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Memoirs of John Urquhart
Appendix G


DISCOURSE ON 2 CORINTHIANS iv. 13.

"We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak."

There is a common proverb, that "the truth should not be always told." In other words, that it is not always a good reason for speaking that we believe. Although apparently at first sight a little paradoxical, this saying will be found like most other proverbs, to embody the wisdom of very extensive experience.

There are some truths which concern only a few individuals, and in which the rest of mankind have no interest whatever. If there be nothing absolutely wrong, there is at least something very trifling in publishing such matters. And you cannot, perhaps, pitch upon a character more universally despised, than that of the busy-body or the tell-tale. Yet each of these deservedly detested characters, could, perhaps, allege in excuse for all his silly conversation, that he spoke because he believed.

There are other truths which, it would be not only idle and improper, but which it might be cruel, or even criminal to promulgate. That man could have but little tenderness or humanity in his disposition, who should assiduously relate the disgraces, or the crimes of a departed parent, to the surviving children; and we would not hesitate to pronounce it a breach of the second great commandment of the law, to expose to public view the defects in the private character of our neighbour. You are aware, indeed, that the latter action not only is a palpable transgression of the law of God, but comes under the cognizance even of human jurisprudence. Truth is a libel; and it would be no excuse in a court of justice, for the defamer of his neighbour’s good name to affirm, that he had published only what he had good ground to believe.

You perceive then, that the quality of the motive which Paul affirms to have actuated him in his public speaking, and in his writings, must depend upon the character of those truths, which he so assiduously proclaimed. If they were truths which concerned only a few individuals, or which, if they had a reference to all, were of comparatively insignificant importance, then it was folly in Paul to labour so hard, and to suffer so much to proclaim them; and, notwithstanding all the cogency of his reasoning, and the sublimity of his eloquence, we should, in such a case, be tempted to concur in the opinion of the eastern ruler, that after all he was but a learned madman.

If, again, the truths which Paul preached tended only to harrow up the feelings of mankind, and to destroy what might be but early prejudices, but yet prejudices with which those whom they influenced had associated all that they held dear as patriots, and all that they thought sacred in religion: if these truths tended only to bring to light evils that had long been hidden, and which had even by the common consent of mankind been carefully concealed: if, finally, they tended only to demonstrate to mankind that their wisdom was folly, and that their boasted virtue which they had hoped would open for them the gates of heaven, not only was altogether unable to expiate their crimes, but was itself too much tainted with impurity to find acceptance before God: if this alone was the tendency of the truths which Paul preached, it was more than folly—it was cruelty to proclaim them. Better far for the world, they had never been promulgated.

But I need not tell you that the doctrines which Paul preached were of a far different character.

It is true that they directly tended to produce all the seeming evils I have been describing; but God be thanked, this was not their only tendency. True, the feelings of the decent and the virtuous among mankind would be harrowed up, when they were classed with the vilest of their species, and told that they had been wearing but the mask of virtue; that the hidden man of the heart was utterly polluted; that God had concluded all under sin, and that therefore, all are under condemnation. True, the prejudices of the Jews, with all their associations of patriotism and sacredness, must have been shocked at being told that the descendants of Abraham were no longer God’s chosen nation, but that the Gentiles were become fellow-heirs with them of the promises. True, the apostle’s preaching was, to the Jews, a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but this was not all, or I repeat it, the apostle was guilty of the greatest cruelty. But unto them who believe, both Jews and Greeks, it was the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

In order then to show that the simple belief of the truths of the gospel is sufficient reason for preaching them, and preaching them, too, with all the unwearied diligence and fervent zeal which characterized the preaching of the apostle Paul; and at the risk too, of all the losses and persecutions to which his ministry subjected him, we shall attempt to show, —

I. The perfection and excellency of the New Testament dispensation.

II. We shall also attempt to show, that the belief of the gospel is not only a sufficient reason for preaching it, but that it is the only right motive which can lead an individual to the choice of the ministry as his occupation.

The perfection and excellency of the New Testament dispensation may perhaps be most strikingly illustrated by contrasting it with less perfect discoveries.

