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

. (page 3 of 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 3 of 4)
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" the light thereof." Hath it a river of water of


life, and on either side the tree of life ? All that
river comes forth from " the throne of the Lamb."
Christ is " the Finisher of our faith '' in this, that he
is, in himself, the consummation of our hope ; his
presence, his communion, his everlasting love be-
ing the prize of our high calling, and the goal of
our race. We come to him now, and he is our
peace. We go to be with him forever, and he is our
glory. Ask the way to heaven ; we say, Christ,
Ask where heaven is ; we say, where Christ is.
Ask what heaven is ; we answer, what Christ is.
Thus preach we Christ crucified, whenever we speak
according to the Scriptures of what constitutes the
life eternal of the sinner " redeemed by the blood of
the Lamb."

But we must take good heed, that we do not so
speak of our Lord in his heavenly power and glory
as not to give due place to his ever present personal
ministry, in and to, his Church on earth. The im-
pression is too prevalent that here in our duties and
wants and prayers we have only a Saviour and
helper afar off.

The precious assurance of the Scriptures is, that
we have a Saviour so near to every one of us, that


he is " a very present help" — so present that noth-
ing can separate us from him ; that nothing but un-
belief ever intervenes between our wants and his
fullness, neither space nor time, nor unworthiness nor
weakness — so present that he is ever at the door, —
waiting to be received, or beneath our weakness
ready to be leaned on. No presence i^ so ^^very
present" as that of Christ, in the power of his Spirit
to every heart that seeks him — enlightening, guid-
ing, comforting, upholding, drawing sinners to him-
self, making himself known to them, giving efficacy
to means of grace ; whatever the instruments. He
the only power. " I am the good shepherd." All is
comprehended in that declaration. As the good
shepherd, he is the pfesent shepherd, so present to
each of the flock that he " calleth every one by
name and leadeth him out." Oh, what a help and
comfort it is when we get a full comprehension and
an abiding impression of that ^j'/*6^^?i(?6. How it
strengthens the Minister of the Gospel! How it
lifts up the heart of the Christian !

In this connection, the faithful preaching of Christ
will keep in great prominence, that aspect of him-
self which he taught with such emphasis, when he


spake of himself as " the living hreacl — the Iread of
God^^ of whom the manna in the wilderness was the
type and the bread of our Eucharist is the Sacra-
ment ; Christ the present daily life of his people —
they abiding in him by faith, he in them by his
Spirit ; all their life as children of God now — all
their hopes of life forever, depending on that habit-
ual communion — the vine and the branches. The
more we ourselves enjoy of that ahiding^ the better
shall we know how to teach it. Nowhere does
mere book-knowledge of what is given us to preach
assist us less.

When we speak of Christ as " ilie life,^^ fulfilling
the type of the manna, let us take care that we set
in clear view, not only our dependence, but His
freeness. It was one prominent aspect of that
" spiritual meat" of which " all our fathers" of the
Church in the wilderness ate, that all classes and
conditions of people partook of it alike, and all with
equal and perfect freeness. It lay all around the
camp, as accessible to one as another. Moses, nor
Aaron, nor any priest or ruler had any privilege at
that table whicli tlie humblest Israelite had not.
The priesthood had no office of intervention between


the hungry and that bread. irhosoeve7^ will, let
1dm take and eat, was the proclamation. Let us
take good heed that wliat we cannot deny in the
type be not narrowed or concealed in the antitype.
Our text is, '' Him that cometh to me, I will in
no wise cast oxctr - And I do not know a text that
contains more of the essence of the preaching of
Christ in the richness and freeness of his salvation.
Oh, let us take care that our ministry shall keep
full in tlie sight of men that open way, that free
access, that directness of coming, not to some mere
symbolical representation, but to the very present
Christ, in all his tenderness of love and power to
save. Ordinances, ministers, are sadly out of place,
no matter how divinely appointed for certain uses,
when instead of mere helps in coming to Christ,
they are made, in any sense, conditions or terms
of approach, so that the sinner gets to Christ only
or, in any degree, by them.^ The light of the sun
is not more free to every man that cometh into the
world, than is the salvation of Jesus to every be-
lieving sinner. It is our business to be continu-
ally showing that precious truth ; coming by faith,

* John vi. 37.


all the condition ; — Christ, the full and perfect sal-
vation of all that come.

