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made, and the step then taken, be it for good or evil, sends its spreading and controlling influence over the man through time and into eternity; when all of weal or of wo that awaits him, seems summed up in what he does, and decides on, at that one hour or one moment of his being; and when, though all his future life may contribute to the same result, yet then and there was the turning point of his everlasting destiny.
And now, my beloved hearers, who would not desire to be taught, how he can know and discern, in time, these periods of his moral history, which are so pregnant with good or evil to all his subsequent existence here and hereafter? There is no secrecy about them; no difficulty in knowing and ascertaining them. God desires to make them plain; so that he who runs may read, and reading may understand. Let us consider then, as we proposed,
II. How those seasons may be known; how we can discern their occur
1. In times of affliction; especially if it be affliction immediately from the hand of God. There is something in the rod, especially if held in God's hand, that has a melting tendency on the heart. Whether it be disease inflicted on ourselves, or death bereaving us of those we love; it is designed by Him, who afflicts, as a "time of visitation," as 66 a day" on which much depends, as to the future condition of the heart. There may be those who harden themselves under the chastisement; and who, like Pharaoh, or like Israel of old, if smitten more, will but harden themselves, and will but sin more and more. And when this is the case with any man, we have reason to fear, his day of visitation is gone by; and that he is now given up, as one past feeling." Alas for the man, who can feel himself carried near his own grave, or can look into the fresh grave of one dear to him, and yet not melt-and yet not feel that God is speaking to him loudly and earnestly. He may call it firmness; God and his angels call it "hardness and blindness." He inay felicitate himself on what he can bear, while all this cherished insensibility is only ripening him for a heavier doom, when his heart will break beneath the curse of Him to whose rod he refused to yield.
But it was not always so with any man; I hope it is not yet so with any one before me. I would hope that if the rod of Heaven fall on any of you, the day of its coming may be the day of your peace with God. To secure this result, watch your own hearts, when suffering under sorrows; and watch them also when the sorrow is gone, lest like a deceitful bow they turn aside, and leave your last state worse than the first. Many, many thousands among the redeemed, are now looking back on days of grief, and saying, "It is good that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy word." It was in this way God reclaimed them from their wanderings. And in this way has he brought many to a stand, who, until the hour of their sorrow, were hasting in the downward path to perdition.
And here I would mention one class of transgressors, who are generally reached in this way, if ever the day of saving power overtakes them at all. I mean those sons and daughters of pious parents, who, though instructed in the
way of truth and duty, have yet despised it, and are living in prolonged impenitence and unbelief. Aggravated guilt rests on all such. In infancy, they were commended to God in faith and prayer. In childhood, they were trained for God by parental precept and example. And if, in mature years, they turn aside and walk in the ways of sin, he has but two ways of treating them. He either pronounces the sentence on them, "Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone;" and then perhaps pours his abundance around them-their hearts growing hard, as their prosperity is full; or in mercy, refusing to give them up, he sends his rod, his scourge, that by its strokes he may chastise their wanderings, and save them from utter ruin. Thus he reached Manasseh, the son of good Hezekiah; and reclaimed him from his idolatries; though to save his soul he lost his crown, and was sent in chains a prisoner to Babylon. (2 Chron. xxxiii. 11—13.) If any should then tremble to let the day of their affliction pass by unsanctified, it is such as I have now described. Their last hope is gone, if severe chastisement comes, and leaves them still unreclaimed to God.
2. I have time to allude only to one other critical period in the life of the sinner. It is, when God's word is accompanied with unusual power, either upon those around him, or on his own heart. God's calls in his gospel are always earnest, and always loud. But there are times when his voice waxes louder and louder, and when the power which accompanies it, rends the rocks asunder, and makes the mountains to tremble and quake. (Exodus xix. 18, 19.) Such a day did the Israelites see when they stood at the foot of Sinai, and listened to the voice of God, as he pronounced to them the words of his law. Such a day did Jerusalem see, when the Son of God was in the midst of her. He then "spake as never man spake." "The people were astonished at his doctrine," and "wondered at the words of truth and grace which proceeded from his lips." A day, too, of still greater power accompanying his word, was seen, when, "Pentecost having come, the apostles were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave utterance;"--" to speak the wonderful works of God," and to speak with such power, that " on the same day, thousands were added to the church of such as should be saved."
