It is the great duty of ministers to preach Jesus Christ to the people. Acts 5:42: ‘And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach.’ What? Jesus Christ. So in Acts 3:20: ‘And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you.’ 2 Cor. 4:5: ‘We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.’ This is a very useful point in these days, wherein many men preach anything, yea, everything but a crucified Jesus. Well, Christians, remember this, as it is your duty to take heed how you hear, so it is as much your duty to take heed who you hear. Many there are that count and call themselves the ministers of Christ, and yet have neither skill nor will to preach Jesus Christ, to exalt and lift up Jesus Christ in lip or life, in word or work. A sad reckoning these will have to make up at last.
Why Ministers should Preach Christ
I will show you why it is the great work and duty of ministers to preach Jesus Christ to the people.
1. Because that is the only way to save and to win souls to Jesus Christ. You may preach this and that, and a thousand things to the people, and yet never better them, never win them. It is only preaching of Christ that allures and draws souls to Christ. Ah, nothing melts the hearts of sinners like the preaching of the Lord Jesus. Were Christ more preached, men would be more enamoured with Him. He is only precious to them that hear of Him, and that believe in Him.
2. Because it is the chiefest and choicest way to ingratiate Christ with poor souls. This brings Christ and the soul together, and this keeps Christ and the soul together. Nothing endears Christ to the soul like this. We see, by woeful experience, Christ neglected, despised, scorned, and trampled upon by most; and no wonder, for many preach themselves and their own notions and impressions more than Christ. Surely a real Christian cares not for anything that hath not something of Christ in it. There is a strange and strong energy or forcibleness in hearing Christ and His beauties and excellencies displayed and discovered. When Christ is set forth in His glories, with much affection and admiration, others fall in love with Him.
3. Because it is the only way to preach down anti-christ, or whatever makes against Christ. The more the glory, the fulness, perfection, and excellency of Christ is discovered, the more the horrid vileness and matchless wickedness of the man of sin will be discovered and abhorred [2 Thess. :2]. When Jesus Christ comes to be lifted up in a nation, in a city, in a town, in a family, yea, in any heart, then all idols within and without will fall before the power, presence, and glory of Jesus.
4. Because else they contract upon themselves the blood of souls. A man were better to have all the blood of the world upon him than the blood of one soul. The blood of souls, of all blood, cries loudest and wounds deepest. The lowest, the darkest, and the hottest place in hell will be the sad and dreadful portion of such upon whose skins the blood of souls shall be found at last. ‘Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel.’ This was a comfort and honour to Paul that he kept himself from the blood of souls. Acts 20:26: ‘I am pure from the blood of all men.’ Paul had held out Jesus Christ in His natures, in His names, in His offices, and in all His excellencies and perfections, and so frees himself from the blood of all men. And ministers can no way secure themselves from the blood of souls but by preaching up and living out a crucified Jesus.
How Ministers are to Preach Christ
1. Plainly, so as the meanest capacity may understand what they say concerning Christ. Our whole preaching must be scripture
proof, or we and our works must burn together. God the Father, who is the great Master of speech, when He spake from heaven, He makes use of three several texts of Scripture in one breath: Matt. 17:5: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him’ [Ps. 2:7, Is. 42:1, Deut. 18:15]. Yea, Jesus Christ Himself teaches this lesson: ‘And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it’ [Mk. 4:33].
2. Faithfully. Ministers are stewards [1 Cor. 4:2] and you know it is the duty of a steward to be faithful in his stewardship, to give to every man the portion due to him. Ministers are ambassadors to be faithful in their master’s messages. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’
3. Humbly. 2 Cor. 4:5: ‘We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.’ John 3:30:
‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ The greatest among the apostles accounts himself ‘less than the least of all saints’.
4. Wisely. Prov. 11:30: ‘He that winneth souls is wise.’Christ must be held forth to draw souls to fall in love with Him, and to work their hearts to run out after Him. There is wisdom required to answer all cavils “and objections that keep Christ and poor souls asunder. There is wisdom required to take souls off all false bottoms that they are apt to build upon; there is wisdom required to present Christ freely to souls, in opposition to all unrighteousness, and to all unworthiness in man; there is wisdom required to suit things to the capacities and conditions of poor souls, to make dark things plain, and hard things easy. Ministers must not be like him that gave straw to the dog and a bone to the ass; but they must suit all their discourses to the conditions and capacities of poor creatures, or else all will be lost: time lost, pains lost, God lost, heaven lost, and souls lost for ever.
5. Zealously, boldly. The worst of men are in a dead sleep, and the best of men are too often in a sinful slumber, as the spouse in Cant. 5:2, and the wise virgins in Matt. 25; and therefore faithful ministers had need cry aloud; they had need be courageous and zealous, to awaken both sinners and saints, that none may go sleeping to hell. Luther said, ‘Let me be accounted proud, let me be accounted covetous, let me be accounted a murderer, yea, guilty of all vices, so I be not proved guilty of wicked silence for the Lord Jesus Christ.’
6. Laboriously, painstakingly. Jer. 48:10: ‘Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently.’ Christ wept for souls, and bled for souls, and prayed for souls; and shall not ministers sweat much for souls, and work much for the good of souls?
7. Exemplarily. 1 Pet. 5:3: ‘Be thou an example to the flock.’ They must say ‘Look on me and do likewise’ [Judges 17:17]. Every minister’s life should be a commentary upon Christ’s life.
8. Feelingly, experimentally. They must speak from the heart to the heart. Ministers must so speak to the people, as if they lived in the very hearts of the people; as if they had been told all their wants, and all their ways, all their sins, and all their doubts.
9. Rightly. 2. Tim. 2:15: ‘Rightly dividing the word of truth.’ To divide the word aright, is to cut out to everyone his portion, as a parent cutteth out bread to his children. A general doctrine not applied, is as a sword without an edge, not in itself, but to the people, who by reason of their own singular senselessness and weakness, are. not able to apply it to their own estates and conditions; or as a whole loaf set before children, that will do them no good. Doctrine is but drawing the bow, application is hitting the mark.
The preparation required to preach Christ
1. You must get a Christ within you. No man did so much for the winning of souls to Christ as Paul, nor no man had so much of a Christ within him. Nothing will naturalise a minister’s heart to his work like a Christ within; nothing will make him so wise, so painstaking, so watchful, so careful to win souls, as a Christ within;
nothing will make a man strive with sinners, and weep over sinners, and wait upon sinners for their return, as a Christ within. Such ministers as have not a Christ within them, will find no comfort, and as little success, in their preaching of Christ. Above all gettings, get a Christ within, or else after all thy preaching, thyself will be a castaway.
2. You must study more Scripture truths, Scripture mysteries, than human histories. In the Scriptures, as in a glass, we may see how the heart and soul of God stands towards His poor creatures. You must search the Scriptures, not superficially but narrowly. The Scriptures are a great depth, wherein the choicest treasures are hid;
therefore you must dig deep if you will find. Col. 3:16: ‘Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you’ or ‘Let the word of Christ indwell you, is an engrafted word, incorporated into your souls.’ Let the word so be digested by you, as that you turn it into a part of yourselves. 2 Tim. 3:16: ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.’