By George Wright, Beccles U.K.
Published January 1866
The ministry of the Gospel is an institution of grace, adapted and designed for the in-gathering of the elect unto CHRIST, and for their edification and joy of faith. Their salvation, in subservience to the manifestation of the glory of the LORD, is the end of it; and that this end may be accomplished, he holds in his hand the right of sending whom he will to preach the Word.
We are the servants of his love—the instruments of his power—the agents of his purpose. Our authority is from heaven. We have our commission not from man, but GOD. His will is the first reason why we minister in word and doctrine: if we have been influenced by a lower consideration to enter the office which we fill, we have no Bible credentials: we may mean well; but what do we here, setting at nought the prerogative of GOD?
It was the glory of the Apostles that they could refer their calling to GOD himself, and our LORD JESUS CHRIST; and feeling the grace, the sacredness, and dignity of their office, and contemplating its momentous and interesting issues, they were instant in season and out of season, in the patience of hope and the labour of love, striving to attain the end of their calling. If we are conscious that GOD hath sent us, we shall labour like them; we shall rush into every opening door of usefulness, and be at our post at all times, looking upwards for the power of the SPIRIT to rest upon us, and give savour, unction, and efficacy, to our ministrations. We shall not ask leave of our kindred worms what we shall say; we shall not court their praise, nor shrink from their censures; but honest to our trust, fearlessly lift up our faces to the brunt of cruel mockings, and inure ourselves to hardships. None of these things, nor any like them, will move us; neither shall we count our lives dear, so that we may finish our course with joy, and the ministry which we have received of the LORD JESUS, to testify the Gospel of the grace of GOD. But if we are otherwise minded, let us, in justice to the churches, encumber them no longer. If we have not the hardihood, the spirit, and impulse, to the ardent and incessant labour which the ministry requires, let it be seen that we have integrity and resolution to renounce it. Brethren, let us get upon our watchtowers, and see what is coming upon Zion; and while defections and formality indicate that the glory is upon the threshold, ready to depart, cry unto God yet to abide with us and set his seal upon us and our ministry. Let us stand forward as witnesses for JESUS; declare his works with rejoicing; lift up his cross; maintain his honor; and spread abroad the sweetness of his saving name.
HE was the grand subject of Apostolic preaching; and the gospel that announced him was the power of GOD unto salvation to them which believed. The Apostles and their fellow-workers determined to know nothing, save CHRIST, and him crucified. Renouncing the persuasiveness of human eloquence and the artifices of worldly wisdom, their ministry was distinguished by the simplicity of the subject, the plainness of speech with which they made it known, and the evident interest they felt in it. They preached CHRIST, not only because they were enjoined to do so, but he was precious unto them. They told of his salvation, as that which they felt; they spoke of his grace, as that which they enjoyed; they announced his sufferings, as that which they realized; they declared his glory, as that which they had seen. Their knowledge of him was from an internal and supernatural unction which was poured out with the doctrines which they taught; and the SPIRIT who gave them the unction, made them mighty through GOD to the pulling down of strong holds.
We have the same subject;—”We preach not ourselves, but CHRIST JESUS the LORD;” CHRIST the Alpha, and CHRIST the Omega. CHRIST the root, and CHRIST the crown of the church’s being, holiness, and glory. CHRIST the head, the righteousness, the sanctification, and redemption of all who believe; CHRIST all in all. Oh for a gust and power of grace to exalt HIM! Ours is an employment the most merciful and the most illustrious; unto us is this grace given, that we should preach among the Gentiles THE UNSEARCHABLE RICHES OF CHRIST.
But do we, indeed, know and enjoy him? Are we taught to live upon him? Is he the refuge of our hearts,—the salvation in which we trust,—our strength and our song? Have we learned how to make use of him in our work, walk, and warfare? Are we coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon HIM as our beloved? Is his fruit sweet to our taste? Are we prepared to go forth and declare that we have seen and communed with him;—that he hath kissed us with the kisses of his mouth, —that “his countenance is as Lebanon, his mouth is most sweet, yea, he is altogether lovely?” Otherwise how can we preach him? We may indeed speak of him in words; but where will be the sweetness and power of our ministry, if CHRIST be not formed in our hearts the hope of glory? You will bear with me, brethren, if I put you in mind of the necessity of having CHRIST the substance of our experience, in order to his being the successful doctrine of our preaching.
May we not trace the lukewarmness, and barrenness of the churches, in most instances, to the baneful influence of an inexperienced ministry? Do we not generally see that those who enjoy most of the power of CHRIST within them, are the most powerful in their ministrations, and the most fruitful blessings of Zion? And have we not seen the contrary? Most seriously and solemnly do I apprehend that GOD is withering the professing church to a very wide extent, by giving it up to prophets and pastors whom he hath not sanctified, and who can only tell of what they have heard, instead of being witnesses for CHRIST and his truth from the heart. I would not depreciate the gifts of genius and literature; but I fear that intellectual talent, and the accomplishment of human learning, are sometimes put in the place of the SPIRIT’S teaching; and then we have mere babblers of words and doctrines; not holy men of GOD, full of light and power by the HOLY GHOST. These things should give us concern; and if we be rightly affected by them, our public labours will be preceded by great searchings of heart, and prayer that we may enjoy a living interest in the truths and message which we deliver.
But while I suggest these hints in the hope that GOD may make them his own words, my chief design is to put my esteemed brethren and the churches in remembrance of THE GREAT SUBJECT OF THE GOSPEL MINISTRY; and in doing so my aim will be to give a glimpse of the REDEEMER’S glory, for the edification and joy of faith.
“The testimony of JESUS is the spirit of prophecy.” Divest the ministry of this peculiarity, and you rob it of its glory— you extract from it its saving efficacy, “WHOM WE PREACH,” and not another: not doctrines and morals, of which he is not the spirit and substance, but “THE CHRIST OF GOD.”
I cannot tell all that is implied in this attestation; but I shall seek to shew that to preach CHRIST is to proclaim the mystery of his person, the preeminence of his character, the completeness of his salvation, and the efficacy of his offices.