The apostle, in the foregoing verses, had declared how many difficulties and dangers must be encountered by him that will attain the ends of his ministry, and approve himself unto God in integrity and uprightness; here he shows by how many ways and means the work of the ministry is promoted, and how the ministers of the gospel must be qualified for it: namely, by pureness of conversation, by knowlege of divine mysteries and study of the holy scriptures, by long-suffering under all provocations, by kindness towards all men, by the gifts and assistances of the Holy Ghost, by the word of truth clearly preached, and by the power of God confirming it; by the armour of righteousness, which completely covers and protects us on the right hand and on the left, both in prosperity and adversity; by passing through honour and dishonour, by going through evil report and good report.
Here note, That the ministers of God do approve themselves, and trial is made of them, as well by the things on the right hand as on the left. A minister of Christ is tried as well by honour as disgrace, as well by praise as by disparagement. The good report which we meet with in the world, is certaianly as great, yea, a more dangerous temptation, than the ill reports we pass under. 'Tis a great trial to a minister to be dispraised and despised, to have dirt thrown undeservedly in his face; but verily it is as great a trial to be praised, commended, and applauded, to be lifted up in the thoughts and upon the tongues of men.
Solomon has an excellent proverb to this purpose, Pro_27:21 As the fining-pot for silver, and the furnace for gold, so is a man to his praise; that is, a man is tried by his praise, as really as silver is tried in the fining-pot, or gold in the furnace. Whenever a minister is praised, he is tried; his humility is tried, his self-denial is tried; when he is praised by men, he is tried whether he can give the entire praise to God. When people cry up such and such a preacher, they put him into the fining-pot; and he that is but dross, consumes. Let ministers remember there are trials on the right hand, as well as on the left; that passing through honour, and going through good reports, are great trails, as well as passing through dishonour and evil reports. God prepare us for both!