Page images

considered as nominal members of an Establishment, such a church may be esteemed as full and prosperous, irrespective of their piety or accessions by the modes referred to. But a purely spiritual and voluntary body occupies a very different position; and what is to keep up its efficiency, but the influx of new members ? Even its own children, born in its bosom, baptized by its Ministers, and educated in its schools, must remain in its outer courts, unless they manifest the evidences of at least a desire "to flee from the wrath to come.Hence, amongst ourselves, the places of the dead, the losses by backsliders, the rents made by the changes and fluctuations of population, can only be supplied by a continued accession of new converts, brought to God by the faithful and successful preaching of the Gospel.

But motives drawn from the desire to fill up our ranks will not be sufficient, and, destitute of higher considerations, may be questioned as to their legitimacy. The love of God, and of the souls of mankind, must continue to be the moving spring of our ministerial exertions. Lower feelings are unworthy of the sacred office which we hold ; higher ones cannot occupy and fill the human mind. Well


those considerations which drew from the bosom of God the unbounded love of redemption, brought the Saviour from heaven, caused him to bleed and die on the cross, and led to the establishment of the Christian kingdom in the midst of miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, draw forth the highest charity and energies of man.

To cherish a deep sense of the importance of leading sinners to Christ, and, instrumentally, of opening to them the treasures of the Gospel, will keep every thing else in its place. Life, simplicity, energy, pathos, will follow. Ministers only need to be adequately impressed with two sentiments, to induce untiring zeal : The first, the danger of men in their sins; the second, the value of the blessings of the Gospel. Only let the misery of man “ without God” be felt ; his immortality, his high destiny, his moral consciousness, his need of a resting-place, his perturbed feelings, his untamed passions, his slavery to sin, and his exposure to final and irretrievable ruin, be fully admitted; and, under such views and impressions, Ministers must be “instant in season and out of season.' Then, again, let the grace, freeness, and sufficiency of the Gospel, as a remedy, be constantly present to the mind ; that the will of God is the present salvation of all, that Christ died to procure it, and that the ministry is “the ministry of reconciliation;" and this double impression must prevent all dry formality, curious speculation, fictitious ornament, and, in fact, cause preaching and exertions to become a question of life and death.

(2.) “Let us mind the same thing,_namely, the salvation of men, -as the greatest possible issue of the Gospel.


No view of Christianity is so magnificent and sublime as in its saving effects. Many blessings of great consequence to mankind, and highly beneficial in their mental, domestic, and social states, flow from the Gospel ; but its highest purpose is the salvation of the soul. Indeed, it may be affirmed, that the spirit and power of even this secondary happiness is, in the first instance, laid in experimental religion. That improvement of man which relates to the present life, must have a moral basis ; and this, again, must receive its principles from the word of God, and its capacity for good from his grace. But the purely spiritual life is much the highest view that can be taken of his case. On the principle of the moral nature, religious capabilities, hopes, and, above all, the immortal destiny of the human family, it will follow, that the greatest blessing which can be conferred, is that religion which meets all these claims and fills up these mighty wants. We know, from what we see and feel, that the real elements of happiness or misery in the present life are moral. It is true that physical causes operate upon the physical nature of man, and, through his material organization, upon the mental ; and also on those sentiments and feelings which are spiritual. But these are only the aggravation, not the innate and original cause, of these painful sensations. The primary evil lies deeper than the play of external influences, and the good which is its remedy must be equally deep. Man is in sin, and is restless, unhappy, full of trouble, mental suffering, and fearful forebodings, in consequence of his guilt. To arrest the sinner in his career of folly—to lead him to repentance—to turn him to God—to open in his heart the power and triumphs of faith—to conduct him to Christ—to bring him to enjoy all the blessings of redeeming love to train him up in Christian holiness

—to pour upon his bewildered mind the hopes of a future life—and to impart all the joys and consolations of present grace :—are certainly the highest results of the truth and ordinances of the Gospel.

No ministry or church ought to be satisfied with its operations without these fruits. Every thing in Christianity is established to effect great results. An administrative character belongs to all the means established in the kingdom of God; and if the effects designed and promised do not flow from the working of a particular churchsystem, it is to be presumed, either that it is unscriptural in its doctrines and ordinances, or that the spirit of the whole is opposed to the end proposed.

The true value and real nature of both the ministry and the ordinances of the church can only be estimated by the test of this principle. How great is an office and a service which stands connected with the designs of the death of our Lord, and the grace and power

of his mediatorial throne ! For the joy that was set before him," he “ endured the cross, despising the shame, and

[ocr errors]

" Who

[ocr errors]

66 made per

is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.(Heb. xii. 2.) The ministry coincides with this . high purpose.

All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us : we pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God.(2 Cor. v. 18, 20.) We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that

ye receive not the grace of God in vain.(2 Cor. vi. 1.) also hath made us able Ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit : for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.(2 Cor. iii. 6.) All

power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.

And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.(Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.) He that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.(Matt. x. 40.) These and similar expressions indicate the high nature of the ministry of the Gospel. The end proposed by the death and mediation of our Lord, as well as the introduction of the dispensation of the Spirit, and the ordination of men to this office, are one and the same.

