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ON PREACHING THE WORD.
GALATIANS i. 10.'
“ FOR DO I NOW PERSUADE MEN, OR GOD? OR DO' I SEEK TO PLEASE MEN? FOR IF I YET PLEASED MEN, I SHOULD NOT BE THE SERVANT OF CHRIST.”
This appeal of the apostle to the Galatian Christians is introduced by one of the most solemn and fearful anathemas that we find in the word of God. St. Paul having witnessed the previous faithfulness and docility of the Galatians, was surprised to find that they were “so soon removed from him that had called them into the
of Christ, unto another gospel :” which indeed“ is not another,” saith he, “but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” And viewing with indignation the destructive effects of the preaching of these false teachers, he bursts forth into the reiterated anathema—“Though we or an angel from heaven
preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed !” A denunciation calculated to excite the deepest emotions of anxiety in the bosom of every conscientious man who has taken upon him the office of the ministry of the word! To corrupt the truth, to suppress or exaggerate it, “ to teach for doctrines the commandments of men,” involves a curse and not a blessing. Of what high importance must it be to ascertain what is "THE GOSPEL,”_"OUR GOSPEL;" and whether that which is now preached be the same as that proclaimed by the apostles. This is indeed a weighty matter of inquiry both for those who speak and for those who hear.
The apostle, in the text, proceeds to call the Galatians to witness the simplicity and disinterestedness of his own preaching. persuade men ?” that is, Do I seek to approve myself to men, “or to God? or do I seek to please men?" Their consciences would respond to his that he had courted no man's favour, nor kept back any thing for fear of offending them. And then he positively asserts the impossibility of pleasing both God and man in this matter; “For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
While we are inquiring further into this subject,
- Do I now
"may we be all taught of God!"
he guide us into all truth ; removing prejudices, explaining difficulties, and enabling us to receive with all sincerity the truth as it is in Jesus.
Let us then consider, I. THE PREACHING WHICH IS CALCULATED TO PLEASE MAN. II. THE PREACHING WHICH WILL PLEASE GOD. III. THE IMPOSSI
BILITY OF PLEASING BOTH.
I. That preaching generally will please man which flatters his pride, and does not interrupt him in the pursuit of his gains or his pleasures. The time is indeed gone by when mere essays on moral philosophy suited the popular ear: something of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity must, in the present day, be interwoven into the discourse : and the frailty of man, the atonement of Christ, and the influences of the Holy Spirit must at least be glanced at, or the discernment even of ordinary hearers will discover the deficiency. So that the preaching which will please man is now characterized rather by a dilution than by a total suppression of the truths of the gospel. Those truths have ever been offensive to the carnal heart, and they who would please unconverted men must therefore soften down the unpleasant doctrines, and by weakening, neutralize them.
Take for instance the doctrine of the fall of man, and the consequent corruption of his whole
How is this represented? We are told that we are sinners indeed, frail, and liable to go astray; but that we are by no means wholly depraved, that there are still traces of original righteousness in man, and that the image of his Maker is still discernible in him. His relative virtues are much applauded; he is honourable, generous, humane, upright; nor is he wholly averse from a reasonable and proper attention to religion: and not unfrequently it is hinted, that to represent mankind in that dark and deadly character, (in which, however, they are drawn both in holy Scripture and in the writings of our church,) is in a measure to cast a reproach upon their Creator! It is forgotten that though God made man upright, he is no longer what he was originally. But all this is very agreeable to that heart of pride which always has resented the scriptural doctrine of its own depravity.
In like manner they who would please man weaken the testimony of God's word respecting the only way of salvation. General statements of the divine mercy are very palatable; but his justice and the holiness of his nature, which call aloud for the condemnation of the sinner, are rarely enforced. He is represented as pitying the frailties of his creatures, excusing or palliating their offences; He will not be severe to judge them, if only they are sincere, repent, forsake gross sin, frequent the church, and occasionally take the sacrament, give alms to the poor, and attend to their relative duties. No one is perfect,