Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ciples of the doctrine of Christ," to "go on to perfection,"-i. e., “in all holy conversation and godliness.This he unquestionably derived from his faith in Christ crucified, as the ground of all those acts and labours of love which are acceptable to God by Him.

The superstructure of “perfecting holiness in the fear of God," should be sedulously reared by the preacher as it respects all the minutiæ of life. For, were it sufficient to leave the members of Christ's church to their own construction of moral conduct in its numerous, varied, and intricate relations, after simply preaching the doctrine of the cross, He would not have supplied us with his sermons on the mount and on the plain, and with the precepts so largely interspersed throughout His Gospel. The omission of an unremitting inculcation of the whole circle of personal and relative duties, as the production of an enlightened and operative faith in the sacrifice of the Redeemer, must therefore be a grossly defective mode of preaching His word. We repeat that the various situations and circumstances of life, and whatever can be conceived and experienced in relation to them, should be familiarly unfolded and practically explained, so far as the pastor's knowledge and experience permit, showing in what consists a perfect conformity to the laws of Christ. It is precisely in these things,- (i. e., throughout the whole range of personal and relative duties,) that we find professing Christians so lamentably defective. Inconsistency, glaring inconsistency and expediency, are, to a considerable extent, the order of the present times !—It may be replied : “This is simply because many are but professors." This may be true in most cases, yet sincere Christians are often in error. And it is not the Scripture mode of decision ; for we know not what they would be, did we present them with “the whole counsel of God.”

Moreover, as “ we are saved by hope,” it is necessary that the great additional stimulus to love and obedience set forth in the Millennial doctrines should be at all times fully and faithfully declared; otherwise a vast proportion of the counsel and promises of God becomes omitted ; and a corresponding defect in the efficiency of preaching inevitably ensues. In a word, Christ crucified and Christ glorified are indissoluble doctrines, because both constistute the prime motives of the believer. See John XVII.

How many are the followers of Christ, who both in youth and manhood, have deviated from strictly prudent paths; and thus by a slight error in judgment have rendered the remainder of their lives miserable! They have afterwards discovered, that had they had but a little more light, or knowledge of Scripture injunctions, they would not have fallen into these errors ; had they but possessed a little more insight into the duty or course of conduct in question, they would have wholly escaped the delusion, because their consciences, actuated by grace, would have compelled them to avoid it.

Besides the great number and variety of the preceptive portions of the New Testament, and they should be distinctly examined and applied in all their bearings,) a very extensive store is vouchsafed us in the various books of the Old Testament. Many of the most impressive are found among the prophetic writings, and strictly applicable to the Christian conduct. No book of Scripture, we think, should be wholly omitted in the preacher's catalogue : yet, those

which seem designed to be more inspiring and stimulating to holiness than others, are decidedly the prophets. The fulfilled, fulfilling, and unfulfilled portions of the Revelation of John urge to a conscientious and holy discharge of duty from “the hope that is set before us ;” Christ being both the Finisher and Author of our faith. And though he," the King," seems, at present, " afar off,"—the eyes of our understanding being enlightened,” we dwell by faith on the “beauty” and eternal results of his glorious appearing; earnestly striving to secure an interest in “ the promised redemption," having a foretaste of the "purchased possession" which constitutes the end of the revelation of God. “ Guilt,” says Mr. Begg, “may perhaps be as really contracted by having our attention so completely engrossed by the sufferings and death of Christ, that we disregard or discredit the testimony of God by his prophets concerning the Redeemer's glorious reign, as in being so dazzled by its splendour as not to perceive the necessity of his death for the redemption of a lost and guilty world, and the glorious display which was thus made of the divine perfections."

“ The public addresses delivered by the pastors of the early churches were usually called sermons or orations; but they differed considerably, both in form and structure, from the greater portion of modern pulpit discourses. Nearly all public Christian instruction consisted simply in the reading, and the expounding the Scriptures. Before the pastor stood up to teach, a section of the divine word, embracing as much as two, three, or four of our modern capitular divisions, was read to the assembly. This was termed 'the lesson ;' it was emphatically the instruction of the hour, and was regarded by pastor and people as the 'portion of meat,' to receive which the latter had assembled.

