« AnteriorContinuar »
wounded spirit. The thoughtless are not alarmed, nor the ignorant instructed. The wicked go on in their evil ways,
The hungry sheep look up, but are not fed.
Nay, we see, in fact, though a few persons may still be found, who place their religion in a dull, unmeaning attendance upon the form of public worship, upon any forın in which it was their lot to be educated; yet, in many places, the bulk of the people, by their contempt of the Lord's day, and by their customary manner of absenting themselves from their appointed teachers, give sufficient proof that they have neither found, nor expect to find, so much benefit or pleasure, as to make them think it worth their while to attend them.
It will appear, to competent judges, that faithful preachers are called and prepared for their office by the Lord, the head of the church, and not by human institutions, from the following considerations :
1. That the Gospel cannot be rightly understood but by divine teaching. The natural man, however distinguished by abilities or literature, cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God ;'* nay, he cannot discern them. He may, indeed, know something of the Gospel system, considered as a matter of science; he may know how to defend the outworks of Christianity, and be master of the external evidences for its truth ; and he may espouse orthodox opinions, and be a successful champion in the field of controversy. But the inward power and life, that which constitutes the essential difference of true religion, is no less remote from his apprehension, than the idea of light is from a person born blind. This he can only learn by experience. The first lesson received and learnt by those who are taught of God, is a conviction of guilt, ignorance, and misery—and then they begin to learn the importance, necessity and design of the Gospel. The man who is thus instructed, if the Lord be pleased to call him to the office of teaching others, will, in due time, proceed to deliver to the people what he has himself learnt ; not with hesitation, uncertainty, or indifference, not what he has acquired by hearsay or from books, ' but he has the witness in himself.'t His heart teacheth his mouth.He believes, therefore he speaks. He simply and freely declares that which he himself has known, and seeu, and tasted of the word of life. And speak
, ing from the fulness of his heart, with an earnestness inspired by the greatness and importance of his subject, he speaks to the heart and feelings of his bearers, and impresses a manifestation of the truth upon their minds.
* 1 Cor. ij. 14.
+ 1 John, v. 10.
| Prov. xvi. 23.
2. That the desire of preaching this Gospel, when known, if it be a right desire, must likewise be given. If a man should attempt the service, without counting the cost, or considering the consequences, he will most probably be disgusted and wearied. And if he seriously and properly considers before-hand what he is about to engage in, and has a Jue sense of his own weakness, he will tremble at the prospect, and direct his thoughts to some other employment, unless his call and support be from on high. What courage, wisdom, meekness, and zeal, appear requisite, in the view of such an inquirer, to qualify a man for preaching, and continuing to preach, a doctrine so unpleasing to the world as the doctrine of the cross has in all ages proved! What opposition, and snares, and difficulties, 'what fightings from without, what fears within,' may be expected ! Surely, he will be ready to shrink back, and to say, Who is sufficient for these things ?' But the Lord, by the constraining sense of his love, and by giving a deep impression of the worth of souls, and by exciting in the mind a dependence upon his all-sufficiency, can and does encourage those whom he calls and chooses, to serve bim in the Gospel. In themselves they are quite unequal to what is before them, but they obey his voice ; they trust in his promises for guidance and protection, and are not disappointed. We are therefore directed to pray, that the Lord of the harvest would send,' or rather, (according to the force of the Greek word,) thrust forth labourers into his harvest."*
3. That only he who sends forth his ministers can enable them to persevere. It is a service of continual exertion and expense, and requires a continual supply. The opposition of the world, and the power of temptation, acting upon the weakness and depravity of the heart, would quickly prevail against the best ministers, if they were left to carry on the warfare at their own charges. They are at times, yea, frequently, in situations and circumstances which teach them feelingly the meaning of the apostle's words, • We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.t Besides the trials incidental to the Christian profession, which they are exposed to in common with others, they have many which are peculiar to their calling as preachers of the Gospel. Their chief pre-eminence over Christians in private life is a painful one ; they have the honour of bearing a double share of the heat and burden of the day, and of standing in the foremost ranks of the battle, to provoke and re
* Matth. ix. 38.
+ 2 Cor. i. 8.
ceive the fiercest assaults of the enemy. Their only resource and hope is in the faithfulness and compassion of their Lord, under whose banner and eye they fight, and who has said, 'Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.'
4. That the Lord only can give success to their endeavours. Paul may plant and Apollos may water,' but there is no increase unless he affords a blessing.* It is at least a presumptive proof, that he has called a man to preach, if he owns his labours, since he has not promised to own any but those whom he sends.
We must, however, allow and observe that to preach salvation to others, and even to be instrumental in saving souls, will not absolutely prove that the preacher is in a state of salvation himself. We hope it is generally so; but there are exceptions and instances, which should awaken our circumspection, and keep us constantly looking to the Lord in a spirit of humility and dependence. There was a Judas among the apostles; and we are assured that at the last day, some, yea, many will plead having done great things in the name of Christ, whom he will notwithstanding disown, as workers of iniquity.f Even the apostle Paul was impressed by this thought, and he has recorded the improvement he had made of it for our instruction. 'I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.'I
THE GOSPEL MESSAGE, GLAD TIDINGS.
