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cumstance, at this day, that ministers have become so remiss in examining candidates for the work of the ministry. They not only approbate them to preach, but even ordain them to the pastoral charge, without the least examination of their religious principles. And some boast of this conduct, under the noble idea of liberality of sentiment. It deserves, however, serious consideration, whether it will appear in this light in the view of Him who hath set them for the defence of the gospel.
9. If the gospel is a scheme of religion composed of the doctrines of grace, then, if ministers neglect to preach the doctrines of grace, they neglect to preach the gospel. We may preach many real and important truths, while we neglect to preach the doctrines of grace. But while we neglect to preach these, our sermons, however elegantly composed and gracefully delivered, are no better than the empty declamations of heathen moralists. Socrates taught the existence of the Deity, the immortality of the soul, and its happy or miserable state after death. Cicero beautifully described and inculcated justice, veracity, temperance, and all the moral and social virtues. Seneca read sol. emn lectures upon the vanity of the world, the deformity of vice, and the wisdom and importance of improving time, and preparing for eternity. If we preach the same doctrines and duties upon the same natural principles, we deserve the name of heathen, rather than Christian preachers.
But this is not the worst; for, while we confine our preaching to these duties and doctrines of natural religion, we betray the cause of Christianity, and rob our people of the knowledge of those doctrines of grace which alone are able to make them wise unto salvation. If we neglect therefore to preach the doctrines of grace, we are unspeakably worse than no preachers at all. Our people had much better be left alone, with the Bible in their hands : peradventure they may read, understand, believe, and be saved. But if we preach, every Sabbath, something directly contrary to the genius and spirit of the gospel, we take the most effectual method to deceive and ruin their souls for ever. Error, according to the inspired writers, has as great a tendency to destroy, as truth has to save the souls of men. Christ compares error to leaven, and Paul compares it to a canker, or gangrene. Error is the same to the soul, that poison is to the body. As a small degree of poison will injure the body, so a small degree of error will injure the soul. And as a large degree of poison will destroy the body, so a large degree of error will destroy the soul. It is as dangerous and fatal, therefore, to preach a system of error to our people, as to inculcate a course of practical vice and immorality; for either will directly tend to destroy both their souls and ours for ever. Hence, says our Lord, " If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”
10. If the gospel is a scheme of religion composed of the doctrines of grace, then none who are friendly to grace, can be really unfriendly to the doctrines of grace. Some who profess to be very friendly to grace, appear open and bitter enemies to the doctrines of grace. But how is this consistent? If they are really pleased with grace, why should they not be as much pleased with the doctrines of grace. To be pleased with grace, is to be pleased with the character of God in damning sinners for the least violation of his holy and righteous law. Whoever can see a beauty in this part of the divine character, can see a beauty in divine grace. And whoever can see a beauty in divine grace, can see a beauty in the doctrines of grace. For all the doctrines of grace grow out of, or unite with this single truth, that God is amiable and glorious in the displays of his punitive justice. How then can those who love this divine truth, hate and oppose the doctrine of election, the doctrine of divine sovereignty, the doctrine of unconditional submission, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, or any other of the doctrines of grace? Is there any thing more displeasing in these doctrines, than in the doctrine of eternal destruction for the least sin? Or if there be any grace in God's saving sinners from complete and endless ruin, is there not as much grace in those doctrines which immediately flow from this source? None therefore who really love the grace of God in the salvation of sinners, can understandingly hate and oppose the doctrines of grace. Here, however, I beg leave to borrow the words of a late pious and elegant writer, who has set this subject in a clear and striking light.“ Believe me, my dear friend, salvation, both in its root and all its branches, is entirely of grace; or else believe me, for the many cogent testimonies of scripture, which most circumstantially ascertain this great truth. Election is of grace; “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, not on account of human worthiness, but according to the good pleasure of his will. Equally gratuitous is our effectual vocation; 'God hath called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace.' Faith is owing to the same cause; ‘By grace are ye saved through faith. From hence springs justification ; ' Being justified freely by his grace. This is the origin of regeneration;
Of his own will begat he us, by the word of truth.' The consummation of bliss flows from the same all supplying cause; · The gist of God is eternal life. It is in every respect a gist; the superstructure is reared by the hand of grace; and when the top stone is brought forth, when our felicity is com
pleted in the kingdom of heaven, the everlasting acclamation will be, Grace, grace, unto it. This is that glorious gospel, which human learning could never have discovered; which carnal reason cannot understand; which the wisdom of this world accounteth foolishness; which the envy of the devil, and the pride of man will always oppose."
You will now permit me, my hearers, to bring this subject home to our own bosoms, and ask this serious question: Do we oppose the gospel ?
In particular, Do we who profess to be ministers of the gospel, oppose it? This is possible. For we are by nature children of wrath, even as others. We have naturally à carnal mind, which is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. We naturally hate the doctrines of grace, as much as other men. But if we neglect to preach these doctrines because we hate them, or if we neglect to preach them because others hate them, or if we preach them while our own hearts rise against them, how unspeakably guilty are we in the sight of our divine Master! Let us then settle this question, which it concerns us more than any other in the world to settle: Do we love that glorious gospel which we are solemnly bound to study every day, and to preach every Sabbath, with supreme affection and delight?
Nor is this question uninteresting to him, who is this day to lay himself under the most solemn obligations "to testify the gospel of the grace of God." How much does it concern him to be established in the faith and in the love of the gospel! In this, his own soul and the souls of this people are deeply interested. Let him therefore be entreated to take heed unto himself, and unto his doctrines, and continue in them; that he may boih save himself and them that hear him.
And may this church and congregation inquire, whether they are willing to receive the grace of God in truth. The man who is now to be set over them in the Lord, will, we trust, come to them in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of grace. We beseech thern therefore not to receive the
grace God in vain. If he plainly and faithfully preaches the doctrines of grace, they will be a savor of life unto life, or a savor of death unto death to your souls. Take heed, therefore, how
And let us all who are present on this solemn occasion, take heed, lest we reject the gospel of the grace of God. Our divine and gracious Redeemer hath forewarned both ministers and people of their imminent danger. “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner.” “ Whosoever shall fall upon that stone, shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”
SERMON I V.
COUNSEL OF GOD.
AN ORDINATION SERMON.
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. --- ACT8, xx 27.
The apostle makes this declaration under peculiar circumstances, which carry the strongest evidence of sincerity. He is taking his final leave of those to whom he had preached the gospel with saving success. They expect never to see his face again, nor be theirs, until they meet in the world of spirits, before the Supreme Judge. In this situation he solemnly calls upon them to bear testimony to his ministerial faithfulness. "I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." This seems to be the spirit of the apostle's appeal: “I know, and you know, and the Searcher of my heart knows, that I have faithfully preached the gospel among you; for instead of using any mean arts or subterfuges to conceal the truth, I have laid open the whole scheme of redemption, with all possible freedom and plainness.”
As this declaration breathes the true spirit of a faithful minister, so it naturally leads us to show, in this discourse, that faithful ministers mean to preach the whole counsel of God.
Paul was a faithful minister. He loved that gospel, which he once hated. He admired that divine Saviour, whom he once persecuted. He espoused that glorious cause, which he once opposed. His former views and affections being totally changed by divine grace, he was prompted to preach the gospel from an ardent desire to promote the Redeemer's kingdom, and increase the number of his cordial subjects. He knew nothing more desirable, than to be instrumental in turning men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. He was willing to spend and be spent for the salvation of sinners. He was willing to sacrifice the most promising earthly prospects, and to endure the heaviest load of evils that the world could heap upon him, for the sake of Christ and the good of souls. He felt, therefore, no inclination to handle the word of God deceitfully, but sincerely desired, by the manifestation of the truth, to approve himself to his own and to every man's conscience, in the sight of God.
This was Paul's character. And this is the character of all faithful ministers. They all have the same spirit, act from the same motives, and pursue the same objects. There is, therefore, no occasion to spend time in proving that faithful ministers mean to preach as the apostle Paul did. This point is sufficiently clear from their Christian character. The only thing here that needs to be considered, is, how they preach so as to declare the whole counsel of God. This, indeed, deserves particular attention. And upon this let me observe,
1. That faithful ministers, in preaching the gospel, trace it up to its original source and fountain head.
The gospel is not an emanation of the divine nature, but a fruit of the divine will. God is a voluntary agent. He acts of choice, not of constraint. His nature lays him under no natural necessity of acting, or producing any effects out of himself. Had it been agreeable to his will, he might have existed, from eternity unto eternity, without giving being to any created object. His nature, therefore, by no means obliged him to give existence to men, and much less to give his Son to die for them, after they had forfeited every mark of his favor. Hence it appears plain and obvious, that the gospel of divine grace must have been a perfectly free and voluntary scheme, which the Supreme Being devised, determined, and adjusted in all its parts, before the foundation of the world. For God is a wise as well as a voluntary agent. And every wise, voluntary agent always forms his plan, before he begins to operate. The general concerts his scheme, before he orders his army to march. The master of the ship determines his course, before he launches into the mighty deep. And the architect draws a complete plan of his intended work, before he shapes his materials, or begins to put them together. So the only wise God, the Creator and Governor of the world, voluntarily determined and adjusted the whole scheme of redemption, before he brought men, the intended subjects of it, into existence. The schemes of men are often imperfect, because they determine the end, without determining and securing the means. But no such imperfection ever attends the divine counsels. God determines