But in the range of gospel truth, there are sub-
jects of instruction, which though not directly con-
cerning his person and office, are so connected with
all right appreciation of his saving grace that we
cannot keep them out of view, without affecting
most injuriously our whole ministry. Be it remem-
bered that while the cross with its immediate neigh-
borhood is the metropolis of Christianity — all the
region round about is Holy Land, more or less
holy according to the nearness to that " city of our
God ;" " a land of milk and honey," " of brooks and
fountains of water," intersected in all directions
with highways by which pilgrims to Zion approach
the desire of their hearts. It is the office of the
gospel preacher to map out that land ; to trace
those converging roads — to set up the way-marks to
the city of Refuge. Christ is not fully preached
when any truth which teaclies the sinner's need of
such a Saviour — illustrating his preciousness by
showing our ruin and beggary through sin dwelling
in us and bringing condemnation upon us, is kept in
obscurity. The wisdom of " the scribe, instructed


unto the kingdom of God, to bring out of his treas-
ure things new and old/' is found in his omitting
nothing connected with the Gospel, however remote
from the great central truths and duties ; and in his
giving to each its portion in due season, as well as its
place in due relation.

For example : Christ is " our righteousness'^ unto
justification to every one that believeth, so that in
him there is no condemnation.* But we shall preach
him in vain, in that light, unless we show the sin-
ner's absolute need of such righteousness. We must
seek, under the power of the Holy Ghost, so to con-
vince him of sin that he shall see himself to be under
the condemnation of God's law, without excuse and
without hope, till he flees to that refuge. Blessed
is he whose ministry the Spirit employs to teach
that lesson of ruin and beggary. It is the threshold
of the way of life. The text-book in that teaching
is the law — God's will, however, and wherever ex-
pressed. Preached in a spiritual application to the
secrets of the heart, not only as the rule of obedi-
ence but as the condition of peace with God to
every one that is not in Christ Jesus, and on the

* Romans viii. 1.


perfect keeping of wliich all his hope depends ;
preached in view of the salvation of Jesus as only-
increasing the condemnation so long as it is salva-
tion neglected ; it is the instrument of the Holy
Ghost to strip the sinner of self-reliance and self-
justification, to humble him before God under a
a sense of guilt and ruin, — and as a " schoolmaster
to lead him to Christ that he may be justified by-
faith." He that would preach a full justification in
Christ, without works, must preach entire condemna-
tion under the law, by works. By the law is
the knowledge of sin and hence the knowledge in
part of Christ. Clear, unequivocal statements of
the divine law ; the full exhibition of the text,
" Cursed is every one that continueth not in all
things written in the hook of the law to do them^^
(that continueth not in all things from first to
last of life), thus carrying the sword of the Spirit
into the discerning of the thoughts and intents of
the heart, is the special baas of and preparation for
all saving knowledge of Christ. The way of the
Lord is prepared by that fore-runner. How many
more consciences would cry out for relief under the
load of sin ; how much oftener would the careless


heart be awakened to seek mercy through Christ,
were there only a more searching comparison of all
that is in man with all the holiness of the will of

Again : Christ is " made mito us sanctificationy^
But how can we do justice to so cardinal a truth of
God's grace, unless we do ample justice to that
other great truth of man's nature out of which arises
all the need of a sanctifier — the entire " corruption
the nature of every man that is naturally engendered
of the offspring of Adam ?" f The beginning of sanc-
tification is to be born again of the Holy Ghost.
According to men's views of the extent to which
by nature they are corrupt and alienated from God,
will be their views of the spiritual nature, necessity
and extent of that great change. Hence to preach
Christ in sanctification, we must preach man in his
natural corruption. The " carnal mind'''' is " en-
mity against God and is not subject to the law of
God neither indeed can le^X Let us faithfully ex-
pound those words of St. Paul. Wc need no
stronger declaration as the basis of the whole
superstructure of the need of an entire inward regen-

