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academy of Plato, till scarce a single article of the gospel was left pure and unadulterated?
But to come more home, do the sermons of some at this day, contain one sentiment delivered by Christ in his sermon on the mount, or in any other of his public discourses? Might we not hear them preach from year to year, without perceiving the least resemblance between their sermons and his, either in matter or spirit? Nay, do not some plainly preach against the sentiments which Christ delivered? Do they not preach against the revealed mode of the divine existence? Against the divinity of Christ, and of the Holy Ghost? Against the doctrine of election and divine sovereignty? Against disinterested love and total depravity? And against regeneration, saint's perseverance, and the interminable punishment of those who die in their sins? Do not such ministers preach against Christ, and the souls of men? And are they not workers together with the god of this world, in blinding the minds of them that believe not?
How then can they answer this to Christ at the day of judgment, when the truths which he preached, and which they denied, shall shine forth in all their lustre and awful importance? How will they feel when the immortal souls whom they have been the means of destroying forever, shall bitterly upbraid and reproach them for their infidelity, unfaithfulness and cruelty? What excuse can they make? Can they plead ignorance? Did they not live with the gospel in their hands, and the example of Christ before their eyes? Was it not the proper business of their lives to search the scriptures, to study the mind and will of Christ, to imbibe his spirit, and imitate his example both in living and in preaching? How therefore could they be ignorant; unless it were owing to stupidity, indolence, selfishness, and blindness of heart? And will
they not be obliged to confess with shame and confusion of face, that they did seek their own things, rather than the things of Christ, and did endeavor more to please men, than to be the servants of Christ?
We may be very certain how Christ will treat corrupt and unfaithful ministers at the last day, from the manner of his treating such persons here on earth. He treated them with more severity than any other order of men. His love to God and precious souls seemed to inflame his indignation against corrupt preachers. He stigmatized them as blind leaders of the blind; as those who took away the key of knowledge: as those who shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, neither going in themselves, nor suffering them that were entering, to go in; as wolves in sheep's clothing; and as thieves and robbers, who come on purpose to steal and kill, and destroy his flock. Against such, he denounces the severest anathemas. Woe unto you lawyers, woe unto you scribes and pharisees! Hence of all men in the world, corrupt and unfaithful ministers may justly expect to meet with the heaviest frowns from the face of Christ, their injured and incensed Lord and Master, at the day of judgment.
Again, how can those people answer it to Christ, who will not receive his faithful ministers, who follow his example, and preach the same truths which he preached? The experience of ages shews, that mankind have generally refused to give a proper reception to the ambassadors of Christ. Men naturally hate the light, and will not come to it, lest their deeds should be reproved. Therefore they feel an aversion from those preachers who exhibit the light, and inculcate the soul-humbling truths of the gospel. This perhaps they never so fully manifested as by their treatment of Christ, while he tabernacled in flesh, and preachOcca.
ed the truth with superior power and pungency. We hear of no opposition to Christ till after he commenced a preacher; but then they employed every opprobrious epithet to asperse his character. They said he was mad, and had a devil. They said he was a friend of publicans and sinners. They said he was a disturber of the peace, and a blasphemer of God. But all this hatred and obloquy arose from no other cause, than his plain and faithful preaching. He testified of the world that their deeds were evil. He declared that what is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of God. He unmasked sinners, and exposed their real characters to view. This they could not endure. Accordingly they accused, condemned, and crucified him, for telling them the truth. And as Christ knew that human nature would be the same in every age, and operate in the same manner under the same circumstances; so he forewarned his faithful ministers to expect the same treatment from the world, that he had met with from it. "Ye shall be hated of
all men, for my name's sake. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" Has not this prophecy been constantly fulfilling? Does not the truth of it appear at this day? Will men now endure sound doctrine? Will they hear those ministers who tell them the truth, search their hearts, and clearly and faithfully lay open their true characters? Will vacant congregations generally receive and choose a preacher, who agreeably to the spirit and example of Christ, inculcates disinterested love, total depravity, divine sovereignty and the other distinguishing and cardinal doctrines of the gospel? Will even churches, who are the professed friends of Christ, embrace and
defend the same truths which he preached, and maintained at the risk of his life? And are not people very generally saying to the seers, see not, and to the prophets, prophesy smooth things; and joining hand in hand to prevent the admission of such ministers among them, as make Christ the pattern and standard of their preaching?
But how will people be able to answer this before the bar of Christ? Will they be able to plead ignorance? Hath not Christ given them his own character as a preacher, to direct them in the choice of ministers? Hath he not soleinnly warned them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and to avoid all false teachers as wolves in sheep's clothing? Hath he not expressly told them that he shall consider their opposition to the truth, and to his faithful ministers, as opposition to himself? "He that heareth you, heareth me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth me." Churches, congregations and individuals, therefore, who are conscious to themselves, that they have been guilty of rejecting and abusing Christ, by rejecting, opposing, and abusing his faithful ministers, have reason to tremble in the prospect of standing before the judgment seat of Christ. Except they repent, they may read their own doom in the character and fate of Capernaum, Korazin and Bethsaida; or rather in the character and tremendous destruction of the whole Jewish nation, who stoned the prophets, crucified Christ, and rejected both his gospel and ministers.
Once more, will not this subject teach all ministers, why they preach no more like Christ? Is not this in a great measure owing to their living no more like Christ? A minister's life must have influence upon his preaching. To preach well, it is necessary to live well, To preach like Christ, it is necessary to live like Christ.
Christ lived the minister. He carried the minister into all companies. He conversed freely, indeed, with publicans and sinners; but yet was a companion only of them who feared the Lord. He kept his heart and his lips with all diligence, and never said or did the least thing out of character. He was harmless and undefiled, and maintained the awful authority of innocence. He was meek and lowly in spirit, and when he was reviled, he reviled not again. He sought not the riches, honors, or pleasures of the world, but by self-denial lived above them all. He lost no time by sloth, or vain amusements, but indefatigably pursued his Father's business. He loved the ministry, and gave himself wholly to it, and relied upon Providence alone for all needful supplies. He allowed none of the vanities of time to employ his thoughts, but kept all his views and affections fixed steadily on the great objects of eternity. He spent days and nights in prayer. He lived habitually in devotion and communion with God. In short, he lived religion; he lived in heaven, and exemplified his doctrines, and preaching, by his own heavenly and devout life.
Now if we who profess to be his followers and ministers, should live as he lived, should we not more likely preach as he preached? Would not such a life transfuse a spirit, an energy into our preaching, which would surprisingly arrest the hearts and consciences of our hearers? Would it not give us a fervor, a solemnity in all our private and public discourses, which nothing could gainsay or resist? Should we not speak as having authority, and not as the scribes? Why then do we not live so? Are we not bound as men, as Christians, and especially as ministers of Christ, to live such a life? And unless we do this, is there any prospect of our fulfilling our ministerial vows and engage