Nor are days of special power, accompanying God's word, unknown in later times. Who has not heard of those seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord," which have been granted of late years, and are granted still, to revive his heritage, when languishing? Yes, and in his infinite and sovereign mercy, we have seen them and felt them; seen and felt them in this sanctuary. We have seen the day when the very same truth, which now falls on the ear of many like water on the rock, melted those who heard it into contrition in a moment, and raised the anxious inquiry from old and young, "What must I do to be saved?" And all this was so, because God was then in a special manner here, and accompanied his word with special manifestations of his presence and power.
Whenever and wherever such seasons come, they constitute "the day" of those who see them; they are a "time of visitation" from God, when he comes in great mercy; when he calls loudly and powerfully upon all to return
to him; and when all that will come are welcomed and saved. And what we admonish all to remember, is, that if their unbelief outlives such seasons of mercy, there is reason to fear it will destroy them for ever. There is most solemn meaning on this point, in the words of the prophet, where he calls "the acceptable year of the Lord, the day of vengeance of our God." For, strange as it may seem, the time of one, is always a time of the other--a day marked as a day of acceptance WITH God, by the freedom and power with which he makes his salvation known, is always marked as a day of vengeance FROM God, by the righteous indignation, wherewith he casts off and leaves to their own hardened unbelief those who still persist in rebellion, in defiance of the loud calls they then hear. How was it in the cases already recited? There were many in the congregation of Israel, who heard the voice of the Lord when he spake from Sinai, and who stood out against it all, and did not believe in him; and the consequence then was, that, because they believed not, God sware that they should not enter into his rest; and they went on grieving his Spirit, till "their carcasses fell in the wilderness." And, as we are taught by our Lord in the text to expect that it should be, equally marked and fatal was the issue to the great mass of those who heard his warning and powerful voice in the days of his flesh, and yet did not believe on him. There were some in the nation, whose eyes were opened, and who embraced him as the Saviour, even after they had aided to crucify him. But from the multitude, from Jerusalem as a city, "the day" was passed, "the time of visitation" was gone. They had refused to hear him, while 66 dwelling among them full of grace and truth," and "teaching the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." And now, when others saw and believed, "the things which belonged to their peace were hidden from their eyes."
Let us then, my hearers, "beware lest a promise being left us of entering into rest, we should fail, and come short of it, after the same example of unbelief." We have heard the terrors of the law and the grace of the gospel. We have seen, perhaps felt, the trembling and anxiety produced by the one, when revealed in its power; and we have seen, if we have not felt, the grace and sweetness of the other, when those around us have bowed beneath its influence, and believed to life everlasting. And if we have seen others thus taken, while we are still left, then how earnestly and instantly should we be up and doing! Up, up, and do; as if you felt the alternative of heaven or hell to depend on the decision of this hour "The Spirit and the bride say, Come; and let him that heareth, say, Come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Perhaps, long as you have delayed, the call may still be for you. "We, then, as workers together with God, beseech you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. For he saith, I have heard thee, in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee. Behold, Now is the accepted time; behold, Now is the day of salvation."
No. 9. VOL. 10.]
[WHOLE NO. 117.
BY REV. BAXTER DICKINSON.
Delivered on the occasion of his inauguration as Professor of Sacred Rhetoric and Pastoral Theology, in Lane Seminary, Cincinnati, Dec. 17, 1835.
THE IMPORTANCE AND MEANS OF AN ABLE MINISTRY.
2 TIM. ii. 15. A workman that needeth not to be ashamed.
THE public ministry of religion is of divine appointment. It has always been God's leading instrumentality in maintaining the cause of truth, piety, and salvation and it is to endure "to the end of the world." In the arrangements of Christ for setting up his kingdom on earth, this institution is very prominent. He selected the men, trained them under his own eye, sent them forth to preach, and gave them instructions for perpetuating the holy order.
No one can doubt that the ministry is a wise appointment. Every great interest needs special supervision; and the greater the interest, the more systematic and thorough, obviously, should be the supervision. And the ministry, as a great guardian influence, is seen at once to be wisely adapted to its momentous objects. It was designed of God to exert great moral power over individuals and communities, for the advancement of the highest interests, both of time and eternity. Hence, good men have always looked, with wakeful concern, to the character and qualifications of the ministry. This solicitude has been natural and right; nor is it less important now than at any former period.
