This was the first of Edwards' ordination sermons to be published (1743). It was delivered on the occasion of a new church plant near Edwards' church in what would become Southampton. The new pastor for the new church was a young Yale graduate named Jonathan Judd. The sermon offers a detailed overview of Edwards' view of the pastoral ministry. Many of Edwards' concerns with his own church experience at Northampton shine through—he would be dismissed as pastor within a few years. More background data on the sermon is found online at The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.
The original manuscript of the sermon was written neatly on good paper, beginning with double columns but then switching to single on page 17. It can be seen and studied online at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The first page is pictured here:
The published version was produced in Boston by Green, Bushell, and Allen in 1743. An online photo of the original title page was not located. However, according to The Jonathan Edwards Center, the title page contains the following:
The great Concern of A Watchman For Souls,
appearing in the Duty he has to do, and the
Account he has to give, represented & improved,
In A Sermon
Preach'd at the
Of the Reverend
Mr. Jonathan Judd,
To the Pastoral Office over the Church of Christ,
in the New Precinct at Northampton,
June 8. 1743.
By Jonathan Edwards, M.A.
Pastor of the first Church of Christ in Northampton.
Ezra 8:29 [quotation]
Boston, Printed by Green, Bushell, and Allen, for
N. Procter, at the Bible and Dove in Ann-Street,
near the Draw-Bridge. MDCCXLIII.
The entire sermon is reproduced below with minor aesthetic editing for an online environment.
The Great Concern Of A Watchman For Souls
Hebrews 13:17 They watch for your souls, as they that must give account.
After the Apostle had in this epistle particularly and largely insisted on the great doctrines of the gospel relating to the person, priesthood, sacrifice, exaltation and intercession of Christ, and the nature, privileges and benefits of the new dispensation of the covenant of grace, as answering to the types of the Old Testament; he improves all in the latter part of the epistle to enforce Christian duties and holy practice, as his manner is in most of his epistles. And after he had recommended other duties to the Christian Hebrews, in this verse he gives them counsel with regard to their duty towards those that were set over them in ecclesiastical authority: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves." By "them that had the rule over them," the Apostle means their ecclesiastical rulers, and particularly their ministers or pastors that preached the word of God to them; as is evident by Hebrews 13:7, "Remember them that have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God"; and also by the words of the text, that immediately follow in the same verse, in which the employment of those that have the rule over them, that they are to obey and submit to, is represented.
Concerning which may be observed,
1. What it was their pastors were conversant about, in the employment they were charged with, viz. the souls of men. The employments that many others were engaged in were about the bodies of men; so it is with almost all the particular callings that mankind do follow; they are in one respect or other to provide for men's bodies, or to further their temporal interests, as the business of husbandmen, sailors, merchants, physicians, attorneys, and civil officers and rulers, and the innumerable trades and mechanical arts that are practiced and pursued by the children of men. But the work of the ministry is about the soul, that part of man that is immortal, and made and designed for a state of inconceivable blessedness, or extreme and unutterable torments, throughout all eternity, and therefore infinitely precious; and is that part of man in which the great distinction lies between man and all the other innumerable kinds of creatures in this lower world, and by which he is vastly dignified above them: 'tis such beings as these that the work of the ministry is immediately conversant about.
2. How ministers in the business they have to attend are to be employed about men's souls: they are to "watch for them"; which implies that they are committed to their care to keep, that they may be so taken care of that they may not be lost, but eternally saved.
3. A grand argument to induce and oblige them to faithfulness in this employment: they "must give account"; i.e. they must give an account to him that committed those souls to their care, of the souls they were be-trusted with, and of the care they have taken of them.
Therefore, that we may the better understand the nature of that work of a minister of the gospel and pastor of a church, and the grand inducement to faithfulness in it, spoken of in the text, and know the better what improvement we ought to make of these things, I would,
I. Show that ministers of the gospel have the souls of men committed to their care by the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. I would show to what purpose Christ thus commits the precious souls of men to the care of ministers.
III. That the way in which Christ expects that ministers should seek that these purposes may be obtained, with respect to the souls committed to them, is by watching for them.
IV. I would observe, how when the time of their employment is at an end, they must give an account to him that committed the care of these souls unto them.
And then make Application of the whole.
I. Ministers of the gospel have the precious and immortal souls of men committed to their care and trust by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The souls of men are his; he is the creator of them: God created all things by Jesus Christ. He created not only the material world, but also those things that are immaterial and invisible, as angels and the souls of men. Colossians 1:16, "For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible; whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were created by him and for him."
