« PoprzedniaDalej »
genuine “ fruits of the Spirit.” If the holy apostle, notwithstanding ail his high views and attainments, could express himself with solicitude, lest, “after preaching to others,” he might be “a cast-away" himself, how great should be the anxiety of every inferior minister of Christ, lest this should be his fearful destiny? It has been justly remarked, that we are exposed to danger in this concern, from the very nature of our office. Our familiarity with sacred subjects, may lead us to mistake professional duty for personal religion; the exertion of our intellectual powers on theological investigations, and the employment of our time in religious offices, for a cordial attachment to the truth and service of God. To prevent this, we ought to make it our special employment, at stated seasons, carefully and frequently to try ourselves by the discriminating marks of inspiration, whether we truly belong to the number of those whom the Saviour will acknowledge as his real disciples.
But I have it here in view, not only to recommend an inquiry in regard to the reality of your religion, but to enjoin the importance of striving to be eminent in religion. The remark made by a distinguished critic* is certainly just, that the reason why pulpit discourses are not more uniformly excellent is, that it is extremely difficult for a minister of the gospel to keep up in his own mind, habitually, that lively and fervid sense of the truth and importance of divine things, which is necessary to furnish him with the most suitable thoughts, and to enable him to express those thoughts with the greatest propriety, strength and animation. Believe it, my young friends, that, after the mind is well furnished with knowledge, the very best help in preparing your public addresses, will be found in a heart glowing with love to God and the Saviour, and breaking with compassion and solicitude for immortal souls. In this state of mind you will want neither ideas nor expressions: all that you say will be pertinent; and, coming warm from your own hearts, will be best calculated to reach the hearts of others-All that you say will have about it an unction of piety, which can be derived from no other source • Eminent piety, also, naturally gives to the deportment of its possessor that gravity mingled with cheerfulness, that dignity united with condescension, that just accommodation to the tempers and circumstances of others, without countenancing what is sinful or yielding to what is wrong, which are peculiarly ornamental and useful to the minister of Christ. Over his whole de
* Dr. Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric, &c. Lect. 29.
meanour it sheds a kind of mild and heavenly radiance, which, like the face of Moses when he descended from the mount of God, bears visible testimony of his sacred converse, and gives him an authority and influence hardly to be resisted.
Such are the advantages of eminent piety to a gospel minister in his public services. The benefits which must result from it to himself are too obvious to need explanation. Seek it, therefore, as your first and most important qualification for the sacred office.
II. Your duties as preachers and pastors are next to be considered.
In order to preach with propriety, and with lasting acceptance to your people, remember that it is of essential importance that your own minds be extensively and richly furnished with knowledge. Be careful not to lose, as is too often the case, that measure of improvement in the liberal arts, which you acquired in your academical course. Endeavour, on the contrary, to be constantly adding something to this stock by farther acquisitions. In an age when vice and infidelity are abetted and propagated by learned and subtle advocates, the ministers of religion have a peculiar call to be well furnished for their work from the stores of literature. The gradual improve ment of our country, also, in taste and information, renders more of this necessary now, than was formerly demanded. Far be it, indeed, from me to recommend, that you consume the greater part of your time, or make it the principal object of your ambition and pursuit, to attain distinction merely as scholars. The minister of Christ, who does this, betrays his trust as really, though he may not do it so grossly, as if he should devote himself to the acquiring and hoarding of pelf. Always consider literature, then, as a handmaid to religion, but in this character do not neglect her.
But remember that the knowledge which is to be directly serviceable to you, and which, therefore, you should be most of all engaged to acquire, is the knowledge of the word of God.
The preachers of the present day may, perhaps, be allowed generally, to exceed those of the last generation in attention to method, style, and elocution; but it is, I fear, more than equally clear, that our fathers exceeded us in a familiar acquaintance with the holy scriptures: and, alas! what is this but saying that we are more attentive to the circumstantials, while they were more distinguished for the substance of religion. No other attainment can possibly be a substitute for an accurate and intimate
knowledge of the bible. The minister of the gospel, who is destitute of this, wants “ the sword of the spirit," and is like a soldier going to combat, without his most essential weapon. Endeavour, therefore, to be “ mighty in the scriptures." Read them with unwearied assiduity. Read them as critics; read them as christians; read them in their original languages; read them abundantly in your mother tongue.
With theology, as a science and system, you are already ac- . quainted; but let me remark, that, in qualifying yourselves more perfectly for pulpit service, you will find it extremely useful to be very conversant with a number of the best practical writers on religion. There is, perhaps, nothing superior to this for enabling a minister to speak in public with ease, readiness, application, and variety. It is, I apprehend, one of the most useful directions that can be given to a young clergyman, to have some book of the descriptior. I have mentioned constantly in perusal. It will quicken him in duty; it will improve his views of evangelical truth; and it will be the means of enriching the discourses which he delivers to others.
