The Warwick Baptist Association, To the several Churches whose Messengers we are, sends Christian salutation:
Brethren in the Lord: – Permit us on this occasion to present for your consideration a few thoughts on the subject of Preaching the Gospel.
The awful perversion of this subject, so common at the present day, both in regard to the nature and design of the work, is a sufficient reason why we should endeavor to stir up your minds to a remembrance of the instructions, admonitions and exhortations contained in the New Testament for our rule of action in regard to this important institution of our Lord Jesus Christ. Deriving our instructions from the Scriptures, we find
First, That the calling and qualifications of all who are truly the ministers of the Gospel, are of the Lord, and not of men; and that no man has a right to take this work upon himself unless he is called of God thereto. The great commission given to the Apostles by our Lord Jesus Christ, was prefaced with these remarkable words, “All power is given Me in heaven and in earth; Go ye [not send ye] therefore,” etc. By this assertion of all power in both worlds, the great Head of the Church – His body – has given us clearly to understand that no power or authority less potent than His own can be recognized as having any thing to do with calling or qualifying Gospel ministers.
In His exaltation, we are informed He received gifts for men; and again, that He gave gifts to men that He gave “some apostles, some prophets, and some pastors and teachers,” etc.; and lest we should forget that it was, and must forever remain His exclusive prerogative, He expressly commanded His subjects to pray the Lord of the harvest to raise up and thrust laborers into the harvest. The learned professors in Theological Colleges claim the ability to raise up and qualify ministers and supporting as ministers of His Gospel, such as men have so called and qualified.
We feel ourselves bound by the love of Christ, and by our allegiance to Him as our only King, to oppose and expose every institution of the kind, whether found among Papists, Protestant daughters or Baptists, however popular they may be, or however much we may suffer of reproach and scandal for so doing. We can conceive of no greater insult men could offer to the Divine Majesty than that of an attempt to improve, new model or polish with human wisdom, literature or eloquence, those who Christ has charged to preach with the ability that God giveth.
Those who are divinely qualified for the work, are in common with all their brethren, made experimentally acquainted with the New Birth, or doctrine of Regeneration: for although all who are born of God are not called to preach, yet none are called of God to preach until they are born of His Spirit. They are also specially called to the work; but this calling is a matter peculiarly between God and their own souls: they are by the teaching of the Holy Spirit instructed in the doctrine of grace, and the order of the House of God, and made by divine grace to possess those all important qualifications mentioned in 1 Timothy ii. 2-7; in the absence of which the Church is not at liberty to receive them. But let us notice –
Secondly, The work of Gospel ministers. – On this point, we observe negatively, it is not, as some have seemed to suppose, to invent ways which, in their human judgment, may be likely to subserve the interest of Christ’s Kingdom; or to bring into requisition any kind of machinery or gimmickry, or system of means that is not plainly authorized by the Word of God, under any pretence whatever. But the work incumbent on Gospel ministers is briefly summed up as follows, viz: “To preach the word, be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine; to watch all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of His ministry, speak the things that become sound doctrine and to feed the flock of God which He has purchased with His own blood.” They are to preach Christ and Him crucified; and that too in such a way as shall be to the Jew (or legalist) a stumbling block, and to the Greek (or learned of this world) foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jew and Greek, Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God. In preaching Christ, according to the pattern laid down, the preacher, as far as he is enabled by the Holy Spirit, is to preach the Gospel fully as salvation has been accomplished by Christ.
Thirdly, The object of Preaching the Gospel. This is too frequently mistaken even by Christians, and always by the religious world of graceless professors. The popular one of religious sentiment is that the object of the preaching of the Gospel is to convert the whole world (the world that perishes) to Christianity, or to present the Gospel offers of mercy to dead sinners, to win a Bride for Christ, &c. – but this is completely a mistaken view. If all the preaching from the days of John the Baptist until this day, good and bad, could be made to bear on one solitary unregenerate sinner, it could no more quicken his poor dead soul than so much chattering of a crane or of a swallow! Salvation is of the Lord. – Jonah 2:9. “It is the SPIRI?T that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” Others again who confess that the preaching of the Gospel in itself, per se, cannot quicken or save lost sinners, still say, and some contend, that preaching prepares the way for the Holy Spirit, or is attended an instrument in the hand of the Holy Spirit in regenerating souls. But we understand the work of quickening souls as immediately and exclusively the work of God as was that of creating the world: and all such preachers as have not learned this truth give very poor evidence of their being called of God to preach the Gospel. Some others have thought the object of Gospel preaching was to present the Gospel as a kind of remedial Law; from the consideration that neither the Law under which man was created, nor the Sinai covenant could give life to fallen sinners; that Gospel preaching was intended to so accommodate the demands of the Creator upon created intelligences as to induce them to do the best they can and to assure them that the blood and righteousness of Christ should supply all deficiencies; but the inspired Apostle has settled this matter forever: “If it be by grace,” says he, “then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace; and if it be of works, it is no more of grace; otherwise work is no more work.” And to end all doubt, he farther declares, “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that (very faith) not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”
The great design of the Gospel ministry is to proclaim glad tidings to the meek; liberty to captives; the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound; to gather together the elect of God, from one end under heaven to the other end under heaven; to speak comfortably to spiritual Jerusalem; to feed, comfort and build up the sheep and lambs of Christ; to proclaim to the heirs of salvation what great things God has laid up for them that love Him; rebuke, exhort and instruct the children of God; to proclaim Christ as the Bread of heaven to quickened, hungry, starving souls as the Way, the Truth and the Life. But we will notice –
Fourthly, The efficiency of this institution of Christ. Although, to doubt the efficiency of the Gospel ministry, as ordered and conducted by the Great Head of the Church to secure the end contemplated in His divine mind, is to question His wisdom and power; – yet there are many, who in this day of rebuke and blasphemy, profess to believe that many, yea, even the fairest portion of the inheritance given to Christ, will be eternally lost, simply for the want of a more efficient ministry than that provided by Christ. Under this, and similar impressions, thousands are induced to aid in building Colleges, to prepare men for the work force of their ministry, or to make those whom Christ has prepared, more efficient than He has; and Mission Societies to sustain and direct them, lest their efficiency should be lost, for want of funds, etc. All this evidently in the delusive conclusion that the number to be saved or lost, is left with men to determine.
