Testimony of life

Daily Reading for November 12 • Charles Simeon, priest, 1836

In different ages of the world it has pleased God to reveal himself to men in different ways; sometimes by visions, sometimes by voices, sometimes by suggestions of his Spirit to their minds: but since the completion of the sacred canon, he has principally made use of his written word, explained and enforced by men, whom he has called and qualified to preach his Gospel; and though he has not precluded himself from conveying again the knowledge of his will in any of the former ways, it is through the written word only that we are now authorized to expect his gracious instructions. This, whether read by ourselves or published by his servants, he applies to the heart, and makes effectual for the illumination and salvation of men. It must be confessed, however, that he chiefly uses the ministry of his servants, whom he has sent as ambassadors to a guilty world. . . .

But this circumstance, so favourable to all classes of the community, imposes on them a duty of the utmost importance. If there be a well from which we are to receive our daily supplies, it becomes us to ascertain that its waters are salubrious: and, in like manner, if we are to receive instruction from men, who are weak and fallible as ourselves, it becomes us to try their doctrines by the touchstone of the written word; and to receive from them those sentiments only which agree with that unerring standard; or, to use the words of an inspired Apostle, we must “prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.” To preachers also there arises an awful responsibility; for, as the people are “to receive the word at their mouth,” and their “word is to be a savour of life or of death to all that hear it,” it concerns them to be well assured, that they set before their people “the sincere unadulterated milk of the word”; that in no respect they “corrupt the word of God,” or “handle it deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commend themselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

Hence it appears that we all are deeply interested in this one question, What is truth? what is that truth, which ministers are bound to preach, and which their people should be anxious to hear? There will however be no difficulty in answering this question, if only we consult the passage before us; wherein St Paul explicitly declares what was the great scope of his ministry, and the one subject which he laboured to unfold. He regarded not the subtleties which had occupied the attention of philosophers; nor did he affect that species of knowledge which was in high repute among men: on the contrary, he studiously avoided all that gratified the pride of human wisdom, and determined to adhere simply to one subject, the crucifixion of Christ for the sins of men: “I came not unto you,” says he, “with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God: for I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

From “Evangelical Religion: A Sermon Preached Before the University of Cambridge” by the Rev. Charles Simeon (published in 1837); found at http://anglicanhistory.org/england/csimeon/evangelical1837.html

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