An Earnest Ministry—the Need of the Times

by John Angell James, 1847


THE NATURE OF EARNESTNESS

Perhaps there is scarcely one single phrase more frequently employed, or better understood, in the sphere of human activity, than this, "Be in earnest." What distinctness of aim, what fixedness of purpose, what resoluteness of will, what diligence, patience, and perseverance in action, are implied or expressed in these three words. He who would stimulate exertion, quicken activity, and inspire hope; he who would breathe his own spirit into the soul of another, and excite there the enthusiasm which glows in his own bosom, says to his fellow, "Be in earnest!" and that short sentence, a scintillation flying off from a burning mind, has often in lighting upon another spirit, kindled the flames of enthusiasm in it also. And what else, or what less, does Jesus Christ say to every one whom he sends into the work of the Christian ministry than, "Be in earnest!"

There is something in the aspect and power of earnestness, whatever be its object, that is impressive and commanding. A man who has selected some one object of pursuit, and then yielded up himself to the desire of its attainment, with a devotion admitting of no reserve, a steadiness of aim allowing of no diversion, a diligence consenting neither to rest nor intermission; and who ever retains this purpose so far uppermost in his heart as to fill his conversation, and so entirely and constantly before his mind as to throw into its broad shadow every other subject of consideration; such an instance of decision, amounting to a ruling passion, gains a strange fascination over the feelings of others, and exerts over us, while witnessing it, an influence which we feel to be contagious. We involuntarily sympathize with a man who is thus carried away by his fervor; and if all his earnestness is for the promotion of our interests—its effect is irresistible. That man must be a stone, and destitute of the ordinary feelings of humanity, who can see another, interested, active, and zealous for his welfare, while he himself remains inert and indifferent. Even the apathetic and indolent have been kindled into ardor, and led to make efforts for themselves, by solicitude manifested by others for their welfare.

How strictly does this apply to the ministry of God's word, which relates to the most momentous matters that can engage the attention of the human understanding. Sympathy is a law of our mental being which has never been sufficiently taken into account in estimating the influences which God employs for the salvation of men. There is a silent and almost unconscious process often going on in the minds of those who are listening to the sermons of a preacher really laboring for the conversion of souls. "Is he so earnest about my salvation—and shall I care nothing about the matter? Is my eternal happiness so much in his account—and shall it be nothing in mine? I can meet 'cold logic' with counter arguments; or at any rate, I can raise up objections against evidence. I can smile at the 'artifices of rhetoric', and be merely pleased with the displays of eloquence. I can sit unmoved under sermons which seem intended by the preacher to raise my estimate of himself—but I cannot withstand his earnestness about myself. The man is evidently intent upon saving my soul. I feel the grasp of his hand upon my arm, as if he would pluck me out of the fire. He has not only made me think, but he has made me feel. His earnestness has subdued me."

But it will be necessary now to meet and answer the question, What is meant by an earnest ministry?

I. In the first place then, earnestness implies, the selection of some ONE object of special pursuit, and a vivid perception of its value and importance. It is next to impossible for the mind to be intently employed, or the heart to be very deeply engaged, on a multiplicity of objects at once. We have not energy enough to be so divided and distributed. Our feelings to run with force must flow pretty much in one channel—our attention must be concentrated, our purpose settled, our energy exerted, upon one thing, or we can do nothing effectually. The earnest man is a man of one idea, and that one idea occupies, possesses, and fills his soul. To every other claimant upon his time, and interest, and labor, he says, "Stand aside! I am engaged, I cannot attend to you; something else is waiting for me." To that one thing he is committed.

There may be many subordinate matters among which he divides any surplus water, but the current flows through one channel, and turns one great wheel. This "one thing I do," is his plan and resolution. Many wonder at his choice, many condemn it—no matter, he understands it, approves it, and pursues it, notwithstanding the ignorance which cannot comprehend it, and the diversity of taste which cannot admire it. He is no double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, whose preference and purpose are shaken by every cross gale of opinion. It is nothing to him what others do, or what they say as to what he does—he must do that, whatever else he leaves undone. No one can be in earnest who has not thus made up his mind; and he who has, and is resolutely bent upon an object, keeps it constantly before his mind; his attention is so strongly and tenaciously fixed upon it, that even at the greatest distance, "like the Egyptian pyramids to travelers, it appears to him with a luminous distinctness, as if it were near, and beguiles the toilsome length of labor and enterprise by which he must reach it." It is so conspicuous before him that he does not deviate a step from the right direction, he ever hears a voice calling him onward, and every movement and every day brings him nearer to the end of his journey. Break in upon him at any moment, you know where you will find him, and how he will be employed.

This is the first part of the description of an earnest minister—he too has selected his object, and made up his mind concerning it, and insulating it from all others, sets it clearly and distinctly before his mind. And what is it? What should it be? Not science, or literature, or philosophy. Not a life spent in the acquisition of knowledge, or the gratification of taste. Not the power of adding to the treasures of knowledge accumulated during past ages. Not gathering the elegancies which embellish civilized existence, and give amenity to social communion. The man who has entered the sacred office merely to luxuriate in the haunts of the muses, has mistaken his vocation to the pulpit, and is no less guilty (though somewhat less sordid), than he who says, "Put me into the priest's office, that I may live a luxurious life."

That a minister may to a certain extent indulge a literary or scientific taste, and that he may even make it subservient to a higher and more sacred object, is admitted. The pulpit has done, and is doing, much service in all the departments of learning and philosophy. It is in Christian countries that the valuable remains of Eastern, Greek, and Roman wisdom and eloquence have been preserved, studied, imitated, and sometimes even excelled. Christian nations have conducted philosophical inquiries with the best success, and improved them for the most useful and benevolent purposes.

"If these things are good and profitable unto society, a large portion of the honor of such usefulness belongs to men set for the defense of the gospel, desirous by sound reasoning to convince gainsayers, and conscious what weapons human literature furnishes for this holy war. And then in addition to all this, consider the effect of the pulpit upon what might be called the popular mind. To thousands who have comparatively little leisure or opportunity to form their taste, and cultivate their rational powers, by conversation with the wise and enlightened, or by reading their works, a school is thus open, established indeed for higher purposes, where men of sound understandings, though low in rank, may without expense, and almost without intending it, learn from example to distinguish or connect ideas, to infer one truth from another, to examine the force of an argument, and so to arrange and express their sentiments as deeply to impress themselves and others. As in a few years the child gradually acquires the faculty of speaking his mother-tongue with a considerable degree of ease and fluency, without any formal lessons, merely by hearing it spoken, so there is a natural logic and rhetoric which some acquire without designing it, who go to church for nobler ends, whereby they are enabled to detect the cunning craftiness which the enemies of godliness or of public tranquility, lie in wait to deceive. Indeed the culture of the talents and improvement of that respectable class of men who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, generally rises or falls in proportion to the character and genius of their religious discourses." (John Erskine)

This is as true as it is beautiful, and should remind all ministers of the gospel of the necessity and importance at all times, but especially in such times as these, of keeping in mind the collateral and secondary objects of pulpit instruction, and of preparing themselves for conducting it with power and efficiency. There is not a temporal interest of man as an individual, or a member of society, on which the sermons and general influence of the ministry may not be made to bear advantageously; but then it must never be forgotten that the things which have just been enumerated are at best only the incidental, secondary, and collateral benefits of the ministry of the word—they are among the many things that may be touched, but are not the one thing that must be grasped—they are little rills diverted from the main stream for the purposes of irrigation, but are not the river itself, bearing wealth and civilization to the nations between whom it rolls.

Nor is it the great object of our ministry merely to preside with dignity over the solemnities of public worship; to content ourselves and please our people with preparing and delivering two well-studied discourses on the Sabbath; to keep all quiet and orderly in the church; to maintain a kind of religious respectability and intellectuality in the congregation. The end and aim of the ministry are to be gathered from the apostle's solemn and comprehensive language, "they watch for your souls as those who must give account." There in that short, but sublime and dreadful sentence, the end of the pastoral office is set before us. The design of the pulpit is identical with that of the cross—and the preacher is to carry out the design of the Savior in coming to seek and to save that which was lost. Preaching and teaching are the very agency which Jesus Christ employs to save those souls for which he died upon Calvary. If souls are not saved, whatever other designs are accomplished, the great purpose of the ministry is defeated.

You are now prepared to understand what is the nature of real earnestness in a minister of Christ—a distinct, explicit, practical recognition of his duty to labor for the salvation of souls, as the purpose and goal of his office. Such a man has settled with himself that this is his vocation and business. He has looked at everything else which can be presented to his mind, has weighed the claims of all, and with intelligence and firmness has said, and is prepared to stand by his affirmation, "I watch for souls!" He thus understands his errand; he is under no mistake, no uncertainty, no confusion. He has entered into fellowship with God the Father in his eternal purpose of the salvation of the human race; with the Son in the end of his incarnation and death; and with the Holy Spirit in the intent of his coming down upon our desolate world. Of this salvation which is the object of his ministry, the prophets inquired; to accomplish it prophets preached, and angels ministered. And thus justified in his choice by the Triune God and the noblest of his creatures, he leaves far below him, in the aspirations and soarings of his ambition—the scholar, the philosopher, and the poet. He has taken up an object in reference to which, if he succeeds but in a single instance, he will have achieved a triumph which will endure infinite ages after the proudest monuments of human genius have perished in the conflagration of the world!

