« PoprzedniaDalej »
ånd eternal things, that are raised in people's minds by these affectionate preachers, whence their affections are excited, be apprehensions agreeable to truth, or whether they are mistakes. If the former, then the affections are raised the way they should be, viz. by informing the mind, or conveying light to the understanding. They go away with a wrong notion, who think that those preachers cannot affect their hearers by enlightening their understandings, except by such a distinct and learned handling of the doctrinal points of religion, as depends on human discipline, or the strength of natural reason, and tends to enlarge their hearers' learning, and speculative knowledge in divinity. The manner of preaching without this, may be such as shall tend very much to set divine and eternal things in a right view, and to give the hearers such ideas and apprehensions of them as are agreeable to truth, and such impressions on their hearts as are answerable to the real nature of things. And beside the words that are spoken, the manner of speaking has a great tendency to this. I think
a an exceeding affectionate way of preaching about the great things of religion, has in itself no tendency to beget false apprehensions of them; but on the contrary, a much greater tendency to beget true apprehensions of them, than a moderate, dull, indifferent way of speaking of them. An appearance of affection and earnestness in the manner of delivery, though very great indeed, if it be agreeable to the nature of the subject--and be not beyond a proportion to its importance and worthiness of affection, and if there be no appearance of its being feigned or forced-has so much the greater tendency to beget true ideas or apprehensions in the minds of the hearers concerning the subject spoken of, and so to enlighten the understanding: and that for this reason, that such a way or manner of speaking of these things does, in fact, more truly represent them, than a more cold and indifferent way of speaking of them. If the subject be in its own nature worthy of very great affection, then speaking of it with very great affection is most agreeable to the nature of that subject, or is the truest representation of it, and therefore has most of a tendency to beget true ideas of it in the minds of those to whom the representation is made. And I do not think ministers are to be blamed for raising the affections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected with be only that which is worthy of affection, and their affections are not raised beyond a proportion to their importance, or worthiness of affection. I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of the subject. I know it has long been fashionable
to despise a very earnest and pathetical way of preaching; and they only have been valued as preachers, who have shewn the greatest extent of learning, strength of reason, and correctness of method and language. But I humbly conceive it has been for want of understanding or duly considering human nature, that such preaching has been thought to have the greatest tendency to answer the ends of preaching; and the experience of the present and past ages abundantly confirms the same. Though, as I said before, clearness of distinction and illustration, and strength of reason, and a good method, in the doctrinal handling of the truths of religion, is many ways needful and profitable, and not to be neglected; yet an increase in speculative knowledge in divinity is not what is so much needed by our people as something else. Men may abound in this sort of light, and have no heat. How much has there been of this sort of knowledge, in the Christian world, in this age? Was there ever an age, wherein strength and penetration of reason, extent of learning, exactness of distinc. tion, correctness of style, and clearness of expression, did so abound? And yet, was there ever an age, wherein there has been so little sense of the evil of sin, so little love to Ged, heavenly mindedness, and holiness of life, among the professors of the true religion ? Our people do not so much need to have their heads stored, as to have their hearts touched ; and they stand in the greatest need of that sort of preaching, which has the greatest tendency to do this.
Those texts, Isa. lviii. 1. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins :" ' And Ezek. vi. 11. “ Thus saith the Lord God, Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel :" I say, these texts (however the use that some have made of them has been laughed at) will fully justify a great degree of pathos, and manifestation of real and fervency in preaching the word of God. They may indeed be abused, so as to countenance that which would be odd and unnatural amongst us, not making due allowance for difference of manners and customs in different ages and nations; but, let us interpret them how we will, they at least imply, that a most affectionate and earnest manner of delivery, in many cases, becomes a preacher of God's word.
Preaching of the word of God is commonly spoken of in scripture, in such expressions as seem to import a loud and earnest speaking; as in Isa. xl. 2. “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her iniquity is pardoned." And ver. 3. “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord," &c. Ver. 6. “ The voice said, Cry. And he said. What shall I crv? All Aesh is grass.
and all the godliness thereof is as the flower of the field.” Jer. ï. 2. “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord," &c. Jonah i. 2. “ Arise, go to Nineveh, that
i great city, and cry against it. Isa. lxi. 1, 2. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek—to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound : To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God.” Isa. lxii. 11. “Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh," &c. Rom. x. 18. - Their sound went into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Jer. xi. 6. “ Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them.” So, chap. xix. 2.
