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raising themselves in the opinion of the public, not because they have performed some exceedingly pious and charitable deed, but because they have shown themselves in some inferior matters superior to others—these men, I repeat, find that the end of their desires is futile and vain. Fame and popularity are certain bars to the interests of religion. They tend to make men insolent, arrogant, haughty, forgetful of God, and uncharitable to their neighbours. They are so repugnant and hostile to the feelings of the meek and lowly Jesus, that every Christian who wishes to copy the example of his Lord and Master, will abjure them as sinful and injurious to the welfare of his soul. Those who spend their time in striving to obtain such worthless prizes, will find that that time had been profitably consumed had they applied themselves to the truths of the Gospel, and their own eternal salvation. Had they consulted to obtain the approbation of their God, as they have the senseless and unmerited applause of their fellow-men, then they had acted wisely. But the clamorous partisan who expects to find any solid satisfaction in the unmeaning shouts of his followers, will find himself miserably mistaken. It is religion, and religion alone, that can give comfort at the hour of death, and raise us above the empty, insignificant honours of the world.
The desire of power and authority is likewise detrimental to the Gospel of Christ: and, though power must be invested in the hands of some for the good and welfare of society, yet those who possess it should never place their affections upon it, nor prostitute it to any sordid or venal purpose. The dominion which they possess ought to be considered merely as a trust committed to them by the Lord of lords, whose subjects they are; and great must be their responsibility, if, in their authority, they act inconsistently with the dictates of religion. The love of power frequently induces its votaries to cling too much to the false and empty grandeur of the world, and to forget the Lord their Maker.
Others there are—and truly lamentable it is—whose lives and conduct have been so much at variance with the hopes and promises of the Gospel,
and so exactly consonant with its threats and denunciations, that they are wishful to disbelieve the truths of Christiany, and even doubt the existence of a Providence. Such men have given themselves up to work every sort of wickedness, indulged themselves in every sinful pleasure, gratified every wicked passion. These men never think upon God, unless with a view of defying his power and scoffing at his precepts. They have no hopes, no interests in the Gospel; and therefore they wish to consider it as a mere human fabrication. They are always studying some ingenious and plausible arguments, assuming some false positions injurious to Christianity, whereby to misguide the unsuspecting and illiterate. Pleasing beyond measure to these would be the proof of the futility of the Gospel; gratifying the refutation of the immortality of the soul. That these men should ever enquire after "God their Maker," or trust in the merits of a Redeemer, in their present state of wickedness and crime, is more than can be expected. To all these and each respectively the merciful arm of the Lord is still extended, if they will but enquire after the " Lord their Maker," and forsake the evil of their ways. "Let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him turn unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon."
We come lastly, to enquire into that part of the text where it is said, "God gives songs in the night."
When the dark night of affliction overtakes us—when the cheering rays of prosperity, of health and of comfort are withdrawn from us—when sickness, adversity, and troubles innumerable beset us, the kind and benevolent hand of the Lord can support us, and raise the drooping spirits. Every calamity that the world can inflict, it may be our lot to endure; yet still here is comfort and consolation to be derived from a crucified Redeemer. Sorrow may take possession of our hearts; the grave may deprive us of those with whom we were most familiar, on terms of the strictest intimacy and friendship; wemay loseall that was dear, and all that made us cling to a deceitful and inconstant world; yet still there is hope to cheer the troubled mind, the consolation that there is a God who watches over our interests as a tender Father, and who will " never leave us nor forsake us." Friends may be separated from friends —kindred from kindred—a parent from his child, and a child from his parent; yet still the watchful eye of Providence, which is never closed, can direct their footsteps, and from every danger and calamity mercifully preserve them. At the hour of death, when the human frame is racked with a thousand pains, and the spirit ready to sink beneath them, the hand of the Lord can still support them. He smooths the bed of sickness, and kindly heals the broken heart. The hopes and prospects of a blessed and eternal state hereafter, inspire comfort into the heart of the dying Christian; and in the night of death, when the soul is about to pass to the regions of immortality and glory, he is enabled to cry out, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory." He is induced to praise the Lord for having supported him amidst the various changes and vicissitudes of his mortal life: he calls to mind the loving kindness of the Lord of old, and recounts with gratitude the numerous instances of his paternal watchfulness. When dangers beset him, and troubles pressed hard upon him, often has he experienced the bounty of heaven at a time when it was most needed; and, therefore, when all the instances of the paternal kindness of the Lord rush upon his memory, he is enabled at the hour of death, and at the point of dissolution, to cry out in the fervency of his heart, "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me praise his holy name."
