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 4 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 4 of 4)
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things P'' We conclude with a brief view of the
state of mind and spirit which qualifies a minister
to be a faithful preacher of Christ.

1. A sjnrit of Faith. I mean Faith not merely
in such of its exercises as make the minister a
living Christian, and a growing, vigorous Christian ;


but in that special exercise wliicli enables him to
go on patiently, persistently, hopefully, immovably,
preaching the Gospel as we have seen the Apostles
preached it, in like simplicity and spirituality — with
as little of the devices and mixtures and dilutions
and subterfuges of man's wisdom, no matter what the
obstacles or what the apparent fruitlessness — believ-
ing it is God's own way, to which alone His blessing
is promised and which He luill bless as his own
" wisdom and power unto salvation." It was pre-
cisely with such meaning that St. Paul, just after
he had pronounced, " We preach not ourselves,
but Christ Jesus the Lord " — and just after he had
adverted to the fact that such preaching failed to
open the eyes of many that heard saying "If our Gos-
pel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the
god of this world had blinded the minds of them
which believe not.""^ It was in full view of all
whom their preaching did not succeed in convincing,
but only made the more hardened and hopeless, that
he said, " We believe and therefore speaJi," t meaning
not only that they believed what they spoke, but tliat
they believed it was just what God commanded

* 2 Cor. iv. 8, 4. f v. 13.


them to speak. And no rejection of it by man could
shake that confidence or lead them to speak any
thing else or in any other way. Well they knew
what a " stumbling-block to the Jew," and what
utter "foolishness to the Greek," was their testimony
concerning Christ crucified ; but not a word would
they change — " We believe and there/ore speak"
It was this lesson of faith that Paul gave to Timothy.
He warned him of a time of apostacy approaching — ■
" The time will come when tliey will not endure
sound doctrine — and they shall turn away their ears
from the truth and be turned unto fables." ^ How
then was Timothy to do in such times? What
" sound doctrine!^ meant in the mind of St. Paul, we
well know — all that way of justification by the
righteousness of Christ imputed and of sanctification
by the Spirit of God imparted to the believer ; that
whole way of life of which the vicarious propitiation
by the sacrifice of Christ was the central power and
life. It was all that doctrine which men would not
endure. And what was Timothy to do ? Conclude
that he, and other preachers of Christ, had taken
the wroug method because thus unsuccessful ? that
» 2 Tim. iv. 8, 4.


they must find out some other sort of preaching be-
cause that was so rejected ? Since men would not
endure sound doctrine, must lie try to get tliem into
the church, or if in the church already, to make
them satisfied to stay there, by giving them unsound
doctrine ? If the truth caused tliem to turn away
from it, must he turn away from it also and give
them something else to correct the evil? What
said the faith of an Apostle ? — No compromise —
no accommodation — only so much more earnestly
and continually that same rejected doctrine. Hear
Paul's remedy! "I charge thee before God and
the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the quick and
the dead at his appearing and his kingdom — preach
the luord (the same ofi'ensive word), be instant in
season, out of season — reprove, rebuke, exhort, with
all long suffering and doctrine."* The more the
truth is turned away from, so much the more
proclaim it. God will see to the issue. "So
we preach, not as pleasing men, but God, which
trieth the heart." Such is the faitli of which we
are speaking, as of such importance in our ministry.
The times which St. Paul predicted, and which

» 2 Tim. iv. 1. 2.


began before Timothy had ended his labors, are yet
in being. We all know how they have been ex-
hibited since the beginning of this century ; in this
country, under the name of Unitarianism, and on the
continent of Europe, under that of Eationalism. And
we have heard with amazement and grief how they
have appeared of late in the venerable Church of
England, among some of her clergy, in her high
places of college and pulpit teaching, and how even
a Bishop takes the lead ; and how while it is mani-
fest that he cannot endure the sound doctrine of the
Scriptures, and therefore labors to destroy their au-
thority, he dares, with a dishonesty most astonishing,
and an effrontery unexampled, to persist in holding
the office of a Bishop in the Church of Christ
against the remonstrance of all his peers, and to
the great disgust of right-minded people. The case
is singular. There were Bishops of the Romish
Church who under the reign of infidelity in France
during the Revolution, renounced the faith ; but they
renounced also their office in the Church. We have
a more primitive example. Judas Iscariot, when he
had ])etrayed his Lord, having been " guide to them
that took Jesus," had too much conscience left to


continue in his " apostleship." " His Bishopric" an-
other took.

But perhaps we have adverted with more point
to the case of this English Bishop than his import-
ance deserved. We were speaking of the new as-
pect of affairs among certain of the Church of Eng-
land. True, the most prominent manifestation is in
attacks on the Inspiration of the Scriptures. But
let not any suppose the ultimate or inspiring object
to be there. The citadel of truth and life can not
be reached till that outwork is reduced. Atonement
is the final object. Atonement for sin by the pre-
cious blood of Christ, with all the precious doctrines
of salvation which reside therein, as branches in the
vine, and which are dead and only fit to be cast
away as rubbish the moment such atonement is
taken away ; That is the doctrine they cannot en-
dure. That is the truth from which they turn away^
but which they know is safe so long as the Scrip-
tures arc the final Rule of Faith. Meanwhile they
would counsel us to give up the old way of preach-
ing Christ, as no doubt the best way for the old
times, but unfit for these times when through mature
growth of man's wisdom such doctrine is counted, just


indeed as it was by similar minds in the old times,
"foolishness." They would have us lay aside creeds
and confessions, in order that they who cannot en-
dure the doctrine of Apostles and Prophets may be
accounted Cln-istians no less than those who believe
and love it. They would make the Church so broad
that any varieties or oppositions of belief may be
embraced in its communion and even in its ministry,
thus strangely sacrificing gospel- truth to church-

