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There was one capital event in his history, which it was their immediate business to make known to every creature, Jesus crucified as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. To these their ministry immediately leaped. Here they always broke ground first, and set up their tower of attack. Just at the point where their enemies, in malignant triumph, supposed the Gospel had died, with the cross of its entombed founder for its only memorial, his disciples, in the triumph of faith, and lifting up that cross for a banner, made their beginning. Just that which laid the stumbling-block to the Jew, and seemed such foolishness to the Greek, they adopted as the head and front of their preaching ; advancing boldly upon both Jew and Greek, like David with his single stone against the contemptuous giant of Gath ; glorying in nothing, determined to use nothing, “ save Jesus Christ and bim crucified." Thus saith St. Paul, “ I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so did they at once lift up Christ on the cross, as an ensign to the people. They could not spare time to be rooting out prejudices, and gradually preparing the minds of the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles for the great subject of Christ's atonement. They knew no way of removing darkness so sure, as that of introducing the sun; no way of subduing the enmity of the heart to the Gospel so short, as that of making men acquainted with the very essence of the Gospel. Human device would have said to St. Paul, Make use of your philosophy for an introduction to your theology; call science to your aid; show the fitness of things ; impress your audience with a respectful idea of your attainments in the wisdom of the schools; aim at the nerve of Demosthenes; put on the golden robes of Cicero; speak of your Master in his manhood, in his miracles, benevolence, and piety; compare his precepts with those of heathen sages; but cast a veil over his ignominious death, and the humiliating plan of salvation through faith in his suffering, till the public mind shall be somewbat inured to the less offensive features of his religion.' “ No,” said St. Paul, “ lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." There was a declaration of the Master, which an apostle could not misunderstand : I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me. In this they read the secret of their success. Lifted up on the cross by his enemies, he had been already; lifted up in the sight of all people he was now to be, by the ministry of the word. Their principle was, “ God giveth the increase,” and “ hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty," " that no flesh," that neither preacher nor convert, “ should glory in his presence,” but that all may feel that it is “ Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto them wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."
Here, then, my brethren, have we our lesson. Our first as well as last and habitual duty, everywhere, amidst all prejudices, ignorance, and enmity, is, to take ground, with all confidence, at the CENTRE of the system, and at once set up the Cross. We must exalt Christ in his death; establish its propitiatory character; publish its sufficiency for the whole world. Thus will you begin your message where a sinner begins his hopes and life. To open your negotiation anywhere else is, but to delay it. But having begun here, what remains ? The sun is risen :--now see that it remains unclouded, always in full view from the remotest circle of your hearers, so that the weakest and lowest eye may see. Now you must keep up attention to this supreme object, by telling your people all that the Scriptures tell you of Christ. Your business is, that they may “ know Christ, and be found in him.” Consequently, there is nothing revealed, as pertaining to him, that is not profitable to them, or that you have a right to keep back. You are to make him known in the glory which he had with the Father before the world was. The love of the Father in sending his only-begotten Son, and of the Son in coming to be made a curse for us, can be preached only in view of the Son in the self-existence and infinite glory of the godhead. You cannot separate the Cross for which he came, from the Throne whence he came, without divesting his death of its atoning virtue, and his love of all its wonders. In the same vital connexion is the incarnation of the Son of God. The mysteries of Bethlehem are closely allied to those of Calvary. To understand how he bore our sorrows, we must learn how he took our nature. You cannot teach bis obedience unto the death, without his condescension to be born in the likeness of man. In setting forth the Lamb of God in his death as a sacrifice, you must also set him forth in his life, as an example,“ without ble. mish and without spot." There is too little preaching of “ the mind that was in Christ Jesus." It was his preparation for the sacrifice : it must be ours, for all the bliss which that sacrifice has purchased. But the preaching of Christ too often terminates with the events of his crucifixion : as if, when the sacrifice was finished, the whole work of Redemption were finished; as if to preach him in his resurrection, and ascension, and exaltation, were not as important as to preach him in his humiliation and agony. To show the sinner that his atonement is accepted, you must show that it has been presented at the mercy-seat: you must exhibit our great High Priest as having laid aside the garments of sacrifice for those of dignity and glory, and ascended into the holy place on high, “ now to appear in the presence of God for us." Intercession must be preached as the crowning act in Redemption. But, intimately connected with this office of Christ as our interceding Priest, bearing our names upon bis breast plate, is that of the great Prophet of his church,“ in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” and of whom every disciple must learn “ the way, the truth, and the life.” Essential also to the right enforcement of his priestly and prophetic office is the exhibition of Christ “ exalted to be a Prince" as well as Saviour, having " all power in heaven and earth,” claiming supreme dominion in the hearts of his people, able to subdue all enemies under his feet, and make all things work together for good to them that love him. It is Christ reigning as King, “ Head over all things to his Church," that sets the seal to all that is precious in his teaching as our Prophet, and all that is availing in his mediation as our Priest ; that clothes our message with authority as well as with mercy and wisdom, and makes the tender entreaties of divine compassion the peremptory commands of infinite sovereignty. For no purpose is a heavenly skill in the preacher more needed, than to exhibit the tenderness of Christ as enforced by his authority, and his authority as commended by his tenderness; to preach him as a Judge, and also as an Adyocate; to declare not only the love, but the “ wrath of the Lamb;" to exbibit his infinite freeness, fulness, and power to save the chief of sinners, and yet the rigid exclusiveness of his salvation to him “ that believeth ;" so as always" to speak a word in season to him that is weary,” and never a word of encouragement to him that persists in his sins. The Cross, like the pillar of cloud, is all light to the people of God-all darkness to such as neglect so great salvation.
