« AnteriorContinuar »
THE Christian ministry occupies a foremost place in the distinctive arrangements of infinite wisdom, and must therefore be of transcendent importance. This is sufficiently demonstrated by the purpose for which it was instituted, even the salvation of the soul. Originally, this spiritual, intelligent, and immortal principle imaged the glorious perfections of the Deity, as a calm lake mirrors the countless orbs rolling in silent yet majestic grandeur above it : now, alas! because of the primal transgression, it is everywhere found in a dishonoured state, with every leading faculty injured and depraved. The intellect, once clear as the light itself, is so darkened by the exhalations from sin, that it cannot perceive truth, though standing next to it, clothed in robes of celestial beauty and attractiveness; the conscience also, once the sweet echo of the divine voice, is in such an enfeebled condition, that it can scarcely whisper either an admonition or an encouragement; the heart, too, once the chancel, as it were, of every hallowed, God-like emotion, is the seat of every evil, Satanic passion. Nay, the whole temple which Deity built for His own residence is a mass of ruin and confusion, "full of doleful creatures; owls dwell there, and satyrs dance there.” Nevertheless, He is bent upon re-building the temple, and restoring His own habitation to more than its former magnificence. To this intent He has given His Son, appointed the Sabbath, inspired the Bible, and ordained the ministry; and when, through these combined instrumentalities, His gracious design is actualized, and the relationship betwixt Him and the soul is again established, and this better part of man brought under the influence of the purest and sublimest motives, there is joy in heaven far surpassing that “when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” But the rapture neither begins nor ends here : the heart of the adorable Triune rejoices even with singing, and rests ineffably satisfied with this crowning result of its own infinite clemency and love!
These things being so, the salvation of the soul must ever be the grand aim of the Christian minister, or his labour will be utterly in vain. He may captivate his hearers by his matchless eloquence, he may dazzle their mind by his brilliant fancies, and invest the truths of Inspiration with new beauty and wondrous power; but the divine statement will notwithstanding be true of him as of the prophet of elder times :—“Lo! thou art to the children of thy people as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, yet do them not." But if he sets his heart upon the divine purpose, though he may lack the genius of the orator and the imagination of the poet, he will certainly prove the instrument of an event which will throw into the shade the great achievements of warriors, statesmen, and writers the world has ever produced. Their splendid doings, after all, are but temporary, though they last—in memory and influenceas long as time itself; but his possesses a character of grandeur and goodness which will go on brightening and expanding for ever.
Thé responsibilities of the ministry are therefore not only numerous, but solemn and overwhelming; and many of those who sustain this sacred office are continually exclaiming with St. Paul—“Who is sufficient for these things !” Granted, that the chief instrument furnished them from heaven is the Word of God-a Book which is a marvel alike of sublimity and simplicity, and that the chief help promised them from heaven is the Spirit of God, whose province it is to “convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and judgment to come;" yet, because they are divinely intrusted with the message of eternal life, and the heavenly treasure is in earthern vessels, a fearsometimes distressing, but ofttimes agonizing—will seize them, that the blessed issues which ought ever to flow from their ministration are retarded, if not positively injured, by their own imperfection of character and feebleness of effort. Besides, so manifold are the hindrances to a full consecration of their powers to their Master's work-such, for instance, as personal and relative affliction, straitened circumstances, limited access to books, together with the varied and distracting engagements of the ministerial life as it exists in the present day, that multitudes would, if they could only satisfy their conscience, exchange their vocation, albeit never so honourable and glorious, for another necessarily free from such awful responsibilities and crushing anxieties. But “no man, having put his hand to the plough," is permitted to "look back.” He must continue to labournever slackening his efforts, but rather increasing them; and when his allotted share of the work is done, the Lord of the vineyard will call him to rest, and pay him his wages.
As an encouraging feature of our times, and a sure earnest of the triumph of “the truth as it is in Jesus," the Christian ministry is arousing and engaging the attention in an unusual degree. Not only are Colleges and Universities, Churches and Cathedrals, echoing with its supreme importance, but the general mind is attracted to it with an
ever deepening interest. To encourage this hallowed feeling even in the least degree, and also to render some timely assistance to his brethren, the Editor has prepared this volume. Many hours have been spent in carefully perusing and collating the writings of famous scholars, poets, and theologians of different lands, and selecting therefrom the best thoughts on the Ministry and the Church, and matters intimately related to both. More than a thousand authors, both ancient and modern, have been consulted, and several thousand passages of inherent worth and soundness taken from their works, and classified in alphabetical order, not merely to supersede the need of an index of subjects, but principally to aid the reader in making immediate reference to any quotation specially desired. In fine, a whole library has been condensed into one volume, and subjected to a proper methodical arrangement. Yet there is no undue compression for the sake of so-called judicious brevity; indeed the range taken is so comprehensive, that no topic of the least moment to those for whom it has been directly and prayerfully compiled is omitted from its pages.
Nor is this all: the endeavour has likewise been made to quicken their divine life, by introducing here and there many of the precious thoughts of the purest and noblest minds concerning
it, in the firm conviction that exactly in proportion as that higher life is promoted among the clergy will they labour for the salvation of man, the good of the Church, and the glory of God.
Taken as a whole, therefore, this volume stands alone in sacred literature, and will, it is believed, meet a want deeply and widely felt in the present day. Many, it must be frankly confessed, are not in a position to secure those costly works requisite for use in their high and holy calling. Others, again, are so fully occupied, that they have little or no time left to devote to a calm and wistful study of those celebrated authors who have discoursed specially on the duties of their vocation. Hence this volume will prove acceptable to both these classes, inasmuch as it places before them the accumulated wisdom of ages at a comparatively trifling cost, and in a form which dispenses with the necessity, on their part, of extensive reading. Nor will its usefulness, it is hoped, end here. A multitude of earnest spirits are just entering on their momentous enterprise, and others, equally as zealous, are preparing to follow them; yet, like Moses, all are afraid, more or less, to cope with the immense difficulties lying before them. They need light, and encouragement, and guidance, as much as he needed the presence and eloquence of Aaron the Levite. Surely, then, this work will scarcely fail to be welcome to them also as morning to the storm-tossed mariner, or as summer to the toiling husbandman.
And profound indeed is the interest which the Church at large should feel in a volume like this. Her vitality, her sanctity, her peace, her love, depend greatly upon the character of her teachers as well as upon the matter of their teaching. The fact is—the Ministry and the Church rise or fall together. Only let our pulpits be filled with preachers formed after the model of St. Paul, or, rather, of Christ, and our temples of grace with eminently devout and earnest congregations, and “the gates of hell” shall not prevail against either. “ The Spirit shall be poured on us from on high,” according to "the promise of the Father," and everything wear a new and heaven-like aspect. The world, now a dismantled planet-a moral waste, choked with a thorns and thistles,” shall resume its pristine state, and “rejoice and blossom as the rose.” Every sound shall be immortal harmony, every object sparkle in the sunlight of Edenic beauty, and God Himself "walk in the garden in the cool of the day." The Church, too, strengthened with almighty energy, shall “loose herself from the bands of her neck," "shake herself from the dust,” “put on her beautiful garments,” and “arise and shine," because “her light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon her." Thus divinely quickened and enriched, the world and the Church will become one: no longer opposing each other, but, like double stars moving on one centre, united in holy action, and promoting the glory of God with a zeal which He will stoop down to admire and commend. Blessed consummation !—earth, stricken down so low in the beginning by sin, lifted up again to her own high place amid the smiling brotherhood of worlds, and the banner of Jesus floating over a re-united, happy universe !
“Come, then, and added to Thy many crowns