Joseph Eckley (1750-1811) graduated from Princeton in 1772. He was the pastor of the Old South Church in Boston beginning in 1779. Eckley was an original member of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Christians. (This Society is discussed in WallBuilders' book The Jefferson Lies.)
This sermon was preached by Rev. Eckley in Concord, NH on July 1, 1789 on the ordination of Israel Evans.
Delivered at the Ordination
Of Rev. Israel Evans,
With a Part of
Dr. MacClintock’s Charge.
July 1st, 1789.
II CORINTHIANS, IV. 7.
WE HAVE THIS TREASURE IN EARTHEN VESSELS.
So great is the variety of scripture passages suitable for the introduction of a discourse on an occasion like the present that I confess myself to have been at some difficulty in making a particular choice. How far my determination in preference of the passage which I have now read may be acceptable, I am unable to say: But as it will certainly introduce a number of serious thoughts, in which, whatever may be our different employments in life, or our stations in the Church, we are all highly interested, I shall rely on your candor, whilst at the request of my worthy friend, the Pastor elect of this Society, I proceed to offer them to you.
The apostle, in several chapters of this Epistle, enlarges greatly on the excellency and importance of the Gospel Ministry. It will not be needful to take up your time by an explanation of the context, as I conceive I shall be sufficiently justified from the use which he makes of the passage now chosen as the text, to select from it, and propose to you for the present time, this single and well known truth, viz. that in the economy of grace, the treasure of the Gospel, with a particular view to its publick dispensation, is entrusted with frail and imperfect men; or to render the idea still more concise, I would express, that the work of the Ministry, or the great honour and privilege of preaching the Gospel, is committed by the Divine Being, to those, who may be called earthen vessels. If this was the case in the days of the Apostle, it is certainly the case in ours. And as the event is part of the plan or method chosen by the Almighty in conducting the great work of grace, it surely becomes us to give it a proper attention, that we may not only be able to justify, but admire it.
What I design in this discourse is to endeavour, in the first place, to show on what accounts the Ministers of the Gospel may be compared with earthen vessels;--secondly, to illustrate the fitness and propriety of the important work of the Ministry being committed to such imperfect instruments;--and lastly, to consider the moral duties and reflections which the knowledge of this truth most naturally suggests.
FIRST then I am to show on what accounts the Ministers of the Gospel may be compared with earthen vessels.
And first, they may be compared with earthen vessels in consideration of their natural weaknesses, infirmities, and wants. Derived from earthly parents, they are possessed of bodies which are continually liable to pain, sickness, and decay. The earthly houses of their tabernacle, like all earthly things, call for the greatest care and attention of the inhabitants. Subject to hunger, to thirst, and cold, they are indebted to common bounties of God’s providence for each day’s preservation; nor can even these relieve them from many occasional distresses, or prevent their finally falling by the arrests of death. Yielding gradually to the sentence which was at first pronounced in Paradise, they live in constant expectation of its complete fulfillment, knowing that it is written concerning each of them, as every other descendant of Adam, Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
But secondly, as the comparison in the text applies to the natural infirmities under which the Ministers of the Gospel labour, in like manner the application holds good in relation to those which are moral. Is there a righteous man on earth, who doeth good, and sinneth not? If so, you will be ready to conclude that he may be found among the Preachers of the holy Gospel. But there is no such person in the collective body. The Ministers of Christ are not only subject to like passions with other men, but are amenable for possessing the same natural corruptions and depravity of heart. The more they look within themselves, and contemplate the nature and tendency of sin, the more they find reason with the Apostle to exclaim, O wretched men that we are; who shall deliver us from the body of this death? Who indeed but Jesus Christ, through the efficacy of his Gospel? To the same Gospel therefore which they preach to others, they apply for consolation and deliverance themselves. In the same Saviour they trust for redemption, without whose grace they would not only be destitute of all hope of the favour and friendship of God, but would assuredly perish in their sins. With the additional rapture which their own experience produces, they are thus able to use the exclamation, O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, manifested in the redemption of sinners by his son Jesus Christ!
Thus have I shortly exhibited to you, on what accounts the Ministers of the Gospel may be compared with earthen vessels. I have drawn the comparison however, from a view of only one side of the subject. You must be sensible that there is many a vessel, which, though it be made of clay and continually liable to be broken, is at the same time very beautiful in its formation, and as long as it lasts is well calculated for the honorable station to which it is advanced. It would be a sad description of the Minister of Christ, if it included in it no other idea than that of his being a frail, a weak, and sinful man. Although the Apostle was always very ready to acknowledge his own imperfections both natural and moral, as well as those of his brethren and cotemporaries in the service of his Lord; yet as it is evident that he entertained the most honourable sentiments of the character of the person who, according to the plan of the New Testament, was qualified to preach the Gospel; I shall think that I confine myself to the business pointed out in the text, by endeavouring to give a short description of one, who, though he may be compared with an earthen vessel, may notwithstanding be called a good Minister of Jesus Christ.
