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vation to every one that believeth." In other words, it is a dispensation in which the power of God is strikingly manifested by the manner in which the salvation of man is effected. The object of the Gospel is the recovery of man from the state of guilt and misery into which he had sunk by the fall, and his restoration to the Divine favour and to eternal happiness. The means by which this great change is effected are made known by the Gospel. Properly speaking, Christ, who, by his death, takes away the guilt of man, and the Holy Spirit, who, by his operation, sanctifies the heart, are the grand agents in accomplishing this work. The Gospel only makes known their agency, and is used by them as an instrument of effect ing their great design. They require, therefore, faith in the Gospel, and they employ that faith as the medium by which they operate in changing the condition of man. And hence the Gospel is said to be the means of salvation,
The Gospel evidently, supposes man to be in a state of sin and guilt, under the just displeasure of God, and liable to eternal condemnation. It supposes him further to be incapable of extricating himself from this state, by the exertion of any powers which he possesses in himself; and it implies that there is no other law or dispensation given by God by which man could be saved; every law of God being too pure and holy to be sufficiently kept by
the weakness of man.
In this state of the utter ruin of man, we are informed by a revelation from God, that he has been pleased, in compassion to his creatures, to appoint a Saviour for them. He has sent his own Son to take upon him our nature, and to make. atonement for our sins. He has likewise sent his Holy Spirit from above to testify of this Saviour, and to communicate the benefits of his salvation to the souls of men. Through this Saviour men are to be restored to the Divine favour, and to
be made partakers hereafter of the blessed kingdom of heaven. In the mean time, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, they are to be fitted and prepared for that holy state, by the renewal of their nature, by the sanctification of their souls, by the mortifying of the body of sin, by their growth in grace and in a conformity to the Divine image.
Such is the brief outline of the Gospel. To preach the Gospel is to make it known to men in a full and perfect manner, and also to enforce and apply the several branches of it to the conscience. From this outline, then, we may form some judgment of the true method of preaching the Gospel. A more distinct view of the subject, however, may be obtained by considering what it is not to preach the Gospel.
Those do not preach the Gospel who represent man in a different state from that which the Scripture supposes. If ministers do not speak of him as fallen and corrupt, as naturally under the power of sin, and therefore subject to the just displeasure of a holy God; this is to give such a view of man as would render the Gospel unnecessary. If allowing the corrupt state of the human race, they assert that there is power in man to restore himself by his own exertions, without referring him to the Divine power and grace, they do not preach the Gospel; because thus the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit are rendered useless, If exalting the merit of any righteous acts which man can perforin, they suppose them capable of counterbalancing his transgressions, and rendering him acceptable in the sight of God, they do not preach the Gospel; for thus they make the cross of Christ of none effect. If they represent Christ only as a pattern and example to mankind, and not as making atonement for sin by his blood; or as being only a man, instead of the Son of God come down from heaven to redeem us, they do not preach the Gospel: for great is the mystery of godliness; that is, of
the Gospel; "God was manifest in the flesh." If they fail in pointing out, that the great end of Christ's coming in the flesh was to purchase to himself a holy people, who, being made partakers of a divine nature, and delivered from the corruptions of the world, should be zealous of good works, they do not preach the Gospel; their preaching is at variance with the main design for which that Gospel was given. In a word, if they do not represent man as in absolute need of a Saviour; if they ascribe to him the power to save himself; if they keep the great and only Saviour out of view, or substitute any thing whatsoever in the place of his meritorious death, perfect righteousness and prevailing intercession; if they do not insist on the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit as indispensibly necessary to the great end of the Gospel, the renewal of the soul in the divine image; or if, allowing this to be the end, they do not point out the ape pointed means of attaining it; they do not preach the Gospel; they give false views of the state of man, and of the means of preparing him for eternity.
In these several cases, the Gospel may be said not to be preached at all because either some doctrine contrary to it is introduced, or some essential part of it is omitted. But besides this, the Gospel may be preached imperfectly, and may thus fail in a considerable degree to fulfil the great ends which it was designed to accomplish. This is the case when the several points already stated as characterizing the Gospel are not exhibited in the full and proper proportion; when a lucid view of the whole is not presented; when a distorted representation is given of it, one part being unduly magnified, or its connection with the rest not sufficiently marked; when the outline is not filled up; when the points more immediately required by the peculiar circumstances of a congregation are not insisted upon; or when a close and direct
application of scriptural truth is not made to the conscience.
It seems hardly necessary to observe, that in order to all this, much knowledge and wisdom are required. The Gospel, indeed, is of itself plain and simple. It was meant to be so, being expressly intended for the poor and unlearned. In this, as in all the other works of God, a noble plainness and simplicity bespeak the perfection of his skill. Christ and his apostles, by whom it was delivered, came not with excellency of speech or worldly wisdom; they were the very models of plainness in all their discourses. However high the subjects of the Gospel may be, they are made so plain by the inspired writers, that he who runs may read. Besides which, the Holy Spirit has been promised to enlighten the mind. What is required, therefore, in order to understand the Gospel, is only an humble and teachable spirit, a diligent study of the sacred oracles, and earnest prayer to the Giver of all wisdom for his illumination..
