The Temper, Character, and Duty of a Minister of the Gospel; A Sermon Preached Before the Synod of Glasgow, on 1 Tim. iv. 16

Author(s): Leechman, Mr William


of a MINISTER of the GOSPEL.
At GLASGOW, April 7th, 1741.
MINISTER of Beith.
Printed for ROBERT FOULIS, within the
COLLEGE, and ſold by him and the
Bookſellers in Edinburgh and Glaſgow.
1 TIM. iv. 16.
Take heed unto thy ſelf, and unto thy doctrine
and continue in them, for in doing this, thou
ſhalt both ſave thy ſelf, and them that hear
THE wiſer and more conſiderate part of
mankind generally complain of the unſucceſsfilneſs
of the goſpel, and the low
ſtate of religion, notwithſtanding the publick
eſtabliſhments for religious inſtruction.
It muſt be acknowledged, that there is but too
much reaſon for the complaint. But on whom
muſt the blame be laid? On the obſtinate
folly and depravity of the hearers? Or on
the ignorance, careleſſneſs, and worldly lives
of us the teachers? 'Tis in vain to diſſemble
it, a great ſhare of the blame may juſtly be
charged on our ſelves. It certainly then concerns
us, greatly concerns us, as we are the
eſtabliſh'd inſtructors of the reſt of mankind,
To keep our ſelves pure from the blood of all men,
by hearkning to this important admonition
of the Apoſtle in the words of the text, To take
heed unto our ſelves, and unto our doctrine, to
continue in them, for in doing this, we ſhalt both
ſave our ſelves, and them that hear us.
IN diſcourſing on this ſubject, 'tis hop'd, it
will not be improper, nor unſuitable to the
preſent occaſion, to endeavour, by the divine
aſſiſtance, in the firſt place, to explain and
illuſtrate theſe great rules of the Apoſtle,
the ſame order, in which they ly in the text:
And then ſecondly, To conſider the motives by
which theſe important directions are inforced,
For in doing this, thou ſhalt both ſave thy ſelf
and them that hear thee.
Firſt, THE Rule, Take heed to thy ſelf.
1 THE meaning of this precept in the loweſt
ſenſe of it is, that thoſe, who pretend to
be the inſtructors and guides of the reſt of
mankind, ſhould take care that their own behaviour
be blameleſs and inoffenſive, 1 Tim.
iii 2. A Biſhop muſt be blameleſs. We know the
world expects a high pitch of purity from us,
and examines our conduct with great ſeverity;
therefore we ought to watch over it with equal
ſeverity our ſelves: That we may in ſome
meaſure anſwer the expectations of the world,
let us abſtain not only from all evil, but
from all appearance of it too; not venturing
ſo much as to approach near the boundary
that ſeparates betwixt virtue and vice; but in
all caſes, where there can be any diſpute
about the preciſe point where the virtuous
part ends, and the blameable begins, let
us take care to keep our ſelves viſibly, and to
the conviction of all ſpectators, on the ſafe ſide
of the diſputed limit. If we keep invariably
by this rule, we than be ſo far from offending
againſt temperance, that we be exemplary
in it; ſo far from violating, juſtice,
and doing things hard and rigorous, that we
will yield ſomething of our undoubted right;
ſo far from being guilty of any indecency
behaviour or diſcourſe, that we will keep at
a diſtance from every thing liable to the
ſuſpicion of it; and ſo far from expoſing our
ſelves by a levity of carriage unbecoming our
function, that we will rather lean to the ſafer
extreme of gravity and reſerve. Nay it will
be neceſſary ſometimes that we abſtain from
things perfectly indifferent in their own nature,
when doing otherways would offend our
weaker Chriſtian brethren, .deſtroy our influence,
or leſſen our power of doing good.
FURTHER, that our conduct may be unexceptionable,
we muſt take heed to what is
ſaid or done in our preſence, ſo as never to.
ſuffer our ſelves to be carried away by a falſe
modeſty or a vicious complaiſance, to approve,
or ſeem to approve of what is baſe and
unworthy, even in the company of thoſe
who are undoubtedly our ſuperiours; while
we ſhew all due regard to their ſtations and
characters, it muſt appear at the ſame time,
that we have a greater regard for truth, virtue,
piety, and decency; while we avoid
every thing like inſolence and pertneſs, on
the one hand, we muſt keep at the greateft
diſtance from flattery, and abject cringing,
on the other: When any ſubject of diſcourſe
is ſtarted, that is impious, immoral, or indecent;
or when any ſentiments are utter'd
tending to pollute the imagination, or corrupt
the heart, then all prudent methods muſt
be taken to put a ſtop to ſuch contagious diſcourſe,
by introducing ſome more innocent or
uſeful topick. Sometimes the licentious converſation
may be check'd by ſerious reaſoning
and grave rebuke, when circumſtances
allow, and there is any proſpect of good
from it: But as this is not to be done at all
times, as every company will not bear it,
and perſons of bad temper will be provok'd
to proceed to greater outrage, in ſuch caſes
we may diſcountenance it, by withdrawing
from the company, or by ſilence. But let
it be obſerved, that it is not every kind of
ſilence that can vindicate us; it muſt be a ſignificant
and expreſſive ſilence, that bears ſtrong
marks of our inward abhorrence of what is
paſſing. Perhaps ſome of my brethren, whoſe
ſituation and circumſtances allow them, whoſe
real benevolence of heart leads them to be
more frequently in mixt company, may think
theſe rules favour too much of preciſeneſs and
auſterity; and may even imagine that they
have been ſo happy in life, as to recommend
themſelves to the upper part of the world, by
abating ſomewhat of the rigour of them: But
they would do well to conſider, that very probably
they may afterwards find they have
been miſtaken, and that theſe very perſons
who ſeemed to be pleaſed with them, inwardly
contemn them, and take their own time to
exclaim with great vehemency againſt them,
and againſt the whole order for their ſakes.
Theſe rules, reverend brethren, relating to
our outward behaviour, tho' they are common
and ordinary, and for that very reaſon
apt to be overlook'd, yet they are of great importance;
for when a miniſter's life wants
that purity and ſeverity of manners, which I
have endeavoured to deſcribe, his character
can never riſe to that dignity of virtue which
begets eſteem and authority, gives weight to
his inſtructions, and influence to his example.
2. THIS rule, Take heed to thy ſelf, requires
us to take care that our real and inward character
be agreeable to our external behaviour
already deſcribed: We are not to
reſt ſatisfied with the greateſt purity of outward
character; but we muſt labour with the
utmoſt diligence to attain there kinds of improvement
of underſtanding, and that high
pitch of purification of heart, which will not
only give real worth to our inward man, but
alſo qualify us to fulfill the duties of our
ſtation with pleaſure and ſucceſs.