It is requisite, in the first place, that he should be a good man.—By this I do not intend that he should merely be externally moral. No doubt it is of the utmost consequence that his life and conversation should, in this particular, be correspondent with his profession, and that he should have a good report among his fellow men. But it is moreover essential that he should be a converted man, giving reasonable evidence that, in some good measure, he has felt the power of the Christian religion on his heart, and happily experienced the influence of the several graces and affections which characterize those who in the scriptures are called believers, being born of God, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.----Though it may at times happen that the labours of an unsanctified Preacher may be rendered useful to the people of his charge, yet the prospect, in general, is very gloomy and discouraging. It is the real acquaintance with the nature of the divine love in the soul, which bestows life to the publick labours of a Minister,--lustre to his example, and stamps a value on his character, which in all respects is most desirable in one, who by profession is engaged in treating with men on matters which are of infinite importance.
To this let it be added secondly,--it is essential to the good Minister of Jesus, that he be a man of knowledge, having at least a tolerable acquaintance with human sciences, and certainly a very good acquaintance with the great and fundamental doctrines of the Gospel which he is to preach.—He should be a scribe who is well instructed—able and apt to teach, and rightly divide the word of truth.
There are other qualifications greatly to be desired: I dwell on the two already mentioned, as those which are indispensable. The power of religion, and knowledge of the Gospel, will not only make the employment of the Minister the most delightful of all others, but will inspire him with a force and capaciousness of mind, eminently sitting him for the service of his Master. They will bestow on him a truly brilliant genius; or at least, will so vastly strengthen it, where it is naturally possessed, as to mark on his exertions the greatest prospect of success. As it was the fire of patriotism, and love of liberty, which formed the Grecian and Roman Orators; so will the love and knowledge of his profession, essentially assist in forming the Christian Orator, who from his experience of divine things, will address his hearers with a solemnity and animation which they cannot resist—will paint to them the corruption of the human heart, and ingratitude of sin, in language, the strength of which they will not be able to deny—will represent the charms of holiness in a manner compelling them to acknowledge the beauty of the draught—and then, by all which is interesting to them in the present and future worlds, will call on them to embrace a plan of Redemption, in which is contained infinite wisdom, and to accept of an offered Redeemer, who is infinitely worthy and good.
Shall I be permitted to inquire whether we have not sometimes taken notice of a mode of preaching which is too dry, speculative, and uninteresting—which, though it may comprise in it some truths as far as they go, is confined to subjects, comparatively of trifling consequence—is cold and unanimating, containing little more of the Gospel than might be found in the morals of Seneca, or deduced from the once boasted of maxims of the ancient heathen schools. As the importance of the Christian religion to men, and the concern which they have in its doctrines, is the same now as in the days of the Apostles, may it not be expected that the Ministers in every age will greatly form their discourses after the model which these eminent servants of Christ Jesus have transmitted to them?
It must be confessed indeed that the circumstances of things, in some respects, are altered. The greater numbers of hearers in the assemblies to which the Apostles usually addressed themselves, were unbelievers. As far as relates to a rational conviction of the truths of Christianity, it is the reverse in ours. In respect to the doctrines which the immediate successors of our Saviour delivered and penned, there was a dependence on miraculous inspiration by the Holy Spirit. Without this dependence, a great part of the business of a Preacher, in the present state of the Church, will be to endeavour to explain these doctrines; it being hardly supposable, with regard to many of them, that it was expected by their Divine Author they would be so fully understood at their first delivery, as in the more danced state of the Christian world.—In the prosecution of this work, the judicious servant of Jesus will naturally be led to enlarge on the essential truths of the Gospel system—comparing scripture with scripture—reasoning on the analogy and beauty discoverable in the whole;--thus enriching his sermons with many pertinent observations, and useful thoughts.
But notwithstanding the diversity now hinted at, in the manner of preaching, arising from the diversity of circumstances between the past and present ages of the Church; yet as to the principal things to be inculcated, they will ever remain without change. Whilst men are sinners, the great and primary business of the Preacher will be to convince them of the fact—discover to them their danger, and urge them to repent, and cordially believe in the Lord Jesus, and be saved. That he may be an instrument, through divine assistance, of effecting this, he will address them, as the Apostles did, on the most interesting points; at the same time, exhibiting consolation to Christians, and thus affording evidence that he is a faithful Minister of the New Testament.—How necessary is true piety, and a knowledge of the Gospel, to the right performance of this work! Can the chilly and phlegmatick speaker enter into the hearts of an assembly, and kindle up a flame of sacred love, the nature of which he has neither described or known? Just as easy as the uninstructed professor can reveal knowledge, or without ability and forethought can argue on the sublime nature of ever living truth.
