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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 most 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.
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,
"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 children 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 done 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
this very thing some terming them, in derision, Bible bigots: others, Bible moths: feeding, they said, upon the Bible, as moths do upon cloth. And indeed, unto this day, it is their constant endeavour to think and speak as the oracles of God.
2. It is true, a learned man, Dr. Trapp, soon after their setting out, gave a very different account of them. "When I saw," said the Doctor, "these two books, 'The Treatise on Christian Perfection,' and 'The Serious Call to a Holy Life,' I thought these books will certainly do mischief. And so it proved; for presently after up sprung the Methodists. So he (Mr. Law) was their parent." "Although this was not entirely true, yet there was some truth in it. All the Methodists carefully read these books, and were greatly profited thereby. Yet they did by no means spring from them, but from the Holy Scriptures; being "born again," as St. Peter speaks, " by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
3. Another learned man, the late bishop Warburton, roundly affirms, that, "They were the offspring of Mr. Law and count Zinzendorf together." But this was a greater mistake still. For they had met together several years before they had the least acquaintance with count Zinzendorf, or even knew there was such a person in the world. And when they did know him, although they esteemed him very highly in love, yet they did not dare to follow him one step farther than they were warranted by the Scripture.
4. The book which, next to the Holy Scripture, was of the greatest use to them, in settling their judgment as to the grand point of justification by faith, was the book of Homilies. They were never clearly convinced, that we are justified by faith alone, till they carefully consulted these, and compared them with the sacred writings, particularly St. Paul's epistle to the Romans. And no minister of the church can, with any decency, oppose these; seeing at his ordination he subscribed to them, in subscribing the thirty-sixth article of the church.
5. It has been frequently observed, that very few were clear in their judgment both with regard to justification and sanctification. Many who have spoken and written admirably well, concerning justification, had no clear conception, nay, were totally ignorant of the doctrine of sanctification. Who has wrote more ably than Martin Luther, on justification by faith alone? And who was more ignorant of the doctrine of sanctification, or more confused in his conceptions of it? In order to be thoroughly convinced of this, of his total ignorance with regard to sanctification, there needs no more than to read over, without prejudice, his celebrated comment on the epistle to the Galatians. On the other hand, how many writers of the Romish church (as Francis Sales and Juan de Castaniza, in particular) have wrote strongly and scripturally on sanctification; who, nevertheless, were entirely unacquainted with the nature of justification? Insomuch that the whole body of their divines at the council of Trent, in their Catechismus ad Parochos, (catechism which every parish priest is to teach his people,) totally confound sanctification and justification together. But it has pleased God to give the Methodists a full and clear knowledge of each, and the wide difference between them.
6. They know, indeed, that at the same time a man is justified, sanctification properly begins. For when he is justified, he is "born
again," "born from above," "born of the Spirit :" which, although it
7. It is true, a late very eminent author, in his strange treatise on regeneration, proceeds entirely on the supposition, that it is the whole gradual progress of sanctification. No; it is only the threshold of sanctification; the first entrance upon it. And as, in the natural birth, a man is born at once, and then grows larger and stronger by degrees; so in the spiritual birth, a man is born at once, and then gradually increases in spiritual stature and strength. The new birth, therefore, is the first point of sanctification, which may increase more and more unto the perfect day.
8. It is, then, a great blessing given to this people, that as they do not think or speak of justification, so as to supersede sanctification; so neither do they think or speak of sanctification, so as to supersede justification. They take care to keep each in its own place; laying equal stress on one and the other. They know, God has joined these together, and it is not for man to put them asunder: therefore they maintain, with equal zeal and diligence, the doctrine of free, full, present justification, on the one hand; and of entire sanctification both of heart and life, on the other: being as tenacious of inward holiness, as any Mystic; and of outward, as any Pharisee.
9. Who then is a Christian, according to the light which God hath vouchsafed to this people? He that, being "justified by faith, hath peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ ;" and, at the same time, born again, ""born from above," "born of the Spirit ;" inwardly changed from the image of the devil, to that " image of God wherein he was created:" he that finds the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him; and whom this love sweetly constrains to love his neighbour, every man, as himself: he that has learned of his Lord to be meek and lowly in heart, and in every state to be content: he in whom is that whole mind, all those tempers, which were also in Christ Jesus: he that abstains from all appearance of evil, in his actions; and that offends not with his tongue: he that walks in all the commandments of God, and in all his ordinances, blameless he that, in all his intercourse with men, does to others as he would they should do to him; and in his whole life and conversation, whether he eats or drinks, or whatsoever he doeth, doeth all to the glory of God.
Now what could God have done more for this his vineyard, which he hath not done in it, with regard to doctrine? We are to inquire,
II. Secondly, What could have been done which he hath not done in it, with regard to spiritual helps?
1. Let us consider this matter from the very beginning. Two young clergymen, not very remarkable any way, of middle age, having a tolerable measure of health, though rather weak than strong, began, about fifty years ago, to call sinners to repentance. This they did, for a time, in many of the churches in and about London. But two difficulties arose first, the churches were so crowded, that many of the parishioners could not get in: secondly, they preached new doctrines; that we are saved by faith, and that "without holiness no man could see the Lord." For one or other of these reasons, they were not long suffered to preach in the churches. They then preached in Moorfields, Kennington Common, and in many other public places. The fruit of their preaching quickly appeared. Many sinners were changed both in heart and life. But it seemed, this could not continue long; for every one clearly saw, these preachers would quickly wear themselves out; and no clergyman dared to assist them. But soon one and another, though not ordained, offered to assist them. God gave a signal blessing to their word. Many sinners were thoroughly convinced of sin, and many truly converted to God. Their assistants increased, both in number, and in the success of their labours. Some of them were learned; some unlearned: most of them were young; a few middle aged: some of them were weak; some, on the contrary, of remarkably strong understanding. But it pleased God to own them all; so that more and more brands were plucked out of the burning.
2. It may be observed, that these clergymen, all this time, had no plan at all. They only went hither and thither, wherever they had a prospect of saving souls from death. But when more and more asked, "What must I do to be saved ?" they were desired to meet all together. Twelve came the first Thursday night; forty the next; soon after a hundred. And they continued to increase, till three or four and twenty years ago, the London society amounted to about 2,800.
3. But how should this multitude of people be kept together? And how should it be known, whether they walked worthy of their profession? They were providentially led, when they were thinking on another thing, namely, paying the public debt, to divide all the people into little companies, or classes, according to their places of abode, and appoint one person in each class to see all the rest weekly. By this means, it was quickly discovered if any of them lived in any known sin. If they did, they were first admonished; and, when judged incorrigible, excluded from the society.
4. This division of the people, and exclusion of those that walked disorderly, without any respect of persons, were helps which few other communities had. To these, as the societies increased, was soon added another. The stewards of the societies in each district, were desired to meet the preachers once a quarter, in some central place, to give an account of the spiritual and temporal state of their several societies. The use of these quarterly meetings was soon found to be exceeding great; in consideration of which, they were gradually spread to all the societies in the kingdom.
5. In order to increase the union between the preachers, as well as that of the people, they were desired to meet altogether in London ; and, some time after, a select number of them. Afterwards, for more convenience, they met at London, Bristol, and Leeds, alternately