But brethren, we are persuaded better things of you; experience as well as revelation has taught you, that, the excellency of the power of the Gospel is of God, and not of men. And although the ministers whom Christ has chosen, are but earthen vessels, and of themselves generally poor, illiterate as to this world knowledge, weak and even contemptible in the eyes of the world; yet He who is with them always, even unto the end of the world, has made them “a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls;” and will assuredly make one of them “chase a thousand, and two shall put ten thousand to flight.”
Fifthly, The perpetuity of the Gospel ministry, has for ages astonished the nations of the earth. When Herod had taken off the head of John the Baptist, he doubtless indulged the thought, that he would be troubled with no more Old School Baptist ministers; but was afterwards heard to say concerning Christ: “John have I beheaded, but Who is this?” The united efforts of wicked men and devils, have been employed to exterminate them from the earth for the last eighteen hundred years; but without success; dungeons, racks, swords and flames have all failed to accomplish their hellish design. – Like the bush which Moses saw, and like the three Hebrews in the furnace, they have been secure from all harm. It is confidently predicted now by the New School, that in less than half a century, all those who oppose their new schemes will be annihilated! This we should look for, if the power to annihilate was in their hands; but we rejoice to remember that “All power in heaven and in earth,” still remains in the hands of Christ, the great Head of His body; and if it should be His pleasure to suffer His witnesses to be slain, it will afford but a momentary triumph to the opposing powers; for He soon will revive them again, to the utter confusion and everlasting dismay of all His enemies.
Sixthly, The relation in which the ministers of Christ stand to the Church implies their mutual obligations to each other: Gospel ministers are not only members, but, in a peculiar sense, servants of God to the church; as such, they are amenable to the church for the course they pursue, and they are to devote their time and labors for the edification of the saints, and in the fellowship of the church of God. In no case are they at liberty to turn their backs on the church, by connecting themselves with other humanly invented Societies. The churches have obligations devolving on them to “come out and be ye separate, saith the Lord,” and their obligation devolves on them also toward those who labor with them in word and doctrine. Both Minister and Church, are presented by the Apostle in the position of stewards; the former, of spiritual and the latter of carnal things; and all are solemnly charged to be good stewards. Their duties towards each other are so clearly expressed in the New Testament, we shall not enlarge.
A few reflection, – and we will close this letter. The present is truly a peculiar epoch in the history of the Church of Christ; a time of prophesying in sackcloth; spiritual wickedness abounds to an alarming extent. False prophets in sheep’s clothing are abundant roaming the land; but the faithful ministers of Christ who love not their own lives, even unto the death, are very, very few. It is true, the servants of Jesus are not now as in former ages, literally put to death by sword and fire; but just as far as our Righteous Lord will suffer it, their characters and influence are assailed and traduced. From these, with many other considerations, it becomes us, both ministers and churches, to be humble before the Lord who has made us to differ from our adversaries; to watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation; and to consider Him who endured so great contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest we faint and weary in our minds. Let us also bear in mind the peculiar necessity at such a time as this, of encouraging each other; let the churches endeavor to stay up the hands of the ministry, by regularly attending on the ministration of the word and ordinances of the Gospel; by liberating them, as far as possible from the perplexing cares of this life; that they may devote themselves more fully to the work whereunto the Holy Ghost has called Them.
On the other hand, Let the ministers of the cross remember, they are not to serve for filthy lucre’s sake, but of a ready mind: and knowing the peculiar trials and temptations to which the saints are, at this trying time, exposed: spare no pains, labor, or if necessary, sacrifice they may be called to endure; but exhort, admonish, instruct, feed and comfort the dear disciples of our blessed Redeemer, to the full extent of the ability God has endowed them with.
Permit us dear brethren ere we close, to admonish you, in the words of our Lord, “Beware of false prophets, that come unto you in sheep’s clothing; but inwardly are ravening wolves; by their fruits ye shall know them. Try the spirits, whether they be of God; for many false prophets are gone out into the world. If there come any unto you, and bring not the doctrine which Christ and the Apostles taught receive them not into your houses, neither bid them God speed. Go not after them, for in running after them, you bid them God speed and so dishonor your Lord, and wound the hearts of your brethren.
Finally, may Grace, Mercy and Peace from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, and all the Israel of God forever – Amen. – 1840.