« FöregåendeFortsätt »
analogies of common life which might have | Christianity, bearing evidence upon myself done for men of an untainted nature, but that I have a real part and interest in these which will not do for the men of this corrupt world, he faithfully unfolds that econo- There can be no doubt as to the existence my of redemption which God hath actually of such a class, and under another text, set up for the recovery of our degenerate there could be no difficulty in finding out a species, it is then, that to a hearer still in spiritual application, by which to reach and darkness, the whole argument sounds as to reprove them. But the matter suggested strangely and as obscurely, as if it were by the present text is, that if a minister of conveyed to hir in an unknown language, the present day should preach as the Apos -it is then, that the repulsion of his nature les did before him,-if the great theme of to the truth as it is in Jesus, finds a willing his ministrations be Jesus Christ, and him excuse in the utter mysteriousness of its crucified,-if the doctrine of the sermon be articles, and its terms; and gladly does he a faithful transcript of the doctrine of the put away from him the unwelcome mes-New Testament, there is one class, we sage, with the remark, that he who delivers have every warrant for believing, from it, is a speaker of parables, and there is no whom the word will not return unto him comprehending him. void, and there is another class who will be the willing hearers, but not the obedient doers of the word: but there is still a third class, made up of men of cultivated literature, and men of polished and respectable society, and men of a firm secular intelligence in all the ordinary matters of business, who, at the same time, possessing no sympathies whatever with the true spirit and design of Christianity, are exceedingly shut up, in all the avenues both of their heart and understanding, against the peculiar teaching of the gospel. Like the hearers of Ezekiel, they feel an impression of mysteriousness. There is a certain want of adjustment between the truth as it is in Je
It will readily occur as an observation upon all that has been delivered, that by the great majority of hearers, this imputation of mysteriousness is never preferred, that in fact, they are most habituated to this style of preaching,-and that they recognise the very thing which they value most, and are best acquainted with, when they hear a sermon replete with the doctrine, and abounding in the terms, and uttered in the cadence of orthodoxy. Of this we are perfectly aware. The point to carry with the great bulk of hearers is, not to conquer their disgust at the form of sound words, but to conquer their resistance to the power
of them; to alarm them by the considera-sus, and the prevailing style of their contion, that the influence of the lesson is alto- ceptions. All their views of human life, gether a distinct matter from the pleasant- and all the lessons they may have gathered ness of the song,-that their ready and de- from the school of civil or classical molighted acquiescence in the preaching of the rality, and all their preferences for what faith, may consist with a total want of obe- they count the clearness and the rationdience to the faith, and that with all the ality of legal preaching, and all the prelove they bear to the phraseology of the dilections they have gotten in its favour, gospel, and all their preference for its minis- from the most familiar analogies in human ters, and all their attendance upon its sacra- society,—all these, coupled with their utter ments, the kingdom of God, however much blindness to the magnitude of that guilt it may have come to them in word, may which they have incurred under the judgnot at all have come to them in power. ment of a spiritual law, enter as so many This is a distinct error from the one we elements of dislike in their hearts, towards have been combating,-a weed which grows the whole tone and character of the peculiar abundantly in another quarter of the field doctrines of Christianity. And they go to altogether, a -a perverseness of mind, more envelope the subject in such a shroud of deceitful than the other, and perhaps still mysticism to their eyes, that many of the more unmanageable, and against which preachers of the gospel are, by them, resistthe faithful minister has to set himself ed on the same plea with the prophet of old, amongst that numerous class of professors, to whom his contemptuous countrymen who like to hear of the faith, but never ap-meant to attach the ridicule and the ignoply a single practical test to the question, miny of a proverb, when they said,-he is Am I in the faith? who like to hear of re- a dealer in parables. generation, but never put the question, Am I really regenerated? who like to hear that without Christ they can do nothing, but may be enabled to do all things through him strengthening them, but never enter into the important personal inquiry, Is he really strengthening me, and am I, by my actual victory over the world, and my actual pro-live godly, and of all who would expound gress in the accomplishments of personal zealously and honestly the doctrine of
We mistake the matter, if we think that the offence of the cross has yet ceased from the land. We mistake it, if we think that the persecution of contempt, a species of persecution more appalling to some minds than even direct and personal violence, is not still the appointed trial of all who would
Christ Jesus our Lord. We utterly mistake it, if we think that Christianity is not even to this very hour the same very peculiar thing that it was in the days of the Apostles, that it does not as much signalize and separate us from a world lying in wickedness,—that the reproach cast upon Paul, that he was mad, because he was an intrepid follower of Christ, is not still ready to be preferred against every faithful teacher, and every consistent disciple of the faith, and that, under the terms of methodism, and fanaticism, and mysticism, there is not ready to be discharged upon them from the thousand batteries of a hostile and unbelieving world, as abundant a shower of invective and contumely as in the first ages.
