Upon a Debauched Minister
It is a truth, that would be questioned by some, and denied by others, that the function of a minister is formally executed by gifts, which or not made a effectual by his personal sanctity, but by the grace of God in the hearer.
That one may move morally, but it is the other which works efficaciously; and for any too conceived otherwise is a [mistake] of the Donatists [an ancient sect in the Christian church], who made the validity of ordinances wholly dependent on the real goodness of those with who administered them; which opinion, if it were true, it must necessarily follow, that there must be an absolute knowledge in the people of discerning unfeigned grace in the heart of the minister from all pretend and semblances and shows, or else what comfort can they have in the validity of his acts, while the suspicion abides up on them: that is, if he be not really holy, all that he can do is no other than nullity?
We must then distinguish between the grace of the gifts, which God bestows for the good of the church, and the gift of grace, which he gives for the good of the soul if him who is a partaker of it. By the one of these a man may become a minister; but without the conjunction of both he can never be a good minister.
Holiness then, as it is that which no man can be well without, so a minister least of all, it being the great and at his office to turn man from sin to God, I do draw man up from Earth, yea from the danger of hell to heaven: and should he not do what he teaches, and second his doctrine with his example, he must needs sin against his calling, which always heightens the notoriety of the fact.
No sins being so inexcusably sinful as those that are committed against men’s callings: Forrest Stewart to be a thief, for a position to be a murderer, for an ambassador trusted with the affairs of his prince to be a traitor, are crimes of greater infamy and them than in another.
How then can the impieties of a minister but be above all others, by so much the worst, how much is calling is above all others the best? What then can be more prodigious then for him, who should be gods mouth to the people, to have his tongue set on fire by hell, and not touched with a coal from the altar?
For him whom God hath honored with that high employment of winning souls, to be an accursed Apollyon and undoing and destroying them by his nefarious and impure living: if he that she’ll break the least commandment, and teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven, what then shall he be call to breaks the greatest commandment, and teaches men so? Surely I scarce know what to call him, who has have a minister thus transformed himself into a monster, he’s not a star in Christ’s right hand, but in the Dragon’s tale, which drew many from heaven and cast them down upon earth.
He is among the profits, the simian rightly called Niger, not for his complexion but for his conversation. He is in the house in temple of God, not as the priests which to bury the ark, but as the beasts which drew it and shook it. For, if the sins of any man do loosen and endanger the foundations of Christian religion, it is the wickedness of ministers, which makes many to question whether there be a heaven, a Hell, or a God.
And though it may possibly now and then fallout, that the seed of divine truth, like corn shown by a leprous hand, grow up into some fruit; yet how small is the good that is wrought by this doctrine to the great hurt that is done by the dissolute life of such a minister? It is likely that he, Who in the pulpit cleats for honor to be given to Christ person, obedience to be yielded to his precepts, face to be exercised to his promises, and when he is out of it gainsays all that he is spoken in his sensual practices, should win many disciples to Christ? Will he ever be much hearkened onto who decries drunkenness, swearing, wantonness, as the high roads and paths to destruction, and yet turns not his own feet from walking in them? Will it not be said unto to him, Physician heal thyself. O, thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thy own eye, and the shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.
But what ever the issue be, whether men harken or not harken, yet will the condition of such a minister be most sad in the great day: if he be instrumental in the saving of any, yet they shall be none of his crown or joy, nor in the least extenuate his misery, but aggravate it, in that he has been only to them as a standing statute, to point out the way to heaven, not a living companion to walk with them in it. How much will it augment his pains and anguish, when the blood of many misled and lost souls must fall upon his head, and he be condemned as the accursed murder of them? Oh that these few words my prick the hearts of such, who have worn the badge of God, and yet done the devils work who have been his servants by office, and his enemies by practice, that they might timely think about saving themselves and others.
Help me to do the office of a minister
and keep me from the punishment of a minister.
Pardon my inabilities in thy service,
and deliver me from scandalous sins.
Enable me to bear reproach for Christ
But never let me be a reproach to Christ
or his gospel.
Find the previous post in this series here