The first ministers of the cross were distinguished for their zeal, constancy, and disinterestedness in the cause of their Divine Master. Their zeal made them regardless of difficulties, sacrifices, and toils. Their constancy enabled them unflinchingly to pursue their holy career; and their disinterestedness led them to trample upon all merely temporary good, and to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus their Lord. They were equally distinguished for their humility. They preached not themselves, but Christ; and they were willing to be abased, and counted as nothing, that Christ might be all in all. What a striking example of this in the apostle Paul, that master-spirit in the Christian cause, who, notwithstanding his strong natural powers, his high literary attainments, and his exalted Christian gifts, humbly stoops to the members of the church at Thessalonica, and entreats, for himself and fellow-laborers, a place in their remembrance, and an interest in their prayers! "Brethren, pray for us," &c. Notice, I. The Request Presented. II. The Grounds on which it Rests.
I. The Request presented.
"Brethren, pray for us." In this request we have the persons addressed—and the request which is made.
1. The persons addressed—"Brethren." This is the common name of all the members of God's spiritual family—the name given to them by the Saviour; "One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." As brethren they have one Father—born of the same incorruptible seed, bearing the same likeness, possessing the same spirit, and sharers of he same blessings. They may differ in many minor points, as the children of the same family differ in feature; but in these great outlines of character they are all one. Many of them may be babes, some of them young men, and some fathers; but still the term employed includes all the branches of the family. They are all brethren. Notice,
2. The request itself—"Brethren, pray for us." The same request is presented to me church at Ephesus: Eph_6:19; to the church at Colosse: Col_4:3; to the scattered Hebrew brethren: Heb_13:18; and also in his first letter to the Thessalonians__Thess.__ 5:25 "Brethren, pray for us,"
1. That the power of religion may bo eminently experienced in our own souls.
An eminent degree of religion is necessary to the Christian minister. He must have much light and life who is to enlighten and enliven others. A leader must have skill and courage—must have a double portion of energy and earnestness, that he may inspire others with the same spirit. How has this been seen in the senate and in the field! It should be so in the church. No amount of talent will make up for a deficiency here. Brethren, pray for us,
2. That we may be preserved from the official dangers to which we are exposed.
Ministers have the same enemies in common with all the brethren; same nature, Satan, the world, &c. Besides these, there are dangers peculiar to our office, especially,
(1) Pride—pride of talent, learning, or popularity.
(2) Selfishness—seeking the fleece rather than the flock; theirs rather than them.
(3) Indolence—inattention to our charge neglect of the afflicted and tried Brethren, pray for us,
3. That we may be able ministers of the New Testament.
That we may clearly comprehend the truth in all its parts and bearings; that we may be able to communicate it clearly, simply, powerfully; that we may have an abundance wherewith to feed the souls of the people; and that there may be variety to suit the state and circumstances of all—that the whole may have a portion of meat in due season. Brethren, pray for us,
4. That prudence and fidelity may distinguish our labors.
(1) Prudence. Not worldly prudence, that shuns the cross, and compromises truth; but that prudence which will keep us from giving offence to the sincere of Christ's flock, enable us to discriminate &c.
(2) Fidelity—to the word—to God—to souls. No fear of men—no love of ease—no thirsting for lucre. To be free from he blood of all men. Notice,
II. The Grounds on which it rests
1. It rests on the ground of the mutual connection which subsists between minister and people.
If we labor for your salvation, you are not only to supply our bodily wants, but to feel for our spiritual necessities. The principle which constrains, us to preach to you, ought to constrain you to pray for us 2. It rests on the law of love.
Love may do much for our temporal comfort and happiness; but love to our souls will never omit prayer on our behalf. This is the highest charity towards us, the truest evidence of love.
3. It rests on the prevalency of fervent prayer How it bore up the arms of Moses! What Elijah did with it! How it effected Peter's liberation! &c. How important that it should be brought to bear on the pulpit!
4. It rests on its advantages to yourselves.
If the earthen vessels are filled with celestial treasures through your prayers, that treasure will be the enriching of yourselves; the ministry will be to you a ministry of light, of comfort, and of life.
5. It rests on its beneficial influence on he church.
Ungodly and unfaithful ministers are the bane of the church, Faithful men are her greatest ornaments and truest friends. How desirable that her leaders should be valiant for the truth, her shepherds faithful, her watchmen vigilant, her stars luminous!
6. It rests on its connection with the salvation of souls.
The apostle adds, "That the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified;" that, like a rich and fertilizing river, it may run without interruption, sending its living streams in every possible direction, giving verdure and fruitfulness to the moral world. Yes; the ministry is God's great ordinance for the salvation of souls. Pray, then, that we may be holy, earnest, diligent, and useful; that we may be instrumental in turning many from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.
Learn, 1. The high responsibility of the ministerial office. Let candor and forbearance be exercised towards it. Forget not that those who stand in such high places are men of like passions with yourselves Feel for them; be interested in their welfare; and pray for their salvation and sue cess.
2. Forget not to pray for yourselves. No consideration whatever must induce indifference to your own souls. Prayers from such could be of no value to the minister of your choice and affection.
3. It is only believing, fervent prayer either for ourselves or others, that will avail.