We happy to provide a PDF scanned copy of a printing from 1984 of a sermon preached by William Crabtree at The Particular Baptist Chapel, Halifax, on August 6, 1760. This sermon was taken from the February and March, 1978 issues of "The Gospel Standard", London, England and Republished by Primitive Baptist Publications, Inc. of Stone Mountain, Ga.
We are happy to provide the text of the sermon as well below as published is a booklet Br. Phelan has;
Copy of Sermon
The Esteem which The Churches owe to their Ministers
Preached by William Crabtree
The Particular Baptist Chapel, Halifax, on August 6, 1760
(Taken from the February and March, 1978 Issues of “The Gospel Standard,” London, England)
Note to the Reader:
THE ESTEEM WHICH THE CHURCHES OWE TO THEIR MINISTERS
(The occasion for this sermon preached by William Crabtree was the ordination services of Joshua Woods as pastor of the Particular Baptist Chapel, Halifax, on August 6, 1760. Mr. Crabtree (1720-1811) was pastor of the first Particular Baptist church in Bradford.)
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Text: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.” (1 Thess. 5:12, 13)
The work assigned to me in the solemn service of this day is to address you, my brethren, who have, in the presence of the all-wise, heart-searching God, angels and this assembly, invested our much esteemed brother with the noble office of a pastor over you in the Lord. This you have done in the most honourable and distinguishing character that it is possible for a society of people upon earth to sustain: viz. a church of Christ; and by that authority which is superior to every other: viz. the King of Saints. I persuade myself that if you maturely deliberate upon the nature and extent of his work in all its various branches, and what is needful to a proper discharge thereof; and that too not for a time but for a continuance; not by fits and starts but every day of his life; not in season only but out of season also; not according to his own humour but according to the mind of God, and as may be the most conducive to profit and the universal advantage of your souls: I say, if you consider these things closely, you will readily conclude that all the help and encouragement which he can obtain from every quarter will be little enough.
Charity will not allow me to think that while you have been hearing of those duties incumbent upon your pastor in respect to you, you indulge the flesh-pleasing thought that the laws of Zion’s King lay you under no obligation in regard to your pastor. No, my brethren, you cannot but know, if you give diligence to reading the divine oracles, that the Holy Spirit in a very warm and pathetic manner addresses you in various places relative to the many duties you are bound to discharge to your beloved pastor as a church of Christ committed to his care.
May I take the liberty to presume that it will be acceptable to you could I drop anything among you which may contribute to your knowledge of those duties devolving on you, and provoke you to such a conduct as may, under a divine influence, promote the joy and comfort of your pastor, and of each other in the holy relationship which you sustain? I have no ground to conclude that you have acted insincerely in the solemn transactions of this day, and consequently believe that whatever may be delivered, consistent with divine revelation, will be duly regarded and constantly practised by you, without which I should but labour in vain and spend my strength for nought: and you will be guilty of tempting the Holy One of Israel, of abusing His institutions, of slighting His Word, and of using hypocrisy and deceit.
I know not how to address you in language more proper than in the words I have read as a text. They are a part of the apostle’s address to the flourishing church at Thessalonica, and contain important counsel and advice to every society of believers who are favoured with a minister after God’s own heart. The apostle delivers this wholesome advice in the most affectionate, winning and condescending manner: “…we beseech you, brethren…” He calls them “brethren” to let them know not only that they stood in the same relation to God the Father with himself, but also to acquaint them how much he loved and esteemed them. We desire or entreat you, not as those who would be lords over your faith, or sit as tyrants in your consciences, but as those who are helpers of your joy, and would be instrumental in guiding you aright in all things.
Next follows the exhortation: “…to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.” Where observe:
First, The station of pastors and overseers in the church: they are said to be over them in the Lord. Not that they have dominion over their faith, or power to impose laws upon them which have no foundation in the Word of God, but they are over them to rule and govern them, to guide, direct and go before them, to watch over them, take cognizance of their sins, and to administer seasonable reproof. Hence they are said to rule over them. (Heb. 13:17). And we read of those that “rule well.” (I Tim. 5:17). Moreover they are said to be over them in the Lord; to show that their qualification for and commission to their work is from the Lord. (Eph. 4:11, 12; Matt. 28:19, 20). As also to teach us that they are invested with full power and authority from Him to administer the Word and ordinances of His house, and to govern His people in righteousness. We have,
Secondly, the nature of the ministerial employment: a work and labour. It would be almost endless as well as needless to refer to all the passages in the New Testament where this word is used in speaking of the calling of a pastor. It is called a labouring in the Word and doctrine (I Tim. 5:17) to show that the servants of the living God have to dig deep into the golden mines of the Scriptures to the end that, as good workmen that need not be ashamed and as faithful and wise stewards, they may approve themselves to God and to every man’s conscience in the sight of God, rightly dividing the Word of truth, and giving to every one their portion of meat in due season (Luke 12:42; II Tim. 2:15). They have to labour to find out what is most needful and seasonable for the flock; to labour in searching out proper portions of Scripture; and when found, to labour to come at the meaning of the Holy Spirit in them; to labour in collecting their several ideas together and in arranging them in their proper order; to labour in fixing such ideas upon the mind, and in finding out acceptable words adapted to the weak capacities of the flock. They labour in prayer and supplication to God, and with the people also in exhortation, caution and reproof, that each may walk in his own place. They labour with the judgment of their flock to inform and rectify them; with their wills to reconcile them to the truth and to a diligent performance of practical godliness in their daily life, to draw them from things below and excite them to things above. They have to labour also with their tempers and dispositions, and sometimes with the corruptions and hard and ungrateful speeches and unchristian behavior of their people. To endure, labour under and grapple with all this, and much more of the like nature, will when rightly considered plainly show how unjust an idea such form of the ministerial work who look upon it to be an indolent, lazy calling. Moreover, they are said to labour among them, which, I think, shows that they dwelt among them, and were daily conversant with them; and, indeed, where else should ministers reside but with and among those they feed with the divine Word and ordinances? Can it be thought that they can in a proper manner watch over their conduct and look into their state, sympathize with, comfort, instruct, reprove and build them up without it?
