Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

alone can work with effect? This is very true, but God chooses to work by instruments, and Paul, by the question, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?" expressed his readiness to be an instrument in his hand. Neither did he say, what signifies my praying, for I have got a work here to do, and it is enough that I be diligent in the

ling the one and warding off the hostility of the other. Look to all that is visible in the life of this Apostle, and you see nothing but bustle, and enterprise, and vareity. You see a man intent on the furtherance of some great object, and in the prosecution of it, as ever diligent, and as ever doing, as if the whole burden of it lay upon himself, or as if it were reserved performance of it. No-for the power of for the strength of his solitary arm to ac-God must be acknowledged, and a sense of complish it. To this object he conse- his power must mingle with all our percrated every moment of his time, and even formances; and therefore it is that the when he set him down to the work of a Apostle kept both working and praying, and tent-maker, for the sake of vindicating the with him they formed two distinct emanapurity of his intentions, and holding forth tions of the same principle; and while there an example of honest independence to the are many who make these Christian graces poorer brethren; even here, you just see to neutralize each other, the judicious and another display of the one principle which the clear-sighted Paul, who had received possessed his whole heart, and gave such a the spirit of a sound mind, could give his character of wondrous activity to all the unembarrassed vigour to both these exerdays of his earthly pilgrimage. There are cises, and combine, in his own example, some, who are so far misled by a kind of the utmost diligence in doing, with the perverse theology which they have adopted, utmost dependence on him who can alone as to hesitate about the lawfulness of being di- give to that doing all its fruit and all its ligent and doing in the use of means. While efficacy. they are slumbering over their speculation, and proving how honestly they put faith in it by doing nothing, let us be guided by the example of the pains-taking and industrious Paul, and remember, that never since the days of this Apostle, who calls upon us to be followers of him, even as he was of Christ,-never were the labours of human exertion more faithfully rendered,-never were the workings of a human instrument put forth with greater energy.

The union of these two graces has at times been finely exemplified in the latter, and uninspired ages of the Christian Church; and the case of the missionary Elliot is the first, and the most impressive that occurs to us. His labours, like those of the great Apostle, were directed to the extension of the vineyard of Christ,—and he was among the very first who put forth his hand to the breaking up the American wilderness. For this purpose did he set himself down to the acquirement of a harsh and barbarous language; and he be

tian faith, as if the whole success of the cause depended upon his doing, he prayed as much, and as fervently for this object, as if all his doings were of no consequence. A fine testimony to the supremacy of God, from the man, who, in labours was more abundant than any that ever come after him, that he counted all as nothing, unless God would interfere to put his blessings

But it forms a still more striking part of the example of Paul, that while he did as much toward the extension of the Chris-came qualified to confer with savages; and he grappled for years with their untractable humours; and he collected these wanderers into villages; and while other reformers have ennobled their names by the formation of a new set of public laws, did he take upon him the far more arduous task of creating for his untamed Indians, a new set of domestic habits; and such was the power of his influence that he carried his

upon all, and to give his efficacy to all! He christianizing system into the very bosom who looked so busy, and whose hand was of their families; and he spread art, and 80 constantly engaged, in the work that learning, and civilization amongst them; was before him, looked for all his success and to his visible labours among his people to that help which cometh from the sanc- he added the labours of the closet; and he tuary of God. There was his eye directed. translated the whole Bible into their tongue; Thence alone did he expect a blessing upon and he set up a regular provision for the his endeavours. He wrought, and that with education of their children; and lest the diligence too, because God bade him; but spectator who saw his fourteen towns risen he also prayed, and that with equal dili- as by enchantment in the desert, and peogence, because God had revealed to him, pled by the rudest of his tribes, should ask that plant as he may, and water as he may, in vain for the mighty power by which God alone giveth the increase. He did ho- such wondrous things had been brought to mage to the will of God, by the labours of pass,-this venerable priest left his testithe ever-working minister, and he did ho-mony behind him; and neither overlooking mage to the power of God, by the devotions the agency of God, nor the agency of man of the ever-praying minister. He did not as the instrument of God, he tells us in the say, what signifies my working, for God one memorable sentence written by him

