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that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God.
Fellow workers, were our hearts fully imbued with the grace of the Gospel, did we every hour apprehend the greatness of its salvation, did we feel for those who tremble on the outmost precipice of perdition, ready to sink into endless remorse and despair; oh! did we behold the recording angel writing the account of our stewardship, and hastening to complete it in time to meet us at the bar of God; did we believe that transgressions and omissions may be equally loathsome in God's esteem-we should cease to wonder at the ardor of Paul, and, despite of indolence, and worldly influence, and the fear of man, we also, in the ardor of our souls, should exclaim," wo is unto us if we preach not the Gospel.”
The meaning of the text obviously is, that the preacher of the Gospel who suffers any worldly consideration, any personal claim, any selfish motive, to diminish, interrupt or suspend his labors, has nothing to expect but wo. Though an unfolding of the meaning of the term “Gospel" is not necessary in order that we may exhibit the sentiment of this text, yet as that term gives a strong emphasis to this truth, we may be pardoned if we for a moment dwell on its import.
The Gospel! Good tidings of great joy to all people! Tidings of the Saviour, Christ the Lord! Tidings of the undertaking, the advent, the meritorious sufferings, and the prevalent advocacy of Jesus Christ. Tidings proclaimed in promise, published in prophecy, and recorded in history, of blessings, purchased by his blood, and secured in his covenant, suited to our nature, adapted to our necessities, and designed to effect our complete redemption ! Tidings tending to produce within us humility, and devotedness to God, and to put us in possession of faith, consolation, and joy, by exciting our minds to consider the divinity of his nature, the glories of his Godhead, the importance of his offices, the depth of his condescension, the greatness of his love, the innocence of his life, the agonies of his death, the prevalence of his prayers, the riches of his grace, the splendors of his glory, the preciousness of his promises, and the perpetuity of his kingdom, whose mediatorial crown will brighten forever. All this was implied in the angel's annunciation; all this is embraced in that Gospel which was proclaimed by Paul, to whom this grace was given that he should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;— such is the Gospel, the word of reconciliation which is committed unto us, the ministry of reconci.. liation, who are sent forth commissioned to preach it for the salvation of sinners, and the glory of Christ; and wo is unto us if we preach it not.
Two inquiries here naturally arise in the mind, -
To the first question, when do we so preach as to escape the wo? it may be replied,
1. We so preach, when we exhibit to all men the whole of the Gospel in its plain and obvious meaning, neither covering its glories under metaphysical clouds, nor concealing its simpler teachings by scholastic refinements; neither breaking up its obvious connection to estabblish a favorite system, nor quoting unfairly to sanction a schismatic shibboleth ; neither polishing down the honest severity of its expressions, nor presenting them in such a way as shall least disturb the sinner; neither softening the rigor of its precepts and the sternness of its threatnings, nor concealing for effect one of its encouragements, its invitations, or its great and precious promises; but, on the contrary, honestly, openly, freely, fully, always declaring to men the whole counsel of God, as it is recorded in the volume of revelation.
2. We so preach as to escape the wo, when, according to the custom of Christ, we make known the truth in the temple reared for, and dedicated to, God's public worship; or when like him we preach in the humble synagogue, the place of less systematic and less finished but not less solemn or acceptable instruction ; or when like him we go from city to city, from hamlet to hamlet, from house to house, from heart to heart, preaching the plain, simple Gospel of God our Saviour, using the mountain's side, the valley's retreat, the thronged temple, the lonely wilderness, the hill, the plain, the fisher's boat, the public path, or the pilgrim's seat, as the place where to address the man or the multitude, according to the letter of instruction accompanying our commission. We so preach, when like Philip we address the individual, or when like Peter we address the household, or when like Paul we warn every man, and teach every man publicly and from house to house, day and night, in season and out of season, entreating and persuading by every motive which is presented by truth, and which should be influential in moving man's moral nature.