* 1 Cor. i. 30. f Article IX. % Rom. viii. 7



eration, making the sinner a new creature in Christ
Jesus — new in heart, new in life and hope. That
this preaching of the necessity of such new creature
is eminently the preaching of Christ, we have a
striking testimony in these words of the Epistle of
the Ephesians (chap, i v. 20-24), "Ye have not so
learned Christ ; if so be ye have heard him and
been taught by him the truth as in Jesus ; that ye
put off — the old man which is corrupt according to
the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in t|ie spirit of
your mind and that ye put on the new man which
after God is created in righteousness and true

But how shall we speak of so great spiritual
t]*ansformation without speaking with equal stress
of Him wIk) produces it? What sanctification is to
salvation, such is the right teaching of the power
and office of the Holy Ghost, the Sanctifier, the Spirit
of Christ, and all comprehending gift of God. What
is there in the Christian life, from first to last, that
is not tlie work of tlie Holy Ghost ? Is the sinner
convinced of sin, Jesus sent the Spirit to do that
work. Is he quickened from spiritual death ? "/j{
is the Spirit that quicJc^neth.''^ Is he born agaii ?


He is " horn of the Spirit^ Is he spiritually minded ?
It is because he " minds the tilings of the Spirit.
Is he a " follower of God," as a dear child ? It is be-
couse he is ^Hed hy the Spirit of GodP Hath he
an internal evidence of that sonship ? It is because
tlie Spirit heareth witness loith his spirit. Is the
love of God " shed abroad in our hearts ?" It is " by
the Holy Ghost given unto us.'''' Do we learn how
to pray as we ought ? It is because " the Spirit help-
cth our infirmities. '''' Are we comforted with the
consolation of Christ? The Spirit is ^Hhe Comforter.'^''
Are we strengthened in our duty ? It is " by the Spirit
in the inner man.'''' Do we grow in the knowledge
of Christ ? Jesus said of the Holy Ghost : '''He shall
tahe of mine and show it unto you.'''' And beside
the spiritual resurrection and sanctification, will
these vile bodies also rise ; will they also be sancti-
fied and made glorious according to the glory of our
risen Lord ? It is written that " He shall quicken
your mortal bodies by His Spirit that diuelleth in

Rightly to honor the Holy Ghost as He is thus
revealed in His own inspired word, how important

* Rom. viii. 1 1.


to the faithfulness, tlie fruitfulness of our ministry.
We may so come short of it — we may so contradict
it, that while bearing a very reputable clmracter
before men, we may all the while be " grieving the
Holy Ghost," yea, even " resisting the Holy Ghost."
How much barrcryiess in the work of the ministry,
in making not church-members, but spiritually en-
lightened and spiritually-minded followers of Christ,
may be ascribed to deficiency — negativeness at
least, in this great department of our teaching ! In
no part of his work does a minister more need to be
taught of God or to sit humbly at the feet of Jesus
to learn of him ; nowhere does a decline of spiritu-
ality of mind so soon show itself as here. In no
part of our work do we depend more upon a decided,
habitual, personal experience in our own souls of
God's gracious operation. It is here that great de-
partures from the truth which go on to carry away
eventually whole communities of professing Chris-
tians into manifold and essential errors, almost
always secretly or overtly begin ; as it is the final
construction of a system from which the personal
office of the Holy Ghost is virtually if not professedly
excluded, in which they culminate. The Scriptural


description of a spiritual mind is, that it " minds
the things of the Spirit." It is equally the te:t of
a spiritual and evangelical ministry. That which
specially tries our spiritual discernment and skill in
rightly dividing the word of truth is the right ad-
justment of means of grace in their relation to the
power of grace, of instruments of blessing to the hand
that employs them and that gives them all their effica-
cy. The Spirit hath His instruments. His grace hath
its means. His great instrument in our sanctification,
is His own revealed Truth, by which he testifies of
and glorifies the Lord Jesus in our eyes. Sacra-
ments are that same essential truth, taught under
other signs, and sealed with a special impressiveness.
The preaching of that same truth by an ordtiined
Ministry, is the great instrumentality of the Spirit.
The point of caution is, while giving all due place
to the instrument that we keep it exclusively in the
place of a mere instrument — of no avail in itself ;
that we treat it as we treat the glass by which we
seek to see some distant star — not as an object to be
looked at — but only as a help to look immeasurably
beyond and above it ; that as the glass is nothing
without the light, so the means of grace are nothing


