Page images





S you are now ordained a minister of Christ, and

have received the charge of this congregation, I hope you will bear with me a little, while I offer you a few advices as to the discharge of your important trust. And I cannot help beginning by congratulating you on the unanimous call you have received from this people. How. ever despised by fome, I count it a most happy circumstance both for you and them. It introduces you with great advantage. It gives you a fair and impartial hearing; and, if you do not preserve their esteem and love, it will probably be, in a great measure, owing to yourself.

I must first of all befeech you, in the most earnest manner, to be strict and frequent, in enquiring into the truth and reality of religion in your own soul. Personal religion is the foundation of all relative duties. They can scarcely be performed in any tolerable measure without it. It is equally necessary to your usefulness, and to your comfort. It is a difficult thing, and it is a dreadful thing, to preach an unknown Saviour. Examine, therefore, whether you are “ born again;" whether you have “ pall" ed from death to life ;" whether you are united to Christ by faith ; whether you know by experience, the difference between a state of nature and a state of grace, or not. While I speak this, I assure you, I do not mean it, and I hope none will interpret it, as any reflection against, or implying any suspicion of you, who have given me no cause. I speak it from a deep impression of its importance to us all. How miserable a case is it, to have it as our business to bring others to the kingdom of heaven, and

[blocks in formation]

be ourselves at last thrust out. A minister is as much liable to self-deceit as any other, and in some respects more so. We are in danger of thinking ourselves too easily safe, by comparing that outward regularity, to which our office 'itfelf, even from fecular motives, obliges us, with the licentious extravagance of prophane finners. We may also mistake our frequent thinking and speaking of the * things of God,” in the way of our calling, for an evidence of true religion in ourselves. Nay, we are in dan. ger of mistaking those gifts, with which God furnisheth us for the benefit of his own people, for the fruits of the Spi. rit, and gracious difpofitions in our own hearts. Main. tain, therefore, a holy jealousy over yourself. - Give di “ ligence to make your calling and election sure.” And, if you save your own soul, you will probably carry many others with you to a better world ; and be able to say, af. ter the example of Christ, “ Behold I, and the children “ whom God hath given me."

As to the duties of your office, fee that you preach the pure and uncorrupted doctrine of Christ. Preach Chrift crucified, who is “ the way, and the truth, and the life ;"? and without whom " no man can go unto the Father." You will never be able to make men truly good, till you convince them of their loft state by nature ; and thence make them see the necessity of justification by the free grace of God, through the imputed righteousness of Christ. If you would know what place Christ ought to hold in your preaching and scheme of doctrine, observe what room he fills in the oracles of truth. To the cross of Christ give all the prophets witness. The cross of Christ is the fum and fubftance of the New Testament. The cross of Christ is the Chriftian's hope. The cross of Christ is the Christian's glory. You see, by a serious perusal of the New Testament, that the sacred writers largely illustrate the feveral parts of his character and office, and seem with pleasure to embrace every opportunity of speaking to his praise. They show how much we are to depend upon him for strength in the discharge of our duty; and enforce all their exhortations by motives drawn from what he hath done, and is still doing, for his church and people. You

will foon find from experience, that no cold reasonings on the nature and beauty of virtue, can have such influence in mortifying corrupt affections, as a believing view of a pierced Saviour. For this

For this very reason many deteft the doctrine of the cross. It gives a mortal blow to every darling lust. It gives such a view of the holiness and jul; tice of God, as is intolerable to all thole who cannot think of breaking their attachment to fin and vanity.

There is one particular reason why I have mentioned this at present, and infisted on it at some length. It is or, dinary to meet with serious perfons who complain much, that from many pulpits they hear little or nothing of the doctrine of the grace of God; that the grand and leading truths of the gospel are either flatly contradicted, or kept entirely out of view, and something else substituted in their place. I am far from faying that this is indeed the case, On the contrary, I tremble to think that it should be but barely possible ; for all these doctrines are clearly contaired in the Confeffion of Faith, which every minister in Scotland has subscribed. If, therefore, there be any ono among us, who doth not preach the doctrine of original fin, of Christ's imputed righteousness, juftification by free grace, the necessity of regeneration, and the operations of the Spirit, he is guilty of perjury of the worst kind, for which I know no excufe. Such a person is not only chargeable with departing from the faith, but with an abso. lute proftitution of conscience, and a whole life of hypo. crify and deceit. I am indeed entirely at a loss how to account for this apprehension in the pecple, of a difference in doctrine; but as there certainly is luch an apprehen, fion, I think I cannot discharge my duty on this oecasion, without exhorting you to be clear and explicit upon these heads. · The truth is, they are of so general consequence, and have fo necessary a connexion with every other part of religion, that, be the subject what it will, where they are firmly believed, I thould imagine the manner of thinking and speaking would be such, as to leave no jealousy of an intended omiffion.

