David Bostwick.

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Cihvavy of Che t:heological ^tminary


A. G. Cameron, Ph.D.



No. 6.





** Fob we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord." — 3 Cob. 4 : Ri .

Were I to give a brief and stimmaiy description of
man's original apostasy in few words, I would choose to
say, that it was a departing from God, the author and
fountain of blessedness, and retiring into himself as his
last and ultimate end : and that the sum of his moral de-
pravity, consists in a habitual disposition to treat him-
self in the same manner that he ought to treat the God
of Heaven ; that is, to love himself supremely, and seek
Jiimself ultimately and finally, and set up himself in one
shape or another, as the grand center to which aU the lines
of his busy thoughts, anxious cares, and subtUe projects,
bend, and in which they terminate.

While he continued in his original state of moral recti-
tude, that God who was the author of his being was his
beginning and end, his interest and attraction, his desire
and dehght, and, in a word, his aU. But when sin took
place in his heart, it warped the unhappy creature from
his God to himself; insomuch that self is now become aU
to corrupt and depraved nature, even as God was once

* Preached at Philadelphia before the Synod of New-York, May
26, 1758.




all to nature uncorrupted and undepraved. Selfishness
is therefore now become the most active and reignmg
principle in fallen nature, and, like the first wheel in a
grand machine, sets the whole world in motion. For if
we survey the conduct of busy mortals, in the various
ranks and degrees, characters and circumstances of life,
we shall easily perceive that self is the idol they are
naturally disposed to worship, and selfishness the grand
interest to which they are by nature entirely devoted.

We find om'selves in the midst of an active, busy world,
the inhabitants of which are ever engaged in some vig-
orous i^ursuits. But what are they pursuing ? "What is
the governing principle of their actions ? And what the
center to which they bend, and in which they terminate ?
Ai'e they laboring for God as their ultimate end, or for
themselves ? When the merchant compasseth sea and
land, in search of a worldly treasure, does he this for God,
or for himself? When the soldier boldly enters the field
of battle, faces death in its most hideous forms, and opens
his bosom to the most pregnant dangers, does he this for
the honor of God, or for the honor of himself? When
the mdustrious tradesman rises early, and sits up late,
and eats the bread of carefulness, and fills up his s"wift
succeeding hours with the most painful and assiduous
labor, does he labor ultimately for God, or for himself?
When men of superior rank, and greater affluence, de-
vote their wasting moments to the fashionable diver-
sions and pleasurable entertainments of life, do they this
to please and glorify God, or to please and gratify self?
In a word, what is it in general that men five for, and what
are they doing in the world ? What are their thoughts
spent, their words spoken, their hands employed, and
their time improved for ? Is it for God, or themselves ?
Alas, how easy it is to see the awful prevalence of this
corrupt and accursed principle ! It is self that rules
kingdoms, that governs families, drives on their trade,
manages their worldly business ; that chooses even their
rehgion, and influences their whole conduct ; that Hes at
the root and bottom of all then.' actual sins, makes them
ungodly, and keeps them ungodly, and is their very un-
godliness itself


And, oh ! that it miglit be said, with undoubted truth,
that notwithstandmg the general prevalence of this de-
testable principle, among the various ranks and orders
of men, there is at least one order exempt from the gene-
ral charge ; and that none who sustain the sacred cha-
racter, are influenced by mercenary j^rinciples, or selfish
motives ; but that each individual could safely adopt the
language of the apostle, in behalf of himself and brethren :
" We preach not ourselves, but Chi-ist Jesus the Lord."

In the preceding chapter, the apostle had been magni-
fpng his ofiice, on account of the excellency and glory of
that Gospel, which was the subject of it : and in this, he
vindicates the ministry of the apostles and Gospel minis-
ters, from the unjust accusations of false and Judaizing
teachers, who had charged them with walking in crafti-
ness, and handling the word of the Lord deceitfully. He
avouches their sincerity, that they renounced the hidden
things of dishonesty ; and as a proof of their integrity,
he assures them, that their business was to preach Christ,
and not themselves. " We preach not ourselves, says he,
and therefore are not a set of designing men, as our ac-
cusers would insinuate ; self is neither the matter, nor the
end of our preaching ; we neither teach om' own notions,
passions, or prejudices, for the word of God, nor do we
seek ourselves, or the advancement of our secular interest
and glory: but we preach Christ Jesus the Lord, and
endeavor to make him known to the world in each of
these amiable characters, as Messiah, the Christ of God,
^s Jesus, the Saviour of men, and as Lord and King in
his Church ; and to advance the interest of his glorious
kingdom among men."