II. Now, if there be any hearers present who feel that we have spoken to them, when we spoke of the resistance which is held out against peculiar Christianity, on the ground of that mysteriousness in which it appears to be concealed from all ordinary discernment, we should like to take our leave of them at present with two observations. We ask them, in the first place, if they have ever, to the satisfaction of their own minds, disproved the Bible,-and if not, we ask them how they can sit at ease, should all the mysteriousness which they charge upon Evangelical truth, and by which they would attempt to justify their contempt for it, be found to attach to the very language, and to the very doctrine of God's own communication? What if it be indeed the truth of God? What if it be the very language of the offended lawgiver? What if they be the only overtures of reconciliation, upon the acceptance of which a sinner can come nigh unto him? Now he actually does say that no man cometh unto the Father but by the Son,-and that his is the only name given under heaven whereby men can be saved,--and that he will be magnified only in the appointed Mediator, and that Christ is all in all, and that there is no other foundation on
works, conform himself unto that doctrine of grace by which he is brought to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present evil world. We again ask them, if all this be offensive to their taste, and utterly revolting to their habits and inclinations, and if they turn with disgust from the bitterness of such an application, and can behold no strength to constrain them in any such arguments, and no eloquence to admire in them. With what discernment truly is your case taken up in this very Bible, whose phraseology and whose doctrine are so unpalatable to you, when it tells us of the preaching of the cross being foolishness,-but remember that it says it is foolishness to those who perish: when it tells of the natural man not receiving of the things of the Spirit,-but remember that it says, if ye have not the Spirit of God, ye are none of his; when it tells of the gospel being hid,--but hid to them who are lost : "In whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of those which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
Secondly, let us assure the men, who at this moment bid the stoutest defiance to the message of the gospel-the men whose natural taste appears to offer an invincible barrier against the reception of its truths, the men who, upon the plea of mysteriousness, or the plea of fanaticism, or the plea of excessive and unintelligible peculiarity, are most ready to repudiate the whole style and doctrine of the New Testament,-let us assure them that the time may yet come, when they shall render to this very gospel the most striking of all acknowledgments, even by sending to the door of its most faithful ministers, and humbly craving from them their explanations and their prayers. It indeed offers an affecting contrast to all the glory of earthly prospects, and to all the vigour of confident and re
which man can lay, and that he who be-joicing health, and to all the activity and lieveth on him shall not be confounded.
