David Bostwick.

The character and duty of a Christian preacher online

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into different interests, and different parties, and fills
them with bitterness against one another. " Oh ! may the
Lord in mercy dehver us from ourselves, as our worst
enemy, and from the power and dominion of selfishness,
as the sorest plague that can befall us on this side hell !"

But I have dwelt too long on this disagreeable subject,
and shall therefore pass to the

Third general head, which was to show,

m. What it is to preach Christ. " We preach not
ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord." All this also
must be considered both materially, and formally, or as it
respects the subject matter, and the formal manner of our

1st, As it respects the matter ; it includes, in general,
the whole sura of Gospel doctrine, relating to man's sal-
vation by Jesus Christ ; the original contrivance, the
mei'itorious irapetration, and actual application of it,
through his blood and Spirit ; the fall of man, " by one
man's disobedience," and the guilt and ruin of a fallen
state necessarily supposed ; the original purpose of God's
love and grace, that issued in the gift of his dear Son, the
glory of his person as God, the eternal relation he sus-
tained to the father, his substitution as a surety, and
designation to the office of Mediator, his voluntary con-
tract in the covenant of redemption, which made way for
his mysterious incarnation, his holy life, his meritorious?
and cruel death, his powerful resurrection, triumphant
ascension, and perpetual prevailing intercession ; the com-
plete atonement he made, and the everlasting righteous-
ness he hath brought in ; together vnth the various ofiices
he sustained, both in his state of humiliation and exalta-
tion : The methods of divine operation, in the work of
effectual calling, the nature and use of divine faith, to
apply his blood and righteousness ; the blessings conse-
quent on believing, justification, adoption, sanctification,
perseverance in grace, and consummation in glory, perfec-
tion of holiness at death, and the complete happiness of
soul and body at the resurrection, in the full enjojTnent


of God to all eternity. These, and all other Gospel
truths, supposed by them, included in them, and conse-
quent upon them, relating- to Jesus Christ, are to be the
subject matter of our preaching; aU which are summarily
comprehended in the three characters mentioned in the
text, Christ Jesus the Lord; Christ the Messiah, the
annointed of God, qualified for, and set apart to^ the
office of Mediator ; Jesus the Saviour of men, who saves
his people from theu' sins, both from the guilt and power,
and finally from the jjunishment of tliem, by working out
for them a righteousness to be imputed ; and by work-
ing in them a righteousness implanted, the Lord, the
great head and king of his Church, who has its govern-
ment on his shoulders, and to " whom all power is given
in heaven and upon earth ;" to whom all homage and
obedience are due, and to whom is committed, as a j^er-
son every way qualified and worthy, the sole manage-
ment of the solemn transactions of the grand and final

But particularly, 1st, To preach Christ, is to hold him
forth, not merely as a lawgiver, to be obeyed ; but chiefly
as a law-fulfiller, to be believed in, for pardon, righteous-
ness, and everlasting life. To represent him to poor jjer-
ishing sinners as surety, who has undertaken in their
room and stead, to pay the debt of duty and of penalty,
for which divine justice has them under an arrest ; to
atone for the crimes for which they are under sentence,
and work out for them a complete and perfect righteous-
ness, answerable to the strict demands of his unchang-
able law. How honorably soever we may speak of Jesus
Christ as a ruler to be obeyed, and as a pattern to be
unitated, yet if we do not exhibit him to view as the
great law-fulfiller, to be believed in, and as " the end of
the law for righteousness," we do not properly preach
Christ, but conceal a most essential branch of his media-
torial excellency. It is the grand fmidamental article of
the religion of Christ, and the ground of all our hopes,
"that he suffered for us, the just for the unjust, that he
might bring us to God ; that he not only died for our
good, (as the Socinians say, to set us an example how to
suflTer Math patience ;) but that he died " in our room and


stead," and was " made sin for us" by imputation, that
we by imputation " might be made righteous in the sight
of God through him."

2dly, To preach Christ, is to exhibit to view his infinite
divine fullness, and the freeness of his unbounded grace,
his almighty power to save, and his "u-illingness to exert
that" power; that in him is to be foimd all that righteous-
ness that the law requires, and all that gi-ace that the
Gospel promises; and, in short, that a poor, guilty, helpless,
sin-burdened, and law-condemned sinner can possibly
want ; and that all the blessings of his atonement, are
freely oflered, " without money and without price."

