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even thought that they exhibited as much of a controversial spirit, and spoke as severely of those who departed from their prescribed policy, as the decided advocates of liberal opinions. The evidence arising from many facts has fully convinced me, that if a rational preacher wishes to preserve his society in harmony, to have his ministrations well attended, to see his hearers intelligent and zealous Christians, to break the bread of life to a large number of communicants, he must be perfectly frank and explicit in his public instructions on all the important doctrines and duties of Christianity.
3. I think preaching should likewise be charitable. I do not believe the christian minister has any warrant from scripture to censure those who cannot conscientiously subscribe to his interpretations of the divine records. If he condemns others merely for their honest opinions, he assumes an office which belongs to no erring mortal; he claims an infallibility which belongs only to the omniscient God, and he violates the laws of charity. Neither does he receive any such authority from his supporters. You do not employ a frail mortal to dictate to you what creed you must embrace; or to sentence you to hell for honestly differing from his conclusions. You acknowledge the Bible to be the word of God, and the only infallible standard of faith and practice. You are aware that this book was written many centuries since, at different times, in different languages, by different men, for different divine purposes; that, on this account, it contains frequent allusions to the then
existing manners, customs, opinions, prejudices, errors, disputes, scenery and circumstances; and, consequently, that it requires much learning and patient investigation to ascertain the true meaning of all its writings. Accordingly, you engage a person of proper qualifications to spend his time in drawing from this fountain of salvation those truths which he may think important to be believed and obeyed; and these he is to set before you on each returning sabbath in such a manner as to convince your understandings and engage your affections. When he has faithfully performed this service, his duty to you, in this particular, is properly discharged.
But if he feels disposed to examine into the foundation and evidence of every disputed theological subject, he has a perfect right so to do; it is his duty; for he is commanded to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. So also if he chooses to describe and denounce the unchristian spirit, or conduct, of any man, or of any body of men, he has an undoubted right so to do; it is his duty; for he is commanded to judge of Christians by their fruits, and to reprove all transgressors. And in all this there is nothing uncharitable. But the moment he accuses any one as sinful or hopeless, merely on account of his peculiar sentiments, he oversteps the bounds of christian charity, and openly disobeys the precepts of his Saviour. And to be constantly railing about those individuals and societies, who have embraced views of the gospel different from his own, merely on account of this honest difference of opinion, is not only unrighteous, but really pernicious. For
the natural tendency of such a course would be to make himself, and those of his party, proud, bigoted, censorious, and persecuting; the very sins so often reproved by the inspired preachers. He should rather endeavor to make himself and his hearers, humble, candid, forbearing, forgiving, and benevolent. And he should ever remember that he has one master, even Christ, and that all Christians are brethren. This course was recommended by the example and precepts of our acknowledged Teacher.
4. I think finally, that preaching should be practical. Our Saviour came to reform the world. He has accordingly given us a peculiar system of morality. Its peculiarity consists in this. It contains general principles of conduct which may be extended to every particular word, action, thought, and motive. He summed up all human duty in love to God and love to man; and these two fundamental principles include all the acts of piety, benevolence, and self-government. Practical preaching, therefore, consists in minutely unfolding these general principles, and earnestly urging their cordial reception as rules of action. In this way, the preacher may persuade his hearers to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. This method of dispensing religious truth does not, however, preclude the necessity of occasionally introducing the leading doctrines of the gospel; for they are eminently calculated to promote christian holiness. How often did our Saviour allude to the paternal character of God, and
his providential government of the world! I think, therefore, we can adopt no better rule as to the selection of topics for public instruction, than to follow his example. But pray show me the chapter and verse in which he discoursed of a trinity of persons in the Godhead; of his own self-existence and equality with his Father; of the total depravity of man; of moral inability, unconditional election, and an infinite atonement; of special grace, miraculous conversion, and the damnation of infants. On the contrary, how plainly did he teach that God is One; that our heavenly Father is the only true God; that he was dependent on his Father for his existence and all his powers; that of such as children consisted the kingdom of heaven; that he who asketh, seeketh, and knocketh, shall obtain salvation; that our Father in heaven is more ready to give his holy spirit to those who desire it, than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children; that whoever would inherit eternal life must keep the commandments; and that every one will be rewarded according to his deeds. Now we must all acknowledge that Jesus knew what was in man; knew what instructions were necessary to effect his salvation. So long therefore as the minister confines himself to such topics as those mentioned by our Saviour, his preaching will be practical and evangelical. And when he presents such subjects in an intelligible, explicit, charitable, pungent manner, his sermons will accomplish the great ends of gospel preaching, and meet the wants of all serious Christians.
Such is the minister's duty in relation to the public instructions of the church. What then are the corresponding duties of a people? Hearers are bound to listen candidly, to judge charitably, and to apply faithfully. They will hear with candor. They will remember that their preacher thinks for himself; that he addresses hundreds more, who also think for themselves; and that it is absolutely impossible for him so to think on all subjects as to coincide in opinion with every hearer. They will doubtless agree with the minister of their choice in everything essential to good morals and final salvation; otherwise they would not attend upon his ministrations. But on the endless variety of topics which come under discussion, unity of belief is not to be expected. Whenever, therefore, he advances opinions inconsistent with their present views, they will honestly endeavor to learn his true meaning, to refrain from drawing unjust inferences, and ever abstain from magnifying real or apparent differences. They will also exercise a charitable judgement. Before they accuse him of promulgating hurtful errors, they will carefully compare his statements and conclusions with the unerring scriptures. And if, after impartial examination, they are compelled by evidence to dissent from his peculiarities, they will still have sufficient charity to believe his heart may be right, though they consider his head to be wrong. They will cheerfully concede to him the same rights which they claim for themselves, and imitate the commendable example of the Bereans.-They will like