Let me then here ask, whether it is not incumbent on all those who are particularly concerned in the encouragement and introduction of Gentlemen to the work of the Ministry, to require a reasonable satisfaction as to the important qualifications which have been mentioned? It is the injunction of an Apostle, Lay hands suddenly on no man. Can it be said that there is a compliance with this rule, unless there is, at the same time, a well grounded trust in the piety of the candidate, and his acquaintance with the truths which he is about to teach?
But to close this part of the subject;--the sum of it is, that the Ministers of the Christian religion, in all ages of the world, qualified as the Gospel requires, are no other than imperfect men. Like earthen vessels, they really possess the valuable properties essential in the service to which they are brought forward; but like them, are endurable as well as incomplete. Neither on the one hand, are they without the moral signatures of the divine workmanship in their constitution and nature; nor on the other, are they free from the blemishes and detects which are visible on all terrestrial things, and will assuredly attend them ‘till time shall be no more.----Such are the Agents, employed in the Redeemer’s Church on earth: For we have this treasure in earthen vessels.
I come now to the SECOND head of the discourse, in which I am to attempt to illustrate the reasonableness and propriety of the important work of the Ministry bing committed to such imperfect instruments.
The principal idea expressive of this propriety, we find in the words immediately connected with the text, viz. that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of men. The meaning of the Apostle I conceive o be this,---That the preaching of the Gospel is committed unto those, who in many respects are like earthen vessels, with the particular design that the success attending, instead of being attributed to the influence of the instruments, might be known to result from the intrinsic excellency of the Gospel itself, applied o the hearts and consciences of men by the power or spirit of God, thus testifying that it came from Heaven, and is truly divine.
In the use which is made of imperfect agents in the ministerial employment, the attention of the observers is wisely withheld from any immoderate reliance on them, that it may be at full liberty to contemplate, and impartially examine, the doctrines which they preach. There is perfect evidence that no undue advantage is taken, or bias imposed; and thus the excellency of the power, producing conviction to the truth, is perceived to be of God, and not of any other agent.
My hearers, I imagine, will readily agree with me in sentiment, that in so important a work as the Gospel system, it is highly desirable that the affections as well as the judgment of men in respect to it, should be fully tried and made known. In the present mode of inculcating its doctrines by the instrumentality of men, it must be apparent that this trial is most fairly made; nor can we be at a loss in concluding that this was a principal object with the Divine Being in its original appointment.
Had it pleased the wise Author of every perfect gift, he might have commissioned a select band of Angels to have left their native seats, and descended among men to proclaim the system of redemption, and teach returning sinners the certain way to Heaven. Happy! Thrice happy to have engaged in the employment! So honourable is its nature—so fully harmonizing with the seraphick joy & benevolence of their minds, that we might have beheld them residing with us as the Ministers of our Churches---walking in radiant glory among the golden candlesticks of the Lord Jesus---sweetly instructing us in divine truth---sometimes perhaps taking their flight to Heaven to relate the tidings of their success, and then returning to earth again---thus opening an intercourse between both worlds, and tempting us to think that even God himself was coming down to dwell with men.
Delightful and engaging would the circumstances have been! But a question arises---What would have been the effects? Undoubtedly they would have been, that the authority of such characters, and indisputableness of their mission from Heaven, would have commanded the speculative assent of men to the Gospel, whether they approved of it or not. The religion of Jesus must necessarily have become the religion of the world, even though the inhabitants had remained unfriendly to it. No criterion would have been found to have assisted in judging between the real and merely nominal Christian; nor might it have been accounted either wise or honourable to have acknowledged the distinction.
In direct opposition to this method of procuring faith, I think it evident that the Christian system, notwithstanding it is, strictly speaking, demonstrative, admitting of no reasonable doubt, is considered and made use of by its Author, as an address to the rational powers, the consciences and hearts of men, so that at least there is a possibility of their rejecting it, but this possibility arising from the corruption of their nature, inclining them either to view it imperfectly, or through a false and coloured medium.---I appeal to all present, whether the reception of the essential doctrines of Christianity is not represented in the Scriptures as depending, in the greatest degree, on the previous dispositions of mankind. As our Saviour says, If any man do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. But this could not be the case, if instead of men, some superior order of beings, of whose mission we could not possibly doubt, were expressly sent to preach unto us.—May we not therefore discover much of the wisdom of God in the establishment of a mode of addressing us concerning the truths of the Gospel, which is so admirably calculated to prove and discover the moral state of our hearts, at the same time that it illustrates how easily his power, when it accompanies his word, can perform what it once designs, and triumphing over every obstacle, make known the exceeding riches and glory of his grace?