enterprize of business, when the man who made the world his theatre, and felt his mountain to stand strong on the fleeting foundation of its enjoyments and its concerns,-when he comes to be bowed down with infirmity, or receives from the trouble within, the solemn intimation that death is now looking to him in good earnest: When such a man takes him to the bed of sickness, and he knows it to be a sickness unto death,-when, under all the weight of breathlessness and pain, he listens to the man of God, as he points the way that leadeth to eternity,--what, I would ask, is the kind of gospel that is most fitted to charm the sense of guilt and the anticipations of vengeance away from him? Sure we are, that we never in these affecting
He further speaks of our personal preparation for heaven-and here, too, may his utterance sound mysteriously in your hearing, as he tells that without holiness no man can see God,--and that we are without strength while we are without the Spirit to make us holy-and that unless a man be born again he shall not enter into the kingdom of God, and that he should wrestle in prayer for the washing of regeneration -and that he should watch for the Holy Ghost with all perseverance, and that he should aspire at being perfect through Christ strengthening him-and that he should, under the operation of those great provisions which are set up in the New Testament for creating us anew unto good
circumstances through which you have all | substantial importance, why put them away to pass-we never saw the man who could from you now? You will recur to them maintain a stability, and a hope, from the then; and for what? that you may get the sense of his own righteousness; but who, forgiveness of your sins. But there is a if leaning on the righteousness of Christ, something else you must get, ere you can could mix a peace and an elevation with obtain an entrance into peace or glory. his severest agonies. We never saw the You must get the renovation of that nature, expiring mortal who could look with an un- which is so deeply tainted at this moment daunted eye on God as his lawgiver; but with the guilt of ingratitude and forgetfuloften has all its languor been lighted up ness towards God. This must be gone with joy at the name of Christ as his Sa- through ere you die; and say if a change so viour. We never saw the dying acquaint- mighty should be wantonly postponed to ance, who upon the retrospect of his virtues the hour of dying?-when all your refusals and of his doings, could prop the tranquilli- of the gospel have hardened and darkened ty of his spirit on the expectation of a legal the mind against it; when a demonstration reward. O no! this is not the element of the Spirit then, is surely not to be counted which sustains the tranquillity of death- on, as the return that you will experience for beds. It is the hope of forgiveness. It is a resisting all his intimations now; when the believing sense of the efficacy of the atone-effects of the alienation of a whole life, both ment. It is the prayer of faith, offered up in extinguishing the light of your conin the name of him who is the captain of science, and in riveting your distaste for all our salvation. It is a dependence on that holiness, will be accumulated into such a power which can alone impart a meetness barrier in the way of your return to God, for the inheritance of the saints, and present as stamps upon death-bed conversions, a the spirit holy, and unreproveable, and un- grievous unlikelihood, and should give blamable, in the sight of God, an imperious force to the call of "Today,"" while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts, seeing that now is your accepted time, and now is your day of salvation."
Now, what we have to urge is, that if these be the topics, which, on the last half hour of your life, are the only ones that will possess, in your judgment, any value or
The Preparation necessary for Understanding the Mysteries of the Gospel.
"He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that he hath."-Matthew xiii. 11, 12.
It is of importance to mark the principle | of distribution on which it is given to some to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and it is not given to others. Both may at the outset be equally destitute of a clear understanding of these mysteries. But the former may have what the latter have not. With the former there may be a desire for explanation; with the latter there may be no such desire. The former may, in the earnest prosecution of this desire, be praying earnestly, and reading diligently, and striving laboriously, to do all that they know to be the will of God. With the latter, there may be neither the habit of prayer, nor the habit of inquiry, nor the habit of obedience. To the one class will be given what they have not. From the other class what they have shall be taken away. We have already attempted to excite in the latter class a respectful attention to the truths of the gospel, and shall now confine ourselves chiefly to the object of encouraging and di
recting those who feel the mysteriousness of these truths, and long for light to arise in the midst of it ;-shall address ourselves to those who have an honest anxiety after that truth, which is unto us salvation, but find the way to it beset with many doubts and many perplexities,-to those who are impressed with a general conviction on the side of Scripture, but in whose eyes a darkness impenetrable still broods over its pages,-to those who are haunted by a sense of the imperious necessity of religion, and at the same time cannot escape from the impression, that if it is any where to be found, it is to be found within the records of the Old and New Testament, but from whose heart in the reading of these records the veil still remains untaken away.
In the further prosecution of this discourse, let us attempt, in the first place, to explain what it is that we ought to have, in order to attain an understanding of the mys teries of the gospel; and, in the second
place, how it is that in many cases these mysteries are evolved upon the mind in a clear and convincing manifestation.
