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J. This, then, is what you term “ preaching the Gospel :" as to the matter, there must be a clear and full delivery of evangelical truth; and as to the manner, that delivery must be made with a distinct recollection of the object to be accomplished by means of preaching, and an earnest desire, produced by zeal for the honour of God and love for the souls of men, that that object may actually be accomplished!
8. That certainly is my meaning. You do not preach the Gospel, if you do not preach evangelical truth in reference to the accomplishment of evangelical objects. You must combine instruction with persuasion. You must seek to enlighten the mind, and to affect the heart. You must do all you can to bring your hearers to an actual decision. You must show them what they have to do, and why they must do it; and you must urge upon their consciences the necessity of doing what you have thus set before them. You are placed in the ministry to do a certain work; and if your heart be right, to that work you will constantly look. You will seek to do it effectually; and thus, without desecrating your character by seeking for pulpit eloquence that you may win the praise of men, you will become truly eloquent, and God will make your labours successful.
And now, before we advance to another stage of the subject, let this, the foundation of the whole, be distinctly remembered. I will put the case before you as plainly as possible, that there may be no misunderstanding, where misunderstanding would affect the whole subsequent course of proceeding. Man needs salvation.
God has provided salvation for him in Christ Jesus our Lord. To obtain this salvation, he must “call upon the name of the Lord.” To show him how this is to be done, and to persuade him to do it without reserve or delay, the Christian ministry is instituted; that so, even in matters relating to the kingdom of God, man may be dealt with by man, and the powerful union of divine truth with human sympathies be fully secured. All that may be taught to man by the ministry of the word, he might learn-I speak only of the abstract possibilityfrom the word as it is written, and which is open to him as well as to the minister; but it is not very likely that he
would. He would be in the greatest danger of overlooking the subject altogether, if his attention were not impressively called to it from without; but, by the constitution of the ministry, he has the advantage of hearing the truth explained with such feeling as serves to awaken feeling in his own mind. The study of the truth is thus rendered more pleasing, and more profitable; at once more easy, and more efficient.
J. You do not describe the ministerial office as though you considered it in the light of an inferior and subordinate employment, the discharge of which called for no very particular talent or carefulness.
S. On the contrary, as the institution manifests the goodness and wisdom of God, and is one of the chief instruments in connexion with which he exercises his own gracious power; so does it require from all who engage in it the unreserved consecration of whatever endowments they may, in the order of Providence, possess. St. Paul, capable as he was of the most enlarged and magnificent conceptions, saw in the Christian ministry a work to which his whole soul might be devoted, and for which his whole soul would be insufficient. To him there appeared nothing low, nothing ordinary, in the ministry which he had received. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” It is by a clear apprehension of the nature and objects of the institution, and a lively and abiding conviction of its surpassing importance, that the preacher himself will be guided to the right discharge of the duties to which he is called. Of himself, the Apostle clearly entertained those views and feelings which constitute what the Scriptures mean by“ humility;" but this did not prevent him from “ magnifying his office.” He saw its close connexion with the honour of God, and with the momentous interests of eternity; he saw, therefore, that a higher trust could not possibly be committed to man. But this produced none of the foolish inflations of personal vanity. His humility was without meanness and servility; his impression of the dignity and value of the ministerial office led to no pride. In these respects, such as he was,
such you must seek to be. And for this, the heart must be kept right with God. On this, I cannot speak too strongly. i do not believe that what St. Paul terms a dispensation of the Gospel,” is ever committed to one who has not himself “ truly obeyed the Gospel.” I cannot believe that he who has hitherto resisted—most sinfully resisted—all those inward strivings of the Spirit which refer to his own personal salvation, will be “inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, to take upon himself this office and ministration, to serve God for the promoting of his glory, and the edifying of his people.” The ministry of reconciliation will not be committed to one who is himself yet an enemy to God in his mind by wicked works. And this rightness of the heart must be continually cherished. Very much, both as to the actual discharge of public duty, and as to those preparations