« PrejšnjaNaprej »
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 " 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 "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 interceding 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 + Heb. vii. 25.
*Acts v. 31.
come in, and partake of the gospel-festival; that "all things are now ready," for their welcome entertainment;--that the door is still open, and there is free access, not only for those who have escaped the grossest pollutions of the world, but even " for the chief of sinners," whose guilt is of a crimson colour and a scarlet dye; that neither the number nor aggravations of their iniquities will exclude them a share in the divine mercy, if now they submit to the sceptre of grace ;-that whatever their condition and circumstances may be, it is of present obligation upon them to accept the gospel call, and their instant duty to come in; the Master invites them " to come to him, that they may have life;" and "whosoever do so," the Master of the house assures them, that "he will in no wise cast them out."* 4. They are to exhibit the unspeakable advantages that will attend a compliance with the gospel call. I know, indeed, the religion of Jesus is by its enemies often represented in the most frightful and hideous colours; particularly as laying an unreasonable restraint on the liberties of mankind, and sinking them into melancholy enthusiasts. It becomes us, therefore, who are "set for the defence of the gospel," to endeavour the removing of this groundless prejudice, and to convince mankind by the light of reason and scripture, that "the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace:" that verily a life of faith in the blessed Redeemer is the way to be happy, both here and hereafter.
Oh, what more honourable than to be "a child of God, an heir of the kingdom of heaven!" What more pleasing than to look back, and behold our past iniquities all buried in the depths of eternal oblivion ;-than to look forward and view our dear Saviour acknowledging us his friends and favourites, and adjudging us to a state of unperishing glory? What more advantageous than to have the divine favour engaged for our protection, the promises of divine grace for our consolation, and an assured title to "an inheritance undefiled, incorruptible and eternal?" This is the portion of the true believer. These the privileges that attend a compliance with the gospel-call.
These things are to be represented in such a manner as may tend to captivate the hearts of men, and engage them in a solicitous care and resolution to renounce the degrading servitude of sin, and resign themselves to the power of redeeming grace. Thus by the most effectual and persuasive methods, the ministers of Jesus are to compel sinners "to come in, that his house may be filled."
It was not in my design, to consider the duty of the ministry in its just extent; but only to insist upon those things that more properly belong to my subject, and lie directly in the view of
* John vi. 37.
my text.--It will now doubtless be expected, that I APPLY my discourse more immediately to the present occasion.
And suffer me dear Sir, in the first place, to address myself to you, who are this day coming under a public consecration to the service of Christ," to bear his name among the Gentiles; to whom the Master is now sending you forth, to compel them to come in, that his house may be filled." We trust you are a chosen vessel, designed for extensive service in this honourable, though difficult employment. We adore the God of nature, who has furnished you with such endowments as suit you to this important charge. We adore the great Head of the Church for the nobler gifts and graces of his Spirit; by which, we trust, you are enabled to engage in this mission with an ardent love to God, the universal Father of mankind, with a disinterested zeal for the honour of Christ, the compassionate friend of sinners, and with tender concern for the perishing souls of a "people that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death;" who have for many ages been wandering out of the way of salvation, "without Christ, and without God in the world."
The work of the ministry, in every place, has its difficulties and dangers, and requires much wisdom, fortitude, patience, and self-denial, to discharge it in a right manner, with an encouraging prospect of success: but greater degrees of prudence, humility, and meekness, mortification to the present world, holy courage, and zeal for the honour of God our Saviour, are necessary where any are called to minister the gospel unto those who through a long succession of ages have dwelt in the darkness of heathenism, have from their infancy imbibed inveterate prejudices against the Christian faith, and from time immemorial been inured to many superstitious and idolatrous practices, directly opposite to the nature and design of the gospel.
What heavenly skill is required, to convey the supernatural mysteries of the gospel into the minds of uninstructed Pagans, who are "a people of a strange speech and hard language?" -What deep self-denial is necessary, to enable you cheerfully to forsake the pleasures of your native country, with the agreeable society of your friends and acquaintance, to dwell among those who inhabit not indeed " the highways and hedges," but uncultivated deserts, and the remotest recesses of the wilderness ?-What unwearied zeal and diligence, to proselyte those to the faith of the gospel, who have quenched the light of reason, and by their inhuman and barbarous practices have placed themselves upon a level with the brute creation?
Methinks I hear you crying out, "who is sufficient for these things!"—And indeed, if you had no strength to depend upon but your own,-no encouragement but from human assistance,
you might justly sink down in despair and utter the passionate language of Moses, "O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send :" thy servant is insufficient for so great a work. But it is at the command of Christ, the great Head of the Church, that you go forth; who by a train of surprising providences, has been preparing your way for this important embassy; and therefore you may be assured, that he will support you in a faithful discharge of your duty, accept your unfeigned desires to promote the interests of his kingdom, and finally reward your imperfect services with his gracious approbation. You have his divine promise for your security and consolation; " Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world." This will afford you light in every darkness, defence in every danger, strength in every weakness, and a final victory over every temptation. If Christ be with you, "in vain do the Heathen rage," in vain will their confederated tribes unite their forces to obstruct and discourage you. Infinite wisdom will be your guide, almighty power your shield, and God himself "your exceeding great reward." The presence of your divine Master will make amends for the absence of your dearest friends and relatives. This will transform a wild and uncultivated desert into a paradise of joy and pleasure and the lonely huts of savages into more delightful habitations than the palaces of princes.
Let not any difficulties discourage, any dangers then affright you. Go forth in the name and strength of the Lord Jesus, to whom you are now to be devoted in the sacred office of the ministry. "Be not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile." Let zeal for the honour of God, and compassion for the souls of men, animate your public discourses and private addresses to the people committed to your charge. Always remember, that your character is a minister of Jesus; and therefore with the inspired doctor of the Gentiles, you "are to know nothing among them, save Christ, and him crucified." Frequently consider, that the gospel is a divine discipline to purify the heart, and set up the kingdom of the Redeemer in the souls of men and therefore it is not sufficient to bring sinners to a profession of the name of Christ, and an outward subjection to the institutions of divine worship; "You are sent to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in Christ." Unless this be effected, (whatever other improvements they gain,) they are left under the dominion of sin, and exposed to the wrath of God; and their superior degrees of knowledge will only serve to light them down to the regions of death and misery. This then is to be the