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THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.-THE END OF NATURL,
AND SUBJECTS OF PREACHING.
MATTHEW xxviii. 19.-Go ye, therefore, teach all nalions.
IN the two last discourses I attempted to show, that there are but Two classes of permanent officers in the Christian Church, designated in the Scriptures. One of these classes, I observed, is spoken of under the names, Elders, Pastors, Bishops, Teachers, &c.; and the other under that of Deacons. To the former belongs that, which is appropriately called the Ministry of the Gospel.
The next subject of consideration is obviously, the Duties of this class of Officers. These I have heretofore mentioned as being, especially, public and private Prayer in the Church, Preaching the Gospel, Administering Baptism and the Lord's Supper, Ruling, and Ordaining other Ministers. These are, however, far from being the only duties of Ministers. There are many others, which belong to them as Ministers; and many more, as men.
Ås Ministers, they are bound, peculiarly, to be Examples to believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity; 1 Tim. iv. 12: to visit, comfort, instruci, and pray with, the sick and distressed: James v. 14, &c.: lo study, or meditate, diligenlly on the things of the Gospel, and give themselves wholly to them, that their profiling may appear to all ; 1 Tim. iv. 15: to take heed unto themselves, and unto their doctrine; and to continue in these things, that in so doing they may both save themselves, and those that hear them : verse 15: to be apt to teach ; to be given to hospitality; to rule well their own houses ; to exhibit such good behaviour, us to be well reported of them that are without; 1 Tim. iii. 2, 4, 7: and to contend earnestly for the faith, once delivered to the saints, as being set for the defence of the Gospel; Jude 3, Phil. i. 17. All these, and all other, ministerial duties may be found, most forcibly enjoined, in the Scriptures; especially in the Epis. tles of St. Paul to Timothy and Tiius.
As a Man, a Minister is bound to be an eminent Example of all the Christian virtues.
Among the Official duties of a Minister, Preaching is undoubtedly of far higher importance, than any olher. This, therefore, merits a particular discussion in a system of Theology.
Such a discussion I shall now attempt under the following heads. 1. The End; II. The Nature;
II. The Subjecls; and,
The end of all preaching is to persuade men to become virtuous; or, in other words, to persuade them with the heart to believe and obey the Gospel. Cordial obedience to the Gospel is virtue, in every possible form, and in every instance, on the part oi ihose, who are acquainted with the Gospel. The End is always of more importance than the Means : since it is the only purpose, for which the means exist. The end therefore ought ever to direct the nature, and employment, of the means. The means must be such, and, whenever they are chosen by wisdom and goodness, will invariably be such, as are suited to the promotion of the end. Whenever they are diverted from this direction, they become useless; and are, therefore, the mere result, and evidence, of folly.
The End of Preaching is the noblest of all ends : the production of immortal holiness, and happiness, in the souls of nien. In this God has taught us, that he is more especially glorified, and more peculiarly pleased, than with any thing else, which takes place in the present world. For this end he gave the Gospel; and instituted the Ministry. For this end he sent his Son to live, and die, and rise again; and his Spirit, to renew, and sanctify the beart, to support, and conduct, the soul in the way to Heaven.
II. The Nature of Preaching may be thus summarily defined: That it is the chief Mean of accomplishing this glorious end.
As a mean to this end, and in this view only, is Preaching an object of peculiar importance. Its true and essential nature is, that it is the chief instrument of salvation. To this consideration should every direction concerning it be pointed, and every mode of examining it be confined.
That Preaching is thus distinguished above all other Ministerial duties I shall now attempt to prove.
1. The Gospel is the great instrument of salvation. * The Law of the Lord, by which, in Rom. ix. 18, St. Paul teaches us, the Gospel is especially to be understood, is perfect, says the Psalmist, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The Statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The fear of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. Ps. xix. Quicken thou me, that is, make me spiritually alive, says the same divine writer, according to thy word. This is my com
fort in my affliction : for thy word hath quickened me : that is, made me spiritually alive. The entrance of thy words giveth light: it giveth understanding to the simple. Here light and understanding denote holiness. Ps. cxix. 25, 50, 130. Is not my word like as a fire, saith the Lord, and as a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces ? Jeremiah xxiii. 29. In describing the effects of the Nero Covenant, or the Gospel, on the Israelites in the latter days, as effectuating their conversion and salvation, God says, I will put my
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Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. This phraseology, I need not observe, is descriptive of their sanctification. Jer. xxxi. 33.
Blessed are they, that hear the word of God, and keep it; says our Saviour, Luke xi. 28.
In Acts ii. 41, viii. 14, xi. 1, and various other places, Receioing the word of God, is mentioned as equivalent to becoming the subjects of holiness. For I am not ashamed, says St. Paul, of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth. No declaration can be more ample, comprehensive or complete, than this. The Gospel is not only the power of God unto saltaiion, but is this power to every one that believeth. Rom. i. 16. So then, Fuith cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of God. Rom. x. 14. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth; the Gospel of your saltalion. Eph. j. 13. The word of God, says St. Paul, is quick, (or living) and powcrful, and sharper than any lwo-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing isunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and is a discorner of the thoughts and intents of the hourt. Tleb. iv. 1?. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth. James i. 18. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which livelh and abideth for ever. 1 Pei.i. 2.3.
I have quoted this numerous train of passages from so many difscrent books in the Scriptures, lo show, that this is their universal language.
