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"It means, in general, that not only one or two obtain a blessing from his ministry, but that large numbers receive the blessing, yea, the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel.
"When Peter first preached the Gospel of repentance and remission of sins, he went amongst the mur-derers of Christ in the fulness of this blessing. Three thousand were converted in one day; soon they became five thousand; and soon ten thousands believed and continued stedfast in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and were of one heart and soul, and great grace was upon them all.
"Persecution afterwards arose because of the word, and the Apostles were dispersed; and wherever they went they went as missionaries, and scattered the light of the Gospel in all places around. They came to Antioch, and a company there believed and walked in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and were multiplied. So when the Apostle Paul went to Thessalonica, we learn, from his Epistle, that his entrance in was not in vain; but they became an example to all that believe; and from them sounded out the word of the Lord; for they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven 9.
"From these instances you may see what I mean by a minister coming in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ. It is when hundreds are brought to repentance, faith, and newness of life; when all that appear converted, or almost all (for a few even in the primitive church were deceivers), are of one heart and soul, and live in holy communion, and forget their worldly habits and connexions, and impart to each other, and walk in the fear of God and the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and maintain an upright, cheerful, thankful, benevolent, heavenly mind and conversation; when the Lord adds to the church daily such as shall be saved; when some are sent forth as ministers and missionaries to heathen lands: when new churches are founded; when at home and abroad truth kindles like a fire and spreads from heart to heart, from family to family, from neighbour
1 Thess. i. 7--10.
hood to neighbourhood, from country to country: when the word of the Lord runs and is glorified; when the Gospel is preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.
"Thus it was in the primitive times with Peter, Paul, and all the Apostles. The fishers of men cast a wide net and took large shoals. Now the case is altered; we only catch a single fish now and then. But it was not merely in the primitive times, but in various ages and in different parts of the Christian church since, there have been revivals of religion, and great things have been done. In the days of St. Augustine, and at the blessed Reformation, this was the case. In the time of Mr. Whitfield, and Mr. Wesley also, great numbers were truly converted, whatever errors were mixed with their proceedings. Whenever things like these are seen, whenever numbers are brought to fear God, and repent and love Christ, and live holy lives, then the Gospel is preached in the fulness of blessing.
"But these are blessings of which our fathers have told us we have scarcely ever seen them ourselves. I have been thirty-eight years a fisher of men, and not quite unsuccessful; but I never yet saw any of this fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ. Our profession, indeed, is such, that the least success in it is better than the greatest in any other. One soul brought to salvation is worth more than all the glories of the world. If but a single sinner repents, there is joy in heaven -the only event on earth that we know of, that occasions that joy. If a man were to labour thirty-eight years, and gain but one soul, he might consider himself as greatly honoured. Still, who that loves his Saviour and has compassion for the souls of men, would not long for more enlarged success? I would thank God for even a single soul enlightened, and pardoned, and sanctified; but yet, if all my parish were converted, and there were only one left in its sins, I would have a struggle with the devil for that one. There are in the present day an increasing number of Gospel-ministers, and by all some good is done; and in a course of years we get together a little circle of converts. But such success as I understand by the fulness of the blessing, has not been vouchsafed to any
of us in these days. I am not speaking of the comparatiye success, which one minister may have above another, but the success of all of us put together, would be but little compared with that of Paul or Peter."
He next inquires into the reasons of this.
"What can be the reason of this? Is the Lord's arm shortened that it cannot save? Is the Gospel another thing than it was once? Are we to say that we cannot work miracles? Miracles never converted men' except as the grace of God wrought with them. There cannot be a greater mistake than to think that miracles can change the heart. It is the ordinary grace of the Holy Spirit which produces that change. It was this that converted Saul into Paul.
"Are we to resolve it into God's sovereignty? He is sovereign; but a holy, righteous, just one; he delighteth in mercy, and hath promised that his word shall not return unto him void, but shall prosper in the thing whereunto he sends it. I do not say, however, that we are to resolve it all into human causes; God's purposes and sovereignty may well be most seriously considered; but then we must not cast the weight on that. Our duty, and not God's secret will, is our concern. Generally God works in proportion to the fitness of the instruments. If we quiet ourselves on the supposed ground of God's sovereignty, we tempt God and shall assuredly not have the blessing. We may therefore properly inquire, if there be no reasons which may account for this want amongst us of the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ?
