John Francis Lanneau

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In keeping with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, which began meeting this past Tuesday, and will have concluded either late on Thursday, or not later than noon on Friday.  The following charge brought at the ordination of a young minister, here concluded, seems quite appropriate to the occasion of a General Assembly. There is some wonderful wisdom in this charge. I pray you will be edified.

[As a reminder, it was the Rev. Dr. Aaron Whitney Leland, 1787-1871, who served as the first professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary, Columbia, SC. The Rev. John Francis Lanneau, 1809-1867, who was being ordained on this occasion, later served as a missionary.]


 [excerpted from The Charleston Observer 7.20 (18 May 1833): 77.1-4]

At the ordination of the Rev. J. F. Lanneau, in this city on the 1st of May, the following charge was given by the Rev. Dr. [Aaron Whitney] Leland; and it is now published at the earnest solicitation of may who heard it.

Dr. Leland continued:

Permit me to warn you, my brother, against those hostile influences by which you will be surrounded. If you are a devoted, active servant of Christ, be assured you will encounter opposition. When it comes, be not surprised. Be meek and patient towards open adversaries, cautious and courteous towards secret foes, and doubly guarded against flatterers. If you happen to be popular, your danger will be imminent. You will be placed in the fore-front of the hottest battle. For in that case saints and sinners will unite, and make common cause with the powers of darkness, to destroy you—all vying with each other in presenting to you deadly poison in the most alluring disguise—and all furnishing weapons to the enemies in your own bosom, to pierce you through with many sorrows. If such a hazardous eminence should be allotted you, I charge you to cast yourself down in deep humiliation, at the Saviour’s feet; lay fast hold of the Cross, and cry mightily to God for grace to help you in such a time of pressing need. Clerical popularity is a formidable foe. It has despoiled many a Christian soldier of his armour, and cast him down wounded; and many a proud sun of Levi it hath hurled from the battlements of Zion, down to the depths of perdition. Of this insidious, murderous enemy, I charge you to beware, as you prize your usefulness—as you value your own soul, or the souls of others. Nor would I fail to warn you of an opposite danger, less formidable indeed, but by no means to be disregarded. I allude to the trials and temptations to which you will be liable if you should be unpopular. And unpopular you may be, though you prove a devoted, able, faithful Minister of the New Testament. So was Edwards, the master spirit of his age—the mighty leader of American Theologians; and so was Scott, the excellent Commentator. Should this evil befall you, guard your heart against its influence,. It will prove a severe trial of your graces, and you need all the fortitude and self-denial you can obtain, to sustain with calmness the neglect, or unkindness, or opposition of those fro whom you are laboring and praying continually. Be assured that all the secret and open enemies of religion, will gratify their hatred of the Gospel by pouring the vials of their wrath upon you, and trampling your feelings in the dust. Should this ever be your lot, you will be able to judge whether you have a heart to love your enemies, to bless them who curse you, and to pray for those who despitefully use you. You will also be liable to ascertain whether you possess the spirit of Him, who when he was reviled, reviled not again—who prayed for his persecutors and slanderers, and who laid down his life for those who cried away with him from the earth—not this man but Barrabbas—crucify Him.

While you labor as an Evangelist, you will find your sphere of action attended with many dangers. Among these permit me to mention the neglect of study, and mental discipline, and deficient, desultory preparation for the pulpit. Wherever you are, and whether you feel the necessity or not, it is necessary for you to give yourself to reading and composition, as well as to exhortation and doctrine. I charge you not to neglect the gifts which have been bestowed upon you, but to study to approve yourself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