I. First, then, we ought to have an honest desire after light; and if we have this desire, it will not remain unproductive. There is a connexion repeatedly announced to us in Scripture between desire upon this subject, and its accomplishment. He that willeth to do the will of God shall know my doctrine. He who hungereth and thirsteth shall be filled. He who lacketh wisdom and is desirous of obtaining it, let him vent his desire in prayer, and if it be the prayer of confidence in God, his desire shall be given him. There are thousands to whom the Bible is a sealed book, and who are satis- And we have also adverted already, fied that it should remain so, who share in though in a very general way, to the difthe impetuous contempt of the Pharisees ference in point of result between the active against a doctrine to which they are alto- inquiries of a man who looks forward to gether blind, who have no understanding of the acquisition of saving truth as the natural the matter, and no wish that it should be and necessary termination of his inquiries, otherwise, and unto them it will not be and of a man who mingles with every pergiven to know the mysteries of the king-sonal attempt after this object, the exercise dom of heaven. They have not, and from of prayer, and a reverential sense of his them therefore shall be taken away even dependence on God. The latter is just as that which they have. There are others, active, and just as inquisitive as the former. again, who have an ardent and unquencha- The difference between them does not lie ble thirst after the mysteries of the gospel; in the one putting forth diligence without who, like the prophet in the apocalypse, a feeling of dependence, and the other feelweep much because the book is not opened ing dependence, without a putting forth of to them; who complain of darkness, like diligence. He who is in the right path tothe Apostles of old when they expostulated wards the attainment of light, combines with their Teacher because he spoke in both these properties. parables, and, like them, who go to him with their requests for an explanation. These shall find that what they cannot do for themselves, the Lion of the tribe of Judah will do for them. He will prevail to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof. There is something they already have, even an honest wish to be illuminated, and to this more will be given. They are awake to the disirableness, they are awake to the necessity of a revelation, which they have not yet gotten,--and to them belongs the promise of, Awake, O sinner, and Christ shall give thee light.
be that of a darkness as helpless and as unattainable as can possibly be imagined, there still remains an obvious and practicable direction which you can be doing with in the mean time. You can persevere in the exercise of reading your Bible. There you are at the place of meeting etween the Spirit of God and your own spirit. You may have to wait, as if at the pool of Siloam; but the many calls of the Bible to wait upon God, to wait upon him with patience, to wait and to be of good courage, all prove that this waiting is a frequent and a familiar part of that process by which a sinner finds his way out of darkness into the marvellous light of the gospel.
Secondly, We ought to have a habit of prayer conjoined with a habit of inquiry; and to this more will be given. We have already adverted to the circumstance, that it is in the Bible, and not out of the Bible, where this light is to be met with. It is by the Spirit of God, shining upon the word of God, that his truth is reflected with clearness upon the soul. It is by his operation that the characters of this book are made to stand as visibly out to the eye of the understanding, as they do to the eye of the body; and therefore it is evident that it is not in the act of looking away from the written revelation, but in the act of looking towards it, that the wished-for illumination will at length come into the mind of an inquirer. Let your present condition then
It is through the avenues of a desirous heart and of an exercised understanding, and of sustained attention, and of faculties in quest of truth, and labouring after the possession of it, that God sends into the mind his promised manifestations. All this exercise on the one hand, without such an acknowledgement of him as leads to prayer, will be productive of nothing in the way of spiritual discernment. And prayer, without this exercise, is the mere form and mockery of an acknowledgement. He who calls upon us to hearken diligently, when he addresses us by a living voice, does in effect call upon us to read and to ponder diligently. when he addresses us by a written message. To ask truth of God, while we neglect to do for this object what he bids us, is in fact not to recognize God, but to insult him. It is to hold out the appearance of presenting ourselves before him, while we are not doing it at the place of meeting, which he has assigned for us. It is to address an imaginary Being, whom we have invested with a character of our own conception, and not the Being who bids us search his Scriptures, and incline unto his testimonies, and stir ourselves up that we may lay hold of him. Such prayer is utterance, and nothing more. It wants all the substantial characters of prayer. It may amount to the seeking of those who
shall not be able to enter the strait gate. It falls short of the striving of those who take the kingdom of heaven by force, and of whom that kingdom suffereth violence.