God is the creator of men in both soul and body; but their souls are in a special and more immediate manner his workmanship, wherein less use is made of second causes, instruments or means, or any thing preexistent. The bodies of men, though they are indeed God's work, yet they are formed by him in a way of propagation from their natural parents, and the substance of which they are constituted is matter that was preexistent; but the souls of men are by God's immediate creation and infusion, being in no part communicated from earthly parents, nor formed out of any matter or principles existing before.
The Apostle observes the difference, and speaks of earthly fathers as being "fathers of our flesh," or our bodies only, but of God as being the "Father of our spirits." Hebrews 12:9, "Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?" Therefore God is once and again called "the God of the spirits of all flesh," Numbers 16:22 and Numbers 27:16. And in Ecclesiastes 12:7, God is represented as having immediately given or implanted the soul, as in that respect differing from the body, that is of preexistent matter; "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." And 'tis mentioned in Zechariah 12:1, as one of God's glorious prerogatives, that he is "he that formeth the spirit of man within him."
And indeed the soul of man is by far the greatest and most glorious piece of divine workmanship, of all the creatures on this lower creation. And therefore it was the more meet that, however second causes should be improved in the production of meaner creatures; yet this, which is the chief and most noble of all, and the crown and end of all the rest, should be reserved to be the more immediate work of God's own hands, and display of his power, and to be communicated directly from him, without the intervention of instruments, or honoring second causes so much as to improve them in bringing to pass so noble an effect.
'Tis observable that even in the first creation of man, when his body was formed immediately by God, not in a course of nature or in the way of natural propagation; yet the soul is represented as being in a higher, more direct and immediate manner from God, and so communicated that God did therein as it were communicate something of himself: "The Lord God formed man" (i.e. his body) "of the dust of the ground" (a mean and vile original), "and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (whereby something was communicated from an infinitely higher source, even God's own living spirit or divine vital fullness), "and so man became a living soul" [Genesis 2:7].
The souls of men being thus in a special manner from God, God is represented as having a special propriety in them: Ezekiel 18:4, "Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine."
And as the souls of men are more directly from God, by the more special and immediate exercise of his divine power as a creator, and are what he challenges as his by a special propriety, and are the most noble part of the lower creation, and are infinitely distinguished from all other creatures here below in that they are immortal beings; so they are, above all other creatures which God hath made in this world, the subjects of God's care and special providence.
Divines are wont to distinguish between God's common and special providence. His common providence is that which he exercises towards all his creatures, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate, in preserving them, and disposing of them by his mighty power, and according to his sovereign pleasure. His special providence is that which he exercises towards his intelligent rational creatures, as moral agents; of which sort are mankind alone, of all the innumerable kinds of creatures in this lower world: and in a special manner the souls of men; for in them only is immediately seated reason and intelligence, and a capacity of moral agency; and therefore they in a peculiar manner are the subjects of God's special providence that he exercises in this lower world.
And 'tis to be observed that God's common providence is subordinated to his special providence; and all things in this world are governed and disposed of in subordination to the great ends God has to obtain with respect to the souls of men. And it is further to be observed that as the creation of the world was committed to the Son of God by the Father, so is the government of it; and in a peculiar manner the affairs of God's special providence, are left in his hands; and so the souls of men, that are the peculiar subjects of this special providence are committed to his care; and more especially such souls as are of Christ's visible kingdom or church, which is often in Scripture represented as the field and vineyard that he is the owner of and has taken the care of. And what Christ's value is for men's souls appears by what he has done and suffered for them.
But these souls that Christ has made, and that are committed into his hands of the Father, and that are so precious in his account, he commits to the care of ministers. There is a certain order of men that are so dignified and honored by him, as to have so great a trust reposed in them. He as it were brings those souls as an infinitely precious treasure, and commits 'em to them to take care of; as a prince commits his treasure, his jewels, and most precious things into the hands of one of the dignified servants of his household; or as the father of a family, when he goes a journey into a far country, leaves his family to the care of a steward.
I come now in the
II. [Second] place, to inquire, To what purpose Christ commits the precious souls of men to the care of ministers.
I answer in two things:
First. He commits men's souls to ministers to keep and take care of them for him, that by their means they may answer their end in glorifying him. God has made all things for himself, he has created them for his glory; but more especially those creatures that he has endued with understanding; as he has done the souls of men. It is by them that God has his glory from all his creatures, as they are the eye of the creation to behold the glory of God manifested in the other creatures, and the mouth of the creation to praise him and ascribe to him the glory that is displayed in them. The other creatures glorify God passively and eventually, as God glorifies himself in them, as they are the subjects of the exercise of his power and wisdom in their creation and preservation, and in those events that are brought to pass in his disposal of them. Thus God glorifies himself in his works that are manifest in the irrational and inanimate creation, in the view of his rational creatures that he has made capable of beholding and admiring them, and adoring, loving and praising him for them. But they only are capable of glorifying him actively and immediately; therefore all the other creatures do as it were bring their tribute of glory to them, through their hands, to be offered to their Creator. And therefore the souls of men are beings that, with regard to the glory of God the great end of all things, are of immensely greater importance than all other creatures in this lower world.
