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we have said on former occasions. His opening discourse in this volume, being only introductory—apparently a consecration sermon on opening his chapel—though it would illustrate our argument remarkably well, it may be fairer to take the next. Of this, the title is " The Lost Sheep," from Luke xv. 4—6. This parable, Mr. Bradley says, represents the natural condition of man; the conduct of our Lord Jesus Christ towards him; and the tenderness which actuates that conduct. His natural condition is shewn to involve want, danger, and helplessness. The conduct of Christ is described in missing him, seeking him, finding him, and bearing him home; and his feeling is that of joy in restoring him. We shall not pause to remark the happy talent with which Mr. Bradley lays out his subjects, always eliciting interesting and valuable matter from his text, weaving it together with singular neatness—often much genius—and forming it into a striking and beautiful climax. Our object at present is doctrinal illustration and spiritual preaching, in pursuance of which we quote two or three passages from this excellent discourse.
"The first is want; not absolute want perhaps, not complete destitution; for the rocky mountain may yield some food, and the sandy desert some refreshment! but the sheep is away from the fold; it has consequently no satisfying, no adequate, no certain pasture; it lives, if it lives at all, in hunger, weariness, and suffering.
"And what is our condition, brethren, when at a distance from God? It is worse than the condition of this lost sheep, more necessitous, more desolate. Regard us indeed as no better than machines of flesh and blood, creatures with no higher capacities of enjoyment than the brute beasts that perish, then there is enough for us, and more then enough, in this well stored world. But admit that 'there is a spirit in man,' view him as a being endowed with mind and affections, with a feeling heurtand a thinking soul, there is not one of our race, however degraded, that the whole earth could satisfy, nor one longing for happiness in any one breast, that the whole material universe could fill." Bradley, p. 22.
"The shepherd in the parable is supposed to leave the ninety and nine sheep in the wilderness; that is, safe amidst the cultivated grounds or inclosed pastures of the wilderness; and to ' go after that which is lost.' And why does he go after it? Because ' that which is lost,' can be recovered by no other means. The wandering » sheep never returns. Not like the dog or the dove, that will find its way back from almost any distance, it cannot retrace its steps. Once a wanderer, it wanders on for ever. And when did an erring sinner ever return to his forsaken God? Of his own accord, never ; and were the world to stand ten thousand years longer, and were the same question to be asked at the end of those years, the same answer would still be given—never. The thing is impossible. Sin has rendered it impossible. It alienates man from God. It throws up a barrier between them in man's own heart. It deprives him of the very desire to return. Shew him the bridge that Christ has thrown over the gulph which separates earth from heaven, be will not so much as set a foot on it; he would rather starve and sink where he is.
"But O the unsearchable grace of Jehovah! He goes after the creature that will not inquire after him. He comes down out of heaven, from the most glorious place in the creation, to one of the dreariest, and this he tells us is his errand, ' to seek und to save that which was lost.' And when arrived on the earth, no part of it did he leave unsought, that he might find his own. He goes to Samaria, to seek a lost woman there; to Bethany, to seek Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus; to guilty Sidon, to seek the woman of Canaan; to accursed Jericho, to seek Znccbeus. He goes to the receipt of custom, that he may find the publican Matthew; to the sea-side, that he may call to himself and happiness Peter, and James, and John. And while hanging on the cross, in the very agonies of death, his work of searching is not suspended. He turns round to the crosses beside him, and finds on one of them a sheep of his fold, a companion for paradise. And the same work is going on now by his word, and his ministers, and his providence, and his Spirit, he is at this day and at this moment seeking us ; and were we on the very verge of destruction, nay, were there at this instant but a step between us and all that is fearful, he would follow us on; he would seek us still; he would still desire and labour to pluck us as ' brands from the burning.'" pp. 27—29.
