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suitable objects of intellectual training for God. Let them go and select from the sabbath-school, or the obscurest hamlet. Let them place the child of genius and promise under a pious and able instructor, and follow him daily with their prayers, and with full faith that God will sanctify the offering for Christ and his church. Thousands might thus, every year, be rescued from meanness and moral death, to be pillars in the temple of science and in the temple of God. And why should a believer be deaf to this call of Providence, while genius is every where coming up, to expend its energy on mere worldly enterprise; or perhaps to act with giant power against the church? Why not take that talent, in its embryo state, and place it under a strong religious as well as intellectual influence; that, through grace, it may be fitted to bless millions yet unborn? Why be content just to work up the materials divine grace has already prepared ? Where is our faith? Where our love? Why not be devising and executing plans commensurate with the loud calls for an able and efficient ministry, which now come from the four winds of heaven?
3. Another means of preparing such a ministry, is to select proper locations for theological study. On this point, reference must be had to facilities for exercising the heart
, improving the manners, and acquiring habits of general intercourse and active benevolence, as well as training and furnishing the head. The minister is emphatically a man for practical life. His field of labor is a community, with all its endless variety of taste, character, and condition. No one needs a more intimate and extended acquaintance with mankind; none a more glowing benevolence; none a more easy and winning address, both in public and private. He must be able to interest, alike the abode of intelligence and refinement, and the dwelling of the rudest. And the qualities that fit for such varied intercourse, are not found in the researches of the cloister; nor acquired in a day. Like purely intellectual resources, they result from appropriate training. And, in suitable locations, they may be gained without interfering at all with the efforts of the study: nay, may afford, to some extent, the needful relaxation and solace of those efforts.
In this view, the vicinity of a city or large town, dangerous as it might, perhaps, be to unrenewed minds, is readily seen to possess decided advantages as a place for theological education. The city is a world in miniature, exhibiting human nature in all its aspects; affording opportunity for every species of intercourse, and giving scope for any amount of benevolent effort. While the student now and then spends an hour in searching out its ignorance, vice, and miseries, his sympathies are kindled, his philanthropy strengthened, and his heart enlarged. And all the enterprise and bustle around him, though of a worldly character, will operate only to quicken and expand his powers. If faithful to himself, he may go forth from such habits of study and active training, with a character well-proportioned, fair, elevated, acceptable-fitted for any situation Divine Providence may assign him; prepared to act promptly, discreetly, energetically.
4. Another means of an able ministry, of express divine injunction, is competent pecuniary support. On this point revelation is plain. When Christ sent out his disciples, he bade them take nothing for their journey, saying that the laborer was worthy of his hire. The apostles, also, explicitly brought up his will on this point as a matter of solemn duty. Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they who preach the gospel shall live of the gospel.” The church, then, as she regards the authority of God, will make adequate provision for her ministers. This provision has in it nothing of the nature of charity; it is an act of the strictest justice--a discharge of one of the plainest Christian obligations. And it is a dark crime in the church, if she allow her ministers to be oppressed with anxiety about their circumstances, and oblige them to expend time and strength in direct efforts for subsistence. In such palpable disobedience she cannot expect the divine blessing—she cannot escape the marked disapprobation of her King. He may, in wrath, grant her desire, but send leanness into her soul.
The divine appointment, in this matter, under both the Jewish and Christian dispensations, is manifestly wise. It is adapted to prevent a secular spirit. It affords time for appropriate labor and study. It cuts off occasion for neglecting any of the momentous duties of an ambassador for Christ. And the ministry can never rise to its proper dignity, purity, and strength, in a disregard of these plain Gospel principles. "Let the church, then, that would not be cursed of God with an ignorant, lean, or worldly ministry, obey promptly the Scripture requirement. Such a church, relying on God, may hope to be blessed with "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” And let the Gospel ministry be universally suported in this manner—"even so as the Lord hath ordained,”and it would become more emphatically the property of the church, and its best powers be held sacred to her welfare; and the happy influence might soon be seen in her brightening graces and spreading triumphs.
Finally; For securing such a ministry as is demanded by the age, let there be cherished a spirit of humble, fervent, believing prayer. If the church has ministers of a proper character, she will receive them from God. His promise is, “ I will give you pastors after mine own heart." · He gives some, evangelists; and some, prophets; and some, pastors and teachers." In all the efforts of the church, then, to increase the number and strength of the ministry, let her remember, that “promotion cometh not from the east
, nor from the west, nor from the south ;"—that “except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” And does the cry for laborers now come from every quarter ?, from vacant churches, and dreary wastes in our own land ?—and from waking millions whelmed in pagan darkness and hopelessness ? Let the church carry the moving appeal at once to the throne of infinite mercy.