Thirdly, we have the duties specified which are incumbent upon a church of Christ towards those who labour among them. Which are: first, “to know them.” By which cannot be understood simply a knowledge of their persons, or places of abode, for this they could not but know already. But rather it intends the notice they are to take of them and the familiarity and Christian freedom they ought to use with them at all times and upon all occasions, bearing them upon their hearts, and striving to do them all the good that lies within their power. This is the privilege of all Christians one toward another, but more especially should it be carried out among the saints towards the ministers of Christ; and still most of all so to those from whose labours and conversation we enjoy constant benefit.
Then, they are to be esteemed very highly in love for their work’s sake. Esteem is due to all the saints, but it is due to gospel ministers in a peculiar manner. These are not only to be esteemed, but esteemed very highly, with a degree of esteem much above (though of the same kind) with that we owe to one another as saints, and this on account of their superior dignity and usefulness in the house of God.
Esteem is to be accompanied with or spring from love; esteem them very highly in love. Love is a debt the saints owe and ought daily to discharge to the faithful labourers of Christ and workmen in the sanctuary of His holiness, and that which renders the debt of love greater from the saints to the ministers of the gospel is their work. Others we love only as Christians, but these more than Christians: the messengers of Christ to the churches for their good.
We will come now to the doctrinal part of our text, and in handling which doctrine, I shall attempt to show two things:
I. To point the manner in which a church’s love and regard for her pastor discovers itself. And,
II. I shall endeavor to provoke to such a conduct by proper motives.
I. To point out the manner in which a church’s love and regard for her pastor discovers itself. Among the many things wherein this active principle of love and regard is discernible, the following may be looked upon as genuine and true:
1. In behaving to your pastor with that respect and honour that his walk, character and lofty employment demand. If a proper degree of reverence and submission is due to those who rule and govern in a civil sense, as is evident from Rom. 13:1, then surely it cannot be thought that those who are rulers in a higher sense, and of a more exalted order, are not worthy of a proper degree of honour and respect from those who are committed to their care. The apostle, writing to the Hebrew converts, tells them that submission and obedience were due from them to those who had the rule over them (Heb. 13:17); and in I Timothy 5:17, he advises that the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour. Nor is it to be thought that the respect and honour due to the ministers of Christ and the pastors of particular churches is less at this day than it was then, seeing they are qualified for and commissioned to the same work by the same divine agent as were the apostles of Jesus. So that we may safely conclude that what was given in command, or advice, then to the churches was fully designed to be observed in like cases to the end of the world.
By honour and reverence I do not mean that it is the duty of church members to cringe and bow to their pastors and address them with compliments as often as they meet them—for that is nothing but foppery, and what I dare say your pastor will neither desire nor expect. Nor do I think that it is to be carried to such a pitch as to dread the presence and shun the company and conversation of the ministers of Christ; for this is no other than mere slavery and bondage, and what every judicious and affectionate pastor would abhor, as having no better tendency than to curtail his usefulness and to make those under his care like so many criminals in a prison rather than children in a family. But when I say that they should behave to him with reverence and honour, my meaning is that they should view him in his proper character and office, and consider him as one set over them in the Lord.
Be advised, my brethren, to guard against that undue freedom and unbecoming familiarity that many take with their pastors, even as though they were their equals. Nay, I may add that there are many church members who speak to and behave before their ministers with as much indecency and rudeness as though they were their domestic servants. Avoid such a conduct with detestation. Without this you may certainly expect that your dear pastor will lose his authority in the house of God; his ministry will be little regarded by you; his private conversation will be of small concern; his occasional exhortations you will despise; his kind entreaties you will laugh at; his faithful reproofs you will disdain, as well as pour contempt and reproach upon the ordinances and counsels of the Most High.
2. Your affection for your pastor will be seen in speaking of him to others with a proper degree of caution, decency and respect. Wherever providence so orders it that in company you have occasion to mention your pastor in reference either to his person, qualifications, ministry or conversation, always study to do it in the most favourable manner. It is in the nature of love to hide a multitude of sins or infirmities (I Pet. 4:8); then much more the infirmities of gospel ministers. Be exhorted to guard against the conduct of too many members of churches who are so shamefully guilty at this day in endeavouring to make everything look mean and contemptible that is said or done by their pastors; who have in every company something that is diminutive and reflecting to say of him. If you must needs advance something about him, let it concern his excellencies and usefulness; and if you have occasion to speak of his weaknesses, do it with that charity that believeth and hopeth all things. The Word of God forbids speaking evil of any man, much more of our fellow-Christians, and most of all of them who labour among us and watch for our souls. In all probability the number of those without, who will use great freedom in reproaching your dear pastor, will be great enough, without the addition of you to that number. Nor can any better consequences follow such a conduct than to set the hearts of others both against him and you; to harden your own hearts and to alienate your minds from your pastor; to grieve and vex his mind; and to provoke the Spirit of God to withdraw His influences from you.
Take a view of the Corinthian church, who notwithstanding all that the apostle had done for them in calling and building them up, yet when a little abated in their love to him, they must needs let him know that, “…his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” But rather, my brethren, do you let everyone’s eyes and ears be privy to the unfeigned love and esteem which you bear to him who has this day taken the charge of your souls, and whose time and strength is set apart for your good.
3. Your love to your pastor will further appear in turning a deaf ear to any unjust reflections cast upon him from whatever quarter they may proceed. That reports of this nature will be circulated is beyond all doubt. The men of the world, both the wicked and carnal professors, are very liberal in pouring out their abominable lies upon the people of God, and more especially upon those who are set for the defence of the gospel. If your pastor is upright and faithful in declaring all the counsel of God; if he makes it his business to lay open the nature of sin in its true light; if he point out the forlorn and helpless state of man as a fallen creature; if he preach Jesus Christ as the alone Saviour of sinners, to the utter exclusion of men’s works; if he is open and clear upon the grand doctrines of grace; I say if this is his conduct, nothing is more certain than that he will expose himself to the ill will and rage of his enemies, who will spare no pains, as influenced by the spirit of darkness, to render his name, character and employment odious and contemptible. Their cry will be, “Report, say they, and we will report it.” (Jer. 20:10). But what is your duty when in this case? To give attention to and indulge these vile reflections? Nay, but rather to act like true citizens of Zion, who take not up a reproach against their neighbor (Psalm 15:3). You ought constantly to attend to the advice of the apostle in I Tim. 5:19, “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” The same caution also should be used by respecting anything you hear of others among yourselves.
