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Catholicity and Progress indicated
it is worthy of a higher place than that of being simply a department of sacred rhetoric. And, notwithstanding this chair may be sometimes imperfectly filled; notwithstanding I may be able to say nothing which shall add to the stores of knowledge or prove stronger motives to young men pursuing the ministry; yet I have no doubt that from this chair, from time to time, suggestions and thoughts will be uttered which shall add increasing interest to the subject of preaching, and claim more generally the attention of the people. The catholic spirit, too, which made the platform so broad that a minister of any Evangelical school might stand upon it, will command the approbation of the Christian world. The Corporation of Yale College and the theological faculty have manifested the same unchanged and liberal views in selecting ministers of various churches, and have drawn on the Old World, as well as on the New. The utterances which have been made from this desk by distinguished and talented speakers have rot only reached the hearts of all classes, but have gone forth from the press, and have influenced hundreds of candidates to higher aspirations and to more thorough consecration. I desire also to acknowledge specially the courtesy of the Corporation and theological faculty in inviting me to occupy this chair for the present term. Yet I do not understand this to be so much a compliment to myself as an expression of their continued purpose
to invite ministers from various denominations and from different sections of the country.
Had this invitation been one of ordinary character, I should have promptly declined. My ecclesiastical duties are so constant and so pressing as to allow me but little time for preparing lectures; and my labours are so numerous and so varied that they tax my strength to the uttermost. I wished, however, to respond to this manifestation of courtesy, and to aid in showing to the world that Protestant Christendom is essentially one; that, though we do not wholly agree, we at the same time know how to differ and how to love. Besides, I found my Methodism at stake. One of your professors, whom I profoundly honour, suggested that, though busily occupied, I could still find time to tell my experience. And so I, who am of Western birth and education, and a minister in the
by the “ Lyman Beecher Lectureship."
Methodist Episcopal Church, am here to address you, whu are chiefly sons of New England, and who are Congregationalists in creed and church polity. Verily, the world moves! A hundred years ago this would have been an impossibility.
A few years ago a distinguished journalist published a book entitled “What I Know about Farming." I am not sure that his success in that line would lead many to follow his example. And yet I have thought that the lecturer in this chair might not inaptly term his utterances, “ What I Know about Preaching.” But he is not to lecture systematically on homiletics and the pastoral charge (a work well performed by your regular professors); but to supplement their teaching by his own experience, and by gleanings from every side. Thus I meet you to-day in the chapel of one of the oldest and noblest institutions of the land, and in the presence of men of mind and might. But let us forget for a time the presence of these sages, as well as the smiles of beauty around us, and let you and me address ourselves simply to the lesson of this hour as fellow-students, for such we are; differing a little in age, but of one aim and of one heart. You have pursued your academic and collegiate training. You are now interested in the theological investigation. Your earnest thought is turned towards the future, and the inquiry is how you can most successfully preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How rapidly the years pass away! It seems scarcely more than yesterday that, as a young man, I was asking myself the same question. I remember how the future opened before me, and what a responsibility pressed upon my heart, as I thought of standing in the sacred desk to preach to my fellow-men.
Vast as the work seemed to me then, it has grown upon me in magnitude. Each succeeding year I behold in a clearer light the importance and responsibility of the sacred office. I recognize to-day the immense vastness of the work, and my own inadequacy to treat its important demands, or even to picture before you that ideal which for years has beckoned me onward, and which I have never been able to attain. I am consoled, however, by the thought that you have other instructors at whose feet
you reverently sit, and who will say to you in fitting language that which
Greatness of the Ministry
may leave unsaid. If I may even chance to vary from their teaching, and, Arminian as I am, to utter something heterodox, it may but serve to stir your minds and afford your professors an excellent opportunity to add variety to their lectures by exposing my fallacies and proving the unsoundness of my views.
Preaching is the chief work, but not the only work, of the Christian minister. He organizes churches and leads the public devotions of the people, administers the ordinances, and superintends important improvements, both within and without his own congregation. Yet all these works bear a distinct relation to his office as a preacher. They enter into and issue from it, or are auxiliary to it. St. Paul exalted the department of the preacher above every other department of church work, when he said to the Corinthians: “ Christ sent me to preach the Gospel.” The first great requisite to the success of the young minister is, I think, to have a clear appreciation of the character of the wonderful work upon which he enters, especially in his owu duties and responsibilities.