But these, with respect to this their great end, are committed to the care and keeping of ministers. And therefore Christ has furnished them with proper means to bring them to this end. He has given 'em all needful instructions; they have a perfect Rule and Directory to guide them in this great affair; and has enjoined them the duties they are to perform in their office in every particular, and the manner in which they are to perform these duties, in the charge which he has left them; and has furnished them with all needful helps for the instruction of those souls that are committed to them, to lead 'em to answer their great end, in duly glorifying their Creator, and all proper means for the exciting and engaging them to attend to, and follow those instructions, as also means for their help and assistance in it, that they may do it the more easily and effectually.
Second. They are committed to their care and keeping that they may not be eternally lost, but may have everlasting life. These souls, as I observed before, are immortal and made for eternity; and they are set in this world between two opposite eternal states, the one a state of exceeding and eternal glory and blessedness, the other a state of unutterable and unalterable misery. And as they are by nature they are liable to either; by their original guilt and corruption they are exposed to perish forever, in total and perfect destruction and misery. But Christ, from his knowledge of the infinite worth of souls, and his great compassion and love to 'em, has, by his own precious blood, made way for their escape, and at this infinite expense, has procured unspeakable exaltation and perfect blessedness for them in heaven to all eternity; which by this means they have opportunity to obtain. But yet it remains uncertain what will become of them, till Christ's redemption be applied to them, or they are actually cast into hell. There is an opportunity given, a time of probation, till the great and unalterable event shall determine one way or the other.
In the meantime there is a space for the use of means, and the exercise of care, prudence and diligence for our own souls and the souls of others; that they may not fail of the grace of God, but may escape that infinitely dreadful destruction that they are naturally in danger of, and may indeed obtain that infinite privilege of eternal life, that is offered through the purchase of Jesus Christ. And now in this grand affair, and to this great purpose of an escape from eternal misery, and the obtaining everlasting glory, Christ has committed the precious souls of men to the care of ministers; that by their means they may have the benefit of his redemption, and might obtain that which he has suffered so much to procure. Christ knew that notwithstanding all that he had done to procure life for souls, they would need much care to be taken of them, and many means to be used with them, in order to their being indeed preserved from eternally perishing, and actually brought to the possession of life. And therefore he has appointed a certain order of men, whose whole business it might be to take care of immortal souls; and into their hands has committed these souls, and has betrusted them with the ordinances of his house, and means that he has provided for their salvation; that nothing might be wanting that they need for their furniture for this great business; he has as it were committed to them his goods, and has given them in some respects the keys of his stores and treasury; to them are committed the oracles of God and treasure of the gospel.
2 Corinthians 4:7, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." And 2 Corinthians 5:18–19, "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ; and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation, to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed to us the word of reconciliation."
And as the Word of God, so the sacraments that he has appointed, and the discipline of his house, he has committed to them, to be administered by them; and has subjected the souls themselves that they have the care of to them, as far as is necessary to put them under the greatest advantage effectually to care for their salvation, and has left a charge to their people to obey them and submit themselves, as in the verse of my text.
I now proceed
III. To observe, That the way in which he who has committed souls to ministers, expects they should seek that these purposes may be obtained with respect to them, is by watching for them.
Though great things have been done by Christ to make way for the salvation of those precious souls, and although Christ has furnished ministers with all proper means to keep them; yet they are in such circumstances in this world, that there is need of the exercise of great watchfulness, and the utmost care and diligence, in those that have the care of them, to prevent their being lost: for they are in the midst of snares, and encompassed round with dangers on every side; they are in the enemies' country, where there are multitudes everywhere that are strong and subtle and exceeding bloodthirsty and cruel, that are indefatigably, day and night, seeking the destruction of these souls.
If a prince should commit some great treasure, consisting of most precious jewels, to the care of a subject, to keep for him, and carry through an enemy's country, and bring home safe to his palace, and knew that the enemies by the way would be sensible that the treasure was committed to him, and would be aware of the great value of it, and therefore would be exceeding greedy of it, and incessant in their endeavors to get it from him; would not the prince expect that he, with whom he had entrusted this treasure, should use great care in keeping it? Would he be esteemed faithful to his trust, in the care of so great a treasure, and in such circumstances, without keeping up a continual watch?
