This is the sermon of Jonathan Edwards that really started to solidify the internal call I was sensing to start preparing to go into ministry.
Here are some quotes that specifically stirred my heart:
"The preaching of the gospel is...the great means of bringing about the prosperity and joy of the church..." (Pp. 19) [Emphasis added]
"When a duly qualified person is properly invested with the ministerial character, and does in a due manner take upon him the sacred work and office of a minister of the gospel, he does, in some sense, espouse the church of Christ in general...every one that takes on him this office as he ought to do, espouses the church of Christ, as he espouses the interest of the church in a manner that is peculiar. He is under obligations, as a minister of the christian church, beyond other men, to love the church, as Christ her true bridegroom hath loved her, and to prefer Jerusalem above his chief joy, and to imitate Christ, the great shepherd and bishop of souls and husband of the church, in his care and tender concern for her welfare, and earnest and constant labours to promote it, as he has opportunity." (Pp. 19)
"The minister, by solemn vows, devotes himself to the people, to improve his time and strength, and spend and be spent for them, so long as God in his providence shall continue the union; and they, on the other hand, in a holy covenant commit the care of their souls, and subject themselves to him." (Pp. 20) [Emphasis added]
"The minister joyfully devoting himself to the service of his Lord in the work of the ministry, as a work that he delights in; and also joyfully uniting himself to the society of the saints that he is set over, as having complacence in them, for his dear Lord's sake, whose people they are; and willingly and joyfullly, on Christ's call, undertaking the labours and difficulties of the service of their souls." (Pp. 20) [Emphasis added]
"Thus a faithful minister and a christian people are each other's joy, Rom. XV. 32. "That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed." 2 Cor. i. 14. 'As you have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye are ours.'" (Pp. 20)
"The minister earnestly and continually seeks the profit and comfort of the souls of his people, and to guard and defend them from every thing that might annoy them, and studies and labours to promote their spiritual peace and prosperity. They, on the other hand, make it their constant care to promote his comfort, to make the burden of his difficult work easy, to avoid those things that might add to the difficulty of it, and that might justly be grievous to his heart." (Pp. 20)
"He has chosen them, not to be mere servants, but friends; John XV. 15. 'I call you not servants; --but I have called you friends.'"
"On the other hand, the church chooses Christ above all others: he is in her eyes the chief among ten thousands, fairer than the sons of men: she rejects the suit of all his rivals, for his sake: her heart relingquishes the whole world: he is her pearl of great price, for which she parts with all; and rejoices in him, as the choice and rest of her soul." (Pp. 21)
"Christ and his church, as the bridegroom and bride, rejoice in each other's love. Wine is spoken of, Psalm CIV. 15. as that which maketh glad man's heart: but the church of Christ is spoken of as rejoicing in the love of Christ, as taht which is more pleasant and refreshing than wine, Cant. i. 4. 'The king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine.' So on the other hand, Christ speaks of the church's love as far better to him than wine, Cant. IV. 10. 'How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine!'" (Pp. 22)
"...And at that glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, shall the whole elect church complete as to every individual member, and each member with the whole man, both body and soul, and both in perfect glory, ascend up to meet the Lord in the air, to be thenceforth for ever with the Lord. That will be indeed a joyful meeting of this glorious bridegroom and bride." (Pp. 22)
"Ministers are sent to woo the souls of men for Christ, 2 Cor. V. 20. 'We are then ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.'" (Pp. 23)
"Faithful ministers are made the instruments of leading the people of God in the way to heaven, conducting them to the glorious presence of the bridegroom, to the consummate joys of her marriage with the Lamb; as Abraham's servant conducted Rebekah from Padan-aram to Canaan, and presented her to Isaac and delivered her into his embraces. For it is the office of ministers, not only to espouse the church to her husband, but to present her a chaste virgin to Christ." (Pp. 23)
"...And let us behave ourselves as those that are devoted to their good; being willing to spend and to be spent for them; joyfully undertaking and enduring the labour and self-denial that is requisite in order to a thorough fulfilling the ministry that we have received." (Pp. 23) [Emphasis added]
"Let us aim that when the appointed wedding-day comes, we may have done our work as Christ's messengers; and may then be ready to present Christ's spouse to him, a chaste virgin, properly educated and formed, and suitably adorned for her marriage with the Lamb; that he may the present her to himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, and may receive her into his eternal embraces, in perfect unity, beauty, and glory." (Pp. 23) [Emphasis added]
