated him in his choice, from the manner in which he subsequently perform his duties. If his life and conversation be governed by the pure principles of Christian morals,--if his temper be subdued,--if his passions be held in subjection,--if justice, forbearance, and meekness be the guide of his conduct towards his neighbour,--if moderation, temperance, and prayer, be the discipline which he holds over himself,--if the spirit of a pious communion, with God, which he endeavours to cultivate in private, spontaneously burst forth in his public ministration,--if a judicious and well directed zeal guide his labours,--if unwearied exertions to promote virtue, and to animate to piety, to suppress vice, and banish indifference, mark his course,--if it be his aim to instruct the ignorant, to raise and support the feeble-minded,--then, it would be worse than want of charity, to assign any other, than the highest, the best, the purest motive, for his choice.
I would now, in the last place, say a few words, on the concluding branch of my text, which, as I stated, is an injunction calculated to add weight and extent to the opening admonition--"that them fulfil it."
In considering this branch of the subject, we are immediately reminded of that other exhortation of the Apostle,--"take heed to thyself, and to the doctrine." It is impossible that the minister, in obedience to the injunction of the Apostle, can fulfil the great objects of his ministry, which are in their highest end, to restore [9/10] fallen man to the favour of his offended God in this world, and to fit him, through the merits and propitiation of a crucified Saviour, for eternal happiness in that which is to come, unless he pay implicit attention to this injunction. He must be deeply, and in heart, convinced of the truth of all the doctrines of the Gospel: he must unceasingly teach these truths, and press them on the consciences of his hearers: in short, he must live in these truths; and, in his own person, he must be an exact example of a sober, righteous, and godly life. How much is comprehended in this brief description!--Entire soundness of doctrine; unblemished purity of conduct, genuineness of piety; and fervency of zeal.
I would here, however, enter a little more minutely into the duties of the ministry. The duties of the minister would comprehend the doctrines which he is bound to inculcate--the studies which it is his peculiar province to pursue--the discharge of the public and private offices of his sacred function.
It is not a matter of indifference, on what foundation the minister build the obligation to duty. He must invite to virtuous and Christian practice, on the right motives: he must thus frequently dwell on the pure, and holy, and exalted attributes of Jehovah, as they are revealed in his sacred oracles: he must enlarge on the mercies of God, as they are evidenced in the creation, preservation, and redemption of man: he must bring his people practically to feel the corruption of their nature, arising out of the sad [10/11] transgression of their first parents: he must convince them, that thus fallen as they are, "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby they must be saved, but only the name of the Lord Jesus Christ:" he must shew them, that thus depraved, they need the converting and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit: he must hold forth the indispensable importance of faith, and the positive necessity of works, as the best evidence of its genuineness: and he must frequently exhibit a description of the realities of the eternal world, in which rewards and punishments await the faithful and disobedient servants of the Lord.
It would be too vain, indeed, if the minister were to strive to teach others, were he not to exert himself to be perpetually learning those lessons, which it is his peculiar province to impress on others. If this maxim in any degree apply to all common sciences, it is peculiarly so in that which may be considered the sublimest. The Clergyman's highest study should be the Scriptures of truth. But for the proper understanding of these, he must have recourse to the best interpreters; and he would do well for this, and other important ends, to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the writings of the most eminent divines, especially those of his own venerable Church. Above all things, however, in his varied pursuits, he must ever seek for the gracious assistance of God's holy spirit, as the blessed and only effective means of having impressed on his heart, and its affections, the lessons, [11/12] that may be inscribed, on his understanding and memory. Such would be the best preparation for the full discharge of his public and private duties.