They that have the care of a city in time of war, and especially at a time when the city is encompassed by enemies that lay siege to it, are wont, if faithful, to maintain incessant vigilance to defend it. The watchmen of the city in such a case had need to watch strictly, for they have the care of the lives of men. Ministers are from time to time represented in Scripture as the watchmen that have the care of the city of God; as Canticles 3:3 and Canticles 5:7; Isaiah 52:8 and Isaiah 62:6, and in other places. These watchmen han't only the care of the lives of men's bodies, but of their souls, which are infinitely more precious. 'Tis expected of them that they should behave themselves as those that both kept and built the city of Jerusalem, in Nehemiah's time, while they were continually observed by malicious and subtle enemies, that diligently sought by all means to circumvent them, and to destroy the city and people; who with one hand wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon; holding spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared; and had a trumpet always at hand to sound, to give warning of any appearing danger, and did not put off their clothes, nor lay up their weapons, day nor night, Nehemiah 4, from the Nehemiah 4:16–23.
Ministers are appointed to be shepherds over Christ's flock; and he commits his flock to their care to keep 'em and lead 'em through a great and howling wilderness, full of hungry wolves and roaring lions. And is there not need of a strict and constant watch in the shepherds in such a case, as they would preserve the lives of the sheep, and lead 'em to the land of their rest?
I come now to the
IV. [Fourth] and last thing in the doctrinal handling of the text, viz. That ministers hereafter must give account to him that committed men's precious souls to their care.
Christ's committing souls to ministers' care and charge, and betrusting them with them as servants or stewards, necessarily supposes them to be accountable to their master with respect to the charge committed to them.
He that has a treasure committed to him by the owner, and takes the care and charge of it, not as his own possession, but only to improve or keep for an appointed time, for him to whom the proper possession belongs, must return that treasure to the owner when his time is out, and is accountable to him how he has fulfilled that which he undertook; and if any precious jewel be missing, he must give an account of it. So must ministers give an account of the souls committed to their care.
The office and work of ministers is not to last always; their care of souls is but for a limited season; and when that is expired, they must return to their master to give an account.
After what manner they must be called to an account, may be shown in these two things:
First. The event of things with regard to the souls committed to them will be inquired into. As there are so many precious souls committed to their care by Christ, so hereafter it will be inquired what is become of those souls. As if a person has a number of precious jewels committed to him to keep; when the time of his betrustment is out, and he comes to return the entrusted treasure, the state of it will be examined, that it may be seen whether any jewel be lacking or not; and if any be missing, an account must be given what is become of it. The charge of a minister is in Scripture represented by that of a steward, to whom the householder, when going into a far country, commits his goods, and when he returns, expects that the steward should give an account of his stewardship. In such a case the householder looks into the state of his goods that he left behind under the steward's care. The master in the parable, Matthew 25:14, etc., when he returns from his journey, has his goods, that he committed to the care of his servants, brought forth and laid before him.
Second. It will be inquired how far the event that shall be found, with regard to souls committed to them, was owning to their faithfulness or unfaithfulness in that care and watch that was appointed them. If any precious soul be found lacking, it will be inquired how this comes to pass: they must give an account what they have done with this and that soul that is missing, whether they were lost through their neglect or no: they must give an account what care they have taken, and what diligence they have used, and whether or no they can wash their hands from guilt with respect to them: it shall be examined by an eye that is as a flame of fire, whether the blood of the souls that are lost is not indeed to be found in their skirts. We find in the parable of the great supper, that the servants that are sent out to invite guests, return from time to time to their master to give him an account both of the event in their success with respect to some that they were sent to, and unsuccessfulness with regard to others; and also of their own doings and faithfulness, whereby they are clear of the guilt of their unsuccessfulness, and are commended to the gracious reward of their success (Luke 14:20–21). I now come to the
In which I shall only address myself to those who are principally concerned in the great and solemn affair of this day, viz. to him who is now solemnly to be set apart to the work of the ministry in this place, and to those whose souls are to be committed to his care.
I. I would apply myself to you, dear sir, to whose care the great Redeemer and Head of the church is this day committing a number of precious souls in this place. I beseech you now to suffer the word of exhortation on this solemn occasion. Suffer me to put you in mind how great the person is, with whom you are immediately and chiefly concerned in the affair of this day; even the great Shepherd of the sheep, and glorious Lord of heaven and earth, who is to be your and our judge.
You present yourself this day before him to receive at his hands a sacred depositum, a great treasure, a number of souls that are to exist throughout all eternity, each one of which is infinitely more precious than all the precious gems that the earth affords. And I beseech you to consider to how great a purpose he is about to commit them to your care and keeping; it is that they, by means of your faithful care and watchfulness, may be saved with an everlasting salvation. You may judge how much Christ will insist upon it that you should exercise great diligence and strictness in the care you take of them, by the value he himself has manifested of the souls of men, by what he has done and suffered for them: he has shown how precious he has judged immortal souls to be, in that he, though a person of infinite glory, did not think his own blood, his life, his soul, too precious to be offered up as a price for them to redeem them, that they might obtain that salvation in order to which he now is about to commit a number of them to your care, and to betrust you with the means that he has provided for that end; committing to you his holy oracles, and the food of his house, which is his own body and blood, that therewith you might feed these souls; and in some sense committing to you the keys of his stores and treasures, that you might supply and enrich them, and be a means of their eternal wealth and glory.