We remark, then, that the doctrines of natural religion, (with a very few exceptions,) are so very dark and confused, as scarcely to warrant, and by no means to encourage its promulgation as a system, on the part of those who embrace it.

By the light of nature, it is true, we can clearly perceive the existence and some of the attributes of Deity. It is not to the doctrines of natural religion, taken individually, but to natural theology itself as a system of religion, that the foregoing remark is applicable. Had God never revealed himself to us by his Spirit, or by his Son, still we might have known something of his character from the works which he has made. And in contrasting the declarations of God’s word with the language of his works, we conceive that men of different parties have fallen into opposite extremes. The mere philosopher would wish to convince us that nature speaks so audibly, and so unequivocally of her Sovereign, as to render all supernatural declarations of his will unnecessary; while, on the other hand, it must be confessed, that the advocates of a written testimony from above have sometimes, through a wish to magnify the importance of the communications of God’s Spirit, depreciated that testimony which his works undoubtedly bear to the character of their great Creator. It is our wish to steer clear of these extremes; and, in attempting to do so, we cannot follow a safer course than that which the written testimony itself points out.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth forth his handy-work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." The invisible things of our Creator, even his eternal power and Godhead, are thus clearly seen from the creation of the world —" being understood by the things that are made."

So far the voice of nature utters a clear and decided declaration; and so far, those who have listened to no higher testimony, are reprehensible if they speak not what they believe, or what they would believe did they attend as they ought to the evidence around them. But when we attempt from these few isolated, though important truths, to form a system of religion — something that may satisfy us as to the relation in which we stand to the powerful Being who created the world, how very imperfect does all our knowledge appear— how unsatisfactory all our conclusions—how dark and fearful our prospect of futurity!

The ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome could clearly perceive, that there was one great Author and Governor of all things—a Being of inconceivable glory, and of infinite power — and therefore a Being widely different from those contemptible deities which the impure imagination of their poets had feigned, and which the perverted judgment of a degraded populace had accepted as the objects of their worship. They must thus have perceived that idolatry was not only a folly but a crime, and, in so far, they were guilty for not promulgating the truths they believed; and, in so far, they are liable to that fearful curse which is denounced against those who "confine the truth by unrighteousness."

But it may go far, perhaps, to palliate, though it cannot atone for their crime, that, when they attempted to carry out their own speculations, they were landed in most unsatisfactory conclusions; and if they attempted to guess, when they could no longer determine with certainty, their conjectures of futurity must have been only those of terror and despair. Not only must they have been convinced from the wondrous objects around them, of the power and glory of God, but from the conscience within them that monitor which whispers approbation to all that is good, and so loudly and bitterly condemns what is evil; they must have been impressed with the belief, that He, who gave them such a constitution, must himself be a lover of righteousness, and a hater of iniquity. The voice of that monitor, however, they must have been conscious they had often disobeyed; and the thought cannot fail to have struck them, that in so doing, they had offended Him who had placed that monitor within them. They must thus have arrived at the conclusion, that they had forfeited the favour of him whom his works declared so mighty and so glorious. If they risked the thought of another state of being where they should be brought into the more immediate presence of an offended God, how fearful must have been the prospect! If God were just, they must abide his righteous indignation; and if he were unjust, the prospect was not more pleasing. Here was a very fearful dilemma, and yet this was the legitimate conclusion into which their inquiries must have landed them. We do not say, that all, or any of the ancient philosophers arrived at this conclusion; but if they did not, it was because, dreading the result, they shrunk from the inquiry.

Now, with such a revelation as this, what encouragement was there to promulgate their opinions? They could not come boldly forward with the great apostle of our faith, and say, — "We speak because we believe." All with themselves was darkness and doubt; or if their conjectures amounted to probability, it was a probability of the most fearful kind; they felt that their opinions landed themselves in no satisfactory conclusions; or if they did seem to point to any one conclusion more decidedly, it was one of the most appalling nature, — even that the whole world were exposed to the anger of a justly offended God.

This view of natural religion may serve to explain to us how the philosophers of ancient times were so enlightened, while the multitude around them were sunk in the most degraded ignorance. They did not think the truths they possessed worth promulgating, far less worth suffering for. Socrates, that prince of heathens, dashed the crown of martyrdom away from him, when it had been as easy for him to have gained it as to have refused it, disclaimed the honourable charge that was laid to him of despising the abominations with which he was surrounded, and even by his latest breath giving the order that the idolatry of his country should be sanctioned by his name.