R

[ocr errors]

self at the end of his Indian grammar, that | fitness to rest on the Apostle for making

66

more believers. It was a kind of creative or accumulating process. After he had travelled in birth with his new converts till Christ was formed in them--this was the use he put them to. It is an expedient which harmonizes with the methods of Providence and the will of God, who orders intercessions, and on the very principle too, that he willeth all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. The intercession of christians, who are already formed, is the leaven which is to leaven the whole earth with Christianity. It is one of the destined instruments in the hand of God for hastening the glory of the latter days. Take the world at large, and the doctrine of intercession, as an engine of mighty power, is derided as one of the reveries of fanaticism. This is a subject on which the men of the world are in a deep slumber; but there are watchmen who never hold their peace day nor night, and to them God addresses these remarkable words, "Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth."

prayers and pains through faith in Christ Jesus can do any thing."

The last inference we shall draw from this topic, is the duty and importance of prayer among Christians, for the success of the ministry of the Gospel. Paul had a high sense of the efficacy of prayer. Not according to that refined view of it, which, making all its influence to consist in its improving and moralizing effect upon the mind, fritters down to nothing the plain import and significancy of this ordinance. With him it was a matter of asking and of receiving. And just as when in pursuit of some earthly benefit which is at the giving of another, you think yourselves surer of your object the more you multiply the number of askers and the number of applications—in this very way did he, if we may be allowed the expression, contrive to strengthen and extend his interest in the court of heaven. He craved the intercession of his people. There were many believers formed under his ministry, and each of these could bring the prayer of faith to bear upon the counsels of God, and bring down a larger portion of strength and of

SERMON II.

The mysterious Aspect of the Gospel to the Men of the World.

“Then said I, Ah, Lord God! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables ?"-Ezekiel xx. 49.

or who wanted patience for the exercise of attention; or who wanted such a concern about God, as either to care very much for his will, or to feel that any thing which respected him was worth the trouble of a very serious investigation.

IN parables, the lesson that is meant to be conveyed is to a certain degree shaded in obscurity. They are associated by the Psalmist with dark sayings-"I will open my mouth in a parable, I will utter dark sayings of old." We read in the New Tesament of a parable leaving all the effect of an unexplained mystery upon the understanding of the general audience to which it was addressed; and the explanation of the parable given to a special few was to them the clearing up of a mystery. "It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but to them it is not given !"

The prophets of old were often commissioned to address their countrymen under the guise of symbolical language. This threw a veil over the meaning of their communications; and though it was a veil of such transparency as could be seen through by those who looked earnestly and attentively, and with a humble desire to be taught in the will of God,-yet there was dimness enough to intercept all the moral, and all the significancy, from the minds of those who wanted principle to be in earnest;

They who wanted this concern and thi principle, from them was taken away even that which they had. God at length ceased from his messages, and the Spirit of God ceased from his warnings. They who had the preparation of all this docility, to them more was given. Their honest desire after knowledge, was rewarded by the acquirement of it. They continued to look, and to enquire, and at length they were illuminated; and thus was fulfilled the saying of the Saviour, that "" whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly,-but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."

It is not difficult to conceive how the obscure intimations of Ezekiel would be taken by the careless and ungodly men of his generation. It is likely that even from the naked denunciations of vengeance they would have turned contemptuously away.

[merged small][ocr errors]

And it is still more likely that they would refuse the impression of them, when offered to their notice, under a figurative disguise. It is not at all to be supposed that they would put forth any activity of mind in quest of that which they nauseated, and of that which, if ever they had found, they would have found to be utterly revolting to all their habits of impiety. They are the very last men we should expect to meet with at the work of a pains-taking search after the interpretation of these parables. Nay, they would gladly fasten upon the obscurity of them both as a circumstance of reproach against the prophet, and as an apology for their own indifference. And thus it is, that to be a teacher of parables might at length become a scoff and a by-word; and the prophet seems to have felt the force of it as an opprobrious designation, seems to be looking forward to the mixture of disdain and impatience with which he would be listened to, when God charged him with an allegorical communication to his countrymen, and he answered, “Ah, Lord God! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?"

