« PreviousContinue »
also the spiritual and experimental knowledge of the gospel, demonstrates that they need, and can do nothing to purpose, without the Lord's presence and influence. This he hath accordingly promised to all that are called by him, declaring to them, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
8. Those called and sent by him, I say; for it is not to be supposed that he will be present with, or that he will give success to, the labours of those he bas not called nor sent. This leads me to observe, that it is not only necessary that a teacher of Christianity should have the fore-mentioned qualifications, but that he should be properly called to the work. Thus the Lord Jesus called the . twelve, and the seventy, and afterwards said, “ Separate me Bar. nabas and Saul to the work whereunto I have called them.” Hence the Church of England requires the candidate for holy orders, to decla that he trusts he is moved by the Holy Ghost to “ take upon him that office and ministry.” Now, though it may. not be easy to define this call, it will be readily allowed, that it must, at least, imply, through the influence of the Holy Ghost, first, a fervent love to souls, and a deep concern for their salvation, Secondly, a fervent love to the LORD Jesus, and an earnest desire to advance his honour and interest in the world. Thirdly, a single eye to the glory of God, in the salvation of souls, excluding all worldly, carnal, and selfish views, such as a regard to wealth, honour, pleasure, or ease. Fourthly, a willingness to endure any hardship or suffering, a man may meet with in the execution of his office. Fifthly, a persuasion that he is called, by whatever means that persuasion may be produced ; and an attraction of mind to the work, which, however, may be mixed sometimes with great reluctance, arising from a sense of his unworthiness of so high and holy a calling, and unfitness for so difficult and important an office.
9. But lest a man should mistake in this matter, and imagine he is called to the work of the ministry, when he is not; added to this internal, it seems necessary that he should also have an external call. The people of God should hear him, should judge of his qualifications for the work, and bear witness to the success of bis endeavours in the conversion of some souls from sin to righteousness, and in the edification of others. And his brethren in the ministry should also hear him, converse with him, and make diligent inquiry concerning his acquaintance with, and experience in divine things; as, also, concerning his behaviour among men, and his reasons for believing it bis duty to preach the gospel. And, if they judge him qualified and called to that blessed work, they should, in
a solemn manner, with prayer and fasting, set him apart for it. Thus, when the Lord Jesus said, by the Holy Ghost, "separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them," the other prophets and teachers, in the church at Antioch, “ fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them.” . And thus St. Paul appointed Timothy and Titus to "ordain elders in every city." The reason of this is obvious; the knowledge and experience of those that are already in the ministry, renders them best qualified to judge of the call and qualifications of such as are candidates, while a peculiar blessing must attend their advice and prayers. To those, therefore, who are thus qualified and called, is the charge contained in my text given ; and it is at their peril to disobey it. “ Though they preach the gospel, they have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon them,” yea, “wo be unto them if they preach not the gospel.” “ If they do this thing willingly, they have their reward," but if against their will, still they must do it, for "a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto them.” But,
III. Where must they preach it, and to whom? This is the next point that comes under our consideration.
1. “Go ye,” said the Lord Jesus, “into all the world.” Al though some of the preachers of the gospel may be peculiarly entrusted with the care of this or that people, and it may be their duty to feed and oversee certain flocks in preference to others, yet they are none of them entirely confined to any particular parish, district, country, kingdom, empire, or quarter of the globe; not to the temperate, torrid, or frigid zone; but when the Lord calls, and Divine Providence points out the way, they are to wherever any
rational creatures can be found that are willing to hear and obey the gospel. Like St. Paul, they are debtors, both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise.
2. But it may be objected, There are not temples, churches, chapels, synagogues, meeting-houses, nor any places proper for, or dedicated to, the worship of the true God, every where; and where they are, they may not be admitted to preach in them : what must they do in this case ? Must they wait till means can be used to induce people to build such places ? I answer, by no means. People must be instructed in the great truths of the gospel, and must be more or less convinced of, and affected by them, before they will wish to have places of worship erected, that being assembled in them they may hear these truths explained to them, and enforced upon them. And although it may be supposed that in this and other countries where Christianity is professed, people
universally understand, and are well disposed towards the propa. gation of it, yet matter of fact proves, that if the religion of Jesus be considered, in that simplicity, purity, and power, in which it is represented unto us in the New Testament, it is neither practised nor understood by the generality of people in this land; nay, nor regarded. Let these preachers, therefore, go forth, like the first servants of Christ, and proclaim the glad tidings of salvation wherever they find an open door. Let" wisdom cry without, and let her voice be heard in the streets." Like our Lord and his apostles, let them preach on mountains, in the highways, or by the hedges; or in private houses, market-houses, or barns; yea, wherever they can collect a congregation, though but of two or three, that are willing to hear. And let them declare their im. portant message.