If you are called to a pastoral charge, new difficulties and new trials will be experienced. When you are preaching as a candidate, with a view to settlement, beware of exciting too high expectations, by giving specimens of ability, which you cannot habitually equal. In his way, many young Ministers fatally impair their usefulness, and prepare for themselves a bed of thorns. They have a few sermons, most elaborately prepared; containing all the ornaments and treasures they have accumulated during their whole preparatory course. These are delivered with great spirit to vacant congregations, and are heard with admiration.—The result is a speedy settlement. But mark the grievous disappointment. When the regular pastoral labors commence, it is evident that the stock is exhausted; and the idol of popular favor, and the prodigy of talent and erudition, sinks down into a very ordinary preacher.—Such a course every wise man will carefully avoid. Let not the preface to your book be greatly superior to all the rest of its contents. Begin no loftier flight, than your strength of pinion can sustain. Always husband your mental resources, and reserve your noblest efforts, to stem that current of reaction, which you will be sure to meet, after a spring-tide of popularity; and which may require all your resources and energies to withstand. And when the excitement of a new pastoral union thus subsides, and the ordinary labours of a parochial charge have really begun; when the people find that their new favorite is a mere mortal man, compassed with infirmity; and he makes a similar discovery in relation to them; then come the real labours, and trials, and temptations of a Minister of the Gospel. Make up your mind to fail in satisfying all your hearers. You will certainly find unreasonable demands, which you cannot gratify. When some require you to speak louder, and others lower—when some expect you always to be in your study, and others always visiting—when some cannot endure to hear a sermon read, and others are disgusted at preaching extempore—amid such conflicting demands, what can you do? Evidently your only course is to go straight forward in the conscientious performance of your duty, and leave the event to God. But I will not, on the present occasion, enter the field of your pastoral duties. That may more appropriately claim attention at your future installation.

I feel it important, however, to give you one or two directions as to your course in relation to this subject. In view of a permanent settlement, I counsel you never to accept a call, when there is an opposing minority, unless you are well assured that such opposition is directly solely against the essential doctrines of the Gospel, and is wholly unmingled with personal dislike. A settlement in a divided Church, with the hope of future reconciliation and harmony, is about as wise, as a marriage between parties mutually offensive to each other, formed with expectation that affection will spring up in after life. On one more point I offer you my counsel. Should you be settled in the ministry, and find dissatisfaction arising, and symptoms of a desire of change exhibited by any considerable portion of hearers; I advise you to demand a separation without delay.—Any five men in a congregation, who resolve to oppose a Minister, and to create dissention, always succeed. A Pastor’s change of success, in such a conflict, is about as great, as that of a man bound hand and foot, against the attacks of half a score of well armed assailants. And even if there be no open opposition, if you perceive that your usefulness has declined, that your preaching is attended with listless indifference, and that, some how or other, your influence is evidently diminished—your path of duty is plain—seek another field of pastoral labour. Immense injury is done to the cause of religion, by the perseverance of Ministers in situations where they cannot be useful, because they find it inconvenient to remove. I beseech you never to be of the number of those who, to preserve a support, or avoid the pain of separation, continue to occupy ground they cannot cultivate, and thus prove an actual obstacle to the prosperity of churches they profess to love. Most evident is it, that there are in our land scores of Pastors, who would do more good, by a change of location, than they ever did in their lives. I charge you, my young Brother, never to hold a pastoral office, after you are convinced that the spiritual interests of the church are not promoted by your ministry.

In maintaining the discipline of the house of God, I charge you to be vigilant and faithful. Entrusted with the seals of the covenant, see to it that you do not desecrate them by an unworthy appropriation.

Ever bear in mind, that it is an important part of your duty, to attend regularly the judicatories of our church, and to fulfill, if possible, all presbyterial appointments. Whenever you are called to examine candidates for the ministry, I charge you to act impartially and conscientiously. Lay hands suddenly upon no man, neither be partaker of other mens sins, keep thyself pure.

