Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

1. The lowest sort of faith, if it be any faith at all, is that of a materialist a man who, like the late lord Kames, believes there is nothing but matter in the universe. I say, if it be any faith at all; for, properly speaking, it is not. It is not " an evidence or conviction of God," for they do not believe there is any neither is it " a conviction of things not seen;" for they deny the existence of such. Or if, for decency's sake, they allow there is a God, yet they suppose even him to be material. For one of their maxims is, "Jupiter est quodcunque vides.' "Whatever you see, is God." Whatever you see! A visible, tangible god! Excellent divinity! Exquisite nonsense!

2. The second sort of faith, if you allow a materialist to have any, is the faith of a deist. I mean, one who believes there is a God, distinct from matter; but does not believe the Bible. Of these we may observe two sorts: one sort are mere beasts in human shape, wholly under the power of the basest passions, and having" a downright appetite to mix with mud." Other deists are, in most respects, rational creatures, though unhappily prejudiced against Christianity. Most of these believe the being and attributes of God: they believe that God made and governs the world; and that the soul does not die with the body, but will remain for ever in a state of happiness or misery.

3. The next sort of faith is the faith of heathens, with which I join that of Mohammedans. I cannot but prefer this before the faith of the deists; because though it embraces nearly the same objects, yet they are rather to be pitied than blamed for the narrowness of their faith. And their not believing the whole truth, is not owing to want of sincerity, but merely to want of light. When one asked Chicali, an old Indian chief, "Why do not you, red men, know as much as us, white men?" he readily answered, "Because you have the great Word, and we have not!"

4. It cannot be doubted, but this plea will avail for millions of modern heathens. In as much as to them little is given, of them little will be required. As to the ancient heathens, millions of them likewise were savages. No more therefore will be expected of them, than the living up to the light they had. But many of them, especially in the civilized nations, we have great reason to hope, although they lived among heathens, yet were quite of another spirit; being taught of God, by his inward voice, all the essentials of true religion. Yea, and so was that Mohammedan, an Arabian, who, a century or two ago, wrote the life of Hai Ebn Yokdan. The story seems to be feigned; but. contains all the principles of pure religion and undefiled.

5. But, in general, we may surely place the faith of a Jew above that of a heathen or Mohammedan. By Jewish faith I mean, the faith of those who lived between the giving of the law and the coming of Christ. These, that is, those that were serious and sincere among them, believed all that is written in the Old Testament. In particular, they believed that, in the fulness of time, the Messiah would appear, "to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness."

6. It is not so easy to pass any judgment concerning the faith of our modern Jews. It is plain, "the veil is still upon their hearts," when Moses and the prophets are read. The god of this world still hardens their hearts, and still blinds their eyes, "lest at any time the light of

the glorious gospel" should break in upon them. So that we may say of this people, as the Holy Ghost said to their forefathers: "The heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them," Acts xxviii, 27. Yet it is not our part to pass sentence upon them, but to leave them to their own Master. 7. I need not dwell upon the faith of John the Baptist, any more than the dispensation which he was under; because these, as Mr. Fletcher well describes them, were peculiar to himself. Setting him aside, the faith of the Roman Catholics in general, seems to be above that of the ancient Jews. If most of these are volunteers in faith, believing more than God has revealed, it cannot be denied, that they believe all which God has revealed, as necessary to salvation. In this we rejoice on their behalf: we are glad that none of those new articles which they added at the council of Trent, to "the faith once delivered to the saints," does so materially contradict any of the ancient articles, as to render them of no effect.

8. The faith of the Protestants, in general, embraces only those truths as necessary to salvation, which are clearly revealed in the oracles of God. Whatever is plainly declared in the Old and New Testament, is the object of their faith. They believe neither more nor less, than what is manifestly contained in, and provable by the Holy Scriptures. The word of God is "a lantern to their feet, and a light in all their paths." They dare not, on any pretence, go from it, to the right hand or to the left. The written word is the whole and sole rule of their faith, as well as practice. They believe whatsoever God has declared, and profess to do whatsoever he hath commanded. This is the pro

per

faith of Protestants: by this they will abide and no other. 9. Hitherto faith has been considered chiefly as an evidence and conviction of such or such truths. And this is the sense wherein it is taken at this day in every part of the Christian world. But in the mean time let it be carefully observed, (for eternity depends upon it,) that neither the faith of a Roman Catholic, nor that of a Protestant, if it contains no more than this, no more than the embracing such and such truths, will avail any more before God, than the faith of a Mohammedan or a heathen; yea, of a deist or materialist. For can this "faith save him?" Can it save any man either from sin or from hell? No more than it could save Judas Iscariot: no more than it could save the devil and his angels; all of whom are convinced, that every tittle of holy Scripture is true.

