« FöregåendeFortsätt »
This want of plainness of style, so as to be understood by all their hearers, is a great fault, sometimes, in preachers, and argues either a great want of acquaintance with the mass of the people who compose congregations; or a criminal desire of gaining applause to themselves, instead of instructing their hearers, and glorifying Christ. Preaching in an unknown tongue would be as likely to do good as such preaching. And here I would observe that by plainness is, by no means, meant, a vulgar style of preaching: but such a simplicity, as is perfectly consistent with purity and even elegance of style. These are entirely compatible with each other, as we may learn from the manner in which Christ and his apostles preached.
3. Ministers ought to preach the word "faithfully making known the whole counsel of God."" The Lord gave to Ezekiel a solemn charge on this subject; and through him every minister of the word of God is addressed, in the same solemn language. "O son of man, I have set thee watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand ;” Ezek. xxxiii. 7, 8. To Jeremiah the Lord gave charge, "He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully;" Jer. xxiii. 28. And that great pattern for a gospel minister, the apostle Paul, said to the Corinthians, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewar is that a man be found faithful;" 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2. When taking his leave of the Ephesians, after labouring among them for some time he appealed to them saying; "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you. I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God;" Acts xx. 20, 26, 27. And he exhorted Timothy in our text, "Reprove, rebuke."
Ministers have immortal souls committed to their care, therefore faithfulness becomes them, lest these souls should perish. If ministers will be faithful, they must prudently declare the whole counsel of God. They must not refrain from reproving vice or from preaching cer
tain truths, because they may be disliked by some persons from whom they are likely to receive temporal advantage, if they please them; and whose opposition may give them trouble if they displease them. Such conduct is an attempt to please men rather than God. Ministers have strong temptations to withhold unpalatable truths because the people often desire to have smooth things prophesied to them, and to be permitted to live in case, and' not have their consciences awakened to disturb them. But wo to that people who has a minister, who will follow their desires, when they wish him to prophesy smooth things to them. Under his preaching, they will most probably continue secure, until they drop into the bottomless pit. And wo to that minister who is deterred from faithfulness by a desire to please his people. If they should per ish, their blood will be required at his hand.
4. Ministers ought to preach the word "wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers." Paul exhorted Timothy "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth;" 2 Tim. ii. 15. And writing to the Corinthians he said, "I have fed you with milk and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able ;" 1 Cor. iii. 2. And to the Colossians he wrote "Whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom;" Col. i. 28.
This wisdom consists in selecting in the general course of preaching, those subjects which are most important, and best calculated to promote the good of a people, and dwelling most frequently on these subjects, and but occasionally on others, which, though the truth of God, are of less importance. It consists further in endeavouring to adapt discourses to times and seasons, and to the state of a congregation in general, and to every class of persons in particular, so as to give to every one his portion in due season. There are particular times and seasons, which may be improved with great advantage; as for instance the beginning of the year; a time of great plenty, or of great scarcity; a time of great sickness and mortality, and the like. A minister who preaches wisely, will lay hold of such seasons and improve them. Further when any particular vice prevails greatly in a congregation, a wise
minister will frequently call the attention of his congregation to this subject, and endeavour to effect a reformation. When professors of religion are backsliding, and becoming lukewarm, he ought to dwell much upon the evils of such a state. When a congregation is in general careless, his sermons ought to be such as are best calculated to awaken the secure. And when there are many inquiring, he ought to dwell on subjects, calculated to lead them to Christ. Thus if he acts wisely, he will adapt his subjects generally, to the general state of his congregation. Besides, as there always are different classes and characters in a congregation, some careless, some inquiring, some backsliding, some weak in the faith, some strong, some wavering, some tempted, some afflicted, and some in other circumstances, it becomes a minister to endeavour to give to each of these his portion in due season. And hence we may infer, that a minister should be as much as practicable, consistently with other duties, among his people, that he may become acquainted with their state, and know how to adapt his discourses to their respective necessities.