From these words I shall attempt to show :
I. What that selfishness is which the apostle here dis-
claims ; or, when ministers may be said to preach them-
IL I shall consider some of the operations of that selfish
principle, in those particular instances that tend to dis-
cover its reigning dommion. And then,
in. Show what it is to preach Christ Jesus the Lord.
And lastly, improve the whole.
Let us then inquire,


I. What that selfishness is which the apostle here dis-
claims, etc. And to set this in a proj^er light, and pre-
vent mistakes, I must observe negatively. 1st, It is not
that regular self-love that induces ministers to zeal and
faithfulness in the discharge of their sacred trust, from
the consideration of future rewards and punishments.
There is a self-love implanted in human nature that is
consistent with complete rectitude, and therefore is not
the eJBfect of our moral depravity. This Adam had in his
state of perfect innocence, or else the promises of re-
Avards would have been no inducement to obedience, nor
would the severest threatenings have deterred him, in
any measure, from disobedience. It is not, therefore, a
criminal selfishness, for ministers to have a suitable re-
gard to then- own future and everlasting interest, and to
be influenced to diligence and industry, in theii* great im-
portant work, by motives drawn from those future and
eternal realities. It was doubtless agreeable to the God
of heaven, that Ezekiel the prophet should be influenced to
faithfulness in giving warning, from that awful considera-
tion, that the "blood of those that perished should othei*-
wise be requu-ed at his hand." And when the apostle
urged Timothy to " take heed to himself and his doc-
trine, and continue in them," he would have him in-
fluenced by these considerations, that he " should save
himself, and them that heard him." Nor was even St.
Paul entirely above the mfluence of this motive, when he
gave this reason, why " he kept his body under subjec-
tion ; lest, when he had preached to others, himself
should be a cast-away." It was not an unreasonable
selfishness in the prophet Isaiah to take encouragement
under aU his complaints, and be animated in his work,
from the consideration that "though Israel was not
gathered, yet he should be glorious in the eyes of the

2dly, This disclaiming ourselves does not imply a
total disregard to our reputation and character among
men; for on this the success of our ministry, and conse-
quently the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom,
may, in some measure, depend. If the character of a
Gospel minister is stained with false and ill-natured asper-


sions, this tends to mar his influence, and consequently his
usefulness. It is therefore noways inconsistent with a
Gospel self-denial, to seek a vindication of himself and
his abused reputation. The apostle himself does so, in
this and his other epistles ; and says, no man shall stop
him in tliis boasting. It ever becomes the ministers of
Christ to have a tender regard to then- reputation and
character, as subservient to the great ends of their min-
istry, and m which the honor of Christ, and the interest
of religion, is nearly concerned. It becomes a bishop to
be blameless, and an officer in the Church of God to be
of good report; yea, and to maintain the authority of his
sacred character, " and let no man despise him." Indeed,
if our reputation among men of carnal corrupt minds
suffers for our faithfulness iu the discharge of our sacred
trust, and " men speak all manner of evil against us falsely
for Christ's sake, (which is not at all uncommon,) in this
case, our honor, interest, and reputation, and even life
itself, is to be given up, and made a willing sacrifice to
the honor and interest of Jesus Christ ; " not counting
our own life (much less our name and reputation) deai',
that we may finish our course, and the ministry we have
received of the Lord Jesus."

