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Head of Zion; and of his need of the quickening, enlightening, strengthening and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit. In filling up his office, as well as in his spiritual course, he presses forward to gain that which he has not yet received ; and in the use of every available means for acquiring and doing that which is requisite for the edifying of the church, he waits always upon God. The safety and usefulness of a young minister are very closely connected with the views he entertains of himself, his office, his work, and the qualifications and habits it requires. Extremely perilous is the position of that individual, and very empty, unsavoury, feeble and useless will be his ministry, who is wise in his own conceits, and thinks highly of his attainments. Some of this description have shone for a moment and disappeared, like the meteor that shoots athwart the hemisphere, and goes out in its full. It will be your mercy to know that you are nothing; it may produce dejection and discouragement, and be a temptation to quit your station, that it may be filled by one more able; but by this casting down of self, the Lord will prepare you for usefulness in his service; make his strength perfect in your weakness; shew
your resources are in the fulness of his grace; and, by impressing you with the greatness of your work, and the glory of your office, will supply you with incentives full of life, power and sweetness, to seek that ye may excel.
Thus far he has brought you, and his grace has been sufficient for you. The cloud-pillar of his providence has directed you hither; and, as one of his ark-bearers, the staying of the cloud signifies that the ark of the covenant is to rest in your ministry in this spot of the wilderness. The God of Israel is with the ark, and he will be with you. Fears and conflicts may await yon; the furnace of affliction and temptation may be heated seven times hotter than usual, for the trial of your faith ; but be of good courage ; be steadfast; give yourself wholly to prayer and the ministry of the word; and let this be your watch-word as a voice from the Eternal,
" Seek that ye may excel.”
I. SEEK THAT YE MAY EXCEL IN THE STATEMENTS YOU GIVE OF THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST. You are set apart as a herald to proclaim the good news of salvation by grace, and to be a steward of the mysteries of God; and as one well instructed, you are to bring forth things new and old, for the edification of the church. The preaching of the word will be your principal work, and on the right performance of this solemn and sacred
work, your own comfort, and the spiritual growth, fruitfulness and joy of your people will very much depend. Spare no pains; use every means of prayer, reading and meditation, that you may know the mind of God in his word; and with a heart filled with the light, power and savor of saving truth, make known to others that which you yourself have learned of God. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” “ Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine ; continue in them, for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee,” 2 Tim ii. 15; 1 Tim iv. 16.
Let your public statements of truth be simple, complete, proportionate, connected and harmonio's.
Let them be simple. For this purpose endeavour to gain distinct and definite conceptions of every ductrine ; ascertain the design of God in every testimony; meditate frequently, closely and fervently in the scriptures, till the truth as it is in Jesus, is incorporated with your habits of thought and reasoning, so as to be part and parcel of the mind itself, the element of your intellectual and spiritual existence. Above all, live in entire dependance on the Holy Spirit, who alone can give you the living sense, the spiritual savor of the word, and make the gospel which you preach, the substance of your faith. If you have clear conceptions of the various subjects of your ministry, it will be easy to communicate them to others; you will have but little or no difficulty in choosing acceptable words; nor in enforcing the truths you inculcate by appropriate argument and illustration. The simplicity which I would recommend is necessary to the usefulness of your ministry; it will give it a weight and value for which nothing else can be substituted as an equivalent; and, if accompanied with the unction and dew from heaven, will secure to you the confidence, love and esteem of those who hear you. It will assist you, if when your judgment is formed upon any topic, you reflect on the best mode of expressing it, till, at length you find out these words, which when fitly placed, will make the subject as clear and intelligible to your hearers as it is to yourself. At times, you will experience some difficulty in doing this, but difficulty in a work like ours, is a spur, not a clog; it may, and must be overcome, and when conquered, will enrich us with its spoils, and cheer us with a triumph.
For want of simplicity many beat the air and labour in vain. They read much, but think too little, and darken counsel by a multitude of words. Avoid this error, wield the sword of the Spirit without a scabbard; sow the seed of the kingdom pure and unmixed; and by manifestation of the truth commend yourself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. In this manner the chief of the apostles preached the gospel of the grace of God. “Seeing that we have this hope," he said, when realizing its power and the excellency of its glory, “we use great plainness of speech.” “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom; but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.”
Endeavour to make your statements of truth complete. Keep nothing back which God has made known to you for the obedience of faith. The present age is an age of temptation to the ministers of Christ; and in consequence of the very general defection from the truth of the gospel, they are in danger of softening down what is offensive and distasteful in the doctrines of grace, that they may render themselves respectable, and acquire the reputation of liberal, kind-hearted men. Happy and honoured from on high will that individual be, who stands the trial, and maintains in temptation, the integrity of a faithful steward of the mysteries of God. Let others do what they may, be resolved, my dear brother, to preach the whole truth, with an honest conscience; and this I am sure you will do if you “live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit.” A man of sound experience who has a deep and full conviction of his guilt, depravity, blindness and impotence; who has been in heaviness through manifold temptations; who has been exercised with fiery trials; and whose personal religion is entirely the work of the Holy Ghost, finds the doctrines of sovereign, distinguishing and efficacious grace, so necessary and so precious to him in the life of faith which he lives, and has such a 'steadfast and full assurance of their truth and excellence, that he is constrained to speak what he knows of them; and they drop from his lips, not as mere forms of sound words, but are filled with life, power, unction and savour; and to the living in Jerusalena, are 5 a feast of fat things.' Ever bear in mind, that you are sent of God, not to conceal, but to make known his will. “ Diminish not a word.”