"The salvation of souls" as the great object of the pastoral office, is a generic phrase, including as its species, the awakening of the unconcerned; the guidance of the inquiring; the instruction of the uninformed; and the sanctification, comfort, and progress of those who through grace have believed—in short the whole work of grace in the soul. But the attention of the reader is directed to the first of these particulars as the most commanding object of pastoral solicitude, I mean the conversion of the unregenerate; and if without offending against the law of modesty I may refer to my own history, labors and success, I would observe, that I began my ministry, even as a student, with a strong desire after this object; and long before this, while yet a youth engaged in secular concerns, I had been deeply susceptible of the power of an awakening style of preaching, and had been wrought upon by the rousing sermons of Dr. Davies of New Jersey. (I wish these discourses were better known, and more imitated by our young ministers. They are admirable specimens of persuasive, hortatory, and impressive preaching, formed upon the model of Baxter. It is such preaching we need. In these striking discourses may be seen what I mean by earnest preaching. They are by no means scarce, and I would advise my younger brethren to buy and read them.)

From that time to the present I have made the conversion of the impenitent the great end of my ministry, and I have had my reward. I have been sustained in this course by the remarks of Baxter, in his "Reformed Pastor," a long extract from which I must now be permitted to introduce.

"We must labor in a special manner for the conversion of the unconverted. The work of conversion is the great thing we must drive at; after this we must labor with all our might. Alas! the misery of the unconverted is so great, that it calls loudest to us for compassion. If a truly converted sinner does fall, it will be but into sin which will be pardoned, and he is not in that hazard of damnation by it as others are. Not but that God hates their sins as well as others, or that he will bring them to heaven, let them live ever so wickedly; but the spirit that is within them will not allow them to live wickedly, nor to sin as the ungodly do. But with the unconverted it is far otherwise. They 'are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,' and have yet no part nor fellowship in the pardon of their sins, or the hope of glory. We have therefore a work of greater necessity to do for them, even 'to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among those who are sanctified.'

"He who sees one man sick of a mortal disease and another only pained with the tooth-ache, will be moved more to compassionate the former than the latter, and will surely make more haste to help him, though he were a stranger, and the other a brother or a son. It is so sad a case to see men in a state of damnation, wherein, if they should die, they are lost forever, that methinks we should not be able to let them alone, either in public or private, whatever other work we have to do. I confess I am frequently forced to neglect that which should tend to the further increase of knowledge in the godly—because of the lamentable necessity of the unconverted! Who is able to talk of controversies, or of fine, unnecessary theological points, or even of truths of a lower degree of necessity, how excellent soever, while he sees a company of ignorant, carnal, miserable sinners before his eyes, who must be changed or damned? Methinks I even see them entering upon their final woe! Methinks I hear them crying out for help, for speediest help! Their misery speaks the louder, because they have not hearts to ask for help themselves!

Many a time have I known that I had some hearers of higher imaginations, that looked for novelties, and despise the ministry, if I did not tell them something more than ordinary; and yet I could not find in my heart to turn from the necessities of the impenitent for the humoring of them; nor even to leave off speaking to miserable sinners for their salvation, in order to speak so much as should otherwise be done to weak saints for their confirmation and increase in grace. Methinks as Paul's 'spirit was stirred within him,' when he saw 'the Athenians wholly given to idolatry,' so it should cast us into one of his paroxysms to see so many men in the greatest danger of being everlastingly damned. Methinks if by faith we did indeed look upon them as within a step of hell, it would effectually untie our tongues! He who will let a sinner go down to hell for lack of speaking to him, does set less by souls than did the Redeemer of souls; and less by his neighbor than common charity will allow him to do by his greatest enemy. O therefore, brethren, whomsoever you neglect, neglect not the most miserable! Whatever you pass over, do not forget poor souls that are under the condemnation and curse of the law, and who may look every hour for the infernal execution—unless conversion does not prevent it. O call after the impenitent, and ply this great work of converting souls, whatever else you leave undone!"

The editor of Baxter says—"These powerful and impressive observations we cannot too earnestly recommend to the attention of ministers. We have no hesitation in saying that the most of preachers whom we have known were essentially defective in the grand and primary object of the Christian ministry—laboring for the conversion of souls. From the general strain of some men's preaching, one would almost be ready to conclude that there were no sinners in their congregations to be converted. In determining the proportion of attention which a minister should pay to particular classes of his congregation, the number of each class, and the necessities of their case, are unquestionably the principal considerations which should weigh with him. Now in all our congregations we have reason to fear the unconverted constitute by far the majority; their situation is peculiarly pitiable; their opportunities of salvation will soon be forever over; their danger is not only very great, but very imminent; they are not secure from everlasting misery, even for a single moment. Surely then the unconverted demand by far the largest share of the Christian minister's attention; and yet from many ministers, they receive but a very small share of attention; their case, when noticed at all, is noticed only, as it were, accidentally. This, no doubt, is a principal cause that among us there are so few conversions by the preaching of the word, and especially in the congregations of particular ministers. We feel this subject to be of such transcendent importance that we trust we shall be excused for here introducing a quotation connected with it, from another work of our author—"It is not a general dull discourse, or critical observations upon Greek words, or the handling of some fine and curious theological questions, nor is it a neat and well-composed speech, about some other distant matters, that is like to acquaint a sinner with himself. How many sermons may we hear that are levelled at some mark or other which is very far from the hearers' hearts, and therefore are never likely to convince them, or open and convert them! And if our congregations were in such a case as that they needed no closer quickening work, such preaching might be borne with and commended. But when so many usually sit before us that must shortly die, and yet are unprepared for death; and that are condemned by the law of God, and must be pardoned or finally condemned; that must be saved from their sins that they may be saved from everlasting misery; I think it is time for us to talk to them of such things as most concern them, and that in such a manner as may most effectually convince, awaken, and change them.

"A man that is ready to be drowned is not interested in a song or a dance. Nor should you think that suitable to such men's case—that does not evidently tend to save them. But alas! how often have we heard such sermons as tend more to amusement than salvation, to fill their minds with other matters, and find them something else to think of, lest they should study themselves, and know their misery! A preacher that seems to speak religiously by a dry, sapless discourse, that is called a sermon, may more plausibly and easily ruin his hearers. And his conscience will more quietly allow him to be taken off the necessary care of his salvation, by something that is like it, and pretends to do the work as well, than by the grosser avocations or the scorn of fools. And he will be more tamely turned from godliness by something that is called religion, and which he hopes may serve the turn—than by open wickedness or ungodly defiance of God and reason.

"But how often do we hear sermons applauded, which force us in compassion to men's souls to think, 'O what is all this to the opening of a sinner's heart unto himself, and showing him his unregenerate state? What is this to the conviction of a self-deluding soul, that is passing into hell—with the confident expectations of heaven? What is this to show men their undone condition, and the absolute necessity of Christ, and of renewing grace? What is in this to lead men up from earth to heaven, and to acquaint them with the unseen world, and to help them to the life of faith and love, and to the mortifying and pardon of their sins?'

"How little skill have many miserable preachers in the searching of the heart, and helping men to know themselves, whether Christ be in them, or whether they be reprobates? And how little care and diligence is used by them to call men to the trial, and help them in the examining and judging of themselves—as if it were a work of no necessity? They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace, says the Lord!"

Oh what preachers we would be, could we drink into the spirit of these powerful passages! May God impress them on our hearts, and lead us to mold our discourses after their fashion. We should, however, by no means be unmindful of the importance of building up the believer on his holy faith. Not only must the children of the redeemed family be born—but they must also be fed, watched, guided, and nourished up to manhood. The growth of the heirs of immortality in grace and knowledge must be an object of deep solicitude with the faithful pastor. His children in the faith are not glorified as soon as converted—but are carried through a probation, and often a long one, of conflict, trial, and temptation; and it is his business, by the instrumentality of the truth, deeply searched, carefully expounded, and appropriately applied, to conduct them through the perplexities and the dangers of the divine life.

Hence, therefore, it is the duty of the minister, not to be always dwelling on first principles, and teaching the mere alphabet of Bible knowledge—but to lead his people "on to perfection," yet still he is never to forget that by far the greater number of those who are before him do not experimentally know these first principles, and have not learned even the 'alphabet of practical piety'. I once had a member of my church, who had been brought out of the literary world to a deep, experimental knowledge of divine truth. She was a woman of uncommonly fine and tasteful mind. After her conversion she dwelt for a season in London, and on her return from the metropolis, in giving an account of the various preachers she had heard, expressed her surprise and regret that their sermons, however excellent, seemed to be addressed almost exclusively to true believers, as if they took it for granted that their congregations were composed wholly of such, and contained none who were dead in trespasses and sins. And I know a devoted and consistent Christian, who, upon leaving a minister whom he had attended for several years, declared he had scarcely ever heard one thoroughly practical sermon from him during the whole time—there had been much doctrinal statement, much theological science, much religious comfort; but no vivid and pungent appeals either to saints or sinners! No wonder he knew of no conversions there—and yet this preacher is not an Antinomian.

II. Earnestness implies that the subject has not only been selected—but that it has taken full possession of the mind, and has kindled towards it an intense desire of the heart.

It is something more than a correct theory and logical deductions; more than mere exercise of the intellect, and the play of the imagination. Earnestness means that the understanding having selected and appreciated its object, has pressed all the faculties of both mind and body to join in the pursuit of it. It urges the soul onward in its career of action at such a speed that it is set on fire by the velocity of its own motion. The object of an earnest man is never for any long period of time absent from his thoughts. He meditates on it by day, and dreams of it by night—it meets him in his solitary walks as some bright vision which he loves to contemplate, and it comes over him in company with such power that he cannot avoid making it the topic of his conversation, until he appears in the eyes of those who have no sympathy with him, as an enthusiast.

