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"without a parable he spake nothing." Matt. 13: 34. He clothed sublime and spiritual mysteries in earthly metaphors, bringing them thereby to the low and dull capacities of men, speaking so familiarly to the people about them, as if he had been speaking earthly things to them. John, 3: 12. And so, according to his own example, would he have his ministers preach," using great plainness of speech," 2 Cor. 3: 12, and by manifestation of the truth, "commending themselves to every man's conscience." 2 Cor. 4: 2. Yet he does not allow them to be rude and careless in expression, pouring out indigested, crude, immethodical words: no, a holy, serious, strict, and grave expression befits the lips of his ambassadors; and who ever spake more weightily, more logically, or persuasively, than that apostle, by whose pen Christ has admonished us to beware of vain affections and swelling words of vanity? But he would have us stoop to the understanding of the meanest, and not give the people a comment darker than the text: he would have us rather pierce their ears than amuse their fancies; and break their hearts, than please their ears. Christ was a very plain preacher.
4. Jesus Christ dispensed truth powerfully; speaking as one having authority, and not as the scribes." Matt. 7:29. They were cold and dull preachers, their words did even freeze between their lips; but Christ spake with power; there was heat as well as light in his doctrine and so there is still, though it be in the mouth of poor, contemptible men. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds." 2 Cor. 10: 4. His word is still
quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword; and piercing, to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow." Heb. 4: 12. The blessed apostle imitated Christ; and being filled with his Spirit, spake home and freely to the hearts of men: so
many words, so many claps of thunder, (as Augustine said of him,) which made the hearts of sinners shake and tremble. All faithful and able ministers are not alike gifted in this particular; but, surely, there is a holy seriousness and spiritual grace and majesty in their doctrine, commanding reverence from their hearers.
5. This Prophet, Jesus Christ, taught the people the mind of God in a sweet, affectionate, and persuasive manner his words made their hearts burn within them. Luke, 24: 32. It was prophesied of him, "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard on high. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench." Isa. 42: 2, 3. He knew how to speak a word in season to the weary soul. Isa. 50: 4. He gathered the lambs with his arms, and gently led those that were with young. Isa. 40:11. How sweetly did his words fall on the melting hearts about him! he drew with cords of love, and with the bands of a man: he discouraged none, upbraided none that were willing to come to him; his familiarity and free condescensions to the most vile and despicable sinners, were often made a matter of reproach to him. Such is his gentle and sweet carriage to his people, that the church is called the Lamb's wife. Rev. 19:7.
6. He revealed the mind of God purely to men: his doctrine had not the least mixture of error to debase it; his most enviously observant hearers could find nothing to charge him with: he is "the faithful and true witness," Rev. 1:5; and he has commanded his ministers to preserve the simplicity and purity of the Gospel, and not to blend and sophisticate it. 2 Cor. 4:2.
7. He revealed the will of God perfectly and fully, keeping back nothing needful to salvation. So he tells his disciples, "All things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you." John, 15: 15. He was faithful, as a Son, over his own house." Heb. 3:6.
INFERENCE 1. If Jesus Christ, who is now passed into the heavens, be the great Prophet and Teacher of the church, we may justly infer the continual necessity of the Gospel ministry; for by his ministers he now teaches us, and to that intent has fixed them in the church, by a firm constitution, there to remain to the end of the world. Matt. 28: 20. "We pray you in Christ's stead," 2 Cor. 5:20. These officers he gave the church at his ascension, that is, when he ceased to teach them any longer with his own lips; and so set them in the church, that their succession shall never totally fail : for so the word T., he hath set, 1 Cor. 12: 28, plainly implies. They are set by a sure establishment, a firm and unalterable constitution; and it is well they are; for how many adversaries in all ages have endeavored to shake the very office itself, pretending that it is needless to be taught by men, and wresting such a scripture as this to countenance their error: "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy," &c. Joel, 2: 28, 29. But if an Old Testament prophecy may be understood according to a New Testament interpretation, that prophecy no way opposes, but actually confirms the Gospel ministry. How the apostle understood the prophecy, may be seen in Acts, 2: 17, where he applies it to the Spirit that was poured out on the day of Pentecost upon the apostles.