Consider, dear sir, how great an honor he does you whom God the Father hath made Head of the whole universe, and Lord of all things to the church; that after he has provided for the salvation of souls by his dying pains and precious blood, and the Father has committed to him all power in heaven and earth, that he might actually bestow eternal life on them that he died for; he should call you to be a co-worker with him, and should commit precious souls to your care, that you might be the instrument of bringing them home to him, and bringing that to pass with respect to them, for which his soul travailed in the agonies of death, and in ineffable conflicts with the dreadful wrath of God. You are now about to receive the precious treasure at his Hands, which you are to keep for him: you present yourself here before the Lord for this end, that you may as it were reach forth your hand and take this great depositum, with solemn vow diligently and faithfully to keep it, and devote yourself to that service; so that if it be possible for you to prevent it, no one of those infinitely precious jewels may be lost, but that you may return them all safe to him from whose hands you receive them.
Consider the example of your glorious Lord and Master. There was a number of the souls of men committed by the Father into his hands, that he might take care for their salvation. And after what manner did he execute his office? How did he lay out himself for the salvation of those souls? What great things did he do? And what great things did he suffer? How hard was the labor he went through? And how greatly did he deny himself? How did this great Shepherd of the sheep behave himself when he saw the wolf coming to destroy the sheep? He did not flee to save his own life, and so leave the sheep to become a prey; but from pity and love to the sheep, interposed himself between them and their enemy, stood between them and harm, and encountered the wolf, and in the conflict gave his own life to save theirs, John 10:11–15. We read of Christ's travailing for souls, Isaiah 53:10–11, "It pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief. When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed…. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." And how did he travail for this seed of his? Look into the garden of Gethsemane, and there behold him lying on the earth, with his body covered over with clotted blood, falling down in lumps to the ground, with his soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and offering up strong crying and tears together with his blood: and look to the cross, where he endured yet far more extreme agonies, and drank up the bitter cup of God's wrath, and shed the remainder of his blood, lingeringly drained out through his tortured hands and feet, and extravasated out of his broken heart into his bowels, and there turned into blood and water, through the vehement fermentation occasioned by the weight of grief and extremity of agony of soul, under which he cried out with that loud and lamentable and repeated cry. Thus he travailed in birth with his seed; thus he labored and suffered for the salvation of those souls that the Father had committed to him. This is the example of the great Shepherd. And though it is not required of under-shepherds that they should endure sufferings of such a degree or nature; for Christ has suffered them to that end, that both ministers and people might escape them; yet surely he expects that, as they would approve themselves as his disciples and followers and co-workers with him in seeking the salvation of the same souls, they should not be backward to go through any labors or sufferings which may be requisite in them, in order to their most effectually promoting the great end of his sufferings, with regard to the souls that he has committed to them.
And as you, dear sir, are to stand in Christ's stead towards this people, and to act as his ambassador; should you not show the like spirit, the like love to souls, and imitate him in his readiness to labor and deny yourself and suffer, yea to spend and be spent for them? Like the blessed Apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:15.
The case with you, sir, is as if the head of a family, that was a great prince, with a number of children in a strange land, when going home to receive a kingdom, should leave his children behind him, and commit them to the care of a servant, safely to conduct them through a dangerous wilderness, and bring 'em home to him; in which case, he has their health and lives committed to his care, as well as their future glory in his kingdom. With what care and watchfulness would it be expected of a servant that he should execute his office in such a case! And surely if he fails of being thoroughly careful and watchful, after he has taken upon him so great a charge, and any sad disaster should be the consequence of his unfaithfulness; it will most justly be required of him that he should answer it, and he will inexcusably fall under his master's heaviest displeasure.
