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TO THE CLERGY OF THE PROTETANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH
IN THE STATE OF OHIO,
THE PREACHING OF CHRIST CRUCIFIED;
DELIVERED BEFORE THE
SEVENTEENTH ANNUAL CONVENTION
OF THE DIOCKSL
AT CHILLICOTHE. SEPTEMBER 5th, 1884,
CHARLES P. McILVAINE, D. D.
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of Ohio.
WEETERN PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL PHESE.
GEORGE W. MYERS, PPINTER.
BRETHREN IN THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST:
It has pleased God to allow us the pleasure of assembling ourselves together and consulting with one another for the promotion of the blessed Gospel committed to our trust. I should embrace the opportunity, thus presented, of addressing you in obedience to an enactment of our Church, which requires her Bishops occasionally and not unfrequently to deliver a Charge to the Clergy of their respective Dioceses. My object will be the promotion of an increase of faithfulness and of fruit in the discharge of your work as amabssadors for Christ; humbly beseeching Him without whom we can do nothing in wisdom, nothing in holiness, nothing to edification, to give me grace that in all things I may speak “as the oracles of God,” in “the mind of Christ.”
You are well aware that the great work for which your sacred office was established is the preaching of the Gospel.
However various the means and modes by which Christians of all orders are bound, in their respective spheres and according to their distinctive vocations, to be co-workers with God in promoting his kingdom; all are subordinate to-all depend for sufficiency upon, the faithful and enlightened execution of that last command of the Saviour to his Ministry: “Go preach the Gospel.' It was the simple, unquestioning obedience of an undaunted faith to this one command, united with unquenchable love to Christ and the souls of sinners, that constituted, under God, the whole power of the Apostolic ministry and gained those stupendous victories of the truth at which the weaker faith and more hesitating obedience of modern times have so much wondered. And none can read the scriptures intelligently without perceiving that, as in the beginning, so now also and until the ending of all things terrestrial, it hath pleased God that sinners shall be saved chiefly through the instrumentality of the preaching of the Gospel; and especially that the great things to come-the ingathering of the nations, the universal reign of the Son of bran, as the accepted King over all people and languages, are to be accomplished by means which, without excluding the use of many subordinate measures, will refer the grand result to the preaching of the Gospel-_" the foolishness of preaching,” as the chosen and chief ordinance of God by which to make known his wisdom and power in saving them that believe. Hence should it be infered that while there are many objects of Christian benevolence, which have an imperious claim on the affections and assistance of Christians, none should stand so exalted in the hearts of all that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, as the increase of the number of devoted ministers of the Gospel, and the furtherance of all, who have received the ministry, in that heavenly skill by which they may the most successfully preach the word, and true missionary spirit by which they may emulate the example of the Apostles, till there be no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
Another thing you cannot have failed to notice. While such eminent importance is attached to the preaching of the gospel-so that it is written that “faith cometh by hearing;” there is one distinguishing feature of the preaching of the Apostles, on the continual and prominent exhibition of which, they rested all their hope of advancing the cause of their Master. Various as are the topics on which they spake, and skillful as they were to accommodate their instructions to the dif. ferent circumstances and characters of their hearers; there was one great subject in which all hearers are taught to behold the beginning and the ending of religion, the whole consolation of a sinful world--the whole business, strength and glory of a Christian Minister. They made it their invariable principle to know nothing, to glory in nothing, among men, but “Jesus Christ and him crucified;" so that “every where, in the temple and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” To set forth the glories of his person and of his work, to teach him in his various offices and benefits in bis humiliation and death—his resurrection and exaltation, in his freeness of grace to receive, and his fullness of grace to save the chief of sinners; to persuade them to flee to bim as their Refuge, to follow him as their Shepherd, to submit to bim as their everlasting portion, and always and by all means to glorify him as Head over all things for his people; this was their life's business, unto which they had so separated themselves as to be virtually dead to whatever might hinder its promotion. Sitting at the feet of their inspiration, to learn by what teaching the minister of the Gospel, in these days, may hope to be made instrumental “in bringing many sons unto glory;" we obtain this most important lesson, that to preach “Christ crucified” is to preach the Gospel; that nothing can be done to any purpose for the salvation of sinners, but so far as this one subject is exhibited in simplicity; that while all learning and eloquence and human wisdom, without this, can do nothing: all that is feeble and foolish among the wise men of the world, if it have but this, may be mighty through God to confound the wise and win souls to Christ; consequently, that all our talents should be drawn this way, and concentrated upon this very thing, of learning through the enlightning of the Holy Ghost, the more simply, spiritually, and completely “to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
Dear brethren, if this be a lesson for life, it is worth a thousand lives to know and practice it. Without it, what would it profit us, or the perishing souls to whom we are sent, should we understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and speak with the various tongues of men and the eloquence of angels ? Our preaching would be as effectual to the overturning of the kingdom of Satan in the hearts of men, as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal—while we, in the balance of the sanctuary, would weigh as " less than nothing and vanity.”
