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of the gospel was unquestionably regarded, in the days of apostolic Christianity, as the highest part of divine worship. In addition to what has been already stated respecting this point, we here venture to say, that it cannot be shown, that in the first assemblies of the Christians, there were any regular exercises of prayer and praise. Social meetings, no doubt, were often held, in which such exercises obtained-as when the friends of Peter met, during his imprisonment, to intercede with God for his deliverance. But there is no positive evidence, so far as we are acquainted with the New Testament, that in the public congregations convened on the Sabbath, at which an apostle or other duly commissioned teacher attended, any thing was commonly done in addition to the ministration of the word, except, perhaps, during the celebration of the Lord's supper. We would not now be understood as intimating the least doubt as to the propriety of making prayer and praise part of the regular business of the sanctuary. The circumstances of the church have undergone changes since the time of the apostles, which render the additional exercises that have been introduced, both proper and profitable. We should deeply regret to see them banished. We should be the last to breathe syllable that might induce any to value them less. But wbile we freely concede, that they are important, the sacred claims of what we deem the truth, compel us to affirm, that they are not so important as the preaching of the gospel. We are persuaded, that a sensible and fervent discourse from the lips of a servant of Christ, who feels at the time his responsibility to his divine Master, will contribute far more to benefit a congregation, and promote the glory of God, than the service, as it is called, of any church, however excellent its matter and style. It may here be necessary to observe, that in ascribing so much importance to the exposition of the word of God by a living teacher, we have all along supposed the individual who preaches the gospel to be qualified, in some measure, for the high office which he sustains, by his natural endowments and literary attainments-one who has studied the inspired record with constant and persevering diligence, and who neglects no means calculated to sharpen and invigorate his intellectual faculties, and fit him for the task of elucidating and enforcing divine truth. We have no doubt, that the average success of preaching, will correspond to the solid acquirements and studious habits of those who preach; sincere piety, of course, being always presumed as an indispensable requisite. The only reason why results far more signal and glorious have not flowed from the ministry of the gospel, is, that that there has been a sad lack of the right sort of industry and zeal on the part of those who officiate in this ministry. It is vain to tell us, that neither talents, nor science, nor indefatigable labour will avail without the blessing of God, and that he can lend efficacy to any instrumentality, however feeble and defective. What! is he not at all times ready to copfer his blessing? Can we harbour the thought that there is unwillingness in him to crown the preaching of the gospel with success? Surely not. He always waits to be gracious, and whenever the means of doing good which he has ordained, and pledged himself to bless, prove ineffectual, we may suspect that the fault is to be found in the manner in which these means are employed. The simple truth of the matter is, that the Deity works by instruments, fitted by their own nature to accomplish the end which he contemplates. Nor is it any unwarrantable limitation of his omnipotent energy to affirm, that he cannot endue sense and nonsense with an equal share of influence over the human mind; that is, he

cannot do this without altering, or, rather, subverting those laws of mind, which he has himself established. No passages of Scripture have been more perverted and abused, than certain texts of the New Testament, which the ignorant and foolish have understood as implying, that ignorance and folly are the qualities in a preacher on which Jehovah looks with special complacency, and which he generally seconds with the gracious operations of his Spirit. Believe us, brethren, it is true in the work of the ministry, as in the business of personal religion, and in the ordinary affairs of life, that “God helps them that help themselves.” It would be interesting to pursue this topic further, did our limits permit us to do so.

We recur to our original proposition, which, we think, we have now sufficiently established, that the preaching of the gospel, or, as we termed it, the exposition of the word of God by a living teacher, is the means best adapted to convert sinners, and promote the religious improvement of mankind.-Let us next glance for a moment, at some of the practical reflections which this truth suggests.

And first, we may hence infer the absurdity, not to say the impiety of the course pursued by those who absent themselves from the sanctuary of the Most High, under the pretence, that they may be more profitably employed at home in the perusal of the sacred volume. We are aware, indeed, that persons of this description do not, in reality, trouble the Bible much, notwithstanding their professions of superior regard for its pages. We strongly suspect, that could you obtain the fabled ring which rendered its possessor the unseen spectator of any occurrence,* and thus take a look at the Sabbath studies of

Vide Cicero De Officiis, lib. iii. cap. ix.

these individuals who prize the sacred Scriptures so highly, you would be likely to find Shakspeare, or the last Waverly, or some Review or file of newspapers, more frequently their companion than the word of God. But granting that they do read the Bible, we still charge them with undervaluing the first and most important of the means of grace, and, if we knew of any mode in which the admonition could be conveyed to them, we would warn them, that if they persist in such a course, their chance of salvation is a forlorn hopen they must perish in their sins.

Again, we observe, that they who are favoured with the preaching of the gospel, may hence learn how solemn and imperative is the duty of improving this most inestimable advantage. “ Take heed,” brethren, “how ye hear.” Remember that your eternal well-being is involved in this matter. The truths to which your attention is called in the house of God, will exert a potent and a lasting influence over your character and condition, when every memorial of your existence shall have faded from the earth, and when even the earth itself shall have been burnt up. The minister of Christ is a savour either of life unto life, or of death unto death, to those to whom he publishes the message of his Master's grace. Wo to the individual who lives in a Christian land, and hears the tidings of salvation proclaimed on every returning Sabbath, and yet remains a stranger to penitence and faitha practical rejecter of Him who died for the expiation of human guilt-a rebel against the paternal authority of his Creator. Ah! he is destined to occupy a place in the world of wo, deeper and darker-more ignominious and wretched-than that from which the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, are now emitting the fruitless lamentations of insufferable anguish! We say

fruitless, for be it ever recollected, that the preaching of the gospel, with all its advantages, is a benefit confined to the present state. No ministry of reconciliation has been provided for those who die impenitent. The gloomy abodes of hell shall never be visited by a herald from the God of grace-no, never! What would not the agonized inmates of the bottomless pit, give for the ability to recall a single one of the many Sabbaths, with its golden opportunities, which, when on earth, they allowed to pass away unimproved? And O! will any of you, dear hearers, by imitating their example, become the partners of their despair? Pause-reflect seriously and maturely, before you decide.

We may further learn from the subject under consideration, that it is the duty of all who enjoy the preaching of the gospel themselves, to contribute, so far as circumstances will permit, to extend this invaluable privilege to those who are destitute of it. The man who views the ministry of reconciliation in its proper and scriptural light, and who has experienced its blessed influence in his own soul, cannot be other than a sincere and an ardent friend to missions, both foreign and domestic. What judgment must we form of that professor of religion, who deems it enough to save himself-who cares comparatively little for the spiritual welfare of his children--and who is wholly indifferent with regard to the everlasting destiny of others, whether in his immediate vicinity, in the remote settlements of his country, or in regions separated by intervening oceans? Such apathy might have been tolerated once, when even the best of men were not sufficiently enlightened on this point. But it can be tolerated no more. The deep night of ignorance and slumber, which so long obscured the glories and palsied the energies of Zion, has come to an end. The

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