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and shine with resplendent brightness: and inany of then* are transparent, you may see through them, and there is no spot or blemish in them. Let this teach you the necessity of constantly burning in the love of God, and shining in bis light, and above all, of obtaining the pure and perfect lore of God, yea, that purity of heart that entire sanctification of body, soul, and spirit, which you are called to experience. Each of you, brethren, should labour incessantly to be, not only a bright and shining, but a transparent jewel; a jewel without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; being made fully fleet for the inheritance of the saitits in light, so shall you be for ever with the Lord.
2 Cor. iv. 5.
We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus (he Lord, anJ »urseU«s yonr servant*^
for Jesus' sake. '• , ' •
• - . ^
IN O doubt the apostle Paul had as clear views of the nature and design of the Gospel-ministrv, as .any mere man ever had: and we need not wonder at this, 'when weconsider that he received the gospel not from man, nor was he taught it by man, but by immediate revelation front the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the preceding chapter he compares the Gospel dispensation and that of the Law, with each other, and shews hov^ far the one exceeds the.other, as it respects the salvation ef mankind. He observes that the law, though glorious in itself, yet when compared with the gospel, had no glory in it, being so very far exceeded in glory by the Gospel. That the law was only the ministrv of the letter which killeth, but the gospel is the ministry of the Spirit, which givoth life. The law was the ministration of death: bwt the gospel is the ministration of life and pence: The law Was the ministration of condemnation; but I he gospel is the ministration of righteousness, or of.jiwtihcurion. Theretore, saith he, " Seeing wehare this excellent ministry, as w« have received mercy.we faint not;" Well knowing the Vorth of immortal souls, and the greatness and inestimabla value of the salvation which h.y our ministry they may enjoy: We have renounced the hidden tilings of dishonesty, or of shame, not walking in craftjness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Walking as in the immediate presence of him, who searcheth the heart, and who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquitv, fully declaring, and publishing; the truth in his name ;" For we preach not ourselves, but. Christ Jesus the Lord. The words naturally divide thcoueU.es into three particulars. . . .. , . - '• ';
firsl. When mav a Minister be- said to preach him*selfl
Secondly. What are we to understand by preaching Christ Jesus the Lord! - '
Thirdly. And ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake, What does the Apostle intend therebv '( . - '.
And, First. When may a Minister be said to preach himself? ..
lam very sensible how extremely difficult it is to say anjr thing upon a subject so exceedingly delicate, without giving offence to some, even religious people. But when I consider of what infinite importance, a pure and spiritual ministry must be, to the souls of meu, a sense of duty obliges me to .speak, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear. .Surely their hands should be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord, and the lips of the ministers of Christ should keep knowledge, that the people may receive the Law from their mouth. Hut let it be carefully observed, that I am chiefly^ I had alHMist said only, concerned for that body of peopip with whom I am connected. I leave all others to stand or fall to their own master, well knowing that I am too insignificant a person to be regarded by them. Hear this then, O ^'e Methodists! I speak to you now as a dying man! I am upon the very brink of the eternal world, and am deeply concerned for your spiritual welfare. Remember, that every particular body of religious people in this nation, were remarkably lively, and zealous, when the Lord first raised them up; but afterwards they generally declined. That it may not be thus with you, pray ye that the Lord of the harvest, may continue to send forth faithful labourers, men full of faith and the ]ove of God. Do all in your
power to secure a lively heart-searching ministry. Let both the preachers and people see to this; for the prosperity of the work of God greatly depends upon it; secure this, and the good pleasure of the Lord shall still prosper amongyou, but if you neglect this, you are undone. You will, strust, think of this when I am no more an inhabitant of this world. If ever the power of godliness declines, among you, it will
'begin with the preachers; for while they continue alive to
God, zealous for his glory, and faithfully, and powerfully preach the gospel; he will confirm the word of his servants, and pure and undefiled religion will still flourish among you
but if once the preachers decline, you will surely be the suf. ferers. Remember, one of the first instruments which the Ford employed in the present revival of his work, said long *ince,
How ready is the man to go,
How timerous, diffident and slow,
In consideration of this, I would observe, that none are so likely to preach themselves and not Christ Jesus the Lord, as those who run before they are sent, who never experinced a deep work of grace upon their own minds ; nor have been so taught of God, and enriched with spiritual gifts, as to be properly qualified for this great work. There have been too many in all ages of the church, who evidently shewed, that they never, were sent of God; but the Prophets and Apostles, as well as our Lord himself, have borne their testimony against them, therefore follow their example, and suffer none of this description to labour among you. Remember, brethren, the affecting words of St. Paul : “I know this, that after my departing, grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock, also of your own selves will men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” If there was such danger as this, in the apostolic age itself, what may we not justly fear in these degenerate days Therefore carefully guard both the fold and the flock of Christ, that no such wolves may ever be found amongst you.
