Therefore came I to you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent you have sent for me?
Let us consider the reasons under which a people ought to act when they seek the aid of ministers.
I. PERSONAL SALVATION. The end of the ministry is the salvation of men — not the performance of ceremonies, nor the pronouncing of discourses. The forms and shadows of the Levitical priesthood have passed away; and disputation and laboured oratory have their places in the schools. Could we speak with the tongues of men and angels, or open to you mysteries, yet eloquence and learning would not be a reason why you should have sent for us. What is the harmony of periods, if all is to end in words? What are the researches of the study, if all is to terminate in the increase of your knowledge? The question with us is, how we may turn any talents with which God has endowed us to the account of your salvation.
II. INSTRUCTION IN THE TRUTH. Salvation and truth are inseparably connected. Cornelius sent for Peter, that he might "hear words of him." Words of Jewish tradition or Gentile philosophy? No; but "words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved." You have sent for us, then, to declare the truth; but have you considered its nature and extent? And can you bear it? It is not all comprehended in the love of God. Can you bear to be slain by the law? Can you bear the ministry of the Baptist? Can you bear to be told that, virtuous as many of you may be, you must seek this salvation as sinners, and that, if any man will be Christ's disciple, he must deny himself daily, and take up his cross, and follow his Lord? Can you bear to have it enforced upon you, "Be not conformed to this world," and to be reminded that there must be no intermission in duty; that you must run with diligence the race set before you, and war a good warfare? If you have sent for us for this "intent," you may say, "Thou hast done well that thou art come." May you therefore so "purify your souls by obeying the truth," that you may "know the truth, and the truth may make you free!"
III. FAITHFUL AND CONSTANT APPLICATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF TRUTH. Ministers ought to be better skilled in Divine knowledge than the majority of their hearers; but it would be a false view that the ministry is appointed to teach us constantly some new thing. It is, on the contrary, no less important that we should apply and enforce known truth. For —
1. Conscience often sleeps, add needs another to awake it.
2. We are prone to judge others. The ministry is appointed to oblige us to judge ourselves.
3. We are liable to religious delusions; and we avoid those truths which would disturb us. The minister of Christ must declare the whole counsel of God; and the very truths you need are thus pressed upon you.
4. All sinful habits and passions raise a haze and mist about themselves; and it is for the Christian ministry to dispel that delusive atmosphere.
5. All temptation, too, places a bias on the judgment. You only see the fruit pleasant to the eye, and to be desired to make one wise. It is for the ministry to remind you that God hath said, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Or your temptation may be to discouragement and unbelief; and then it is for us to call your attention to the great and precious promises.
IV. THE ESTABLISHMENT OR CONTINUANCE OF THE ORDINANCES AND DISCIPLINE OF THE CHURCH. St. Peter here opens the Church to the Gentiles. They come in; and this was their mercy and their privilege; and so it ought to be esteemed by us. For a Christian Church is one of the most important institutions on earth. Its members are in special covenant with God. Sabbaths are observed, public assemblies are held; and in these the Divine presence is both promised and realised. Christian fellowship is enjoyed. The Church is an association formed to make war upon sin and error. Here the aged are comforted and strengthened; children are brought to Christ, and trained up for His service; and servants made free by the truth. In the Church there are holy rules of living and acting in force. Baptism is administered; and "by eating" of the sacramental "bread, and drinking of that cup," the followers of Christ "show forth His death till He come." Did you send for us to maintain or subvert this beautiful order? "To maintain it," I know you say. We rejoice to meet you oil this ground. Well, then, be co-workers with us, or the end will fail. Conclusion:
1. If you have proposed important ends in sending for us, these impose important duties upon us, which we cannot perform but by special assistance. We shall need your candour, and, above all, your prayers.
2. Maintain the teachable spirit. Except a man receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he cannot enter therein.
3. Be "intent" upon growth and advancement in knowledge and piety.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?