Foster, in his "Essay on Decision of Character," has alluded to Howard as supplying a fine illustration of this mental quality. I furnish one extract bearing more directly than any other, on our present theme. It relates to the singular fact that this great philanthropist turned not a moment from his course, when traversing scenes most calculated to awaken curiosity, and to enkindle enthusiasm by the associations of ancient glory with which they are connected, even Rome itself–

"The importance of his object held his faculties in a state of excitement which was too rigid to be affected by lighter interests, and on which, therefore, the beauties of nature and art had no power—like the invisible spirits who fulfill their commission of philanthropy among mortals—and care not about pictures, statues, and sumptuous buildings. It implied an inconceivable severity of conviction that he had one thing to do; and that he who would do some great thing in this short life, must apply himself to the work with such a concentration of his forces, as, to idle spectators, who live only to amuse themselves, looks like insanity. It was thus he made the trial, so seldom made, what is the utmost effect which may be granted to the last possible effort of a human agent; and therefore what he did not accomplish, he might conclude to be placed beyond the sphere of mortal activity, and calmly leave to the disposal of Omnipotence."

There, again, is the representation of the really and intensely earnest minister of Jesus Christ, and of the manner in which he regards the object of his ministry, the salvation of immortal souls. He has drunk in the inspiration of those inexpressibly sublime and solemn words, so often already quoted, "They watch for your souls, as those who must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief." This declaration has come over him like a spell, from the fascination of which he neither tries, nor wishes, to escape. Whether seated in his chair in his study, or carrying on the exercises of devotion in the closet, or preaching the gospel in the pulpit, or enjoying the pleasures of Christian friendship in the social circle, or recreating his energies amid the beauties of creation—the words of Solomon stand conspicuously before his mind's eye, "He who wins souls is wise." While, ever and always, the thunder of Christ's solemn inquiry comes pealing over his ear—"What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

To be useful in converting souls is his constant and practical aim—and his texts are chosen, his sermons are composed and delivered, and his language, figures, and illustrations are selected—with a view to this. That word, usefulness, has the same meaning in his ear, the same power over his soul, as the word "victory" has over the mind of the hero—and the preparation and delivery of the most eloquent sermons, with all the plaudits that follow them, will no more satisfy his ambition, than the skillful military splendor, and the martial music of a field day, however they may be admired by the multitudinous spectators, will content the desires of the patriot warrior who burns to defeat his country's foe upon the field of battle, and to rescue the liberties of his enslaved nation from the grasp of its tyrant.

By the earnest minister, the salvation of souls is sought with the obligation of a principle, and the ardor of a passion. It is impressed upon his whole character, and is inseparable from his conduct. It distinguishes him among, and from, many of his brethren. When congregations either at home or abroad go to hear him, they know what to expect, and consequently do not look for the flowers of rhetoric—but for the fruit of the tree of life; not for a dry crust of philosophy, or a petrifaction of criticism—but for the bread which comes down from heaven; not for a display of religious fireworks, splendid but useless—but for the holding up of the torch of eternal truth in all its brightness to guide wandering and benighted souls to the refuge of the lost.

He has by the usual style of his pulpit discourses established his character as a useful preacher, and those who go to hear him would as soon expect to hear from a physician whom they consulted when sick, a mere poetical effusion or classical dissertation, instead of directions for their health—as to hear such matters from this servant of Christ, instead of a sermon calculated and designed to do good to their souls. He could possibly be eloquent, profound, or learned; and when such qualities can aid him in securing his one great end, he does not scruple to use them. His aim is at the heart and conscience, and if anything poetic, literary, logical, or scientific, will at any time polish and plume his shafts, or sharpen the points of his arrows, he will not reject them—but will avail himself of their legitimate use, that he may the more certainly hit and pierce the mark. This is his motto, "If by any means I might save some."

III. But this touches a third thing implied in genuine earnestness, and that is—the studious invention and diligent use of all appropriate MEANS to accomplish the selected object. An earnest man is the last to be satisfied with mere formality, routine, and prescription. He will often survey his object, his means, and his instruments. He will look back upon the past to review his course, to examine his failure and success, with the causes of each; to learn what to do, and what to avoid, for the future. His inquiries will often be, What next? What more? What better? And as the result of all this, new experiments will be tried, new plans will be laid, and new courses will be pursued. With an inextinguishable ardor, and with a resolute fixedness of purpose, he exclaims, "I must succeed. And how is it to be?"

And shall we ministers possess nothing of this earnestness, if we are seeking the salvation of souls? Shall dull uniformity, still formality, wearisome repetitions, and rigid routine, satisfy us? Shall we never institute the inquiry, "Why have I not succeeded better in my ministry? How is it that my congregation is not larger, and my church more rapidly increasing? In what way can I account for it that the truth as it is in Jesus, which I believe I preach, is not more influential, and the doctrine of the cross is not, as it was intended to be, the power of God unto the salvation of souls? Why do I not more frequently hear addressed to me, by those who are constantly under my ministry, the anxious inquiry, 'What shall I do to be saved?' I am not lacking, as far as I know, in the regular discharge of my ordinary duties, and yet I gather little fruit of my labors, and have to utter continually the prophet's complaint, 'Who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?'"

Do we indeed indulge in such complaints! Have we earnestness enough to pour forth such lamentations? Or is it of little consequence to us, whether the ends of the ministry are accomplished or not, provided we get our paychecks, keep up our congregations to their usual size, and maintain tranquility in our churches? Are we often seen by God's omniscient eye pacing our studies in deep thoughtfulness, solemn meditation, and rigorous self-inquisition; and after an impartial survey of our doings, and a sorrowful lamentation that we are doing no more, questioning ourselves thus? "Is there no new method to be tried, no new scheme to be devised, to increase the efficiency of my pastoral labors? Is there nothing I can improve, correct, or add? Is there anything particularly lacking in the matter, manner, or method of my preaching, or in my course of pastoral attention?" Surely it might be supposed that such inquiries would be often instituted into the results of a ministry so momentous as ours; that seasons would be not infrequently set apart, especially at the close or beginning of every year, for such a purpose. The result could not fail to be beneficial.

Here it may be proper for us to look out of our own profession, and ask if the earnest tradesman, soldier, lawyer, philosopher, and mechanic, are satisfied to go on as they have done, though with ever so little success? Do we not see in all other departments of human action, where the mind is really intent on some great object, and where success has not been obtained in proportion to the labor bestowed, a dissatisfaction with past modes of action, and a determination to try new ones? And should we who watch for souls, and labor for immortality, be indifferent to success, and to the plans by which it might be secured? In calling for new methods, I want no new doctrines; no new principles; no startling eccentricities; no wild irregularities; no vagaries of enthusiasm, no frenzies of the passions; no, nothing but what the most sober judgment and the soundest reason would approve; but I do want a more inventive zeal, as well as a more fervid zeal, in seeking the great end of our ministry. "Respectable but dull uniformity", and not enthusiasm, is the side on which our danger lies. I know very well the contortions of an epileptic zeal are to be avoided—but so also is the numbness of a paralytic lethargy; and after all, the former is less dangerous to life, and is more easily and frequently cured, than the latter.

We may, as regards our PREACHING for instance, examine whether we have not dwelt too little on the alarming themes—or on the attractive themes of revelation; whether we have not clothed our discourses too much with the terrors of the Lord—and if so, we may wisely determine to try the more winning forms of love and mercy; or whether we have not rendered the gospel powerless by a perpetual repetition of it in common-place phraseology; whether we have not been too argumentative—and resolve to be more imaginative, practical, and hortatory; whether we have not addressed ourselves too exclusively to believers—and determine to commence a style of more frequent and pungent address to the unconverted; whether we have not been too vague and general in our descriptions of sin—and become more specific and discriminating; whether we have not been too neglectful of the young—and begin a regular course of sermons to them; whether we have not had too much sameness of topic—and adopt courses of sermons on given subjects; whether we have not been too elaborate and abstract in the composition of our discourses—and come down to greater simplicity; whether we have not been too careless—and bestow more pains; whether we have not been too doctrinal—and in future make all truth bear, as it was intended to do, upon the heart, conscience, and life.

Nor must the enquiry stop here. There ought to be the same process of rigid scrutiny instituted as to the LABORS of the pastorate. We must review the proceedings of this momentous department, for here also is most ample scope for invention as to new plans of action. Perhaps upon inquiry we shall find out that we have neglected various channels through which our influence might have been brought to bear upon the flock committed to our care, and shall discover many ways in which we can improve upon our former plans, in the way of meeting inquirers after salvation, giving our aid to Sunday schools, setting up Bible classes, or visiting the flock. What is needed is an anxious wish to be lacking in nothing that can conduce to our usefulness—a diligent endeavor to make up every deficiency—and a mind ever inquisitive after new means and methods of doing good. Did we but adopt the plan of setting apart a day at the close of every year for solemn examination into our pastoral and pastoral doings, with the view of ascertaining our defects and neglects, to see in what way we could improve, to humble ourselves before God for the past, and to lay down new rules for the future, we would all be more abundantly useful than we are. And does not earnestness require all this? Can we pretend to be in earnest if we neglect these things? The idea of a minister's going on from year to year with either little success, or none at all, and yet never pausing to inquire how this comes to pass, or what can be done to increase his efficiency, is so utterly repugnant to all proper notions of devotedness, that we are obliged to conclude, the views such a man entertains of the design and end of his office are radically and essentially defective.

IV. Earnestness implies a purpose and power of subordinating everything it meets with, selects, or engages in—to the accomplishment of its one great object.