A characteristic, first in importance, beyond question, is decided godliness. For the absence of this, nothing can atone. Scripture demands it. The nature of the office demands it. The Christian teacher should have the fruits of the Spirit in strong, vivid, and prominent exercise. He must be "a man of God; full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost-rooted and grounded in love."
But while this is indispensable, other qualifications are also essential. The Head of the church would have an energetic, as well as honest and devoted ministry. And hence the necessity of looking to its intellectual as well as religious character. It is obvious there are many causes now tending strongly to lower the ministerial character, and thus to abridge its influence and usefulness. These I need not even name. They are, most of them, alas, too familiar. The danger will be obviated, if the church but duly respect herself and the honor of her King, and thus, with proper feeling, insist on the qualifications which God himself requires in her pastors. It cannot, then, be amiss, at such a time, and on such an occasion, to dwell on
THE IMPORTANCE OF AN ABLE MINISTRY..
1. That such a ministry was designed of God for men, is clearly manifest from Scripture precept. "The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth." "Till I come, give attendance to reading." VOL. X. No. 9.
"Neglect not the gift that is in thee." "Meditate upon these things." "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed."
In accordance with such positive precept, there are also indirect expressions of the divine will. "The same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach." "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." It is said of Apollos, in commendation, that he was "an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures;" that "he spake boldly in the synagogue, and mightily convinced the Jews." It is said of Paul, that "his letters were weighty and powerful." And of himself he testifies, "though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge." In view of such Scripture, who can doubt that it is the pleasure of God to have a ministry of vigorous and wellcultivated mind, as well as heart?-of high intellectual as well as religious character-able to teach-of sound speech, that cannot be condemned-well furnished with all the qualities for strong and resistless bearing upon the public mind.
2. The importance of an able ministry is evident from the express provision God has made for training and supporting it. In the Jewish nation, there were various regulations, designed to secure eminent qualifications in the sacred office. There were nearly fifty theological schools. None were allowed to enter the priesthood till thirty years of age. Large funds were set apart for sustaining men, both in their preparation and in actual service-funds so ample as to take away all temptation to deviate from appropriate study and labor. And none were expected to entangle themselves with the affairs of this life, either before or after entering the sacred office.
The spirit of these arrangements was retained in the Christian dispensation. The twelve had the very best of training and instruction, before they were authorized to preach. Nor were they much from under the supervision of their great Teacher, during his ministry of three years. He forbade their taking either bread or money, or even two coats apiece, on their mission; but instructed them to rely entirely on others for the means of support. He endued them also with the power of miracles. After his crucifixion he bestowed still higher gifts-larger measures of the Spirit, and the power of speaking in different tongues-gifts, all designed and adapted to make able ministers of the New Testament. And who questions, that, thus furnished, they were indeed men of great strength, as well as piety and zeal? With what energy and effect could they assail the powers of sin! How resistless the majesty of truth from their lips!
But the personal example and instructions of Christ are withdrawn. The power of miracles, the gift of tongues, and the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, are withdrawn. And what does this providence indicate, but that other preparatory means, of corresponding force, are to be substituted? It will not be pretended, that human nature is less perverse now than it was then. The minister of this day, therefore, needs as much power as did Peter and his
3. Another consideration in point is, that all the most important movements in the church have taken place under the instrumentality of able men. Why were Moses and Aaron selected to rescue Israel from bondage-to instruct them on their journey to Canaan, and to arrange for them a splendid system of religious polity?-why, but for their peculiar qualifications?the one being learned in al. the wisdom of his age, and divinely inspired; and the other a man of ready and commanding address. Who have displayed nobler powers than David and many of the prophets? But why were not men of inferior capacity selected to be thus honored of God, if talents are of no account with him?
But not less illustrious have been the chief actors in every great movement of the Christian church. The twelve disciples, though taken from humble life, as we have seen, were not sent out till thoroughly trained, and endued with capacity for wise and powerful action. The apostle Paul was a master-spirit of his age. He had genius: he had the best mental discipline: he had stores