« السابقةمتابعة »
tation of foul demons; the thief who had spent his life in disobeying the laws of God and his country, in the very last hour of his existence; the Romans among whom sin reigned, the first chapter of the epistle to whom contains a list of crimes enough to appal any mind; the Corinthians, the vices of whom are enough to excite a blush while we read them. But by the simple preaching of Jesus Christ to these and to hundreds more since it has been tried, not only in England, but in Asia and in Africa, and among the poor Hottentots, whom civilians, and philosophers, and others used to tell us formerly were a link between the brute creation and man-these links have been united by the grand link to the church of Christ: and it is wonderful to say now, that these very Hottentots, converted by the simple preaching of Christ, the government find so useful, that they have entered into contracts with them; and they now find that these very men have minds capable of elevation, and dignity, and glory. Let but this one single subject be preached, and you convert savages into saints, slaves into freemen, impure people into holy people, and miserable people into happy people.
Now contrast this subject with any other topic: contrast it with moral suasion: take essays on sobriety and virtue, and let the orator Cicero deliver them himself; and what effect will they produce? Why just this effect: The missionaries belonging to the Moravian Missionary Society went to publish the Gospel to the Greenlanders: no impression was made for some years: they preached to them the necessity of abstinence from covetousness and drunkenness: they told them there was one God, and they ought to serve him; they told them it was necessary that men should live in holiness and morality. "we knew all this before; we were quite "Why," the people used to reply, sure of this before." But one day one of them came near them, and it so happened that a gust of wind blew one of the verses of the Bible which they were then translating into their language, upon a particular place; the poor man took up this paper, and asked the missionary to read it, and he read, I think, this "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten passage: Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life." "What did you say?" said this man: " read me that again: what did you say that Christ came to save sinners? Read me that again, that God loved me, and gave his Son for me; read me that again." And he read it, and read it again, and the missionaries soon began to find, that the way to civilize, and moralize, and evangelize the people, was not to go by the circuitous route of first preaching morality, but to begin by preaching Christ, and morality as the handmaid of the truth would necessarily and essentially follow. And from that time, the history of the Moravian Mission tells us, a revival took place, and God honoured their mission to the utmost of their wishes.
Ah, dear friends, I wish I could take you to some of the village stations around the chapel where it is my privilege to labour; I wish I could take you to hear the tale which the wife will sometimes tell of the husband, and the husband sometimes tell of the wife; the children of the parents, and the parents of the children. This one affected me very much. A poor woman came to me and said, "Sir, you know what a sad man my husband was; but God has in his mercy changed his heart; and now instead of swearing and every abomination in the house, we are all peace, and we are all joy." "How did this happen?" I inquired. 'Why," she replied," he was passing by that vil
lage chapel where such a man preaches, and he crept in, ashamed to be seen, but a passage of Scripture fastened upon his mind." "And what was that passage?" said I. "Why, Sir, it was this-Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' "Well," I said, "what effect has this produced?" "Why sir, I was confined six weeks ago: before, in my confinements, he would blaspheme and curse; but now when the tidings were given that the child was born, he came to my bed-side, and he brought a Bible with him, and he said, 'Now my dear let me read a chapter with you, and pray to God, and thank him for your merciful deliverance.' Then our sabbath is so differently spent to what it used to be; he will hear the children their catechism and read a chapter in the Bible; and their history is now a little heaven upon earth to what we ever had before." And what is all this accomplished by? Why, the simple preaching of Jesus Christ and him crucified. Instead of the thorn comes up the myrtle tree, a beautiful ever-green; instead of the brier comes up the fir-tree, a useful excellent tree; and it is to the Lord for a name, and for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