3dly, To preach Christ, is to make him the grand cen-
tre of all the variety of subjects we enter upon, in the
whole credenda and agenda of religion. If we treat of
the nature and perfections of the Deity, we are to consi- вАҐ
der them as displayed most emmently "in the face of
Jesus Christ." If we exhibit to view the divine law, in
its strictness and spirituality, we are to remember Christ,
" as the end of the law for righteousness." If we de-
nounce its dreadful " curses against every one that con-
tinues not in all things written in the book of the law to
do them ;" it is that " the law, as a school-master, may
bring them to Christ, that they may be justified by faith."
If we treat of Gospel promises and Gospel blessings, we
must consider them as purchased by the blood, and dis-
tributed by the bounty and grace of Christ. If we dis-
course upon divine faith, Christ must be considered as
" the author and finisher," as well, as the direct object of
it. If we treat of repentance, it is " Christ exalted at
the right hand of God" that must give it, and " the re-
mission of sins ;" and Christ crucified, and viewed by
faith, that must be the first spring of it. If we treat of
Gospel obedience, it must be considered as the genuine
fruit of faith in Christ, and union to him ; springing from
" constraining love to," and performed by strength and
grace derived from the Lord Jesus Christ ; and accepted
altogether on account of the merit of his obedience and
death. In a word, Christ must be considered as " all and
in all, as the alpha and omega, the begmning and the
end ;" the fountain from which all is derived and the


centre in which all must terminate ; his righteousness is
all in justification, his Spirit and grace all in sanctifica-
tion, and the enjoyment of him all in glorification. This
is to preach Christ, as to the matter of our preaching.
And then,

II. As to the foi*mal manner, it implies, that we aim
at the honor and glory of Christ, and the advancement
of his interest, as our ultimate and final end. This is
doubtless the principal thing intended, in opposition to
those mercenary views and selfish aims that were men-
tioned before. Men may speak much about Jesus Christ
in their sermons, and yet not properly preach Christ :
yea, they may preach Christ too, as to the matter of their
preaching, in all the instances above described, and yet
not do it for Christ, but for themselves. And thus they
make Christ himself, and the precious doctrines of the
Gospel, only subservient to the advancement of the grand
idol, Self. To preach Christ, then, is to make his honor
and interest the centre of all our labor and industry ; the
mark on which we fix our eye, and toward which we
endeavor to steer in all our private studies and public
administrations, and in every instance of our ministerial
conduct. Our business is to commend Christ, and not
ourselves ; to wdn the hearts of men to him, and not to
oui'selves ; and attach them to his mterest rather than
our own. And as this must be the ultimate, proposed
end, so those means must be chosen that have the most
natural tendency to accomplish it ? even such methods
and manner of address as will tend to pierce the obdu-
rate hearts, and wound the stupid consciences of sleepy,
secure sinners, by making them feel the ruin of their
fallen state, their guilt and condemnation by the law,
and the absolute impossibility of obtaining a personal
legal righteousness ; that they may effectually see their
need of Christ, both as a surety to pay theu' law-debt,
and as a " fountain to wash in from sin and from imclean-

The rich and unbounded treasures of Gospel grace, are
also to be laid open, and Gospel invitations to be exhibited
in their free and indefinite terms, urged with the most
powerful motives and persuasive arguments that can be


clra\^Ti from love or from "wrath, from heaven or from
hell ; and from all the glorious and dreadful thmgs of an
unseen and eternal world.

Let me now endeavor to improve this subject by an
inference or two from each of the principal foregoing
heads ; and then conclude with a particular apphcation.

