Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

error, which is fatal to his hopes. The position which a sinner must occupy, in order to benefit by this salvation, must be that in which he accepts it at the hand of God as a matter of free and sovereign grace. He must not look at it in the light in which it has been too frequently represented—as the benevolent action of the Son of God tempering the vindictive, the relentless wrath of the Father, imparting mercy (as it were) to His dispensations and to His character ; but rather receive it upon the terms, which our Saviour Himself expressed, when He declared—“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

2. But the most correct views of the equivalent of salvation will not save us from fearful errors in respect to its personal application.

There are not wanting those, who imagine that the fact of Christ's death will exert a salutary influence upon their salvation, irrespective of its actual participation as a living principle by themselves. Receiving the fact of Christ's atonement as an undoubted truth, accepting it as a truth attested in history which they cannot deny, they seem to imagine that it is to exercise a sort of charm upon their inte. rests. Thus, how often do we hear men, when questioned respecting their hopes of eternal life, give for their answer that for their part they have not done any particular harm, they have not been worse than other people, and be it remembered, Christ died for us !” So that the bare fact of Christ having died for us, is to be relied upon as the hope of one, that happens to have heard of the circum. stance, and admits the truth of it! Rather let us hear the testimony of the apostle—“Christ in you the hope of glory.” “Christ in you." There must be a personal participation of Christ, a realising of His presence and His person in the heart, the application of the great iruth to the conscience, leading us to rest on Him by a vital faith.

But admitting the need of such a personal application, many mistakes are perpetually committed respecting it.

If we so) resolve the practical application of the atonement into the sovereignty of God, as to rest under the impression that any effort of ours is uncalled for and unavailing, we are committing a fatal error. And yet we know, that multitudes in our congregations are living and dying under this error every day. The sovereignty of God is with them made the vehicle, through which that very sovereignty is practically denied. Because He has secured to His beloved Son the fruit of His sufferings in the submission of His enemies to Hiin, His right to command that submission in any and every instance is resisted. What a strange incongruity is this! The sovereignty of God is His right to command what He will from every one; and when He "commands all men every where to repent," where is the man that can plead His sovereignty in bar of that command? And yet this is precisely the predicament, into which such individuals bring themselves; and fatal must be the result.

Closely allied to this, and perhaps another stage of it, is that which hails the mediation of Christ as relieving from the restraints of the law of God. “ The glorious liberty of the children of God” is their boast. Oh! the Gospel !-who understands it but we? “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we.” We are the men to enjoy the glorious liberty of the Gospel; we have no restraints of conscience, we have no tremulous fears, we see our election sure, we see our right proved; it is not sin, that can hurt us; it is not pollution, that can injure us; it may soil a little, but it shall not destroy, nay it shall not seriously injure; we are safe in the hands of Christ.' Presuming upon the fact that God has begun a good work” in them, the conclusion is immediately formed without the slightest difficulty, that that work will be carried on to the day of God, and that during the interval they may be satisfied to live as they will. They suppose, that no account will be demanded of them; they shall not be judged with the world; they have understood, they have felt "the glorious liberty of the children of God.” lf language can be found, more solemn than ordinary, that which meets this evil in the Scriptures is so. It was described as the worst features of apostate Israel, to say, “We are delivered to do these abominations." And the awful warnings and threatenings, which were delivered to some within the pale of the Christian church, sufficiently indicate the perilous condition of those, who

BY THE REV. ANDREW G. FULLER.

189

can sin without remorse because of “the glorious liberty of the children of God." “Take heed," said the apostle, “lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief;" “ take heed, lest any root of bitterness spring up, and thereby many be defiled;" take heed, for “some of them were destroyed of the destroyer.