It is an evident demonstration of the want of love among church members to their pastor when their ears are open to every groundless scandal cast upon him, which it is not in his power to prevent; also, when there appears a painful itch, if not to blaze abroad the matter, yet to be whispering about it in the ear of this and the other select friend. If at any time you have sufficient ground to believe that there may be too much truth in such reports, yet love will dictate to you to keep the thing as secret as possible, and to take the first opportunity of relating your uneasiness to your pastor face to face. How happy might pastors and people be in the enjoyment of each other were there but more attention paid to this part of our conduct in the house of God! The contrary justly entitles to the hateful character of an encourager of lies and a talebearer (Prov. 18:8). Whoever is guilty of this baseness can expect no better than to harden his own heart, prejudice the minds of others, very much distress and grieve the soul of his pastor, and cause divisions and animosities in the church. But I hope better things of you, though I thus speak, and that your regard for your pastor is such as will prove an effectual antidote against every thing of this kind.
4. Your love to your pastor will evidence itself in feeling a proper degree of sympathy and compassion for him in all his distresses. You will do well to guard against the mistaken notion of too many, who are willing to think that the ministers of the gospel are above the reach of every thing that renders a man the proper object of compassion. Some are ready to think their attainments in the divine life and their victory over sin, the world and the devil to be such as set them beyond the limits of grief and sorrow. Brethren, do not entertain this groundless thought. Assure yourselves that though your pastor may be more eminent in knowledge, and perhaps the subject of more grace than most of you, still he is a man of like passions with yourselves, subject to the same infirmities that you are, and I may venture to say, incident to greater trials, in some respects, than you can be.
Have you a rebellious will, corrupt affections, and indeed a depraved nature to complain of? So has he. I doubt not but he has often occasion to say with Paul, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind…O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Are you buffeted with temptations and shot at by the enemy with his fiery darts? Doubtless he is the same. Did so great a man as Paul feel a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him? And can it be thought that you pastor will live and die ignorant of this? Nay, I cannot think the “old serpent” will be so friendly to him. Have you to complain of a bewitching world, that draws your hearts aside from God and alienates your minds too much from things above? Is it a difficult matter for you to hold on your way and to keep your garments clean and unspotted from the world? This, I dare venture to say, is and will be his case also. Is tribulation and persecution your lot? Surely it will be his also, in one form or another. Have you to complain of deadness, coldness and carnality in the service of God, of a wandering mind and an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God? I much question whether he has not the same. Are your minds cast down with fear and distress in reference to your interest in Christ? It is not every gospel minister that is quite free from these troublesome companions.
Have you the weight and care of immortal souls committed to your hands? You have not. Besides every other burden the apostle had to bear, he adds, “…that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” Have you, in order to prepare a portion of meat in due season, to labour in the midst of darkness, unbelief and temptation, as if you were “inclosed in hewn stone”? You have not. But your pastor has at times, unless he be more highly favoured than most of the servants of Christ. Do you know what it is to enter the pulpit with a trembling heart, a burdened soul, a distracted mind? You do not. But many of God’s dear servants do. Do you know what it is to return from the pulpit to the closet with this mournful complaint, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” and, “I have laboured in vain…”? You do not. But not a few of the faithful messengers of Christ have had occasion thus to lament. And your pastor cannot promise himself that this shall never be his case. If this is the case with the ministers of the gospel, then surely they are the proper subjects of sympathy and compassion. When you observe your pastor sunk in his spirits and hear him making bitter complaints, look not upon him, brethren, with indifference, or turn your head from him. No, let his case affect your minds and lead you to condolence with him. Endeavor to comfort him with seasonable words and to support his mind with wholesome counsel in all his trials and afflictions. Little do many think how much depends upon what I now recommend.
5. The love and esteem so strenuously recommended in our text will discover itself in a cordial reception of reproof from your pastor. It will tend much to your honour and to his happiness if your conduct be in all respects such that you are unblameable and unreproveable before God and men. It will be no small pleasure to his soul thus to be set at liberty from this unpleasant task. But this is more than what can be reasonably expected. It may be justly supposed that such things will occur among you from time to time as will lay him under an indispensable obligation to put into practice the apostle’s injunction (II Tim. 4:2): “…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” And wherever this is the case it will contribute no little to your honour and advance to receive it kindly from him; and with which you can never sufficiently testify your love to him and to the truth. Ever avoid that hateful conduct of which too many, even good people, have fallen into: either wholly denying the fact; or going about to extenuate it; or else by endeavouring to excuse themselves by a sort of necessity they suppose they are under of stepping aside; or by mentioning the miscarriages of others; or, which is common enough, to endeavour to mark some flaw in the conduct of their pastor. How abominable is such a proceeding! How painful and wounding must it be to an affectionate and tender-hearted minister!
Let the contrary conduct ever appear in you; and think yourselves happy if God has given you a pastor who will not suffer sin upon you. How deplorable the state of those churches where the direct contrary of this is the case! They have indeed pastors over them, but, alas! they give themselves no concern about the flock; the sins and shameful conduct of many is no pain of mind to them. They may pursue the ways of darkness with uncontrollable freedom. They will visit, converse with, and freely admit them to the Lord’s table without the least reproof. Consider such a situation, and it will stir you up highly to esteem your pastor, and kindly to accept of his reproofs.
6. Your love to your pastor will appear in humbly asking advice and counsel at his mouth as occasion may require. Notwithstanding you are the subjects of divine light, and have knowledge and understanding given you of God whereby you are able to discern many things in a proper manner, yet it is possible for you in many things to mistake and turn aside out of the way wherein you should go. Therefore it not only may but certainly will happen that you will stand in need of wholesome advice and direction, to the end that you may keep a conscience void of offense. And who so likely to apply to as your pastor? If he be capable of instructing you publicly, why not in a more private manner? I would, therefore, recommend it to you in the strongest terms, to do him the honour and yourselves the happiness to acquaint him in time with your difficulties. I persuade myself that it will be a pleasure to his soul to lend you all the assistance he is capable of; and it will be a convincing proof of your humility, tenderness of conscience, and love to his person, and of the high opinion you entertain his abilities. You are to look upon him and treat him as an interpreter sent from God, one of a thousand to show to you the way in which you should walk. The contrary of this will fully demonstrate that you undervalue your pastor, despise his abilities and trample the office wherewith he is invested under your feet.
