« PreviousContinue »
II. Why we should pray for them. I shall then apply the subject.
I. I would shew what should be the subject of our prayers for the ministers of the gospel.
It is obvious that we ought to pray, that they may be furnished for their important work, by a saving knowledge of Christma thorough and intimate acquaintance with divine truth-aptness to teach-boldness to declare the counsel of God faithfully and fully--a tender compassion for sinners--and an ardent zeal for God; together with great prudence, patience, prayerfulness, watchfulness, and circumspection, that the ministry be not blamed: in a word, that God would be with them by his Spirit, to assist, own, and succeed them, in their work; that they may save themselves and those who hear them ; and, finally, receive a crown of glory, from the chief shepherd, at his appearing.
Nor is i sufficient, that we pray for them, in this general manner; but so far as we become acquainted with any of their particular temptations and difficulties, we should, with reference to these, beseech of the great head of the church, so to impart the influences of his Spirit, to uphold and strengthen them, that their trials may work for their own good, and the furtherance of the gospel.
I proceed to shew, more particularly,
II. Why we ought thus. to pray for the ministers of the gospel.
1. We ought thus to pray for them, and, especialiy, that they may have the grace of God in their hearts, and labor sincerely and faithfuily in the cause of Christ, because if it be otherwise with them, the consequences will be most awful to themselves.
Graceless and unfaithful ministers are those referel to by Christ, when he says, that at the great day,
many will say unto him : « Lord, Lord, have we not prophecied in thy name ?” to whom he will reply, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
The salvation of a minister of the gospel, on its own account, aside from the consequences of it to others, is as important as that of any other man. In' some respects it is more so; for if he perish, his destruction will be peculiarly aggravated. He watches for souls; and if any perish, through his unfaithfulness (as they will do, if he have no grace) his sin is that of blood-guiltiness, the greatest of sins, a sin against the life of man, and not merely against the life of the body, but against the eternal life of the soul. Oh, how dreadful must be the doom of such a minister, who to the guilt of many other aggravated sins, the expressions of an impenitent heart, superadds the guilt of the blood of many souls. As we have reason to fear that many will receive this doom, we should pray for all in the ministry, and for all who are about to enter into it, that God would not suffer them to be deceived, but grant them his grace and a saving knowledge of Christ, that they may find mercy of the Lord in that day. 2. We ought to pray for the ministers of the
gospel, on account of the importance of their work, and the infinitely interesting consequences of their faithfulness, or unfaithfulness, to the people of their charge.
Unfaithfulness in a minister, arising from a graceless heart, is most dangerous to a people, and is ordinarily the occasion of ruin to many. lative knowledge a man may have, yet, if he have not received the love of the truth, he will not feel its importance. A man who is unacquainted with the plague of his own heart, will not be inclined to enter deeply into the subject of man's depravity, and to urge the necessity of the almighty energy of the
Holy Spirit, to change the disposition. He who never knew the terrors of the law, will not be able to say, with the apostle, “Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men.” He who sees not the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, will be unskilful in leading distressed souls to a dying Sae viour. He who is not experimentally acquainted with gracious exercises, will generally fail in making distinctions between true and false religions. He will not feel for the wounded in spirit, nor be able to apply the balm of the gospel. He will not often preach the distinguishing doctrines of the cross; but choose rather to deliver such diseourses as are designed chiefly to please his hearers. If they are fond of hearing discourses on mere morality, he will gratify them. If they wish only for a little sabbath-parade, his sermons will be short and empty. If some among his people love the distinguishing truths of the gosa pel, which are hated by others, he will endeavor to use such expressions as may be understood in a sense to satisfy the one, and at the same time in a sense which will not dissatisfy the others. He will rock the cradle of the secure, and never alarm sinners by making the humbling and searching truths of the gospel, blaze upon their guilty consciences. How alarming are the prospects of a people, in these circumstances! How rarely are any among them pricked in the heart, and led to cry, “ What must we do to be saved ?” How much more hopeful are the prospects of those to whom God gives faithful ministers, such as know the grace of God, and have their hearts fired with holy zeal, in the cause of Christ, and for the salvation of men ! They declare the whole counsel of God. They lay open to sinners their awful danger, and their only remedy, beseeching them in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. Their labors are more or less successful. The word is accompanied with power. Sinners are converted
to God, and saints sweetly fed upon the truth as it is in Jesus.
We are authorized, from scripture and experience, to expect that eminent faithfulness and spirituality in a minister will usually be attended with eminent usefulness. Look for instance to Ezra, who was a chief instrument in the great reformation in the Jewish church, about the time of its return from Babylon, a man who “ had prepared his heart to seek after the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and judgments in Israel ;" who had “ fasted and prayed at the river Ahara,” previous to his great undertaking, and was afterwards “ sorely astonished and in heaviness," and “ would eat no meat, nor drink water;" but “ fell upon his knees and spread out his hands to the Lord his God," on account of the transgression of his people. Look to Nehemiah, another great instrument in the same workomto the apostles to Luther, Calvin, and others, in the time of the reformation in the Christian church-to Elliot, Edwards, Brainard, and hundreds of others; who were eminently spiritual, and peculiarly devoted to God; whose hearts burned with love to Christ, and to the souls of men ; who looked on their hearers, as Christ looked on Jerusalem, and wept over them ; and whose labors were wonderfully blessed. Blessings from the labors of men like these will usually follow. I say usually ; because God, to convince us of his sovereignty, and the insufficiency of means, sometimes suffers it to be otherwise. Still he is not wanting in giving encouragement to what he approves of, wherever it is found. How important, then, it is, that: ministers of the gospel should be truly faithful, and spiritual in their labors ; and that we make this the subject of our prayers for them !
3 We should pray for ministers of the gospel, because of the arduous nature of their work ; the tri. als and temptations, which they meet with, in pursu
ing it ; and the numerous enemies, within and with. out, which they must encounter. They are tried by the foolisliness of ignorant men, who are opposed to the truth. Hence the apostle says, “ Pray for us, that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.” They are tried by temptations, addressed to their love of ease, and the applause of men. They find that faithfulness oftea involves them in trouble ; and that their own hearts occasion much difficulty in the prosecution of their work. Considering how arduous a work it is, how much study and critical attention are requisite, to bring forth the whole counsel of God, rightly to divide the word of truth, and give to every one a portion in due seasong-often, too, disheartened and dejected, they exclaim, “ Who is sufficient for these things." They are indeed insufficient. Though the treasure of the gospel is committed to them, yet they are, but “ earthen vessels.” “ The excellency of the power is of God," and all their sufficiency is of Him. They therefore greatly need and desire the ardent prayers of their brethren. A belief that they receive them is often an excitement to greater animation in duty. If, on the morning of the Lord's day, and at other times, they can reflect that the praying part of their people are now carrying them to the throne of grace in the family or closet, and pleading that in the house of God they may be faithful, spiritual, and successful, how must they be humbled if themselves are cold ; brought with renewed assiduity to the same throne of grace on their own account; and be thus furnished to come forth to their people, " in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of peace !”
4 We ought to pray for the ministers of the gospel, on account of the happy effects it will have on our own minds. It will have a powerful tendency to bind us to them in Christian affection. We can