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and defective, which prevent the pouring out of the Spirit on our congregations.
The apostle said to Timothy, "Take heed to thyself, and to the doctrine; continue in them, "for in so doing thou shall both save thyself, and "them that hear thee." The success, therefore, of our labours has a near connexion with our doctrine and our conduct: but still that success must be the effect of "the pouring out of the Holy "Spirit;" more or less abundantly.
The following reasons, among many others, were assigned for the disproportionate success of ministers in this present day; especially of those in the established church; and these hints may perhaps excite the attention of others to the subject; which may prove of very great and happy consequence. For, if the reasons be clearly assigned, it will not be so difficult to discover the means which we ought to use, in order to obtain a fuller blessing.
1. We may first mention a deficiency in many preachers, in laying open the holy law of God, in its spirituality, extent, excellency, and sanction; as "the ministry of condemnation and "death;" and rather leading their hearers, to judge of their character and conduct by other and far inferior rules than that of "loving God "with all the heart," and loving "all men as "themselves;" under penalty of final condemnation, except as saved by the blessed gospel of Christ. "The whole need not a physician.' They who think themselves whole, or but little diseased, so that they can heal themselves, will, in their own view, be as if really whole. No
argument, persuasion, or eloquence can make the loving Saviour, and his humbling holy salvation precious to the unhumbled heart. "By "the law is the knowledge of sin :" and the Holy Spirit must "convince of sin," before Christ will become glorious in the eyes, and precious to the souls of men.
2. The cautious, indirect, and obscure way, in which the great doctrine of "Christ crucified," is brought forward, by many who are regarded as preachers of the gospel, may be considered as a reason why no more abundant blessing is vouchsafed. "The preaching of the cross is "the power of God to salvation." If men preach other doctrines, they may render them successful, if they can, by their own energy: but the Holy Spirit will not greatly bless those instructions, of which Christ crucified is not the evident and prominent centre, and the main scope. If therefore salvation by grace; the person, righteousness, and atonement of Emmanuel; justification by faith; access to the mercy seat, only through the mediation of Christ; be but sparingly, and indecisively mentioned, the offence of the cross, may indeed be avoided, but the blessing will be sparingly imparted, if imparted at all.
3. The person, office, and work of the Holy Spirit, it is presumed, are too indistinctly and slightly insisted on by many who, in other respects, preach the gospel: and if we do not honour the Holy Spirit in our ministrations, he will not greatly honour our labours. Regeneration, conversion, a new creation unto holiness by the power
of the loving and gracious Spirit of God; and the need, the nature, and the effects of this new creation, in man's humiliation, repentance, faith in Christ, and love to him, to Christians, and to all men, as distinguishing true believers from all formalists; must be greatly, frequently, and earnestly inculcated, and brought to the heart and conscience by energetic application, if we would be honoured with much success. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit has been more ridiculed, reviled, and perverted, than perhaps any other part of Christianity: and, if, either for fear of sharing the reproach, or from any other wrong motive, or even from inattention, we decline, or neglect to bring it forward in its full proportion and prominency, it may be expected, that the blessing, which can be given by his agency alone, will be in great measure withheld. Many who are very decided on the doctrine of the cross, and of justification by faith alone, are not proportionably so in this respect.
4. There is often a lamentable deficiency, in many who preach the great doctrines of the gospel, in shewing the nature and effects of true and living faith; as distinguished from notional faith, and of inculcating every part of the Christian temper and conduct, in a particular manner, and from evangelical principles; which may be considered as preventing the success of the word. It is generally supposed by preachers of the gospel, that their hearers understand, without much instruction, what it is to believe; and, taking this for granted, the subject is seldom fully and particularly explained. Yet few even of those
who regularly hear evangelical preaching of the best kind are capable, if interrogated, of giving an intelligent account of the nature of true faith; what it credits, and on what grounds; and how it may be distinguished from dead faith of every description, by its nature and effects. In like manner, with respect to practical subjects, the grand outline may be easily known; but it is the ramification of every subject respecting the Christian temper and conduct, and descending to particulars, as distinguishing the genuine from the counterfeit, that comes home to men's bosoms, and makes conscience challenge them, and as it were say to each person, "Thou art the man!" The want of this particularity, this ramification this pursuing of the subject in all its bearings, is at least a defect in the use of the means on which the pouring out of the Spirit may be scripturally expected.
5. Obscurity is another reason why so little good is done in many places. Not so much the obscurity which arises from incompetency; but that which is the effect of fastidiousness, rendering many averse to speak plain truth in plain language. It is not meant, that the language should be coarse, colloquial, or disgusting: let it be according to the simple, unaffected, dignified style of scripture. But an affectation, real or apparent, of speaking common truths in an uncommon manner, of modernizing the scriptural ideas, and substituting more classical phrases in the place of the scriptural language, and that of our excellent translation; the attempt to deliver the doctrine of the cross in such elegant phrases
as to render it inoffensive; shall I say, the attempt even to train up a company of ministers, to whom ungodly men shall have less objection than to their plain-speaking predecessors; has, it may be seriously apprehended, a most lamentable effect in forming inefficient preachers. A man, well acquainted with religious discussions, will spell out the meaning of these elegant lucubrations; but they are often as nearly unintelligible to a large proportion of most congregations, as so many sentences of Greek or Latin would be. I own that, though not a novice in these studies, I have often been forced to read some paragraphs in these elegant evangelizers three or four times over, before I could come at the idea which they were intended to convey. The Apostle says, "I "had rather speak five words with my under"standing, that by my voice I might teach others 66 also, than ten thousand words in an unknown "tongue." I had rather be fully understood by ten, than admired by ten thousand. If our words be not understood, it is of no consequence in what language they are spoken; and we cannot expect that the Holy Spirit will give a blessing on unintelligible language: I mean unintelligible to the many; though a few of superior attainments, or refinement, may admire them; and genteel people, who are not very friendly to the gospel, may endure it when thus preached.
'I cannot forbear telling the world,' says Dr. John Edwards, that, in my opinion, the great work of the pulpit begins to decay. Fineness of expressions and elaborate composures have thrust out the main design of appearing there. Preaching