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the leading theme of our ministrations, we had better be any thing than preachers. Wo unto us, if we preach not the g08

The minister, who, under a pretence of pressing the practice of religion, neglects its all-important principles, labours in the fire. He may enforce duty till duty freezes upon his lips : neither his auditors nor himself_will greatly regard it. But, on the contrary, if by preaching the gospel be meant the insisting solely upon the blessings and privileges of religion, to the neglect of exhortations, calls, and warnings ; it is sufficient to say, that such was not the practice of Christ and his apostles. It will not be denied, that they preached the gospel : yet they warned, admonished, and entreated sinners to repent and believe ; to believe while they had the light ; to labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life ; to repent, and be converted, that their sins might be blotted out ; to come to the marriage-supper, for that all things were ready: in fine, to be reconciled unto God.

If the inability of sinners to perform things spiritually good were natural, or such as existed independent of their present choice, it would be absurd and cruel to address them in such language. No one in his senses would think of calling the blind to look, the deaf to hear, or the dead to rise


and walk : and of threatening them with punishment, in case of their refusal. But if the blindness arise from the love of darkness rather than light; if the deafness resemble that of the ad. der, which stoppeth her ear, and will not hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely; and, if the death consist in alienation of heart from God, and the absence of all desire after him; there is no absurdity or cruelty in such addresses.

But enforcing the duties of religion, either on sinners or saints, is, by some, called preaching the law. If it were so, it is enough for us, that such was the preaching of Christ and his apostles. It is folly and presumption, to affect to be more evangelical than they were. All practical preaching, however, is not preaching the law. That only, I apprehend, ought to be censured as preaching the law, in which our acceptance with God is, in some way or other, placed to the account of our obedience to its precepts. When eternal life is represented as the reward of repentance, faith, and sincere






obedience, (as it too frequently is, and that, under the complaisant form of being through the merits of Christ;') this is preaching the law, and not the gospel. But the precepts of the law may be illustrated and enforced for evangelical purposes; as tending to vindicate the divine character and government—to convince of sin—to show the necessity of a Saviour, with the freeness of salvation—to ascertain the nature of true religion-and to point out the rule of Christian conduct.--Such a way of introducing the divine law in subservience to the gospel, is, properly speaking, preaching the gospel; for the end denominates the action.

If the foregoing principles be just, it is the duty of ministers not only to exhort their carnal auditors to believe in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls; but it IS AT OUR PERIL


I am aware that such an idea may startle many

of my readers, and some who are engaged in the Christian ministry. We have sunk into such a compromising way of dealing with the unconverted, as to have well nigh lost the spirit of the primitive preachers; and hence it is, that sinners of every description can sit so quietly as they do, year


year, in our places of worship. It was not so with the hearers of Peter and Paul. They were either pricked in the heart in one way, or cut to the heart in another. Their preaching commended itself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. How shall we account for this difference? Is there not some important errour or defect in our ministrations ? I have no reference to the preaching of those who disown the divinity or atonement of Christ, on the one hand, whose sermons are little more than harangues on morality; nor to that of gross Antinomians, on the other, whose chief business it is to feed the vanity and malignity of one part of their audience, and the sin-extenuating principles of the other.

These are errours, the folly of which is manifest to all men who pay any serious regard to the religion of the New Testament. fer to those who are commonly reputed evangelical, and who approve of addresses to the unconverted. I hope no apology is necessary for an attempt to exhibit the scriptural manner of preaching. If it affects the labours of some of my brethren, I cannot deny but that it may also affect my own. I conceive,

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there is scarcely a minister amongst us, whose preaching has not been more or less influenced by the lethargic systems of

the age.

