« PreviousContinue »
And here again, I am constrained to believe, there is a manifest deficiency extensively and increasingly prevalent in the ministry. While the labors of modern scholars have shed much new and important light on the literature of the Bible, and secured, in some instances, a better rendering and interpretation of the text, still, I think it will be admitted, that there is a sad declension of the evangelical spirit, a loss in the items of real piety and experimental preaching. The Pulpit of our times -times, too, demanding eminent spirituality and holiness in the ministry-is far from being as thoroughly evangelical, as decided and deep-toned in its piety, as spiritual and experimental in its ministrations, or as fully imbued with the life-giving spirit of a positive Christianity and of the Holy Ghost, as it should be! This is doubtless our great deficiency and besetting sin. We have not enough of the spirit of Christ and of Paul for such evil times as these.
This is our idea of Bible preaching. The Bible, as God's inspired and supernatural revelation, must underlie it, must give authority to it, must be the theme and matter of it, must give inspiration and power to it. Preaching must be of this kind, and every sermon after this model, or it is not Bible preaching, or a gospel sermon, whatever else it may be.
It were not difficult to name examples of such a stamp of preaching. From the specimens we have of Christ's preaching, it was eminently characterized by the qualities which have been named. He preached strait at the hearts and consciences of his hearers, in language, simple, pointed, and authoritative. He aimed to impress them with the fact of their individual responsibility to God-to convict them of sin, and make them tremble in view of it, and of a coming judgment. So Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. Every word of that famous sermon was like a barbed arrow to pierce and rankle in the conscience. So Paul preached. Profoundly erudite and accomplished as he was, he would know nothing at Jerusalem, or Rome, or Athens, or Corinth, or Antioch, but “Christ, and him crucified.” We all know how Baxter preached, and what it was that made his preaching so powerful. It was his plain, honest, fearless, direct, faithful, intense application of God's own authoritative Word to men's consciences. Look, too, at the sermons of the great Edwards. It was not his masterly metaphysics, his profound philosophy, his intellectual demonstrations, or his parade of learning, that made him such a giant in the pulpit ;-there is a singular absence of these in his sermons. But he got strait down upon the sinner's conscience, and there dealt his earnest blows with almost superhuman effect. In his sermon on the Judgment Day, we are told, that he so impressed upon his hearers the sense of personal guilt and interest in its decisions that when he closed, they actually looked up in terror
to see if the heavens were not actually rending, and the incensed God descending to take vengeance on his enemies. That famous sermon of his which produced such an overwhelming effect at the time of its delivery—“ Sinners in the hands of an angry God”-what is there in it but the simple unfolding of Scripture truth on that awful subject, and a direct, solemn, pungent, and intensely energetic application of it to his immediate hearers ? O, for the day when such preaching shall again thunder from our pulpits, causing sinners in Zion to be afraid, and waking the slumbering conscience of a guilty world!
It is respon
Let me, my brother, commend to you such models. Let your ministry be thoroughly pervaded and imbued with the light and spirit of the Bible. Make the Bible, not only your text-book, but the staple and the inspiration of all your sermons. Honor it, and God will honor your ministry. Baptize your soul with the spirit of it, and God will baptize your_teaching with the Holy Ghost.
The Bible is a wonderful book. There is nothing like it in the world. It is full of the great thoughts of God. It is crowded with topics of infinite interest and importance to mankind. All here is Truth, certain, revealed, inspired Truth. Here are all the elements of greatness, of moral influence and power. Your business is with this Book alone. God puts this Book into your hands with the solemn charge to preach it, and, so to preach it, that you shall not be guilty of the blood of souls. sible business, a fearful charge, this ministry which you take upon you to-day." Hundreds of souls, guilty and immortal, will hang on your lips from Sabbath to Sabbath. Your ministry will be one of life or death eternal to not a few. Every Sabbath you are to stand forth and proclaim those great and weighty truths which are herein set forth. And quickly you will stand with the people who this day open their hearts and arms to receive you as their minister, at the judgment.seat of Jesus Christ. Resolve, brother, to be a Bible preacher. Take your stand on the high vantage-ground of the Bible, and never come down from it. Thence survey the field of your labor, your work, your account, your reward. Look upon your hearers in the light of its affecting truths. Aim steadily and constantly at the saving of souls; no inferior end is worth the toils and sacrifices of the ministry. Fill your sermons with the facts, the doctrines, the principles, the examples of this blessed book, clearly set forth, and earnestly and prayerfully enforced, and your ministry here will be full of glorious results. Admiring crowds may not gather to it-the land may not ring with the fame of it—but, what is infinitely better, the sigh of the awa. kened, the cry of the anxious, the tear of the penitent, and the song of the convert shall be your reward.
