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cessive ages of the church, to continue till the number of the redeemed is completed, and the whole election of grace placed in circumstances of spotless purity and perfect happiness.
These ministers are styled" the servants of Christ,” by way of eminence; they are in a peculiar manner devoted to the service of their divine Master : from him they receive their commission ; and by him they are appointed to represent his person, preside in his worship, and teach the laws of his kingdom. To assume this character without being divinely called, and regularly introduced into this sacred office, is a bold invasion of Christ's royal authority, and an open violation of that order which he established in his church. These not only derive their mission from Christ, but it is his doctrine they are to preach, and not the inventions of their own brain ;-it is his glory they are to promote, and not their own interest or honour. Their business is not to propagate the designs of a party, but the common salvation, and to“ beseech all, in Christ's name, to be reconciled unto God.”
The Apostles, the primitive heralds of the everlasting gospel, were sent to make the first tender of salvation to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;" and they were commanded to begin at Jerusalem, the centre of the Jewish commonwealth. But when the Jews obstinately persisted in their impenitence and unbelief, they were commissioned “to preach the gospel to every creature under heaven :" the sinners of the Gentiles were invited to come in, and accept of the offers of salvation.
The prophets pointed out a Messiah that was to come, and proclaimed the joyful approach of a Redeemer at the time appointed in the sovereign counsels of heaven. The ministers of the gospel now are sent to declare, that the prophecies are accomplished, the promise fulfilled, justice satisfied, salvation purchased ; and all that will come in, shall receive the blessings of the gospel. They are not only free to invite sinners of all orders and degrees, of all ages and nations; but to assure them, that “all things are now ready," and to use the most powerful and persuasive methods, that they may engage them to comply with the heavenly call. Which brings me to the third thing proposed, viz:
III. To show, that it is the great duty of the ministers of the gospel “to compel sinners to come in, and accept of the blessings of the gospel. This is so plainly contained in my text, that I shall not multiply arguments to confirm it. My only business shall be to explain the nature of this compulsion, or show in what manner sinners are to be " compelled to come in” to the christian church. And sure I am, not by the deceitful methods of fraud and disguise, nor the inhuman practices of persecution and violence. This text, indeed, has
often been alleged by the persecuting bigots of all ages, and applied to support the cause of religious tyranny; to the infinite scandal of the Christian name and the unspeakable detriment of the Christian interest. By this means, the enemies of our most holy faith have been strengthened in their infidelity, the weak have been turned aside from “ the truth as it is in Jesus,” and the peaceable kingdom of the Messiah transformed into a field of blood, a scene of hellish and horrid cruelties. If this were the compulsion recommended in the gospel, then absolute unrelenting tyrants would be the proper and most infallible teachers ; then racks and tortures would be the genuine and most successful method of propagating the faith. But surely every thing of this kind, every violent and driving measure, is in direct opposition to the precepts and example of our blessed Saviour, and contrary to the very genius of his gospel, which proclaims “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men.
The princes of this world exercise a temporal dominion over mankind, and by fines levied on their estates, and punishments inflicted on their bodies, force men to an outward subjection to their authority and government. But the kingdom of our Lord is of a spiritual nature ; he erects his empire in the hearts of men, and reigns over “a willing people in the day of his
" power. External violence may necessitate men to an external profession of the truth, and procure a dissembled compliance with the institutions of Christ ; but can never enlighten the darkness of the mind, conquer the rebellion of the will, nor sanctify and save the soul. It may transfigure men into accomplished hypocrites ; but will never convert them into real saints.
The gospel was originally propagated by the powerful preaching of Christ and his apostles, by the astonishing miracles which they wrought in confirmation of their doctrine, and the exemplary lives by which they adorned their profession and character. Instead of propagating their religion by the destructive methods of fire and sword, they submitted to the rage and cruelty of a malignant world with surprising patience, and sacrificed their very lives in the cause of God, without any intemperate discoveries of anger and resentment. Instead of calling for "fire from heaven" to destroy their opposers, they compassionated their ignorance, instructed them with meekness, counselled and exhorted them with "all long suffering and doctrine," and even spent their dying breath in praying for their conviction and conversion, that they might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Now, in imitation of these primitive doctors of the Christian church, these wise and successful preachers of the gospel, it is the duty of the ministers of the present day, to use the same methods of compassion and friendly violence. A disinterested zeal for the glory of God, a steadfast adherence to the truth, and unshaken fidelity in our Master's cause, with universal benevolence to mankind, must constantly animate our public discourses, and be conspicuous in our private conversation and behaviour. We must diligently endeavour to convince the understandings, engage the affections, and direct the practice of our hearers. Upon this head, it may not be amiss to descend to a few particulars.
I. Ministers are to "compel sinners to come in,” by setting before them their “ guilty and perishing condition by nature. Sinners are naturally fond of carnal ease and security; they are delighted with their pleasant and profitable sins; they even “drink in iniquity like water," with great greediness, with insatiable thirst, and incessant gratification, but without fear or remorse. Upon this account, there is the highest necessity to sound an alarm in their ears, that they may be awakened, to see and consider their dangerous state ; or else they will never be exeited to "flee from the wrath to come.” The secure sinner is insensible of his want of a saviour : “ The whole need
. not a physician, but they that are sick."
