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Preaching the Word the Special Ordinance of
God for the Salvation of his People and
the manifestation of those who are lost. THE most important aspect in which we can regard the ministry of the word is, that it is the grand appointed means for the salvation of man. It is valuable as promoting the happiness of nations and the present welfare of man; but its highest commendation is, that it is the means which God usually blesses to our salvation. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1 Cor. i, 21. This being a point of such immense moment, and very often asserted in the Holy Scriptures, it will be profitable to consider it at some length.
When our Lord first gave the commission to preach the Gospel to every crea!ure, he added this all-important sanction --- Hle that believeth, and is , baptized, shall be saved ; but he that believeth nol, shall be damned. Mark xvi, 16. The circumstances in which these words were spoken, are such as greatly to increase their importance. The Lord of life and glory had gone through the scene of his humiliation, and had finished that work of redemption which he came to accomplish. He had overcome the sharpness of death ; he had risen from the grave ; and having thus obtained an eternal salvation for ruined sinners, lie appeared for the last time to his followers. His beloved disciples, filled with love, and
reverence, and admiration, hung round about him. He led them out to Bethany, and the last charge which he gave them before he ascended to his original glory, was the commission just mentioned-a commission, important in every point of view; but especially important as comprising the appointed means for conveying to the human race the vast blessings which the Son of God came into the world to obtain.
The words which our Lord uses in his last commission given to his Apostles, evidently imply that preaching is God's special ordinance for salvation. The Apostles shew this at length in various parts of the Epistles. (See Rom. x; 1 Cor. i, 3.) St. Paul says the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation unto eoery one that believeth. Rom. i, 16. After the general statement, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, (Rom. x, 14.) the Apostle proceeds, with a course of questions which fully shew that hearing is the great mean appointed of God for obtaining those graces which are connected with our salvation - How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed ? and how shall they believe in him of whom they huve not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent? See how inseparably he links together salvation, praying, believing, hearing, preaching, and sending. He, who says, Believe that thou mayest be saved, says also, Hear, that thou mayest believe. We have no warrant to expect salvation in any other way. Hearing is then God's appointment; it is his special ordinance for communicating faith, and all its blessed results. Its effect depends not on the perfection or imperfection, the meanness or dignity, the degree, or gift of'grace in the min
Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, (men
different talents and graces,) or the very weakest of the Apostles, preached, they were, after all, but Ministers; Instruments " by whom," or by whose instrumentality, "men believed;" their efficiency was in the appointment, their success was in the ordinance, as instituted and ordained by God for the special purpose of conveying grace to the hearer. Preaching as a constituted means of grace can alone prosper: the benefit depends not on the minister, but on God's blessing on the means, and on that faith in the hearer which applies the word in power; for the word preached did not profit, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. One reason, probably, that the sermons of the most accomplished ministers produce so little comparative effect is, because men expect more from the minister, than from the power of God's Spirit blessing the ordinance as a means of grace to their souls.
It is not however every sort of preaching, but preaching the Gospel, the Gospel of peace--glad tidings of good things, (Rom. x, 15.) - Christ crucified-Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, (1 Cor. i, 23, 30.) that is the means appointed for conveying to man the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the graces and blessings of the Christian dispensation.
We will first state the distinguishing feature of that preaching which God blesses; and then shew that a rejection of it leaves men undone, and a reception of it is inseparably connected with salvation.
It is evident from various passages of Holy Scripture, that the great subject of the ministry of the Apostles was Christ crucified for our sins. They speak of this as the prominent subject and characteristic feature of their ministry. I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Cor. ii, 2.
I delivered unto you, FIRST OF ALL, that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins. 1 Cor. xv, 3. They CEASED NOT to teach and preach Jesus Christ. Acts v, 42. Paul, AS HIS MANNER WAS, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them eut of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead. Acts xvii, 2,3. He counted it his great office as well as honour to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Eph. iii, 8.
No preaching then is Apostolic, in which Christ Jesus - his cross and his resurrection_his grace and his glory, are nor prominent. The doctrines which the Apostles preached are called the preaching of the cross; (1 Cor. i, 18.) the doctrine of a crucified Saviour, his death on the cross for the sins of the world. O that this ever were, O that this may ever be, the grand and distinguishing feature of the discourses of all that minister in holy things. Nothing else is the scriptural way of preaching--nothing else is blessed of God.
The Apostles preached Christ crucified as THE LEADING TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY. The atonement for sin made by his death was their glory. God forbid, says St. Paul, that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Gal. vi, 14. It is evidently that remarkable and astonishing fact which eminently distinguishes Christianity from all other systems of religion whatsoever.
Look at the character and glory of Him who died. It is not merely man, nor an angel of light, nor a creature even of the highest excellence. It is the Creator of every creature—the Lord from heaven--the Son of God. He is over all, God blessed for ever. He in the beginning was with God, and was God. He is called the great, the mighty, the true God; Jehovah; by whom all things were made, and without whom was not any thing made that was made.
This glorious God was manifested in the flesh. God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin. Rom. viii. He, who being in the form of God thought it not rebbery to be equal with God-made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Phil. ii, 7. He became a little child, was subject to his parents, lived many years in the world, laboured at his reputed father's business, and appeared as a man of sorrows. The Lord of all worlds so humbled himself, than on earth he had not where to lay his head; and He, a patient sufferer, was opposed, persecuted, mocked, ridiculed, and spit upon, by his own creatures. He underwent the extremest agony of body and soul. He sweat great drops of blood in that suffering. He was tried, condemned, and crucified, by his own people, even those whom he came to save.
These are facts declared in the Bible; and surely, such facts are the most astonishing and stupendous that the mind of man can possibly contemplate. They are the more deeply impressive, to us, as we have the most intense interest in them. We are assured that he bore our sins in his own body on the tree; and that we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of . sins, according to the riches of his grace.
What truths then can possibly be of greater moment to sinful creatures? Without this hope, we might lie down in despair