They like very well to start objections, or even to throw the most insolent aspersions on the truths of Christianity; but when you ask them what they would substitute in its place, they can give no satisfactory answer. They are, in the true sense of the word, sceptics; they have no settled opinions. Infidels they are, too, — they doubt,— they disbelieve.

You see, then, that with such knowledge of God as his works can give, there is little encouragement to promulgate that knowledge—to speak, because we believe. We might more strikingly illustrate this, by contrasting the inactivity and easy carelessness of mere worshippers of nature in spreading what they profess to believe with the ardour and the self-denial of the apostles of our faith. Where, among the great and the wise, who have made reason their god, do we find an instance of suffering for conscience’ sake? Or, if a very few such examples can be adduced, — where do we find a single instance of martyrdom for the cause of truth? But I am almost forgetting that this part of my discourse is only an illustration; and is merely intended, by the darkness of its representation, to mark with a clearer outline, and paint with stronger colouring, that glorious dispensation under which we live.

But between the twilight darkness of nature, and the full blaze of that light which shines forth in revelation, there are many intermediate shades of brightness; and besides that dispensation of mercy under which we live, there is many a supposable way in which a perfect Being might have treated his rebellious dependants. You will excuse me, if, in order to illustrate, still further, the perfection and excellence of the Christian revelation, I dwell on some of the supposable revelations which the Deity might have made to us.

I am aware, that, to some, this may seem a very circuitous method of treating my subject, and I may appear to be continually hovering round the point I would be at, without ever actually reaching it. But it seems to me, that there are two methods by which a clear conception of any object may be presented, either by directly describing what it is, or by contrasting it with what it is not; just as the painter may delineate any object, either by actually colouring what he wishes to portray, or by encircling it with a ground of a colour different from its own. Unquestionably, both in the case itself, and in the illustration, the former method, in most cases, is decidedly preferable; but it is as unquestionable, that there are few instances in which the latter method is more advantageous. Such an instance, I conceive, is afforded by the subject which I am now attempting to set before you. You have all heard of the gospel again and again; and with its peculiar doctrines, and the blessings which flow from them, you are intimately acquainted. Since you know, then, what the gospel is, I have hoped to throw some additional illustration around it, by contrasting it with what it is not. We all know what a blessing health is, —but how much more highly do we prize this blessing when just recovered from some painful disease. To return, then, from this digression, I remark,

The revelation of God might have been only a revelation of wrath.

Indeed, this is the find of revelation, that, from any previous knowledge of the divine character, we should have expected. I have already attempted to show, that, if natural religion points to any conclusion this is that conclusion; that God is just and holy, and that man by his sin has offended him. The word of God, we should expect, would sanction the declarations of his works, and would clearly reveal what they had but faintly indicated. And, accordingly, it is so. Revelations of God’s word do not give the lie to the testimony of his works. They speak one language, though the one utters its declarations with a voice more audible and distinct. Instead of a reflection of God’s character from his works, we have now a clear manifestation of that character in his word; but it is the same character which both assign to him; both declare him to be holy, just, and good.

Instead of the dictates of conscience, we have now the precept, clear and express, written by God’s own finger. And instead of the conclusion to which natural religion might have led us, that, since God is just and holy, sin must be punished, we have now the express declaration annexed to the law by Him who wrote it, —"The soul that sinneth, it shall die."

Instead of the fearful conjectures of natural religion, we have now a still more fearful certainty, — that, since all men have manifestly sinned, all have to look forward to eternal condemnation. It is true, some have objected, that, if none can keep the law of God, it is surely inconsistent with his goodness to have given so strict a law. We might answer such objections with the apostle’s argument,—"Nay, but who art thou, O man," &c. But we need not make such an appeal to God’s sovereignty. An imperfect law would have argued a lawgiver imperfectly holy. So that either holiness and goodness are incompatible with each other, or the strictness of the law of God is consistent with his goodness.