Here, likewise, I must exhort and charge you to study and well digest the addresses which you make in public. Whatever esteem some may profess for extemporaneous effusions and harangues, or however they may actually contribute to give a man popularity for a time, I have never known an instance in which a minister, who constantly preached in this way, and was confined in his stated addresses to the same congregation, did not at length sink into uselessness or insignificance. For myself, I must express it as my opinion, that whoever, in early life, habitually enters the sacred desk, without carefully preparing for it, is an idler in the house of the Lord, handles the word of God unfaithfully, and trifles with the souls of his people. Therefore obey the apostolic direction to Timothy on this very point: 6 Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine; meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine, continue in them; for, in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee."
You will not, however, consider any thing I have said as recommending a refined or abstract system of preaching. This is even a worse extreme than the other. It is absolutely to speak in « an unknown tongue" to far the larger part of every popular audience. While, therefore, you avoid carelessness, crudities, and vulgarity, on the one hand, be equally careful, on the other, not
to adopt a method of discourse, or to use a manner of expression, which is above the understanding of unlettered christians. By a perspicuous and natural arrangement of ideas, and by plainness, simplicity, and purity of language in expressing them, you wil support the true dignity of the pulpit, and “commend yourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.”
The substance of your preaching is to be “Christ crucified." You know that for this, the resolution of the great apostle of the gentiles, in regard to himself, is the high example and authority. And woe to that minister of the gospel who refuses to adopt the apostle's plan! Woe to that minister of the gospel, who substitutes the speculations of philosophy, or the glitter of rhetoric, for the simple, energetic doctrines of the cross! Woe to that minister, who is fearful that his discourses should savour too much of an evangelical spirit! Nay, woe to that minister who can even preach gospel doctrines merely in a doctrinal form, without addressing them to the feelings, urging them on the consciences, and applying them to the hearts of his hearers.
The doctrine of a crucified Saviour necessarily supposes, or rather is altogether founded upon, the totally ruined state of the human race; and their utter inability to recover themselves, or by any exertions of their own to escape the eternal wrath of God. It essentially consists in representing the righteousness of Christ, constituted by his perfect obedience to the divine law, and his complete atonement for the sins of the believer which have been a violation of it, as the whole meritorious cause of justification and acceptance with God, and the only ground of hope to the real penitent.
From the work accomplished on the cross results “ the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter,” who makes application of Christ's redemption, by convincing guilty men of their need of it; by showing them their vileness and their danger; by working that faith in their souls, whereby they appropriate the Saviour, with all his benefits, to themselves:- Thus renewing them from the love of sin to the love of holiness; disposing them truly to repent of all their transgressions, and to abhor them from a view of their infinite malignity as opposed to a God of boundless goodness and purity; directing them to the Redeemer's fulness, as the inexhaustible fountain of every supply they can need; quickening and upholding them in a life of practical godliness; enabling them to adorn the doctrine of their Saviour in all things; and crowning them, finally, with eternal life, as the glorious purchase of his death and the free gift of his grace. These are the doctrines of
Christ crucified; and on these, as you would deliver your own souls, and be instrumental in saving the souls of others, you are constantly to insist. It is an experimental truth, that without the publication of these doctrines; without making them the basis and burden of our preaching; we shall neither convert the ungodly, nor edify the faithful. You will not, however, understand this assertion as implying, that the great principles and duties of the moral law are never to be mentioned, or that they may not be particularly and profitably inculcated. No, “ the whole counsel of God” is to be fully declared. Every duty of the moral law is to be distinctly enjoined, and an impartial regard to it represented as the certain effect, and the essential evidence, of true religion. But, in doing this, the law itself is to be enforced, and as it were reflected from the cross. Acceptable obedience is to be represented as springing from a new nature, and the motives to it must be shown to exist in the inherent and unchangeable excellence of the law itself, and in the constraining influence of the love of Christ; not in any expectation that it will justify us before God, or recommend us to his favour. The law is, also, to be exhibited as a school master, disciplining those who are under it into a sense of their necessity of Christ. And thus all is still made to draw and tend to the cross, as to the centre of the system.
I could not forbear to be particular on the topic that has just been discussed: and the time consumed, is the less to be regretted, because it supersedes the necessity of dwelling on a number of subordinate points. He whose strain of preaching is such as has been described, will of necessity preach experimentally; that is, with a direct reference to the state of mind and various exercises of the several classes of his hearers. He will endeavour to alarm the secure, to reprove the disobedient, to de. tect the hypocritical, to direct the inquiring, to animate the lukewarm, to comfort the dejected, to encourage the feeble minded, and to edify the faithful. And I close this part of the subject with observing that direct addresses to these several classes or descriptions of persons, is of the highest importance, in order to success in your ministerial testimonies.
[To be continued.]
TRUE RELIGION SPIRITUAL AND SUPERNATURAL. It is much to be regretted that with all the other evil habits of the depraved human mind, there should appear so great a contrariety to those properties of true religion which are most expres