10. But what is the faith which is properly saving; which brings eter nal salvation to all those that keep it to the end? It is such a divine conviction of God, and the things of God, as, even in its infant state, enables every one that possesses it to "fear God and work righteousness." And whosoever in every nation believes thus far, the apostle declares, is "accepted of him." He actually is, at that very moment, in a state of acceptance. But he is at present only a servant of God, not properly a son. Meantime let it be well observed, that "the wrath of God" no longer "abideth on him."

11. Indeed nearly fifty years ago, when the preachers, commonly called Methodists, began to preach that grand scriptural doctrine, salVOL. II.

25

vation by faith, they were not sufficiently apprized of the difference between a servant and a child of God. They did not clearly understand, that even one "who feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him." In consequence of this, they were apt to make sad the hearts of those whom God had not made sad. For they frequently asked those who feared God, "Do you know that your sins are forgiven?" And upon their answering, "No," immediately replied, "Then you are a child of the devil." No; that does not follow. It might have been said, (and it is all that can be said with propriety,) "Hitherto you are only a servant, you are not a child of God. You have already great reason to praise God that he has called you to his honourable service. Fear not. Continue crying unto him, and you shall see greater things than these.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

12. And indeed, unless the servants of God halt by the way, they will receive the adoption of sons. They will receive the faith of the children of God, by his revealing his only begotten Son in their hearts. Thus, the faith of a child is, properly and directly, a divine conviction, whereby every child of God is enabled to testify, "The life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himselt for me." And whosoever hath this, "the Spirit of God witnesseth with his spirit, that he is a child of God." So the apostle writes to the Galatians: "Ye are the sons of God by faith. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father :" that is, giving you a childlike confidence in him, together with a kind affection towards him. This then it is, that (if St. Paul was taught of God, and wrote as he was moved by the Holy Ghost) properly constitutes the difference between a servant of God, and a child of God. "He that believeth" as a child of God, "hath the witness in himself." This the servant hath not. Yet let not man discourage him: rather, lovingly exhort him to expect it every moment!

13. It is easy to observe, that all the sorts of faith which we can conceive, are reducible to one or other of the preceding. But let us covet the best gifts, and follow the most excellent way. There is no reason why you should be satisfied with the faith of a materialist, a heathen, or a deist; nor indeed with that of a servant. I do not know that God requires it at your hands. Indeed, if you have received this, you ought not to cast it away: you ought not in any wise to undervalue it, but to be truly thankful for it. Yet in the mean time, beware how you rest here: press on till you receive the Spirit of adoption. Rest not, till that Spirit clearly witnesses with your spirit, that you are a child of God. II. I proceed, in the second place, to draw a few inferences from the preceding observations.

1. And I would first infer, in how dreadful a state, if there be a God, is a materialist! One who denies not only the "Lord that bought him," but also the Lord that made him. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." But it is impossible he should have any faith at all;— any conviction of any invisible world; for he believes there is no such thing; any conviction of the being of a God; for a material God is no God at all. For you cannot possibly suppose the sun or skies to be God, any more than you can suppose a god of wood or stone. And farther, whosoever believes all things to be mere matter, must of course believe, that all things are governed by dire necessity! Necessity that

is as inexorable as the winds; as ruthless as the rocks; as merciless as the waves that dash upon them, or the poor shipwrecked mariners! Who then shall help thee, thou poor desolate wretch, when thou art mnost in need of help? Winds, and seas, and rocks, and storms! Such are the best helpers, which the materialists can hope for!

