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DESIRABLE EFFECTS OF A PREACHED GOSPEL,
Mark xvi. 15.
into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
THESE words are the commission of the divine Redeemer to his eleven apostles. After that he was risen from the dead, he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat. But shortly he was to ascend up into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the throne of God, no more to be personally present with his disciples on earth.
And although this charge was given to the immediate attendants, and personal followers of the blessed Saviour; yet, it is equally applicable, and addressed to all who should hence. forth sustain the character of his publick ministers. The same original phrase, which is translated every creature, is also rendered the whole human race. The latter is doubtless the most rational and correct translation. Hence, the commission of the apostles of Christ, extends to every creature throughout the world ; so that wherever a human being is found, they are authorized and commanded to preach to him the gospel. They and their successors, are to go
forth with unwearied exertions to the ends of the earth, as heralds of the gospel, till every nation, kindred, and tongue under the whole heaven, should enjoy its rich blessing. This is in exact accordance with the declaration of the angel of the Lord to the shepherds, who were keeping watch over their flock by night. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Before the advent of the Saviour, the glorious privileges of divine revelation, were chiefly confined to the Jews. And whilst he continued in the flesh, few of the Gentiles, comparatively, had the gospel preached to them; but, before the end of time, from the rising to the setting of the sun, both Jew and Gentile must enjoy its divine and meridian light. The gospel is good news; for, to a guilty and ruined world, it opens a door of hope, and publishes the way of salvation. Hence, to preach the gospel, is to announce the counsels of heaven, revealed to man; that he may be saved from sin and death, and made an heir of eternal life. But to accomplish this great and glorious end, its essential doctrines and duties must be clearly unfolded, that God may be exalted and glorified, whilst sinners are saved.
These remarks may lead us to see, that the first important doctrine, in preaching the gospel, is to unfold the character of God. His being and perfections should clearly be held forth to the view of mankind, that they may form consistent and exalted views of his absolutely perfect, his infinitely glorious, and amiable character. His eternity and infinity, his self-existence and independence, his omnipotence and omniscience, must be maintained; whilst he is proclaimed the supreme, moral Governour of all, finite, intelligent beings, their great law-giver and final Judge. His infinitely holy nature, must be declared as that moral perfection of his character, which renders him worthy of the supreme love of all created intelligences, and which is well pleased with righteousness; but, which hateth all the workers of iniquity with perfect hatred. Grace and mercy must be proved to be perfections, belonging to the moral character of God, or in vain would be the. attempt to show, that he could possibly be reconciled to any of his moral subjects, who had once rebelled against him. The first and fundamental
doctrine of revealed religion, is that of a God, as the only proper object of religious worship, the first cause and last end of all things, and who possesses every infinite possible perfection.
2d. The character of man must be clearly exhibited, in. the preaching of the gospel ; and that in his fallen, and perishing state. Unless the entirely sinful and odious nature, and deeply rooted depravity of the human heart; and the helpless, hopeless condition of man by the deeds of the law, be made to appear, he will in vain seek to be justified by works. The law must be set home upon his conscience in its spirituality that he feel the force of the declaration, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, written in the book of the law to do them. Except mankind see the plague of their own hearts as an infectious and deadly leprosy, they will never desire to be delivered from its indweiling corruptions, as from a body of sin and death. If they are not brought, through the influence of the gospel, to realize that sin is exceedinglysinful,they will never admire and highly prize divine grace; nor exclaim, God be merciful to me a sinner.
3d. To preach the gospel, it is essential that the person and character of Christ be clearly exhibited in their true scriptural light. His atoning sufferings and death are the only ground of pardon and acceptance with a holy and offended God for any of this guilty and ruined world. And how important, that perishing sinners have clear conceptions and just views of the only foundation of any of their hopes for deliverance from endless wo. This subject was so important in the view of the apostle Paul, that to the Corinthians, he says, I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified. He considered his character, his holy life, and efficacious death as the centre, the substance, and foundation of the gospel. How can a sinner, sensible of his own guilt and wretchedness, trust his
immortal interests in the hands of a Saviour without a full conviction, that the Father was well pleased with his righteousness, and that he could obtain eternal redemption through his blood ? humanity was necessary in the character of the only Mediator between God and man, that he might render a life of sinless obedience to the law, and make an atoning sacrifice for sin; so complete divinity was also essential to render infinite dignity and efficacy to his atonirig righteousness by sufferings and death. As, without the shedding of blood, there could be no remission of sin, so without an exhibition of those blessed truths, which relate to the person and character, the life and death of Christ, the gospel cannot be successfully preached.
4th. The necessity of being born again, of repentance, faith, and a godly life, in order to the obtaining of final salvation, must be announced in the preaching of the gospel. The Holy Spirit is the great Agent, by whom rebellious man is made willing in the day of God's power, to submit to him, and to receive the Saviour as he is freely offered in the gospel. And without his renewing and saving influence,none could possibly be saved; for except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Repentance is the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, and without which all must perish. His agency produceth faith, without which it is impossible to please God; and he enableth believers to persevere in well-doing, till the work of grace is
perlected in their hearts. The gospel not only teaches what mankind are by nature; but what they must be by grace, to obtain the pardon of their sins, enjoy sweet communion with God, and be prepared for the employments and enjoyments of heaven. And to preach the gospel to any saving effect, these essential duties must be inculcated as necessary to the obtaining of final salvation.
5th. A state of future rewards and punishment is a doctrine necessary to be announced, in preaching the gospela
The gospel does not only abound with truths, precepts, encouragements, and promises; but also with the most solemn warnings and awful sanctions. Hence the ambassadors of Christ do as much preach the gospel, when they declare in the name of their Lord and Master, that he who believeth not shall be damned, as when they proclaim, he that believeth shall be saved. The great end of the gospel, as it respects man, is to save him from endless perdition; and crown him with immortal glory. Then the future torments of the wicked should be fully and clearly enforced, as the terrours of the Almighty, to deter from sin; and the future bliss of the righteous should be set forth to excite to a life of holiness. And whilst ministers of the gospel, on the one hand, do hold forth the words of eternal life; on the other, they should denounce those of eternal death. They are not only to carry messages of love, of salvation; but to bear the thunders of God's word in condemnation, that if by any means, they may save some. The great judgement day, and the future and eternal scenes beyond the grave, are abundantly and emphatical:y described and foretold in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ; and these infinitely important truths must be maintained and announced by the heralds of his cross. Thus I have mentioned some of the important doctrines and duties which are necessary to be unfolded, in the preaching of the gospel.
In the second place, let us notice some of the de sirable effects of a stated and faithfully preached gospel.
Ist. A preached gospel is favourable to mental improvement and refinement of manners. Where the blessings of the gospel do most abound, there the arts and sciences are cultivated and carried to their greatest perfection, which tends greatly to enlarge the views of the mind and refine the social affections. Moreover,the exhibition of the varied truths of the gospel, and their