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ceeding great and precious promises of the gospel, which in him are "" yea and amen." I give but short and imperfect hints of these things, and refer to the apostolical writings, which are made up of discourses on these and such like topics.*
§ 9. (iii.) Let a continual Regard to Christ distinguish our sermons on any subject from discourses on mere natural religion. If we speak of the perfections of God, let us consider them as shining in his Son, "who is the brightness of his Father's glory, and express image of his persont," and exemplified in his undertaking. If we set forth gospel blessings and promises, let us consider them as purchased by a Saviour's blood, and distributed by. his bounty; for " by his own blood he has obtained eternal redemption ‡, and from him the whole body is supplied ." If we take notice of the providence of God, let us not forget that "all power is given to Christ, in Heaven and in Earth ¶," and that "he is head over all things to the church ++." If by the terrors of the last judgment we persuade men, let " the wrath of the Lamb" be denounced, while the reckoning is represented as most dreadful for abused grace and a slighted Saviour; for "this is the condemnation §." And when we are assisting the devotions of the people, the same regard to Christ should be observed.
§ 10. When we are discoursing on the subject of Duty, Christ as the most powerful motive, is by no means to be forgotten; for to persuade men to practical godliness is one of the most difficult parts of a minister's work. Men will hear a speculative discourse with a curious satisfaction, and attend to the displays of God's grace with some
* The young minister who is desirous of making Christ the Matter of his preaching, is requested to cultivate an intimate acquaintance, in addition to the apostolic writings, with Mr. I. Ambrose's valuable work, entitled, Looking unto Jesus. Indeed, his complete works, fol. Lond. 1701, deserve a devout perusal.
+ Heb. i. 3.
Heb. ix. 12.
joy; nay, a Felix may tremble when judgment is preached. Many indeed will bear to hear of duty too; but to induce them to practise it, hic labor, hoc opus. Here we have need to call in all helps, and take all advantages, which the gospel, as well as the light of nature, can furnish. In other discourses we are rather attacking Satan's out-works, a blind and prejudiced understanding; but, in practical subjeets, we assault his strongest fort, corrupted will. We may gain the understanding on our side, with some share of the affections; but to subdue a perverse will, in favour of practical Christianity, is not so easy a thing, that we can afford to spare any important motive or quickening consideration ||. But here I must be more particular in explaining how we should regard Christ in preaching duty.
§ 11. (1.) We should represent duty as the fruit of faith in Christ, and love to him. When by faith we behold a crucified Jesus, do we not tremble at the severity of God's justice, and hate those sins that occasioned his sorrows? When we consider that "by his stripes we are healed," can we forbear to love him who first loved us? Shall we not live to him that died for us? Can we have the heart to crucify him afresh ?
From such actings of faith and outgoings of love, flows
In reference to what is advised in this and the following sections, our young preacher will do well to read, with devotion and care, those parts of Mr. Matthew Henry's practical and incomparable Exposition, which relate to the subject he would preach upon. He will also find in the works of Mr. Arthur Hildersham, his Exposition of Ps. i. aud John iv. an uncommon degree of sacred skill, in recommending duty and practice from Christian motives, worthy of assiduous imitation.
Perhaps this may be the most proper place to recommend a work lately published, viz. A Practical View of the prevailing Religious System of professed Christians, in the higher and middle Classes in this Country, contrasted with real Christianity, by W. Wilberforce, Esq.-a work which, for excellency of plan, a strain of masculine eloquence, acuteness of discernment, and force of reasoning, and, above all, a spirit of sublime devotion, is not perhaps equalled in our language; nor is it a small part of. its excellence that it represents duty, according to our author's advice, as the fruit of faith and love, enforcing obedience with motives respecting Christ, to be performed by his grace, and acceptable through his merits.
that divine temper which constitutes the new creature, and lays the foundation of all right gospel obedience. Thus, therefore, let us continually trace gospel duties up. to their fountain head, that the people may learn, that it is not outward reformation which will stand the test in the day of judgment, but an inward renewal of the soul; that "the tree must first be made good, before there can be any good fruit;" and that all must be done for Christ's sake, and flow from "faith working by love.*"
12. (2.) Let us enforce duties with Motives respecting Christ. As grateful love to him should constrain us, fear of his wrath should awe us, if we would approve ourselves the disciples and followers of Christ, and enjoy communion with him; if we would promote his honour and interest, and possess joy and not confusion, at his appearing. Not that we should neglect any motives which the light of nature can furnish, and are level to the capacities of the people; for we have need enough of all; but if we go no further, our exhortations will want far the greatest part of their weight. We must "beseech and exhort by the Lord Jesus t."