But though the truth will be made clear to those who use these means, and are thus duly prepared to receive it, it must be acknowledged that there is in men, in general, an unhappy blindness of mind, a perversity of judgment, a corruption of heart, a prevailing regard to worldly interest, or an obstinate spirit of prejudice, which renders them indisposed to its reception. Hence it is that ministers with the same documents in their hands, with the words of our Lord and the writings of his apostles before them, have differed so widely in the views they have given of religion; while plain and illiterate men have been perplexed, and have been at a loss to know what really was the Gospel of Christ.
Some have dwelt almost exclusively on the evidences of Revelation; an important subject, doubtless, if it be considered as only introductory to a knowledge of the Gospel itself; while others have entirely overlooked the external proofs
of our faith. Some have dwelt chiefly on man's moral obligations, sinking those doctrines which constitute the foundation of all Christian practice, and especially keeping out of view that Saviour by whose blood alone we are cleansed from our sins. Others, sensible of this error, have gone into the opposite extreme; they have perpetually dwelt on points of doctrine, while what related to Christian practice has been either omitted or hurried over in general terms and without sufficient explanation. Another class has failed in not applying the truths they have delivered. They have preached the grand doctrines of Scripture indeed; but they have preached them as matters of specu lation, as if the bare and cold knowledge of the truth could be effectual to salvation. The warm and animated appeal to the feelings; the close application to the conscience; the affectionate address as from a father to his children, over whom he was tenderly watching in Christ Jesus:-these have been wanting; and the preaching, though speculatively correct, has been unfruitful. Others again have failed in particularizing, that is, in applying, the general truths of the Gospel to the particular cases of their hearers. It is not the constant repetition of the same form of sound words, however excellent, which can be regarded as a complete delivery of the truth. It must be elucidated: it must be branched out into particulars: it must be explained and amplified: it must be brought to bear on the peculiar circumstances of the congregation, so that they may clearly understand and feel its force. In this way only can a minister of the Gospel be said rightly to divide the word of God, and to give to each his portion in due season.
The grand and distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel are, as has been observed, exceedingly plain and easy, but at the same time they are most comprehensive; and fully to understand all their bearings, and the whole CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 121.
detail of their application, requires more than the study even of a whole life. The sinfulness of our nature, for example, a most important doctrine of Christianity, is readily seen and admitted. But what avails the general acknowledgment of this truth? The effects of sin must be pointed out in all their various forms. The numerous lusts of the flesh which lurk disguised in the human heart must be stripped of their disguise and exposed to view. The love of ease and the love of pleasure must be exhibited in all their workings. Pride in its several branches of self-conceit, vanity, ostentation, and such like affections must be held up to view. The love of money, with its different indications: the love of worldly honour, the desire of human applause, the operations of a secret spirit of impatience, envy, resentment; all these must be fully explained, if we would know the true meaning of that corrupt state from which it is the design of the Gospel to set us free. He, therefore, who is thus exposing sin, with the view of more clearly shewing the necessity of the Divine work of Christ on the soul, is preaching the Gospel as truly and effectually as if he were proclaiming the glad tidings of forgiveness in Christ Jesus.
In like manner, he who explains in detail the holy tempers and dispo sitions which characterize the "renewed" man; he who illustrates the fruits of the Holy Spirit, (not neglecting also, either in this or in the former instance, to give a clear and full view of the other great branches of Christianity); may be truly said to be preaching the Gospel. It is a narrow and confined view of the Gospel which would confine it exclusively to a particular doctrine, as that of faith in Christ Jesus, without embracing all those other points which were equally taught by Christ and his apostles.
It appears to have been the practice of our Lord and his apostles to direct their peculiar attention to the
the high commission they had received from Jesus Christ to feed his sheep, when they reproved sin, unmasked hypocrisy, or rectified error, as when they delivered at first the simple doctrine of Christ dying for sinners, and exhorted men to be reconciled to God.
prevailing faults of the people what ever, they were. These they at tacked in a forcible manner. Our Lord saw that the Pharisees were the chief opposers of real religion: He therefore constantly reproved them, and exposed their bypocrisy. He perceived that false interpretations were put upon the law: and he took occasion fully to explain its purity and the extent of its requisitions. He observed the apostles to be worldly minded and ambitious; he therefore frequently inculcated heavenly mindedness, and deadness to the world and the things of it.
The Epistles likewise (to say nothing at present of the preaching of John the Baptist) are directed against prevalent errors or vices. And it is this particularity in theEpistles which renders them at once interesting and instructive. The Apostle's command to Timothy, and, through him, to every minister of the Gospel, is not only to preach the word, but to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine; to watch in all things, and thus do the work of an evangelist, and make full proof of his ministry.