Let the goodness of God lead us to an amendment of life. Let our affections be estranged from the world, and the things of the world. Let neither riches, nor honours, nor any other perishable good, ever induce us to forsake the " Lord our Maker," through whose kindness, and solicitude for our welfare, the day spring from on high hath visited us ; by whose wisdom and
providence, is perfected the regular return of summer and winter, of day and night; and by whose merciful dispensation the pleasures and miseries of the world are so happily and seasonably blended. Whatever be our situation in the world, let us bear it with contentment ; whether we possess a considerable portion of this world's goods, and be blessed with every thing that can make life happy, let us enjoy them thankfully ; or whether fortune frowns on us, and adversity with all her train of miseries be our doom, let us bear all with patience and resignation, anxiously, yet calmly, looking forward to that period, when sickness, pain, and sorrow shall be no more, and when the dreary night of affliction shall be changed into everlasting day.
Surely there are many, very many in this assembly, who are seeking after the Great and Eternal Jehovah! Surrounded as you are this evening within these walls, by the cold and dark and silent repositories of the dead—by the mouldering and decaying bodies of your fathers, your mothers, your sisters, and brothers—by every memento which should enliven your hope, and every token which can suggest a warning—by the rich and costly monument of the wealthy, and the unlettered stone, and the low and lonely and deserted grave of the poor. Oh! it cannot be— it should not be, that you are careless of your immortal souls—negligent, lukewarm, and heedless in your enquiries after God, in this Temple of the Lord, whose very spire points to Heaven.
And may all of us be induced to remember the Lord in this our day, before "the night cometh in which no man can work," before that awful hour arrive, when, as far as regards ourselves, the world and the things of the world, its pleasures and its pains, shall vanish away, and be as though they had never been; when time itself shall be swallowed up in eternity, and when all those who have " done justice, loved mercy, and walked humbly with their God," shall be welcomed into everlasting light, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. H. MELVILL, A.M.
AT CAMDEN CHAPEL, CAMBERWELL, SUNDAY, DEC. 12, 1830.
John, xvii. 2.—" At thou hast given him potcer over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to at many at thou hast given him."
Oub religious opinions derive greatly their colouring from the religious school in which we may have been educated; or from the religious circle into which we may be thrown. Out of the mass of mankind, there is comparatively but a small number who are ever bold enough to think for themselves. Opinions, especially in religion, are commonly taken at second hand; and the tenacity with which they are maintained, contrasts often very strongly with the vagueness with which they are understood. That we call no man father or master upon earth, is a precept which has lost none of its importance, since the day when it was first uttered by Christ to his disciples. At all times there have been in the Church, men who, although they may not be themselves anxious for pre-eminence in their attainments, have been thrust forward by their admirers into a sort of chair of authority; and whatever sayings are uttered from this elevation, will be stoutly defended by a long swarm of their followers. We have, in strict truth, little or nothing to do with what this author holds or that preacher maintains; every man should be his own divine; and if we made our theology for ourselves, by prayerful study of the Bible, there would be less of that pugnacious adherence to some great decisions, against which it is vain to bring scriptural argument, since it is founded on partiality.
