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But if you do not feel in yourselves a desire of being employed as the ambassadors of God; if you do not appear in your right place, when you are fulfilling the duties of your holy profession, judge ye yourselves, whether you are called into the Lord's vineyard? God implants in the heart a love for the service to which he calls; and better would it have been for you to have felt that it was not the ministry for which you were intended, than that you should possess a want of inclination for the performance of its duties. It is not necessary that a voice from heaven should say to you in secret, "the Lord hath not sent you;" your judgment, enforced by the dictates of your conscience, tells you so.
It is, farther, requisite, that, in dedicating yourselves to the ministry, you should possess purity of intention. "Our Lord came not to be "ministered unto," that is, to fill the highest places in the Synagogue,—" but to minister,—to "become all things to all men;" He came to declare the name of his Father; to save the lost sheep of the House of Israel; zeal, love, holiness, formed the essential and constituent parts of his ministry, Are you influenced by the same motives? Have you taken upon you the sacred character, in order to minister, to labour for the salvation of your brethren? Are you satisfied, in your own minds, as to the purity of your intentions f I pretend not to penetrate the inmostrecesses of your h«art: God knows them; and to him must the decision, ultimately, be referred; but, surely, every one, before he enters into the sacred ministry, should, impartially, and severely, enquire of himself, whether his motives are such as will be approved by that God, whose servant he becomes? If, then, we have not made the awful enquiry, let us this day enter into judgment with ourselves. What do I propose to myself, in that holy state into which I have entered? The salvation of souls —the defence of the Gospel—the destruction of the empire of the grand enemy of mankind? Have I chiefly, these laborious and momentous ends in view, by becoming a labourer in the Lord's vineyard? What would I appropriate to myself? What do I expect to meet with in the Church ?— its riches, or its duties ?—its dignities, or its labours ?—the value of the fleece, or the salvation of the flock? What talents do I bring into this holy warfare ?—A knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel—an interest in its success—reasoning, to convince—and eloquence, to persuade ?—or, ignorance of the truth—unconcern about its reception—languor in its defence—and unskilfulness in its propagation.
It may be said, perhaps, that if you are promoted to ecclesiastical preferment, which your morals do not disgrace, it may be allowable to conclude, that you are entitled to it. But, to devote ourselves to the ministry of the Word, merely because we have the prospect of succeeding to preferment; because our expectations in the Church are more promising than in any other profession, or calling: because, through our family and friends, we may hope to arrive at an enviable state of comfort and independence; because, like the mother of the sons of Zebedee, our connections have previously solicited the highest places in the kingdom of heaven: in a word, to enlist under the banners of Christ, not because " he has the words of eternal life," but because he multiplies the loaves and fishes in the wilderness—is the motive laudable ?—Is it "because we were moved by the Holy Ghost to "take upon us this office and administration?"
But after all, it is not sufficient to have the testimony of our conscience in our favour; we must farther examine, whether we have talents adapted to our situation, and whether we may justly presume, that we shall be of real utility in the Church? You can, perhaps, display all the talents which would distinguish you in the world; you can please, by your conversation, and engage, by your address: but what talents have you for the Lord's vineyard, to build, to plant, to pull down? When Moses was about to erect the tabernacle, every one brought splendid presents to contribute towards its construction,—gold, precious stones, purple, the skins of beasts. What can you contribute, on your part, towards the building of the heavenly tabernacle, the spiritual edifice of the Church? You may not bring gold and precious stones; for " all are not apostles, all"are not evangelists;" yet you will contribute something; and that which is the least splendid or brilliant, is not always the least useful.
Now, by what way can you become serviceable to the Church ?—By your learning and your knowledge ?—But perhaps, impatient of restraint, and averse to study, you have looked upon the priesthood as an exemption, if you should desire it, from the toil of reading, and the acquisition of knowledge. By your mode of delivery and gracefulness of elocution?—But eloquence must be founded in piety, if you would render that talent honourable to yourself, and advantageous to your flock; and what can be the advantage derived from your instructions, when you destroy it by your example? By your irreproachable conduct? But if, without offending against the rules of morality, you betray in your whole demeanor a love of the world, and an attachment to its vanities, how can you edify that world, whose maxims you adopt, and whose fashions you sanction? By your name, and the distinction which you bear in the world?—A celebrated name gives, without doubt, additional authority in the exercise of the ministry; but alas! the sole advantage which the Church can expect to derive from you, is, that your name will become an excuse for your irregularities, and for the misapplication you shall make of the Lord's patrimony. In fine, by the dignities which you cannot fail of possessing in the Church and which your birth and connections give you a right to expect ?—But if by this motive only, you are influenced; if a mere name is to exalt you to sacerdotal dignity; if flesh and blood are to put you in possession of the priesthood of Melchizedec, which knows neither parents nor genealogy, your name will but serve to render an unworthy discharge of your duty more conspicuous:—you will carry into the sanctuary, pride, haughtiness, the very world, which has placed you in it.
What then can you offer to the Church, which it can apply to the glory of God, and the salvation of men? For this is its only view in the choice of its Ministers. The kingdom of God is, you know, a field which requires labourers; to be useless in it, is to occupy, unjustly, that soil which another would cultivate. If you find yourself unequal to the task, the Church has no need of you: far from being a support, you are but an incumbrance, and a reproach to it.
From what has been said, then, we ought all to enquire of our hearts—Does my mission resemble that of Jesus Christ—and hath he sent me as he was sent of his father? If you have entered-into the ministry without being called to it, yqu will bear the character of a minister of the gospel, it is true, but it will be to you a character of reprobation; and in declaring that you were moved by the Holy Ghost to take it upon you, you will have "lied, not unto men, but unto God." I say nothing of the infinite evils occasioned by your intrusion into the Church; your labours without a bles