If there was little encouragement to promulgate the doctrines of natural religion, still less would there be to promulgate the doctrines of a revelation so fearful as this. In that case there is uncertainty, or at best, fearful conjecture; but then it was but conjecture, and the powerful influence of hope bore the minds even of those who half believed it, above its fears. But here there is nothing on which hope can lay hold. Here is no conjecture; it is certainty, and certainty the most overwhelming, even "a certain fearful looking for of judgmerit, and fiery indignation."

Such is the revelation we might have expected from Heaven; and had God thus dealt with us according to our deserts, in all probability this world, as it now is, would never have existed. The very first breach of God’s law must have immediately incurred the full weight of the curse; for, it were absurd to talk of a state of trial in regard to those whose certain destiny was everlasting destruction. But supposing, for a moment, that the world did exist under such a dispensation, as it exists now, and rebellious man were permitted to live a few short years as the ungodly now do, in forgetfulness of God, and careless security; the question presents itself, — Supposing this fearful revelation of God’s wrath to be made known to some individuals, would it be right to promulgate the dreadful truth, — to speak, because we believed? We conceive not. That there would be no encouragement to do so is abundantly manifest. For if it be no enviable duty to communicate to a criminal the sentence that condemns him to the suffering of temporal death, it were assuredly a fearful task to publish the death-warrant of a world doomed to eternal perdition.

But, we conceive, were, this revelation known to a few, it would be the greatest cruelty on their part to publish it; it would be tormenting before the time. Could it indeed be hoped, that by the revelation of God’s wrath against all iniquity, men would be led to see the evil of sin, and would be kept from sinking deeper in destruction; then it might be merciful to proclaim it, inasmuch as we might thereby hope to alleviate the punishment which we could not prevent. But who that knows the mind of fallen man, does not see that quite the reverse of this would be the case? This announcement of the Divine justice would call forth a fresh display of the corruption of his rebellious subjects, who would thereby plunge still deeper into the abyss of perdition. There are instances even now in the world, of some who have despaired of mercy, and none do we find more hardened against their God, or more proudly eminent in rebellion. They gather strength from despair, and they dare the Almighty to his face. Their language is, "Evil, be thou our good. Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. — Let us enjoy while we may, the pleasures of this life, and then sink into endless misery." Rather than rouse such a spirit as this, would it not be better to let men slumber on in ignorance of their fate, till destruction itself awoke them from their slumbers?

Under such a dispensation, it is very obvious, an office, analogous to the ministry, could never have existed. If these fearful truths were known to a single individual of our species, he must thereby be rendered perfectly wretched, even in this life, and would be led from the depravity of his nature, to curse the justice of Jehovah, and to sin with a high hand against his God. It is, therefore, altogether impossible to conceive that such an individual should publish these appalling truths from a sense of duty, or a conviction that it was right, whatever might be the consequences, to publish the will of God; and we can see no other motive that could lead him to divulge the awful secret, but one of the most devilish malignity,—even a wish to steal from his fellows their envied ignorance, and make them as wretched as himself. Such cruelty were it, to break the slumbers of a malefactor, who, on the night before his execution, should dream of pardon, and think himself restored to his family and his friends, to tell him that his fancied happiness was all delusion, and to recall his thoughts to the fearful realities before him.

There is an anecdote of an Indian Brahmin, which may throw some light upon this subject, and with which some of you may be acquainted. You are aware that the priests of India think it the greatest crime to destroy animal life, and accordingly live entirely on herbs. It is said that one of our countrymen, in arguing with one of these Brahmins, in order to convince him of the falsity of the doctrines he held, in regard to this matter, showed him by a microscope that the stems and leaves of the herbs on which he lived, were covered with hundreds of minute, yet living sentient creatures. This was ocular demonstration, and it could not be resisted. The priest had placed his hopes of happiness on his fancied innocence, and now that the enormity of his crimes was laid before him, his peace of mind was destroyed, and all his hopes of enjoyment were blasted. It is said, that after continuing thoughtful for a considerable time, he earnestly inquired of the other on what terms he would part with this wonderful instrument; and having at last with considerable difficulty, obtained possession of it, he dashed it into a thousand pieces. It had broken his peace of mind, he said, but never should it destroy the peace of another.

