Charles Pettit McIlvaine.

The work of preaching Christ : a charge, delivered to the clergy of the Diocese of Ohio, at its forty-sixth annual convention, in St. Paul's Church, Akron, on the 3d of June, 1863 online

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Online LibraryCharles Pettit McIlvaineThe work of preaching Christ : a charge, delivered to the clergy of the Diocese of Ohio, at its forty-sixth annual convention, in St. Paul's Church, Akron, on the 3d of June, 1863 → online text (page 1 of 4)
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'§, ^itarjie:





Second Edition.


1 864.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864,


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the

Bouthern District of New York.


printer anU 5tfrcotaper,
No. 20 NoETH William St.


To THE Clergy of the Diocese of Ohio :

Brethren, — It is a long time since I addressed
you in the form of a Charge. Various have been
the causes ; the chief of them, as you well know,
having been connected with the state of my health.
Addressing you again in that mode, and with exclu-
sive reference to matters peculiar to our office as
Ministers of Christ, realizing how near my time is
to lay it down, I choose a subject with which a
Bishop may well desire to close his ministry ; which
indeed all our work should be identified with, and
which, I am thankful to say, has been obtaining, ever
since mine began, a deeper and stronger possession
of my mind, my afi'ections, and my ministry — I mean
the work of preadnng Christy according to the Scrip-
tures, and the example of the Apostles.

" Go preach the Gospel," were the words of our



Lord to liis Apostles, which conveyed to them and
to us the whole weight and substance of the com-
mission of his Ministers and Ambassadors. It was
the unquestioning obedience of a simple and unhesi-
tating faith to that one command, animated by an
unquenchable love to its divine Author and to the
souls he died to save, enlightened by the teaching
and made mighty by the power of the Holy Ghost,
tliat constituted all the vigour and efficacy of the
ministry of the Apostles. It was thus that their
weapons of warfare became " mighty through God,"
and achieved those stupendous victories of the truth
over " the spirit that ruleth in the children of diso-
bedience," which the weaker faith and more timid
obedience of the Church in later days have so poorly
imitated. And, as in the beginning, so also in all
times of the Christian dispensation, it has pleased
God that sinners shall be brought " into captivity to
tlie obedience of Christ" and made partakers of his
salvation, by the obedience of his ministers to that
one original charge and command — ^^ preach the
Gospel^ Faith by hearing ; Gospel faith, by hear-
ing Gospel truth ; and such hearing, by the preach-
ing of the word of God, is His standing rule accord-


ing to which He bestows His Spirit for the convic-
tion, conversion, and sanctification of men.

But it is manifest from the Scriptures that the
Apostles identified the Gospel ivith Christ ; so that,
in their view and practice, to preach the Gospel was
neither more nor less than to preach Christ. The
record which, in a few words, describes their minis-
try is that, " daily in the temple and in every house,
they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
St. Paul to tlie Eomans defines the whole Gospel by
saying that it is " concerning- Jesus Christ."- The
employment of his two years' imprisonment at Rome
was all comprehended in " teaching those things
which concern the Lord Jesus." And his whole
ministry was given unto him, he testifies, that he
" might preach the unsearchable riches of Christ."
As he could say, " For me to live is Christ ;" so for
him to preach was Christ. To him Christ and the
Gospel were one.

But we must here note the chief feature in their
preaching of Christ. They omitted nothing pertain-
ing to him ; but there was one thing on which, more
than anything else, they very particularly and em-

* Rom. i. 3.


pliatically dwelled. They took great pains to set
forth the Lord Jesus in all that he was and is, in
person and office, as once on earth and now in
heaven, his preexistent glory with the Father, his
incarnation and humiliation in our nature, his death,
resurrection, and intercession ; all his love, all his
promises, all his commandments ; so that there was
no part of the wliole counsel of God " concerning
His Son Jesus Christ," which they kept back. But
manifestly there was one event in his history, one
work amidst all his works, which stood in their view
as the great event and work, around which they
gathered the force of their testimony, as its central
light and power — to which they made all that went
before it look forward for consummation, and all
tliat succeeded look back as to its foundation, and
on the faithful declaration of which, with its imme-
diate connections, tliey very especially rested the
faithfulness of their work as preachers of the Gos-
pel. No doubt you anticipate me. Such passages
of the Apostles arise to your minds, as, " we preach
Clmsi crucified ;^^ "I determined not to know any-
thing among you (while declaring unto you the testi-
mony of God) save Jesus Christ and him crucijied /'