There is one thing more on this subject, and that is, that it is a subject of eternal duration. Many subjects which are excellent in their nature, and adapted to the present wants and comforts of man, involve only the interests of time. There are, my brethren, subjects connected with political economy, subjects connected with scientific investigation, subjects connected with commercial enterprise, that add much in their investigation to the comforts and happiness of man as long as we live here. But then they leave him on the waters of Jordan, and they do not go with him over the stream into the promised land: they leave him here, and all the advantages he has derived he leaves behind. But this one subject promises present peace, and tells the possessor of it how he shall have eternal felicity. It does not carry him to the bank and then leave him, it does not stay on this side, as the two tribes did, but it goes over and into the promised land, and dwells there for ever and ever. I thank God for the Gospel now, for the comforts it bestows now: I would be a Christian if its influence extended no further than the waters of Jordan; if it accompanied me only to the borders of the grave I would be a Christian: for "now" there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus; for "now are we the sons of God;" for "now we rejoice in God, by whom we have received the atonement:" now there is blessedness and peace, and happiness and comfort, in receiving these truths. But, brethren, although there is great blessedness now, it is but a taste of what is to come. A man may have rich and large enjoyments, and many of God's people have most extensive enjoyments, so that they seem to have two heavens, one here, and another by and by. But in the highest extent of their enjoyments it is but a taste it is life begun, that is eternal life in maturity; it is life in the bud, that is eternal life In the fulness of its flower; it is eternal life in the twilight of the man, that is eternal life in the meridian brightness of the noon-day sun. What does our Saviour say of the eternal world to which his saints and children are to come? "Father I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." And "there is no more going out," said the apostle. Beloved, if it were only for the negative advantage of this heavenly state, that would be very great, that there is no more sin, no mors sorrow, no more crying, no more pain, no more cares, no more doubt, and no
more separation from one another. That would be great, and that would be blessed; but to these is joined, "to die and be with Christ, which is far better." Why the Christian's dying-day is his birth-day, on which he begins a new state of blessed existence. His dying-day is his coronation-day, when his Master takes the crown and puts it on his head, and makes him a king over every sin and lust for ever and ever. His dying-day is his marriage-day; the marriage of the Lamb is come and is consummated, and he goes to sit down at the table of the Lord for ever and ever. It is his coming of age, and entering on his inheritance. And all this arises from this incomparable subject of the preaching of Jesus Christ.
O, my brethren, it is my earnest desire for this vast congregation, that they, when they die, through the preaching of Jesus Christ and faith in him, may stand at the side of that blessed King, where the harpers are harping with their harps, and where millions of hearts, multitudes redeemed by blood, say, "Salvation to him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
Brethren, what will be the redeemed sinner's subject in heaven? What will be the subject of his unbounded admiration there? What will be the subject of his songs? What will be the subject of his employment? If you read the book of the Revelations, you will find that no subject will engage his attention but Jesus Christ and him crucified. And now, dear hearers, I have stated to you the subject. To pluck a man from drowning, to save a man from death, to advance man's temporal interest, are worthy of a Christian. But to save a soul from death, to raise a soul sunk in woe to heavenly glory, and heavenly felicity, this is worthy of the human mind, and this is worthy of the subject of the Gospel. Hence our Lord beautifully and pathetically observed, "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye die they may receive you into everlasting habitations." Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness: use your money for converting souls to God, that when these people who are so converted die, "when these fail," and go to heaven, they may be your harbingers, and when you die welcome you into everlasting habitations. And I cannot conceive a guinea better spent, or a hundred pounds better spent, than to lay it out on the conversion of souls, and those souls to go before you to heaven, and welcome you, as their friend, their patron, and best benefactor, in saving them and bringing them hither.
Now, brethren, this is the subject. This place, I remember, has been long renowned for this subject. I delight to think that I stand in the place in which good Mr. Toplady promulgated this sweet doctrine-Jesus Christ and him crucified. Although we cannot but lament the bitterness of spirit which was occasionally manifested in his writings, yet we glorify the God of grace who raised him up to publish the distinguishing truths which we have been stating this evening.
But I must press forward in the second part of my subject, to shew you, THE METHOD OF THE APOSTOLICAL MINISTRATION. And this, you perceive, was two-fold: it was by public preaching, and it was by private teaching. It was by public preaching in the temple they preached Jesus Christ; in every house they taught Jesus Christ.