But there is a class of persons, existing in no inconsiderable number in our congregations, who would utterly contemn sentiments like these, who would despise them from their very soul, but who satisfy themselves to remain with the great doctrine of the cross unapplied-year after year unapplied to the heart. They know the truth in theory; they may have much correctness of perception, as to the balance, the nice balance of truth, in its various parts, and would abhor such violations of its general principles as have been denounced; but there they remain. Perhaps I may be told, that this is not an error respecting the method of salvation; that it is rather a question of practice, than of erroneous view. But let us not assume this too readily. I think we do wrong in supposing that people's perceptions are lucid and correct upon all points, when they are wrong in practice. Their evil in practice very commonly arises—nay, I do not know whether it might not be made out, that it always arises-from some hallucinations of the mind, from some error concerning the minuter features (to say the least) of that truth, with which they may stand connected. I am not asking what is their creed; I am not even suggesting what sentiments they may put forth as their accredited views of religion ; but what consideration is it, that influences them ? It would, perhaps, be difficult to point out the action of any individual, good or bad, that did not proceed upon some consideration-upon something that influenced the mind ; and what is it, that influences the minds of these-of these beloved by many of us our wives, our children, perhaps our fathers or our mothers, our servants, our friends, our near neighbours-individuals whom we respect for their correctness of deportment, whom we love from a variety of causes—but who are out of Christ, who have " no part nor lot in the matter," who “ know the truth," the great broad outlines of truth, but whom the truth has not “made free,so that they know it not in that sense in which it is competent to make them free? Perhaps many of these persons would shrink from throwing themselves into associatious of a purely worldly character, lest they should never reach the kingdom of God. Is there not, then, in their minds a lurking suspicion, that the provisions of salvation, which they see lying before them, are to be in some way or other brought to bear upon their minds ? This appears to me to be the error, that clouds and perverts their understandings. They seem to imagine, that there is some latent capability, by which the Gospel will still reach their case. Why do they not give up their case as hopeless, or lay hold of the salvation provided in the cross of Christ ? Why, but because they imagine, that in some way or other that mass of provisions which the Word of God supplies shall not be in vain for them ? and while the Word of God says, “ Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation,” and all its provisions accord with that fact, they seem to cherish the thought that “now” is not the accepted time, that "now" is not the day of salvation. There is a delusion upon the mind. They cherish the notion, that the time will come, when they shall be gathered into the fold of Christ, when they shall be lodged in His family; that they shall not be left out in the great day of account. They cannot realise such an idea: " What! my father go to glory, and I not! mny brother be at the right hand of God, and I on the left! Impossible. Some turn in affairs will take place; some influence, which yet remains behind, in the provisions of God's house, will be brought to bear upon my case at some future time. What is this, but an error respecting the method of salvation ?-an error in which multitudes have lived, and with which in their right hand multitudes of our young people have gone into eternity. Oh! it is a fearful thing, to trifle with the way of salvation.

II. Let us advert, then, in few words to the fearful influence, which these fatal errors have upon the characters and prospects of their subjects.

And first I would observe, that whatever variety may distinguish these different forms in which error manifests itself, all are identified with light thoughts of sin. Whether we take the viewof the case which denies the sacrifice of Christ-that which overlooks that great Sacrifice, and substitutes forms and ceremonies and sacraments -or whether we take that view of it which leads its votaries to live as they pleasein short, in whatever form error presents itself respecting the great way of salvation,

it arises out of light thoughts of sin, and is necessarily identified with thein at every stage and at every turning. No man doubts in his heart, that he is a sinner; but the universal cry-at least ihe thought of the heart is, “ What have we done so much against Thee ?' It is when the spirit is convinced of sin, when sin becomes “ exceeding sinful” in the estimation of the individual, that his heart is opened to receive in simplicity and with godly sincerity the plain testimony that Jesus “came to seek and to save that which was lost." This is the sentiment, which must lie at the root of every correct impression of the salvation of Christ. Until this is the case, while a man thinks that he is not a very great sinner, while he feels not the depth of his sin, he will be exactly in the position of one, who is the subject of a dreadful disease and knows it not or will not believe it? What will be the consequence? The disease will cleave unto him; he will not apply the remedies; it will work its way, until at last he is compelled to admit the truth of it, when he sees destruction before him. This is the consequence of light views of sin.

But this is the smallest view of the case. The least is no trifle; “ it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” of that God who is a consuming fire, under any circumstances, though He that knew not His Lord's will shall be “ beaten with few stripes," as compared with him who knew it. It must entail a judicial visitation from God, exactly proportioned to the amount of interest that He Himself has taken in the “ great salvation”--to the price that was paid to accomplish that salvation to the moving of the mighty heart of the Divine Being in the accomplishment of this work. Oh! with what force does He represent through the medium of His servants, of the writer to the Hebrews especially, how His heart was set upon this great salvation! " God who at sundry times and in divers places spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." He has there poured out His heart for the children of men. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?” It is “ a fearful thing," indeed, to endure the anger of God for the breach of His law; but the condemnation of those upon whom light has shined, is infinitely more so, than that which rests upon the head of such as knew not the Gospel. “ This is their condemnation, that light came into the world, and they loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” We tremble as we read of cases, like those of Korah, Dathan and Abiram; but so far as the sacred writer tells us, the evils of many of these cases terminated with the catastrophe itself. We are not, except where we are led by the intimations of the sacred context, invariably to imagine that these individuals were lost for ever, fearful as were the judgments of God against them. Bnt the greater the light, the greater the blessing, the greater the advantage--the greater must be the punishment, the more serious the infliction. Where God pours out His heart, He pours out His greatest wrath. We are familiar with the idea of the wrath of the lion, the wrath of the wild beast; but “ the wrath of the LAMB" was reserved for a new economy--for an economy of grace--for the despisers of the grace of the Gospel.