This anecdote is generally adduced as affording an instance of bigoted attachment to former opinions, even when convinced of their falseness. But we view it in a very different light; we think that the action displays a dignified benevolence. Had new hopes of happiness, founded on more rational principles, been substituted in the room of those which he now perceived to be so groundless, then it would have been cruelty to have allowed his countrymen to dream of happiness that could never be realized; but the alternative was not between delusive hopes and rational expectations of enjoyment, but between a dream of happiness and the certainty of woe.

And just so, had the gospel never reached our earth, but only a revelation of God’s perfect holiness and justice, it had been better far that men should be permitted, while here, to dream on of a heaven they were never to enter, than to tell them beforehand of the punishment it was impossible to escape, and thus to add to the sufferings that soon were to burst upon them the dire forebodings of misery, in some cases more dreadful even than the misery itself.

But let us turn from these terrific suppositions to the glorious reality. It is not a message of condemnation which we are commissioned to bear to our fellow-men. The tidings that have reached us from on high are "glad tidings of great joy." That fearful revelation, indeed, which we have just been considering, is still true, and has been revealed to us from heaven, but, God be thanked, it came not alone; and the dread nature of that condemnation which it reveals, serves but to cast a brighter lustre around the offers of that mercy which promises a free pardon to all who will but accept of it. In all the revelations God has made to us, mercy is the prominent feature. Mercy even anticipates justice, and it is a striking fact that man was never let into the fearful condition into which his sin had brought him, till deliverance was promised. There was no room left for the workings of despair; for the curse was not pronounced upon the rebellious representatives of our race till God had pledged his word that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the adversary who had seduced her.

This mercy has been obtained for us in a way that natural religion could never have anticipated. There could be no hope that any being, however powerful, could stay the arm of offended omnipotence; neither could there be any rational expectation, although such an expectation some have chosen to indulge, that, by a sort of amiable weakness, which creatures sometimes indulge, a shrinking from infliction of punishment which justice demands, the Deity should screen us from the misery we have entailed upon ourselves, even though his justice and his holiness should suffer by his compassion. "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor the Son of man that he should repent." He had declared that death was the inevitable consequence of transgression; and his mercy, far from giving the lie to his justice, confirms the sentence of the law: for in the dispensation of the new covenant, that truth has its most striking illustration; that, without a due satisfaction to injured justice there can be no remission of sin. It is the Lawgiver, the Judge himself, that has offered us forgiveness. And his character, as our Saviour, is in perfect consistency with his character, as our righteous Judge.

"The Lord saw that there was no man, and he wondered that there was no intercessor, therefore his own arm brought salvation unto him, and his righteousness it sustained him." God sent his Son into the world, but it was not, as well might have been expected, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. Thus a free offer of pardon is made to the whole of a condemned world; and had the simple truth of redemption through the sacrifice of Christ to every one that believeth, been all that had been revealed, this of itself would seem enough to answer all the circumstances of our lost condition. Could any one be acquainted with such a truth, and not speak what he believed? Is not the simple belief of such a doctrine enough to account for all the trials and privations that have been undergone by the evangelists of our faith, in order to promulgate the knowledge of this treaty of reconciliation between a rebellious world and its offended Sovereign?

But though this free offer of mercy seems at first sight to be suited to all the circumstances of fallen man, we shall find, on further inquiry, that were this single doctrine to constitute the whole of the dispensation of mercy, the plan would be incomplete, and the Son of God might have come into our world, and died for our sins, and yet have suffered and died in vain.

Man, by his fall, became a sinful being, and as such, he has a dislike to every holy principle. We have already remarked, that a revelation of God’s wrath against sin would tend only to harden him in his depravity, but it is a still more striking proof of the depth of human depravity, that even the offers of mercy are contemptuously refused. Instead of the tone of indignation in which God might have addressed us, he has chosen to speak in accents of mercy, saying, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth." He condescends even to reason with, to warn us of our danger, and to entreat us with more than a father’s tenderness. "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die!"

But the terrors of God’s law, and the gracious invitations of his mercy, and the earnestness of his warnings, and the tenderness of his expostulations, fall equally powerless on the ear of infatuated man. He will not be saved.

