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* Abraham, who was the Patriarch and minister of God to his numerous household, received the sign of circumcision, which signified the cutting off of the sins of the flesh ; and as a faithful minister of God, lie not only instructed, but 6 commanded his children and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord might bring upon Abraham that thing which he hath spoken of him."
Now considering what mankind were, in the patriarchal
age, and what they are in every age; is there the least reason to suppose, that, without the stated ministry of the patriarchs, according to divine appointment, religion could ever have been promoted ? Certainly not the least reason.
All mankind would have sunk down in the most sottish and fatal delusions, or would have mutually devoured each other with the sword. How could they have heard without a preacher ? But, being furnished with preachers, qualified and cominissioned of God to dispense divine truth; was it not the indispensable duty of all mankind, faithfully and perseveringly to attend to their ministry. Are they not bound to do this, at all tiines, on pain of final condemnation ?
That God's ministers were always in duty bound most faithfully to preach the system of divine truth, is a given point. "All the patriarchs, prophets and preachers of old received a solemn charge to speak God's words at all events; and to declare all the counsel of God. As a specimen, we may notice the charge given to the prophet Ezekiel. 66 Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation, that hath rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children, and stift-hearted. I do send thee unto them
; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house) yet shall know, that there hath been a prophet among them. And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briars and thorns be with thee; and thou dost dwell among scorpions ; 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.” This charge, solemn as it is, and difficult as it is to execute, applies to every minister of God, in every age of the world. At every ordination of a minister of the gospel, we hear the substance of this awfully solemn and weighty charge. And whose conscience does not readily decide, that all the ministers of God are bound, by the most sacred obligation, to fulfil this charge. Every minister must" preach the word, be instant in season, and out of season; he must reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine.” He must “ feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."
In this view of the duty of the ministers of the word, let conscience decide, whether there be not equal obligation on all the sinful children of men, to hear and embrace the system of divine truth. Were they not bound, on pain of damnation, to listen, as for their lives, to the preaching of Enoch, and of Noah, of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob ? Did any person, who refused to hear these most antient ministers of Christ, ever embrace the promised Saviour, by a living faith ? Did not every one, who refused to hear them, live and die in his sins, and perish in his unbelief? Yes, most certainly. For neither in ancient nor modern times, has any other name been given among men, except the name of the blessed Redeemer, which is preached in all ages, by which sinners can be saved. The antediluvian world, for refusing to hear and regard the warning voice of Noah, was overwhelmed in a universal deluge of water.
“ By faith Noah, being warned of God, of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house ; by the which he condemned the world,
and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” It is generally granted, and common sense decides, that obligation on the ministers of God to preach the word, at all events, implies equal obligation on all the people to hear. “ Hear, and
souls shall live." 6. Faith cometh by hearing."
To iender this duty still plainer, and the argument more conclusive, we may take a view of the ministry of Moses and Aaron and their successors, during what is called the Mosaic dispensation of the gospel. Moses, being called by the voice of the Lord, from the burning bush at Horeb, and commissioned to go and deliver Israel, the chosen people of God, out of their bondage in Egypt; was sent to them in the character of a preacher. His first business was, to teach and instruct them, concerning the mind and will of God; and to lead them to einbrace the promises made to their fathers. And, like all the faithful ministers of Christ, he carried his credentials with him. The people appeared to be convinced of the divine promises; and listened attentively to the instructions of Moses. “ By faith they kept the passover," which was a token of God's sparing mercy to them, when he destroyed the Egyptians. By faith they passed through the red sea, as by dry land; which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned."
Now supposing the Israelites had thought it needless to hearken implicitly to every word of instruction, encouragement, warning, and admonition, from the mouth of Moses, who was their minister; would they, in this case, have believed in God, and escaped from their Egyptian bondage ? No. All the faith they had, whether speculative or evangelical, came by hearing. Had they not heard the messages of Moses, what had they to believe ? and what to hope for? How could they escape fro:n their bondage, and come to the possession of the promised land ? Thus it appears, that, unless God's ministers are heard attentively, patiently, and perseveringly; it is impossible to possess the christian faith or the christian hope.
If we trace the ministry of Moses further, the result will be the same. For after the Israelites had proceed, ed to the foot of Mount Sinai, God descended in awful majesty on the Mount, and solemnly proclaimed the ten commandments, and wrote theni on tables of stone. He
direction to his servant Moses to build a tabernacle for a place of religious sacrifices and instructions. The whole tribe of Levi was consecrated and set apart to the sacred priesthood; Aaron, the brother of Moses, being made high priest. This method of divine worship and instruction, being in a great measure new; it was attended with a great variety of new rites and ceremonies; all of which were of divine institution, and made known to the people by God's servant Moses.And were not the people required to attend strictly to all these institutions ? Particularly, were not all the other tribes bound to pay their deference to the tribe of Levi, as being consecrated to the holy priesthood Were not all the other tribes required, without envy or grudging, to look to that of Levi, for religious instruction ? What awful manifestations of divine wrath were made, in consequence of the rebellion of Korah and his confederates! Korah, and two hundred and fifty others, of the tribe of Reuben, princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown, gathered themselves together against Moses, and against Aaron, and said unto them, “ Ye take too much upon you, see. ing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Wherefore then, lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord i And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face.” Anticipating the event, he was filled with astonishment. The event was, that, in the presence of the congregation, " The earth clave asunder, and opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They and all that appertained unto them, went down alive into the pit; and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from arnong
the congregation.” What an awful warning is this, to those who envy, hate and despise the ministers of the word of God! and who neglect the preaching and institutions of the gospel! Did Korah, or one of his confederates in rebellion, ever come to repentance, or to a saving faith in Christi Or do any in ancient or modern times, who rudely invade the sacred priest
hood, give evidence of that faith which the gospel requires? Is it not evident, from the view which we have taken of the sacred ministry, under the Mosaic dispensation, that faith cometh by hearing ; and hearing by the ministry of the word of God ? Our Saviour in the time of his ministry, required of the Jews, that they should hear Moses and the prophets; and it is said, “ If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Hearing the ministry of the word of God, by Moses and the prophets, who were the divinely constituted preachers, under the Mosaic law, was evidently essential to salvation. Thus far, it has been by raising up, and supporting the ministry of the word, that true religion has been perpetuated. Had it not been for this, all mankind would have been long ago in a state of barbarous ignorance and idolatry.
Let us now bring down the enquiry to later times. When the Divine Saviour was about to make his appearance in the world, according to the prophecies, he was preceded by John the Baptist, who was supereminent as a preacher, and a messenger of God. As such he was foretold in the prophecy of Malachi.“ Behold I send
66 my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.” “ Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet,” that is, one that shall come in the spirit and power of Elijah," before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord : And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to their children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” A great reformation, and revival of religion was to be effected by John the Baptist : and how was it to be effected ? It was to be effected, simply by the ministry of the word of God. It was to be effected by what is called the foolishness of preaching John did not even do a miracle, to give force and efficacy to his preaching. He solemnly rebuked and reproved the people, and called them to repentance.“ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”. 6 Repent ye therefore, and believe the gospel.”. He taught the people the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; and