Obrazy na stronie

when she lights on a few crumbs, or grains of corn, how earnestly does she invite her brood to come and share the treasure with her! She will by no means be satisfied, nor leave off calling them till they come. Thus did our blessed Saviour; how graciously did he call and invite sinners to come to him in the days of his personal ministry upon earth! "Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, &c. "If any thirst, let him come unto me and drink: He that believeth on me, as the Scripture saith, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water t." And much to the same purpose we find him speaking in several other places. Thus also we hear the prophet Isaiah, in the Old Testament, inviting sinners unto Christ," Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters ‡," &c.; and thus St. Paul, in the New Testament, "We beseech you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God || ;" and thus doth the apostle John, very frequently in his divine writings. Remarkably to this purpose also are those words of our blessed Saviour concerning Jerusalem, "How often would I have gathered thy children, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings §!" Christ called sinners to come to himself, as their proper Lord and Master, as their only Redeemer and Saviour; "whereas we," saith St. Paul," preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord **;" and therefore we endeavour to bring sinners not to ourselves, but to him; but now, in order to this, and that a minister may be thus happily successful in his preaching, he must not only sincerely love his people, and have an affectionate concern for their salvation, but he must be an ardent lover of Christ too; he must wish, and desire, and covet nothing so much as to bring all that hear him to Christ; to deliver every one of them, as it were, into his gracious arms, could he but persuade them to be so happy; that thus they may learn, even by the example of their minister, to love the Lord Jesus.

§ 15. For this purpose, it is further requisite that a minister should very often take occasion to display, in the most lively colours, the excellency and glory of Christ's

* Matt. xi. 28.
Isa. Iv. 1.

§ Matt. xxiii. 37.

+ John vii. 37, 38.
|| 2 Cor. v. 11.
**2 Cor. iv. 5.

person, the kindness of his heart, and the exceeding riches of his grace, both as he is God and man, as he is now a glorious, triumphant Saviour, as well as when once he sustained and executed the same office in a humble and suffering state; and that he further inform his hearers what excellent blessings are treasured up in Christ, to be bestowed on all his friends and people, that so they may be drawn unto him by a principle of desire and love; that they may most willingly give him their hearts; and that so it may be the breathing of their souls and the matter of their most earnest prayer to Christ, that he would be pleased to manifest his love to them, that he would "shed it abroad in their hearts by his Holy Spirit *;" that he would more and more reveal to them the glory of his Majesty; that he would impress and affect their minds with a lively sense of it, that so they may yet more and more love and honour him, their heavenly Spouse, by whom it is that they have and that they further hope for access to and acceptance with the Father, and with whom they also hope to dwell for ever and ever.

§ 16. The love of Christ ought to be much more insisted on by preachers than what is commonly done; because when we apply to ourselves, in a right manner, his passion, death, and atonement, his merits, and that purchase of salvation which he hath made for us, the knowledge of his love to us, and of our pardon and justification through faith in his blood, is the truest spring and most powerful attractive of our love to him. Now, the more we love Christ, and that for this very reason, because he first loved us, the better will every other branch of our religion flourish, every other grace and every other duty will then flow from its proper fountain; and, therefore, the more a minister endeavours to instil this principle of sacred love into the hearts of his hearers, the more comfortable success will he probably see of his labours, in their spiritual improvement and growing obedience to the gospel.

§ 17. But especially, and in the first place, let every minister look to his own heart, and see to it that he himself loves Christ fervently, lest he should be as the sounding brass and as the tinkling cymbal, of which the apostle

* Rom. v. 5.

speaks *; and, besides, without a sincere love to Christ in his own soul, there will be little probability of his recommending him effectually to the love of others. It is not enough for him to preach a great many sermons upon the love of Christ, and to exhort his hearers to love him; for if his own heart is not warmed with this sacred love, his discourses on that subject will be cold and lifeless, and therefore unprofitable and fruitless. Nothing could be more pertinently answered, in a few words, to one that asked another, How he might learn to be a good and useful preacher? than this, Si multum ames Christum, — you must learn to be a zealous lover of Christ.

§ 18. But then let it be further noted, that sincere love to Christ will always express itself not only in words, but by suitable or correspondent actions. So our Saviour has taught us, John xv. 14. Ye are my friends, said he, if ye do whatsoever I command you; i. e. This is the best and most substantial evidence of your sincere friendship, and that you truly love me.