3. We so preach, when we attach to our sabbath services all that unspeakable importance with which they are invested by God, and at the same time do not consider them a full discharge of the duties of our week's ministrations; and when we do not trust that the polish, which six days labor may have given them, can satisfy God's requirements, or meet the claims of perishing souls, or purchase a dispensation for the omission of other holy and hourly recurring duties. Reason declares, and revelation sanctions the decision, that while we must give to pulpit preparations all the force of head and heart, affections and conscience, so must we give it also, in all its vigor, to the lecture room, the prayer meeting, the domestic circle, the confidential interview, the anxious inquiry, and the hopes and the fears of the new born soul; so must we give it also to the chamber of sickness and the bed of death; and so must we give it to all the sacred social efforts to evangelize the
world-never forgetting that while we are saving our labor, souls are sinking for ever from hope.
4. We so preach, when we do not suffer either the fear or the favor of men, to influence our ministry, to fashion our doctrine, to shape our exhortation, to select our subjects, to form our manner, or regulate the times, or the frequency, or the length of our duties; when, neither faithless to our Sovereign, nor ashamed of our embassy, we with confidence approach the conscience of every hearer ; passing by none through negligence; but warning all to flee from the wrath to come. In doing which we must not separate doctrines from duties, nor dissociate the Christian charities, nor exceed the letter of our commission, nor suffer the curses of enemies, or the cautions of friends, to cool our ardor, or to paralyze our exertions, in the great work of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.
5. We so preach, when not expecting to affect the sinner's heart or to arouse his conscience by ornament or polish, by show of learning or power of talents, and when firmly believing that nothing but the Gospel of God will convert the soul, we preach the Gospel, in matter and in form, according to our instructions, being more anxious to save the perishing from perdition, than to please the fastidious taste, or to indulge the affected sensibility,-giving indeed no occasion of offence by coarseness, personalities, invectives, or reproach ; but at the same time preaching the Gospel, in its own order, and as much as may be in its own words, in all its sweetness and its severity, in all its conclusive argument an its sovereign requirement. How offensive soever to the unregenerate, who may count us their enemies for telling them the truth, and how contrary soever to carnal policy this course may be, it was the manner of our Master's teaching; and this should satisfy the heart of every disciple.
6. We so preach, when through all and above all we exemplify the Gospel in our life and labor, being through the cross of Christ crucified unto the world, and having the world crucified unto us. Thus dead to the sinful pleasures of life was Paul, when he exclaimed, “Wo is unto me if I preach not the Gospel."
Il. It may be inquired, wherein does that wo consist which awaits the faithless preacher ? “Wo is unto me." Wo! It is the language of distress, the voice of misery, the echo of anguish, the groan of despair. No other word so well befits the faithless preacher when self-condemned.
FIRST W0.- Little success.
It is the economy of God's husbandry, that he who soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly. The great Husbandman has declared,“ him that honoreth me I will honor, and he that despiseth me shall be lightly esteemed." And we confidently appeal for proof of the constancy of this result to the honest observation of all men. Wherever the pulpit
addresses of the sabbath, sparingly measured out, however labored or learned, constitute the sum of ministerial exertion, there is, there will be, but little success. We could point to many blighted congregations, to many languishing churches, as proofs of this truth, and as manifestations of the weight of this wo. Far be it from us to limit the power of the Holy One, by any preacher's faithlessness; but the history of the church every where exhibits a wonderful proportion between the means employed, and the blessing granted ; as though God measured back full measures of disappointment into the heartless bosom of the indolent preacher, who estimates his duty by his fears of spending his strength-placing his own ease in preference to the cause of Christ and the salvation of souls. In woful sadness shall such gather the wilted stalk, the blighted ear, and the grainless sheaf, as their only harvest. Go to the infrequent, interrupted, deserted lecture; go to the tardy, discountenanced prayer-meeting; note the family visit the personal conversation, the private exhortation, neglected; look at the church not blessed with parochial labor-and you will cease to wonder, why it is that ministers have occasion so often to say, “Lord who hath believed our report !" The faithful preacher will have reason continually to use these words in the sadness of compassion for the many who perish, but the faithless preacher will use them with remorseful pangs.
