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Full text of "The pastor's farewell to his flock : a valedictory sermon to the First Baptist Church and congregation, delivered at Beverly, April 19, 1840"

THE PASTOR'S FAREWELL TO IHS FLOCK. 



A 



VALEDICTORY SEMON, 



• 



First Baptist Church and Congregation, 



DELIVERED AT BEVERLY, APRIL 19, 1840, 



BY THEIE PASTOR, 



NATHANIEL W, WILLIAMS 



PUBLISHED BY REQUEST. 



SALEM: 

PRINTED AT THE REGISTER PRESS. 

1940. 



Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2011 witii funding from 

Boston Public Library 



http://www.archive.org/details/pastorsfarewelltOOwill 



8 £} H M O iV . 



2d Corinthians, xiii. 11. — Finally, irethren, farewell. 

The language of my text is Paul's valedictory to 
the Church at Corinth. The same would I adopt as 
my valedictory to you as a Christian Church, and to 
all who pertain to this congregation. The time has 
arrived, when it is proper to take my leave of you, 
never expecting to address you more, as I have 
done, for a few years past. May God help me to 
speak and you to hear, so that when we meet before 
the throne of impartial justice, it may appear that I 
have spoken, and you have heard, aright. 

In elucidating the text, it will be proper, to 

I. Consider the appellation, which the Apostle 
uses. By nature, all men are brethren, the children 
of one common Father. 

But it is in a higher and more spiritual sense, that 
the Apostle here calls them, "brethren." It is a 
spiritual relation, a connexion, into which they are 
brought by grace, being regenerated by the Spirit of 
God, and made "heirs of God, and joint heirs with 
Christ." This relation is common and universal a- 
mong all who are "born of God." All the children 
of God have a common relationship, and each is ac- 
knowledged a brother before God. 

Brotherhood is an endearing relation in this life, 
but among the saints it holds a superior character, and 
its endearments are in exact proportion to the degree 
of holiness, which each one possesses. This is al- 
icays true in experience, and every brother finds his 



heart knit to his brethren the more, as his soul be- 
comes lifted above the Avorld and worldly things ; — 
and in the same degree too, he feels the enjoyment 
which intercourse with the pious is adapted to give. 
What believer has not known the sacred pleasure of 
associating and conversing with his "brethren in 
Christ" — what christian has not felt his heart "burn 
within him," when engaged in holy discourse upon 
the things of "the kingdom !" Let us now 

II. Enquire, when it may be said that christian 
brethren fare well. 

Farewell^ as used in the text, seems to be a parting 
expression, as at taking leave of a friend or people. — 
But as compounded of two words, fare and well, it 
imports a desire, that those to whom it is addressed, 
may be happy and prosperous. In this sense it is 
my design to employ it in this discourse. 

The question then returns, lohen may it be said 
that christians fare ivell 1 

Is it only when they increase in mimher, loealth, 
and power — do they fare well, only when the tide of 
prosperity and popular applause sets strong in their 
favor, and when worldly influence pro fife rs its aid in 
their support? No, my brethren, all these things 
may be received and enjoyed, and yet as a body and 
as individuals, they may be far from faring well. 

I remark then, that christians fare well, 

I. When they are ^^spiritually minded,^' and 
anxious to become more and more holy. 

Every christian is a spiritual man and a holy man 
— but christians do not, in every instance, possess so 
high a degree of spirituality, as they ought to possess, 
nor are they as holy as they ought to be. For the 
more part, even those who are pious, live far, wer^/j 
far below their privileges, and below the standard o 
personal piety to which they ought to attain. Many 
there are who rest contented with the most meagre 
attainments in grace. Such are persons of litd 
prayer and self denial, of litde knowledge of divine^ 
things, a^d possess so litde piety of heart, as scarcely 



to do any thing which is adapted to promote the pow- 
er of religion. This, my brethren, accounts for the 
little success which, for a large part of the time, at- 
tends the preaching of the Gospel — the church hangs 
like an incubus upon those who preach the word, and 
the impenitent seeing the deadness of professed chris- 
tians, go on in their sins, and pride themselves in be- 
ing as good as many in the church. 

