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carnal weapons, that the them out of their hands?
may seek the house of God's worship; and if they go with Captain of salvation would wrest Should we not pray, that parents may teach their children the good way of the Lord; and that children may early sing the hosanna of the Son of David?
Our practice is as important, to say the least, as our preaching, and our prayers. Of this, whether with propriety or otherwise, every one will claim a right to judge. Passing over many things which might be mentioned here, I will just touch upon one particular, hoping that no minister is so negligent respecting it, as I am myself. What I have in view is the immediate intercourse, for which we have opportunity with our people. Do we know the joys, and the sorrows, of the brethren of our charge; or whether they have any of a religious nature? Do we put close questions to sinners, begging them to consider the thorny road which they are travelling, and the awful dungeon to which the devil is conducting them, bound with the chains of their own sins?
When Nathan went to David, and delivered the parable, he did much as a good minister does, when from the desk he preaches a serious, and close discourse. But how did David receive the parable? Just as our people receive our preaching. He did not suspect that it was intended for him; and the prophet would have gone away, having accomplished nothing, had he not said, Thou art the man.
My much respected christian brethren, our people are going, one after another into eternity every year, to thank God for services which we have rendered to them; or to enter their complaint against us, as unfaithful shepherds of the flock! Watchman what of the night; watchman what of the night! How goes on your own spiritual business; and how are our people? Do we live, because they stand fast in the Lord? Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love.
These associations which we hold among ourselves, let them be like the day of pentecost to the early disciples! Let us be with one accord in one place; beseeching our gracious Master to visit his garden; and to water every
plant! Let us entreat him to enable us to speak with such tongues as to be intelligible to all; and knowing the terrors of the Lord, may we be successful in persuading men!
Suffer me to propose for your consideration, whether it would not be expedient, in all instances in which we have neglected to call upon our people, for religious purposes; to make a humble confession to them, for neglect of duty; and now begin, in this private way, to beseech them to be reconciled to God. He that confesseth, and forsaketh his sins, shall find mercy. But is this a hard, and self-denying work? I grant it. Yet has not our Lord enjoined it upon us to deny ourselves; and to take up the cross daily; assuring us, that unless we do this, we cannot be his disciples? In a business of this nature we may find more encouragement, and satisfaction, than in a view of it, we expect. If we have been faulty, confession must lighten the burden on our own hearts; and an approach, thus made to our people, may disarm them; and render them thoughtful; docile; pliable; and penitent. Whether I shall ever adopt this methed or not, my own heart has often smitten me, that I have not done it from the beginning.
PHILIPPIANS i, 17.
Knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
THE epistle in which these words are contained, was written from Rome where Paul was for a long time a prisoner.
He had good news to communicate to the brethren, as well as doctrine, and exhortation. It was natural for him to fear lest they should be concerned for his personal safety; and mourn for the glorious cause which they might think him no longer in a condition to advocate. For consolation he told them, that the things which had taken place respecting him, had fallen out rather unto the furtherance, than the hindrance of the gospel. His case had excited attention, and his sufferings had appeared to be the sufferings of an innocent man; his bonds the bonds of Christ, even in the palace, and in all other places through imperial Rome.
His imprisonment was attended with such blessed effects, that he could write, All the saints salute you; chiefly they that are of Cesar's household.
Nor was this all. On account of Paul's confinement, many persons had become preachers. Some envying his gifts, and consequent reputation, undertook to supplant him by preaching themselves. But, instead of being grieved, he rejoiced; knowing that God could over-rule their designs, and turn those labors to good, which they performed from wicked selfish motives.
There were other persons however, who acted from different expectations and desires. Convinced, that Paul had
a divine commission, and seeing, that his preaching was limited to the house where he was a prisoner, they were stimulated to double their own exertions; and thus, when one laborer was hindered many came into his place to do his work. We have seen perhaps, something like this, when a whole neighborhood is rallied to take up the tools of husbandry, for a man who is poor or confined by sickness to his bed, and to do the business of many days in one.
Those who preached Christ at that time, and in those parts, with an honest intention, Paul says did it knowing, that he was set for the defence of the gospel; or of the word of God at large. Have we not the same station, my brethren, and fathers, and the same task with the Apostle; notwithstanding the inequality of our powers? Are we not expected to defend the gospel, by argument; by prayer; and by the whole glorious course of the christian life? If so, not a matter of consequence, that we should make, not a weak, but a manly, defence, in all these several ways? The words of my text the ministers of Christ may each one echo and apply to himself.
The present attempt is, not to instruct, but to stir up the pure minds of the well instructed, by way of remembrance. First. It is our official duty to defend the gospel by argument. Paul reasoned We have rational faculties; and have a part to act towards rational creatures. If we recommend the gospel, the considerations which are weighty in our own minds, we shall set before others. We who make divinity our profession, do not believe without some reason. The scribes and pharisees sat in Moses' seat. In Christ's stead the ministers of religion beseech sinners to be reconciled to God.
Volume after volume having been written by the ablest hands, it cannot be expected, that this discourse will deserve even the character of a weak epitome of evidence. Such things however, as occur, so far as the occasion will allow, will be called into notice,
We may urge a belief of the gospel from the consideration, that in its essentials it is commensurate with every mind. It meets the most contracted capacity; it finds full employment for the most exalted. Like the widow's pot
of oil, it fills every vessel of every size. It is not thus with books of human origin. Those which are adapted to children, fail of instructing persons of riper years, and of extensive reading; and those in which men of science find satisfaction, are above the comprehension of the illiterate, whether young or old.
What book but the Bible, answers for the child at school; and for the man at the head of his family; for the peasant who drives his team, and the philosopher who searches into the wonders of nature? But even the children, who in the temple, sang hosanna, to the Son of David, and pious Simeon, what a difference was there in age; and between Paul, the pupil of Gamaliel, and the fishermen of Galilee to say nothing of natural strength of mind what a difference was there in advantages. These all however, probably understood the gospel; and like vessels of various sizes, they were each one full. Timothy knew the holy scriptures when he was a child; he made them the study of his life; and yet perhaps, the last chapter which he read convinced him, that there was then more to be learned than he thought the whole volume contained when he began to inquire into it.
This is a peculiarity of the gospel, as much distinguishing it from all other productions, as the human shape, and the human faculties, distinguish man from the numerous creatures with which the world abounds. That the gospel should be thus peculiar is essential to the end which it proposes. Were it constructed only for minds large by nature, and expanded by study, what benefit could it confer upon the vulgar? It would be like Saul's armor upon little David. Did it only suit the child, and the unlearned, what would become of men of superior intellectual stature? It would then be, like Joseph's coat of many colors, made for a child, and too small to cover the back of Goliah.
The grace of God which brings salvation, has appeared to all sorts, and sizes of men. Not many wise men after the flesh are called; yet some are; not many mighty are called, yet some are; not many noble are called, yet some are. In every country and in every age perhaps this is the