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to say "Be it so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." No truth in Scripture is more palpable and undeniable than that God did appoint the foolishness of preaching as the great instrumentality under his Gospel. It is the peculiarity of the Christian religion that it is so propagated. The Jewish religion was propagated by ceremonies, and forms, and types, and shadows: these had a voiceless eloquence that spoke to the ear of faith, and was intelligible to the eye and the heart of faith, however indistinct and apparently indefinite was their knowledge. The heathen and false religions have usually propagated themselves by the sword, the fire, and the torture. But it is the pre-eminent peculiarity of the religion of the meek and lowly Jesus, that by the power of persuasion, and the simple appeal of truth to the conscience and the heart, it has its potency and its triumph.
"God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses, but hath committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation." "God appointed some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers." "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature ; and, lo, I am with you always even to the end of the world:" to them and their successors, and their successors' successors, till time shall be no longer, and the whole ransomed people of God be saved to sin no more. Beloved brethren, we may therefore without presumption, take up the language of the Apostle, and say, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ: as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead be ye reconciled unto God." Men and brethren, in these days when man is heard too much, the messenger looked upon and the message despised, how much do you need to be reminded, that preaching is an ordinance of God for the saving of your souls. Take heed how ye hear. Ye hear; the voice is human, but the word divine. "He that despiseth us, despiseth our message, despiseth not us but God that sent us "-the King whose ambassadors we are, whose credentials we bear in our hands, and whose commission those credentials so undeniably exhibit.
Then if God appointed it, it cannot be foolish, it must be wise. Omniscience could only devise the best, and infinite grace must have prompted the best, of all machinery. If we rested here, therefore, we might consider this one simple argument enough. But we would advance further, and argue that preaching is likewise excellent, inasmuch as it is the ministration of the Spirit of God. Yes, beloved brethren, we are emphatically under the dispensation of the Spirit. All holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works, proceed from him; without him we cannot think a good thought, we cannot speak a holy word, we cannot achieve a holy purpose. Without the Spirit of God all is impotency, all is darkness, all is corruption, all is vanity. But how does God communicate his Spirit? Does he send it in visions of the night, or does he send it in impressions-unmeaning, undefined, fanatical, impressions of the day? Does God send his Spirit by the sciences or by the arts that human wisdom teaches us? Does God send his Spirit to his people for the conversion and edification of their souls, by his visitations, by his judgments, by the reading of holy books, even by the reading of his Word? By the former of these instrumentalities never; by the latter we are bold to say rarely, compared with the frequency with which he conveys his Spirit to the soul by the foolishness of preaching. Look in the early history of the church, and see how the mighty results of the Gospel were then achieved; then three thousand were born
in an hour, and five thousand were similarly born in a day. It was when Peter was simply preaching Christ crucified, that they were pricked in the heart and cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" We deny not that the preparation of heart which is from the Lord, is frequently the result of his judgments and afflictions, and frequently results from expostulations of friendship, or the private reading of the Word: but we are persuaded that in the great majority of instances, God honours human husbandmen to cast in the incorruptible seed, which springs up in the furrow, the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear, a glorious harvest from above. We are persuaded that the more a man would investigate the subject, the more would he be convinced, that the Spirit of God has in all ages been pleased to communicate himself mainly and most frequently through the foolishness of preaching.
Beloved brethren, the effect and the efficacy of this simple instrumentality at once stands forth in boldest manifestation. It is from God: it is from no innate energy; it is from no power in the Word of God itself; and although it be a sword of heavenly temper and sharpness, a two-edged sword, "piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart;" though it be as a hammer mighty to break the rock in pieces, cannot the feeble arm of a worm of the dust direct that sword or wield that hammer? No, brethren, but there is an Almighty arm, on which the faithful minister rests, which is ever with him, that points the sword wherever the wisdom of Him whose arm wields it is pleased to direct, and brings home the hammer on the flinty heart when he is pleased to breathe into the contrite heart, that he may have mercy on it, and
Here then, brethren, you should even direct your expectation-not to the channel, but to the living waters that flow through the channel into your souls. Here is what men should come to the house of God expecting-not to hear the voice of the ministers, but the "still small voice" of the Spirit that created them, speaking in the chamber of their heart, entering with irresistible power, and coming home with most gracious consolation to their consciences and their spirits, that they may heed his warnings, his consolations, and his instructions.
