Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

For every pattern must be excellent and extraordinary, and such as is worthy of imitation. This the people will expect from us, that we should go before them, and lead them on to virtue and piety by our example. And however they fail in other civilities, they will be sure generally to observe this piece of good manners, they will readily give us the precedence in the way to heaven, and be content to follow us at a very humble distance. So that our conversation must be somewhat extraordinary, if we expect by our example to bring them up to the ordinary and necessary measures of piety, and we shall hardly be able to do well, unless we ourselves do somewhat excellently.

2. Be diligent, very diligent, in the business of your calling; for it is a laborious calling, that will not admit of ease and idleness. I speak especially to the younger clergy; ply your studies, give yourselves to reading, chiefly the holy Scriptures, and the writings of learned men that have explained

them to you.

The exhortations of St. Paul to Timothy are full to this purpose: Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Meditate upon these things ; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 1 Tim. iv. 13, 15. Consider, I beseech you, what kind of person he was whom St. Paul thus exhorts : he was one, who from a child knew the holy Scriptures; one that had the gift of prophecy, and was endued with extraordinary and even miraculous gifts. This man St. Paul earnestly calls upon to be diligent in reading and study ; what need then have we, even the best of us, of this diligence, who are so very far short of his accomplishments! In a word, an idle person in any calling whatsoever is very contemptible; but an idle and lazy parochial priest is of all mortals the most contemptible and inexcusable. What! so much business, and that of so great importance as the salvation of men's souls, and yet idle ? For the Lord's sake shake off sloth, rouse up and bestir yourselves in the business of your calling, remembering that the souls of your people, and your own souls, are at stake.

3. And lastly, Be much and often in prayer to God, especially in private prayer.

Content not yourselves with reading prayers at church, but take care also that there be daily prayers in your families, at least morning and evening; and some time every day retire to your studies, and there, upon your bended knees, earnestly beseech Almighty God to have mercy on you, to direct and assist you in your studies, and to give you good success in your labours. Pray for the souls of the people committed to your charge; pray for your own souls, that while you preach to others, you yourselves may not be castaways.

If you do these things, if you adorn your holy profession with an holy conversation, if you be diligent in the business of your calling, if you pray daily to God for his belp and assistance, he will not fail to be with you, and to carry you through all difficulties with honour and success; and in the end your reward will be great and glorious, and an abundant compensation of all your labours. So St. Peter tells you in that excellent text, 1 Peter v. 2, 3, 4, with which I shall conclude, Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

And now a word or two to you my brethren of

the laity.

First, Give honour and respect to your pastors for the Lord's sake, whatever their personal defects may be; (which you are to overlook, and not, like cursed Cham, delight to pry into the nakedness of

your fathers ;) their character and office calls for this from you. The contempt of the clergy at last redounds to the contempt of all religion. So our Saviour tells you, speaking of his apostles, and in them of their successors, He that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

Secondly, Be strictly just in paying them their dues : that little they have, let them have in quiet. Do not put them to vexatious lawsuits, to the disturbance of their studies, and thereby to your own loss. You will take it ill to be called thieves, and yet such you are; yea, guilty of the worst of thefts, sacrilege. For by denying ministers their dues you rob God, as God himself tells you, Mal. iii. 8. Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings, &c. If any poor minister be oppressed and injured in this kind, I will be a patron to him, stand by and defend him.

In the last place, one word to you that are church wardens. Remember you are upon your oaths; do not therefore for fear or favour of men perjure yourselves, i. e. damn your own souls. The office of a church warden, to which he is sworn, is not so difficult as some men make it; an honest man may easily discharge it; for it is only to be honest, and present matters according to the best of his skill and knowledge.

DISCOURSE III.

CONCERNING THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN THE FAITHFUL ; HOW

AND IN WHAT MANNER IT DOTH BEAR WITNESS WITH

THEIR SPIRITS, THAT THEY ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD; AND WHAT DEGREE OF HOPE OR PERSUASION CONCERN

ING THEIR ADOPTION THIS WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT DOTH

ORDINARILY PRODUCE IN THE FAITHFUL.

ST

T. PETER hath long ago observed, that in the

Epistles of his brother apostle St. Paul, there are some dvovónta, things hard to be understood; which the ignorant and unlearned did in his time (as indeed there are some such that still do so in our time) wrest to their own destruction, 2 Pet. iii. 16. And he seems in that place, if it be heedfully considered, to have a special respect to St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, which indeed hath more of those duovónta, or difficult passages, than any other of his Epistles. Such is his discourse of justification by faith without works, which runs throughout the Epistle, which was abused even in the apostolic age to a dangerous kind of solifidianism by the Gnostic heretics; against whose perverse interpretation St. James afterwards wrote his Epistle as an antidote.

And indeed St. Paul himself expounds himself in another Epistle very plainly to the same purpose, viz. Gal. v. 6. In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love. From whence it is evident,

« AnteriorContinua »