Imatges de pÓgina

short lived man, but especially to his immortal part; God gave his Son, "his only Son, to the end that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." See how God loved the world! The Son of God, that was God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; in glory equal with the Father, in majesty co-eternal; "emptied himself, took upon him the form of a servant, and being found in fashion as a man, was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." And all this he suffered not for himself, but for us men and for our salvation. "He bore all our sins in his own body upon the tree," that "by his stripes we" might be "healed." After this demonstration of his love, is it possible to doubt any longer of God's tender regard for man; even though he was "dead in trespasses and sins?" Even when he saw us in our sins and in our blood, he said unto us, Live! Let us then fear no more! Let us doubt no more! He that " spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, shall he not with him freely give us all things?"

8. "Nay," says the philosopher, "if God so loved the world, did he not love a thousand other worlds, as well as he did this? It is now allowed, that there are thousands, if not millions of worlds, besides this in which we live. And can any reasonable man believe, that the Creator of all these, many of which are probably as large, yea, far larger than ours, would show such astonishingly greater regard to one than to all the rest?" I answer, Suppose there were millions of worlds, yet God may see, in the abyss of his infinite wisdom, reasons that do not appear to us, why he saw good to show this mercy to ours, in preference to thousands or millions of other worlds.

9. I speak this even upon the common supposition of the plurality of worlds a very favourite notion with all those who deny the Christian revelation and for this reason: because it affords them a foundation for so plausibie an objection to it. But the more I consider that supposition, the more I doubt of it.. Insomuch that, if it were allowed by all the philosophers in Europe, still I could not allow it, without stronger proof than any I have met with yet.


10. "Nay, but is not the argument of the great Huygens, sufficient to put it beyond all doubt? When we view, says that able astronomer, the moon through a good telescope, we clearly discover "rivers and mountains on her spotted globe.' Now where rivers are, there are doubtless plants and vegetables of various kinds. And where vegetables are, there are undoubtedly animals; yea, rational ones, as on earth. It follows then, that the moon has its inhabitants, and probably near akin to ours. But if our moon is inhabited, we may easily suppose, so are all the secondary planets; and in particular, all the satellites or moons of Jupiter and Saturn. And if the secondary planets are inhabited, why not the primary? Why should we doubt it of Jupiter and Saturn themselves, as well as Mars, Venus, and Mercury?"

11. But do not you know, that Mr. Huygens himself, before he died, doubted of this whole hypothesis? For upon farther observation, he found reason to believe, that the moon has no atmosphere. He observed, that in a total eclipse of the sun, on the removal of the shade from any part of the earth, the sun immediately shines bright upon it; whereas if the moon had an atmosphere, the solar light, while it shone through that atmosphere, would appear dim and dusky. Thus, after

an eclipse of the moon, first a dusky light appears on that part of it, from which the shadow of the earth removes, while that light passes through the atmosphere of the earth. Hence it appears, that the moon has no atmosphere. Consequently, it has no clouds, no rain, no springs, no rivers; and therefore no plants, or animals. But there is no proof or probability that the moon is inhabited; neither have we any proof that the other planets are. Consequently, the foundation being removed, the whole fabric falls to the ground.


12. But, you will say, Suppose this argument fails, we may infer the same conclusion, the plurality of worlds, from the unbounded wisdom, and power, and goodness of the Creator. It was full as easy to him, to create thousands or millions of worlds as one. Can any one then believe that he would exert all his power and wisdom, in creating a single world? What proportion is there between this speck of creation, and the great God that filleth heaven and earth! While

'We know, the power of his Almighty hand
Could form another world from every sand!'"

13. To this boasted proof, this argumentum palmarium of the learned infidels, I answer: Do you expect to find any proportion between finite and infinite? Suppose God had created a thousand more worlds than there are grains of sand in the universe, what proportion would all these together bear to the infinite Creator? Still, in comparison of him, they would be, not a thousand times, but infinitely less than a mite compared to the universe. Have done then with this childish prattle, about the proportion of creatures to their Creator; and leave it to the all-wise God, to create what and when he pleases. For who, besides himself, "hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?'