2. Almost equally desperate is the case of the poor deist, how learned, yea, how moral soever he be. For you likewise, though you may not advert to it, are really "without God in the world." See your religion, the "religion of nature, delineated" by the ingenious Mr. Wollaston (whom I remember to have seen when I was at school, attending the public service at the Charterhouse chapel.) Does he found his religion upon God? Nothing less. He founds it upon truth abstract truth. But does he not by that expression mean God? No: he sets him out of the question; and builds a beautiful castle in the air, without being beholden either to him or his word. See your smooth tongued orator of Glasgow, one of the most pleasing writers of the age! Has he any more to do with God, on his system, than Mr. Wollaston? Does he deduce his "idea of virtue," from him as the Father of lights, the source of all good? Just the contrary. He not only plans his whole theory without taking the least notice of God, but towards the close of it proposes that question, " Does the having an eye to God in an action, enhance the virtue of it?" He answers, No; it is so far from this, that if in doing a virtuous, that is, a benevolent action, a man mingles a desire to please God, the more there is of this desire, the less virtue there is in that action." Never before did I meet with either Jew, Turk, or heathen, who so flatly renounced God, as this Christian professor.

[ocr errors]

3. But with heathens, Mohammedans, and Jews, we have at present nothing to do: only we may wish that their lives did not shame many of us that are called Christians. We have not much more to do with the members of the church of Rome. But we cannot doubt, that many of them, like the excellent archbishop of Cambray, still retain (notwithstanding many mistakes) that faith that worketh by love. And how many of the Protestants enjoy this, whether members of the church, or of other congregations? We have reason to believe a considerable number, both of one and the other, (and, blessed be God, an increasing number,) in every part of the land.

4. Once more. I exhort you that fear God and work righteousness, you that are servants of God, first, flee from all sin, as from the face of a serpent; being,

66 Quick as the apple of an eye,

The slightest touch of sin to feel;"

and to work righteousness, to the utmost of the power you now have; to abound in works both of piety and mercy: and, secondly, continually to cry to God, that he would reveal his Son in your hearts, to the intent you may be no more servants but sons; having his love shed abroad in your hearts, and walking in "the glorious liberty of the chil dren of God."

5. I exhort you, lastly, who already feel the Spirit of God witnessing with your spirit, that you are the children of God, follow the advice of the apostle : "Walk in all the good works whereunto ye are created in Christ Jesus." And then, "leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead

works, and of faith towards God," go on to perfection. Yea, and when ye have attained a measure of perfect love, when God has circumcised your hearts, and enabled you to love him with all your heart, and with all your soul, think not of resting there. That is impossible. You cannot stand still: you must either rise or fall; rise higher or fall lower. Therefore the voice of God to the children of Israel, to the children of God, is, "Go forward!" "Forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forward unto those that are before, press on to the mark, for the prize of your high calling of God in Christ Jesus!"

SERMON CXII.-On God's Vineyard.

"What could have been dore more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" Isa. v, 4.

THE vineyard of the Lord, taking the word in its widest sense, may include the whole world. All the inhabitants of the earth, may, in some sense, be called, "the vineyard of the Lord;""who hath made all nations of men, to dwell on all the face of the earth; that they might seek the Lord, if haply they may feel after him, and find him." But, in a narrower sense, the vineyard of the Lord, may mean, the Christian world; that is, all that name the name of Christ, and profess to obey his word. In a still narrower sense, it may be understood of what is termed, the reformed part of the Christian church. In the narrowest of all, one may, by that phrase," the vineyard of the Lord," mean, the body of people commonly called Methodists. In this sense I understand it now, meaning thereby that society only, which began at Oxford, in the year 1729, and remain united at this day. Understanding the word in this sense, I repeat the question which God proposes to the prophet: "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that i should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes ?"

What could God have done more in this his vineyard, (suppose he had designed it should put forth great branches and spread over the earth,) which he hath not done in it;

I. With regard to doctrine?

II. With regard to scriptural helps?
III. With regard to discipline? And,

IV. With regard to outward protection?

These things being considered, I would then briefly inquire," Wherefore, when he looked it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?"

I. 1. First, What could have been done in this his vineyard, which God hath not done in it? What could have been done more with regard to doctrine? From the very beginning, from the time that four young men united together, each of them was homo unius libri; “a man of one book." God taught them all, to make his " word a lantern unto their feet, and a light in all their paths." They had one, and only one, rule of judgment with regard to all their tempers, words, and actions; namely, the oracles of God. They were one and all determined to be Bible Christians. They were continually reproached for

« AnteriorContinua »