§ 19. I reckon also the duties of self-denial and weanedness from the world and its carnal pleasures, and, in short, from all the present things of sense and time, to be among those more important and necessary subjects which ministers should often preach upon, oftener indeed than most of them do. These are subjects which our Saviour Christ, when he was a preacher upon earth, very much insisted upon in his sermons: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me ‡.” "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, &c. yea, and his own life also (i. e. in comparison of me) he cannot be my disciple t;" and how needful are these subjects now! For, alas! how many persons are there who can talk well about Christ and religion; nay, who carry a fair appearance of virtue and godliness, and who perform many outward duties with reputation and honour, and yet, not having learned to deny themselves, their love of the world not being sufficiently mortified,

* 1 Cor. xiii. 1.

Matt. xvi. 24-26. + Luke xiv. 26.

they are easily overcome in a day of trial, and sacrifice their religion and their souls to worldly interest. Let self-denial then be earnestly recommended; and that, not merely as a moral virtue, or a philosophical attainment; I mean not upon such principles only as the heathen moralists used to insist upon; but let it be recommended and urged as a Christian grace, as that which flows chiefly from love to Christ, even such a love as will make us ready to deny ourselves the pleasures, riches, and honours of this world, all manner of sensual gratifications, and our very lives themselves for his sake, as Christ not only expects, but requires of us. *

$20. Though the diligent reading of the Scriptures themselves, even the inspired writings of the prophets and apostles, and the very words of our Saviour Christ, should be chiefly recommended, as they are undoubtedly far preferable to any books of mere human composition; yet, besides these, a minister may very profitably recommend to his hearers some other good books of religion, both ancient and modern, to be read by them at home, in their own closets or families; such books, I mean, as are written in a truly evangelical strain, and with a spirit of lively devotion and piety, which would be no inconsiderable means, both of preserving and nourishing the fire of divine love in their hearts. I might mention, by way of instance, Martin Statius's Lutherus Redivivus, which is nothing else but an abridgment of Luther's works, in which the most considerable passages are collected into a narrow compass, and such passages, more especially, as have the most direct and powerful tendency to awaken, and to excite the minds of men to lively practical religion. However, I mention this but as one instance, out of a great many very excellent and useful books with which the providence of God has now furnished his church, and which we ought to account as a precious treasure to it.

§ 21. And further, Let not any minister think that the people only are to be profited in their souls by reading such good books, while all the use that he is concerned to make of them for himself, is only to form his style by reading

* Matt, xvi. 25.

them, or borrow thoughts from them, or, it may be, to steal sermons out of them (which is shamefully the practice of too many preachers); but he should read them, chiefly and in the first place, with a view to his own spiritual edification. He should endeavour so to use and improve the gift which God has bestowed on other men, as that his own soul may be the better for them, as well as the souls of the people to whom he preaches.

§ 22. Once more, let faithful ministers by no means forget to recommend to their hearers, that they would familiarly acquaint themselves and converse with serious, lively, and growing Christians, and with such especially as excel in the gift and spirit of prayer; for as a live coal fires another that is cold and dead, so will the savoury discourse, the fervent prayers, and the holy conversation of warm and lively Christians, be a probable means of kindling the same fire of divine love in the souls of dead sinners; or, at least, of nourishing and improving the sacred flame in the hearts of their more intimate Christian friends. Ministers should therefore do all they can to promote such Christian conversation amongst the more serious part of their hearers: observing, however, the rules of necessary prudence, particularly that of the apostle," Let all things be done decently, and in order." They should exhort them, as St. Paul does the Colossians, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one an- . other in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord: to which pious purpose, that large and rich treasure of sacred hymns, both ancient and modern, with which God has graciously blessed his church, is not a little conducive, for which therefore we are bound to render him immortal praises.

§ 23. Thus I have briefly answered your question, and given you my thoughts on the most useful way of preaching. May God, for Christ's sake, attend what I have written with his effectual blessing! To him I would now offer the following prayer: up

"O Lord God! give, I beseech thee, both now and at all times hereafter, to thy church, pastors, and teachers,

1 Cor. xiv. 40.

« PoprzedniaDalej »