IN the firſt place, Let us ſtudy to acquire
theſe improvements of underſtanding, which
are in a peculiar manner proper to our ſacred
office, and highly neceſſary to anſwer the
ends of it. Here it muſt be our firſt and chief
care, to clear our minds from theſe miſtakes
and prejudices which darken them, and hinder
us from perceiving the full worth and excellence
of divine things, and from judging
juſtly of the comparative value and importance
of the doctrines of religion This unbyaſs'd
ſtate of mind is of great importance;
it is this that fits us for ſearching into the
ſcriptures with fairneſs and impartiality, that
we may draw from thence the great doctrines
of faith pure and entire, without loading
Chriſtianity with what does not belong to it,
or giving up what is an eſſential or important
part of it: It is this which preſerves us too
from an over-fondneſs of new opinions on
the one hand, and from over-great reverence
for long eſtabliſhed ones on the other, and
will lead us to examine diſputed points with
great ſilence, ſuſpence, and coolneſs; untill
full enquiry and ſtrong evidence oblige us
to take a ſide. But beſide an unprejudiced
mind, there are other previous qualifications
neceſſary to obtain a thorough acquaintance
with the great doctrines of religion, as they
are deliver'd in the ſcriptures; and theſe are
knowledge of the rules of right reaſoning,
and of the great principles of natural religion,
together with a tolerable acquaintance with
the original languages of the ſcriptures, and
with the hiſtory, antiquities, prevailing curtoms;
and ordinary alluſions of the reſpective
ages in which they were written :without theſe
previous preparations we cannot hope to reach
the true meaning of the ſacred books; to
judge, with true diſcernment and taſte, of the
beauty, propriety, and force of their ſtile, or
to explain and illuſtrate them in a clear and
delightful manner. To which we may add,
that without theſe previous branches of knowledge,
we cannot defend our holy religion
ſucceſsfully againſt thoſe attacks that are
openly made upon it in our age: For it
is in the holy ſcriptures, that the chief evidence
of our religion is exhibited to our view;
and it is from the wrong tranſlations, falſe
interpretations, and ſcholaſtick and metaphyſical
ſyſtems wreſted from them, that the
chief objections againſt it are drawn. After
having ſtudied the great principles of natural
religion and morality, and learned the important
truths of Chriſtianity from an honeſt enquiry
into divine revelation, it muſt be our
next care to ſtore our minds with a large
treaſure of the beſt moral and divine ſentiments:
Theſe are the choice furniture of
our ſouls; from a plentiful ſtore of which
we ſhall be enabled to teach in the moſt
touching and inſtructive manner. From the
holy ſcriptures we muſt draw a rich variety
of the pureſt and ſublimeſt ſentiments moral
and divine; in other writers alſo, ancient
and modern, we may find a great number
of the ſame ſublime thoughts diverſify'd
and ſet in a thouſand beautiful and ſtriking
lights: That our minds may be repleniſhed
with an abundant ſtore of the thoughts,
ſentiments and impreſſions which the beſt of
mankind have felt and expreſſed, concerning.
God, providence, virtue, and every thing relating
to the great intereſts of mankind, we muſt
gather from all quarters: whether the writers
be Chriſtian or Pagan, let us borrow whatever
is good and pure, whatever bears the marks
of a heart ſmitten with the love of truth and
virtue. It will be of great uſe to add to theſe
feelings and ſentiments of worthy minds, a
large collection of the moſt uncommon and,
ſtriking inſtances, either of the moral or
divine virtues, which are to be met with
in ſacred or common hiſtory; theſe will
furniſh us with the plaineſt and moſt engaging
illuſtrations and enforcements of the great
virtues of the chriſtian life. And that theſe
improvements of underſtanding may be more
uſeful to the world, we muſt endeavour to
attain that inſight into the make and frame
of the human mind, which will point out
to us the ſhorteſt, moſt ſucceſsful and agreeable
method of informing the underſtanding
and touching the heart; and that knowledge
of the world, of the tempers and characters
of men, which will direct us how to adviſe
and reprove without offence, and with juſt
hope of ſucceſs. There remains many other
branches of knowledge, which would not only
be ornamental, but highly uſeful to us in the
way of our ſacred buſineſs; but the time aIlotted
for this diſcourſe won't allow me to enumerate
them. To conclude this head of
diſcourſe, let it be obſerved, that beſides the
great advantages of learning already mentioned,
there are others not to be deſpiſed a large
field of ſcience will afford our minds a delightful
ſcene, in which they may expatiate with
pleaſure. The pleaſing projects and hopes
of making improvement in this or the other
branch of uſeful literature will enliven life,
and preſerve it from that languor and deadneſs,
to which it can ſcarce fail to be ſubjected,
when it is not animated with ſome deſign, or
directed to ſome valuable end: And, which
is ſtill of more importance, the thirſt and
purfuit of knowledge may contribute to preſerve
us from that immerſion in worldly affairs,
of which thoſe muſt be in no ſmall danger,
who have not ſome perpetual employment
for their leiſure hours. To which may be
added, that without a competent degree of
knowledge, we can ſcarce eſcape falling into
ſuch blunders in our publick appearances as well
as private converſation, as muſt expoſe us to the
ridicule of the more knowing and ingenious
part of mankind. But with all let us ſtill remember,
that all the improvements of the underſtanding,
all the treaſures of the memory,
all the ornaments of the imagination, muſt
be employed and made ſubſervient to the purification
and refinement of the heart, which
leads me to conſider in the ſecond Place.
II. THESE improvements of heart, which
are required of us by the rule of the Apotle
in the text, and which are abſolutely neceſſary
to fit us for the performance of the dutys
of our ſacred office with faithfulneſs and
ſucceſs: As the heart is the ſeat of all the
virtues, the whole improvement of it conſiſts
in cheriſhing and ſtrengthening within on
boſoms, all theſe virtues of the Chriſtian
life, which it is our duty to teach and recomend
unto others. There is one main ingredient
of a miniſters character, which as
it has a mighty influence on his whole behaviour,
and on all the branches of his duty
every one of us ought to cultivate with the
utmoſt care; and that is an elevation of ſoul
above this preſent ſenſible world, and all the
tranſitory enjoyments of it ariſing from a,
full conviction, that all theſe things, which
the bulk of mankind love with ſo much ardour,
and purſue with ſuch keenneſs, can never
make them happy, or even contribute much
to their happineſs; and that the trueſt and beſt
enjoyment of life, lyes in the exerciſe of purity,
integrity, ſincerity, charity, the love of
God, the conſciouſneſs of theſe virtues the
ſenſe of the divine favour, and the raviſhing
proſpect of a bleſſed immortality. In order
to this, we muſt train up our minds with the
utmoſt care to the contemplation of God, to the
imitation of all his moral perfections, and to
rejoyce in the humble and modeſt hope of being
admitted to the everlaſting enjoyment of
him in a future life. For if we had once felt
and experienced the happineſs that the contemplation
of God, the reſemblance of his
moral perfections, and the ſenſe of his friendſhip
affords, there would ſpring from thence
an unalterable perſwaſion, that life and all
its other enjoyments without theſe pure and
ſpiritual pleaſures, is but a vain dream, a
tranſient ſhadow, a ſeries of deluſive amuſements,
which may flatter us for a little with
fair and diſtant promiſes of happineſs, but
muſt ſoon leave us in diſappointment and ſorrow.
Without this ſtrong ſenſe of the vanity
and emptineſs of all preſent and ſenſible things,
and a clear view of the reality, importance
and tranſcendent worth of ſpiritual and unſeen
objects, we are not prepared to deſcend into
the world, and to encounter the temptations
of it. 'Tis this elevation of Soul that muſt inſpire
us with a hearty contempt for that ſcrambling
for worldly dignity and advancement,'
for which men of our order are ſo often reproached;
us who inculcate upon others, that
it ought to be their only ambition, to act their
part well in that ſtation providence has aligned
them, and to obtain the approbation of
God, which is the perfection of glory and honour.
'Tis this muſt preſerve us from the
mean and ſordid plot of ſcraping together
wealth and riches, which is utterly unbecoming
us who call on the reſt of mankind,
to moderate their deſires of theſe things, us
while buſineſs it is to perſwade. others, that
The favour and friendſhip of God, and theſe
virtues and graces which form them to his
reſemblance, are the only real and durable
riches; and it is this muſt ſecure us from being
dazled with the ſhew and glitter of
human Life; us who preach unto others, that
the faſhion of this world paſſeth away and that
ſpiritual and divine things alone ſhine with real
and everlaſting ſplendor and Glory. It is the experience
of the joys of a heavenly frame of mind
that muſt prevent our mingling with the generality
of mankind in their low and ſordid
purſuits, and entering with vehemence into
their little partys and factions, form'd on
worldly views and conduced by worldly meaſures.
It is a high reliſh of the pleaſures of
the ſpiritual and divine life, which will ſeat us
as it were in ſecurity on an eminence, from
whence we may look down with wonder mixt
with pity on the blinded ſons of men, who
like children are contending with the utmoſt
keeneſs for baubles and toys, which dazle their
eyes for a little with a vain glare, but muſt
ſoon evaniſh like a dream: this too will inſpire
us with the warmeſt zeal to take the vail
off the eyes of mankind, and convince them of
their ignorance.