By asking his advice and counsel, I do not mean that you should perplex his mind and consume his time with every needless trifle and curious enquiry, which might rather gender strife and contention than godly edifying; but rather those more weighty matters in reference to doctrine and practice, which have a tendency to establish the conduct and order the conversation according to the Word of God. This would tend greatly to your growth in grace and knowledge, and be the means of a more desirable freedom between you and your pastor, and could not fail very much to improve his ministerial abilities and brighten his talents for his great work, while it fully demonstrated that your own welfare, the credit of religion, and the glory of God lay near your hearts.
Notwithstanding all that I have said under this particular, I would not have you to think that he is always capable of giving you advice upon every thing that may be laid before him—this is a hurtful mistake in many—or that his judgment is infallible. This I am confident his soul abhors. But whatever counsel you receive from him upon any head that appears to be according to the mind of God, let love to him and the truth inspire your minds to receive and prosecute it, otherwise your enquiries will appear to be founded in nothing but hypocrisy and deceit, like those of the Jews to Jeremiah (Jer. 42:1, etc.).
7. Your love to your pastor will show itself not only in asking but also in giving him a word of advice when necessity calls for it. Ministers, as well as others, are not perfect in knowledge; they see but in part (I Cor. 13:9). Sin dwells in their hearts, and darkness lodges in their understandings, and therefore they are liable to err as well as other men. Though they are overseers in the house of God, watchmen upon the walls of Zion, and pastors according to God’s own heart, sent forth to feed the church with knowledge and understanding; yet being imperfect in knowledge and the subjects of strong corruptions, they often need a word from their brethren. When the two tent-makers had heard Apollos, though he was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, yet perceiving that he stood in need of being further instructed, “…they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” What a friendly part was this! Nor do we hear that he refused their counsel, or thought himself above their advice. Go you and do likewise, my brethren, when you observe a word of advice is needful to your pastor. Only take care that your counsel be accompanied with that wisdom, humility, reverence and good-humour that becomes you in all your addresses to him. As I look upon this to be your duty, so I am far from thinking it will be disagreeable to him. Charity constrains me to conclude that he is too sensible of his own imperfections, and too desirous of steering his course according to God’s Word, to take umbrage at such a procedure, even from the weakest among you. Such conduct will give him full proof that you are tenderly concerned for the peace of his mind, the preservation of his character, the interest of religion and the glory of God.
8. If your regard for your pastor be genuine, it will not fail to shew itself in an honourable discharge of your duty in the house of God. Whatever pretensions to love you may make in other respects, you will give him too much liberty to call in question the reality of it, if your seats in the sanctuary are frequently empty. I doubt not but one principal part of your pastor’s time will be set apart every week in studying the Word of God in order that he may make ready for you, his dear flock, a portion of meat, and come forth every Sabbath in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. I have confidence in him that he will “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed…” and that, like a wise scribe well instructed unto the kingdom of God, he will endeavour and make it his constant care to bring out of his treasury things new and old.
But what a painful and trying situation must it be to him, after all his toil and industry, accompanied with many prayers and tears for your welfare, when he comes into the house of the Lord with earnest breathings to God that he may be instrumental in doing you much good that day, he has the mortification to see that many of you are not there! Or, if he sees you at all, it is only a little in the latter part of the day; a shameful custom and much in fashion among church members at this time. Persons of this stamp put it out of their pastor’s power to discharge the duties of their office in a proper manner to them.
The same may be said in regard to church meetings, and meetings for prayer, etc. Your pastor may justly expect your attendance there; and love to him, as well as your duty to God, oblige you to it. But how grieving must it be to his mind, as well as sinking to his spirits, when the appointed hour comes and he finds perhaps only one half of you present to assist in the work! There are many irregularities to correct, offended brethren to reconcile, cases of conscience to resolve, and other affairs to attend to; and yet one excuses himself with one trifle, and another with another, so that the whole burden devolves upon himself and a few brethren only. What conclusions can he be thought to draw should this be his sorrowful case? Can he think that you truly esteem him when you thus act? or will he not have just cause to call the sincerity of your regard in question?
O! my brethren, let me beseech you, in the bowels of Christ Jesus, for the truth’s sake and the prosperity of your own souls, if you have any value for your pastor, any desire for the comfort and happiness of his mind, and any sympathy for him in his labours, that you would present yourselves before God in His house on all occasions. Never be wanting there but when you can before God excuse yourselves and say, “Lord, Thou knowest that I could not attend at this opportunity.” You have given yourselves up to one another by the will of God to walk together and to worship together in this place. Be careful therefore that you abide firm by your covenant engagements: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is…” Let your conduct be formed after the pattern recorded in Acts 10:33: “…we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” Be ready to attend every message that is sent you from God by His servant; otherwise you will be guilty of despising the good news, and of quenching the Holy Spirit. Always show a forwardness to attend religious worship, both stated and occasional. Let your conduct declare your abhorrence of that wretched though common custom of coming to the worship of God after the due time. Never be guilty, if possible, of discomposing the minds of both pastor and people in the solemn work of prayer. Take care that you burden not your pastor’s mind by sleeping or gazing about you while he is delivering the solemn messages of truth. And be always willing and forward to assist at your church meetings with your prayers and hearty counsel. So you will cause his heart to rejoice and fill his mind with many thanksgivings to God.
But, if you would wound his soul and grieve his spirit; if you would load him with misery and fill his heart with sorrow; if you would make his work a torment and his situation a prison, let the reverse to all this be your practice. When the Sabbath comes, sit down at home or attend upon some other minister; or if you attend at all, let it be only in the afternoon. Pay no regard to proper time or a becoming behaviour in the Lord’s house, if you would pierce his soul. Take no care to be present at prayer and church meetings; let any trifle prevail with you to absent yourselves; and if he put you in mind of your duty, you may tell him “that you will not be bound to give a constant attendance, you will have the liberty to hear where you please on a Lord’s day, without being controlled by any one; and that your business and circumstances in life are such that you have no opportunity for prayer and other meetings.” I say, if you would give him a deadly wound, you must act after this manner.