Oh! my hearers, if there be one amongst you all, to whom any of these descriptions may apply, who cherish fatal errors concerning the way of salvation, I entreat you, bethink yourself again how needful it is to go back to first principles tolook at “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” It is no such intricate affair, after all; it is only the folly and perverseness of men's hearts, which make this such a difficult way to understand. Were our hearts in favour of virtue, in favour of purity and holiness—were we instructed to see the evil of'sinthen there would be in our estimation such a simplicity, such a glory, such a beuty, in this truth, that “ Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” hat it would win our hearts and lead us to “lay hold on the hope set before us.”

May Christ, in His great mercy, who went over sinners at Jerusalem, especially commending to their regard the great fact of their exalted privileges, saying, “ If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that make for thy peace!"--may He so impress upon the mind of each of us the value of His salvation, and the vast and inconceivable importance of bestowing upon it a regard and affection correspondent with its character and with our vast interest in it, that henceforth, whatever we have been, we may “ be followers of God as dear children,” walking in the light of the everlasting Gospel.

LIFE OF THE REV. R. HOUSMAN, B.A.

In pursuance of our promise, we proceed to supply some extracts from this Memoir.

And first let honourable mention be made of some of the worthies of that day:

“ The mature developement of the principles which Simeon and Venn had been the providential instruments of planting and fostering in Mr. Housman's mind, must be referred to the combined influence of his matrimonial alliance, and of the friendly intercourse which he enjoyed with some of the most distinguished divines of the Church of England, who contributed so importantly, seventy or eighty years ago, to rouse her from a slothful and pernicious slumber, and to revive the preaching of the truth as it is in Jesus. With Newton, Romaine, Berridge, Riland, and Jones of Creaton, he had repeated opportunities of personally communicating; and 'he frequently recurred with grateful pleasure to the profitable hours passed in their society. His more intimate friends do not require to be told that his familiar discourse was often rendered peculiarly attractive by the relation of racy anecdotes of the sayings and doings of these the revered instructors of his youth.

“His first meeting with the Rev. John Berridge, the eccentric author of The Christian World Unmasked,' and 'Sion's Songs,' was at Creaton (I believe at the house of the venerable Thomas Jones), and was made remarkable by the following incident. When he entered the room in which several eminent ministers were assembled, Berridge, who was seated at the further end of the apartment in an arm chair, held out his hand in a friendly manner to the youthful minister to approach him. Mr. Housman took it; and Mr. Berridge drawing him nearer, rose up and kissed his forehead affectionately, exclaiming, in a quaint style of address peculiarly his own, 'You don't look like one of the devil's children ;' and then, after a brief pause, during which he surveyed him with profound interest, · Young man, you have had a famous pluck; and the name of Him that plucked you is Holdfast.''

Mr. Housman was accustomed, during his residence at Lancaster in 1785, to meet six or eight young men one evening in the week, for the purpose of expounding the Scriptures and conversing on the subjects thereby brought under notice :--

