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sacred Scriptures. May the knowledge of this sacred word increase, until “ The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea ;" Is. xi. 9. AMEN.
PREACHING THE WORD.
2 TIMOTHY IV. 1, 2.
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing, and his kingdom, preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine."
The preaching of the word is one of those means which Christ hath appointed in his church, for the conviction and conversion of the careless, and the edification of his people. And it is the most important of all the means of grace; for it is the one which God hath intended especially to honour, and which he doth bless more than any other. This is taught by facts; and also by the Scriptures, in which we read, “ How shall they hear without a preacher ? Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God ;". Rom. x. 14, 17. “ It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe ;" 1 Cor. i. 21.
The word of God ought not to be preached by every one; but only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved, and called to this office.” Reason teaches that a man ought to be qualified for any work which he undertakes, and therefore especially for the work of the ministry, which is peculiarly important. And the Scriptures teach that a gospel minister, should be blameless, an able man, and apt to teach.
To be duly qualified for this work, piety is an essential requisite, and one of the first importance. But not every good man, nor even every eminently pious man, is fit to preach the word. A gospel minister ought also to have natural gifts, and a mind stored with such knowledge as will enable him to explain and apply the Scriptures aright.
Whether a man possesses the requisite qualifications ought to be determined by others, qualified to judge. To allow a inan to determine this matter himself alone, would be to open the door, to introduce to the ministry, the weakest, most self-sufficient, and enthusiastic men. His qualifications ought to be judged of by others; and he ought to be approved, set apart, and ordained to this office, by those who are themselves ministers of the Gospel. Of this we have frequent examples in the New Testament, and thus was Timothy introduced to the sacred office.
While some are not qualified for this office, and therefore ought to be discouraged, and if possible, prevented from entering it, if they seek it ; others who are qualified and approved, are under the most solemn obligations to devote themselves to the Lord in this work. This we are taught, by the most solemn charge given to Timothy in our text. A charge sufficient to arouse young men, of approved piety and talents, to seek to be fitted for this office, and to enter upon it.
“ I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom, preach the word.”
We learn from our text what ministers ought to preach, viz. “ the word ;” and how they ought to preach. They ought to “ be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine.” And we learn also, why they ought thus to preach the word.— " I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.” My object in the ensuing discourse is, 1. To show what ministers ought to preach. II. How they ought to preach.
I. I am to show what ministers ought to preach. Our text teaches us they ought to preach the word. 66 Preach
word;" that is the word of God as contained in the
Scriptures of truth. The object of this word is, to teach men the way of salvation through Christ. Christ, and salvation through him are the sum and substance of the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testaments. They all have in some way or other a bearing on this point. Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Bible. Christ and salvation through him ought therefore to be the theme of ministers, in their preaching. Do they preach the deplorable ' state of man? It ought to be to show the necessity of a Saviour Do they hold up the terrors of the law, the wrath of God and the torment of the wicked ? The object ought to be to drive them to Christ for safety, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Do they preach pardon of sin and acceptance with God? These ought to be preached through faith in Christ, and as granted to the sinner for his sake. Do they preach morality and holiness of life ? These ought to be preached as flowing from a new heart, given to us by the Spirit of Christ in consequence of his death. And so of other subjects. Every sermon ought to have a bearing upon Christ and him crucified, or to grow out of this subject. And sermons which stand disconnected from this subject are. not gospel sermons; and ministers who have nothing of Christ in their sermons violate their commission and can do no good; but do inuch harm to their people. Such are those moral essays, which are sometimes pronounced from the sacred desk, which have nothing more of the gospel of Christ in them, than are to be found in the writings of Cicero or Seneca, or any other of the Heathen moralists.
What does the Bible teach on this subject ? « Preach the word," the revealed word of God. “ Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel ;” Mark xvi. 15. And what is the gospel, but the glad tidings of salvation through Jesus Christ ? And what was the conduct of Paul and his fellow labourers ? Hear it from his own declarations ; “ We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord ;" 2 Cor. iv. 5. “ Christ sent me to preach the gospel. We preach Christ crucified ;" 1 Cor. i. 17, 23. "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified;" I Cor. ii. 2. From these texts we clearly see what a minister ought to preach. Christ and his cross should be all his theme.
Christ and his cross, the foundation of a sinner's pardon, acceptance, sanctification, holy obedience, perseverance, consolation, and eternal life ; and his condemnation too if he continues a stranger to him.
II. To show how ministers ought to preach. We have the manner in wbich the gospel ought to be preached, as taught in the Scriptures, excellently expressed in our Larger
Catechism in the answer to the question,
“ How is the word of God to be preached by those that are called thereunto ?
They that are called to labour in the ministry of the word are to preach sound doctrine; diligently, in season, and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power ; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God ; wisely applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers ; zealously, with fervent love to God, and the souls of his people ; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification and salvation."
In showing the manner in which ministers ought to preach the gospel, I shall take this answer as my guide.
1. Ministers should preach the gospel diliyently, in season, and out of season.” Slothfulness in any lawful calling is a crime, and is condemned in the word of God, in which we are exhorted to be, “ Not slothful in business ;" Rom. xii. 11.
More especially therefore, inust slothfulness be criminal in a gospel minister, as the business in which he is engaged is more important than any
other. Besides, that a minister ought to be diligent in preaching the gospel is proved from the exhortations which Paul gave to Timothy, and from the examples of Christ and his apostles. Paul exhorted Timothy to give himself wholly to the work; and to be instant, in season, and out of season. Our Saviour was indefatigable in preaching the gospel ; not only on the Sabbath, but also on other days; and not only in the temple and synagogues but in all places, where opportunity offered. Paul's life abundantly shows that he was diligent in preaching the gospel. Of Apollos it is recorded, “ He spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord;" Acts xviii. 25. And the apostles collectively resolved, “ We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the
word ;” Acts vi. 4. Hence it is evident that a minister ought to be diligent in preaching the gospel ; and that it is his duty to preach; not only in season, or on the Sabbath ; but also out of season, or out of the ordinary times, and on other days of the week besides the Sabbath. And a minister ought to delight in being thus diligent in his work; and he ought never to esteem his labour, in the work of the ministry, a drudgery, but a pleasure. He ought with delight to be willing to spend and be spent in this important and glorious service. And the man, who has not this spirit, had better be engaged in any other business, than that of the gospel ministry.
2. Ministers of the gospel ought to preach the word “plainly, not in the enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Paul told the Corinthians, " In the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice, I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue :" 1 Cor. xiv. 19. “ We use great plainness of speech ;" 2 Cor. ii. 12." And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power;" 1 Cor. ii. 1, 4.
Paul was abundantly competent to address his hearers in a learned and high style, or in the enticing words of man's wisdom; but he carefully avoided it, and spake with great plainness, and in such a manner as the Spirit of God usually accompanies with his powerful influences, convincing, converting, and comforting the soul. And it is the duty of ministers now, to address their audiences in the same manner. The object of a minister ought to be, not to gain the admiration of his hearers, for his rhetorical flourishes and display of learning; but to do their souls good ; and therefore he ought to speak with great plain
For he must be understood by his hearers to do them any good ; but it is certain, that a large portion of most if not all congregations are unlearned, and cannot understand any other than plain language. Such persons, when the preacher makes a display of learning in his sermons, must remain entirely unprofited, though their souls are valuable, as the souls of those who are learned.