An earnest man has much sagacity in discerning even at a distance, the objects which are favorable to his purpose; much power in seizing them as they approach; and much tact in pressing them into his service, and making them subserve his schemes. He avoids at the same time the folly of letting go his main object in pursuit of inferior ones—and of converting what ought to be only means into ends. The operations of his mind resemble those of a vast machine, in which the ruling power subjects to itself the thousand little wheels and spindles that are set in motion, and makes them all accomplish the purpose for which the engine has been set up. Or the current of his thought and feeling may be compared to the majestic flow of some noble river, which receives into its stream, numerous rivulets by which its waters are swollen, and its power increased. So acts the earnest minister. There are various matters which he may attend to, and ought not to neglect, which may with great propriety be considered as means—but which cannot be viewed as the end of his high and holy calling.

The first of these means which I mention is learning, and indeed general knowledge of all kinds. Literature, science, and philosophy, however excellent in themselves, and however subservient they may be rendered as means to accomplish the great ends of the pastoral office, must never be exalted into the place of those ends themselves. Viewed as subordinate and subsidiary, they cannot be too highly valued, or too diligently sought. There is not any kind or degree of knowledge which may not be made tributary to the ends of gospel ministrations. All other things being equal, he is likely to be the most useful preacher, who is the most learned one. There is nothing, there can be nothing, in literature and science, which of itself can be injurious to a minister of Christ. The pride and vanity which produce such a result are but the weeds which flourish in a shallow and sandy soil—but wither and die in a rich deep loam. The man who decries learning as in itself mischievous to the ministry, is fit only to act the part of an incendiary to all the libraries of the world. A minister may have too little piety, too little solicitude for the salvation of souls, too little devotedness, too little care to render his acquisitions subservient to the ends of his vocation—but he can never have too much knowledge.

How beautiful is the following language of Dr. Wiseman, and how correct the sentiment which it clothes and adorns. "Perhaps the best answer that can be given to those inconsiderate Christians who say that godliness needs not such foreign and meretricious aids as human learning, is that of South, 'If God has no need of our learning, he can have still less of your ignorance.' In the spiritual temple, as well as in the ark of the covenant, there is room not only for those humbler gifts, the skins and hair cloth—but also for the gold and silver of human learning—and even the sciences themselves, daughters as they are of the uncreated wisdom, may receive consecration from seraphic piety, and be made priestesses of the Most High, by the very service in which we employ them."

This splendid passage expresses what I would urgently enforce, that literature and science may be subservient—but must be only subservient, to the ends of the pastoral office.

The amiable and godly Doddridge, in his incomparable sermon on "The Evil and Danger of Neglecting Souls," says, "Oh my brethren, let us consider how fast we are posting through this dying life, which God has assigned to us, in which we are to manage concerns of infinite moment—how fast we are passing on to the immediate presence of our Lord, to give up our account to him. You must judge for yourselves—but permit me to say for my own part, I would not for ten thousand worlds be that man, who when God shall ask him at last how he has employed most of his time, while he continued a minister of his church and had the care of souls, shall be obliged to reply, 'Lord, I have restored many corrupted passages in the classics, and illustrated many which were before obscure; I have cleared up many intricacies in chronology or geography; I have solved many perplexed cases in algebra; I have refined on astronomical calculations, and left behind me many sheets on these curious and difficult subjects; and these are the employments in which my life has been worn out, while preparations for the pulpit, and ministrations in it, did not demand my more immediate attendance.' Oh Sirs, as for the waters that are drawn from these springs, how sweetly soever they may taste to a curious mind that thirsts after them, or to an ambitious mind that thirsts for the applause they sometimes procure, I fear there is too often reason to pour them out before the Lord, with rivers of penitential tears, as the blood of souls which have been forgotten, while these trifles have been remembered and pursued."

This is the language of a scholar, a critic, and a man of varied knowledge, whose piety as a Christian, and whose devotedness as a minister, were equal to his other attainments.

In a very elaborate and able critique on Hagenbach's "History of Doctrines," I find the following just and admirable remarks. "We trust that among the rising ministry no one will allow himself to be tempted to the task for the mere reputation of learning. The real value of learning, in the estimate of a faithful servant of Christ, lies solely in the use that can be made of it. He who employs time and toil in rendering himself a learned man, which employed otherwise, would more effectually render him a useful man, is unfaithful to his Master. There are few things more important than the right appreciation of learning. There are some who spend their whole lives in acquiring it, in amassing hoard upon hoard; as if it were the object of life to see how much knowledge may be gotten in a given time; not how much good may be done with it, or to what uses it may be turned as it is acquired. It is 'get, get, get!' All getting and no giving. This is of a piece with the mania by which some are possessed in the mercantile world, the mania of money-making—with whom life's problem is, how they may die rich, how much they can be worth in the world, before the moment comes when they must leave it. There is one material difference between the two cases; and, strange to say it is in favor of the rich rather than of the learned man. The rich man leaves his amassed treasures behind him; so that, although to himself they have been of little use while he lived, and now are of none, they are not lost; others may use them, and use them well. But he who has been acquiring learning all his days without expending it in its appropriate uses, leaves nothing behind him. He carries all with him. There is no bank for deposits of learning, as there is for lodging silver and gold. So far as his fellow-men are concerned, therefore, the money-hoarding miser does most good. And should it be thought an advantage on the side of the miser in learning, that he carries his mental stores away with him, as being treasures that belong to the immortal mind, there are two serious deductions to be made from this advantage—the first that the large proportion of what he had acquired, is of a nature to be of little use to him, in all likelihood, in the world to which he is going; and the second, that in common with the man of wealth, he carries with him to that world, the guilt, (unthought of by him here, it may be—but noted in his account with his Divine Master,) of not having laid out his acquisitions for the good he might have accomplished by them, where and when alone they could be available. Let it not be forgotten that mere learning is not wisdom; that wisdom is learning or knowledge in union with the disposition and ability to make a right use of it.

"Neither let it be forgotten that there is an opposite extreme to that which has just been described. If there are some who are ever getting and never giving, there are some too who would gladly be ever giving while they are never getting. They are fond of preaching—but not of reading and study. Such young ministers may be well-meaning; but they are under the influence of a miserable mistake. Itinerants they may be, and useful ones—but efficient pastors they can never be. They may preach the simple elements of the gospel, from place to place; but for the constant regular instruction of the same flock they are utterly unfit. He must be an extraordinary man who has resources in himself for such a work, that render him independent of reading and study. Barrenness, tameness, sameness, triteness, irksome and unprofitable repetition, must be the almost invariable result of such presumption. There are some too, who, by way of honoring the Bible, make it their rule to study nothing else, not even such human helps as may fit them for understanding and illustrating its contents. This also, though a better extreme than his, who neglecting the Bible itself, studies only human opinions about it, yet is still an extreme, and an extreme which, while it professes to put honor upon the Bible, indicates no small measure of self-sufficiency. We put most honor upon the Bible, when we manifest our impression of the value of a full and clear comprehension of its contents, in the diligent application of all accessible means for the attainment of it."

It may be conceded, that we live in an age when to carry out the main purpose of the Christian ministry, and to render it efficient for the salvation of souls, higher pastoral qualifications, and larger acquirements of general knowledge are required, than at any former period.

It will be clearly seen from all this, that I am not decrying education, or learning, or the greatest diligence in ministers for the acquisition of knowledge. Quite the contrary—but I am enforcing, with all the earnestness I can command, the indispensable necessity of rendering all acquirements subordinate to the great work of saving souls. Learning as an ultimate object and for its own sake, is infinitely below the ambition of a holy and devoted servant of Christ; but learning employed to invigorate the intellect, to enrich the imagination, to cultivate the taste, to give power to thought, and variety to illustration; to add to the skill and energy with which we wield the weapons of our warfare, is in some cases indispensable, and in all invaluable. Unhappily it is not uncommon for those who have made acquisitions in varied learning, or acquired a scientific, philosophic, or literary taste—to yield to the seductions of these pursuits, and to allow themselves to be led astray from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus. Their eye is not single, and their whole body is not full of light.

If there is one man to be admired, envied, and imitated above all others, it is he who has baptized all his classic and scientific acquirements at the font of Christianity, has presented them at the foot of the cross, and has used them only as the instruments and materials of that divine art by which he is enabled to give a richer coloring, stronger light, and greater power to those facts and scenes, of which the cross is the center and the symbol. To hear such a man chastening and guiding—but not checking or freezing, the gushing utterances of a full heart, by the standard of genuine eloquence; and warming and sanctifying the finest rhetoric by the glow of a soul on fire with love to God and souls; to see the genius of Tully or Demosthenes, imbuing itself with the spirit of Paul, Peter, or John, and under the constraining love of Christ, employing all its resources of diction, dialectics, and metaphor, to persuade men to be reconciled to God—teaches the earnestness which the pulpit deserves and demands. Such a minister is a polished shaft in Jehovah's quiver, and to such a preacher we can almost fancy that not only men but angels must listen with delight. Such preachers we have had, and by the divine blessing may have again only let us use the means, and look to have our tongues touched with the live coal from the divine altar.

There is much truth in the following remarks of Vaughan. "The effect of learning and elegant scholarship, in the modern pulpit, has commonly been to render men incapable of producing impression of this nature in any degree. In the case of such preachers, neither the diction they use, nor the mold into which they cast their expressions and sentences, nor the comparisons they introduce, nor anything belonging to their rhetoric—has been an object of study with a view to its fitness to secure attention, and to move the thoughts and passions of such assemblies as are generally convened by the preacher, assemblies made up from the working classes of society. The great object of this class of preachers has been to speak learnedly, or to speak elegantly. It is grievous to witness the mischiefs which have resulted from this conventionalism in pulpit taste. If our pulpit lessons must be veiled in the language of a particular kind of scholarship, then the people generally, who have not been initiated into that scholarship, will fail to perceive our meaning, and will begin as the consequence, to look about for some better employment than listening to the utterance of our unknown tongue."

