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A SERMON PREACHED AT PERU, AT THE ORDINATION OF THE REV. JOSEPH
M. BREWSTER, DEC. 29th, 1824.
JOHN vii, 18.
He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory, but he
that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
In the beginning of this chapter we are informed, that Jesus walked in Galilee, for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him..
Though he spent the latter part of his life, principally, in Galilee, he attended the appointed feasts” at Jerusalem; and the text is part of a conversation which he had with the Jews at the feast of tabernacles. This feast lasted eight days.
His brethren insiduously proposed to him to go into Judea when the time for the feast was approaching; but he had a good reason for refusing to comply with their proposal; and when he did go, he went secretly. About the midst of the feast, or when the time for its celebration was about half elapsed, he appeared openly in the temple, and took his place as a teacher.
Such was the instruction which he communicated, and such was his manner of communication, that the Jews, who knew him only as a man, marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? To this inquiry Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.
This answer may be put into the following short paraphrase. You think it wonderful, that I should be able to teach, who have never been instructed myself; but it is because you consider me merely as a man; and the doctrine which I deliver to you is from God; and therefore, as a man, it is not mine. If you would have this affair made intelligible to you, you must do the will of God, for there is no other way
in which you can understand it. The text follows; and it contains a general rule by which the character of a religious instructer may be determined. Had the Jews formed their judgment of Christ by this rule, they must have known, that he was the Messiah. Their error was the error of the wicked. Let us not copy after it. We are gathered together at this time, to set apart one as a minister of the gospel in this place; and it is infinitely important, that he should be a suitable person. The passage of scripture selected as the theme of discourse upon the present occasion, calls for our consideration in the several particulars which it contains.
First. It is important for us to understand the character of the person who speaketh of himself. We shall discover the meaning of this passage, if we compare it with some other passages in which a similar phraseology is employed. When Christ informed his disciples that he would send the Spirit of truth to be their comforter, after his departure, he told them He will guide you into all truth, for he shall not speak of hiinself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak. We should put a wrong construction upon this
passage were we to conclude, that the Spirit is a limited and dependant being, for the meaning is obviously this, that the persons of the Godhead, in their mysterious mode of existence, can make no separate communication. The following passage, respecting the Son, may be placed by the side of this, as exactly parallel; and it is to be interpreted in the same way. Verily verily I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself. All power belongs to the Son, but he can do nothing of himself, because whatever he does, is done by the Godhead. The reason therefore why what the Spirit speaks he does not speak of himself, and why what the Son does, he does not do of himself, is this, that the Father, Son, and Spirit, speak, and act, together, as one God.
When Christ sent out his apostles he directed them to take no thought, how, or what, they should speak, and added as a reason for this direction, For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. Their case was a peculiar one, for they were to be inspired, and in this way furnished with what might be necessary to be said, upon any occasion, so that indeed it was not they that spoke, but the Spirit himself.
When Caiaphas prophesied, that Jesus should die for that nation and not for that nation only, but, that also he should gather together in one the children of God which were scattered abroad, it is said, And this spake he not of himself. The words which he used were his own; and he had his own meaning in uttering them; but it was the Spirit who tarned what he said into an important prophecy, and therefore, he did not speak of himself. He had no knowledge of what was to take place, nor had he any desire, that such should be the consequences of that death which he pronounced to be expedient. What he spoke of himself was iniquitous indeed; for this appears to be what he intended, that whether guilty, or înnocent, Jesus ought to be put to death, lest, in consequence of the spread of his religion, the nation of the Jews should be destroyed by the Romans. It is evident that his meaning was understood by the Council, though he was overruled and directed in communicating it.
He who speaks of himself to give a definition of the phrase, speaks without any assistance, or direction, from God. Caiaphas was not assisted, but he was directed; otherwise he would have spoken of himself, in this case, as he did at other times. We are not to suppose that he who speaks of himself is essentially different in moral character from Caiaphas notwithstanding in this instance, he was employed as an organ of communicatiotl, upon an interesting subject
Though he made use of a different mode of expression; our Savior, undoubtedly, had reference to the same character that St. Paul describes in what he says of the natural man. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. Should the natural man then undertake to speak of the things of the Spirit of God, having no knowledge of them, must he not speak of himself.
In one thing all natural men are alike; but in every thing but one, there is a great difference.
There is a difference in mental capacity, in information, and in disposition. Minds, as well as bodies, are of various sizes, and have various powers. There are dwarfs in intellect; and there are giants; and there are others to fill up all the space
between the two extremes. This difference is as manifest as the difference in soils; in animals; in trees, and in stones.
No less is the difference between one man and another with regard to the exercise of those powers which belong to the mind; and the acquisition of that knowledge which is attainable by assiduous application. Some minds are like the fallow ground, which bears nothing, because it has not been broken up; while others resemble the garden which is very productive, because much attention is paid to it. There is not only this difference between men with respect to the knowledge of things in general, but some who have been much conversant with other books, have never made the Bible at all their study; while others have read it so much, that they are able to repeat almost any passage. The pharisees paid much attention to the law, and wrote portions of it upon their broad phylacteries.
To these things it may be added, that men are by nature possessed of different dispositions; for some are morose, and contentious, and others are mild, and amiable. It is abundantly evident, that the young lawyer who went to inquire what he must do that he might have eternal life, was a natural man; or an unrenewed sinner: but it is said concerning him, that Jesus beholding him loved him. He could not however love him as one of his disciples, for such he was not, because he preferred his worldly substance to a treasure in heaven. There are probably many such men in the world, who are thought to be distinguished for piety, but surely, this must be a very incorrect judgment concerning their character, if we are to take our ideas of piety from the scriptures.
It appears then, that a man may be possessed of powerful intellectual faculties; be extensively acquainted with things in general; have much speculative knowledge of the Bible; and be very winning in his address; and yet be in a state of nature; and speak altogether, of himself.
Secondly. He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory. All men are actuated by motives, and these motives are such as comport with their character. The man who speaks of himself can have no motives to govern his conduct, but such as are selfish. Different objects may be sought after by men actuated by natural motives, according to the different views, which they entertain of the importance of things; but every such man must have an exclusive regard to what he considers his own benefit,
If any undertake to preach the gospel who are not properly qualified, and we have reason to fear there are many of this description, we may suppose, that some preach for filthy lucre's sake, and, that in the choice of a place to establish themselves, they have a primary regard to the compensation which they shall receive for their services. Like commodities that are sold by the auctioneer, such men will go off to the highest bidder.
In this uncharitable, and unserious world, it is doubtless, the opinion of not a few, that all who pass for ministers of the gospel are alike in this particular and, that any one might be bought, if the pecuniary inducement should be judged to be sufficient. If there were no facts to contradict this opinion, we should be obliged to admit it as correct. For the present we say, let those entertain it, who can find any satisfaction arising from it.
It seems to be the opinion of many, that every minister is a hireling who has any stipulated compensation. But is this opinion founded on reason, or scripture? Is a man, because he is a minister, entitled to nothing which he can depend upon as a remuneration for what he has expended in