But there are other particulars in which a judicious observer will discern the fitness that human being should be employed in the great work of instructing mankind.—Acquainted by experience with the wants and sorrows, the hopes and fears, of men, the human Preacher will be so much the better able to form his address with application to them. A glorious Seraph from the bright world above, might represent the beauties of the place to greater advantage: But for descriptions of the sad nature of sin, who is so calculated to give them, as the person who has felt it? For lively pictures of the joys which accompany repentance, who is so well instructed to present them, as the penitent himself?----Indeed, many are the circumstances, relating both to the lapsed and recovered condition of man, with which a spotless Angel can have no acquaintance.—To delineate the happiness attendant on a state of pardon, is the proper work of those who have been pardoned.—To set forth the conflicts between grace and nature—to represent the trials and temptations to which the present life is continually exposed, & apply the means which are best calculated to afford relief, is their particular business, whose experience furnishes them with the most distinct ideas, and who having been tempted and afflicted themselves, are daily sharing in the comfort of those resources, which it is their employment to recommend to others.
It would be easy to enlarge on these particulars, were it not for the danger of exceeding the bounds necessarily allotted to a single part of a discourse. If notwithstanding the reasons existing in support of the sentiment here professedly maintained, there are yet any persons inclined to think that the truths of the Gospel might be maintained and inculcated by much more powerful means than the exertions and instrumentality of men, I would briefly observe, that they have already been made use of, and in a variety of ways. Whoever considers the astonishing scenes at Mount Sinai which attended the promulgation of the Almighty’s will—then passes on to the history of the Prophets, with the works they wrought—from hence traces the grand series of events to the incarnation and publick preaching of God’s son—and lastly weighs in his mind the account given of the Apostles, with the constant miracles they performed, and all these things in support of the same system of religion—surely he cannot be at a loss to determine, that there is nothing which Heaven could do for the instruction of men, which has been overlooked or omitted. Nor ought he to be surprised at the present alteration which it has pleased providence to introduce in the method of ministration in his holy word. At first, the truths of it required the assistance of agents commissioned from above with peculiar powers, for the purpose of its establishment. But since its establishment, the duty of men is to contemplate and examine it. In the performance of this work, it is sufficient, next to a dependence on divine aid in favour of heir own endeavours, that they can rely on the help of those of their fellow men, who are professedly devoted to the employment; who being of like rank and condition with themselves in the system of creation, are properly calculated for the business of communicating instruction, as well as happily uniting with those who embrace the truth in the pleasures of that endearing friendship, which arises from a similarity in circumstances, and the mutual participation of the same divine grace.
Reflecting on these things, what reasonable person can refuse admiring the care of providence for his creatures, in the appointment of the present method of religious instruction?—a method so happily congenial with the natural feelings and capacities of men, and which, considering its entire dependence on the truth of the Gospel revelation, and on the patronage of Heaven, has, in the effects already visible in the world, procured such additional honour to the system of Christianity, and such abundant glory unto God.
The LAST thing proposed in the order of the discourse, was to consider the moral duties and reflections which the knowledge of the truth, viz. that the preaching of the Gospel is committed to earthen vessels, most naturally suggests.
And certainly they are many as they respect the Ministers of Christ Jesus themselves, who will, no doubt, often meditate on the nature of their calling—on the obligations they are under, as the instruments employed by the Almighty in his service—on the particular ways by which they may be assisted to render their instrumentality, in the present circumstances of it, as efficacious as possible—and on the serious account which they must give, when at the close of a few years, the tabernacle of the body in which they now act, will grow weak and totter, or like earthen vessels, after they are broken into pieces, will be of no further use.
My respected Fathers and Brethren in the ministry will always remember, that notwithstanding it has pleased the great Head of the Church to employ them, weak and frail as they are, in preference to Angels or superior beings, it is not because the work is considered of little consequence, or is unworthy to engage the most exalted agents either in Heaven or earth. It is the joy—it is the consolation of the Christian, that it is a work which has employed the labours of One, who is far superior to any Angel.—The first Preacher of the Gospel, and great Author of the Christian system, who performed everything in its support, was no less a personage than the Son of God—the favourite of Heaven—the Creator—the King, and the Lord of Angels.
