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Had Hamlet's mother been as true to her husband, as according to the statement of his father's spirit, her husband was to her, all these catastrophes would been avoided. Polonius would have lived. The queen would have seen Hamlet wed Ophelia, and they two would in due time have occupied the throne. But, that single crime of poisoning the first Hamlet, turned the whole course of events, and involved all concerned in a merciless catastrophe. For sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death, even in this world. So they found it in Denmark, and so it is in all countries and all generations.
THE PREACHER: HIS INSTRUMENTS: HIS AIMS.
The scriptural idea of the Christian ministry in its fulness and wide relations, is one of grandeur and solemnity. It transcends immeasurably all other vocations in the vital interests of humanity, both present and remote. Its aim is the transformation of beings, sinful and degraded, into sons of God, the production in man of the highest excellence, complete resemblance to the sinless One. Its right conception by the churches is an element of incalculable power; its wrong conception, an element of weakness and degeneracy. Erroneous or inadequate views regarding it, we apprehend, are now extensively prevalent, working immense evil. We wish to call the attention of both the clergy and the laity to this important theme—the design of the Christian ministry. Paul has well expressed it, Eph. iv. 11, 12, 13: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ : till we a!l come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
This glorious end the minister can not effect of himself. He can hope to accomplish it only by falling in with God's plan, so
as to secure his aid and cooperation at every step. The minister can not regenerate or sanctify the soul. This is the work of God alone. The minister can not reform men. This is each one's individual duty. The minister is simply an agent, wielding an instrument whose saving efficacy is imparted entirely by the Holy Ghost. He must, therefore, wield that instrument which the Holy Ghost has appointed, and by which he renovates and transforms. That instrument is holy truth, "the sword of the Spirit.” It is nothing more, nothing less ; simply Gospel truth. Both minister and people should have distinct and settled convictions on this point; for indefinite, illformed, ill-digested views by either party in regard to the implement by which the Spirit operates, are often attended with most unhappy results. There must be also entire satisfaction with the simple means which God has chosen. The pride of Naaman must be abased. There must be a coming down to the humility of truth.
That holy truth, the word of God, is the grand instrument of the Spirit, is most fully and clearly taught in the Scriptures. Christ prayed : “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth”; that is, the word of God is that truth by which the Holy Ghost regenerates and sanctifies. Paul affirms that • Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” James says, “Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth."
Reason leads to the same conclusion. For if the Holy Ghost does not use holy truth as the direct means of conversion, what does he use? It must be something addressed to rational and voluntary minds. If it be not moral truth, it must be either natural truth, or error, or some illusion of the imagination. But illusions of the imagination are false appearances, the mere show of reality without the substance; which is substantially the same as error or delusion. Natural truth has no moral character or fitness to effectuate moral results, unless it be in that aspect of it which reveals the character and government of God; and then it becomes holy truth, or the vehicle of holy truth. That God should employ mathematical or philosophical truth as the direct instrument to effect a moral change is irrational and contrary to all just ideas respecting cause and effect. For whatever produces a moral change in a free, moral being, must have some tendency or persuasive power to produce that change. In the economy of providence universally, natural causes produce natural effects, and moral causes, moral effects, and never are these processes reversed or changed. Gravitation or the laws of light never produce repentance or inspire Christian hope ; and the exhibition of truth or affection never produces frost or heat.
That the Holy Spirit does not use error or delusion to effect the transformation of soul implied in regeneration and sanctification is evident, in the first place, from his own character. He is infinitely holy, and by consequence, must infinitely hate sin, and every thing partaking of the nature of sin. The immediate instrument which he employs must be like himself in moral character. If then, it is that which may be addressed to the reason, it must be holy truth. The opposite of holy truth is error; and error is the child of sin. While, therefore, God may overrule error, or make it the occasion of the advancement of his kingdom in the souls of men, just as he sometimes overrules sin to this end, it would be as inconsistent with his character to employ it as a direct instrument, as' it would be to employ sin as a direct instrument. In the second place, this is evident from the character of the beings to be affected, and the effect sought. The beings are sinners, and the effect aimed at, holiness. But to transform sinners into holy beings, would he use the offspring of sin? That which must be in its nature sinful, to remove sin ? Pollution, to wash away pollution ? To exalt debased and outcast creatures into communion with God, would he take an instrument forged in the everlasting pit? Can heaven furnish none? Is the Allwise reduced to the necessity of using that which devils employ in their work of ruin? No; how infinitely absurd to imagine that error, or any degree of error, can be directly beneficial in advancing Christ's kingdom. It may, without doubt, produce feeling, even cause tears and compunction. Has not the Papist felt remorse at the neglect of a superstitious rite? Has not the orator of erratic views, kindled by his theme, enkindled the passions of his hearers by his glowing words and stirring appeals? And who has not wept over an imaginary scene?