WHAT ignorance! I do not mean their ignorance
of the intimate natures and eſſences
of things, their ignorance of the great plan of
providence, and of numberleſs paſt, preſent
and future tranſactions of the Univerſe;
in a word, I don't mean that ignorance of
things, which is comonly acknowledged, even
by the acuteſt philoſophers, tho' no doubt that
kind of ignorance is humbling enough; but I
mean a more lamentable, more mortifying,
more fatal ignorance; their ignorance of theſe
things which are the proper knowledge of mankind
in their preſent ſtate; their ignorance of
the vanity and nothingneſs of worldly things,
and the intrinſick worth and excellence of ſpiritual
and divine enjoyments; their ignorance
of the excellence of holineſs and the happineſs
that accompanies it, and of this cardinal point
That it is life eternal to know the only true God,
and Jeſus Chriſt whom he hath ſent. How
pathetick and emphatick is the deſcription we
have of this blindneſs of mankind, Rev. 3.
17. Thou ſayeſt, I am rich and encreaſed with
goods, and ſtand in need of nothing, and
knoweſt not that thou art wretched, miſerable,
and poor, and blind, and naked. Let it be
obſerv'd, that what is ſaid here about the
ignorance of mankind, is not to be underſtood,
as if they had no theory or ſpeculative
notions about the chief good, and true happineſs,
for the greateſt part of them have ſomething
of this kind; but it is to be underſtood
of their want of that intimate and overbearing
conviction, which they ought to have of this
grand truth: That the only true Happineſs
lies in the knowledge, the love, the reſemblance,
the enjoyment of God the ſovereign
Good; that this ſpiritual happineſs is all in

all for time and for eternity. To which we
may add, that this Elevation of ſoul will give
a real dignity to our inward character, a commanding
influence to our example, an uncommon
force and ſublimity to our diſcourſes,
and renders our buſineſs our chief delight and
joy; ſo that our light ſhall ſo ſhine before men,
that they ſeeing our good works, ſhall glorify our
heavenly Father.
Perhaps ſome may think, that what is ſaid
here about that purity and elevation of heart,
which becomes an inſtructer of mankind, is
painted too high, and far beyond the life.
But ſurely it muſt be owned, that it is our
duty to aim at the higheſt pitch of virtue attainable
in this preſent ſtate. Beſides, a little
attention may convince us, that we are
capable of arriving at incomparably higher
impreſſions of God and divine things, than we
ordinarily feel. We may, by due care, and
the aids of divine grace, riſe to a pitch of eſteem,
admiration, love and joy in the contemplation
of God, compared with which our
ordinary ſentiments and feelings about him
are but like the faint impreſſion made upon
our minds by the idea of the Sun when abſent,
compared with what we are conſcious of, when
we behold him ſhining in all his glory. Nay,
is it not matter of wonder and aſtoniſhment,
how it ſhould come about, that we who believe,
we who inculcate it upon others, That
there is almighty Power, infinite wiſdom and
perfect goodneſs at the head of the Univerſe,
perpetually preſiding over it, and engaged on
the ſide of righteouſneſs and righteous perſons,
is it not, I ſay, very amazing, that by
this belief our ſouls are not raiſed into
a perpetual tranſport of joy and wonder,
to ſomething tranſcendently higher, than
we have yet felt, than we can well expreſs
by all the power of language. Surely it muſt
appear very ſurprizing to theſe who conſider
things calmly, how it ſhould come about, that
we who preach to others, That life and immortality
are brought to light by the goſpel, and
who pretend to entertain the firm and unſhaken
hope of another and better life, are not eſtabliſhed
by that glorious hope in an uninterrupted
and delightful exaltation of ſoul, above
all theſe things which engroſs the hearts,and employ
the whole lives of worldly men. Can there
be a more elevating, a more triumphant expectation,
than that of living for ever in the abodes
of perfect knowledge, virtue, and happineſs?
Let us endeavour then, by the proper
helps of retirement, meditation and prayer,
to attain clearer views of the Deity, and of
divine things, to feel higher impreſſions of
their worth and majeſty, and to grow
daily more convinced of their reality and
importance, and of the joy and happineſs that
ariſe from the love and contemplation of
BUT let none conclude from what is ſaid,
that it is the duty of a miniſter of the goſpel
to devote his whole life to contemplation,
to retire from the world, and maintain as little
converſe with mankind as an Hermit ſhut
up in his cell. By no means The moſt perfect
character of a teacher of true religion is,
that of one who lives among mankind, converſes
with them, and at the ſame time retains
as much purity of mind, and diſcovers
as entire diſengagement of heart from the
world, as if he were entirely ſeparated from
it. For ſuch a man is fitted to moderate the
deſires of worldly things in the reſt of mankind,
to lower their high notions of the excellence
and happineſs which they imagine
ariſe from the poſſeſſion and enjoyment of
them, and to diſplay the ſuperior worth and
importance of theſe things which are ſpiritual
and divine: That this is the proper character
of a teacher of true religion, is very evident
for this was the character of Jeſus.
BEFORE I finiſh this part of the diſcourſe
concerning that temper of mind, which is in
a peculiar manner becoming us who are miniſters
of the goſpel,and highly neceſſary to qualify
us to fulfill the duties of our ſtation, I
muſt mention one important Virtue, which
ſhould be cultivated with the greateſt care,
and raiſed to its higheſt pitch, and that is, an
unfeigned good-will and kind affection to our
brethren of mankind. For this purpoſe, Let us
conſider them in all theſe tender views, which
may contribute to endear them to us, not only
as children of the ſame great parent of all,
and partakers of the ſame nature, but as fallen
and degraded creatures in the ſame ſtate
of ignorance, corruption and guilt; as exiles in
the ſame place of baniſhment from our native
country, as fellow-ſufferers in the ſame ſcene
or miſery and diſtreſs, as being equally liable
to all the pains and calamitys of this life, and,
equally ſubjet to the ſtroke of death; as fellow
travellers towards the ſame unſeen world,
as followers of the ſame great leader, and as
having all the difficultys and hardſhips of our
ſtruggling ſtate of pilgrimage, ſweetn'd with
hopes depending on the ſame great friend and
benefactor of human kind, even the hopes of
mingling with the divine aſſembly above,
and there triumphing for ever over all the
miſerys of this mortal ſtate. 'Tis from theſe
views of our fellow-creatures, that we ſhall
feel our hearts ſtreaming out towards them
in ſuch a ſtrong flow of tenderneſs and goodwill,
as ſhall extinguiſh the pride and vanity
that is apt to ariſe from the little accidental
advantages one man has above another.
How will it be poſſible, that our hearts ſhould
ſwell with pride, upon the account of any little
tranſient ſuperiority, when we reflect we
are all on a level in ſo important reſpects,
and that all worldly diſtinctions will ſoon be
'TIS from theſe views too of our Chriſtian
brethren, that we ſhall feel our hearts melted
down into a mild and forgiving Temper.
Has any one injur'd us? If we have conſidered
mankind in a juſt light, will it not immediately
ſtrike us, that the injury was done thro' ignorance,
or the impetuoſity of ſome ungovernable
paſſion? in both which caſes, he that
did the wrong is a more proper object of pity
and compaſſion, than of anger and reſentment.
Beſides, how can we continue implacable
to others for theſe miſtakes and workings
of irregular paſſions to which we are liable
our ſelves.
To which we may add, as a thing of great
importance,that it is from conſidering our brethern
in theſe endearing views, that we ſhall
feel our ſelves inſpired with the principles of
true Chriſtian moderation. When we obſerve
others differing from us in opinion about leſſer
points; or even, as it appears to us, erring
from the truth in more important mattors,
it will immediatly occur to us, we are all
in a ſtate of much remaining darkneſs, and
liable to miſtakes and errors equally with
them. This one thought, duely pondered, can
ſcarce fail to ſoften our hearts, and move us
rather with pity than paſſion and bitterneſs.
