That part of the solemnities of the day which is assigned to me, is to exhibit the charge of God to the ministers of his word. Notwithstanding there is no account in the New Testament, that the apostles, elders or brethren, ever repeated a formal charge to a candidate at the time of his ordination to the ministry, yet the charge is found in the scriptures, and there can never be a better time to rehearse it, then at the hour of ordination. Therefore, in the name of Christ Jesus, before an august assembly of angels, by the appointment of this council, and in the fellowship of this church, I charge you to take heed to your spirit. Moses erred for want of this. For want of this, James and John sought to bring fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans. Remember, the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men; patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose. Be thou, therefore, an example to the flock, in spirit, in faith, and in charity. I charge you to take heed to your conversation. Let your conversation be with grace, seasoned with salt, as becomes the gospel of Christ, that it may minister edification to those that hear. When conversing on religious subjects, use not craftiness, nor handle the word of God deceitfully, but use great plainness of speech. Understand yourself, and seek to make others understand you. When conversing about temporal things, for necessary uses, always speak the truth. Let not the love of gain, or of fame, direct your tongue from plain truth. Let not the fear of loss, or of reproach, cause you to dissemble. Though truth may faint in the streets for a while, yet it is great, and will finally prevail. It is difficult to describe a more hateful character than the man who pretends to have a great concern for the truth of God, and none for the truth of his own word. I charge you to study to show yourself approved of God. Search the scriptures, given attendance to reading, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. The scriptures will make you wise unto salvation, and furnish you with matter both to feed the lambs and sheep of Jesus, and stop the mouths of gainsayers.
I charge you to take heed to yourself in all your relations of life, as child, husband, father, neighbor, citizen and Christian. Let your light shine so bright, that none can justly accuse, but contrarywise, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father who is in heaven. If you live after the flesh in common life, when you are in the pulpit, the people will say, “it is a pity he should ever come out,” and whenever you are out of the pulpit, they will say, “it is a pity that he should ever go in.” Always remember, that actions speak louder than words. Precepts without examples, in a preacher, have a poor effect.
I charge you to take heed to your doctrine. In doctrine, be uncorrupt, sound in the faith. The gospel of salvation is summarily comprehended in these words, “ruin and recovery.” The humans family are ruined by sin, all have sinned, all are included in unbelief. There is none that doeth good, they are all out of the way. They are at enmity with God, in alliance with Satan, under the dominion of sin. These are the characters, my brother, to whom you are sent. And thou, O son of man, cause them to know their abominations. Labor to convince them of the error of their way. Point out their sins, not merely as misfortunes, but as acts of wilful rebellion against the God of love. Discover to them the danger they are in, of dying in their sins, and never going where Christ is. Tell them, that God calls men every where to repent. Justify repentance towards God, and assure them that unless they repent, they will all perish. Justify repentance towards God, and assure them that unless they repent, they will all perish. Set forth the purity of God’s holy law, which is the eternal rule of right, which from the relations that exist between God and man, and between man and man, will be binding as long as the perfections of God, and the faculties of man continue. For without a knowledge of the law, men will quiet themselves in a life of sin. But when you find any who are pricked in the heart, crying out “I am undone,” and asking the important question, “what shall I do to be saved,” then fly like the prophetic seraphim, with the living coal of gospel promise, saying to the self-condemned, heart-sick sinner, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Represent Christianity as the religion for sinners. Hold forth the Saviour as able, and willing to save all that come unto him. Point out the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. Describe him as coming into the world to seek and save that which was lost. Proclaim the blood of the Lamb as the price paid to redeem sinners, and the efficacy of his grace to cleanse from the pollution of sin. Repeat the gracious calls of Jesus to heavy laden sinners, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest” – “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” When any appear to have obtained pardon by believing in the Lord Jesus, and give reasonable evidence of it, if any such first propose it, saying, “Lo, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?” then go down with such a one into the water, baptize him, and then come up out of the water. But if any give satisfactory evidence that they are true believers in Jesus, and gladly receive the word, if any such do not oppose it themselves, preach to them like Ananius, “And now, why tarriest thou arise, and be baptized.” Or like Peter, command them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.
I charge you to preach the WORD. How great soever your reading may have been, or what proficiency soever you may have made in the sciences, there are but feeble aids for the pulpit. The knowledge of God’s word is the one thing needful for the preacher, and this word, he must preach without perversion. Nothing must be laid down as doctrine, nothing enjoined as a rule of life, but what has a “thus saith the Lord,” for its support. Some preachers have more acceptable talents than others, some are so circumstanced that they can devote more of their time to the work of the sanctuary than others; but as God has furnished you with gifts, and Providence opens the way, I charge you to preach the word, in season and out of season. Take heed to the ministry that thou hast received of the Lord, that thou fulfil it. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, nor be disobedient to the heavenly vision. Should you be successful in turning many to righteousness, it will be a crown of rejoicing in this life, and in the day of the Lord. But still, the promise is not made to the successful, but to the faithful. Noah, a preacher of righteousness, was not successful: all his hearers but seven were destroyed; but he was faithful, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. I charge you, therefore, to be faithful unto death, that you may receive a crown of life. Warn the unruly, and feed the flock of God around you in every place where God shall cast your lot; not through constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. And when the chief shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of righteousness that fadeth now away.
My brother, always remember, that it is sinners you have to address: if, therefore, you are maltreated, it need not surprise you. Among other sins, covetousness bears a prominent part. Should you, therefore, in the discharge of your trust, sacrifice time and interest to clear your conscience, and receive little or no reward, you need not from that conclude that your trials are singular, for thousands have experienced the same. Nominal Christianity is fashionable, and many enter the ministry professedly as a source of emolument, who prophesy for reward, and divine for money. Such will cry for peace, and he that putteth not into their hand, they purpose war against him. But thou, O man of God, flee things, and endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. How many ministers of Jesus have had yearning of soul for their fellow creatures, and a heavy wo on their hearts if they did not preach, but their limited resources, and large families would prevent their constant exertions. In this particular, they have been like the colt tied where two ways met. It is recorded of the primitive preachers, that they continued in prayer, gave themselves to prayer, and the ministry of the word. Christians have much to pray for and much to pray against; but the ministers of the word have more. Their own flesh anointings, ministerial accomplishments, and success in their labors, loudly call for constant and fervent prayer. They know they can do nothing to purpose of themselves, that all their springs are in God, that if they plant and water with the utmost diligence, all will fail if God does not give the increase. It is a rich saying, that a preacher should go from his knees to the pulpit, and from the pulpit to his knees. To which I would add, he should keep upon his knees in the pulpit. He who preaches by the influence of the Holy Ghost, will pray the most fervently while he is preaching the most powerfully, and each exercise will aid the other.
I cannot close the charge better, than by rehearsing the charge which Jesus gave the apostles at the time when he left them: “Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” How important the charge, how rich the promise.
Elder John Leland
The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Pages 508 – 511