A minister may be said to preach himself, when he bath only his own interest in view, when he neither seeks the glory of God, nor labours after the salvation of precious souls, but wishes to display his own abilities, that he may
-gain tlie praise, or the honour which cnmeth from man, and tiv this means may be at case in /ion: Or having only his temporal interest at heart, though his abilities are but small, yet by every means he can think of, he endeavours to raise himself in the world.
A man may be said to preach himself, when having acquired, as he supposes, a sufficient stock of human learning, he thinks himself fully qualified for the work of the ministry ^ he enters upon it in his own wisdom, and being little acquainted with the Gospel of Christ, and still less with the nature of a w<oik of grace, he preaches his own opinions, and not the truth as it is in Jesus; or, from the strength of his memory, he repeal.s something which looks like the Gospel, but it clearly appears, that he has not the toot of the matter in his own heart: He wants the grand qualification of a Minister of Christ, even the life of God in his own soul. "When it pleased God," saith thd Apostle, "who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood." Such ought every preacher of the Gospel to be, and then he will preach Christ and him, crucified, and leave self out of sight. Having Christ revealed in him, or as the Apostle prays, having Christ dwelling in fais heart by faith, he will bring out of that good treasure, those important things, which it is absolutely necessary for the people to experience.
Secondly, When may a Minister be properly said to preach Christ Jesus the Lord.
This is a matter of vast importance, and therefore deserves our serious consideration. That this may be effectually done, it is not only absolutely necessary that a man should have sound scriptural experience of the power of divine grace in his own mind; but he should have a thorough acquaintance with the holy scriptures, ,with the whole Gospel of Christ, and should be called of God to, and qualified by him for this great and important work, and where a person is not so qualified, little good can be expected.
1. To preach Christ implies, that the whole counsel of God be unfolded, that every part of the Christian doctrine be clearly explained, and properly applied to the understandings and consciences of the people: So that while they hear, they may rightly understand, and by the blessing of God, may be properly affected with divine truth. He who would preach Christ, must take care to lay the good foun
elation, and begin with those truths, which according to the order of God, should be first known and experienced, and then lead his hearers forward to every other branch of the holy gospel, clearly shewing that there is a beautiful harmony bet wee u the several parts of the word of God, and that they depend upon, and are naturally connected with each other. They are as so many links in a chain, or as so many stones in an arch, you cannot take one stone away but the arch will fall down. "I have not shunned, saith, St. Paul, to declare unto you the whole counsel of God," and in particular, he had preached, '? Repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." And he who would approve himself to God, as a faithful minister, must go and do likewise.
2. To preach Christ implies, that he be clearly set forth, as an all-sufficient Saviour, as evidently crucified before the eyes of the people, considered as having finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting; righteousness, for a mined world: And having all power in bis hand, in heaven and on earth he is every way qualified to save and to bless all those who look unto him for present and eternal salvation. This must be done in such wise, that all mav see the necessity of obeying that word of God. "Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am. God, and there is none else," Or what is the very same thing, i' Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." He who would preach Christ, having experienced the virtue and efficacy of his precious blood in his own soul; will always take care to send poor ruined guilty sinners to him, for pardon and peace, for redemption and salvation: And will say to all such, " Arise, why furriest thon, wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord."
3. As the word Christ, signifies the anointed of God; He mu t be, cot.^idcred as a Prophet, Priest and Kin^ to bi* church, and must be preached in all these sacred offices. Christ tlie Prophet migbtv in word and deed before God mid all the people, must be preached. He was prophecied of in the Old Testament under this character. And under ihe New Testament dispensation he acted in that capacity. He not only foretold future events, but like the .ancient prophets, taught and instructed the people; be published the glad tidings of salvation wheresoever he came, and fully proved himself to be the wonderful counsellor foretold by his faithful servant Isaiah. No sooner did he enter upon