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Christianity ? (1.) The verbalists. There are those professed teachers of the Gospel whodeal mainly in terminologies. Words are almost everything. In the Corinthian Church there were those who unduly exalted verbiage. They thought much of the words of man's wisdom." Sonorous periods, polished sentences, and rhetoric ornament, they scrupulously studied. No word would I utter against the use of the choicest language in teaching Gospel truth. Our vocabularies have no symbols good enough fully to represent its heavenly sublimities. Still, the divine thing ever comes out best in the language which nature teaches, whether that language be rustic or refined. All thought runs into language as life into form, and the language into which the thought runs at first is, I trow, generally the best; it is its native costume; the robe that nature weaves. He who studies to modify and decorate it, loses the spirit. The spirit of thought is so subtle that it goes off in the attempt to give it an artificial form. He, too, who ties men to the mere letter of Scripture conceals, both from himself, and those who follow him, the divine spirit which words may indicate but cannot contain.

We ask again, who are the technical teachers of Christianity ?

(2.) The theorists. There are those who throw into logical systems the ideas they derive from the Gospel. These systems, which are mere human productions, they hold up as standards of truth, and use all the power they have to enforce them on the faith of others. I underrate not the importance of systematising the ideas we derive from the Bible-the soul has an instinct for throwing its thoughts into order, and linking them together in unity. But he who exalts his system of thought, and makes it a standard of truth, is a minister of the “ letter.” Can any system of theology, however comprehensive, contain the whole spirit of truth? Can a nutshell contain the Atlantic? Who are the technical teachers ?

(3.) The Ritualists. I have but little sympathy with the unqualified denunciations of ritualism which ring, just now,

through the pulpits and press of England. Men must have ritualism of some kind. What is logic, but the ritualism of thought ? What is art, but the ritualism of beauty ? What is rhetorical imagery, but the ritualism.of ideas ? As life in the tiniest seed struggles after some form, human thought strives after visible embodiments. Civilization is but the ritualising of the thoughts of ages. But when the religious teacher regards these rites, signs, and symbols as supernatural elements, or as soing mystic media of saving grace, he is a minister of the “letter" rather than of the "spirit” of Christianity.

Secondly: The spiritual. What is it to be a minister of the spirit? It is not to neglect the letter. The letter is a wonderful thing, it is a symbol of the Divine. The material universe is a "letter.” Letter is the key that lets you into the great empire of spiritual realities. To be a minister of the spirit, is to be more alive to the grace than the grammar, the substances than the symbols of the book. Two things seem necessary in order to qualify a man to be a minister of the "spirit.” (1.) A comprehensive knowledge of the whole Scriptures. What is the spirit of Christianity? Not a doctrine contained in this book or that, this chapter or that, this verse or that, but the general principles that pervade the whole Book. Hence to reach the spirit it will not do to study isolated passages, or live in detached portions. We must compare “spiritual things with spiritual,” and, by a wise and a just induction, reach its universal truths. Can you get botany from a few flowers, or astromony from a few stars, or geology from a few fossils ? No more can you get the spirit of Christianity from a few isolated texts. There must be (2) a practical sympathy with the spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christ is Christianity, and unless we have a practical sympathy with that spirit, we shall never understand it. We must have love to understand love. Those moral attributes of which we are utterly destitute, can never be appreciated by us. The faculty of interpreting the Bible is of the heart rather than the intellect. The unsophisticated heart sees truths in the light of the open day that are utterly concealed from carnal souls.

We may understand biblical literature and be ignorant of the Bible. We may be able verbal biblical expositors, acute reasoners on the doctrines, and eloquent discoursers on the great merits of the book, and yet no teachers. If we are mere intellectual teachers, we tread the cold fields of theory, not the realms of glowing love; and we never touch the path where the rose of Sharon blooms. We must be spiritual Christians to teach spiritual Christianity; Christianity must be in us, not merely as a system of ideas, but as a life, if we would extend its empire. “Great is the truth, and it will prevail," said Lord Bacon. This is often quoted on missionary platforms, and because Christianity is held to be true, men are urged to believe in its ultimate conquest of the world. But the aphorism requires qualification. The prevailing power of truth depends upon its meeting the antagonisi in its own form. If error existed merely in books, then by books truth would prevail ; or if in argument, then by arguments . might truth prevail ; but error is interwoven into our institutions, our habits, our every-day life, our very souls; and

ruth therefore, in merely book or speech, will never conquer it; it must come out in the form in which Jesus and his disciples brought it out-not in the "letter," but in the “spirit."