Hence you may perceive the subject to which the remainder of this discourse will be devoted. What is it so to preach, that it mayjustly be said, in the sense of the Apostle, that “we preach Christ crucified?”
There are many ways of approaching this excellence without reaching it, and thus of one's failing in the fruits of an evangelical ministry without perceiving the cause. Some of these approximations, I will endeavor to describe.
It is possible to preach a great deal of important truth having an essential relation to the Gospel-truth unmingled with any erroneous statement or principle.--One's discourses may be very solemn and impressive, kindling strong emotions and exciting deep apprehensions in intelligent congregations-and because the people are affected, it may be supposed that the preacher is faithful. Be. 5
cause the former perceive nothing wrong, and hear and feel much that is decide dly good, they not unfrequently regard it as unquestionable evidence of the Gospel character of the instruction to which they listen. And yet without any strained supposition, it may, be destitute of some or all of the great distinguishing features of the gospel; or if it contain them, they almost entirely conceal them, under the cumbersome frame work in which they are set; and though it speak often of Christ, and pathetically describe his agony and death, may be so meagre and confused, so general and feeble as to all those vital doctrines which lead to him, and spring from him, and depend on him; which lay the foundation and bind together the whole structure of Christian faith, as to be wholly unworthy the name of the preaching of Christ. Suppose that the minister select such subjects as the uncertainty of life, the trial of death, the terrors of judgment, the everlasting retribution of the ungodly. Let him depict the vanity of the world the excellence of religion—the bliss of heaven. Give him the persecution of Christ, and the various scenes in the tragedy of the crucifixion. Here are subjects, on which a lively and intelligent imagination, without any spirituality of mind or acquaintance with the operations of grace on the heart, may be strong and impressive; and yet how many imagine that to preach these forcibly is to preach the gospel! How often is preaching about Christ, confounded with preaching Christ-preaching from the imagination, with preaching from the heart! The minister may thus deceive himself, and the great majority of his people may be thus deceived; while some obscure, unlettered disciple, whose draughts of truth have been taken undiluted from the wells of salvation, will be sensible of some painful deficiency; and the anxious enquirer, thirsting for the gospel, will listen and wait in vain to be taught what he must do to be saved. Let us remember the wide difference between being able to preach forcibly on the importance of religion, on the one hand; and on the other, to show clearly in what all spiritual, saving religion consists. It is one thing to prove that there is no salvation but in Christ; and quite another to direct a soul panting for mercy how he is to "win Christ and be found in him.” On such, a text as: “ One thing is needful,” almost any intelligent and serious mind might preach without mistake or manifest deficiency. It requires much more preparation than mere intelligence and seriousness to preach well, with truth and clearness and fulness, upon such a text as: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, foc.
Again: One may preach with plainness and firmness the obligations of manthe commandments of the law—the precepts of the Gospel—the entire condemnation of the sinner and the necessity of universal repentance. He may exhibit a deep seriousness in his ministry—an earnest solicitude for the fruits of righteousness; never hesitating at the strongest representations of the wrath of God and the sinner's peril--nor ever sparing the most urgent appeals to conscience and exhortations to obedience; and yet he may come far short of the most important work of his ministry and fail almost wholly of the conversion and sanctification of his people. While thus dwelling faithfully on the side of the law, perhaps with occasional glimpses of the gospel-while thus confined so much to duty and danger, though perhaps with occasional views of grace and glory; he may not understand that one great lesson which a minister should make his habitual study-how to exhibit the union and mutual relations of the Law and the Gos. pel-how to preach the Gospel under the solemn sanctions of the law-the law