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mon. And in private also, we ought to be frequently inviting them to the possession of these blessings, and demonstrating from Scripture and reason, the readiness of the Lord Jesus to bestow them upon all that apply to him for them. All, I say, for these privileges must be offered to mankind universally, without any exception. The high and low, rich and poor, young and old, professors and profane, must be invited to partake of these unsearchable riches of Christ. “Let him that is athirst, come," must be our language, and "whosoever will, let him come, and take of the fountain of the water of life freely." For," whosoever cometh, he will in nowise cast out." They must be informed, notwithstanding, that these privileges will not be conferred upon, and, in the nature of things, cannot be received by, the impenitent and unbelieving, We must therefore make this gracious offer conditionally, insisting on repentance and faith, as terms or conditions, required of all who expect to be admitted to a participation of gospel blessings which repentance and faith, however, we must assure them, are the gifts of GOD, and will be bestowed on all who sincerely and earnestly ask and seek for them.
9. Yet again on this head. To preach the gospel is, thirdly, to declare and enforce the precepts it enjoins. This should be done boldly and faithfully. In reproving sin, and showing people their duty, we must not fear the face of any man, but must regard only the presence of God, his all-seeing eye, the terrible day of judgment, and the obligations of our office. The Lord, we must remember, hath appointed us to be watchmen over his people, we must therefore hear the word at his mouth, and give them faithful warning from him." And we must do this under a conviction that our own souls are at stake! that if we "speak not unto them, to warn them to turn from their wicked ways, that they may save their souls alive, they shall die in their iniquity, but their blood shall be required at our hands;" whereas, if we do warn them faithfully, although they should not turn from their wickedness, but should die in their iniquity, we shall deliver our souls. Again; we must speak plainly and intelligibly on this important subject, that, if possible, they may have just and clear ideas of the spirituality, extent, and obligation of the law of Christ, the gospel law, the law of love and liberty, and of every part of their duty as enjoined thereby. We must use every means in our power to give them the necessary information respecting both sin and righteousness, truth and error; that, as the apostle speaks, they may have their senses properly exercised to discern both good and evil. And
in enforcing the precepts of Christianity, we must be impartial, having no respect of persons. We must be as ready to remind the rich and the great of their duty, and to reprove them for their faults, as the poor and the mean. Only, in order that our advice and reproofs may be well taken, and may answer their intended end, we must be so mindful of the superiority of their station in life, as to address them with proper respect, and carry ourselves with a becoming modesty and deference, in all our intercourse with them. I must observe also, that these laws of Christ must be inculcated earnestly and awfully. I mean hereby, that we should urge them upon our hearers, under a deep conviction of their very great importance; and that salvation is absolutely impossible, as to "those that know not God," so also to "those that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."* Persuaded of this, we must address them on this topic, a topic on which their everlasting all depends, with suitable earnestness and awe; and, if possible, must not leave them till they are brought to acquiesce in the whole will of God, and resolve, through his grace, to make haste, and not delay to keep all his commandments, and endeavour to be holy in all manner of conversation and godliness.
II. We come now to consider, as was proposed, secondly, To whom the office of preaching the Gospel belongs? or, To whom this charge of our Lord is given?
1. Although this command, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," was primarily addressed to the apostles, as appears from the preceding verse, yet that it was not confined to them, is evident from divers considerations. 1st. Our Lord had before this sent out the seventy,† making, at the same time, this remarkable observation, "The harvest is great, and the labourers are few;" and exhorting them to " pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into his harvest." Now these seventy he certainly never afterwards prohibited from preaching. 2dly, Some of the deacons chosen merely to a temporal office, such as Stephen and Philip, preached frequently, and, no doubt, were countenanced by the Lord in so doing. 3dly, Many of the members of the church of Jerusalem, scattered abroad through the regions of Judea and Samaria, by the great persecution raised against them after the death of Stephen, went everywhere, we are informed, preaching the word.§ And that the apostles were not the persons meant is certain, for we find them ex
* 2 Thess. i. 8.
Acts vi. 8. and viii. 5.
+ Luke x. 1.
§ Acts viii. 4.
pressly excepted. Now they are so far from being censured by the Holy Ghost for this conduct, that this is manifestly recorded of them to their praise. Hence we find Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Apollos, and divers others, who were not apostles, preaching the gospel. And, 4thly, That the command was not intended to be confined to that period of time, but was given to all, in every age, that are properly called and qualified, appears from the parallel passage, * where our Lord promises his presence to the ministers of his word, to the end of the world.
2. But the great difficulty is, who are thus called and qualified? And yet this point, it appears to me, may be determined by attending simply to what has already been observed, with regard to the nature of the gospel, and what is implied in preaching it. But before I enter upon this subject, I must assure my hearers, it is not my intention, in what I shall advance, to reflect upon the clergy of the established church, or those of any other denomination of Christians, but merely to show what warrant we have from Scripture and reason, to take upon us the office of preaching the gospel, and to lay before this congregation the rules, according to which we proceed, in our choice and appointment of preachers.
