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AT THE ORDINATION OF THE REV. JOHN EMERY ABBOT.
COLOSSIANS I. 28.
"WHOM WE PREACH, WARNING EVERY MAN, AND TEACHING EVERY MAN IN
ALL WISDOM, THAT WE MAY PRESENT EVERY MAN PERFECT IN CHRIST JESUS.'
In the verses immediately preceding the text, we find the apostle enlarging with his usual zeal and earnestness on a subject peculiarly dear to him ; on the glorious mystery of God, or in other words, on the great purpose of God, which had been kept secret from ages, to make the Gentile world partakers, through faith, of the blessings of the long promised Messiah. “Christ, the hope of glory to the Gentiles,' was the theme, on which Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, delighted to expatiate. Having spoken of Jesus in this character, he immediately adds, · Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.'
On the present occasion, which invites us to consider the design and duties of the christian ministry, I have thought that these words would guide us to many appropriate and useful reflections. They teach us what the apostle preached ; • We preach Christ.' They teach us the end or object for which he thus preached ; • That
we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.' Following this natural order, I shall first consider what is intended by preaching Christ. I shall then endeavour to illustrate and recommend the end or object for which Christ is to be preached ; and I shall conclude with some remarks on the methods by which this end is to be accomplished. In discussing these topics, on, which a variety of sentiment is known to exist, I shall necessarily dissent from some of the views which are cherished by particular classes of Christians. But the frank expression of opinion ought not to be construed into any want of affection or esteem for those from whom I differ.
I. What are we to understand by “preaching Christ?' This subject is the more interesting and important, because, I fear, it has often been misunderstood. Many persons imagine, that Christ is never preached, unless his name is continually repeated and his character continually kept in view. This is an error, and should be exposed. Preaching Christ, then, does not consist in making Christ perpetually the subject of discourse, but in inculcating on his authority the religion which he taught. Jesus came to be the light and teacher of the world ; and in this sublime and benevolent character he unfolded many truths relating to the Universal Father, to his own character, to the condition, duties, and prospects of mankind, to the perfection and true happiness of the human soul, to a future state of retribution, to the terms of forgiveness, to the means of virtue, and of everlasting life. Now whenever we teach, on the authority of Jesus, any doctrine or precept included in this extensive system, we preach Christ. When for instance we inculcate on his authority the duties of forgiving enemies, of denying ourselves, of hungering
after righteousness, we preach Christ' as truly as when we describe his passion on the cross, or the purpose and the importance of his sufferings.
By the word • Christ' in the text and in many other places, we are to understand his religion rather than his person. Among the Jews nothing was more common than to give the name of a religious teacher to the system of truth which he taught. We see this continually exemplified in the New Testament. Thus it is said of the Jews, · They have Moses and the prophets.' What is meant by this ? that they had Moses residing in person among them ? Certainly not; but that they had bis
ti law, his religion. Jesus says, “I came not to destroy the prophets.' What did he mean? that he had not come to slay or destroy the prophets who had died ages before his birth? Certainly not; he only intended that his doctrines were suited to confirm, not to invalidate, the writings of these holy men. According to the same form of speech Stephen was accused of blasphemy against Moses, because some of his remarks were construed into a reproach on the law of Moses. These passages are sufficient to show us that a religion was often called by the name of its teacher; and conformably to this usage, when Paul says, 'We preach Christ, ' we ought to understand him as affirming, that he preached the whole system of doctrines and duties which Christ taught, whether they related to Jesus himself, or to any other subject.
But there is one passage more decisive on this point than any which I have adduced. In the Acts of the Apostles,* James says, "Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogue every sabbath day. Here we find the apostle
* Acts xv. 21.
declaring that in every city there were men who preached Moses; and we are told in what this preaching consisted ; · Moses is read in the synagogue every sabbath day.' No one, acquainted with the ancient services of the synagogue, can suppose, for a moment, that the character and offices of Moses were the themes of the Jewish teachers every sabbath, and that they preached nothing else. It was their custom to read the books of the law in course, and to offer comments upon obscure or important passages. In many parts of these books the name of Moses is not mentioned. We have whole chapters about the tabernacle, and about the rites of cleansing from the leprosy. But according to James, when these portions were read and explained, Moses was preached; not because his character was the subject, but because the instructions contained in these chapters were a part of the religion which he was appointed to communicate to the children of Israel. The name of the teacher was given to his doctrine. This form of speech was not peculiar to the Jews; all nations have probably adopted it. At the present day, nothing is more common than to hear, that Locke, or Newton, or some other distinguished philosopher, is published, or taught; not that his personal character and history are made public, but his system of doctrines. In the same way Christ is preached, published, proclaimed, when his instructions are delivered, although these instructions may relate to other topics beside his own offices and character.
I hope I shall not be misunderstood in the remarks which I have now made. Do not imagine, that I would exclude from the pulpit, discourses on the excellence of Jesus Christ. The truths which relate to Jesus himself are among the most important which the gospel reveals.
The relations which Jesus Christ sustains to the world are so important and so tender; the concern which he has expressed in human salvation so strong and disinterested; the blessings of pardon and immortal life which he brings, so undeserved and unbounded ; his character is such a union of moral beauty and grandeur ; his example is at once so pure and so persuasive; the events of his life, his miracles, his sufferings, his resurrection and ascension, and his offices of intercessor and judge are so strengthening to faith, hope, and charity, that his ministers should dwell on his name with affectionate veneration, and should delight to exhibit him to the gratitude, love, imitation, and confidence of mankind.
But whilst the christian minister is often to insist on the life, the character, the offices, and the benefits of Jesus Christ, let him 'not imagine that he is preaching Christ, only when these are his themes. If he confine himself to these, he will not in the full sense of the word preach Christ; for this is to preach the whole religion of Jesus ; and this religion is of vast extent. It regards man in his diversified and ever multiplying relations to his Creator and to his fellow creatures, to the present state and to all future ages. Its aim is, to instruct and quicken us to cultivate an enlarged virtue ; to cultivate our whole intellectual and moral nature. It collects and offers motives to piety from the past and from the future, from heaven and hell, from nature and experience, from human example, and from the imitable excellences of God, from the world without and the world within us. The gospel of Christ is indeed an inexhaustible treasury of moral and religious truth. Jesus, the first and best of evangelical teachers, did not confine himself to a few topics, but manifested himself to be the wisdom of God by the richness and variety