But, secondly, and positively, the selfishness here dis-
claimed is, in general, that which stands in direct opposi-
tion to the honor of God, and the interest of Jesus Christ.
That sets up self in the room and place of God, in our es-
timation, affections, intentions and pursuits; and dis-
poses us to love and value ourselves in the same manner
as we ought to love and value the God of heaven ; to pre-
fer our honor to his honor, and our interest to the interest
of Jesus Christ ; and in a word, to regard ourselves su-
premely, and seek ourselves ultimately and finally, and to
be influenced inordinately, in one shape or other, by mer-
cenary views, and selfish motives in all we do. It is, there-
fore, nothing less, on the whole, than a dii'ect contending
with the Go^d of heaven, and maintaining a dispute with
him who shall be most loved and regarded by us, he or
we, and whose honor and interest shall be primarily and
ultimately pursued, his or our own.

But more particularly, this selfishness in public preach-


iug may be considered both materially and formally ; or
as it respects the subject matter, and the formal manner,
of our preaching.

1st, Then, ministers may be said to preach themselves,
when the matter of their public preaching is such that it
tends rather to promote self-honor and self-interest than
the honor of God, and the interest of Jesus Christ. When
the substance of their sermons is only "the enticing words
of man's wisdom, calculated rather to gratify men's curi-
osity with pleasing si^eculations, than to pierce their
hearts with pungent convictions ; and has a greater ten-
dency to please their fancies than to convert and save
their souls. When, in the matter of their preaching, they
conform to men's vitiated taste and corrupt humors, and
rather soothe and flatter than strive to awaken and
alarm their consciences ; endeavoring rather to Avin them
to themselves, and gain them over to their own self-in-
terest, than to win them to Christ and convert them to
God. In a word, we are awfully guilty of this criminal
selfishness when our sermons have rather a tendency, in
their matter and composition to commend ourselves than
to commend the Lord Jesus Christ ; and to beget in the
corrupt hearts of our hearers an esteem of our persons,
gifts, and abilities, rather than of the person, glory, and
offices of the great Redeemer, the ever adorable God-
Man, Jesus Christ.

2dly, This selfislmess respects the form as well as the
matter of our preaching, that is, the governing principle
from which we act in our public ministry, and the ulti-
mate end we have in view. And this is doubtless the
principal thing here mtended ; for be the matter of our
preaching ever so good, yet self may be the root and
bottom of it all, and the object of our principal aim.
Nothing is more evident than that we may do the work
of God, and that Avhich is really so, as to the matter or
thing done ; and yet not do it for God, as to the formal
manner, but rather for ourselves. Tlius Jehu did the
work of the Lord when he executed the vengeance of
Jehovah on the house and fimily of "sHcked Ahab ; and
when he broke down the images of Baal, and restored
Israel from idolatry ; and yet he did it not for God, but


for himself, as appears by his proud boast, " come see my
zeal for the Lord of Hosts,"

It is not at all inconsistent to say, that ministers may
calculate their sermons, both as a matter, method, and
manner of deHvery, so as to have an aptitude and ten-
dency to answer the great ends of preaching, and yet
may preach themselves, as to the principle from which
they act, and the ultimate end they have in view. Nor
is it at all to be wondered at, if in a time when the most
zealous, lively, and practical preaching, the most earnest
addresses to the heart and conscience are in vogue, and
tend most to recommend the preacher, and promote his
reputation, that mere selfish principles should induce men
to attempt these, and even strive to excel therein. So
that though we preach ever so well, as to the matter and
method of our sermons, and with ever so much apparent
zeal and fervor, in the delivery of them, yet if we fail as
to the formal manner, and aim chiefly and ultimately at
ourselves, our honor, interest, and reputation, we are
found guilty of that crumnal selfishness which the apos-
tle disclaims ; and are making idols of ourselves by treat-
ing ourselves in the maimer we ought to treat the great
God of heaven and earth. This is the selfishness here dis-
claimed, and this it is for men to preach themselves. I am

II. To consider some of the operations of this corrupt
prmciple, in those particular instances that tend to dis-
cover its reigning dominion. In every imsanctified heart,
self in one shape or other is ever uppermost, and has an
entire ascendancy and governing influence in every thing
they do. When, therefore, men of this character take
upon them the office of the Gospel-ministry, self must be
their grand motive, and their principal inducement. For,
though a faithful discharge of this important trust requires
more self-denial that any employment under the sun, yet
there are many things in the sacred office that may be
alluring baits to men of corrupt and selfish minds. A
tolerable maintenance, or comibrtable subsistence in the
world, may be an inducement to such as know not better
how to provide for themselves ; who, like the unjust
steward, are unwilling to dig and ashamed to beg, and
therefore choose this rather than a meaner employment.


