Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a leader among
the Strict and Particular Baptists of the United Kingdom and a strong supporter
of "Preaching the Gospel to every creature," working mightily to lead those
Churches to support missions works to the "heathen." Like most of this group,
he was strongly Calvinistic in his theology, but NOT anti-missionary, as his
contemporary, John Gill, appears to have been.
We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord;
and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. - 2 Cor. 4:5
A remark which I once heard from the lips of that great
and good man, the late Mr. Abraham Booth, has often recurred to my recollection.
"I fear," said he, "there will be found a larger proportion
of wicked ministers than of any other order of professing Christians!"
It did not appear to me at the time, nor has it ever appeared since, that
this remark proceeded from a want of charity, but rather from a deep knowledge
of the nature of Christianity, and an impartial observation of men and
things. It behoves us, not only as professing Christians, but as ministers,
to "examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith." it certainly
is possible, after we have preached to others, that we ourselves should
be cast away! I believe it is very common for the personal religion of
a minister to be taken for granted; and this may prove a temptation to
him to take it for granted too. Ministers, being wholly devoted to the
service of God, are supposed to have considerable advantages for spiritual
improvement. These they certainly have; and if their minds be spiritual,
they may be expected to make greater proficiency in the Divine life than
their brethren. But it should be remembered, that if they are not spiritual,
those things which would otherwise be a help would prove a hinderance.
If we study Divine subjects merely as ministers, they will produce
no salutary effect. We may converse with the most impressive truths, as
soldiers and surgeons do with blood, till they cease to make any impression
upon us. We must meditate on these things as Christians, first feeding
our own souls upon them, and then imparting that which we have believed
and felt to others; or, whatever good we may do to them, we shall receive
none ourselves. Unless we mix faith with what we preach, as well as with
what we hear, the word will not profit us. It may be on these accounts
that ministers, while employed in watching over others, are so solemnly
warned against neglecting themselves: "Take heed unto yourselves
and to all the flock," &c. - "Take heed unto thyself
and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt
both save thyself and them that hear thee."
Preaching the gospel is not the only work of a Christian
minister; but it is a very important part of his duty, and that which,
if rightly attended to, will be followed by other things. To this, therefore,
I shall request your attention.
You cannot have a better model than that which is here
held up to you. The example of the apostles and primitive ministers is
for our imitation. Three things are here presented to our notice; what
they did not preach -what they did preach - and what they considered themselves.
I. What the apostles did not preach:
- "We preach not ourselves." It might
be thought that this negative was almost unnecessary; except for a few
gross impostors, who would ever think of holding up themselves as saviours,
instead of Christ? "Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized
into the name of Paul?" Very true, in this gross sense, few men in
the present day will be found to preach themselves. But self may be an
object of preaching without being expressly avowed, and even while with
the tongue Christ is recommended. And there is little doubt that self is
the great end of numbers who engage in the Christian ministry.... For example:
- If worldly advantage be our object, we preach
ourselves. - It is true there is but little food for this appetite in our
congregations. yet there are cases where it is otherwise. Men have made
their fortunes by preaching. And if this have been their object, they have
had their reward. If this had not been a possible case, Paul would not
have disavowed it as he does: - "Not for a cloak of covetousness,
God is witness."
- If we make the ministry subservient to a life of ease
and indolence, we preach ourselves rather than Christ. We may get but
little for our labour, and yet, being fond of a life of sloth, (if a life
it can be called,) it may be more agreeable to us than any other pursuit.
It is from this disposition that many ministers have got into the habit
of spending a large part of every week in gossiping from house to house;
not promoting the spiritual good of the people, but merely indulging themselves
in idle talk. I might add, it is from this disposition and practice that
a large proportion of the scandals among ministers have arisen.
Had there been no danger from these quarters, we should not have met with
another of Paul's solemn disavowals: - "Our exhortation was not of
uncleanness." Such a declaration as this was not without meaning.
It describes the false teachers of those times, and of all times.
- If the applause of our hearers be the governing
principle of our discourses, we preach ourselves, and not Christ. To be
acceptable is necessary to being useful, and an attention to manner with
this end in view is very proper; but if the love of fame be our governing
principle, our whole
ministry will be tainted by it. This subtle poison will
penetrate and pervade our exercises, till every one perceives it and is
sickened by it, except ourselves. It will inflate our composition in the
study, animate our delivery in the pulpit, and condescend to fish for applause
when we have retired. It will even induce us to deal in flattering doctrine,
dwelling on what are known to be favourite topics, and avoiding those which
are otherwise. It is a great matter to be able to join with the apostle
in another of his solemn disavowals: - "For neither at any time used
we flattering words, as ye know, - nor of men sought we glory."