This leads me to exhort you, to preach plainly, or in a way that may be level to the capacities of the hearerea both as to sentiment and exprefsion. God forbid, that I should desire you to rush into a pulpit without prepara tion, to preach in a disorderly method, or in a mean, flo. venly or indecent style. All pains should be taken to seek out fit and “ acceptable words.” But there cannot be a greater absurdity in speaking to a multitude of common people, than to discourse in such a stiff and abstract way, as it is plainly impossible for them to comprehend. Nor is it any less absurdity to dress up an harangue with excessive elegance, and a vain, ornamented foppery of style. Some discourses may very well be likened to painted windows, which, with fine colours upon themselves, keep out the light, and make the house comfortless and dark. Such conduct is ordinarily followed by those, who would willingly recommend themselves to persons of better taste ; but it muft evidently render them contemptible to every person of sound judgment. However, it is much worse than abfurd ; for it is very wicked, when the everlasting falvation of finners is at stake, to speak in such a manner as they cannot understand, or such as tends only to amuse their fancy, and never can reach their hearts. If we would know what is a proper and just manner of style and composition in preaching, let us consider how any man would speak, if he was on trial for his own life. Would he not speak with great plainness, earnestness and force? And is not the salvation of fouls of infinitely more moment than any man's life? And should it not, if we believe the Scriptures, be more regarded by every faithful minifter?

You must also take care to preach experimentally and particularly. You will soon find that this is the only profitable way of preaching, and that, unless you apply general truths to the several classes and characters in your audience, they will make but a sorry improvement of the best instruction. The ignorant cannot, and the wiser will not apply them to themselves. Besides, the general way is not only useless, but pernicious and hurtful. Suppose I should make an encomium on the wife, just, and gracious government of God over his rational creation, and observe what reason all have to rejoice under his admini


Itration. Should I say so this audience without distinction, it would be to many a dangerous and ftupilying poison. A juit and holy God, is a consuming fire to all the workers of iniquity. Those who are fill in their fins, should tremble to think of the government of Godi.

Besides public preaching, you mult be diligent among your people from houle to houle.” You must not neglect family instruction, and personal admonition or reproof. This is, if not the most useiul part of a minister's work, at least absolutely necellary to the succeis of his preaching. It is also by far the most laborious part, from which flothful men are most apt to excule chemielves. A man may gratity his vanity by preaching, and public performances; or, the neglect being viiible, he may be com. pelled to regularity by fear of reproach or prosecution. But diligence in private, can scarcely arise from any thing but a sense of duty, and of the preience and obfervation of God. The exercise of discipline is another part

your du

of ty which must not be onnitted. It is of very great moment to the interest of religion. It is a saying of one of the first reformers, “ They that defire to banish discipline, " defire to banish Christ from his church." There must Needs be offences in the Christian church. But when discipline is neglected, then the offence becomes unspeakably more dangerous, especially to the young and weak. It makes them think lightly of the character and privileges of a Christian, when there is either a promifcuous adnuission to church-communion, or when openly wicked persons are suffered to continue without cenfure, When you come to instruct young persons, in order to renewing their baptismal engagements in the Lord's fupper; or, if ever you have occasion to instruct a heathen in order to baptilm, I can assure you, from experience, you will find the unhappy effect of the low state of discipline among us. It will immediately strike yourself, and ihese catechumens will soon betray, by their discourse, how hard it is to have a jutt sense of the fanctity of the Christian character, while so many prophane perions are suffered to be called Christians; and not a few whole con

« PreviousContinue »