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Such is the influence of that grace which we contemplate. And now,
who can doubt that the dignity and happiness of man, even in the present world, rise high and advance toward perfection, just in proportion to his acquaintance with the true God, and with that grace which is revealed through Jesus Christ our Lord ? And if this be not doubted, who, that has the heart of a man, will not adore the grace of Him, “who, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich ?”!
But these views of the riches of divine Grace fall infinitely short of the reality. To know their full amount, we must lift the veil that hangs over eternity--we must fasten our eyes, now on the torments of the damned, and then on the glories of the upper world; we must listen to the eternal wailings from beneath, and to the unuying songs of the ten thousand times ten thousand before the throne! Then only shall we begin to appreciate the worth of Christ's humiliation,
From the subject we learn, first, the Christian's high obligations to selfdenial. Our great Exemplar withheld not himself from poverty, and shame, and violence, when our salvation was at stake. And who that denies not himself, and bears not the cross, can follow Christ and do him honour? Is it too much to demand of the Christian, that he be crucified to the world -- that he mortify his members which are on the earth, and that he withhold himself from every indulgence that unfits him to act vigorously in behalf of a world lying in wickedness?
Feel you, my brethren, an aversion to any known duty ?- to the duty of keeping your hearts with all diligence-or of maintaining a spiritual inter
with your fellow-men-or, of adopting that course of active beneficence which is marked out by the word and providence of God ?- To subdue this aversion is the province of self-denial. Or, feel you a propensity to throw away life in inactivity-or, in the pursuit of cain glory-or, in gratifying a thirst for intellectual acquisitions--or, in collecting those treasures that will perish with the using ?-To subdue such inclinations is your
iminediate and imperious duty, however self-denying. Without such self-denial, you cannot be followers of Him, who, though “ Lord of all," " made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
We learn, in the second place, the obligations of Christians, to devote themselves to the enlargement of Christ's kingdom.
This kingdom is enlarged, only by withdrawing men from their allegiance to the great enemy of God, and inspiring them with new dispositions and principles of action. And this change of character is produced only through the instrumentality of a preached gospel, and other subordinate means of divine appointment. The maintenance of this instrumentality is committed to the church; and the authority of Heaven binds every Christian to do all that in him lies, to send the gospel to every creature.
And if Christ became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich—and if the riches he procurer be sufficient to meet the wants of a world--then, every sentiment
of gratitude requires us to publish his salvation, co-extensively with human wretchedness, even, if need be, at the expense of all our possessions, and our lives.
For every hope of heaven that sustains us under the accumulating afflictions of life, we are not more indebted to the sacrifice of Calvary itself, than to the grace that has made us acquainted with the sacrifice, and urged on us its acceptance. Christ had died in vain, but for the revelation of the fact, that“ on Him were laid the iniquities of us all.” His blood had not washed us from our sins, but for the mission of the Holy Spirit ; and the Holy Spirit had not convinced us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, but through the word and ordinances of God, the appointed medium of his operations. True as it is, that “ he who believeth not on the Son of God, shall not see life”-it is equally true, that men will not believe except they hear; nor will they hear without a preacher.
And to whoin, if not those who have been made partakers of this grace of Christ, is intrusted the mighty work of bringing the world into subjection to his authority? To them surely it belongs to summon enslaved nations from the bondage of spiritual death, and to plant on every mountain and every island, the standard of the Prince of Life! To this labour of love, the authority of God commands—the love of Christ allures—and the worth of souls urges, by all the glories of heaven, and by all the terrors of that world, " where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”
But while the whole church is called to engage in these labours of love, it is obvious that those whom God hath put into the ministry, should be found exerting a most direct and decided influence. To them it belongs to be as God's mouth to their fellow-men-to bring forth from their treasures things new and old, and affectionately, yet faithfully, to give to every man a portion in due season. To them it belongs to preserve a hallowed fire on the altar of the inner sanctuary—to maintain the spirit of devotion ever burning, amid all the storms that may assail, or the winds that may blow upon them, from an ungrateful world.
