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we ascend a pulpit, or be surrounded with any of the apparatus of ordinary parsonship. It is not necessary that our address be made to a public assembly at all. Nor is it even necessary, ere we open our mouth to our fellow-men, that we work up a labored systematic discourse. These things may accompany the preaching of the gospel, but they are by no means its necessary accompaniments, and it is hard to say whether this lavish profusion of human preparation, and worldly pomp, has not in many instances robbed of their native dignity and impressiveness, those sublime but simple truths which manifestly appear-"when unadorned, adorned the most." The preaching of the gospel, as imperative upon every Christian, needs not the aid of deep meditation, or of human scholarship. It consists in the simple communication to others of the simplest truths. We may preach to the little family circle as we sit in the house, or even to the solitary companion as we walk by the way. The simple belief of the gospel is all that is necessary to give us a title, and even to lay us under an obligation, to preach it in the sense which I have explained. David believed, and therefore he spoke! Paul believed, and therefore he spoke! and every Christian, having the same spirit of faith which dwelt in the Psalmist and the Apostle, should be able to adopt their language, and say, I also believe, and therefore speak. And if, my brethren the same spirit of faith is working in us, it has not been the choice of our profession that has laid us under an obligation to preach the gospel; but the previously felt obligation that has led us to make choice of our profession.
If we can conscientiously give it as the reason
for our proclaiming the truths of Christianity, that we speak because we believe, our conduct will be necessarily modified by the motives that actuate us; and our preaching shall be of a very different kind from that of the mere mercenaries of the church, or even from that of those who make their regular Sabbath-day exhibitions merely from a sense of professional duty.
In the first place, I remark, that our motive will regulate the time of our preaching.
If it be merely the wish to perform decently the duties of a minister, which is our ruling motive, then we shall, in all probability, be content with working up during the week, as much matter as will enable us to make on the Sabbath, two or three speeches, of the ordinary length, according as the custom of our predecessors, or the taste of our congregation may demand. If a parish be entrusted to our care, we may in all probability add to this the yearly or half-yearly visitation of a few of our parishioners; and if we be seɩ over a dissenting congregation, we may, perhaps, contrive, without much risk, (if our discourses happen to please the taste of our hearers,) of being thought inattentive to our duty, neglect the duty of visitation altogether.
But if we speak because we believe, if it be a decided conviction of the truth and importance of the doctrines of the gospel, and an experimental proof of their soothing and sanctifying influence on our own mind, which inspires from a principle of gratitude to our God, and compassion for our fellow-men, with the desire to devote ourselves to the service of God in the ministry of his Son; then our preaching will not be a thing of set times, or formal exhibitions. We shall not, indeed,
despise the established order of christian worship; the principle that actuates us will lead us to become "all things to all men, if by any means we may save some. ." We shall thus be glad to seize those opportunities when the commandment of God, and the laws and customs of our country have assembled many together for the purposes of religion; but our preaching will not be confined to the public exercises of the Sabbath, but according to the very solemn charge of the apostle, we shall be instant in preaching the word, in season and out of season, and in imitation of his example we shall not only speak as we have opportunity in the public places consecrated to devotion, but also from house to house. And even the ordinary intercourse that we carry on with our fellow-men,— our correspondence with friends at a distance, and our conversations with companions who are near, will alike be consecrated to those grand objects to which our own selves are devoted.
But our motive will not only regulate the times of our preaching, it will also determine the mode of our preaching.
If we believe that the great object for which the gospel was sent into our world was to effect the pardon and moral renovation of man; and if we believe what the Scriptures assure us, that this is chiefly to be effected by faith in a few simple elementary doctrines, we shall dwell much upon these doctrines, and ever make them the theme of our discourse.
If we are assured that he who believes in Jesus Christ shall be saved, we shall determine, like the early promulgators of the faith, to know nothing among men, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified: we shall not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus
the Lord, and ourselves the servants of all, for Jesus' sake.
If, again, we believe that the same Spirit which breathed life into the dry bones of the prophet's vision, must still exert his vivifying energy, ere a single sinner can be raised from a death in trespasses and sins, to newness of life; and if we farther believe that the Spirit is the gift of prayer, we shall be ardent in our supplications at the throne of grace, for the out-pouring of that mysterious influence, which, though itself unseen, is so visible in its effects, and without which the most splendid eloquence, and the most cogent reasoning can absolutely effect nothing.
Finally, our motive will also, to a certain extent, determine the sphere of our labors.
If we believe that there is one broad line which separates men into two distinct classes, those who believe, and those who do not;-those consequently who have obtained pardon, and those who are still under condemnation:-we shall esteem it a matter of infinitely greater importance to lead an individual across that boundary, than to lead an individual who has already past it a few steps farther on in his progress. The building up of believers is, no doubt, a most important work; but still we cannot help thinking, that it must yield in importance to the work of conversion.
I do not know whether the writer of this admirable discourse ever saw the "Hints on Missions,' by Mr. Douglas; but there is a passage in that little work so applicable to the subject of the preceding discourse, and so important in itself, that I shall here take the liberty to introduce it:
"While belief is connected with truth, we shall never want comforts; and while the belief of truth impels to the communication of truth, we shall never want preachers.
" "I believed, and therefore have I spoken.' Here is a measure derived from Heaven to judge of the sincerity of belief. The laws of the human mind are not circumscribed within degrees and parallels. He who has no desire to proclaim the gospel abroad, has none to proclaim it at home, and has no belief in it himself; whatever professions he may make, are hollow and hypocritical. Bodies of Christians who make no efforts to christianize others, are Christians but in name; and the ages in which no attempts are made to send the glad tidings to heathen countries, are the dark ages of Christianity, however they may suppose themselves enlightened and guided by philosophy
"The ages of Christian purity have ever been the ages of Christian exertion. At the commencement of Christianity, he who believed in the gospel, became also a preacher of the gospel. We believe, and therefore we speak.' The effort was correspondent to the belief, and the success to the effort. Christians grew and multiplied, and their very multiplication insured a fresh renewal of their increase. The primitive prolific blessing was upon them, and one became a thousand."*
If the subject of these memoirs borrowed the hint from the above passage, of which I have no evidence, it is very clear that he has duly improved upon it. His discourse exists but in the first
* Hints on Missions, p. 85. Boston edition.