« AnteriorContinuar »
retreats of those internal enemies which hold a dangerous correspondence with such as lie in wait to destroy and seek for opportunities to betray. Such active and powerful opponents form dangerous conspiracies, and conceal their measures by taking advantage of nights of temptation and cloudy and dark days. How safe to hear the voice of alarm from the faithful watchman! how cheering to be encouraged by the assurances of victory from him who knows the mind of the King of Zion, at a time when the battle rages with a tenfold fury! What an important character then is a watchman, and how appropriately is the term applied to the ministers of the gospel! Whilst the office is responsible in its own nature, we are led to observe,
II. That there is a relative importance belonging to this office, which depends on the place the watchman is called to fill. The relative importance of this sacred office may be supposed to be less where churches have long been planted. True, there will be assaults of a serious nature, and the enemies will vary their attack, so as to take advantage of every position maintained by the church in the field; but frequent and hard-fought battles give experience, exercise, courage, and make them skilful in the use of arms. The veteran soldier is quickly apprised of his danger, and put upon his guard. He also becomes an auxiliary to the regular watchman. The young Christian is not only aroused and encouraged by the voice of him who watches for souls, but he is ani
mated by the living example of those who have gone through the same conflict. The life of every true believer exemplifies the importance of a faithful watchman, gives a meaning to his language which even the thoughtless and ignorant can understand; and encourages the weak in the camp to face their enemies, and supports those whose hopes are ready to give way, because of the hard pressing of their dangerous foes. Hence where vital godliness has flourished for some time in a Christian community, the office of watchman becomes less dangerous and arduous, than in that body which has been newly delivered and separated from an host of deadly adversaries. In the former there are young men, and fathers as well as babes, but in the latter all are young, all are inexperienced. The yoke of bondage is newly broken from off their necks, and they have just escaped from the merciless grasp of enemies, and the thraldom of spiritual bondage, As God's freed men they come forth from their prison houses, they marshal themselyes under the banners of the Captain of Salvation. A restraint is laid upon their enemies for a season, and they march forward without much apprehension, of any serious attack. But when their enemies appear behind in a threatening posture, when difficulties apparently, insurmountable prevent their escape, from threatening destruction, their hearts fail, fear, takes hold upon them. Unaccustomed to war, every thing alarms them, even their own movements in the field are often mistaken for the advance of their ad-,
They are reads to speak of again rolin such a situa
versaries. Not even skilful in the use of the sword, the very clanking of the armour with which they are elad strikes terror into their souls. They have not forgotten the sound of the lash whilst the voice of their oppressors seems to thunder in their ears; every unusual noise deeply affects them, and every unlooked for difficulty in their way presses heavily on their minds. Not yet recovered from the effects of slavery, liberty is not sufficiently dear to their broken spirits. They are ready to give way to fretfulness, to unbelief, to murmuring, to speak of again returning to ignoble bondage. The watchman placed in such a situation, fills an office of very great difficulty and responsibility. He is called to warn them against faintheartedness, in what manner they must face the enemy, how to put on their armour, and also to encourage them to the fight. He must direct them when and how to take every advantage, and teach them to implore that gracious help from their great Captain which their distressing circumstances may require. How important then and weighty must that charge be that is committed to a watchman so situated!
What must be the natural consequences if an inexperienced watchman and leader be appointed by the church to such a charge ? or if the church should place inexperienced watchmen in such situations, where they must either cope with these and similar difficulties, or act a part unworthy of their character?
May we not ask these questions when we consider the principles apparently acted upon by the church?
She is chargeable with the consequences which would naturally follow from her negligence or inconsiderate choice of instruments, even though a gracious interposition should prevent any fatal or pernicious result.
This therefore ought to be a subject of grave importance and consideration to the church. To say that the Lord will raise up and qualify men for his work, does not remove the censure from the church of being careless, perhaps criminally so, of the peace and prosperity of her own children, and the extension of her borders. But if it be said, that the church is ready to welcome and employ those whose attainments, whose experience, in the divine life, and whose call clearly points them out to hazardous and arduous posts when they offer themselves, still in our esteem the charge of neglect is only shifted, not removed. It is to be feared, that a careful examination of her conduct in this particular will implicate her in the guilt of great neglect.
Does not the great Head of the church work by means in the dispensations of his grace and providence ? does not history as well as our own observation impress the mind with the conviction, that there has at all times been a suitableness in the means divinely appointed for the attainment of proposed ends ? Extraordinary departures from the regular or ordinary train of events were neither intended to encourage the neglect of the proper use of means, nor to be a rule to guide the church in forming her plans. The record of such extraordinary departures supports the hope, and strengthens the faith of those who mourn over the tardiness, the compromising spirit, of the church with the world. In this they are confident, that rather than a single gracious purpose shall fail of its accomplishment, our heavenly Father will in mercy humble his people for their neglect, advance their spiritual interests, and increase their number by unusual means. For what purpose have been extraordinary departures from the regular course, but to cope with extraordinary difficulties, or obtain some extraordinary end? The apostolic gifts ceased when the truth of Christ's resurrection was fully established by their testimony as competent witnesses, and when the new spiritual order was fully introduced and acknowledged in the church. The gifts of prophecy, of healing diseases, and of casting out devils, were imparted for a season with the design of exhibiting the manifold wisdom of God in the church, which ordinary means could not have effected. They were not bestowed to prevent the diligent use of means in the exercise of judgment and prudence.
At the reformation from popery, a departure from the ordinary means (though not to the same extent as in the apostolic age) is visible, because the church had been nearly swallowed up by the tide of corruption, which had broken down every mound reared up for her defence. Where, it may be asked, where was the body of the faithful that could raise up and direct the energies of such men as Luther, Zuinglius, Calvin, Knox, and other worthies! These were