And suffer me, sir, to put you in mind of the account you must give to your master of these souls he seems this day to be about to commit to you: you are to watch for these souls as one that must give account. If any one of these souls should be missing hereafter, having been lost under your ministry, it will be demanded of you another day, by your great Lord, "What is become of such a soul? Here are not all the souls that I committed to you to bring home to me; there is such an one missing. What is become of it? Has it perished through your neglect!" If you are able to say at that time, "Lord, it was not through my neglect; I have done what in me lay for his salvation; I ceased not to warn and counsel and reprove him, and faithfully set before him his danger, and have not forborne to declare thy whole counsel to him; I have not neglected this and other souls that thou didst commit to me, to gratify my sloth, or pursue my worldly interest; I have given myself wholly to this work, laboring therein night and day; I have been ready, Lord, as thou knowest, to sacrifice my own ease, and profit, and pleasure, and temporal convenience, and the good will of my neighbors, for the sake of the good of the souls I had the charge of; I have not led this soul into any snare by my ill example; I have neglected no means of thine appointment, either public or private, to turn him from sin to God; I sought out acceptable words, and studied for the most likely means to be used for his saving good; but he would not hearken, but turned a deaf ear; under all was stupid and obstinate, and went on carelessly and frowardly in the imagination of his heart." If you are able to say in like manner as Christ did to the Father, with respect to the souls that were committed to him; "those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition" [John 17:12]; you will be able to hold up your head with comfort before your Judge, your account will be accepted, you shall be acquitted, and your unsuccessful faithfulness shall be rewarded.
But if when it shall be demanded of you, "What is become of such and such souls?" You shall be dumb, having nothing to say, your conscience flying in your face, and it shall appear that it has been much owing to your unfaithfulness; O how amazing will your case be! What confusion and astonishment will fill your soul before your great Master and Judge! And remember that the blood of such souls will be required at your hand, Ezekiel 33:6.
And suffer me, dear brother, to tell you, that you must another day meet these souls that you are now going to take the charge of, before the judgment seat of Christ; and if by means of your faithfulness towards them, in your work, you shall meet them at the right hand of Christ in glory, how joyful a meeting will it be to you! They will be indeed your crown of rejoicing in that day. But if you behold 'em with devils at the left hand, in horror and despair, your conscience accusing you of unfaithfulness towards them, and it appears that they are lost through your neglect, how amazing will the sight of 'em be to you!
Your Master and mine is this day calling me to resign the pastoral care of a number of souls into your hands, that have hitherto been committed to my care. 'Tis with cheerfulness that I can now resign 'em to the care of one, concerning whom I can have so much hope that he will be faithful in his care of them. May the Lord of the Harvest enable you to discharge your duty towards them more faithfully than I have done, and make you a far greater blessing to them; and may you come with them at the day of judgment before Christ with exceeding joy, and in robes of glory, and say then as Christ himself will say to the Father, when he shall come with all the souls that were given him of the Father, and present them before him in perfect glory, "Here am I, and the children which thou hast given me."
II. I would apply myself to those whose souls are now about to be committed to the care of that servant of Christ that is now to be ordained to the pastoral office in this place.
Beloved brethren, and dear children, 'tis your immortal souls that is the precious treasure that the great creator and savior of souls seems now to be about to commit to the care of him whom you have chosen to be your pastor. And indeed it is a great charge, an high betrustment; and he ought to use his utmost care and diligence that you may not be eternally lost. But if your pastor should exercise such care that you may be saved, surely you ought to take care for the salvation of your own souls. It nearly concerns him that you should be saved; but much more nearly does it concern you. Let your minister be never so careful and watchful, if you take no care for yourselves, his faithfulness and diligence will signify nothing, unless it be to harden you, and aggravate your damnation. In such a case, the more care and pains he takes for your salvation, the greater will your eternal misery be: for all will be only a savor of death unto death. Those people are like to sink the deepest into hell hereafter, that go to hell from under the care of the most faithful ministers, that have taken the most pains to save 'em from going to hell. The preciousness of your souls has now been made use of as an argument with your chosen pastor to take care for your salvation; but much more may it be used as an argument with you to seek your own salvation; for therein lies the preciousness of your souls, in their being of infinite worth to yourselves, appearing in the infinite loss you will sustain if they are lost, and your infinite gain if they are saved; herein lies that preciousness of the soul that Christ speaks of, Matthew 16:26, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
'Tis not only your minister that is concerned in the work that he is to perform among you, but you also are infinitely concerned in it. And it is not only he, but you also that are infinitely concerned in the account that he has to give of the discharge of his office among you. You must all of you hereafter meet your minister before the judgment seat of Christ; and if then it shall be found that he has been faithful, and that you have made an ill improvement of his ministry, and so failed of the grace of God, the sight of the devil won't be so terrible to you at that day as the sight of your minister; for he'll rise up in judgment against you, and your pastor that above all other persons in the world, excepting yourselves, is concerned to endeavor your salvation, will then above all other persons appear against you before the Judge to witness against you and condemn you. But how joyful will it be to you, as well as to him, if he renders his account with joy, for these reasons, that he has been both faithful and successful with respect to you, and appears with you in glory at the right hand of Christ, and has to say to the great Judge concerning himself and you, "Here am I, and the children which thou hast given me!" What a joyful meeting of minister and people will there be! And how will you be each others' crown of rejoicing! But if your souls perish, you will be present when it shall be required by Jesus Christ of your minister to give an account of such and such souls that are lost, which were committed to his care; and how dreadful will it be to you, if you shall then hear him boldly and truly say before the Judge, "Lord, thou knowest that I have sincerely and faithfully endeavored their salvation, I have not been slack or negligent towards them, I have earnestly watched for their souls, and diligently and unweariedly used all the means with them that thou didst appoint; they perished not through my neglect, but through their own obstinate negligence and wickedness!"
