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able, would be to judge of this one cafe* in con-
tradiction to the natural fentiments of all mankind
in every other cafe. To promote any kind of
ufeful knowlege, has fome merit ; the name of a
teacher gives a perfon fome [elevation, in that one
fefpect at lead, in comparifon of thofe who are
taught by him : and the elevation bears always a
proportion to the fubject which a perfon is qualified
to teach, and engaged in teaching. It is the very
office of minifters of the gofpel, to teach others :
and the fubject of their teaching is the fublimeft,
the mod important, the mod interesting : it is
honourable to be occupied in teaching it ^ it is


7 Prov. xii. 26.


very honourable to be fit to teach it. It is the
very bufinefs of minifters, to inculcate the nobied
truths, thofe which regard God and divine things ;
to recommend univerfal goodnefs, the glory of
human nature ; to form the fouls of men to that
divine temper which will fit them for the everlaft-
ing fociety of God ; to " feed" and " overfee"
with care, that church on which the Lord fet fo
high a value, as to " purchafe it with his own
" blood 2 ." The office of a teacher implies au-
thority, the kind and degree of authority which
fuits its nature. The teachers of Chriftianity have
authority in the church ; they " are over you,"
fays the apoftle, they " have the rule over you in
" the Lord\" Their authority is of the kind
which is congruous to their work : they neither
are " Lords over God's heritage b ," nor " have
" dominion over men's faith c ." They often
have claimed temporal power, political authority,
and civil dignities : but the claim is ufurpation ;
thefe are the pre-eminences of the kingdoms of
this world, but their office is folely in the kingdom
of Chrift, which " is not of this world d :" thefe
have a relation to the fecular affairs of men, but
this office only to their fpiritual concerns. Even
in their fpiritual concerns, the authority of mi-

z Afts, xx. 28. a 1 ThefT. v. 12. Hcb. xiii. 17.

* 1 Pet. v. 3. c 2 Cor. i. 24. d John, x\lu. 36.



miters is very far from being abfolute or unlimited*
It includes no power over the coniciences of men ;
no right to impofe upon them, any principles of
belief, or rules of conduct, but thofe which the
fcripture has impofed ; no right to obtrude upon
them our explications of fcripture or deductions
from it. The claim or exercife of fuch rights, is
not the government of Chrift, but the tyranny of
Antichrift : both to the people and to minifters,
the fcripture is the only ftandard of religion : mi-
nifters have authority to teach only what it
teaches ; and by it, and by it alone, it is the
right of the people, and their duty alfo, to exa-
mine what is taught. Even thole doctrines and
thofe precepts which are clearly contained in fcrip-
ture, the paftoral office gives no authority to en-
force by methods of violence : thefe are the inftru-
ments of political authority, the authority of paf-
tors is purely fpiritual. Religious belief and prac-
tice are of no value if thev be not voluntary, if
they proceed not from conviction and confcience.
Whenever civil penalties are applied to force them,
they are mifapplied. This is, impotently to at-
tempt promoting the kingdom of Chrift, by an
unnatural alliance with the kingdoms of the world.
Perfecution never can be but improper ; but in a
minifter of the gofpel it is mod improper. When
irreligion, vice, or fuperflition, fo directly affect
the proper interefts of fociety, as to render it mofl
juft to check them by laws> as civil crimes, the



enacting and executing thefe laws, is the province
of the rulers of the (late, not of the rulers of
church. Their authority is only a right to teach
the truths which the fcriptures teach, to inculcate
the duties which they require, to rebuke and cen-
fure the fins which they forbid, and to be liftened
to while they do fo : and they are entitled to fup-
port this authority by no other engines, but the
power of perfuafion and the influence of exemplary
virtue. It is the dignity which refults from this
kind of authority, and it alone, that belongs to
the paftoral office.

