Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tary on the Holy Scriptures, to be selected from our first English Divines, with as many Notes of my own as I thought proper to insert. But when I had made a beginning, I heard he had been “cursing” Ostervald's Bible; which so much grieved me, that I determined not to furnish him with another Note on any terms he might offer. I knew that the exercise would have improved my own mind, and that I should have received above one hundred pounds for my labour ; but I could not with a good conscience work for a man who had “cursed” the Holy Scriptures.

A gentleman of Stourbridge, who had fallen into the snare of infidelity by mixing with infidels on the Continent of Europe, invited me to join him at supper one evening. He had heard my friend Blackett with much pleasure, but had not been able to conquer his doubts as to the doctrines of Christianity. I endeavoured to remove those doubts, and directed him to “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” At length he proposed a question that I could not answer, and I told him honestly that he had set me fast. I returned to my lodgings with a heavy heart, thinking I had disgraced the cause of truth by my ignorance; but it afterwards appeared I was much mistaken. My silence, when pressed by an argument I could not answer, increased his confidence in me; and he was pleased to say in his journal, which I saw after his death, that he had found a man who would not deceive him, and who would not say anything that he could not prove. I was prepared to answer his query at our next interview. The result was, he turned to God, and died in the faith.

Our friends in Burslem gave us an invitation to their Circuit, and the Conference sent us thither in the year 1808. Mr. George Button was with me the first year, and Mr. George Baldwin the second. We spent two happy years. At the end of our second year, and while I was at the London Conference, Mr. Baldwin died in the Lord. He was a most affectionate friend, a zealous and useful preacher, and greatly beloved by all who knew him. Here I published a second edition of my “Short SERMONS,” and a thousand copies were soon

sold.

In this Circuit excessive labour brought on an alarming attack of illness; but I soon recovered. We preached three times every Lord's Day, and often walked fifty or sixty miles in a week, besides all our other duties. The evening of my seizure I had walked twelve miles, and preached to a good congregation.

religious families, they may, also, like Burder's Village Sermons, be profitably used by those who are in the habit of visiting country-villages for religious worship on Sabbath evenings.

So much have they been approved by some pious clergymen, that it is said they have occasionally preached them in their churches.

(To be concluded.)

DIVINITY.

THE SUBSTANCE OF A SERMON, PREACHED IN OLDHAM-STREET CHAPEL, MANCHESTER, MAY 7ra,

1849, ON OCCASION OF THE DEATH OF JAMES WOOD, ESQ., of GROVE-HOUSE:

BY THE REV. GEORGE OSBORN.* “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him."-1 Thessalonians v. 9, 10.

I APPEAR in this place, not in virtue of any arrangement or contrivance of my own, but notwithstanding an earnest and repeatedly expressed desire on my part that this service might devolve upon other and abler persons. But the wishes of those most nearly connected with our deceased friend were, in this case, a law to me; and I have accordingly undertaken, though with great reluctance, occasioned by a painful sense of insufficiency, this mournful duty. In submitting to undertake it, I have been greatly encouraged by the hope that your prayers for me will not be wanting; that we shall together seek and find “grace to help in " this “time of need.” In humble dependence upon that promised “help,” let us now address ourselves to the subject.

The sense of our text may be comprised in three propositions :I. The salvation to which believers are appointed is obtained through a dying Saviour. II. One essential part of it consists in their living together with Him. III. This fellowship between Christ and believers is neither destroyed, suspended, nor otherwise interfered with, by death. Of these we shall proceed to speak, in an inverted order ; and to illustrate, defend, and apply them, as we may be able.

