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SERMON CLIV.

THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.

VARIOUS DUTIES OF MINISTERS.

1 THESSALONIANS ii. 2.

And sent Timothy, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-labourer in the Gospel of Christ, to establish you,

and fort you, concerning your faith.

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Having examined, at length, the great duty of Preaching the Gospel in the two preceding discourses, I shall now proceed to a summary consideration of other Ministerial duties.

In the text Timothy is said to be sent to the Thessalonians, to establish them, and to comfort them concerning their faith. What was here the business of Timothy, is the proper business of every minister of the Gospel. From the text, therefore, I de. rive this doctrine;

That every minister of the Gospel is appointed for the establishment of Christians. This truth will not be questioned. I shall, therefore, enter immediately upon a consideration of the principal remaining methods, in which the duties, specified in the text, are to be performed.

1. Every minister is bound to give himself diligently to Stredy.

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This duty is abundantly enjoined in the Scriptures. Meditate, says St. Paul to Timothy, upon these things. Give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear unto all. A Bishop, he further says, must be apt to teach. Plainly, therefore, he must learn the things, which he is to teach. He must not be a novice, lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil. That these precepts require of every minister the diligent study of the Scriptures, will not, I suppose, be dis

I puted. This, however, is far from being all that is required. Every minister is bound to enable himself to study the Scriptures with success. Unless this is done, the thing, directly commanded, can never be done to any valuable purpose.

A child may study them with great diligence throughout his childhood; and an ignorant man throughout his life ; and yet both be novices, in the end. A novice, here, denotes a new convert to the faith; and by Chrysostom is said to mean one newly instructed, or one, who has been instructed but a little time. The original word denotes a plant lately set out, or planted. Its real import is a person, who knows little about what he pretends to teach. Timothy, at the writing of this Epistle, was about thirty-two years of age; had been long, even from a child, acquainted with the Holy Scriptures ; had been a convert about twelve or thirteen years ; had been continually instructed in the Gospel by St. Paul and had enjoyed the benefit of his wisdom, learning, and inspiration, throughout this period. Besides, he appears to have possessed superior talents, a good education, and supernatural endowments in a high degree. Still, all these directions Paul judged to be necessary for him. For he expressly cautions him not to let any man despise his youth. How much more are the same directions necessary to a youth, who is only preparing himself for the Ministry of the Gospel!

To every man, who would well understand any complicated subject, comprehensive views, clear discernment, and the art of arranging his thoughts with skill and perspicuity, are indispensable. These attainments are the result only of long-continued study, habits of exact discrimination, and extensive practice in the art of methodizing his thoughts.

Toa Minister, all this is peculiarly necessary. His prime business is to teach; and he must therefore have learned. An ignorant teacher is a contradiction in terms.

The prime object of study to a Minister is the Bible. In order to understand this sacred book, it is necessary not only to study it intensely, and abundantly, but to become acquainted, also, with the languages, in which it was written. The importance of this knowledge is completely seen in the fact, that the Scriptures are ultimately what they were, as they came from the hands of the writers ; not as they came from the hands of the translators.

Another requisite is an acquaintance with Ecclesiastical history. This will teach him the sins and virtues, the errors and sound doctrines, the prosperous and the adverse circumstances, which have existed in the Church, in its various ages ; together with the causes, by which they have been produced. Generally, he will derive from this source the same advantages, in the Ecclesiastical sense, which the Statesman derives, in a political sense, from Civil history. He will learn what the Church has been ; why it has thus been ; and how in many respects it may be rendered better and happier.

Another requisite to the same end is an acquaintance with wise and learned commentaries on the Scriptures.

The authors of these must, in many instances, have understood this sacred book better than himself. By a prudent recurrence to their explications, he will be enabled to gain a knowledge of it, which, otherwise, would be impracticable.

The Science of Ethics is only a branch of theology.

Logic is indispensable, to make him a sound reasoner; and Rhetoric to teach him how to write, and how to speak, with skill, and success.

