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sent day, to calculate upon an ex upon the world as religious teachtraordinary and miraculous effusion
ers, as far as our knowledge extends, of the Spirit: but if in the ministry, we would not cherish a presumptu
are youth, whose piety we have no
reason to question, but whose pruous hope of success, we must give dence and good sense we altogether ourselves wholly to these things. A question; and these hazard much blessing can reasonably be expected by their conduct. only upon a proper application of Let us instance a youth, whose human exertion. Many, however, religious sensibilities have been convery bad sense, would draw the
siderably excited; yet whose means bow at a venture, and calculate
of improvement in general literalargely upon an assistance from
ture, have been limited; commencGod, which God has never promised. ing, perhaps, from a conviction of Lay preaching has a further ten
duty, the practice we are combatdency to diffuse the most erroneous ting: let us view him, flattered by notions respecting the nature of the
the applause of the ignorant, among gospel ministry. There is a great whom he makes his first essay, and mass of ignorance in the world, and
whose admiration is easily won, and no inconsiderable portion manifest we ask, is he not in danger of coned even by many pious, well inten- templating himself with inordinate tioned persons. I'hey judge chief-self-complacency? Will he not soon ly from the appearance of things, imagine, that in every respect, he and inquire not into their reasons.
is accomplished for the work? And Among such, lay preaching is gene- having thus deceived himself, will rally confined, and as commonly he not proceed more confidently in produces on their minds the impres his expositions of the word of God, sion, that any individual is invested
however wide of the truth, and thus with a right to preach, who pos deceive others ? gesses what they style a gift; that This may be expected; for as is, a ready utterance, no matter how
knowledge tends to humble a man, undigested, crude, and even false,
ignorance inflates him with self-conhis sentiments.
ceit. This is dangerous, inasmuch as it
The evil ends not here; he instilevels the barrier, which the scrip
tutes a comparison favourable to ture interposes, between the regu himself, in which he imagines, that larly constituted ministry, and that independently of study, he excels class who should be only hearers; those “ who labour in word and docas it throws open the floodgates of trine;" and thus his ardour having error, ignorance and schism; and
betrayed him into ambition, his amfinally as it tends to excite among bition excites in him presumption. the unenlightened, an utter disre But to all this it may be replied, spect for God's own ordinance. God has given his seal of approba
Such consequences are to be de tion to this practice, by blessing it precated by every lover of the cause to the conversion of souls. Let us of Christ; for in proportion as the for a moment grant, that the good respect which is due to the ministry effects of it have been manifested in is obliterated, its success is affected. numberless instances; does this fact These remarks are not the result
afford a just and infallible criterion of a mere esprit du corps, but of a by which to decide upon the legalisolid conviction that vital godlines | ty of the means employed? As a is endangered by the practice op- general rule, does the end justify posed.
the instrument? Who will hazard The ministry, however, is not the the assertion? God, who acts as a only sufferer. A great proportion sovereign, frequently employs a reof those who obtrude themselves probate instrument in the accom
plishment of his purposes. An un stood as intimating, that strong feelgodly minister may be eminently ing is inconsistent with true reliuseful; but do the effects produced gion; since nothing is more repugby his ministry, sanctify his instru nant to our views. We think if a mentality?
man ever has deep and powerful Now it can be demonstrated, al feeling, he should manifest it on a though we may not have produced subject which involves the life of his conviction, that lay preaching is an soul. But we say, that such feeling, instrumentality directly opposed to when unattended by illumination of an ordinance of God, and conse mind, and a correct understanding quently is radically illegal; so that of the terms of the gospel, is no gethe supposed good effects resulting nuine evidence of true piety. High from it can never alter its character. animal excitement, or a strong mo
But we assume higher ground. tion of the affections, when alone, We deny the good effects so stre may produce an enthusiast, but cannuously pleaded. Let it be under not make a man an ornament to the stood, we speak in the general, not gospel. denying that there have been in From the whole, let this general stances of permanent good from this remark be made, that Christians in instrumentality. Lay preachers, as private life should do no more than it was before intimated, and as any preach by their example, and by a man knows, who has any knowledge conversation becoming the gospel; of the subject, are generally illite and that they who are styled elders rate, and as such, they may rant and by virtue of the sanctity of the of. declaim, but they will not bear a mes fice to which they have been solemnsage of intelligence. And if there ly ordained, and candidates for the be no knowledge in the preacher, ministry* by way of anticipation, there will be none among hearers, may, on suitable occasions, more who depend on his ministrations for publicly exhort; provided they avoid instruction in righteousness. The authoritative explications of scripamount then of their labour is this; ture in any thing like regular serthey arouse the feelings and leave monizing, and an address which the mind under its original obscuri- might induce their hearers to supty; or in other words, they give their pose that they taught “as having sanction to that foul and libellous authority.” maxim, that "ignorance is the mo
If this rule be observed, the conther of devotion;" or encourage a
sequences we deprecate may be notion equally dangerous, and one avoided, and the church, whose inwhich almost invariably accompa terests, as a sacred charge, are in so nies this kind of preaching; that re great a degree entrusted to men, ligion consists in mere animal ex will be preserved from a flood of citement. Here then is the effect; disorder, ignorance, and false feelthe passions of ignorant people ing in religion. aroused. But mark the result; when
W. M. E. the gust of passion is spent, as it soon must be, the imagined good
On Christ's speaking in Parables. impression is obliterated; however apparently beauteous the blossom,
Though the men of highest rank the plant having no root withereth among the Jews had aspersed the away.