His suggestions on the probable causes of the decline of religion, and on the methods best calculated to revive it, are perhaps the most important parts of the discourse.
"We may inquire whether our modern preachers of the Gospel do so prominently hold out the peculiarities of Christianity, as the Apostles did; whether they come with the holy law of God as the ministration of condemnation in one hand, and the Gospel of Christ as the minis
tration of life in the other; whether they warn sinners, like John Baptist, not to trust in any outward forms, and then point out to them the Lamb of God; whether Christ crucified is the great subject of their instructions; whether they say with St. Paul, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Many persons who are said to preach the Gospel, may have exhibited Christ in the picture; but the question is, whether the Saviour has not been rather in the back ground; whether they have not been ashamed of bringing him fully forward; whether they have not hidden and covered something of Christ and his cross.
"It is the work of the Spirit to glorify Christ. May we not then ask, whether God the Spirit is glorified in his person and grace, in his love and power in the work of conversion; whether we do not hold the doctrine of the Holy Spirit slightly? For if we do not honour the Spirit, how can we expect that he will honour our ministry? Matters are more promising in this respect now than they were twenty years back; but I have heard and read sermons in which Christ was exhibited, but the Spirit scarcely mentioned. We must expect all success from his power alone. If a man trust in knowledge, talents, eloquence, human suasion, he will do nothing. It is our business indeed to do all we can in inviting, entreating, and instructing men; but when we have done all, it is the Spirit of God who alone can quicken the dead and enlighten the blind; and if we depend not on him, we shall not, we cannot, succeed.
"Some, on the other hand, may be inclined so to look to God, as to neglect the means which God has appointed to be used. A man may say, The blessing must come from God; I can do nothing of myself, and therefore I will do nothing at all. This is not trusting God, but tempting him. Our speculating on God's commands instead of obeying them, is most criminal. If the Prophet Ezekiel had done this, when he was sent to prophesy to the dry bones, what would the Lord have answered him? A great deal of Gospel-truth may be preached and little good done, because we do not fairly
use all the means in addressing and calling on sinners to repent and turn to God.
"We do not expect this fulness of blessing, and are satisfied without it. There There is a littleness in our faith and conception of things. We do not ask nor expect this fulness, we have no idea of it, it does not enter our minds. Can we wonder, then, that the Lord says to us, According to thy faith be it unto thee? But the Apostles went forth and expected and asked a fulness of blessing. When a man is in earnest, nothing will satisfy him but this. Others may be satisfied without success. They may go through a formal set of observances, and be contented; instead of examining their ministry and their whole conduct, and saying, Show me wherefore thou contendest with me. If we can be satisfied without this enlarged blessing, certainly we shall never have it. If a man says, I have a large, attentive congregation; I have a good income; the people are obliging; my circumstances are comfortable—he is in a most dangerous state. It is the same as if a fisherman should be satisfied because he has a good net and pleasant companions and fair weather, though he comes home empty. If any thing but usefulness will satisfy us, I do not wonder we are not useful. We must thank God for this and that thing; but nothing must satisfy us but the conversion of sinners.
"Our faithfulness and earnestness are more in the pulpit.than in the closet. We preach Christ as if in earnest, and we go and pray as if not in earnest. There is but little wrestling with God for a blessing. There is a want of the spirit of prayer. Sometimes this may arise from humility; but it is a false one. St. Paul was most humble; yet most earnest in prayer, most persevering, most importunate; and so he obtained a fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.
"There is a want of that holy heavenly temper and that general circumspection of conduct, which would make us patterns of good works. Our example may not be dishonourable; but is it so honourable to the Gospel as it might be? Our example is not a scandal; but can we say with the Apostle, I have coveted no man's silver or gold or apparel? Can we say, Ye know how holily