The Minister's Final Charge

Octavius Winslow

An excerpt from a discourse delivered on relinquishing his Pastoral Care of the Central Baptist Church, New York, December 20, 1835.

"Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!" Philippians 4:1

These are the most important doctrines which I have taught during my ministry:

1. The doctrine of the original fall, and universal depravity of mankind.

2. The sinner's justification through the imputed righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. The expiatory nature of the sufferings and death of Christ.

4. The distinct office of the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration.

5. The doctrine of a coming Savior.

6. The holiness of the gospel.

Look at man in his fallen state. See! there is no spiritual breath, no spiritual motion. There is no delight in spiritual employments, no panting for holiness, no love to God, no desire for Christ. True, the natural conscience may, for a moment, be aroused. The midnight summons to eternity of one who but lately passed before us flushed with health, and buoyant with delight; the sight of a passing coffin, an open grave, may thrill the soul, and alarm the conscience, and extort the confession, 'I, too, must die!' but the thrill passes off, the alarm subsides, the confession, like a shadowy dream, vanishes away, and the soul still remains clad in its winding-sheet of spiritual death.

So have I seen an automatic figure, which, by the force of mechanical power, was made to move; there were all the external signs of life yet it was an automaton still. And so have I seen a corpse, under the influence of galvanic power; the eye rolled, the lips quivered, and every feature of the countenance was put in motion yet was it a corpse still.

I caution you, too, not to mistake that for evidence of spiritual life and holiness which is but the evidence of a magnanimous disposition, and a refined sensibility qualities which have survived the fall, flowers which yet variegate and adorn the rugged surface of this sin and sorrow-stricken earth. You yourselves are witnesses, how tenderly solicitous I have felt here. There may be kindness and sensibility in the heart, loveliness and gentleness in the disposition, refinement and beauty in the address and yet the plague-spot of sin be seen on all!

A father may display a sleepless devotion for his children, compared with which the sublimest heroism emblazoned on the page of history, shall melt away, like the rainbow painted on a cloud. For them he may defy the warring elements; he may plough the ocean, and wander lone and lonely on a foreign and unhealthy climate, with nothing to soothe him amid his voyage, and cheer him in his exile but the imagery of his dear and far distant home. And yet, with this beauteous trait of character, exhibited in its strongest light, his heart may be the dwelling-place of a deep spirit of ungodliness.

A mother, too, may lavish her endearments and smiles on her babe. Her eye may sparkle with joyousness, as she gazes on the roseate hue of health which mantles its cheek, or she may weep with agitation and alarm, when disease has invaded its tender frame, or when she hangs with untired watchfulness over its dying bed and yet no aspirations after God and holiness find a place among the varied and conflicting feelings, which agitate her bosom.

Be not deceived. Kindness of heart is not holiness; a love of offspring is not love to God. The ethics you have adopted may be good, the moral graces, which so richly adorn you, may shine in beauteous luster before the eyes of your fellows; and before an earthly tribunal, or at the bar of public opinion; you may stand in the attitude of the proudest integrity and yet, when brought to the bar of a higher jurisprudence, there may be recorded against you, and most righteously, too, the verdict of a fearful and overwhelming doom!