" God forbid that I should glory save in the cross
of our Lord Jesus Christ ;" " For the preaching of
the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto
us which are saved it is the power of God." They
preached Christ — but as Christ crucified. They
said continually, like John the Baptist, " Behold the
Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the
world," but it was the " Lamb slain^^ — Christ in his
death — bearing " our sins in his own body on the
tree," that they pointed to. They rejoiced in every-
thing pertaining to their Lord, from his birth at
Bethlehem to his present glory at the Father's right
hand ; but the one thing in which they rejoiced so
supremely, that everything else was lost in compari-
son, was his cross. Of the two sacraments ordained
of Christ for his Church, that which alone goes with
the believer to be renewed and repeated all along
the way of his earthly life, has for its great Dbject
to " show the Lord's death until he come." It was
a great lesson which the Lord thus taught us as to
how we must preach him. His Apostles therefore
became in speech, what that sacrament is in sym-
bol ; constantly showing the Lord's death as the
sinner's life. Thus, when they spoke of the Chris-


tian's race for " the prize of the high calling of God
in Christ Jesus" — and when they exhorted us while
in that contest to be always " looking unto Jesus" —
the special aspect in which they presented him, was
as enduring tha cross. And I need not here say
that their sense of the supreme importance in their
ministry of the death of Christ was because they
beheld therein the one only and the one all-sufficient
sacrifice and propitiation, the vicarious atonement,
for the sins of the whole world ; that great work of
God wherein he laid in Zion, for a sure foundation,
the precious cornerstone, on which the sinner be-
lieving shall not be confounded. It is all contained
in one verse — " Christ hath once suffered for sins,
the just for the unjust to bring us to God."* And
again, " Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of
the law, being made a curse for us."t

Thiis, brethren, we have our lesson and example.
In the way the Apostles preached- the Gospel we must
try to preach it. As they preached Christ, so must
we. God forbid that we should glory in anything
else as ministere of tlie word. Preachers of Christ,
according to the mind of Clirist — ah, how all hon-

* 1 Pet. iii. 18. f Gal. iii. 13.


ors, all satisfaction in our work will perish but that !
When our stewardship is to be accounted for, and
we are just departing, and the veil, half drawn aside,
discloses what we are to meet and what to be for-
ever, Low then shall we care for praise of learning
or praise of speech or any vapors of men's applause !
But then, to have " the testimony of our conscience
that in simplicity and godly sincerity, — not with
enticing words of man's wisdom," we have made it
our life-business and our heart-pleasure to " teach
and preach Jesus Christ," as they did whom he
gaye to be our examples, haying ourselyes first learn-
ed his preciousness to our own souls ; oh, what con-
solation and thankfulness with which to die.

Evidently then, my brethren, it is a most serious
question to be always studying, how we may so
proclaim the truth committed to us in Holy Scrip-
ture, that in the sense of the Apostles it may be said
of us in our whole ministry that " we preach Christ
crucified." To this we devote this address. It is
a great question indeed. Many are the failures — •
many the egregious failures. Sometimes it seems as
if the preacher could preach just as he does if
Christ and his work were a mere incident in reli>


gion, a name, and little more — ans^Ye^ing nov^ and
then as a convenience to a sentence ; introduced
occasionally, because, under some texts, not easily
avoided, but never as the root and foundation out
of which our whole ministry proceeds. But what
awful condemnation to be thus essentially defective
at the very heart of the great work committed to us !
Nothing can in the least atone for its absence. You
might as well attempt to turn night into day, by
lighting a candle as a substitute for the sun. Our
ministry is all darkness, emptiness, and impotence ;
all condemnation to us, all delusion to those who
hear us, all dishonor to the grace of God, whatever
the breath of man may say of it, except as it is
pervaded, illumined, filled with tlie testimony of
Christ as once the sacrifice for sin, crucified and
slain ; now the glorified and ever-living intercessor
for all tliat come unto God by him.

