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and affect to rejoice under a sense of that undeserved clemency which permitted him to live. All our professions of faith in Christ are tinctured, more or less, with hypocrisy, unless preceded by that painful conviction of past errors, whence alone can cordially flow those humiliating confessions, with which we are accustomed to begin our sacred services.
The true Christian, and, consequently, the true minister, is con. strained to cry out, with St. Paul, when he discovered the purity of Jehovah's law, and the greatness of his own guilt : “The law is spi. ritual,” and demands an obedience correspondent to its nature; “but I am carnal, sold under sin : for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that I do. I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. · O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?" Rom. vii, 14-24.
In this manner the true penitent, weary and heavy laden, makes his approaches to the Saviour; and while he continues to implore his grace and favour, an incomprehensible change takes place in his soul. His groans are suddenly turned into songs of deliverance, and he is enabled to adopt the triumphant language of the great apostle ; “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord; for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Rom. vii, 25; viii, 1, 2.
Every true follower of Christ, therefore, and especially every true minister of the Gospel, has really experienced the evil of sin, the inability of man to free himself from such evil, and the efficacy of that remedy, which endued the first Christians with so extraordinary a degree of purity, power, and joy. And in testimony of the virtue of this sovereign remedy, every such follower has a right to declare with his happy predecessors, "We give thanks unto the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son; in whom we have redemp. tion through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins," Col. i, 12-14.
When a preacher is possessed of Christian piety; or, in other words, when he has made his peace with God, by that deep repentance which enables us to die unto sin, and by that living faith which unites us to Christ, he naturally invites the world to embrace a Saviour who has wrought for him so wonderful a deliverance : and this invitation he enforces with all the power and warmth which must ever accompany deep sensibility. After having believed with the heart to the obtaining of righteousness, he is prepared to confess with his lips, and to testify of his salvation : crying out, as sincerely as Simeon, but in a sense far more complete, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace; for, according to thy word, mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” “ Here," says Mr. Ostervald,“ may be applied what was spoken by our blessed Lord, “A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things. Erasmus speaks the same thing, Nihil potentius ad excitandos bonos affectus, quam piorum affectuum foniem habere in pectore. Si vis me flere, dolendum est, dic: that is, following the idea of the author, you will never win others over to a religious life, unless you yourself are first possessed of piety. This inspires thoughts, dis. positions, and words, which nothing else can produce. It is this that animates the voice, the gesture, and every action of the Christian preacher. When he is thus grounded in piety, it is difficult to conceive with what facility, and with what success he labours, still enjoying an unspeakable sweetness in himself. Then it is that he is truly sensible of his vocation; then he speaks in the cause of God, and then only he is in a proper situation to affect others.”.
. It appeared so necessary to the fathers, who composed the synod of Berne, that every minister should be possessed of solid piety, that they believed it impossible for a man to be a good catechist without it. After recommending it to pastors to explain among the youth, the Lord's prayer and the apostles' creed, they add : “ This will be abundantly more effectual, if, first of all, we are careful that Jesus Christ may arise in our own hearts. The fire, with which we should then be animated, would soon stir up and warm the docile minds of children. Otherwise, that which reason alone draws from books, and is taught by other men, is no more than a human work, and will be ineffectual, till the great Master, the Holy Spirit itself, becomes of the party, creating, renewing, and regenerating to a celestial and eternal life.” (Acts of the Synod, chap. xxxiv.)
. REFLECTIONS . Upon the second trait of the character of St. Paul. 1. The experimental knowledge of our misery as sinners, and of our salvation as sinners redeemed, is the portion of every believer under the Gospel. If we are destitute of this two-fold knowledge, we are yet in a state of dangerous ignorance, and are denominated Christians in vain : for Christian humility has its source in the knowledge of our corruption, as Christian charity flows from the knowledge of the great salvation which Christ has procured for us : and if these two graces are not resident in our hearts, our religion is but the shadow of Christianity. .
2. As there are some persons whose physiognomy is strongly marked, and who have something peculiarly striking in the whole turn of their countenance; so there are some, the traits of whose moral character are equally striking, and whose conversion is distinguished by uncommon circumstances. Such was the Apostle Paul. But a train of wonderful occurrences is by no means necessary to conversion. For example-It is not necessary that all believers should be actually cast to the earth : or that groaning beneath the weight of their sins, and under the conviction of a two-fold blindness, they should continue in prayer for three days and nights, without either eating or drinking. But it is absolutely necessary that they should be sensible of an extreme sorrow for having offended a gracious God; that they should condemn themselves and their vices by an unfeigned repentance, and that, con. fessing the depravity of their whole heart, they should abandon them. selves to that sincere distress which refuses all consolation, except that which is from above. Neither is it necessary that they should hear a voice from heaven, that they should see a light brighter than the sun, or behold, in a vision, the minister chosen to bring them consolation in the name of the Lord Jesus. But it is absolutely necessary that they
should hear the word of God, that they should be illuminated by the Gospel, and receive directions from any messenger sent for their relief; till, placing their whole confidence in God through a gracious Redeemer, they feel a new and heavenly nature produced within them. This sincere repentance and this living faith, or, which is the same thing, this Christian piety, is strictly required of every believer under the New Testament,
3. Christian piety constitutes the great difference that is observed between true ministers and unworthy pastors. The latter preach, chiefly, either in order to obtain benefices, or to preserve them, or, perhaps, to relieve one another in the discharge of those duties which they esteem heavy and painful. But the desire of communicating to sinners that spiritual knowledge, which is more precious than rubies, is the grand motive for preaching with the true ministers of God. They publish Christ, like St. Paul, from sentiment and inclination ; exposing themselves even to persecution on account of preaching the Gospel, like those faithful evangelists, who, when commanded to teach no more in the name of Jesus, answered with equal respect and resolution : “Whether it be right, in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye; for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard,” Acts iv, 19, 20.