Thus is the servant with his divine Master. Where I am, said Jesus to his Disciples, whilst he was yet laboring among them, there shall ye be also—engaged in the same business, and advanced to the like important station.—To the Christian Minister, in each successive period of the Church, employed in many respects in similar offices and duties, how will the thought convey a lively sense of the unspeakable honour which is done him, inclining him, whilst he receives it joyfully, to receive it humbly, and show forth the answerable effects!—When he contemplates the vast importance of the Gospel to the future interest of mankind—when he calls to view how near this interest lays unto his Saviour’s heart—and when, after all other means have been used with men, by Prophets and apostles, divinely inspired and endowed with astonishing powers, he recollects that the present remaining one is by the ministry of imperfect beings like himself, with what emphasis will he consider that he is addressed by Heaven to exhibit the utmost circumspection and fidelity?—that by contending against his remaining corruptions, he may prevent all impediments to his usefulness—by enriching his mind with increase of knowledge, he may recommend his doctrines to the best advantage—by growing in grace and holiness, he may render his ministrations the more efficacious and convincing—and finally, by constant prayer to Heaven for a blessing on his labours, he may ensure the promised assistance and benediction; thus approving himself to be a servant acknowledged by his Master, whose grace is evidently sufficient for him, and whose strength is made perfect in his weakness.
Nor can there be a more serious and affecting thought to the Christian Minister, advanced as he is to so honourable a station, than that like those to whom he ministers, he shall shortly die; and instead of soaring with the disengaged spirit to the bright world of joy, to claim the plaudit which a perfectly holy agent might expect by right, on more humble wing, shall go unto his Master as an imperfect servant, to be tried by the same Gospel he has preached unto others; which, though it pardons all omissions and defects repented of, yet takes cognizance of them, at the same time that it rewards each instance of fidelity.—Yes! My respected Fathers and Brethren, the day will speedily arrive when the work of each of us in the ministry will be finished, and we shall be called to give an account of our stewardship, before the tribunal of our Lord, who made us stewards. As imperfect and human beings, we need the hints and admonitions which the Gospel offers on this interesting subject. I might respect to you the declarations of our Saviour concerning the future and truly solemn doom of unfaithful Ministers. But as better suited to my age, together with the present circumstances and occasion, let me rather remind you, in few words, of the prospects and rewards of the truly faithful and good. When the great Head and Founder of his Church shall descend from Heaven in royalty divine—when attended by myriads of shining Angels, he shall take his seat for the process of the Judgment, how exalted will be their expectations and delight! See them approaching, at the mandate of their Judge: Observe the smile which brightens on his face, as they draw nearer to him: Then hear the musick of his voice, whilst he addresses them, Come, ye blessed of my Father:--Ye Ministers in my kingdom, approach my throne: Ye have been faithful in my Gospel: Receive the glory which is mine to give: Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.
What songs of gratitude! What acclamations of holy triumph shall be listened to by attending worlds, when they ascend, with their Redeemer, into the mansions of the blessed! Nations, and kingdoms, and empires of the earth, shall come to nothing, whilst the kingdom of Christ shall rise in splendor inexpressible, and his servants be received to reign in it forever. Then will commence the knowledge of the fullness and excellency of the promise, that they who are wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they who turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.
But the subject very naturally suggests many serious duties and moral reflections to the hearers, as well as Preachers of the Gospel.—From the acquaintance we all have with human nature, I presume there is reason to apprehend it to be not only a supposable, but a certain fact, that there are many persons, even in this advanced state of truth and knowledge, who conclude with themselves, that if they were addressed by some superior messengers, on the important concerns of religion, rather than by their fellow men, it would be much happier for them, as in this case, without the uncertainty and danger now attending the event, they would assuredly be won over to embrace the Gospel, with all the blessings it presents.—The reasons which have inclined the Almighty to choose the present method in the ministration of his word, have been already mentioned. Admitting that the great object with him was to persuade men to become merely speculative or nominal Christians, the matter would be wholly altered. But in further confirmation of what has been observed, that as to any change to be produced in the moral or religious affections, ensuring the salvation of men, the dependence is, on no account, to be placed on the exalted or uncommon character of the Preacher, let me only add a single passage from the New Testament, If they will not bear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
Independent however, of all reasoning concerning the several methods which might be chosen in the ministration of the Gospel, a principal a principal part of the business before us is, to contemplate the one which in fact is. You find, my hearers, by unalterable experience, that your Ministers are only men. No winged Cherub is seen descending to you, to declare Heaven’s behest, and with the celestial cadence of his voice, to inspire your souls with rapture, perhaps terrific awe. The treasure of divine grace, and privilege of proclaiming the glad tidings of salvation, is actually committed to earthen vessels, like yourselves. Receive them as the messengers which are sent to you from God; undoubtedly because, in the present situation of the world, he thought them to be the best; and remember, at the same time, that you can have no other.
