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never heaved the planet before. Commit to the millions of our Christendom the fire, and love, and consecration, which filled the bosom of David, and made the martyrs, and you have a power which nothing evil could withstand, a spirit, before which wickedness would vanish like stubble in the flame.
We want preachers, then, not only sound in the faith, but preachers full of the Holy Ghost, and with a power to breathe out his influences into other souls.
A preacher, to answer the ends of preaching, must have, in some sense, a power of selfimpartation. If he carries heavenly treasures, others will be enriched by them only as he has power to communicate them. Hence, after a personal experience of the truth, he needs a voice and an eye trained to utter all the soul's thoughts, and sympathies, and emotions. Without this he is like a dumb man trying to voice his feelings. In a system, therefore, which is mainly to accomplish its ends by souls acting on souls, which needs, as well for proclamation as for illustration, men who have experienced its renovating influence, and can give it expression through these human organs, we can not suppose that God has failed to make provision for its great necessity. And hence we are not surprised that he has exalted preaching to the place of honor, and thus has given truth the advantage of being borne to the world through souls made alive by its power.
While, therefore, preaching sits king among the means which are to make the Gospel the power of God unto salvation, subordinate to it, and inseparable from it, are the mighty influences of a witnessing life. This, after all, is the vital element in all true preaching. There is something in truth, incarnated and warm with the breath of life, which invests it with a most winning grace and eloquence. A life, with the baptism of truth glittering upon its brow, wears a charm which it may not be easy to analyze, or define, but which is none the less felt and real. This is the charm of our Saviour's character, and which, by common consent, elevates him above all the sons of men. Purity, like an orb of light, rayed out from him its steady brightness above the brightness of the sun. The calm and lofty spirit within imaged itself on his brow of high, yet peaceful dignity, it mirrored its mysteries and glories in the depths of those quiet eyes, it uttered itself in those tones of seraphic sweetness, it showed forth his regal power in the divinity and grace of every attitude and movement. His essential character is the rock which holds up his kingdom of grace, and because the one is eternal, the other shall never fail.
The preacher also, who is a representative of Christ, will have power just as his life is a reproduction of the life of Christ. His very departure from the common type of men arrests and compels observation. Christ teaches through such a life; it is a living sermon of his power and purity ever repeating itself. Scepticism can not answer it, sophistry can not break the force of its strong and convincing logic. It goes quietly on its errand, dropping its influences like the snow, flake upon flake, weaving its mantle of whiteness over the earth. No herald announces its coming, but like the sunshine, shedding its light and distilling its warmth on field and flood, it streams its mellow radiance through all the windows of the soul. It is a star on the night of time, bringing down light from the throne itself, and prophesying immortality and glory.
Preaching lips, therefore, should be set to the music of a preaching life.
Like separate melodies, they should run together in one glorious harmony. They are complements of each other, and only in their mutual union do they secure the best results of the Gospel. God gave us the power of speech, not only to distinguish our rationality, but to bridge the gulf between mind and mind. On the threads of speech, pass and repass in mutual communion the subtlest thoughts, the tenderest emotions, and the deepest affections of kindred souls.
But in whom is the marriage of lip and life to be consummated for preaching the Gospel ? Is preaching the work of the ministry alone? Did not our Saviour say to the entire membership, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature”? The early church so understood it, and practiced accordingly. Philip and Stephen, among the deacons, preached with no common power, and the church at Jerusalem, scattered by persecution, went everywhere preaching. the word. Does not this account for the early influence of the Gospel, and indicate the true method of giving it to the world? Let the millions of our membership go everywhere preaching the word, and does it need a prophet's ken to foresee the result? By the laws of human nature, the world could not sit quietly in the old seats of thought and feeling.
