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1 THESS. 11. 19, 20.
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ? Are not
even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.
Numerous difficulties, and causes of depression, are, in all periods, connected with the lives of faithful ministers of religion.—Their office necessarily brings them into collision with the dispositions and passions of others. As all men inherit a dislike to their Creator and his claims, they of course resist the message which is delivered on his behalf, and which is intended to remind them of their obligations and their destinies. This hostility to the truth has frequently assumed a character of personal spite against those by whom that truth has been proclaimed; misrepresentation and contempt have flowed plentifully upon them; and in some ages, they have been made to feel the brutal energies of persecution, in its visitations of imprisonment and death. When the more palpable and violent operations of opposing depravity have not appeared, it nevertheless has always presented, as it must always present, a source of uneasiness and pain to the persons set apart to labour for its subjugation ; nor can they, under any circumstances, proceed in their spiritual struggle, without the occurrence of events and the excitement of feelings fraught with discouragement and sorrow. In addition to these,—the momentous nature of their charge, their responsibility to God, and the prospect of rendering their account amidst the solemnities of the final judgment, impose upon them a weighty burden ; and except their supports were proportioned to their trials, they might well sink into the deepest gloom with which despondency could cover them.
It is pleasing to remark, that in the times of the apostles, when the difficulties and hardships attached to the ministry of the gospel were of the most appalling kind, the devoted servants of Christ were able to state their possession of supports and consolations, which imparted ample animation to their minds, and perseverance to their efforts.-“ We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed ; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken ; cast down, but not destroyed.--Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” “ As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things !"* Such was the
* 2 Cor. iv. 8, 9, 16. vi. 9, 10.
beautiful and pointed proclamation of the renowned apostle of the Gentiles, as to the official condition of himself and his holy companions. Powerful must have been the comforts that sustained them :—and let it be remembered, that there are comforts permanently provided for the work of the ministry, in every case appropriate and adequate, and furnishing, in every distress, a resource which can fill the mind with courage and exultation.
The epistle from which we have selected the matter for our present address, is one, from an attentive perusal of which, you may become well acquainted with the nature of ministerial encouragement, and be able to trace all the springs from whence are derived ministerial cheerfulness and vigour. Without attempting formally to separate and enumerate them, we have to deduce and observe generally,—that the cordial reception by our fellow-men of the message of divine truth which is delivered to them, prompts us, as the teachers of truth, to reflections, and is associated with prospects, transcendently elevating and delightful. From several interesting passages, this fact might appear ; but from none can it be more fully illustrated than from the words of the text—the address of ministers to believers,
-“ For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ? Are not even ye in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy."
In dwelling on these expressions, it must not be imagined that we are about to dilate on topics which are of importance to ministers alone,-all Christians will necessarily feel personal interest and pleasure. With earnest desire are we inspired, that without a' sacrifice of faithfulness, we may be able to utter this address to you all!
I. THERE IS A STRONG RELIGIOUS AFFECTION
CHERISHED BY MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL TO
WARDS THEIR BELIEVING HEARERS.
These verses clearly discover the existence and operation of Christian love in the bosom of the apostle, especially resulting from the religious relationship established between him, and the persons to whom his appeal was directed. Such emotion toward them, is distinctly and directly avowed, in previous expressions of the epistle. They are entitled, “ brethren beloved.” “ We were,” says their honoured teacher, in reference to himself and his fellow-labourers,
gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children. So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear to us. remember, brethren, our labour and travail ; for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses,
and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you that believe : as ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God.-We, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.” The fervid attachment which these terms exemplify, must be evident to all. The spirit in which the apostle also writes to the saints of the other churches he was called upon to address by letter, displays the influence of the same tenderness,-a tenderness which rendered him ready to pour out his blood, so that he might rejoice with them in their salvation.
The manner in which the true ministers of the gospel are related to those whose spiritual welfare they superintend, must, of necessity, always involve the exercise of kindly solicitude on their behalf. This is at once clear from the terms by which in the Scriptures their vocation is illustrated. They are called shepherds, watchmen, teachers, guides ; and surely it is impossible to fill such stations under a due impression of their importance, without feeling towards those whom they feed as shepherds, those whom they protect as watchmen, those whom they instruct as teachers, those whom they lead as guides, an affectionate interest of heart.