As it is well known there are particular duties on the part of Ministers towards the people of their charge, in like manner, there are duties from the people towards them, and these arising, in great measure, from the circumstance, that their Ministers are men. Encompassed with the various wants which are common to all human beings, they stand in need of the same supports of nature; which, according to reason, and the law of the Gospel, are cheerfully to be administered by the people whom they serve.
Nor ought the consideration that even the best of ministers are morally imperfect, to be ever admitted in a manner, the tendency of which is to destroy the efficacy of their preaching. When we wish to receive benefit from the instructions of one of our fellow men, our first business is to regard him with candour and love.—Happy are the people who have found a Minister, of whom they have received reasonable satisfaction that he is a true and upright Christian—that his heart is engaged in the great cause of religion—that he is earnestly desirous of promoting the spiritual welfare of their souls, and being well acquainted with the nature of his work, is determined steadily to pursue it. More than this, is not to be required, because more than this, will never be obtained. If they discover imperfections in his character, it becomes them to remember that there are imperfections in their own. A true love to him as the servant and friend of Jesus Christ, will dispose them to cast the mantle of charity over smaller things, and carrying his case, with their own, in prayer before God earnestly to supplicate for greater degrees of sanctification and improvement in every Christian grace.
It may be mentioned as an unhappy circumstance, that there should ever be any persons in our Churches, who, inattentive to the duty we have been considering, should rather be disposed to mar the peace, and destroy the influence of their Ministers, than assist them in their work—who, by being captious, restless, and ever ready to complain, sometimes do essential injury in the circles where they move, but oftener a more lasting injury to their own souls. If a messenger were dispatched from the New Jerusalem, to preach expressly to them, though they might be compelled to speak well of his character, it is doubtful whether they would love him.
In fine, as the Ministers of Jesus Christ, are only men, next to the countenance and support of their divine Master, they need the assistance and encouragement of those with whom they dwell, and to whom they are bound by the endearing ties of affinity and friendship. Where there is a sincere desire among a people, to obtain spiritual advantage from their Ministers, they must receive them cordially, strengthening their hands, and encouraging their hearts. When this is the case, the blessing is not far from them, and they will scarcely fail to experience the Gospel to be the power of God, and the wisdom of God for their everlasting salvation.
The usual order of the service on this solemnity, as well as my own inclination, require me now to address myself to my much esteemed and worthy Brother, who is about to take the pastoral charge of this Church of our common Lord.
Reverend and dear Sir,
I DOUBT not that you are well acquainted with the importance of the work in which you this day renewedly engage. The long friendship which has been held between us, and the variety of scenes through which we have passed together, render our meeting, on this occasion, both agreeable and affecting.—You will remember, my dear Sir, that, like the rest of your Brethren, you receive the treasure of the Gospel in an earthen vessel. Frail and imperfect as we are, has our Master honoured us by putting us into the ministry? Happy will it be, if we serve him with fidelity.
Will you permit me to remind you, that the great object of our preaching should be the salvation of men’s souls. The more heart-searching our discourses—the more they contain in them of the distinguishing articles of Christianity—the more earnestly we represent to our hearers the evil, the delusion, and danger of sin, and endeavour to lead them to the blood of the Cross; the more we shall be likely to fulfill our ministry with honour and success. It is a poor course of sermons which treats chiefly of the social duties, or the virtues which men might practice as philosophers, if they had heard nothing of the nature of redemption through a Mediator: And he is a poor Preacher, who does not give abundant evidence that his highest pleasure is to dwell on the theme of Jesus Christ and him crucified.
In the several trials and difficulties which may be expected in the ministerial course, call to mind, Sir, the gracious promise of a divine support. Let me add—if we love our work, our pleasures will be more abundant than all our trials, and our encouragements will vastly outweigh our greatest pains.
Finally, be strong in the Lord, and is the power of his might. May the great Head of the Church succeed your labours among this people; and after many seals are added to your ministry, may you be received to a crown of joy which never fades away, and so be ever with the Lord.
Permit me now, my Brethren of this Christian Society, to address myself to you, on this agreeable occasion.