God has given ministers to the church for the work of conversion and edification, "till we all come in the unity of the faith, unto a perfect man." Eph. 4:11-13. So that when all the elect are converted, and all those converts become perfect men; when there is no error in judgment or practice, and no seducer to cause it, then, and not till then, will a Gospel ministry be useless. Indeed, as one has well observed, there is not a man that opposes a Gospel ministry, but the very being of that man is a sufficient argument for the continuance of it.
2. If Christ be the great Prophet of the church, the weakest christians need not be discouraged at the dulness and incapacity they find in themselves: for Christ is not only a patient and condescending Teacher, but he can also, as he has often done, reveal that to babes which is hid from the wise and learned. Matt. 11: 25. "The testimonies of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple." Psa. 19:7. Yea, and such as you are, the Lord delights to choose, that his grace may be the more conspicuous in your weakness. 1 Cor. 1: 26, 27. Well then, be not discouraged; others may know more in other things than you, but you are not incapable of knowing so much as shall save your souls, if Christ be your teacher: in other knowledge they excel you; but ye know Jesus Christ, and the truth as it is in him, one drop of your knowledge is worth a whole sea of their gifts. It is better in kind, the one being but natural, the other supernatural, from the saving illuminations and inward teachings of the Spirit: and so is one of those "better things" that accompany salvation. It is better in respect to its effects: other knowledge leaves the heart dry, barren, and unaffected; but that little you have been taught of Christ, sheds down its gracious influences upon your affections, and slides sweetly to your melting hearts. So that as one "preferred the most despicable work of a plain rustic christian before all the triumphs of Alexander and Cesar," much more ought you to prefer one saving manifestation of the Spirit, to all the powerless illuminations of natural men.
3. If Christ be the great Prophet and Teacher of the church, prayer is a proper means for the increase of knowledge. Prayer is the golden key that unlocks that treasure. When Daniel was to expound the secret contained in the king's dream, about which the Chaldean magicians had racked their brains to no purpose; what course did Daniel take? "He went to his house," Dan.
2: 17, 18, "and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions; that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning his secret." And then was the secret revealed to Daniel. Luther was wont to say, "Three things made a divine; meditation, temptation, and prayer." Holy Mr. Bradford was wont to study upon his knees. Those truths that are learned by prayer, leave an unusual sweetness upon the heart. If Christ be our Teacher, it becomes all his saints to be at his feet.
4. If Christ be the great Prophet and Teacher of the church, we may thence discern and judge of doctrines, and it may serve us as a test by which to try them. For such as Christ is, such are the doctrines that flow from him. Every error pretends to derive itself from him; but as Christ was holy, humble, heavenly, meek, peaceful, plain, and simple, and in all things alien, yea, contrary to the wisdom of the world and the gratifications of the flesh; such are the truths which he teaches. They have his character and image engraven on them. Would you know then whether this or that doctrine be from the Spirit of Christ? Examine the doctrine itself by this rule. And whatsoever doctrine you find to encourage and countenance sin, to exalt self, to be accommodated to earthly designs and interests, to warp and bend to the humors and lusts of men in a word, what doctrine soever makes them that profess it carnal, turbulent, proud, sensual, you may safely reject it, and conclude this never came from Jesus Christ. The doctrine of Christ is after godliness; his truth sanctifies. There is a spiritual taste, by which those that have their senses exercised can distinguish things that differ. "The spiritual man judgeth all things." 1 Cor. 2: 15. His ear trieth " words, as the mouth tasteth meats." Job, 34: 3. Receive nothing, let it come never so speciously, that hath not some relish of Christ and holiness