« PoprzedniaDalej »
teaching of experience) no little practical difficulty here : good and evil are so closely combined in the motives that may be actuating us, that it is hard to precipitate, as it were, all the baser earthy particles, and retain nothing but the pure gold. In pursuing our single great end—the gaining our flocks unto God, who has given them into our charge for himselfin aiming at the several parts, that belong ne. cessarily to that great end,-namely, the conversion of the sinner-the fixing steadfastly of the unstable and hesitating,—the perfecting of the faithful, we must not, of course, neglect the needful means. But it is in the use of those means, in endeavouring to arrest attention, to strike, to impress, to move, to persuade our hearers,—that our snare, our temptation lies ; namely—that we may be led therein to think of ourselves, of our praise and reputation, and not of their benefit alone. The same truths, we know well, may be set forth either harshly and offensively, dryly and uninterestingly; or, so as to arouse, to seize the attention, to thrill, to be felt and answered to, as they fall on men's hearts, and make them vibrate, however hard, and without sound and motion, till thus powerfully touched, and in the right key. It is obvious which must be the desire of every Minister, to whom the rich and precious treasure of the gospel is committed. It must be his effort and anxious care, so to dispense it, that it be not despised and rejected, or treated with weariness and cold contempt; but that, so far as in him lies, it may come with all its own power, to the mind, to the conscience, the heart and affections, of the flock entrusted to him by the Great Shepherd. To be indifferent to the impression made by our discourses,—to care not whether or no we are using to the full the talents severally comunitted to us, in regard to our manner of enforcing and urging the words of eternal life on the acceptance of our charges;to regard preaching the word, not as, on each occasion, a precious opportunity of doing good to the souls, of which we are to give account, but as our weekly stated task; and so to execute that task, that our hearers, unaroused uninterested, unimproved, may probably regard the hearing, on their parts, but in the same light,—this were, indeed, to escape wholly the danger we have been speaking of: but who can wish by such a course, to escape it? It is, it may be repeated, in the very path of duty that the danger of seeking, not our congregation themselves, but “theirs,"—their praise and admiration, lies; yet still must we press on by
that path. It is in his path, who, thoughtfully and anxiously, though with no wish to gratify itching ears, makes it his aim and study to speak intelligibly, forcibly, and as in earnest, the momentous truths of which he is made a steward; and who would fear, in no small degree, the “woe” denounced against him for “not preaching the gospel,"* were he so feebly and carelessly to tell of the terrors of the Lord against unrepentance, so coldly and unpersuasively to " beseech” men in “ Christ's stead, to be reconciled unto God,"fh as that no guilty sinner would be likely to be made thereby to pause and tremble, and perhaps, to turn; -no alien and enemy to God be drawn to throw down his rebellious arms, and seek Him while he may be found, through Him, who is our “ peace. "* In making this effect his aim, he must study to awaken, and to hold the attention, to work on the feelings ;-so in all ways to utter the truth, as that it shall be, if possible, gladly heard, or even received in spite of heedless ears and hostile hearts; and, being received, be held there durably and effectively. And, were he seeking praise and admiration for himself, and to have many followers, he would have to use the same study, to employ,—if one may use the word in a wholly good sense, the same arts, to dwell chiefly on the very same truths, with the same plainness, and force, and energy, and with the appearance at least of the same warmth of feeling. He might be led to bring into more prominence and more constant use some peculiarly exciting topics : he might seek more of effect from high colouring, and new and startling statements; but to gain any thing of enduring applause, he would find it needful to proclaim the true doctrines and lessons of the gospel with power, and earnestness, and as if he felt deeply their eternal value. In appearance then, there would be little difference,-in immediate effect on the hearers there might be little, whether the preacher be seeking theirs or them. But to himself, how incalculable the difference! incalculable as that, in the end, put between any other work done for God only, or done in the eyes, and for the praise of man, and which therein " has its reward,”* but its only one.
* 1 Cor. ix. 16. + 2 Cor, v. 20. Eph. ii. 14.
To us then, my brethren in office and calling, how important is it to be able clearly to perceive which is our course, which our principle ; to be on our guard against the evil one, knowing that it may be with us unsuspected, as Satan himself, when disguised as an angel of
* Matt. vi. 2, &c.
light. It must be our part, then, to put away from us, as much as possible, in all our ministrations, every thought of self: to endeavour and pray, that we may be so filled with the sense of the awful importance of the inward effect of the word on those who receive it from our mouths,-on their conversion, or on their growth in holiness here, and their blessedness in eternity, -as not to have room left in us for the paltry consideration of its reflex effect on them towards ourselves. And again, we must seek to have strengthened in us, through increase of grace, and wholesome meditation, the conviction of our own nothingness, after all, in the great work for which we are employed as instruments;
-on our utter inability to move and stir the heart, which the Lord hath not “ opened ;'* or at any rate, on the unprofitableness of such a movement as we alonec an create therein,-of merely, as it were, turning up the soil, unless the divine blessing be vouchsafed on the seed we sow in the furrow we seem to have drawn:to feel, in short, all that St. Paul by his word and example, teaches, when he writes" Who then is Paul, or who is Apollos, but Ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man ? I have planted : Apollos watered,
* Acts xvi, 14.