By these imperfect bints I have endeavoured to illustrate what I understand by preaching Christ in his person and office, as the efful. gent centre of Christianity.
From what has been so defectively exhibited, it appears, that as in the sun there is an axis around which the whole orb of light revolves, so in the preaching of Christ there is a centre in which all his attributes and offices and works, as the Saviour of sinners, unite; and which, in whatever aspect we behold him, must always be in view-his death.
But in Christ Jesus there are many cardinal truths, connected with him by various relations and dependencies, and occupying, as it were, the remoter circle of the Christian system, which a preacher cannot keep out of sight without great unfaithfulness. Be it remembered, that while the Cross, with its immediate neighbourhood, is the metropolis of Christianity, “ the city of our God,” all the region round about is the Holy Land, flowing with milk and honey," a land of brooks and fountains of water, intersected in all directions with highways to the holy place, by wbich the tribes go up. It is the office of the preacher to map out that land, to display its treasures, to trace those converging roads ; so that, whenever a sinner may desire to know how he may get to Zion, his eye may read~" This is the way, walk ye in it.” Then only is Christ preached in the fulness of the Gospel, when nothing is left untaught that enters into the plan of salvation, as a covenant of mercy and life established between God and sinners, in the hand of an infinitely meritorious Mediator.
Some, under the idea of glorying only in the Cross, confine their preaching almost exclusively to a few topics more immediately connected with the death of Christ-such as, atonement, faith, and justifying righteousness-to the great neglect of numerous derivative or introductory truths of absolute necessity to a just exposition of the Gospel. But the spiritual wisdom of a minister is to be exercised in giving to every part of the Gospel plan its portion in due season; assigoing to all subjects their places, according to their rank in importance; and exbibiting each in its relations to the others and to Christ.
Do we speak of Christ as the sinner's righteousness unto complete justification through faith, and continually should we present him in this blessed aspect,—then must we show the sinner his absolute need of such righteousness. To do this, we must awaken his conscience. He must be so convinced of sin, as to feel that he is condemned and lost without that refuge. Blessed is he whom God has taught to teach this lesson! Our text-book is the Law. By it is
the knowledge of sin, preached, in a spiritual application to the thoughts and intents of the heart, and only as a rule of life to all, but as the condition of salvation to every one who does not accept the salvation of Christ, on the perfect keeping of which depends all bis hope, and the tremendous curse of which is incurred by a single transgression,-preached in view of the Cross, as establishing, instead of impairing, its obligation; as confirming, instead of diminishing, the certainty of its penalty upon every soul of man that doeth evil without repentance ;-it is made the instrument of the Holy Ghost, to convince men of sin, to strip off their self-righteousness, and, as a “schoolmaster, to lead them to Christ.” He that would preach justification by faith in Christ must also preach entire condemnation by works under the Law ; he must lay his foundation in clear, unequivocal statements of the divine law, in all the uncompromising strictness of its demands; taking special care to show, that it looks with as little favour as when first promulgated, upon imperfect, though sincere, obedience: that every the least trangression incurs the condempation of God as much under the dispensation of Christ as under that which preceded : consequently, that whosoever is not justified by faith, being shut up under this Law, is a condemned already.” Thus to preach the Law is the direct method of preparing the way of the Lord. More consciences would be awakened, more hearts would know the need and the preciousness of Christ, were there more directness and clearness in thus pressing upon those who are still under the Law, as a condition of life, its unmitigated strictness, and therefore their own present and entire condemnation. From this, to repentance and faith, the way is plain.
