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of its doctrines and precepts. Of these efforts, at the present time, there is certainly no scarcity.
The preacher, who forms and expresses different views of the Character, Law, and Government, of GoD; of the Character, and Mediation of Christ; and of the Terms of salvation; from those, which are presented to us in the Scriptures, preaches a Gospel, differing just so far from that of St. Paul. If his views of these subjects are essentially different from those exhibited in the Scriptures; his Gospel will be essentially different; because these are the fundamental subjects of revelation. If, for example, the Scriptures declare the Character, and Law, of God to be perfect: if they assert, that "he worketh all things after the counsel of his own Will;" and that "every one, who continueth not in all things, written in the book of the law to do them, is accursed:" if they declare Christ to be "GoD over all things, and blessed forever," and to be the Creator, Preserver, Proprietor, Ruler, and Judge, of the Universe: if they testify that "except we repent, we shall all perish;" that "he who believeth" on Christ, with the faith, which "worketh by love, shall be saved;" and that "he, who believeth not, shall be condemned;" that "we are justified by grace, through faith in the Redeemer;" that, unless we are born again of the Spirit of God, we cannot enter into his kingdom;" and that without the love, required by the divine law, we are, in the spiritual sense, nothing: then the preacher, who contradicts these declarations, or, in other words, exhibits doctrines, and precepts, opposed to these, preaches another Gospel, than that of Paul.
But, my brethren, this work is not always done in a manner so complete. In far the greater number of instances it is partially done. Many preachers reject parts of the Gospel; and receive other parts. Some profess to relish the precepts, who yet find much difficulty in admitting the doctrines. Some contend earnestly for the doctrines, who seem to have little relish for the precepts. By inculcating one of these classes of scriptural communications, and neglecting the other, the preacher, by degrees, impresses on the minds of his congregation, more forcibly than he
could easily do in any other manner, a conviction, that that, which he neglects, is of no serious importance. In this way, a multitude of preachers persuade those, who hear them, that the doctrines of the Gospel deserve little attention; and another multitude, that the precepts are of the same insignificant char
Another set of preachers, of which the present period may boast its full share, enter the desk, to exhibit themselves, if we may be permitted to judge, rather than the Gospel. These men are, frequently, not deficient with respect to their orthodoxy ; and trespass in the Manner, and the End, of their preaching more than in their doctrines, or precepts. The End, which they appear to propose, is the display of their talents, for the entertainment of their hearers. The Manner, in which they attempt to accomplish this end, is usually formed of metaphysical disquisitions; or brilliant appeals to the imagination, and powerful addresses to the passions. That Ministers should employ the whole energy of reason, fancy, and feeling, to elucidate divine truth to the understanding, and to impress it on the heart, is not only allowed, but, in my apprehension, demanded, by the Scriptures. The hearer, to whom the doctrines and duties of the Gospel are not exhibited in a clear manner, and proved by solid argument, will never be stable in his belief, nor in his practice; will easily be driven about by every wind of doctrine; and become, regularly, a prey to every specious sectary. The Truth of God, only, can make men free from the bondage of sin. But, to produce this effect; it must be shown, and seen, to be truth. This must be done by the clear light, and sound reasonings, of common sense, obvious to the general apprehension, and incomparably more satisfactory than those nice and subtile discriminations, which, invisible to the common eye, serve only to display the preacher's ingenuity, and to excite popular applause.
He also, who is taught only to understand, and not to feel, the truths of the Gospel, however rational and just may be his views, will ever be in danger of regarding those truths with a cold assent, and stupid indifference. To prevent this incalculable evil,
no method ought to be left untried, to quicken the apprehension, rouse the conscience, and move the heart. Of these two great constituents of Evangelical Preaching the apostles, particularly Paul, have left us the most honourable examples.
But, when the object of a Preacher is to exhibit himself with advantage, he will reason, not to make his hearers understand the truth of God, but to make them admire his own powers of reasoning; will cull fine images of fancy, and pour out warm effusions of feeling, not to render the truth, which he preaches, pungent and efficacious, but to command applause for his brilliancy, and eloquence. In both these cases, the preacher becomes an Actor; and his sermons a mere amusement for the day. This, to say the least, is not to preach as Paul preached. His Gospel was formed, wholly, to instruct, convince, awaken, and convert, sinners: a work, which, I am afraid, is not to be hoped from either of the modes of preaching, which have been here reprehended.