First, then, it was by public preaching. Now this was according to the
dying charge of our Saviour, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." And you will recollect this was according to the plan of divine wisdom. By the foolishness of preaching "it pleased God to save them that believe." Not by foolish preaching, but by the simplicity of the method; by that which individuals account the foolishness of preaching, it pleased God to save them that believe. Yes, my brethren, the subject must be communicated by preaching, and it is a mode adapted to the wants, the habits, and the constitution of the human mind. Will you just look at this for a moment or two. People are fond of a crowd; they love gathering together where great numbers meet: they will go and endure a great number of difficulties to meet in the crowd. This seems to be from the peculiarity of the human mind to love society. Men gather together in large masses: and God has so ordained it, that by the preaching of the Gospel, multitudes should be gathered together to listen to it. They could not spare the time, nor the money that books would require, to derive the same instruction; therefore they are con gregated together to save both. The same attention employed in reading would not produce the same effects that are produced by preaching; there is a certain something to charm, an enthusiasm in the living voice, in the human voice, in the expressive tones, in the piercing look, in the animated manner of the speaker, which no books in the world can supply: this is a part of the moral constitution for the amelioration of mankind. There is also something in the place; there is something charming to the mind in a place hallowed and consecrated to the service of God: and there is something peculiarly inviting and charming in a large assembly-a multitude, like that of which Mr. Williams, the missionary, tells us, of three thousand individuals gathered under the widespreading branches of the cocoa-nut tree, for prayer and praise, uniting with one common voice to magnify the riches of divine mercy. That which we sung when we were quite children, we can sing now; the sweetness of it is not yet lost:
"Lord, how delightful 'tis to see
A whole assembly worship thee!
And the renewed mind says,
"I have been there, and still will go,
Now God, who knows better than we do the constitution of the human mind, commands that this should be so proclaimed as we have just stated: and the apostles and primitive Christians followed out this plan-they communicated the subject by preaching: and if ever the world is converted, preachers must be multiplied, and multiplied to an extent of which, at present, we have very little knowledge: if ever the metropolis is converted it must be by the multiplication of preachers; we must not wait till new churches are built, and till new chapels are built, large and capacions enough to hold the assembling multitudes. No: although no man rejoices more than I do at the multiplication of sacred edifices; yet people are dying, and we must not wait a moment: and as the dissenters have done long ago, and as the evangelical clergy are now doing, and under the sanction of authority, I am happy to say, we must convert
school-rooms into preaching-places, and barns into chapels, and every house we can enter for a spot in which multitudes can be assembled to hearken to the words of life.
This was the apostolical plan. John Mark's house was the house where the people met together to pray for Peter's deliverance. The church assembled in the house of Aquila and Priscilla. The church assembled in the house of Onesiphorus, which is stated as the church which is at his house. And if these cannot be obtained, then we must have open-air preaching—and why not? With the canopy of heaven for a sounding-board, and the multitudes around for a congregation, why not have open-air preaching? O the multitudes which that man of God, the savour of whose name will long be known within these realms, George Whitfield—the multitudes that that man of God gathered together, and published to them the glad doctrines of the cross! In all weathers that man went forth and testified the Gospel of the grace of God: and so far from thinking out-door preaching a dishonourable act, I should be glad to be the bearer of the books of that man whose time and whose talents would enable him to engage in so honourable and so happy a service. Every spot is consecrated; there is not a single spot but it is consecrated. If you go on board a ship, Christ was there before, and preached on board a ship to the people. If you go to the hills, the apostles preached there before you. If you go to the prisons, the apostles preached there before you. And as in Ireland it is all consecrated ground, and the clergy, and the dissenters can preach together, and hold their meetings together-so I hail the day when the wall which is partly crumbling shall be broken down, and my Saviour be preached in every place, and every place be hallowed as the spot from which his name shall resound. I cannot but rejoice that such events are now taking place.
They also communicated this subject by private teaching. They were not satisfied with public preaching, but they went to every house, teaching and preaching Jesus Christ. This is the communication of the truth to individuals, as the other was the communication of the truth to multitudes. They preached and they taught from house to house. David had often heard Nathan speak in public; but he heard him in private to purpose when he came and related his beautiful parable, and then said, “Thou art the man.” O that sermon in his own house-of what mighty effect it was to bring the sinner to a sense of his sin, and to inquire for mercy and pardon! The jailer heard the apostle preach in a room, and heard him preach with power, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
I doubt not that a part of this private tuition consisted in the application of the consolation of the Gospel to individuals who had been pricked in their hearts, and their minds somewhat illuminated by the truth: they had to strengthen them that were weak, and to bring back those who had fallen away. But the chief end of this private tuition was, to seek out that which was lost. For many years past, perhaps for many centuries, in England, Christianity has been considered rather a defensive than an aggressive system: but the relation in which Christianity stands to the world is not a defensive one: it can defend itself, as Mr. Hill said, when an individual said he had preached a very moral sermon, and that he must guard the Gospel-" Ah," (said he), “ that is a poor Gospel that cannot guard itself." So we say: Christianity is not merely a defence for itself, but it is for aggression on the moral woes and lusts of