for it which will occupy your private studies, will depend upon this. I use the word "piety" as a well understood conventional term, comprehending all that is implied in having the heart right with God: and I say, that in proportion to the depth and power of the piety, will be the impressiveness and efficiency of each separate ministration in public, and the persevering and laborious devotedness which the work of private study and preparation will require. Guard, therefore, against all negligence here. You seek for knowledge generally: neglect not the spiritual, saving knowledge of God. You seek for a correct and extensive understanding of scriptural truth: guard against resting in these intellectual inquiries. Read the word of God for private devotion, as well as in reference to preaching. Sow your own heart with the good seed which you go forth to sow in the hearts of others. You are supposed to be constantly employed about divine subjects; and if you are negligent, you will soon come to attend to these divine things with the dry, unfelt regularity of official custom:
be faithful in personal devotion, then, the more frequently and minutely you enter into the consideration of divine truths, the more extensive and particular, the more intellectual and spiritual will be the character of your own piety. Depend on it, that this is one of the conditions of
the office to which you have devoted yourself. You must be either better or worse for it. And that you may be the better for it, watchful endeavour is constantly necessary. “To your own safety, your own sedulity is requisite.” Let your study be likewise your oratory. Let it have altar as well as desk. Not only converse with the mighty dead, but maintain a sacred communion with Him “who seeth in secret,” and will “reward openly.” Be much in prayer: prayer
for yourself; prayer for help in your studies; prayer for a blessing on your whole work; prayer for those to whom you minister; prayer for the whole estate of Christ's church militant here on earth; prayer for the whole world of mankind. Recollect that when the Apostles proposed the institution of the Diaconate, they expressed the resolution they had formed in these memorable words: “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” The ministry of a man of prayer will never be an unprofitable one, even though his gifts should be somewhat slender; while he who brings to his work the richest endowments, the most extensive acquisitions, if prayer be neglected, and piety languish in his own soul, will be but as
sounding brass, and as the tinkling cymbal.” There may be intellectual power along with much spiritual feebleness. For an efficient ministry, piety must be preserved; and for the preservation of piety, there must be earnestness and constancy in prayer. You will never be in a happier frame of mind for either preaching or studying, than when you are in that frame to which you are brought by much and devout
MINISTERIAL EFFICIENOY :
ITS NATURE AND SOURCE.
S. HITHERTO we have conversed on what may be termed the more general topics which relate to the Christian ministry, in its nature, objects, and design, together with the spirit in which it is to be exercised. We must now come to the proper qualifications for the work itself. These, I think, you will find to consist of two general classes,-spiritual and intel
lectual. To bring this fully before you, let me ask you a few plain questions. What is the Christian ministry?
J. We have agreed to consider it, taking the Scripture as our guide, as an office of divine institution, preaching being one of its particular and most important exercises.
S. In reference to what objects is it to be exercised ?
J. Here, too, I find no difficulty in replying: That God may be honoured in the salvation of men.
S. What is to be the subject of your ministry, and whence derived ?
J. Truth, as characterized by its relations to Christ, and as taught in holy Scripture.
S. Yes; and in this sense is the command of God to Ezekiel still applicable to the prophets of the Christian dispensation : “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.” (Ezek. iii. 17.) I have only now to ask you respecting the spirit and temper in which all your ministerial duties, and especially those connected with preaching, are to be performed.
J. The foundation of the whole, I perceive, must be a cherished and growing piety. This should produce a constant and supreme regard to the honour of God; a zealous desire to promote the interests of the cause which he has established upon earth; and a compassion strong and tender, for the souls of men, exposed to the utmost danger through sin, and for whom the most merciful Saviour has given himself, that he might redeem them by the shedding of his own precious blood.
S. Well might St. Paul exclaim, “ And who is sufficient for these things?" And if St. Paul felt, “not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;" what ought to be my feelings, and yours? But here is our comfort too: our sufficiency is of God.” If we ask, we shall not be denied: we also, shall be made “ able ministers of the New Testament."
J. And wherein does that ability consist?
S. That is the very point to which I wished to bring you. Perhaps our modern phrase, efficient, will best convey to you