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And suffer me, dear brother, to tell you, that you must another day meet these souls that you are now going to take the charge of, before the judgment seat of Christ; and if by means of your faithfulness towards them, in your work, you shall meet them at the right hand of Christ in glory, how joyful a meeting will it be to you! They will be indeed your crown of rejoicing in that day. But if you behold them with devils at the left hand, in horror and despair, your conscience accusing you of unfaithfulness towards them, and it appears that they are lost through your neglect, how amazing will the sight of them be to you!
Your master and mine is this day calling me to resign the pastoral care of a number of souls into your hands, that have hitherto been committed to my care: It is with cheerfulness that I can now resign them to the care of one, concerning whom I can have so much hope that he will be faithful in his care of them. May the Lord of the harvest enable you to discharge your duty towards them more faithfully than I have done, and make you a far greater blessing to them; and may you come with them at the day of judgment before Christ with exceeding joy, and in robes of glory, and say then as Christ himself will say to the Father, when he shall come with all the souls that were given him of the Father, and present them before him in perfect glory, here am I, and the children which thou hast given me.
2. I would apply myself to those whose souls are now about to be committed to the care of that servant of Christ that is now to be ordained to the pastoral office in this place.
Beloved brethren, and dear children, It is your immortal souls that is the precious treasure that the great Creator and Saviour of souls seems now to be about to commit to the care of him whom you have chosen to be your pastor. And indeed it is a great charge, an high betrustment; and he ought to use his utmost care and diligence that you may not be eternally lost. But if your pastor should exercise such care that you may be saved, surely you ought to take care for the salvation of your own souls: It nearly concerns him that you should be saved; but much more nearly does it concern you. Let your minister be never so careful and watchful, if you take no care for yourselves, his faithfulness and diligence will signify nothing, unless it be to harden you, and aggravate your damnation. In such a case, the more care and pains he takes for your salvation, the greater will your eternal misery be; for all will be only a savour of death unto death. Those people are like to sink the deepest into hell hereafter, that go to hell from under the care of the most faithful ministers, that have taken the most pains to save them from going to hell. The preciousness of your souls has now been made use of as an argument with your chosen pastor to take care for your salvation; but much more may it be
used as an argument with you to seek your own salvation; for therein lies the preciousness of your souls, in their being of infinite worth to yourselves, appearing in the infinite loss you will sustain if they are lost, and your infinite gain if they are saved; herein lies that preciousness of the soul that Christ speaks of, Matt. xvi. 26. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and loose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
It is not only your minister that is concerned in the work that he is to perform among you, but you also are infinitely concerned in it: And it is not only he, but you also that are infinitely concerned in the account that he has to give of the discharge of his office among you. You must all of you hereafter meet your minister before the judgment seat of Christ; and if then it shall be found that he has been faithful, and that you have made an ill improvement of his ministry, and so failed of the grace of God, the sight of the devil will not be so terrible to you at that day as the sight of your minister; for he will rise up in judgment against you, and your pastor, that above all other persons in the world, excepting yourselves, is concerned to endeavour your salvation, will then above all other persons appear against you before the Judge to witness against you and condemn you. But how joyful will it be to you, as well as to him, if he renders his account with joy, for these reasons that he has been both faithful and successful with respect to you, and appears with you in glory at the right hand of Christ, and has to say to the great judge concerning himself and you, Here am 1, and the children which thou hast given me! What a joyful meeting of minister and people will there be! And how will you be each other's crown of rejoicing! But if your souls perish, you will be present when it shall be required by Jesus Christ of your minister to give an account of such and such souls that are lost, which were committed to his care; and how dreadful will it be to you, if you shall then hear him boldly and truly say before the Judge, "Lord, thou knowest that I have sincerely and faithfully endeavoured their salvation, I have not been slack nor negligent towards them, I have earnestly watched for their souls, and diligently and unweariedly used all the means with them that thou didst appoint; they perished not through my neglect, but through their own obstinate negligence and wickedness!" In such a case your minis! ter will be acquitted and justified, but you will be condemned with a most aggravated condemnation, and your blood will be upon your own head. Ezek. xxxiii. 2, 3, 4. Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, when I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts and set him for their watchman, if when he see the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet and warn the
people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet and taketh not warning, if the sword come and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. The good account your minister has to give of his own faithfulness, will incense the displeasure of the Judge towards you. Luke xiv. 17. So the servant came and showed his lord these things: Then the master of the house being angry, said to his servant, go out quickly, &c.
And if you would have the account your minister shall have to give concerning you to be profitable and joyful to you, do not neglect your duty towards him; endeavour by all means in your power to put him under the best advantage for serviceableness and success among you do what in you lies to encourage his heart and strengthen his hands. This I know to be a thing of vast importance, as you would have your pastor a blessing to you, and the successful instrument of the salvation of your souls and the souls of your children: therefore suffer me to be a little particular with you upon this head. I may be the more bold towards you as you hitherto have been of the flock that Christ has committed to my care, and I hope some of you my spiritual children; therefore as my beloved children I counsel and warn you.
