« VorigeDoorgaan »
2. As there are some persons, whose physiognomy is strongly marked, and who have something peculiarly striking in the whole turn of their countenance; so there are some, the traits of whose moral character are equally striking, and whose conversion is distinguished by uncommon circumstances. Such was the apostle Paul. But a train of wonderful occurrences is by no means necessary to conversion. For example....It is not necessary, that all believers should be actually cast to the earth or that groaning beneath the weight of their sins, and under the conviction of a twofold blindness, they should continue in prayer for three days and nights, without either eating or drinking. But it is absloutely necessary, that they should be sensible of an extreme sorrow for having offended a gracious God ; that they should condemn themselves and their vices by an unfeigned repentance; and that confessing the depravity of their whole heart, they should abandon themselves to that sincere distress which refuses all consolation, except that which is from above. Neither is it necessary, that they should hear a voice from heaven, that they should see a light brighter than the Sun, or behold, in a vision, the minister chosen to bring them consolation in the name of the Lord Jesus. But it is absolutely necessary, that they should hear the word of God, that they should be illuminated by the Gospel, and receive directions from any messenger sent for their relief; until, placing their whole confidence in God through a gracious Redeemer, they feel a new and heavenly nature produced within them. This sincere repentance and this living faith, or, which is the same thing, this christian piety, is strictly required of every believer under the New Testament.
3. Christian piety constitutes the great difference, that is observed between true ministers and unworthy pastors. The latter preach, chiefly, either in order to obtain benefices, or to preserve them; or,
perhaps, to relieve one another in the discharge of those duties, which they esteem heavy and painful. But the desire of communicating to sinners that spiritual knowledge, which is more precious than rubies, is the grand motive for preaching with the true ministers of God. They publish Christ, like St. Paul, from sentiment and inclination; exposing themselves even to persecution on account of preaching the gospel, like those faithful Evangelists, who, when commanded to teach no more in the name of Jesus, answered with equal respect and resolution; "Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye; for we cannot but speak the things, which we have seen and heard."
4. It is worthy of observation, that St. Paul supplicates not only for all public teachers, but for every private believer in the church, the highest degree of grace and christian experience. "I cease not," saith he to the Ephesians, "to make mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know, what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance, in the saints and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, who believe." And the same end, which this apostle proposed to himself in his private supplications, St. John also proposed to himself in writing his public epistles.... "That which we have seen and heard declare we
unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." As though he had said, we write, if haply we may excite you to seek after higher degrees of faith, charity, and obedience," that being rooted and grounded in love,
ye may be able to comprehend with all saints, the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge; that ye may be filled with the all fulness of God." The attentive reader will easily perceive, that what was once the subject of St. Paul's most ardent prayer, is at this day considered, by nominal christians in general, as a proper subject for the most pointed raillery.
5. Those ministers, who are not yet furnished with christian experience, and who are not seeking after it, as the pearl of great price, held out to us in the Gospel, are not yet truly converted to the christian faith and (I repeat it after Mr. Ostervald) being destitute of christian piety, far from being in circumstances to preach the Gospel, they are not able even to comprehend it. These are they, " who having a form of godliness, deny the power thereof." And the greatest eulogium, that can be pronounced upon such characters, is that, with which St. Paul honoured the unbelieving zealots of his time: "I bear them record, that they have a zeal for God;" but that zeal is unaccompanied with any true knowledge, either of man's weakness, or the Redeemer's power: "For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
6. Whoever has not experienced that conviction of sin, and that repentance, which is described by St. Paul in the seventh chapter of his epistle to the Romans, though, like Nicodemus, he may be a doctor in Israel, yet he shall never see the kingdom of God. Totally carnal, and satisfied to continue so, he neither understands nor desires that regeneration, which the Gospel proposes and insists He endeavours not to fathom the sense of those important words: "Verily, verily, I say unte
thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." He considers those, who are born of the spirit as rank enthusiasts, and disdains to make any serious enquiry respecting the foundation of their hope. If his acquaintance with the letter of the scripture did not restrain him, he would tauntingly address the artless question of Nicodemus to every minister, who preaches the doctrine of regeneration...." How can a man be born, when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born?" And unless he was withheld by a sense of politeness, he would rudely repeat to every zealous follower of St. Paul the ungracious expression of Festus...." Thou art beside thyself; much" mystic "learning doth make thee mad."
7. On the contrary, a minister, who is distinguished by the second trait of the character of St. Paul, at the same time proportionably possesses every disposition necessary to form an evangelical pastor: since it is not possible for christian piety to exist without the brilliant light of truth, and the burning zeal of charity. And every minister, who has this light and this love, is enriched with those two powerful resources, which enabled the first christians to act as citizens of heaven, and the first ministers as ambassadors of Christ.
HIS INTIMATE UNION WITH CHRIST BY FAITH.
"I AM come," said the good shepherd, "that my sheep might have life, and that they ght have it more abundantly. I am the light of the world. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the vine; ye are the branches." The faithful minister understands the signification of these mysterious expressions. He walks in this way, he follows this light, he embraces this truth, and enjoys this life in all its rich abundance. Constantly united to his Lord, by a humble faith, a lively hope, and an ardent charity, he is enabled to say, with St. Paul; "The love of Christ constraineth me; because we thus judge that if one died for all then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they, which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him, who died for them, and rose again. We are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; but liveth unto God: we likewise reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
This living faith is the source, from whence all the sanctity of the christian is derived, and all the power of the true minister: it is the medium, through which that sap of grace and consolation, those streams of peace and joy, are perpetually flowing, which enrich the believing soul, and make it fruitful in every good work: or, to speak without a metaphor, from this powerful grace proceeds that love of God