Does the enemy seem to come in like a flood ? Does the tide of worldliness appear overwhelming? Does infidelity send forth its blasphemies, and the Man of sin his emissaries? Does the church suffer shame, reproach, and trouble, from foes without and foes within ? Let her be truly humble, but not desponding. Let her rise up in all the omnipotence of faith :-such faith as in other days "subdued kingdoms,” and “ obtained promises.” And do the signs of the times, as well as prophecy, indicate the coming on of mighty convulsions and revolutions, in the civil and religious world, demanding a ministry of wisdom, strength, and zeal kindled from heaven? Then let there be unwonted confidence in the power, and grace, and faithfulness of God. The cause to be sustained and carried forward is his. The crisis of the world, with all its interesting features, is open to his eye. And he only has the wisdom to select, and energy to inspire and summon forth the ministry that is needed. “Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest." Let the church thus keep near her King, obey all his commands, and trust for success only in the strength of the Lord God of hosts, and he will, by appropriate means, raise up for her deliverance and triumph, men of enlarged mind, "mighty in the Scriptures," and “full of faith and of the Holy Ghost."
With views like the foregoing, the friends of religion have established this Seminary of sacred learning. Its foundations are laid upon a liberal and comprehensive plan. Its object is to furnish an able and evangelical ministrya ministry of sound and systematic theology; well grounded in a knowledge of the holy oracles; and aided by the counsels of past experience, and history, as well as the advantages of general intercourse with men; and thus prepared, through rich grace, for a clear, conciliating, strong, impressive exhibition of God's truth.
The Institution has risen at an eventful period. Its location is peculiarly auspicious. As states, and churches without number, are starting into life and influence within its sphere of action, the character it may contribute to give them is matter of unspeakable interest, not only to this generation, but to coming millions O may its impress be the image of the Holy One! Then may countless multitudes rise up in time and eternity, to bless the day of its birth. May the Institution, fixed in the confidence, and fostered by the offerings and prayers of the good, and enriched continually from the Fountain of all knowledge and grace, stand forth for the honor of Christ, to the end of time. Be this its honor, its character and destiny; and when its goodly edifices have thus finished the work assigned them, and its career of usefulness shall come to be reviewed from the eternal hills of light, we will all say, “ Not unto us, not unto us; but unto thy name, give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake.”
By Rev. BAXTER DICKINSON. Delivered on occasion of his resigning the charge of the Third Presbyterian Church in
Newark, New Jersey, Nov. 22d, 1835.
SURE MEANS OF SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY.
Acts xx. 32.—And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace,
which is able to build you up, and to give you an inherilance among all them which are sanctified
The apostle Paul, when he uttered this benediction, was at Miletus, a town on the western coast of Asia. He had planted many churches in different parts of Europe, and particularly in the Grecian states; and he was now on his way to Jerusalem, from which he had been absent a number of years. Arrived at Miletus, he sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus—a church not far distant, on which he had bestowed much labor and concern, and for which he still cherished a strong affection. The elders came at his invitation, and the interview was one of great interest. The apostle could stop but a short time; for he must, if possible, be at Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost. He availed himself of the occasion, in reviewing his labors among them, glancing at his prospects, and giving suitable counsel and exhortation. In this connection he uttered the benediction before us, closed with prayer, and departed amid the cordial salutations and tears of the brethren, who all accompanied him to the ship.
Coming before you for the last time as your minister, I have been led by my feelings, to adopt this parting benediction as the theme of discourse." And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” I can attempt little more, on this occasion, than to bring to a natural close, a ministry of six years among you, assuring you all of my kindest feelings at parting, and pledging my grateful and affectionate remembrance. I shall, in imitation of the apostle at Miletus, just advert to the character and results of my ministry here, and then make some suggestions with reference to your future welfare.
The apostle, in review of his labors, adopts language peculiarly strong. “Ye know,” says he, "from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons; and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you; but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house; testifying both to the Jews and to the Greeks, rr pentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ: wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men; for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” I cannot venture to apply this language, in its full import
, to my own ministry. It has had its imperfections: and I can only say, it has been my honest endeavor to act upon the principles of ministerial duty here avowed by the apostle. It has been my aim to illustrate and enforce the great truths and duties of the Gospel, and to give to the several parts of the Christian system the attention which their comparative importance demands. I have remembered that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. And I have considered also, that “wo is unto me if I preach not the Gospel." Under such impressions, I have tried to exhibit the amazing truths of God, whether joyous or painful, so plainly as to lodge them in the understanding, and so affectionately as to commend them to the conscience and heart
. I have supposed it the great design of preaching, to bring men back to God; to render men holy. With this view, I have labored to alarm the careless with a sight of their guilt
, to guide the inquiring to a Savior and Sanctifier, and to console and animate the humble; and I have freely testified to all, “ repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
This ministry has been received with all the external attentions it has merited, and more.
The congregations have been large and serious; and it is consoling to me, on leaving, that I see you in circumstances of rare prosperity, as respects union, strength, and readiness to every good work-circumstances rich in promise of future good.