I go on now to mention another qualification for the sacred office, which the earnest minister will anxiously cultivate with a view to the great object of his life and labors—and to this I advance with a praying mind, an anxious heart and a trembling hand, ardently desirous to set it forth in such manner as shall secure for it the attention which its importance demands—I mean personal godliness. We are weak in the pulpit, because we are weak in the closet. An earnest man will not only train his mind to understand his object, and draw around him the resources requisite for its accomplishment—but will discipline his heart—for there, within, is the spring of energy, the seat of impulse, and the source of power. There the life that quickens must reside, and thence it must be felt to emanate. If the heart beats feebly, the whole circulation must be sluggish, and the frame inert. So it is with us ministers—our own personal godliness is the mainspring of all our power in the pulpit. We are feeble as preachers, because we are feeble as Christians. Whatever other deficiencies we have, the chief of them all lies in our hearts. The apostle said, "We believe and therefore speak." We not only speak what we believe—but as we believe—if our faith be weak, so will be our utterance. In another place the same inspired writer said, "Knowing the terrors of the Lord; we persuade men." It was as standing amid the solemnities of the last judgment, that apostles besought men to be reconciled to God. The flame of zeal which in their ministrations rose to such a height and intensity as to subject them to the charge of insanity, is thus accounted for, "The love of Christ constrains us." We have too much forgotten that the fount of eloquence is in the heart; and that it is feeling which gives to words and thoughts their power. An unrenewed man, or one of lukewarm piety, may preach elaborate sermons upon orthodox doctrines—but what are they for power and efficiency when compared with even the inferior compositions of the preacher who feels as well as glories in the cross—but as the powerless gleams of the aurora borealis to the warm and vivifying rays of the sun?

The Christian minister sustains a double relation, and has a double duty to perform; he is a preacher to the world, and a pastor to the church; and it is impossible he can fulfill, or be in earnest to fulfill, the obligations he is under to either, without a large measure of personal godliness. As regards the church which is committed to his care, and of which he is made by the Holy Spirit the spiritual overseer, he has to increase not their knowledge only—but also their holiness, love, and spirituality; to aid them in performing all the branches of duty, and in cultivating all the graces of sanctification. And what is the present spiritual condition of the great bulk of the professors of religion? Amid much that is cheering, there is on the other hand much that is discouraging and distressing to the godly observer. We behold a strange combination of zeal and worldly-mindedness; great activity for the extension of religion in the earth, united with lamentable indifference to the state of godliness in a man's own soul; apparent vigor in the extremities, with a growing torpor at the heart. Multitudes are substituting zeal—for piety; liberality—for self-mortification; and a merely social religion—for a personal godliness. No careful reader of the New Testament, and careful observer of the present state of the church, can fail to be convinced, one should think, that what is now lacking is a higher tone of spirituality. The Christian profession is sinking in respect of personal piety; the line of separation between the church and the world becomes less and less perceptible—and this is taking place, because of the lack of personal godliness. The character of genuine Christianity, as expounded from pulpits, and delineated in books—has too rarely a counterpart in the lives and spirit of its professors.

How is this to be remedied, and by what means is the spirit of piety to be revived? May we not ask a previous question, How did the spirit of slumber come over the church? Was it not from the pulpit? And if a revival is to take place in the former, must it not begin in the latter? Are the ministers of the present day possessed of that earnest piety which is likely to originate and sustain an earnest style of preaching, and to revive the lukewarmness of their flocks? I do not mean for a moment to insinuate that the ministers of the present day among the Dissenters, or Methodists, or the Evangelical clergy of the Church of England, are characterized by immorality, or even by a lack of substantial holiness; or that they would suffer, as regards their piety, in comparison with those of some other periods in the history of their denominations. But what I am compelled to believe, and what I now express is, that our deficiencies are great, when we are compared not only with what ministers have ever been required to be—but especially with what we are required to be by the circumstances of the times in which we live.

Amid the eager pursuit of commerce, the elegance and soft indulgence of an age of growing refinement, the high cultivation of intellect, and the contests of politics—the church needs a strong and high barrier to keep out the encroachment of tides so adverse to its prosperity, and to keep in and to raise higher its spiritual life. And where shall it find this, if not in the pulpit? It is not to be expected in the nature of things, that the church will in spirituality ever be superior to the ministry; or will ever consider itself without excuse for its inferiority. It will not tread a path which its spiritual guides are slow to pursue; and will deem it an affectation of sanctity and presumptuous ambition to attempt to advance beyond them. How else than by admitting a deficiency of our piety can we account for the fact of a diminished efficiency in our ministry?

I cannot resist the temptation of giving here a long extract from a beautiful tract entitled "A Revived Ministry our only Hope for a Revived Church," a tract so eminently excellent, and so adapted to promote the end of the godly and accomplished writer, that the fact of such a heart-searching, soul-reviving production having as yet reached only a second edition, is a proof that we have little wish to be raised to higher attainments in piety.

"And for such a revived ministry there would be the most hopeful preparation of mind. The object to be aimed at would be distinctly conceived; it would be loved and cherished as the noblest to which a redeemed being can consecrate himself; and there would be a readiness to yield everything to the urgency and grandeur of its claims, together with a simplicity and sincerity of intention, which would mightily aid the judgment in seeing its best way to the best methods of achieving it. In such circumstances, all the distracting influences arising from indistinct views, a divided heart, and infirmity of purpose, would be withdrawn, and leave the minister of Christ free to take a decided and energetic course. The subjection of the church and the world to the dominion of the truth, in a pure heart and holy life, would be ever present to his mind as the sole and sublime end of his ministry. And drawing after it the full tide of his sympathies, and permitting no diversion of his strength to any inferior object, it would command all his powers, and dispossess him of every wish but that of living and dying for it. And that moment would be the dawn of an era of prosperity.

"Everything which he did would be enlivened by the presence of a warmer and holier zeal; but it would be the public administration of divine truth, in the ordinance of preaching, in which the stronger and healthier pulsations of spiritual life would be most signally displayed, and from which the largest results might be expected. In this he would be prepared for acting a new part. Himself saved, and eminently sanctified, as well as possessed of the whole treasury of sacred knowledge in the inspired volume, he would be well versed in the respective truths best calculated for awakening the unconverted, and promoting the highest sanctification of the church, and administer them with improved wisdom and force. The wretchedness of the soul as guilty, depraved, and hastening to the judgment seat; the blessedness of arresting it in its downward course, and of exalting it once more to the glory of the Divine image and favor; the ample means provided for all this in the mediation of Christ; the experience of the efficacy in himself, and the conviction of their undiminished power to do as much for others; the rapid flight of time, and the possibility of all the mercy overshadowing that hour being trifled with and lost forever—these sentiments thrill his soul with mingled commiseration, hope, and fear—and urge him to improve to the utmost the fleeting opportunity of snatching sinners from perdition, and adding to the brightness of the Redeemer's crown.

"How well chosen is his theme, no matter of curious speculation—but some one or more of the solemn verities which concern the faith and obedience of every hearer, and bring life or death, as accepted or rejected! Away with those artificial rules which some have prescribed, as if to prepare a sermon were something like composing an epic! He has a truth to enforce, a moral effect to produce, and the sense of its unutterable importance brings to bear upon it all the resources of a judicious, intelligent, and impassioned mind. Bent on winning souls to God, or quickening them to higher obedience, this one desire possesses and inflames him, and gives a unity and completeness to his subject, a force and compactness of argument, a felicity of speech and manner, an ardor and impressiveness of appeal, which the art of the rhetorician could never have supplied. He feels moreover, that his strength is in God, and that the pleadings of human wisdom and pity never availed apart from a higher inspiration.

"Would there not be more than hope from a ministry like this? In itself so convincing and persuasive, rendered still more so by the practical exhibition of all the faith, uprightness, benevolence, and spirituality which it inculcates, looking to God, and owning its weakness without his blessing, it would have all the characteristics from which the susceptibilities of the human mind, and the solemn promises of the Almighty, authorize the expectation of enlarged success. When was such a ministry known to be long in contact with the minds of men, without producing the happiest effects? 'The word of the Lord would have free course and be glorified,' converts press into the church, and the church be raised to a higher level of godliness.

"And the minister thus revived would have unusual power in individual communion with the members of his flock. Living only for their advancement in faith and holiness, the warmth and tenderness of his concern for it would make him prompt to seize every opportunity of promoting it, and give an appropriateness and weight to his sayings, which a colder and less earnest piety would never have dictated. While the objects of his solicitude, feeling the point and force of his words, and impressed with his singleness of purpose, and still more with that uniform display of the Christian virtues, which was the best attestation of his deep sincerity, would find themselves drawn along by a combination of influences so pure and commanding, that they must tread in the steps of his piety, and bend to his hallowed purpose of extending the limits of the church, and giving it a holier aspect.

"Every faithful minister can look back upon seasons when under the kindlings of a warmer love and zeal, and a more affecting sense of eternal things, he was animated to increased exertion; and he has found that not only did his preaching fix the attention and touch the souls of his hearers more than at other times—but that, when he went among them in private, the elevation of his spirit, the seriousness of his converse, and the solemnity and unction pervading his petitions, produced an evident impression, and that he left them with improved feelings and resolves. All emotion is contagious, and easily propagates itself to other bosoms; but, besides this, the wakefulness of his zeal, and his steadiness of purpose, made him eager to extract the highest amount of good from every opportunity, stimulated ingenuity, and gave an aptness and charm to all that he said, which fell with happy effect on the understanding and the heart. And had the ardor and determination of those seasons been permanent, the equable and healthy excitement of every day's labor, instead of soon relapsing into the feebler sensibility of other times, his ministry would doubtless have told a different history, and be far more richly laden with precious fruit."

