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preaching." Such was the power and authority which the apostles and primitive disciples had over the populace, that the captain who was immediately dis patched with a band of soldiers to go and arrest them, dare not lay a finger on them, lest the people should stone them. And therefore this honourable captain, who perhaps never dreaded the face of man before, was obliged to become a humble supplicant to the despised followers of the Nazarene, to come quietly with him lest they be stoned by the people. By this means they were brought before the council: and now what is the charge against them? “Did not we straightway command you that ye should not teach nor preach in this name in Jerusalem ? and behold ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine." How did they meet the charge ? By denying it; by palliating it; by attempting to excuse it? No. How did they meet the charge? Hear their unconquerable, unanswerable, and magnanimous reply: “Whether it be right to obey God or man judge ye. We have received our authority from heaven, and if you controvert the authority of heaven, judge yourselves whether we have any right to obey you.” Unable to confute their statement, they determined to send them as speedily as possible out of the world, and they immediately took counsel, as we are told by the context, to slay them. But, my brethren, we believe that when God has a work for his servants to perform, neither men nor devils can dispatch them till their time arrives. Whitfield used to say, and Toplady also in this very pulpit, “ A minister is immortal till his work is done." And so it appeared in their case. Not all the bulls of the pope, not all the temptations of the enemy, not all the machinations of the populace, not one and all the attempts upon Luther's life, could dispatch that holy man until the Reformation was completed, until he had lit up such a light in Germany, that Satan and his emissaries until this day have not been able to put out. So at this time, though they threatened them, God raised out of their own number a man to be the apostles' friend. Gamaliel, the tutor of Paul, happened to be present in the assembly on this occasion; and he said, most wisely, “ Refrain from these men, and let them alone : for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it.” And as far as the sentiment went, with him they agreed. Most people will go with us as far as sentiment, but they do not like to go with us as far as practice. And so with Gamaliel ; they went with him as far as sentiment; but before the apostles were sent away they took care to beat them, and after they had beaten them they let them go, charging them no more to preach in this name. But this punishment of the apostles was only like oil to the flame, and made it burn brighter. What did they? Why they went from the hall “ rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” They bound the thorns about their brow as their glory, and entered on the work with renewed ardour ; for in the verse of my text, which immediately follows that, we are told, “ And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
And beloved, if apostolic example be any precedent for us, then we have here a sanction for “ THE LONDON CITY Mission." If apostolic example be any precedent for us, then every individual in this assembly will become a friend to such a society, that sends forth agents into every part to teach and to preach Jesus Christ. Without any immediate reference to the society it will be my endeavour in the first place to shew you the subject of apostolical minisIration; secondly, the mode of apostolical ministration ; and, thirdly, the constancy of apostolical ministration.
First, then, we have THE SUBJECT OF APOSTOLICAL MINISTRATION : « Jesus Christ." They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” And be it remembered, my beloved, that this was not one subject of many that they were to preach, but it was the only one. The motto of the apostles and primitive Christians was,
“We preach Christ crucified, though it be to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness, yet to them that are saved it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” And therefore the accusation against these holy men was this, that they preached Jesus Christ and the resurrection. Now there must be something in this subject, beloved, which is worthy; something in this subject worthy of all men to listen to, or it would not be so often referred to as the great subject of apostolic ministration. And it is worthy your attentive consideration for yourselves this evening, and worthy also of your attentive consideration as that subject which is to be sent into all the world to every creature. Let us examine it.
In the first place this subject of apostolic ministration is a subject of infinite importance. Will you let your minds this evening just weigh the full force of that sentiment Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ ?" I suppose, my brethren, that how to be saved is the most important question, that the trembling, agitated, and guilty mind can ever ask. Millions have asked that question with anxiety: “ Wherewithal shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God ? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil ?” And although precisely the same words are not used, yet multitudes shut out from hearing the Gospel, and multitudes who have no inclination to hear the Gospel, are constantly in other terms, yet with similar sentiments, asking themselves, “How can I be saved ? How can I be happy?" It is the tendency of the human mind to seek after happiness.
