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ilself, as to convert those into men, who formerly were depraved to such a degree, that they differed very little from the brutes that perish. But after they become men, the greatest change doth still remain; those men must be converted into saints ; they must be changed into the divine image; their very nature must be renewed, be. fore they can be meet for the enjoyment of God: “ Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven;" and it is the gospel alone which the Spirit renders powerful for producing this effect. Morality grows out of faith in Christ, as the branches grow from the stock. This, and this only, is the principle of that holiness, without which no man shall see God. Whosoever, therefore, would preach morality with any hope of success, must begin here, and lay the foundation of it in that faith which purifieth the heart, and worketh by love; otherwise his sermons may supply fuel to pride and vain-glory, but shall never be the means of saving one soul. In vain do we attempt to improve the fruit till the tree be made good. Let sinners be first ingrafted into Christ, and then works of righteousness will follow in course; as our blessed Lord hath taught us (John xv. 4, 5.) “ Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me (or separated from me] ye can do nothing." Accordingly we find, that the preaching Christ, or the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, hath in every age been the means of convincing and converting sioners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation; and in the same proportion that this hath been neglected, the power of godli
ness hath declined and languisbed, till a cold formality hath at length given way to the open profession of infi. delity itself. It was the observation of a judicious and pious writer upon this subject, “ That where a great and universal neglect of preaching Christ hath prevailed in a Christian nation, it hath given a fatal occasion to the growth of Deism and infidelity; for when people have heard the sermons of their ministers for many years together, and find little of Christ in them, they bave taken it into their heads, that men may be very good, and go safe to heaven, without Christianity; and therefore, though they dwell in a land where the gospel is professed, they imagine there is no need they should be Christians." To wbich I may add, that it is no less observable, on the other hand, that wherever there has been any revival of religion, it hath uniformly been in. troduced and carried on, through the blessing of God, by preaching the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. These, and these alone, have been, and ever will be, " the wisdom and power of God unto salvation.”
The application of what hath been said to the ministers of religion, is so direct and obvious, that I need not enlarge upon it; and therefore any further improvement I ain to make of the subject, shall be addressed, not to them that preach, but to those that hear. And what hath been delivered, may serve to inform them what sort of preaching they ought chiefly to value. I am afraid, that by many the great and essential truths of the gospel are too little regarded: like the Athenians of old, they require something new, something that may gratify an itching ear, and furnish matter for a vain imagination to work upon. But this, my brethren, is equally perverse and foolish. Who should regard what a servant saith, if he doth not deliver the mind of his master? And yet
I have often observed, that the greatest number of hearers never seem so well pleased, as when ministers speak of those things that are most foreign to their instructions. Did we come upon a disagreeable errand; were we charged with an embassy in which they to whom we speak have little or no concern, such conduct might be accounted for; but when the message we bring is not only most gracious, but likewise treats of matters in which they are immediately and most deeply interested, what words can express the folly and perverseness of those who shut their ears against it, while they greedily open them to every thing else? Hear what the angel said to the shepherds at Bethlehem, (Luke ii. 10.) “ Behold 1 bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” And what were these tidings which an angel was sent to publish, and introduced with such a high commendation of their importance and worth? They are recorded, (verse 11.) “ Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” “ And suddenly,” as it follows, “ there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men.” And yet, be astonished, 0 heavens! blush, V earth! this gospel.sermon, which an. gels reckoned themselves honoured to preach, and delivered with such rapturous exultation and joy, is, by multitudes in our day, thought trifling, and stale, and unworthy of their attention. To remedy this shameful, but growing evil, hath been the principal aim of my present discourse. I have told you what is your duty, that from thence you may learn your own; for the one must necessarily be suited to the other. The same authority which commandeth us to preach, doth virtually command and oblige you to hear; and if the pare doc
trines of the gospel ought to be the subject of our ser. mons, it naturally follows, that you should neither ex, pect nor desire any other. Ponder with due attention those awful words in the two verses preceding my text: “ If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world bath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” And let each of us pray in terms of the verse that immediately follows, that “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, may shine in the hearts of both preachers and hearers, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory, in the face of Jesus;"> that “ we all, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of God, may be changed into the same image, from glory to glo. ry, by the Spirit of the Lord." Amen.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of
every creature: for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell.
OUR Lord Jesus Christ is unifornuly represented to us in the sacred Scriptures as the Saviour of fallen man; a Saviour absolutely necessary; pay, as the only Saviour. To this character he laid claim, in clear and express terms, when he said to Thomas, “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” And in this important light did Peter set him forth at the bar of the Jewish Sanhedrim: When speaking of him as the stone set at nought by the builders, which was now become the head of the corner, he added these memorable words : 6 Neither is there sal. vation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." Of the same import was the testimony of that illustrious