character of our Lord, they had not Hence the excitements thus pro
been able to prevent a large atduced are generally attended with tendance on his public ministralapses, so deep, so fatal and so pub
tions. A great concourse stood belic, as vitally to affect the best in
fore him, on the occasion to which terests of the gospel.
* Those who are actually engaged in We hope we shall not be under the study are intended
we shall have reference in the fol public: and he expounded,” says
They were likewise desirous to communicating instruction in some know ħis reason for not adopting a private dwelling ; but in the after plainer method of discourse. It noon, his auditory had become so was to them a matter of much surnumerous, that he went to the “
prise, that when he enjoyed so fa. side,” and took his seat in a fisher vourable an opportunity for extendman's boat, at a little distance from ing the knowledge of his gospel, the shore, which was thronged by he should choose to envelop his “great multitudes,” who came to thoughts in perplexing mysteryhear him.
that he who had always condescendThe truths which he inculcated ed to use the utmost familiarity and on this occasion, were such as be plainness of speech in his instruccame one who had never uttered an tions to themselves, should dispense unimportant word; but one thing doctrine to the multitudes, in a way seemed surprising. The mode of less adapted to inform than to instruction which he was pleased to amaze; that he should do this, who prefer rendered his meaning diffi had no other errand in our world, cult, if not impossible to be appre than to enlighten and save the souls hended !* He spake " the word” to
Their surprise was not to the people in parables. This is a be suppressed ; and at a convenient circumstance most carefully stated, time they disclosed it to their masand strongly accented in the sacred ter. They came and said unto record, "He taught them many him, why speakest thou unto them things by parables—but without a in parables ?” parable spake he not unto them.” Before we introduce his reply (Mark, iv. 2, 34.). A parable is a (on which we purpose
to remark fictitious narrative continued more at length) it may not be simile or comparison under which amiss to notice the reason assigndivine truth is couched, and from ed by the evangelist, for his adoptwhich it is not always easy to ing the parabolic mode of ineduce it. It is frequently a struction, on this interesting occa"dark saying," presenting truth, sion. “All these things” (says invested with clouds and shadows : Matthew, after recording what perand therefore, however carefully haps might be termed with procontrived, it is very possible that priety, Christ's sermon on the sea) its intention and drift
be "spake Jesus unto the multitudes in unperceived: truths may be in parables—that it might be fulfilled ferred which it does not inculcate ; which was spoken by the prophet, or, instead of clear knowledge, its saying, I will open my mouth in paeffect may be, only the stare of rables, I will utter things which wonder, or the uncertainty of con have been kept secret from the jecture. Very little better was the foundation of the world.” Christ, effect of those parables which Christ it will be observed, did not give this now delivered to the multitudes. reason himself; it is added by the They were unintelligible even to evangelist at the suggestion of the the disciples themselves, who being Holy Spirit. There seems a proafterwards alone with their Master, priety in this: it became well the begged him to explain to them the dignity and majesty of our Lord; things which he had delivered in suited the designs of Providence
respecting him, and made, at last,
pear to greater advantage, while he
Messiah, to leave the fact of his cerning Christ. So much, as to the having fulfilled them, to be after reason
which the evangelist assigns wards evinced. Accordingly it will for his speaking in parables. be found upon examination, that Let us now consider what Christ very rarely indeed, and never very himself says in reply to the ques. clearly and decisively, does Christ tion of the disciples. “ And the himself point out an instance of disciples
disciples came and said unto him accordance, between his conduct or why speakest thou unto them in circumstances, and the predictions parables ? He answered and said of the Old Testament respecting unto them, Because it is given unto Messiah. Such instances are abun you to know the mysteries of the dantly remarked by the evangel- kingdom of heaven, but to them it ists, who wrote the life of Christ, is not given. For whosoever hath but very seldom, I believe, by Christ to him shall be given, and he shall himself.
