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ture is reared by the hand of grace; and when the topstoneis brought forth, when our felicity is completed in the kingdom of heaven, the everlasting acclamation will be, grace, grace unto it. This is that glorious gospel, which human learning could never have discovered; which carnal reason cannot understand; which the wisdom of this world accounteth foolishness; which the envy of the devil, and the pride of man will always oppose."
You will now permit me, my hearers, to bring this subject home to our own bosoms, and ask this serious question-do we oppose the gospel?
In particular, do we who profess to be ministers of the gospel, oppose it? This is possible. For we are by nature children of wrath, even as others. We have naturally a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. We naturally hate the doctrines of grace, as much as other men. But if we neglect to preach these doctrines, because we hate them; or if we neglect to preach them, because others hate them; or if we preach them, while our own hearts rise against them; how unspeakably guilty are we in the sight of our divine. Master! Let us then settle this question, which it conerns us more than any other men in the world to ettle,—do we love that glorious gospel which we are solemnly bound to study every day, and to preach every Sabbath, with supreme affection and delight?
Nor is this question uninteresting to him who is this day to lay himself under the most solemn obligations "to testify the gospel of the grace of God." How much does it concern him to be established in the faith and in the love of the gospel! In this his own soul, and the suls of this people are deeply interested. Let him therefore be entreated to take heed unto him
self, and unto his doctrines, and continue in them; that he may both save himself, and them that hear him.
And may this church and congregation inquire, whether they are willing to receive the grace of God in truth. The man who is now to be set over them in the Lord, will, we trust, come to them in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of grace. We beseech them therefore not to receive the grace of God in vain. If he plainly and faithfully preaches the doctrines of grace, they will be a savor of life unto life, or a savor of death unto death to your souls. Take heed therefore how ye hear.
And let us all who are present on this solemn occasion, take heed, lest we reject the gospel of the grace of God. Our divine and gracious Redeemer hath forewarned both ministers and people of their imminent danger. "The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner. Whosoever shall fall upon that stone, shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder."
Delivered at the Ordination of the Rev. WALTER HARRIS, to the Pastoral Care of the Church' in Dunbarton, August 26, 1789.
ACTS xx, 27.
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
THE apostle makes this declaration under peculiar circumstances, which carry the strongest evidence of sincerity. He is taking his final leave of those to whom he had preached the gospel with saving success. They expect never to see his face again, nor he theirs, until they meet in the world of spirits before the Supreme Judge. In this situation he solemnly calls upon them to bear testimony of his ministerial faithfulness. "I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men: for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." This seems to be the spirit of the apostle's appeal. "I know; and you know, and the Searcher of my heart knows, that I have faithfully preached the gospel among you; for instead of using any mean arts or subterfuges to conceal the truth, I have laid open the whole scheme of redemption, with all possible freedom and plainness."
As this declaration breathes the true spirit of a faith ful minister, so it naturally leads us to show, in this discourse, that faithful ministers mean to preach the whole counsel of God.
Paul was a faithful minister. He loved that gospel, which he once hated. He admired that divine Savior, whom he once persecuted. He espoused that glorious cause, which he once opposed. His former views
and affections being totally changed by divine grace, he was prompted to preach the gospel from an ardent desire to promote the Redeemer's kingdom, and increase the number of his cordial subjects. He knew nothing more desirable, than to be instrumental in turning men from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God. He was willing to spend and be spent for the salvation of sinners. He was willing to sacrifice the most promising earthly prospects, and to endure the heaviest load of evils, that the world could heap upon him, for the sake of Christ and the good of souls. He felt therefore, no inclination to handle the word of God deceitfully, but sincerely desir ed, by the manifestation of the truth, to approve himself to his own, and to every man's conscience, in the sight of God.
This was Paul's character. And this is the character of all faithful ministers. They all have the same spirit, act from the same motives, and pursue the same objects. There is therefore no occasion to spend time in proving, that faithful ministers mean to preach as the apostle Paul did. This point is sufficiently clear from their Christian character. The only thing here that needs to be considered is, how they preach so as to declare the whole counsel of God. This indeed deserves particular attention. And upon this let me observe,
1. That faithful ministers in preaching the gospel, trace it up to its original source and fountain-head. The gospel is not an emanation of the divine nature, but a fruit of the divine will. God is a voluntary agent. He acts of choice, not of constraint. His nature lays him under no natural necessity of acting, or producing any effects out of himself. Had it been agreeable to his will, he might have existed, from eter
nity unto eternity, without giving being to any crea ted object. His nature therefore by no means obliged him to give existence to men, and much less to give his Son to die for them, after they had forfeited every mark of his favor. Hence it appears plain and obvious, that the gospel of divine grace must have been a perfectly free and voluntary scheme, which the su preme Being devised, determined, and adjusted in all its parts, before the foundation of the world. For, God is a wise as well as a voluntary agent. And every wise, voluntary agent always forms his plan, before he begins to operate. The general concerts his scheme, before he orders his army to march. The master of the ship determines his course, before he launches into the mighty deep. And the architect draws a complete plan of his intended work, before he shapes his materials, or begins to put them together. So the only wise God, the Creator and Governor of the world, voluntarily determined and adjusted the whole scheme of redemption, before he brought men, the intended subjects of it, into existence. The schemes of men are often imperfect, because they determine the end, without determining and securing the means. But no such imperfection ever attends the divine counsels. God determines the means as well as the end, and binds them together by an invincible connexion. The gospel therefore, as it lay in the divine mind from eternity, was one uniform, consistent, perfect scheme.
Accordingly, faithful ministers, in preaching the gospel, mean to trace it up to its original source and fountain-head. So Paul tells us he preached. "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." And in his writings, he appears to make a point of illustrating this leading and capital idea of the gospel. Permit me to read you a passage to this pur