The knowledge of History and Geography is indispensable to all men, who would make contemplation, or instruction, any serious part of their business.

The Book of Man is to every minister a necessary object of investigation, that he may know to what beings he preaches; how to preach to them in an interesting and useful manner; and how to understand, explain, and impress, a multitude of Scrip

tural passages.

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Generally, all that knowledge, which will enlarge and invigorate his mind, will, so far as he can attain it, contribute to render him a more able and judicious preacher, and his discourses more instructive, interesting, and edifying, to his hearers.

A considerable number of persons, professing to believe the Bible, are found in this and other countries, generally persons remarkably ignorant, who have pronounced learning, or as they have termed it, book-learning, to be a disqualification for the Ministerial office. Ignorant as they are, they have, still, understanding enough to perceive, that ignorance itself cannot furnish a man for the business of teaching. They have accordingly provided a substitute for learning; which, in a preacher, they could not otherwise avoid acknowledging to be indispensable. The substitute is this. Their preachers, as they profess to believe, are supplied, directly from heaven, with supernatural light and power ; so as to enable them clearly to understand, and profitably to expound, the Word of God. They further declare, that men, destitute of these endowments, cannot even understand his Word; that the real, and only, profitable, sense of the Scriptures is mystical, and not at all discerned by common eyes ; that, to undersland it at all, the supernatural endowments, which they claim, are absolutely necessary; and that learning, therefore, is of no use to this end. This is the substance of their doctrine; although expressed by them, as every thing else concerning religion is expressed by ignorant and enthusiastic men, with much uncertainty and confusion.

This scheme deserves a sober examination on two accounts only. One is, that it is seriously adopted by its dotaries. The other is, that these are considerably numerous. For these reasons I shall animadvert upon it in the following observations.

1. The Scriptures give us no reason to conclude, that Inspiration would continue after the Apostolic age.

The endowment, challenged by these men, appears to be that kind, and degree, of Inspiration, which was formerly given to those, whose business it was to interpret unknown tongues. I do not mean, that they directly challenge this character in express terms; but this is what they mean, if they mean any thing. The Scriptures they declare to be written in language, which,

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as to its true and useful meaning, is unknown to mankind at large. They, as they profess, are endowed by Heaven with the power of interpreting it to others. But the Scriptures give us no reason to believe, that any such Inspiration exists. The burden of proof plainly lies upon them: and, if they fail of furnishing it, their pretensions stand for nothing.

2. If they are actually thus inspired; their Inspiration can be of no use to mankind.

The language, which they use in interpreting the Scriptures, is the plain, common language of men. The Scriptures are written in this very language, chosen with incomparably more skill and success, than that, which is used by these preachers. The most important things in the Bible are written in the plainest possible manner. If mankind cannot understand the terms here used; the terms, which they employ, must be still more unintelligible. Their labours, therefore, must be absolutely useless.

So far as the language of the Scriptures is attended with any difficulty, and demands any skill in interpreting it, the efforts of these men are worse than nothing. The only power, by which any language can be correctly explained to those, who speak it, is critical skill in that language. But this, these men have not begun to possess. When, therefore, they comment, they merely blunder. What they attempt to explain, they only perplex. As they do not understand the language themselves; it is impossible, that they should make it understood by others.

3. They give no proof, that they are thus inspired.

The Apostles proved their inspiration in three unobjectionable ways. They wrought miracles, uttered unrivalled wisdom ; and exhibited throughout their lives unrivalled virtue. These men furnish neither of these proofs. They do not pretend to work miracles: they are always weak, ignorant, and foolish; and, though sometimes, it is to be hoped, men of piety, are never distinguished by any remarkable excellence; but fall below most other pious men, through the influence of characteristical pride, prejudice, enthusiasm, censoriousness, and bigotry.

As, therefore, they furnish no proof, that they possess this power; mankind are under no obligation to believe their pre.

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