When such is the state of christians, can it be said 
that they are faring ivell? Far from it. Christians 
fare well only when their minds are interested in spir- 
itual things — when truth is dear to them — when pious 
exercises, duties and conversation are more pleasant 
and engaging to their minds, than other things — and 
v/hen their desires are continually rising before God, 
that they may become more pure, and more like God. 
When such is the religious state of brethren of Christ, 
the church is like the " vineyards of Engedi " — the 
"garden of the Lord." Grace being in exercise, 
peace and joy abound, — each desires to feel the en- 
joyment of things sacred, and can say, " Then shall 
I be satisfied, when I awake in thy likeness." 

2. Christians may be said to fare zi?^?//, when they 
are advancing in piety and religious knoivledge. 

There is such a thing as christians being excited 
to a lively frame and apparently much engaged and 
zealous in religion ; but at the same time, they may 
\ be far from advancing in holiness and the knowledge 
of Christ. And they may be very loquacious and 
busy in religion, without any true rising to God and 
! aspirations after sacred knowledge. 

The christian who values religion, not for the ex- 
citement which it brings, but for its tending to pro- 
mote practical godliness, is the man who fares well. 
To illustrate this, we may suppose a man hears a re- 
port, that a relation in a distant place, has bequeathed 
him a large fortune. This may excite him and en- 
gage his attention. But the question arises, whether 
he really comes into possession of the property, and 
in what respects he is benefitted. If he really be- 



6 

come richer and happier, and more useful, it is well, 
but if it is only in report, what is he the better ? 

Just so it is in religion. A mere ebullition of feel- 
ing, is of little worth. There must be that in the 
mind, which ensures the actual advance in piety of 
heart, and religious knowledge. In the first experi- 
ence, or in a few years of experience, no christian can 
learn and obtain all that is to be learned and obtained 
of religion. The spiritual man is expected to advaiice 
and gi'ow in knowledge and holiness, from his first 
spiritual breath, until the last he draws. Without 
this, of what avail will it be for him to remain here 
below — what good will his example do to others ? 

3. Christians may be said to fare well, when they 
are diligent and earnest in prayer. 

Prayer is a very common topic among christians, 
and on this account, it may possess but httle interest 
to such persons, as, like the Athenians, are "always 
seeking some new thing." But prayer is a very com- 
mon subject in the Bible, nay, it is the most common, 
because it is the most important subject in all that re- 
lates to christian duty. Without prayer, no one can 
be a christian — with it, every sinner may obtain the 
blessing of God, in peace, enjoyment and safety to 
his soul. 

Without prayer, no christian ever made large at- 
tainments in the life and power of godliness. With- 
out /re^'we^i^j/er^ewif, and untiring prayer to Almighty 
God, the religion of a christian will become dwarfish, 
— his heart shrivelled — his affections cold and cheerless, 
and his whole action in rehgion, like the locomotion of 
one, whose powers are checked by a paralysis. 

But let this death-like state give place to the pow- 
er of prayer, and let the soul "wrestle with God" as 
did Jacob ; then shall he "prevail like Israel," while 
in answer to his importunity, he feels the power of 
truth in his heart, and fares locll through the grace of 
his Redeemer. In such a state, he will "follow on ' 
to know" and "be able to comprehend with all saints 
what is the height, and depth, and length, and breadth 



of the love of God," to his exceeding abundant joy 
in the Lord. 

4. Christians fare well, when they are established 
in the truth. 

The Bible is the standard of all religious truth. — 
It reveals every doctrine necessary to our faith and 
knowledge, and every rule of duty important for us 
to obey. Herein is taught but one system of truth, 
and but one code of laws for our faith and duty. — ■ 
Hence, if the Bible were adopted as the only stand- 
ard of faith and practice, there could be no diversity 
of opinion upon doctrine or duty. 

But when christians become w^orldly-wise, and 
think they may decide what is right and may square 
their convictions of duty by their own wishes, without 
an appeal to the Bible, they are in great danger of 
wandering from the truth and their duty. Examples 
of this kind are seen in persons who have lost their 
balance, and by indulging erroneous opinions and em- 
bracing false doctrines, are induced to violate their 
covenant engagements, and associate with the hetero- 
dox and corrupt. 

