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We have known God's dear children sometimes, when cala mities came suddenly in prospect, when huge billows seemed ready to go over them, and a black cloud of sorrows was about to burst upon their heads, at first trembling and anxious, swinging a little with trepidation to this side and that of the central point of rest. But as the trial became more distinctly defined, the cloud's lightning began to flash, and its big drops to fall, the palpitating heart would be still, the vibrations of the will would cease, faith gather strength, and the eye of the soul be upturned and fastened on a faithful God, and its band grasp firmly the promises, which neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, or any other creature can ever loosen.
Brethren, is it in those promises that we are strongly rooted, so as to fear no evil? Is onr anchor firm in the Word of God Is it cast within the veil? And do we find our ship ride easy with it in the gale? The engrossing earnestness with which the captain of a ship (which the good providence of God once placed me in) studied his chart, and watched the soundings, while it was so foggy we could hardly see a ship's length ahead in order to make his way safely to port over a dangerous shoal, and at the close of a long voyage, taught me a lesson I have never forgotten of the way in which we should all study, and watch the answers of God's word and prayer, as we prosecute the voyage of life, having to sail by a thousand sunken rocks and shoals and perilous quicksands, before we can make the port of peace.
He would himself carefully put the tallow or soap into the hollow end of the lead, then heave it himself or hold the line, and carefully ascertain when it reached the bottom. Then he would scrutinize it closely when hauled up, to learn what report it brought from the bottom, whether it were sand, or gravel, or mud, or ooze adhering to the end, or whether it were dented as if it had fallen on rocks. Then he would sit down to bis chart with compass, and slide and slate, to compare what he had found by the soundings with what was told on the pa. per, and fix, if possible, upon his position on the great shoal, and shape his course accordingly through the fog-damp darka ness for the next hour. Then he would lie down on the trans. som in his great watch-coat to catch a half-hour's sleep, with the chart unrolled before him on the cabin table, and a signal lantern swinging over it.
Now with the same carefulness should we ponder the word of God, that we may be shaping our course aright over the tempestuous sea of life, where, even as to the mariner,
Dangers of every shape and name
It is seldom in our voyage along these coasts of time that we are not in peril from some out-jutting reef, or shoal, or sunken rock, or moving quicksand; to avoid which we must heave the lead, and watch our soundings, and study well our chart, and keep a good look-out. Then, if only vigilant and faithful with what thankfulness and grace in our hearts shall we be singing the rest of our way through time
A thousand death's I daily 'scape,
I pass by many a pit :
Where others have been split.
And when the perils of probation are all over, and we are safe home at last in heaven, how will the numberless vicissitudes and trials of the voyage be as a dream when one awaketh! Safely moored there in the port of peace, and finding the end not only answer but far exceed our expectations, how will the trials endured and the hazards seen in time enhance the glory of eternity; and with what fervent gratitude shall we praise God for them all!
We remark, finally, that those who are not exercised with amictions, unless they are manifestly growing in grace, have just ground for fear; fear lest continued prosperity harden their hearts, and beget the spirit of pride and self-indulgence and worldliness, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, that it become unfruitful; and fear lest it be an evidence of no peculiar fatherly love to them on the part of God. They are far from being the happiest and Bafest men who prosper in the world, who increase in riches, whose eyes stand out with fatness, who have more than heart could wish; who are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men; who heap up silver, and gold, and merchandize, who multiply houses, and lands, and honors.
On slippery rocks I see them stand; and in view of true wisdom their envied estate, with all its affluence, and ease, and luxury, but forgetfulness of God, is not worth a desire in comparison with that man's whom God chooseth in the furnace of affiction, and lays his rod upon him as a dear son whom He means to ripen for glory. Ah, what a meaning is that!
For which now of these two, the afflicted man and the progpered man will be best off in the end? What effect is affliction working upon the afflicted man? What effect is prosperity working upon the prospered man? If affliction in the one cage is softening the heart, leading to reflection and prayer, weaning one from the world, loosening your hold on the earth, making you long for heaven, and inducing the temper of heaven now in your heart, a holy hatred of what is contrary to it, and the love of what enthrones heaven in the soul, then are
you, the afflicted man, the happy man; for you will be so in the end, and your affliction is the necessary instrument to that blessed end, being the discipline employed by God to make you boly.
And if, on the other hand, prosperity is hardening the heart, as it generally does (for the contrary is the exception), if it is making one worldly, and selfish, and self-confident, and forget ful of God; if it is making one more earnest for acquisitions in property than for acquisitions in holiness, more eager to be rich than to be good, more bent upon accumulating than upon distributing for God and religion, then are you, the prospered man, the unhappy man, for you will be so in the end.