1st, If ministers are not to preach, or to seek them-
selves, in the execution of the sacred office, then none
can ever discharge this important trust acceptably in the
sight of God who are under the reigning dominion of
mercenary and selfish jirinciples. I have observed before,
that when man fell from God by original apostasy, he re-
tired as it were into himself, and is ever since disposed
supremely to love, and ultimately to seek himself, as his
last and final end. Selfishness, then, in one shape or
another, is now the reigning, active principle in fallen na-
ture, and has the entire dominion in every heart that is
unrenewed and unsanctified; as, therefore, unsanctified
men have no governing principle but self, and can act
from no higher principles than they have, how can they
be quaUfied for a faithful discharge of that work which
requires so much self-renunciation '? If such as these un-
dertake the ministry, their views must be altogether sel-
fish : they study, pray, and preach for themselves, and
make themselves the grand centre of all they think, and
speak, and do ! " Seeking their ovm things," and not the
thmgs of Christ Jesus ; preferring their honor to his
honor, and their interest to his interest ; and, therefore,
they are guilty of idolatry, by setting themselves upper-
most in their estimation, affections, designs, and pursuits.
And if I should grant that such as these may be useful
in the ministry, yet surely the undertaldng will be aw-
fully hazardous to the souls committed to their charge,
and the consequence extremely dreadful to themselves,
for, " when they have preached to others, themselves
will be finally rejected and cast a^ray."

2dly, If the business of Gospel ministers is to preach
Christ, hence see the honor and dignity of their office.
No other than a glorious Christ, the anointed of God,
the darling of heaven, and the beloved of angels and


saints, is the subject of their ministry ; fi'oni him their
authority and coramissiou is derived, in his valuable in-
terest they are engaged to speak, as " ambassadors in his
name and stead." Their office is, therefore, honorable in
some proportion to the dignity of the sovereign from
whom they receive commission ; the grandeur of the
court in whose interest they are employed as ambassadors,
and the important errand they have to transact with
guUty men. And as they are engaged for Christ, and
employed by him to act as ambassadors in his name, he
has declared that he will regard the treatment they meet
with as if done to himself: "He that receiveth you, says
he, receiveth me ; and he that despiseth you, despiseth
me, and Him that sent me." Were we acting a part for
ourselves, and speaking in our own name, and driving on
our own self-interests, men might treat us as they pleased ;
but if we act as ambassadors for Christ, in pursuit of his
interest, and in his name and stead, let them take heed
how they despise the sacred character we sustain, or
neglect the solemn messages we bring. But I must not
dwell on these inferences, the time being far elapsed.

Permit me, therefore, now, with all humility, to ad-
dress myself particiilarly to the venerable members of
this Synod, with all others of the sacred character here

My reverend fathers and dear brethren :

The subject I have now been handling will necessarily
lead me to great freedom and plainness of speech, yet I
will not entertain so dishonorable a thought of any of
you, as to imagine an apology necessary : nor will I doubt
your candid acceptance of what shall now be said, though
by one of the meanest of the sacred character, who would
gladly sit at your feet and learn, and who is "wiUing to
stand corrected or reproved by you.

Let what we have heard,

1. Lead us into oiir own hearts, to examine in the pre-
sence of an all-seeing God, whether we have not too
much of this abominable selfish principle still lurking
within us, and too little singleness of heart for God and
Jesus Christ. Do we never shrink into diffidence and
neglect in cases of duty, through the power and preva-


lence of that soothing temptation, Spare thyself? Do
we never find this detestable enemy strive to encroach on
the rights of the Godhead, and assume the honor and
regard that is due to Jesus alone ? Does it never creej)
into our studies, and seek to have a hand in our prepara-
tions for the sanctuary of the Lord, and dispose us to
consult how to please, rather than how to j^rofit ; and
how our own interest may be secured in the esteem
and affections of our hearers, rather than how the in-
terest and kingdom of Christ may be advanced ? And
when we enter the sacred desk, with a message from
heaven to guilty men, are we never too thoughtful of the
notices and observations of our poor fellow mortals round
about us, and too httle sensible of the all-seeing eye of
Jehovah upon us, and the vast and inexpressible weight
of the errand on which we come ? Are we never too
soUcitous about mere external appearances that attend
our deliA^ery, and too little so about the spiritual frame
of our hearts in the sight of God ? Are we never
tempted by this pernicious principle to play the hypo-
crite before our hearers, with a greater show of zeal, and
fervor, and devotion than is answerable to the inward
state and frame of our minds ? If at any tune we find
ourselves dead and barren, and have but little clearness
or freedom, we are dejected ; our hearts are depressed
and sunk within us : but from whence is this dejection ?
Is it because we have done so poorly for God, and been
so miserably deficient in his service ? Or only because
we have made so indifferent a figure in the eyes of our
fellow men ? On the other hand; when we find some en-
largement and freedom, a readiness of thought, and
fluency of expression, and feel some suitable degree of
zeal and fervor, does a selfish, deceitful heart never
prompt us to a sort of self-complacency, and deUght in
ourselves ? And if we are pleased that God has enabled
us, in any measure, to be fiuthful, yet, are we never too
much elated with the approbation and applause of those
that have heard us ?

