Page images
PDF

those consolations of which God is the
author Think of his resources. What
can he not do “He is able to do
exceeding abundantly above all that we
ask, or even think, according to the
power that worketh in us.” Think of
his promises. What has he not engaged
to do Hath he not said, “I will surely
do thee good;’ “I will never leave
thee, I will never forsake thee!” And
think of his faithfulness. None who
have trusted in him have been put to
shame. He has ever fulfilled his word
unto his servants, on which he hath
caused them to hope.
The Holy Spirit is called emphatically
the Comforter. This is one of the
offices which he sustains in the economy
of redemption; and he is to dwell with
his people for ever, not only as a sancti-
fier and guide, but also as a comforter.
“Me,” said our Lord, “you have not
with you always.” And this is equally
true of all human instructors and com-
forters, masters, teachers, friends; we
have them not with us always; perhaps
when we need them most they are
furthest from us. But the spirit of
truth and grace may be always with us
to sustain and comfort us.
4. Hence it is that the consolations
of the gospel are distinguished by their
sufficiency and their permanence. In this
respect, as well as in every other, they
differ essentially from all sources of
earthly comfort. These are never
satisfying in their nature, while they
are always transient in their duration;
and, like the brooks which however
swollen when the rains are heavy, are
dried up in seasons of draught, they are
generally most deficient when they are
most needed. But the consolations of
the gospel are satisfying, while they are
enduring; and are most abundantly en-
joyed when they are most wanted.
They flow from a divine and exhaustless
source, and are not dependent on earthly
things. “A man's life consisteth not

in the abundance of the things which
he possesseth.” His inward life, his
real worth and joy, depend not on the
circumstances in which he is placed,
but on the state of his own heart. The
consolations of religion are often realized
in the richest abundance when earthly
comforts most entirely fail. Their worth
is most sensibly felt in affliction and
trouble, in sickness and in death. As
our afflictions abound, our consolations
through Christ do much more abound
And “there is no man who hath left
house, or parents, or brethren, or wife,
or children, for the kingdom of God's
sake, who shall not receive manifold
more—in inward consolation—in this
present time, and in the world to cone
life everlasting.” All earthly comforts
must soon fail. If they follow us through
the whole of life, they must leave usin
death; and we must go to the world of
spirits stripped of every earthly distine.
tion, and attended simply with our
character, our consciousness, and our
responsibility. But the consolations of
religion never fail. Godliness has the
promise not only of the life that now is
but also, and still more abundantly, of
that which is to come. I hear the
Psalmist say, “Though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death, I will
fear no evil; for thou art within me:
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
The apostle exclaims, “To me to live is
Christ, and to die is gain.” “To depart
and to be with Christ is far better." In
the near prospect of a violent and
ignominious end he triumphs, “I have
fought a good fight, I have finished my
course, I have kept the faith; hence
forth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness which the Lord, the
righteous Judge, shall give me in that
day; and not to me only, but unto all
them also that love his appearing"
And no heart can conceive what Go
hath prepared for his people above
They have their streams of comfort

here; but there they have the ocean fulness of felicity. “These are they which have come out of great tribulations, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” But it is by MEANs that God comforts his people. In the enjoyment of the consolations which Jesus gives, his disciples are not mere passive recipients, they are active agents. They not only watch against those evils which poison their comforts, but they use those means which God has appointed for their realization. If we would enjoy the consolations of the gospel we must

guard against constitutional tendencies to depression and gloom, and cultivate, as far as possible, sound minds in sound bodies. We must guard against the depressing influence of adverse circumstances, and seek to live above the world. We must guard against a spirit of carelessness, against the fascinations of society, against temptation in every form. We must acquaint ourselves with the truth of God. We must especially have clear and elevated views of the principles of the divine government, of the way of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, and of the design of all God's providential arrangements respecting his people. We must have no controversy with God. We must shun every habit which is calculated to grieve the Holy Spirit, and yield ourselves cheerfully to his gracious monitions. And we must be much in prayer. Without prayer we cannot walk with God, or, enjoy the consolations which flow from friendship with him. But if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit—the Comforter—to them that ask him

CAUSES IN CONNEXION WITH TIIE MINISTRY WHICH TEND TO HINDER THE SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL.

