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trench all superfluities in good time, and enter upon a new economy! What if he should not treat with wine, and rival men of permanent fortunes in his entertainments; what if his wife and daughters were not to shine in silks, but be modestly clothed in decent stuffs, and the savings laid up for their fortunes; would any wise man think the worse either of him or them? No; his prudence and their humility would be universally applauded, and would be set up as an example to other families in the like circumstances.
I should therefore think it a most laudable resolution in every clergyman, who is not possessed of a temporal estate, to lay up one half, or one third, or at the least one quarter of his income, according as the thing will bear, for the future occasions of his family; and to look upon such savings as not at all his own, but sacred to their use.
It remains only that I exhort you to that which is not so properly to be called a distinct and separate head of duty, as a mode or quality that ought to run through all the rest: I am speaking of zeal, or that fervent desire of doing good to the souls of your parishioners, which will animate and enliven every part of your duty. This is opposed to that indolence and lukewarmness of spirit, which always proceeds with indifference and slothfulness in business; which does what is barely required, and no more, and therefore generally underdoes in every thing. To such tempers every thing goes up hill and against the grain; and is performed as if it were a task, which is done only because it must be done.
But a principle of zeal will turn our duty into delight, and make us active and diligent; it will overcome all difficulties, and spare no pains in promoting the honour of God, and the salvation of those souls that are committed to our charge. Our Saviour gives John the character of a burning and a shining light, shining by the light of his doctrine, and burning by the warmth and activity of his zeal: and the same should be the character of every minister of the gospel.
In order therefore to excite you to the effectual discharge of your spiritual offices with this laudable temper of mind, I shall, as I proposed, lay before you some motives and considerations, which, if duly attended to, cannot fail of success.
The first shall be taken from the nature of that trust, which with your own consent has been committed to you.
f John v. 35.
The souls of your parishioners are your immediate charge, and you are to guide them in the way to eternal salvation. Hence it is, that the office of a minister is represented in the holy scriptures under metaphors and characters importing a very high trust.
You are called shepherds, who are to feed the flock of Christ, by enlightening their minds with the knowledge of divine truths; to establish their faith, and influence them to the practice of virtue. Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? says our Saviour; Feed my sheeps; which he repeats three times. The trust is comprised in three words, but so big with important matter as might fill a volume. However, you may observe the principle and spring from whence it is inferred and enforced; Lovest thou me? strongly implying, that wherever there is a true love for our blessed Saviour, it will naturally operate by a zeal for promoting the salvation of those souls for whom he shed his most precious blood.
As shepherds, you are likewise instructed to guard your flocks from spiritual enemies and dangers, especially as they are surrounded with those who will be assiduous to pervert and corrupt both their faith and manners. For this reason a good pastor will always have an eye upon his flock, to confirm those that are wavering, and to reclaim and recover such as have been led astray, being seduced by cunning men, who lay in wait to deceive; for those wolves have ever haunted about Christ's fold.
And it is in the same view and for the same purposes that you are called watchmen; for you are to watch over the faith and morals of your people, and guard them against infidelity, idolatry, false doctrines, corrupt religions, evil customs, and immoral practices. Son of man, says God to the prophet, I have made thee a watchman over the house of Israel; and the end follows, namely, to warn the wicked from his evil way. St. Paul takes up the allusion, Obey them that have the rule over you, for they watch for your soulsh.
And here I cannot but repeat the hint of the necessity of residence, which is so clearly and strongly implied in those metaphors; for an absent and rambling shepherd must needs neglect the safety of his flock, and a watchman or sentinel will be punished if he leaves his post.
And lastly, to name no more, you are stewards of the
John xxi. 16.
Hebrews xiii. 17.
mysteries of God', and dispensers of the means of salvation in his church. The church is Christ's household or family; and it is your office to administer their spiritual food to them, even the sincere milk of the word, that so they may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of God their Saviour.
Now these metaphors of a shepherd, a watchman, and a steward, express in a most significant and lively manner the nature of that trust which is committed to every one who has taken upon him the holy character; and shew that he is responsible for the souls of his parishioners.
And as every trust must one time or other be accounted for, this leads me to the other motive, proper to excite you to a zealous and diligent discharge of your office; namely, you will most certainly be called to a strict account for the same. This is strongly urged by St. Paul, in the place before mentioned, as an argument both to ministers and people to discharge their duties reciprocally; Obey them that rule over you, for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account.
And what account will a lukewarm, slothful, and negli gent minister give at that day, if his unhappy parishioners should turn evidences against him, and, in excuse for their own faults, plead, that they miscarried through his neglect? will he plead his obedience to the canons and rubrics, and that he performed every service which the letter of the law required? Let me assure you, my reverend brethren, that this plea will not be admitted before the great Judge, and that the Father and Lover of souls requires much more at your hands.
Canons and rubrics are useful instruments for keeping up external discipline, order, and decency in an established church; and it is small merit in a clergyman to obey these, because he will be exposed to ecclesiastical censures for his neglect. But if he contents himself with this legal observance, and goes no further, he will be found wanting when he comes to be weighed in the balance. His heart and soul must be set upon his work; he must give up the best of his time and pains to it, labouring in season and out of seasonk, performing many things as a volunteer, which laws do not and cannot prescribe; or he will never stand the inquisition of the great day, but be ranked in the number of unprofitable servants. This day of reckon
i 1 Cor. iv. 1.
k 2 Tim. iv. 2.
ing must come; it is what you preach to others, and it is what you should seriously consider yourselves, lest, after preaching to them, you yourselves should be castaways1.
But as dreadful as this day will prove to slothful and merely canonical pastors, it will be no less joyful and happy to those who have been zealous and diligent in saving the souls committed to their charge. With what pleasure will every such minister appear at the head of his happy flock before the great Shepherd, and in his own words say, Those thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost! The light of his doctrine, and the living light of his example, did not shine in vain, even with respect to himself, before his people; for they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever m
If any further motive were necessary, though one would think it should not, you may turn to the Office of Ordination, and refresh your memories with the solemn promises you made at your admission to the order of priests; and I would earnestly advise every clergyman to read over that Office once at least in every year, because stale promises are too apt to be forgotten.
Having thus, my reverend brethren, delivered my thoughts to you, though very imperfectly, upon some of the chief branches of your sacred function, I hope you will receive them favourably, and that they will not be quite unprofitable; and especially to such of you as have not long been admitted to the cure of souls.
I shall by God's assistance endeavour to cooperate with you for promoting the great ends of your ministry; I shall rejoice to live in harmony and a good understanding with you; I shall be happy in your esteem and affection, and in giving you the best proofs of mine. If any of you should need admonition, you will remember that it is my duty to give it, and yours to take it in good part: and I hope always to give it in the spirit of meekness, and with a due regard to the dignity of your character. I shall be apt to take good impressions of you, and slow to believe things unworthy of you; and would hope that this disposition of charity and benevolence will be mutual. shall cheerfully assist you, as far as I am capable, with my advice, and with my prayers in your behalf; and I hope I shall not want the benefit of your advice as there shall be occasion; and especially of your prayers, that God will enable me by his grace to discharge faithfully the great
11 Cor. ix. 27.
m Daniel xii. 3.
trust committed to me, for the promotion of his glory and the edification of this diocese: that so, when the great Shepherd shall require an account of the flocks committed to our charge, you and I may be able to give it up with cheerfulness, and enter into the joy of our Lord.
I shall conclude with those awful words of God to the prophet Ezekiel in his 33d chapter. O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul.