« AnteriorContinuar »
if this point be determined, the conclusion is inevitable, and its obligation indispensable. “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” But it inay happen, that we may be conscientiously called upon to answer this question in our own defence; and truly, modern preaching, sometimes, seems to decide it against the apostle. We must, however, abide by the commanding decision of the text. It is not what we can do, it is what we ought to do, as preachers, that should touch all the springs of our conscience. We can dogmatise, but we ought to learn. We can speculate, but we ought to inquire. We can amuse, but we ought to inform. We can substitute our own fancies for scriptural interpretation, but we ought to ascertain and to impart “the mind of the Spirit.” We can attempt to be wise above that which is written, but we ought to appeal exclusively "to the law and to the testimony," knowing that "if a man speak not according to these, it is because there is no light in him.” We can presumptuously intrude into the "secret things" which “belong to the Lord our God,” but we ought conscientiously to confine ourselves to “the things which are revealed,” and which “ belong to us, and to our children.” We can array our sermons in the garb of philosophy, and decorate them with pomp of diction, but we ought to bear in mind, and to imitate, the lucid order, the graceful simplicity, the matchless tenderness of the preaching of Jesus Christ. That is a high appeal : “We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ.” In one word, to accord with this primitive mode of dispensing the word of life, which aimed not at popularity, nor feared persecution, it is absolutely necessary to “set the Lord alway before us”—and I require of those who listen, a reciprocity of feeling; that they should know and appreciate truth; that they should not be driven about by every wind of doctrine ; that they should not have itching ears; that they should not wander from their fold; and, above all, that having first searched the Scriptures daily, to know whether the things which have been imparted to them really are so, that they should adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour in all things. Such is the only recompense that can be given to a faithful ministry. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming ? For ye are our glory and joy.” We pass from the faithful administration of the gospel, to the last consideration.
to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts."
God, who trieth our hearts ! Oh, matchless motive for ministerial fidelity! Oh, unanswerable argument for the deepest solemnity on the part of those who hear the gospel! With such a sentiment prevailing, the minister could not venture to trifle; the people would not endure trifling in these most momentous concerns. Popularity must be sought on other grounds than a sacrifice of principle, if it would be permanent; and in the meanwhile, it is quite clear, that a love of gain, a lust of applause, a worldly motive of whatever kind, is a sacrifice of principle. With the purest intentions, and the most faithful devotedness, many infirmities will intermingle. Our hearts are so prone to deceive us, that we do not well understand ourselves, nor in all cases can be certain of our motives. Without the closest self-examination we shall often mistake the springs of even our most unexceptionable, nay, laudable actions. What, then, must be the guilt and the danger of carelessness or indifference? If we anticipated the visit of an apostle, gifted with a miraculous discernment of spirit, armed with the authority which detected and denounced an Ananias and Sapphira, or a Simon Magus, or a Diotrephes, or a Demas, the worldly and the sensual would begin to tremble. If a Paul or a James, a Peter or a John, were about to pass from church to church, among ministers and hearers, what "carefulness, yea, what clearing of ourselves, yea, what fear, yea, what zeal,” would be excited. A greater than these is here! Jesus himself is walking amidst the golden candlesticks. God himself is present in our assemblies,—“ God, who trieth our hearts !" Nor shall we wait for our just and individual sentence, until the judgment of the great day. It is about to pass upon every one of us. Death is approaching to terminate our ministerial relation to you, and to determine its character. We shall soon be rewarded for our fidelity, or punished for our unfaithfulness; and you, each of you, one by one, every man in his own order," will be shortly summoned to the same great account. Yet a little while, and the heart which is awed by these reflections, will cease to beat. The ministry which is now so influential will have accomplished its day. The congregations assembling under the roof of our sanctuaries will have given place to another generation that know them not. The account will be closed, the mission, and the reception of it, finished. In prospect of so certain and so speedy an issue, let our preaching and your hearing, be regulated by the spirit of the text: “But as men allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.”
But all does not terminate in the sepulchre. We are not dismissed merely to a private trial; there is a day appointed when publicity shall be given to all these solemn transactions, amidst the unimaginable splendour and majesty of that day, in which all created beauty and glory shall be absorbed,—when there shall be no more sun, or moon, or stars, or ordinances of heaven, measuring time, and numbering years, and distinguishing seasons,—the day when not one material system, but all shall perish by the will of Him“ who created all things, and for whose pleasure they are and were created,"—who, sitting upon his imperial and immortal throne, " saith, Behold, I make all things new.”
In all the new, and surprising, and infinite developments of that day, no spectacle shall be so sublime as the pastor and his people. Crowns, and thrones, and sceptres, then shall have utterly perished. Empires, which were marked out on the surface of the globe, shall be no more. “ The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” Then the minister of religion shall be recognised, when all human distinctions are abolished. His was a spiritual relation, over which time and death had no power. His, therefore, a responsibility identified with eternity, an imperishable reward, or an interminable punishment. Then the ransomed of the Lord shall be marshalled under their respective leaders. The bigotry of party shall be utterly extinguished. All that is gross, all that was touched by infirmity, shall cease,—the pure, and spiritual, and godlike alone shall remain. The company shall be greater than the preacher anticipated; many received benefit of which he had no information ; many were influenced, after his departure, by the example of those who were awakened by him :-—and an assembled universe, angels, men, and devils, wait in awful silence and suspense, the final sentence of the King-to the minister, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord;"—to the people, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
THE PREACHING OF CHRIST A REASON FOR JOY AND HOLY
BY ISAAC MANN, A.M.
Phil. i. 18.—" Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea,
and will rejoice."
You are fully aware, my brethren, that popular opinion is not to be despised. Although hastily formed, it may be very important, if not efficient, in the support of a good cause. Seldom, indeed, will a wise man be indifferent to the judgment of mankind, nor will any one trifle with it till he has sacrificed much claim to its favour. The apostle Paul enjoyed a large portion of general esteem; and the integrity of his life, and the purity of his principles, gave him a triumphant ascendency over the malignant reproaches of his adversaries.
While, however, we duly appreciate the judgment of mankind, the life of our apostle most forcibly admonishes us not to confide in it. At Iconium and at Ephesus, he was received as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus; but he was soon taught that versatile, mutable man is unstable in all his ways. Nor has this oscillating temper been found with the depraved only; even such as have been the loudest in professing the good they have received from the labours of certain ministers, have been among the first to forsake them.
Grievous indeed is it to see the ministers of Christ, who have exhausted their energies, and worn out their lives in the service of souls, almost forsaken at a time when they most need the prayers, sympathies, and countenance of their earliest friends. Should this be our lot, we need not be surprised, for so did the apostle of the Gentiles suffer. There was, indeed, a degree of refinement in the cruelty with which he was treated. He was not only deserted; but even Christ was preached of envy and strife, with the hope of adding affliction to his bonds.
But how gracious is God! All this ill-will and malignity was overruled for the spread of the gospel, so that the cause of his sufferings became known even in the palace, and many waxed confident by his bonds. The sufferer was not at all discouraged; much less was he from such persecutions offended at his Lord; he was rather aroused to fresh efforts, and awakened to put forth a more ardent zeal. He arose when he saw the prince of darkness arise, increased his labours as his foes multiplied around him.
Such opposition as he endured cost him not a little. His heart was rent with sorrow by the treachery of his former friends, at the very time when he was deprived of his liberty and oppressed with chains. Had his good name only been slandered, he would, by labours more abundant, benevolence more disinterested, and affec-. tion more ardent, have triumphed over all the malignity of reproach. But he was already prostrate on the earth, when a mountain was accumulated upon him. Depravity is most ungenerous in its spirit, as well as vindictive in its
rage. It is probable, however that thousands will have to bless God for ever for the imprisonment endured by the apostle. In these hours of seclusion from public labour, not a few of the most important portions of the volume of inspiration were written. Epistles were sent to the churches, which form an inspired commentary on the ritual of Moses, and distinctly exhibit and illustrate the person and work of the Son of God. The patience, the self-denial, and the magnanimity of the man of God, called forth a spirit of inquiry into the nature of the principles which upheld and animated his soul, while the spirituality of his mind constantly pointed to the glories and blessedness of an unseen world.
Our day presents only the shadow of opposition to the cause of Christ. If the storm rise at all, it is scarcely sufficient to awaken, our drowsy souls from their lethargy. The prison, the dungeon, and the stake, are matters of an almost obsolete history. We are endangered rather from ease, general approbation, and the smooth path which is prepared for our feet. How many are daily consulting our comfort, and softening for us the asperities of life! From this state of things a new temptation will arise, to preach with the prospect of gain, or from the lust of human applause. “What: then, notwithstanding every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached.”
I. Let us inquire what the apostle intended by the preaching of Christ.