But, my dear brethren I hope better things of you, though I thus speak. I hope you will not fail to give sufficient testimony of your love to him and the ways of God by a contrary conduct and that, like that mother in Israel of whom mention is made in Luke 2:37, you will not depart from the temple of God, but serve God night and day in His house. This will sweetly draw your pastor’s mind to lay himself to the uttermost for your profit. It will give him pleasure to study the Scriptures. His heart will glow with holy warmth when the Sabbath draws nigh. It will be his meat and his drink to preach among you the unsearchable riches of Christ. He will freely spend and be spent for you; and he will neither think time too long, pains too great, nor trouble too much, may he but have the comfort of thus seeing your love towards him evident.
9. Your love will further appear in freely and cheerfully relating to him the state of your souls at every seasonable opportunity. We have this day been witnesses to the solemn surrender you have made of yourselves to him. You have put yourselves under his care as one who according to your own confession is qualified to go before you, to minister among you in holy things, to watch over your souls, and to feed you with the wholesome words of sound doctrine. And he has freely accepted the charge, granted your request, and is become chargeable with your souls. He now sustains the character of a shepherd, a pastor, a bishop and overseer among you in the Lord. This work he can never discharge in a proper manner, nor be honourable in these relations, unless he make it his business as opportunity serves to examine into your state, and make enquiry how the Spirit’s work goes on in your hearts. But his knowledge and satisfaction herein, you must know, will entirely depend upon your freedom and openness of heart in laying your cases before him.
For ministers to enquire into the state of their people, and for those under their care to open their hearts unto them with freedom, is a practice that I fear is too much laid aside at this day, and without doubt may be justly assigned as one cause of that general declension in the vitals of religion so apparent everywhere. I hope it will not be so among you. I trust your dear pastor will be more concerned to edify your souls than to display his parts; that one great end he will keep in view will be to build you up in your most holy faith, which things it cannot be thought he can so well accomplish without a particular knowledge at every proper season how it is with you in the inner man. He is your spiritual physician, and ought to be acquainted with your state. How much must it be to the satisfaction of a faithful minister to know that while he is studying for and speaking to his people, his labours are crowned for their daily good. He is not only to give you a portion of meat, but to give it in due season (Luke 12:42). He is to sympathize with you in every condition; to bear you upon his heart at a throne of grace, in a way of petition and thanksgiving; to adapt his conversation and ministrations to your circumstances. But how can these things be without a particular knowledge of your state? And how much more must it be to your profit when his words both in public and in private are suited to your condition. If at times you observe a backwardness to enquire of you, enter upon something of an experimental nature yourselves, which will tend to revive his soul, strengthen his hands, and prevent the painful thought that he labours in vain and spends his strength for nought.
10. If you love your pastor truly, bear him upon your hearts at a throne of grace. This was a favour that the great Apostle Paul much valued, and often requested of the churches of Christ: “…praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ…” ”And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel…” (Col. 4:3; Eph. 6:19). “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men…” (II Thess. 3:1-2). See in what a pathetic manner he addresses the church at Rome on this head (Rom. 15:30): “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me…” And when writing to Philemon, verse 22, he tells him that he trusts to be given him, and those with him, through their prayers. Now if such a champion in the gospel as Paul stood in so much need of the prayers of the saints, what may be said of such as us, whose abilities for the great work are in many respects so far inferior to his? You are to remember that the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, sufficient to qualify him for the important work whereto you have called him, are in the hands of Christ. It is He who has received gifts for and bestows them upon men, and who alone can make them “…able ministers of the new testament…” They are not sufficient for these things of themselves; all their sufficiency is of God.
Be entreated then to pray for your pastor in your closets, in your families, and at your prayer meetings, that his ministerial abilities may be continued and daily increase; that he may be assisted and directed in all his studies to proper portions of Scripture, to form just ideas of every subject; that he may have much holy warmth and pleasure in his meditation, great liberty and boldness in public, much strength to go through his work, and to bear up under the trials he may meet with in the way for Christ’s sake; that he may be able also to support his character and to put to silence, with a good conscience, all the false accusations of men.
You will be doubtless very desirous that he should grow in his ministerial abilities and approve himself unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. You will expect that like a wise scribe, well instructed unto the kingdom of God, he should bring out of His treasury things new and old. You will each of you expect a portion of meat in due season. It will be very desirable for you that he should always be in a capacity to solve you doubts, remove your objections, and answer your queries. It cannot surely be contrary to your inclinations that he should enjoy a large measure of the Spirit of God, and of the spirit of prayer and supplication, that so he may think upon and lay all your cases before the Father of all mercies in a pertinent, affectionate manner. But can all this be expected if you neglect so necessary a duty as daily to pray for him? If you are negligent, careless and indifferent about praying for your pastor, you need not wonder to hear him complain of being bound up and contracted both in private and in public. If you neglect to pray for him, you neglect to pray for yourselves; and you need not be much surprised if you receive little or no benefit from his public or private labours.
Be not as those who falsely imagine that ministers are always at liberty, and prepared for the discharge of their duty. From such as these I never expect much help before the throne. Could I convey to you a proper idea of what the watchmen of Zion undergo at certain times, both in the closet and in the pulpit, I cannot forbear thinking that it would affect your hearts and open your mouths before God for your pastor without any other motive to induce you. O that I might prevail with you to be diligent in this good work, not only when he is present with you, but when you are alone in a secret corner entreating with God! If you are a praying people, I verily believe that you will enjoy a faithful ministry, and have sufficient occasion to believe that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
11. This regard will be made manifest to your pastor in making suitable provision for himself and his family out of your worldly substance. The relation now subsisting between you and your pastor, and the work wherein he is engaged, render his dependence upon you for a comfortable maintenance absolutely necessary. By taking upon himself this office, he has put it out of his power to provide for himself and his family. His whole time and strength are to be devoted to the service of Christ. He is to give himself wholly to these things, otherwise his profiting will never appear, at least so evidently appear, either to you or others (I Tim. 4:15). He is your servant for Jesus’ sake (II Cor. 4:5).