SECOND Wo.-Great discouragement,
What can discourage us more than to see our labor lost, the Lord's work languishing, the spirit of God's people depressed, and our handful of seed, so well chosen, so skilfully prepared, and so carefully sown, which we so fondly hoped would grow up like the cedars of Lebanon, either dying in the furrow, or sparingly springing up, a few blighted, hopelss, headless stalks ! Look we for the cause? Surely we should not expect to find it in ourselves. What can be done, which we have not done? Are not our frames delicate, are not our friends alarmed, are not our families anxious? Do we not sufficiently imprison our bodies, do we not study closely to understand every shade of speculation? Can any grace the pulpit with higher preparation? Can any desire more earnestly to conciliate the people, to secure their approval, to gain their applause ? And yet six days labor lost in an hour! Ah, yes, and the song of praisa has lost its ardor, the office of prayer has lost its animation, the very gospel has lost its effect, for now there is none who inquires, “what must I do to be saved ?"
Who can bear the weight of this wo? Could we foresee its crushing hurden, popularity would appear to be like the bubble on the mountain brook, and the joy of winning souls to God, to be of greater value than the world. This would rouse us from the spell of carnal influence, which binds us to a faithless, profitless service; and instead
of syllogizing with Socrates, or moralizing with Seneca, or philosophizing with Plato, or playing the orator with Cicero, we should be found taking our lives in our hands, keeping the retributions of eternity full in view, following gospel examples as our guides ; and resolving to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, we should be found taking as our motto, “wo is unto me if I preach not the Gospel ;” and under cover of our high commission, forcing through the barriers of preconceived notions, of personal pride, and of pampered prejudice, however sanctioned by age, or strengthened by habit, we should boldly, though affectionately, carry the cause and cross of Christ into every house, and home to every heart.
Here, and here alone, can we hope for relief. Nothing else will ever lift the incumbent curse from the preacher's heart, oppressed by discouragements. In no other way can the bosom be filled with the joy and gladness of a plentiful harvest.
Third Wo.-Poverty of spirit.
As our usefulness is diminished, our discouraged hearts are chilled, every fibre is relaxed, every power paralyzed, every preparation made with double weariness, and to every duty the soul is disinclined. The ever returning stone of the fable was not more oppressively discouraging, than will be the constantly recurring duties of each week. The labors of Hercules were not more fatiguing, than it will be to us, to visit the sick, to appear in the lecture room or the place of social prayer, to meet the tempted or the bereaved, the backsliding or the benighted, the cold or the unconverted. Each labor in its turn comes with condign wo upon the heart deprived of the riches of its resources, and drained of the stream of its consolations. Here the soul ceases to bring forth out of its stores any thing new or old. Here it is forced in agony often to acknowledge its leanness. Disappointment and destitution produce famine fatal alike to the faithless preacher and his unhappy people. Nor does it alter the case, that they "desire to have it so," and applaud, for the course he is pursuing, the instrument of their own undoing. Could we for an hour realize the coming pressure of this wo, it would arouse us to efforts to escape the curse—it would make us start from our present slumbers, with the cry—“WO is unto me if I preach not the Gospel."
FOURTH Wo.- Worldly mindedness.
The heart cannot be either idle or empty. In proportion as it becomes indolent in holy offices, or poor in spiritual treasures, it will be busily employed in occupations of vanity, and abundantly filled with the pleasures of sin. Every place in the heart, not filled with the love and the labor of the Lord's vineyard, will be occupied according to our situation and circumstances : in the country with the farm, the cattle, the crops ; in the city with the business, the fashions, the follies, the dissipation, the fiction, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life,