It may with truth be said, that very much of the success of the minister's exertions, depends on the manner, in which he perform the public services of the sanctuary. To do this part of his duty with effect, he must pour forth the prayers and intercessions, with all that humility, fervour, and devotion, which would naturally flow from the heart-felt conviction, that they were offered by a sinful being, as the voice of himself and fellow worshippers, to a God of spotless perfection, through a Saviour, Mediator, and Intercessor of boundless mercy and compassion: he must read the several portions of Scripture selected for the daily services, as the oracles of his God: he must deliver the exhortations, as the divinely appointed herald of the Almighty: he must repeat the commandments, as the transcript of the will of heaven: he must administer the holy Sacraments of the Church, with the solemn conviction on his mind, that they are the most important outward visible signs, designed by the Blessed Jesus himself, to produce an inward and spiritual grace: he must read the office of the burial of the dead, with an abiding impression of his own mortality, that he may more successfully convey the fruitful persuasion to the attendants on the funeral:--in short, in all the formularies, he must so minister, as to shew that it is the anxious desire of his soul, that the[12/13] gracious end, for which they were appointed, might be effectually attained: he must preach the word, with the earnest and sincere desire of bringing his people to the full knowledge of "the truth as it is in Jesus;" "of delivering," in the faithful discharge of his duty, "his own soul;" and of "saving the souls of them that hear him."
But let not the minister suppose, that when he has done all these things to the fullest extent, and in the most unexceptionable manner, that he has fulfilled his duty. He is to be the ministering servant of his God, for the spiritual edification of his fellow-men, as well on the week day as on the Sabbath, and in every imaginable situation, as well as in the Church. In a certain sense, he must" teach from house to house:" he must reprove, exhort, and comfort as occasion offers. A very important part of that, which may be comprehended in the private duty of the pastor, is visiting the sick. Under whatever spiritual circumstances the patient may be placed, his ministrations will be of the highest value. He may find it needful to endeavour to be the "helper of the joy" of the faithful servant of Christ; compassionately to "bind up the broken heart," "to lift up the hands which hang down,) and the feeble knees;" or to become the honest reprover of the obstinately impenitent. Under all these several conditions, he must avail himself, to the utmost, for the production of a salutary end, of the impressions, which suffering is wont to produce. But it will never be unnecessary for him, standing at the bed side of the [13/14] sick and dying, to dwell on the holiness of God, the natural sinfulness of man, the importance of a genuine repentance, the efficacy of a vital faith in the blessed Saviour of sinners, and the necessity for the cleansing and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, on the heart and its affections.
I have taken, indeed, but a hasty view of the duties of the Clergyman, in the faithful discharge of which, he may be said to fulfil his ministry; but it would be utterly impossible, in the short compass of a discourse from this place, even on such an occasion, to take in every consideration. Something, however, I would say, on the extent, to which these duties should be made to apply. In the Ordination service, the person about to be admitted to the holy order of the Priesthood, is admonished by the Bishop, that "he is never to cease his labour, and care, and diligence, until he have done all that in him lieth, to bring all such as are committed to his charge, into that agreement in the faith, and that knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfection of age in Christ, that there be no place left, either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life." It were an almost needless comment, on this simple, but powerful and eloquent passage, to say, that the duty of the Clergyman is considered by it, as extending to every soul within the compass of that district, which has been committed to his spiritual charge--"to high and low, to rich and poor, to bond and free." There was, it must be acknowledged, [14/15] a darker period in the history of these colonies, when the labourers of the soil, of African birth or descent, were scarcely considered as forming a part of the minister's flock; but a ray of celestial light hath burst in upon our land from the Gospel of Christ, hath dispelled the mists of error, and, God be thanked, is daily shining unto a more perfect brightness: and I am persuaded, that every sincere minister, when he looks back in his mind to that period to which I have alluded, would entertain the feelings of the deepest regret, that it should ever have existed, and would "rejoice with joy unspeakable," in the consideration that those individuals of our population, which are characterized as slaves, are contemplated as men--as capable, by God's grace, of becoming Christians, and heirs of an imperishable glory. But, it must, however, be fairly acknowledged, that in the important department of the Clergyman's duty in a Parish in the West Indies, conveying religious instructions to the slaves, there are still very great difficulties. He will, in most cases, have, among other things, to contend with gross ignorance, and with habits averse from a stated and regular attendance on the public services of the Church. He will consequently find it necessary, by private and simple means of instruction, to (endeavour to) effect their real edification; and often times, to carry his sacred instructions to their very homes, in order in any degree to secure a hearing: but as he proceeds in his course, these difficulties will, it may be [15/16] reasonably hoped, be gradually decreasing. Some holy impressions, through God's blessing upon his unceasing efforts, will be made on the hearts of the adults, and the young, as they grow in years, by the operation of the schools, which are now so generally established, and the number of which are daily increasing, will be the more disposed, and the better prepared to hear, and more qualified to be spiritually benefited, by the public preaching of the word of life.