The Gospel was intended not only to convert men, but also to build them up in the faith, the love, and the obedience of Christ. We find, therefore, a difference in the strain of the Apostles' preaching at different times and to different persons. When preaching to those who were unacquainted with the truth as it is in Jesus, they declare unreservedly the grace of the Gospel. If any afterwards abused that grace to licentiousness, we hear an apostle sharply reproving them, and telling them, that faith without works is dead, and that a man could not be justified by faith if it were alone; that is to say, barren and unproductive. Thus did the apostles accommodate their preaching to the circumstances of their hearers, leaving an admirable pattern of the true manner of preaching the Gospel. And surely they as truly fulfilled
But while a minister thus fully elucidates every important branch of the Gospel, and thus guards against imperfect representations of it, Christ must ever be held up to view as the great Author of salvation, and the great Agent in it. He must be made the spring of all obedience; the sun of the system, whose influence is to pervade every part of it. All things must refer to him as their centre. This being kept uniformly and steadily in view, the perfection of preaching is to deliver the whole counsel of God, to omit no important part, and to dwell on each in proportion to its rank and importance,of which the Scriptures exhibit to us a perfect scale.
What has been said may serve to correct the error of those who would confine the preaching of the Gospel to those doctrines alone which relate to the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus. This is indeed a most highly important part of the Gospel ; but it is not the whole. In some congregations, it may be that the state of the bearers may require that these doctrines should be chiefly dwelt upon. In others, however, the practical parts of religion may be more particularly necessary. To preach the Gospel wisely and faithfully to each would require a strain of preachingwhich might seem,to superficial judges, to be almost contradictory. Such was precisely the case with St. Paul and St. James. They both preached the Gospel with much wisdom and ability. They were both inspired by the very same Spirit; yet the one will seem to many to have spoken inconsistently with the other. A little reflection, however, on difference of circumstances, would serve to reconcile every seeming contradiction.
In conclusion, let it be remarked, that nothing new can be expected in the preaching of the Gospel. If it be new, it is on that very account false. Yet many persons seem to be anxious to find out something new which is to operate as a charm in effecting their salvation. That only is the Gospel which the Scriptures have revealed as such; and there the truth will always be found to be clear just in proportion to its importance. One preacher may be more happy than another in his talents, his mode of expression, his manner. He may have more inge nuity of illustration, and may be more expert in handling particular subjects; but the truth itself is old and well known. Nor is it only folly to expect something new in the preaching of the Gospel: such an expectation often leads to fatal consequences. Many, through life, are thus seeking and never finding the truth. Some persons are led to fix on particular expressions of Scripture, to the neglect of what is most important in doctrine; some to cherish a fond regard to doctrines without attending to practice; and some to use even religion itself for stilling the remonstrances of conscience. Hence also come divisions in the Church. It has ever been the policy of Satan rather to undermine the Church than to attack it openly. An open denial of any truth would be rejected; but the disproportionate exaltation of one part of the Gospel, to the depression of the rest, is not so soon perceived to be pregnant with danger. Let it be ever remembered, that it is the practical application of old and well known truths to the conscience, which is chiefly wanted, and from which Satan would divert the attention of man. What will avail, as has been already said, the speculative belief of any religious truth, unless that truth be brought into effect? The knowledge of the sinfulness of our nature will benefit those only who trace it through its windings, cherish the convictions of their conscience, con
fess their sins before God, are deeply humbled on account of them, and strive against them in the power of Jesus Christ. In like manner, the knowledge of the grace of the Gospel will benefit those only who, weary and heavy laden with the burden of their sins, listen to the invitations of Christ Jesus, make their application to him in faith and prayer, and rely on him for salvation with the heart unto righteousness. No more will the knowledge of the pure precepts of the Gospel benefit any but those who are purifying themselves even as He is pure, and who are watching over their whole conduct that the temper and dispositions of a Christian may be found in them to the honour of their blessed Master. The hour is fast approaching, as on the wings of a whirlwind, when empty speculations will not be allowed as a substitution for a living faith and a holy practice. God grant that every one who reads this paper may be found in that day to have received the truth in the love of it, and to have brought forth abundant fruit to the glory of our Lord and Saviour!
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
WHILE Christians of almost every denomination profess to adopt the same Scriptures as the rule both of faith and practice, they yet draw, or seem to draw, from the sacred volume conclusions widely different. Many causes, doubtless, contribute to this effect; and none, perhaps, more than that corruption of our nature, which blinds the understanding and hardens the heart; which in one man exalts itself against the humbling truths of the Gospel, and in another refuses obedience to its self-denying precepts. Still we find differences of opinion, which exist between those who appear to believe with sincerity, and to study with candour, the revealed will of God; differences which are, I think, to be traced in a considerable degree to