Thus, in the degenerate times of the Church of old, men
would " crouch for a piece of silver, and say, Put me, I
pray thee, into the priest's office, that I may eat a piece
of bread." And hence that bitter complaint, that " the
priests taught for hire, and the prophets divined for
money ;" and on this account they Avere called " greedy
dogs that could never have enough, and shepherds that
did not understand, looking eveiy one for his gain from
his quarter." Let none understand me as though I in-
sinuated, that ministers have not a right to insist on a
sufficient maintenance and an honorable support ; for
whatever a cai-nal selfish world may imagine, it will be
found true at last, that God (and not man) " hath or-
dained that ■ they who preach the Gospel should live of
the Gospel." Nor do I in the least doubt, but the too
general neglect of this duty among people to their min-
isters, is one of the crymg and God-provoking sins of the
I^resent day. (See Mai. 3 : 8, 9, 10.) What I am provmg
is, that self, in its reigning dominion, may influence men
to undertake the sacred employment with such sordid
views. And this is necessarily supposed, in the apostle's
frequent exhortations to ministers, " not to be greedy of
filthy lucre, nor be given to filthy lucre, nor teach things
for filthy lucre's sake." The inducement of the apostle
himself (as of every other faithful minister) was vastly
diflTerent. A necessity, says he : " is laid upon me, and
woe is me if I preach not the Gospel," And he coidd say,
with the utmost sincerity to the Corinthian Church, " I
seek not your's, but you,"

Again, a life of study, and an opportunity to frirnish
the mind with the various improvements of human science,
may be an inducement to those who have a turn for specu-
lation, and would be willing to shine and make some
figure in literature, from mere selfish principles to under-
take the ministry. And, would you believe it, sirs?
The supposed ease and indolence of a minister's life, by
those who know nothing of the many cares, fatigues,
and perplexities of it, may possibly induce a selfish man,
who is willing to favor the flesh, to enter upon it, Nor
is it at all unlikely that the reverence and respect shown
to the sacred character among men may influence those


who are chiefly seeking themselves. 'Tis agreeable to a
proud, selfish mortal to be looked upon and res^Dected as
the leader and guide of the people, and to have others
dependent on him, and " receive the law at his mouth."

NoAV, when such alluring baits as these are the princi-
pal mducements to the ministry, the reigning dominion
of a selfish principal is exceedingly evident. And as these
undertake the sacred employment for themselves, and not
for God, so they will ever " preach themselves, and not
Christ Jesus the Lord," For the same principle, while
uppermost in their hearts, will attend and govern them
ia every branch of their ministerial conduct. It will go
with them into then- j)ri^-ate studies, and there wiU choose
their subject, form and methodize their sermons, and
oftentimes make them more attentive to mere words and
ornaments than to the sacred truths of God. And hence,
instead of plain and serious addresses, that might tend to
melt and change hard and unchanged hearts, they will
abound with trifling speculations, set ofl' with glittering
toys, with figures of rhetoric, and arts of elocution. Or
instead of instructing tlieu* people in the great things
that concern their everlasting welfare, they go beyond
tlieir capacity, and teach them nothing but that they are
able to speak unprofitably and unintelligibly. Self will
often dispose them to take oif the edge, and dull the life
of their teachings, under a pretence of filing oif the
roughness, and smoothing the diction. And if a plain
and cutting passage occurs, it will cast it away, as too
rustical and ungrateful. Thus in their preparations for
public service, instead of consulting seriously, " AVhat
shall I say, and how shall I say it, so as best to please
and glorify God, and do good to the souls of men," self
will make them consult, "What shall I say, and how
shall I deliver it, so as to be thought an excellent preach-
er, and to be admired and applauded by all that hear me."

