DUTIES OF MINISTERS AND PEOPLE
It would be presumption in me to offer instruction to those by whom I would most gladly be taught. My words, therefore, on this lead shall be few; and I trust they will not offend.
The faithful minister is the servant, the shepherd or pastor, the overseer, the teacher, the guide, the physician, the helper, and the comforter of the people committed to his charge. It is not, consequently, a light business for light heads; but an awful and solemn concern, which requires all the grace, wisdom, prudence, earning, courage, faith, patience, and godliness, that are dispersed among the laity at large, to be collected, as much as possible, in one particular man.
The profit of the flock, not the profit from the flock, is the grand object of a true pastor’s concern. It is the character of the hireling, Â“whose own the sheep are not,” to care only for the fleece: and
when he gets this, the sheep not being his, (which he proves by his want of care for their souls,) he is nothing better than a robber. The world swarms with these spiritual thieves, who sacrifice all the plunder to their idleness, avarice, pride, or pleasures.
What a character the Lord gives of the one whom he calls “the foolish shepherd!” He does not “visit those that are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal the broken, nor feed that which standeth still. Woe,” continues he, “to the idle” (the false or foolish) “shepherd, that leaveth the flock: the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye; his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.” He shall eventually be without strength or understanding: Zech. 11.16. See also Ezek. 24.
When any congregation of people have the blessing of an able and faithful minister, how ought they to prize so scarce and valuable a jewel! Such a one is worthy of all honour, both for his work’s sake and for his own sake; and those Christians are not wise for themselves, who do not do all in their power to strengthen his hands, and to assist him in his ministry.
One good way of accomplishing this, is to pray earnestly and constantly in private for the pastor. This would draw down mutual blessings both on the speaker and hearers, and much endear them to each other. The reason, probably, of the dissatisfaction and uselessness, which often arise between them, may be owing to the want of mutual prayer, which begets indifference or remissness, as well as discovers too lax a spirit of watchfulness and faith. And then, how can the word, on one side, profit; and, on the other, how can the preacher be approved?
The minister of Christ, who gives up all his time, labour, and expectations, to his holy calling, ought to be comfortably and honourably supported in it. The labourer is worthy of his hire; and the very beasts eat of the corn for which they toil. If the maintenance be voluntary, it ought to be the more liberal for that very reason; if it be settled, it ought to be punctually complied with. It is sad for ministers, whose business is of higher kind, that the covetousness or dishonesty of their people should make it just and necessary for them to attend, with any anxiety, to lower affairs. Certainly, it betrays a want of love to God, when men can suffer His minister or His poor to starve by their dwellings. How can the pastor give himself up to the word and to prayer, when he is constrained to serve tables? And how can the minister without distraction, when poverty and care haunt and worry him all the day long? As a layman, I may ask these questions without suspicion of any .interested attachment to an order.
It is a melancholy fact, that the worldly pride and laziness of some clergymen have made the laity regardless of their sacred profession,
and ready to treat it with wrongs: and that the spiritual ignorance and irreligion of the laity have rendered the situation of the clergy, in some respects, not so honourable or desirable, as it should be, for themselves.
However these things may be, the Christian has one security of hope, which can never fail: “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” ‘God is our refuge and strength, (we have found Him abundantly so in trouble). Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.”
Outward establishments may meet with revolutions, and vary, and fail; but the true temple of God shall endure for ever. Yet while providence has ordained and settled these outward establishments, it seems the business and privilege of grace, cheerfully to observe and support them.
*From The Christian Remembrancer.