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*' Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty; not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but, by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." — 2 Cor. iv. 1, 2. To manifest God's truth to man, is the grand business of the preacher. He is God's advocate and pleader with the human heart. Technical theology may be a profession ; preaching is not. It is a Divine office, for which he only is qualified who has the unction of the Holy Ghost. All mere professions contract and dwarf the man; preaching expands him to the utmost capacity of his nature. The preacher is par eminence among men the lover of humanity. The ruling passion of his soul is benevolence. His life has but one purpose — to do men good. The meditations of his calmest moments, the gathering and glow of his loftiest powers, and the agony of his spiritual wrestlings, all culminate in the practical question, " How shall I save and bless my kind? " While his people think of self, he thinks of them. While they scheme and plan for personal aggrandizement, in a narrow and temporal sphere, he schemes and plans for their larger development and higher
CHRIST'S AMBASSADORS. 241 destiny. He studies for means of influence and pulses of power, that shall hallow and redeem them ; that shall elevate, and deepen, and .broaden, and consecrate their lives. He sees, in every congregation — he meets, in every pastoral walk — men who need but the inspiration of a pure and great purpose, to make them first-rate social powers. And now they are nothing. The community does not feel them ; is not the better for their living in it. These he would awake, arouse, inform, and render his coadjutors in the redemption of the degraded masses. To accomplish all this, he has but a single means : by manifestation of the truth commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. By the corruption of the many, and the indifference and selfishness of the better few, we may estimate the greatness of his task, and form some conception of the courage and constancy required to enable him to enter upon such a work, and prosecute it to the end of life. He faints not, because, first, there is committed to him. Divinely, a dispensation of the Gospel, for which he will be held responsible in the day of judgment, and because, secondly, ho has received mercy. one but the man who has escaped a peril, can properly appreciate its imminency. It was in this spirit that Paul termed himself "the chief of sinners," and avowed that he only received mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief. He saw not, otherwise, how God could have pardoned him. The preacher has received mercy, feek its magnitude, and trembles 16
242 CHRIST'S AMBASSADORS. lest others should not receive it. The memory of his own pardon melts his heart to sympathy with all the unpardoned of earth. Who feels for the wretch upon the scaffold, like one who has himself been there, and was snatched, by executive clemency, from the very jaws of death? Therefore, in discouragement, destitution, and darkness ; in affliction, persecution, and death, the true preacher of the Gospel, forgetful alike of self and suffering, and stirred by the impulse of a boundless and quenchless sympathy, continues to address, to those who will not heed, exhortation, warning, and appeal, till his voice grows husky with the damps of death, and sounds as from afar, like the faint cries of one borne to a bitter doom. Such a man, when he appears to plead the cause of God and humanity, stands forth with clean hands and a pure heart. He has " renounced the hidden things of shame ; " bidden them an eternal farewell. He is divorced from Sin, and loathes her very memory. o secret guilt corrodes his bosom, and turns his pubUc sacrifice into profanation and hypocrisy. He cannot walk in craftiness, nor handle the Word of God deceitfully. He dares not preach falsely, for doctrines, the commandments of men. o power can awe, no wealth can buy, no pleasure allure his testimony from the truth. Only by manifestation of the truth, will he commend him-
self to every man's conscience. or wiU he preach himself. Worldly ambition — the ambition to rise, to shine, to attract and dazzle crowds, that he may win a name and
CHRISTS AMBASSADORS. 248 reputation as a popular preacher — has no place m his heart. ot for the world, in immortal fee, would he incur the guilt of decking with the flowers of his oratory, and lighting with the glow of his eloquence the passage of the human myriads down to heU. The voice of popular applause has no melody for his ear. He would rather hear the publican's cry, ** God be merciful to me a sinner." He does not wish to hear it said that he has preached a fine or great sermon ; or that he is able to do this ; or that he is the greatest preacher of his town, or city, or neighborhood. But he does wish to hear it said that, under the influence of his preaching, men repent, sinners are converted from the error of their way, the Church is btplt up, and God's great name glorified. o sect*-— no array of sectarian advantages or Church preferments — can buy this man. He is not for sale. And he belongs to none. He is the property of no denomination. His soul is catholic with the kiss of God, and scorns a meaner caress. With that religious people whose doctrines and usages
most nearly accord with his own convictions of truth and propriety, will he fix his spiritual home ; and there, sharing the winter of their adversity as calmly as the summer of their prosperity, will he live and die, by manifestation of the truth, commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Is there question of the peculiar truth which the preacher should manifest? The response is broad as the universe: it is literally all truth.