14. Suffice it then for us to know this plain and comfortable truth, that the almighty Creator hath shown that regard to this poor, little creature of a day, which he hath not shown even to the inhabitants of heaven, "who kept not their first estate." He hath given us his Son, his only Son, both to live and to die for us! Oh let us live unto him, that we may die unto him, and live with him for ever!

SERMON CIX.-On Attending the Church Service.

"The sin of the young men was very great," 1 Sam. ii, 17.

1. THE corruption not only of the heathen world, but likewise of them that were called Christians, has been matter of sorrow and lamentation to pious men, almost from the time of the apostles. And hence, as early as the second century, within a hundred years of St. John's removal from the earth, men who were afraid of being partakers of other men's sins, thought it their duty to separate from them. Hence, in every age, many have retired from the world, lest they should be stained with the pollutions of it. In the third century many carried this so far, as to run into deserts and turn hermits. But in the following age this took another turn. Instead of turning hermits, they turned monks. Religious houses now began to be built in every Christian country and religious communities were established, both of men and


women, who were entirely secluded from the rest of mankind; having no intercourse with their nearest relations; nor with any but such as were confined, generally for life, within the same walls.

2. This spirit of literally renouncing the world, by retiring into religious houses, did not so generally prevail after the reformation. Nay, in Protestant countries, houses of this kind were totally suppressed. But still too many serious persons (chiefly incited thereto by those that are commonly called mystic writers) were eager to seclude themselves from the world, and run into solitude; supposing this to be the best, if not the only way of escaping the pollution that is in the world.

3 One thing which powerfully inclined them to separate from the several churches, or religious societies, to which they had belonged, even from their infancy, was the belief, that no good was to be expected from the ministration of unholy men. "What," said they, 66 can we think that a holy God will bless the ministry of wicked men? Can we imagine that they who are themselves strangers to the grace of God will manifest that grace to others? Is it to be supposed that God ever did, or ever will work by the children of the devil? And if this cannot be supposed, ought we not to 'come out from among them and be separate ?""

4. For more than twenty years, this never entered into the thoughts of those that were called Methodists. But as more and more who had been brought up Dissenters joined with them, they brought in more and more prejudice against the church. In process of time, various circumstances concurred to increase and to confirm it. Many had forgotten, that we were all at our first setting out determined members of the established church. Yea, it was one of our original rules, that every member of our society should attend the church and sacrament, unless he had been bred among Christians of any other denomination.

5. In order therefore to prevent others from being puzzled and perplexed, as so many have been already, it is necessary, in the highest degree, to consider this matter thoroughly; calmly to inquire, whether God ever did bless the ministry of ungodly men? And whether he does so at this hour? Here is a plain matter of fact: if God never did bless it, we ought to separate from the church; at least where we have reason to believe that the minister is an unholy man; if he ever did bless it, and does so still, then we ought to continue therein.

6. Nineteen years ago we considered this question in our public conference at Leeds; "Whether the Methodists ought to separate from the church?" And, after a long and candid inquiry, it was determined, nemine contradicente, that it was not expedient for them to separate. The reasons were set down at large; and they stand equally good at this day.

7. In order to put this matter beyond all possible dispute, I have chosen to speak from these words, which give a fair occasion of observing, what the dealings of God in his church have been, even from so early a period for it is generally allowed that Eli lived at least a thousand years before our Lord came into the world. In the verses preceding the text, we read, ver. 12, &c, "Now the sons of Eli were sons of Beliai; they knew not the Lord." They were wicked to an uncommon degree. Their profane violence with respect to the sacrifices, is related with all its shocking circumstances, in the following verses. But (what was a greater abomination still)" they lay with the women



that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation!" ver. 22. On both these accounts," the sin of the young men was very great; and men abhorred the offering of the Lord."

8. May I be permitted to make a little digression, in order to correct a mistranslation in the twenty-fifth verse? In our translation it runs thus: "They hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them." Ought it not rather to be rendered, "Therefore the Lord was about to slay them?" As if he had said, The Lord would not suffer their horrid and stubborn wickedness to escape unpunished; but because of that wickedness, he slew them both in one day, by the hand of the Philistines. They did not sin, (as might be imagined from the common translation,) because God had determined to slay them; but God therefore determined to slay them, because they had thus sinned



9. But to return. Their sin was the more inexcusable because they could not be ignorant of that dreadful consequence thereof; that by reason of their enormous wickedness, men abhorred the offering of the Lord." Many of the people were so deeply offended, that if they did not wholly refrain from the public worship, yet they attended it with pain; abhorring the priests while they honoured the sacrifice.

