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ministerial qualification to the highest degree; yet he felt himself weak and unequal to the cares, labors, and conflicts attending the great and arduous work of the ministry. This he acknowledged in speaking of himself and his fellow-apostles. “ We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." Under such an impression of his own weakness and insufficiency to discharge the numerous and weighty duties of his office, he realized his need of the prayers and assistance of Christians, and repeatedly besought their intercessions for him. Urging the Ephesians to pray always with all prayer and supplication for all saints, he adds, "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, for which I am an ambassador in bonds; that therein I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.” To the Hebrews he says, “ Pray for us : for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.” And to the Thessalonians he says, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified ; and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.” And to the Romans he says, “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; that I
be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem, may be accepted of the saints.” He considered all who prayed for him as aiding and assisting him in his great work; for which he most cordially thanked them. He gratefully mentions Phebe and Urbane, Priscilla and Aquilla, whom he calls his helpers in Christ Jesus. Ministers of the gospel at this day, are far more feeble and insufficient for their great and arduous work, than the apostles were, and of course have much more need of the prayers and assistance of their people. A religious people may encourage the heart and strengthen the hands of a minister, not only by praying for him, but by a constant and serious attendance on his preaching, vindicating the doctrines and duties he inculcates, and enforcing them upon the minds of those under their care and instruction. No minister can long be of much service to a people, who grow negligent in attending public worship, and join with the young, the corrupt, and ignorant, in despising or opposing his instructions. Every civil officer is weak, without the aid and concurrence of those who put him into office; and every minister is weak without the aid and concurrence of those who chose him to be their spiritual teacher and guide. It is not to be supposed that a people carefully realize the labors, the cares, and conflicts, which are inseparable from the ministerial office. But the more they do realize them, the more they will be disposed to pray for a minister, and aid and assist him in every other proper way: especially if he has long fought the good fight of faith, grown gray in their service, and has almost finished his course. When a minister has preached a great while to a people, and they have many of them heard him preach a great while, there is apt to be a languor on both sides. The languor on his side may principally arise from the decays of nature, and the infirmities of age; and the languor on their side may arise from his deficiencies, or from seeing the same man in the same place, and speaking the same things in the same manner. In such a case, an impartial judge would say the strong should support the weak, and the young support the old. It is certain, however, that aged ministers stand in more need of the prayers of their people, and may more properly and forcibly plead for such assistance.
6. If a minister and his hearers both keep the faith, they are prepared for a happy separation in this world, and a happy meeting in the next. This must be a source of mutual conso. lation, when the one and the other view the time of their departure at hand, and they are just finishing their course. Paul derived peculiar consolation from looking back upon time, and looking forward to eternity, while he was fighting the good fight of faith, and when he was about finishing his course; and repeatedly suggested the same happy reflections and anticipations to those who had like precious faith. To the Corinthians he writes in this pleasing strain: “Knowing, that he who raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen : for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” And he writes in a similar manner to the Thessalonians: “Ye know, how we exhorted and comforted, and. charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God who hath called you unto his king. dom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which
ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of man, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming ?" Such hopes and prospects he entertained, and would have those who embraced the gospel he preached, entertain, while passing through the scenes and discharging the duties of life. But as the time of his departure drew near, he indulged higher hopes, and enjoyed brighter prospects, which filled his heart with joy, and gave him a triumphant victory over the world. “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." This was a happy parting between Paul and Timothy and his other spiritual children, and a good preparation for a more happy meeting in the world of glory. There must be a parting between a minister and his people, however long they may live together in this world ; and if they both keep the faith, they will have a most happy meeting at the great and last day.
Everything tells me that I have almost finished my course, and the time of my departure is at hand. This day finishes fifty years of my ministry among you. I must soon leave you, and you all must, one after another, follow me into eternity, where the serious consequences of our long mutual relation will be seen and realized forever. These cannot be judged before the time. But is there not ground to hope, that some of us have fought a good fight, and kept the faith, and that we shall have a joyful meeting in the mansions of the blessed, and receive a crown of righteousness, which shall never fade away? Though we have lived in a very eventful period; yet nothing very extraordinary has happened, which deserves particular notice. Your Pastor entered into this vineyard, which had * been well cultivated before he came into it. He has had peculiar motives to labor here with diligence and activity. He hopes he has sown some good seed, which in time to come will spring up and bear fruit unto eternal life. He gratefully acknowledges that he has had the pleasure of seeing several small
harvests. God has graciously smiled upon the pastor and people in this place during fifty years, which is a long period of ministerial life. There have been about two hundred and twenty persons admitted into the church, and probably as many dismissed from it, as have been received from other churches. There have been about four hundred and thirty baptisms, and about five hundred and twenty deaths, in the course of these fifty years past
. The pastor and people have reason to set up, their Ebenezer, and say, “ Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." In reviewing what is past, we have all undoubtedly much cause to lament our great negligence, unfruitfulness, and unfaithfulness in the service of God; and no less cause to fight the good fight of faith with increasing vigor, fortitude, and zeal, till we have finished our course, and entered into everlasting rest.
THE GRATITUDE OF FAITHFUL MINISTERS AT THE RECEPTION OF THE GOSPEL AS THE WORD OF GOD.
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye re
ceived the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."-1 Thess. ii. 13.
The apostles were not always successful in preaching. They were sometimes viewed as impostors, and the gospel which they preached as a cunningly devised fable. But some, however, considered and treated them as the servants of the most high God, who showed unto them the way of salvation. This was true of the Thessalonians, who gave them a kind reception, and cordially embraced the gospel of Christ. They were, therefore, sincerely thankful to God, that he had enabled them to preach, and disposed the Thessalonians to hear the gospel, as his word, and not as their own. “For this cause," say they, “thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which worketh effectually in you that believe.” It was a grateful consideration to the apostles, who had preached nothing but the pure gospel, to find that their hearers had received it, not as their word, but as the word of God. And since all faithful ministers possess the apostolic spirit, we may justly draw this general conclusion,
That all who preach the pure gospel are thankful, when their hearers receive it as God's word, and not as their own.
In order to illustrate this subject, it is proposed to consider,