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Preached at the Introduction of the Reverend Mr. Charles Stu
art to the Church of Cramond, the Sabbath after his Ordination, 1773.
2 CORIN. iv. 5.
We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord;
and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
WHEN God descended upon Sinai to give laws to his ancient people Israel, the awful tokens of his presence, the thunderings and lightnings, the sound of the trumpet, and the smoking of the mountain, 'struck the whole camp with such consternation and dread, that they were constrained to remove and stand afar off. They could not bear the exceeding lustre of his glory, notwithstanding the thick darkness with which it was veiled; and therefore addressed Moses in these remarkable words: “ Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” From which authentic piece of sacred history we may justly conclude, that our nature is too weak, in its present state, to sustain an immediate intercourse with the Deity: For which cause, God, in great condescension, is pleased to speak to us by men like ourselves; that, on the one hand, we may not want the benefit of his instruction; and, on the other hand, that we may not be overpowered by the too dazzling splendour and majesty of the Teacher.
Under the old dispensation, besides the stated ministers of religion, God," at sundry times," sent extraor
dinary messengers on special errands to the Jewish church; furnishing them with such credentials of their mission, as were sufficient to convince that highly-favoured people that they came from God; and conse. quently, that in every thing relative to their particular message so attested, they were bound to hearken to them as unto God himself. This we have no warrant to look for under the gospel : The whole counsel of God, so far as it regards the children of men, is clearly revealed, and committed to writing. Nothing is to be added to it, or taken from it; nay, could it be supposed that an angel were to come from heaven, and publish any thing that differed from, or even that was not already expressed in the Scripture-record, instead of our being obliged to give him a hearing, we are told, that he himself would be accursed” for so doing.
Nevertheless, that this complete and finished revelation might lack no advantage, and that all excuse might be taken away from those who should either contemn or counteract its dictates, our Lord Jesus Christ, “ God manifested in the flesh," the great “ Apostle and HighPriest of our profession.” hath instituted the ordinance of a gospel-ministry, and committed to men the word of reconciliation, charging them to proclaim, in the ears of their brethren, “ all the words of this life,” which are already delivered in writing to the church ; with a special promise, that in the faithful discharge of this im. portant trust, “ he will be with them always, even uplo the end of the world.” And to add greater weight to their holy ministrations, be hath expressly declared that the doctrines and precepts of his word, which they publish in his name, are to be received with the same meekness and submission as if they were spoken immediately by his own blessed mouth : (Luke x. 16.) “ He that hear
heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me." I am sensible, that some proud, ambitious churchmen have, “ with great swelling words of vanity,” magnified their office beyond what is meet; laying claim to that kind of precedence which belongs to high rank, or other worldly distinctions, which men have devised for the benefit or embellishment of civil society. But this is only a false blazon, that doth by no means suit the ministerial character. “ Be not ye called Rabbi," said the blessed Jesus; “ for one is your mas. ter, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.”—“ Whosoever is great among you, let him be your minister; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." Your true dignity consists in your usefulness: and he that stoops lowest for the good of others, is highest in my esteem. Worldly pomp doth only tarnish the glory of my servants, as it cannot consist with those self-denying duties which belong to their employment. Do you reckon yourselves most honoured, not when men give you title and place, but when they hearken to the instructions you receive from me, and embrace the saving message with which I have entrusted you. This, though in words somewhat different, is, in my apprehension, a genuine and summary account of what our Saviour taught the first ministers of his church, with regard to the nature and end of their office. And the language of Paul, in the passage before us, is obviously formed upon this original constitution: We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants, for Jesus' sake.
From an example of such unquestionable authority, we may justly, and without hesitation, conclude, that
to preach Christ Jesus the Lord, is the distinguishing characteristic and proper employment of a gospel-minister. And this is the observation which I propose to illustrate in the following discourse.
It may be affirmed with truth, that something concerning Christ bath been the principal subject of every revelation that came from God, downward from the original promise made to our first parents, that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. The apostle Jude informs us, that “ Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these things, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all.” Moses spake of him when he said unto the fathers, “ A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, of your brethren, like unto me; him sball
ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you." All the extraordinary messengers under the old dispensation were raised up by God for this very purpose, to foretel the coming of the promised Messiah, and, by the doctrine of repentance, gradually to prepare the world to receive him. The words of Peter to Cornelius are clear and strong upon this head, (Acts X. 43.) “ To him gave all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in bim, shall receive remission of sins.” This, he tells us, was the subject of their own most delightful inquiry: (1 Pet. i. 10.) “Of this sal. vation the prophets have inquired, and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time, the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified before-hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow."
And if Christ was an object of such importance to those who lived before his manifestation in the flesh, it cannot surprise us to find, that they who could testify that he was come, and had finished the work that was given him to do, should in all their writings and discourses dwell upon him as their constant and most delightful theme. The author of this epistle informs the Corinthians, that “ he determined not to know any thing among
them but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” And elsewhere, he saith, that “ he counteth all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ his Lord." This was that “ chosen vessel” whom the Lord converted in a miraculous way, and sent forth to bear his name before the Gentiles, and kings, and children of Israel; and his zeal and fidelity in executing his trust appear evidently from his writings. He made Christ the foundation of all his sermons, as we read (1 Cor. iii. 10, 11.) “ I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every one take heed how he buildeth. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ;" intimating, in the strongest manner, that all preaching which doth not refer to Christ, and lead to him, is like building a castle upon the loose sand, which may please the fancy for a little, but as it wants a foundation, will soon tumble down, to the equal disgrace and hurt of the builder. And as Christ was the foundation, so was he likewise the end of bis preaching; and not of his only, but of all his brethren in the apostleship, and fellow-labourers in the ministry; as is fully expressed in the text: We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants, for Jesus' sake. We seek not to advance our credit and interest; our sole aim is to render Jesus great and amiable in your esteem: and we desire to be considered in no other light than as your ministers or servants for Jesus' salce.
But what are we to understand by preaching Christ?