Under the strictest obligations to labour and spend his strength for your profit, he is to watch over you with all diligence, to “feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jer. 3:15). It is his work to furnish a table with plenty and variety of gospel food, such as is well prepared and made meet for your use. Is it not then very reasonable, nay, is it not a thing absolutely necessary, that you lay out yourselves in an honourable manner for his outward support? Can you think it any great thing, after he has “…sown unto you spiritual things…” that he should…”reap your carnal things?” (I Cor. 9:11). Is there any proportion in value in the exchange? He that is taught in the Word should never forget to communicate to him that teacheth in all good things. “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so…” under the gospel dispensation, “hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (I Cor. 9:13, 14). Ministers are compared to oxen; and it was forbidden to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And doth not God take care for His ministers who dispense His Word? “…the labourer is worthy of his hire.” You will do well to give it him, not as an act of charity, but as a debt which you owe to him.
You will expect that his compositions be well digested, close and connected. It will be required that he visit you and receive visits from you. But remember that this will consume his time, and therefore you are to take care that while he looks after your souls, you attend to the temporal wants of himself and family. Is it his duty to enquire into your spiritual concerns? It is your duty also to enquire frequently into his temporal concerns. You will remember that it is his duty to provide for those of his own house, as well as yours, and to be given to hospitality. He is to be an example to the flock in acts of mercy, charity and benevolence. It will tend greatly to your advantage that your pastor be made easy and comfortable in his situation; for without this, his mind will be stung with piercing pain when he should enter upon his work both in private and in public; his heart will sink and his spirit within him will fail. Fearfulness of becoming a scandal to the cause of Christ will array his soul in terror, and he will have sufficient ground to call in question the truth of your love to him who, while you have a fulness of every good thing, leave him and his to be pinched with want. Besides, to remember him in this respect will be greatly to your honour. It will be to your praise to exert yourselves to the utmost of your power to make his circumstances easy and comfortable. It must be a very bad spirit that cannot endure to see such an one plentifully provided for, whose calling and employment are so honourable. See the noble conduct of Onesiphorus who often refreshed the apostle (II Tim. 1:16), as also the Philippians, whose care of him flourished this way (Phil. 4:10, 16).
II. I shall endeavour to provoke you to this conduct (love and regard for the pastor) by proper motives.
1. You will do well often to call to mind that your pastor is the free gift of God to you. Faithful gospel ministers are God’s property, given when and to whom He pleases. He separates them from their mother’s womb, and ordains them to preach the everlasting gospel of Christ. They are His chosen vessels to bear the name of the great Redeemer before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. It is God who furnishes them with a proper stock of ministerial abilities. These they have not of themselves, or from other men, but from the Father of lights. Every wise Scribe who is well instructed to the kingdom, is made thoroughly sensible that he has neither wisdom nor prudence of himself to manage this important work; the cry of all such is, “…who is sufficient for these things?” They are willing to acknowledge to a man that they are not sufficient of themselves, but that all their sufficiency is of God, who makes them able ministers of the new testament. And, being properly qualified for the work, He sends them out, bounds the place of their habitation where He has employment for them, bids them speak and not hold their peace, commands them to preach the preaching that He bids them, and assists them in their labours. All which being true of gospel ministers, it must be very highly provoking to the Majesty of heaven not to love and highly esteem them for their work’s sake. It is to deny and cast His favour in his teeth, which conduct will doubtless be resented by Him one day.
Consider, brethren, what God has done for you; He has accomplished His ancient promise to you recorded in Jer. 3:15, “I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” What greater favour could He have bestowed upon you? Had He enriched you with gold, and silver, and all the precious things that this world could afford, it had been nothing when compared with what He has done. What are all riches without that joyful sound, which gloriously reveals true riches? What greater honour could He have conferred upon you? Had he exalted you to kingdoms and empires, it had been nothing when compared with possessing the gospel of the grace of God.
And what adds to the greatness of the gift is the seasonableness of it in respect to you. How lamentable and afflictive was your case not long ago! Providence had removed your late pastor from among you, who was the happy instrument of uniting you in a church state; it was a time when you had not the least prospect of a comfortable supply elsewhere. You were as sheep without a shepherd; left destitute of the Word and ordinances; the Sabbath came, but the joyful sound was fled! You hungered and thirsted for the bread and water of life in the ordinances, but there was no one to spread you a table. As new born babes you desired the sincere milk of the Word, but there was no one to pity your cries. You looked back on days past when the voice of the turtle was heard in the sanctuary; when you went in and out and found pasture. You cried out, “Oh that we were as in months past…” But melancholy, fear and despair seized upon you and left your hope feeble and weak. You made the Lord of the harvest acquainted with your forlorn condition; He heard your cry, your complaints came up into His ears, and He sent you timely relief by the hand of him whom you have this day called out to take the pastoral charge of you.
O! how seasonable, how great a mercy do you this day enjoy from God in him! He might have utterly rejected your complaints, and have written an eternal “Ichabod” upon your doors. Or He might have kept you in pain and suspense for many months and years before He had sent you relief. But O! the wisdom and goodness of our God, in not only sending you help, but doing it so quickly! By the hand of one also from among yourselves, whom He had in great measure fitted for the work before you were left destitute. And had He not sent him, who can tell what the sorrowful consequences would have been? He is the gift of God to you; be entreated to esteem him very highly in love for his work’s sake, lest God should in anger remove him also, and leave you to reflect upon your conduct at the expense of your privileges.
2. Consider that he is Christ’s messenger to you for good. He comes to you commissioned by one of no inferior rank and authority, even the King of Glory, the eternal Son of God, to whom all power in heaven and earth is given. Jesus Christ has counted him faithful to engage in His service, and therefore has committed the gospel of the ever-blessed God to his trust, and put him into the ministry. He now sustains a character no less glorious and honourable than “…a servant of Jesus Christ…” (Rom. 1:1); a minister of God (II Cor. 6:4); and a good steward of the manifold grace of God (I Peter 4:10). A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto him. His work is to preach not himself, but Christ Jesus the Lord. He is to lay open and unfold the glorious mysteries of salvation, and declare all the counsel of God as revealed in His Word. He is commissioned from heaven to make known the forlorn and wretched state of man, and his recovery only by Christ Jesus.