"A nd what says this Scripture to you who are returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls? to you whom Christ has sought, and found, and is carrying home? It bids you look back to the years that are gone. It asks you what you were in those years, and in what situation. You were lost, and almost content to be lost; amidst wants, and dangers, and wretchedness, which you had no stength to escape nor eyes
Christ. Observ. No. 366. 3 I
to discover. And where are you now? On your Saviour's shoulder. And why are you there? Because left to yourselves, you would be lost again; in a single hour, you would be as far from the fold of God, as you were in the darkest hour of your worst days. 'By grace are ye saved,' says this Scripture to you; by grace alone. It bids you be bumble, more bumble than you have ever been yet. And then it tells you to look forward. How glorious the prospect that it opens! For creatures such as we are to enter heaven at all, is a wonder of mercy, a manifestation of goodness almost surpassing belief. Who that has ever caught a glimpse of heaven, docs not say at times, ' My polluted soul can never go there? But to be brought there by Jehovah himself; to hear that holy world called on to exult in our arrival, and to find that call obeyed; to discover that the God whose love and even whose pity towards us we have so long suspected, is admitting us to the glory of his presence, and receiving us there, not with the cold commiseration we often ascribe to him, but with a joy so overflowing, so real and great, that his own infinite mind can hardly contain it;—is it not marvellous, brethren, that a prospect like this is ever for one moment out of our thoughts? A feeling of self-abasement, a thrilling sense of our own nothingness, is the first and, it may be, the strongest emotion that ought to abide wilh us: but if we arc not happy and thankful, where shall thankfulness and joy be found? In our Redeemer's arms, borne along by him in the way to his heavenly fold, our arrival there as sure as his grace and power, and covenant, can make it, with scarcely a step between us and its blessedness;—we may weep and tremble, but then are our souls in the holiest as well as the happiest state, when we rejoice as we tremble; when our songs are more numerous than our tears; when praise is at once our work and our delight." pp. 39—41.
The remaining sermons are, The promise of God to the Israelites at Sinai; the unbelief of Thomas; the redeemed sinner made a temple of God; the baptism of Christ; the visit of the wise men to Christ; the complaint of St. Paul; the future glory of the church; Jonah's gourd; the risen Saviour questioning Peter's love; the plague in the wilderness; the rich man and Lazarus; the peace of God keeping the heart; the cities of refuge; the Christian taught to pray; the woman of Canaan; the prayer of Christ for his church; the Christian in the wilderness; the multitude fed in the wilderness. Those who know Mr. Bradley's truly edifying, spiritual, and we might almost say entertaining manner of treating his subjects, will not need more than this brief enumeration to send them to his volume.
Mr. Hambleton has not, like Mr. Bradley, the advantage of former volumes well received to smooth his path to the public; but he has been enabled to smooth it admirably well in the book itself. We cannot wonder that his flock earnestly pressed him, as he modestly affirms as his apology, to publish for their private meditation, a volume of those discourses which they had hung upon from his lips; for his pages are characterized by a spirit of tenderness and affection, which cannot but call forth the warmest feelings of the heart. We need scarcely say of them, as of all the volumes before us, that they are truly scriptural in their character; the doctrines of the Gospel pervade them throughout, and are applied to the heart and conscience with remarkable simplicity, yet with striking effect, and with a very peculiar and highly useful power of illustration and imagery. Let us see how they bear upon our general illustration. . ,
We take the first discourse. It is entitled Regeneration; and the text on which it is founded is John iii. 3: "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." It is a striking and interesting discourse, deducing from what is related of Nicodemus, and our Lord's conversation with him, the same doctrinal and practical truths which we have seen propounded in the other publications before us, and which are set forth in the remaining sermons in this volume in detail, in a course of meditations on the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, and a few miscellaneous discourses on the limits of human investigation, the spiritual baptism, self-examination, Satan's devices, the directory of faith, songs in the night, and the three-fold benediction of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost. The very enunciation of these titles shews the character of the author's preaching: the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is in itself a summary of Christianity in all that relates to the person and atonement of Christ, and the way of pardon, satisfaction, peace, and acceptance with God ; and the beatitudes are equally a summary in all that relates to our sanctification by the Holy Ghost, and the duties, privileges, and graces of the Christian character.
The discourse on Nicodemus not being divided into heads, we cannot give a brief analysis of it. We do not mean to intimate, that in this and many other instances, the absence of this technical division is a fault; on the contrary, it is expressly avoided by the preacher, in order, he says, that he may not seem to prejudice the question, but may rather proceed with his hearers where the sacred text leads them, and that they may thus deduce together the instruction contained in it. Discourses constructed upon this plan have an air of freshness and originality which excites and keeps up the attention of the auditor, and Mr. Hambleton is often very happy in this respect, the hearer not knowing whither he is going, but following on with pleasure and interest as his pastor leads him by the hand. Still, for recapitulation, and mental recurrence, discourses upon the popular plan of plain expressed division are usually the best. There is a very proper mixture of the two styles in most of the volumes before us.
But, without analysis, the following passages will serve to shew Mr. Hambleton's object in this discourse, as well as the general character of his doctrines and style of preaching.