But the connection, I would hope, has still higher claims to a grateful review. It was formed for purposes grand as immortality; and though there has been too much of coldness, and worldliness, and mere formality, we have not plodded on through the whole without evidence of God's special presence and power, There have been cases of hopeful conversion little noticed, because silent and solitary. There have been times of the marked displays of Divine grace. Two hundred and thirty-two have been added to the communion-about half the number by a public profession. Many, who had previously entered on a life of godliness, I would hope, have been quickened in the heavenly race. The cause of Christian charity, in its varied forms, has been honorably sustained. Through Sabbath school and Bible class instruction, there has been a very marked improvement in the religious knowledge and habits of the
And, in common with the friends of God and man in other places, we are permitted to review with satisfaction our efforts in the great temperance cause. For all that has been effected during our con
onnection, we give honor to Him alone, without whose blessing Paul might plant and Apollos water in vain. On the details of this ministry, it would be unsuitable here to dwell
. God grant, that with all its imperfections, the great and final review of it, may be an occasion of our mutual and everlasting joy.
I proceed, as proposed, to some suggestions, with reference to your future prosperity.
1. You cannot too soon have a stated, evangelical, and devoted ministry.
I take it for granted, no one would wish the worship of the sanctuary suspended. All, however, may not feel alike, as to the expediency of a speedy settlement of a minister. I could wish that, on this point, there might be but one opinion. An occasional or temporary supply may go through with the duties of the Sabbath to acceptance; it may discharge some of the other general and necessary duties of a pastor; but it can never fully meet the wants of a people. There is something in the pastoral relation to create interest, and to inspire peculiar affection and confidence-circumstances indispensable to the highest degree of usefulness. And for this reason, with others, I have felt it my duty, except in peculiar cases, not to encourage the ordination of men merely as evangelists. A long interruption to the settled ministry almost necessarily leads to religious indifference, or fearful distraction. There are many interests to be attended to among every people, of which a pastor only can form a just conception, and on which a pastor only can be expected to bestow a suitable attention.
But another point of greater importance relates to the character of the ministry you select. I said, it should be evangelical—in other words, one that will faithfully exhibit the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is a quality of such fundamental importance, that, for the absence of it, no combination of other excellences can atone.
As to my views of Christian doctrine, I trust there is no misapprehension; and, consequently, as to my views of what constitutes an evangelical ministry. The scheme of Gospel truth, as I have endeavored to inculcate it, contemplates the existence of one only living and true God: it contemplates such a mysterious, though real distinction of persons in the Godhead, as renders proper the appellations, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—one God. It regards man by nature, and in consequence of his connection with the first apostate pair, as a sinner, utterly alienated from God, and in a state of ruin. It ascribes to the Lord Jesus Christ the prerogatives of supreme divinity; and regards his mediatorial work, his work of humiliation, as an adequate source of relief, and the only source of relief, for guilty and lost man. It holds to the obligation of man at once to repent of his sins, and by faith to embrace Christ as his Savior. It holds to his possessing all the faculties necessary to a free moral agency, and an immediate compliance with Gospel requisitions: while, at the same time, it acknowledges that such is his perverseness, that he is made willing only in the day of God's power, and becomes a child of spiritual life only by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. It recognises an eternal and unchangeable purpose of God, to justify and save some of our guilty race, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. It cherishes the idea, that the grace and power of God, manifested in active obedience, will carry his people forward through all the conflicts of life, to the glory and joy of the upper world. It anticipates a judgment to come, and a state of endless blessedness for the righteous, and of endless misery for the wicked.
Other truths are comprised in the Christian system, but these are fundamental They are all truths which the minister of religion must constantly illustrate, defend, and urge—because there is attached to them immeasurable importance. Nor can a ministry be much valued as a means of eternal life, which does not make a full avowal of these truths, and a lucid illustration of them, in all their practical bearings.
To a ministry giving prominence to this system of truth, this field of Zion has been accustomed from the
childhood of you all. God has ever blessed it, here and elsewhere; and its mighty influence in preparing souls for heaven, will be told in the everlasting songs and glories of multitudes which no man can number.
In the selection of a pastor, caution on this point is, perhaps, more important at present, than at some preceding periods. We live in times of independent thought and conflicting views on every subject. There is pride of opinion, and too much angry controversy. In these heated collisions, I have supposed there was a middle ground, sanctioned by both the Bible and the standards of our church-ground on which the great body of our churches and ministers are disposed to plant themselves-cherishing confidence, and acting in concert, though still having slight shades of difference—difference principally of a philosophical cast. You want a ministry of truth—of the whole truth-without question ; but not surely of mere speculation, and much less of wrangling controversy: not of bigoted attachment, on one hand, to all the precise phraseology of other ages, denouncing as heretical all that do not choose to adopt it; nor, on the other, one that rudely, recklessly, I had almost said profanely, sweeps aside all that is ancient in principle and practice, apparently for the very reason that it is old.
You will bear me witness, that I have never sought your edification and eternal life, by the intricacies of mere metaphysical speculation, nor the anger, wrath, malice, and evil speaking, of heated theological controversy; while the doctrines of our church and the truths of the Bible have been kept constantly before you. God grant that this pulpit may ever throw around the strong light