Page images
PDF
EPUB

to those who wished to confine his charity within the narrow limits of an ecclesiastical district, “ The world is my parish."

And in this parish our only business is to save souls. Not merely to preach so many times a week, or to take care of such or such a soci. ety ; but to save souls, all the souls that we possibly can; to bring as many sinners as possible to repentance, and to faith in Jesus; and to build them up in that “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Every soul to which we have access, if it be but for a moment, is a soul delivered by the Lord into our hands,--a soul for which we have a message from God. “Hear the word at my mouth,” saith the Lord, “and give them warning from me." And what responsibility is attached to the exercise of this office! What tremendous evils result from negligence and unfaithfulness therein! “If thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity;" (shall die eternally ;) “but his blood will I require at thine hand."

3. The glory of God is intrusted to us.

This glory is the final object which we ought to propose to ourselves in all our labours, as the salvation of souls ought to be our immediate object.

In this world God is dishonoured by sin, which has filled man with false ideas and monstrous apprehensions concerning him ; having, in an astonishing way, weakened those characters of goodness and wisdom which the Creator has engraved so deeply on the face of all his works. The Gospel which we preach is the instrument that God has chosen to disperse the darkness of men, to correct their opinions, to justify the ways of God in their eyes, and to fix in their hearts those principles which lead them to glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, our Lord, in giving to his heavenly Father an account of the ministry which had been intrusted to him, says, in his sacerdotal prayer, “I have glorified thee on the earth ; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”

The glory of God is intrusted to us.

The glory of God cannot be intrusted to any but his children. For although this is the subject which most of all interests the heavenly spirits around his throne ; although the manifestations of this glory, in the Gospel and in the church, excite the deep attention of angels, who desire to look into these things ; men of the world see in them no attractions, nothing that makes them desirable: but, to all the children of God on earth, as well as to the angels in heaven, the glory of God is infinitely precious; and the hope of promoting it cannot but be esteemed as an invaluable privilege. May this hope ever be so esteemed by you, my beloved brethren! Then so great and glorious an object in all your labours will purify, as well as kindle, your zeal. Hitherto the simplicity of our aim has constituted our strength. To accomplish this object, God has set before us an open door, which po VOL. XXI. Third Series. May, 1842.

2 D

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

one can shut, if we remain faithful to the principles that have guided our society in time past. Never let a sectarian spirit get possession of your heart. Continue to aim at something more noble and more glorious than sectarian interests. Let it appear in the whole of your conduct, that our object is, to spread all through France the religion of the Bible, the only religion by which sinners are saved, and God glorified ; that what we propose to ourselves is, not to spread certain opinions which are dear to us, but everywhere to bring men under the influence of that truth which is “ according to godliness ;” and, so far as success is granted to us, to shelter the souls that are given us for our hire, and as the seals of our ministry, from the dangers which surround them in the world, by procuring for them that protection and that succour which they need.

4. Means of action are intrusted to us, for the fulfilment of our ministry.

These means, these arms for the war which we have to maintain against the world, against the devil, and against ourselves, are also a sacred deposit; and it seems as though St. Paul, in the exhortation contained in our text, had these means of acting on the souls of men particularly in view. “ Hold fast,” says he, “ the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus :" and then follows the text, “ That good thing which was committed unto thee keep,” (or, keep the good deposit,) “ by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.”

The wisdom and the goodness of God were alike interested in furnishing us with the necessary means for doing his work, and in prescribing the exclusive use of those means. He could not send us to make war at our own charge, or leave us to carry it on with carnal weapons, -weapons, for that very reason, insufficient to secure the object which we propose to ourselves.

But what are these means ?

The first is, the preaching of the Gospel. “It pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” Blessed be God, we prove that this Gospel has lost nothing of its efficacy: it is still “ the power of God unto salvation.” The commission to preach it is given to us : “Woe,” therefore, woe unto us, if we preach not the Gospel."

Let us preach the whole Gospel. This is not always done. This glorious system, this complete collection of doctrines, promises, and precepts, which is given to make a man wise unto salvation, and thoroughly furnished for every good work,” is often torn in pieces by sectaries, who adorn themselves with some shreds of truth, exaggerating them in such a way as to alter their nature. Take care that this be not your case; and, that you may avoid this rock, look not only at that which is your own, but have respect also to that which concerns others. Teach all the Christian truths, announce all the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

evangelical promises, enforce obedience to all the commandments of God.

When Christian truth is proclaimed among men, and the Spirit of God operates upon them by a religious awakening, we see that the Christian character of every individual is more or less developed, in proportion as he delivers himself up, more or less fully, to the influences of the Holy Spirit. Some, under the dominion of more powerful grace, and in consequence of a more perfect submission to the will of God, experience a fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of peace, which others, who have too much taken counsel with flesh and blood, are far from attaining. These last are in general the greatest number; and the more a revival extends, the more do we see the number of these imperfect Christians increasing. These are they who, in most Christian societies, through their number and their influence, give a tone to religion in general habits, and even in sermons; and then what is truly exceptionable, is acknowledged as a standard ; and every thing that surpasses it in spirituality, is instantly condemned and decried as enthusiasm. It is thus that some popular and influential schools of theology have been formed in our day. The reputation of some Preachers and Commentators is owing, in a great degree, to the skill which they have shown in bringing down Christianity to the level of that faith and piety which are general in the Christian world.