PART III.

II. Entering upon and pursuing the work of the ministry with wrong views and motives. We do not here allude to those wretched men who, being altogether strangers to the grace of God in their own hearts, are actuated necessarily and exclusively by low and worldly motives in this sacred office, but to those who, though really good men, do not sufficiently consider and lay to heart its character, its claims and duties, its momentous results on the

souls of men, and their own awful responsibility to God. And that many a pious young man enters upon this calling without duly weighing and understanding these matters, who can reasonably doubt They mainly and indefinitely aim at doing good and promoting the glory of God; but still their views of the sacred office they have assumed are in many points defective, and their motives in many respects tainted and perverted with the subtile, plausible, insidious, and cameleon sin of selfishness. They regard this high and spiritual office too much in the light of worldly respectability: it will, they imagine, set them on an eminence above the majority of their fellow creatures; it will release them from the low drudgery of manual labours and secular pursuits, and place them in comparatively competent and easy cir

cumstances; it will introduce them to the superior circles of society; and it

will give them opportunity and scope

for exercising and displaying their acquirements and talents before the Now, where these views and learn that his audience admired and

public

and finished style must be read and studied “for the sake of their style.” to the almost entire neglect of others of an infinitely more valuable character. Their sermons must consist of so many principal and sub-divisions; every sentence must be carefully weighed, prunei, balanced, and rendered smooth and harmonious. And then, the whole de' meanour in the pulpit must, if possible, be in keeping with what has preceded it, with what accompanies it, and with

[ocr errors]

aimsare really entertained and nourished, applauded his beautiful and eloquent

they cannot fail to be productive of the most serious and injurious results: they will impart their own character and features to the whole conduct and ministrations of those who indulge them ; and from thence they will reach and exert their baneful influence on the minds of their hearers. Do they, for example, consider the ministerial office as clothed with worldly respectability and advantages Then, it is more than probable, the poor of their flock will be slighted and overlooked, while the more wealthy and respectable will be visited and fawned upon Are they apparently earnest and zealous in their efforts both in and out of the pulpit one eye at least will be steadily fixed on the increased grist they hope to bring to their mill ! Does another church hold up to them a purse containing a little more of the precious white and yellow dust than the one furnished by the people of their present charge A removal is almost certain Do they regard the pulpit as a stage, where self is to be exhibited and regaled with the incense of human applause ! Then all their preparations for that theatre must have an aspect and direction towards these interesting and absorbing objects. Authors of the most eloquent, classic,

discourse, how happy, how elated, how contented he is . And all this independently, or nearly so, of the all-important question, “Has a soul been converted to God Has the ignorant been instructed Has a broken heart ben healed and bound up to Would it not be an insult to reason and to God to suppose that he will sanction and bles such acting and by-aims as these Whatever may be the devotion, the zeal, and even the prayers of such ministers, we believe that God will blow upon their work : Certainly, nothing can be of greater importance to the success of a preached gospel, than right, and pure, and heavenly aims and motives in those who preach it. III. The want of due and right preparation for the pulpit. If any work requires diligent, careful, accurate, and earnest preparation, it is surely that of preaching “the everlasting gospel" to the erring and ruined children of men. Without this a minister may succed for a time in collecting and pleasing * congregation; but it will not, and cannot be for long. He will soon lo come wandering, uncertain, extravaganh and repetitious—pacing and beating perpetually over the same ground;

and this will never long edify or satiss

[ocr errors][merged small]

the same congregation. If any work requires to be done well and as it ought to be, it is that of the ministry of divine truth—a work which has to do directly and for ever with God, with a minister's own soul, and with the souls of his hearers. What, then, is the kind, and the best kind of preparation for this work 1 By no means would we underrate a literary, logical, analytical, and purely intellectual preparation ; for he who neglects it is sure, in a little time, to become unacceptable and offensive to the reading and thinking portion of his hearers, and so far defeat the success of his ministry. Nor can he long maintain his standing without this kind of preparation, unless he be a man of extraordinary native talents and genius. But this, after all, is by no means the most important and essential kind of preparation for preaching the gospel with success, much less is it the only necessary one. In the first place of all, the heart must be brought into a right state towards both God and man. On the one hand, it must be divested of pride and vanity, of selfishness and the fear of man ; and on the other, it must be replenished and imbued with the fear and love of God, and with Christ-like tenderness and compassion for the souls of men. This will give a zest, an earnestness, a vitality and power to the ministration of the truth which nothing else can, and which nothing can well resist. It will make the pulpit such a glowing scene of light and living power, as is nowhere else to be seen on earth, but which is every way befitting the delivery of a message from “the living God” to ruined but rebellious man Not all the learning, and logic, and cloquence in the world can supply its place. Without it, they will be as powerless over the human heart as the mere prattle and breath of an infant over a mighty tempest. We need hardly say