But the duties of the ministry at the present day, are confined within no narrow bounds. Allow the providence of God to be the interpreter of his will, and who can doubt that the millions of immortal beings brought under the eye, and within the reach of Christian influence, within a few years, but still sitting in darkness that might be felt, have all of them an immediate claim on our sympathies? And if so, who are to be their instructers ?-who their guides ?-who, but the ministers of God?
The notes of angels have waked a sleeper here and there on the high places of Zion ; but mighty armies are yet to be enlisted and trained for the battle of the great day of God Almighty. And in this great enterprise who have so important a part to act, as the ministers of the sanctuary? Are they not the leaders of the Lord's hosts? Are they not justly expected to bring into effort whatever of intellectual vigour, or of hallowed devotion, or of physical energy they possess ?
It may not belong to many of them to leave the stations they now occupy,
that they may carry the weapons of their warfare into the thickest ranks of the enemy ;- but it does belong to them to raise up those who will engage heartily in these hazardous services, and to lead to active co-operation, every individual over whom God has given them influence. It does belong to them to do what in them lies for removing that darkness which still hangs over the path of duty—those prejudices which obstruct the march of truth--and all that ignoble spirit of selfishness and hypocrisy which still cries with deafening voice, “ For what purpose is this waste ??? .
And, when in addition to their own labours they have opportunity to avail themselves of the experience and influence of others, in arousing the public mind, shall they not gratefully receive them ? Does it ever become them to regard in the light of mendicants, the men, who, impelled by a high sense of duty, devote themselves to the thankless office of urging the claims of God and a perishing world ? Shall they join the cry of ignorance and covetousness in deprecating as a nuisance, the man who would help to elevate among them the standard of Christian duty ? Would to God there were none who sustain the holy office, that yet can coldly say to such a man-"Go thy way for this time,”_" at a more convenient season I will call for thee !!! Oh, how often has the self-denying Agent been palsied in his efforts, and the church defrauded of much of the luxury of doing good, by such ill-timed interference ?
But, says the minister who thus sinks himself from the rank of God's steward, to become the steward and guardian of his people's money, “ My congregation is poor-scarcely able to support the gospel among themselves--and how can they contribute to the support of the gospel elsewhere ?": Might I reply to such a brother, I would say with modesty, Are your people increasing their wealth by withholding from the Lord ? Are they raising themselves to independence, by diverting the bounties of Heaven from the course assigned them by the injunction, “ Freely ye have received, freely give ?" Will they support the gospel less cheerfully among themselves, if taught by experience that "there is a giving which tendeth to increase ?" Would
enrich your people ?-teach them the true value of riches. Would you make them habitually generous to yourself, and to the miserable around you? -give them frequent opportunities for the exercise of generosity on a broader scale. Would you attach them most firmly to your person
ministrations ?--point them to the millions who are poorer than themselves ; and point them to Him, who, though Lord of heaven and earth, for their sakes submitted to poverty, degradation, and death.
But, again it is said, “ My influence will be destroyed— I shall lose the power of doing good among my people, if I show myself so regardless of their interests, as to throw wide open the door to such as would solicit their charity.” Now, allowing this assumption to be true, what is the value of the influence thus lost ?-what is the worth of that power of doing good, which cannot be exerted, without destroying itself? But I venture to say, the assumption is not true. Show me the man that ever lost his influence by a frank, aplightened, and bold discharge of duty! Show me the man that was ever
driven from a post of usefulness, in a Christian community, by his zeal to do good, and to engage others to do good to those perishing for lack of vision ! Should the case occur, wherein the minister of God urges on his people a liberality, which he himself does not exercise-should he clench his own hand against the claims of a dying world, while he requires them to open theirs, the effect would be what it ought to be-a conviction of his insincerity
a loss of his influence—and, may I not add too, the loss of his soul! Let him withhold the force of his example, and he will preach in vain, on this, as on every other subject. But let him be sincere in the performance of his duty-let him show himself far enough superior to the love of filthy lucre to stake his all on the success of his efforts—and instead of forfeiting confidence, he will inspire admiration, and secure to himself a generous support from every man's conscience.