In such a case your minister will be acquitted and justified, but you will be condemned with a most aggravated condemnation, and your blood will be upon your own head. Ezekiel 33:2–4, "Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, when I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts and set him for their watchman, if when he see the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet and warn the people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning, if the sword come and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head." The good account your minister has to give of his own faithfulness, will incense the displeasure of the Judge towards you. Luke 14:21, "So the servant came and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry, said to his servant, Go out quickly," etc.
And if you would have the account your minister shall have to give concerning you to be profitable and joyful to you, don't neglect your duty towards him; endeavor by all means in your power to put him under the best advantage for serviceableness and success among you. Do what in you lies to encourage his heart and strengthen his hands. This I know to be a thing of vast importance, as you would have your pastor a blessing to you, and the successful instrument of the salvation of your souls and the souls of your children. Therefore suffer me to be a little particular with you upon this head. I may be the more bold towards you as you hitherto have been of the flock that Christ has committed to my care, and I hope some of you my spiritual children; therefore as my beloved children I counsel and warn you.
If you would meet your minister with comfort another day, don't neglect doing what belongs to you comfortably to support him, so as to enable him to attend on his great work without distraction, and to give himself wholly to the business of seeking and promoting the eternal welfare and happiness of you and your children; without being disheartened by the difficulties and indigencies of straitened circumstances, or being diverted by exercising care, and taken off by involving himself in worldly business for his necessary support. While we are in the body our heavenly Father knows that we have need of these things, and the way that he hath provided for ministers' supply, is by their partaking of the temporal good things of the people to whom they minister spiritual things. 1 Corinthians 9:4, etc.,
Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife?…Have we not power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope, and that he that thresheth in hope, should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?…Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple? and they that wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
1 Timothy 5:17–18, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor; especially they who labor in word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward." 2 Timothy 2:6, "The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits." Galatians 6:6, "Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth in all good things." Christ would not have ministers' time and thoughts taken up about providing temporal good things for their own support, but would have them wholly provided for by their people. Matthew 10:9–10, "Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats apiece, neither shoes, nor yet staves; for the workman is worthy of his meat." Agreeable to these directions he gave the twelve apostles, are the directions he gave the seventy, when he sent them out. Luke 10:7, "In the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give; for the laborer is worthy of his hire."
You see what great care Christ has taken in this matter, and how full and abundant the Scripture is in commands and directions concerning the support of ministers.
I know you are small, and in your new beginnings in this place, and not so able as many other congregations. But if we may give credit to the Word of God, for you well and comfortably to support your pastor, is not the way to be poorer. Proverbs 3:9–10, "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." To give to the Lord is not the way to be poor, but the way to be supplied by the Lord. Christ now is not personally, and in his human nature, here upon earth, to be supported by temporal good things from his disciples, as once he was. But though he be now gone from hence into a far country, yet he has not left his disciples without opportunity, in this way of showing their love to him; for there are two sorts of persons that he has appointed to be his receivers, viz. his indigent members, and his ministers. As of old God appointed the poor and the Levite to receive the tithes and other offerings that were made to the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 16:14, Deuteronomy 14:28–29, and Deuteronomy 26:10–12). What is given to ministers is a sacrifice to God; so the Apostle represents what was sent to him for his supply from the Philippians; Philippians 4:18, "Having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." And Christ when he sent forth his disciples to preach, and had directed that they should take no provision for themselves, because the laborer is worthy of his reward, he says, Matthew 10:40, "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me."
And since what is given to your pastor is given to Christ, you may be assured that you can't consult your own temporal, as well as spiritual interest better, than by liberally supplying of him; for he that lendeth to the Lord shall be repaid again with large interest. And as to your ability, if there be but a cheerful, ready mind, the greatest difficulty is got over; if you find this, there is no doubt but that God will make the duty of supporting your minister in other respects easy to you. God loves a willing offering, and a cheerful giver; if you will do your part in opening your hearts and hands, God will do his part in finding you wherewithal. But if a people grudge what they do, are always full of fears how they shall pay their rates, and excessively cautious lest they should run themselves into difficulty, and straiten themselves and families by giving to Christ, no wonder it proves difficult; 'tis the way to meet with nothing else but difficulties in their outward circumstances; for "there is that scattereth, and yet encreaseth; but to withhold more than is meet, tends only to poverty" (Proverbs 11:24).