In consequence of the long acquaintance I have had with your Pastor elect, I have the pleasure to congratulate you that we, this day, settle a Gentleman with you, in the work of the ministry, who, added to the natural gifts and improvements of his mind, has afforded every reasonable evidence of his being a sincere friend of our common Lord. Receive him as such. That his labours may be succeeded among you, lend to him your attention—lend to him your hearts—lend to him your love. I am persuaded he will return the offering, and thus your obligations and religious pleasures will be reciprocal, and formed for increase.
It will be needless for me to repeat to you the sentiments which have been delivered at this time. As far as you think them to be conformable to truth, you will apply them to your own circumstances, and the solemn transaction in which you are concerned this day.
Brethren, we are all members of one Church. Tho’ divided into many Societies, we all acknowledge the same Master and Head; and tho’ generally worshipping in different places, our hope and expectation is to be gathered together in one, even in the city of God and of the Lamb. There may we finally meet: There may we dwell, with the Christians of every age; and we shall find sufficient time to increase our knowledge of each other, and unite in the sublime engagements of friendship, joy & love.
To conclude—let us all who are present on this occasion, reflect seriously on the inestimable value of the Christian religion, and the importance of receiving it in such a manner as that it may be effectual to our salvation.
It is to be remembered that the season of our probation will speedily be over, when, whatever may have been our different stations and employments in life, we must give an impartial account before our Master, and receive the sentence according to our works.
Through the assistance of divine grace, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, may we be prepared for his coming. Then shall we happily join each other at the right hand of our Judge; and with the ransomed of the Lord—with songs and everlasting joy upon our heads, be received into the Heavenly Paradise, where we shall more than ever admire the Gospel of our redemption, and unite in singing the new Anthem, To Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.
A M E N.
C H A R G E,
By the Reverend Mr. Macclintock, of Greenland.
The Ministry of the Gospel being a divine institution, designed to promote the glory of God, in the eternal salvation and happiness of a guilty world by Jesus Christ, is therefore a trust the most weighty and important that can be committed to either Angels or men; to the due discharge of which, many peculiar qualifications, much wisdom, prudence, and fidelity, are requisite; of this we have the fullest evidence both in the Son of God taking upon him this office when he was personally present on earth, and in the solemn charge given by the Apostles to those whom they separated to the work of the ministry, by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery; in which are pointed out the qualifications and duties of the ministerial character.
In conformity to their example, and in the exercise of the authority derived to us through them from the Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Head of the Church, we ordain and appoint you, the Reverend ISRAEL EVANS, who have already been ordained a Minister of the Church universal, to the particular care and oversight of the Church of Christ in this place—to preach the word—to administer the seals of the New Covenant, Baptism and the Supper, to qualified subjects—to exercise the discipline Christ hath appointed in his Church, and to assist, when called in providence, in separating others to this work.
And we solemnly CHARGE you, in the presence of God, who by his energetic Word, quickeneth and preserveth all things, and therefore is able to support you under every trial, and to deliver you from the greatest evils to which you may be exposed in the prosecution of this work—in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, at the expense of his most precious life, bare witness to the truth before Pontius Pilate, and herein hath set you an example, not to count your life dear unto the death in defence of his cause—before the elect Angels, invisibly present on this occasion, who have stood fast in their integrity—and this numerous assembly, the spectators and witnesses of this solemn transaction; that you take heed to the ministry you have received of the Lord Jesus; that you fulfill it with care and diligence, under a sense of its interesting consequences both to yourself and to them that hear you.
In doctrine, shew uncorruptness, and sound speech, that cannot be gainsaid; not teaching for doctrine the traditions of men, by which the Gospel is adulterated; but drawing the matter of your discourses from the pure and uncorrupt fountain, by a careful attention to the sacred Oracles, making that form of sound words, taught by Christ and his Apostles, your constant director.—Let it be your determination, to know nothing among the people of your charge, but Jesus Christ and him crucified—make Him the Alpha and Omega of your preaching, as he is of the sacred Scriptures.