We argue still further the wisdom and excellence of preaching, inasmuch as the theme at which the Jews stumbled, and whic the Greeks esteemed foolishness a crucified Saviour-is to them that are called "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." Though he appeared in the form of a servant, though he had no form or comeliness that we should desire him, yet there were beams of the latent Deity breaking forth, so that his disciples could testify, "We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. His humiliation is the sublimest exhibition of his glory-to think that despised wretched man to connect him with the everlasting God. So that we may say without blasphemy, "My God, yet my brother-my brother, yet my God!"
O, the mystery, how great! O, the mystery, how unspeakably great! What infinite effulgence shines in the crucified Saviour when viewed with the eye of faith, which can approach the veil, and discern the present glory!
Yes, and that which the worldly man disputes, and the selfish righteous man stumbles at the cross of Jesus-is the very subject which angels stoop to look into; it is the very subject that forms the everlasting praises, it is the very
subject that will ever engage the loftiest thoughts, and kindle the most rapturous songs of the blessed. A crucified Saviour! It is the power of God to convince us of sin; it is the power of God to convince us of the inexorableness of his justice, and the immutability of his truth; it is the power of God to make us see the heinousness of the horrible sinfulness of sin; it is the power of God to touch the hard heart, and to awaken the sleeping conscience; it is the power of God to heal the broken heart, and to comfort those that mourn; it is the power of God to give beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; it is the power of God to maintain the life in the heart; and from the first step in the heavenward course to the last, Christ and him crucified is the hope, and the all in all, of them that are taught and called of God. "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world." Here is the one simple testimony of every trueborn follower of the Lamb, from the first that felt the attraction of his cross, to the last that shall feel its power when time shall be no more.
We may argue the excellency of preaching from its great and its gracious results. Go, both in memory and in imagination, to the beginning of the Christian church. Go back to the period when there were gathered together in an upper room at the utmost five hundred persons; and those constituted the whole church of Christ, the whole fold of the redeemed in this lost world. Cast your eye east, west, north, and south-what do you find? Hopeless heathenism-stupid, inveterate, idolatry. The whole world is under the iron sway of the prince of darkness; and his fetters are so forged by iniquity and riveted by transgression, that they seem almost to defy omnipotence itself. But these few followers of the Lamb, in the confidence of their Master's permission, and in the strength of their Master's name, go forth and simply tell their strange and mysterious message, that "God so loved the world as to send his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life." They tell the same simple message to the learned philosopher, the bigoted Jew, and the poor grovelling and degraded heathen; and the same blessed results follow. The philosopher lays his pride and his false theories at the foot of the cross; the prejudiced, bigoted Jew receives that Jesus whom he had crucified, and whose blood was shed for him on the cross. The low grovelling idolater, only distanced from the brute by the form he wears and the language he speaks, rises up into the dignity of a new-born creature, brother to Christ, fellow-heir to angels, and the Son of God. These are the glorious triumphs of the cross. If it were merely the temporary influence Christianity wrought in the world, our own country tells at this hour with irresistible demonstration how mighty its energy and influence. Brethren, why are we not on this sacred day, gathered as our forefathers were, under the oak tree's spreading shade, to go through our dark orgies of impiety and blood, and some affectionate mother, or some tender father, bathing their hands in the blood of their own child, to appease the wrath of his sanguinary Deity? Why are we clothed instead of being naked and wandering savages? Why have we the arts, and sciences, and literature, and all that marks out a civilized people? Trace it up in every single stream, you will find them originate in the foolishness of preaching, the preaching of the Gospel brought to our shores, the Gospel in its benign and heavenly light chasing away the dark
shadows of superstition, and bringing us forth into light. This is the one source; these are the external triumphs of Christianity. But they are nothing compared with its internal, its everlasting triumphs. What avails it to redeem time and leave eternity dosolate and lost? What avails it to beautify the prison-house and leave the malefactor still fettered and undelivered? But Christianity acts not thus. What multitudes has it made to pass from death to life, from darkness to light, from the bondage of Satan, to the glorious liberty of the Son of God-from the base, grovelling lusts of the flesh, to the communion which the soul enjoys with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, till that soul becomes even on earth the denizen and citizen of heaven, and fitted and framed it at last in the beauty of holiness, and washed in the blood of the Lamb, to receive the harp of sweetness, and the crown of righteousness, and the palm of victory, and the robes of brightness, and the fulness of joy, and the pleasures for evermore that are at the right hand of God. Can we look back and find any thing to parallel the effects of the foolishness of preaching? The most savage nations brought to be civilized; the most covetous and avaricious man brought to a love of liberty; the most malignant and passionate brought to meekness and benevolence; the most drunken and debauched brought to purity and sobriety: O what triumphs has the foolishness of preaching achieved in former ages! But alas! not so now, because she has become shorn of her strength, like the champion of Israel-because she has sometimes hid the cross, and got rid of it, and lost in secular grandeur and pomp her high and spiritual excellences, because her ministers have been traitors, and her sons have forgotten the spirit and rested in the form; because the church has kept out of view the foolishness of preaching, the preaching has been foolishness indeed. So it was in the long dreary night when an unmeaning mass of superstition was substituted for the foolishness of preaching; penances, and genuflections, and a thousand absurd observances, smothered up the Gospel, and blinded the eyes of men. During that night there was no room for the foolishness of preaching but mark how God vindicated his ordinance and honoured the instrument he had appointed. For what was it shook the papacy to the centre? What was it rolled away the clouds of darkness from the nations of Europe, and brought them back to the liberty of the Gospel? The foolishness of preaching. When the church had departed from the primitive ordinance, Martin Luther and Melancthon went forth, unbefriended and unpatronized men as they were, to war against earth and hell combined: they went forth in the strength of the Holy Ghost; and by the foolishness of preaching, England, and Switzerland, and half the continent of Europe were emancipated from the yoke of bondage.