"Christ obtains his elect spouse by conquest; for she was a captive in the hands of dreadful enemies; and her Redeemer came into the world to conquer these enemies, and rescue her out of their hands, that she might be his bride. And he came and encountered these enemies in the greatest battle that ever was beheld by men or angels; he fought with principalities and powers; he fought alone with the powers of darkness, and all the armies of hell; yea, he conflicted with the infinitely more dreadful wrath of God, and overcame in this great battle; and thus he obtained his spouse. Let us consider at how great a price Christ purchased this spouse; he did not redeem her with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with his own precious blood; yea, he gave himself for her. When he offered up himself to God in those extreme labours and sufferings, this was the joy that was set before him, that made him cheerfully to endure the cross, and despise the pain and shame in comparison of this joy; even that rejoicing over his church, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride that the Father had promised him, and that he expected when he should present her to himself in perfect beauty and blessedness." (Pp. 24) [Emphasis added]
"The reason why Christ pust such honour on faithful ministers, even above the angels themselves, is because they are of his beloved church, they are select members of his dear spouse, and Christ esteems nothing too much, no honour too great, for her...[a]nd seeing Christ hath so honoured us, that our relation to his people resembles his, surely our affection to them should imitate his, in seeking their salvation, spiritual peace, and happiness. Our tender care, labours, self-denial, and readiness to suffer for their happiness, should imitatewhat hath appeared in him, who hath purchased them with his own blood." (Pp. 24) [Emphasis added]
"May you now, as one of the precious sons of Zion, take this part of Christ's church by the hand, in the name of your great Master the glorious bridegroom, with a heart devoted unto him with true adoration and supreme affection, and for his sake knit to this people, in a spiritual and pure love, and as it were a conjugal tenderness; ardently desiring that great happiness for them, which you have now heard Christ has chosen his church unto, and has shed his blood to obtain for her; being yourself ready to spend and be spent for them; remembering the great errand on which Christ sends you to them, viz. to woo and win their hearts, and expouse their souls to him, and to bring up his elect spouse, and to fit and adorn her for his embraces; that you may in due time present her a chaste virgin to him, for him to rejoice over, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride. How honourable is this business that Christ employs you in! and how joyfully should you perform it!" (Pp. 25) [Emphasis added]
"The joyful day is coming, when the spouse of Christ shall be led to the King in raiment of needle-work; and angels and faithful ministers will be the servants that shall lead her in. And you, Sir, if you are faithful in the charge now to be committed to you, shall be joined with glorious angels in that honourable and joyful service; but with this difference, that you shall have the higher privilege. Angels and faithful ministers shall be together in bringing in Christ's bride into his palace, and presenting her to him. But faithful minsiters shall have a much higher participation of the joy of that occasion. They shall have a greater and more immediate participation with the bride in her joy; for they shall not only be ministers to the church as the angels are, but parts of the church, principal members of the bride. And as such, at the same time that angels do the part of ministering spirits to the bride, when they conduct her to the bridegroom, they shall also do the part of ministering spirits to faithful ministers. And they shall also have a higher participation with the bridegroom than the angels, in his rejoicing at that time; for they shall be nearer to him than they. They are also his members, and are honoured as the principal instruments of espousing the saints to him, and fitting them for his enjoyment; and therefore they will be more the crown of rejoicing of faithful ministers, than of the angels of heaven." (Pp. 25-26) [Emphasis added]
"Your chosen pastor comes to you on this errand, and he comes in the name of the bridegroom, so empowered by him, and representing him, that in receiving him, you will recieve Christ, and in rejecting him, you will reject Christ." (Pp. 26)
[Edwards, Jonathan The Works of Jonathan Edwards Volume II Hndrickson Publishers Inc. Peabody, MA (Reprinted from an 1834 edition in the UK, third printing -- January 2003]
Meditating on these thoughts excites me to be an elect member of the Lord's spouse, the church. It also excites me and makes me tremble at the awesome responsibility it is to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By His grace we can joyfully serve and be used by God to prepare His church for the marriage supper...as He builds it.