§ 13. (3.) Let us inculcate duties, as to be performed by the grace of Christ; telling the people that our fruitfulness depends on our being ingrafted into this vine; that there is no holy walk without being "led by the Spirit," and when we do good, it is not we, but the grace of God that is in us; that out of a sense of weakness we are to be made strong, "through Christ strengthening
14. (4.) Let us consider all good works as acceptable through the merits of Christ; and remind our hearers, that could we do all, we were but "unprofitable servants;" and that we must seek to be found at last, not having our own righteousness, but that which is of God by faith.+
§ 15. (iv.) Let us express ourselves in a style becoming the gospel of Christ; not with great swelling words of Thess. iv. 1,
* Gal. v. 6.
vanity, or in the style of the heathen sophists, or words that man's wisdom teacheth, and perhaps sound best in our own ears; but let us use great plainness of speech," and seek to find out such "acceptable words" as may best reach the understanding and affections of the bulk of an auditory.
As for the affectionate part of a discourse, brethren, I suppose you allow, upon a view of ancient and modern learning, that the men of the east, and next to them the ancient Greeks, excelled in fire, and works of imagination; and yet the moderns, inhabiting milder western climates, even the French, from whom, on many accounts, we should expect the most of this sort, produce but an empty flash, in comparison with the solid heat of the antients; and rather amuse us with little delicacies, than, by masterly strokes, command our whole souls. Now the Scriptures are the noblest remains of what the East has produced, and much surpass the best of the Greeks in the force of their oratory. Let us, therefore, take their spirit and style, and thence borrow bold figures and allusions, strong descriptions, and commanding address to the passions; but I am prevented in all I would say on this important head, by the Archbishop of Cambray's Dialogues concerning Eloquence, which I am as little capable of improving upon, as I am of commending them as they deserve." †
+ The sublime Fenelon's Dialogues on Eloquence are deservedly mentioned, by many writers of eminence, with a sort of respect bordering on veneration; and no wonder, for such a union of the sublime and simple, of learning and familiarity, of judicious criticism and happy illustration; such unaffected humility and warm benevolence, delicate taste and solid sense; and above all, such reverence for sacred things, blended with a subject so often employed by human vanity and pride, are superior excellencies very rarely found.
Dr. Doddridge (Fam. Expos. on John xiv. 2. Improvem. Note) having alluded to a beautiful observation of this author, says, "This is the remark of the pious Archbishop of Cambray, in his incomparable Dialogues on Eloquence; which, may God put-it into the hearts of our preachers often and attentively to read!". Another able judge on this subject thus expresses himself: "But what need I enter further into the detail of pulpit-eloquence? If you want to see the whole machinery and apparatus of it, displayed in the completest manner, I refer you to the great and good Prelate of Cambray's Dialogues on that
§ 16. (II.) And now, brethren, let me lay before you some reasons and motives, to back this friendly admonition concerning preaching Christ.
1. It is the only way to have our labours accepted of Christ, and to have communion with him in our work. Even Paul cries out, "Who is sufficient for these things?". With how much more reason may we do so? Does not our cheerful progress in our work depend on a divine afflatus, and the spirit dispensed by Christ? but if we take little notice of him in our preaching, and do not distinguish ourselves from the moral philosophers of the Gentiles, how can we expect any more of this enlivening and encouraging presence of Christ than they had? Nay, we have less ground to expect it, if we slight wilfully so noble a revelation, with which they were never favoured.
§ 17. 2. It is the only way to win souls to Christ, and to make them lively Christians. The success of the gospel is owing, certainly, no less to the power of its motives, than to the clearness, fulness, and purity of its precepts. These peculiar motives of the gospel have all such a respect to Christ, that they are enervated if HE be disregarded. The gospel is what God in his unfathomable wisdom has fixed upon, as the grand mean to reform mankind, and save them; and he seems in honour concerned to crown it with greater success than any other scheme whatsoever. "The preaching of Christ crucified is the power of God.” If, by suppressing a part, we maim the gospel, we can expect, in the nature of things, but a very defective success. Nay, may we not fear that God's honour is concerned, in such a case, to blast us while we labour almost in vain ?
§ 18. Observation agrees with this theory. The great masters of reason, who have less regard to Christ in their preaching, may, indeed, have a charm for one of an hun
subject; who was himself the justest critic, and one of the best models of Eloquence that I know." Fordyce's Theodorus, p. 150. Lond. 1755. For a brief but striking character of the eloquence of Fenelon, see the Abbé Maury's Principles of Eloquence, sect. lv.
* 1 Cor. i. 23, 24.