Monday, 1 December 2014

The Personal Ministry of Christ

Taken from a sermon on 1 Peter 2:27 that was preached by Charles Calder Mackintosh in one of the early years of his ministry.

The main employment of Jesus consisted in preaching the gospel. To this his miracles were all subservient. It was most suitable that his public life should thus be spent; that, as he had come into the world to die for sinners – as the preaching of his cross was to be the great means of salvation – he should usher in the proclamation of the joyful sound, and thus consecrate and dignify the ordinance of preaching, and give it perpetual efficacy.

And how otherwise, indeed, could fitting employment be found for the Son of God, when for a time he had to appear publicly before the eyes of men? The Lord had ‘anointed him to preach good tidings to the meek, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord’ (Isa. 61:1-3); and therefore he went about preaching the gospel of the kingdom in the synagogues, in the temple, in the villages, by the wayside, by the seashore, in the desert, on the mountain, or in the house, and saying, ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.’ He addressed men as sinners, and setting death and life before them, commanded them to repent. He addressed them as the children of Abraham after the flesh, and warned them of the danger of trusting in outward privileges and outward connection with God’s Church, and exhorted them to seek the ‘renewal of the Holy Ghost’ (John 3:3). He proclaimed the will of God by direct authoritative announcement, by parable, by warning, by promise. He proclaimed it in its bearings on all the darkness and corruption of the heart, and on all the fears of the labouring and heavy laden. How precious is the gospel and the gospel ministry, since the great work of the Son of God, when on earth, this consisted in preaching the gospel.

But who can suitable speak of the preaching of Christ – the matchless graces of the preacher, the celestial purity of his heart, the grandeur of those communications of the Father’s will regarding the salvation of men which were made by his only-begotten Son! Who can think aright of the burning zeal and the love of the Redeemer’s heart while he fulfilled his ministry, the consuming purity manifested in his denunciations of hypocrisy, or the infinitude of the pity which wept over Jerusalem!

There was a time when the Son of God in human form in very deed dwelt on our earth, a preacher of righteousness. A new experiment was made on the character of the apostasy of man from God, and on its power of resistance. Holy prophets had appeared in preceding ages with unquestionable evidences of having been sent by God. They had called men to repentance, and had left in succession mournful complains of the unsuccessfulness of their mission. Some of them were mocked, some stoned; most of them had to say. ‘Who has believed our report?’ (Isa. 53:1). But a greater than all had now appeared – One who not only proclaimed the truth, but who was, in his own person, a spotless reflection of it; One who not only spoke in the power of the Spirit, but to whom the Spirit had been given without measure; One of who a devoted Enoch, a holy Noah, a believing Abraham, a meek and faithful Moses, and a zealous Elijah, would unite with John in saying, ‘The latchet of his shoes I am not worthy to unloose’; One not only free from all sinful weakness, but possessed of the uncreated excellence of divinity, veiled and curtained indeed, that their dazzling splendour might not consume sinful men, but appearing in such measure in the human form as to stamp divinity on him who dwelt in it. Yes, the Creator and Lawgiver appeared in the form of a man, outwardly mean and poor, yet exhibiting the moral beauties of our nature as they had not shone even in Paradise.

And he preached peace, and besought men to be ‘reconciled to God’. He spoke plainly, that the most unlettered might know his meaning; solemnly and with authority, that they might be impressed with the danger of refusing instruction; tenderly and affectionately, if so be he might touch and melt their hearts. He spoke of God, in his glory and justice as moral governor, and in his excellence as the sin-pardoning God; of the soul, in its worth; of sin, in its vileness and deservings; of Satan, in his power and malice and success in destroying souls; of hell in its horrors.

He spoke, above all, of the mercy of God; and of himself as the gift of this mercy, the ‘Bread of Life’, the ‘Fountain of living water’; the ‘Son of Man’ who had come ‘to seek and to save that which was lost’. He invited the lost children of men to come to him. He addressed himself to their understandings, their consciences, their hopes and fears and desires, in the way of all others best fitted to instruct, to awaken, to reach the very depths of the soul and its hidden springs of action.

And he did this, not for a Sabbath or a week, but for years. He spent his strength in the work. He sat down, so to speak, before the heart of man, and used the best possible means for bringing it to surrender to God. And what was the result? Did it yield? Did the whole body of his hearers cast down the weapons of their rebellion? Did the whole people of the land turn to the Lord, rending their hearts? Oh, how affecting the complaint of the Son of God! ‘I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nought and in vain’; ‘All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.’

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