"I think, my brethren, you must allow, that without straining a single expression of the sacred text, we have now several important propositions clearly educed. That the product of the natural birth is a fleshly nature. That this extends not only to the bodily appetites, but also to the whole bias and character of the soul; otherwise the regeneration of the soul or spirit could not be needed. That accordingly, every man's natural state is that of one in the flesh; and a scriptural consequence is, ' They that are in the flesh cannot please God.' 'To be carnally minded,' to mind the things of the flesh, 'is death.' In other words, ' Except a man be born again,he cannot see the kingdom of God.' And why? The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom. Flesh and spirit, since the fall of man, are naturally and essentially opposed. The flesh, consistently with its nature, desires or lusts after things sensual, earthly, perishable.' The spirit desires things spiritual, heavenly, imperishable. Flesh and spirit cannot bear full sway in the same man. 'They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.' 'Because the carnal mind,' (the minding of the flesh,) ' is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' 'If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.' You see, my brethren,—I think you must see,—the grand distinction between the spiritual kingdom and the fleshly nature, which the word of God makes. Light and darkness, good and evil, are not more opposite. Every man also is in one or the other of these two states in the sight of God. How may we know, you tremblingly ask, in which state are we? 'By their fruits ye shall know them.' 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.' If your chief pleasures and enjoyments are in the things of the flesh, the things of time and sense, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life; if your affections are fixed on things below; if you allow yourselves in the habitual practice of any of ' the works of the flesh,' which are more comprehensive than some imagine, then how can I in faithfulness allow you, or how can you in kindness allow yourselves, to suppose that you are born of the Spirit, or entered into the spiritual kingdom of God? I give you an inspired catalogue of the works of the flesh; and I entreat you to consider, while I read it, whether any of them are still your works. 'Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.'
"But, on the other hand, if your chief delight is now in God, and in the things of God; if your affections are set on things above; if you allow yourselves in the habitual practice of no evil thing; if your inward deviations from the spiritual standard of true holiness, proposed in the law of God and the example of Jesus Christ, are your grief and shame; if you produce the fruits of the Spirit in your temper and life, and desire to produce them far more, then have you pleasing evidence that you have .experienced this new hirth and new creation of the soul unto righteousness and true .holiness. 'The fruit of the Spirit,' which you are to inquire if you produce,* is Jove, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.'" Hamblcton, pp. 12—15.
"Our Lord opens the doctrine of his cross, illustrating it by Moses lifting up the brazen serpent in the wilderness. 'So must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.' Has this, you may ask, any thing to do with regeneration? I answer, yes; it is by the word of God, the testimony of Christ, and especially by the doctrine of his cross, which so strikingly exhibits God in the fulness of redeeming love, and sin in all its enormity and guilt, that the Holy Spirit loves to work upon the hearts and consciences of men. That single doctrine of Christ crucified, faithfully set forth, has, I venture to affirm, done inore to reform—that is too weak a word—to regenerate a fallen world, than all the writings of philosophers and moralists ever did toward the promotion of morality and virtue." pp. 20, 21.
"My brethren, you see from this hasty review of our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus, that the Spirit's instrument in effecting regeneration is the word of God, the doctrine of the cross, the declaration of the love of God, of the necessity of faith in Christ, of the guilt of unbelief. St. James attributes regeneration to the same means: 'Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.' And so St. Peter, * Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, .which liveth and abideth for ever.' 'In Christ Jesus,' says St. Paul, ' I have begotten you through the Gospel.' Yes, brethren, if, as is your ministers' anxious prayer, souls are to be born again under our ministry, it will be by the faithful, scriptural, affectionate preaching of the great doctrines of the Gospel. Other doctrines might make you what Nicodemus once was, a self-righteous Pharisee. This alone, by the Holy Spirit's power, can make you what there is cause to hope Nicodemus became,a regenerate, humble, spiritually-minded, and devoted Christian." pp. 22, 23.
We new come to Mr. Blunt's volume; confining ourselves by the same restriction of taking the very first discourse as an index to the whole. As the work extends to twelve lectures, all on one subject, the history of St. Paul, in the course of which the writer addresses himself to the chief particulars in the Apostle's life, without seeking to press every topic into each discourse, it is hardly fair to him or to our argument to dissever one portion from the context. Yet, even with this disadvantage, we are confident as to the result; for the inquirer whom we have supposed could not read any one of these sermons either in sequence or torn from their connexion, without instantly perceiving that they are constructed upon principles very different to those which some years since were too commonly allowed to pass current for very good Church-of-England divinity. Not, indeed, that they were so, or that spiritually-minded men either in or out of our church so accounted them; but it is very certain that too many, both of the clergy and laity, knew little of the real character of the doctrines, either of the word of God or of their own church grounded upon it; so that much of what we have above quoted, and much that we might add from Mr. Blunt, would some years since, as it would in many quarters still, be accounted strange tidings. Even now, there is much to be learned and more to be practised; but fully admitting this, the revival and extension of scriptural knowledge and spiritual piety are great beyond expectation, and demand the liveliest gratitude to God who has so abundantly poured out his Holy Spirit upon us. Oh, that if it be his will this blessed and life-giving effusion may become universal! In the aggregate, it is great; but viewed in detail, how many places, alas, has it not apparently visited!