Real love and affectionate ſympathy, ariſing,
from juſt views of human nature, will naturally
lead us to reflect on all that vaſt variety of circumſtances,
which may prevail on honeſt and
worthy minds, to embrace opinions widely
different from thoſe which we have eſpous'd
and conſequently inſpire us with an abhorrence
of the unchriſtian practice of repreſenting their
miſtakes and deſigns, as worſe than they really
are, and of judging harſhly about their ſtate
in another world, and deſiring or endeavouring
to expoſe them to ill uſage in this. In one
word, real love will invariably incline us to
make the largeſt allowances for human infirmity,
to judge charitably of the honeſty
and ſincerity of their hearts and intentions,
and to be more forward to proclaim their virtues
than to publiſh their miſtakes and failings.

FURTHER, One great advantage ariſing
from a mild and moderate conduct, is, that
it places us in the moſt .favourable ſituation
for rectifying the miſtakes and errors of theſe
who have unhappily fallen into them. As
long as we diſcover a real tenderneſs for their
intereſts and characters, we may juſtly hope
they will hearken to our reaſons, and lay open
their minds to conviction. But ſo ſoon as
we betray anger and bitterneſs, or uſe them
harſhly, we thereby prevent all the effect of
the ſtrongeſt arguments. When we ſee, for
inſtance, younger perſons, thro' a fondneſs for
novelty,and the raſhneſs to which that ſeaſon of
life is liable, hurry'd away to eſpouſe new opinions
with great vehemence, and throw off
eſtabliſh'd doctrines, before they have time
to conſider and underhand them; if we then
diſcover paſſion and reſentment, we can never
hope to have any power over their minds
Let us ſhow them by the whole courſe of our
behaviour, that we retain a ſincere good-will
to them, and hearty concern for their intereſts;
we may then perhaps prevail upon them
to liſten to our reaſonings, and to ſuſpend
their forming any obſtinate judgement about
the matter, until cooler thought, and more
thorough examination make them fitter judges
of things. The experience of mankind juſtifies
this obſervation, a man of wiſdom and
moderation ſometimes convinces and reclaims
thoſe who have been miſled, but the wrath
of man never works the righteouſneſs of God
nor can he ever hope to ſucceed in his deſigns,
who reverſes the meek and humble ſpirit
of our bleſſed Saviour. This deſerves the
ſerious conſideration of all friends to truth and
virtue,and eſpecially of thoſe who are any way
Concerned in the education of the riſing generation.

FURTHER, that general view of mankind deſcribed
above, will naturally lead us forward to
conſider the people of our reſpective congregations,
in a nearer and more intereſting point of
light, even as a certain portion of theſe fellow
travellers thro' this journey of human life,
committed to our care, and, by the appointment
of Providence, eſpecially intructed to us'
for direction, aſſiſtance and conſolation. When
we view our people in this new and endearing
relation, as depending on us for inſtruction,
when ignorant; for help, when in ſtraits,
and for comfort when in diſtreſs, we muſt be
very inſenſible if we do not feel a new flow of
good-will towards them, a ſtrong inclination
to enter into their concerns, to take their
pains and feelings upon us, and watch for opportunities
of doing them good. What altho'
kind offices among them ſhould take up much
time, require much pains, put us to much real
trouble and inconvenience, rob us of many
agreeable amuſements, and greatly interrupt
delightful and uſeful ſtudies? Senſe of
duty, love to our people, and the pleaſure of
doing good will reconcile us to all theſe hardſhips.
A juſ ſenſe of the important relations
we ſtand in to our reſpective flocks, and a genuine
feeling of that tender affection which
is due to them, won't allow us to heſitate one
moment, whether that part of our time is
moſt worthily employed which is taken up
in doing real offices of friendſhip among them,
or that part of it which is ſpent in peruſing
the fineſt writings of the greateſt Genius that
ever appeared in the world, or in poliſhing
any little compoſitions of our own. Is the
arranging of words, the meaſuring of periods,
the beautifying of language, or even ſtoring
our own minds with the divineſt ſentiments,
an employment of equal dignity and importance
in itſelf, or equally pleaſant on reflection,
with that of compoſing differences or extinguiſhing
animoſities, ſearching out modeſt
indigent merit, and relieving it, comforting
a melancholy heart, giving counſel to a perplexed
mind, ſuſpending pain by our ſympathy
and preſence tho' it were but for a moment,
ſuggeſting to an unfurniſh'd mind proper
materials for meditation in the time of diſtreſs,
or laying hold of a favourable opportunity
of conveying valuable inſtructions and
religious impreſſions to a mind little ſuſceptible
of them on other occaſions. There is
no need of ſaying any thing in confirmation
of this; it was the glorious character of Jeſus,
that he went about doing good.
To conclude the illuſtration of this firſt
rule, Let us who are the miniſters of the goſpel
of Jeſus, carefully ſtudy that blameleſueſs
of life, and that peculiar caſt and turn of inward
character, without which we can never
diſcharge the duties of our important ſtation,
with pleaſure to ourſelves, or great advantage
to others. And, in order to this, we muſt
learn to dread and cautiouſly avoid that rock
on which mankind ſplit, The reſting ſatisfied
with an imaginary excellence of external character,
while they are conſcious they poſſeſs
but very low meaſures of that inward excellence,
which alone can render them beautiful
in the eye of God. Is it not almoſt incredible
that reaſonable beings ſhould labour
ſo induſtriouſly and unweariedly to improve,
embelliſh and expoſe to view an imaginary
ſelf, whoſe ſole exiſtence is in the idea or
breath of others, while they ſtupidiy neglect
to improve and adorn the real ſelf within
their own boſoms? Yet, ſtrange as it is, daily
obſervation puts it beyond all doubt, that
great numbers of men endeavour, with the
greateſt eagerneſs, to crowd all noble endowments
and great virtues into their outward
character, while they have not ſo much as
made one ſincere and vigorous effort to better
their inward man. Is not this conduct juſt as
vain and ridiculous, as if a man ſhould be at
the utmoſt pains to beautify a picture, and
attempt to make the whole world admire and
applaud it as his exact likeneſs, when in truth
it had not the leaſt reſemblance of him; and
his only ſafety from the utmoſt contempt,
lies in hiding himſelf, and never allowing any
one to compare the real uglineſs and deformity
of his perſon with the comelineſs and
beauty of his pretended image.
I REMEMBER a paſſage of an ancient Author,
in which this folly of mankind is repreſented
in a very ſtrong light. "I have often won"dered
(ſays he) how it ſhould come to paſs,
"that when every man loves himſelf more
"than others, yet every man ſhould regard
"the opinions of others concerning him,
"more than his own: For if God or an An"gel
ſtanding by, ſhould command any of
"us, to think nothing by himſelf, but what
"he ſhould preſently ſpeak out, no man
"would be able to endure it for ſo much as
"one day. Thus we fear more what our
"neighbour will think of us, than what we
"think and know of our ſelves.
WE proceed now to the ſecond rule in the,
text, Take heed to thy doctrine. What is neceſſary
for the explanation and illuftration of this
rule plainly ariſes from what has been ſaid
on the former. The proper improvement
of the underſtanding already mentioned, fits
us for teaching the truths of religion: And
the purity of the heart already deſcribed prepares
and diſpoſes us to inculcate the morals
and duties of it.
1ſt. As to the truths of it. From the diligent
and impartial ſtudy of the holy ſcriptures
and natural religion, we ſhall be qualified
to teach all theſe truths which are diſcoverable
only by revelation, as well as thoſe which
the light of reaſon and revelation conſpire
to dictate. It cannot be call'd in queſtion,
but that a principal thing required of us by
this rule, Of taking heed to our doctrine, is to
declare the whole ſcheme of Chriſtianity ſo
far as it is revealed, without any mixture of
human invention, in that plainneſs and ſimplicity
in which it is delivered in the holy
ſcriptures. That we may do this with greater
faithfulneſs and impartiality, we muſt not
repreſent Chriſtianity as a chain of abſtract
ſpeculations, and metaphyſical truths linked
together in a certain order, and in a certain
form of words of human contrivance; but as
a ſet of important facts, or remarkable ſcenes
of the great plan of providence, in which
mankind are deeply intereſted, and which
could not have been brought to light but by
immediate revelation. When Chriſtianity is
repreſented in this view, it will not only make
it more eaſily underſtood, but alſo more eaſily
defended againſt the objections of its adverſaries.

