Imágenes de páginas

insists upon

manifests Christianity as the wisdom of God, and the power of God; setting it forth as a doctrine of grace, displaying the riches of infinite mercy adapted to meet and to remove the guilt and misery of man as an apostate and immortal creature, and who fearlessly

those truths which are best calculated to penetrate his conscience, and to humble his intellectual and moral pride, is, in my view, the noblest benefactor of his species. And if all the pulpits of the land resounded with these glorious and heartsearching doctrines, delivered with an earnest spirit, and a practical application ; infidelity would gnash its teeth in despair ; its orators and oracles would be dumb, or would speak only to excite commisseration and contempt. Human nature, in its fallen state, finds the gospel in exact accordance with its moral and spiritual necessities. Atheism is opposed not only to its reason but to its instincts; and, therefore, in every condition, man has recognized the existence of a God. He has also an insuperable dread of annihilation ; a desire, ardent and irrepressible, of prolonging his existence after the present life; while a sense of guilt, engraven on his conscience, renders death an object of terrifying apprehension.

My brethren, it is this union of a God acknowledged but unknown, of an immortality admitted, yet clouded over with a fearful looking for of impending and deserved judgment, that constitutes the very essence of human wretchedness; and it is for this the gospel exhibits an adequate and efficient remedy. Where this is perceived and felt, the evidence of its divinity breaks in upon the astonished and adoring spirit. God is revealed, life and immortality are brought to light; pardon is assured; condemnation is reversed; and there springs up in the bosom a joy unspeakable and full of glory, the pledge and the foretaste of everlasting felicity in Heaven. It was thus that our Lord brought conviction into the heart of the woman of Samaria. He intimated to her, that a knowledge of the benevolence of the Eternal Father, displayed in the gift of his Son; and of the character of that Son, as the source and giver of all spiritual and immortal good, would lay the foundation of her happiness ; for that its immediate effect would be a devout spirit of grace and supplication on her part, and a prompt and munificent attention to the earnestness of her request on his :-“ If,” said he, “ thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water,"—that is, if thou knewest the gift of God, or the benevolence which he has displayed in the gift of his Son ; and if thou knewest the character of his Son, thou wouldest have made application to him for living water,---for the influences of his Holy Spirit, to sanctify and to bless you with a perennial stream of holiness and joy. It was this knowledge graciously imparted to her, together with a penetrating glance into her moral condition as a sinner, that was effectual to her conversion, and induced her to rouse the men of her city, exclaiming—“ Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did :-is not this the Christ ?" And, my brethren, we may confidently assert, that it is the manifestation of Christ, as the special gift of infinite love, as the condescending partaker of our nature and our sorrows, as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and the Author of our eternal salvation, that is the grand argument for establishing the truth of his religion in the heart, in instances where all the other arguments and evidences put together might fail to obtain for it even the cold assent of the understanding. Nothing could so powerfully convince us of the existence of an angel, as his visible appearance in all the glories of his celestial nature! And what more convincing proof can we require of the divine mission of Jesus of Nazareth, than his manifestation, in all the grandeur of his divinity, in all the meekness of his mercy, in all the omnipotence of his love? The Gospel is this manifestation; and when it is fully displayed, in its simplicity and extent, it so alarms the conscience and moves the affections, that multitudes exclaim,Is not this the Christ?” Other arguments may convince; this does more, -it convinces and reclaims; it enlightens the judgment and renews the heart; it turns the sinner from the error of his ways; and thus furnishes a new evidence of its power, in " a living epistle of Christ, known and read of all men."

Again, we may observe of this species of evidence, that as it necessarily involves an exhibition of the essential and distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel, so it is accompanied with that measure of divine influence which the Saviour has pledged himself to vouchsafe, as the attestation of his presence and power in the diffusion of his religion. Reasoning alone never yet formed a true Christian.

The philosophy of Christianity, its metaphysics, and its external evidence, might be dwelt upon for centuries, and investigated with intense interest by millions of minds; and yet not one of them all would by these means be converted to Christ. Only the truths which convey the knowledge of salvation are ever attended with a saving efficacy: and this efficacy is not to be sought in the truths themselves, but in the influence of that Holy Spirit whose divine agency accompanies them, as "a spirit of knowledge, of understanding, and of might, and of the fear of the Lord." Christianity, as a system, is indeed founded on argument, and shrinks not


divine energy:


from the closest examination of its pretensions. If, in this view, it were not founded on argument, it would be ill adapted to the human mind; and could have no other than a miraculous existence in the individuals to whom it might be supernaturally revealed. But as a religion of power, carrying forward the great designs of the moral government of God in the redemption of mankind, it is indebted for its progress and success,-not to human reason, but to

" Thy people are made willing in the day of thy power.” They are made willing, not by coercion, but influence ; and the truths of the Gospel are the medium through, and the instrument by which it operates. There is no essential moral difference between the mere speculative believer and the unbeliever of Christianity. It is this Divine influence, renovating the spirit, and moulding it into new forms, of which it was before unsusceptible, and which no reasoning, argumentation or persuasion, could have effected, which constitutes the grand distinction between the true follower of Christ and every other description of character. Whatever, therefore, in the shape of evidence, is most favourable to the exercise of this discriminating and supernatural influence, must be of the greatest value and importance : and such is that evidence which exhibits the Gospel as its own witness, and derives its greatest force from its distinguishing and peculiar doctrines.

