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hedges and stone walls are broken down, and where briars and thorns are sprung up, we must naturally conclude, that sluggards have been there. And do we not find many such neglected and uncultivated places in the vineyard of Christ? Is it not very much overgrown with thorns and nettles? Are not its walls and hedges very much broken down? But to drop these metaphors, are not the terms of communion, and the modes of discipline, in many places, very different from those which Christ himself hath appointed? Are not those sacred ordinances frequently divided, which he hath absolutely united; and those peculiar privileges which he hath given to his friends, bestowed freely and without distinction, upon his enemies? Are not gross and fatal errors indulged, if not nourished and fostered in the bosom of some of our churches? Are not open vices and immoralities suffered to spread and prevail in many of our congregations, without being restrained, and what is still more melancholy and shocking, without being condemned and reproved!
Such are the disagreeable and gloomy appearances of the vineyard of Christ at this day. And are not these the fruits, that we should naturally expect from sloth and negligence? If ministers were more watchful, more diligent, more laborious, and more heartily and unreservedly devoted to their work, we might certainly expect better fruits would appear in the garden of the Lord. For, wherever we find better ministers, we find better fruits. I appeal to facts. Go into those parts of the vineyard of Christ, where ministers give themselves wholly to their work, and there you will find vice and immorality condemned and reproved, if not restrained; there you will find churches kept in re pair; and there you will find a number of warm and lively Christians growing in knowledge and in grace.
We are obliged therefore to ascribe, in a great measure, though not altogether, the present wretched and guilty state of our churches and congregations, to the negligence and unfaithfulness of ministers.
4. We learn from what has been said, the great criminality of those who sustain the sacred office, but do not give themselves wholly to their work. An idle person in the lowest station of life, who clothes himself and his family in rags, and reduces them to poverty and wretchedness, is very criminal; and carries about with him visible marks of his negligence and guilt. But how much more inexcuseable and guilty are idle, negligent, unfaithful ministers, who render both themselves and their people in the highest sense, wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked! The barrenness of those churches which they ought to have cultivated and manured, and the leanness of those souls which they ought to have fed with knowledge and understanding, bear witness to their face, and charge them with aggravated guilt. But besides these fruits of their negligence, which are, at once, both the evidences and aggravations of their guilt; their own voluntary, public, and solemn vows and engagements must be brought into the account, to fill up the measure of their sins. The aggravations arising from both these sources will be fully displayed at the great and last day. Then the skirts of their garments shall be unfolded, and the blood of the souls of the poor innocents, who perished through their negligence, shall be brought to light; and at the same time, the solemn vows and engagements which they violated, shall be fully exhibited to their own view, and to the view of those whom they neglected, betrayed, and destroyed. These aggravations of guilt will appear to be peculiar
to those, who have been negligent and unfaithful in the ministry, and will sink them lower than the lowest of all other classes of men, in the gulph of perdition. Let us all, therefore, my brethren, now judge and condemn ourselves, that we may not be judged and condemned of the Lord. And while we mourn for our past negligence and unfaithfulness, let us resolve to give ourselves wholly to our work in time to come, and to watch for souls as those who must give account.
Permit me now to turn my discourse to him, who is waiting to be introduced into this part of the vineyard of Christ.
You have reason to bow your knee in profound gratitude to the Father of mercies, who allows you to choose and enter upon the greatest and best work in the world. Gratitude therefore obliges you to give yourself wholly to the service of God. From this day of your public dedication, to the day of your decease, your time will be consecrated time; your talents consecrated talents; your interests consecrated interests. If you
withhold or divert these from your sacred work, you will be guilty of sacrilege, but if you give them wholly to your office, you will make your profiting appear unto all. If then you wish to appear a faithful minister, be one. If you wish to be a successful minister, be a faithful one. And if you wish to go through your work with ease, and to finish it with joy, give yourself wholly to the duties of your office. one object to pursue, and that is, your work. Let that have the supreme place in your heart. have a governing influence upon your life. bring every other object and concern into subordination.
You have but
Let that complete
You need not be concerned about riches or honors; for these, so far as they can be either necessary or beneficial to you, shall fall to your lot, if you seek first the kingdom of God and the good of your people. When God requires you to give yourself wholly to your work, he forbids you to take thought for the morrow. When he requires you to be wholly concerned about his honor and interest, he engages to take care of you and of all your concerns. But if you withhold your time, or your labors, or your heart from this people, you may expect that God will deny you his gracious smiles and presence; and teach you the folly and guilt of unfaithfulness, by those briars and thorns, which are the fruits of your own negligence. Be kind then to this people, speak good words to them, and devote yourself wholly to their service; and you will justly claim their sincere esteem, veneration and respect.
Lay out yourself to be a minister, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. Enter into this vineyard of Christ, with a full determination to labor, and if possible, to repair the waste places. Manure and cultivate this garden of the Lord. and you may expect the dews of heaven to water it. Feed this flock of Christ with the sincere milk of the word, and you may expect that they will grow thereby. Display divine truth with a full blaze of evidence, and you may expect the mists of darkness and error will vanish.
How this people shall appear, in this world, at the day of judgment, and to all eternity, depends, under God, upon your conduct. Their eternal interests in the most important stage of their existence, are now for a while, to be lodged in your hands. It is therefore as important, that you should be laborious and faithful in your work, as it is, that you and they should be saved. Be intreated then, "to take heed
unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine, and continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee."
The church and congregation in this place, will please to indulge me in a short, but free address, on this solemn occasion.
If you have been humble in asking, you will be grateful in receiving, one of the richest blessings which Christ has to bestow upon a people, a pastor after his own heart. Such a pastor, we believe is now waiting to take the care and charge of your souls. And if he should fulfil his great obligations to you; he will lay you under great obligations to him. If he should seek your future and highest good; he will oblige you to seek his present ease and comfort. If he should be laborious and faithful in his work; he will oblige you to assist, to encourage, and to support him in it. If he should seek to promote the purity of the church, the destruction of error, and the salvation of sinners; he will oblige you to seek and pursue the same desirable and important objects. And if he should plainly and faithfully preach the pure doctrines of the gospel; he will oblige you to receive and embrace them in meekness and love. In a word, if he should be a good minister; he will oblige you to be a good people.
But if he should fulfil his obligations to you; and you should violate your obligations to him; the consequence to you will be fatal. All his labors, all his self-denial, all his love and compassion, will only aggravate your present guilt and future destruction. God is aboutt o try you. And a most tremendous trial it will be, if he puts a price into your hands to get wisdom, and you have no heart to it; but prefer folly to wisdom, and darkness to light. This is a solemn day