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Now, if neither the true doctrine concerning the extent of Christ's atonement, nor the true doctrine concerning total depravity, nor the true doctrine concerning regeneration, was inconsistent with the apostle's mode of preaching, can we conceive of any other true doctrine of the gospel, that is inconsistent with urging sinners to repent and believe immediately? The propriety of the apostle's mode of preaching demonstrates, that there is not a single doctrine concerning God; or concerning Christ, or concerning the divine Spirit, or concerning the human heart, that is contained in the gospel of Christ, which is inconsistent with exhorting sinners to embrace the Savior as soon as they know his character.
3. If there was a propriety in the apostle's urging sinners to embrace the gospel immediately; then all his successors in the ministry ought to follow his example in this important respect. No good reason can be assigned for departing from the apostolic mode of preaching. Paul derived his authority to preach the gospel from the commission of Christ; and his successors derive their authority to preach the gospel from the same commission. Paul preached the gospel to those who were dead in trespasses and sins; and his successors have to preach it to persons of the same character. Paul preached the gospel agreeably to the example of the prophets, of John the Baptist, of Christ, and of the other apostles who had gone before him in the ministry; and his successors are bound to follow the example of the same inspired preachers. All the ministers of the gospel, therefore, are under every possible obligation, to adhere strictly to the apostolic mode of preaching. If they search the scriptures through, if they examine human nature ever so much, and if they compare all the doctrines of the gospel together,
they cannot discover a single reason, why they should deviate from the practice of the prophets, of Christ, and of the apostles. All these preachers urged sinners to turn from sin to holiness, to repent of all their transgressions, and immediately become reconciled to God in the way he has appointed. And this is still the only proper way, of preaching the gospel to sinners, who are capable of understanding and embracing it, notwithstanding their total opposition to the terms of life. It is easy for ministers to preach the gospel to sinners, while they follow the apostle's mode of preaching; but as soon as they depart from it, they find themselves plunged in darkness and difficulty. They know not what to say to the enemies of God, while they neglect to urge them to become reconciled to him. They feel the absurdity of exhorting them to remain. impenitent, unbelieving, and rebellious; but they must do this, either directly or indirectly, while they neglect to urge them to embrace the gospel. Hence arises the question which is so much agitated at this day among the preachers of the gospel, What must they say to sinners? what duties must they urge upon them? what directions must they give them? Few ministers find any difficulty in preaching to saints, who love God and cordially embrace the gospel; but many seem to be at a loss how to preach to sinners, who hate God and every duty which he has required in his word. But if they would adopt the apostolic mode of preaching, they would find it as easy to preach to sinners, as to saints. Paul knew how to preach to sinners of all characters and conditions. He "testified to them repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." And let his successors in the ministry only follow his example, and all their difficulties and disputes about the proper mode of addressing sinners will entirely cease.
4. If there was a propriety in the apostle's mode of preaching, then there is no propriety in blaming ministers for conforming to it. They ought to take him for their guide in preaching, and endeavor to explain and enforce the gospel in the same manner that he did. But those who hate God are always disposed to complain of his ambassadors for calling upon them to love him. For this, they complained of the prophets. For this, they complained of John the Baptist. For this, they complained of Christ. And for this, they often complained of the apostles. Many became enemies to Paul, for calling upon them to repent and believe the gospel. Nor has the offence of the cross yet ceased. People in general are still disposed to complain of ministers for preaching exactly as the apostle preached; that is, for urging them to repent and believe the gospel immediately. They wish to be indulged in the neglect of this duty, and to be directed to something which they can do, while they retain all the depravity of their hearts. If ministers will depart from the apostolic mode of preaching, and inculcate only morality, and the mere external duties of reading and praying, seeking and striving, they will highly applaud them. But if ministers plainly testify repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, and condemn all the doings of sinners previously to their turning from sin to holiness, multitudes will murmur and complain of them, and absurdly say, that they urge no duty upon sinners. Many seem to imagine, that if sinners are exhorted to no duty previously to embracing the gospel, they are exhorted to no duty at all; and, upon this ground, they complain of those preachers, who do not exhort sinners to any duty prior to repentance and faith. But they ought to consider, that by blaming such preachers, they re
proach the prophets, Christ, and all the apostles, who exhorted sinners to nothing short of true repentance and a cordial reconciliation to God, upon the terms of the gospel. Let people only read the commission which Christ gave to his ministers, and examine the practice of all the inspired teachers, and they will find themselves fighting against the whole Bible, while they are condemning ministers for obeying the authority of Christ, and following the example of all the teachers immediately sent from God. But,
5. It clearly appears from all that has been said in this discourse, that ministers are justly to be blamed, if they neglect to follow the apostolic mode of preaching. This neglect must be owing either to a misunderstanding of the gospel, or to a desire to please man rather than Christ. Some may undoubtedly neglect to urge sinners to an immediate compliance with the gospel, because they really believe, that sinners are totally unable to receive the truth in love. But this must be owing to their misunderstanding the gospel, which they mean to preach. If they really understood the gospel as the apostle Paul understood it, they would see it to be entirely consistent with their urging sinners to embrace it immediately, upon pain of everlasting destruction. They would see the propriety of preaching to sinners, as Christ directed all his ministers to preach, in his last commission to them. And they would not hesitate to say to every sinner, after they had explained the gospel to him, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." But if any are so ignorant of
the gospel, as
in this man
not prope Occa.
see the propriety of preaching it
certainly to be blamed for understanding the scrip
tures, which clearly reveal the gospel of the grace of God. Though their ignorance may extenuate, yet it cannot extinguish their criminality in neglecting to exhort sinners to do their first and most important duty.
But there is no excuse for those who understand the gospel, and yet neglect to urge sinners to an im mediate compliance with it. They can have no other motive for their neglect, but to avoid the censure and secure the applause of their hearers. They choose to please men, rather than to be the servants of Christ. It is absolutely certain, however, that they will finally fail of obtaining their end. For God will blame them, Christ will blame them, the prophets and apostles will blame them, awakened sinners will blame them, and their own consciences will condemn them, for their criminal neglect. Their criminality will be in some proportion to the fatal tendency of their anti-scriptural and anti-apostolical mode of preaching. It is calculated to justify, stupify, and destroy sinners. The neglecting to urge sinners to repent and believe immediately, is practically saying, that they have a right in the sight of God, to remain impenitent and unbelieving. It is really justifying them in all their selfishness of heart, and total opposition to the whole scheme of redemption. And to justify them in their state of alienation from God is to stupify and harden their hearts, and make them feel safe, while they are every day exposed to be cut down in their sins, and put beyond the reach of divine mercy. There is nothing more hardening and destructive to ginners, than accommodating the gospel itself to their corrupt hearts. The preaching that does this, is far more dangerous, than no preaching all. It is directly calculated to justify, stupify, and destroy precious and immortal souls. The true de