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the humble. But, in an especial manner, humility is necessary and beautiful in a minister, The greatest abilities and most unwearied diligence will not ensure success without it; a secret (if allowed) apprehension of his own importance, will deprive him of that assistance, without which he can do nothing ; " his arm will be dried up, and his right eye will be darkened;" } for the Lord of hosts hath purposed to stain the pride of all human glory, and will honour none but those who abase themselves, and are willing to give all the praise to him alone. It any man had ground to set a value upon his knowledge, gifts, and services, St. Paul might justly claim the pre-eminence. But though he was an apostle, and an inspired writer, though he had planted churches through a considerable part of the known world, though he was received as an angel by many to whom he preached, and, by a peculiar favour, had been caught up into the third heaven; yet he was, by grace, preserved from being exalted above measure, or from assuming an undue superiority over his brethren. The authority with which he was intrusted he employed solely to their advantage, and accounted himself the least of all, and the servant of all. How very opposite has been the conduct of many since his time, who have aimed to appropriate the name of ministers of Christ exclusively to themselves !
Such was our apostle, and the same spirit (though in an inferior degree) will be found in all the faithful ministers of the Lord Jesus. They love his name; it is the pleasing theme of their ministry, and to render it glorious in the eyes of sinners is the great study of their lives.
* James, iv. 6.
i Zech. xi. 17.
For his sake, they love all who love him, and are their willing servants to promote the comfort and edification of their souls. They love his Gospel, faithfully proclaim it without disguise or alteration, and shun not to declare the whole counsel of God, so far as they are themselves acquainted with it. They contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; and are desirous to preserve and maintain the truth, in its power and purity. The knowledge of their own weakness and fallibility makes them tender to the weaknesses of others; and though they dare not lay, or allow, any other foundation than that which God has laid in Zion, yet, knowing that the kingdom of God does not consist in meats and drinks, but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, they guard against the influence of a party-spirit ; and, if their labours are confined to Christians of one denomination, their love and prayers are not limited within such narrow bounds, but extend to all who love and serve their Master. They have entered upon the ministry, not for low and sordid ends, for popular applause, or filthy lucre, but from a constraining sense of the love of Jesus, and a just regard to the worth and danger of immortal souls. Their zeal is conducted and modelled by the example and precepts of their Lord; their desire is not to destroy, but to save; and they wish their greatest enemies a participation in their choicest blessings. In the subject-matter and the manner of their preaching they show that they seek not to be menpleasers, but to commend the truth to every man's conscience in the sight of God; and when they have done their utmost, and when God has blessed their labours, and given them acceptance and success beyond their hopes, they are con
scious of the defects and evils attending their best endeavours, of the weak influence the truths which they preach to others have upon their own hearts; that their sufficiency of every kind is of God, and not of themselves; and therefore they sit down, ashamed, as unprofitable sera. vants, and can rejoice or glory in nothing but in Him who came into the world to save the chief of sinners.
It might be expected that a spirit and conduct thus uniformly benevolent and disinterested, and witnessed to, in a greater or less degree, by the good effect of their ministry and example amongst their hearers, would secure them the good-will of mankind, and entitle them to peace, if not to respect. But, on the contrary, these are the very people who are represented as deceivers of souls, and disturbers of society; they are not permitted to live in some places, and it is owing to a concurrence of favourable circumstances if they are permitted to speak in any; the eyes of many are upon them, watching for their halting; their infirmities are aggravated, their expressions wrested, their endeavours counteracted, and their persons despised. The design of our history is to show, in the course of every period of the church, that those who have approached nearest to the character I have attempted to delineate from St. Paul, have always met with such treatment;m and from his declaration, that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall “suffer persecu
m Our Lord's declaration, “ Behold I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves,” is applicable to all his servants. The sight of a lanıb
is sufficient to provoke the rage and appetite of a wolf. Thus the spirit of the Gospel awakens the rage and opposition of the world; they have an antipathy to it, and owe it a grudge wherever they see it.
« tion," " we may expect it will always be so, while human nature and the state of the world rernain as they are. However, it may be a consolation to those who suffer for righteousness' sake, to reflect, that the apostles were treated thus before them; particularly St. Paul, who, as he laboured, so he suffered more abundantly than the rest. His person was treated with contempt and despite, his character traduced, his doctrine misrepresented; and, though his natural and acquired abilities were great, and he spoke with power and the demonstrations of the Spirit, yet he was esteemed the filth and off-scouring of all things, a babbler, and a madman, P
1 2 Tim, iii. 12.
Acts, xvii, 18. p 2 Cor, v. 13. See likewise Mark, iii. 21. " And when his friends “heard it, they went out to lay hold on him ; for they said, lle is beside himself;" that is to say, his attention to the office he has undertaken has transported him beyond the bounds of reason, and made him forget his station, his friends, and his safety; therefore, out of pure affection and prudence, they would have confined him : nor is it any wonder that our Lord's friends and relatives should thus think and speak of him, since we are assured that even his brethren did not believe on him: John vii. 5. And there scems to have been no possible medium. All who were conversảnt with him must either receive him as the Messiah, or pity, if not despise him, as a manman. This was the mildest judgment they could form. The Pharisees, indeed, went farther, and pronounced him an impostor and a devil. Such was the treatment our Lord and Master found. Letuot then his disciples and servants be surprised or grieved that they are misrepresented and misunderstood, an account of their attachment to him, but let them comfort themselves with his gracious words. John, xv. 18—21.
Of the Irregularities and Offences which appeared
in the Apostolic Churches. There are few things in which the various divisions of professing Christians are so generally agreed as in speaking highly and honourably of primitive Christianity. In many persons this is no more than an ignorant admiration, not capable of distinguishing what is truly praiseworthy, but disposed to applaud every thing in the gross that has the sanction of antiquity to recommend it. The primitive Christians have been looked upon, by some, as if they were not men of the same nature and infirmities with ourselves, but nearly infallible and perfect. This is often taken for granted in general, and when particulars are insisted on, it is observable that they are seldom taken from the records of the New Testament, and the churches which flourished in the apostles' times, but rather from those who lived in and after the second century, when a considerable deviation in doctrine, spirit, and conduct, from those which were indeed the primitive churches, had already taken place, and there were eviilent appearances of that curiosity, ambition, and will-worship, which increased, by a swift progress, till, at length, professed Christianity degenerated into little more than an empty name.
If Christians of the early ages are supposed to have been more exemplary than in after-periods, chiefly because they lived nearer to the times of our Lord and his apostles, it will follow of course, that the earlier the better. We may then expect to find most of the Christian spirit among