Christ and his apostles, without any hesitation, called on sinners to repent and believe the gospel; but we considering them as poor, impotent, and depraved creatures, have been disposed to drop this part of the Christian ministry. Some may have felt afraid of being accounted legal; others have really thought it inconsistent. Considering such things as beyond the power of their hearers, they seem to have contented themselves with pressing on them things which they could perform, still continuing the enemies of Christ; such as behaving dccently in society, reading the scriptures, and attending the means of grace. Thus it is, that hearers of this description sit at ease in our congregations. Having done their duty, the minister has nothing more to say to them; nothing, however, unless it be to tell them, occasionally, that something more is necessary to salvation. But as this implies no guilt on their part, they sit unconcerned ; conceiving that all that is required of them is, “ to lie in the way, and to wait the Lord's tinie.' But is this the religion of the scriptures ? Where does it appear that the prophets or apostles ever treated that kind of inability, which is merely the effect of reigning aversion, as affording any excuse? And where have they descended in their exhortations to things which might be done, and the parties still continue the enemies of God? Instead of leaving out every thing of a spiritual nature, because their hearers could not find in their hearts to comply with it, it may safely be affirmed, they exhorted to nothing else; treating such inability not only as of no account, with regard to the lessening of obligation, but as rendering the subjects of it worthy of the severest rebuke. To whom shall I speak, and give warn, ing, that they may hear? Behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they' CANNOT hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is un. to them a reproach, and they have no delight in it. What then? Did the prophet desist from his work, and exhort them to something to which, in their present state of mind, they could hearken? Far from it. He delivers his message, whether they would hear, or whether they would forbear, Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask'


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for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. And did this induce him to desist ? No: he proceeds to read their doom, and calls the world to witness its justice : Hear, O earth! Behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.* Many of those who attended the ministry of Christ, were of the same spirit. Their eyes were blinded, and their hearts hardened, so that they could NOT BELIEVE : yet, paying no manner of regard to this kind of inability, he exhorted them to believe in the light while they had the light. And when they had heard and believed not, he proceeded, without hesitation, to declare, He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, kath one that judgeth him : the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.t

Such, also, were many of Paul's hearers at Rome. They believed not: but did Paul, seeing they could not receive the gospel, recommend to them something which they could receive ? No, he gave them one word at parting: Well spake the Holy Spirit by Esaias the prophet, unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive. For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed ; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them, Be it, known, therefore, unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. I

When did Jesus, or his apostles, go about merely to form the manners of men ? Where do they exhort to duties which a man may comply with, and yet miss of the kingdom of heaven? If a man kept their sayings, he was assured that he should never see death. In addressing the unconverted, they began by admonishing them to repent and believe the gospel; and, in the course of their labours, exhorted to all manner of duties; but all were to be done spiritually; or they would

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Jer. vi. 10-19.

t John xii. 36. 48.

* Acts xxviii. 24.. 28.

not have acknowledged them them to have been done at all. Carnal duties, or duties to be performed otherwise than to the glory of God, had no place in their system.

The answer of our Lord to those carnal Jews, who inquired of him, What they must do to work the works of God? is worthy of special notice. Did Jesus give them to understand, that, as to believing in him, however willing they might be, it was a matter entirely beyond their power that all the directions he had to give were, that they should attend the means, and wait for the moving of the waters? No: Jesus answered, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.* This was the gate at the head of the way, as the author of The Pilgrim's Progress has admirably represented it, to which sinners must be directed. A worldly-wise instructer may inculcate other duties; but the true evangelist, after the example of his Lord, will point to this as the first concern, and as that upon which every thing else depends.

There is another species of preaching which proceeds upon much the same principle. Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, are allowed to be duties; but not immediate duties. The sinner is considered as unable to comply with them, and, therefore, they are not urged upon him: but, instead of them, he is directed to pray for the Holy Spirit, to enable him to repent and believe ; and this, it seems, he can do, notwithstanding the aversion of his heart from every thing of the kind. But, if any man be required to pray for the Holy Spirit, it must be either sincerely, and in the Dame of Jesus; or insincerely, and in some other way. The latter, I suppose, will be allowed to be an abomination in the sight of God; he cannot, therefore, be required to do this ; and, as to the former, it is just as difficult, and as opposite to the carnal heart, as repentance and faith themselves. Indeed, it amounts to the same thing: for a sincere desire after a spiritual blessing, presented in the name of Jesus, is no other than the prayer of faith,

Peter exhorted Simon to pray, not with an impenitent hreat, that he might obtain repentance; but with a penitent one, that he might obtain forgiveness; and this, no doubt, in the

John vi. 29.

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