without " the Spirit of grace ;" that all the power is
.of the Holy Ghost, and that power not deposited in
the means, as we put bread into the hand of a dis-
tributor, so that whosoever receives the latter re-
ceives the bread ; that power never divorced from the
personal ministry of the Spirit, but applied directly
by Himself to each heart that receives His grace ;
He " dividing to every man severally as He will."
To speak of an ordinance, a sacrament, any means
of grace, even the Holy Scriptures of truth, as if
they were in any sense the power unto salvation, or
as if they contained, whatever its original source,
the grace by which we live unto God, thus leading
men to look to them, instead of only, by their help,
to Christ and His Spirit, is to " do despite to the
Spirit of grace."

The whole truth in this connection is found where
the Apostle says : " Who is Paul and who is Apollos,
but Ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord
gave to every man.^''^ Instead of Paul and Apollos,
read any ordinance or means of grace. What are
they but ministrations of man by help of which ye
believe, even as the Lord giveth to every man.
» 1 Cor. iil 5.


There is a text which the full and explicit preach-
ing of Christ will be always directly or indirectly,
consciously or unconsciously, illustrating. It is
those verses in the second chapter of the Epistle to
the Ephesians, "By grace are ye saved, through
faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God :
Not of works, lest any man should boast. Tor we
are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto
good works." Salvation all of grace only ; in its
origin in the love of God ; in its purchase by the
blood of Christ ; in the first quickening of the sin-
ner from the death of sin ; in all the renewal of his
nature ; in his acceptance through Christ, to the
peace of God ; in his whole ability to live as a child
of God ; and in his final admission to the glory of
God — all of grace only — wonderful grace ; — but
through faith alone — and that faith itself a gift of
grace ; our works in every degree and aspect wholly
excluded from the work of saving us, though neces-
sarily included as fruits of the grace that does save
us — we being created anew in Christ Jesus unto
good works and not in any degree hj good works —
first God's workmanship making us new creatures,
then our working as so created " unto good works


wliicli God liatli ordained that we should walk in
tliem." We preach such works, firsts as absolutely-
excluded from having any part in procuring our Jus-
tification before God ; secondly^ as essential fruits
and evidences of our having obtained such Justi-
fication. We preach the oJQfice of Faith as so vital
that only by it are we united to Christ, as living
stones built upon the living head of the corner ; and
the necessity of good works as so absolute, that only
in them can we walk as God hath ordained and have
evidence that we are true believers in Jesus ; and
at the same time both faith and works deriving all
being from the Spirit of God and all value and effi-
cacy to salvation from the Righteousness of Christ.
Here let me add some few miscellaneous ob-
servations. We are bound to instruct the believer
in all the privileges and consolations that are in
Christ that his joy may be full. But we must lay
equal stress on all his obligations, that Christ may
be glorified. Out of the same wounds of the cross
come privilege and duty, promise and commandment,
the consolation of faith and the duty of obedience ;
and the same preaching that leads to the one must
alike insist on the other, and on both as necessary


to our having that rest which Jesus promises. It is
a great matter so to preach the precepts of Christ
as to lead men to embrace his promises ; and so the
promises as to draw the disobedient to the love of
his precepts. In all our work we have two great
sources of persuasion, according to the example of
St. Paul, namely, " We beseech you by the mercies
of God," and again, " Knowing the terror of the
Lord^ we persuade men ;" the love of God in Christ
as a Saviour, and the wrath of God in Christ as
Judge of quick and dead ; a cloud of light and a
cloud of darkness, each proceeding from the cross as
accepted or rejected. We must do all in tenderness,
but all in faithfulness. The whole counsel of God
embraces the fearful penalty of unpardoned sin as
well as the glorious inheritance of the reconciled in
Christ. The faithful preacher of Christ keeps back
none of it. While he delights in the loving aspects
of his grace, he is not ashamed of the severities of
his justice. He does not indeed denounce or judge.
It is not for him to command or condemn. His work
is always to entreat and persuade ; tenderly, lovingly,
patiently, in the mind of Christ. But persuasion
has the alarming truths to use as well as the encour-