244 CHBIST'S AMBASSADORS. othing can come amiss to him, in his high vocation. He, of all men, may safely "intermeddle with all knowledge." All history, science, art, literature, philosophy; the economy of material and practical life; the mysteries of trade; the theory of all governments and all professions, may swell the volume and increase the power of his grand and comprehensive common sense. He cannot know too much. He cannot manifest too much truth. All truth, like all Scripture, is given by inspiration of God ; and is profitable for illustraticHi, " for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." But, while he may and should acquire and use all knowledge, in furtherance of his ministry — caring nothing for the reproofs of narrow and bigoted men who, not
able themselves, on accoimt of ignorance and mental barrenness, to invest the Truth with power and beauty and bring her crowned and sceptred into the presence of the multitude, that they may fall down and worship her, would therefore abase all presentations of the Gospel to their own dry, technical, and uninteresting standard — still, the first great object of his life and labors must be, the manifestation of the principles of the Divine government, as they are revealed in the Plan, of Salvation. These principles, albeit they touch, in their relations, all men, all spirits, and all things, are yet essentially but two : Divine goodness and Divine justice. But the goodness is higher than heaven ; the justice deeper than hell. And from those far heights and infinite
CHRIST»S AMBASSADORS. 245 depths, as from all the universe between, must the daring and adventurous soul of the preacher bring proofs that Divine goodness is expressed in mercy and salvation to man, and Divine justice finds voice in the condemnation and punishment of man ; and that both are vindicated, beyond question or cavil, by the immutable law of right. or must he fear oi* shun to scrutinize, with all kindly severity, the conduct of men. But, as the insight cannot be too sharp, — since men's actions
must pass a sterner test, — so the temper cannot be too tender and loving ; for the voice of harsh and indiscriminate censure cures no faults. While, therefore, the preacher must not fail to see and expose, with vigilant eye and unsparing hand, the inconsistencies and sins of professors of religion and the crimes and vices of the world, he should deal with both in a spirit of a gentle and sorrowful kindness, rather than in that of indignant and unsympathizing reprehension. But especially, he must come to men with light for all the dark and intricate problems of practical religious life. And to do this, he must have light in himself. He must himself have suffered and struggled with the dark fiends of despondency ; he must himself have doubted and asked wild questions at the universe ; he must have held his own soul in the torturing fires of intense thought, patient of anguish, and defying' madness, until, from forth the imminent Death, leaped to his rescue the live Safety. There is an account, in Croley's ** Salathiel," of
246 CHRISPS AMBASSADORS. a company of men, imprisoned in a subterranean chamber of one of Herod's palaces, in the centre of which stood a vast, frowning, and inscrutable
image. Suddenly, a bright and intense flame leaped up around this object, and grew every moment hotter and fiercer, so that they were compelled to retire to the farthest verge of the apartment. And now they made the appalling discovery that the floor, the walls, the ceiling, were all metallic; and that the central fire was rapidly heating everything around them, to a degree which they might not long endure and live. A speedy and miserable death seemed inevitable to all ; when one, with the mad courage of despair, ran and leaped into the central flame 1 There was a moment's shuddering cry — then silence ; and out of the silence a voice — the voice of their rash comrade, shouting, "Here is safety — life! follow me I " and all obeyed, and were saved. The world is that apartment. Men are the sad company who cannot get out of it. The great, dim image of moral and spiritual Mystery stands in the midst of it. A flame of fierce destruction rages around it, and sends its lurid influence to the farthest waU; so that death is imminent everywhere; but one man bounds from the throng, dares the fiery doom, and finds light and life immortal where he only looked for death, and shouts to the perishing, " Lo here is safety 1 peace 1 rest I come here I " That man is the true preacher. Life shall furnish forth no dark Mystery, himg with the insignia of superstition, and devil-guarded