Now, seeing his work is of such vast importance as concerns the eternal welfare of souls, and He in whose name he is come is no less a person than Immanuel, who is equal with the Father, surely it ought to be a never-failing motive to engage your warmest love to and highest esteem for him. The neglect of this, be assured, will prove very offensive to his Lord and Master. When he sends forth His servants to labour, He tells them that he that receives them receives Him; and he that despises them despises both Him and His Father (Matt. 10:40; Luke 10:16).
3. It may be of special use to you in this point to consider how small the number of faithful ministers is at this day. In the days of Ahab, King of Israel, the prophets of Baal were numerous, but the true prophets of the Lord were very few. Even so it is now. There are but few who come in the name of God, who clearly and faithfully preach Jesus Christ as the way of salvation to lost sinners. Most of those who bear this character have something else in view, either in whole or in part, which they admire above and substitute in the place of Christ, which is the only name under heaven given amongst men whereby we can be saved. Whoever points out any other way of safety cannot properly be styled “a minister of the new testament,” nor “a servant of Jesus Christ.” And if all those who are determined to know something else for life and salvation than Jesus Christ and Him crucified were removed, I am apprehensive that comparatively few would be left behind. To meet with a minister sound and consistent in the faith once delivered to the saints, who holds fast the form of sound words, one who will not shun to declare all the counsel of God, that will give himself to close study and searching of Scriptures, and keep back nothing that may be profitable to the people, is a distinguishing privilege. There are but few whose care for the lambs of Christ is natural (Phil. 2:20), who will watch over and feed the church of God with that tenderness and affection that are needful. There are but few who can say with truth, we seek not yours, but you (II Cor. 12:14); and, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you…” (verse 15).
What reason then have those communities who enjoy a pastor according to God’s own heart to rejoice and be thankful to the Lord, and to discover to such an one a proper degree of love and esteem. Such an one, I hope, God has sent in mercy. O! think well of him; and let your love to him be without indifference, dissimulation or intermission! How would many churches, who have long been deprived of the blessing of a faithful pastor to feed them with the Word and ordinances, leap for joy to be favoured as you are!
4. Let the reproach and contempt which are generally cast upon laborious ministers of Christ provoke you to love him. All those who bear the image, profess the name, embrace the gospel, and submit to the institutions of Christ, are sure to suffer for it, and to be accounted as “the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things.” This has always been the case. Who ever lived godly in Christ Jesus and did not suffer persecution? But those whom the Lord sets at the head of His spiritual families, to rule and govern in His house below, do in a peculiar manner share in the calumny and reproach of the day. These, as their testimony is more public and open, the hearts of the wicked are more set against them, and their mouth opened wider in bitterness and revenge. The devil knows full well that Christ’s ministers are leading men in the kingdom of grace, and that his empire suffers more from them than all the saints besides; and therefore he endeavours to inflame against them the minds of both profane and professors, yea and sometimes the minds of real saints, which comes nearest of all to the hearts of their pastors. Great is his rage and bitterness.
Your pastor need not expect better treatment than most of his brethren have met with. He may be sure, how holily and prudently soever he demean himself in the world and in the house of God, he must have his name cast out as evil. This was the case with his Lord and Master, and he cannot think to be wholly excused. It is enough that the servant be as his Lord, and the disciple as his Master. Then take care to confirm your love to him, to the end that he may be the better able to bear what falls upon him. Want of love and esteem in others is nothing but what he may look for, and what he may easily bear; but the want of it in you will come close home, and lodge near his heart.
5. To stir you up to the discharge of this duty, you should think upon the relation into which you have entered this day. You are not only the children of one Father, the wife of one Husband, members of one body, but by virtue of your mutual agreement this day he is become your spiritual father, to feed, watch over, succour and correct you, and you are his spiritual children. "As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children” (I Thess. 2:11). He is your pastor and overseer, and you are his charge; he is your shepherd, and you are his little flock; he is your nurse, and you are his little ones, who by his instrumentality are to be fed with milk and strong meat. And I have confidence in him that he will be gentle among you, and cherish you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children (I Thess. 2:7).
There is good reason to hope that he will be careful to discharge every trust reposed in him, and to adorn every relation he bears among you with honour. May I not also entertain the same favourable opinion of you, my brethren, seeing the relation between you and your pastor is strong? This should move you to guard against and highly to resent the least shadow of coldness and indifference felt towards him.
6. The encouragement of religion in regard to those who are without has, I apprehend, no small connection with the conduct I here recommend. Though the men of the world constitute no part of the church of Christ, and though they are the enemies of the cross of Christ and the implacable foes to the saints of God, yet we are to have their good at heart, and to manifest a concern for their welfare upon all occasions, when it lies in our power; not only to free the gospel from ridicule and slander, but also to gain them over to embrace truth. Now, my brethren, if instead of loving, you being to hate your pastor—if whilst you should highly esteem him, you deeply reproach and bitterly vilify him, will this be the way to “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without…” (Col. 4:5)? Will this be to let your light shine before men? Will this be acting in conformity to God, whose will is that by well-doing you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men? Without a due respect to the conduct recommended, you will be the subjects of mockery, scorn and derision to all around you. And the profession you make, and the doctrines you have espoused, will be treated with sovereign contempt.
7. Your honour and reputation among your brethren as a church of Christ should excite you to a conscientious discharge of this duty. What joy and consolation must it afford to those churches who have been acquainted with you from the beginning of your church-state, whose hearts ached for you when left destitute of a preached gospel, and who were not wanting to seek to the Lord on your behalf—I say, what comfort must it afford them to hear from time to time that you walk in love one towards another, and especially to your dear pastor; that you adorn the relation you stand in, not only as Christians, but as pastor and people. It will gladden the hearts of all your distant friends to hear that you are firmly attached to each other, and that you reciprocally discharge the duties incumbent upon you in the relation in which you now stand. Tidings of this nature will abundantly elevate the minds of your unworthy brethren, who have been honoured in engaging in the solemn work of this day among you. And we shall think it a sufficient recompense for our pains, and take it as a full proof that we have had a prosperous journey to you by the will of God, and that our labour was not in vain in the Lord.