The functions of the paftoral office, thus worthy
in themfelves, will appear ftill more worthv and
important, when they are confidered in relation
to their end. It is fo fublime, that it reflects ho-
nour and importance on whatever has any, even
the remoteft, connexion with it ; but the clofer
the connexion of any functions is with it, and the
ftronger their tendency to promote it, the greater
in proportion will be their moment. Exercifes
mean in themfelves, ceafe to be mean when they
axe undertaken for fome great or good end : then
men will glory in them, who in any other fitua-
tion would have bluflied to have been found em-
ployed in them. The functions of the paftoral
office are the natural, the direct, and propel
means of promoting the moft important of all
ends : this is fufficient to ennoble fuch of them as
are meaneft in appearance. Pallors are " watch-
c 2 ' ; men :"


" men 6 :" but it is for " the foul*"," the im-
mortal part, that they watch. They are " fol-
* diers g :" but it is in " the good fight of faith V
They are " labourers," but it is " together with
" God," and in " his vineyard, his hufbandry,
" his harveft V They are "builders;" but it is
of the " temple of God k ." Such metaphors,
though fome of them mould be fuppofed to be
taken from mean employments, rife in their figni-
fication, when they are applied to the exercifes of
an office which has eternity for its aim ; as an
infignificant piece of canvas comes to be of great
price when it is made the ground of a capital pic-
ture. They are intended only to exprefs the diffi-
culties and the labours of that profeffion. Thefe
lelfen not its dignity : they add to it. Some of
the moft eminent offices are very laborious ; but
their toils are honourable. Whenever they are of
great utility, and extenfive confequence, it is noble
to encounter them, it is worthy to be indefatigable
in undergoing them, it is glorious to vanquifh

Finally, the paftoral office is important, and
ought to be reckoned honourable by the people,
becaufe to them it is needful. The end of all its
functions is their falvation ; and in proportion to


c Jer. vi. 17. Ezek. in. 17. xxxiii. 7. f Heb. xiii. 17.
f 2 Tim. ii. 3, 4. Phil. ii. 25. h I Tim. vi. 12.

i Mat. h. 37, 38. i Cor. iii. 6 — 9. k Ver. 9, 10. 12. 16.


its neceflity for this end, it is inter efting to them.
It is folely for the fake of the people, that God has
appointed paflors in his church ; and to the people
all their functions have an immediate relation. It
belongs indeed to every individual, to " work out
" his own falvation 1 :" without his own care, as
well as the grace of God, all the labours of the
minifter cannot enlighten his underftanding, fanc-
tify his heart, or fave his foul. Yet the labours
of the minifter are ftrictly neceiTary to the people.
With abhorrence we difclaim the falfe pretenhon,
that religious knowlege is, or ought to be confined
to the clergy : God has eftablifhed no fuch bafe
or ilavifh dependence of reafon and confcience
upon fallible men. The people, as well as their
paftors, have accefs to the fcriptures ; it is equally
their right and their duty to " fearch" and " know
" them 1 ":" and they " are able to make them
" wife unto falvation \" But the bulk of man-
kind are, and will always necenarily be, much oc-
cupied about worldly affairs ; and, thus occupied,
will want the inclination, the leifure, the opportu-
nities, the capacity, the education, or the means,
requifite for collecting religious knowlege, and
fixing good impremons on their hearts. The weak,
the ignorant, the thoughtlefs, the diilipated, the
bufy, the corrupted, have abfolute need of one to


i Phil. ii. 12. » John, v. 39. * 2 Tim. in. 1 ;.

C 3


inftruct them, to direct them, to remind them of
fpiritual things, to excite them to their duty.
Without this, very many will infallibly neglect it,
and lofe their fouls by the neglect. It is no exag-
geration to fay, that the future happinefs or mifery
of at lead fome of the people, depends on the
proper or the improper conduct of their teachers.
We juftly complain that the paftoral office, even
when its functions are performed with the greateft
fkill and care, produces not fo great or happy
effects as it feems to be fit for producing : but
were that office to ceafe, the ignorance and wicked-
nefs of the world would foon demonftrate, that it
does produce very great and very happy effects.
It cannot be a mean employment, which is both
fo neceflary and fo profitable to mankind. The
care of immortal fouls is the mofl important of all
trufts : the training of them for heaven is the
mofl excellent of all occupations °.

Thus I have evinced the importance of the
paftoral office, by fhewing its dignity and excel-
lence. Avoiding all vague panegyric, declining
indefinite declamation concerning its fanctity, I
have fatisfied myfelf with coolly afcertaining the
real kind and degree of dignity, which it evidently
derives from the fublimity of its end, and the
worthy and interefting nature of its functions.

• Burnet's Paftoral Care, chap. i. Scougal's Synod Serm.


C *3 3

Sect. II.
Ofajuji Senfe of the Dignity of the Pajtoral Office.