and the Son; and the process of growing
up unto Christ; and the habit of receiving
out of his fulness, and of beholding with
open face his glory, so as to be changed
into the same image, from glory to glory,
even as by the spirit of the Lord. We are
not at present asking, if you feel the disgust
with which unsubdued nature ever listens
to these representations, or in what degree
they are offensive to your taste, and pain-
fully uncongenial with the whole style and
habit of your literature. But we ask, if
such terms and such phrases as have now
been specified, do not spread before the eye
of your mind an aspect of exceeding dim-
ness over the preacher's demonstration?
Does he not appear to you as if he wrapped
himself up in the obscurity of a technical
language, which you are utterly at a loss to
comprehend? When the sermon in ques-
tion is put by the side of some lesson of
obvious morality, or some exposition of
those principles which are recognized and
acted upon in ordinary life, does it not look
to you as if it was shrouded from common
observation altogether; and that ere you
could be initiated into the mystery of such
language and of such doctrine, you would
need to describe a mighty and still untrod-
den interval from all your present habits of
conception? And yet, what if it be indeed
the very language and the very doctrine of

Now the question we have to put is--Is there no similar plea of resistance ever preferred against the faithful messengers of God in the present day? It is true, that in our time there is no such thing as a man coming amongst you, charged with the utterance of a direct and personal inspiration. | the New Testament ?-if all the jargon that But it is the business of every minister truly is charged on the interpretation of the word to expound the record of inspiration; and be the actual word itself?-and if the is it not very possible that in so doing he preacher be faithfully conveying the mesmay be reproached, not for preaching para-sage of the Bible, at the very time that the bolically, but for preaching mysteriously? hearer is shielding himself from the impresHave you never heard of a sermon being sion of it by the saying, that he preacheth called mystical; and what shall we think mysteries? of it, if, in point of fact, this imputation falls most readily and most abundantly on the sermon that is most pervaded by the spirit, and most overrun with the phraseology of the New Testament? In that composition there are certain terms which recur incessantly, and which would therefore appear to represent certain very leading and prominent ideas. Now, whether are these ideas clearly and promptly suggested to your mind, by the utterance of terms? What are the general character and effect which in your eye is imparted to a sermon, when, throughout the whole of it, the words of the apostolic vocabulary are ever and anon obtruded upon your hearing-and the whole stress of the argument is made to lie on such matters as sanctification; and the atonement; and the blood of the everlasting covenant; and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, who takes up his habitation in the soul of the believer; and salvation by grace; and the spirit of adoption poured forth on the heart, and filling it with all the peace and joy of a confident reconciliation; and the exercise of fellowship with the Father,

But to keep the two parties at a still more hopeless distance from each other, the message of such a preacher, incomprehensible as many of its terms and many of its particulars may be, evidently bears a something upon it that is fitted to alarm the fears, and utterly to thwart the strongest tendencies of nature. Let him be just a faithful expounder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and let the blindness of the natural man be what it may, still there is scarcely a hearer who can fail to perceive, that, an terior to the reception of this Gospel, th preacher looks upon him as the enemy of God,-and strongly points at such a controversy between him and his maker, as can only be made up through an appointed Mediator-and requires of him such a faith as will transform his character, and as will shift the whole currency of his affections and desires-and affirms the necessity of such a regeneration, as that all old things shall be done away, and all things shall become new ;-and lets him know, that to be a Christian indeed he must die unto sense, he must be crucified unto the world, and,

1

In the prosecution of the following discourse, we shall endeavour in the first place to state shortly the ground on which the religion of the New Testament looks so mysterious a thing to the men of the world, and then conclude with a short practical remonstrance upon this subject.