But, brethren, this subject explains how man can be just with God, and how God can be just while he saves man. This shews him that he, in all his guilt, by the Gospel plan can be saved, and God in all his perfections honoured while he saves him. I say there is no subject that can be so important for the sinner as this one grand and distinguished subject. Sinner, do you believe me this evening, that this is to you like Goliath's sword was to David-there is none like it? You may be interested in many subjects; you may love music; you may love history; you may apply your mind to any particular subject : but you may die to-morrow; and without an interest in Christ you are lost, you perish: and therefore to know how you are to be saved must be matter of infinite importance to you. And this is a matter of infinite importance to the world. The gates of paradise are shut against that soul that despises this doctrine, that rejects this doctrine. A man is at liberty to reject any other subject but this; but if he rejects this, if he receives not this, it is at the peril of his happiness, of his salvation, at the loss of heaven, at the loss of God's favour for over and ever. Hear me: “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved but he that believeth not shall be damned."
Again, this subject of apostolic ministration is a subject of unequalled suitableness. Its adaptation to the moral necessities of mankind is its peculiar excellency. It is the catholicon of God to all man's moral disease: it is “ the wine of the kingdom," for all man's sorrows and distresses : it is “ the balm of Gilead," for all those mental miseries which man in this world of sorrows is cailed to feel. And therefore when the angel carried the dist tdrugs of this gospel to the shepherds, he said, “ Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be "—to you? Nom" to all people ; for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” And so the apostles took this remedy, this adopted remedy, to the moral wants and woes of mankind, and preached it to all people. I know there are shades of guilt and shades of character amongst men. I am satisfied that all men are not alike as it respects the depth of their criminality; but there is no individual that does not need this plan of mercy. The curse has swept itself over all the human race: there is not one single ex ion to the sweeping charge, “ All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Therefore all need God's plan of mercy; therefore when the apostles went to the learned Corinthians, though they were elevated in mental culture far above them that preached, yet he took this amoug them for his subject“I am determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” When he was in the prison, and the jailor was in the deepest distress respecting what he must do to be saved, they preached to the malignant jailor the same subject>" Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." When the Apostle stood on Mars' Hill, and preached before the Areopagus of Athens, the most learned assembly in the whole world, he preached the same subject—" Him whom ye ignorantly worship declare I unto you." When he went to the poor sick man, Eneas, who had kept his bed for many years, he took the same subject: “ Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." When he stood before King Agrippa, he preached to him the same subject—that Christ should suffer, and rise again the third day from the dead. When he went to the Colossians, a people who were very near and dear to his heart, still the same subject was taken— Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom." When he went to the murderers of Christ he carried the same subject : “ Him hath God exalted to be a prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins."
Beloved, whatever the character of man, whatever his mental cultivatico, however men are sunk in misery—one thing is needful, and one thing is equally needful for all; and that one thing is Jesus Christ and salvation through him.
“ This remedy did wisdom find,
But then, beloved, this is a subject of infinite variety. The mind of man is so constituted that it never can be happy without variety; and that variety is furnished us in the heavens and on the earth. God, in order to display his glory and in order to adapt himself to the constitution of our minds, has furnished us in both worlds with the greatest wonders, from the meanest insect which crawls upon the earth to the planet which tracks its course in unlimited space. All the heavens and all the earth present countless variety of colour, of quality, and of life. But in Jesus Christ all God's various wonders meet: he is the great centre of both worlds, in whom the glories of both are concentrated. “ Take," said that good man, Rutherford, whose heart was so full of the love of the Saviour—“ Take ten thousand paradises, and all their beauties, and put them together; the finest river that ever flowed in the whole world; the most odoriferous plants that ever sent forth their fragrance in the air; the most delicious fruits and beauteous flowers that ever the eye knew; all the melodious music that ever was raised by the birds of heaven: put them together, and none of their beauties are to be compared for an instant with our lovely and incomparable Lord Jesus Christ.” “ Nay,” said one, " he is altogether lovely;" and the sinner that feels the sweetness of his voice will join again consort with the children of the Saviour, and so “ his mouth is most gweet," when he speaks pardon and peace to the soul.
I can hardly look at an object in creation without being reminded of him ; and the Bible is intended that whichever way I look it should preach to me about Jesus Christ. I am called by the providence of God occasionally to walk in a certain path : Christ is the way, and that path is to remind me of him. I look to the heavens, and the sun is shining upon me: Christ is the Sun of Righteousness. I go out on a star-light night, and I see the heavens bespangled: and he is the bright and Morning Star. I cut the vine that climbs up by the sides of my house : and he is the Vine whose fruit is to invigorate and cheer the spirits of man. The food spread on my table reminds me that he is the Bread of Life, and “ the meat of which if a man eat he shall live for ever." He is a Rock to support me, a Fountain to cheer me. He is the Branch of Righteousness at which I am to gaze--the desire of all nations. He is the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Redeemer, the Friend, the portion of his church, and the all in all to every sinner.
