« AnteriorContinuar »
rison with that man's whom God chooseth in the furnace of affliction, and lays his rod upon him as a dear son whom He means to ripen for glory. Ah, what a meaning is that!
For which now of these two, the afflicted man and the prospered man, will be best off in the end? What effect is affliction working upon the afflicted man? What effect is prosperity working upon the prospered man? If affliction in the one case is softening the heart, leading to reflection and prayer, weaning one from the world, loosening your hold on the earth, making you long for heaven, and inducing the temper of heaven now in your heart, a holy hatred of what is contrary to it, and the love of what enthrones heaven in the soul, then are you, the afflicted man, the happy man; for you will be so in the end, and your affliction is the necessary instrument to that blessed end, being the discipline employed by God to make you holy,
Anå if, on the other hand, prosperity is hardening the heart, as it generally does (for the contrary is the exception), if it is making one worldly, and selfish, and self-confident, and forgetful of God; if it is making one more earnest for acquisitions in property than for acquisitions in holiness, more eager to be rich than to be good, more bent upon accumulating than upon distributing for God and religion, then are you, the prospered man, the unhappy man, for you will be so in the end.
It is far from being always what makes us best off now that is really best for us, but what will make us best off for the future; what is best for our characters; what is best to cure us of our besetting sins; what is best for our religious prosperity; what will most conduce to our growth in grace ; what will be most likely to kill the seeds of sin in us, and keep down the weeds of worldliness, vanity, self-love, and pride ; what will tend to make us considerate and kind, duly regardful of others, and mainly anxious for the glory of God; what will be best for me as an immortal being, on trial for eternity, having a soul to be saved or lost; under instant obligation to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, and to do all that is possible to save others; what, in fine, will make me the best man, and the best Christian, the most conscientious, benevolent, and careful in my intercourse with other men, the most upright, sincere, and dutiful toward God.
Ah, constituted as we are, it is far from being continued prosperity that is most likely to do this ; the being blown upon long or always in life by favorable gales, and wafted along on a prosperous tide of success.
But rather is it the blasts of adversity, the rough winds of affliction and distress, that drive us for shelter to the Lord Jesus Christ. Who in this view will not choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season! They are but for a season, and that season at best oh how short! While, many are the afflictions of the righteous, but (what a world of meaning follows !)
but the Lord delivereth out of them all. Precious deliverance ! worth all the previous delivery over unto pain.
In God's good time may there come such a deliverance to all the sons and daughters of affliction that now hear me. Let none of us faint in the day of adversity and prove that our strength is small; but may the consolations of God be large with our souls, and alike under blessing and trial, in joy and sorrow, may we hold fast our integrity, and steadfastly trust and serve our God and Saviour to the end. And may trials be so sanctified to us all, and the meaning of God therein be developed, that the conclusive logic of our experience shall be that of David: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy law."
To that Great Being who doeth all things well, who dispenses all life's allotments in perfect rectitude and love, to God only wise be all honor and glory, both now and for ever. Amen.
BY REV. JOHN DUDLEY.
THE DUTY AND BENEFIT OF PASTORAL
For they watch for souls as they who must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief."--HEB. 13 : 17.
This scripture refers to the care which a pious minister feels for the salvation of souls. It exhibits the complete idea of a faithful pastor. The love of Christ constraining hiin, empowered by his authority, and set over a people “by the laying on of the hands," his office and business are to save, if possible, those committed to his charge. He watches them with intense solicitude. His eye is ever upon them, and every opportunity is improved to do them good. He preaches-preaches much-preaches well, plainly and earnestly; not so much in the wisdom of words, but in the demonstration of the Spirit;" then watches to see the blessing, and hastens to secure every impression, “if by any means he may save some.”
At the close of every day, he renders his account to his Master; with joy, if successful; with grief, if he have labored in vain.—This must necessarily refer to the present dis
charge of his office; for it is not possible for any perversion of the people to prevent a faithful minister's giving up his final account with joy. Nor can any groans be mingled with those triumphant songs, which God will put into the mouths of his people. But their Master will remember what they suffered by their people's means; and the account may sit heavy on them, when the sorrows of their faithful pastors are
.“ Watch for souls ;” this is the main idea of the passage. Chrysostom says, he never read these words without trembling, though he often preached several times a day. “Brethren,” says Baxter, “if saving souls be your end, you will certainly intend it out of the pulpit as well as in it."
The text suggests a very serious question, touching the labors of pastors. Do they exercise as much thought and zeal in visiting and conversing with their people, as they do in the preparation for the pulpit? Do pastors visit as much, and as well, as they can and ought?
It is proposed in this discourse to urge the duty of pastoral visitation, and consider some of the causes which endanger the faithful performance of it.
1.—Pastoral visitation is a duty of the ministerial office. 1. The idea is involved in the office itself.
The elementary idea of a pastor is that of acquaintance; familiar, mutual, intimate acquaintance; extending to all the flock; to their names, families, dispositions, characters and circumstances. As his office is to “ watch for souls,” the pastor must be familiar with the spiritual condition of his people. This, clearly, cannot be without personal acquaintance with them individually; and a competent knowledge of their wants and experiences can be gained in no other way than by personal visits.