Do not imitate them, beloved brethren. Never lose sight of the distinguishing characteristics of the Gospel. Never forget that it is a light; that it proclaims to us a Saviour, who delivers us from the hands of all our enemies; that it is an economy of grace, a kingdom of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Lay the good foundation, the only sufficient foundation, which is Jesus Christ; but lay it in all his offices, as a Prophet, a Priest, and a King,—as our great God and Saviour. Insist upon the scriptural fruits of faith in his name, on the “knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins," and on the direct witness of the Holy Spirit, bearing “ witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Proclaim the fulness of that redemption which is in Jesus Christ, whose “blood cleanseth us from all sin.” Preach salvation, just as our fathers in the faith preached it; a salvation obtained through the death of Jesus, and offered to all men through faith in his blood,-a present salvation, a full salvation. Instead of being a barren system of truths, or of metaphysical opinions, or of morals, let your Gospel be a living witness to the grace of the Son, to the love of the Father, to the communion of the Holy Ghost; and then, notwithstanding the objections of some sincere, but weak and partially-enlightened, men, and the clamours of some sectarians, you will daily prove that this Gospel is not only “good tidings of great joy to all nations," but the power of God to the actual salvation of believers. Follow the truth in love. Keep the good deposit. :

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

5. A good deposit of discipline is intrusted to us.

To preserve those who have“ believed through grace" in the simplicity of faith, and of Christian obedience, is as much a duty incumbent on the Minister of the Gospel, as to preach the Gospel to all, and to warn and instruct the wicked and the ignorant. Both these duties are prescribed in our primitive commission, to“ preach the Gospel to every creature." Although the Gospel is not addressed exclusively to believers, or to the elect, still they are to find their portion in it; and that, certainly, is not the smallest portion. They are the sheep of Jesus, who hear his voice and follow him; and you know with what solicitude the chief Shepherd commends them to the particular care of his Ministers, in the person of St. Peter : “Feed my lambs ; feed my sheep.” Allowing that the preaching of the word may serve, in part, to the fulfilment of this duty, it is not less true that, for its perfect fulfilment, the exercise of Christian discipline is indispensably necessary.

By Christian discipline, I do not mean this or that form of ecclesiastical government. Our respect for the word of God does not allow us to decide, where it is silent; and in that word we do not see any form of ecclesiastical government prescribed to Christians, as there was to the Jews. We believe, therefore, that we might commit the government to ordinary Pastors, or to Bishops, considered as superior Pastors; or even adopt a form still more monarchical, by investing one of these Bishops with precedence over the others, and with a power of judging, as the last resort, on such questions of discipline as might be submitted to him, provided this power be not attributed to him as of divine right, and provided that, under either of these forms, the Pastors retain the power of discharging the unquestionable duties of their ministry ; duties which they cannot neglect or omit, without being guilty of manifest unfaithfulness to their divine Head.

The Pastor is a master-builder, commissioned to construct God's building. Hence it is his undoubted duty to employ therein such materials only as are prescribed by his Master,-gold, and silver, and precious stones ; not to receive into the society of Christians, or to place in the church of God, any souls but those which the chief Shepherd has marked out as proper to form a part thereof. And if he introduces everything that is presented to him ; if he knowingly builds with wood, hay, stubble,-admitting into the church, and acknowledg. ing as Christians, those who do not belong to Christ; does he not run the risk of losing all the fruit of his labour, and of escaping only " so as by fire ?"

Again : Is it not an unquestionable duty of the Christian Pastor to “ watch" over “ souls, as they that must give account?" Ought not be to know their spiritual wants, that he may be able to "reprore, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine?" Ought not be to watch over the health of the flock; to employ, on behalf of the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

vickly, the means of cure prescribed by the Physician of souls, and to cut off those who will not be healed; and who, by their corruption, and their continuance in evil, are likely to infect the whole flock ? Ought not he, in his turn, to commit the things which he has learned to "faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also ? "

Can he, without evident unfaithfulness, consent to put himself in a position in which the fulfilment of these duties is impossible ? Certainly not; and hence every ecclesiastical constitution, whatever it may be in other respects, is at least defective, if it do not secure to the Pastors the power of doing these things. This power our discipline does secure to you, dear brethren ; this precious deposit our predecessors have transmitted to us uninjured : let us keep it carefully, and transmit it faithfully to our successors.

II. This deposit cannot be kept, unless “through the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us."

This is our second proposition; and the whole history of the Christian church would, if necessary, attest its truth. The Saviour himself did not commence bis public ministry till he had been baptized with the Holy Ghost; and he charged the first depositaries of the blessings and mysteries of the Gospel, to “tarry in the city of Jerusalem," till they were “ endued with power from on high," and thus prepared to serve him, as “ witnesses, unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” Without the Holy Spirit one cannot even be a Christian, according to the testimony of St. Paul; for “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” How much more necessary is it to possess this Spirit, in order to be a Minister of the Gospel !

1. This is necessary,--that, in the choice of this vocation, and the exercise of this ministry, our intentions may be pure, and our motives legitimate. Here the least obliquity in our views, or in our conduct, is criminal. Great and honourable as the ministry is, when it is undertaken and exercised with a view to the glory of God, and the salvation of souls; in the same degree it is depreciated and dishonoured, when it is undertaken merely for the sake of procuring a morsel of bread, of enjoying worldly honour and respectability, of obtaining an advantageous settlement, or of securing leisure for literary and scientific studies. Yet these, and other similar objects, are those wbich men under the dominion of the flesh always pursue ; and this is infallibly the case with those who are not led by the Spirit of God. Men of the world, far from being able to rise to the legitimate motives for undertaking this holy vocation, cannot well understand those motives in others ; they cannot imagine that there are men who act simply with a view to the glory of God, and the welfare of their fellow-creatures ; and they laugh at the credulity of him who speaks as if there really were any such. Hence they almost always suppose that the children of God have some secret aim, some concealed motive for their actions. These suspicions, these insinuations, which are so common, do not always proceed from a desire to calumniate ; but

« PreviousContinue »