THUS, that mankind are at preſent in a
ſtate of ignorance, guilt and corruption, is
a fact ſeen, felt and acknowledged. That Jeſus
Chriſt the Saviour is the only begotten Son of
God, is delivered in ſcripture in an eaſy manner,
as a plain fact, 1 John iii. 16. God ſo loved
the world, that he ſent his only begotten Son,
&c Heb. i. 5. go which of the angels ſaid he
at any time, thou art my Son, this day have I
begotten thee. It is further revealed to us, Col.
i. 15, 16. That he is the image of the inviſible
God, the firſt born of every creature, for by him all
things were created, that are in heaven, and that
are in earth, viſible and inviſible, that he is the
head of all principalities and powers, Col. ii. 10.
And that in the beginning was the word, and the
word was with God, and the word was God.
John i. 1. Who can venture to deny any of
theſe facts, and to aſſert there is no perſon exiſting
to whom all theſe characters in their
full, proper and higheſt ſenſe may be aſcribed?
Who can pretend that his piercing eye
has ſurvey'd the whole univerſe, and can declare
that no ſuch perſon exiſts? Who has
preſumption enough to affirm that he has ſeen
through all the poſſibilities of things, and
can aſſure us, that it is impoſſible any ſuch
perſon can exiſt?
THAT the word was made fleſh, is mentioned
in ſcripture as another fact. His incarnation
is no doubt a myſterious miraculous thing. Is
not the incarnation of any ſpiritual Being an.
inexplicable thing to us, and quite beyond the
reach of our faculties. That he taught us
the will of God by his doctrine, and ſet us
a pattern of perfect virtue in his life, is another
ſimple matter of fact eaſily comprehended.
That by his humiliation, ſufferings and
death he made attonement for the ſins of men
that as a reward of his extraordinary obedience
and ſufferings, He is exalted above every name
that he now exerciſes a real, tho' inviſible, dominion
over the world, and that he will come
to judge us at the laſt day in righteouſneſs,
are all delivered in ſcripture in an eaſy manner,
as important parts of the great ſcheme
of univerſal providence, and in which our
higheſt intereſts are involved.
No it muſt be acknowledged, that it is.
an indiſpenſable part of our duty as teachers
of the religion of Jeſus, to declare theſe and all
the other truths diſcovered to us by revelation:
We cannot juſtify our ſelves as having declared
the whole counſel of God, if we overlook
any of them, neglect to teach them, or
treat them only in a tranſient and ſuperficial
manner. For theſe doctrines of Chriſtianity are
of the higheſt importance to mankind. Is it
not of importance, of great importance, to
creatures in a ſtate of ignorance, corruption
and guilt, to have it made known to them, by
an undoubted revelation, that, in the original
plan of the divine government, there is a remedy
provided for their misfortunes? How
comfortable and rejoicing is the diſcovery,
that there is a particular diſpenſation of providence
carrying on by the Son and Spirit
of God, for the recovery and ſalvation of
mankind, who are in a ſtate of apoſtacy and
ruin? Does it not mightily concern us to know
theſe duties, and inward acts of religion which
are due to Jeſus Chrift the mediator, and the
Holy Ghoſt the guide and ſanctifier of mankind?
Is it not beyond all contradiction, a
matter of unſpeakable importance, to have it
confirmed to us by an infallible revelation,
that this whole univerſe is one vaſt and immortal
empire, of which God is the King and
Head; and that virtue and devotion are the
great, the ſtanding, and everlaſting laws of
this great kingdom, to which all rational
beings ought to pay a voluntary ſubjection?
Can it be denied to be of the higheſt conſequence
to us, to have the particular branches
of this great law of virtue, delivered to us by
a meſſenger from heaven, cloathed with the
highed authority; and not to be left to gather
them from antient traditions of an uncertain
ſource, from long deductions of human reaſon.
ings, from the admonitions of ſome old philoſophers,
or from the dictates of our own hearts;
where there are ſuch great mixtures of impurity?
Is it not a great advantage to have all
theſe great rules of life examplified in a perfect
pattern, by one cloathed in fleſh, and who
was in all points tempted like as we are, and yet
without ſin? Is it not a thing of univerſally
acknowledg'd importance, to have it aſcertain'd
to us by one who came from the ſpiritual
and unſeen world, that the righteous than
live there in immortal happineſs and glory,
and that the wicked and diſobedient ſhall be
thruſt down to a place of everlaſting puniſhment?
Is it not of importance to the world
that theſe great truths of Chriſtianity ſhould
be imprinted on the minds of the preſent race
of men, and tranſmitted down to ſucceeding
generations? Is there a ſucceſſion of teachers
appointed in the Chriſtian Church for this very
purpoſe? Let us then bethink ourſelves, how
we ſhall anſwer to the world, to our own conſciences,
and to God the judge of all, if we fail
in this great branch of our duty.
2dly As to the duties of religion. This
rule, Take heed to thy doctrine, requires us to
take heed how we teach the duties of the
goſpel. That purity and elevation of heart
which was recommended under the former
rule, will both qualify and diſpoſe us to teach
and inculcate the whole compaſs of practical
religion and morality, in the higheſt pitch of
perfection attainable by mankind. 'Tis of
great conſequence, to diſplay a high ſtandard
of morals before the eyes of mankind; for nothing
can be more dangerous, than to lower
and accommodate it to the prevailing taſtes
or opinions of a degenerate age. If we come
low, men will ſatisfy themfelves with ſomething
ſtill lower. Our Saviour has ſufficiently
directed our conduct in this matter, both by
his doctriue and example, Matth. v. and 48.
Be ye perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.
Thou ſhalt love the Lord thy God with all
thy heart, and with all thy ſoul, and with all
thy mind, thou ſhalt love thy neighbour as thy
ſelf, Matth. xxii. 37. 39 His whole divine
ſermon on the mount, is a ſummary of pure
religion, freed from all theſe corrupt gloſſes
and abatements, which had been introduced
to favour the corruptions of the human
heart; and his life is a ſtanding and
viſible pattern of the higheſt and pureſt virtue.
Now, tho' we cannot expect that mankind
will ever arrive, in this ſtate of imperfection,
to a perfect conformity to the divine
law; yet it is of great uſe to ſet the ſublime
ſtandard full in their view. For we can never
unvail to mankind in a clear manner
their hidden hypocrify and corruption, check
the growth of their ſecret pride, beget in
them humility and lowlineſs of mind, and
lead them to value juſtly that joyful doctrine
of Chriſtianity, That God accepts of
ſincerity, inſtead of perfection, thro' the Propitiation
of Jeſus, unleſs we give them a
full view of the purity and perfection of the
divine law, and direct them to compare themſelves
impartially with it, and thus convince
them, how far they fall below it. Beſides,
we can never explain the great doctrine of
ſincerity, as a term of our acceptance with
God, in ſuch a way as that it ſhall not be
liable to many dangerous abuſes, unleſs we
repreſent a perpetual aim, and endeavour at a
higher degree of perfection as the very eſſence,
or at leaſt, an inſeparable property
of it. Neither can we carry Chriſtians forward
in a conſtant progreſs toward perfecton,
unleſs we ſhow them ſome pitch of it
which they have not yet attained, to tempt
their fight and animate their endeavours.
