« PreviousContinue »
to have ministerial services on the condition of affording ministerial support, they are quite entitled to hold their opinion, and to advocate it too, if so disposed. But if such parties sit under, the word of him who is supported by other men, and save their pockets upon the pretence of principle, they are inconsistent and unprincipled men. They are receiving that for which other men pay. If a paid ministry be an evil, then he who believes so should be consistent and refuse to hear such. But, brethren, the Apostle had no qualms on the subject of support. He had no doubts or sensitiveness respecting
wages." No, delicacy or scruple in such matters is of recent origin, and is either morbid or pretended. Those to whom you minister in spiritual things should in return minister to you in carnal things. Those for whom you labour should “minister to you in all good things.” He who serves at the altar should live of the altar. He who preaches “the Gospel should live of the Gospel.”
Such as are truly God's ministers are divinely qualified for their work by an experimental acquaintance with the truths which they are called to teach and enforce. They “know the truth.” They possess and enjoy it. They know Christ, and he dwells in their heart by faith. They have tested the principles of Christianity, and know and feel them to be the power of God in their own personal salvation. They have access to and communion with Christ. Their fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
Such as are called of God to the office of the ministry will have God's glory, and the salvation of men, as their motive. It is an awful thing to enter upon its functions - for a morsel of bread,” or for a life of leisure, or for an opportunity to cultivate taste and literature, or to obtain a genteel position in civil society. Such, as so enter, intrude into the office, desecrate the profession, and must expect at last to be repulsed from Christ's presence as strangers whom he never knew.
As to mental capacity, and educational attainments, the Christian minister should always be in advance of general society. He should be a man of strong mind, and of sound judgment, or how can he be a successful student of the truth ? He should be an educated man, or how can he obtain access to the sources of knowledge ? Ignorance prevents him from reaching the fountains. Mind to be able to communicate with mind, comfortably and advantageously, must possess much in common. He who falls far short of another man's attainments will generally have but vague notions of his meaning. Not unfrequently he will fail altogether to catch his ideas, or what is quite as likely, receive a different and a false impression. Thought is intransmissible without a medium. The more perfect the medium the fuller and freer will be the flow of thought from one mind to another. Command of language is necessary for the conveyance of the finer turns of thought, and the more abstract ideas. Labour to attain this. Only by labour can it be obtained. Reflect on the mastery which often one man can exercise over others. Not, it may be, so much by any original superiority, as by educational culture and mental discipline. Thousands, no doubt, who are charmed by his eloquence, and convinced by his arguments, were as highly gifted by nature as he was, but they have overlooked or neglected the gift which was in them.
But not only is it needful and desirable to attain a rich vocabulary, but also to possess a general knowledge of science and literature. He who will gain the ear of his fellowmen in our times, and who will command respectful attention, must have a well-stored mind. The present day demands an educated ministry. An ignorant man is out of his place in the pulpit. He cannot conceal his mental poverty there. An intelligent audience will deem its time lost, and itself insulted, by such an infliction. Noise will not, in these days, be accepted for intelligence, nor will empty vehemence pass for solid instruction. Education has become the cry. It is held to be the great want of the day. And if the want of the day-labourer and the mechanic, then surely still more of the man who assumes the functions of the religious instructor. An ignorant instructor, an illiterate expounder, are contradictions. They shock our notions of congruity.
Nor let it be supposed, that only educated audiences require educated preachers. The educated man best knows how to accommodate himself to the lowly and the unlearned. An uneducated man has just one style for all ; it has no compass, no elasticity, no variety. The man has attained much who understands how to be simple. He who is ablest to soar will often be found most competent to stoop to the level of such as have not had the opportunity and privilege of education. Such a man knows how to be simple without being vulgar, how to be plain without being low. There is beauty in sentiment, there is grandeur and sublimity in idea, which, like the symmetry of the human figure, appear to greatest advantage in plain drapery. They are “when unadorned adorned the most.” Their loveliness and their proportions are hidden or marred by the tawdry adornments of a turgid style or a grandiloquent phraseology. Endeavour then to educate yourselves into a tasteful simplicity. We have many beautiful models in our language. Writers whose very depths are unnoticed, by superficial readers, from their easy flow and their translucency. I have in my mind's eye at the present moment, specimens of sermonizing, where it is impossible to mistake the author's aim ; where, from beginning to end, the evident design is to exhibit the writer's attainments, and make manifest his range of reading. Guard against such painful, I had almost said pitiful, displays. Such attempts are easy of detection, and never fail to disgust. It is said that a rich man can afford to dress plainly, so a learned man can afford to be simple.