renouncing its charms and its predilections, | Now so long as the work of religious inmust learn to have his conversation in hea-struction can be upheld by such analogies ven, and to choose God as the strength of as these,-so long as the relations of civil or his heart and his portion for evermore. All of domestic society can be employed to this flashes plainly and significantly enough, illustrate the relation between God and the through that veil of mysticism which ap- creatures whom he has formed, so long pears to overspread the general doctrine of as the recollections of daily experience can the preacher; and imparts a forbidding cha- thus be applied to the method of the divine racter to it in the eyes of those to whom administration,-a vein of perspicuity will we are alluding; and they will be glad of appear to run through the clear and rational any pretence to shun a painful and a re-exposition of him who has put all the mist volting contemplation; and they will com- and all the technicals of an obscure theoplain of him on the very ground on which logy away from him. All his lessons will the Jews of old complained of Ezekiel, as run in an easy and direct train. Nor do we a dealer in parables-and while much of see how it is possible to be bewildered their antipathy is founded upon his being amongst such explanations, as are sugso strict and so spiritual, and so unaccom- gested by the most ordinary doings and modating to the general tone of society, concerns of human society;-and did the one of the charges which will be most fre- preacher only confine himself to such docquently and most loudly preferred against trine, as that God rewards the upright, and him, is, that he is so very mysterious. punishes the rebellious, and upon the impulse of that compassion which belongs to him, takes again the penitent into acceptance, and in the great day of remuneration, will give unto every man according to his works,-did he only confine himself to truths so palpable, and build upon it applications so obvious, as just to urge us to the performance of duty by the promised reward, and deter us from the infraction of it by the severities of the threatened punishment, and call us to reformation by affectionately pleading with us the mercies of God, and warn us with all his force and all his fidelity, that should we persist in obstinate impenitence we shall be cut off from happiness for ever,-there might be something to terrify,-but there would at least be nothing to darken or to perplex us in these interpretations-nothing that would not meet common intelligence, and be helped forward by all the analogies of common ob servation,-and should this therefore prove the great burden of the preacher's demonstration, we should be the last to reproach him, as a dealer in parables, or as a dealer in mysteries.

I. There are certain experiences of human life so oft repeated, and so familiar to all our recollections, that when we perceive, or think we perceive, an analogy between them and the matters of religion, then religion does not appear to us to be mysterious. There is not a more familiar exhibition in society than that of a servant who performs his allotted work, and who obtains his stipulated reward-and we are all servants, and one is our master, even God.

There is nothing more common than that a son should acquit himself to the satisfaction of his parents,--and we are all the children of an universal parent, whom it is our part to please in all things. Even when that son falls under displeasure, and is either visited with compunction or made to receive the chastisement of his disobedience, there is nothing more common than to witness the relentings of an earthly father, and the readiness with which forgiveness is awarded on the repentance and sorrow of the offender,—and we, in like manner, liable to err from the pure law of heaven, have surely a kind and indulgent Father to deal with. And, lastly, there is nothing more common than that the loyalty of a zealous and patriotic subject should be rewarded by the patronage, or at least by the protection of the civil magistrate,—and that an act of transgression against the laws should be visited by an act of vengeance on the part of him who is a terror to evil-doers, while a praise to such as do well. And thus it is, too, that we are under a lawgiver in heaven who is able both to save and to destroy.

To attach us the more to this rational style of preaching, we cannot but perceive that it obtains a kind of experimental countenance from the actual distinctions of character which are realized in the peopled world around us. Can any thing be more evident than that there is a line of separation between the sensual and the temperate, between the selfish and the disinterested, between the sordid and the honourable; or if you require a distinction more strictly religious, between the profane and the decent keeper of all the ordinances? Do not the former do, what, in the matter of it, is contrary to the law of God, and the latter do, what, in the matter of it, is agreeable to that law? Here then at once we witness the two grand divisions of human society, in a state of real and visible exemplification