The doctrine, as you have seen, is expressed in many forms, and in the most decisive manner. It would be easy to swell this list of quotations to an enormous size: but I shall only add to it the following words of Christ: The truth shall make you free: John viii. 32: and Sanctify them through thy trulh : thy word is truth. John xvii. 17. This is a part of the intercessory prayer of Christ; and has certainly been fulfilled.
2. The great mean, by which the Gospel becomes instrumental to salvation, is Preaching.
Of this truth the proof is complete in the words of St. Paul ; Rom. xi. 13, 14, 17. For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How, then, shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed ? and how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a Preacher? So, then, failh cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. In these words the Invocation of Christ is exhibited as the ground of salvation : Faith, of that invocation; Hearing, of that faith; and a Preacher as the indispensable mean of that hearing. From this position it is certain, that Preaching is the great mean of salvation : that is, the Gospel, preached by its ministers. It ought to be remembered, that these things are not said of any thing else ; particularly, of any other ministerial duty. Neither
Ruling, Ordaining, or administering the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, can claim any such efficacy from any Scriptural declarations. On these two last subjects, however, '1 shall dwell more particularly hereafter.
3. The manner, in which Preaching is generally spoken of, exhibits ils superiority to other Ministerial duties.
Christ mentions Preaching as his own great commission from the Father. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor : Is. Ixi. 1. Luke viji. 14. And accordingly, he alleges the fact, that the poor had the Gospel preached to them, as proof that he was the Messiah. Matth. xi. 5.
The text shows, that it was the great commission, given by Christ to the Apostles, and other Ministers, immediately before his ascen. sion. Go ye, teach all nations, (or make disciples of them by teaching) baptizing them, &c. teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Here they were to make disciples of mankind first; and then to baptize them, and thus to seal their discipleship.
St. Paul mentions it as the great commission of Christ to him, Rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a Minister, and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee—the Gentiles, unto whom I now send thee ; to open their eyes. Acts xxvi. 16, 17. In the following verse, he informs us, that Christ, referring to the same subject, said to Ananius, Go thy way : for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name to the Gentiles, and Kings, and the Children of Israel. Again, Rom. i. 1, Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, cailed to be an Apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God; that is, to the Preaching of the Gospel.
Again ; But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace to reveal his Son unto me, that I might preach him among the Heathen.
Preaching is also commanded by St. Paul to the Elders of Ephesus, and by St. Peter, to those of the countries mentioned in his first Epistle, universally, as their chief duty.
Jis importance is in the strongest language placed above Baptism by St. Paul ; 1 Cor. i. 14–17. I ihank God, that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius ; lest any should say, thut I baptized in my own name. And I baptized, also, the household of Sie. phanus. Besides, I know not whether I baptized any other; for Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.
It is decisively preferred to Ruling, in 1 Tim. v. 17. Let the Elders, who rule well, be accounted worthy of double honour ; especially those who labour in the word, and doctrine.
It is also generally preferred to every other Ministerial duty, by the vast attention paid to it in the Scriptures : being mentioned in about one hundred and forty instances, in express language ; al. VOL. IV.
most all of them in the New Testament; by the variety of modes, in which it is forcibly described, enjoined, and honoured; by the comparatively small attention, given in the Scriptures to the other Ministerial duties, which are little spoken of, and rarely enjoined; and by the supreme efficacy, which it is exhibited as possessing in promoting salvation.
4. All the other means of grace have neither efficacy, nor value, except as they display, or impress, divine truth.
The agency of Preaching is in this work, altogether supreme ; and that of other Evangelical administrations merely subsidiary.
This, without them, would be powerful and effeciual. They, without this, would hardly have influence, or meaning. Baptism and the Lord's Supper, for example, are founded on divine truth and are manifestations of that truth, which possess great power, and most useful efficacy. But to their efficacy, or their use, the knowledge of the truth preached is indispensable. Still more are Ruling, and Ordaining, of no use, except as they are subsidiary to preaching. Even Prayer itself, the prime duty of worship to man, as a solitary creature, would have neither meaning, nor use, antecedently to the knowledge of the truth, which is communicated by preaching.
Reading the Scriptures is undoubtedly of more importance to mankind, than any thing else, beside preaching. The reason is obvious. The truth of God is more extensively learned in this manner, than it can be by all the other ministerial offices: and this truth makes men wise to salvation.
5. The Experience of all Christian ages has furnished ample proof of this position.
By the preaching of the Gospel were all the first converts made by Christ and his Apostles: and by the same preaching have all succeeding converts been made in every age and country. I hade begotten you, says St. Paul to the Corinthians, through the Gospel. Who were born, says St. Peter, not of corruplible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God. Of his own will, says St. James, begal he us with the word of truth. Religion has in this respect been so nearly co-extensive with preaching, that where preaching has not been, there has, with scarcely a solitary exception, been no religion: and wherever Preaching has existed for any length of time, religion has almost invariably existed also.
But it has been, and may be again, observed, that “all these things were true in ancient times, when Bibles were in few hands, and few persons were able ro read. In such times men were in a sense entirely dependent upon preaching for their knowledge of the Gospel. But now, most persons can read; and can easily obtain Bibles. Preaching, therefore, is now of less importance, and less necessary to salvation ; because mankind can now come to the knowledge of the truth without this aid."