« PreviousContinue »
promise, and that promise is everlasting Rock. I know, said one, whose testimony is corroborated by millions in both worlds, “ I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."
Lastly. The gospel, as a system of consolation, is perfected by the authority and energy which accompany it. The devices of man originate in his fancy, and expire with his breath. Destitute of power, they play around depravity, like shadows round the mountain top, and vanish without leaving an impression. Their effect would be inconsiderable, could he manifest them to be true; because he cannot compel the admission of truth itself into the human mind. Indifference, unreasonableness, prejudice, petulance, oppose to it an almost incredible resistance. We see this in the affairs of every day, and especially in the stronger conflicts of opinion and passion. Now, besides the opposition which moral truth has always to encounter, there is a particular reason why the truth of the gospel, though most salutary, though attested by every thing within us and around us ; by life and death ; by earth and heaven and hell; will not succeed unless backed by divine energy. It is this : Sin has perverted the understanding of man, and poisoned his heart. It persuaded him first to throw away his blessedness, and then to hate it. The reign of this hatred, which the Scriptures call enmity against God, is most absolute in every unrenewed man. It teaches him never to yield a point unfriendly to one corruption, without stipulating for an equivalent in favour of another. Now, as the gospel flatters none of his corruptions in any shape, it meets with deadly hostility from all his corruptions in every shape. It is to no purpose that you press upon him the “ great salvation;" that you demonstrate his errors and their corrective ; his diseases and their cure. Demonstrate you may, but you convert him not. He will occasionally startle and listen; but it is only to relapse into his wonted supineness : and you shall as soon call up the dead from their dust, as awaken him to a sense of his danger, and prevail with him to embrace the salvation of God. • Where then, you will demand, “is the pre-eminence of your gospel? I answer, with the apostle Paul, that “it is the power of God to salvation.” When a sinner is to be converted, that is, when a slave is to be liberated from his chains, and a rebel from execution, that same voice which has spoken in the Scriptures, speaks by them to his heart, and commands an audience. -He finds the word of God to be “ quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” It sets him before the bar of justice ; strips him of his self-importance; "sweeps away his refuge of lies;" and shows him that death which is “the wages of sin.” It then conducts him, all trembling, to the Divine forgiveness; reveals Christ Jesus in his soul, as his righteousness, his peace, his hope of glory. Amazing transition ! But is not the cause equal to the
effect? “ Hath not the potter power over the clay?" Shall God draw, and the lame not run ? Shall God speak, and the deaf not hear? Shall God breathe, and the slain not live? Shall God 6 lift up the light of his countenance” upon sinners reconciled in his dear Son, and they not be happy? Glory to his name! These are no fictions. “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have
The record, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God,—not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart,” is possessed by thousands who have “turned from the power of Satan unto God," and will certify that the revolution was accomplished by his word. And if it perform such prodigies on corruption and death, what shall it not perform in directing, establishing, and consoling them who have already obtained a “good hope through grace ?" He who thunders in the curse, speaks peace in the promise; and none can conceive its influence but they who have witnessed it. For proofs you must not go to the statesman, the traveller, or the historian. You must not go to the gay profession, or the splendid ceremonial. You must go to the chamber of unostentatious piety. You must go to the family anecdote, to the Christian tradition, to the observation of faithful ministers. Of the last there are many who, with literal truth, might address you as follows : “I have seen this gospel hush into a calm the tempest raised in the bosom by conscious guilt. I have seen melt down the most obdurate into tenderness and contrition. I have seen it cheer up the broken-hearted, and bring the tear of gladness into eyes swollen with grief. I have seen it produce and maintain serenity under evils which drive the worldling mad. I have seen it reconcile the sufferer to his cross, and send the song of praise from lips quivering with agony. I have seen it enable the most affectionate relatives to part in death; not without emotion, but without repining ; and with a cordial surrender of all that they held most dear to the disposal of their heavenly Father. I have seen the fading eye brighten at the promise of Jesus, “ Where I am, there shall my servant be also.” I have seen the faithful spirit released from its clay, now mildly, now triumphantly, to enter into the joy of its Lord.”
Who, among the children of men, that doubts this representation, would not wish it to be correct? Who, that thinks it only probable, will not welcome the doctrine on which it is founded, as worthy of all acceptation ? And who, that knows it to be true, will not set his seal to that doctrine as being, most emphatically, gospel preached to the poor?