With these directions and cautions, and with most affectionate wishes and fervent prayers for the success of your ministry, I bid you God speed. Go forth, my Brother, into the vineyard of the Lord, to watch and labour, to live and die in His service. Work while the day lasts—the night cometh when no man can work. The more laborious and indefatigable you are, the more welcome and delightful will be the rest which remaineth to the people of God.—Adopt as your own, that illustrious motto—“expect great things—attempt great things.” Set your standard high, and press towards the mark to secure the prize of your high calling. Commissioned to watch for souls as one who must give account, cherish a severe conviction that you have one great business in this world—to persuade perishing rebels to be reconciled to God. Wherever you go, let your desires, and prayers, and efforts be concentrated to one point—a revival of religion, an ingathering of souls into the fold of the good Shepherd.—Failing in this, you labour in vain. Whatever else you may accomplish, however high your reputation, or overflowing your assemblies, be assured, that, unless you rouse Christians from apathy, and pierce the hearts of the impenitent with the arrows of conviction, you utterly fail in effecting the great purpose of your ministry. Fix then your heart, with unconquerable desire, upon witnessing a mighty work of grace, a glorious effusion of the Holy Spirit, wherever you are called to labour. Let this be the leading object of all your sermons. Get your whole soul under the influence of eternal things, and address perishing men, as if the judgment bar was full in your view. Strive to realize that Christless souls are on the brink of everlasting burnings; and then you will be in earnest in urging them to escape for their lives, and flee from the wrath to come. And take heed, my brother, when you denounce the terrors of the Lord, and warn the wicked of approaching wrath, that your language and manner be such as to convince them that you are constrained thus to address them by love to their souls, and by a full conviction, that, unless they repent, they must perish. Beware of a reproachful, vindictive manner of uttering such awful truths, as if you loved to utter them. It has a most hardening, injurious influence. Let it be evidently your delight, to beseech men to be reconciled to God.

And now, my dear young Brother, having given you these instructions, and delegated to you this spiritual authority; in the name of the great Head of the Church, and as the official organ of this Ecclesiastical Judicatory, I solemnly charge you to take heed to this ministry which thou hast received, that thou fulfill it. Let no man despise thy youth; but be an example to believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Meditate on these thingsgive thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed to thyself, and to thy doctrine, for in so doing thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. Be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. In all things showing thyself a pattern of good worksin doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sinceritysound speech that cannot be condemned, that opposers may be ashamed, having no evil things to say of you.

Finally—I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearancepreach the wordbe instant in season, out of seasonreprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.Watch in all thingsendure afflictionsdo the work of an Evangelistmake full proof of thy ministry. I give the charge before God who quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession, that thou keep this commandment, without spot, unrebukable, until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be thou faithful unto death, and thou shalt receive a crown of life.

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In keeping with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, which meets beginning this Tuesday evening, the following charge brought at the ordination of a young minister, seems quite appropriate. Something to read when you should otherwise be paying attention to that report currently being read from the Assembly floor. May this charge stir your soul!


 [excerpted from The Charleston Observer 7.20 (18 May 1833): 77.1-4]

At the ordination of the Rev. J. F. Lanneau, in this city on the 1st of May, the following charge was given by the Rev. Dr. [Aaron Whitney] Leland; and it is now published at the earnest solicitation of may who heard it.

[The Rev. Dr. Aaron Whitney Leland, 1787-1871, served as the first professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary, Columbia, SC. The Rev. John Francis Lanneau, 1809-1867, who was being ordained on this occasion, later served as a missionary.]

