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APOSTOLICAL PREACHING

CONSIDERED.

CHAPTER I.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PREACHER's

OFFICE.

In awakening the hardened sinner, or reclaiming the careless Christian, the Holy Spirit is by no means confined to any single mode of operation, even where we are able to trace its influence. But it is experimentally certain, that from the Apostles' age down to the present, its assistance has principally attended the labours of the CHRISTIAN PREACHER. It is thus that the heart has been most successfully assailed, and most effectually renewed.

B

I shall not here advert to the case of those who profess no allegiance to the Gospel. It is evident, however, that even among those who own its authority, very different views are entertained of the importance of the doctrines it reveals, as well as of the nature and extent of its obligations. This difference may be variously accounted for; but most commonly, is to be traced to the preacher, under whose ministry their lot has fallen : whether he has aroused them with a warning voice to vigilance in working out their salvation, or flattered that indolent calm in which the soul is too willing to repose.

Ecclesiastical historians have observed, that the external prosperity of the church has been often unfavourable to the growth of vital religion. There is something similar to this in the case of individuals : security sinks into indifference; and regular, inoffensive, or, as the phrase is, correct lives are very apt to lead to a fancied security and dependence upon baptismal privileges, while no

active principle of religion is alive at the heart. But it is only when religion is an active, energetic, and informing principle, that it is real, vital, or evangelical.

It is only when it ceases to be reckoned as a separate concern, occupying one place among many duties, and becomes the main business of life, the root and source of every duty, that it at all resembles the models described, or the precepts inculcated, in the Gospel.

The general proneness to religious indolence must be counteracted by the preacher's watchfulness. It is for him to be ever on his guard, lest his congregation should rest in a reliance on vague notions of the divine mercy, on the supposed efficacy of baptism, or on their exemption from gross vices, by leading them to inquire into the real demands which the Gospel lays upon them, into the facts respecting the human heart which it reveals, and the mode of salvation which it points out: and to compare these with their own experience, to examine and prove them

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