This acquaintance is indispensable to a faithful and suitable preparation for the pulpit. A pastor must distinguish natural character. To deal wisely, the temperaments of different individuals must be understood. Some minds require very different treatment from others. What would be proper for one might be positively injurious to another. One needs strong meat, another milk, and would be destroyed by that which nourishes and perfects the other. Ignorant of individual character and feeling and modes of thought, no man can “so divide the word of truth as to give to each a portion in due season :” and he who does not cannot be said, if judged by the gospel standard, to preach well. He may have a strong bow, and a quiver filled with wellfledged arrows, but he will be perpetually drawing at a venture. His sermons may entertain, but they will not profit.
2. The duty of pastoral visitation is argued from apostolic and primitive example. We find this duty inculcated in the first instructions given to the Christian church. In his solemn charge to the Ephesian elders, Paul says: “Take heed to all the flock.” To take heed to all must imply a care of every individual: and to take heed to every one implies a knowledge of every one. We find, also, among the first ministrations of the apostles was that of breaking bread “from house to house." In addition to their preaching publicly in the Temple every day, they ceased not “ to teach and preach from house to house."
Paul, about to take his final leave of the Ephesian church, sums up his labors with them thus: “Serving God in all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations which befell me, by the lying in wait of the Jews; and how I kept nothing back that was profitable unto you, and have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house." This is sufficient to show what was apostolic usage.
There are many passages taken from the ancient councils, from which it appears that a personal care of all the members of the churches was enjoined upon the elders after the days of the apostles. One from Ignatius will be conclusive. He says, “Let assemblies be often gathered ; seek after (or inquire of) all by name; despise not servant-men, nor maids.
3. Visiting from house to house has always been regarded as a duty of the gospel ministry. In modern times, no less than in ancient, this duty is insisted upon in ordination vows.
Who ever heard a charge to a pastor, which did not in the most solemn manner enjoin a faithful attention to this? The duty is a matter of positive contract, and the flock universally expect it; and they have a right to expect it. It is their right in a pastor, that he shall take heed to them in their families. They feel the painful sensation of a wrong, a violation of a solemn compact, if deprived of these shepherd visits.
4. The duty of pastoral visitation is inferred from its usefulness. It is a well established fact, that the most successful pastors are those who are much and systematically among their people, watching for souls. History is ample in proof touching this point. There have always been some pastors whose labors have been greatly blessed. Revivals after revivals have marked the history of their ministry. Conversions were frequent, and their churches lived. But how did these pastors labor? It will be found that they not only preached much and well, but they watched the effects of their sermons, and followed them up by immediate personal interviews. This fact, it is believed, accounts for their signal usefulness.
Even in times of revival, this personal labor is found to be indispensable to success. The“ inquiry meeting” is as essential as the preaching. Impressions made from the pulpit, even when the special presence of the Spirit is enjoyed, need to be followed up by personal conversation and instruction to secure conversion. And if in such circumstances there be extreme danger that impressions be lost, if not followed by immediate conversation and prayer, how much more probable in the absence of revival. Paul, doubtless, felt this necessity, when, in addition to his preaching, he went from house to house. And so did Baxter, Rowland Hill, Wesley, Whitefield, Nettleton and Payson. Indeed, there can be but little doubt, that in the majority of cases, the final work of conversion has been secured by personal conversation and prayer. . With this will accord the experience of every pastor who has ever been instrumental in bringing sinners to Christ.
The usefulness of this watching for souls is not confined to the people. The pastor himself is benefited. He here finds out what suffering humanity is. Till he knows this he is not half fitted for the ministry. There is no substitute for this part of his education and discipline, not even prayer itself. Nothing can be more useful to him, personally, than to visit the dwellings of the poor, the sick, the aged, and the afflicted, as a messenger of consolation and instruction as well as of relief. Accustomed, himself, to the comforts of life, and it may be its luxuries, every thing there is a lesson. He sees what poverty is in its evils and trials: the scanty room, scanty food, scanty fuel and clothing appeal to his observation and sensibilities. He sees Christ in his poor, and in every thing hears him speak, and feels it all in his heart. He sees humanity in life instead of the ideal, as viewed in his study. Instead of the neatness and order of his chamber, he finds himself perhaps in the midst of confusion and noise. Instead of his well-stored library he finds nothing but the old family Bible, with here and there some remnants of books. In such scenes, a kind and faithful pastor can scarcely fail to learn what he cannot learn in his study, or even in his closet-how religion sustains the soul of the humble poor; how to those who trust him, Christ is better than riches. He here takes lessons from no ideal life. In these close, crowded rooms, amidst disorder and want, he sees poverty, old age,
sickness and toil, borne without complaint, nay with sweet resignation and cheerfulness. He may know a language which to them is unintelligible; yet he finds that they too have a language and an experience to which he is no less a stranger. he may think too,” says Dr. Arnold," and if he does, he may ever bless the hour that took him there ; that in fifty years or less, his studies and all concerned with them will have perished for ever, whilst their language and their feelings, only perfected in the putting off their mortal bodies, will be those of all-wise spirits, in the presence of God and of Christ.”
Your pastor is in the habit of visiting often an aged man, who has been confined to his room for several years, with a very distressing sickness. I never leave his room as I go in. On his table is always to be seen the “old Bible,” and some of Doddridge's or Baxter's works:—these make up the whole of his library. I always find the leaves of the Bible turned down to some passages
which he has selected to read to me. He often reads some of the most familiar passages with such an accent and tone, as to make them appear new, possessing a meaning which I had