“In the course of one of the familiar conversations alluded to in the foregoing paragraph, Mr. Housman's opinions on a still contested point of divinity were distinctly expressed. Being requested to state his views on the subject of a sensible evidence of acceptance with God, his reply was this ; • William,' he exclaimed, I would venture my soul upon the truth of it. I question whether he would have said as much in later life, but I am sure he held the conviction no less positively; and few men have had greater reason to hold it. I ought, however, to add, and many of the letters in the following pages confirm the statement, that whilst he uncompromisingly maintained the fact of a direct witnessing of the Holy Spirit with the spirit of man, he was far from insisting upon the indispensableness of such internal testimony at all times and under all circumstances. A different policy has led many a pilgrim to the Slough of Despond, and left him there. It should be observed also, that in order to guard against delusion, he invariably connected the doctrine of a divinely attested assurance of pardon and adoption, with that of the witnessing of our own spirit, indicated by the habitual manifestation of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, meekness, gentleness, fidelity, humbleness, and temperance: 'In what way,' he asks, in one of his published sermons, "are you to expect the high consolation of a knowledge of acceptance ? Not by sudden impulses; not by having the animal feelings powerfully excited ; not by supposed lights or visions. Look for the rich blessings in the way of the Gospel ; by seeking to have your inward experience in agreement with the Word of God. If you find a real self-abhorrence on account of your sins; if you are ashamed and grieved that you have dishonoured by your iniquity the God of all grace and glory; if you are enabled to look simply to the Lamb of God to take away your transgressions ; if the Lord should give you great tenderness of conscience to avoid sin, and the occasions of sin ; if he should implant in your soul the love of His name, and of

His people, and of His ways, and cause, and commandments; you will have evidence--solid, scriptural, triumphant evidence--that the Lord hath put away your sin, and that you shall not die.' And in a manuscript of the year 1812, he thus advises on the same subject :- Perhaps you are seeking the manifestation of the mercy in a wrong way. You may be expecting to receive some sudden and strangely influential impression made upon your mind; some text of Scripture brought with power to your souls ; some joyous feeling, lifting you, as it were, above all fears, and placing you in a state of rapturous entrancement. I venture to advise you to seek the assurance of God's mercy (though I dare not presume to say how it may come to you) in a very different way. Seek it, by seeking those dispositions of the heart which none but the Lord can give ; which distinguish the people of God from the people of the world ; and with which the promises connect everlasting salvation. Seek, for instance, by diligence in the means, poverty of spirit; a contrite heart; a consciousness that you trust in Jesus ; a confidence that you really love Him ; a certainty that you prefer His favour before anything besides, and that you are unfeignedly endeavouring and praying that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. These are evidences which cannot deceive you : and in proportion as you attain them, you will have solid manifestations, perhaps extraordinary manifestations occasionally, of the Lord's special love to your souls.'

Mr. Housman, it appears, in his younger days preached extemporally, but relinquished the practice in compliance with the prejudices of his neighbours, who objected to it as Methodistic. The following passage is a little curious :

* Never once, during the whole of his ministerial labours, did he preach a sermon not of his own construction. “If a man cannot divide the Word of God himself,' he used to say, let him give up his pulpit to one who can; and if he can but won't, let him pray for an increase of faith and zeal.' Notwithstanding this opinion, however, he was invariably ready to lend his sermons to the more needy of his fellow ministers; and I have hundreds of manuscripts lying beside me, that have travelled up and down England from one country to another, for the last five and twenty or thirty years. Through the instrumentality of these itinerating discourses, how extensively has the influence of Mr. Housman's principles and experience been diffused ! Can it be doubted—composed as they were in dependence upon the Spirit of God—that the blessing of God has often followed them ? Indeed, in numberless instances I know that it has. I possess,' says a clergyman now resident in Kent, ' a series of his sermons written in 1798 and 1800. They interested me greatly when I heard them preached, and they have been the means of interesting others no less deeply. They have been heard by Bishops, Deans and Chapters, with various feelings; and have been taken down, whilst read, on several occasions. One of them was preached in King's College Chapel, Strand, last Sunday morning; I have reason to hope not in vain.''

"He rarely commenced his sermons until a Thursday evening, and had often to finish his afternoon's discourse after dinner on a Sunday. He wrote with extraordinary rapidity, and almost without an interlineation or erasure. The cleanness of his manuscripts, when the compactness and elegance of his style are taken into account, is surprising. It should, however, be added, that though written quickly, his sermons were the result of patient thought, as well as of fervent and continual prayer : that not only every sentiment, but (at least as regards the principal parts of his discourses) the precise words had a form and connection given them long before they were committed to paper. This habit may account for his successful imitation of the manner of extemporaneous preaching. Thoroughly acquainted as he was with every syllable in his manuscript, he had seldom occasion to cast bis eyes upon it; and it was curious to mark, as one sitting in the gallery had good opportunities of doing, how instinctively, as it were, he would turn over page after page exactly at the proper moment. The result was, a union of the several advantages which belong to extempore and written sermons respectively; the earnest and colloquial directness of the one-the more compressed, correct, and weighty significance of the other.”

(To be continued.)

« AnteriorContinuar »