8. The pleasure and satisfaction of your pastor’s mind, in all his labours amongst you, should influence you thus to behave towards him. A constant and seasonable discharge of the duty recommended will have no small influence upon your pastor’s mind. It will inspire his soul with life and vigour in every duty. In his prayers for you he will not be straitened but enlarged. In his studies, it will be his happiness to reflect that he is labouring for a people in whose warmest affections he has a place. When he comes into the sanctuary, it will be a great relief to him to think that he has now to speak to a people who love to hear him, to those who will not criticise his words or despise his weaknesses, and with scorn cast his message in his teeth. O! my brethren, avoid no opportunity of attesting your love to him. Let your conduct be such as will not admit jealousy to enter his heart. If he has reason to believe you to be defective in your love, he must be unhappy and miserable as long as the thought remains; his time will be a burden, his closet a cell of temptation and horror, the pulpit a prison, and conversation a torment!
9. The comfort and edification of your own minds very much depends on the due discharge of this duty. Want of love for your pastor will not only very much unfit him for his work, but also be attended with such effects upon your minds as will in a great measure render his labours useless unto you. If love is absent, prejudice, bitterness and a quarrelling spirit will for the most part prevail. And where these find a place, the Word has little entrance. Whether the understanding, the will or the affections are addressed, it matters not, for the Word falls like rain upon the flinty rock. As you therefore value the edification and consolation of your own souls, endeavor to excite, cherish and preserve a principle of love and tenderness towards your pastor.
10. In order hereunto, often call to remembrance the solemn professions you have this day made in the awful presence of God and before this assembly. You have in the strongest terms intimated your approbation of and satisfaction with him as a teacher sent from God to you. You have unanimously agreed to call him out from amongst you to take the pastoral charge of you, and have solemnly invested him with that important office: all which abundantly testify that your hearts are towards him as a minister of Christ. This you ought daily to call to mind, and more especially at a time when anything turns up which would cool your love. Labour from time to time that your future conduct may sweetly correspond with your proceedings this day.
11. Ever remember that God will be present upon all occasions to examine the truth and sincerity of your love to your honoured pastor. The Lord dwelleth in Zion. He takes His walks among the golden candlesticks. He is present at all the assemblies of His people, viewing their outgoings and incomings, taking notice of their order, looking into their hearts to see how they stand affected one to another; to observe how they approve of and behave to those He has sent amongst them, what place they have in their affections, how they are entertained there, and what demonstrations they give of their love to and regard for them as His messengers, with whom He has entrusted the glad tidings of salvation. And without doubt, as they are His servants, sent in His name, by His authority, and to do His work, any degree of bad treatment will be taken by Him as done to Himself, and sooner or later He will visit for it. You will do well, therefore, always to keep this awful (i.e. full of awe) thought before you, and let it not slip out of your mind. Always consider yourselves as open to His observation who is in every place, who searches out and is privy to the whole conduct of His churches, both secret and open. Nothing can escape His eye.
12. In order to evince your esteem to your worthy pastor, remember that perhaps it is but a short time that you are to enjoy him among you. The best and most useful among men are subject to the stroke of death. “Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?” Whatever glorious things have been recorded of men in this life, this has always been the finishing stroke, and mournful conclusion: “…and he died.” And most certain it is, sooner or later, this will be the case with him who is now set over you to blow the silver trumpet of salvation. This is your joyful marriage day; you are lovingly united together, to live together and hold communion one with another for a short time. And if no other providence separate you one from another, death will, and that shortly; perhaps much sooner than according to the common course of nature you had any reason to expect. There are many instances of God’s calling home His servants, some in the morning and others at the midday of their usefulness. Their candle has withdrawn its shining in the midst of its glory, and their sun has gone down at noon.
You cannot assure yourselves that this will not be the case with him who is now set as a candle to give you light. The time will come, and it may be soon, which will put an end to all his labours here below. You will then be no longer delighted with the glorious sound of the gospel from his lips. You will then have no more the benefit of his watchful care over you. His godly instructions, faithful reproofs, comforting addresses, gentle cautions, and heart-melting sympathy will be your privilege no more. Nor will you have his exemplary conduct any longer as your example. O that you would think of these things, and let them serve to stir you up daily to renew your love to him, and to give such a testimony of it, which cannot be disproved or denied; that so when death shall make it a final separation between him and you, you may have no bitter reflections nor heart-cutting remarks to make concerning your conduct towards him, but may enjoy the pleasure of a good conscience in having acted the part of an affectionate and dutiful people to a laborious and faithful pastor.
A few remarks shall close this discourse.
1. It is easy to learn from hence, the value and esteem that Christ puts upon the ministerial character. Faithful ministers are near his heart and precious in his eyes. As they are entrusted with the unsearchable riches of Christ, so a faithful improvement thereof very much recommends them to His regard. As they are servants to Him, and the treasures of His ransomed jewels under Him, who are the joy of His soul, the apple of His eye, flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone; as the care of their souls, and the building them up in their most holy faith is committed to them, doubtless they must be very precious to him.
Therefore every affront given them, every slight put upon them and the message they bring, every hardship they endure, whether in body, soul or circumstances from those under their care, must be so much the greater affront to Him in whose name and by whose authority they come, and in whose work they are engaged.
2. If due examination is made, will not many of the Lord’s people have room to conclude that their love to their pastors is not sufficiently demonstrated? If an impartial enquiry is made by every one into his own heart and conduct respecting this thing, perhaps some will have occasion to reflect upon themselves as Joseph’s brethren did, and say, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother…” Is not the want of this one principle the ground of the uneasiness that subsists between pastor and people in many places? How mournful that love in this, as well as in many other cases, grows cold! The unhappy spirit of the Galatians herein is to be lamented in many churches. When Paul first came among them there was none like him; such was their love to him that they would have plucked out their eyes, had it been possible, to have given them to him. And yet this very man had too much reason to conclude afterwards that he was become their enemy.
This is a lamentation that more of Christ’s servants than Paul have had to take up since his day. But they may take comfort from this, that their Master’s love suffers no abatement, is not incident to coolness and indifference. He rests in His love, and will one day vindicate the cause of such. Let them rest quietly till that day. Amen.
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