have more abundance: but whosoOne such instance is here men ever hath not from him shall be tioned by Matthew. In speaking taken away even that he hath. to the multitude by parables, this Therefore speak I to them in para. evangelist was led by the Holy bles : because they seeing see not, Spirit to observe, that Jesus did, and hearing they hear not, neither what Messiah is represented in pro do they understand. And in them is phecy as declaring he would do: fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, Asaph in the lxxviiith Psalm, per which saith, By hearing ye shall sonating the Messiah, speaks as hear, and shall not understand ; follows, “I will open my mouth in and seeing ye shall see and shall a parable; I will utter dark sayings not perceive: For this people's of old ;" (ver. 2, 3.) and then gives heart is waxed
and their ears an inspired narrative, which like the are dull of hearing, and their eyes parables of the New Testament, is they have closed ; lest at any time a picture or similitude of heavenly they should see with their eyes, and things, and was as dark to the Jews should understand with their heart, in the Psalmist's day, as were the and should be converted, and I parables of Christ to the wồndering should heal them.” Mat. xiii. 10, 15. multitude at the lake of Gennessa There are two distinct parts in this reth. Thus it appears, that it had reply of Christ to the disciples. In been determined on and declared, the first, he refers them to the soas one of the indications of Mes vereign will of the Supreme, which siah to mankind, that he should had so fixed and arranged affairs in adopt that very mode of instruction this case, as to make the use of pawhich seems to have now well nigh rables expedient and proper: (ver, scandalized the disciples. It was 11.) And in the second, he shows one particular in that description of the propriety of this method of inMessiah which the prophecies em struction on this occasion, by adbosomed ; and had it been wanting verting to the moral state or reproin our Lord, he would not have been bate disposition of his hearers : perfectly conformed to that de- (ver. 13, 14, 15.) which required scription. Here then we discover such a mode, and that on two aca sufficient reason for his opening counts: for (1st.) it was the only his mouth in parables. Better sure mode they would endure : (Mark ly, that the people should be left to iv. 33.) and, (2dly.) while its obcherish their darling prejudices; scurity left their violent prejudices and the disciples to wonder as they undisturbed, it was the means of did, at the conduct of their master, inflicting on them a very suitable than that he should leave unfulfilled punishment for entertaining these one iota of the prophetic word, con- guilty dispositions ; agreeably to VOL. I.
Mark iv. 12. In this outline is com the secret purposes of Heaven, so prehended, I think, the entire rea he must be viewed, in this case, as sons given by our Lord ; let us doing what he knew was agree: however proceed to illustrate it by able to those purposes, and adapted considering the very words which to fulfil them. As he knew that it he uttered.
was given to the disciples to know PART I. “He answered and said the evangelical mysteries, and not unto them, because it is given unto given to the multitude, so he used you to know the mysteries of the on this occasion a method of teachkingdom of heaven, but to them it is ing those mysteries, designed to senot given.” This is the first part cure the accomplishment of the diof his reply: and it is obviously vine will, with regard both to the neither less nor more, than a simple one, and the other; a method which, disclosure of the arrangement or consistently with every divine perplan which the divine will had fection and every human right; consettled in regard to the matter. sistently indeed with the exercise The disciples were here plainly of tender mercy on the part of told, that their Master spoke to the
Christ; would leave the multitude multitude in parables, because, as in culpable ignorance, and at the on the one hand it was given to the same time, prove no hindrance to disciples in the purpose of God to the ultimate illumination of the disknow the mysteries of the gospel ; ciples. so on the other this grace was not And here too our adorable Regiven to the multitude. To per deemer must not be regarded as a ceive the pertinency of this part of pattern for human imitation. He the answer,
acted in a manner proper in himself 1. We should contemplate Christ, only, as knowing what no creature as no other teacher should ever be can know, the unrevealed purposes regarded, not merely as thoroughly of God. In this respect he was acquainted with all revealed things, perfectly singular. No one else but as privy to the secret and eternal
ever was, or ought to be like him. thoughts of Jehovah. It is obvious The only rule of action to common that Christ here claims to know the persons is the moral law, or God's hidden determinations of the infi revealed will. As they cannot have nite Mind : since he undertakes to access to the book of God's demake known to the disciples what crees, they are required to regulate those determinations were, with re their conduct only by the code of spect to the spiritual and eternal precepts contained in the scripdestiny of themselves and the mul
tures, and when disregarding that titude to whom he had been preach infallible rule, they presume to be ing. It were awful presumption, wise above what is written, and for a common instructer, or indeed think to please God by acting with for any mere creature, to undertake reference to what they imagine his this office: it is not for man or an secret intentions, they rush into
what God has decided inevitable destruction. and fixed in his own mind respect Thus it is, as to men and creaing the final character and doom of tures. But it was not so with re. any one. But he who was himself spect to Christ. He did know perGod as well as man, was competent fectly both the things which are reand had an absolute right to exer vealed, and the things which are secise this high province; and he cret, both the commands and the thought fit to do so on this and many purposes of God: And while he other occasions.
never violated the former, neither 2. And as Christ must be consi did he ever do any thing, which had dered as perfectly acquainted with a tendency to frustrate the latter,