CHRIST'S AMBASSADQBS. 247 with fire, through which his daring soul will not pierce, that he may speak words of comfort and hope to them that are ready to perish. Of Divine omniscience and human freedom; of the dark ways of Providence ; of life and death ; of heaven and hell, — he shall give you a reason for the faith that is in him, that will pour a flood of cheerful light upon the gloomy difficulties of every candid and able thinker. Deep down into the nether darkness will he plunge, and patiently search for Truth among the charred and blackened heaps of the infernal; through the smoke and fumes of the pit ; on to the central regions of the lost; where broods i^e spirit of final desolation ; where dwell the forms that wear the scars of conflict with the Eternal : there, if she sit weeping and widowed of Joy, will he find, embrace, and bring her home to abide with him forever. High up into the intolerable light of glory will he climb, and search for Truth among the diamond hills of the supernal ; through the flash and gorgeousness of the celestial city; on to the throne of the Supreme; where reigns the spirit of everlasting joy; where dwell ihe eldest-bom of heaven : there, if she sit throned and crowned, and wedded to Rapture, will he find, embrace, and bring her to his soul's house, to comfort and abide forever with her sad, weeping sister. Far out on the verge of the infinite will he stand, and- holding on by the Cross, lean over the abyss in search of Truth ; and catching but a glimpse of her glorious garments, he will grasp and draw her to him-
248 CHRIST'S AMBASSADOBS. self, and embrace and hide her in his heart ; and there, with her sisters twain, the sad and the happy Truth, the infinite Truth shall dwell forever, a holy and blessed trinity. And this is that truth, by manifestation of which the preacher commends himself to every man's conscience. For the manner of this manifestation of truth, it must be, first, by lucid exposition. o mere array of words, figures, and texts will suffice. The preacher who has some distinct truth to impart must, in the first place, know what it is himself. He must see it clearly, in all its relations. His mind must interpenetrate its essential nature. This he must make plain to others. As he advances in exposition, he must leave nothing obscure, and abandon nothing as inexplicable. The highest reason in his audience must be satisfied. And having first made plain the theory of the truth, he must state, with unshrinking boldness, its practical application. Let it hurt or condemn whomsoever it will, though it be his best friend and most ardent supporter, he must fairly and distinctly say so : so distinctly that misapprehension is impossible. This boldnes3 may startle some; may cost him the esteem and friendship of others ; but if he be a true preacher, these things will weigh with him just nothing : he will pass right on to his great object. And finally, gathering up the forces of the truth, as a chieftain in a hard-fought field, resolved on victory or death, collects the shattered squadrons of his army, he hurls them in one resistless and overwhelming
CHRIST'S AMBASSADORS. 249 charge, upon the hearts and consciences of his hearers. Thus he commends himself to. every man's conscience. This self-commendation of the preacher to the consciences of his hearers, by the manifestation of the truth, is a simple and uniform effect, in consequence of the natural relation between truth and conscience. They are near akin. Truth is God's utterance ; and Conscience, uncorrupted, is God's angel watcher in man's soul. Corrupted, she stands there, it is true, as the Devil's sentinel fiend. But in either case she hears and acknowledges Truth ; because Truth is God's voice, at which even the devils tremble. Conscience, hearing it, rejoices or fears, according as she is pure or corrupt. But even in the worst hearts, she is not so far fallen — she never can so far fall — as not to recognize and feel the truth, when she hears it, even if she be not free to consent to it. For sometimes, when the banner of Truth is descried approaching that frowning citadel of sin — the depraved and wicked heart of man — and Conscience begins to tremble and cry out, she is gagged and bound by the master fiend, lest her cries and struggles should betray the weakness of the place. To comfort and encourage him, then,
the preacher may feel sure that he has this strong ally in every hostile sonl. Conscience is of his party. She accepts and acknowledges, at once, the matter of all presented truth ; its fact, its reason, and its right. Besides, her first and strongest nature is always in sympathy with the
250 CHBISrS AHBASSADOBS. spirit of the true preacher. She feels his sincerity, throbs and bums responsive to his earnestness, and trembles at his power. Thus he commends himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. *'iw the sight of Q-od,^^ This is the saddest, sweetest, strongest, and most solemn thought in in the whole text. How it broadens the theatre of the preacher's labors. It is no longer a narrow house, a diminutive pulpit and a handful of auditors. The ceiling is removed, and the waUs are leveled, at the coming of the Mighty One. In the grand hush of the soul's silence, lo. He comes I and in his train are Life, Death, Time, Eternity, and all the Infinite I It is no IcHiger a question of you and ma .God judges between us, even in this primary court of Conscience, and makes up the record upon which we shall pass to the final awards of the Great Assize. Is my soul pure? Is your heart penitent ? This is what He is about
to write down upon the eternal tablets. Haste with your answer I Take the gag from the mouth of Conscience, and let her speak ; and remember that God reads it, or ere her bruised and bleeding lips can syllable the sad response. Thus, by manifestation of the truth, we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
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