Happy shall I feel if this feeble tribute, not only of the recommendation of my pen—but of my heart's gratitude for the benefit I have derived from this production, shall induce any of my brethren to peruse this precious gift, which has been offered to them by a writer who veils himself under the modest title of "One of the least among the Brethren."

Do we need examples and patterns of eminent and earnest piety, how richly are they supplied both in number and in quality in the pages of our own denominational history! Where is the deep, ardent, experimental godliness of our ancestors, the fathers and founders of Protestant nonconformity? What a theologian was Owen, when he wrote his "Exposition of the Hebrews," what a polemic when he penned his "Controversy" with Biddle; what an ecclesiastic when he drew up his "Treatise on Church Government," but what a Christian when he indulged in his "Meditations on the Glory of Christ," and gave us his treatise "On Spirituality of Mind and the Mortification of Sin."

What a logician and divine was Howe, when he produced his "Living Temple," but what a Christian, when in the shadow of this noble structure of his holy genius, he poured out his heart in his work on "Delighting in God," and the "Blessedness of the Righteous."

And then think of holy Baxter, who gained repose from the labors of polemic strife, and relief from the tortures of the stone, in the believing anticipations of "The Saint's Rest."

Was their piety the result of their sufferings? Then for one I could be almost content to take the latter, so that I might be possessed of the former. Lead me to the spots, I do not say where they trimmed their midnight lamp, and continued at their studies until the morning star glittering through their casement chided them to their pillow; but to those more hallowed scenes, where they held their nightly vigils, and wrestled with the angel until the break of day. Mighty shades of Owen and Baxter, Howe and Manton, Henry and Bates, Goodwin and Nye, illustrious and holy men, we thank you for the rich legacy you have bequeathed to us in your immortal works—but O where has the mantle of your piety fallen? "God of our fathers! be the God of their following race."

Here then let us begin, where indeed we ought to begin, with our own spirits; for what should be the piety of that man on the state of whose heart depends in no small degree the spiritual condition of a whole Christian community? If we turn to any department of human action we shall learn that no one can inspire a taste, much less a passion, for the object of his own pursuit, who is not himself most powerfully moved by it. It is a scintillation of his zeal flying off from his own glowing heart, and falling upon their souls, which kindles in them the fire which burns in himself. Lukewarmness can excite no ardor, originate no activity, produce no effect—it benumbs whatever it touches. If we enquire what were the sources of the energy, and the springs of the activity, of the most successful ministers of Christ, we shall find that they lay in the ardor of their devotion. They were men of prayer and of faith. They dwelt upon the mount of communion with God, and came down from it like Moses to the people, radiant with the glory on which they had themselves been intently gazing. They stationed themselves where they could look at unseen and eternal things, and came with the stupendous visions fresh in their view, and preached under the impression of what they had just seen and heard. They drew their thoughts and made their sermons from their minds and from their books—but they breathed life and power into them from their hearts, and in their closets. Trace Whitfield in his career, and you will see how beaten was the road between his pulpit and his closet—the grass was not allowed to grow in that path. This was in great part the secret of his power. He was mighty in public, because in his retirement he had clothed himself, so to speak, with Omnipotence. He reflected the luster he had caught in the Divine presence; and its attraction was irresistible.

The same might be said of all others who have attained to eminence as successful preachers of the gospel. If then we would see a revival of the power of the pulpit, we must first of all see a revival in the piety of those who occupy it—and when this is the case, then, "he who is feeble among us shall be mighty as King David."

V. Earnestness will manifest itself by energetic and untiring action in use of those means by which its object is accomplished. It does not satisfy itself with mere contemplation, however enraptured. It does not satisfy itself with mere schemes, however well concerted. It does not satisfy itself with mere wishes, however fervent. It does not satisfy itself with mere anticipations, however lively. But sincere earnestness proceeds to vigorous, well arranged, and well adapted exertion. An earnest man must of necessity be an active one—he is the opposite of an idle dreamer. "I see my object," he exclaims; "it stands out in bold relief, clearly defined before my eyes, and I will leave no effort untried to accomplish it. I have made up my mind to labor, self-denial, and fatigue; and if I do not succeed, it shall not be for lack of determined and continuous effort." Such is his resolution, and his practice fulfils it. He is always at work. You know where to find him, and how he will be employed. He is the very 'description of diligence'. Labor is pleasure. No difficulties deter him, no disappointments dishearten him. The ignorant do not understand him, the indolent pity him—but the intelligent admire him. There is something in his earnestness, which is commanding, attractive, and inspiring, especially when the object of it is worthy.

Apply this to the ministry; there are two means by which this accomplishes its end, preaching and the pastorate.

In reference to PREACHING, I advert first to the substance of our teaching. And this must consist of course of those topics which bear most obviously and directly upon the great ends we are seeking to accomplish. Earnestness will take the nearest and most direct road to its object; nor will it be seduced from its path by beautiful prospects and pleasant walks, which lie in another direction. "I want to reach that point, and I cannot allow myself to be attracted by scenes, which however agreeable and interesting to others, would, if I stayed or turned to contemplate them—only hinder me in my business." Such is the language of one intent upon success in any particular scheme. Now what is the end of our pastoral office? The reconciliation of sinners to God, and their ultimate and complete salvation, when so reconciled. It is easy then to see that the substance of our instruction and persuasion must be the ministry of reconciliation. Of course it must be our purpose to declare the whole counsel of God, and to remember "that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

In the way of exposition, a minister should go through the greater part of the whole Bible, fairly and honestly explaining and enforcing it. But since the whole Bible, as explained by the more perfect revelation of the New Testament, directly or indirectly points to Christ, or may be illustrated and enjoined by considerations suggested by his mission and work, our preaching should have a decidedly evangelical character. The divinity, incarnation, and death of Christ; his atonement for sin; his resurrection, ascension, intercession, and mediatorial reign; his spiritual kingdom, and his second coming; the offices and work of the Holy Spirit in illuminating, regenerating, and sanctifying the human soul; the doctrine of justification by faith, and the new birth; the sovereignty of God in the dispensation of his saving gifts—these and their kindred and collateral topics should form the staple of our preaching and teaching.

It surely must be this which the apostle meant when he said, "I determined to know nothing among you, but Jesus Christ and him crucified." "The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom—but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." If there be any meaning in language, this must imply that the apostle in his ministry dwelt chiefly upon the work of Christ. His epistles all sustain this view of his meaning. They are all full of this great subject. We may perhaps smile at the simple piety of the individual who was at the trouble of counting the number of times that the apostle Paul mentions the name of Jesus in his epistles; but at the same time, something is to be learned from the fact that he found it to reach between four and five hundred. This teaches us how thoroughly Christ-centered, how entirely imbued with evangelism, his mind and his writings were. His morality was as evangelical as his doctrine, for he enforced all the branches of moral and social obligation by motives drawn from the cross. His ethics were all baptized with the spirit of the gospel, so that the believer who has imbibed the spirit of his writings, will have his eye as constantly kept upon the crucified One, in the progress of his sanctification—just as the sinner's eye is turned towards the same object, for his justification. This then was the earnestness of the apostle; one constant, uniform, and undeviating endeavor to save men's souls by the truth as it is in Jesus.

A question now arises whether it is the duty of modern preachers to adopt the same method, and whether, inasmuch as their ends are the same with those of the apostle, they are to seek them by the same means. One would suppose there can be no rational doubt of this. If the apostles were the inspired teachers of Christianity, and have given us in their writings a full exhibition of what Christianity really is; and if it is our business to explain and enforce their writings, it seems to follow, as a thing of course—that our teaching, as to the matter of our discourses, must resemble theirs. And will anyone pretend that this resemblance can be established, unless our preaching is richly and prevailingly Christ-centered? I am aware it is sometimes said that times have altered since the apostles' days, that the state of the world is different from what it then was. But is not human nature in all its essential elements the same? Is it not the same in its moral aspect, impotency, and necessities? Does it not as much need, and as much depend upon, the gospel scheme now, as it did then? Is not the gospel as exquisitely and fully adapted to its miserable condition now as it was then? Can sin be pardoned in any other way than through the atonement of Christ; or the sinner be justified by any other means than faith in the Lord our Righteousness; or the depraved heart be renewed and sanctified by any other agency than that of the Holy Spirit? Are not all the motives supplied by evangelical doctrine as powerful and as efficacious now—as they were then?

No alteration of the subjects of preaching then can be called for now, to meet the advancing state of society, since the gospel is intended and adapted to be God's instrument for the salvation of man, in all ages of the world, in all countries, and in all states of society. The sinful moral epidemic of our nature is always and every where the same, in whatever various degrees of virulence it may exist; and the healing system of salvation by grace, through faith, is God's own and unalterable specific remedy for the disease, in every age of time, in every country of the world, and in every state of society. Men may call in other physicians than Christ, and try other methods of cure, as they have done; but they will all fail, and leave the miserable patient hopeless and helpless, as regards any other means of health than that which the cross of Christ presents. I reject alike as delusive and fatal the ancient practice of conforming the evangelical scheme to systems of philosophy, and the modern notion of the progressive development of Christian doctrine by the church. To the men who would revive the former, I say, "Beware lest any man deceive you, through a vain and deceitful philosophy, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ!" To the latter I say, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Be not carried away with diverse and strange doctrines; for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace." It appears to me that something like the same attempts are being made in this day to corrupt the gospel by superstitious additions on the one hand, and by philosophic accommodations on the other, as were made in the early days of Christianity. Our danger lies in the latter.

