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practise religion as well as profess it.

as well as profess it. Now how admirable is this effect, for vile sinners to be made new creatures ! Would it not be very surprising to see the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots—to behold adamant melted and dissolved-to observe wolves turned into sheep; yea, lions and tigers into lambs! Was it not wonderful to witness the Red Sea divided, and become a safe passage for the many thousands of the Israelites—to watch Jordan driven back, and its streams caused to run upwards ? Yet events as great as these, nay, in some respects greater, certainly take place -- when profligate sinners are converted and turned to the Lord—when, with their own consent and prayer, their hearts are divorced from bewitching idols, and inordinate attachments broken off-when they, who all their days had been trampling on the authority of God, and wilfully neglecting their own salvation, are now made to look to their Maker, and their eyes have respect to the Holy One of Israel, aiming in all things to please him, whatever may be the censure, reproach, or sufferings which on that account they may meet with from the adversaries of God and pure and undefiled religion.

Such admirable effects as a successful ministry of the gospel produces, must be the products of a divine power. Of the utter insufficiency of ministers of the greatest abilities, to produce these effects, by any power of their own, we may be soon convinced. They cannot bind the strong man armed-quicken dead sinners—bring them to bow to Christ's sceptre-renew their hearts, and reform their lives ; these mighty works must be resolved into the operations of a divine agency.

Ministers, even of the highest rank, cannot, by any talents of their own, come up to a due use of the means appointed, that such effects might be produced. The work of the study is reading, meditation, and prayer, that they may receive their instruction from God, that they may be well acquainted with the mind of Christ, standing in his counsel ; and that having themselves a clear upderstanding of the economy of human redemption and salvation, they may, without perplexity and ambiguity, preach and publish these things to others. As to this point, it is well to recollect, that though St. Paul was placed in the highest office in the church, and was favoured with the richest qualifications that perhaps were ever bestowed on any of the ministers of Christ on earth, yet he acknowledged that of himself he was not sufficient, any more than any of his fellow apostles, to think any thing as of himself, which might be likely to promote the benevolent design of the gospel. How then shall the ordinary ministers of Christ, who, both as to gifts and graces, fall so vastly short, every way, of the least of the apostles, be able, without the help of God, to come at those holy thoughts, those sublime and spiritual meditations, which may be instructive, awakening, and quickening to the people ? Or, after the most careful preparation in private, when they come into the public congregation, if the Lord does not grant them his gracious assistance, how shall they be able to preach the truth as it is in Jesus? Or, if this be done with that soundness of speech which cannot be condemned, yet how shall they speak, so speak, that multitudes shall believe; so speak as becomes the oracles of God, with that reverence and awe, which is suitable to the majesty of God, from whom the message comes, and in whose name it is to be delivered; or with that fulness and liberty which suit the infinite goodness of the Saviour, whose amazing love and condescension is to be proclaimed; or how shall they


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speak with that seriousness and solemnity which becomes the vast importance of the eternal things which are to be declared; or with that holy vehemence and living fervour, that vigour and boldness of spirit, as shall show them to be in earnest, and that they really believe, and are fully assured of the certainty of what they preach, and would gladly have the people persuaded of it too? Who, by his own strength, is sufficient thus to preach Christ, and teach every

« in all wisdom,” aiming, in singleness of heart, “to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus ?” What ministers, without special assistance, and remarkable help from the Holy Spirit, can do this, with diligence and constancy, with pureness, knowledge, and long-suf-. fering ; and this under strong opposition, heavy affliction, and formidable discouragements; behaving at all times, and acting on all occasions, with that humility, condescension, and self-denial—with that gravity, simplicity, and godly sincerity-with that resolution, faithfulness, and zeal, in the cause of Christ, as shall make it manifest that the exalting the grace of God, by gaining souls to him, is truly the end of their preaching, and of their conversation ? If any should be so stupid, or abominably conceited and vain, as to pretend they are of themselves sufficient for such difficult service as the work of the ministry is, they do at once hereby demonstrate that they have not Christ to be their Master; for it is one of the fundamental principles in the doctrine which he has taught, that “ without him” his disciples and ministers

can do nothing." These remarks are surely sufficient to convince any candid person, that ministers of the greatest abilities cannot, by their own energies, come up to a due use of the means appointed, so that such effects, as those already mentioned, may be produced.

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As a proof of the doctrine, that the success of the gospel must unavoidably redound to the glory of God, whatever may be the ability and assiduity of those who preach it, we may state, that the salutary effects of the gospel ministry are above the power of any means within the reach of ministers, though they should be used in the most regular and perfect manner. When ministers have exerted themselves to the very utmost, yea, though they could perform all the parts of their duty with the greatest exactness, even to perfection ; yet, after all, the conversion of a soul is a work infinitely above their power. For the gospel itself, the preaching whereof is the grand instituted means to be used to that end, has no natural efficacy in it to produce so marvellous an effect. If it had, then it might be expected that it would at all times have the same success on all who hear it, which it has not ; for while some believe, others believe not; and they who have been abundantly refreshed in their souls by the gospel at one season, have felt little or nothing of its cheering, reviving influence at another, though the matter preached was the same.

The utter insufficiency of the best ministers, and of the gospel itself, to convert and renew sinners, may be illustrated by several passages recorded in Scripture, which, though they were not immediately designed, yet, they are remarkably suited to give us this instruction. We may instance particularly, in the waters of the pool of Bethesda, which could never heal but when impregnated with a supernatural virtue by the descent of an angel from heaven. Also in Ezekiel's prophesying on the dry bones. There is naturally no more virtue in the letter of the gospel, or in the voice of them that preach it, to quicken sinners dead in trespasses and sins, than there was in the words of the prophet to make the dry bones live. Nor was the sounding of the trumpets, in the days of Joshua, and the mighty shout of the army, the natural adequate causes of the sudden fall of the strong and impregnable walls of Jericho. Nor yet again, had the light of many lamps discovered at once by the breaking of pitchers, nor the addition of the loud shoutings of the soldiers, when, without striking a blow, they immediately cried, “ The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon," any direct tendency or force in themselves to work the utter overthrow of the mighty host of Midian. No more have the diligent endeavours of the most eminent ministers any natural efficacy in them, to demolish the strong-holds of Satan, to promote the interest, and build up the kingdom of Christ. If any means could, in a natural way, have produced those beneficial effects, it must surely have been the personal ministry of our Lord himself; and yet to teach his people, in the present state, to esteem his spiritual presence above that of his body, he was pleased to bless one sermon, preached after his ascension into heaven, by St. Peter, with more success than, as far as appears in the New Testament, ever attended all the ministerial labours of his own life. The gospel is expressly said, to be “ the power of God to salvation.” And St. Paul, speaking of the success of the gospel among the Thessalonians, says, “ Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost,” or in the power of the Holy Ghost. If, therefore, the labours of ministers do at any time become useful to the good of souls, it must be because their ministry in the gospel is accompanied with the power of God; for it is only through the excellency of his power that the foolishness of preaching can become effectual to the salvation of sinners.


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