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the preaching of Christ and his apostles, upon which foundation we build. It was pure revelation-authoritative teaching, demanding implicit faith in them who heard it. Reason had nothing to do with the discovery of it, nor the dictation of it; many things which were made known by it exceeded the capacity of reason to comprehend, and all of them, the ability of reason to make known. But it was not unreasonable doctrine. It either itself commanded the assent of the unprejudiced mind, or it obtained credit by the confirmation which it derived from the signs, and wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost accompanying it. To the Jews, indeed, it was a stumbling-block. They were, as a nation, blinded by
. false interpretations of their Scriptures, and fell over the stone of offence. To the Greeks it was foolishness. They were, as a people, puffed up by the pride of philosophy, falsely so called, and jested at the cross. But the foolishness of God is wiser than men. For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. In vain had Chaldean astrologers and soothsayers, Egyptian priests, Persian magi-in vain had Grecian sophists, Roman moralists, and Jewish Rabbis speculated upon things divine. If more worthy notions were any where entertained, they were buried in the dark letters of the learned, or secretly taught to the initiated few in the schools of philosophy. Even Judaism had no provisions for the diffusion of divine knowledge beyond a limited sphere. Although Moses had in every city them that preached him every Sabbath day in the synagogues, yet the influence of this system of instruction was as the glimmering of a star here and there athwart a gloomy sky. Ungodliness and immorality brooded in fearful darkness over the popular mind, till the glorious Sun of Righteousness arose with his twelve satellites in our moral hemisphere.
And the system of instruction adopted by them was of the most popular kind. Taking advantage of the religious assemblies of the Jews, sometimes we find the first gospel preachers addressing the congregated multitudes in the synagogues, sometimes waiting upon the periodical feasts and solemnities of the nation, and haranguing the crowds that thronged the courts of the temple in the holy city. Oftener you behold the Great Prophet of his Church, whose teaching attracted such multitudes as no building could accommodate, preaching under the open canopy of heaven; now seated on the top of some sloping hill, whose sides were crowded with his auditors ; now in a fishing boat on the lake of Gennesaret, whose shores were lined with eager bearers ; at one time far from the haunts of men in the solemn wilderness ; at another amid the masses of the busy population of towns and villages; again on the high-way, or by the springs of water where weary travellers halt on their journeys; and not unfrequently in private houses, where he partook of the domestic meal or mingled in the festive party. This system of instruction, modified by circumstances,
has still continued to be that of the Church of Christ. Nevertheless, when the congregations, every where planted by the apostles in the cities, towns, and country districts, had been regularly constituted, and obtained stated teachers, the plan of weekly instruction in public, such as still prevails throughout the Christian church, was universally and strictly acted upon. Even when compelled to meet under cloud of night, in order to escape the fury of the heathen multitudes and rulers, the faithful forsook not the assembling of themselves together.
You, my dear bearers, have been habituated to regard the Sabbath-day preaching of the gospel as one of the greatest privileges enjoyed by you in this land of liberty, where, blessed be God! we are permitted, under the wing of civil protection, to worship God, and to hold our solemn assemblies without molestation, where once our conventicles would have been scattered by the bloody soldiery of an intolerant
government. Yes, my countrymen, within sight of this place of worship, which you are occupying in perfect security, had our forefathers, within these two hundred years, to contend unto the death for their inalienable civil right, and liberty of conscience to believe for themselves and worship for themselves. Oh, that we, their more favoured descendants, may not be found slighting or neglecting those invaluable rights, secured to us by their noble efforts !
The preaching of the gospel is still the same authoritative institution, still the same divinely sanctioned method of popular instruction, which it was at the beginning. We have, indeed, the printed Word, which may be regarded as a faithful family preacher, preaching to every household and individual in whose possession it is found. But the Jews had also the Old Testament Scriptures in writing, even while they had synagogue services, scribes, and teachers of the law.
The early Christians continued, even when their copies of the gospels and epistles were greatly multiplied, to meet to exhort each other from these inspired books. Nor will the private study of the Scriptures exonerate us from the imperative duty of studying them in like manner, with the assistance of public instructors in our places of worship. It is not pretended, that those truths which were originally published by Christ and his apostles with authority, obtain a higher authority when enforced by human uninspired teachers. There were times of corruption, it is true, in the church, when priests kept the key of divine knowledge which the Saviour has given to all; and when the interpretations and decisions of councils and Popes were forced upon the belief of an ignorant and superstitious people: but thanks to the Great Head of the Church, who put it into the bearts of the noble witnesses of the Reformation to cast off the yoke of priestcraft, to disown the authority of priests, and the infallibility of Popes, and to stand firmly and resolutely, even unto death, upon the sole ultimate authority of the Word of God
as the rule of faith and manners-as the great unerring textbook of gospel preaching. Upon it we stand, and if our preaching and our faith be not according to the law and the testimony, it is because there is no truth in us. But while you judge, we must interpret; and while we preach, you must wait upon our preaching. Although we claim not the unerring power to preach the mind of God which the apostles and their Divine Master possessed, because we are not endowed with their miraculous gifts, nor inspired by the Holy Ghost; yet, by making our appeals constantly to the Scriptures, which are the productions of that inspiration, and which are authenticated by those miracles ; by submitting our interpretations to your enlightened minds, furnished with the treasures of knowledge which are hid in them; and above all, by seeking upitedly that wisdom which cometh down from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy ; by joining together at the throne of grace in supplications for the outpouring upon our hearts of the enlightening, convicting, converting, sanctifying, and comforting influences of the Spirit of God-we have good reason to hope that our instructions will not mislead you, but be the means of building you up in our most holy faith.
The preaching of the Word of God accomplished in the days of the apostles the most wonderful and blessed revolution ever effected in the world. The same divinely appointed agency, when employed in such a way as to secure the cooperation of its Almighty Author, will still be accompanied by the demonstration of the Spirit and of power-will still be productive of the same benign effects.
The preaching of the gospel, taken in connection with all those other means of disseminating truth which enlightened reason and Christian zeal are yet to bring to bear upon the mind of man, is destined to convert the world, to overthrow
the temples of idols, to break the charms of witchcraft, to expose the tricks of superstition, to chase away the dense fogs of popular ignorance, to sanctify the spirit of philosophy, to liberalize the maxims of legislators, to banish war, to promote industry, civilization, domestic happiness, sound faith, pure worship, unashamed hope, eternal blessedness.
II. But it is time to turn to the Second topic to be discussed, The subject of the gospel ministry, Christ whom we preach.
This brief announcement of the subject matter of preaching, would no doubt startle the prosing scribes, and the captious sophists, whose traditions, and vain jangling discussions had mystified instead of simplifying the truths of religion. And many are yet, with them, disposed to scout the idea of preaching Christ, as if under that name it were impossible that all things divine could be included. But Moses had them that preached him, and why then not Christ? But there is, in truth, no limiting the scope of discussion, by adbering to this one grand topic. By preaching Moses, we understand the religion of Moses; and, if you choose, by preaching Christ preaching also the religion of Christ. And this opens up at once upon us the whole field of revelation. But there is another and more direct way of getting into this spacious field, and yet not departing from the express announcement of Paul, preaching Christ. By preaching Moses you must chiefly mean that which Moses revealed; but by preaching Christ you may safely understand not only that which he revealed, but that which he is. The Mosaic system might be taught without much reference to Moses personally; but the Christian religion can be made known only by constantly referring to Christ. Moses is only the revealer of his system; Christ is the great subject of his. He, indeed, says that he came not to bear witness of himself, but that certainly does not mean that he spake not con