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CHURCH WARDENS AND PARISHIONERS
SAINT PAUL'S DEPTFORD,
TIITS SERMON IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED,
AUTHOR ON THE DEATH OF DR. CONYERS.
THESSALONIANS, ii. 8.
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted into
you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
An active, undaunted zeal in the service of God, and a peculiar tenderness of affection towards his people, were happily and eminently combined in the character of St. Paul. The latter appears in none of his writings to greater advantage than in this epistle, and particularly in this chapter. He had been made very useful to the Thessalonians, and was greatly beloved by them. Many of them had received the Gospel which he preached, not in word only, but in power; and were effectually turned, by grace, from dead idols, to serve the living and the true God.* They likewise were very dear to bim; and, being now at a distance from them he writes to confirm their faith and hope, to animate and direct their conduct. And he takes many occasions of reminding them of the peculiar regard he has borne them from the first, and how near they still were to his heart; that his love for them, which had sweetened all his labours and sufferings when he was among them, made him still solicitous for their welfare, and enabled him to rejoice on their account, while he was suffering bonds and imprisonment at Rome.
The verse I have read is one passage, out of many in the New Testament, where our translation does not fully come up to the spirit and beauty of the original. Not that it is unfaithful or Faulty ; it is chiefly owing to the difference of the languages. I believe we have no single word in the English tongue to express the energy of the Greek term which he uses in the beginning of the verse ; and therefore our translators have employed two, t “ Being affectionately desirous of you.” It denotes a desire connected with the finest and most tender feelings of the heart; not like the degrading, selfish desire of the miser for gold; but such an emotion, (according to his own beautiful illustration in the preceding verse,) as that with which the nurse, the mother while a nurse, contemplates her own child. Being thus disposed towards you, f “we were willing ;” but the Greek is more ,
*1 Thess. i. 5, 9. Vol. III.
emphatical-We esteemed it our pleasure, our joy, the very height of our wishes, to impart unto you the Gospel of God,” to put you into our own place, to communicate to you, by the Gospel, all that comfort, and strength, and joyful hope, which we have received from it ourselves. Yea, further, to have imparted to you “our own souls also; that is to devote our whole strength, time, and study, to this very end, to spend and be spent for you, and to be ready to seal our testimony with our blood, if this were needful to your establishment, “because ye were dear unto us,* exceedingly dear unto us.” The same word is used, (for the language of mortals will not afford a stronger,) Matth. iii. 17.“This is my beloved Son."
When I thought of preaching to you this day, and of mingling my tears with yours, the occasion suggested the choice I have made of a text; and the countenances of many of you convince me that I have not made an improper choice. Another congregation might have been led, from what I have already said, to sympathise with the Thessalonians, in what they must have felt when they were deprived of such a minister and friend; but your minds are engaged by a sense of your owu loss. You have reason. You acknowledge and feel that if I wished (as I certainly did) to select a text which might, while you heard it, strongly impress your minds with the idea of my dear friend, your late pastor, and recall to your remembrance his principles, actions, motives, and aims; how he spoke and bow he lived among you, I could hardly have found a passage in the whole Scripture more directly suited to my purpose. I believe no minister in the present age, nor, perhaps, in any past age since the apostles' days, could have a better warrant than Dr. Conyers to adopt these words of St. Paul, as expressive of his own spirit and character. He had a very tender affection for you. It was his earnest desire, and his great delight, to impart unto you the Gospel of God, because you were dear to him; and it may be said of him, with peculiar propriety, that in this service of love, he imparted to you his own soul, or life, also. You have not forgotten, surely you never can forget, the very solemn and affecting manner in which his ministry among you closed. Whether, while he was reading the apostle's farewell discourse to the elders of the church of Ephesus,* which occurred in the second lesson for the day, he had a presage that you
should see his face no more, we know not. Had he been certain of it, he could not have taken your consciences more earnestly to witness, that he was clear of your blood, and that he had not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God. However, the event
Acts, xx. 18-35.
proved that you then saw and heard him for the last time. His strength and life were prolonged to finish his discourse, and to pronounce over you his parting blessing, which he had scarcely finished, before he was called home to his Master's joy. “ Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so
In considering the ground of the apostle's love to the Thessalonians, and the proofs which he gave of it, the subject will frequently lead me to bear a testimony to the grace of God, vouch. safed to your late minister, of whom we may truly say, he was a “ follower of St. Paul, as Paul also was of Christ.”
