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I. His CHARACTER.
The faithful Minister's character resembles that of a trusty servant watching the coming of his Lord. For even among men, such a servant will not only consider his wages, but also the obligations which he is under. If his Master be from home, especially at a late hour, he will stand prepared to receive him on his return. If (as in the East) long garments are in use, he will have them girded about, that no impediment may prevent his activity. If the night requires a lamp or torch, it will be kept burning. He even watches his master's tread: he knows his knock: he springs to open the door: his very face welcomes him; and, whether his master comes at the second or third watch, such a servant complains not, he sleeps not, but steadily remains on his post. “ I know not,” says he," at what hour my Lord may come; but I well know in what position he ought to find me.” It is nothing to him, that other servants in the same house may be off their watch. Some may be absent, some gaming, some wasting their master's substance, some stealing his property, some abusing his character, and some quarrelling and fighting. But what is all this to Him? His thoughts are on his Lord.
Thus the vigilant and prepared servant, who is now called off bis post, saw indeed and lamented the state of the household in which he had long kept watch ; and faithfully protested against the neglect, carnality, and contention which he observed therein: but while he thus warned the unruly, his own heart was continually fixed on the coming of his Master. His own heart spake its real feelings, when he wrote that Hymn which you have often sung:
Thus, I say, with his loins girded, with his lights burning, and looking for the coming of his Lord, departed John Newton, servant of the Most. High God.
But this servant is also described as a faithful and wise STEWARD; one set over the household of God, and expressly appointed to his office of administering therein. Let a man, saith the Apostle, so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. But the Steward is not faithful, if he does not give the due portion to each: not putting them off with half a meal. He is not faithful, if he regards the quantity, but pays no attention to the quality : it must be their portion of meat: it must be that which will support and nourish them. A Steward needs also to be not only faithful, but wise, that he may be able to discern both the portion of meat and the due season for delivering it. He
must be wise, to mark the wants, complaints, and infirmities of the household: and he must be wise, to discriminate and patiently to bear the false charges and unkind remarks which he often hears while he thus acts faithfully and wisely. A minister is sometimes called to exercise a solitary faith and an invincible patience, in order steadily to proceed for the good of his Master's household, in the midst of the various cabals and impositions which he sees continually forming in it.
Thus acted your late Minister, as a good steward of the manifold grace of God. He faithfully, as well as rightly, divided the word of truth among you; giving their portion to each in due season. He dispensed the word of God, and that only. He employed it as profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. Whatever men may plead for elaborate discourses, on moral goodness and the rewards of virtue, he determined to advance the doctrine of a Crucified Saviour, as the only hope and strength of fallen man; whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed. And he dispensed this, as one that had felt the power of it in his own soul, and tasted the savour of the meat which he delivered to others. A few of his hearers might, at times, come rather to find fault than to be fed ; but he regarded not the person of men: he went on with his work, seeming to say with holy Herbert,
66 Thou shalt answer, Lord, for me."
I think I may assert, withont fear of contradiction from such as knew the character of your late Minister, that no man ever executed his office with a more single eye, or a more disinterested heart. Unlike that unjust steward in the parable, who, throughout all his management, merely considered how to keep himself from sinking under his delinquency, your late Minister considered simply the interest of his Master and his household. He might truly say,
“ God is witness, that, instead of being burdensome, we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe. As ye know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”
Ill-nature, indeed, might term this statement a flattery of the dead. But I confidently reply, No; in no wise. It is too late now to question the fact. Most of you know that I have stated but the simple truth, and that the truth itself demands this of me. This thing was not done in a corner, or in the presence of two or three interested witnesses; but it was done in the centre of the largest city in the world, amidst a multitude of disaffected witnesses, and before the eyes of the Church of God, to the members of which he might justly have appealed, Ye know, from the first day that I came among you, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons : serving the Lord with all humility of mind and with many tears, and temptations : and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly and
from house to house, testifying repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all, men; for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
But the character and commendation of your late faithful and wise Steward must be referred to a higher bar of decision than yours or mine. The Judge of the world, who describes his character, pronounces what we proceed to consider
II. His COMMENDATION.
Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
BLESSED, indeed, if he received no other commendation than THE APPROBATION OF HIS LORD.
He, when he cometh, shall bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and then shall every man, thus found faithful, have praise of God. Sin has made such a bedlam of this world, that it is full