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sign of preaching the gospel to sinners, is to make them realize their guilt, their danger, and their duty. But neglecting to urge them to immediate repentance and faith directly tends to stifle all sense of guilt, of dan. ger, and of duty, in their minds, and make them sit down on their lees, and say in their hearts, "The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil." Thousands are at this day, undoubtedly, experiencing those stupifying effects of unfaithful preaching. How aggravated then must be the guilt of those ministers, who knowingly disobey the authority of Christ, disregard his example, and pervert his gospel to the eternal destruction of the precious souls, for whom he suffered and died on the cross.
The discourse now turns to the Pastor elect, for whom it is more especially designed.
You are, my young friend, about to enter upon the work of the gospel ministry, which will be highly interesting both to yourself, and to those committed to your pastoral charge. It will be one principal branch of your ministerial duty to preach the gospel to sin
And you ought to esteem it a peculiar favor, that so many prophets and apostles, as well as Christ himself, have gone before you, and set you a perfect example of evangelical preaching. If you neglect to follow these infallible guides, it must be owing entirely to your seeking to please men, rather than God. To this powerful temptation you will most certainly be exposed. It is a day of deep declension, in which the true apostolic mode of preaching the gospel has become in many places, very unfashionable and very unpopular. If you preach the same truths that Paul preached, and urge them in the same manner, you may expect that they will awaken the displeasure, if not the opposition of some of your hearers. It concerns
you, to gird up the loins of your mind, and sincerely resolve to testify repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, in all your public dis courses. And here, perhaps, you will keep your resolution. But you will have occasion to preach to sinners in private, and from house to house. And here your resolution will be put to a severer trial. You will be in peculiar danger of departing from the apos· tle's example, and of contradicting your public discourses, by directing awakened sinners to do something short of immediate repentance and faith. They will tell you, that they cannot change their own hearts, that faith is the gift of God, that it is absurd to require them to repent and believe immediately. They will anxiously desire you to lower the terms of the gospel to their impotence, and tell them what to do in order to get a new heart, and become true penitents. Το answer their questions, and to silence their objections against an immediate compliance with the gospel, will require the exercise of all your wisdom and integrity. But you will always bear it in mind, that you have the Bible and their own consciences on the side of truth, and nothing to combat but their selfish and partial feelings. Be not afraid, therefore, to tell them the truth, and the whole truth, respecting the gospel and the plague of their own hearts. Show them that all their excuses for impenitence and unbelief flow from enmity to God, and reflect dishonor upon his character and all his overtures of mercy. Though this mode of treating them may make them, like the young man in the gospel, go away sorrowful; yet if ever they become reconciled to God, they will thank you for your plainness and fidelity. Never give any directions to sinners which they may comply with, and yet remain impenitent; but so preach to them in public, and so
ministerial duty, Take heed unto
which the Holy
converse with them in private, that if they understand
Preached at the Ordination of the Rev. GAIUS CONANT, to the Pastoral Care of the Congregational Church in Paxton, February 17, 1808.
Acts xxvi, 25.
But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.
PAUL was a chosen vessel to carry the gospel to the Gentiles, who had never been favored with the light of divine revelation. He was amply furnished, by nature and grace, for this great and arduous undertak ing. Being a man of argument as well as of eloquence, he was qualified to address the understandings and consciences as well as hearts, of his hearers, by displaying divine truths in the most clear and consistent light. It is said of him, in distinction from all the other apostles, that he reasoned in his preaching. He was often obliged to encounter the learning and sophistry of Pagan priests and philosophers, in his private discourses. But at length he was called to make a more public and studied defence of himself and of his religion, in the presence of two Roman rulers. The words I have read are a part of his able and animated apology before Festus and king Agrippa. In this defence, he first draws his own character both before and after he embraced the gospel; and then labors to make it appear, that he had acted a proper part, in embrac ing Christianity, which was perfectly agreeable to the dictates of his own reason, enlightened and enlarged by the writings of Moses and the prophets. After mentioning his former opposition to Christ and his followers, his surorising conversion in his way to Da
mascus, and his commission from Christ to preach the gospel, he proceeds to say, "whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision: but shewed first to them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help from God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come; that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles." Here Festus abruptly interrupted him in his plea, and said with a loud voice, "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad." Paul meekly and firmly replied, “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness." Though I have seen a heavenly vision, and conversed with the divine Redeemer himself; yet I am entirely free from enthusiasm or religious madness. I was once as much opposed to the religion of Christ, as you are; but I have been rationally convinced of its truth and divinity. I do not wish to display my learning or eloquence upon this subject, for I am persuaded it will bear the most thorough and critical examination of the soundest understanding. This seems to be the spirit of the apostle's declaration in the text; which naturally suggests this important inquiry: whether Christianity be a religion agreeable to reason.
To give light and satisfaction to the mind upon this subject, which lies at the foundation of all our future and eternal hopes, it is necessary to consider, in the