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in the mean time, neglect to humble his heart to walk with God in a manifest holiness and usefulness, and he will not fail of his end.'*
Take heed that your pastoral office prove not a snare to your soul, by lifting you up with pride and self-importance. Forget not, that the whole of your work is ministerial; not legislative-That you are not a lord in the church, but a servant-That the New Testament attaches no honour to the character of a pastor, except in connection with his humility and benevolence, his diligence and zeal, in promoting the cause of the Great Shepherd-And, that there is no character upon earth which so ill accords with a proud, imperious, haughty spirit, as that of a christian pastor.
If not intoxicated with a conceit of your own wisdom and importance, you will not, when presiding in the management of church affairs, labour to have every motion determined according to your own inclination. For this would savour of ecclesiastical despotism; be inconsistent with the nature and spirit of congregational order; and implicitly grasping at a much larger degree of power, and of responsibility, than properly falls to your share.
Nor, if this caution be duly regarded, will you. consider it as an insult on either your ministerial wisdom, or your pastoral dignity, if now and then, one or another of your people, and even the most illiterate among them, should remind you of some real or supposed inadvertency or mistake, either in doctrine or in conduct; no, not though it be in blunt language, and quite unfounded. For a readi* Dr. Owen's Sermons and Tracts, p. 47. Folio. London, 1721. L
stead, then, of consoling ourselves, when convicted of such evils, by adverting to the language of our Lord, Without me ye can do nothing; we should first endeavour to humble ourselves in the dust before God, on account of that innate corruption which renders divine assistance absolutely neces sary for us; and then seek the encouragement that is exhibited by sovereign grace.
To those who have little or no regard to prayer. That there are millions of such in the world, is a lamentable fact; and, probably, some of you may be of that character. Suffer me to address you, then, with a few interrogatories; and, as in the presence of God, let conscience answer. Do not some of you live habitually without secret prayer without devoutly feeling, and solemnly acknowledging, your entire dependence on provi dence, for life and health; for food and raiment? Do none of you rise in the morning, receive the necessary supplies by day, and go to rest at night, without bending the knee before HIM in whom you live, and move, and have your being? You are fed, you are clothed, you enjoy health and plenty; while multitudes are emaciated with disease, and pinched with want of necessary food, and of necessary clothing. But what ungrateful and rebellious returns do you prayerless creatures make, for that divine liberality which is the source of all your supplies!-You have sinned; you have offended the Most High; you are in his hands, to deal with you just as he pleases; nor can any one tell how he will dispose of you: and yet you have never thought it worth your while, to read his word with diligence; to study his gospel with prayer; or
even to cry for mercy. You have heard, it may be, or might have heard, a thousand times, the doctrine of salvation by Jesus Christ, in a public ministry; but have never seriously made it your business to understand its gracious import, nor prayed for enlightening influence.-You are under a divine sentence of temporal death, of which you cannot doubt; are uncertain whether you shall survive another day; and are in imminent danger of eternal ruin yet, far from being awake to your final interests-far from spending your time, as walking on the brink of the grave; you sleep on in your sins, dreaming of long life, and of many happy days, in this world of wickedness, of disappointment, and of misery.--Being under the curse of divine law, you are every moment exposed to everlasting perdition; and, if death overtake you in that condition, it will be no other than the arrest of Eternal Justice, summoning you to appear at the bar of God; and then your damnation will be inevitable. Yet you live without habitual seriousness-without real devotion-and without solemn prayer! But were you assured, by infallible information, that God had absolutely forbidden you to pray; or that he had determined never to regard your prayers, though ever so ardent, or ever so frequent; how dreadful would your situation be considered, even by yourselves! Dark despair would, probably, invelope your minds; a trembling horror would seize your animal frames; and your feelings would be an awful anticipation of hell. Little do you think, while in a prayerless and impenitent state, that, were God to leave you in it, you would certainly go on to treasure up wrath against the day of wrath;
As you, my Brother, are now invested with the pastoral office in this church, and have requested me to address you on the solemn occasion; I shall endeavour to do it with all the freedom of a friend, and with all the affection of a brother; not as your superior, but as your equal.
The language of divine law on which I shall ground my address, is that memorable injunction of Paul, in his charge to Timothy:
1 TIMOTHY IV. 16.
Take heed to thyself.*
Very comprehensive, salutary, and important, is this apostolic precept. For it comes, recommended to our serious and submissive regard, as the language of a saint, who was pre-eminent among the most illustrious of our Lord's immediate followers; as the advice of a most accomplished and useful Minister of the Gospel, when hoary with age, rich with experience, and almost worn down by arduous labours; and as the command of an apostle, who wrote by the order and inspiration of Jesus Christ. This divine precept I shall now take the liberty of urging upon you in various points of light.
* See also, Acts xx. 28.