It should never be forgotten that the time when the apostles discharged their ministry was only just after the Augustan era of the ancient world. Poetry had recently bestowed on the lettered world the works of Virgil and Horace. The light of philosophy, though waning, still shed its luster over Greece. The arts still exhibited their most splendid creations, though they had ceased to advance. It was at such a time, and amid such scenes, the gospel began its course. The voices of the apostles were listened to by sages who had basked in the sunshine of Athenian wisdom, and were reverberated in startling echo from temples and statues that had been shaken by the thunders of Cicero and Demosthenes; yet they conceded nothing to the demands of philosophy—but held forth the cross as the only object they felt they had a right to exhibit. They never once entertained the degrading notion that they must accommodate themselves to the philosophy or the taste of the age in which they lived, and the places where they ministered. It is true the philosophy of that day was a false one—but it was not known or acknowledged to be such at the time. It was admired as true, though like many systems that have succeeded it, it gave place to another, and was doomed, like some that now prevail, to wane before new and rising lights.

Whether the apostle addressed himself to the philosophers on Mars Hill, or to the barbarians on the island of Melita; whether he reasoned with the Jews in their synagogues, or with the Greeks in the school of Tyrannus, he had but one theme, and that was Christ, and him crucified. And what right, or what reason have we for deviating from this high and imperative example? Be it so, that we live in a literary, philosophic, and scientific age, what then? Is it an age that has outlived the need of the gospel for its salvation; or for the salvation of which anything else can suffice but the gospel? The supposition that something else than pure Christianity, as the theme of our pulpit ministrations, is requisite for such a period as this, or that it must be presented in a philosophic guise, appears to me a most perilous sentiment, as being a disparagement to the gospel itself, a daring assumption of wisdom superior to God's, and containing the nucleus of infidelity. The gospel sustains the nature of a testimony which must be exhibited in its own peculiar and simple form; a testimony to certain unique and momentous facts which must be presented as they really are, without any attempt or wish to change their nature or alter their character, in order to bring them into nearer conformity to the systems of men. Let the taste be cultivated as it may by literature, or the mind be enlightened by science, or the reason be disciplined by philosophy—the heart is still deceitful and wicked, the conscience still burdened with guilt, and the whole soul in a state of alienation from God. The moral constitution is mortally diseased, and nothing but the gospel can convey God's saving health, which is as much required for his spiritual restoration by the polished son of science, as by the savage of New Zealand, or the Hottentot of South Africa. All else is but pretense and worthlessness; and the man who would be successful in the salvation of souls must have a clear conviction and a deep impression of these facts. Philosophy must never be allowed to dilute the life-giving elixir of of the gospel, nor to evaporate it into the clouds of philosophy. "Don't let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ." Col. 2:8

But perhaps the danger to which the evangelical ministry of the present age is exposed, is not so much a philosophizing spirit, or an attempt to make the gospel conform to any current theory, as an effort to attain to a high intellectuality in setting forth received truths. We hear a great deal about this in modern times. It is become a kind of cant term, (for there is high as well as low cant,) to speak of some men as very intellectual preachers. If by an intellectual preacher be meant a man who applies the acquirements of a well furnished and well trained understanding to explain and enforce the great topics of evangelical truth; or the application in the most attractive form to the great end of the Christian ministry, of whatever knowledge such a mind can obtain in its pursuit of all kinds of information; or the employment of sound logic and natural eloquence to make the doctrines which are unto salvation bear upon men's hearts and consciences—if this be meant, a man cannot be too intellectual, as the great and glorious doctrines of revealed truth deserve and demand the mightiest energies of the noblest intellects. But if, as is too generally the case, intellectuality means the cold, dry, argumentative discussion of philosophical subjects rather than of evangelical truths, or the discussion of such truths in an abstract and essay-like form; a mere heartless exercise of the reason of the preacher, intended and adapted only to engage the understanding of his hearers, without either interesting their affections or awakening their conscience; such intellectuality will do nothing but empty the places of worship in which it is exhibited, or at best draw together a congregation of people, who, though they cannot as yet bring themselves to do without some kind of religion, yet prefer the cold abstractions of the head, to the warm affections of the heart. Such hearers assemble to listen to a philosophical lecturer on spiritual subjects, and not to a publisher of glad tidings to sinners.

Here I would not be misconstrued to mean that every sermon must be on strictly evangelical themes; but that these must be the prevailing topics of the man who is in earnest for the salvation of souls. Nor would I go so far as to say that each sermon must contain as much of the gospel as would make every hearer of it acquainted with the way of salvation, even if he never should listen to another discourse. There is such a thing as treating these subjects so carelessly, so familiarly, and so frequently, as to deprive them of all their power to interest and impress. A man whose soul is possessed with the passion for doing good, will make almost any and every topic connected with the gospel tend to usefulness. Subjects, which in other hands would be dry and uninteresting, will in his be invested with the glow and warmth which live in his own soul, and which he imparts to everything he touches. His heart beats with an action so strong, steady, and healthful, that his fervid and holy intellect circulates an evangelical vitality through what in others would be a cold and torpid frame of mind, and thus causes the principle of gospel life to reach to the very extremities of the system of general truth.

Still even he, though he dwells occasionally on every topic which can with propriety be brought into the pulpit, will like the apostle, "glory only in the cross of Christ." Resisting the temptations to neglect the plain gospel, and to go in quest of airy speculations and unprofitable novelties, his aim will not be to gratify the imaginative by what is tasteful and poetic; nor the learned by what is profound; nor the philosophical by what is subtle; nor the curious by what is strange—but by manifestation of the truth, to commend himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Alas, that any preacher of the gospel should take any other aim, and seek any other object, than this! Do we want subjects for eloquence, where can we find them in such abundance, grandeur, and sublimity, as in the gospel theme? The cross is a fount of the purest, most impassioned and most touching eloquence in the world, from which genius may be ever drawing, without fear of exhausting it. Compare the most finished orations of Massillon, Bossuet, or Bourdaloue, with McLaurin's discourse on "Glorying in the Cross"—and though they are more perfect as models of composition, and more decorated by the artifices and graces of rhetoric, yet how far below that incomparable sermon in the sublimity of its theme, and the grandeur of its evangelical eloquence, are those boasted masterpieces of the French pulpit!

"My dear brethren, why are we not more impressive? Theology affords the best field for tender, solemn and sublime eloquence. The most solemn objects are presented; the most important interests are discussed; the most tender motives are urged. God and angels; the treason of Satan; the creation, ruin and recovery of a world; the incarnation, death, resurrection, and reign of the Son of God; the day of judgment; a burning universe; an eternity; a heaven and a hell—all pass before the eye! What are the petty dissensions of the states of Greece? What are the plots and victories of Rome—compared with this? If ministers were sufficiently qualified by education, study and the Holy Spirit; if they felt their subject as much as Demosthenes and Cicero did, they would be the most eloquent men on earth, and would be so esteemed wherever congenial minds were found." (Griffin's Sermon on the Are of Preaching)

To know what themes have the greatest potency over the public mind, and should form the subject of an earnest ministry, we have only to consult the pages of ecclesiastical history. It is unnecessary to dwell again upon the matter of apostolic preaching. It was by the purest evangelism that Christianity was planted in the earth, and it was when this gave place to 'a religion of forms and ceremonies' that the power and vitality of true godliness declined, and a mass of vile corruption grew up, in the dark shadow of which the man of sin erected his throne, and the Papacy commenced its bloody reign. During the long night of the middle ages the sound of the faithful preacher was not heard, and the voice of Zion's watchman was silent, except in a few obscure nooks and corners of the earth; but wherever it was then heard, the same effects followed. It was this subject with which Claude of Turin, when nearly all the world was wandering after the beast, awakened in the ninth century the inhabitants of Piedmont, and commenced that glorious work which was more or less carried on for centuries, amid the seclusion of Alpine rocks and vallies; and which the concentrated power and fury of the Papacy could never entirely subvert. It was this evangelism which our Wickliff preached in England in the fifteenth century, and by it kindled a fire, amid the smouldering ashes of which lay concealed embers which were again to ignite when fanned by the breath of other reformers, a century afterwards. By what means did Luther achieve his immortal triumph over the powers of the Vatican, and strike off the fetters which had enslaved the judgment, heart, and conscience of man? By the potency of what theme did he lift up into freedom and dignity the prostrate intellect of the human race? What was the instrument with which he struck the empire of darkness, and inflicted a blow which resounded through Christendom? the great evangelical doctrine of justification by faith.

By what means did Whitefield and Wesley rouse the slumbering piety of our nation, and call up a theme which is going on from strength to strength to this day? By the evangelical system of Divine truth. What called forth the missionary enterprise, and constructed all that moral machinery which is at work to effect the world's conversion? Before what system of truths have the inhabitants of Polynesia and New Zealand surrendered their licentious habits and bloody rites; and the Hottentots and Eskimos dropped their barbarism, and risen up in the form and manners of civilized men? What is the doctrine by which our missionaries are taking possession of India and China? I answer in each case, the doctrine of the cross!

It is then a fact attested by authentic history, and uncontradicted by anyone acquainted either with the present or the past, that all the great moral revolutions of our world, since the Christian era, have been effected by one simple process, by one set of means, and by one grand truth—and that process is preaching, those means are earnest men, and that truth is the gospel of the grace of God. Providential events may have prepared the way, by leveling mountains, and filling up vallies, and making smooth the course of the herald of the cross; but it is that herald's mighty voice proclaiming, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!" which by the power of God's Spirit has changed the moral aspect of our dark and dreary world. This has not been done by learning, science, or philosophy; it is not the result of profound speculations on any theory of morals, or of fine processes of reasoning, or of splendid creations of poetic genius, or of the subtleties of philosophical discussion. No! but of the simple testimony of the gospel. While the philosopher has been theorizing in his closet, and the statistical philanthropist has been carrying on his calculations in his study, the preacher has gone forth into the midst of the people—ignorant, wicked, and wretched, as they were—has lifted up the great truth of the loving God, the dying Savior, and the regenerating Spirit, and has by these means, as an instrument of God, changed the aspect of society, and revolutionized the moral habits of nations.