It is further said, in objection to frequent preaching on the subject of beneficence, that it diverts the attention of the congregation from subjects that are more intimately connected with vital piety; and that, like other practical preaching, it creates a disrelish for the great and distinguishing doctrines of religion. If it be so, let not the unhappy effect be charged on the subject, but on the manner of treating it. That this and every other practical subject may be so handled as to create indifference to the great principles of religion, there can be no question: and that doctrinal discussions may be conducted with equal infelicity, there can be no doubt. But, “ Thou shalt preach the preaching that I bid thee,” saith the Lord. And what is the preaching that God requires ? If we examine his word, to learn what doctrines and duties are to be inculcated, and in what proportion they are to be taught, do we not find, that a generous regard to the wants and woes of mankind, whether in this world or the next, is here repeatedly urged as a duty second in importance only to that of supreme love to God?
It is confessed, that nothing more powerfully awakens the enmity of the natural heart against God, or calls forth louder complaints against the gospel, than a pungent and personal application of the duties which man owes to man: but I have yet to learn, that the summoning up of this hostility is prejudicial to the spiritual interests of a congregation. Indeed, experience shows, that the minister who desires above all things to see the work of God revive among his people, and to give them a clear understanding of the grand principles of revelation, can adopt no course of preaching, that will more certainly convince of selfishness and sin, or more probably conduct to holiness and heaven. This was the kind of preaching addressed by the Saviour himself to the rich and amiable young man whom he loved—“ One thing thou lackest—Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor.”
But I cannot dwell longer on objections to this branch of ministerial faithfulness. It is grievous to know that they ever enter the head, or pass the lips of any who are set for the defence and confirmation of that gospel which breathes “good will to men.” I would, in conclusion, simply state some facts which ought to have great weight with God's ministers of this age and nation :
It is a fact, that the churches of this country are able to faise hundreds of thousands, where they now raise thousands, for the cause of benevolence, without impoverishing themselves, or even denying themselves a single comfort of life.
It is a fact that millions are wasted every year upon superfluities that were better dispensed with than allowed-and this too, by those who " follow Him that had not where to lay his head!"
It is a fact, that if our churches were convinced of the duty they owe to the world, they would cheerfully deny themselves the luxuries, and even many of the comforts, in which they now indulge.
It is a fact, that they are not yet convinced of their duty-nor are they sufficiently enlightened : the subject has not been laid before them in all its length and breadth, and urged with that frequency, plainness, and pungency, which its importance demands.
It is a fact, th it this indifference will never die a natural death—for it derives its support from the strongest passions of corrupt nature ; and it requires the most vigorous and persevering application of truth to destroy it.
It is a fact, that ministers are appointed of God to apply the truth-to attend continually on this very thing; and to pour the light of Heaven on minds clouded by ignorance and covetousness. And,
It is a fact, that if ministers neglect this duty, they will not only endanger themselves in the final judgment—but they will mislead the souls committed to their care--they will be instrumental of hardening multitudes in worldliness and sin-of obscuring the hopes of others; and of withholding from millions of their fellow-sinners in heathen lands, that gospel which is able to prepare them as well as us for the great day of God.
And now, who, that admits these facts, will decline or refuse the doing of what may be done, to draw forth the resources of the church, for the salvation of the world ? Brethren, the time is short. Soon we shall meet our respective flocks at the bar of God: and if the Judge shall say
of them," I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat-I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drinkI was a stranger, and ye took me not in-naked, and
clothed me not-sick and in prison, and ye visited me not--inasmuch as ye did it not to the least of these, for whom I shed my blood, ye did it not to me--depart ye cursed;" what will be our emotions, should we hear them reply, “ Lord, we were never urged to this by those who came to us in thy name!" And should almighty Grace triumph over our sins-should the angel of mercy interpose between us and the wrath we deserve-how far away must we stand from that throne on which Jesus sits, surrounded by the prophets, and apostles, and martyrs of other days! How shall we list up our heads among the Brainerds, and Martyns, and Halls of modern times, who counted not their lives dear to them, so that they might win Christ, and add jewels to his crown?
Never was the field of the world so fairly laid open to Christian cultivation ; never were the means of rendering it productive of the fruits of righteousness so ample; and never were the encouragements derived from success so abundant, as at this day. What single enterprise, undertaken in the name and spirit of the Lord, has failed ? What single blow has been struck at