The Ministerial Office

Charles Simeon  LISTEN to Audio!  Download Audio

Isaiah 58:1, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins."

Certainly, one of God's richest mercies unto man has been the appointment of an order of men to be his ambassadors to a guilty world, and to beseech their fellow-sinners to be reconciled to him. The ungodly indeed have never appreciated this mercy aright; for, from the very beginning of the world, have the Prophets of the Most High been regarded as "the troublers of Israel"--fit objects for hatred and contempt. "Which of the prophets," says our blessed Lord, "have not your fathers persecuted?" But when a dispensation is committed to any man to declare the mind and will of God, woe will be unto him if he does not execute the office that has been assigned him.

The words which I have read will naturally lead me to set before you:

I. The office of a minister.

This is, "to show to men their transgressions and their sins." But it may be asked: What need is there for their services for such an end as this? Do not all of us know ourselves better than anyone else can know us? Can anyone be so well acquainted with the workings of my heart, or with the actions of my life, as I myself am? To this, however, I answer, that,

1. The world at large stand in need of such faithful ministers.

There is, in the generality of men, a thoughtlessness about their ways; so that they are altogether unconscious of having contracted any great guilt.

They never consider the requirements of God's Law.

They never refer their conduct to any other standard than public opinion.

They rest satisfied that all is right, so long as they do not violate the laws which the common consent of those around them have established for the regulation of their lives.

As for the spirituality of God's Law, they are utterly unacquainted with it; and consequently they never dream of their responsibility to God for anything beyond their overt acts. Or, if they think themselves accountable for their motives, they give themselves credit for meaning well, even where they are conscious of having acted sinfully. And though their actions have not been altogether correct, they persuade themselves that their hearts are good, and that their aberrations from the path of duty have been the result of chance rather than design, and of temptation rather than of any inveterate propensity to evil.

2. Those also who are called "God's people," and who consider themselves as "the seed of Jacob," are not a whit less in need of instructors than the careless world.

See the account given of those to whom the prophet was sent, "For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them! Isaiah 58:2."

Could such as these have any transgressions of which they needed to be informed, and any sins which endangered their souls? Yes, "their hearts were not right with God;" they were "partial in the law;" they put their outward obedience in the place of vital godliness; they trusted in their works also as recommending them to God, and as forming a justifying righteousness before him; and they even complained that God did not recompense them according to their deserts.

In the same way, how many such characters are found among us! How many, who, while they find pleasure in attending upon the House of God, imagine that, by their religious observances, they shall entitle themselves to his favor!

Now, in reference to all such characters, I must say, that the duty of ministers is to "show them their sins." It is their duty to search out, for the information of others, the mind and will of God; and to bring home to the consciences of all, a sense of their manifold transgressions. They must endeavor to hold up before men the looking-glass of God's Law, that they may see the deformity of their own fallen image, and be stirred up to seek reconciliation with their offended God. To every one must they point out the sins which most easily beset him; and declare to him the judgments which God, in his Word, has denounced against him!

While we assert this to be their duty, it will be proper for us to notice,

II. The manner in which it must be discharged.

The direction here given is clear and strong. Those who have received a commission to speak for God must deliver their message,

1. With earnestness.

Mere advice or friendly counsel is not that which befits them on such occasions as these, "they must cry aloud, and lift up their voice us a trumpet," if by any means they may awaken the drowsy consciences of those to whom they speak. Viewing themselves as ambassadors from God, they must speak with all authority, fearing the face of none; but declaring the truth, whether men will listen or not! They must show by the very manner in which they deliver their divine message, that it is a matter of life and death; and that the word they utter is "not the word of man, but indeed and in truth the Word of God!"

2. With fidelity.

They must "not spare," even though the offender is ever so great and powerful, or ever so dear and tenderly regarded. As John the Baptist reproved Herod, in whose hands his life was--so must ministers be faithful even to the mightiest upon earth. They must show no respect of persons, nor conceal anything which they are authorized to declare; but must be impartial in their reproofs, and make known "the whole counsel of God."

"Having received God's Word, they must speak it faithfully." They must be faithful:
for God's sake, whose ambassadors they are;
and for the people's sake, whose eternal welfare is at stake;
and for their own sake, seeing that "if any perish through their lack of faithfulness, then the blood of all such people will be required at their hands!"

Permit me now to discharge my office with respect to you.

1. To those who are altogether careless and indifferent.

You may imagine that God takes no notice of your sins; but indeed they are all viewed by him with abhorrence, and recorded by him in the book of his remembrance, in order that they may be brought forth against you at the future judgment! It is true, that if you repent of them, they shall all be "blotted out, as a morning cloud." But if you remain impenitent, they will all be visited upon you, and sink you into everlasting perdition!

I have no wish to alarm you needlessly; but I must, at the peril of my own soul, declare the truth; and must say, that unless you repent, you shall all perish! But "if you repent, and turn from all your transgressions," I am authorized to declare, that "your iniquities shall not be your ruin."

2. To those who account themselves to be the people of God.

I ask not now, whether you are self-righteous formalists, or hypocritical professors. But, of whichever class you are, I must declare, that "God is not mocked; but whatever a man sows--that shall he also reap; he who sows to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; and he who sows to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."

Do not imagine that God will judge according to the estimate which you form of yourselves. No! He will take off the mask from the hypocrite, and judge every man according to his works. Entreat him, then, to put "truth in your inward parts, and to make you altogether new creatures in Christ Jesus; so shall you be accepted in his beloved Son, and stand before him with boldness in the great day of his appearing!"

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." 2 Timothy 4:1-2