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Sabbath. In that time in different con- pleasing men, but God, who trieth our gregations I went twice through a hearts. For neither at any time used large portion of the books and epis- we flattering words as ye know, nor tles of the New Testament from the of men sought we glory.” Gospel of John to the close of Revela- At Ephesus he went into the synation. I can speak therefore, as one gogue, and spake boldly for the space who has made full trial of this mode of three months, discussing the things of preaching
concerning the kingdom of God. He In favor of it I adduce, in the first took the sword of the Spirit which place, the example of our divine Teach- is the word of God, and wielded it er, and of his intrepid servant, the with power and efficacy. Instead of a Apostle to the Gentiles.
learned, finely composed ovation, he Christ came to Nazareth “and as his expounded and applied the Scriptures, custom was, he went into the syna- setting forth the crucified and risen gogue on the Sabbath-day, and stood Saviour as the giver of life and salvaup to read. And there was delivered tion to the simple and perishing. to him the book of the prophet Esaias. The Lord told Paul that he had And when he had opened the book he “much people” in the proud and proffound the place where it was written, ligate city of Corinth where were “ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, be- many seekers after wisdom, many selfcause he hath anointed me to preach the conceited disputers, and all given to gospel to the poor," &c., Luke iv. 16–19. idolatry. What method did he adopt
He explained the passage, saying, to teach them true wisdom, and win “ This day is this scripture fulf ed in them to Christ? What was the style your ears.” “ And all bare him witness of bis ministrations ? His epistle to and wondered at the gracious words them furnishes the answer.
“I came which proceeded out of his mouth.” not with excellency of speech or of This was a perfect specimen of exposi- wisdom, declaring unto you the testitory preaching ; and the effect of it mony of God.” — “My speech and my was that the hearers were deeply in- preaching was not with enticing words terested and impressed. This was not of man's wisdom, but with demonstraa casual or solitary instance, but was tion of the Spirit, and of power. He his custom wherever he found a syn- declared, made known the testimony agogue to improve the opportunity on of God, - his testimony concerning the Sabbath to instruct the people by Jesus Christ and salvation by him ; unfolding the Scriptures.
knowing that the gospel is the wisdom With what clearness and power did of God and the power of God to them he explain the law in his sermon on who believe. From his own statement the mount, and refute the false glosses it is evident that he scrupulously and corrupting traditions of the Jews! avoided mixing with it any embellish“The people were astonished at his doc- ments of oratory, or forms of philotrine : for he taught them as one hav- sophical argumentation.” This he did ing authority, and not as the scribes." that “their faith should not stand in
Paul imitated his Master. The rec- the wisdom of men, but in the power ord states, that as his manner was of God.” Such divinely taught, divinely he went into a synagogue of the Jews blessed examples are worthy of imitaat Thessalonica, and three Sabbath tion. days reasoned with them out of the 2. Exposition makes minister Scriptures." Afterward he wrote to thoroughly acquainted with the Bible. them saying, –“So we speak, not as Next to personal piety, this is the best
qualification for ministerial success. minds be enriched with heavenly wisIt necessitates a critical examination dom. That sacred treasury is exhaustof the inspired word. It takes him to less; and those who penetrate most the languages in which it was written deeply into it are recompensed with and makes him his own commentator. the abundance of its riches. While he may obtain help from the True there are difficulties. But says able exegesis of others, he makes him- Dr. Gray, “ The true encouragement self independent by the exercise of his is this: that if the labor be difficult, the own powers. On this subject Dr. James pay is glorious. The clear and assured Gray remarks, —“Might it not be views of divine truth which the practice worth the church's while to consider of scriptural exposition produces ; the whether she ought not to exact a intellectual and spiritual riches, which weekly exposition of a portion of Scrip- are the result; the promptitude and ture from her ministers, not merely for facility with which divine subjects will, the purpose of her instruction, but for by and by, be grasped, discussed, and the purpose of instructing themselves. handled ; these are a few, and only a An intelligent commentator can not be few, of the precious rewards which God a bad divine. Preparation for the bestows on all the diligent students of weekly exposition of Scripture, compels his own word. The minister who has a minister to be a diligent student. conquered the difficulties of a commenIt keeps him habitually engaged over tator, I mean he who can, with reasonthe whole field of literature, languages, able industry, expound a chapter or criticism, history, chronology, laws, part of a chapter on the Sabbath, has antiquities, everything. A good ex- in reality conquered the most formidapositor of the Scripture must become ble difficulties of his office. Saturday a learned divine, according to the is divested of all its terrors. IIe measure of his faculties. Who enjoys never trembles about a few leaves of the benefit ? Himself first, and next manuscript. He can check for thouthe church.