In applying to practical purposes the account which has now been given of the Christian religion, I remark,
1. That it fixes a criterion of Christian ministrations.
If he, who spake as never man spake, has declared his own doctrine to abound with consolation to the miserable, then, certainly, the
instructions of others are evangelical only in proportion as they subserve the same gracious end. A contradiction not unfrequent among some advocates of revelation, is to urge against the infidel its power of comfort, and yet to avoid, in their own discourses, almost every principle from which that power is drawn. Disregarding the mass of mankind, to whom the gospel is peculiarly fitted ; and omitting those truths which might revive the grieved spirit, or touch the slumbering conscience, they discuss their moral topics in a manner unintelligible to the illiterate, uninteresting to the mourner, and without alarm to the profane. This is not a preaching Christ.” Elegant dissertations upon virtue and vice, upon the evidences of revelation, or any other general subject, may entertain the prosperous and the gay; but they will not mortify our members which are upon the earth: they will not unsting calamity, nor feed the heart with an imperishable hope. When I go to the house of God, I do not want amuse
I want the doctrine which is according to godliness. I want to hear of the remedy against the harassings of my guilt, and the disorder of my affections. I want to be led from weariness and disappointment, to that goodness which filleth the hungry soul. I want to have light upon the mystery of Providence; to be taught how the “judgments of the Lord are right;" how I shall be prepared for duty and for trial—how I may “ pass the time of my sojourning here in fear,” and close it in peace. Tell me of that Lord Jesus, " who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” Tell me of his “ intercession for the transgressors” as their “ advocate with the Father.” Tell me of his Holy Spirit, whom “ they that believe on him receive,” to be their preserver, sanctifier, comforter. Tell me of his chastenings; their necessity, and their use. Tell me of his presence, and sympathy, and love. Tell me of the virtues, as growing out of his cross, and nurtured by his
Tell me of the glory reflected on his name by the obedience of faith. Tell me of vanquished death, of the purified grave, of a blessed resurrection, of the life everlasting—and my bosom warms. This is gospel; these are glad tidings to me as a sufferer, because glad to me as a sinner. They rectify my mistakes ; allay my resentments; rebuke my discontent; support me under the weight of moral and natural evil. These attract the poor; steal upon the thoughtless ; awe the irreverent; and throw over the service of the sanctuary a majesty, which some fashionable modes of address never fail to dissipate. Where they are habitually neglected, or lightly referred to, there may be much grandeur, but there is no gospel; and those preachers have infinite reason to tremble, who, though admired by the great, and caressed by the vain, are deserted by the poor, the sorrowful, and such as “ walk humbly with their God.”
2. We should learn from the gospel, lessons of active benevolence.
ye, from whom mysterious Providence has swept away the acquisitions of long and reputable industry. The voice of the Son of God is, “ My son, if thou wilt receive my words,” thou shalt have
a treasure in the heavens that faileth not;" and mayst“ take joyfully the spoiling of thy goods, knowing that thou hast in heaven a better and an enduring substance." Come, ye poor, who, without property to lose, are grappling with distress and exposed to want. The Son of God, though the heir of all things, “ had not where to Îay his head;" and his voice to his poor is, “ Be content with such things as ye have, for I will never leave thee nor forsake thee; thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure.” Come, ye reproached, who find “cruel mockings" a most bitter persecution. The voice of the Son of God is, “ If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the spirit of God and of glory resteth upon you.” Come, in fine, ye dejected, whom the fear of death holds in bondage. The voice of the Son of God is, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plague! O grave, I will be thy destruction ! repentance shall be hid from mine eyes !” Blessed Jesus ! thy loving-kindness shall be my joy in the house of my pilgrimage!" and I will praise thee “while I have any being," for that gospel which thou hast preached to the poor !
Job xxi. 15.- What profit should we have, if we pray unto him ?
The utility of prayer, which, according to this scripture, wicked men dispute, the present discourse humbly attempts to demonstrate. This might be quickly done, by showing that God requires men to pray; for God, being infinitely perfect, cannot prescribe a useless or vain service. Consent, however, to the utility of prayer, so obtained, would be grounded on the presumption of its usefulness, not on the vivid perception of the intrinsic evidences of its utility. The former kind of consent is not the most desirable. The heart is never completely and permanently won to truth, but by the perception of its inherent excellence. When we have convinced men that God has required any thing, they are bound to admit its excellence or utility. But before we can effectually commend it to their joyful concurrence, their complacency and love, we must present to their minds the proofs of its essential excellence. This is what I now propose to do in re
lation to prayer.
Two things let me premise : First, that I speak only of true prayer; not the prayer of formality, nor of enthusiasm, nor of selfish anxiety ; but that prayer which, through the mediation of Christ, offers up the heart's desires unto God with repentance, and faith, and true submission-Secondly; that in nothing which I say concerning the inherent tendencies and the influence of prayer, do I intend an exclusion of the Holy Spirit's agency in this exercise, although I do not any where distinctly mention it. The object of the discourse requires no referNo. 2.