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time to come forever and ever: that this is a rebellious a people, which say to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits." Human nature is still the same. People now are disposed to find fault with ministers for being too plain and point-sh ed in preaching. There is not, perhaps, a single congregation in this land, who are all willing to have the great and essential truths of the gospel clearly explained to them, and strongly impressed upon them. There are many, in most places, who will either leave their minister, or cause their minister to leave them, rather than suffer him to penetrate and impress their minds by divine truth.
Such flying from pungent to smooth preachers is a dreadful thing. God represents it so in his own peo. ple. "A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so." If ministers are right, in preaching plainly and pungently, then people are certainly wrong, in complaining of it. They act a most unreasonable as well as sinful part. Pungent preaching is for their own good, and they ought to desire it and seek after it. It is their highest interest to have their minister penetrate their hearts, and discover to them the true state of their souls, They always desire such plainness and fidelity in other men, whom they employ to promote their temporal good. They wish their attorney to examine their cause with care, discover every flaw, and tell them the plain naked truth. And they heartily desire the surgeon to probe their wounds to the bottom, and apply the most effectual remedies, though ever so painful and distressing to endure. Why then should they complain of their minister for dealing
plainly and faithfully with their souls? This is an absurdity in its own nature; an injury to their minister; and may be eternal destruction to themselves.
7. If it ought to be the aim of the minister to penetrate and impress the minds ofhis hearers, then there is blame somewhere, if their minds are not penetrated and impressed. Either the minister does not aim to impress their minds, or they mean to resist the impressions of divine truth. But if the minister really means to impress the minds of his people, it will be very difficult for them not to feel the force of his preaching. "The words of the wise are as goads." This means, at least, that the words of the wise preacher, will generally penetrate and impress the mind. It is true, hearers may be so inattentive and stupid, as not to understand the great truths of the gospel, when plainly and pungently delivered; and in that case, their minds will not be penetrated and impressed. But this rarely happens. A plain, pungent preacher will scarcely ever fail of making sensible impressions upon the minds of his people. The impressions, indeed, may be extremely different upon different persons.
Some may feel pleased, and others displeased. Some may feel happy, and others unhappy. Some may feel comforted, and others reproved and condemned. Some may feel their hopes enlivened, and others feel their hopes totally destroyed. If such impressions as these are not made upon the minds of hearers, it is generally owing to the want of pungent preaching. The blame, in the first instance, falls upon the minister. And he must be exceedingly criminal to preach so as to sooth and stupify, rather than to penetrate and impress the minds of his people. But, on the other hand, the blame will fall on the hearers, if they remain stupid and unfeeling under plain and pungent preach
ing. This is a sin, which exposes those who are guilty of it, to the heaviest condemnation. "Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish."
Let me now apply the thoughts which have been suggested, to him for whom they were principally designed.
You are this day, dedicating yourself to the sacred and important work of preaching the gospel. Preaching is to be your business. And the business of preaching is to penetrate and impress the minds of men, by the force of divine truth. Make this, therefore, your supreme object in all your discourses. Never keep back any thing which you verily believe will be profitable and penetrating. Shun not to exhibit and to apply the great truths of the gospel to the minds of your people. Let their aim and desire be what it may, in hearing, let it be your aim and desire, in preaching, to fasten truth upon their consciences. Spare no pains in preparing your discourses, and neglect no proper method, to make them pungent. The way is already paved for you. Your worthy and venerable colleague, has set you an example of great plainness and pungency in preaching. And his success enforces his example. You know, by your own experience, we trust, the natural stupidity, blindness and obstinacy of the human heart. And you know, that the word of God is mighty to bow and to subdue the hearts of men. This knowledge will both qualify and dispose you to preach in the most plain and pungent manner. Nothing but a desire to please, or a fear to offend, can prevent your being a plain, penetrating, searching preacher. But these powerful temptations to unfaithfulness, you must, you will constantly and obstinately
resist. You come into the field, in a favorable season, when it seems to be white already to the harvest. Be industrious and faithful, and you may expect a rich harvest of souls, who shall be your joy here and your rejoicing forever.
One word to this numerous assembly, will conclude my discourse. If the words of the wise and faithful ministers of Christ, be so powerful and penetrating as we have heard, how much more irresistable and insupportable will the words of Christ himself be at the great and last day? Then he will tell sinners all that they ever heard, as well as all they ever did in their lives. Then he will make them hear all the sermons, which they have neglected to hear, and make them feel all the truths, which they had refused to feel. And then he will give divine truth such an energy as to penetrate and impress their guilty consciences to all eternity. This will be a source of intolerable misery. For "the keen vibration of bright truth is hell." Let all, therefore, who have hitherto resisted the preached gospel, be entreated to hearken to it speedily, while it may be a savor of life unto life to their souls. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." The gospel will sooner or later penetrate the hearts of sinners. If they resist the force of it in time, they must feel the weight of it in eternity. "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" Amen.
Delivered at Salem, in New-Hampshire, January 4, 1797, at the Ordination of the Rev. JOHN SMITH, A. B. to the work of the ministry in that place
EZEKIEL ii, 8.
But thou son of man, hear what I say unto thee: Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house..
THE children of Israel were once holiness to the Lord, and the first fruits of his increase. They served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua. But ever after that memorable period, they began to lose the spirit of religion, and become more and more corrupt, until they were carried into captivity, as a just punishment for their deep declension. In this deplorable situation, they continued to harden themselves in sin, and to pine away in their iniquities, until every appearance of spiritual life was gone. Then God was pleased to send Ezekiel to prophecy over the valley of dry bones, in order to raise them from spiritual death to spiritual life. And to prepare him for his arduous task, he forewarned him of his danger, and charged him to guard against it. "Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel. Be not afraid of them, though briars and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scor pions; be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious. But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee: Be not thou rebellious like that rebel