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SERMON XXVII. .
REMEMBRANCE OF CHRISTIAN MINISTERS.
Preached January 3, 1808, on Occasion of the Death of the Rev. John
HEB, xiïi. 7, 8.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto
you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.
I HAVE been absent from you this morning, to improve the departure of that venerable servant of Christ, the Rev. John Newton. His conversion to God was singular: his services have been eminent; and his spirit so entirely what we are taught to consider as characteristic of a Christian,-so mild, so gentle, so bent on glorifying God and recovering his fallen creatures——that I could not but still dwell in my mind on the deceased, after I had done the work appointed me. This has led me to the present subject.
Let us endeavour,
2. TO IMPRESS them on your hearts and consciences.
I. We are to EXPLAIN these words.
St. Paul, the wise master-builder, had been laying the foundation. He had been setting forth Christ as the glory of the Gospel. In this chapter he gives some general rules, and one of them is the passage before us: Remember them which have the rule over you. It might be more exactly rendered, Remember your guides: remember your
leaders : remember whom God has appointed, as your particular shepherds; for God employs men to assist men; God employs men to recover men. I will make you, Christ said, fishers of men.
Remember them, says the Apostle, which have the rule over you, which have been your guides and leaders, who have spoken unto you the word of God. As though he had said,
“ Visionaries may come among you, who will say, I have dreamed, I have dreamed: I call you not to remember them. Yea, there shall be grievous Wolves, and perhaps in sheeps? clothing; who shall have a design to devour and destroy the flock: keep clear of them: take care of yourselves: no greater frauds and iniquities have been practised than in the religious world. Others will bring you Traditions, and try to set up something in the stead of Christianity, as the dead image of a living thing: I do not say, Remember them. Some will think of nothing but their Party: for, All seek their own, and not the things which are Jesus Christ's. Others will come among you in the form of ministers, who are mere
Hypocrites, and see nothing but the morsel of bread: Put me, I pray thee, into the priest's office, that I may eat a morset of bread. I call you not to remember such as these: but remember them that have spoken unto you the word of God; who have themselves understood it and felt its infuence, and are appointed to minister it to others. Do not forget their labours, their zeal, their affection. Remember them as your best friends: if they have reproved you, it is a proof of friendship: if they have borne with your infirmities, it is because they knew their own, and were called to be nursing-fathers: if they have tried to entice you, to draw you with the cords of a man and the bonds of love, esteem them very highly for their work's $ake: and if they have maintained their Christian profession, though at the risk of being called fools and enthusiasts, remember that they are such as God commends, having found those servants with their loins girded, and their lamps burning.”
But they are gone! —- And, therefore,” say some,
66 what more have we to do with them ? what can they profit us?"-In one view, indeed, they are gone: they are called away: they are taken home: they have fought the good fight, and finished their course, and kept the faith. But, in another sense, though they are dead, they yet speak: they will retain a hold on the consciences of those who heard them, while any tenderness remains therein. Of some it may be said, that they
never die: they yet live: they yet speak : they have been the instruments of more good after their death, than they were throughout their lives.
But the Apostle adds, Follow their Faith. As though he had said,
“ Follow not; their peculiarities,-their infirmities. Say, “This is a man,--a poor creature at the best. But follow their Faith.”
Follow the DOCTRINES which they have maintained : let their testimony remain in your consciences, for you must give an account thereof to Him who shall judge the quick and dead. This shall fully appear in the great day of account, when it shall be said, • What did you hear from that leader, that guide, that minister, whom I sent to speak to your heart? I stood at the door and knocked, while he was expostulating with you. He cried to you, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. He proclaimed the remedy, appointed for the misery and guilt of the world. No man could say, ' There is no hope! I know not what to do! I am a guilty creature, and there is no refuge! What must I do to be saved?' He cried aloud, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved; for he was exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins. Your minister declared to you
grace of God's Spirit, whose breath could raise the dry bones into a living man.
No man more consistently declared and exhibited these doctrines than the deceased Minister of whom I am speaking.
Whose faith follow4follow not only the Doctrines of their faith: but the exercises and HABITS of their faith : for it is one thing to speculate on the truth,--to give a mere assent to it: and it is another thing to have it in exercise, to endure as seeing him who is invisible, and to bring it into action in all the circumstances of life. I feel, in this respect, a great and lamentable defect in my own heart, and observe it in the conduct of others. Faith is not to be considered only with reference to the grand points of justification and sanctification, and our being glorified in the end: but a Christian is to be a man of faith with reference to all circumstances. Follow the faith, therefore, of Christian Ministers, in endeavouring to bring it into daily exercise, and habitual employ.
Follow the FRUIT of their faith. Imitate their zeal, their labours of love, their patience, their usefulness, their conflicts, their instant prayer.
Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Some read these words thus: considering the end of their conversation, which was to set forth Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. This is, in itself, good counsel; but it is not the sense of the passage: for, when the Apostle says, considering the end of their con