ROMANS, X. 15.
.As it is written] How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of
peace, and bring glad tidings of good things !
The account which the apostle Paul gives of his first reception among the Galatians, $ exemplifies the truth of this passage. He found them in a state of ignorance and misery ; alienated from God, and enslaved to the blind and comfortless superstitions of idolatry. His preaching, accompanied with the power of the Holy Spirit, had a great and marvellous effect. His principal subject was the death of Jesus, who had lately suffered as a male
* 1 Cor. iii. 6.
Matth. vii. 22, 23.
| 1 Cor. ix. 27.
g Gal. iv, 15. * Gal. iii. 1.
factor at Jerusalem. Though the transaction was past, and the scene at a considerable distance, yet by the manner of his representation, the fact was realized to their minds; and they could have been no more affected, bad they been actually upon the spot at the time. Jesus Christ was exhibited to them as crucified before their eyes.* By the same divine energy they were instructed in the knowledge of his character, who he was, and why he suffered ; and likewise understood their own need of such a Saviour. Thus they hearkened to him, not with the indifference of the Athenians, but with application of all that he said to themselves. They heard, they believed, and they rejoiced. The apostle reminds them, that they had not received a cold, speculative doctrine, but such a one as imparted a blessedness to them. This, indeed, many of them afterwards lost, when they were unhappily seduced by false teachers. But for a time the knowledge of a Saviour, so exactly suited to their circumstances, made them happy; and while they were so, they felt very strong emotions of gratitude and esteem for the messenger who brought them these glad tidings. Though he was by many accounted and treated as the off-scouring and filth of all things, the Galatians received him as an angel of God, and attended to him, as if the Lord, who sent him, had spoken to them in person. And, although he had, till then, been an entire stranger to them, his message opened a way to their hearts; and they gave him every testimony of the most cordial friendship ; insomuch, that had it been possible, they would have plucked out their own eyes, and have given them to him.'
Thus, likewise, when Philip preached the Gospel in Samaria, the consequence was, great joy in that city.t But when the Gospel is thus gladly received, there must be a suitable disposition of mind. It is sent to the poor.' It is designed to heal the brokenhearted, to deliver the captives, and to give sight to the blind.'I And therefore they who are well satisfied with themselves, who say, "We see,' and who boast of their freedom, cannot possibly judge either of the truth or of the importance of the Gospel doetrine. As the Lord waters the earth with a profusion worthy of his magnificence and bounty, and does not confine his rain to cultivated soils; so the good seed of his word often' falls upon the highway, upon the rocks, and among thorns ;'S but is only productive upon the good ground of an honest and good heart." Not that any human heart is truly good by nature, but some are prepared for the reception of the truth. And this preparation is the first effect of the word, when it brings forth fruit unto life
| Acts, viii. 8.
| Luke, iv, 18.
Luke, viii. 13-15.
eternal. It andeceives those who were for a time deluded with vain hopes, and convinces them that they are poor, and blind, and helpless. Then they gladly accept the Gospel of peace, and the message is often to them as life from the dead.
The passage from the prophet Isaiah, from which my text is quoted, is very animated and descriptive. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings !!* Imagine a distressed people, at the will and disposal of a conqueror, who was justly offended with them, and under the anxious, trembling uncertainty how he would treat them : if an authorized messenger should inform thein, that instead of the punishment they deserved, the king vouchsafed them a free pardon, was ready to receive them with favour, and to bestow honours and possessions upon all who applied to him, without excepting the most guilty, even the ringleaders in rebellion ; how welcome would this messenger be to them. This, indeed, is beyond the manner of men. No earthly monarch has either magnanimity to make, or power to make good, so gracious and unlimited a proclamation to a whole nation of rebels. But this is the manner of the great God. Such an act of grace is the Gospel. An act of grace to sinners, yet founded in righteousness, and displaying the glory of his justice equally with the riches of his mercy. For it is founded on the mediation of the Son of his love, and procured by his blood. The messengers of this grace are thus welcomed and honoured by those who believe their report, and are esteemed very highly in
• love for their works' sake.'t We may observe,
I. The message of the Gospel is 'glad tidings' of 'peace' and good things.'
II. The messengers, or preachers, find ample reward in their success and acceptance.
I. According to the Hebrew idioın, (which frequently obtains in the New Testament,) all good things are comprised in the term peace. They are eminently comprised in the peace of the Gospel; for it is the peace of God which passeth understanding.' It brings a blessed assurance, that Messiah has made peace by the blood of his cross. They who believe this good report derive from it peace of conscience; and are enabled to say, • Though thou wert justly angry, thine anger is turned away.'I It dispels their fears and forebodings, and inspires thein with liberty to come to God as children ; consequently, on their parts, alienation and enmity cease. They no longer conceive of him as an avenging judge or a hard master. They no longer dispute his authority, nor repine at his appointments. They become a
* Isa. liii. 7.
f 1 Thess. v. 13.
Isa. xii. 1.