May I not appeal to yourselves whether the preaching of the crucified Saviour is not foolishness? There may be a decent and orderly attendance on the public ordinances of religion; there may be a certain moral influence exerted though that is very scanty indeed-on the outward character and conduct of the hearers; but where is the man " pricked to the heart," and crying, "What shall I do to be saved?" Where is the man that strikes on his breast and says, "God be merciful to me a sinner?" Where is the man who is brought to be devout in heart, and to fear and love God and man? Where is the man breaking off from fellowship with earth to enter into fellowship with heaven? How nerveless is the arm of the ministry unless it hold up the cross! "I, if I
be lifted up, will draw all men unto me," said the Saviour; and there is no minister of Christ, though his mental power may be small, and his physical strength feeble-though his eloquence and his literary attainments are of an humble character-if his heart is full of the love of the Gospel, and his voice pours forth the simple strains of the Gospel-who will not be the joyful father of many children in Christ, whom he shall in the last day lead up to the throne and say, "Father, here am I, and the children whom thou hast given me."
My appeal is also to the hearts of the faithful children of God. How many of you can look back and say, “That sermon first touched my heart that never was touched before-that simple remark which often had occurred to me, but never before struck me." I would appeal to the faith of the Christian. Has not God often spoken a word to you in season, so that it has been as a voice from heaven, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it?" Has not God by the foolishness of preaching, set the captive free? Have you not come here sad and sorrowful, and distressed, and ready to say, "My God hath forgotten, and my God hath forsaken me?" The lips of the minister have at once assured you that He will never leave you, and never forsake you: and you have said, "This was my infirmity." Have you never felt hard thoughts of God, and infidel doubts arising? And you have said "Then went I to the house of God and there understood I the end of the wicked. And I turned me from them to my own folly: so foolish was I, and ignorant."
Men and brethren, I appeal to you practically as evidence that every true Christian knows that God honours preaching. God forbid that we should disparage the secret reading of his word, or any other means of grace; but this we would say, that to put any means in competition with the foolishness of preaching, when it can be enjoyed, is sinful. It is not an ordinance of human wisdom, but of divine appointment.
Then if these things be so-if, on the one hand, preaching appears so foolish, and, on the other, it is so excellent, so wise, and so powerful-let me in the first place, say, Do not fall into the false notion of the day, do not give way to the sentiment which is so prevalent, that education is to be the grand regenerator of mankind. God never said "By the foolishness of education" it has pleased him to save them that believe. Far be it from the minister of Christ to deprecate education-far from him to wish that his fellow-creatures should not be able to read and write his own language. But to put the handmaid in the place of the mistress, to put the appointment of man in the place of the ordinance of God, is the way to bring a curse and not a blessing on education. Education is the great idol of the day to which the minds of men are continually burning incense; and they set aside the foolishness of preaching for the sake of that dream of their own imagination. Will education ever change the nature of man? Will human education—I am not speaking of religious education-will mere human education ever produce the results which its fond and dreamy theorists ascribe to it? It will elevate man: but how? It will elevate him from the beast to approximate him to the fiend. It will make him less grovelling in his pursuits, but it will make him more dangerous to himself and his fellows. Education without religion is like the sheathless sword in the hands of a madman: he may employ it against his foes, but it is more probable he will sheathe it in his own bosom, or in the bosoms of his friends. Be assured of this, that our missionary societies, and our other religious institutions,