To this end, the ministers of the gospel are to set the terrors of the Lord” in array against the sinner, and let him hear the “ thunder of divine curses,” that utter their voice against the unbelieving. They are to represent in the clearest light, and with the most convincing evidence, the evil of sin, and the danger to which it exposes ; that “wrath from heaven is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men ;"* that the flaming sword of incensed justice is unsheathed, and the arm of the Almighty ready to destroy such as are "going on still in their trespasses,” impenitent, and secure. They are not only thus to show them their danger, but to set before them at the same time their wretched and helpless circumstances ;-that no human eye can successfully pity them nor any created arm bring them effectual deliverance;
- that while in a state of unregenerate nature, they are destitute of strength to perform any acceptable service to the blessed God, and unable to make any adequate satisfaction to offended justice ;-that indeed they can neither avoid the divine displeasure, nor endure the punishment that is due to their crimes. Thus, by a faithful application of the law and its threatenings, we should endeavour, by God's blessing, to make way for the reception of the gospel and its promises.
* Rom. i. 18,
This was the wise method observed by our blessed Saviour, the first preacher of the Gospel, and by the apostles, his inspired successors. So John the Baptist, who served as the morning star” to usher in the appearance of the Sun of righteousness, did thus “ prepare the way of the Lord,” by enlightening the minds of men in the knowledge of their guilt and misery, and inciting them to flee from the 5 damnation of hell.” The three thousand that were converted to the faith at one sermon, in the infancy of the Christian church, were first awakened with a sense of their aggravated guilt, in “ crucifying the Lord of glory ;” and brought in agony and distress to cry out, “ Men and brethren, what shall we do ?"*
The method, I confess is disagreeable to the sentiments and inclinations of a secure world ; and may expose us to the reproach of those “ that are at ease in Zion : but is agreeable to the dictates of an enlightened mind, conformable to the plan laid down in the sacred scriptures, and has in all ages approved itself the most successful method of promoting the interests of real and vital religion.
2. They are to “ compel sinners to come in," by a lively representation of the power and grace of our Almighty Redeemer. Not all the thunder and terror of curses from Mount Ebal, not all the tremendous - wrath revealed from heaven against the ungodly,” not all the anguish and horror of a wounded spirit in an awakened sinner, are able to produce an unfeigned and effectual compliance with the gospel terms of mercy. The ministry of the law can only give the knowledge of sin, rouse the sinner's conscience, and alarm his fears : it is the dispensation of grace, that sanctifies and saves the soul. Nor is the former needful, but in order to the latter. So much conviction as gives us a sight of our sin and misery, as inclines us to “ flee from the wrath to come,” and disposes us to submit to the gospel-method of salvation “by grace through faith,” by sovereign mercy through the Mediator, so much is necessary; and more is neither requisite, nor useful, nor desirable.
It is not the office of preachers to be perpetually employed in the language of terror, or exhaust their strength and zeal in awakening and distressing subjects. No; but as it is their distinguishing character, that they are ministers of the gospel, so it is their peculiar business to c preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.“ The person, and offices, and love of the great Redeemer, the merits of his obedience, and purchases of his cross, the victories of his resurrection, the triumphs of his ascension, and prevalence of his intercession, the power of his Spirit, the greatness of his salvation, the freeness of his grace
* Acts ii. 36, 37.
&c.; these are to be the chosen and delightful subjects of their discourses. They are to represent him as one-who has completely answered the demands of the law, rendered the Deity propitious to the sinner, and upon this account is able eternally to save us from the vengeance of an offended God ;--who is clothed with Almighty power, to subdue the inveterate habits of sin, sanctify our polluted nature, and restore us to spiritual health and purity; who is Lord of the visible and invisible worlds, who knows how to defeat the most artful devices of Satan, and will finally render his people victorious over their most malicious and implacable adversaries ;--who having "made reconciliation for iniquity" upon the cross, is pleading the merits of his blood in heaven, and powerfully intereeding for all suitable blessings in behalf of his people ;-- who is there exalted as a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance and remission of sins ;* and is able to save unto the uttermost all those that come to God in and through him ;'t-in fine, who from his illustrious throne in glory, stoops to look down with pity upon guilty and perishing sinners, stretches forth the
sceptre of grace, and opens the everlasting arms of his mercy to receive them. These peculiar doctrines of the gospel they are frequently to teach, upon these they are to dwell with constant pleasure, that sinners may be persuaded to hearken to the inviting voice of divine love, and put their trust in this Almighty and compassionate Saviour. In order to which,
3. They are to show sinners the mighty encouragement, that the gospel gives them to accept of Christ, and salvation through his merits and righteousness. As for ignorant presumers, these hear the glad tidings of the gospel with a fatal indifference ; and say in their hearts, “ they shall have peace,"
'' though they go on in their evil way, stupidly “neglecting so great salvation,” and regardless of eternal things. But awakened minds are rather apt to draw the darkest conclusions with respect to their case, and to judge themselves excluded from the invitations of the gospel. Sometimes they imagine that the number and aggravations of their sins exceed the designs of pardoning mercy:-at other times, that they have so long resisted the heavenly call, that now the gate of heaven is irrecoverably barred against them :-and satan further suggests, that it would be the height of presumption in them to lay claim to the blessings of the gospel, till better prepared for the divine reception. Upon such imaginary and false grounds as these, multitudes of the invited guests make excuses, and exclude themselves from the “ marriage supper of the Lamb.” It is therefore the business of the servants of Christ to show that " there is yet room," even for the greatest and vilest sinners to
* Acts y, 31.
+ Heb. vii. 25.