sands, and is not afraid of failing for He remarks also,“ It is, as I conceive small change. If his heart be only when he is acting as a mere expositor, right with God he can hardly ever be that the gospel minister appears in his unprepared for preaching the gospel. highest glory. It is then that the Thus, before he has reached the meridhighest deference is paid to him. It ian of life, he finds himself a man ; is then that he speaks with peculiar and carries his sermons in his heart authority. The people no longer seem and not in his pocket.” to think that they are listening to 3. A regular course of exposition man's doctrine ; – they dare not be makes the people acquainted with the angry with him, though he speaks dag- Bible. They hear from one Sabbath to gers to them, for he is explaining God's another a connected and thorough exown law, he can not help saying what planation of a book, a gospel, or an God has put in his holy word.” Now epistle. Their minds follow along the as the Bible contains all the knowledge historical narration, as we have it in we have of spiritual, divine, and eternal the gospels and the Acts, and grasp things, the more thoroughly we become the scope of preceptive and doctrinal acquainted with its teachings, the more instruction and perceive its applicaenlarged and correct will be our views bility to themselves. Bible classes are of those things ; the more will our thought to be quite important, though
made up of only a few individuals. 1 Mediatorial Reign of the Son of God. Expository preaching makes the whole congregation a Bible-class in fact, though specially important as respects the not in name. It gives to many of all epistles. The writers of these had parages the advantage of such a class, and ticular reasons for writing them ; those, too, who would not become mem- specific objects to accomplish relating bers of one.
It opens to the neglect- to doctrine, or the spiritual condition ers of the Bible the heart-searching, and wants of the churches to whom illuminating contents of the Bible. It they were addressed. These are kept makes those who seldom peruse it in view in their instructions, reasonings, know what is the will of God; what and exhortations. To perceive the is their character and relation and beauty, force, and adaptedness of what accountability to him, notwithstanding they wrote, it is necessary to enter intheir habitual neglect of the divine to their views and motives ; to adopt word at home. They thus find that and pursue their train of thought, and God speaks to them, and holds them keep in our minds the objects at which under his authority and amenable to they aimed. How can this be done by him though they seek not to know his taking, perhaps once in a whole year, will.
two or three isolated passages in an People generally are much more ig- epistle as a topic for as many disnorant of what the Scriptures teach courses ? How much of an underthan is commonly supposed, even where standing does any congregation get of churches are numerous. You may an inspired epistle, its sublime truths, find proof of this at any time by con- its profound reasonings, by such a mode versing with those who are unconverted of instruction ? Even if the congregaand many also who are professors. tion be one of more than ordinary inSermons written on a single verse or telligence, the knowledge they get of a part of a verse, and that scarcely the things revealed is scanty, and in noticed after a brief explanatory ex- shreds and disconnected pieces. ordium, do not give the people an un- But when an exegetist, who loves derstanding of the word of God, except his work, goes on from chapter to chapin a very limited degree. Such dis- ter, keeping before the minds of his courses are beneficial and should not hearers the design of the inspired be discontinued. They hold an impor- writer, giving an interpretation of tant place in the wise system of means his language, recapitulating or reviewfor the salvation of mankind. But the ing briefly what had been previously apostolic method is too valuable to be said, and unfolding with true spiritual cast aside. Many, very many are scep- discernment the meaning of the whole ; tical concerning the things revealed in a glow of light and warmth is thrown the Bible just because they do not un- into the minds of the people, believers derstand them. True their hearts are are edified, and all from the young to opposed to divine truth, and to the glori- the old are instructed. ous Author of it; yet it is a fact that 5. This method, by interesting the they have but very little knowledge of it. people, operates as an incentive to attend Depravity and ignorance keep their public worship. A desire to know minds in darkness and intensify their more of what is revealed is produced, prejudices. The best remedy we can and the continued gratification of that employ to cure infidelity is to cause desire increases it. At the close of people to understand what God has each Sabbath the people can know by revealed.
looking at the text what is to come 4. Expository preaching gives a con- next in the course. Perhaps the sucnected view of the Scriptures. This is ceeding verses are difficult to under
stand, and by some have never been people may thus have a pleasing conunderstood. They will feel that they sciousness that he has declared "the must go and hear the pastor explain whole counsel of God.” those passages, — what he will say on Furthermore, a course of exposition the doctrine they see expressed, or a saves a minister much time and perparticular duty they see inculcated. plexity in finding texts. Many a one Thus there is no necessity for adver- has spent days in search of a passage tising his subjects. I have known per- on which to compose a sermon; and sons to go out to the sanctuary in in- after this profitless, unsatisfactory, exclement weather, which perhaps they hausting labor has not succeeded in would not have done, because they obtaining one. The Bible has seemed were unwilling to lose an exposition. for the time as a sealed book. It was Not only those who have a desire for apparently destitute of appropriate the knowledge of divine things, but passages. Nothing suited the mind or those who are not serious and medita- the occasion, and so all were rejected. tive, even youth, may become inter- This very unpleasant experience is ested and love to go to the house of the avoided when a regular course of exLord on the Sabbath.