There are many ways of approaching more or less
to that attainment without ever reaching it. Some
of tlie most common we will endeavor to state :

It is very possible to preach agreat deal of import-
ant religious truth, and so that there shall be no ad-
mixture of important error in doctrine or precept —


yea, ti^uth having an important relation to Christ and
his office, and yet not to preach Christ. The defect
will be not in the presence of what should not be
there, but in the absence of what should be, of that
which is necessary to give all the truth delivered, the
character of " truth as in Jesus J^ Such absence, when
nevertheless all is true, may be more destructive to
the Gospel character of the preaching, than even the
introduction of some positive error. The preachi^ig
may be very earnest. It may contain much that is
affecting and deeply impressive — strong emotions
may be stirred in^ the hearers. The earnest enquiry
may be excited — what must we do ? And yet, the
preaching may wholly fail in giving any such dis-
tinct answer to that question, as will turn the atten-
tion of the enquirer to Christ as all his refuge. We
may say a great deal about and around the Gospel
and never preach the Gospel. Religious truths are
not the Gospel, except in proportion as, like John
the Baptist, they point to the Lamb of God. For
example — suppose you preach on the vanity of the
world ; the uncertainty of life ; the awfulness of
death unprepared for ; the tremendous events of the
judgment-day ; the little profit of gaining the whok


world and losing tlie soul ; suppose you enlarge on
the necessity and blessedness of a religious life, and
the happiness of the saved. Does it follow that
you have preaclied the Gospel, or any part of it ?
If deep impressions are made, and serious enquiries
excited, does it follow that Christ is preached?
Such topics unquestionably belong most legitimately
to our ministry ; they are important parts of the
truth given us to enforce ; but they are entirely
subordinate and preliminary. They are not the
distinctive seed of the word from which God has
ordained that newness of life shall spring. They
are rather the plough and the harrow to open and
stir the ground, that it may receive the seed of life.
You may spend all your time in such work — not
omitting to- sprinkle your discourses with the oft-
repeated name of Christ and with much Gospel
language ; and just because there is no pervading
exhibition of Christ, in his work of Justification by
his righteousness and of Sanctification by his Spirit,
given so pointedly and plainly that whosoever will
may understand, you may never attain to the honor,
in tlie sight of God, of teaching and preaching Jesus
Christ, whatever the estimate of those who have not


learned to discriminate between truth that is re-
ligioiis, and truth that is not only religious, but dis-
tinctively gospel-iYuih. ; who know not the difference
between such preaching as makes the hearer feel
some spiritual want, and that which tells him what
he wants and where and how he is to find it. The
hearer who has learned Christ, as his lesson of heart
and life, of hope and peace,' and knows nothing as
precious to his soul, but as it leads him to Jesus, on
the cross of sacrifice and on the throne of inter-
cession, Jesus in his invitations and promises, Jesus
in his grace to help, his righteousness to clothe, and
his power to sanctify, will feel that in all that minis-
try "one tiling is needfuV^ — and that one thing, the
very thing on which all its character hinges, — •

But let us advance a little further. You may
preach with faithfulness and plainness the strictness
and holiness of the law, how it enters with its re-
quirements into all the thoughts and affections of
the heart, pronouncing condemnation on the sinner,
and bringing us all in guilty before God. There
may be no shrinking from the fullest exposition of
the Scriptures concerning the end of the impenitent.