that this preparation of the heart can only be attained by devout meditation, sacred familiarity with divine revelation, constant communion with God, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Never ought ministers, above all men, to forget the inspired declaration, “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, are from the Lord.” But have we not too much reason to fear that the want of this kind of preparation lies and eats like a canker-worm at the root of our ministerial labours ? The writer of this paper candidly confesses that no one has deeper cause for lanentation and shame on this head than himself! Another essential part of effective preparation lies in the habit of diligently, freely, and directly collecting our sentiments, ideas, and illustrations from the word of God itself. We say nothing against the Inoderate use of human authors, for the purposes of elucidating and illustrating the historical, prophetic, and preceptive portions of the sacred volume; but we think it is quite possible, and too common, to make too much use of them in preparing for the pulpit. We often spend, it is to be feared, more time in consulting and collecting from them, than we do in studying and gathering treasures from the divine oracles themselves. The consequences are, that our views of truth often become dim and confused, the spirituality of our minds impaired, and our thoughts and heart too much humanized. As for the practice of making use of other men's compositions and plans of sermons, we know not how sufficiently to express our contempt and abhorrence of it. How should we laugh at and despise the vain or the crafty wretch who should once a week dexterously steal the dress of his more wealthy and fashionable neighbour, put it on, and then strut and swell about the streets and market in it, as though it was his and condemn the fool we saw constantly hobbling along our streets on crutches, who we knew could walk and run without them as well as ourselves, would he but use the strength and limbs which God has given him And do we not here see a picture, though a faint one, of the vanity, or cunning,

own How should we scorn, and pity, compared to

and degradation of that professed minis

ter of Jesus Christ, who, from sabbath to sabbath arrays himself out in the mental attire of some other man; or who leans upon the crutches, or stalks on the stilts he has purchased at the shop of Simeon, or Hannah, or Burns

and Co. 2 And can it in reason and

justice be pleaded that these means are really necessary to any one whom the great Head of the church has called to the ministry of his word We firmly believe it cannot. Surely there are materials enough in the word of God; for that is an inexhaustible mine. The riches of Christ, which he is to preach, are “unsearchable riches.” The Holy

Spirit which Christ has promised, for

the purpose of aiding his servants and giving success to their labours, is, for the variety, and fulness and all-sufficiency of his gifts and illuminations,

SCRIPTURE AND From the Orford Protestant

THE case of Mr. A. has afforded me, lately, a remarkable illustration of some of the remarks which I have at various times put forth.

Being a man of ingenuous and pious mind, he set himself to ascertain what was the religion it was his duty to embrace; instead of contenting himself.

* seven golden lamps

before the throne of God." All then

that can be necessary is for us to dig

into these mines—to gather up a little

of these boundless treasures—and earnestly to seek, and then open our hearts to the reception of the promised Spirit of light and power. Of the kind of preparation we are enforcing we have a glorious specimen in the first preachers of the gospel. Wherever they went it was “in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” When they preached, the word reached their hearers, “not in word only, but in power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” And to thousands both of malignant Jews and of degraded Gentiles did that word become “the power of God unto salvation.” In later times we are furnished with the fine and instructive examples of such men as John Bunyan and Richard Baxter, the secret of whose success lay rather in “the preparation of the heart,” than of the head.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

as one more indifferent on the subject, subsequent decision, the operation of a would have done, with adhering to the principle in the human mind which I church (the Greek) in which he hap-, have often noticed—the caring for pened to have been brought up. isotoy. To examine and re-examine.

[ocr errors][graphic]
« PreviousContinue »