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This question I shall endeavour to answer in the first place; after which I shall show, that this is the proper employment and distinguishing characteristic of a gospel minister; and then conclude the subject with some practical improvement.
I begin with answering the question, What are we to understand by preaching Christ Jesus the Lord ?
1st. It plainly imports that we make Christ the principal subject of our sermons.
It is by no means sufficient that we speak of him occasionally; we ought of set purpose to unfold the Scripture doctrines concerning him, that men may be acquainted both with his person and undertaking, and have clear and enlarged views of that glorious deliverer, to whom they are indebted for all they possess in a present world, and for all they hope to enjoy in the next. In particular, we ought frequently to remind our hearers, that he who came to seek and to save lost sinners of mankind, is “the beloved and only begotten Son of God,” “the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person;"_" that Word which in the beginning was with God, and was God, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not any thing made that is made:” That in order to purchase redemption for us, he condescended to become the Son of man; or, in the emphatical language of the Holy Spirit, that “ the Word was made flesh," and assumed our nature into a personal union with his own divinity: That this incarnate Word, or God manifested in the flesh, after he had published a most pure and perfect law, and exbibited an example of equal and as absolute perfection, at length laid down his life as a true and proper sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God, and to expiate the guilt of an elect world: That having thuş made his soul an of
fering for sin, he soon after triumphed over death, and him that had the power of death, by rising from the grave, and ascending to his Father's right hand, where he now sitteth as a priest upon his throne, interceding for his people, and dispensing those gifts which he purchased with his blood; from whence he shall come again in the character of judge, taking vengeance upon them that obey not his gospel, “ to be glorified and admired in those that believe," and to complete the consolation and joy of his saints. These important truths ought to be fully explained and repeatedly insisted upon: “For this is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sept." The natures and offices of our Redeemer, the glory of bis Godhead, the merit of his blood, and the efficacy of bis Spirit; the constitution of that government whereof he is Mediator, with all the promises thereof, which are exceeding great and precious; and especially the way or manner in which guilty, polluted creatures are vitally united to this allsufficient Saviour, who, “ of God, is made unto them wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption :” These, and doctrines connected with them, are as necessary to the souls of men, nay infinitely more so, than food is to their bodies. Other things are perhaps desirable to be known; but these must be known, or people are undone for ever: and therefore none can be said to preach Christ who overlook these important, these essential truths, or treat them in a careless, superficial manner.
2dly. To preach Christ Jesus the Lord, is to handle every other subject of discourse in such a way as to keep Christ continually in the eye of our hearers. We must acknowledge him as the author of the truths we deliver, and improve them so as to lead men to him. It is not
sufficient that we publish the laws of Christ, unless we publish them as bis laws, and press obedience to them by those motives and arguments which are peculiar to his gospel. In recommending the great duties of moral. ity, we should represent them as the genuine effects and proper evidences of faith in Christ, and love to God; directing our hearers at the same time to the Spirit of Christ for assistance, and to his merit for the acceptance of all their services; and, after all, we should remind them, that as they are at best “unprofitable servants," instead of depending upon any thing done by them, as the ground of their justification, in whole or in part, they must renounce all confidence in the flesh, and seek to be found in Cbrist alone; “ not having their own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
These are not trivial circumstances, as some represent them to be: on the contrary, they are essential to the right preaching of Christ; and, if they be omitted, I can easily conceive it possible for a minister to preach all his life long upon the moral precepts of Christianity, without any other effect, than to lead his people away from the Saviour, and to carry them bood-winked into everlasting perdition. The apostles of our Lord, and they surely are the best and most approved patterns of our imitation, introduced, upon all occasions, the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, both into their discourses and cpistles; and never failed to press the duties they enjoined by those regards which are due to Christ himself. Thus, humility and self-denial are recommended by the lowliness and patience of Christ: Chastity is enforced by this consideration, “ that our bodies are the members of Christ, and the temples of his Spirit.” We are exborted to abound in alms-deeds, “ because Christ for our sakes became poor,” and in testimony of our tbank. fulness to God “for his unspeakable gift.” Husbands are charged to love their wives, “ as Christ loved his church :" and servants are commanded to be faithful and diligent, " that they may adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour.” In short, Christ is so deeply engraved upon every moral precept in the New Testament writings, that we must read his name upon every duty; nay, we cannot efface his name, without debasing, or rather vitiating, the duty itself, and casting away the most powerful inducement to the practice of it. I therefore said, that to preach Christ, is not only to publish what the Scriptures say concerning him, but likewise to handle every other subject of discourse in such a manner, as to keep Christ continually in the eye of our hearers; and they whose schemes of religion do not admit of this, may be assured, without any further examination, that their schemes differ widely from the gospel of Christ.
3dly. To preach Christ Jesus the Lord, is to make the advancement of bis kingdom, and the salvation of men, the sole aim of our preaching. We must not seek our own glory, but the glory of him who sent us. If we serve ourselves, we must reward ourselves as we can. Such only can look for the approbation of Christ, who make the honour of bis name, and the happiness of mankind, the ultimate end of all their ministrations. They that usurp the sacred office from interested views, or merely to gain a subsistence in a present world, will find in the issue, that they have turned the best and most salutary employment into a very bad trade, and only entitled themselves to more and heavier stripes when the chief Shepherd shall appear. “ We are ambassadors for Christ," saith our Apostle, at the 20th verse of the following chapter, “ as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in God's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” This is our proper business, the errand upon which we are sent. The glory of God, and the salvation of men, are the great and good ends of the pastoral office; and he who loseth sight of these, or proposeth any end that is different from them, may acquire the reputation of a learned, an ingenious, or an eloquent orator, but cannot be styled a preacher of Christ. This will further appear from the
Second thing proposed : which was to show, That preaching Christ is the proper business, and the distinguishing characteristic, of a gospel-minister.
Can any thing be more reasonable, than that they who profess to derive their authority from Christ, should make bim the principal subject of their sermons, and recommend him to the esteem and love of their hearers? And, on the other hand, can any thing be more unreasonable, can anything be more unjust, than to assume the character of his messengers, while they seldom or never mention his name; or speak of bim in such a way, as rather tends to breed contempt of him, than to render him precious to the souls of men ? But what I would chiefly observe is, that preaching Christ Jesus the Lord, is the great means which God hath appointed for the conversion and final salvation of singers : and therefore it is not only highly reasonable, but absolutely necessary; and they are cruel to men, as well as unfaithful to God, who do not make conscience of this important duty. Lectures upon morality may be of use to restrain men from scandalous sins, but it is the gospel alone that can save a sinner. A preacher, by discoursing well upon the duties that belong to self-government, and righteousness, may correct many outward disorders in the life, and produce such a change in the heart