crisy. If he both read and pray, it is far more likely that he will be brought unto the condition of a man being justified through faith in Christ, than that he will rest his He who without prayer looks confidently hopes before God in the mere exercise of forward to success as the fruit of his own reading. If he both do and pray, it is far investigations, is not walking humbly with more likely that he will come to be estaGod. If he were humble he would pray. blished in the righteousness of Christ, as But whether is he the more humble, who the foundation of all his trust, than that he joins with a habit of prayer all those ac- will rest upon his own righteousness. For companying circumstances which God hath a man to give up sin at the outset, is just to prescribed, or he who, in neglect of these do what God wills him at the outset. For a circumstances, ventures himself into his man at the commencement of his inquiries, presence in the language of supplication? to be strenuous in the relinquishment of all There may be the show of humility in con- that he knows to be evil, is just to enter on fiding the whole cause of our spiritual and the path of approach towards Christ, in the saving illumination to the habit of praying very way that Christ desires him. He who for it to God. But if God himself tells us, cometh unto me must forsake all. For a that we must read, and seek, and meditate, man to put forth an immediate hand to the then it is no longer humility to keep by the doing of the commandments, while he is solitary exercise of praying. It is, in fact, groping his way towards a firm basis on keeping pertinaciously by our own way, which he might rear his security before heedless of his will and his way altogether. God, is not to deviate or diverge from the It is approaching God in the pride of our Saviour. He may do it with an eye of most own understanding. It is detaching from intense earnestness towards the Saviour,— the whole work of seeing after him some and while the artificial interpreter of Christ's of those component parts which he himself doctrine holds him to be wrong, Christ himhath recommended. In the very act of self may recognize him to be one of those making prayer stand singly out as alone who keep his sayings, and to whom thereinstrument of success, we are in fact draw- fore he stands pledged to manifest himself. ing the life and the spirit out of prayer The man in fact by strenuously doing, is itself; and causing it to wither into a thing just the more significantly and the more of no power and no significancy in the sight energetically praying. He is adding one inof God. It is not the prayer of acknow-gredient to the business of seeking, without ledgement, unless it comes from him who which the other ingredient would be in acknowledges the will of God in other things God's sight an abomination. He is strugas well as in prayer. It is not the prayer gling against all regard to iniquity in his of submission unless it comes from the heart heart, seeing that if he have this regard God of a man who manifests a principle of sub- will not hear him. To say, that it is dangermission in all things. ous to tell a man in these circumstances to do, lest he rest in his doings, and fall short of the Saviour, is to say, that it would be dangerous to place a man on the road to his wished-for home, lest, when he has got upon the road, he should stand still and be satisfied. The more, in fact, that the man's conscience is exercised and enlightened (and what more fitted than wilful sin to deafen the voice of conscience altogether?) the less will it let him alone, and the more will it urge him onward to that righteousness which is the only one commensurate to God's law, and in which alone the holy and inflexible God can look upon him with complacency. Let him humbly betake himself, then, to the prescribed path of reading, and prayer, and obvious reformation, and let us see if there do not evolve upon his mind, in the prosecution of it, the worthlessness of all that man can do for his meritorious acceptance with the Lawgiver-and the deep ungodliness of character which adheres to him-and the suitableness of Christ's atonement to all his felt necessities, and all his moral aspirations-and the need in which he stands of a regenerating influence, to make him a
Thirdly, We ought to do all that we know to be God's will; and to this habit of humble earnest desirous reformation, more will be given.
We trust that what has been said will prepare you for the reception of another advice besides that of reading or praying for the attainment of that manifestation which you are in quest of,-and that is, doing. There is an alarm raised in many a heart at the very suggestion of doing for an inquirer, lest he should be misled as to the ground of his justification; lest among the multitude or the activity of his works, he should miss the truth, that a man is accepted, not through the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ; lest by every one performance of duty, he should just be adding another stone to the fabric of a delusive confidence, and presumptuously try to force his own way to heaven, without the recognition of the gospel or any of its peculiarities. Now, doing stands precisely in the same relation to prayer that reading does. Without the one or the other it is the prayer either of presumption or hypo