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until every city, and town, and village, and neighborhood on earth had been visited and blessed with the gospel.
But it has not pleased the Head of the church to spare this devoted man. Why then, has not the same progress of truth resulted from the labor of others, his successors in office? They have had the same gospel to preach, the promise of the same Spirit to aid them, which he had. The very same motives to labor and to suffer in the cause of Christ, and which stirred his spirit within him, have been constantly presented to their mind. And yet, why is it that there are 600,000,000 of our race without the gospel? and why have so many millions, in Christian lands, under the ministry of the gospel, died without hope?
But let us not attempt to excuse ourselves by finding fault with others. Have the ministers of modern times, and of the present day, been as faithful as they ought to have been? And more especially, have the ministers of the gospeł now. addressed, labored and suffered as much in the cause of Christ, as they might have done? If Paul had occupied the same field in which
we have been placed, and for the same time, would not that field have exhibited fruits of more ardent zeal, of more entire devotedness, of more judicious labor, than it now does! Are we not constrained to say, from the honest, though painful conviction of our heart, it would! Why, beloved brethren, is this the case! Make, if you please, all proper allowance for his superior talents; yet why has not our ministry been more successful? But one of two answers can be given;--either we must resolve it into the sovereignty of God; or we must charge it to our own unskilfulness and negligence. Can we feel satisfied in ascribing it to the sovereignty of God? We would cherish the deepest conviction of the truth, that, whoever may plant or water, it is God who giveth the increase; and that whatever good we may have been instrumental in doing, the glory is due to God alone, and not to us. And had we depended more entirely on divine assistance, and prayed more earnestly for it, our ministry would have been more successful. Still we cannot think that this is the answer we should give to the question. A moment's reflection will convince us, that we did not derive our motives from this sovereignty; we did not labor' because we knew certainly that God would give the increase; nor did we labor with less diligence, because we knew that he would not give it. As other reasons, therefore, than those derived from this sovereignty, influenced our conduct, so other reasons ought to be assigned for the result of that conduct. It is certain that we shall not be judged, at the last day, by the sovereignty, but by the law, or the word of God. We ought, then, to judge ourselves now by the same rule, by which we shall finally be tried. The designs of God, which are unknown to us, are for the regulation of his own conduct, not of ours. Let it be remembered also, that it is to the planting and watering of his ministers that God giveth the increase. Unless, therefore, we have been faithful, we had no reason to expect this increase. This answer, then, ought not to satisfy our conscience, because it is not the right one. There is no escaping the conclusion, therefore, that this want of success is chargeable to ourselves: we have not studied, and prayed, and preached, and labored as we ought to have done. The review of our past ministry, presenting
so many deficiencies for which we can find no excuse, may be very painful; but on this very account, like the bitterness of some valuable medicine, it may be highly useful. It will lead us to inquire into the reasons of these deficiencies, of this want of success; and by what means our ministry can be rendered more useful in future.
In pursuing this inquiry we may, with great advantage, refer to the example and the writings of Paul. What was it that rendered his ministry, through the blessing of God, so eminently successful? It was the union of TRUTH and LOVE: truth was the weapon, and love was the power by which it was wielded. This weapon, thus wielded, was mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds. This is the information given us in the passage from which the text is taken. In all things, in all the trials through which the Providence of God, and the duties of our office may lead us,-approving ourselves as the ministers of God, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth. His mind was filled with truth, his heart with love. The importance of truth and love to the success of gospel ministry, through the blessing of the Spirit, will be the subject of a few remarks.
1. Without attempting the discussion of truth in the abstract, it is sufficient for our purpose to state, that THE WORD OF GOD, contained in the Old and New Testaments, is that system of truth, which it is indispensable for the Christian minister distinctly to understand, carefully to treasure up in his mind, and faithfully to preach. The word of Christ should dwell in him; should have its home in his understanding and his heart; should be his constant companion, his most intimate friend; not in detached parts, or in scanty portions, but richly, in all its extent, in all its harmony, and in all its details; richly, in all wisdom; that he may bring forth out of his treasure things new and old; that he may have something ready and appropriate for all characters, occasions, and purposes. That he may be qualified thus rightly to divide the word of truth, will require much prayerful reading, study, and meditation. If he declines this application of mind, he can never be an able minister of the New Testament, neither of the letter, nor of the spirit.
The importance of this truth, in a preacher of the gospel, is very obvious. Paul approved, or, as some render the word, tablished himself by the word of truth. We suppose this means in the sight both of God and man. That he valued the approbation
of God above all things, is evident from his life and his writings. One of his directions to Timothy is this study to shew thyself approved unto God. Nothing but truth, he well knew, could secure this approbation; for he is a God of truth. But he also means that he approved himself to men. The same truth which receives the approbation of God, is the only means the faithful preacher will ever employ to gain the approbation of men. Thus he writes in another part of this epistle.—But we have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty; not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but, by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience, in the sight of God. He would employ no secret efforts, which could not bear the light; would not profess one thing, and really intend another; would not preach the gospel with the view of accomplishing some unholy and selfish purpose! But his determination was, to manifest the truth, plainly and fully; with this to rise or to fall; to receive no approbation of men, with the sacrifice of truth. If he commended himself to the conscience of men, it should be in the sight of God, his omniscient Judge.