5. Ministers ought to preach the word "zealously, with fervent love to God, and the souls of his people." Of Apollos it is recorded, "being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord;" Acts xviii. 25. And Paul and his fellow labourers were so zealous in this work, that they were charged with being beside themselves; to which charge Paul replied, "Whether we de beside ourselves it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us;" 2 Cor. v. 13, 14. And in the same epistle he wrote, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved;" 2 Cor. xii. 15. Ministers ought to be so filled with love to God and the souls of men, as to engage with their whole hearts in the work of the ministry, and to show to the world that they are indeed in earnest. The subjects on which a minister addresses his people or ought to address them, are so vastly important, that as one expresses himself Passion is reason here." And the man who can go into the pulpit, and speak on the amazing plan of re-⚫ demption, and the love of Christ therein manifested, and on the infinitely important concerns of eternity, in a cold,
and unfeeling manner; and the man who does not manifest, by his diligence, his watching for souls, and his unwearied zeal in the work of the ministry; who does not in short feel, and manifest that he feels willing to spend and be spent in this important and glorious work, is not fit to be a minister of the gospel.
6. Ministers ought to preach the word "sincerely, aiming at the glory of God, and the conversion, edification, and salvation of their hearers." They ought sincerely to believe the truths which they preach to others, and to have a realizing sense of their importance. "We are not (said Paul to the Corinthians) 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;" 2 Cor. ii. 17. We "have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, not handling the word of God deceitfully, but, by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God;" 2 Cor. iv. 2. We have reason to believe there have been those, invested with the office of the sacred ministry, who have really disbelieved the truths which they have preached to others. Surely Tophet is ordained of old for such ministers. We have reason to believe also that some bear the name of ministers, who have no realizing sense of the importance of the truths which they deliver. The state of such ministers must be dreadful beyond description. The glory of God and the salvation of souls are to be the great ends of a gospel minister; and these are the ends, which he should earnestly endeavour to promote. To this purpose Paul spake when he said, "As we were 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. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know; nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness. Nor of men sought we glory;" 1 Thes. ii. 4, 5, 6. “Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more;" 1 Cor. ix. 19. "We do all things for your edifying" 2 Cor. xii. 19. Thus Paul and the primitive ministers preached. Their object was to glorify God, and save the souls of men. And this has been in all ages, and still is, the object of every minister, whom God approves. The esteem of men, a livelihood, and the advancement
of temporal interest, we have reason to fear, sometimes operate as motives to influence men to seek the gospel ministry, and govern them in their preaching and conduct, when they have obtained this office; but the faithful minister will sincerely and supremely aim at promoting the glory of him who called him; and the conversion, edification, and salvation of those committed to his charge.
A solemn consideration which ought to influence every minister most carefully to preach the word, and nothing but the word of God, and to preach it in the manner directed in the Scriptures, we have contained in our text ; "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom." Ministers are acting in the presence of God, whose ambassadors they profess to be, and of the divine Saviour who died to purchase the salvation which they are sent forth to proclaim; and a day of judgment is approaching when the souls committed to their care must stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and be welcomed to everlasting glory, or be banished to endless misery, according as they have received or not, the salvation of Christ. What a solemn motive to influence ministers to be faithful! The souls to whom they preach must soon stand in judgment, and enter upon an eternal state. How contemptible ought all time-serving, and want of faithfulness, to appear in view of the judgment bar. If ministers have any regard to the souls of their people, this motive ought to have a solemn influence to lead them to do their duty according to the word of God.
Besides ministers themselves must soon stand in judg ment, and give an account of their faithfulness. And the Lord has declared, that if any perish through their neglect or unfaithfulness, their blood he will require at the watchmen's hands. Awful declaration! Sufficient to make those who have entered, or who may be seeking this office, to tremble, and shrink back from the work. But if we are called to it, there is a necessity laid upon us to preach the gospel, and wo be to us, if we preach not the gospel. Brethren, pray for you minister, that he may be faithful. and clear his soul from the guilt of your blood.-AMEN.