The ministers of Christ, then, know their calling: it is high, difficult, dangerous; but most honorable. Earthen vessels as they are, to them is committed the precious treasure of the gospel. Each stands in his lot a prophet of God. Each is clothed with an office which Christ himself disdained not to wear. Each must look to his great Master, not only as the subject of his teaching, the source of his power, the judge of his conduct, the dispenser of his rewards, but likewise as the perfect exemplar and model to which, in all things, he is to strive to conform himself. According to his measure, he is to endeavor faithfully to teach as Christ taught. For a minister, then, to speak with authority, is something more and higher than a talent; it is a clear and solemn duty. To speak thus, not merely gives dignity and efficiency to the ambassador, it reflects honor on the Master that sent him, it brings instruction and edification to the people addressed by him. Although, then, my dear brethren, I am deeply and unaffectedly aware that I am myself deficient in that method of authoritative teaching which a minister of Christ ought to have; yet my sense of the deficiency may make me appreciate more highly the value of the gift. I have consequently hoped that some thoughts which have occurred to me, concerning a remedy for my own infirmity, may, not altogether without profit, be addressed to you; who, perhaps, in a lesser degree, have experienced a like deficiency. For this purpose, I have availed myself of the present occasion, when I have been requested by him that is set over us in the Lord, to offer you something in the way of exhortation or doctrine, concerning our common duties.
I am fully persuaded that there is no man who is heartily engaged in those duties, who has not, day by day, an ever growing sense of their arduousness, and of his own insufficiency for them. I pity that man who finds the ministry of the gospel easy. Never can it be easy to him that is faithful. He must be a witness against the people among whom he lives, and testify to them, privately and publicly, their sins. Many times he must assure them with all plainness that they are evil and have done exceedingly amiss, and deserve the deep and burning indignation of God. He must call them to forsake all that they naturally love, and to look for happiness to a Being they have never seen, and in a world they have never entered. To speak such words is easy, but to speak them with authority, so that they shall pierce, like a sword, the hearts of those we address, oh! how difficult! how rare! How, then, shall we have this authority? If you see any better method than that which I am about to suggest, I pray you communicate it to me, for, on this subject especially, I covet to be instructed. For my own part, I see no certain way, but to look into the sources of that power which the great Prophet of the Church, the exemplar and the model of all who come after him as teachers therein, ever exercised in speaking to men, to see how far these are open to us, and to reduce to practice what we find applicable to our own case.
We cannot fail to observe, then, in the first place, that one ground of that authority with which Christ ever spoke, was His own perfect knowledge that He was commissioned and empowered by God to proclaim His truths to man….
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