AGAIN the goodneſs of heart required and
expected from us by the former rule, muſt lead
us to remark with great concern, the manifold
failures of mankind in the great duties
of practical religion; and particularly to obſerve
theſe failures which are moſt remarkable,
and undiſputed in the age or place of
the world in which we live. Do we live in
an age, when devotion is fallen into diſrepute,
when whole ſets of men diſcover many
marks of indifference, and contempt of all
ſerious appearances of true religion, and look
upon pious diſpoſitions as unneceſſary or ſuperfluous
ingredients of a worthy character,
In ſuch a ſituation of things, unaffected goodneſs
will prompt us to ſuit our inſtructions
to the temper of the age, and to dwell upon
it ſtrongly, that adoration, eſteem, love,
gratitude, quit and confidence are as really
due to God, as good will and as of beneficence
are due to men; that the relations
betwixt God and his creatures are at leaſt as
real and immutable, as the relations betwixt
one creature and another. That the pureſt
and moſt durable joys of human life ariſe
from the love of God, and an unbounded truſt
and confidence in his providence; nay, that
without the love of God and truſt in his goodneſs,
there is a thick darkneſs ſpread over all,
things, and all rational ſecurity of joy is quite
deſtroyed; that truth, integrity, and charity,
and all the ſocial virtues muſt want their
great ſupport, when there is no hope, no truſt
in an Almighty Being who delights in there
virtues, and is the preſent friend, and will be
the eternal rewarder of theſe who uniformly
practiſe them; and that the want of juſt
and rational piety towards God, whatever
other virtues we may boaſt of, certainly will
not paſs unpuniſhed under his righteous adminiſtration.

BESIDES what is already laid concerning the
neceſſity and advantages of true devotion, there
remains another conſideration of very great
importance, namely, that not only the liable
and uniform practice of all the virtues, but
alſo the purity and. perfection of them in the
eye of God depend in a great meaſure on a
ſtrong ſenſe of infinite perfection, and what
is due to it. For the illuſtration of this point
let us ſuppoſe a man, whole character is not
only beautify'd with all the private virtues
truth, ſincerity, juſtice, charity, temperance,
fortitude; but alſo with all the publick virtues,
zeal for the common good of ſociety,
unwearied labours to promote it, and joy
in the' eſtabliſhment and advancement of it:
If ſuch a perſon ſhould contemplate his virtues
with a ſelfiſh kind of delight, as his own
productions, and the fruits of his own labour
and induſtry, inwardly valuing himſelf upon
account of them, and ſecretly triumphing
in his ſuperiority to others, is it not evident,
that this mixture of vanity and ſelf-applauſe
greatly ſullys the beauty and diminiſhes the
worth of the character, in the judgement of
God and every good being. Now, is there
any ſuch effectual method of bearing down
that ſelf-admiration, and ſelf-complacency,
which is ſo apt to ariſe from the view of any
little exceilencys we poſſeſs,as comparing them
with the infinite perfections of the divine nature,
which muſt make them almoſt quite
diſappear, and the habitual acknowledging
from the bottom of our hearts, that it is
God, who makes us differ from others, and
beſtows upon us all theſe virtues and talents,
of which we are ſo unjuſtly proud, and ſo
vainly and fooliſhly aſcribe to our ſelves?
Does not the viewing our graces, at tainments
accompliſhments in this light ſhow us
the reaſonableneſs, and equity of referring
to God, and aſcribing to him, and not to our
ſelves all the praiſe and glory of them? We
ought therefore to inſiſt upon it, as an important
and eſſential principle of religion,
that as every good thing comes from God, it
ſhould be referred to him, and the whole honour
and glory of it ſincerely and perpetually
aſcribed to him: And that without this,
there can be no perfect humility, no thorough
greatneſs of ſoul, no ſtable pure diſinterefted
virtue, no character entirely worthy
and acceptable in the ſight of him, whoſe judgement
is always according to truth. That
theſe conſiderations may have the greater
weight, we muſt repreſent to our hearers, in
the ſtrongeſt manner, that they are founded on
the authority of divine revelation, and on this
grand and undeniable truth, that the infinite
goodneſs of God is the ſource of our exiſtence
and virtues, and of all that is great, lovely or
good in any part of this vaſt univerſe, From
the Father of Lights cometh every good and perfect
gift, and therefore, not unto us not unto us, but
to him be the Glory.
FURTHER, it may be of ſingular uſe, to repreſent
the various acts of religion, in theſe
amiable and inviting lights which may touch
the heart. Thus how pleaſant a ſcene muſt
it be, to behold a perſon of undoubted worth
and virtue withdrawn from the noiſe and hurry
of worldly affairs, all alone, ſilent, and
ſolemn, lifting up his eyes to heaven, and
faſtning his thoughts on God his maker, devoutly
acknowledging him with the warmeſt
gratitude, as the author of his being, the preſerver
of his life, the fountain of his preſent
enjoyments, and the grand foundation of his
future hopes, praying him to forgive his ſins,
to teach him his will, and to guide him forward
in the paths of uprightneſs; and reſigning
himſelf without reſervation to the diſpoſal
of his providence, and ſettling his mind
in perfect peace by truſting firmly in him.
Again, let us ſuppoſe a family living in peace,
harmony, and the uniform practice of all
virtue, regularly uniting their hearts and voices
in hymns of praiſe to God with every
morning's light, and when the ſhadows of
the evening are ſtretched out, recalling their
thoughts from the world, by a ſong of praiſe
to Him, who makes the out-goings of the evenings
and mornings to rejoice: And then laying
themſelves down to ſleep in peace, becauſe
their God ſuſtains them. We might alſo ſuppoſe
whole congregations regularly engaged
in the ſame devout exerciſes.
Is there any thing unlovely or forbidding,
any thing unworthy of human nature,
in ſuch exerciſes of devotion? Would we
have reaſon to be aſhamed, if we were
found employed in them? Let us ſuppoſe
we knew a country in which private
and publick acts of pure religion were in reputation,
and regularly perform'd with ſolemnity,
ſincerity and unaffected ardor. Would
we not love that country, and almoſt wiſh
we were to happy as to live in ſuch a joyfull
and devout ſociety?
LET us further ſuppoſe, that there devout
worſhippers diſcover'd all the genuine
marks and ſymptoms of inward devotion
in their countenances and outward
Deportment. Could we juſtly expreſs a
contempt of them by calling them ſolemn
grimaces, and hypocritical airs? Has not
true devotion its juſt and natural features
and ſigns in the human countenance, as well
as the ſocial and friendly affections? However
ſome people, who pretend to underſtanding
and taſte, may ridicule all the appearances
and marks of devotion on the outward
man; yet it muſt be acknowledged, even by
theſe who conſider things in no higher view
than that of taſte, that to be capable to obſerve
the native and juſt features of real devotion,
and to repreſent them in poetry, ſtatuary
or painting, has always been eſteem'd
one of the nobleſt efforts of a great and worthy
genius. Theſe things are ſufficient evidences,
that it is the voice of mankind, that
devout affetions are no ways diſhonourable
to human nature.
FUR T HER, if we feel the full power of pious
diſpoſitions in our own breaſts, we will
be hence naturally led to make pathetical
repreſentations of them to others. Have we
many inward and ſilent workings of heart
towards God; are we really ſtruck with the
contemplation of the divine perfections diſplayed
in his works, and in the revelations
of his will; are our hearts really penetrated
with a ſenſe of his grace and goodneſs? Are
our ſouls warmed with gratitude, love
and praiſe; do we feel an entire reſt of
mind on his providence and promiſes? Such
a perfect reſt of mind as baniſhes every
diſturbing thought, every anxious care, and
produces a ſettled tranquillity within our boſoms?
Can we triumph in the full ſecurity
we have for all our valuable intereſts under
his perfectly wiſe and righteous adminiſtration?