4. It is worthy of observation, that St. Paul supplicates, not only for all public teachers, but for every private believer in the Church, the highest degrees of grace and Christian experience. «I cease not," saith he to the Ephesians, “to make mention of you in my prayers : that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints: and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, who believe,” Eph. i, 16-19. And the same end which this apostle proposed to himself in his private supplications, St. John also proposed to himself in writing his public Epistles: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye may also have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full,” i John i, 3, 4. As though he had said, We write, if haply we may excite you to seek after higher degrees of faith, charity, and obedience; “that being rooted and grounded in love, ye may be able to comprehend with all saints, the love of Christ, wbich passeth knowledge ; that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God,” Eph. iii, 17-19. The attentive reader will easily perceive, that what was once the subject of St. Paul's most ardent prayers, is at this day considered by nominal Christians in general, as a proper subject for the most pointed raillery. .
5. Those ministers who are not yet furnished with Christian expe. rience, and who are not seeking after it as the pearl of great price, held out to us in the Gospel, are not yet truly converted to the Christian faith: and (I repeat it after Mr. Ostervald) being destitute of Christian piety, far from being in circumstances to preach the Gospel, they are not even able to comprehend it. These are they, “who, having a form
of godliness, deny the power thereof,” 2 Tim. iii, 5. And the greatest eulogium that can be pronounced upon such characters, is that with which St. Paul honoured the unbelieving zealots of his time : «I bear them record that they have a zeal for God;" but that zeal is unaccom panied with any true knowledge, either of man's weakness, or the Redeemer's power: “for they, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submit. ted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," Rom. x, 2-4.
6. Whoever has not experienced that conviction of sin, and that repentance, which is described by St. Paul in the seventh chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, though, like Nicodemus, he may be “a doctor in Israel," yet he shall never see the kingdom of God. Totally carnal, and satisfied to continue so, he neither understands nor desires that regeneration which the Gospel proposes and insists upon. He endeavours not to fathom the sense of these important words: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the king. dom of God,” John iï, 8. He considers those who are born of the Spirit as rank enthusiasts, and disdains to make any serious inquiry respecting the foundation of their hope. If his acquaintance with the letter of the Scripture did not restrain him, he would tauntingly address the artless question of Nicodemus to every minister who preaches the doctrine of regeneration : “How can a man be born when he is old ? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born ?” John iïi, 4. And unless he was withheld by a sense of politeness, he would rudely repeat to every zealous follower of St. Paul the ungracious expression of Festus : “ Thou art beside thyself; much” mystic “learning doth make thee mad,” Acts xxvi, 24.
7. On the contrary, a minister who is distinguished by the second trait of the character of St. Paul, at the same time proportionably possesses every disposition necessary to form an evangelical pastor: since it is not possible for Christian piety to exist without the brilliant light of truth, and the burning zeal of charity. And every minister who has this light and this love, is enriched with those two powerful resources which enabled the first Christians to act as citizens of heaven, and the first ministers as ambassadors of Christ,
TRAIT III. His intimate union with Christ by faith. “I Am come," said the good Shepherd, “ that my sheep might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” John x, 10, 11. “I am the light of the world,” John viii, 12. “I am the way, the truth, and the life," John xiv, 6. “I am the vine; ye are the branches," John xv, 5. The faithful minister understands the signification of these mysterious expressions. He walks in this way, he follows this light, he embraces this truth, and enjoys this life in all its rich abundance. Constantly united to his Lord, by an humble faith, a lively hope, and an ardent charity, he is enabled to say, with St. Paul, « The love of Christ constraineth me; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then
were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again," 2 Cor. v, 14. “We are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, 'who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory,” Col. iii, 3, 4. “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; but liveth unto God. We likewise reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Rom. vi, 5, 9, 11.
This living faith is the source from whence all the sanctity of the Christian is derived, and all the power of the true minister. It is the medium through which that sap of grace and consolation, those streams of peace and joy, are perpetually flowing, which enrich the believing soul, and make it fruitful in every good work; or, to speak without a metaphor, from this powerful grace proceeds that love of God and man which influences us to think and act, either as members or as ministers of Jesus Christ. The character of the Christian is determined accord. ing to the strength or weakness of his faith. If the faith of St. Paul bad been weak or wavering, his portrait would have been unworthy of our contemplation : he would necessarily have fallen into doubt and dis. couragement; he might probably have sunk into sin, as St. Peter plunged into the sea; he must, sooner or later, have lost his spiritual vigour, and have made the same appearance in the Church as those ministers and Christians who are influenced by the maxims of the world. The effects of faith are still truly mysterious, though our Lord has explained them in as intelligible a manner as their nature will permit: “He that abideth in me,” by a living faith, “ and in whom I abide," by the light of my word and by the power of my Spirit, “the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. If any man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and” being “withered, is cast into the fire and burned. Herein is my Father glorified, that,” united to me as the branches to the vine, " ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples,” John xv, 6, 7, 8. . .
Penetrated with these great truths, and daily cleaving more firmly to his living Head, the true minister expresses what the natural man cannot receive, and what few pastors of the present age are able to comprehend, though St. Paul not only experienced it in his own heart, but openly declares it in the following remarkable passage: '“I am crucified with Christ : nevertheless, I live; yet, not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the Aesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” Gal, ii, 20,
TRAIT IV. His extraordinary vocation to the holy ministry, and in what that ministry
chiefly consists. EVERY professor of Christianity is acquainted with the honour which our Lord conferred upon the Apostle Paul, in not only calling him to a participation of the Christian faith, but by appointing him also to publish