The Jews in the days of the prophet Haggai were few in number, and were under difficult and straitened circumstances; and they made it an excuse why they should not be at the expense that was requisite in order to build the house of God, and set up his worship; and so for a time neglected it. And in the meantime none of their affairs prospered; "they sowed much, and brought in little; they eat, but they had not enough; they drank, but were not filled with drink; they clothed them, but there was none warm; and he that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes They looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and the heaven was stayed from dew, and the earth was stayed from her fruit" (Haggai 1:6, Haggai 1:9–10). So in the days of the prophet Malachi it was a time of scarcity, and the people thought themselves thereby excused from paying tithes for the support of the Levites, and so robbed God of his due; but got nothing by it, but "God cursed them with a curse"; they made that scarcity and want the excuse for their backwardness to support God's ministers, which was its punishment; and God tells them by the Prophet that if they would cheerfully do their duty in that respect it would be a sure way to have their wants plentifully supplied. Malachi 3:9–10, "Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." What can God say more to encourage a people cheerfully to run the venture of expending what is necessary for the comfortable and honorable support of the ministry?
And here let me warn you in particular, that you don't only do pretty well by your minister for a while at first, while the relation between you and him is a new thing, and then afterwards, when your minister's necessities are increased, begin to fail, as it too frequently happens.
Some may be ready to say, "'Tis no wonder ministers should be forward to urge such a duty as this, wherein their own temporal interest is so much concerned; a covetous disposition will make 'em love to harp upon this string." I have not been much in insisting on this duty in my own pulpit, where it would especially concern my temporal interest; and blessed be God that I have had no more occasion. But whatever any may judge of the secrets of my heart, with regard to the principles that I have been influenced by, in what I have now said; it is enough for you to whom I have spoke it, that I have demonstrated that what I have delivered is the mind of God; and also (if there be any truth in his Word) that what I have recommended is not only for the temporal interest of your minister, but also for your own both temporal and spiritual interest.
Another article of advice that I would give you, is, to beware that you don't weaken your minister's hands, and wound yourselves by contention. You are but a small people, and you'll be a very foolish people indeed if you are divided against yourselves. Contention among a people hinders all manner of comfort and prosperity either of soul or body; it makes 'em a torment to themselves and one another; it puts 'em every way under disadvantages, and weakens the whole body like a consumption.
There are two sorts of contention I would warn you against,
First. Avoid contention among yourselves about your own temporal affairs. This will exceedingly tend to render a minister's labors ineffectual; and it is what greatly damps the spirit and discourages the heart of a minister, to see his people divided into parties, and envying one another, and entertaining mutual prejudices, jealousies and grudges, and so backbiting and reproaching one another, and carrying on secret plots and designs one against another.
Second. Avoid quarreling with your minister in matters of church discipline. This is a common thing, but a most unchristian thing, and tends greatly to weaken the hands of a minister in the whole of his work, and render all to no purpose. The exercise of the discipline of God's house is the most difficult part of that great work that a minister has to do; and it becomes a Christian people to their utmost to strengthen their minister's hands in this difficult business, and say as the people said to Ezra the priest, with respect to the affair of purging the church of Israel from the scandal of those that had married strange wives, Ezra 10:4, "Arise; for this matter belongeth to thee; we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it."
To conclude, if you would have your minister successful among you, and a blessing to you, and if you would be a happy people, then love one another and love your minister. There are some professors, in some of our towns, that are anti-ministerial men; they seem to have a disposition to dislike men of that order; they are apt to be prejudiced against them, and to be suspicious of them, and talk against them; and it seems to be as it were natural to 'em to be unfriendly and unkind towards their own ministers, and to make difficulty for them. But I don't believe there is a true Christian on earth that is of this character; on the contrary the feet of them that bring good tidings, and publish the gospel of salvation are beautiful in the eyes of all the true children of Zion; and everyone that receives Christ, and whose heart is governed by a supreme love to him, has a disposition to receive, love and honor his messengers. It was the distinguishing mark by which God manifested the person he had chosen to be the wife of Isaac, that type of Christ, that it was the damsel that should give kind and friendly entertainment to Abraham's servant or steward that was sent to espouse her and bring her home to Isaac; and therein was a type of the gospel ministry, Genesis 24:14, etc. See to it that you thus entertain the steward of the house of God that comes on this blessed errand to you.
If you and your minister thus live in peace, it will be the way for you to be a happy society, to flourish and prosper with all manner of prosperity, to have Christ dwelling among you; and for things to be brought to so blessed an event at last, as that he that is the great Shepherd of the Sheep, that purchased the souls of men with his blood, and your pastor that has the care of your souls committed to him, and yourselves and children, all should rejoice together in another world, agreeable to John 4:36, "And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together."