Tracts for the Times/Tract 44
TRACTS FOR THE TIMES.
BISHOP WILSON'S MEDITATIONS ON HIS SACRED OFFICE.
Question from the Office of Consecration.—Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine required of necessity to eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined, out of the same Holy Scriptures, to instruct the people committed to your charge, and to teach or maintain nothing as required of necessity to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the same?—Ans. I am so persuaded and determined by God's grace.
Question.—Will you then faithfully exercise yourself in the same Holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of the same; so as you may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome doctrine, and to withstand and convince gainsayers?—Ans. I will do so by the help of God.
O God, the fountain of all wisdom, enlighten my mind, that I myself may see, and be able to teach others, the wonders of Thy law; that I may learn from Thee, what I ought to think and speak concerning Thee; and that whatever in Thy Holy Word I shall profitably learn, I may in deed fulfil the same. Direct and bless all my labours. Give me a discerning spirit, a sound judgment, and an honest and a religious heart, that in all my studies, my first aim may be to set forth Thy glory, by setting forward the salvation of men. And if, by my ministry, Thy kingdom shall be enlarged, let me, in all humility, ascribe the success, not unto myself, but unto Thy Good Spirit, which enables us both to will and to do what is acceptable to Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Luke xxiv. 45. "Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures." O Jesus, cause me to read, to understand, to love, to practise, and to preach Thy word……
Luke xxii. 32. "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." God grant that we may all of us consider the absurdity of going about to convert others, without being converted ourselves. To understand the Holy Scriptures aright, is to understand them as the Primitive Church did.
1 Sam. iii. 9. "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." Speak to my heart, that I may obey Thy word. "Teach me to do Thy will, for thou art my God." It belongs to God, to give the true understanding of His own word.
Matt. vii. 5. "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." That is, purify your own heart from all worldly aims; mortify your own passions, which are the cause of your blindness; study that Word which alone can enlighten you; and lay aside all prejudices which are contrary to piety. A Pastor should never undertake to teach a virtue which he has never practised himself.
Luke v. 5. "We have toiled all the night, and taken nothing." So does every preacher, who does not beg God's blessing upon his labours. It is impossible for any man to teach well, who does not live well……
John vii. 16. "My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me." To preach our own thoughts, forsaking God's word, is like an ambassador, who neglects his prince's instructions, and follows his own fancy. With what truth can it be said, that "the sheep hear his voice," when the shepherd speaks of things, or in such a manner, as is above their capacity?…
Should be instructions, not declamations, or displaying curious thoughts, which may amuse, but not edify Christians.
If God suffers even an holy pastor not presently to see the fruits of his labours, it is to convince him, that the success of his labours belongs to God; that he ought to humble himself, and pray much, and fear lest the fault should be in himself.
Pride and irreligion meet with darkness in the midst of light; raise vain disputes, unprofitable reflections and inquiries; while humility attains to light, in the midst of darkness and difficulties.
Whenever God vouchsafes to open the heart, be the understanding and parts never so small, we see the reasonableness and beauty of His Word, we taste the sweetness, and feel the power thereof.
John xii. 16. "These things understood not His disciples at the first; but, when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things unto Him." We often read Scripture, without comprehending its full meaning; however, let us not be discouraged; the light, in God's good time, will break out, and disperse the darkness, and we shall see the mysteries of the Gospel. Grant me, O Lord, a persevering love of Thy Word, and so much light, as is necessary for myself, and those that hear me.
John xii. 30. "Jesus said, This voice came not for Me, but for your sakes." The way to profit by reading the sacred Scriptures, is, to apply to ourselves that which is spoken in general to all; this truth, this command, this threat, this promise, this intimation, is to me……
Acts i. 1. "The former treatise have I made of all that Jesus began both to do and teach." This is the whole of a Pastor's life. For a man to preach the Gospel before he has practised it, is to be a very bad imitator of the Prince of Pastors…… More sinners are converted by holy, than by learned men…… Who can say it is not owing to himself, that his flock are ignorant of their duty?……
Col. iv. 4. "That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak." All preachers do not speak as they ought. A man may have the skill to give Christian truths a turn agreeable to the hearers, without affecting their hearts……
2 Tim. iv. 1, 2. &c. "I charge thee, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, preach the Word. Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and gravity. For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine, &c.… Preaching is a duty, but not the only duty of a Pastor. He is to take all occasions to instruct those that seek the truth; refute such as oppose it; reprove those that do not practise it; and confirm such as have embraced it. And the more we perceive the times of Apostasy approaching, the more zealous ought we to be to defend sound doctrine. It will be no comfort to a Pastor, that the world praises him for some one part of his duty, while God condemns him for the neglect of another……
John xvi. 13. "The Holy Spirit shall lead you into all truth." O Holy Spirit, make me to understand, embrace, and love the truths of the Gospel. Give, O God, Thy blessing unto Thy Word, that it may become effectual to my conversion and salvation, and to the salvation of all that read or hear it…… Let Thy gracious promises, O God, contained in Thy Word, quicken my obedience. Let Thy dreadful threatenings and judgments upon sinners, fright me from sin, and oblige me to a speedy repentance, for Jesus Christ His sake.… Grant, O Lord, that in reading Thy Holy Word, I may never prefer my private sentiments before those of the Church in the purely ancient time of Christianity. Give me a full persuasion of those great truths, which Thou hast revealed in Thy Holy Word…… From hardness of heart and contempt of Thy Word, Good Lord, deliver us……
Matt. xiii. 36. "Declare unto us this parable." This should instruct us, that the knowledge of God's Word, and the mysteries of the Gospel, are favours which we must always beg of God.
The Feast of St. Michael.
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