And when our public performances are ended, what is
the object of our greatest solicitude ? Whether sinners
are awakened and won to Christ, or whether we our-


selves are held in high esteem? "VVhethei* tlie word
preached has gained their hearts for God, or whether it
has gained for us their pleasing approbation ? And does
this selfish principle never direct or influence our conduct
among the people of our charge ? Are we not often best
pleased with the company and society of those who (per-
haps too partial in our favor) may gratify our A^anity wath
their professions and tokens of esteem and friendshi]) ?
And do we not, from the same principle, shun, or too
much neglect, those who appear less friendly, though they
need our mstruction and advice as much as others ? Do
we not too much neglect the duties of private and parti-
cular applications, for fear of offending ; and yet frame
excuses for our neglects, that have too much selfishness
in them ? In a word, what did we undertake the minis-
try for ? "What do we study, preach, and pray, live, and
labor for ? It is ultimately for God or for ourselves ? I
beseech you, reverend and dear sirs, bear with this plain-
ness and freedom, and let me not be looked upon in the
light of an arrogant accuser ; far be it from me to lay any
of these things to your charge, or to harbor a doubt of
your disinterested zeal for God, and victory over self.
" There is but one heart ainong us that I have reason to
suspect," and over that I find it necessary to keep a con-
tinual watch and guard : and oh ! how many are the secret
windings and turnings, and different shapes and appear-
ances of this pernicious adversary, self! How often does
it beset us, when and where we have little expected it,
and give us occasion to lament and say, " Hast thou found
me, O mine enemy ?" If we find then, on the above-
mentioned inquiiy, that our self-denial and deadness to
ourselves is yet very imperfect. Let us in the

Second place. Bitterly bewail it before God, with the
deepest humiliation. For what can be more detestable,
or carry a greater malignity in its very nature, than that
disposition that would exalt self in the place of God and
Jesus Christ, and as it were contend with him for the
preference, and dispute the point with him who shall be
most loved and regarded by us, he or we ; and whose
honor and mterest shall be primarily pursued, his or our
own ? And how inconsistent is this selfishness with that


lesson of self-denial that we are obliged to preach to
others, and which Jesus has taught us, both by precept
and example. Nay, with what, force can we recommend
self-denial to others, wliile we are selfish, or how can ^ye
reprove or condemn the sin in others that we harbor too
much in ourselves. We tell the drunkard, the swearer, the
profane sinner, that " except he be converted and changed
he can not be saved ; and is it not as true of us, that we
can not be the true disciples, or faithful ministers of Christ,
except we deny ourselves." Does not our Lord himself
lay this down as the grand criterion by which he submits
his own doctrine and mission to trial, whether it was of
God or whether he spake of himself " He that speaketh
of himself," says he, " se'eketh his own glory : but he that
seeketh the glory of him that sent him, the same is true."
I make no doubt, sirs, but selfishness in its reigning do-
minion, is a greater sin than drunkenness or whoredom.
The one dishonors God by breaking his law ; but the
other strikes at the very relation of sovereign and sub-
ject, and contends with him, as it were, for the rights of
Godhead, and insists on being above him in the estima-
tion, affections, intentions, and pursuits. Now, " it is one
thing to break some particular laws of a prince, and
another to set up to be above him, or to exalt a rival in
his room and stead ;" the first indeed is transgression, but
the other is downright treason and rebellion, and there-
fore the most heinous. And indeed whatever we do in
religion, and how good soever it be, as to the matter or
thing done, yet if self is the reigning principle, it tarnishes,
corrupts, and debases all. And as it is the very essence
of holiness to live to God, and act entirely for him, so it
is horrible wickedness, in the very nature of it, to Uve to
ourselves, and act ultimately for ourselves. If, therefore,
we find the remains, or secret workings of so corrupt and
detestable a principle, let us mourn and be humbled be-
fore God, and repair by faith to Him who once died,
" That they which live should not live to themselves, but
to Him who died for them, and rose agam." Let us, in
the third place,

Ever be watchful against this enemy of God and our
souls, and endeavor to suppress the first risings of it.


