A Christian Minister’s Soliloquy
In his way to the Sanctuary
This moving article was perhaps written by the young pastor Josiah Wilkinson who was called to serve the Baptist Church in Saffron Walden, Essex on July 23, 1809 and ordained to that office in October of that year. Pastor Wilkinson labored for the good of souls in Saffron Walden for 38 years. Born in 1786, he was raised under the ministry of John Rippon in London.
I am now going to the Sanctuary–going to meet God–going to engage in his worship–going to preach his word–that word by which both myself, and all my hearers must be finally judged. I shall soon be surrounded by a number of beings, whose existence is never to terminate; but who, after millions and millions of ages, will be still immortal. Either the Bible is untrue, or every man, woman, and child among them will dwell in everlasting misery or joy. As soon as they have passed the bounds of this life, they must rise to the companionship of the highest orders of being, or sink to the doom of the lowest.
Providence has appointed me to declare to them the misery of their condition as sinners, and to direct their attention to that blessed way, which infinite mercy has opened for their complete restoration and happiness. I am to represent to them the character of a Saviour, who is waiting to be gracious. I am to show them the utter impossibility of their being saved by any other means. I am to watch for their souls–to labour that I may be instrumental in their everlasting welfare–and when I have finished the short period allotted to me on earth, I am to appear before the tribunal of my Creator, to give in my account–to say how I have used, and how I have improved my talents–what exertions I have made in the office I sustain, and what effects have resulted from them. What responsibility attaches itself to my situation! If I am not faithful to the cause I have undertaken, how shall I appear at that solemn season? If I am ashamed of the faces of men, I am assured I shall be “confounded before them;” and what is still more awful, shall be rewarded with the divine displeasure, and perhaps with misery in my own soul!
The condition of my hearers may be various. Some will need comfort and encouragement; some may have backslidden, and will require admonition to return; some may be less attached than they should be, to the rules of moral obligation:–some may be questioning the evidences of Christianity; some may be discouraged by a thousand doubts and fears; some may be very much exposed to the agency and artifice of the devil; and some may have their hearts and their affections in Heaven, and be waiting for fresh discoveries of the love of Christ to their souls. To all these I must administer a portion of meat in due season.
Some, perhaps, will be wishing for doctrinal discourses; some for the practical parts of Religion; some for experience. If I am very practical, many may think I am legal; if I am pretty general in my invitations to sinners, some may be weak enough to imagine that I set aside the necessity of the influence of the Spirit in conversion: many may differ from me in the shades of their views of the Gospel. But if these things move me, or make any alteration in my public addresses, I am not a faithful servant of Christ. I shall then appear to be guided by the opinions of men. It will seem as if they weighed more with me than the Bible. I shall expose myself to the everlasting censure of my own conscience, and perhaps to the curse of God. I will therefore endeavour to follow the directions of the highest authority. If I please–I shall share in that pleasure. If I do not–I shall yet have approved myself to my own conscience. Whatever may be the result, I will strive to be faithful to my own views, and to the truth; and leave the event with God. I will exert myself to the utmost of my power to turn sinners from darkness to light. I know that the co-operation of divine influence is necessary to make my exertions effectual to any good end; but I recollect that all means are to be employed, while the effect rests upon the sanctions of Heaven.
Perhaps before another Sabbath day, some that hear me this day, will have removed to their long home. They may have appeared before their Maker. They may have given in their account. What if it should be said by any, that I had been accessory to their damnation!–that I had not reproved, that I had not admonished, that I had not instructed them.–What if they should to eternity be heaping curses upon my head, for my lukewarmness and inattention.
Or perhaps before the arrival of another Sabbath, I myself may have finished my course on this earth. I may now be going to preach my last sermon. The opportunities I now enjoy of winning souls to Christ may be the last I shall have forever. O that I may be enabled to keep my own accountability, and the immortality of my hearers in view! May these annihilate all fear of the creature, and make me solicitous to please God! May I enter the Sanctuary, under the deep impression of his presence. May I remember that HE is acquainted with all my thoughts, and with all my intentions! May I be kept from the folly of striving merely to gratify the outward ear! May I be animated with ardent zeal–”zeal according to knowledge”! May I be in a spiritual and heavenly frame of mind! May I strive to cherish this disposition in those that hear me! May I be very serious, and very much in earnest about my own salvation, and that of all around me! And, above all, may I be indulged with thy smiles, O thou infinitely beautiful and blessed Being, and when my work on earth is finished, rise to nobler communion with thee and thy Son forever!
Saffron Walden, May, 1810