If christians would fare well, they must stand /rm 
in the truth of the gospel, and like the deep rooted 
oak, or the sea-girt rock, defy every inducement to 
swerve from the truth. Temptation to compromise 
with error, will never be wanting, while sin reigns in 
The world, and often is so fascinately presented, as al- 
most to " deceive even the elect of God." But there is 
one general characteristic in all the great leading er- 
rors and corruptions of the truth, by which they may 
1 be known. It is, that in every instance, error con- 
i nives at sin under specious names, and seeks to quiet 
lithe conscience, while forsaking the truth. Let the 
i christian who would fare well, be aware of every doc- 
Ijtrine, which is not supported by the Bible, and whose 
1 tendency is to unsettle the mind, and lead the heart 
astray from the great principles of gospel truth and 
I duty. 

5. Christians fare well, when they are united in 



8 

love. Christian love is the grand constituent of chris- 
tian characte7\ Without love, how much soever of 
faith, of benevolence and zeal any man may possess, 
he is but as " sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." 

Love is the essence of religion — " love is of God," 
for " God is love." When Christ would put Peter 
to the closest test, by a comprehensive enquiry, he 
thrice enquired of him, if love had a place in his heart. 
" Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me ?" 

If this grace be wanting, all is wanting — if this be 
in exercise, all the graces of the spiritual man will 
perform their respective functions. Then it is, the 
christian fares ivell — he feels, while love possesses his 
heart, that all is well — he can trust in God, even in 
the darkest times — he can rejoice and hope in his 
mercy, and by love, " his cheerful feet in swift obedi- 
ence move." In the exercise of love, each believer 
feels a sacred nearness to all who love God — their 
hearts become like the hearts of David and Jonathan 
— with each other they wish to live, with each other 
they wish to die, and with each other, hope to spend 
eternity. Love to the christian mind, is like steam 
to the engine. It sets all the graces of the spiritual 
man in motion. 

What was it that gave the Ephesian Church so 
high a character? Was it the soundness of their 
faith ? No, it was love— love to Christ and love to 
each other — it was love which made them happy and 
honorable to God, and induced their ready obedience 
to Christ. But when they "foi^sook their first love " 
— the Lord was angry with them, and "removed the 
candlestick out of his place." 

But let it not be thought that love consists in a 
"whining cant" and words of "empty air." A man 
may utter words as soft as oil, while gall and worm- 
wood are in his heart. True love is generous and 
kind, and binds all true hearted disciples in one com- 
mon bond,' like a " three-fold cord which is not easily 
broken." Under the influence of genuine love, each 
brother will desire and rejoice in another's good, and 



I 



9 

" do to each other, as he would that others should do 
to him" — prayer will be prevalent, and the church 
move forward in peace and power. 

Without love, the best creed will be an empty 
form, and all the acts of the church be wanting, in 
what is chiefly essential to make them effective and 
useful. 

Under the influence of love, the minds of christians 
will commonly be agreed, in all essential points of truth 
and duty. Or, if they should see some things with 
different eyes, love will incline them to bear with each 
other's imperfections and to "agree to disagree," 
where the Bible gives no definite rule. 

The same principle will incline them to be faithful 
to each other. 

Some persons suppose that when Solomon says, 
"love covereth ah sins," that every fault should be 
borne with, without complaint. But this cannot be 
his meaning, else the exphcit directions of Christ and 
his Apostles, must be wholly disregarded. Christ 
and his Apostles, command christians to exhort, to re- 
prove and rebuke one another, and the church to labor 
with those who off"end by their sins, and continued 
neglect of duty, and even to exclude them from their 
fellowship, if they cannot be reclaimed. David un- 
derstands this to be the exercise of love, when he 
says, " Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kind- 
iness, and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent 
ioil." 