You have now been conducted into the sacred office of the Christian Ministry, according to Apostolic usage, by prayer and the laying on the hands of the Presbytery. You are now called out and separated from your fellow men, and solemnly devoted to the service of God.—You have taken a station which you can never abandon, and assumed responsibilities from which you can never be relieved. Henceforth you are not to be weighed in the same scale with other men; you are officially connected with the kingdom of Christ; and you hold committed to your trust with the interests of immortality. Just stationed on the walls of Zion, you may hear a voice from the throne above, saying: son of man, I have made thee a watchman for the souls of perishing men; therefore hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say to the wicked, O wicked man thou shalt surely die, if thou dost not warn the wicked, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. Such indeed is the nature of the office you now sustain, that your influence and character, your example and deportment, nay your very words and looks will prove a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death, to those around you.—This evening you are commissioned an Ambassador of Christ, sent to your fellow men, with a treaty of reconciliation with an offended God; and the amazing interests and destinies involved in that embassy, are entrusted to your fidelity. You have voluntarily enlisted for life, as a leader in the armies of Emmanuel, and have registered your solemn vows, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, to maintain a ceaseless conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil,—and never to put off your armour till you gain the victor’s crown, and receive the plaudit from the King of Zion, “well done good and faithful servant.” AS an accredited steward in the household of the Lord, treasures of incalculable preciousness are committed to your care, and you are to bear in mind, continually, as long as you live, that it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful. On your entrance upon such scenes of labor and peril, with such momentous duties in prospect, you doubtless feel the overwhelming responsibilities which press upon you, and your utter inability to sustain them a moment, without a support of an Almighty arm. You have not, I trust, placed your foot upon this holy ground confiding in your own strength. In this trying hour, repose upon the blessed assurance, that the Redeemer’s grace is sufficient for you, even in such exigencies; and that, though powerless as infancy in yourself, you can do all things through Christ’s strengthening you.

Standing as you do, my young brother, a monument of distinguishing mercy—a brand plucked out of the fire—it is certainly peculiarly fitting, that you devote your life to the blessed work of proclaiming that mercy to others, and preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ.—Rescued by the grace of God from those fearful dangers by which, in common with your early associates, you were surrounded; delivered from the poverty of an earthly portion, and the degrading bondage of worldly delusions, and enriched with spiritual blessings—how high the privilege, how appropriate the employment, of devoting your time and talents, your labor and life, to the service of God, in the Gospel of his Son.

I am well aware, that you have not rashly and thoughtlessly entered upon this great work. I know you have turned away from all the attractions and indulgences which surrounded you, and devoted your youth to long and laborious preparation for usefulness. Fully continued, that in this age of the Church, the literary and intellectual qualifications, requisite for the Ministry, are not obtained by any supernatural process, you have patiently “climbed the heavy alps of science, and devoted seven years to toil,” in order to obtain that mental cultivation, necessary to make you “a scribe well instructed in the things of the kingdom, thoroughly furnished for every good word and work.” I trust also, that you have, what is all important, a preparation of heart, which is from the Lord. I believe the love of Christ constrains you to enter upon the arduous and self-denying labours which are before you, and that you are ready and willing to spend and be spent in untiring efforts to save the souls of men, and advance the cause of the Redeemer.

Nevertheless, as the time has now come when you are to enter the field, bearing the Christian standard as a herald of the Cross; and as your final vows of allegiance and fidelity have just been recorded, I cannot fail to sympathize in your emotions, and affectionately to direct you to that source of spiritual consolation and support, of which you must so deeply feel the necessity.

In this most solemn hour of your whole life, on this occasion fraught with such momentous results to yourself and others, it is my official duty to remind you of your duties, dangers and responsibilities, and to urge upon your regard the sacred Ministerial obligations which now rest upon you. As you have given yourself to the Lord, and taken part in our Ministry, I solemnly charge you, as you value your own soul, and the souls which may be committed to your care, that you faithfully fulfil it. I charge you to preach the doctrines of the Gospel, fully, fearlessly, and plainly. You are set for the defence of the Gospel; and are bound to declare the whole counsel of God, and to defend and vindicate the entire system of redemption, as it is revealed by Moses and the Prophets, Christ and his Apostles. In this matter, nothing is left to your choice or discretion. As an ambassador, you are bound rigidly to adhere to your instructions. You cannot change or modify the term of the treaty. You have the statute book of the kingdom, and it is incumbent upon you to publish all the laws, and precepts and penalties, which are therein contained.—Let your mental inquiry always be—not what will be popular and acceptable, but what hath the Lord spoken, and what message does he send by me to these dying men, whom I am to address upon the things which belong to their everlasting peace. Let your preaching be discriminating—giving to all a portion in due season. Ever bear in mind, that your hearers consist of saints and sinners—the friends and the enemies of God—those who are on their way to heaven, and those who are on their way to hell. You are commissioned to say to the righteous that it shall be well with him, and you are enjoined also to say “woe to the wicked, it shall be ill with him.” I charge you in your preaching so to address yourself to Christians, and to impenitent sinners, that every one of your hearers may distinctly known what portion of your message is designed for him; and that your sermons, like the voice of the archangel, may make your hearers feel that they are separated from each other by an immeasurable contrast of character.

