Though expounding the Scriptures be an important part of the public work of a minister, yet it is not the whole of it. There is a great variety of subjects, both in doctrinal and practical religion, which require to be illustrated, established, and improved; which cannot be done in an exposition. Discourses of this kind are properly called sermons.
Unless the subject-matter of your preaching be truly evangelical, you had better be any thing than a minister. When the apostle speaks of a necessity being laid upon him to preach the gospel, he might mean that he was not at liberty to relinquish his work in favour of ease, or honour, or any other worldly object; but he was not bound to preach merely, but to preach that doctrine which had been delivered unto him. The same may be said of us; woe unto us if we preach not the gospel!
It may seem to be a very easy thing, with the Bible in our hands, to learn the truth, clear of all impure mixtures, and to make it the subject of our ministry. But it is not so. We talk much of thinking and judging for ourselves; but who can justly pretend to be free from the influences which surround him, especially in early life! We are insensibly, and almost irresistibly, assimilated by the books we read, and the company with which we associate ; and the principles current in our age and connexions will ordinarily influence our minds. Nor is the danger solely from without: we are “slow of heart” to believe in a doctrine so holy and divine, and prone to deviate at everypoint. If, therefore, we were wholly to think for ourselves, that were no security for our keeping to the mind of Christ.
I mention these things, not to deter you from either reading or thinking for yourself; but rather to inculcate the necessity of prayer for Divine guidance, and a close adherence to the Scriptures. Though we must think for ourselves, we must not depend upon ourselves, but, as little children, learn at the feet of our Saviour.
I found encouragement and conviction when reading this for the first time. I am encouraged with the exhortation to continue in the evangelical motive or else hold my tongue. I found conviction in my occasional over-zealous appreciation for the books that I use to help me in my study and pursuit of the Truth. This blog is dedicated mainly to the uncovering and discovering of the great teaching and preaching found in Puritan and Puritan influenced writings, of which there is a tremendous wealth. But the warning should be, needs be, used to be our caution in approaching these great books, that they are not to be used firstly nor even secondly in our learning, but to be used only thirdly, and that only after prayer and the reading of the Word of God.