Let us ever remember, " we are not our own," and there-
fore have no business to Hve to ourselves, or regard our
interest or reputation, any further than the honor of
Christ, and the interest of religion is concerned. If God
has made us, if Christ has redeemed us, if in our ordina-
tion vows we have solemnly given up ourselves and our
all to him, then certainly we are not our own ; and there-
fore to appropriate our time and talents to our own in-
terests and reputation is a sacrilegious robbing of God.

Further, let us guard against that fear of man that
selfishness would prompt us to, and which would make
us too fond to please, and too fearful to displease ; for if
we thus seek to please man, and by that means to ad-
vance ourselves, we can not be the faithful " servants of
Jesus Christ." And yet, such are the perverse tempers
of many we have to deal with, that we are often reduced
to an unhappy dilemma, and must either offend God or
offend them. Poor guilty mortals love to be soothed and
flattered, but do not love to be plamly dealt with ; hence,
such pointed addresses as tend to discover them to them-
selves often excite their resentment. Thus, when our
Lord was representing to his hearers, by several parables,
the awful destrviction that would shortly come upon the
final rejectors of the Gospel Saviour, and the Gospel sal-
vation, it is said : " the chief priests and Pharisees per-
ceived that he spake of them." A heinous business in-
deed ! as if it was intolerable insolence for him to speak
of them. It is true, they perceived right, he did speak
of them, and all others like them ; and what then ?
"Why, they are exasperated, and would have laid hands
on him, and treated him in a manner they thought he de-
served, had it not been that they feared the multitude.
And when this is the case, that we must either offend
God or men ; whose disjileasure shall we most regard ?
If carnal self is consulted, it will inflvience us to displease
God, and to sooth and flatter our fellow-men. But alas !
should we make such an a^vful sacrifice to their corrupt
humors, will they undertake to answer it for us ? Will
they defend us from the displeasure of Jehovah, when he
shall send for us by death, or sentence us to hell by his
righteous judgment ? No, they dare not attempt this,


nor dare we trust them in this matter, "We have one
God, and one Master to please, and he must be obeyed,
whether men hke or dislike. Our errand to them is on
matter of life and death, the vast importance of which
must engage all the powers of our soids. Poor Christless
sinners are not in a state to be soothed and flattered, or
jested and trifled with ; heaven and hell are not matters
to be talked of in a careless indolent strain ; it is plain
dealing such want, however they may take it ; such as
will tend to make them feel their wretched, miserable
state, and awaken their solicitude for dehverance.

Again, our business is to preach Christ Jesus the Lord,
and exhibit him to view in his j^ersonal glory and divine
fulness as the law-fultiller and Sa\dour of sumers ; to urge
them compassionately to come to him that they might
have life, and on their final refusal, to denounce against
them the terrors of eternal death. And besides the in-
expressible importance of these things, every considera-
tion from the j)resent pro\ddences of God suggests an
awakening call to the utmost diligence and painful indus-
try. The God of heaven is now thimdering an alarm on
every side, our country is groaning imder ravages and
devastations, and all the frightful calamities of war and
blood ! The enemies of Zion are forming a confederacy,
and saying : " Let us raze it, let us raze it to the founda-
tion." And who can tell how soon our churches may be
demoUshed and beaten into rubbish, and we ourselves
called to prison and to death ? And what, in the name
of God, shall we do in a day of- suffering, if Ave have not
learned to deny ourselves, and account our honor, interest,
and even life itself, nothing in comparison of the interest
and kingdom of Jesus Christ ? Or should God in mercy
yet spare his Church from the ravages of Popish and Pagan


Online LibraryDavid BostwickThe character and duty of a Christian preacher → online text (page 2 of 3)