“ Origen, who wrote early in the third century, calls the sermons of ministers, 'Explanations of the Lessons ;' and Justyn Martyr, who wrote about the year 155, says, “The reader of the Scriptures having ceased, the president (or pastor) made a sermon by way of giving instruction as to the excellent things which had been read, and of holding them up to imitation.'

“If Origen's may be regarded as a specimen, the primitive sermons resembled very much, as to structure and method, the modern expository lecture. The preacher commenced with a short exordium; he then, verse by verse, or sentence by sentence, explained the lesson' or text; first, as to the import of its language,-and next, as to its mystical meaning and its moral lessons ; and he concluded by a formal application of the truths which he had discussed to the consciences of his hearers. When his text was too long, or too replete with matter to be all advantageously expounded, he noticed only such portions throughout it, as were of chief importance, or made selection of one small consecutive part.

“Origen says, ' If he should treat every part of the subject, he must occupy not only the one hour of their assembly, but several. From which we might probably, without rashness, infer this curious and not uninteresting fact, that the primitive discourses usually extended in delivering to about an hour.

“Great care seems to have been used by the primitive preachers to render their discourses practical, and to adapt them to the capacities, attainments, and spiritual condition of their audience.

“ Expository preaching possesses the high recommendation of fixing the special attention of a hearer upon the word of God. If an audience could be made to listen each with an open Bible in his hand; if they could, as the preacher proceeds, be incited to trace, from sentence to sentence, and from doctrine to doctrine, God's own unerring testimony; and if they could, at the close of each service, ... "search the Scriptures,' to compare spiritual things with spiritual,' to meditate upon the law of the Lord;" and to experience. a longing of soul after God's statutes ;' they would then, doubtless, be in the way to attain, in the highest degree, and the noblest excellence, the results of Christian instruction.

“A modern methodical discourse, when the doctrines of it are sound, and the spirit of it is devotional, and the practical appeals of it are faithful, will not fail, indeed, to · feed the flock of God;' and it will not be the less successful, that a textual discourse is virtually but an expanded exposition of Scripture, and that even a pulpit essay, when stamped with the impress of truly evangelical preaching, abounds with Scripture quotations and allusions : still the expository lecture-the oration which explains verse by verse, or, clause by clause, a section of the divine word, is what the primitive Christians appear to have thought most edifying,' and it merits general adop

tion.

Professor Vaughan observes: “It may be proper to remark that at the commencement of the thirteenth century, two methods of performing this service (preaching) had prevailed. These were technically called “declaring" and “postillating." According to the former, the preacher commenced by announcing the subject on which he meant to discourse; and proceeded to deliver what, in modern language, is called an oration, or an essay, rather than a sermon. To postillate was to commence by reading a portion of Scripture, and then taking its parts in the order of the writer, to offer such remarks upon them as were fitted to explain their meaning and secure their application. To the latter method, with that now called lecturing, or exposition, another was added about this period, and one by which the ancient practice of “declaring' was, ere long, nearly abolished, and the far better custom of “ postillating” was rendered much less frequent. The sacred text had been recently divided into its present order of chapters ; and the logic to which the schoolmen, (or learned men, belonging principally to the universities,) were so devoted, suggested the selection of some brief portion of Scripture as the basis of a sermon, and also that the matter to be discussed, should be divided in the manner still so frequently adopted by preachers. The sacred writings were too highly valued by Wycliffe to be dispensed with as the obvious foundation of the instructions delivered by him from the pulpit: the motive, also, which led him to avoid the practice of “declaring" appears to have rendered him doubtful concerning the utility of the new scholastic method of teaching, and to have determined his general preference to the expository method.”

No. XIV.-- Page 257.