In the primitive day, to be a Christian was to be a preacher of righteousness. Has any thing transpired to release the common membership from this work, and to confine it to the hands of an ordained clergy? We suppose the Saviour meant what he said, "Go ye and preach the Gospel,” common members, and not alone the ministry. A work, which was laid upon all, can not be wrought by a few. If ministers are leaders in the host of God's elect, it is the host which is to fight the Lord's battles, and not the leaders alone. But the other idea, which has so widely prevailed, has wrought its appropriate fruit. The membership has been summoned to live to Christ, but has been denied Christ's distinctive work. It is neither in nature, nor in grace, that men in these circumstances should not have failed in the high ends of holy living. The life to which the common membership has been called, is a life of quietism, a kind of hermit, or ascetic devotion, which is as unnatural as it is unbecoming. Work is the law of growth and strength. Without this, body and soul pine for the true nurture of life. We never cease to admire the consecration of the primitive church, and to contrast its activity with that of our own. The difference, we apprehend, is in ideas rather than in men. Bring back the primitive idea of Christian living, and we can not doubt the apostolic scenes would be repeated. We must have a preaching church, and not only a preaching clergy. We do not plead for set discourses from every son and daughter in the family of Christ; there was very little of this in the apostolic preaching. But the Gospel as good news to the perishing, Christ as the Saviour of the lost ; who is there of Christian experience, though of humblest talent and attainment, that can not repeat this? Put the whole membership on the work of discipling for Christ, and we shall have no reason to complain of its worldliness and lack of interest in the salvation of men. Until this is done, our churches will be the burdens to crush the ministry, and retard the redemption of the world.
It seems to us, therefore, vain to expect the ideal of the
church, as it lies in the Scriptures, will ever be realized until we restore it to its appointed work. It must be made in reality what it is in theory, Christ's ordained channel to convey his grace to the world. We must take off the coverings which obscure its true idea, and send it forth fresh and unencumbered to its heavenly work. We are to learn that the church has another mission, than to plant itself in society, lead its worldly enterprises, and build up splendid houses of worship that it build up more splendid estates. The Gospel is not to be classed among the luxuries which only the few can enjoy, or among those common things which are too cheap to be sought, or regarded. It is God's gift to the world, and every child of Adam inherits such right in it as he does in the air of heaven. To restrain such a gift from its universal intent and destiny is to rob God and man. And yet has not the church been largely educated to be a receiver of the heavenly grace, rather than an almoner of it to perishing men; to seek entertainment in imposing show and eloquent discourses, rather than duty and toil in the distinctive work to which Christ has called his people? We demand great sermons from great men, as if God had made a failure in giving us a Gospel so simple, that a child can understand and repeat it. We hear, hear, hear, as if the ear were the organ through which all our relations to Christ were to be met. We have been willing to suppose that no man, without a diploma from the schools, was fit to tell a sinner the way to heaven through Jesus Christ. But is it not time to ask if God is shut up to the schools for a supply of preachers, if the church has not an army of men already enrolled upon her lists, quite competent to take possession of the world for Christ? Put the sickle into the hands of her great membership, and what is to hinder her reaping the harvests of these human generations, and gathering them into the eternal garner!
But have we not been afraid to trust the church to do her own work, and have taken it out of her hands, and committed it to the learned hands of his ministry. We have not been so blind, however, as not to see the immense disproportion between this small order, and the vast work to be done. Our faith, therefore, has had the larger margin, and while we could have little confidence in the human element, we have been
driven to large confidence in the divine. And still we have, somehow, felt that more human power was needed for this work, than was likely to be exerted by our little band of regularly appointed clergy. And, therefore, we have, very naturally, sought to multiply its power and presence by machinery. Hence the press has been put under contribution, and type and steam have been trying to do the work of living souls. Books instead of men are the marked feature of our time. But God's appointment is men with books, if you please, or with whatever else can persuade the sinner to a true life. But books alone, the best that human genius ever indited, even the Bible itself, dropped like leaves into the dwellings of men without the living preacher, would do little either to elevate or sanctify our poor humanity. Are not the Bible and the best volumes of the Christian press, in ten thousand homes in our land that are full of abomination and sin? In the very hells of intemperance and pollution, on the very altars of Bacchus and of Venus, God's word lies, a perpetual illustration of weakness, separated from the sanctified life of the Christian. It is the word spoken and breathed by sanctified souls that is to save the world. We multiply the dynamics of the church, just as we multiply the love, and faith, and truth, and consecration which dwell in each individual bosom. The force which acts in our breast is communicated to another, that to a third, that to a fourth, and so on, till, to use our Saviour's figure, the whole lump is leavened. To suppose our machinery has any force above, and separate from that of the individuals that work it, is to mistake the most certain law of moral dynamics.
And here is just our danger, that our eye will be intent on mechanical efforts, when we should be watching and toiling for living results. Does God intend that the Gospel shall be preached to the world through books, while the church is left to waste and wear herself out in material pursuits ? Such an idea, indeed, is very convenient and accommodating to men, whose hands never slacken from earthly toil, save to give a few dollars to feed the machine which is dealing salvation upon the world? Not a few have been made comfortable in an engrossing worldliness, by just turning over to Christ the spray of that golden stream which has poured through the gates of a successful