Still more : the office of Christ as the only Saviour,
and his merits as the only pica, may be introduced
not unfrequentl}^, and yet may there be a great
lack of such distinct setting forth of Christ — such
holding up of Christ crucified, as Moses lifted up
the serpent in the wilderness before the dying
Israelites for all to see and live — such presentation
of God's great remedy for every man's necessities,
as belongs to the consistency, simplicity and fullness
of the work committed to the minister of the Gos-
pel. While speaking much of duty, the grace to
enable us to do it may not be proportionably pre-
sented. While the penalties of sin may be kept in
full view, the fidlness and tenderness and earnestness
of the invitations and promises of Christ to the
sinner turning unto God, may be very dimly ex-
hibited. That great lesson, which we have need to
be always studying, may have been but little learned,
how to preach the law as showing our need of the
righteousness of Christ, and how to preach the Gos-
pel as establishing and honouring the law ; the one
to convince of sin and condemnation, the other as
providing a deliverance so complete that to the
believer there is no condemnation ; the one as tak-


ing awaj all pleas derived from ourselves, tlie other
as furnisliing a most perfect and prevailing plea in
the mediation of Christ ; the law as giving the rule
of life, the Gospel as giving "the power of life, yea,
life from death, in Jesus Christ ; the law to humble
us under a consciousness of an utter beggary before
God ; the Gospel as directing us to him in whom
it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell.
Again. It may be that doctrine immediately con-
cerning the Lord Jesus, and bringing his person and
oJBfice into view, may be much introduced. We may
take opportunity to speak of his infinite dignity of
being ; the mystery of his incarnation ; the humili-
ation and love and grace of his coming in our-na-
ture ; his tenderness and compassion, and power to
save ; the perfectness of his example and the depth
of his sufferings. Indeed, everything revealed
concerning him may at times be found in our teach-
ing, without error, and in each particular, as it
stands by itself, without serious defect. But there
may be still an important deficiency. The pj'ojjor-
tion of truth may not be kept. There is a propor-
tion of parts in the whole body of gospel truth just
as there is the same in our own bodies. We must


omit none of the parts, but put each in its right
relation to all tlie rest. To fail in this, so that
w]iilo we embrace all we deform all, by a dispropor-
tionate exaltation of some, and depression of others,
may be just as destructive of the gospel character
of our ministry, just as confusing and misleading, as
if we omitted some truths, and perverted others.
For example, you niay preach Christ in various as-
pects ; but Christ crucified, the great sacrifice of
propitiation, though not omitted, may not have that
high-place, that central place, that all-controlling
place, that place of the head-stone of the corner,
which is necessary to its right adjustment to all
parts of the system of faith. You may preach the
Incarnation of Christ in all its truth as a separate
event, and yet in great error as regards its relation
to other events, making it so unduly prominent that
his death shall be made to appear comparatively
subordinate and unessential — the means exalted
above the end — the preparation of the body of
Christ for sacrifice, being made of more importance
and more effective in our salvation than his offering
of that body on the cross. But the great Sacrament
which we carry with us all the way of our journey,


as our great confessioD, and joy and glory, is to
show, as oft as we eat that bread and drink that
cup, not the Lord's hirtli^ but " the Lord's death until
he come."

You may preach all of Christ's work as well as
person, and all in due proportion of parts, and yet
some other vital truth essentially connected may be
so disproportionately presented as to create in the
whole a most important defect. You have exhibited
the foundation which God hath laid in Zion. The
question remains, how the sinner is to avail himself
of that foundation. He is to build thereon. But
How ? The Apostle answers, " He that hdieveth on
him shall not be confounded." We build by faith.
We cannot preach Christ without preaching on that
by which we become partakers of Christ. Evi-
dently confusion, indistinctness, feebleness, defici-
ency there, must produce the same effect throughout
the whole Gospel. If faith, in its nature, office, effi-
cacy and distinctive operation and fruits, be kept in
a place so obscure, so subordinate, or taught so con-
fusedly that either it is wholly out of sight or hid in
a crowd of other things ; placed in the outer court
of the temple instead of immediat-ely by the altar


of sacrifice, as the one instrumental grace by which
the sinner partakes of the " Lamb of God ;" if the
works which are its fruits be so confounded with
itself that the grace by which we are " rooted and
grounded " in Christ, is made of no more influence
in our participation of him than the several works
of righteousness which grow out of its life, and fol-
low upon the participation of Christ through its
agency, then is the relative adjustment of truth most
seriously spoiled and deformed.

