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in idleness, we charge him with a breach of fidelity. A minister then actually defrauds his people of their right, if he gives not himself wholly to their service. I speak not of cases of absolute necessity, which carry their own justification, and equally excuse the apostle Paul, and any other minister of the gospel, for working with his hands. But such cases excepted, every minister is bound by his own solemn vows, to devote himself wholly to the service of God and the good of his people. I must add,
6. That the importance of the ministry requires thse who undertake it, to give themselves wholly to their office.
The importance of any business is to be estimated according to the magnitude of the objects which are connected with it or suspended upon it. The business of a physician is important, because the lives of men are virtually lodged in his hands. The business of an ambassador at a foreign court is important, because the interests of whole nations and kingdoms are suspended upon his conduct. So the business of a gospel minister is infinitely important, because the eternal interests of men are entrusted to his care. No other busi ness of so much importance, either this side of eter nity or beyond it, was ever committed to created beings. We know not, that the endless happiness or misery of immortal creatures ever was, or ever will be suspended upon each others conduct, in the invisible world. But here in the present state we find that such infinitely important objects are lodged, for a time, in the hands of ministers. There is not, therefore, any work in the universe, which belongs to creatures to perform, so weighty and important, as the work of the ministry. Men must live or die, be happy or miserable to all eternity, accordingly as ministers either fulfil or neg ect the important trusts reposed in them.
And, it is for this reason, that they are so solemnly warned, in the sacred oracles, to be diligent and faithful in their work. All the divine warnings and exhortations directed to them, plainly convey the idea, that both their own, and their peoples' salvation, is suspended upon their diligence, fidelity, and watchfulness. "Meditate upon these things, give thyself holy to them," says the apostle to Timothy: and immediately adds, "take heed unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine, continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee." In the same strain God speaks to the prophet Ezekiel. "Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, when I bring a sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning, if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned: if the sword come and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman to 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 thos hast delivered thy soul." These solemn warnings and admonitions, lay ministers under an absolute necessity of being laborious and faithful in their work. For, if they prove negligent, careless, and unfaithful, they and their people must lie down together in everlasting sor
I have now finished what I have to say upon the nature and obligation of ministers giving themselves wholly to their work; and proceed to improve the subject.
1. We learn from what has been said, that if ministers do give themselves wholly to their work, they will make it appear. This is a conclusion which the apostle draws from the subject. "Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all; or as it might be rendered, that, "thy profiting may appear in all; that is, in all thy conduct, and in every branch of thy ministerial office." As it is more difficult for any man to conceal his knowledge, than his ignorance; so it is more difficult for a minister to conceal his faithfulness, than his unfaithfulness. If ministers give then selves wholly to their work they will certainly profit by it, and increase in knowledge, in piety, and usefulness. They will be come more and more wise to win souls, and more and more engaged to do it. The industrious man will thrive; for we are told the "diligent hand maketh rich." A faithful, studious, prayerful minister will make advances in knowledge and holiness. His public labors will breathe the spirit of his private studies and devotions. And his devout and exemplary life will give weight and energy to his public addresses.
But the means he employs will more fully discover his ultimate end. View a man's daily conduct, and you will easily perceive his leading object. If you see him rise early, and late take rest; if you see him shun idle company and vain amusements; if you see him apply every part of his property to the best advantage; you will be fully convinced that he gives himself wholly to his business, and determines to be rich. So, if you see a minister, who rises early, and late takes rest; who loves his study and appears to be at home in it; who avoids vain conversation, and delights in that which is good to the use of edifying, and who appears to partake of the joys as well as of the afflictions of the gospel, you will naturally conclude that he gives himself wholly to his work. Such a minister's profiting will appear to all, and carry convincing evidence to every mind, that his work absorbs all his thoughts and attention, governs his views and pursuits, and affords him the highest pleasure and satisfaction in life.
2. We learn from what has been said, that if ministers do not give themselves wholly to their work, they will also make it appear. The means, as we have just observed, will discover the end. If a man is going to a certain place, he will naturally choose the road which will carry him thither. Or if he is seeking a certain end, he will naturally employ the means, which will put him in possession of his desired object. And it is by observing this inseperable connexion between means and ends, that we are able, in ten thousand instances, to discover the different views, and of conse quence, to distinguish the different characters of men. By this criterion, we discover the knave, the miser, and the sluggard. And by the same criterion, you may discover the idle and unfaithful minister. It he gives
not himself to the ministry, he will give the ministry to himself. And the ministry it is well known, may be made a very pretty sinecure, that is, an office of ease, of wealth, and of honor, without employment. But if a man should serve himself of the ministry, and make it subservient to his own avaricious, worldly views, he would be very apt to make it appear, at home and abroad, in his own house, and in the house of God. For the means and the end are totally different, and will appear so to every discerning spectator. If a minister does not love to preach, if he does not love to study, if he does not love to promote the cause of Christ and the interests of religion, his general mode of conduct will serve to discover it. For, if he does not love these objects, he will certainly love and pursue others, to the neglect of the labors and duties of his proper business. His proper business he will pursue with coldness and indifference; his supreme object he will pursue with warmth and pleasure. In his proper business, he will appear out of his element; and out of his proper business, he will appear in his element. He will carry with him into all companies, into all places, and into all duties, visible marks of his leading object. For, he "cannot serve God and mammon;" and if he "gathers not with Christ, he will scatter abroad."
3. We learn from what has been said, why the vineyard of Christ bears at this day, such a disagreeable and melancholy appearance. If we go into a field, which is all overgrown with thorns and nettles, and whose hedges, fences, and stone walls are broken down, we know by its appearance whose field it is; and pronounce without hesitation, that it belongs to the slothful man, who says, "yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep." So, if we go into the vineyard of Christ, and find where the