Now, it is surprising how much of the prejudice in question is brought into action, whenever the subject of Redemption shall happen to be discussed. Some persons are possessed with a love of Calvinism, and some persons are possessed with a dread of Calvinism; and although, perhaps, both parties may know little more than the name of the great Reformer of Ge
neva, still that name is a kind of watchword at which they will suddenly stir themselves; and its occasional introduction into a sermon puts a smile upon the one half, and a frown upon the other, of many of our professing congregations. What I would desire of you on the present occasion is, to forget, if possible, the phrases and styles of party, and just to apply yourselves to the subject which our text opens, as one which is to be examined on its own authority and statement, and not immediately connected with any human system made to support its doctrines or to bear out its dogmas.
It is quoted as the saying of a man whose praise is in all the Churches—I mean Toplady—that if the doctrine of universal redemption could once be proved, he would undertake to prove also the doctrine of universal salvation. That is, he supposed it must certainly follow, that if all men are redeemed by the blood of Christ, then all men will finally be saved by the blood of Christ: and therefore he rejected universal redemption as giving a pledge of universal salvation. Now, it is at least a dangerous way of arguing to determine beforehand, what conclusions will follow from the admission of a doctrine, and then, if the conclusion seem false, to decide at once against the doctrine itself. The method may be a sound method in the investigations of science, but it certainly is not in those of religion. The truth or error of religious doctrines is simply to be tried by the authority of Scripture; and when revelation is clear in laying down principles, speculation is out of place in insisting upon inferences. We admit, therefore, that from no sound doctrine can an unsound conclusion be fairly deduced; and when we have, as we think, established a tenet as scriptural,
our conviction must be Shaken by finding that it leads to tenets that are unscriptural. Now let us begin at least at the right end of such enquiries. The Bible is too lofty and sacred a record to be left waiting, as it were, in the anti-chamber of the soul, while the thoughts sit in judgment on the possible consequences of a doctrine which it is said to contain. Let the celestial witness enter first and deliver its authoritative message; and when this has been examined with humility and prayer, then we are bound to cling boldly to all that is clearly explicit, and to leave to God to reconcile whatever seems mysterious and unfathomable.
Our text is in every respect a most remarkable portion of Holy Writ; and the chapter in which it occurs contains more of sublime and more of almost incomprehensible truth, than is to be found in the same space in any other part of the sacred book. Christ Jesus having delivered a parting address to his disciples, offers up in his capacity of Mediator, a mediatory prayer on their behalf, and on behalf of all others who through their means should hereafter believe on his name. It seems impossible that whilst we still dwell in the flesh, we should attain any full comprehension of the blessings which Christ solicits on behalf of his followers. The aids of criticism, and, what is infinitely more valuable, the stores of Christian experience, have all been thrown into illustration of the chapter; and still it remains too dazzling in many respects to be scrutinized, and too deep in others to be fathomed. But the text being one of doctrine rather than of benediction, we may probably through God's help, be enabled to discover something of its length and its breadth; for doctrines are given us to be examined in this life, while blessings remain to be realized in the next. The verse is closely connected with the preceding one, in which Christ prays generally, " Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:" and then he adds, "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." So that the Father's glorifying the Son and the Son's glorifying the Father, are represented as of necessity preliminary to
the completion of those purposes of mercy, which were provided for in the covenant of redemption.
It is unnecessary to dwell on this connection between the verses, inasmuch as it appears from a cursory glance at the verse—although the first word of our text links it grammatically with the foregoing petition—that the sense of the passage is complete in itself, requiring not to be put in juxtaposition with others in order to its more full display. I take, then, the verse independent of the context; and there appear to be three truths which it powerfully inculcates. First, That Redemption is universal. The Father has given unto the Son "power over all flesh." Secondly, That the application of Redemption is particular. The Son gives eternal life only to those whom the Father hath given him. Thirdly, That the universality of Redemption is in some sense necessarily preliminary to its particular application. "Thou hast given power over all flesh, that"—in order that—" he may give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." I shall study to set these several truths simply but clearly before you, each being, both in itself and in its connection with the others, of more than common importance.