Now here is yariety for every hearer. Some ministers are very much afraid of preaching on this one subject, because they tire their people. What! not a sufficiency of variety? At the ordination of one holy man, when he was called upon to state what he would do and preach, he said, “ I shall have to preach three times on every sabbath-day. My morning discourse will be about Jesus Christ and him crucified As I know you love variety, my afternoon discourse will be about Jesus Christ and him crucified: and as I know you love variety, I shall take the same subject in the evening, and preach Jesus Christ and him crucified: and as you have many village stations around you, and as I shall have to preach twice in the week besides, I shall preach each time Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The Lord close the mouths of the agents of this Society before they shall cease to teach and preach Jesus Christ and him crucified !
It is not only a subject of infinite variety, but a subject of peculiar sweetness. Ah! we have often sung together that hymn of Hart's which he is now singing in more melodious notes in heaven
“ How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
And drives away his fear.” My dear hearers, what is so sweet to a man who is starving as food? What is so sweet to a poor weary traveller as rest? What is so sweet to an individual who is ready to die for thirst as the fountain springing up before him? What is so sweet to the criminal who is condemned by the judge as pardon from the king? What so sweet to him who stands before the bar of his country as for one to declare him innocent before the whole people? What so sweet to the man who groans with the burden and power of sin within him as the sanctification of his spirit, and the promotion of holiness within him? What so sweet to the man who says, “ I have forsaken my inheritance ; I have no right to heaven,” as to hear that through Christ heaven is made his ; that He is the Way, and, by being the Way, cherubim and the faming sword are removed from the gates of paradise ; and now through Christ he can have access into the garden, eat of the tree of life, and live for ever!
I read lately somewhere of the crew of a small vessel which was shipwrecked, who were out in a small boat for thirteen days: and only five out of the twenty-six who entered the boat lived to reach the land. They had so often been disappointed with, as they thought, the sight of land, and with the hope that sprung up in their bosom when they saw a ship pass that way, that they sunk down in the vessel to die, and said there was now no hope for them. But one of them thought he saw land ; still he could not believe his own eyes, for he had been so often disappointed: but he looked again, and again, and again, and at last his hopes were confirmed, and he summoned up all the strength which his situation had left him, and cried out to the little crew that was left in the boat, “ Land ! land ! land !" and they mustered up their energies which seemed all exhausted, rowed for their lives, and reached the land. What was so sweet to these men as that land? How delightful must the sight be to the poor sinner trembling on the confines of the bottomless pit, and feeling the condemnation of God's law on his conscience, to see Christ coming to him with pardon in his hand, and grace in his hand, and telling him to be of good cheer, his sins are forgiven him! There is no subject that is so sweet as this; there is no subject that has such music and sweetness to the man who is thus utterly lost! It is this which is to be the moral cure of the moral woes of this dreadful and direful land.
But, again, it is a subject of singular efficacy. It is the power of God and it is the wisdom of God. And what subject, my brethren, has the efficacy which this possesses ? Mahometanism, it is true, has converted its millions; but how has it done it? Why it has done it by the sword and by the allowance of the indulgence of base lusts. Idolatry, it is true, has its millions upon millions ; but they groan under the slavery of their idols, and curse their senseless and blood-thirsty deities for the slavery which they impose upon them. Beloved, popery claims its millions too ; but fire, and prison, and debasing superstitions, are its chief weapons, and every man that believes it is rendered worse by conversion to it. But without any carnal weapons, without any human authority, the simple preaching of Christ, the simple force of the great truth that Christ came into the world to save sinners, and the adaptation of this truth to man's moral necessities, which first conquered the whole Roman world, brought England into the state into which it now is, and will, by its blessed conquests, finally convert and subdue the whole world. If you are alarmed at the wretchedness, and vice, and misery, of many of the inhabitants of London, see, my brethren, the trophies and the victories of the simple preaching of Jesus Christ. Look at them: Saul of Tarsus, the persecuting bigot; Mary Magdalene, the habi