First: The result of the technical ministry of Christianity. It killeth.(1.) The verbalist " kills." The man who is perplexing his readers with refined criticisms, or dazzling them with rhetorical language, or 'tying them down to the mere verbalism of Scripture, is killing his hearers. The sentence of Hobbes is become proverbial : “ Words are the counters of wise men, but the money of fools.". Fools take words not as the representatives of worth, but as worth, as money itself. In the religious world there are worils such as

"justification," "sanctification," "election," sadoption," which the masses of Gospel hearers adopt as precious things, whilst they are utterly ignorant, and, therefore, unappreciative, of the divine realities they are intended to represent. Words in religion, when they are taken for things, kill inquiry, freedom, sensibility, earnestness, enthusiasm, moral manhood. It was said by Burke, “ That no man comprehends less of the majesty of the English constitution than the Nisi-Prius lawyer, who is always dealing with the technicalities and precedents.” As truly we may say, that no man understands less of the grand spirit of the Gospel than he who is constantly dealing with the verbalities of religion,

(2.) The theorist kills. The man who is preaching his own little system of theology, in the place of the free Gospel of God, is killing souls. The Jews formulated a theory of the Messiah. In their theory He was to appear in such a form, and He was to do such a work, and He was to reach such a destiny. Their theory, which was derived from the Scriptures, as men now derive their theology, killed them, He came, He did not answer to their theory; they held to their theory, rejected Him, and were damned. They were killed. Souls cannot feed upon our dogmas. There are those who hold four or five points," which they call the doctrine of grace, and preach as the full Gospel of God. The teachers who do not ring those out in every discourse, they denounce as not preaching a full Gospel. Under the dogmas of these men souls are starved. The smallest seed you plant in your garden requires all the elements of nature to feed on, and grow to perfection. The gases of the soil, the flowing atmosphere, the gentle dews, the copious showers, the shadow of evening, and the rays of noon, all must minister to it ere it can reach perfection; and can souls live and grow on the few dogmas of an antiquated creed ? Never. Souls must have the “unsearchable riches" of truth, if they are to reach maturation.

Thirdly : The Ritualist kills. He who exalts even the lawful rites of the Gospel, such as Baptism and the Lord's Supper, to say nothing of unauthorised, and in some cases absurd, rites and observances, kills souls. The ceremonial Church has ever been a dead Church, Letter teaching" then, including the verbal, the theoretic, and the ritualistic, kills souls. It reduced the Jewish people to a “valley of dry bones.” It entombed the soul of Europe during the centuries of Papal sway.

Secondly : The result of the spiritual ministry of Christianity. It giveth life." “ It is the Spirit," said Christ, “ that quickeneth ; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." He who in his teaching and in his life brings out most of the benign, hallowing, loving, soul-quickening, and soul-ennobling spirit of the Gospel, will be most successful, under God,

giving life to souls. His ministry will be like the breath of spring, quickening all its touches into life. a ministry was that of Peter's on the day of Pentecost. Words, theories, rites, to him were nothing. Divine facts and their spirit were the all in all of his discourse, and dead souls bounded into life as he spoke their graves were opened, and those who slept arose and entered the holy city of truth.

Brothers, how are you dealing with Christianity? Are you living amidst its verbalisin? Its literature is beautiful; but if you remain there it will kill you. Are you living amidst its theology? Its theology is sublime ; but if you remain there it will kill you. Are you living amidst its ritualism? Its rites are few and simple ; but if you remain in them they will kill you. “The flesh profiteth nothing, the spirit giveth life.” “Circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth nothing, but a new creature in Christ Jesus.” How little of this soul-life we have in our congregations! Creedlife, sect-life, church-life we have, but this is not soul-life the life of holy love, of independent action, of earnest inquiry, of spiritual freedom and enthusiastic devotion to all that is Christ-like and divine. A "letter" ministry of Christianity is the death of souls.

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