Lastly, under this head of our inquiry ; it may be
that occasionally in a discourse, now and then, the
setting forth of Christ is satisfactory in point of
doctrine and the proportion of truth. But it may be
only occasionally thus, when the text so obliges, ac-
cording to rhetorical propriety, that we cannot avoid
it. But such texts may not be chosen very often.
Passing from subject to subject, the preacher comes,
from time to time, to one which necessarily leads to
the manifestation of Christ, in some leading feature
of ,1 lis grace and salvation, and tlien all may be well
done and calculated to enlighten a mind hungering
for the truth. But, meanwhile, you may hear many a
discourse which contains scarcely more of anything


distinctive of the Gospel, or pertaining to Christ, ex-
cept perhaps his name sometimes introduced, than if
it were some other religion than Christ's of which the
preacher is the minister. And in the general course
of his work we may look in vain after that evident
fondness of heart for views which most intimately
and directly look unto Jesus ; that habitual feeding
of the flock in pastures watered by the river that
proceedeth out of the throne of God and the Lamb ;
that strong tendency, when subjects not directly tes-
tifying of Christ must be handled, to keep them as
near to him as possible, and to return from them as
soon as possible to others of a nearer neighborhood
to tlie cross ; that desire to illuminate all subjects
with light from " the face of Jesus Christ," which
proves the preacher's determination " to know noth-
ing among men, but Jesus Christ and him cruckied."
We miss that hahitualness of the testimony of
Christ, that special love for all the region round
about Gethsemane and Calvary, the atonement and
the intercession, and the great gifts of the Spirit
purchased thereby ; we miss that constant tracing
of all spiritual life and consolation, in its every influ-
ence and fruit, to Christ as the life, and that careful


binuing of all spiritual affections and duties upon
him for support and strength, as the vine-dresser
trains his vine upon its trellis, which appears so re-
markably in the teaching of the Apostles.

We have thus endeavored to indicate some of tlie
paths by which, without delivering anything untrue,
and while delivering much important truth, we may
come short of the duty under consideration. We
proceed to consider how we may fulfill it. What is
it to preach Christ ?

We have a great example in our Lord's own teach-
ing. When, after his resurrection, he met the two
disciples on the way to Emmaus, and found them in
such darkness and doubt concerning himself, it is
written that, " beginning at Moses, and all the piio-
phets, he expounded unto them, in all the Scriptures,
tlie tyings concerning himself :" the things concern-
ing Himself. Our office as Christian ministers, ex-
pounding the Scriptures, is to bring forth all their
teaching concerning that glorious One, Himself. St.
Paul tlierefore said that he was " separated unto tlie
Gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ.^^^
To teach sinners to know Christ, and to " count all

* Rom. i. 1-3.


things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge
of Him," looking to the power of the Holy Ghost
to communicate, through the truth which we give
only in the letter, that spiritual and saving knowl-
edge which only God giveth, is the general expres-
sion of our duty.

But in the Gospel " concerning our Lord Jesus
Christ," that is, in the circle of doctrines and duties
and promises and blessings which constitute the
message of great salvation in him, there is, as we
have already hinted, a system of parts mutually re-
lated and dependent, all in perfect harmony, none
so obscure or remote as to be of no importance to
the riglit representation of tlie whole. That system,
like that of our sun, has a centre, by which all the
parts are held in place, from which all their light
and life proceed, and around which all revolve.
You cannot exhibit the system of truth and duty
till you have made known that central light and
power ; nor can you make known that power in all
its truth, without exhibiting those surrounding and
dependent })arts of doctrine and precept. That cen-
tral sun of light and life is Christ. All of gospel
truth and duty, of consolation and strength, abides


in Christ — derives from Christ, and glorifies Christ
— and must be so presented or it is divorced from
its only life and loses its gospel character. He is
the True Vine, and all parts of gospel truth are
branches in him. Let such truth be presented with-
out that connection, then its character as truth may
remain^ but its character for " truth as in Jesus " is
lost. Its vitality is gone. Fruit of life in Christ

1 3 4

Online LibraryCharles Pettit McIlvaineThe work of preaching Christ : a charge, delivered to the clergy of the Diocese of Ohio, at its forty-sixth annual convention, in St. Paul's Church, Akron, on the 3d of June, 1863 → online text (page 1 of 4)