Such as we have defcribed being the dignity of
the paftoral office, let us next inquire, what fen-
timents its dignity ought to imprefs, both on thofe
who occupy it, and on thofe who afpire to it. It
certainly becomes them to cultivate and preferve a
fenfe of its importance, and likewife to render
that fenfe juft and properly directed. It is ne-
cefTary to do both ; a failure in either will be pro-
ductive of pernicious confequences.

The want of all fenfe of its dignity, will lead
men to confider it in the low and paltry light of
only a trade or living. This would demonflrate
a very abject fpirit, and it would render it every
day more abject. Confidered in that light, it
mud appear one of the meaneft of all employ-
ments ; for there are few whofe profits are not
more confiderable. Men would, however, enter
on it with merely interefled views. They would
long for it, as a provifion. They would not
be much concerned either to qualify themfelves
for its duties, or to exert themfelves in per-
forming them. They would be fatisfied with re-
ceiving the profits, though they were negligent or
little capable of doing the work. In the language
of fcrip ure, emphatically expreffive of the baie-
nefs of this mercenary fpirit, they would " feed

c 4 " them-


" themfelves," and " not feed the flock p ," but
leave it to be " ftolen, killed, and deftroyed^"
It is your fetting out with a high fenfe of the dig-
nity and importance of your profeflion, and your
conftantly maintaining that fenfe, that will bed
preferve you from thinking or acting beneath it,
and will form you to fuch elevation of views, fuch
exertion, and fuch dignity of conduct, as be-
come it.

Your fenfe of its dignity mud not only be high,
but likewife juft. As the nature of its dignity may
be misconceived, fo the fenfe of its dignity may
be perverted : and every perverfion of it will pro-
duce correfpondent ill effects on the temper and
the conduct.

A general and indefinite conception of the paf-
toral office, as merely an honourable employment,
efpecially if it were at the fame time exaggerated
and extravagant, would excite an unhallowed am-
bition and impatience for it as a pre-eminence, till
it were obtained ; and would afterwards elate the
heart with arrogance, pride, and infolence. Thefe
paflions are naturally enough produced by the ho-
nours which confifl only in diftinguifhed rank and
titles, and which are founded wholly in imagina-
tion : but by the dignity of the Chriftian miniftry,


? £zek. xxxiv. 2, &c. * John, x. 10.


they cannot be produced, except it be totally mif-
underftood ; for its dignity refults folely from the
real utility of its functions. Thefe are pamons the
mod unbecoming in the fervants of the humble
jefus, fit only to render themfelves odious, and
to pervert the whole fpirit and tenor of their mi-
niftrations. Therefore, the apoftle directs, that a
bifhop be not em uninftrueTed, inconfiderate " no-
" vice, left being lifted up with pride, he fall
" into the condemnation of the accufer'/'

A vague and ill-digefted opinion of the fanclity
of the paftoral office, would beget the moft pre-
fumptuous kind of pride : it would give it the
blacked of all its forms : it would forge a claim to
fuperftitious refpect and blind veneration from the
people. This is the temper which Chrifl reproves
fo feverely in the Pharifees, who " loved the up-
" permoft rooms at feafts, and the chief feats in
" the fynagogues, and greetings in the market-
" places, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rab-
" bi s ." But the teachers of his religion he com-
mands, " Be not ye called Rabbi, neither be ye
u called Mahiers 1 :'' exact not the admiration of
the multitude, as if you were, in confequence of
your holding an holy office, holier than they,
higher in God's favour, or pofTeifed of any'myi-
terious power in matters of religion. An ill-

r z Tim. iii. 6. s Mat. xxlii. 6, 7. ' Vcr. S. 10.


defined fenfe of the fan&ity of the pafloral office
would lead us, it has led the priefts of another
church, to a demand of privileges mod foreign to
its real fan&ity, and a licence in practices molt
repugnant to every conception of holinefs. It is
undoubtedly proper that we be fenfible of its
being an holy office : but our fenfe of this mufl be
formed and defined by a diftincl: conception of the
real nature of its holinefs. It is not a notion that
the mere occupation of it can render us holy ; but
a fettled perfuafion that it will lay us under the
firicteft obligation to labour to become holy, and
ftill more holy. It is a fixed perfuafion, that un-
hallowed hands and an unfandihed heart are unfit
to be employed in its holy functions. It is a lively
fenfe, that all impurity is more incongruous to the
fubject of the Chriftian miniftry, than the mod
vulgar manners, the moft fordid fpirit, and the
coarfefl fentiments, would be to the higheft rank.
It is a conviction that that office gives thofe who
exercife it, great advantages for becoming holy ;
united with a conviction that, except they be care-
ful to improve them, they will not make them
holy, but will on the contrary confirm and harden
them in wickednefs ; and that the ftrength of their
obligations, and the greatnefs of their advantages,
will render the guilt of neglecting holinefs heinous,
and its punifhment fevere. In a word, a fenfe
that the pafloral office will place you in a near and
peculiar relation to God, fhould make you to look
upon yourfelves as bound to approach as near to



