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word"; To him that hath, (i. e. possesses actively and usefully), shall be given; and from him that hath not, (i. e. uses not), shall be taken away even that which he hath. Merchants can feel in their trading a dead time, and complain seriously of it; but Christians, in theirs, either can suffer it, and not see it, or see it, and not complain; or, possibly, complain, and yet not be deeply sensible of it.
Certainly it cannot be sufficiently regretted, that we are so fruitless in the Lord's work in this kind, that when we are alone we study it not more, nor seek it more by prayer, to know the true use of all we receive, and do not in society endeavour it accordingly; but we trifle out our time; and instead of the commerce of grace, to our mutual enriching, we trade in vanity, and as it were children exchanging shells and toys together.
This surely will lie heavy upon the conscience when we reflect on it, and shall come near the brink of time, looking forwards on eternity; and the looking back to our days, so vainly wasted, and worn out to so little purpose.
. Oh! let us awake, awake ourselves and one another, to more fruitfulness and faithfulness, whatsoever be our received measure, less or more.
Be not discouraged; to have little in the account shall be no prejudice. The approbation runs not, Thou hast much; but, in the contrary, Thou hast been faithful in little : Great faithfulness in the use of small gifts hath great acceptance, and a great and sure reward. Great receipts engage to greater returns, and therefore require the greater diligence; and that not only for the increase of grace within, but the assistance of it in others. Retired contemplation may be more pleasing ; but due activity for God and his Church is more profitable. Rachel was fair, but she was barren; "Leah blear eyed, but fruitful.
e Matt. xxv, 29.
Ver. 11. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of
God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may
be glorified through Jesus Christ : to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. .
Every part of the body of Christ, as it partakes life with the rest, imparts service to the rest; but there be some more eminent, and, as I may say, organic parts of this body, and these are more eminently useful to the whole. Therefore the Apostle, having enlarged himself into a general precept, adds a word in special to these special parts, the preachers of the word, and (which here I conceive is meant by deacons or ministers) the other assistant officers of the church of God.
These are co-ordained by Jesus Christ, as Lord of his own house, to be serviceable to him in it. He sits and sanctifies for this great work all who are called unto it by himself, and they are directed for the acquitting of their great work: (1.) By a clear rule of the due manner. (2.) By a view of the main end of its appointment.
Particular rules for the preaching of the word may be many, but this is a most comprehensive one which the Apostle gives; If any speak, let him speak as of the oracle of God. It is clear from the rule what speaking is regulated, and for brevity once expressed. If any speak the oracles of God, , let him speak them like themselves, as the oracles of God.
It is a chief thing in all serious actions to take the nature of them aright, for this chiefly regulates them, and directs in their performance. And this especially should be regarded in those things, that are of highest worth and greatest weight, in spiritual employments, wherein it is most dangerous, and yet with us most ordinary, to mistake and miscarry. Were prayer considered as presence and speech with the great God, the king of glory, Oh! how would this mould the mind! What a watchful, holy, and humble deportment would it teach! So that truly all directions for prayer might be summed up after this same model in this one, if any man pray, let' him speak as speaking with God; just as here for preaching, if any man speak in that way, let him do it as speaking from God, that is, as the oracles of God. Under this, all the due qualifications of this holy work are comprised : I shall name but these three which are prime, and others may be easily rereduced to these: 1. Faithfully. 2. Holily. 3. Wisely.
In the first, Fidelity, it is supposed that a man have competent insight and knowledge in these divine oracles, that first he learn before he teach. Which many of us do not, though we pass through the schools and classes, and through the books too, wherein these things are taught, and bring with us some provision, such as may be had there. He that would faithfully teach of God must be taught of God, be loodidaxròs, God-learned; and this will help to all the rest; this will effectually engage him to be faithful in delivering the message as he receives it, not detracting or adding, nor altering; and as in setting forth that in general truths, so in the particular setting them home, declaring to his people their sins, and God's judgments following sin, especially in his own people.
2. A minister should speak holily : with the highest esteem and reverence of the great majesty whose message he carries, and the divinity of the message itself; those deep mysteries that no created spirits are able to fathon). Oh ! this would make us tremble in the dispensing of these oracles, considering our impurities, and weaknesses, and unspeakable disproportion to so high a task. He had reason that said, “I am seized with amazement and horror as often as I begin to speak of God.” And with this humble reverence is to be joined ardent love to our Lord, to his truth, to his glory and his people's souls. These holy affections stand opposite to our blind boldness in rushing on this sublime exercise, as
a common work: our dead coldness in speaking things which our hearts are not warmed with; and so no wonder though what we say seldom reaches further than the ear, or, at furthest than the understanding and memory, of our hearers. There is a correspondence; it is the heart speaks to the heart, and the understanding and memory the same; and the tongue speaks but to the ear. Further, this holy: temper shuts out all private passion in delivering divine truths. It is high profaning of his name and holy things, to make them speak our private pleas and quarrels; yea, to reprove sin after this manner is a heinous sin; to fly out into invectives, that though not expressed so, yet are aimed as blows of self-revenge for injuries done to us, or fancied by
This is to wind and draw the holy word of God to serve our unholy distempers, and make it speak not his meaning, but our own.
Sure this is not to speak as the oracles of God, but basely to abuse the word, as impostors in religion of old did their. images; speaking behind them and through them what might make for their advantage. It is indeed very true, that the word is to be particularly applied, to reprove most the particular sins which most abound amongst a people; but this is to be done, not in anger, but in love.
Which leads to add,
3. That the word is to be spoken wisely. By this I mean, in the way of delivering it, that it be done gravely and decently; that light expressions, and affected flourishes, and unseemly gestures, be avoided; and that there be a sweet contemperature of authority and mildness : but who is sufficient for these things"?
Now, you that hear would certainly meet and suit in this too. If any hear, let him hear as the oracles of God: not as a well tuned sound, to help you to sleep an hour: not as a human speech or oration, to displease or please you an hour, according to the suiting of its strain and your palate: not as a school
a 2 Cor. ii, 16.
lesson, to add somewhat to your stock of knowledge; to tell you somewhat you knew not before, or as a feast of new notions. Thus the most relish a preacher, while they try his gift, and it is new with them, whereas a little time disgusts them. But hear as the oracles of God, the discovery of sin, and death lying on us, and the discovery of a Saviour, that takes these off': the sweet word of reconciliation, God wooing man; the great king entreating for peace with a company of rebels; not that they are too strong for him: Oh! no, but, on the contrary, he could utterly destroy in one moment. These are the things brought you in this word; therefore come to it with suitable reverence, with ardent desires, and hearts open to receive it with meekness, as the ingrafted word that is able to save your souls'. It were well worth one day's pains of speaking and hearing, that we could learn somewhat, at least how to speak and hear henceforward; to speak and hear as the oracles of God.
In the other, of ministering as of the ability that God giveth, we may observe: 1. Ability, and that received from God; for other there is none for any good work, and least of all for the peculiar ministration of his spiritual affairs in his house. - 2. The using of this ability received from him for them.
And this, truly, is a chief thing for ministers, and for each Christian, still to depend on the influence and strength of God; to do all his works in that strength; the humblest Christian, how weak soever, is the strongest. There is a natural wretched independency in us, that we would be the authors of our own works, and do all without Him, without whom indeed we can do nothing. Let us learn to go more out of ourselves, and we shall find more strength for our duties, and against our temptations. Faith's great work is, to renounce self-power, and to bring in the power of God to be ours. Happy they that
b Ja. i. 21.