Is the Belief that God is, and is
the rewarder of all thoſe who diligently ſeek
him; is this belief like an immoveable
rock, on which we ſtand ſafe and happy,
amidſt all the waves and billows that can
roar about us? Are we continually gladned
with the glorious hope, that in ſome future
period of our eminence we ſhall know our
God more fully, love him more ardently, and
rejoice in him in a more ſure and triumphant
manner? Is this the inward ſtate of our
minds; then we will find our ſelves diſpoſed
to embrace all occaſions of repreſenting theſe
delightful feelings in their full ſtrength and
force, and with that warmth and emotion, that
may convince others, they are the genuine
ſentiments of our hearts: We will .not
afraid or aſhamed to own them, but open
them up with freedom and boldneſs; deſcribe
them with a noble and manly aſſurance;
and thus do our utmoſt to ſpread a
ſenſe of religion, in an unthinking and irreligious
age: Whatever ridicule or contempt
we may meet with; whatever names of
ſuperſtitious or viſionary enthuſiaſts, may
be beſtowed upon us, let us ſtand by it,
and maintain to the laſt, that the joys of
religion are the ſun, the light, and the life
of our ſouls in all ſtates, and amidſt all the
viciſſitudes of human affairs; nay, let us inſiſt,
upon it frequently and at full length, that the,
man,who can ſupport life without the rejoiceing
perſwaſion that there is an Almighty.
Being, at the head of all things, who is engaged
on the ſide of virtuous and holy perſons,
who befriends them while here, and will
render them and their virtues immortal, illuſtrious
and triumphant hereafter, muſt either
be quite inſenſible of the excellency of
virtue, unconcerned about the eternal proſperity
of thoſe who love it and delight in it,
or he muſt be ſo entirely immerſed in pleaſures,
amuſements, or worldly purſuits, that
he has never made one calm and ſerious reflection.
Thus let us reckon it our duty.
and honour, to be advocates for devotion in
an age, when it is treated with ſo much indifference
and contempt, uſing all that variety
of arguments in its behalf that reaſon, revelation,
or experience can ſuggeſt.
AGAIN, do we live in an age, when other
ſets of mankind think meanly, and ſpeak
contemptibly of truth, juſtice, charity,
temperance, humility, and the reſt of the
great virtues of the Chriſtian life? We muſt
perpetually inculcate upon theſe, that no ſoundneſs
in the faith, no ſolemnity of worſhip,
no external obſervances, no flaſhes of devotion,
no pretended inward manifeſtations, no
zeal how warm ſoever for publick matters,
can ever compenſate for the want of theſe eſſential
ingredients of the ſpiritual life. And
let us add, that on the practice of theſe virtues,
the happineſs of ſociety, and of individuals
in a great meaſure depends. And
to crown all, let us dwell upon it ſtrongly,
that righteouſneſs, truth and goodneſs, are the
chief glory of God himſelf, and what renders
him the worthy object of the love and worſhip,
of his reaſonable offspring; and therefore,
theſe virtues muſt be the brighteſt ornaments
of his rational creatures. Your time
won't allow me to enter upon many other
things very worthy of our conſideration, and
belonging to this rule of taking heed to our doctrine,
neither will it permit me to enter upon
the explication of the third rule; continue
in them. Before I proceed to the motives with
which theſe rules, are inforced, I muſt beg:
to be allowed a few words concerning the manner
of our teaching. Here it muſt be our
principal care to uſe plainneſs and ſimplicity,
heartineſs and ſincerity. We muſt have
no other view but to inſtruct and perſwade
theſe who liſten to us, laying aſide all affectation,
all aims of gaining applauſe, or
advancing any worldly intereſt. If we are
actuated by any of theſe low motives, they
will ſpoil the whole power, and prevent all
the influence with which our diſcourſes might
otherwiſe be accompanied. If we would
preach with any juſt hope of ſucceſs, we muſt
treat divine ſubjects with ſuch ſincerity and
earneſtneſs, as to forget our ſelves; and convince
our hearers, that we have no other view
in ſpeaking, but to ſtamp theſe virtues and
pious impreſſions on their hearts, which we
feel on our own. We muſt have it for our
perpetual care, to confine and fix the attention
of the hearer to the ſubject, and not to
the ſpeaker, by never ſuffering one turn of
thought or expreſſion to eſcape from us, that
has no other view, than to pleaſe and ſhine. We
muſt avoid with a particular care all affectation
of fine language, and a glittering kind
of eloquence, which whatever uſeleſs admiration
it may raiſe in weak judges, muſt
produce great contempt in more judicious
ones. For theſe who have a juſt taſte and true
diſcernment, know, that a gaudy, and florid
ſtile, how ſoft and agreeable ſoever, can
never either touch the heart, or communicate
diſtinct and ſtrong views of divine truths;
if we would attain to true eloquence, we
muſt cheriſh an inward ſenſe of the importance
and excellency of ſacred truths, and cultivate
a ſtrong feeling of all the virtues. For
when our own hearts have once felt the warmth
of divine things, it will be eaſy for us to
transfuſe it into the breaſts of others; the
inward feelings of a good heart have a natural
eloquence accompanying them, which
can never be equalled by labour'd and ſtudied
ornament. The heart really and juſtly
mov'd, never fails to dictate a language plain
and eaſy, full of natural and continued vigour,
which has nothing in it ſoft, nothing
languiſhing, all is nervous and ſtrong, and
does not ſo much pleaſe the ear, as it fills
and raviſhes the ſoul. Allow me here again
to obſerve, what has been hinted at above,
that this divine eloquence cannot be acquired
by human learning, and in the choice,
and arrangement of words, but by a powerful
feeling, of what is great and good, produced
in us by the holy ſpirit of God.
I COME now to the ſecond general head propoſed,
to conſider the motives inforcing the
exhortation, and there are two of them, 1st
In doing this, thou ſhalt ſave thy own ſoul. It
is proper to obſerve, that we are under two
different ſorts of obligation, the one is to perform
all theſe duties, which belong to our private
ſtation, as we are men, and Chriſtians, the
other is to perform ſuch duties as belong to that
publick ſtation, wherein providence has placed
us. Both of theſe are equally neceſſary to
compleat a truely good and worthy character.
Thus, tho' a judge ſhould be quite blameleſs
in the whole tenor of his private behaviour,
yet, if he neglect through careleſneſs
and indolence to embrace many opportunities
of diſpenſing juſtice, and of promoting
the welfare of ſociety, by his influence
and authority, he would be highly
blameable, perhaps as highly blameable, as
if he had fail'd to do juſtice in private life,
and could not reaſonably expect to eſcape
that puniſhment from the great judge of all,
which ſuch a criminal omiſſion deſerves. So
the ſame way, tho' a miniſter behaves himſelf
with unſpotted virtue and innocence, in
private life, yet if he has no zeal for anſwering
the end of his office, if he ſpends that
time in indolence and idleneſs, or even in
acquiring real knowledge, which ought to
have been employed in doing good offices
among his people, or in preparing himſelf
to inſtrut them in a more convincing manner;
he cannot expect that he ſhall be acquitted
at the laſt either by his own conſcience,
or God who is greater than conſcience.
IT deſerves to be remembred as a matter
of great importance, and as a very awful conſideration,
that negligence or careleſneſs about
the duties of our publick ſtation, may
have more dreadful conſequences under the
government of a righteous judge than we are
ordinarly aware of. The criminal omiſſion
or careleſs performance of the duties belonging
to a publick character and ſtation,
may be as hurtful to the great intereſts
of mankind in this or another life, as poſitive
acts of vice and unrighteouſneſs: So that
none of us can be aſſured, but they may
be followed by as ſevere chaſtiſements in
this world, or as dreadful puniſhments in
another. If we allow the impreſſions of God
and religion to wear out of our peoples minds,
by our careleſs or indifferent manner of inſtructing
them; ſeveral generations may paſs
away before they can be renew'd. If we ſow
the ſeeds of folly and ſuperſtition among
them, through a blind miſtaken zeal, it may
take the labours of wiſe and good men for
ſeveral ages to root them out. May not
that long train of miſchiefs which take their
riſe from our negligence, or miſ-guided zeal,
be juſtly charg'd upon us? If we either neglect
to inſtruct our people, or miſ-lead them,
can we be free from the blood of the preſent
or ſucceeding generations?