Love will induce christian faithfulness, upon the 
same principle, that one man would warn another, 
[when he sees him going into imminent danger — for ex- 
liample. Suppose you w^ere very anxious to visit a 
icity in which the yellow fever or plague is making 
fearful ravages, but you are wholly ignorant of it. 
'Would it be the part of love for your friends to with- 
Ihold information of the fact, and not try to dissuade 
[you from going, lest you should be disappointed of 
jyour visit ? No, you instantly reply. Just so it is 
in regard to christian faithfulness. The more you 
2 



10 

love your brethren, the more ready you will be to 
counsel and admonish them for their faults. Nothino- 
can be more fatal to christian union, than to cover up 
sin. If christians would be united in love, let them 
be affectionately faithful — then they will fare well. 

6. Christians may be said to fare well, when they 
are agreed in efforts to advance the cause of genuine 
religion. 

The object of any man's conversion, is not merely 
to secure his personal enjoyment, nor his personal 
safety. God has higher designs to answer, than any 
man's happiness or safety. His own glory is con- 
cerned, in all that he does, and all he intends to do. 
It is for God's glory, that his children should continue 
in the world for a season. Here is the appropriate 
theatre of their action. Here are materials upon 
which their energies may be profitably expended, and 
men are the proper instruments of good to men. 
Hence Jesus Christ, instead of making preachers of 
Angels, invested men with his high commission. And 
not only are preachers to be employed, but every 
christian has an appropriate part to act, and by the 
united efforts of the lohole church, is the work of the 
world's conversion to be carried forward unto com- 
pletion. Let christians then be agreed to labor in 
promoting the great cause of religion in the world, 
but let them labor in their proper places, and they 
will fare well, for God rewardeth the pious efforts of 
all his saints. 

In each of these respects, I can respond to the 
language of the Apostle, and say, "Finally, brethren, 
farewell.''^ It is my desire, that tho' some of you have 
profited so litde by my labors, you may, by some 
other instrumentality, profit much more, and that you 
may fare well in each and all the particulars that I 
have mentioned. 

From this subject, we may infer that the declen- 
sion of religion and the loss of spiritual enjoyments, 
is owing to the deficiencies of christians in their duty. 



11 

God has instituted means for the improvement, groioth 
and happiness of his children, no less than he has de- 
creed the salvation of (hem that believe. And every 
christian who would enjoy the consolation of the gos- 
pel, must be "spiritually minded." 

Strive to be more holy, and daily cultivate all the 
graces of the spiritual man, and do, as well as get 
good. 

Upon a similar principle, all men conduct the af- 
fairs of life — the principle of labor and profit. Look 
where you will, you see men carrying out this princi- 
ple. They labor, not because they love to expend 
their physical strength, but, for the sake of the reward 
which they hope to receive. So must the christian 
labor, to become more holy and more wise in heaven- 
ly things, and to " enter into that rest which remains 
for the people of God." 

If christians would see the church prosper, they 
must be faithful to their covenant engagements. For 
how can a church prosper, in which prayer is wanting 
— or how can a church prosper, whose members are 
unsound in the truth — who are w^anting in affection 
for each other, and m judgment upon the duties which 
1 are incumbent upon them ? To embrace a large 
number of members, is far less important than to be 
j "prayerful and united in sentiment and practice. 
L Without union, the governmeiit of a church cannot 
'be maintained. Offenders will find friends to advo- 
cate them in doing wrong, and what may be done in 
1 one instance, will be claimed in another, till, by par- 
1 tiality to one, favor to a second, and the neglect of a 
third, the church becomes corrupt, discipline is de- 
stroyed, and members may go w^hen they choose, and 
do w^hat they please with impunity. I am aware that 
my views of discipline have, by some, been thought to 
be severe. But unfortunately, if they are so, I have 
not been able to carry them into effect. And I give 
it as my best advice, to the church, that they should 
copy the example of the Ephesians, who " could not 
bear them that were evil," whether corrupt in senti- 



12 

ment, or covenant breakers, or unholy in their walk 
and conversation in the world. 

In what remains to be said, I deem it proper to re- 
fer to the circumstances of our connexion, w^hich have 
hdid fell), if any parallels — I mean, the facts connected 
with my being called to your service a second time. 

Here it is proper for me to refer to my first setde- 
ment with you. 