ON PREACHING THE GOSPEL AS A WITNESS TO ALL NATIONS,

BY TIE REV. H. MELVILL. “* This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.' Matt. xxiv, 14. When we regard as 'the end, Christ's coming to judge, we are to expect, as the precursor of this end, the universal publication, but not the universal reception, of Christianity. The Gospel is to be preached every where for a witness; but this differs widely from being every where believed in to the saving of the soul. And it is the fulfilment of this prophecy, thus literally interpreted, which we consider now in the act of being effected, through the labours of institutions which give a glory to the age. ... And yet, at one time or other, Christianity will be universally received; for it is on this noble consummation that prophecy pours its most animating strains. ... We are at a loss to discover how Scriptural statements, which represent Christ's coming as preceded by only a partial reception of the Gospel, can be reconciled with the opinion of numbers, that this coming is to follow a Millennium; a season during which the Gospel shall be universally received, and when, according to the language of our text, the universal publication, but not the universal reception, of Christianity, is regarded as a sign that shall usher in the end. Then it is, we say, that notwithstanding the small measure of actual success, institutions for disseminating truth fill nobly a place in the accomplishment of prophecy. Support may have been given to these institutions on a supposition which, we think, will not bear the test of rigid inquiry,-a supposition that God would use them as his instruments in eradicating falsehood from the whole of this creation.

“ Those who have considered that Christianity is to advance to unbounded dominion, without fresh interference on the part of its Founder, and that the moral condition of our globe is to be gradually ameliorated until, independent of any new manifestation of Christ, the lion shall lie down with the lamb, such persons, we say, may naturally have regarded Bible and Missionary Societies, as the engines through which shall be accomplished the result, that all shall know God from the least even to the greatest : but if it be a consequence of the coming of Christ, that idolatry is to be abolished, and every falsehood extirpated, the Redeemer himself appearing, according to the description in the Apocalypse, to destroy them who destroy the earth,' it must follow, that to entertain the opinion just mentioned, is to substitute the powers of our societies for that visible making bare of the arm of the Lord, which prophecy associates with the Redeemer's Second Advent. Yet in holding that the Bible and Missionary Societies are not to regenerate the world, we also hold that they share a part, the most splendid and important to perform. They seem to be as instruments for the accomplishment of that which, ere Jerusalem fell, was accomplished by apostles and apostolic men,—the preaching the Gospel for a witness to all nations.

" It is not, then, that our societies are engines for accomplishing the predic

tions which assert the universal diffusion of Christianity, but they certainly are engines for accomplishing those predictions which define what must happen ere this universal diffusion takes place: they are instruments for effecting what must be preliminary to the Millennium, though they will not in any sense produce that Millennium.”

"We feel (and is this no cause of exultation ?) that with greater and greater distinctness is that sign being exhibited which must be displayed in its fulness, ere the Millennium can dawn, the sign announced in our text, that this gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world for a witness,' and that then, it is said, the end shall come.'"

No. XV.- Page 264.

ON THE SEPARATE STATE.—BY W. CUNNINGRAME, ESQ , &c.

.“ That the whole orthodox church in the first ages, held a doctrine on this point opposed to that of the moderns, may be seen by a reference to the fourth chapter of the learned work of Dr. T. Burnet, De Statu Mortuorum et Resurgentium, wherein he has collected a powerful body of evidence on this subject.”

“ Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho, affirms that the souls of the pious remain in a better place,' εν χρειττονι που χωρω μενειν, the unjust and wicked in a worse place expecting the judgment.

“ Irenæus says, “As the Lord went into the midst of the shadow of death (a term for Hades,) where the souls of the dead were, and afterwards rose in the body, and after his resurrection was received up; it is manifest also, that the souls of his disciples, on account of whom the Lord hath wrought these things, shall go into the invisible place, fixed for them by God, and shall dwell there till the resurrection, awaiting the resurrection : afterwards receiving bodies and rising perfect, that is, corporeally, in the same manner the Lord arose, they shall so come to the presence of God.'

“ Tertullian thus writes : ‘But if Christ, God and Man, having died according to the Scriptures, and having been buried, satisfied this law also, underwent the likeness of human death among those under the earth, and did not ascend into the highest heaven till he had descended into the lower parts of the earth, that he might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of himself: you have both grounds for believing in the region of the dead below the earth, and for refuting those who proudly enough do not consider the souls of the faithful as deserving of Hades, placing the servants above the master, disdaining the comfort of waiting for the resurrection in the bosom of Abraham.'

"If we inquire into the sentiments of the earlier, or as they are usually called, the apostolic fathers, we find them in like manner, altogether silent upon the supposed glorification of the saints when they leave the body. Clement of Rome having recounted the labours, and sufferings and martyred death

« AnteriorContinuar »