aging. That, " God is a consuming fire^'' out of
Christ, is as much an argument of persuasion and
tenderness, as tliat in Christ, " God is Love." We
read of " the goodness and severity of God^'^ We
must exhibit both. They interpret and enforce one
another. But how to balance aright judgment and
mercy, invitation and warning, precepts of obe-
dience, and promises of consolation, the tender
''''Come unto me and 1 will give you rest^'' with the
stern '''Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire^^'' the
darkness and the light — the loving voice from the
Mercy-seat and the dreadful sentence from the Judg-
ment-seat — all under the duty of teaching and
preaching Jesus Christ, is not learned from books
only, is not given by specific rule, conies chiefly out
of the state of the heart, under the general light
of the Scriptures, and by a careful endeavor to learn
of, and be like, him of whom it is beautifully written
that he hath " the tongue of the learned to know
how to speak a word in season to him that is

From all that has now been said, it appears how
mistaken is the idea that by confining our preach-

* Rom. xi. 22. f Isaiah 1. 4.


ing to Christ and him crucified we have a very nar-
row range of truth to expatiate in. In reality, we
have the whole vast range of natural and revealed
religion. A wider field no preacher can find who
does not seek it beyond the confines of. religious
truth. The difi'erence between the man who con-
fines himself to the preaching of Christ and him who
does not, need not be that the latter embraces any
portion of divine truth — of doctrine or duty, of his-
tory or prophecy or precept which enters not into
the range of the former. It may be wholly a differ-
ence in the mode of presenting precisely the same
truth — a difference in the bearings ; in the relations
assigned to every part ; in the cardinal points to
which all is adjusted ; in the polarity, so to speak,
which governs such manifestation of truth as de-
serves the name and praise of the preaching of
Christ. You may take" truth from the immediate
neighborhood of the cross, or from the farthest
boundaries of the domain of Christianity, and when
its just relation to Christ and his redemption is ex-
hibited Christ is preached. Thus there is no reason
why, in the most faithful ministry, there may not be
abundant variety of topic and of instruction. The


sermon may be always sliiniiig in the light of our
glorious Lord, while receiving it either by direct
looking unto him, or indirectly from secondary ob-
jects which, as satellites of the sun, revolve around
him and shine in his glory. The sermon, in all its
spirit and tendency, may say, " Behold the Lamb of
God,^^ and yet the view may be as changing as the
positions from which it is taken, the circumstances
which influence it, the lights and shadows of the
several conditions and necessities of the minds be-
fore which it is placed. In general we may say
that, as no subject is legitimate in the preaching of
a minister of Christ that does not admit of being
presented in some important relation to Christ ; so
no sermon is evangelical that does not truly exhibit
such relation, giving him the same position to the
whole discourse that he holds in the Scriptures to
tlie Avhole body of truth thel^ein. As some subjects
have a much nearer and more vital relation to him
than others, they will be much the most frequent
and engrossing in tlie preaching of a faithful Chris-
tian minister. The great truths, the great facts, the
great duties and privileges and interests and conso-
lations which proceed the most directly from the


person and office — the death and intercession of
Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit — as well as
those which lead the most immediately thereto, will
be so habitually the subjects of his preaching, that
the more remote and indirect will be only occa-
sional, exceptions to the standing rule and habit.
And which of these classes of subjects his mind and
heart most delight in, and which draw forth the
deepest earnestness and the strongest emotions of
his soul, will not be doubtful.

We have now exhibited as much of our great and
wide subject as we could with any propriety occupy
your time with. You will, of course, understand
that we have not attempted to embrace the whole
field. What has been attempted, we are deeply
conscious is most imperfect and inadequate. Still,
we have not withheld our best endeavors, where
even St. Paul exclaimed, " Who is sufficient for these

1 3

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 3 of 4)