The Character and Work of a Spiritual
February 13, 1791
At the ORDINATION of the
Rev. Reuben Parmerlee
By Lemuel Haynes
Pastor of a Church in Rutland
Printed by Collier and Beul
For they watch over your souls as they that must give account
Nothing is more evidence, than that men are prejudiced against the gospel. It is from this source that those who are for the defense of it meet with so much contempt. It is true, they are frail, sinful dust and ashes in common with other men; yet on account of the important embassy with which they are entrusted, it is agreeable to the unerring dictates of inspiration to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. 1 Thess. v. 13.
To illustrate this sentiment was the design of the Apostle of this verse, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourself.” He was far from inculcating anything that might seem to confront what the Apostle Peter has enjoined, 1 Pet. v. 3. Neither as being lords over God’s heritage. The word signifies to lead, guide or direct.
Our text contains an important motive to excite to attention and respect that is due to the ministers of Christ on account of their relation to him; and that is the aspect of their work has to Judgement Day: For they watch for your souls, as they that must quickly give account. They are amenable to their great Lord and Master for every sermon they preach, and must give an account of the reception they and their work meet with among their hearers.
Under the influence of such a thought, let us take notice to a few things, supposed by the work, assigned to ministers in the text. — Say something with respect to their character — Whence it appears that they must give account. — When they must be said to be properly influenced by such considerations.
I. There are Several Ideas Suggested by the Work Assigned to Gospel Ministers in the Text: Which is to Watch for Souls. This Supposes
1. That the goal is of vast importance, else why so much attention paid to it, as to have a guard to inspect it? All those injunctions which we find interspersed through the sacred pages to watchmen to be faithful are so many evidences of the worth of men’s souls. What renders them so valuable is the important relation they stand in to their Maker.
The perfections of the Deity are more illustrated in the redemption of fallen men, than they would have been in the salvation of apostate angels; else why were the latter passed by, while God chose the former as the objects of his attention?
God has from eternity appointed a proper number for the display of his mercy and justice; means are necessary to fit for the Master’s use; so that the soul in this view is of infinite importance.
2. Watchmen over the souls of men implies that they are prone to neglect them or to be inattentive to their souls. When one is set to inspect or watch over another it supposes some kind of incapacity that he is under to take care of himself. The Scripture represents mankind by nature as fools or madmen and being in a state of darkness, et cetera.
Men in general are very sagacious with respect to temporal affairs, and display much natural wit and ingenuity and contriving and accomplishing evil designs; but to do good, they have no knowledge. Jeremiah iv. 22. This is an evidence that their inability to foresee danger and provide against it is that the moral kind. Were there a disposition in mankind corresponding to their natural powers to secure the eternal interest of their souls and the way God has prescribed, watchmen would be in great measure useless.
The work and office of gospel ministers suggests the idea of enemies invading: that there is a controversy subsisting in a danger approaching. When soldiers are called fourth and sentinel stand up on the wall it to notes war. The souls of men are environed with 10,000 enemies that are seeking their ruin. Earth and Heller combined to destroy. How many already have fell victims to their ferocity! The infernal powers are daily dragging away their prey to the prison of hell. Men have rebelled against God and have made him their enemy; yea, all creatures and all events are working the eternal misery of the finally impenitent sinner.
II. Let Us Say Something with Respect to the Character of the Spiritual Watchman.