Again : Do we preach Christ, as “ of God, made unto us sanctification?" We must not expect that our hearers will appreciate this excellency of the knowledge of Christ, till we have taken pains to exhibit that condition of entire depravity by nature which makes them so absolutely dependent on his sanctifying grace. Hence, in our préaching, a large department should be assigned to the setting forth of that original state of spiritual ruin and death-that enmity against God, and natural inclination to evil - which " is the corruption of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam,” and under which he is not, and cannot be, in subjection to the divine commands. This leads directly to the absolute necessity of a new birth unto righteousness; and makes the subject of spiritual regeneration, its evidences and fruits, of conspicuous magnitude in the preaching of Christ. And this again introduces the sioner, now sensible of his disease and helplessness and necessity, to the only Physician. Then comes in the agency of the Holy Ghost. Christ is not preached in faithfulness, unless the Holy Ghost, “ who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,” is distinctly and continually preached as of the same divine nature with both ; alike to be honoured and worshipped; sent of Cbrist, to be the Teacher, the Sanctifier, and the Comforter of sinners—the author and preserver of all spiritual life; by whom alone we are born again, and daily renewed in the spirit of our minds -the Spirit of all prayer, wisdom, and holiness; without whom we are as little able to will as to do of God's good pleasure. To be full of the Holy Ghost in one's sermons as well as one's soul- to keep up the attention of the sinner as continually to His influences, for all the beginnings of spiritual life and all growth in grace, as to the righteousness of Christ for all reconciliation to God-is not only the way to be blessed with increase in our work, but to preach Christ as he preached himself.
In the preaching of Christ, there is a text which a minister should, in some shape or other, be always illustrating : “ By grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves ; it is the gift of God : not of works, lest any man should boast.” Let it be his continual effort to magnify the grace of God in all the work of salvation. He cannot exceed the truth in that wbich has no bounds. But there is another text of equal emphasis, which St. Paul connects with the other, as we should always connect them in our ministry : “ Created in Jesus Christ unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Works of righteousness are no less earnestly to be preached, as essential fruits of a saving faith, than to be renounced as having any part in our justification with God. We are to make the office of faith so prominent, that without it there can be no union to Christ; and the necessity of works so absolute, that without them there is no evidence of faith : and, at the same time, both faith and works are to be represented as deriving all their efficacy, value, and existence from Christ, their source and end.
We are bound to speak freely of the believer's privileges in Christ, that we may increase his joy ; but to insist also with equal stress upon his obligation to live unto Christ, that we may increase his devotedness. “All are your's, and ye are Christ's,” is the text in this matter ; obligation increased by privilege. So must we preach the precepts of Christ, as to lead men to the embracing of his promises ; and so proclaim his promises, that, instead of the neglect, we may encourage men to the obedience of his precepts. In all this we have two great arguments for persuasion_" the mercies and the terrors of the Lord ; ” both, as deriving their greatest force from the cross of Christ. While we invite and entreat by all the considerations arising out of the love of God in the gift of his Son, and the love of the Son in the sacrifice of himself, and the boundless mercies thus presented for all that will sacrifice themselves to Christ, we are not to keep in the back-ground, nor touch lightly and timidly upon those more offensive, because more alarining truths, which show the dreadful peril of those who reject the Saviour. On the contrary, it belongs inseparably to the preaching of Christ, to warn the impenitent of the wrath of God, not only fearlessly, but frequently ; with tenderness, indeed, but also with the utmost solemnity; not sparing the. strongest representations of the misery of the lost, as depicted in the Scriptures ; nor shrinking from the plainest and most direct application to the minds of such as obey not the Gospel of Christ. Never does eternal retribution appear so awful, as when contemplated in view of Christ crucified, and Christ neglected. But in this, as in all other methods of our ministry, let there be a manifest preference of the more winning arguments ; so that grace may reign in our discourses, as it reigns in the Gospel committed to us. If we warn the impenitent, and show the cloud of retribution that overshadows them, let us tell them always of " a voice out of the midst of the cloud," FEBRUARY, 1842.