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THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.
THE END, NATURE,
SUBJECTS OF PREACHING.
MATTHEW xxviii. 19.
Go ye, therefore, teach all nations.
In the two last discourses I attempted to show, that there are bul Two classes of permanent officers in the Christian Church, desig. nated in the Scriptures. One of these classes, I observed, is spoken of under the names, Elders, Pestors, 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
As 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, instruct, and pray with, the sick and distressed: James v. 14, &c. : to study, or meditate, diligently on the things of the Gospel, and give themselves wholly to them, that their profiting 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, as to be well reported of them that are without ; 1 Tim. iii. 2, 4, 7: and to contend earnestly for the faith, once delidered 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 Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy and Titus.
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 other. 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;
The End of all preaching is to persuade men to become dirtuous ; 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 of those, 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 inust be such, and, whenever they are chosen by wisdom and goodness, will invariably be such, as are suited to VOL. V.
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 men. 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 heart, to support, and conduct, the soul in the way to Heaven.
II. The Nature of Preaching may be thus summarily defined: that il 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 comfort 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 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, Receiving 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 salvation, but is this power to every one that believeth. Rom. i. 16. So then, Faith 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 salvation. Eph. i. 13. The word of God, says St. Paul, is quick, (or living,) and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing eten to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Heb. iv. 12. 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 liveth and abideth for ever. 1 Pet. i. 23.
I have quoted this numerous train of passages from so many different books in the Scriptures, to 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 truth, 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 lo saltation, 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 beliete in him, of whom they have not heard ? and how shall they hear without a Preacher? So, then, faith 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, I shall dwell more particularly bereafter,
3. The manner, in which Preaching is generally spoken of, exhibits its 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. lxi. 1 ; Luke viii. 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 ascension. 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 Ananias, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my