To bring many sons unto glory, the Captain of our salvationwas fect through suffering ;(Heb. ii. 10;) and, in a subordinate sense, the same is contemplated by the preaching of the word, and the administration of ordinances. This is the most important and valuable result that can possibly be reached by religion. He who is instrumental in saving a soul accomplishes the greatest work that can be accomplished, we do not say by man,--for it cost God his highest love to do this. The ecclesiastical scheme, the canonical laws, the economical and disciplinary regulations, of a church, are its mere masonry to keep out the wind and weather, or to mark the line on which its operations may be most usefully conducted. The incense within, produced by the fervent prayers, the faithful preaching, and the devout worship,—all accompanied by the blessed effusions of the Holy Spirit,-constitutes the real life and power of the church. And this issuing in the preparation of a countless multitude for, and their admission into, the kingdom of heaven, is the great consummation contemplated in the mighty means employed.

This is the object at which, in imitation of our fathers, we are to aim. An extended religious hierarchy, unless occupied and filled by a corresponding number of believing men, saved in the Lord, and exhibiting the graces, and attending to all the works, of Christian piety, is like a splendid burial-place ;—scientifically laid out, it may be, covered with verdure, ornamented with every variety of plant and shrub ;—but still, merely a place of sepulture, where all that is seen of man is the record of his once having lived, and the mute, cold, and soul-less effigy of his material being. On the other hand, a church which embraces in its pale a large number of happy disciples, filled with the love of God, and performing the functions of the spiritual life, is as a country tenanted by living men ; rendered vocal by their praises, fruitful by their active and continued labours, and manifesting the characteristic air and features of an impassioned sensibility and happiness. Next to heaven, this is the highest dwellingplace of God.

No man ever had a commission from God to preach his truth, (or, having received it, has lost his calling,) if souls are not saved by his labours. He, on

He, on the other hand, who is successful in this, and consequently kindles a flame of sacred light in the church in which he ministers, may well be thankful and satisfied with his lot. He is doing God's greatest work; compared with which every thing else is merely hewing wood and drawing water” for the service of his temple.

(3.) This attempt so to administer the truth as to save lost mankind, must be prosecuted as absolutely essential.

The moral condition of the human family demands, and always will demand, this effort to lead them to salvation. The fact, that the whole race is brought into the world in a fallen state ; that all are born in sin and shapen in iniquity ;and that every one, in consequence of the corruption and taint of original depravity, is a child of wrath ;" makes it necessary that the healing remedies of the Gospel should be continuously applied. If we imagine that the advancement of society, even in its most refined and cultivated forms, is of such a nature as to make it unnecessary to preach the most elementary truths in the clearest and plainest manner possible, we have been deceived by science, falsely so called.If, again, we so hold the initiatory sacrament of baptism, as to confer, certainly and necessarily, the blessings of justification and regeneration, to be ratified and perpetuated by the Lord's supper, and thus fail to make conversion necessary in all, we most certainly misinterpret the meaning of those sacred ordinances, and endanger the salvation of mankind. No; the fountain of original sin is not yet dried up; it sends forth its bitter waters still ; and they are as deep, as wide, and as turbid as ever.

The nonnecessity of the Gospel, in its clearest light and richest grace, would suppose a reversal of the primitive curse. This has not taken place, and never will, till the trial of the world ends. The present and all succeeding generations have, and will continue to have, the stamp of original depravity upon them; will be the alienated children of God; will manifest the accustomed “ enmityof the carnal mind ; and be found “ dead in trespasses and in sins.Yes ; the world is full of the dead and the dying. The Saviour, the fountain of regenes

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


ration, the doctrine of faith and justification, are, and ever will be, as necessary as when these great mercies were first made known. Polish man as you may, nothing can save him but the grace of God.

This forms the ground of an urgent necessity for the faithful preaching of the whole “Gospel of the blessed God.The economy of Christianity is to be considered in the light of an ever-perfect and present provision for the evils and miseries of a fallen and ruined world. With the poison and pain of a mortal malady, it is of the highest mercy that a healing remedy is provided. But this only becomes effective when it is applied. The business of the ministry and of the ordinances of the church, is to open and bring near the grace provided.

The Gospel itself insists, in the most strenuous manner, on the danger of man in an unconverted state, as well as the absolute necessity, in all, of faith and pardon. There is none righteous, no, not

There is no difference : for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.(Rom. ii. 10, 22, 23.) The wages of sin is death.(Rom. vi. 23.) He that believeth not is condemned already.(John iii. 18.) Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.(Luke xii. 3.) Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. xviii. 3.) These are the unequivocal declarations of Scripture respecting those who are destitute of an interest in the provisions of the covenant of grace. No means can reach this case, but such as reverse it. The impenitent must be brought to repentance; the unrighteous, to attain the righteousness of faith ; the carnal,” and those who sold under sin,” to the fountain of regeneration ; the unholy and unclean to the blood which cleansesfrom all sin ; and those who are living estranged from God," through the ignorance that is in them,” to the possession of his love, and a joyful fellowship in the service of his house.

To the extent of this, the dangers and evils of sin are removed ; and (fearful to think !) the rest of mankind are living under all the rigour of the law. Surely this consideration ought to induce all who are engaged in seeking the lost souls of men, to “work while it is day.Etiquette and order are things lighter than air, when placed in contrast with this imperative obligation. This is the first great principle of Christianity. It is, in fact, the one rule of this merciful system ; it transcends all other considerations, and sets them aside, if they stand in its way, as “wood, hay, and stubble." This was the great Gospel-law, on which our fathers acted.

Their object one—to save souls from eternal misery. When this presented itself, in all its vividness, to their believing and ardent minds, they did not confer with flesh and blood," court the countenance of the



« PreviousContinue »