Strange that with the knowledge of these facts, any of our preachers should think of replacing the glorious truths which have wrought such wonders in the world, by any other themes; or should act as if weapons that have proved their adaptation and their power, should now be wielded with a doubtful mind and with a hesitating and wavering hand! If we would know how we are to convert souls to God, we have only to ask how has God converted them. Nor is it necessary to go back to past ages, or abroad to other countries. Let us only look round upon our own country; let us go to our largest congregations and our most numerous churches, and ask what kind of preaching has done all we see—what doctrine, and how handled, has drawn those multitudes together; what magnet has put forth its attractions there? The secret will be soon discovered, and it will be found that there is an exemplification of our Lord Jesus Christ's words, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."

Go into other places where 'religious intellectuality' is substituted for the vital truths of the gospel, where philosophical abstractions take the place of popular addresses on great fundamental doctrines, and cold, logical essays are read, instead of heart-stirring sermons being preached; and the attenuated and still declining congregations will proclaim the lack of adaptation in the pulpit ministrations, and prove that for the popular mind there can be no substitute for the cross of Christ.

Nor does this apply exclusively to the uneducated or partially educated classes. Human nature in all its prevailing features, tastes, necessities, and enjoyments, is the same in the king and in the peasant; in the savage and the sage. All men are susceptible of emotion, as well as capable of reasoning; and all men love to feel, as well as to think. A commercial or professional man, who has been at work all the week, having had his mind strained with hard thinking, as well as his body by hard labor, when he takes his seat in his pew on a Sabbath morning, wants something for his heart, as well as for his head. With a sermon, however intellectual it may be, which has nothing that comes home to his affections, and causes him to feel, he is sure to be disappointed and dissatisfied. A dry essay on some gospel subject which only proves a point he never doubted, or starts a difficulty he never dreamt of—is like giving him a stone when he asks for bread. He wants to be made to feel and to realize that there is something higher and better than this world. He desires to enjoy the luxury of hallowed emotion, he covets the joy and peace of believing, and the anticipations of that world where the weary are at rest, and the din of business will be forever hushed. That man, tired and jaded by the cares, anxieties, and toils of six days—wants to lie down and take repose on the soft green grass of evangelical truth, and not on the hard rocks of abstract speculation. It is true that being a man of education and reading, his heart must be reached through his intellect, and he must be fed with the substantial bread of evangelical truth, which, though his taste is healthful, must not be coarse and chaffy; must not only be made of the finest wheat—but it must also be well prepared, mixed and made by a skillful hand.

It is however said that though the same gospel is to be preached, and the matter of sermons is in substance to be ever the same, in all the varying states of society, yet that the mode of exhibiting the gospel is to be accommodated to the circumstances of the age, and that a different mode of presenting the truth must be adopted in an age of advancing knowledge, to what is pursued in one of less refined and cultivated habits. If by this be meant that there must be more vigorous thinking, more profound analysis, more accurate criticism, more varied illustration from the fields of science, more pains to show the harmony of sound theology with sound philosophy—then it may and must be admitted, that the mode of preaching should be adapted to the circumstances of an advancing age. But even with this admission, it must still be remembered that the essential nature of the gospel, as a testimony from God, to be received on the ground of its own evidence and authority, must not be altered; nor any attempts made to shift the obligation to receive it from this ground to its apparent reasonableness or conformity with the principles of any system of human philosophy.

Nor must this 'adaptation to the circumstances of the age' be carried so far either in the way of logic, criticism, or illustration, as to obscure the light, or corrupt the simplicity, of the evangelical system. The substitution of a dry, abstract, and philosophical mode of preaching the gospel—for a lively, forcible, and heart-affecting, conscience-rousing method—so far from being adapted to this age of excitement, is quite opposed to it. This is a busy, active, glowing period of time's history, as well as a thinking one. The heart is yearning, as well as the intellect. The abstractions of the intellect are dealt with now in such a manner as to kindle the affections to a blaze, and no method of exhibiting the gospel can be successful, if not adapted to produce this result. If flimsy thought, thread-bare common-places, will not do; so neither will mere airy speculation, hard logic, cold learning, or mere philosophy. It must be the gospel, preached with manly, vigorous thinking—in plain English words, and with classic simplicity and perspicuity of style.

I am somewhat hesitant about this idea of accommodating our method of preaching to the taste and circumstances of the age, until the meaning of the expression be accurately settled and thoroughly understood. Without great care, the spirit of accommodation and the attempt at adaptation will go on from manner to matter, and even our creeds will be somewhat curtailed and altered, to establish a harmony between our theology and our philosophy. Already the process has begun, and the neology of Germany, like a beacon gleaming upon us from its dreadful rock, should warn us of the danger we are in on such a coast, of making shipwreck of our faith.

Perhaps the best mode of making this subject understood, and showing to what extent this adaptation may be carried, would be to select and compare the sermons of two different periods of the history of the pulpit. Take, then, for example, a sermon of Dr. Owen, or Dr. Manton, with all its numberless divisions and sub-divisions, quaint phraseology, and violations of taste, and put it by the side of a sermon by Dr. Chalmers, Mr. Bradley, or Dr. Wardlaw; and by the comparison you will see that the power of adaptation has increased in the moderns, and that they exhibit the same glorious verities as their predecessors—with improvements of style and arrangement.

Before I pass from this part of the subject, it may be proper to remark that perhaps there are few expressions more misunderstood, and with respect to which more mistakes have been made, than "preaching the gospel." Many by the use of this phrase aim to exclude from the pulpit almost every topic but a perpetual and almost unvarying exhibition of the death of our Lord, and consider this, and this only, as specifically preaching Christ. But it is strangely forgotten by the preachers of this school, that as the scheme of mediation by the Savior is founded on the eternal obligation and immutable nature of the law of God, and was intended not to subvert—but to uphold, its authority; the moral law must be explained and enforced in all its purity, spirituality, and extent. Repentance towards God is no less included in the apostolic ministry, than faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; and a sinner cannot repent of his transgressions against the law, which he has violated, if he knows it not—for "sin is the transgression of the law," and "by the law is the knowledge of sin." No man can know sin without knowing the law—and herein appears to me one of the prevailing defects of modern preaching—I mean the neglect of holding up this perfect mirror, in which the sinner shall see reflected his own moral image. It is true that some are melted down at once into a sense of wickedness, and brought to the exercise of both repentance and faith, by an exhibition of divine love in the death of Christ; but this is not so usual a method of conversion as the first awakening of the sinner by an exposition and application of the perfect law.

Dwight says, "Few, very few, are ever awakened or convinced by the encouragements and promises of the gospel; but almost all by the denunciation of the law. The blessings of immortality, the glories of heaven, are usually, to say the least, preached with little efficacy to an assembly of sinners. I have been surprised to see how dull, inattentive, and sleepy, such an assembly has been, amid the strongest representations of these divine subjects, combining the most vivid images with a vigorous style and an impressive elocution."

This is a strong testimony, and it is perhaps a little overstated. Still I am persuaded there is much truth in it, for it seems to stand to reason, that men will care little about pardon, until they are convinced of sin; and as the apostle says, it is by the law that they come to the knowledge of sin. In this particular there appears to me a greater adaptation to the work of conviction in American preaching than in the British pulpit—it has more of this exposition of the law, and of the application of it to the sinner's conscience; more that is calculated to make him feel at once his obligations and his guilt; more of that which silences his excuses, unravels the deceitfulness of his heart, strips him of self-righteousness, makes him thoroughly acquainted with himself, and his intense need of a Savior—in short, more of what the apostle calls commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God; though it has, however, I think a lack of evangelical fullness and tenderness.

I remember a discussion by a large company of ministers in my vestry, on one occasion, as to the style of preaching which in their own experience they had found most useful; and it was pretty generally admitted, (and some of them had been among our most successful preachers,) that sermons on alarming and impressive texts had been most blessed in producing conviction of sin, and the first concern about salvation. At the same time it must be recollected that though descriptions of sin may affect, the exhibition of its consequences may affright, vehement censures of it may alarm, and reasoning concerning it may open the gloomy road to despair, these methods alone will not convert. Law without the gospel will harden, as the gospel without the law will only lead to carelessness and presumption. It is the union of both that will possess the sinner with loathing of himself, and love to God.

Still our danger in this age lies not so much in neglecting the gospel, as in omitting to associate with it the preaching of the law. It is worthy of remark, that Jesus Christ, who was incarnate love itself, the living gospel, yes the way, the truth, the life—was the most alarming preacher that was ever in our world. It is, however, incumbent upon us not to mistake severity for fidelity; nor harshness for earnestness. The remarks of Mr. Hall on this, are as correct as they are beautiful— "A harsh and unfeeling manner of denouncing the threatenings of the Word of God, is not only barbarous and inhuman—but calculated, by inspiring disgust, to rob them of all their efficiency. If the dreadful part of our message, which may be styled the burden of the Lord, ever falls with due weight upon our hearers—it will be when it is delivered with a trembling hand and faltering lips."

The look, the tone, the action, when such subjects are discussed, should be a mixture of solemnity and affection; the sobriety of love. To hear such topics dwelt upon in strong language, vehement action, and boisterous tones—strikes me as being an utter violation of all propriety, and is likely to excite horror and revulsion in every hearer of the least discernment. Real earnestness is the result of deep emotion; and the emotion excited by the sight of a fellow-creature perishing in his sins, is that of the tenderest commiseration—which will express itself not in stormy declamation and thundering denunciations—but in solemnly chastened admonition and appeal.




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