We shall now quote two or three short passages from Mr. Blunt's first discourse. Our readers will keep in mind the general purpose for which we adduce them. Speaking of St. Paul before his conversion, he says:
"Can it be true, can it be possible, that conduct so guilty, so abhorrent to every better feeling, even of the natural heart should form the opening scene in the life of him, of whose lofty attainments in spiritual things, of whose holy and consistent conduct, of whose glorious testimony to the truth as it is in Jesus, we shall hereafter have to speak? It is most possible, most true. Then blessed be God, who shall despair? Who has sinned past forgiveness? Whose heart is too hard to be broken by the power of Divine grace, to be melted by the love of Christ, if this be indeed the first incident which the Spirit of God has bequeathed to us in the life of St. Paul? Am I now addressing any who have said there is mercy with God, but it is not for me; there is compassion with Christ, but it cannot reach my case? There is a powerful influence in the Spirit, but it will never touch my heart? Then, my brethren, look carefully at this picture, and draw from it—no encouragement in sin—but great and soul-encouraging views of the boundless infinity of Divine love. There is mercy for the worst of sinners, for there was mercy for Saul; you cannot fear condemnation, where Saul obtained a free and full forgiveness. That God who was ' found of him, who sought him not,' will surely not deny himself to you, who earnestly seek him through the blood of his dear Son." Blunt, pp. 8, 9.
"The practical lesson to be deduced from this, and every other case of conversion, whether apparently more or less miraculous, is a corroboration of that great scriptural truth thus expressed by our Lord, ' Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' 'Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.' This is the decree which has gone forth from the lips of Eternal Truth; not merely against the blasphemer and the persecutor, but against every fallen child of a corrupt and fallen parent. It speaks to you and to myself. All who shall enter into the eternal kingdom and joy of our Lord, either have been, or must be, the subjects of this heart-influencing change. The mind, which is, by nature, dark and ignorant of divine things; the conscience, which is not awakened by the spiritual requirements of the Divine law; the will, which neither knows, nor desires to know, any thing of a conformity to God's will, — must, like the mind, the conscience, and the will of Saul, be subjected to the enlightening, renewing, transforming power of God's Divine Spirit . I "We do not intend to say, that there are none, like Samuel, sanctified from their
mother's womb; that there are none upon whom, by the grace of God, a change of nature, as well as a change of state, has taken place at the baptismal font. We know we are addressing ourselves to baptised Christians; but so also were the prophets of old addressing themselves to circumcised Israelites, when they ttrged upon them the true circumcision of the heart and spirit; and, therefore, we do not scruple to say to many among yourselves, ' Ye must be bor n again!' A change must pass upon many of you as astonishing as supernatural; as entire as that which passed on Saul, i "This is not indeed to be effected in the present day, by means apparently so
miraculous as those employed in the instance before us j but inasmuch as every conversion is above the power of man, is indeed the exclusive prerogative of God the Holy Ghost, every conversion is a divine and supernatural work, flowing completely and entirely from the sovereign grace of God our Saviour." pp. 16—18.
"Let us proceed to investigate a little more accurately the wonderful and instructive particulars of the astonishing conversion before us; praying that, by the blessing of God, they may afford us some obvious and palpable tests, by which to examine the work of grace in our own souls, and determine its reality and truth. The first step, then, in the miraculous transaction before us, was a radiance far above the brightness of the sun, bursting forth from that eternal throne, where God the Father dwelleth in 'the light which no man may approach unto.'
"Under this symbol, how clearly do we perceive the first step which the Almighty takes, in the conversion of every human sold which is brought out of the deadly darkness of sin, and the gloom of Satan's kingdom. 'God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,' says the Apostle to the Corinthians, 'hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' The light which shines in the renewed heart, is therefore traced by the Apostles to the fountain from which it flows, viz. the unmerited love of God the Father. It shines through the instrumentality of God the Holy Ghost, and leads directly to a true and living sight of God the Saviour. Ask yourselves, then, my beloved brethren,—for I would most earnestly desire to render this a subject of useful self-examination,—Are you conscious of any such event as this taking place in yourselves? Can you indeed say with him of old, in regard to yourself, ' The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth?' By the light of that supernatural radiance, I have been spiritually, as Saul was literally, enabled to see for myself the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, as my Saviour and my God. This was the first effect of that supernatural light acknowledged by St. Paul; he says expressly, 'I saw that Just One.' This must be the first effect iii your heart. You must' see that Just One;' and see him with the eye of faith, as your only hope of reconciliation with God; your only way to the Father; your only guide to peace and to heaven; before you can become an adopted child of the Most High.