And this is the kind of ministry, my friends, which you ought to desire and pray for. If it be not so popular with the age and the multitude as some other, it is the only kind of ministry that is worth the having. You need to be instructed, warned, and admonished out of the Scriptures. You need to hear the voice of God your Maker and Sovereign and Redeemer and Judge, sounding out from his Word every Sabbath, clear, emphatic, and authoritative. You do not want to be amused or entertained, but converted, sanctified, and saved—taught how to live and to die. Be satisfied with a Bible ministry and with nothing else. Desire it above riches, above all earthly rewards. Let your minister see that you appreciate a ministry in full sympathy with the Bible, in its aims, spirit, and teachings.
Another of God's instruments of purgation is providential trials. “ Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." These chastisements may come in the shape of persecutions, or bodily sufferings, or mental anguish, or loss of property, or disappointment as to worldly prospects, or sickness and death of dear friends, or the ill-doings of near connections, or in some other way. No matter what is the form or shape of the pruning-hook. It is just as the Good Husbandman has seen fit to make it, and just the shape that is suited to our particular case. “ The Lord knoweth them that are his," and therefore will not prune the wrong branch. It often seems to short-sighted mortals, that the Lord sometimes makes mis. takes, in using his pruning-hooks. We would hold back his hand, and ask, “Wilt thon pursue thy worm to death ?” The branch seems so stripped of its foliage that we are ready to say, “It cannot survive such severe pruning.” But as we look back upon branches, which were thus pruned in old times, we find that they did survive. They not only survived, but were the more flourishing and fruitful in consequence of their having been thus dealt with. This was the case with the ancient patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job and Moses. This was the case with all the pious prophets and kings. “One of them says, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word." The apostles found it good to suffer affliction. One of them speaks thus, “Now, no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, yet afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them who are exercised thereby." "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” In God's wise arrangement, it is "through much tribulation" that true Christians enter the kingdom of heaven.-N. Y. Evangelist.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit: then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”—Psalms li. 10-13.
The history of David is very instructive. Great was his sin, and great was his punishment. He was made to suffer in his person and family, as well as in his own soul. His heart was wrong by family feuds and contentions, the consequences of his transgression. His son Amnon atrociously insulted his sister Tamar, and her brother Absalom fearfully avenged the crime: Absalom, in turn, having become a successful rebel, and having expelled his father from the capital, at the instigation of Ahitophel, irreparably widened the breach between them, by violating the sanctity of the royal harem before the people and before the sun, pitching his tent on the very spot where David had first nursed his unhappy passion.
And if we inquire why David's old and honored counsellor should be the first to abet the rebellion of the son, we may trace his motives back to the outraged feelings of family pride. Bathsheba was the grand-daughter of Ahitophel.
Among the thirty-seven officers of the royal life-guards, we find the name of Eliam, the son of Ahitophel the Gilonite, and beside it, that of Uriah the Hittite, who had for his wife, Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam. No wonder, then, that Absalom knew what he was about, when he sent to Ahitophel to strengthen, by his name and influence, the conspiracy against the wretched king.
While David, on one hand, had alienated the wise old counsellor, on the other he had put himself completely in the power of his general, and was obliged tamely to submit to Joab's arrogance, as well as his direct disobedience in not sparing the young man, Absalom. So did not David yield when Joab assassinated Abner. Then he compelled Joab himself to put on sackcloth, and join in the funeral procession after Abner's bier. But now he submits to his servant's insolence, and passively complies with his directions. He had made Joab his confidant and accomplice in the matter of Uriah, and he never was his own man afterwards.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
But if David smarted in his person and his family, he was made to suffer yet more severely in his own soul. Of the bitterness of his remorseful feelings, the fifty-first Psalm is a faithful record. What depths of self-abasement, what tender regrets, what penitential sorrow it breathes ! He represents himself as incessantly haunted by the gaunt spectre of his guilt, without repose, night and day. “My sin is ever before me.” Raised above the reach of the law by his regal station, he the more freely bewailed his vileness in the sight of his heavenly Judge. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” Ardently he longs for the purifying hyssop, and envies the whiteness of the snow. Nathan had told him, “by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme;" and, conscious of the reproach he had brought upon religion, he desires reinstatement in the divine favor, that he may, as far as possible, repair the great wrong he had done, and once more resume those active duties which his torpid conscience had so long intermitted. Therefore he prays, “ Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within
Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation ; and uphold me with thy free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”
It is evident that David's chagrin for the shame and scandal his conduct had cast upon religion, was at least as keen as his personal mortification, and this is still further evinced by his fervent desire, in the close of the psalm, that God would do good, in his good pleasure, unto Zion, and build the walls of Jerusalem.