First, God Hath Given To The Son As Mediator Power Over All Flesh—I say as Mediator, because, as God, Christ possessed such power by inherent right, and could not derive it from external donation. And if as Mediator he had power over all flesh, then I argue, that as Mediator he must have redeemed all flesh. Examine the matter with a little accuracy, and I think you will be prepared to agree with this conclusion.
The most striking proof of which we are in possession that the Mediator hath power over all flesh is, that as Mediator he shall hereafter bid all flesh rise up from the sepulchre and congregate to judgment. Why is it that the wicked rise again? Why is it that the multitudes who have heard nothing of the gospel, and know nothing of the gospel, should nevertheless be placed, in this respect, on a footing with those who have been graciously admitted into its privileges? It cannot be said that the resurrection of the body is provided for under the first covenant, the covenant of works. The curse pronounced against transgression was simply, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die:" and no logic can prove to roe that the threatening of death to the body implied any assurance of after life to the body. On the contrary, it may have been fairly questioned whether there would be any resurrection of the body had not a Mediator interposed. The broken law leaves the body under the power of death for ever; and it is only because a powerful Mediator hath arisen, and destroyed him that had the power of death—it is only on this account that the sea and the mountain and the desert shall yield up the dust of unnumbered generations. We may all remember the assertion of St. Paul, "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead: for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." And whatever other truths may be implied in this assertion, it is at the least clear, that the extent of the resurrection will be precisely commensurate with the extent of death; and that just as all men die through the transgression of the first Adam, so all men are raised through the mediation of the Second. We find it moreover asserted by Christ himself, that "all that are in their graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth." They rise—that is, the evil as well as the good—in obedience to Christ's summons. So that the resurrection power —a power, be it observed, which is exercised universally and without the smallest reference to moral distinctions —the resurrection power is a most palpable instance of that power over all flesh which has been committed to the Mediator. So that we cannot find out a little spot of earth, and mark it as the burial place of a human being, without bringing it immediately into the especial jurisdiction of Christ, and consigning it to him as holding a deposit, which he shall hereafter demand with the most rigid exactness. It appears, then, that the resurrection of the body is literally the result of the mediation of Christ. Had Christ not died the charnel houses would never have teemed as now they shall do, with sudden life. And if you lay the facts together—the fact that power over all
flesh has been given to the Mediator, and the fact that he exerts his power in raising all flesh from the grave—you will agree with me, that the commencement of our text is virtually an assertion that the whole world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ. The wicked who have never heard the gospel, and they who wilfully reject the gospel—all these are raised in consequence of the mediatorial work. And is it not therefore clear, that they must have some interest in the Mediator's work, and must be included in that work? And while the body's resurrection is to them no blessing, seeing that the addition of an undying body to an undying soul does but increase the capacity of suffering, that to which the mediation entitled them was some privilege which would have counterbalanced a hundred fold the possible misery which the resurrection entails; otherwise in that representation—and from such representation every feeling must be abhorrent—we represent the great mass of mankind as involved by the merciful dispensation of the Gospel, in a heightened measure of wretchedness, although they possessed no part and no lot whatsoever in the matter.
We might further argue, that as a part of Christ's power over all flesh, he is appointed to judge the world. The Father hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of God: and how can it be part of his mediatorial capacity, to sit in judgment upon millions who have nothing to do with him in that mediatorial capacity—who having never been redeemed by his blood, could have no right to be tried at his bar? They come before his tribunal in their newly raised bodies—bodies which would not have been raised except in virtue of the Judge's resurrection : and these bodies are a species of credential, that they belong by purchase to the Redeemer—that Christ must literally have died for them—and that now they are arraigned at his judgment seat as beings upon whom he hath right to pass sentence, just because they are beings on whose behalf he was content to endure suffering. We find, then, in the fact, that the Mediator hath power over all flesh, abundant and palpable proof of that doctrine of universal redemption, on which I shall pre