Imágenes de páginas

to enlarge: it is difficult to array before you distinctly, and at once, the mass of blessing which gracious heaven has bestowed. All, indeed, is summed up in the words of the text; and yet, I despair of producing an impression so clear, so full, so living, as God requires us to receive. Let the subject be pondered, prayed over, and inwrought into the framework of our spiritual constitution. God has not only established a church, but planted us within its inclosures, and done to his vineyard all that he could have done in it. He has assigned to the angels of heaven the duty of watching over us, and aiding our conflicts with sin and hell; he has united us with each other, and with all Christians on earth, by bonds that neither life nor death can break; he has given us the privilege of holding communion with friends who have fallen asleep in Jesus, and with the spirits of all just men made perfect; he has authorized the utmost freedom of access to his throne, at all times, and under all trials; and, to complete the whole, has announced his only-begotten and well-beloved Son, to be our continual advocate, when charged with guilt, either by our own consciences, or the great enemy of the soul.

Beyond these, what blessing can we ask?-Any other than a grateful heart-a heart more perfectly subdued to the love of God, and the faith of Jesus? If we are Christ's, all things are ours; the world, things present, things to come, God with all his riches, heaven with all its glories-all are ours!

One thought more! This being true, how gross and contemptible is the spirit that wraps itself up in the vanities of time and sense, and goes about inquiring, "Who will show me any good?" How vain and frivolous are the eager strifes of thousands of professing Christians, to gain the perishable trifles that heaven scatters along man's pathway for the comfort of all, and the lasting possession of none! Brethren, rise superior to this grovelling spirit; rebuke it in your own hearts, and whenever you see it. Fix your eye permanently on heaven, remembering, that to aid you in doing this, the Supper of the Lord is appointed; and never forgetting that "Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. To the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."

[blocks in formation]



TRUE ELEMENT OF MINISTERIAL DEVOTION AND SUCCESS. "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified."-1 Cor. ii, 2.

SUCH was the earnest, unimpassioned resolution of a devoted, self-denying apostle and minister of Christ. And almost no other man, in any age of the church, has labored so successfully, as an ambassador of the Lord, in the great work of reconciliation. The full proof of his ministry, and the secret of his success, are found in the text and its connection. "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."

Paul, if any man, could boast of superior natural endowments, and a highly cultivated intellect. He was of high birth, and educated in all the learning of the schools. He possessed a clearness of perception, and a strength of reasoning which few can rival. His call to the gospel ministry was peculiarly marked

and satisfactory. And above all this, he was qualified for his ministry by miraculous gifts and inspiration. Yet he went forth to the prosecution of his work with much fear, anxiety, and selfdistrust. He felt his utter weakness and insufficiency for so arduous and sacred a calling.

He was not unaware of his superior endowments; nor did he undervalue natural abilities and learning as necessary qualifications for his success. Still he had no confidence in these alone, as having any power to save men. It was not by the excellency of human wisdom, or by the enticing words of his own eloquence that he hoped to move the conscience, and persuade men to be reconciled to God. His assurance was in the divine efficiency of truth, and of the Spirit, attended by the persuasive, melting eloquence of the cross of Christ. "I am not ashained of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ crucified was the beginning and end of his ministry. Here is discovered, in this great apostle, the lock of his strength. Cut this from him, and he becomes like another man.

Hence we derive this important sentiment:-The knowledge of Christ, the true element of ministerial devotion and success. This is illustrated in the life and ministry of Paul.

I. Let us enquire, What is it to know Christ, in the sense of the apostle in the text?

To know Christ as an humble believer, is rightly to understand his character; to appreciate his divine excellence, and his infinite value as the only Saviour of man; to have experimental acquaintance with the way of salvation, by faith in the blood of his atonement. Thus to know him is life eternal.

The preacher must know all this by actual and personal experience; and he must be able to declare the same to the comprehension of others. It is his chief business to reveal the knowledge of Christ, in all his fullness, as the Saviour of lost men. In publishing the Gospel to sinners, Paul desired to know nothing which was not more or less intimately related to Christ, as the Redeemer of mankind. He would hold up his character to be admired; his name to be reverenced; his example to be imitated; his doctrines to be embraced; his precepts to be obeyed; his life for our instruction, and his death for our hope of salvation.

He needed not to go far from Christ in the execution of his office. The whole scheme of grace and redemption is comprehended in him. The law of God, which we have broken; our relations to him as our creator and sovereign; our moral agency and accountability; our utter apostasy and lost state as sinners; a future judgment and everlasting retributions; redemption by

atoning blood; immortality; eternal life and eternal deaththe whole system of gospel truth-all have Christ as their centre, and all are held together and revolve around Him, as the planets and systems in the natural creation are kept in their spheres and revolve around the sun. He gives life, and light, and harmony, and substance to them all.