Only to a few prominent points can we now refer. First, in its origin, it is ordained of God. Other professions arise out of human wants, and are essential to human comfort. They vary according to the circumstances and the progress of humanity. The teacher is required to educate the children and youth. The tailor, the shoemaker, and the hatter are essential to our comfort and health. The physician is needed wherever sickness may occur, and the surgeon wherever accidents may happen. The profession of the attorney, unknown in savage lands, is demanded where laws become complicated or where interests are conflicting.
Christian preaching arises not so much from perceived necessity, as from God's special ordinances. So true is this that where preaching is unknown or neglected the demand for it is not so strong as where it is established and regularly maintuined. Yet in all ages where there has been worship there has been a ministry. The religious idea of the race prompts to worship, and in times of providential emergency and seasons of distress to make offerings to some superior power. These offerings are made through persons in some way selected or set apart for this purpose.
savages have their incantations, and their sacrifices, and their priests. The Indians of our Western wilds have medicine-men, who not only heal the body, but profess to hold communion with the unseen. The Chinese have their joss-houses, and their priests even, though their prayers be written on paper, and painted on wood, and whirled around by machinery. Ancient history in its earliest outlines finds priests among the Egyptians, soothsayers among the Babylonians. Phoenicia and Rome had their temples, oracles, and officiating priests. They slew sacrifices, inspected entrails, and divined the will of the gods. They were so closely connected with the welfare of the nation that assemblies were convened and broken up, great enterprises set on foot and abandoned, as the augurs interpreted the omens and signs which they had seen. In all these cases ceremonial was almost everything; instruction next to nothing.
Yet among the ancients there were mysteries which included both ceremonials and doctrines. The teachings were only for the few who wished to learn, and they received the name of mysteries, which St Paul transferred to the Christian writings. The word is used by him not meaning, as I think, " secrecy," or what is difficult to understand, but a system of religion, or the doctrine in that system. The priests to a certain extent instructed the people, and were also the defenders of the poor and oppressed. The altar was a place of refuge, where the offender sought safety and placed himself under the protection of the deity. Those who ministered at their temples and altars were invested, in the estimation of the people, with peculiar sanctity, and were supposed to hold communion with the gods. Both in the temples and at the oracles women served, as well as The Vestal Virgins were deemed sacred.
Crimes on their part and offences against them were most severely punished. Yet that sanctity with which they were regarded was something wholly apart from pure and high morality. In India and Eastern countries the ministers are highly esteemed. They are students, ministers, and teachers.
How these ideas of sacrifice and priesthood originally arose we need not now inquire. The fact stands out. We learn that
Greatness of the Ministry
everywhere there were officiating ministers, and that society regarded them with veneration and awe. From Scripture history we learn that the offering of sacrifices was as old as the time of Abel, his offering having been in some manner acceptable to God. Religious instruction was also given by public teachers. We are informed by Jude that “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied.” This prophesying of the ancients embraced not only visions of the future, but instruction in religious duties as well. We are also informed that Noah was a “preacher of righteousness," and that, coming out of the ark, he offered sacrifices. The various families and nations of the earth descending from him may thus have received both these ideas. The direct authority for the ministry, however, is found in the Jewish system. A whole tribe is set apart for the performance of various functions, and a specific family selected for its holiest duties. These priests in large convocations read to the people from the Book of the Lord; but the principal part of their work was ceremonial, connected with the tabernacle and temple. The Christian ministry, however, is not a succession of the Jewish priesthood, so far as the performance of sacrifices is concerned. So far that law was a shadowing of good things to come.
And Christ has come! He is the end of that “law of righteousness to them that believe." The ceremonial law must needs have been performed to make the Jew a righteous man. Our Saviour said to John the Baptist: “Thus it becometh us to follow righteousness.” That righteousness which came by ceremonial law is now supplanted by faith in Christ. You, young gentlemen, are not to be priests. One eternal, all-sufficient sacrifice has been offered by our great High Priest, who has passed into the heavens. Instead of priests, he has given to the church apostles, evangelists, and teachers. The Christian ministry of to-day more nearly resembles the prophets who were selected for the uttering of the will of God, without reference to tribe or family; to warn and to administer and to instruct, as well as to tell what should be in the coming years. And to these prophets Christ Himself is likened. Moses said : - The Lord your God will raise up unto you a prophet from among the children of