If you would meet your minister with comfort another day, do not neglect doing what belongs to you comfortably to support him, so as to enable him to attend on his great work without distraction, and to give himself wholly to the business of seeking and promoting the eternal welfare and happiness of you and your children; without being disheartened by the difficulties and indigencies of straitened circumstances, or being diverted by exercising care, and taken off by involving himself in worldly business for his necessary support. While we are in the body our heavenly Father knows that we have need of these things, and the way that he hath provided for ministers' supply, is by their partaking of the temporal good things of the people to whom they minister spiritual things. 1 Cor. ix. 4, &c. Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife ?--Have we not power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God ke care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? or our sakes, no doubt, this is written; that he that ploweth hould plow in hope, and that he that thresheth in hope, should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
-Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple, and they that wait at the altar, are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the Gospel shall live of the Gospel. 1 Tim. v. 17, 18. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour; especially they who labour in word and doctrine: For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And the labourer is worthy of his reward. 2 Tim. ii. 6. The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. Gal. vi. 6. Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth in all good things. Christ would not have minister's time and thoughts taken up about providing temporal good things for their own support, but would have them wholly provided for by their people. Matt. x. 9, 10. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor script for your journey, neither two coats a piece, neither shoes, nor yet staves; for the workman is worthy of his meat. Agreeable to these directions he gave the twelve apostles, are the directions he gave the seventy, when he sent them out. Luke x. 7. In the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give; for the labourer is worthy of his hire.
You see what great care Christ has taken in this matter, and how full and abundant the scripture is in commands and direc tions concerning the support of ministers.
I know you are small, and in your new beginnings in this place, and not so able as many other congregations. But if we may give credit to the word of God, for you well and comfortably to support your pastor, is not the way to be poorer. Prov. iii, 9, 10. Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. To give to the Lord is not the way to be poor, but the way to be supplied by the Lord. Christ now is not personally, and in his human nature, bere upon earth, to be supported by temporal good things from his disciples, as once he was: but though he be now gone from hence into a far country, yet he has not left his disciples without opportunity in this way of showing their love to him; for there are two sorts of persons that he has appointed to be his receivers, viz. his indigent members, and his ministers; as of old God appointed the poor and the Levite to receive the tithes and other offerings that were made to the Lord, Deut. xvi. 11, 14. and ch. xiv. 28, 29. and xxiv. 10, 11, 12. What is given to ministers is a sacrifice to God: so the apostle represents what was sent to him for his supply from the Philippians, Phil. iv. 18. Having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God. And Christ, when he VOL. VII.
sent forth his disciples to preach, and had directed that they should take no provision for themselves, because the labourer is worthy of his reward, he says Matth. x. 40. He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that
And since what is given to your pastor is given to Christ, you may be assured that you cannot consult your own temporal, as well as spiritual interest better, than by liberally supplying of him; for he that lendeth to the Lord shall be repayed again with large interest. And as to your ability, if there be but a cheerful, ready mind, the greatest difficulty is got over; if you find this, there is no doubt but that God will make the duty of supporting your minister in other respects easy to you: God loves a willing offering, and a cheerful giver; if you will do your part in opening your hearts and hands, God will do his part in finding you wherewithal. But if a people grudge what they do, are always full of fears how they shall pay their rates, and excessively cautious lest they should run themselves into difficulty, and straiten themselves and families by giving to Christ, no wonder it proves difficult it is the way to meet with nothing else but difficulties in their outward circumstances; for there is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; but to withhold more than is meet, tends only to poverty, Prov. xi. 24.
The Jews, in the days of the prophet Haggai, were few in number, and were under difficult and straitened circumstances; and they made it an excuse why they should not be at the expense that was requisite in order to build the house of God, and set up his worship; and so for a time neglected it. And in the mean time none of their affairs prospered; they sowed much and brought in little; they eat, but they had not enough; they drank, but were not filled with drink they clothed them, but there was none warm; and he that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes: they looked for much, and lo it came to little; and the heaven was stayed from dew, and the earth was stayed from her fruit. Hag. chap. i. So in the days of the prophet Malachi it was a time of scarcity, and the people thought themselves thereby excused from paying tithes for the support of the Levites, and so robbed God of his due; but got nothing by it, but God cursed them with a curse; they made that scarcity and want the excuse for their backwardness to support God's ministers, which was its punishment; and God tells them by the prophet that if they would cheerfully do their duty in that respect it would be a sure way to have their wants plentifully supplied. Mal. iii. 1, 9, 10. "Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the store-house, that there may be meat in mine house; and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows