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will sooner or later turn into approbation. They will be constrained to approve of that faithfulness, which was intended and calculated to promote their highest good. Many such instances have been known, under the faithful preaching of the gospel. When the enemies of the truth become cordially reconciled to it, they never fail to be reconciled to those who plainly and faithfully preach it. But if they cannot gain the approbation of their hearts, they may gain the approbation of their consciences in favor of their faithfulness, by putting this pointed question to them: “Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” Fidelity to God will banish the fear of man, which bringeth a snare. Let us, therefore, my brethren, make the Lord himself our fear and our dread, and then we may hope that his grace will be sufficient for us, and his strength be made perfect in our weakness; and through his strengthening us, we may do all that he has commanded us.

Finally: The whole current of this discourse naturally leads us to believe, that God highly favors those to whom he sends able and faithful ministers. They are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and one of the richest blessings he ever bestowed upon mankind. As such he esteems them, and promises to give them to his people. “I will give you pastors according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Wherever God sends his faithful ministers, there is ground to hope that he will be with them, assist them in their great and good work, and crown their labors with desired success. Though he has lately called away from this Church and religious Society, a faithful minister as we suppose, yet he has not forgotten or forsaken them; for he is this day about to send them a pastor, whose piety, ability, and fidelity have been long known and highly esteemed. He is opening a bright and promising prospect before the eyes of this litile flock; and providentially indicating his gracious design, that they shall not suffer a famine of the word; but shall be guided, comforted, and instructed, by one who shall rightly divide the word of truth, and bring out of his treasure things new and old. They have, therefore, peculiar reason to rejoice on this auspicious occasion, and to hope that they shall see good days, according to the days in which they have seen evil. But it behooves then to remember, that to whom much has been given, of them much will be required.

SERMON X X.

SYSTEMATIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE GOSPEL.

NORFOLK AUXILIARY EDUCATION SOCIETY, AT DORCHESTER, JUNE 11, 1817.

EOLD last the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me.--2 Trx. i 13.

While Paul was passing through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches, he came to Lystra, where he found a certain disciple, named Timothy, who was highly esteemed by the Christian brethren in that city. This recommended him to the notice and acquaintance of the apostle; who being fully persuaded of his unfeigned piety and promising talents, determined to take him with him, and prepare him, by proper instruction, to preach the gospel. Timothy gratefully received and wisely improved this precious privilege, made great proficiency in theological knowledge, and soon became acquainted with ihe whole scheme of religious sentiments which the apostle en braced and taught. This is more than intimated in the words I have read. “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me.” The gospel which Paul understood, believed and preached, contains the whole plan of redemption, which was formed in the divine mind before the foundation of the world. And though the first principles of this scheme of grace lie scattered through all the sacred pages, yet they are all inseparably connected, and compose one consistent and complete system of divine truths. This form of sound words, or rather this system of sound doctrines, the apostle taught Timothy, and exhorted him to hold fast, as a necessary and indispensable qualification for the gospel ministry. The opinion and practice of the apostle in this instance, naturally leads us to conclude,

That a systematical knowledge of the gospel is still necessary, to qualify other pious young men, as well as Timothy, for the same sacred office.

This single point I shall endeavor to support and illustrate by the following observations.

First: Young men who are preparing for the ministry, should understand the harmony and connection which run through all the peculiar and essential doctrines of the gospel. These are so intimately connected, that they cannot be clearly understood, separately considered. Who can understand moral depravity, without understanding moral virtue? Who can understand the nature of regeneration, without understanding the nature of true holiness? Who can understand the doctrine of justification, without understanding the doctrine of atonement ? Who can understand the doctrine of atonement, without understanding the doctrine of vindictive justice? Who can understand the doctrine of vindictive justice, without understanding the nature and demerit of sin? Or who can understand the nature of the divine government over all the moral world, without knowing the nature of moral agency in all moral beings? All these doctrines are plainly and confessedly contained in the gospel, in some sense or other. I do not presume to say in what sense they are to be understood; but I do not hesitate to say, that they ought to be understood in a sense, which renders them harmonious and consistent with each other. If a preacher understands one doctrine of the gospel in a sense which is inconsistent with the sense in which he understands another doctrine of the gospel, it is as certain that he misunderstands one or both of those doctrines, as it is that the gospel is true; for if the gospel be true, it is equally true that all its doctrines are perfectly harmonious and consistent, and must appear so when rightly understood. Many have undertaken to preach the gospel without having a systematical knowledge of its fundamental principles; but they have never failed of running into gross contradictions, which were too apparent not to be perceived by their attentive and intelligent hearers. There is scarcely any point in which preachers are more apt to fail, than in point of consistency. So far as they are ignorant of that system of doctrines which the gospel contains, just so far they will preach inconsistently, and contradict at one time what they have said at another. It is utterly impracticable to exhibit one doctrine or duty of Christianity, with propriety and consistency, without a systematic knowledge of the first principles of the oracles of God. As the most pious and ingenious young man cannot have a proper understanding of the harmony and connection which exists among all the peculiar doctrines of the gospel without a systematic knowledge of them, so it is highly necessary that he should possess this systematic knowledge, before be undertakes to preach the great doctrines and duties of Christianity.

Secondly: A systematical knowledge of the principal doctrines of the Bible is necessary, in order to understand and explain the true meaning of the scriptures in general. All, who have read and studied the word of God with serious and critical attention, have found a great many passages which they could not easily explain, in a clear and consistent manner. It is true, indeed, that some very ingenious and learned men have written criticisms, expositions and commentaries upon the Bible. But let a young student in divinity consult any of these expositors, and he will probably find, that they have created about as many and as great difficulties, as they have removed; and after all, he must resort to some other method, in order to discover the true meaning of the sacred writers. Here then it may be asked, To what better method can he resort? I will not say in this case, as a learned professor of theology says, he must resort solely to the Bible to explain itself. This appears to be absurd. If the Bible explains itself, one would be apt to conclude that it contains no difficult passages, which need to be explained. One passage of scripture cannot explain another, because every passage is equally true in its proper sense. Suppose all the seemingly contradictory passages of scripture were placed in two opposite columns, how could this serve to explain either column? For the point to be decided is not ibis; whether one column be true, and the other false; because both, being divinely inspired, must be equally true in their real and proper meaning. It is granted that the historical and classical knowledge of a young student, may enable him to explain such difficulties in scripture as arise from the customs, or manners, or laws, or languages, or religions of ancient times and nations; but this knowledge will afford him no assistance in explaining such difficulties as arise from passages of apparenily conflicting sentiments. Hence arises the necessity of having some acknowledged and infallible standard, with which all passages of scripture that appear to contradict each other in sense, may be compared, and their true meaning ascertained. And such a standard is every essential doctrine of the gospel. For we know that, if the gospel be true, there can no genuine passage of scripture be found, which really carries a meaning repugnant to it. It may be taken for granted, that there is not a single text in the Bible, that has a meaning which is really inconsistent with the doctrine of true benevolence, or with the doctrine of human depravity, or with the doctrine of regeneration, or with the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, or with God's ultimate end in the creation of the world. All the first principles of the gospel are infallible criterions, by by which to ascertain the sense of all dark, difficult, doubtful passages of scripture. And this mode of interpreting the sacred oracles, is agreeable to common sense, and to the common practice of the best interpreters of human laws. Our wise and learned judges, in interpreting the laws of the land and their legal authorities, always appeal to one or more of the first principles of law, as their infallible guide in deciding the most ditficult, intricate and important causes.

And for my part, I know of no expositor of scripture, whether ancient or modern, whether of this or that denomination of christians, who does not explain detached passages according to some first principle of his own system of divinity. It now appears, we trust, that those who are preparing for the ministry, cannot be duly qualified for their important work, without acquiring a systematical knowledge of the primary truths of the gospel; which is absolutely necessary in order to become able expositors of the sacred volume.

Thirdly: Young men, who are preparing for the ministry, should have a systematical knowledge of the gospel, that they may be able to guard themselves against the religious errors to which they are peculiarly exposed. If they go forth to preach the gospel before they have sormed any well digested system of religious sentiments in their own minds, they will be continually exposed to be carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning craftiness of those who lie in wait to deceive. Mankind, who naturally prefer religious error to religious truth, have always used their influence to corrupt the sentiments of their public teachers. The sinners in Zion “said to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things; speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits." The same spirit led the same people to employ all their power and art, to draw Christ and the apostles into the most fatal errors. Paul knew that young Timothy would be surrounded by such men as Phygellus and Hermogenes, Hymeneus and Philetus, who had erred concerning the truth, and had actually overthrown the faith of some; and in the view of their corrupting influence, he gave him the seasonable admonition in the text, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me." The offence of the cross has not yet ceased. The men of the world still hate the pure doctrines of the gospel; and though they use less violence, yet they employ more

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