Those things of which we have hitherto treated are simply what will assist in fitting you for your great work. They must be regarded as merely preparatory and auxiliary Education to you may be viewed much in the same way as tools to the mechanic, or as instruments to the operator. Your chief—your one business—is to “preach the Gospel." But here a question may possibly arise, What is it to preach the Gospel ? Now it is only repeating a truism to say, that you can only declare it as far and as fully as you know it. You
cannot clearly state what you do not distinctly comprehend. It is possible, I allow, to fail in accurately expressing what may be sufficiently clearly understood, but it is impossible clearly to state what is only partially or imperfectly apprehended. Then seek to have a thorough acquaintance with the Gospel. To “preach Christ crucified,” is to publish the Christian system, to enforce its doctrines, duties, rights, and responsibilities ; to urge its claims, promises, invitations, warnings, and threatenings upon the attention, belief, and conscience of your fellow-men. To preach the Gospel is to “declare the whole counsel of God,” to keep nothing back ; to speak out in the spirit of love and fidelity ; to fear no man ; to regard no consequences to yourself, when you feel that you are in the faithful performance of duty. He who will preach the Gospel must sit at the Master's feet. He must be an earnest and a prayerful inquirer after the truth as it is in Christ ; he must shake off indolence ; he must renounce all pride and self-sufficiency; he must feel and confess himself a fool that he may know Christ in his truth. There are sublime heights and profound depths in Christianity. He who best knows it will most ardently pursue it. Every other study will be subordinated to “the excellency of the knowledge” of the Gospel. Every fresh attainment will only stimulate more fully to understand “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.”
More especially at the present time is a thorough knowledge of Christianity necessary. In these days infidelity is seeking to occupy new ground. Driven from their former position, sceptics of the German Neologic School now admit the inspiration of the Scriptures; but only as they admit the inspiration of any and every other production of the human intellect. They are all inspired. The claims of Jesus Christ are at length conceded. He is no longer represented as a pretender, or an impostor, but a great good man, like Socrates and other sages, moralists, and reformers. They are all divine men now-a-days. In the end, the Son of God is permitted a niche in the modern Pantheon of celebrities. As for the Scriptures,—the Words of God, which we receive as our light and guide, – they are, by those to whom we refer, resolved into myth and fable. In fact into a new and, perbaps they will allow, an improved system of mythology. The miracles of Christ are regarded as clever exhibitions of jugglery, or of science paraded as miracles, before an ignorant and a credulous multitude, in order to procure a hearing, or secure a position. To meet error and infidelity in these new aspects, the Christian minister should carefully prepare. The weapons once suitable have to a great extent done their work, and the Christian warrior must go afresh to the armoury for such as are adapted to the changed tactics of the enemy. But let me caution you not to rush unprepared to the onset. А shrewd clever sceptic exults in the opportunity of encountering an incompetent defender of the truth. Truth, for the time, suffers through his ignorance, and the enemy gains an easy, if only a temporary, triumph. Be well prepared before you offer battle to the foe. Be well armed and expert at the use of right arguments before you enter the lists.
Permit me now, for a moment, to draw your attention to the state of the population of this country. In the rural districts, ignorance prevails to an awful extent. To a wide-spread and thorough indifference, begins to succeed an awakened superstition. An attempt is being made to introduce the dogmas and usages of popery, under the guise of nominal protestantism. A large majority of the statepaid clergy are earnest and untiring in enforcing upon the people, forms, rites, observances, opinions, and a worship, closely assimilated to that of Rome. Nor is the attempt confined to the rural districts; similar efforts are being put forth in our towns and cities, though more quietly and cautiously. The Priesthood of Rome, encouraged by the labours of their state-supported auxiliaries, are taxing their ingenuity and strength to regain their former dominant position in Great Britain, and we are evidently approaching a crisis. We are hastening to a fearful, but I trust a final, struggle. The forces are mustering. The lines are forming. The ranks are falling into position for a general engagement. The portents of battle are around us ; and he is blind to the indications of Providence who fails to decipher the signs of the times. He who reads the prophecies with observant and prayerful attention, and who compares them with the political and ecclesiastical state of Europe—the old Roman Empire-will be turning his ear to catch the trumpet-note that signals the charge. He will be watching for the removal of another seal from the scroll of Providence, by which another glorious chapter will be spread before the eyes of the church of the living God.