In further strengthening this position, I remark, finally, that the species of evidence for the superiority of which I am contending, converts every individual believer, who feels its power, into a dispenser of the blessings with which it has enriched him. It is one thing to be reasoned into a persuasion that Christianity is from heaven ; another, to imbibe its holy and beneficent spirit, to feel its worth, and to be zealous in making it known. The first impression produced by a cordial reception of the Gospel, is a profound sense of the value of the discovery, as it affects our own prospects and destiny: a sentiment of devout, animated, and humble gratitude to its divine Author and glorious subject : the second, an intense desire to benefit others by the celestial communication. What a dreary and appalling spectacle does the moral state of the world present to one who is powerfully affected by a contemplation of its alienation from God, its ignorance, guilt, and ruin! How degraded to his view is the lot of his fellow-immortals! how sunk in abject wretchedness is the whole family of man! The impulse of principle is excited. Its ardent benevolence reveals itself in prayer, and in an instant determination to put forth all its energy, if possible, to awaken the dead in trespasses and sins ; to rouse the torpid sluggish soul to a painful conviction of its danger, and to bring to bear upon its hopes and fears all the glories and terrors of eternity. With the mission of the holy Jesus is associated in the bosom of the new preacher of temperance, righteousness, and judgment to come, all that can secure emancipation from the curse which blights and withers wherever it has fallen : and a perfect enjoyment of a state of blessedness which infinitely transcends the loftiest anticipations of an immortal nature. Sincerity and benevolence, the result of the experience of this blessedness, even in its lowest measures, impart solemnity and earnestness to his manner, voice, and gesture, while fraught with the tenderest compassion, he says to his reluctant friends and neighbours, " • Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?' Come, behold him in the sanctuary, where I have beheld his power and glory. Come, and see the trophies of his grace, the wonders of his redeeming power and mercy. Come, for unless you see him for yourself, and not another, you will remain unblest by the manifestation of his love, which passeth knowledge. He is the Christ, the Saviour of the world ; believe in him, for he is able to save to the uttermost. O hear his voice, as I have heard it! Even now the enchanting sounds linger on my ear, like the melody of heaven-Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' O listen—now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.' Hear him, hear him for yourself; rely not on my testimony alone. Arise, he calleth thee-even now his heart yearns over your misery. “Is not this the Christ?' O come see the man ! Behold him, bright with his Father's glory : behold him touched with the sympathy of your own nature, yet undefiled—the man without sin, overflowing with love to sinners. Come, and faith will make you whole. The good Shepherd is ready to enfold you in his arms, to number you with his flock, and to lead you to green pastures, and beside the still waters of comfort : wander no more. In him there is life---everlasting life. Come, and let experience prove his wondrous power to save.

My brethren, to a heart thus warmed by the sacred glow of divine philanthropy, how exquisite the pleasure of success! Is not this the Christ? Is there one, one only, to whom the intimation is welcome ? One that is arrested in his career of guilt and woe. In a moment, the satisfaction of the Saviour flows into the bosom of the disciple, and his joy breaks forth in the accents of humble, adoring gratitude.

To this spirit, Christianity was mainly indebted for its early and amazing triumphs. Every new convert became, under its influence, invested with the character of an evangelist. Thousands thus took up the burthen of John the Baptist, and addressing their fellow-men, exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world !" And thus, by the same simple means, will the gospel gain the victories of the Millennium. The decay of this spirit is the decline of religion. Where it is no longer cherished, the gospel, instead of advancing, retires. When ministers of the sanctuary suffer themselves to be drawn away from its simplicity and energy, they may be learned, they may be orthodox, they may even be popular, but they will lose their reward. They will not, they cannot, win souls to Christ. When congregations and churches forget the claims of their Redeemer and Lord, and leave the task of evangelizing to those only who are clothed with the sacred office—the great end of their conversion, and of their continuance upon earth, is defeated. They are “cumberers of the ground.” We may

well suspect the sincerity of their profession, the genuineness of their faith; they believe—but not with the heart; they admit the truth of the gospel—but have never been penetrated by the power of that wonderful evidence of its infinite value, which renders it the all-absorbing consideration of their moral being, the perpetual theme of their converse, the object of their unwearied solicitude. The demonstration of the Spirit, is the only demonstration which sends its converts throughout the world, each exclaiming, " Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did : is not this the Christ ?" What may not we anticipate, when this spirit shall again animate the bosoms of Christians!” What good was instrumentally effected by the woman of Samaria ! Her single efforts roused a whole city, and multitudes listened to her earnest persuasions, and felt the power which bowed and sanctified her heart.

In conclusion, I have only two observations to offer, as practical inferences from all that I have advanced.

The first is, that Christianity is a religion of truth, and that it is the duty and privilege of all who are favoured with it as a revelation, to investigate its pretensions. You cannot neglect this, and be guiltless; you cannot neglect it, and be happy. Some are deterred from pursuing the inquiry, because it can lead to no higher result than faith ;but faith, invigorated by an increasing knowledge of the truths of the gospel, becomes at length the “ substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” The certainty which it brings to the heart by the power of moral evidence, is equal to that which is brought to the senses by the most incontrovertible facts which fall under their cognizance. Those who contemn faith ought to remember, that it is faith that will either save or destroy them. If you do not believe Christianity to be true, you must

« AnteriorContinuar »