It is far from being always what makes us best off now that is really best for us, but what will make us best off for the future; wbat is best for our characters; what is best to cure us of our besetting sins; what is best for our religious prosperity; wbat will most conduce to our growth in grace; what will be most likely to kill the seeds of sin in us, and keep down the weeds of worldliness, vanity,self-love, and pride; what will tend to make us considerate and kind, duly regardful of others, and mainly anxious for the glory of God; what will be best for me as an immortal being, on trial for eternity, having a soul to be saved or lost; under instant obligation to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, and to do all that is possible to save others; what, in fine, wiil make me the best man, and the best Christian, the most conscientious, benevolent, and careful in my intercourse with other men, the most upright, sincere, and dutiful toward God.
Ah, constituted as we are, it is far from being continued prosperity that is most likely to do this; the being blown upon long or always in life by favorable gales, and wafted along on a prosperous tide of success. But rather is it the blasts of ad. versity, the rough winds of affliction and distress, that drive us for shelter to the Lord Jesus Christ. Who in this view will pot choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season! They are but for a season, and that season at best oh how short! While, many are the afflictions of the righteous, but (what a world of mean. ing follows !) but the Lord delivereth out of them all. Precious deliverance! worth all the previous delivery over unto pain.
In God's good time may there come such a deliverance to all the sons and daughters of affliction that now hear me. Let pone of us faint in the day of adversity and prove that our strength is small; but may the consolations of God be large with our souls, and alike under blessing and trial, in joy and sorrow, may we hold fast our integrity, and steadfastly trust and serve our God and Saviour to the end. And may trials be so sanctified to us all, and the meaning of God therein be de.
veloped, that the conclusive logic of our experience shall be that of David: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now have I kept thy law."
To that Great Being who doeth all things well, who dispenses all life's allotments in perfect rectitude and love, to God only wise be all honor and glory, both now and for ever. Amen.
BY REV. JOHN DUDLEY,
THE DUTY AND BENEFIT OF PASTORAL VISITATION,
* For they watrh for souls as they who must give account, that they may do it with joy aud not with grief."--[leB., 13: 17.
This Scripture refers to the care which a pious minister feels for the salvation of souls. It exhibits the complete idea of a faithful pastor. The love of Christ constraining him, empowered by his authority, and set over a people" by the laying on of the hands,” his office and business are to save, if possible, those committed to his charge. He watches them with intense solicitude. His eyes ever upon them, and every opportunity is improved to do them good. He preaches-preaches much--preaches well, plainly and earnestly; not so much in the wisdom of words, bnt in the “ demonstration of the Spirit;" then watches to see the blessing, and hastens to secure every impression, "if by any means he may save some.” At the close of every day, he renders his account to his Master; with joy, if successful; with grief, if he have labored in vain.' This must necessarily refer to the present discharge of his office; for it is not possible for any perversion of the people to prevent a faithful minister's giving up his final account with joy. Nor can any groans be mingled with those triumphant songs, which God will put into the mouths of his people. But their Master will remember what they suffered by their people's means; and the account may sit heavy on them, when the sorrows of their faithful pastors are over: “ Watch for souls;" this is the main idea of the passage. Chrysostom says, he never rend these words without trembling, though he often preached several times a day. " Brethren," says Baxter, "if saving souls bə your end, you will certainly intend it out of the pulpit as well as in it."
The text suggests a very serious question, touching the labɔrs of pastors. Do they exercise as much thought and zeal in visiting and conversing with their people, as they do in the preparation for the pulpit ? Do pastors visit as much and as well as they can and ought ?"
It is proposed in this discourse to urge the duty of pastoral visitation, and consider some of the causes which endanger the faithful performance of it.
1.-Pastoral visitation is a duty of the ministerial office. 1. The idea is involved in the office itself. The elemetary idea of a pastor is that of acquaintance; familiar, mutual, intimate acquaintance; extending to all the flock; to their names, families, dispositions, characters and circumstances. Ås his office is to “ watch for souls," the pastor must be familiar with the spiritual condition of his people. This clearly, cannot be without personal acquaintance with them individually; and a competent knowledge of their wants and experiences can be gained in no other way than by personal visits.
This acquaintance is indispensable to a faithful and suitable preparation for the pulpit. A pastor must distinguish natural character. To deal wisely, the temperaments of different individuals must be understood. Some minds require very different treatment from others. What would be proper for one might be positively injurious to another. One needs strong meat, another milk, and would be destroyed by that which nourishes and perfects the other. Ignorant of individul character and feeling, and modes of thought, no man can “so divide the word of truth as to give to each a portion in due season;" and he who does not cannot be said, if judged by the Gospel standard, to preach well. He may have a strong bow, and a quiver filled with well-fledged arrows, but he will be perpetually drawing at a venture. His sermons may entertain, but they will not profit.
2. The duty of pastoral visitation is argued from apostolic and primitive example. We find this duty inculcated in the first instructions given to the Christian church. In his solemn charge to the Ephesian elders, Paul says: “Take heed to all the flock.” To tako heed to all must imply a care of every individual: and to take heed to every one implies a knowledge of every one.
We find, also, among the first ministrations of the apostles was that of breaking bread “from house to house." In addition to their preaching publicly in the Temple every day, they ceased not “to teach and preach from house to house."
Paul, about to take his final leave of the Ephesian church,