Imágenes de páginas

I were among you-think what manner of persons you ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness, that so you may shine as lights in the world. Think of the account you must give of these immortal souls committed to your care, which were redeemed by the blood of Christ, who has sent you in his name to persuade them to be reconciled to God, and at last to present them to him faultless with exceeding joy. He sees and observes your labours, and will recompense them gloriously in that great day.”

vi. By the preaching of the Word of God.

It was most truly remarked in the preamble to the Act of Uniformity, that “in no wise are the mercy, favour, and blessing of Almighty God so readily and plentifully poured upon a realm as by common prayers, due using of the sacraments, and often preaching of the Gospel.” The comparative value of these several instruments of religious benefit we shall not attempt to discuss, remembering the wise advice of Bishop Jeremy Taylor: “. Let no preacher compare one ordinance with another, as prayer with preaching, to the disparagement of either, but use both in their proper seasons and according to appointed order.” It is, however, to

2 D

the importance of the last that we are at present to turn our attention.

“ To have been a constant preacher,” says the biographer of Archbishop Usher," he took in his elder years more comfort by the remembrance of, than in all his other labours and writings.” Such was the estimate of that venerable minister of Christ, respecting this highly important means of religious edification. . But here arises a most momentous question; namely, What is the particular mode of preaching most fitted to effect the great ends of the Christian ministry? To this it is obvious to reply, That which gives the most correct and forcible view of

every topic of faith and duty, in the relative proportions which they occupy in the Scriptures. “ If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.” Some of the leading points have been already cursorily mentioned.

We might farther discover the correct standard with regard to preaching, by remarking the most usual deviations from it. Some

persons, for example, preach the doctrines, or what they conceive to be the doctrines, of the Gospel, without duly enforcing their practical tendency, or pointing out their necessary fruits in the hearts and lives of the faithful; while others inculcate moral observances without sufficiently

connecting them with the peculiar and essential-topics of the Christian revelation. Disproportion of statement is a fault too common : among men of all parties : and this might naturally be expected,---for it is a far more common tendency of the human mind to take a strong view of a few favourite points, than to form a well-balanced and consistent estimate of the whole of revealed truth. But the neglect of due proportion in explicating the doctrines and inculcating the precepts of the Gospel, even where there is no positive mis-statement, will often produce in practice the effect of a radically unsound system. Some clergymen, for want of attention to this point, have unconsciously fostered among their auditors a spirit of Pelagianism on the one hand, or of Antinomianism on the other; and this perhaps without being themselves actually addicted to either of these unscriptural extremes,-of which it would be difficult to say whether of the two is the most hostile to devotion and the most opposed to the spirit of our Established Church, in whose instructions, doctrine and duty, principle and practice, Divine grace and human obligation, are scripturally conjoined. These two hydras must be strenuously and equally opposed by all who value true religion; and opposed, not only in their final consequences, but in their

very germ and elements-opposed not so much by occasionally zealous attacks, as by a constant watchfulness against their introductionopposed, as the Scriptures oppose them, by pre-occupying their place with better inmates, and exhibiting the Gospel in its native purity, as a dispensation of infinite mercy and of sanc-, tifying grace.

With regard to such preaching as has a tendency to Antinomianism, no words can be too strong, to express the ill effects which it is calculated to produce. For such a system dissolves the bonds of moral obligation ; represents as almost unnecessary every Christian rite, and sacrament; paralyzes the heart; chills the affections; renders its possessor proud, selfish, contentious, and dogmatical; and too often leads to the utmost “ wretchlessness of unclean living.” The Antinomian creed is both absurd and unscriptural; and the spirit which it generates is usually in accordance with itself. It is forcibly described by a Dissenting Minister, the eloquent Robert Hall, as “the thick-skinned monster of the ooze and the mire, which no weapon can pierce, no discipline can tame.” “ It is qualified,” he adds, “ for mischief by the very properties which might seem to render it merely an object of contempt,~its vulgarity of conception-its paucity of ideas-its deter

mined hostility to taste, science, and letters. It includes within a compass which every heart can contain, and every tongue can utter, a system which cancels every moral tie, consigns the whole human race to the extremes of presumption or despair, erects religion on the ruins of morality, and imparts to the dregs of stupidity all the powers of the most active poison."

Against such a system, as it appears in its full development, it might seem scarcely necessary to insist upon the necessity of being on our guard; because, when thus exhibited, it presents an aspect calculated to repel every Christian mind at the first glance. But it may be more important to urge the duty of watching against its distant approaches; for which purpose, it is essential that pulpit instruction should embrace “ the whole counsel of God.”. There are some few religiously disposed persons, who have a sort of undefined prejudice against the very term “ practical preaching ;" as though it meant something opposed to the exhibition of the free mercy of God, and the full, perfect, and sufficient atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. The origin of this prejudice in such persons may be generally traced to a dread of the unscriptural use frequently made of scriptural precepts, and the consequent


« AnteriorContinuar »