3. And first, we have seen above, that to preach the gospel, is to teach the many great and important truths of it. Now, since God is a God of reason, and it is certainly unreasonable to suppose that a man can teach what he does not know: therefore, in order that a person may be qualified for this office, we judge it necessary that he should be acquainted with the nature, variety, and importance of gospel truths. But this, we believe, no one can be, without supernatural illumination: the Old and the New Testament agreeing to assure us, that "The things of God knoweth no man, but by the Spirit of God." Hence, it appears to us absolutely necessary, that a man should be taught of God, taught by the Spirit as well as the Word of truth, in order to his being qualified for the office of a teacher of Christianity. Further: Inasmuch as God is a God of truth, and requires truth in the inward parts; requires that those who preach in his name should do it sincerely; therefore, we consider it as being of equal necessity and importance that a person should firmly believe, or be fully persuaded, of the certainty of divine truths, that he may be qualified and called to teach them. “I have believed, and therefore have I spoken," said one. He must believe, and therefore speak. Again: GoD is a SPIRIT, and his
word is spirit, and life, and power, and must be spoken in "demonstration of the Spirit and of power;" and from the heart, that it may reach the heart. In order, therefore, that a man may be qualified to preach the gospel, we believe he ought to have a deep and lively sense of the importance of divine truths upon his mind, and that his spirit and behaviour should be duly influenced thereby.
4. We have observed, secondly, that to preach the gospel, im plies, the making a sincere and free offer of gospel privileges. But before a person can be qualified to do this, it is requisite that he should know what these privileges are, and that he should believe them to be free for, and attainable by, his hearers. And as this offer is to be made freely, affectionately, and urgently, it is necessary it should be made from experience. They who preach the gospel, and offer its privileges to mankind, should first themselves have received those privileges; at least in part; and should have a well-grounded and lively hope of obtaining those that yet remain. Thus our Lord, "We speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen." And thus St. John, and the first ministers of the word, "What 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." They, therefore, who have not received these privileges ; for instance, who have not obtained remission of sins, the favour of God, and a new and divine nature, are not qualified, and therefore not called, to preach the gospel. In other words, those only are qualified to teach Christ, who have learned him; and, if we are to believe St. Paul, only those have learned him, who have put off the old man, and put on the new, and are renewed in the spirit of their minds."* Hence it pleased God "to reveal his Son" in Paul, before he sent him to preach among the Gentiles.†
5. We have seen, thirdly, that another particular implied in preaching the gospel, is to enforce the precepts of it, and that this must be done boldly, plainly, and impartially. Now, it is certain only those can do this who themselves obey those precepts. For they alone will be able to speak with confidence and courage. It follows from hence, that those who live in known sin of any kind, in disobedience to any of the commands of Christ, as they are not qualified, so neither are they called to preach the gospel. Accordingly, "unto the wicked, God saith, What hast thou to do
to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee."* And St. Paul, in the directions which he gives to Timothy and Titus, respecting the persons proper to be chosen to the pastoral office, requires, first of all, that they should be blameless, viz. at least as to their outward conduct, standing at a distance from all known sin, whether of ómission or commission. All these qualifications are essentially necessary, and without them, it is absurd to suppose, that any person is called of God to preach his gospel.
6. But there are other endowments also, which, although some of them be of an inferior nature, are yet not to be overlooked. For instance, it is to be observed, that the preachers of the gospel are to address rational creatures, possessed of minds to be in*formed, judgments to be convinced, consciences to be pierced, wills to be persuaded, fears to be alarmed, hopes to be excited, affections to be won; and hence we may infer, that it is necessary they should be qualified to speak in an intelligible, convincing, persuasive, and affecting manner, and that, therefore, they ought to possess a degree, at least, of elocution, and even of eloquence. Add to this, that as many persons will, if not statedly, yet occasionally, hear them, who will be sensible of any impropriety of language, weakness of argument, or misinterpretation of Scripture, it is, if not absolutely necessary, yet very desirable, that they should be persons of good sense, well acquainted with the Scriptures and with divinity, and able to speak their own language grammatically.
7. It is, however, of much more importance to observe, that as their success in their labours depends entirely on the presence and blessing of the Lord Jesus, it is above all necessary, that they should ensure these: "Without me," says the Lord Jesus to all his followers, and especially to the ministers of his gospel, sent forth to enlighten and convert the nations, "ye can do nothing." "We are not sufficient of ourselves," says St. Paul, "to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God; who hath made us able," or rather (xavos) suitable, fit, or proper, "ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." This one circumstance, that the preachers of the gospel are to be ministers of the Spirit, that they are to communicate, not merely the literal, but
*Psalm i. 16, 17.