Page images
PDF
EPUB

1. The Lord gave the word which the multitude of preachers went forth to publish. His merciful design was great, to deliver finners from bondage, misery and death; and to bless them with liberty, life and peace. But they are by nature rebellious and obstinate, and must be made willing. He only can subdue their prejudices, and soften their spirits; and he has promised to display his power in their favour, by a certain mean of his own appointment, and we cannot expect that he will do it in any other way. This mean is the gospel, which, for its admirable suitableness and efficacy, is commended to us as his wisdom and his power*. He has given it for this purpose, and his blessing makes it successful. He has said concerning it, As the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give feed to the fower, and bread to the eater ; so shall my word be, that goetb forth out of iny mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it mall accomplish that which I please; it Shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it f. It has been confirmed by the experience of * 1 Cor. i. 23, 24, + Isa. Iv. 10, 11. '

ages; 6

ages, that no mean but his, can produce the desirable effect. It is confirmed, by observa-tion, in the present day. If the wisdom of man, if learning, if oratory, if animated defcriptions of the beauty of virtue, and pathe- . tic persuasions to the practice of it could reform, we should be a reformed people. But alas, this is only to oppose a mound of fand to the violence of a flood. Notwithstanding many ingenious sermons and treatises upon this plan, are admired and praised, wickedness prevails and triumphs. They have little influence upon the conduct of civil life; and, I may boldly say, no influence to infpire the heart with the love and peace of God, and to bring it into a habit of subjection to his will and command. Nothing will do this but the gospel, the word which the Lord has given. This alone Thews the evil of sin in its true light, affords à solid ground for the hope of mercy, and furnishes those motives which alone are sufficient to break the force of the temptations and difficulties with which we have to conflict. When this word is simply and cordially received, an immediate and wonderful change takes place. The finner abandons his false

hopes

hopes and vain persuits, is freed from his former lavery to the love of the world and the fear of man, and becomes the willing servant of him who redeemed him with his own blood.

But we are sometimes asked, what we understand by the gospel ? The use of the term in a restrained sense, so as to imply there are but few comparatively who preach it, is deemed invidious and assuming; and it is supposed by many that a sermon, if delivered from a pulpit, and if the text be taken from the Bible, must of course be the gofpel. It is undeniable, however, that there are a variety of different and opposite sentiments delivered from pulpits; and surely the gospel cannot be opposite, contrary, yea contradictory to itself ! It is a mournful consideration, that multitudes of people are not qualified to judge of this point. Not properly for want of ability, for many of them are persons of good sense and discernment, and can judge and talk well upon other subjects; but for want of attention. Their application is engrossed by the demands of business or pleasure, and they have neither leisure nor taste for a careful perusal of the scriptures,

nor

nor for the examination of religious fentiments. If the language and elocution of the preacher be good, and if there be no close and painful address to the conscience, they are satisfied. The apostle Paul undoubtedly preached the gospel; and he tells us himself that he preached Christ crucified; he preached Christ as appointed of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption *. He preached the cross of Christ t, he gloried in it, and he determined to glory in nothing else. It treats all mankind as already in a state of condemnation; it declares their utter inability to save or help themselves; and it gives assurance of pardon and salvation to all who believe in the Son of God. That they may be encouraged and enabled to believe, it describes the dignity of his person, the neceflity and greatness of his sufferings, the completeness of his atonement, the preva, lence of his interceffion_his love, autho, rity, power and faithfulness. These truths revealed and applied to a guilty conscience, by the power of the holy Spirit, produce faith. The finner perceives the sufficiency and excellency of such a Saviour, commits * Cor. i. 30. + Gal. vi. 14.

himself

himself to his compaffion and care, and renounces every other hope and service. He looks to the Saviour by the eye of his mind, with defire and admiration, and derives life from his death, healing from his wounds, as the Israelites, when wounded, were healed by looking upon the brazen serpent. And not only is the confcience relieved, by this knowledge of Christ crucified—the understanding is likewise enlightened, the judgment is formed, the affections regulated and directed by it. Then old things pass away, all becomes new. The love of sin departs, and the future life is devoted to him, who therefore died and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living *.

There is likewise a certain energy or power which accompanies the gospel when it is truly preached, which sufficiently characterizes and distinguishes it from all other religous schemes and systems. Our Lord during his personal ministry, frequently gave proofs that he knew the heart of man. When Zaccheus thought himself unknown and unseen, he called him by his name t. He reminded Nathanael of what had pafied

* Rom. xiv. 9. ^ Luke xix. s.

« PreviousContinue »