WHEN therefore we aſcend our pulpits
behold a liſtning congregation around us,
let us ask our ſelves ſeriouſly, as in the
light of God, whether the doctrines we are
intending to deliver have a real tendency
to make them wiſer and better, to
enlighten their minds, purify their hearts,
or reform their lives? And if we are
conſcious that their tendency is good, let us
again ask our ſelves, whether we are about
to utter ſuch powerful and ſtriking ſentiments,
as the ſubject will admit of, and as
a more careful preparation might have ſuggeſted
to us? And as to the general conduct
of our lives, let us ſeriouſly ask our ſelves,
have we done all we ought to have done,
might have done to alleviate, or in ſome caſes to
annihilate, and in many caſes entirely prevent
many of the miſeries of our people, by tender
offices of companion, benevolence and humanity?
Or have we done all that might have
been done, by perſons in our circumſtances,
and with our abilities (whatever they are) to
propagate a true ſenſe of virtue and religion
among mankind; or have we done as much,
as has been done this way by thoſe who were
in as unfavourable circumſtances, and had not
ſuperior abilities? Can we pretend to faithfulneſs
in our office, if we do not honeſtly endeavour
to do our utmoſt to promote the
welfare and happineſs of mankind; or can
we reaſonably expect the ſalvation of our
ſouls, if we are not faithful to the utmoſt?
THE 2d motive is, That we ſhall ſave the
ſouls of them that hear us. The former motive
urges us to take heed to our ſelves and our
doctrine for our own ſakes: The latter is of
a more generous and diſintereſted kind, recommending
it to us to take care of our
ſelves and our doctrine for the ſake of others:
If we feel the force of this double obligation
we will watch over our ſelves with double
care and diligence. As no thought can be
more terrifying, than that the ſouls of mankind
ſhould periſh, thro' the example of our
unholy lives, or thro' our careleſs or corrupt
doctrine; ſo on the other hand, no conſideration
can be more rejoicing and triumphant,
than that they ſhould be ſaved by means of
that worthy example we ſet before them,
and thoſe pure and heavenly leſſons of virtue
and piety we honeſtly impart to them.
Since the ſoul of man is the moſt excellent
piece of the divine workmanſhip in this lower
world, ſince it ſurpaſſes far in dignity and
excellence the whole fabrick of the viſible
creation, it muſt undoubtedly be a moſt
glorious employment to promote its worth,
its welfare, and eternal proſperity. It is
impoſſible to conceive a more divine employment
than to maintain a command and power
over the minds of men by the force of truth
and virtue: For this is in ſome degree to
reſemble God himſelf the author and inſpirer
of every goood and perfect gift: To be inſtrumental
in making reaſon and virtue to
prevail in the hearts and lives of mankind,
is an office no leſs honourable than that of
being a fellow-worker with God in his grand
deſign of eſtabliſhing the happineſs of his
creation. Beſides the dignity of the work it
ſelf, let us lift up our thoughts to the everlaſting
honour and reward that attends it in
the other world, For they that be wiſe ſhall
ſhine as the brightneſs of the firmament, and
they that turn many to righteouſneſs, as the ſtars
for ever and ever. To conclude, let us endeavour,
in a humble dependance on the holy
ſpirit of God, who favours and ſeconds every
worthy deſign, to take ſuch care of our
ſelves and of our doctrine, as that we may
have Many to be our crown of rejoicing at the
coming of our Lord Jeſus Chrſt, and may at
laſt hear that joyful ſentence paſſed upon us,
Well done, good and faithful ſervants, enter ye
into the joy of your Lord.
I AM very ſenſible, that I ought to have
acknowledged before this, my own unfitneſs to
ſpeak ſo much from this place, and with the
air of an inſtructor, before ſo diſcerning an
audience, before ſo many reverend fathers and
brethren, under whom it would have become
me better to ſit as a humble hearer. The task
was neither my choice, nor deſire, but impos'd
upon me. I have endeavoured according
to my ſmall ability, to repreſent a few
things concerning the temper and duty of a
miniſter of the goſpel, which appeared to me
of great importance, which I find great need
to inculcate frequently on my own mind:
I ſhall rejoice, greatly rejoice, if I be
found to be the only one who has any occaſion
to be reminded of them.
HAVING exhorted my reverend fathers and
brethren to take heed how they teach, allow me
now to call on you the people to take heed how
ye hear: We may juſtly invite you to liſten to
our inſtructions with an unprejudiced mind,
and a ſincere intention to know the will of God
that ye may do it. To this end hearken to us
with humbleneſs of mind, with a deep ſenſe of
your want of divine knowledge, or at leaſt
of your great need to have the impreſſions
of divine things renewed and more deeply engraven
on your hearts: Hearken to us alſo
with a ſtrong ſenſe of your manifold hidden
corruptions of heart, or at leaſt of your want
of that pitch of purity and ſpiritual mindedneſs
which becomes the followers of Jeſus
Chriſt. In this favourable ſtate of mind, lay
open your ſouls to the light of divine truth,
and to the lively impreſſion of heavenly and
eternal objects: Seriouſly conſider what ye
hear, and honeſtly apply it. The main hinderance
of your receiving real advantage from
ſacred inſtructions, is the want of that ſimplicity
and honeſty of heart, which would lead
you to conſider every rule of life, every admonition,
every enforcement of duty, as ſomething
that concerns your ſelves in particular,
and may be of uſe to mend your hearts or
better your lives. There is nothing more
obſervable among mankind, than a certain
diſregard of religious inſtructions, as not belonging
to themſelves, but only to the reſt
of the world. Perhaps indeed they won't
entirely diregard them: Poſſibly they may
liſten to them with pleaſure, treaſure them
up in their memories, speak of them afterwards
with ſomething of warmth and emotion,
admire the juſtneſs of them, applaud the
preacher, and expreſs great ſurpriſe and wonder,
that the reſt of mankind don't apply
them to correct the diſorders of their hearts
and irregularities of their lives. But they
never allow themſelves to reflect, that theſe
very inſtructions which they apply to others,
might be highly uſeful to themſelves. Conſider,
that it is not enough that you approve
of the diſcourſe, and applaud the
ſpeaker applauſe won't ſatisfy a ſincere
inſtructor, he requires more ſubſtantial praiſe,
your reformation and amendment: What a
mortifying diſappointment is it to a faithful
teacher, to meet with nothing but empty
praiſe from his hearers, when he intended,
wiſh'd and expected to have inſpired them
with worthy reſolutions, or engag'd them in
generous undertakings. To conclude, remember
that it will more effectually animate
your miniſters in their publick miniſtrations,
to be aſſured, that there is one perſon
in their ſeveral congregations liſtening
to them with an earneſt deſire to learn his
duty, that he may praiſe it, than to know
that all the reſt are applauding them: And
that it will rejoice their hearts more to find
that they have been ſo happy as to convey
One important inſtruction, or rivet one worthy
impreſſion, than to be ſurrounded with the
praiſes of the moſt numerous and diſcerning
MAY the miniſters of the goſpel of Jeſus,
be taught to teach, and you to hear in ſuch
a manner, that we may be mutual comforts
to one another in this preſent world, and at
laſt meet together in the divine aſſembly
above, to live in immortal friendſhip with
one another, and in eternal communion with
Father, .Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


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The Temper, Character, and Duty of a Minister of the Gospel; A Sermon Preached Before the Synod of Glasgow, on 1 Tim. iv. 16

Document Information

Document ID 102
Title The Temper, Character, and Duty of a Minister of the Gospel; A Sermon Preached Before the Synod of Glasgow, on 1 Tim. iv. 16
Year group 1700-1750
Genre Religious prose
Year of publication 1741
Wordcount 11735

Author information: Leechman, Mr William

Author ID 194
Title Mr
Forenames William
Surname Leechman
AKA Will Leechman
Gender Male
Year of birth 1706
Place of birth Dolphinton, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Occupation Academic, clergyman
Father's occupation Farmer
Education University
Locations where resident Glasgow
Other languages spoken Latin
Religious affiliation Presbyterian