him as you can, in your temper, by ftrict purity,
exalted virtue, and fervent piety. ,

A juft fenfe of the dignity of the paftoral office
mud be formed and directed by a precife idea of
the nature and grounds of that dignity, and be
rendered perfectly correfpondent to it. It is a
fenfe, that the duties of that office are of the moft
excellent nature, and of the mod facred obliga-
tion, and that it is of infinite moment that they be
difcharged aright. Such a fenfe of its dignity,
however high it be, will produce none of thofe
evil paflions which fpring fo naturally from a
vague or perverted conception of it. It can give
no encouragement to falfe ambition, pride, or
haughtinefs : it will be the mod powerful antidote
againfl: them. It will lead you often to compare
the " treafure" of the gofpel, with the " earthen
" vefTels," in which " we have" it u ; the weight
of the functions, with your unworthinefs and the
flendernefs of your abilities ; the eternal confe-
quences which are fufpended on your performance
of them, with the weaknefs of the means which
you can ufe. The comparifon forced the great
apoftle of the gentiles to exclaim, " And who is
" fufficient for thefe things v ?" The comparifon,
ferioufly made, will lead you to undertake this
office with diffidence, to be converfant in it with


2 Cor. iv. 7. v Chap. ii. 1 6.


awe, and in all its duties to " ferve the Lord with
" all humility of mind V Such a fenfe of the
dignity of your profeffion, carefully formed, ftea-
dily maintained, ftudiouily cherifhed, and inva-
riably acted upon, will have the happieft influence
on your views, on your exertions, and on your
whole character: and that the more effectually,
the higher it is raifed.

A well-formed fenfe of the importance of your
profeffion will refine and elevate your views and
aims in choofing, in undertaking, and in executing
it. It neceffarily includes an impreffion of the im-
portance of the end of your profeffion. To pro-
mote that end, will be your principal view in en-
tering upon it, and your leading aim in exercifing
it. You will think of entering on it, with a con-
fiderable degree of deliberation > and when you
determine to undertake it, it will be with a fincere
and fupreme defire, and an ardent concern, to
contribute all you can to the improvement and the
falvation of the fouls of men. Liable as all men
are to indifpofition, depreffion, and diftra&ion of
thought, it will require pains to keep fo fublime
an end conflantly in view, and to act with a fteady
regard to it. A lively fenfe of its moment is the
only means of furmounting the difficulty. This
will lead vou to think explicitly of it very frequent-

* A&s, xx. 19.


2 9

ly ; and it will enable you to have an habitual eye
to it, even when you do not actually think of it.
It will be in perpetual readinefs to occur to you,
and that with fuch force as to determine you to
contrive how every miniftration may be performed
in the way fitted: to promote it. Attention to fo
fublime an end will prevent your ever fubordi-
nating any of the paftoral functions to bye-ends,
to worldly inter eft, or to the gratification of a fa-
vourite paflion. It will prevent your directing any
of your performances merely to the difplay of your
own talents, to courting the favour of the great,
or to fcrambling for popularity among the multi-
tude. It will excite you to exert your powers,
only that you may do the greater good ; to
" pleafe" others only for their " edification %"
only when it is right to pleafe them, and would be
wrong not to pleafe them. Concern to accomplifh
the end of your profefllon, is too noble a principle
to admit any partnerfhip with mean defigns. It
implies love to God, affection to Chrift, the higheft
fpecies of benevolence, benevolence to the fouls of
men, zeal for the advancement of religion, a con-
viction of the incomparable importance of eternity,
all united together, deriving power from, and im-
parting it to, one another. Thefe will be in fome
degree the principles and views of every ingenuous
candidate ; whoever is wholly deftitute of them,
mud be unworthy to bear the facred character :


x Rom. xv. 2.


thefe will be the principles and views of all who
are duly affected with the importance of the office,
and the great fprings and regulators of all their ex-
ertions in their profemon.