10. And have we any proof, that the priests who succeeded them were more holy than they, than Hophni and Phinehas; not only till God permitted ten of the tribes to be separated from their brethren, and from the worship he had appointed; but even till Judah as well as Israel, for the wickedness of the priests, as well as of the people, were carried into captivity?

11. What manner of men they were about the time of the Babylonish captivity, we learn from various passages in the prophecy of Jeremiah. From which it manifestly appears, that people and priests wallowed in all manner of vices. And how little they were amended, after they were brought back into their own land, we may gather from those terrible words in the prophecy of Malachi: "And now, oh ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will send even a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yea, I have cursed them already, because ye would not lay it to heart. Behold I will curse your seed, and I will spread dung upon their faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and men shall take you away with it," Mal. ii, 1, 2.

12. Such were the priests of God in their several generations, till he brought the great High Priest into the world! And what manner of men were they during the time that he ministered upon earth? A large and particular account of their character we have in the twenty-third chapter of St. Matthew: and a worse character it would be difficult to find in all the oracles of God. But may it not be said, “Our Lord does not there direct his discourse to the priests, but to the scribes and Pharisees?" He does: but this is the same thing. For the scribes were what we now term divines; the public teachers of the people. And many, if not most of the priests, especially all the strictest sort of them, were Pharisees: so that in giving the character of the scribes and Pharisees, he gives that of the priests also.

13. Soon after the pouring out of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost in the infancy of the Christian church, there was indeed a glo

rious change. "Great grace was then upon them all;" ministers as well as people. "The multitude of them that believed, were of one heart and of one soul." But how short a time did this continue! How soon did the fine gold become dim! Long before even the apostolic age expired, St. Paul himself had ground to complain, that some of his fellow labourers had forsaken him, having "loved the present world." And not long after, St. John reproved divers of the angels, that is, the ministers of the churches in Asia, because even in that early period, their "works were not found perfect before God."

- 14. Thus did "the mystery of iniquity" begin to "work," in the ministers as well as the people, even before the end of the apostolic age. But how much more powerfully did it work, as soon as those master builders the apostles were taken out of the way! Both ministers and people were then farther and farther removed from the hope of the gospel. In so much that when St. Cyprian, about a hundred and fifty years after the death of St. John, describes the spirit and behaviour both of laity and clergy that were round about him, one would be ready to suppose he was giving us a description of the present clergy and laity of Europe. But the corruption which had been creeping in drop by drop, during the second and third century, in the beginning of the fourth, when Constantine called himself a Christian, poured in upon the church with a full tide. And whoever reads the history of the church, from the time of Constantine to the reformation, will easily observe that all the abominations of the heathen world, and in the following ages, of the Mohammedans, overflowed every part of it. And in every nation and city, the clergy were not a whit more innocent than the laity.


15. But was there not a very considerable change in the body of the clergy, as well as the laity, at the time of the glorious reformation from popery?" Undoubtedly there was: and they were not only reformed from very many erroneous opinions, and from numberless superstitious and idolatrous modes of worship, till then prevailing over the Western church; but they were also exceedingly reformed, with respect to their lives and tempers. More of the ancient, scriptural Christianity was to be found, almost in every part of Europe. Yet notwithstanding this, all the works of the devil, all ungodliness and unrighteousness, sin of every kind, continued to prevail, both over clergy and laity, in all parts of Christendom. Even those clergymen who most warmly contended about the externals of religion, were very little concerned for the life and power of it; for piety, justice, mercy, and truth.

16. However, it must be allowed, that ever since the reformation, and particularly in the present century, the behaviour of the clergy in general is greatly altered for the better. And should it be granted, that in so many parts of the Romish church, they are nearly the same as they were before, it must be granted likewise, that most of the Protestant clergy are far different from what they were. They have not only more learning of the most valuable kind, but abundantly much more religion: insomuch that the English and Irish clergy are generally allowed to be not inferior to any in Europe, for piety as well as for knowledge.

17. And all this being allowed, what lack they yet? Can any thing be laid to their charge? I wish calmly and candidly to consider this

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