In the year 1816, I was ordained your pastor, and 
including the time of previous and constant supply, I 
served the congregation about nine years and a half. 
The church had been much divided for several years, 
and consisted, at my settlement, of only one hundred 
and six members. But it pleased the Lord to shed 
down the showers of his grace — to unite your hearts, 
and revive his work, so that about sixty were baptised 
while I remained. 

Near the close of the year 1824, I was under the 
necessity of removing, for the want of adequate sup- 
port. After an absence of eleven years, in which it 
pleased God that I should see much of his power 
and grace, I received the unanimous invitation of this 
church and society to return. Accordingly I came 
back in September 1836, leaving a united people and 
a pleasant situation, much to their grief, and, as it af- 
terward appeared, to their injury and my own. This, 
however, I can say, that I acted from a conviction of 
my duty — that no selfish motive moved me to it, nor 
can I, to this hour, perceive any thing which induced 
my compliance with your call, but the strong attach- 
ment, which I early formed to this place and people. 

The Society, it is true, was increased during my 
absence, by the rise of children to manhood, and the 
church, by the revival of religion under ihe labors of 
its worthy pastors. But as a congregation, they were, 
essentially, the same at my return, as when I removed - 
from them. 

I entered upon my labors, with the expectation of 
being at home for the residue of my life, a senti^nent, 
which many of this congregation, and many other cit- 



13 

izens of the town, have often expressed to me. Not 
that I would be a burden to any people, if God should 
spare me beyond the time of useful labor. I beheve 
and hold, that every minister who lives beyond his a- 
bility to be useful, ought to lay down his commission, 
and if poor, as most ministers are, be provided for by 
the christian pubhc, till God shall call him home. 

In returning to you, if I ever had any faith, I came 
in the full confidence of seeing the fruits of my la- 
bors, and God has 7iot disappointed my faith. Forty 
one members have been added to the church — thirty 
six families to the congregation, and by the blessing 
of God on your exertions, you have within the same 
period been able to build this commodious house. 

I speak not of these things, my friends, as though 
I, or you, have any thing to boast of, God forbid. Jf 
I seem to boast, I must say with Paul, "ye have com- 
pelled me." I speak of them as facts to his praise, 
to whom alone the glory belongs. And I speak of 
them to show, that if I have even been the humble in- 
strument of a little good to this people, the last year 
has been more blessed, than either of the preceding. 
And it gives courage to my heart, and raises my un- 
feigned gratitude to God, that I can now look upon 
many before me, of former and latter years, and say, 
to the honor of God'^s free grace, Ye are my epistle, 
and the seals of my ministry in the Lord, whom I 
hope to meet, and with whom I hope to dwell, in a 
purer and happier world than this. 

Is it now enquired, why it is proposed to dissolve 
; this connection ? I reply, the reduction of salary is 
the ostensible reason. But the real occasion is the 
opinion of a few individuals, unfavorable to my minis- 
try, although written and verbal testimony, proves the 
' church and society to have been unanimous in my 
' call, but three and a half years ago, and that, after 
; having known my standing, talents and character as 
a minister for twenty years. Nor has a single com- 
plaint been made to me, down to this time. How 
much in accordance with the "golden rule," the 



14 

course pursued toward me has been, I leave the pub- 
lic mind to decide. 

For myself, I have only to say, that according to 
my abiUtij, I have not shunned to declare unto you, 
all the counsel of God, and have ever been ready to 
serve you in health and in sickness, in prosperity and 
adversity, by night and by daj?^, and if it has been 
thought that any family or individual has been neglec- 
ted, it has been far from my intention so to do. I have 
been very conscious of many imperfections, in all my 
labors, and have great occasion to be humbled before 
God. But this I can claim, that in my return to you, 
and in my labors among you, I have kept in view the 
single purpose of doing you good, and not evil — and 
with full sincerity, may add, that I have been willing 
to spend and be spent for you and your children. 

Finally, my brethren and friends, you will, of 
c'ourse, be loolving, speedily, for a successor. In one 
word, then, let me advise, that if you are so fortunate 
as to procure a pastor with all the mental furniture, 
which highly cultivated minds could desire, to give 
him your confidence and your prayers, and more than 
all, to remember that he is a man, and as a man^ he 
cannot be perfect, and as a man and a minister, he 
has rights in common with others. 