--and what more is necessary than just to the degree of their disobedience, are wretchemploy the most direct and intelligible mo- | ed outcasts of condemnation. They reduce tives of conduct, for persuading men to the men of all casts and of all characters, withdraw from one of these divisions, and to the same footing of worthlessness in the pass over to the other of them? Surely it sight of God; and speak of the evil of the is just as we occupy the higher and the human heart in such terms, as will sound lower places in the scale of character, that to many a mysterious exaggeration, and, we shall be found on the right and on the like the hearers of Ezekiel, will these not left hand of the judge on the day of reckon- be able to comprehend the argument of the ing: And what more obvious way, then, preacher, when he tells them, though in of preparing a people for eternity-than the very language of the Bible, that they just to point our urgency to the one object are the heirs of wrath; that none of them of prevailing upon men to cross the line is righteous, no not one; that all flesh have of separation, to cease from the iniquities corrupted their ways, and have fallen short which abound on the one side of it, and to of the glory of God; that the world at large put on the reformations which are practised is a lost and a fallen world, and that the on the other side of it? For this purpose, natural inheritance of all who live in it, is what else is to be done than plainly to tell the inheritance of a temporal death, and a the whole amount of the interest and obli- ruined eternity. gation which lies on the side of virtue, and as plainly to tell of the ruin and the degradation both of character and of prospect which lie on the side of vice-to press the accom-derstand him,-nor are we to wonder, if plishments of a good life on the one hand, he seem to speak to them in a parable, and to denounce the falsehoods and the dis- when he speaks of the disease,-that all the honesties, and the profligacies of a bad life darkness of a parable should still seem to on the other, in a word, to make our hang over his demonstrations, when as a hearers the good subjects of God, much in faithful expounder of the revealed will and the same way, as you would propose to counsel of God, he proceeds to tell them of make them the good servants of their mas-the remedy. For God hath not only made ter or the good subjects of their govern-known the fearful magnitude of his reckonment; and thus by the simple and directing against us, but he has prescribed, and enforcements of duty, to shun all the diffi- with that authority which only belongs to culties of a scholastic theology, and to keep him, the way of its settlement; and that he clear of all its mysteriousness. has told us all the works, and all the efforts of unrenewed nature are of no avail in gaining us acceptance, and that he has laid the burden of our atonement on him who alone was able to bear it; and he not only invites, but he commands, and he beseeches us to enter into peace and pardon on the footing of that expiation which Christ hath made, and of that righteousness which Christ hath wrought out for us; and he

When the preacher goes on in this strain, those hearers whom the spirit has not convinced of sin will be utterly at a loss to un

It is needless to say how much this process is reversed by many a teacher of Christianity. It is true that they hold out most prominently the need of some great transition-but it is a transition most mysteriously different from the act of crossing that line of separation, to which we have just been adverting. Without referring at all in fact to any such line, do they come forth from the very outset with one sweep-further declares, that we have come into ing denunciation of worthlessness and guilt, the world with such a moral constitution, which they carry round among all the va- as will not merely need to be repaired, but rieties of character, and by which they as will need to be changed or made over affirm every individual of the human race, again, ere we be meet for the inheritance to be an undone sinner in the sight of God. of the saints; and still for this object does Instead of bidding him look to other sin-he point our eyes to the great Mediator who ers less deformed by blemishes, and more has undertaken, not merely for the forgivech in moral accomplishments, than him- ness, but who has undertaken for the sanctiself, and then attempt to recover his dis- fication of all who put their trust in him; and tance from the divine favour by the imita- he announces that out of his fulness there tion of them, they bid him think of the ever come forth supplies of strength for the awful amount of debt and of deficiency new obedience of new creatures in Jesus that lies between the lawgiver in heaven, Christ our Lord. Now, it is when the and a whole world guilty before him. They preacher is unfolding this scheme of salvaspeak of a depravity so entire, and of an tion,-it is when he is practically applying alienation from God, so deep, and so uni-it to the conscience and the conduct of his versal, as positively to obliterate that line hearers,—it is when the terms of grace, and of separation which is supposed to mark faith, and sanctification, are pressed into off those, who, upon the degree of their frequent employment for the work of these obedience, are rightful claimants to the very peculiar explanations,—it is when, inhonours of eternity, from those, who, upon stead of illustrating his subject by those

« AnteriorContinua »