Let us, then, my dearly beloved brethren, that are already of the ministry, and that are on this occasion to be fully invested with its sacred obligations, deeply consider the exhortation of the Apostle,--"take heed to the ministry:" let us fix our eyes on the source, from which we derive the office, "which thou hast received in the Lord:" let us, by God's special grace, shew to our own satisfaction, and to the conviction of our brethren of the people, that the motives of our choice have been sincere. And O, let us endeavour to discharge all our duties, that, in short, we should "fulfil the ministry." Let neither the infirmities, nor the ignorances, nor the errors, nor the sins of the many of our flocks; nor the delicacy, or difficulty of the work, induce us, in any degree, to shrink from our obligations, but rather suffer all these considerations to act as they should do, as inducements to increased patience, perseverance, and vigour; so that if we "be not weary, and faint not," we may receive finally, a crown of reward, through the merits of the gracious Master, into whose service we have [16/17] been called, and by whose spirit we may be animated.
For myself, my brethren, I would say, that I feel disposed, from the interest of this day's solemnities, to take occasion, in great humility, to renew my own vows; and I would, in great earnestness, and, I would trust, sincerity, pray that the Almighty Lord would enable me with that strength, which he can impart, to serve him for the residue of my days, be they few or many, more devotedly and effectually in the ministry of Christ Jesus.
Here, I would close; but when I look around me, and observe so numerous and respectable a congregation, many of whom have been brought hither by the novelty in this place of an Ordination, and who may yet suppose themselves personally uninterested in the subject, which has now occupied our attention, I cannot forbear, ere I conclude, addressing a few words, more especially applicable to you, my brethren of the laity. Do you for an instant suppose, that you have little concern in the subject which has been discussed? You are mistaken. You are, let me assure you, intensely concerned. It is highly important, that you should have a just apprehension of the duties of the minister, so that you may have a brotherly feeling for him, on account of the difficulties, and awful responsibilities of his situation--that you may, in your private devotions at the throne of grace, pray that a divine blessing may descend on his labours--that you may hold him in honor for his work's [17/18] sake--that you may justly proportion that honor to the fidelity with which he discharges, his sacred trust--and that, peculiarly constituted as society is in these colonies, consisting, in so large a proportion, of slaves, you may feel the imperative necessity of your sanction and influence, in promoting the efficacy of his labours among that class of the community, over whose temporal and spiritual interests, you may be said, as masters, so essentially to preside.
And, remember also, my brethren, that if the Scriptures abound with exhortations bearing specially on the minister--if he be called on "to take heed to the ministry"--if he be exhorted to look to the sacred source, from which he derives his authority, and from which he may draw his strength, his support, and comfort--if he be admonished to put forth the best energies of body, mind, and soul, to fill up the extended circle of duty and obligation; it is not alone that he may deliver his own soul; but it is mainly for your sakes--that he may call you from darkness, error, and sin, to light, to truth, and holiness--that he may be the humble, though effective, instrument, in God's hands, of administering to your spiritual instruction and comfort here, and of leading you, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, to everlasting happiness hereafter, through the merits and propitiation of Christ. O, then, my brethren, let none of us, in any wise, labour in vain; but so receive our humblest ministrations, that you may be really benefited--that you may become truly Christians in life and  heart--and that we may have to present you, as "our crown of rejoicing, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, at his coming to judgment. Amen."