A fenfe of the importance of the pafloral office,
enlightened by a diftinct apprehenfion of the na-
ture of that importance, will add fpirit to all your
endeavours, both in preparing yourfelves for it,
and in executing it. Not dreaming that it has
fuch fan&ity as can of itfelf confer virtue on the
ordinances which it is employed in difpenfing, you
cannot expect that they will have virtue and effi-
cacy, if you be incapable of difpenfing them aright,
or if you be not careful to do fo. Important
functions fhould not be performed negligently,
and cannot be performed without the proper abi-
lities. Senfible of the importance of yours, if you
have any regard to duty or propriety, you will
decline no application that is neceffary to accom-
plifh you for them, however laborious it may be,
or whatever length of time it may require. Till
you be confcious that you are fufficiently accom-
plifhed for them, you will by no means think of
undertaking them. Without diligent application,
no man can excel, or even make a tolerable figure
in the very meanefl: profeffion : and can a man be
fit for fo excellent an occupation, without being
indefatigable in acquiring the knowlege and habits
requifite for exercifing it ? The teacher of all
truth and goodnefs, cannot be formed in a day.
6 The



The importance of his office demands that he be
affiduous in rendering himfelf fitter for it every
day, and ready to undergo any labour that can be
conducive to his difcharging it in the bed manner.
It may be eafy to go through all the duties of that
office, fo as not to incur the imputation of omitting
them, without entering into the true fpirit of any
one of them : but to be fatisfied with this, is in-
confident with your either valuing or loving your
profefiion. The fenfe that its duties are in their
very nature worthy and honourable employments,
will not only prompt you to bring to them the re-
quifite accomplifhments, but alfo fupport and en-
liven you in the performance of them. Mean ex-
ercifes a man enters, on with relu&ance, and per-
forms with regret and languor : he is a/named of
them, and by (name his efforts are reprefied, and
his induftry enervated. But you need not be
afhamed of the gofpel of Chrift, or of the office
of preaching it : you may glory in preaching it,
and with confeious elevation ft retch all your facul-
ties in preaching it. The fenfe that all the paftoral
functions are directly fubfervient to the greateft of
all ends, the purity, perfection, and happinefs of
immortal beings, will determine you to adapt all
your ftudies and exercifes to that end ; to avoid
barren fpeculations, frivolous controverfies, fubtle
and unedifying queftions ; not to feek after, what
may pleafe the imagination, gratify the curiofity,
or humour the prejudices of the people : but to
inculcate only the fimple doctrine of the gofpel,



which tends wholly to falsification, and to fet
every part of it in thofe points of view, in which
it has the ftrongefl tendency to affect the heart, im-
prove the temper, influence the practice, and thus
fit men for eternal life. From a lively impreffion
of the connexion of your functions with this end,
and of their necemty to the people, what ardor,
zeal, alacrity, and diligence in performing them,
muft arife ? It will make you cheerfully continue
and increafe your labours, and never give them
over, till you have accomplifhed their end, at leaft
till you have freed yourfelves from blame, though
they mould fail of actually reaching it.

A lively fenfe of the genuine importance of the
paftoral office will have a great influence on the
whole of your character. It will powerfully infli-
gate you to all goodnefs. It implies a fenfe of the
importance of eternal falvation, which is the end
of all the functions of that office. And with this
in your view, can you be but concerned for your
own falvation, and careful to fecure it ? Can you
indulge yourfelves in fin, which muft forfeit it, or
neglect that holinefs without which it cannot be
obtained ? Salvation is the mofl commanding ob-
ject that you can hold forth to others, for coun-
teracting the temptations of the world, for baffling
the power of fin, for furmounting the difficulties
of religion, for encouraging them to climb the
heights of virtue : and if you yourfelves have a
conftant fenfe of it, it is impoffible that it mould



have no influence on your own temper and con-
duel. It will be your very bufinefs, to teach men,
in all poffible ways, " the doctrine which is ac-
" cording to godlinefs 7 :" can you. teach it with-
out fludying it ? and can :you make it the bufinefs
of your lives to fludy it, without feeling any thing
of its power in forming yourfelves to godlinefs?
It is doubtlefs poffible to go through the functions

Online LibraryAlexander GerardThe pastoral care → online text (page 2 of 26)