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The religion, that was appointed in the wisdom of God to be spread by the foolishness of preaching, rose during the three first centuries against the combined opposition of the world. It swam in the blood of its own victims, was rooted in the soil its own veins had contributed to moisten and enrich; overturned kingdoms, and gathered strength in a war of extermination raised against it.
When, under the corruptions of “the man of sin,” truth had form. ed an unholy alliance, and an attempt was made to unite the spiritual kingdom of Christ under one head with the temporal power, and the sword was drawn against infidelity, and the wisdom of this world was substituted for the wisdom of God, it was the foolishness of preaching that, in the simple exhibition of truth, awoke a slumbering and enslaved world, shook the throne of the pope, disrobed the ecclesiastical tyrant, and confined the power of the church to the foolishness of preaching—all the power we ask, the only tyranny which infidels fear, the authority of truth, freely operating on minds that are free.
By a provision made in the institution of the gospel ministry, the simple truth is repeated in the ears of the people. It is therefore heard, enforced, on the conscience, does its office. And it cannot be hindered. Infidelity cannot hinder it. Men will go to hear it. Neither scoffs nor sneers, ridicule nor argument, allurements nor threats, persecutions nor reasonings, nor philosophy, can influence or deter men from going to hear the TRUTH, It may condemn, but that very sentence will bring them again. Consciences awakened cannot be diverted. Effectually roused, nothing but the gospel can soothe the irritation, or draw the arrows which a sense of guilt has implanted. They lie deep cen. tred in the soul, and can only be extracted with the poison of sin.
Do you then seek for the wisdom of God in the efficiency of preaching? See it in the preaching of Peter in the day of Pentecost, and at the beautiful gate of the temple-of Paul at the judgment seat of Felix -of the Apostles in the first ages of Christianity-of the reformers against the corruptions of Rome of the ministry of our own day of revivals, and of missions. .
It is the influence of preaching in an enlightend age, which has brought up the church to its present standard of dignity, purity and influence. And who, but infidels and wicked men, fears the influence of a stated ministry, when thus exerted? It is this precise state of things that infidels fear—the influence of an enlightened ministry on an enlightened public. Then truth is efficient, and those, who bear it have their proper influence. Rather than this, the subtle infidel would prefer the superstitions of the dark age, the whinings of an ignorant priesthood, the ravings of the wildest fanaticism-any thing, that can bring religion into contempt, any thing but the fair influence of truth intelligently preached and comprehended.
2. In its sanctifying influence. The want of a sanctifying power has been fully proved on all the systems of religion, which the wisdom of this world has originated. Without this power, systems and theories are but at best the body without a soul, which soon putrefies,
spreading disease and death. It belongs to the Christian religion alone to exert a sanctifying power on its subjects, controlling the passions, chastening and directing the affections by a principle seated in the heart, and operative to a change of the whole nature. All its practical proofs correspond with the peculiarity of its theory—“ it works by love, purifies the heart, and brings forth good fruits.”
3. In its saving power. It hath pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. The result is salvation.
It saves men, not only from the dominion of their passions, from the pollutions of sin, from their own lusts, from hatred, malice, and revenge, from bigotry, superstition, and idolatry, from infidelity and atheism, from mental and moral derangement, madness and despair—but it saves from the consequences of sin, from the sentence of violated law, from the eternal wrath of God. By a retrospective action, it delivers from past guilt, relieves the burdened conscience, and by the application of divine wisdom to a work of mercy, effaces in effect the accumulated guilt from the record of the sinner's life. Here is a salvation, which reaches the extremity of the sinner's case. It reinstates him in the blessings of a holy nature, and adds some joys unknown in paradise or heaven; for,
“ Never did angels taste above,
It will be no impeachment of the wisdom of God, that all men are not saved by the gospel scheme, nor persuaded to embrace its provisions by the appointed ministry. We are called to contemplate a multitude, which no man can number, saved by this instrumentality, “ through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth;” while other multitudes are lost through unbelief and the love of sin, in despite of mercy provided and pardon offered. All the attributes of God are illustrated in glorious harmony. “ Justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne,” in the infliction of eternal pains on the impenitent, while
and truth before his face" and harmoni. ously shine from the cross of Christ. If sinners are not saved by mercy, while the truth of God is vindicated at the cross, they are left in righteous judgment under the operation of the law, to the vindication of divine justice.
Here then we see an exhibition of the wisdom of God. That the world by wisdom knew not God, is manifest from the practices to which the light and knowledge of their own minds led them, and from the utter inability of every scheme of religion they devised to purify the moral fountain and correct the life. When this was fairly proved and candidly confessed, a plan is proposed in divine wisdom to save men from the polluting practices of sin, and prepare them in the temper of their minds for a blessed immortality. Here we see an exhibition of the wisdom of God in the Christian religion. Compare its doctrines with those of all other moral codes. Look at their tendency
and uniform influence, their efficiency, their sanctifying and saving power. Consider the wisdom of God in commissioning an order or men, whose duty it is to preach these doctrines. The book cannot go out of print while it is thus commended to the attention of the world. It cannot be locked up in an unknown tongue. Preach it; and the people will possess it. See how it has been translated through the inAuence of these very men into an hundred languages. What a spirit of inquiry is awake. Instrumentally, this has been accomplished by “the foolishness of preaching.” Give us the word of God, is the cry of those who hear it preached. And this will be the demand; for it declares the “ love of God manifested toward 'us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Two important facts, elucidated by this subject, are worthy of ticular consideration. We see plainly the reason why good men love the Christian ministry; and also why infidels hate it.