Now suppose such evil times should visit us in
our church — what nmst we do ? I ask it to illus-
trate what I mean by the faith of which I am speak-
ing. Must we preach the word, as Paul understood
it, any the less ? Shall we suppose that to preach
Christ crucified is not as much " the wisdom and
power of God," as when apostles set us the example?
Or shall we believe as they believed, and therefore
continue to speak as they spoke, even tliough the
whole earth should be covered with a flood of apos-
tacy, and men everywhere should be turned unto
fables? What says a true faith in God? No
change, but in more earnestness with the unchanged.
" Preach the word " — the same word — " Instant in


season, out of season," "willi all long suffering and
doctrine." Let patience have lier perfect work. Be
not faithless — but believing — God's hand is not
shortened that it cannot save by that same word
now as in the ancient times.

These observations are not applicable only to cir-
cumstances which may hereafter exist among us.
Always, everywliere in our ministry we find those
calling themselves Christians, or at least numbered
in Christian congregations, to whom what St. Paul
meant by " sound doctrine" is an aversion. They do
not like to hear, they turn away from hearing so
much about atonement and justification, and a new
heart, and faith, and all the inward work of the Holy
Gliost. A less spiritual religion would be far more
to their taste — and they think if we would preach
much less about the great distinctive features of the
Gospel and more about mere moral duties — that is,
less religion and more of something else, many ears,
now turned away, would hear. Very likely. And
under the influence of such views, the testimony of the
pulpit is sometimes grievously deformed. The min-
ister seeks to commend himself more to the people's
preferences than their consciences ; and hence, of


course, not by manifestation of the truth in its sim-
plicity, directness, spirituality and completeness.
He enlarges the list of communicants by reducing the
spiritual qualifications for the communion. He makes
the narrow gate wider ; invites a condition of mind
which the Lord invites not. The middle wall of
partition between the church and the world is broken
down, the more to please the world, the more to en-
large the church. Such compliances we have no
right to make. They spring out of unbelief. They
poison the life of the church. If men will not en-
dure sound doctrine we cannot help it, we have no
unsound to give. If the ground will not receive the
good seed given us to sow, we cannot mend the mat-
ter by sowing bad seed. To the end of the world,
come what may, that seed and that only must we
sow. " God (that giveth the seed) giveth the in-
crease," and loill give it. Our strength is to believe.
But to preach Christ is not only " a work of faith,"
it is " a labor of love." I will not say that no man
can do it in a certain ^ense, that is, with doctrinal
correctness, without the love of Christ in his heart ;
for St. Paul speaks of some in his day who preached
Christ, "even of envy and strife, not sincerely,"


from selfish and evil motives. I will not prolong this
discourse in enlarging on the elementary truth that
without a personal experience of the preciousness of
Clirist to our own souls, by each one's individual par-
ticipation in the hope that rests on his justifying
righteousness, and is witnessed by the sanctifying
power of His Spirit dwelling in us, we cannot preach
Christ, according to his will, in his mind, in the ten-
derness and earnestness and patience and godly wis-
dom which alone become our office, however correct
our teaching in a mere doctrinal aspect. What I wish,
in these concluding words to insist on is, the import-
ance of a very earnest, tender and overcoming love, to
give spirituality to our theology, and the mind of
Christ to our teachings concerning him. Two preach-
ers, alike in accurate and full statement of all that
is revealed concerning our blessed Lord and his
salvation, may be very different in the spiritual
power of their ministry, and the difference will not
depend so much on the superiority of talent or of
eloquence, or even of diligence in one over the other,
as on their comparison in point of love. He will
preach best who loves most. His preaching will go
most to the heart, and will be attended with most


of " the demonstration of the Spirit/' who, in all he
says and does, is most constrained by the love of
Christ, dictating, animating, sanctifying, with the ten-
derness and patient earnestness of his Masters' mind,
his whole discourse. Oh, brethren, that we were
more earnest to grow in this grace ! What ought
we to value in personal attainment, compared with
it ? If your ministry fail in spiritual efficacy, inquire
into the cause by searching the state of your hearts
in regard to the love of Christ therein, to what
extent the aim, the zeal, the topics, the temper of
your work, and the whole character of your personal
example are under the dominion of that love.

But I have already occupied too much of your
time, and yet I feel that I have come very far short
of the height and breadth of what I have sought to
exhibit. " We have this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the excellency of the power may be of God and
not of us." Blessed be God, that in our weakness we
have His power to lean on. I humbly pray that
power of God to bless to you, dear brethren, what in
so much weakness and imperfectness and unworthi-
ness I have now addressed to you. Nothing in this
world could I rejoice in so much as to be instrumental,


under God's grace, in promoting the spiritual excel-
lency and efficacy of your work and your personal
growth in the faith and love of Christ. The time
is at hand when nothing else will seem of the small-
est value. I commend you to God and the word of
His grace which is able to build you up and make
you good stewards of the unsearchable riches of
Christ. " The God of peace who brought again
from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Sliepherd
of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting
covenant, make you perfect in every good work
to do his will, working in you that which is well
pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom
be glory and dominion for ever and ever." Amen.

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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 4 of 4)