position is pursued. When the exer6. A regular course of exposition cises of the Sabbath are concluded, the gives a pastor opportunities to preach pastor knows where to begin his all the doctrines, - to inculcate all the preparation for another, and may comdaties, to give all the admonitions, re- mence the work without loss of time. prove sin in all its forms, and present 7. The mode of preaching which I am the great and precious promises, and advocating is the most effectual remedy hold up the terrible threatenings con- for an excessive and increasing fastiditained in the Scriptures. The people ousness in the people. It demands what see that these divine teachings are not is exceedingly difficult if not impossible to be passed over and disregarded; for the generality of preachers to satbut are a part of God's counsel to be isfy. Though this may be regarded as declared by his servants. They know evidence of refinement and cultivated that their minister is expounding and taste, it is equally “evidence of frivolienforcing divine truth ; and that he is ty which prefers elegant amusement” under solemn obligation to be ful; to the weighty truths of the gospel. that he may not ignore or conceal or Says Dr. Gray, “ The public insist that pervert any part of that revelation they shall sit as critics on the talents which is given to enlighten and save and taste of their ministers. Ministers mankind, and may not pass lightly prepare themselves for the ordeal which over sins marked with divine repro- they can not avoid ;- they spend their bation.
time, and absolutely wear down and This method has the advantage of waste their animal and intellectual vigpresenting a great variety of subjects. or in writing fine classical sermons ; All that God has revealed respecting till, when they have done writing them, himself, his law, his government, -all they have scarcely animation left to be that relates to the character, the mis- able to preach them, or even to read sion, and redeeming work of Christ, -them decently. While the public makes all that respects our characters, duties, such large demands for elegance, they and destinies, — all that pertains to are no less clamorous for variety. In morals and Christian practice, come this, too, they must be gratified. Hence under consideration in scriptural order the
becomes the vehicle as time permits. A pastor and his of all sorts of subjects, and partakes of all the attributes of all kinds his enemies, and overthrow the strongof composition. Is it possible for holds of Satan everywhere ? Was it any man to avoid falling into a nar- not the sword of the Spirit, which is row circle of theology who does noth- the word of God ? Is not that the ining in the pulpit but preach finely strument which he puts into the hands composed classical sermons ? " “I of all his servants, and can we manuam persuaded that there are exposi- facture a better? What was it that tors, who, if their churches were to re- slew Paul, and laid that unpitying perquire them to quit the practice, and secutor a penitent believer at the feet confine themselves to sermons, would of Jesus,? “ I was alive without the indignantly close their pulpit doors, law once," he says, " but when the exclaiming, No! If I am not per- commandment came, sin revived and I mitted to preach Christianity by ex- died.” Must not the law now be plainplaining the Bible, I will not spend my ly interpreted, and be pressed on the time writing eloquent orations for those conscience in all the breadth and who do not love the truth."
depth of its import, without qualificaNow, to counteract and keep in check tion or abatement ? What was it that this extreme, exacting fastidiousness, dimmed the glory of that most magnifithe plain, practical expository mode of cent of all temples, the temple of preaching is the most effectual. It is Diana at Ephesus, whom all Asia worjust the opposite of a fanciful, imagina- shiped, and finally swept it from the tive, superficial manner of treating the earth ? Paul went there and spake great themes of religion. It presents boldly in the synagogue, discussing and the pure milk of the word for the persuading the things concerning the nourishment of babes in Christ, and kingdom of God. Then, because of the strong meat of sublime doctrines to opposition, he did the same in the advanced believers for their growth in school of one Tyrannus for two years, manliness and strength. An honest “ so that all who dwelt in Asia heard and faithful expositor can not deal in the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews flowers and froth to gratify the un- and Greeks.” It was the unvarnished, reasonable fastidiousness of his people. unadulterated truth of God, accompaA deep realization of the solemn, nied with the Holy Spirit, that permomentous, soul-awakening truths of formed that mighty work. That truth, God, and of his own responsibility as now wielded as Paul wielded it, is the an ambassador of Christ will not per- same powerful instrumentality for the mit him to substitute for those truths conversion of sinners, the overthrow the vain philosophies of men, and the of heathenism, and the building up of ingenious, amusing conceptions of his the Christian church. That God can own brain.
convert people in Christian or heathen 8. Thorough exposition is peculiarly lands without the instrumentality of readapted to accomplish the great design vealed truth, we freely admit ; but of preaching, which is the conversion of that is not his usual method. And the sinners, and the establishment of Chris- more clearly and faithfully that truth tians in faith and holiness. What is is explained and enforced, the more the chief instrumentality which God effectual does it become; the more has appointed to accomplish the great does it prove itself to be the power of work? Is it not his own pure, un- God unto salvation, Who, that has varying, unalterable truth? What labored in revivals of religion, does not was the instrument Christ gave to the know that it is not philosophy, nor apostles to be used effectively to slay metaphysics, nor logic, nor elegances