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THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER.
HEBREWS xiii. 17.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you.
My dear Friends,
I Do not know any thing more interesting or important, than the meeting of a Christian pastor with his flock in the house of God, when both the parties are mutually disposed to execute with fidelity their respective duties; i. e. when he is anxious to feed the sheep whom Christ "the chief shepherd," has entrusted to his care, and they are desirous to receive the spiritual nourishment which he is appointed to administer. Otherwise, such a scene as we now witness, would be a very melancholy one, if both parties
were indifferent to the high purposes for which they profess to meet. What could be more pitiable? What could be a greater mockery of every thing sacred and solemn? Or, if either were uninterested in the avowed object of meeting, how would this beautiful picture be spoiled and marred! How lamentable would it be, to see, on the one side, an "hireling who careth not for the sheep," casting among them that which is unwholesome and poisonous, or holding forth to them the expectation of something better, while from time to time, "the hungry sheep look up, and are not fed;" or to behold them, on the other hand, rejecting and trampling under foot, either in disdain or in wanton carelessness, all the abundance of rich nutriment, which he, in compassion for their starving condition, most anxiously and zealously provides.
I sincerely trust that neither of these sad cases is descriptive of us. I trust you will believe me, when I say that, next to my own salvation, I have nothing in the world so much at heart, as the eternal welfare of those with whom I stand connected as a minister of Jesus Christ. (Alas, St. Paul's zeal would have led him to say, not only "My heart's desire for you is, that you may be saved," but even, "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren's
sake.") And truly rejoiced I am, to meet so many of you here on these solemn and interesting occasions; I hope it is a sign that you do feel your need of spiritual food, and are anxious for a supply of it; that there is a hungering and a thirsting among you, and that you "grudge, if you be not satisfied;" that you do desire that which is wholesome and nutritious, "that you may grow thereby;" that when we endeavour to administer to your necessities, it is not as unprofitable a work, as "casting pearls before swine," but that you value what you receive, and sincerely hope that it may be blessed to your everlasting good.
I say this to you as a body-I know there must be exceptions; but I do hope, that the generality of you are more or less in the state which I have described. That you come here with some serious thoughts on the subject of your salvation -that you have some desire for religious instruction-that though you be not all decided Christians, firmly established in your faith, and fruitful in all holy living,-yet that you experience somewhat of the beginnings of a spiritual state-that you have some questioning with yourselves upon these momentous matters-that you feel some strivings between the flesh and the spirit-that you have some wish to shake off the dominion of
sin, and to be led into the paths of righteousness and eternal life. Of course I cannot treat you all as perfect Christians,-you would not wish me to do so; for you would know that I should only be endeavouring to deceive you to your ruin. You would wish me always to address you sincerely, honestly, and faithfully-without disguise or flattery. For I cannot but know that there must be some among you, who are far from being in a Christian state;-and you know it too. Your consciences are perhaps charging you with it at this moment; you are conscious to yourselves that if you go on in your present courses, you can never reach heaven. You are thinking, perhaps, of the besetting sins to which you are addicted; it flashes across one man's mind that he is a drunkard; another reflects on his habit of swearing; another on his impure and unchaste conduct and language; another on his dishonesty :-different persons on different vices, according as each thinks himself most addicted to this or that. And you feel that, notwithstanding all your coming to church and hearing sermons, yet it is impossible you can have any thing like the true faith by which a man's soul is to be saved, as long as you continue in bondage to these severa lsins. I can readily believe that here in the quietness of this sacred place, with every advantage for calm re
flection, your minds being almost unavoidably impressed with some feeling of the solmnity that reigns around, and with some thoughts of better and holier things than are presented to your view in the bustle of your every day occupations;-I say, I can readily believe that under these favourable circumstances, all temptations being out of the way, you regret that you should be living in so unsanctified a state, and that you heartily wish you could devote yourselves to God, and enjoy the peace and happiness of which Christians speak. Perhaps while you listen to me now, it is with a desire that I may say something strong and persuasive, to fix your wavering resolutions, and to deter you from your sins;-perhaps you even feel a wish that I would touch upon those very vices which most torment you, that you might be fortified with some powerful argument against them; you have in short a longing to be by some means or other rescued from your present dangerous condition, and set in the way of salvation. I fear I must add, "I speak not of you all," but I hope that a great many of you, conscious that all is not right with you at present, are desirous to receive some instruction by which you may be everlastingly benefitted.
And how do you suppose me to feel all this while? My brethern, why should I, through a