To know Christ, therefore, as a minister of the Gospel, is to comprehend his character in its various attributes and relations, as a Saviour; and to preach him, in all the sublime doctrines he inculcates; the precious promises he makes; the threatenings he utters; the immortal hopes he inspires, and all the infinite blessings he has to communicate.

Here are themes inexhaustible and of ever-enduring interest; themes which address themselves to the heart and the conscience; which excite our fears or animate our hopes; which pertain to this world and the world to come. Here is substance of doctrine. Here is matter for deep thought and reflection. Here is knowledge and revelation. Here are mysteries of godliness and wonders of redeeming love. On these the preacher may dwell with unabated and ever-absorbing interest.

Here he may gather all that intellectual and moral furniture which is needful for the spiritual edification of his hearers. He may deeply meditate on these things-give himself wholly to them, and yet his profiting appear unto all. He may call in all knowledge and all science to his aid; he may clothe the truth in the attractive garments of literature and eloquence, if but Christ is the substance, and made all in all.

Paul did not feel it to be necessary for him to go out of his way, to drag in foreign matter to give interest and effect to his preaching. He wished to make no show of worldly wisdom, no flourish of rhetoric, or,embellishments of fancy, to set off the truth and suit it to the capricious tastes of his hearers. The substantial doctrines of the cross, though as old as creation, and the truth as it is in Jesus, plainly and earnestly spoken, as by Christ in his sermon on the Mount, and as in the preaching of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, in his view, needed no improvement. Even should they not suit the irreligion-the worldliness, pride, or vanity of his audience.

Remarks a distinguished commentator: "In addressing the polite, speculating, licentious Corinthians, he did not attempt to catch their attention by affected elegance, or sublimity of language; for it was his sole object to declare the testimony of God concerning the only way of salvation from eternal misery, and of obtaining eternal life; and a message of such immense importance, would not admit of these worthless embellishments."

Says another: "He did not affect to appear a fine orator, or a deep philosopher; he did not set himself to captivate the ear by fine turns and eloquent expressions; nor please and entertain

the fancy with lofty flights of sublime notions. Divine wisdom needed not to be set off with such human ornaments."

Whatever may be said of modern improvements or inventions, the Gospel, as a system of grace to restore fallen men, admits of no re-construction or change. In the presentation of it, there is great latitude for the exercise of diversity of skill and talent; but its grand principles must, in the nature of the case, remain unalterable to the end of time. We are to expect no new dispensation to patch up, or piece out the old; or save from failure the grand experiment of the Gospel.

Paul would know only Christ crucified, as a Saviour; and Christ revealed a second time from heaven, as the Judge of the world. Christ under the system of grace, is known as the Lamb, the Sacrifice, the Advocate and Intercessor. Not until the retributive dispensation shall be ushered in, will he appear in his power and great glory. He is now to be known and preached in his humiliation as the friend of sinners, their partner in sufferings, the pardoner. Then he will be revealed in his high exaltation, assuming the throne of justice and judgment, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel."


It must remain a truth, therefore, forever to be relied upon, that Christ crucified constitutes the substance of Heaven's glad tidings to men, and must be made the comprehensive theme of all good and effective preaching so long as the earth shall endure. And here is to be found the sole motive power in the great system of moral machinery, by which the world is to be raised up from its deep abyss of ruins. There can be no substitute. Education, philosophy, the fairest systems of morality, and even a mutilated Gospel-the cross being rejected-have all been tried, and proved abortive. Nothing else can meet the deeply felt wants of the poor, fallen creature, struggling to be freed from sin and the bitter curses it inflicts.

Justly, then, does the apostle exalt the knowledge of Christ above all other knowledge, and make it, by a figure, embrace a theoretical and practical acquaintance with the whole scheme of redemption. And he that, in his preaching, attempts to substitute any thing else for this, but casts away the fine gold while he gathers up the dross.

II. Let us, in illustration of our subject, remark the high standard of devotedness on which Paul resolved, in the words of the text, not to know any thing save Christ.

Let us, for a moment, look at this earnest apostle in the attitude in which he is here presented to our view, and we shall discover a spectacle of the morally sublime seldom equaled. Having received from the lips of Christ himself his commission, he has started on a tour of missionary enterprise. We find him in

« AnteriorContinuar »