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II THESSALONIANS, III. 1.
“BRETHREN, PRAY FOR US, THAT THE WORD OF GOD
MAY HAVE FREE COURSE, AND BE GLORIFIED.”
The Christian ministry has with singular propriety been designated glorious. It is glorious, if we simply consider of whom ministers are the representatives. The ambassador of a great and powerful monarch is usually had in much honor; but the ambassador of the King of kings, and Lord of lords may well be accounted worthy of double honor. Such are the ministers of the Gospel: for they are ambassadors for Christ; and when they speak, it is as though God did beseech men by them. It is glorious, likewise, if we consider the end for which it was instituted, namely, the salvation of never dying souls, and the erection of a temple more glorious than that of Solomon, enriched, as it was, with gold, and silver, and precious stones-even that spiritual temple, of which Jesus Christ is the sure foundation and precious corner stone, and of which every true believer is a lively stone, -a temple which shines in all the beauty of holiness, and in which the Lord of glory himself condescends to dwell. It is glorious, moreover, if we consider the power by which it is supported; for when a faithful minister stands up to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, ,
he is not alone: his Master is with him according to his solemn declaration, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” A ministry, therefore, which represents Him who is over all, God blessed for ever,which was instituted for ends so unspeakably important, —which is supported by the power and Spirit of the living and true God must needs be glorious.
But though it is allowable to magnify the ministerial office, it is not allowable to exalt unduly those who are called thereto. They may truly say of the power and glory for which the Christian ministry is distinguished, as Joseph said of the wisdom which Pharaoh ascribed to him, “ It is not in me;" for though they have a treasure, -a treasure for the enriching of a fallen world, they have it in earthen vessels: they are in themselves as weak, and as liable to be broken, as the earthen vessels to which they are compared. Such being the case, how singularly appropriate is the request made by the Apostle to the converts at Thessalonica, that is, “ Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified.”
The first thing to which I would direct your attention is, the duty of a congregation towards a minister.
Many things may be said to be due from a congregation to him that is over them in the Lord. They owe to him, for example, sympathy. A minister oft stands in need of this. If indeed he cared not for his people,if he could see them go astray, and yet not inwardly burn on account of them,—if he could behold them make light of his message, and yet not secretly mourn over their perverseness,-if he could notice their tardy growth in grace and knowledge, and yet feel no concern on account of it,-if he could be aware of duties pressing upon him, and souls demanding his attention, whilst his time and strength are already so taxed that he is necessitated to neglect them, and yet be unmoved, then he would not need the sympathy of his people; and, indeed, it may without injustice be added, that he would not deserve it. But what faithful minister could do this ? No one ;
for each may rather say with St. Paul, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, that is, made to stumble, and I burn not?” A minister therefore is justly entitled to the sympathy of his people.
They owe to him likewise effectual co-operation. A minister is but one; and hence, however diligent he may be, so many, and so various are the demands made upon his strength and time, that he appears even to himself, and much more, in all probability to others, to accomplish little, or nothing. This is very humiliating: yet there is no remedy for it, save in the effectual co-operation of his people. All, it is true, are not required to do every thing: indeed all are not qualified to undertake every thing; but each should lay himself out to do something, —each should say unto himself, “What can I do to forward the work of God in the congregation of which I am a member? If I cannot be a Sunday School teacher, cannot I find time to be a district visitor? If I feel that I am not qualified to be a visitor, cannot I be usefully employed in some other way?” By such a division and subdivision of labor,-by such an effective co-operation on the part of a congregation, a minister would find himself possessed of almost a giant's strength; and might, through Christ strengthening him, be sufficient for all things. And to such co-operation a minister has a just claim ; for it is not so much he that requires it, as the Lord Jesus Christ : and surely, He who bought every believer with a price, and that price his own precious blood, may well claim such a measure of service from his redeemed.
They owe to him, moreover, a kindly and affectionate feeling. He may not always have it in his power to see as much of them individually as he knows is desirable. This is great grief-a daily source of concern to him. He is not, however, on that account less mindful of them; for could his people read his heart, as God reads it, they would be sensible, that if not present in body, he is with them in spirit,—that his heart's desire and prayer for them is, that they may be saved,—that he seeks not their's but them,—that he would be as ready to spend and be spent for the humblest member of his congregation, as for the most exalted. Such being his feelings towards them, he is entitled to kindly feeling from them in return. Without such a feeling on their part, he knows that he cannot do them good ;—and without a conviction on his part that such a feeling is entertained towards him, his hands will oft hang down, and his duties prove a heavy burden unto him.
But a congregation owe a minister one thing more, namely, prayer; and this is, in fact, the duty to which our attention is expressly directed by the Apostle when he says, “ brethren, pray for us." And let believers remember, that it is not enough that they join in heart in those prayers which the Church has appointed to be offered up on behalf of those who minister in holy things. This they must do; but they should also pray for him in private, in their families, and in their social meetings.
The duty of prayer on behalf of a minister will probably be generally admitted by a congregation ; but what should be the subject matter of their prayer? They are not to pray that their minister may be exalted, or made into an idol, either by themselves, or by others; for that would be a curse both to him and to themselves; and might bring a rod, both upon the idol, and upon the worshippers. Neither are they to pray that his word may
be exalted—that multitudes may throng to hear him rather than the truth, which it is his duty to set forth. No: they must pray for him that he may be delivered in the hour of temptation,—that he may prosper in soul,—that he may be faithful in the word and doctrine, and be amongst them in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ. Ministers, glorious as their office is, are but men-men distinguished from private Christians by their stations, but not distinguished from them by any peculiar strength or grace. If strong, they are strong only through the grace that is in Christ Jesus; and if they fall not, it is only because they are upheld by the everlasting arms of the covenant God of the Church. Such being the case, they are evidently as susceptible of temptation, as any private individual ; and consequently, a people's prayer for their minister may well be,“ in the hour of temptation, good Lord deliver him.” Ministers, in like manner, even though they give themselves up unreservedly to the work of the ministry, are from the very multiplicity of their engagements, in great danger of starving their own souls; and too often have cause to say at the close of a day, God grant that they may never have cause to say it at the close of life, “ They made me keeper of the vineyards of others; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” Their people then, if they love them, should, when they remember them at the mercy seat, request that their souls may ever prosper and be in health,— that out of the abundance of their hearts, their mouths may speak,—that they may not speak by hearsay merely, but be able to say of their testimony, “That which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, which our hands have handled, as it were, of the word of life testify we unto you.” Ministers, moreover, are liable, as others, to be influenced by the fear of man,-by a regard to their own interest,-by perverted views of truth; and each of these principles may give rise to a want of fidelity in public ministrations. They may even be unconverted men, and, therefore, unacquainted with the truth as it is in Jesus. On all these grounds, there