And when self has done its work in their study, and
made their sermon, it will attend them even to the pul-
pit, and there it wfll form their very countenance and
gesture, and modulate their voice, and animate their
delivery, and put the very accent and emphasis upon
their words and syllables that all may be calculated to




please rather than profit, and to recommend themselves
and secure a vain applause, rather than recommend Jesus
Christ, and secure his interest in the hearts of men.

And when the sermon is ended, self goes home "with
the preacher, and makes him much more solicitous to
know whether he is admired and applauded, than whether
he has prevailed for the awakening and conversion of
souls. And so powerful is this principle in some, that
they could even be glad in their heart (were it not for
shame) to ask their hearers, in du-ect terms, whether they
like, admire, and applaud theii* labors, and conceive a
good opinion of them. But as this will not do, self will
put them on some topic of conversation with their hearers,
that will tend, if possible, to draw out theu' own com-
mendation ; and if they can perceive they are highly
thought of, they rejoice greatly, as having attained their
end. Bat if they find they are esteemed but weak, or at
best but common preachers, they are dejected and disap-
pointed, as having missed what they think the grand
prize of the day.

And hence this false, self-seeking heart, can be very
easy and contented Avith a general approbation and ap-
plause, without seeing any savmg fruit of ministerial
labor, from year to year. Or if he desire success in the
awakening and conversion of sinners, yet self may lie at
the bottom of this too : and though it may Avork differ-
ently from the manner above described, yet it may ter-
minate in the same thing in the final issue. Self may
make such as these strive to excel in appearances of real
godliness, and in zealous, fervent, j^ractical iDreaching;
yea, it may dispose them to desu-e success, to afiect and
change the hearts of their hearers, and they may calculate
their discourses for that purpose, and yet aim ultimately
at themselves, and the advancement of their own reputa-
tion. What can be more agreeable to a man who ulti-
mately seeks himself, than to see people throng around
him, and crowd in multitudes to hear him, and appear to
be aifected Avith what they hear ? And to find that he is
able to command their attention, and move their j^assions
and afiections ; and what more pleasing than to hear
himself cried up by them, as the most able and godly


preacher in the land, and famed through the whole coun-
try as a man of the highest spiritual excellencies, and
most successful lahor.

I mean not to insinuate that men of such mercenary
and corrupt principles are likely to be very successful, for
though it is jDossible they may do good, and God may
bless what means he pleases ; yet it seems more probable,
that, as they labor not for God, but for themselves, he
will leave them to themselves for the success : and that
their labors will have no greater blessing than them-
selves are able to give, and that their words, how pun-
gent soever, will reach no farther than their own
strength is able to make them. But what I have as-
serted, is, that self may make men desire success, so far
as it may tend to the advancement of their reputation.

Sometimes this selfish disposition will work up envious
and bitter thoughts against all those who they imagine
stand in their light, or by out-shining them, eclipse their
glory, and hinder the progress of theii- idoHzed reputa-
tion. Hence they are inwardly vexed and mortified,
when a preference is given to the names and parts of
their brethren, as if all the praise given to others was in-
juriously taken from them, and that they themselves were
not so particularly noticed, respected, and esteemed as
their partial selfish judgment imagines they ought to be.
And this often lays a foundation for jealousy, suspicion,
and alienation, as if they were carrying on two diiferent
and contrary interests. It is this also, that makes some
so tenacious of their own opinions, that they almost claim
infallibility, and are ever impatient of contradiction or
control. They esteem and value the man that will say as
they say, and be of their opinion, and promote their repu-
tation ; but he who will dare to difier from, or contradict
them, is not to be borne Avith, O, su'S ! it is impossible
to trace out all the corrupt workings of this detestable
and pernicious principle, or to mention the innumerable
mischiefs it has occasioned in the Church of God, It was
this that raised anti-christ, by several gradual and pro-
gressive steps, to his present tyrannical dignity. It was
this that enkindled the flames of persecution, in the sev-


eral periods of the Christian Church, and stained the earth
"with the crimson gore of human blood ; and it is thi.^^
disturbs and rends Christian societies, and divides them

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Online LibraryDavid BostwickThe character and duty of a Christian preacher → online text (page 1 of 3)