Like a skillful Physician, you are to apply the moral remedies, entrusted to your care, to the various cases, and stages, and symptoms, of spiritual disease, which you may meet in this great hospital of sick souls in which you are employed. In feeding, and guarding the Church of God, you have meat for the strong, and milk for babes—you have consolations for those who mourn, and alarm for those who slumber—you have instructions for the ignorant, guidance for the wandering, admonitions for the sluggish, and a scourge for the backslider. In delivering your message to those who know not God, and obey not the Gospel, who have no hope, and live without God in the world, you are equally well furnished with materials for a wise appropriation. The thoughtless are to be persuaded by the terrors of the Lord; and the refuges of lies, under which self-deceivers repose, are to be shaken to ruins by the strong arm of truth. Arrows are furnished to pierce the obdurate heart, and gracious invitations to lead the heavy-laden sinner to the Saviour’s feet.

While you are thus made a keeper of the vineyard of others, take heed, I charge you, that your own be not neglected; that you cultivate personal religion, that you be faithful to your own soul. Remember you are set as a light of the world—an example and model for other Christians—a sample of those lively stones of which the temple of God is composed. Be no deceived by supposing that it is easy for a Minister to grow in grace, and to become eminently spiritual, as he surely ought to be. In some respects, it is more difficult to him than to others. His constant familiarity with the truths and duties of religion, expose him, in a very peculiar and distressing degree, to formality and apathy. Make up your mind, to contend against a host of difficulties, dangers and temptations, and that you will need uncommon watchfulness, self-denial, faith, and humility, to guard you against those wiles of the Devil, which will be employed for your destruction.

I charge you to set before the Church and the world a consistent, edifying example.—Present to all around you an attractive pattern of uniform, cheerful piety; of charity, meekness, and diligence. Teach them, practically, that devotion is something to be enjoyed, not to be endured; and that in keeping God’s commandments there is great reward. If you have property, be frugal to yourself, and liberal in relieving distress, and promoting every good work. If you are poor, be contented and cheerful; and thus afford a living commentary upon the text, that a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance which he possesseth. If God places you at the head of a family, see to it that it be a truly Christian family, a model to all the vicinity. In ordering and governing your own household, evince your fitness for the Pastoral office; for, says St. Paul, “if a man cannot rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God.” Be temperate in all things. Avoid every appearance of luxury or extravagance in your table, dress or equipage; and see to it that your house be furnished with that decent plainness which becomes a Christian Minister. It seems hardly necessary to caution a Clergyman to abstain entirely from ardent spirits; especially as I know that you never use them. But I do charge you to persevere in that abstinence, at all times, and under all circumstances, and to bear an open decided testimony against the slightest deviation from this only safe rule. The time has come when this is an important item in Christian morals; and a Minister of the Gospel, who uses intoxicating drink himself, or vindicates its use in others, however ably he may preach, preaches in vain. His example hardens men in sin, and gives boldness, and energy to the deadliest foes of God and man. I charge you to be a faithful, fearless advocate for total abstinence, and never give place, no not for an hour, to any of its opposers.

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