You see, then, the necessity of the doctrine of divine influence, to render the gospel dispensation altogether complete, and suited to all the peculiarities of our lost estate. Without this influence, not a single individual would accept the proffered mercy of heaven.

But supposing a single individual, or a few individuals, did accept the testimony, you can see that there would be no encouragement to proclaim it to others. At first, indeed, if the message were truly believed, there would be an ardent wish to communicate to others the inestimable blessing, and the confident expectation that all would cling to the terms of mercy as soon as they were offered. But how soon would the zeal of the supposed evangelist be damped, to find that the offers of forgiveness were turned from with loathing, and treated with contempt. How soon would he abate his ardour, and exclaim, as he sat down in despair of benefitting his fellow-men, "I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nought and in vain!"

To make a new application of an illustration sufficiently trite: Were a building in flames, and had you succeeded in making an easy communication between the ground, and some part of the tenement where the noise of voices indicated that there were human beings within; you would naturally suppose that your benevolence had effected its purpose. You would never dream that the inmates would need to be persuaded to escape for their life. But did you, in the prosecution of your benevolent purpose, actually ascend to that part of the building whence the voices issued, there is nothing absurd in the supposition, that you might find the inmates to be a company of bacchanalians, who, in the phrenzy of intoxication, were alike ignorant of their danger, and regardless of your entreaties. It is possible, that all your warnings might be answered by the infatuated laugh of intemperate mirth, or even by the insolent attack of some furious debauchee, and thus might you find that all your efforts were vain; and even after having made all the preparations for their deliverance that seemed necessary, you might find yourself compelled to abandon them to their fate. And so it is with the men of this world, in regard to the everlasting destruction that is hanging over them. They, too, are "drunken, though it be not with wine; and they stagger, though it be not with strong drink." "The spirit of a deep sleep has been poured out upon them, and their eyes have been closed."

You perceive, then, that without the pouring out of the Spirit of God, in order to turn the hearts of our apostate race, all the apparatus of a Saviour’s incarnation, and sufferings, and death, might have been spent upon our world in vain. But, God be thanked, the system of mercy is complete in all its parts, and suited in every respect to the circumstances of our case. The promise of the Spirit has been given, and in every individual who is turned from darkness to light, we have a standing proof that the promise is fulfilled.

Such is the system of truth, which, as Christians, we profess to believe. If we do not belie our profession, we believe that every individual of the millions that inhabit our globe, or that have dwelt upon its surface ever since the beginning, has transgressed the law of Jehovah. We believe that by the most stupendous sacrifice, even the humiliation and death of one of the Persons of the Godhead, the punishment that is due to our deeds has been averted, and unlimited pardon procured for the whole human race. We believe, however, that in order to profit by this general deed of amnesty, which the Sovereign of heaven and earth has issued, there must be a distinct reception of the terms of forgiveness on the part of an individual criminal; and, coupled with this belief, we are aware of the fact, that, though it is now eighteen hundred years since an express Messenger from heaven published this treaty of reconciliation in our world, comparatively few have welcomed the gracious message, and at this moment three-fourths of the population of our globe are in utter ignorance that such a message has ever come.

Do we believe these things, my brethren, and shall we not speak what we believe? Is there not a duty entailed upon every Christian, as far as it is in his power, by the belief of these great truths, to publish these to his fellow-men? And is there not a woe pronounced against every believer, if, in as far as he has opportunity, he preach not the gospel? It is not necessary to the preaching of the gospel that we pass through a preparatory course of science and literature, or that we be commissioned to do so by our fellow-men. Nor is it necessary to the preaching of the gospel, that we ascend a pulpit, or be surrounded with any of the apparatus of ordinary parsonship. It is not necessary that our address be made to a public assembly at all. Nor is it even necessary, ere we open our mouth to our fellowmen, that we work up a laboured systematic discourse. These things may accompany the preaching of the gospel, but they are by no means its necessary accompaniments, and it is hard to say whether this lavish profusion of human preparation, and worldly pomp, has not in many instances robbed of their native dignity and impressiveness, those sublime but simple truths which manifestly appear — "when unadorned, adorned the most." The preaching of the gospel, as imperative upon every Christian, needs not the aid of deep meditation, or of human scholarship. It consists in the simple communication to others of the simplest truths. We may preach to the little family circle as we sit in the house, or even to the solitary companion as we walk by the way. The simple belief of the gospel is all that is necessary to give us a title, and even to lay us under an obligation, to preach it in the sense which I have explained. David believed, and therefore he spoke! Paul believed, and therefore he spoke! and every Christian, having the same spirit of faith which dwelt in the Psalmist and the Apostle, should be able to adopt their language, and say, I also believe, and therefore speak. And if, my brethren, the same spirit of faith is working in us, it has not been the choice of our profession that has laid us under an obligation to preach the gospel; but the previously felt obligation that has led us to make choice of our profession.