Keep back noting from your hearers that would be profitable to them, from a criminal fear of offending, or desire of pleasing men; but steadily declare the whole counsel of God, in the face of the greatest opposition. See that your end, in undertaking this sacred work, is right; that it is not for the sake of filthy lucre, or any selfish motive; but from a pure and ardent love to Christ, which will engage you to diligence and assiduity in feeding his sheep and lambs.—Let godly sincerity mark your character, in your publick instructions, and in all your professions and declarations to men; not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but, as in his fight, under a sense of his Omniscient eye, to which all things are manifest, so speak and act.—
Endeavour to adapt your publick discourses, and private addresses, to the particular cases and circumstances of your people. Set the terrours of the law, before the thoughtless and secure, that if it shall please God, they may be awakened, convinced, and made sensible of their perishing need of a Saviour: To the convinced, display the all sufficiency of Christ, and the freeness, riches, and sovereignty, of divine grace; that they may be encouraged to trust in him, and to hope for eternal life through his merits—To the tempted, open the armory of God; that, being clothed with the weapons of defence taken from thence, they may be able to repel the fiery darts of Satan, and to stand fast in the evil day—To the afflicted and sorrowful, administer the balm of consolation, the promises and hopes of the Gospel, to soothe the anguish of their minds, and heal their bleeding wounds.—
By all the powerful motives derived from the authority, the love, and mercy, of the great God, inculcate on Christians the various duties of their several stations and relations, mentioned in the charge given by the Apostle to Timothy and Titus, and in them to their successors in office, through every period of time.—Explain from time to time the precepts and directions of the Gospel, which point out to Christians the way of duty, and hold up to their view the crown of immortal life, which the righteous Judge will give to the conquerors, to animate them to patience and perseverance in fighting the good fight of faith.—In all the various duties of this important part of your office, study to approve yourself to the consciences of men, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, and giving to everyone his portion of meat in due season.—
Would you justly deserve this character, be not satisfied with any present attainments, nor presume to feed your people with chaff, empty extempore effusions, or hasty incoherent harangues, which would starve their souls, or at least keep them babes in knowledge all their days; but if you would desire that they may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, so as to attain a clear comprehensive view of the Christian system, and that your profiting may appear to all men, give thyself to reading, to meditation, and to prayer.—To reading, in order to furnish your own mind with that various knowledge, which is necessary to enable the Christian Minister to discharge the duties of his station with dignity and reputation—to mediation, as the means of possessing your mind with the ideas you meet with in reading, and enlarging your views—and to prayer, as the way of deriving all needed supplies from the Father of lights and mercies, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift.—A Minister, of all men, should be much in prayer; because, of all others, he most needs divine wisdom and assistance, to perform the duties of the sacred office in such a manner as to be a sweet savour of God in Christ, both in them that are saved, and in them that perish; for who is sufficient for these things?
With regard to your manner in speaking, let it be deliberate, grave, and solemn; suitable to the nature and importance of your subject, and the majesty of that Being, in whose name and presence you speak; remote from affectation, theatrical airs, and ludicrous expressions, which would tend to excite disgust or levity in the hearers. If you would desire that they should believe and obey the truth, you must preach it in such a manner as will give them reason to think that you believe it yourself. The Minister of the Lord should not only bring beaten oil, well studied discourses, for the service of the sanctuary; but deliver them with a proper pathos and animation, excited by a sense of the importance of what he speaks: To this end, endeavour in the first place to get your own heart affected with a sense of the truths you are about to declare to others; and when you thus speak from the heart, it will be most like to reach their hearts.
Moreover, we charge you to take heed, not only to your doctrine, that it be pure and uncorrupt; but also to yourself, to your manner of life, that it be exemplary, and as becometh the Gospel, that so you may give no just occasion to any to charge you with a contradiction between your preaching and practice; but by the sanctity of your manners, may be a living comment on your doctrine, exhibiting before others, in your daily example, the Christian virtues you inculcate on them in your preaching. Be thou an example to the faithful, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in fidelity, and in purity.
Your extensive knowledge of men will enable you, in your deportment toward others, to observe a due medium between that unsociable stiffness, which would lead them to think religion is inconsistent with benevolence and friendship, and that gross familiarity, which would subject you to their contempt, and in all things maintain that gravity and dignity, in speech and behavior, by which you will magnify your office.
In admitting persons to Christian privileges, make a difference between the clean and unclean, receiving such only as, in a judgment of charity, have a right, according to the word of God, to the seals of the Gospel Covenant.
In separating others to the work of the ministry, lay hands suddenly on no man, before you are well satisfied that he is possessed in a competent measure, of the qualifications requisite for this office; that you may not be a partaker of other men’s sins, by introducing those who, through their ignorance, imprudence, or vicious lives, would dishonor the cause they are set to defend.
In the exercise of that authority you have received from the Lord Jesus Christ, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine; and in passing the censures of the Church on offenders, see that nothing be done by partiality, from private friendship and affection.
O Sir, keep that sacred trust which has now been committed to you, and let no man take thy crown from thee; endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, in defending his cause: thus you will probably be instrumental of saving them that hear you—at least you will escape that dreadful doom which awaits the unfaithful Minister.
You will have more to hope for—if Israel should not be gathered, you will be approved by the glorious Judge, at the great day of his final appearance—and receive from him the gracious promised reward of a good and faithful Servant.