3.“ To every creature ;" that is, to every rational creature of the fallen race of Adam. All have need of this gospel, and that in all these branches of it which have been mentioned. Mankind being all naturally ignorant and out of the way, and there being none, according to the testimony of David and St. Paul, that understand divine things, all need the truth of the gospel, and the Spirit of truth, of wisdom, and of revelation, to communicate the saving knowledge of them. Again, all having sinned and come short of the glory of God, the whole world being guilty before God, and by nature children of wrath, depraved, weak, and wretched, therefore all need pardon, the divine favour, regeneration, and all the other privileges of this gospel. And lastly, all being naturally lukewarm, indolent, and prone to go astray, they need the precepts of the gospel to quicken and direct them, and the Holy Spirit to write them on their hearts.
4. And as all have need of this gospel, so none are excluded. First, None are excluded by any decree of God. He, as Creator of all, “ is loving to every man, and his tender mercies are over all his works.” He is the Parent of the human race, and cannot, in the nature of things, debar any of his rational offspring from the knowledge, love, and enjoyment of himself, their Friend and their Father. He is the preserver and benefactor of all, in whom they live, nove, and have their being; and who hath not left himself without witness among them, but furnishes them with daily proofs of his goodness, "giving them rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, and filling their mouths with food, and their hearts with gladness ;" and surely he cannot be unwilling to save the persons whom he daily preserves, and on whom he showers his daily and hourly
benefits. Nay, he is the Redeemer of all, who hath “
so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life;" yea, whose Son died for all, when all were dead; gave himself a ransom for all, and by divine grace or favour, tasted death for every man. And is it possible he should shut the door of salvation against any that he hath purchased with his Son's blood ? Hence it is that he iş expressly termed the Saviour of all men, although especially of those that believe, “ not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;" should“ be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth."
5. And as none are excluded by any decree of God, so none are shut out by any natural or moral incapacity. None that are not idiots, (in which case they are not accountable for their actions, nor the proper subjects of rewards and punishments) are so ignorant as to be incapable of understanding the truths of the gospel, if enlightened by the Spirit of God, which is free for all, and promised to all that sincerely and earnestly ask it. None are so guilty, as to be debarred the privileges of the gospel, purchased for all that will accept them, by the death of Christ, and offered to all by the free mercy of God. None are so weak and depraved, as to be unable to obey the precepts of the gospel, if assisted by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, which bringing salvation, hath appeared unto all men, as the apostle testifies,* and may be received by all. Hence it is, (and this leads me to the last particular,) that,
Fourthly, Faith is justly required of all, on the peril of everlast. ing damnation." He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.”
1. From what has been said, it will easily appear, both what faith is, and how justly it is required in order to everlasting salvation. It respects the gospel in all the three grand branches of it above-mentioned. First, As the gospel is a revelation of Truths, it implies that, in consequence of an attentive consideration and thorough knowledge of them, we be persuaded of the certainty and importance of these traths, and that in such a lively and operative manner, that our hearts are truly affected, and our liven duly influenced by them from day to day. These truths, coming to us not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, are the power of God unto our salvation, For as soon, and in proportion as we thus believe, “we are
* Titus ii. 11, 12
translated out of darkness into marvellous light; in other words, we are saved from ignorance and error, into the light of knowledge and truth. Secondly, As the gospel is an offer of privileges, faith in it implies, that we accept that offer in the
God hath appointed, viz. The way of “Repentance towards God, and confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ,” the High Priest of our profession, who by his death hath obtained these privileges for us, and in his gospel, makes them over to all that repent and believe in him. By faith in this sense,
we are justified from all things :" we are saved from the guilt of sin, into the divine favour, are adopted into God's family, regenerated through his grace, and restored in a degree, at least, to his likeness. Thirdly, As the gospel is a promulgation of laws, faith in it implies, that we acknowledge the authority of the Lawgiver, and yield ourselves up to obey his laws, looking to him, and depending on him, as a Saviour, for power to enable us so to do, and trusting in the mercy of God, through his merits, for the pardon of our daily infirmities and defects. By faith, in this respect, we are saved into universal holiness of heart and life, and obtain " a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards man," with great boldness in the profession of the gospel.
2. It appears by this, that our Lord's promise is, and must be always strictly fulfilled, “He that believeth shall be saved.” By believing in, and receiving Christ, and his gospel, with regard to the truths it reveals, the privileges it offers, and the laws it enjoins, we are saved even here, from ignorance and error, sin and misery; we are enlightened, justified, sanctified, and comforted. And persevering to believe, we continue to be saved, and that in proportion to the degree of our faith. The greater number of divine truths we receive by faith, and the more fully and clearly we are persuaded of them, and impressed by them, the more must our minds be enlightened with true and saving knowledge. The more constantly we apply to, and the more firmly we trust in Christ for the privileges of the gospel, the more must we be encouraged and comforted, purified and strengthened. And the more we submit, by faith, to the authority, and comply with the injunctions of the laws of the gospel, looking to the Lawgiver, who is also the Saviour, for grace and strength, the more shall we be saved from the appearance of evil; and the more holy shall we become “ in all manner of conversation and godliness." Thus, the just continues to live by faith, and to live more abundantly. The full assurance of faith, always attended with the full assurance of hope, never fails to