VOL. VI.NO. XXXIV.
Yet we can not fix it too strongly in our minds, that holy truth is the only immediate instrument employed by the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of men; neither the creations of the fancy, nor the subtleties of reason, ever being thus highly honored. We should carefully discriminate. Not philosophical explanations of the divine word, but the divine word itself, is the instrument on which we are to rely in building up the kingdom of holiness.
How this idea simplifies the task of the Gospel minister. As a divine instructor, bis work is encumbered by no ambiguities ; it is simply to hold up evangelical truth, to take the word of God and proclaim it with artless sincerity, winging every word with prayer and trusting alone in the Holy Spirit to give it
That quality rendering him most effective is often overlooked from its very simplicity; just as the way of salvation by faith is overlooked by the proud heart. Hence the qualifications for the ministry are sometimes described as so multifarious and transcendant, that angelic, rather than human capacities, seem demanded for its successful execution. After listening to such representations, we sometimes feel that our churches needing pastors must send, not to the theological seminaries of earth, but to the theological seminary of heaven for suitable candidates ; and, such is the taste of the times, we can not help imagining that most of these would be rejected as too old, or too deeply experienced in spiritual realities and worldly vanities to be “popular,” especially among the young. If such exhibitions of ministerial requisities do good, they also do hurt; if they stimulate, they mislead. Doubtless the successful ninister of the “meek and lowly” Jesus needs a special fitness for his solemn work. “Who is sufficient for these things ?” But the paramount qualification, that which should interpenetrate, suffuse, animate and give tone to all others, is piety, "godly sincerity," the forgetfulness of self in the love of Christ, a dependent prayerful spirit. The minister's determinaative credential is the feeling of Paul : “Wo is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” With this conviction, he will speak with an earnest simplicity and directness which can not fail to touch the hearts of his hearers. Let it be remembered, then, that with this conviction--and without it no one has a right to assume the functions of the sacred office the ambassador of Christ is to unfold and enforce the entire system of revealed truth, just as it is, in all its depth and height; in all its intense light and heat, without shading or softening. He must, therefore, accommodate his instructions to the whole spiritual nature of man; addressing every faculty through which the mind may be illuminated, or benefically impressed by divine truth.
The first aim of the preacher of righteousness is the conversion of men, to bring them repentant around the cross, to persuade them, in imitation of Christ, to live holy lives through the growing sanctification of the heart.
To this end, holy truth must be addressed distinctively to the reason, to the conscience, to the heart.
1. To the reason. The reason is that faculty which perceives truth, and, consequently, that which takes hold of the instrument of the Holy Spirit; and the more clearly the truth is perceived by the intellect, the more firmly will this instrument be grasped, promising more decidedly its heavenly fruits. One main object of the minister, sensible of his own incapacity to regenerate the sinner, is to introduce into the mind the implement of the Spirit, so that this divine agent may work there to accomplish for his hearers what he is unable to accomplish. He must, therefore, hold up before them the truths of the Gospel, that they may be seen with the clearness and distinctness of noon-day. He must realize that their minds are darkened by sin, and need illumination. He must pour in the light to dissipate that darkness; and, as, owing to the depravity of the heart, the shadows will continually return, they should be continually driven out. Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, must rise on the soul, and shed upon it its quickening beams. That whole system of truth of which he is the sum and essence, should be unfolded, so that, if possible, it may be fully comprehended in all its purity and harmony.
This truth, the grand element of heavenly light, should penetrate and pervade the new-born spirit, till it shall itself become radiant, and fitted to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father. He must also be sensible that, as truth is the instrument of the Holy Ghost, so error is the instrument of the enemy of all good ; as the more of truth and light there is existing in the