" and vii. 2. Prov. viii. 1. “ Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice? Ver. 3, 4. “She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O men, I call: and my voice is to the sons of man.” And chap. i. 20. “Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets." Chap. ix. 3. “She hath sent forth her maidens, she crieth upon the high places of the city." John. vii. 37. “In the last day, thai great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”
It seems to be foretold, that the gospel should be especially preached in a loud and earnest manner, at the introduction of the prosperous state of religion in the latter days. Isa. xl. 9. “O Zion that bringesi good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain! O Jerusalem, that bringeth good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength! Lift it up, and be not afraid ! Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Isa. lii. 7, 8. * How
! beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings !-Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice.” Isa. xxvij. 13. “And it shail come pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish.”—And this will be one way by which the church of God will cry at that time like a travailing woman, when Christ mystical is going to be brought forth; as Rev. xii. at the beginning. It will be by ministers, as her mouth, that Christ will then cry like a travailing woman, as in Isa. xlii. 14. “ I have long time holden my peace, I have been still and refrained myself: Now will I cry like a travailing woman." Christ cries by his ministers, and the church cries by her officers. And it is worthy to be noted, that the word commonly used in the New Testament which we translate preach, properly signifies to proclaim aloud like a crier.
II. Another thing that some ministers have been greatly blamed for, and I think unjustly, is speaking terror to them who are already under great terrors, instead of comforting them. Indeed, if ministers in such a case go about to terrisy persons with that which is not true, or to affright them by representing their case worse than it is, or in any respect otherwise than it is, they are to be condemned; but if they terrify them only by still holding forth more light to them, and giving them to understand more of the truth of their case, they are altogether to be justified. When consciences are greatly awakened by the Spirit of God, it is by light imparted, enabling men to see their case in some measure, as it is, and if more light be let in, it will terrify them still more. But ministers are not therefore to be blamed, that they endeavour to hold forth more light to the conscience, and do not rather alleviate the pain they are under, by intercepting and obstructing the light that shines already. To say any thing to those who have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, to represent their case any otherwise than exceeding terrible, is not to preach the word of God to them; for the word of God reveals nothing but truth, but this is to delude them. Why should we be afraid to let persons who are in an infinitely miserable condition, know the truth or bring them into the light, for fear it should terrify them? It is light that must convert them, if ever they are con. verted. The more we bring sinners into the light, while they are iniserable, and the light is terrible to them, the more likely it is that afterward the light will be joyful to them. The ease, peace and comfort which natural men enjoy, have their foundation in darkness and blindness; therefore as that darkness vanishes and light comes in, their peace vanishes, and they are terrified, But that is no good argument why we should endeavour to hold their darkness, that we may uphold their comfort. The truth is, that as long as men reject Christ, and do not savingly believe in him, however they may be awakened, and however strict, and conscientious, and laborious they may be in religion, they have the wrath of God abiding on them, they are his enemies, and the children of the devil; (as the scripture calls all who are not savingly converted, Matt. xiii. 38. 1 John iii. 10.) and it is uncertain whether they shall ever obtain mercy. God is under no obligation to shew them mercy, nor will he, if they fast and pray, and cry never so much; and they are then especially provoking God, under those terrors, that they stand it out against Christ, and will not accept of an offered Saviour, though they see so much need of him. And seeing this is the truth, they should be told so, that they may be sensible what their case indeed is.
To blame a minister for thus declaring the truth to those who are under awakenings, and not immediately administering TOL. IV,
comfort to them, is like blaming a surgeon, because when he has begun to thrust in his lance, whereby he has already put his patient to great pain, and he shrinks and cries out with anguish, he is so cruel that he will not stay his hand, but goes on to thrust it in further, till he comes to the core of the wound. Such a compassionate physician, who as soon as his patient began to flinch, should withdraw his hand, and go about immediately to apply a plaister, to skin over the wound, and leave the core untouched, would heal the hurt slightly, crying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace.
Indeed something besides terror is to be preached to them whose consciences are awakened. They are to be told that there is a Saviour provided, who is excellent and glorious ; who has shed his precious blood for sinners, and is every way sufficient to save them; who stands ready to receive them, if they will heartily embrace him ; for this is also the truth, as well as that they now are in an infinitely dreadful condition. This is the word of God. Sinners, at the same time that they are told how miserable their case is, should be earnestly invited to come and accept of a Saviour, and yield their hearts unto him, with all the winning, encouraging arguments, that the gospel affords. But this is to induce them to escape from the misery of their condition, not to make them think their present condition to be less miserable than it is, or to abate their uneasiness and distress, while they are in it. That would be the way to quiet them, and fasten them there, and not to excite them to flee from it. Comfort in one sense, is to be held forth to sinners under awakenings of conscience, i. e. comfort is to be offered to them in Christ, on their fleeing from their present miserable state to him. But comfort is not to be administered to them in their present state, or while out of Christ. No comfort is to be administered to them, from any thing in them, any of their qualifications, prayers or other performances, past, present, or future; but ministers should in such cases, strive to their utmost to take all such comforts from them, though it greatly increases their terror. A person who sees himself ready to sink into hell, is prone to strive, some way or other, to lay God under some obligation to him ; but he is to be beat off from every thing of that nature, though it greatly increases his terror, to see himself entirely destitute of any refuge or any thing of his own to lay hold of; as a man that sees himself in danger of drowning, is in terror, and endeavours to catch hold on every twig within his reach, and he that pulls away those twigs from him increases his terror; yet if they are insufficient to save him, and by being in his way prevents his looking to that which will save him, to pull away them is necessary to save his life.
If sinners are in distress from any error they embrace, or