Let your statements of truth be proportionate. Preach every truth of the bible according to its importance; and give to erery testimony, precept, promise, exhortation, threatening, warning and reproof its due place. Beware of so dwelling upon some particular doctrines, as to exclude others. Every thing is “ beautiful in its season ;” and there is not a single part of
the word of God, but is requisite to fill up and complete the system of revealed truth. In order to vindicate and give an air of plausibility to their rejection of certain doctrines, and their practical disregard of the institutions of Christ, some men indulge in the libertinism of classing those doctrines and institutions among non-essential things. I know not how to refrain from expressing my abhorrence of a subterfuge for craft and cunning so audacious and wicked. The eternal God, with whom is excellent majesty, and to whose judgment the hearts of his redeemed people devoutly submit, has, in the condescension of his love, made known his will for the obedience of faith; but when the volume of the book is put into the hand of erring apostate mortals, to whom every word should be more precious than gold, they take the freedom to affirm, in effect, that it is unadvisedly written, and contains things which might have been left out, and which they will regard no more than if they had been left out; because, in their opinion, they are non-essential. We decry and shudder at the profane infidel who rejects the bible as a cunningly devised fable; we reproach the
arrogance and conceit of the socinian, who holds that he is bound to believe only what he can comprehend, and to assent only to those doctrines which are agreeable to his reason; but where is the difference, I would ask, as far as “precious faith” and the submission of the heart to the authority of God in his word are considered, between the infidel, or socinian, and those, who, with professedly purer principles and evangelical sentiments, reject the counsel of God as non-essential ? Charity requires us to bear long, and with meekness and gentleness, such as are weak in faith; but charity is a grace too dignified, heavenly and divine, to bear with the presumption of men who impugn and disparage the sovereign dictates of eternal truth. Talk of catholic communion ! away with the pretext. Where can be the fellowship of heart with heart? where the hallowed and devout commingling of spirit with spirit in the fraternal band, between the faithful disciple of Jesus, who receive, venerate and hold fast every testimony of the lively oracles, and those persons who set aside those testimonies, and whose fear towards God is taught by the commandments of men ? Charity requires no such communion, charity forbids such communion; and with simplicity and uprightness chooses rather to join with the virgin company of the redeemed on mount Zion, who have not defiled themselves with womenadulterous churches and licentious professors--and who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
There are, indeed, doctrines more important than others, which must have a place in your ministry equal to their importance; but they are not to be so dwelt upon, nor is any one of them to have such a prominence as to exclude doctrines of confessedly lesser importance. In justice to the sublime re. quirements and claims of divine truth, and as a steward of the household of faith, you must preach and strenuously insist upon and constantly maintain
The doctrine of the fall. The scripture hath concluded or shut up all under sin; that the promise, by faith of Jesus Christ, may be given to them that believe. In consequence of the offence of Adam, and the connexion between him and his seed under the covenant of works, every man is by nature, the subject of guilt, condemnation and depravity; being dead in trespasses and sins.
All actual transgression is the fruit of this original and inherent wickedness, and proves him to be without
Insist upon these solemn and humiliating truths; the Holy Spirit will convey them to the hearts and consciences of those who hear you, with demonstration and power, and by convincing them that they are guilty, polluted and lost, will prepare them to receive with gladness, the word of reconciliation. Explain and inculcate the law of God; shew its spirituality; the breadth of the commandment; the curse which it pronounces upon every transgressor; the design for which it was given to fallen man; not upon the supposition that he can keep it, but to “convince and to condemn;" and then show that as it cannot abate its acquirements, nor be abrogated for the purpose of opening the way for the exercise of mercy to the guilty ; Christ as the “surety of a better covenant,” by his obedience unto death, is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believeth; and that as the blessed result, they who believe “are delivered from the law, that they may serve God in newness of Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." The doctrine of the love of God, must be a prominent theme of your ministry. Here you will find ample scope for reflection and remark. It will be of great importance to the church for you to explain and shew, by argument and scripture, that the love of God is sovereign, free, distinguishing, everlasting, immu. table and infinite; that it is equal in the persons of the incomprehensible Trinity, and the same with regard to its objects; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, being engaged by covenant, to save the same individuals, and bring them up to glory. And let the doctrine of the glory of God have also a prominent place in your public testimony; for it is necessary