The doctrines of the Gospel are painful, the precepts of the Gospel are burdensome, to unrenewed men for both contradict their wishes, awaken their consciences, and excite the most alarming apprehensions concerning their future destiny. Still they are the doctrines and precepts of God. Of course, they are true, and right. It is therefore your duty, my brethren, to be willing, to be desirous, that Ministers should preach them to you. You are not permitted by your Maker to have itching ears. You are not permitted to "heap to yourselves teachers after your own lusts." You may not refuse to endure sound doctrine. You may not "turn away your ears from the truth, nor be turned unto fables." You cannot lawfully, you cannot safely, "say to the seers, 'See not,' and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things: speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits.'” "Get ye out of the way; turn aside out of the path; cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us." As they are bound to speak the truth; you are under the same solemn, and indispensable obligations to receive and welcome, to believe and obey, every thing which they preach, so far as it was preached by Paul,
It may indeed contradict, not unfrequently, your former opinions, as well as your present wishes. Should this be the fact, those wishes are wrong, and those opinions false. But false opinions and wrong wishes can never advance you a step towards heaven. The only effect of both will be your ruin. "To the law, then, and to the testimony." If Ministers do not speak, if you do not believe, this word; it is because there is no light in them, nor in you.
Were an Angel from heaven to bring you a message from your Creator; were he to come with the splendour, in which one of these glorious beings exhibited himself to the prophet Daniel; "his loins girded with the fine gold of Uphaz, his body like the beryl, his face as the appearance of lightning, his eyes as lamps of fire, his feet as polished brass, and the voice of his words as the voice of a multitude:" you would probably quake like the companions of Daniel, "and flee to hide yourselves;" or, like the prophet himself, would stand trembling; your strength vanished, "and your comeliness turned into corruption." If you should be able to command yourselves sufficiently to hear his message; with what solemn attention, with what profound awe, with what eager solicitude, would you listen to the heavenly messenger, and catch every word which fell from his tongue." Which of you would dispute his doctrines? Which of you would question his precepts? Is there a man in this assembly, who would insult the divine herald by telling him, that his declarations did not harmonize with the decisions of human philosophy; that they were hard sayings, gloomy and discouraging in their nature, and terrible in their import? Is there an individual, who would reply, that great and learned men had thought differently from him; or who would satisfy even himself in refusing to obey the voice of this wonderful preacher by recollecting, that he was contradicted by Hume and Voltaire, by Arius and Socinus?
Is there a person present, who would feel himself justified in declining, or neglecting, to comply with the precepts brought by this illustrious being, until a future and more "convenient season?" Should he command you" now to repent, and believe the
Gospel;" would you not feel, that you were indispensably, bound to obey? should he require you now to "love the Lord, your God, with all the heart, and your neighbour as yourselves;" would you feel excused, in prolonging your impiety, or your injustice; your avarice, ambition, or sensuality? Should he announce the Messiah as your Saviour, as the only "propitiation for the sins" of men; and require you "with the heart to believe" in him "unto righteousness, and with the mouth" to make "confession" of him "unto salvation;" could you feel any longer safe in your unbelief, or your refusal to "confess Christ before men?" My brethren, Angels have actually declared, in substance, all these things to mankind. The "Law was given by the disposition of Angels ;" and Angels announced the Redeemer to Daniel and Zechariah, to Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds of Bethlehem.
Convey yourselves in imagination to yonder burying ground. Behold the earth heave beneath your feet, the grave unfold its secret chambers, and a white-robed inhabitant of the unseen world ascend before your eyes from its silent recesses. Hear him proclaim to you, alternately, awful and delightful tidings of heaven and hell; and inform you, that within a few years you will inhabit one or the other of these worlds of retribution, and spend your immortal being in unutterable happiness or misery. Listen, while he subjoins the most affecting admonitions concerning your guilt and your danger; and warns you to "flee from the wrath to come," and to "lay hold on eternal life." Can you be insensible to the persuasions of the awful stranger? Can you sport, or wander, or sleep, beneath the sound of a voice,,which addresses you from the tomb? My Brethren, the Gospel was, in substance, all declared by one "who rose from the dead." These very tidings he brought from the invisible world. These very admonitions, these very exhortations, he now addresses to you from heaven; and repeats them every day you live.
Remember, my brethren, I intreat you to remember, that neither the glory and majesty of an Angel, nor the awful character, and alarming appendages, of a person rising from the grave, could change at all the nature or the importance of the message,