It is the purpose of God that his Gospel should overspread the world ; that it should plant its principles in every bosom, and in every land ; that it should bring its blessings everywhere to sorrowing, suffering humanity. It is its Almighty Author's design that its light should dispel the world's darkness; that its truth should scatter the world's superstitions; that its purity should purge the world's pollutions; that its peace should terminate the work of carnage ; that its liberty should annihilate oppression and slavery, tyranny and despotism; that its brotherhood should blot out all distinctions of caste, of colour, and of clime--and bind humanity in a universal compact of benevolence and love. God's people are looking and praying for those days. Trusting to his word, their “earnest expectation ” is that he will not be " slack concerning his promises.” The millions of our race_"the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Man sighs for peace, and longs for liberty. He has tried brute force ; he has hoped from diplomacy and treaty; he has resorted to change of dynasty, and revolution. He has failed. Why has he failed ?
He built upon sand. “ The rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell.” The Gospel is the only secure basis of peace and liberty. No other foundation can sustain the structure. Of the temple of Liberty it may be said, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” There is no security but in Christianity; "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
Direct your attention across the narrow channel which separates us from France. There, in name, you find a Republic.* The cry of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” has scarcely died away on the breeze. There you had freedom inscribed on banners and on buildings, but it has proved an empty shadow-"a delusion, a mockery, and a snare." How is this? Because the Gospel has no general diffusion among the teeming and energetic population of that blood-steeped land; because Popery, that spurious pretence, is there, and, impudently personating Christianity, offers itself in the name and stead thereof. Under its dark upas-shade liberty droops and dies. In its deadly atmosphere freedom cannot grow, or even live. It puts conscience and intellect in chains. It thrusts the soul into bondage. Popery allies itself to political despotism the world throughout. It is the gworn, unflinching, changeless foe to free thought and free speech, wherever it obtains a foothold. Such is popery, proper and professed; and however modified, and under whatever name, in spirit it remains the same. Hierarchical pretension, sacerdotal assumption, priestly prerogative, are the elements of popery. When found elsewhere, they are importations from Rome.
But, brethren, let us not be discouraged by the prospect; but stimulated by the promises. The Apostle informs us regarding that giant system of imposture and wickedness, which has so long trafficked in the souls of men, and steeped itself in the blood of the saints, that the Lord himself shall “consume it with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy it with the brightness of his coming. are, in this passage, pointed to the only instrumentality which we can lawfully employ, or expect God to bless—“the spirit of his mouth,” in other language, his holy word. When popery and priestcraft are smitten to the dust, it will not be by acts of parliament, or penal inflictions. Here Statesmen are powerless, except for mischief. The only weapon which can do execution upon Antichrist is “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” Let us bring the light of truth to bear upon its darkness, and the power of the word upon its delusions ; and it shall be overturned, scattered to the winds, and be found no more at all. O what shouts shall ascend from the nations when the mystery of iniquity is overthrown! Ten thousand thousand echoes shall mingle their reverberations—“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.” Heaven itself is represented as joining in the anthem, loud as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings—"saying, Alleluia, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.”
And now, my dear brethren, never forget that the eye of your Master is upon you. Remember that his interests, and his honour are, in some wise, and in some degree, committed to your hands. See then that you subordinate everything personal to the promotion of his glory, and the accomplishment of his purposes. Regard yourselves as specially dedicated to him, and as emphatically called upon to live, not to yourselves, “but to him who died for you, and rose
It is no longer a Republic. The Empire has, subsequently, been reestablished.