First: Good men respect and love the ministry. The reason lies in the fact that they have been brought by the foolishness of preaching, to a knowledge of the truth, and felt the efficiency of the gospel in its sanctisying and saving power. They see the wisdom of God illus. trated in the ministry of reconciliation. The soul that feels this moral renovation is born in that Spirit of benevolence, which first procured and exerted a saving power; and the ministry is upheld and respected as the great instrumentality employed for accomplishing the work of human salvation. By the Christian ministry, the truth is preached, has its effect; the church is preserved in form, doctrine, and discipline; the Sabbath is sustained as a divine institution, public prayer is repeat. ed, the sacraments are administered, vice reproved, the consciences of men enlightened and quickened, and wicked men are made ashamed and afraid of sin.
Secondly, we see in this subject, why infidels and wicked men hate the ministry, and oppose the forms of worship: They are efficient. They are appointed in the wisdom of God, and adapted to promote the end of their appointment. Dispense with a gospel ministry, and the institution of religion would fall into disuse. The sacraments, having no administrators, would awaken in their solemn forms, no remembrances and obligations. The death of Christ, no longer set forth by symbols, would fail to make those deep impressions now effected by our sacramental service. The Sabbath, connected with no public in. struction and forms of worship, would be neglected and forgotten; and the church, without officers, without sacraments, without Sabbaths, without public prayer, would be just what infidel France made it, when by a legislative act, the Sabbath was abolished, and the government of God was formally renounced; just such as infidelity desires to see it, a ruin and a desolation, from which the foolishness of preaching, in its doctrines and forms, was designed in the wisdom of God to protect it.
Infidels and wicked men, therefore, hate the ministry, and most of all that ministry, which is the purest and most efficient. A ministry, which will turn out the flock to the undisturbed ravages of beasts of
prey will be suffered to go on unmolested—will even be caressed. An ignorant, or a compromising ministry will be premitted to live, “ like dumb dogs that cannot bark.” But let the truth be preached, and repeated, and insisted on, and proclaimed aloud, and be heard, and begin to produce its effect, and the alarm will be taken: These are dan. gerous men, it is declared, and their influence must be checked. Yet the infidel, who will let the pope sit quietly on his ecclesiastical throne, sealing up the Bible, and teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” would arm the country against a clergy, who laboriously study the doctrines of the cross, seeking and possessing no means of influence but that of the truth, honestly preached, and left to do its own work in the hearts of sinners.
What are the clergy of this country, that they should be feared? They are not ambitious men; for here is an effectual divorce of church and state-so effectual, that it is a disgrace for a minister of the gospel to seek, or exercise any political office. They are not avaricious; for the road to wealth lies altogether in the other profesions. They cannot seek their ease; for the office is necessarily a laborious one. They can be feared only for their moral influence; and this can proceed only from the purity of their lives and the truth of their doctrines, and be commensurate with them. And who is he, who fears such men in such a cause? Who is afraid of power thus exercised? Who would abridge, or annihilate that power? None but the man, who would enslave the mind.
Finally, the pulpit is the best defence of public morals, a radiating point of moral light, influence, and power; and who would tear it down, or silence the voice that repeats the messages of God from it, seeks to close the flood-gates of mercy on the human family, and to extinguish on earth the light of eternal truth. When this is done, we may be again invited to cheer our dark and benighted souls by the few sparks, which philosophy kindled in the temples of paganism nearly three thousand years ago. We may be invited to possess and enjoy that liberty, which would subject the laws of God and of man to the revengeful and licentious heart, struggling in the darkness of its native de pravity, and in the violence of its ungoverned passions. We may be left also to prove what that liberty is which would destroy the Bible, and vote God out of his own dominions.
But this horrid blasphemy can never succeed. It shall die in the throes of its own maligant passion. The experiment has been tried, and the result is on record. It was tried in heaven, and the sinning angels, now devils, met their fate. It has been tried on earth. After abolishing the Sabbath, and dispensing with the ministry, France, by a solemn national act, tried the experiment to throw off the government of Almighty God. And what was the result? Why they could not keep their own heads on their shoulders. Their own swords leaped from their scabbards to avenge the insulted majesty of Heaven. Their madness vented itself in mutual slaughter. The hand of man was even turned against himself, and when no avenger of his infidelity
made haste, his own suicidal act executed the dreadful judgment on himself.
Attempts have been made to silence the ministry, and thereby prevent the promulgation of Heaven's law. And what has been the consequence? The blood of the martyrs has been, in every age, the seed of the church. Under the administration of the law of violence, “ little one has become a thousand and a small one a strong city.” The voice of truth, heard in the ministry of the gospel, cannot be silenced. Proceeding from the eternal throne of God, and proclaimed in virtue of a divine purpose and decree, it can be superseded only by the last trumpet, which calls sinners to final judgment. ay we regard its admonitions now, that we may rejoice in its doctrines, when “ shall rise to the resurrection of life, and some to the resurrection of damnation.”