1873: "The Three Onlies"





Deak Brethren :— It is my pleasant duty to declare your preliminary work in the Rochester Theological Seminary as at length completed, to congratulate you upon the good measure of success with which that work has been performed, and to commend you to the guidance and blessing of the great Head of the Church in that larger work to which you go and which I trust he has called you to do.

There is an element of sadness in this occasion. We shall see your faces, aud you will see each other's faces, no more for many a year — perhaps never again until we all come to lay the fruits of our labors at the Master's feet. Yet the dominant feeling in your hearts as well as in ours to-night is one of rejoicing,— in yours, because you break through the last obstacle that holds you back from the wider life and broader influence to which you have been so long aspiring, — in ours, because your going out from us gives us new faith that Christ is making the Institution from which you graduate a power for the building up of his kingdom in the world.

Not because you are so many or because you add so greatly to the number of his ministers do we rejoice, but rather because we trust that under God you will improve the quality of ministerial work in the land and the world. In one sense there are ministers enough, — but of men thoroughly furnished, men who know the times, men who know the truth of God as the only and allsufficient remedy for the evils of these times and of all times, men who have learned from God the secret of divine wisdom and power in bringing this truth to bear upon the living hearts of men, men who believe in a personal God, a present Savior, an old but everlasting gospel, and who are willing to give themselves body and soul for life and death to the preaching of it — of these, though thank God we have many, we have not enough. If you be such men, my brethren, the world is waiting and longing for your coming; God calls you forward to your work, assuring your success and your reward; and all the churches of our Lord cry: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Ziou, Thy God reigneth."

The German poet said: "Respect the dreams of thy youth!" There is

a loftiness of aspiration and an enthusiasm of self-sacrifice which belong to the youth of Christ's servants. Now, if ever in life, noble voices speak within you, urging you to the highest consecration, and the most absolute and faithful following of the path marked out by God. I would be the mouthpiece of the Spirit to-night. I would stir up those familiar but central thoughts which are the inspiration and power of every successful ministry. I would commend to you anew those old and tried ideas and powers, which have proved their strength by leading the march of the kingdom until now.

There are three of them,— and the first of them is the word of God. In the personality of that word, as I may term it, speaking as with living voice to him who reads it or hears it preached, discerning as it does the thoughts and intents of the heart, bringing the soul into contact with the living God, we have the sufficient proof of its divinity and inspiration. This Institution has sought to ground you in that word, as the norm of faith, the source of comfort, the guide of life. Preach that word, my brethren, in its due proportion, in its relations to the times, in its sole and supreme authority. Remember that, if human opinion speak not according to that word, it is because there is no light in it. Remember that by that word we must be approved or condemned at the last day. Not novelties, not paradoxes, not sensations, not tricks of eloquence, not progressive views, but the old word of God that is able to make us wise unto salvation — let this be the weapon, and the only weapon, of your ministry. As you shall bring this word of God, this sword of the Spirit, to bear upon the conscience and the heart, with all its penetrating and clearing power, shall your work be judged a success or a failure.

But by this word you are to lead men to something beyond the word — to Him who speaks through the word, I mean to the living Christ. Not impersonal truth, viewless and impalpable, a breath that enters the ear and leaves it as soon, but a living personal Redeemer, who makes God known and brings the soul into relations of amity and communion with him — this is the unspeakable gift of God — this is the hope of the ministry. Not faith in an abstract God, but in a living, present Savior — one whose work outside of us has reconciled God to us, one whose work within us has reconciled us to God — this is the faith of the gospel. The hope of the Church and the world is a living Christ — not a Christ stretched upon the crucifix, not a dead Christ entombed and buried, but a risen and glorified Savior, exalted to give repentance and remission of sins.— No success, till you bring men to this faith in a living Jesus and to personal dealings of Jesus with their souls,— actual communication of life to life—'heart beating against heart,— intercourse and communion with One whose presence and being are more real to us than the existence of the world around us. The personal knowledge of this Christ — introduction to him, life in him — this is the end and aim of the Christian ministry.

How can this be realized? Partly by the spirit of our own lives. Do you not remember how some unlettered man has thrilled you, and drawn you to Christ, by his simple words of love to Jesus? Do you not know how a true Christian man makes all men who meet him feel the indefinable attraction of his goodness and self-sacrifice? Believe that the presence of Christ in you will give you, even though your natural powers may not be the greatest,

an attraction to all believers, and an influence to draw all men to God. The power of a life lived by faith in the Son of God — why, it is irresistible! He must succeed who sides with God. But not simply because his own spirit is a power. No ! there is a divine Spirit that makes man's weakness strength, that teaches man to labor and to pray, and that supplements his efforts with divine efficiency.

They are Luther's "three oulies "— these powers of the Christian ministry — the word of God only, faith in Christ only, the power of the Spirit only. Trust these, my brethren. In the strength of these, go forth to meet this living age, and the living God shall go with you. There is no work so noble on earth to do — none that so developes mind and heart. Whether outward success may be yours or not, is little matter. God will make your work the means of developing in you the highest manhood, and your labor shall not be in vain in the Lord. As you come back in future years to this scene of your early studies and vows, we shall greet you as soldiers who bring good news from the fight,— we shall send you out again, as we do now, laden with our prayers that God will give you a multitude of trophies in the great conflict. But whether the reward shall come on earth or not, be willing all the same to labor, with God and the angels for your witnesses, and the Judgment for the testing-day and day of trinmph. But I must not detain you. The time of preparation is past. Your work calls you. Go forth to meet it. Quit you like men, and may the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion and participation of the Holy Ghost, be with you both now and evermore, Amen.