1. The first ground, the original cause of the apostle's love to the brethren, was the love of Christ. His unwearied endeavours, in the midst of the hardships and dangers which awaited him in every place, to promote the happiness of mankind, made him appear to many who were unacquainted with the motives of his con. duct, as though he were beside himself. The apology he offered was " the love of Christ constraineth us." Till he knew the Lord, he acted very differently. While he was under the power of prejudice and ignorance, he verily thought that he ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth, and therefore breathed out threatening and slaughter against his people. But Jesus, whom he persecuted, appeared to him in his way to Damascus, convinced him of his sin, vouchsafed him pardon, and commissioned him to preach the faith which he had laboured to destroy. From that time he esteemed himself a chief sinner, and because much had been forgiven him, he loved much. He devoted his whole future life to proclaim the glory and grace of his Saviour, and to propose himself as a pattern of his long-suffering and mercy to all around him, that they likewise might believe and be saved. He was conscious of his Saviour's just right to reign in every heart
heart. And they who, by receiving the Gospel which he preached, entered into his views, and loved the Lord whom he loved, instantly became dear to him for his Lord's sake, whether they were Jews or Gentiles, rich or poor, bond or free. It is probable, that all who are convinced and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, having a clearer knowledge of the nature, number, and ag. gravation of their own sins than they can possibly have of those of any other person, account themselves among the chief of sinners, though many of them may have been preserved from gross enormities. I never heard that your minister was influenced, like Saul of Tarsus, by a bitter, persecuting spirit ; and, I believe, his behaviour was moral and exemplary from his youth. When he
* Luke, xii, 43. f 1 Cor. xi. 1. 1 2 Cor. v. 14. & Acts, ix. 1. xxvi. O. Gal. i. 23. Si Tim. i. 15, 16.
entered upon his ministry, at his beloved Helmsley, in Yorkshire, he found the place ignorant and dissolute to a proverb. At this early period of life he feared God, and he hated wickedness. With much zeal and diligence he attempted the reformation of his parish, which was of great extent, and divided into several hamlets. He preached frequently in them all. He encouraged his parishioners to come to his house. He distributed them into little companies, that he might instruct them with more convenience : be met them in rotation, by appointment. In this manner, long before he fully understood that Gospel of God which of late years he so successfully imparted to you, I have been assured that he often preached or exhorted, publicly or more privately, twenty times in a week. These labours were not in vain : a great, visible, and almost universal reformation took place. About the time I am speaking of, a clergyman in his neighbourhood made very honourable mention of Mr. Conyers, in a letter to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, (wbich I have seen in print,) as, perhaps, the most exemplary, indefatigable, and successful parochial ninister in the kingdom ; yet, in the midst of applause and apparent success, he was far from being satisfied with himself. He did what he could ; he did more than most others; but he felt there was something still wanting, though, for a time he knew not what; but he was desirous to know. He studied the Scriptures, and he prayed to the Father of lights. They who thus seek shall surely find. Important consequences often follow from a sudden, involuntary turn of thought. One day an expression of St. Paul's, “the unsearchable riches of Christ,»* engaged his attention. He had often read the passage, but never noticed the word “unsearchable” before. The Gospel, in his view of it, had appeared plain, and within his comprehension ; but the apostle spoke of it as containing something that was “unsearchable.” A conclusion, therefore, forced itself upon him, that the idea he had bitherto affixed to the word Gospel, could not be the same with that of the apostle. From this beginning, he was soon led to perceive that his whole scheme was essentially defective ; that his people, however outwardly reformed, were not converted. He now felé himself a sinner, and felt his need of faith in a Saviour in a manner he had never done before. Thus he was brought, with the apostle, to account his former gain but loss. The unsearchable riches of Christ opened to his mind, he received power to believe, his perplexities were removed, and he rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory. He presently told his people, with that amiable simplicity which so strongly marked his character, that, though he had endeavoured to show them the way of salvation, he
* Ephes. iii. 8.