Brethren, if you would prosper, settle your trials 
among yourselves, and prepare yourselves to receive 
God's blessing ; not by conniving at what is wrong, 
nor by half quenching the coals of strife ; but fully in- 
vestigate every subject — dig up the very roots of dis- 
sension, and wholly extinguish the fire of jealousy, by 
plain and faithful dealing. 

To the many, whose hearts now bleed, let me say, 
Trust in God — be much in prayer — stand fast in the 
truth — firmly maintain what is right — be prudent and 
pious. 

My dear hearers, who have heard the truth from 
my hps for years, but still remain in your sins, let me 
say. Yours is a serious case. You are not ignorant o( 
your duty, nor of God's commands. The threaten- 



15 

ings of Jehovah's broken law, and the melting strains 
of Jesus' dying love, have sounded forth, to awaken 
your slumbering consciences and win your hearts to 
God. Every expedient has been tried — expostula- 
tion, entreaty and persuasion— h\xi your rocky hearts 
have refused to break. Shall it yet be in vain — and 
must it still be said to you, "O wicked man, thou shalt 
surely die." Can you, my brother sinner, expect to 
fare well, while you neglect the great salvation, and 
the Saviour who bled on Calvary ? No man can 
fare loell, who is out of Christ. 

'■Thib; solemn truth does still remain, 
"The sinner must be born again, 
"Or down to rain go." 

Say, sinner, will you reproach me at the judgment 
day — will you say, I have not invited you to the gos- 
pel feast? If it be so, /shall not fare well ; but, if I 
have done my duty to you, my garments will be clean, 
and your blood will be upon your own heads. My 
time of preaching to yozi is over; our next meeting, 
probably, will be before the throne of God, where it 
will be known how and what I have preached, and 
with what feelings and desires you have heard. May 
God have mercy upon you, and may you love and 
serve him., as the obedient children of his grace -.fare- 
well. 

Beloved Children and Youth — Let me say to you, 

"Remember now your Creator in the days of your 

youth." You too, hke many others, may find an 

I early grave. God gives no lease of life — disease and 

ji death are fast conquering the millions of our race, 

! and the far greater part of those that die, go down to 

; the tomb in the morning of hfe. Now, while you are 

\ young, is the best time to seek your Saviour's love, 

1 before the cares and disappointments and woes of 

life come upon you. And you may remember for 

|i your encouragement to seek the Lord, that 

"The flower when offered in the bud, 

"Is no vain sacrifice.'' y 



16 

Precious jouth, my heart has been mterested for 
jour good — for you I have labored — for you I have 
prayed — and all that I can more say, is, "farewell/' 
dear youth. 

As I cast my eye around, I see here and there, an 
aged traveller, near to eternity. My friends, you are 
few in number — the sands of your glass are almost 
run. Yours is a great account, for a long life, and 
many blessings, and soon you must give it up before 
your Judge. Let me then, my dear aged friends, ask, 
how stands it with your immortal souls ? Is ijour 
peace made with God — are your lamps tnmmed and 
burning — have you the spirit of adoption — do you feel 
an evidence to your own souls, that you love God, 
and are prepared for the abodes of the holy and the 
happy ? If this is your case, happy are you — soon 
you will leave a vexing world— soon you will ex- 
change the sorrows of the world, for the joys of 
heaven — soon, your deathless spirits will enter upon 
indescribable joys, and amid the countless throng, 
adore and praise the Lamb, who died for you, and 
washed you in his blood. 

But, my beloved friends, if any of you have hved 
till this hour in your sins, how fearful is your condi- 
tion ! Your youth, your middle life, and your old age, 
all consecrated to the world! Your day of grace is 
almost passed — heaven or hell, will soon be yours. — 
Fly, then, fly, I beseech you, to the arms of Jesus — 
make salvation the great, the only object of your at- 
tention for the few short days which remain to you — 
whatever you come short of, see that you fall not 
short of the pardoning mercy of the Lord. 

Finally, my christian brethren — my Jellow-sinners 
— precious youth, and aged friends, farewell. 



FINIS.