If we can conscientiously give it as the reason for our proclaiming the truths of Christianity, that we speak because we believe, our conduct will be necessarily modified by the motives that actuate us; and our preaching shall be of a very different kind from that of the mere mercenaries of the church, or even from that of those who make their regular Sabbath-day exhibitions merely from a sense of professional duty.

In the first place, I remark, that our motive will regulate the time of our preaching.

If it be merely the wish to perform decently the duties of a minister, which is our ruling motive, then we shall, in all probability, be content with working up during the week, as much matter as will enable us to make on the Sabbath, two or three speeches, of the ordinary length, according as the custom of our predecessors, or the taste of our congregation may demand. If a parish be entrusted to our care, we may in all probability add to this the yearly or half-yearly visitation of a few of our parishioners; and if we be set over a dissenting congregation, we may, perhaps, contrive, without much risk (if our discourses happen to please the taste of our hearers,) of being thought inattentive to duty, to neglect the duty of visitation altogether.

But if we speak because we believe, — if it be a decided conviction of the truth and importance of the doctrines of the gospel, and an experimental proof of their soothing and sanctifying influence on our own mind, which inspires us from a principle of gratitude to our God, and compassion for our fellow-men, with the desire to devote ourselves to the service of God in the ministry of his Son; then our preaching will not be a thing of set times, or formal exhibitions. We shall not, indeed, despise the established order of Christian worship; the principle that actuates us will lead us to become "all things to all men, if by any means we may save some." We shall thus be glad to seize those opportunities when the commandment of God, and the laws and customs of our country have assembled many together for the purposes of religion; but our preaching will not be confined to the public exercises of the Sabbath, but according to the very solemn charge of the apostle, we shall be instant in preaching the word, in season and out of season, and in imitation of his example we shall not only speak as we have opportunity in the public places consecrated to devotion, but also from house to house. And even the ordinary intercourse that we carry on with our fellow-men, our correspondence with friends at a distance, and our conversations with companions who are near, will alike be consecrated to those grand objects to which our own selves are devoted.

But our motive will not only regulate the times of our preaching, it will also determine the mode of our preaching.

If we believe that the great object for which the gospel was sent into our world was to effect the pardon and moral renovation of man; and if we believe what the Scriptures assure us, that this is chiefly to be effected by faith in a few simple elementary doctrines, we shall dwell much upon these doctrines, and ever make them the theme of our discourse.

If we are assured that he who believes in Jesus Christ shall be saved, we shall determine, like the early promulgators of the faith, to know nothing among men, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified: we shall not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves the servants of all, for Jesus’ sake.

If, again, we believe that the same Spirit which breathed life into the dry bones of the prophet’s vision, must still exert his vivifying energy, ere a single sinner can be raised from a death in trespasses and sins, to newness of life; and if we further believe that the Spirit is the gift of prayer, we shall be ardent in our supplication at the throne of grace, for the out-pouring of that mysterious influence, which, though itself unseen, is so visible in its effect, and without which the most splendid eloquence, and the most cogent reasoning can absolutely effect nothing.

Finally, our motive will also, to a certain extent, determine the sphere of our labours.

If we believe that there is one broad line which separates men into two distinct classes,--those who believe, and those who do not; those consequently who have obtained pardon, and those who are still under condemnation—we shall esteem it a matter of infinitely greater importance to lead an individual across that boundary, than to lead an individual who has already past it a few steps further on in his progress. The building up of believers, is, no doubt, a most important work; but still we cannot help thinking, that it must yield in importance to the work of conversion.


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