Page images
PDF
EPUB

TRAIT XXVIII.

His Condescension in labouring at Times, with

his own Hands, that he might preach Industry by Example, as well as by Precept.

Such is the disinterestedness of the true minister, that though he might claim a subsistence from the sacred office, to which he has been solemnly consecrated, yet he generously chooses to sacrifice his rights, when he cannot enjoy them without giving some occasion for reproach. To supply his daily wants, he is not ashamed to labour with his own hands, when he is called to publish the gospel, either among the poor, or in those countries where the law has not appointed him a maintenance, as among Heathen nations and savage tribes : Nor will he refuse to do this, when his lot falls among a slothful people, animating them to diligence in their several vocations by his prudent condescension, that the gospel may not be blamed. In such circumstances, if his own patrimony be insufficient for his support, no disciple of Jesus will blush to follow the example of St. Paul, who gives the following repre. sentation of his own conduct in cases of a like nature • Have I committed an offence in abasing myself, that you might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely ? When I was present with you and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: In all things I have kept myself from being burthensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me; no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore ? because I love you not ? God knoweth. But that I may cut off occasion from them that desire occasion,' and who would not fail to represent me as a self-interested person, were they able to charge me with the enjoyment of my jast rights among you. (2 Cor. xi. 7-12.) I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel : Ye your. selves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye oright to support the weak; and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.' (Acts xx. 33, 35.) Ye know, bor ye ought to follow us: For we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you, neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you, not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear, that there are some, which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy-bodies.” (2 Thess. is. 7-11.) Happy were those times of Christian simpli. city, when the apostles of Christ thought it no disgrace to follow some useful occupation, for the relief of their temporal necessities when, instead of eating the bread of idleness, they cast their net alternately for fishes and for men--when they quitted the tabernacles, in which they were wont to labour, for the sacred re. creation of setting before sinners a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Of how much greater value were the nets of St. Peter, than dogs of the chase; and the working implements of St. Paul, than those tables of play, at which many of his unworthy successors are now seeking amusement!

But notwithstanding all the circumspection and pru. dence of the faithful pastor, even though he should think it necessary to preach industry by example, as well as by precept; yet if his exhortations are more frequent than those of his lukewarm brethren, he will be reproached by the irreligious part of the world, as an indirect advocate for indolence. The enemies of

piety and truth are still ready to renew the old objections of Pharaoh against the service of God: “ Wherefore do ye let the people from their works? The people of the land are many, and you make them rest from their burdens. They be idle: Therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, and let them not regard vain words.' (Exodus v. 4, 9.) Such is the erroneous judgment, which is generally formed respecting the most zealous servants of God: But while they feel the bitterness of these unmerited reproaches, they draw more abundant consolation from the encouraging language of their gracious Master— Blessed are ye, when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven : For so persecuted they the prophets, which were before you.' (Matt. v. 11, 12.)

The declared adversaries of religion are not, however, the only persons, who accuse a laborious minister of diverting the people from their business, by the too frequent returns of public exhortation and prayer :

There are others, not wholly destitute of piety, who frequently add weight to these unjust accusations. Such are the half-converted, who, not yet understanding the inestimable worth of that bread, which nourisheth the soul to everlasting life, are chiefly engaged in labouring for the bread which perisheth. Men of this character, engaging themselves in a vast variety of earthly concerns, incessantly.disquiet themselves in vain,' and consider those hours as running to waste, in which a zealous Pastor detains them from worldly cares and frivolous enjoyments. While he is engaged in teaching, that one thing [only] is (abso. lutely] needful,' they are grasping at every apparent good, that solicits their affections: And while he is insisting upon the necessity of choosing' that good part, that shall not be taken away,' these formal professors are ready to reason with him, as Martha with JesusDost thou not know, how greatly we are cumbered with a multiplicity of vexatious concerns ;

and

carest thou

[ocr errors]

not that our assistants and dependents are detained from their necessary avocations by an indolent attendance upon thy ministry?

These false sentiments, with respect both to the mi. nisters and the word of God, which too generally prevail among nominal Christians, have their source in that direct opposition, which must always subsist between the grand maxim of the children of God, and the distinguishing principle of worldly men—“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness,' saith the blessed Jesus, " and all these things,' which are further necessary to your welfare, “shall be added unto you.' (Matt. vi. 33.) No, replies the prince of this world ; seek ye first the enjoyments of time and sense, and all other things, that are needful to your well-being, shall be added over and above. From these two opposite principles results that entire contrariety, which has been observed in all ages between those, who are laying up treasures upon earth, and those, who have set their affections upon things that are above. Happy are the faithful, and doubly happy the pastors, who, constantly imitating the great apostle, according to their several vocations, pray and labour at the same time, both for their daily bread, and the bread of eternal life! In thus observing the twofold command of Moses and of Christ, some reason. able hope may be entertained, that their good works will at length overcome the aversion of their enemies, as those of the first Christians overcame the deep-rooted prejudices of the Heathen world.

[merged small][ocr errors]

TRAIT XXIX.
The Respect he manifested for the holy Estate of

Matrimony, while Christian Prudence engaged
him to live in a State of Celibacy.

Some ministers have carried their disinterestedness to so high a pitch, that they have refused to enter into the marriage state, merely with this view ; that being free from all superfluous care and expence, they might consecrate their persons more entirely to the Lord, and their possessions less reservedly to the support of the poor, whom they considered as their children, and adopted as their heirs. But all pastors are not called to follow these rare examples of abstinence and disinterested piety.

When we examine into the life of a celebrated man, we generally inquire, whether he passed his days in a state of marriage or celibacy, and what it was, that de. termined his choice to the one or the other of these states. Such an inquiry is peculiarly necessary with respect to St. Paul, as many of the faithful, in the earliest ages of the church, deluded by the amiable appearance of celibacy, embraced the monastic life-a state, to which the clergy and the Religious of the Romish church still dedicate themselves : Whence those disgraceful accusations, which divers philosophers have preferred against the Christian religion, as destructive of society in its very origin, which is the conjugal bond. But leaving the reveries of legend, if we seek for Christianity in the pure gospel of Christ, we shall find this accusation to be totally groundless : Since one view of the Christian Legislator, in publishing that gospel, was to strengthen the nuptial tie, by declaring, that an immodest glance is a species of adultery, by revoking the permission formerly given to the husband to put away his wife for any temporary cause of dissatisfaction, and by absolutely forbidding divorce, except in case of adultery. (Matt. v.

« PreviousContinue »