From this and other passages, we infer, that there is a powersul tendency in truth, when plainly and faithfully stated, to reach and control the conscience of men; and to extort from them, secretly at least, their approbation. Wicked men, who will not obey the gospel, who are determined to live in sin, bear witness to this fact. Such men hate the light: but why hate it, unless they know, from experience, that, if admitted, it will rouse and disturb their conscience, and destroy their pleasure in sin? Such men will not come to the light, but. shun it as they do an enemy: but why shun it, unless experience has taught them how painful are its just and solemn reproofs? These men also resist the truth, as they do a thief about to break into their house to rob them of their goods: but why this resistance, unless they believe that, if admitted, it will rob them of their peace, and torment them before the time? If the word of God is so far corrupted as to become another gospel, if error is so blended with truth as to give another aspect to the system, they neither hate, nor shun, nor resist the preaching of this system. These opinions, though called the gospel, are found to be harmless, giving no disturbance to the conscience, allowing them to cherish, at the same time, the love of sin, and the hope of final escape.
This testimony is given by men who have lived an abandoned and wicked life, and have at length been brought to believe and obey the gospel. In the honest sincerity of their hearts, they have told us that all their utmost efforts were not sufficient to prevent the truth from entering and disturbing their consciences; that they have ofton acted the most hypocritical part, assuming the appearance of gaiety and mirth, while painful remorse was corroding their peace within. Col. Gardner is a striking, and well known instance of this very thing. From his testimony, and
that of many others, there is reason to believe, that there are as real hypocrites among professed infidels and wicked men, as there are among professed Christians.
The same tendency of truth is taught in the Letter to Titus, where Paul directs him to employ sound speech that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. We suppose that Titus was neither required nor expected to accomplish, or even to attempt what was impossible. If it was possible then, so it is now, to preach the truth in such a manner that it cannot be condemned; that the hearers, though of the contrary part, can find no evil thing to say of it. We suppose Paul speaks of the tendency of truth, and of its general, though not universal, effect; for we find that the Jews, at Antioch, spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming, yet this loud and fierce opposition is proof that they felt and dreaded the power of truth; for men do not thus oppose what they believe to be harmless. If there be exceptions, they rather confirm than destroy the general rule. If the truth is fully, and plainly, and affectionately preached, accompanied with suitable illustrations and proofs, it will be exceedingly difficult to condemn it.
Again; the importance of truth appears from this; that it is employed, by the divine Spirit in changing and purifying the heart of man. That church to which we belong, teaches her children to believe that, “ the Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially, the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.” This is sound philosophy, because it is sound scriptural theology. It ascribes the great work in the heart of man, from the first quickening touch, to the most sublime triumphs of faith and hope, to the Holy Spirit, as the agent, and to the word of truth as the instrument. The sinner is begotten, made to feel his guilt and danger, by the word of truth; he is born again by the word of God; he is sanctified through the truth. It is by the holy scrip tures that the man of God is made wise unto salvation, is thoroughly furnished unto all good works. All the motives which regulate his life, are derived from the word. Every genuine impression, every spiritual affection, every purpose of his heart, is the effect of truth on the mind.
That the truth may produce its complete effect, it should be preached in such a manner as will be most happily calculated to gain it admittance. For this reason, order and connection are very important. Even truth may be delivered in a manner so confused and promiscuous, as to render its reception less easy, and far less useful, if received. If the ideas belonging to two subjects, say, the wisdom of God, and the duty of prayer, were given alternately, one belonging to the first, and then one belonging to the second subject, though each might contain the
truth, yet this truth could not be so useful, as if each train of
ideas was given separately, and in connection with its own subi ject. The preacher who would employ the truth with the happiest effect, must be careful to deliver it in such an order and connection, as that one thought may prepare the way for the next, and impart to it additional power on the mind. If his own conceptions are clear and connected, his honest efforts to convey similar views to others will scarcely fail; but if his own ideas are confused and obscure, he is but poorly qualified for the duties of his office. The trumpet may be loud, but if it give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
Truth may be obscured, of course its reception and its usefulness in some degree prevented, by the style in which it is delivered. The language is sometimes tou colloquial, approaching to vulgarity; the illustrations and figures are too low to suit the dignity of truth. There are some who seem to think that ordination to the ministry, is a license to violate the plainest rules of grammar, the principles of good taste, perhaps to torture the delicacy of their hearers with impunity. Is it too much to expect of those whose profession is speaking, that they should use a correct and reputable style, especially when they speak in the name of God? No coarseness or incorrectness of language, it is true, can divest the truth of its intrinsic importance and dig. nity, in the estimation of those who are acquainted with it; but it is the object of the preacher to introduce it to those who are unacquainted with it. To these, the truth will, in some degree, be identified with the dress in which it is presented. If you clothe a man of the most grave and dignified character in the garments of a clown or a harlequin, and introduce him to strangers, their impression of his character will not accord with his real merit, but will be modified by the dress in which he is introduced. Those friends who are intimately acquainted with him, will esteem and love him not the less on this account; and they will be sure to feel a mixture of grief and displeasure at the burlesque you have put on their friend. The real beauty and excellency of truth cannot be changed by the uncouth dress in which it is sometimes presented; its friends who know its value, will love and embrace it, though thus shamefully caricatured. But its reception and its influence with those who are ignorant,
and who really need instruction, will, in some degree, be preventbe
ed by the repulsive dress in which they form their acquaintance with it. We speak as unto wise men; judge ye what we say.
Others fall into the opposite extreme, by attempting to recommend themselves by what they consider exhibitions of learning. Sometimes these attempts consist in the frequent use of long and learned terms, the intervening spaces containing words which are mere expletives, sometimes expressing sense, and sometimes not. This is concealing the gospel under the cloke of their own vanity. However such may be pleased with themselves, the