- If our aim be to make proselytes to ourselves, or
to our party, rather than converts to Christ, we shall be
found to have preached ourselves, and not him. We certainly have seen much
of this species of zeal in our times -"Men speaking perverse things,
to draw away disciples after them." Nor do I refer merely to men who
are continually holding up themselves as the favourites of heaven and the
darlings of Providence, and denouncing judgments on all who oppose them;
and the tenor of whose preaching is to persuade their admirers to consider
themselves as the dear children of God, and all who disapprove of them
as poor blind creatures, knowing nothing of the gospel. Of them and their
followers I can only say, "if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."
But men who have paid great attention to the Scriptures, and who have preached
and written many things on the side of truth, have nevertheless given but
too evident proof that the tenor of their labours has been to make proselytes
to themselves, or to their party, rather than converts to Christ.
II. What the apostles did preach:
- We preach "Christ Jesus the Lord." This
is the grand theme of the Christian ministry. But many have so little of
the Christian minister about them, that their sermons have scarcely any
thing to do with Christ. They are mere moral harangues. And these, forsooth,
would fain be thought exclusively the friends of morality and good works!
But they know not what good works are, nor do they go the way to promote
them. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath
sent" .... Preach Christ, or you had better be any thing than a preacher.
The necessity laid on Paul was not barely to preach, but to preach Christ.
"Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel!"... Some are employed
in depreciating Christ. But do you honour him. Some who talk much about
him yet do not preach him, and by their habitual deportment prove themselves
enemies to his cross.... If you preach Christ, you need not fear for want
of matter. His person and work are rich in fulness. Every Divine attribute
is seen in him. All the types prefigure him. The prophecies point to him.
Every truth bears relation to him. The law itself must be so explained
and enforced as to lead him . . . . Particularly,
- Exhibit his Divinity and glorious character. - The
New Testament dwells much on his being the Son of God - equal with God.
It was this that heightened the gift of him, John lii. 16. Hence the efficacy
of His blood, 1 John i. 7. Hence the condescension of his obedience, and
the dignity of His priesthood, Heb. iv. 14-16. Hence the greatness of the
sin of rejecting him, John iii. 18; and of apostacy, Heb. x. 29.
- Hold up his atonement and mediation as the only ground
of a sinner's hope. - It is the work of a Christian minister to beat
off self-righteous hope, which is natural to depraved man, and to direct
Ms hearers to the only hope set before them in the gospel. Be not concerned
merely to form the manners of your congregation, but bring them to Christ.
That will best form their manners. The apostles had no directions short
of this: "Repent, and believe the gospel." They never employed
themselves in lopping off the branches of sin; but laid the axe to the
root. Your business with the sins of mankind is, to make use of them to
convince your hearers of the corruption of their nature, and their need
of a radical cure.
- Hold up the blessings of his salvation for acceptance,
even to the chief of sinners. - "This is a faithful saying and
worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save
sinners, of whom I am chief." The gospel is a feast, and you are to
invite guests. You may have many excuses and refusals. But be you concerned
to do as your Lord commands. And when you have done your utmost, there
will still be room. Dwell on the freeness, and fulness, and all-sufficiency
of his grace, and how welcome even the worst of sinners are, who, renouncing
all other refuges, flee to him.
- Preach him as "the Lord, "or Lawgiver, of
his church, no less than as a Saviour. - Christ's offices must not
be divided. Taking his yoke, and learning his spirit, are connected with
coming to him. Believers are "not without law unto God, but under
the law of Christ"
The preaching of Christ will answer every end of preaching.
This is the doctrine which God owns to conversion, to the leading of awakened
sinners to peace, and to the comfort of true Christians. If the doctrine
of the cross be no comfort to us, it is a sign we have no right to comfort.
This doctrine is calculated to quicken the indolent, to draw forth every
Christian grace, and to recover the backslider. This is the universal remedy
for all the moral diseases of all mankind... We proceed to notice,
III. In what light the apostles
considered themselves: - "Your servants for Jesus' sake."
Ministers are not the servants of the people
in such a sense as implies inferiority, or their having an authority over
them. On the contrary, what authority there is is on the other side: "Obey
them that have the rule over you." Nor are ministers the servants
of the people in such a sense as to be directed by them what to preach.
In these respects one is their Master, even Christ. But ministers are the
servants of their people inasmuch as their whole time and powers require
to be devoted to their spiritual advantage - to know them, caution, counsel,
reprove, instruct exhort, admonish, encourage, stimulate, pray, and preach.
Study to promote their spiritual interests as individuals, and their prosperity
Nor should ministers think it too much to lay themselves
out in this work They do it 'for Jesus' sake." This was the
motive addressed to Peter "Lovest thou me? - Feed my sheep. Feed my
lambs." - "Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased
with his own blood . . . . Let Christ be not only the theme of my remaining
ministry, but the exaltation of him and the enlargement of his kingdom
the great end of my life! If I forget THEE, O my Saviour, let my right
hand forget; if I do not remember THEE, let my tongue cleave to the roof
of my mouth!
Back to Great Old Timers Index