I. And first of the last : Our Lord Jesus “ died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”

To understand the Apostle correctly, it will be necessary to bear in mind that he is now concluding a discourse which he begins at verse 13 of the foregoing chapter. On reading from that verse, it will be apparent that here, as in other places, he uses the same words in different senses. We have “sleep,” in chap. v. 7, in the most ordinary and obvious sense. “They that sleep, sleep in the night;" but in the previous verses, the night, sleep, and watching, are all used figuratively, with reference to moral and spiritual subjects ;—the night is the darkness of heathenism ; the sleep, spiritual insensibility and

* The Funeral Sermon was preached in Oxford-Road Chapel, on Sunday morning, May 6th, by the Rev. Dr. BUNTING, the early and ever-valued friend of MR. Wood. Dr. Bunting feeling unable to conduct a second Service in the evening of the following day, MR, Osborn delivered the Discourse which we have the pleasure of publishing, and which is here given, as the writer desires to be stated, in deference to the feeling of those whose request he considers imperative._Edits.

VOL. VI.-FOURTII SERIES.

[ocr errors]

unprofitableness. “We are not of the night, nor of darkness :" (verse 5. Comp. Rom. xiii. 11 and 12 :) q. d., “God hath granted to us the advantage of Divine revelation. While we lived in ignorance of Him and of ourselves, it was not surprising that we were carnal and secure. But that state of things is at an end; the true light now shines upon us, and we are expected to conduct ourselves accordingly.” “Let us not sleep, as do others ;” but, awaking to a sense of our privileges and responsibilities, let us maintain a constant struggle against the benumbing influence of worldly things, and the sensual tendencies of our nature : let us “awake, and keep awake."

At the beginning and end of this section, “sleep” is put for death, in accordance with a common usage of the sacred writers. Thus Job, (chap. xiv. 12,) “ Till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.” Thus Nathan to David, (2 Sam. vii. 12,) “When thy days be fulfilled, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers;”—and the writers of the Books of Kings and Chronicles repeatedly. Thus also, at a later period, the propbet Daniel, (chap. xii. 2,) « Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” The New Testament adopts the image so often employed in the Old. “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.” (John xi. 11.) “When he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts vii. 60.) “Many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” (1 Cor. xi. 30.) And in the immediate context, -"I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them wbich are asleep," (iv. 13,)—“them which sleep in Jesus,” (verse 14,)—“we which are alive shall not prevent them which are asleep.” (Verse 15.) The propriety and elegance of this figure are obvious. Their senses are sealed up; they are removed from all participation in the activities of life; their society is lost to us, but not for ever. Sleep is a temporary state ; and, to the believer in Divine Revelation, death is no more. When it is sought, however, to extend the meaning of this phrase to the whole man, a serious difficulty arises. That which, in its application to the body, is an elegant figure, ceases to be a figure at all, and becomes, as nearly as possible, a literal description, when applied to the immaterial part of our nature. And, except the express teaching of Scripture or the analogy of faith require it, we may not deal thus even with the metaphors of inspired writers.

But does the express teaching of Scripture require us thus to explain, or rather to confuse, this figure? Far from it. It is not even pretended that the sleep of the soul is anywhere expressly taught. All that is affirmed is, that the point is left unsettled ; and the main strength of the other side is accordingly spent in explaining away the Scriptures upon which we rely.

Again, we may inquire, Is there any great doctrine of our religion which cannot be maintained intact, except on the supposition of the sleep of the soul ? And, again, the answer must be, No. A late influential writer * argues, that a particular view of the day of judg

* A View of the Scripture Revelations concerning a Future State, 5th Ed., 1842, ment is incompatible with the belief of an intermediate state of consciousness; but he carefully avoids identifying this particular view with the scriptural doctrine of a day of judgment. Being under no necessity, therefore, of departing from the line of interpretation which has been so long followed, we prefer to stand in the old path, where alone, in this and in many other instances, we can “find rest for our souls,”

But still the question returns, Why introduce a figure at all? What is to preclude us from understanding the phrase, not with reference to the body, but as denoting the unconscious state of the soul, out of which it is to emerge at the resurrection ? And the reply is furnished by our text; which is unintelligible, not to say misleading, upon the supposition we are now considering. “That, whether we wake,” that is, live on earth; “or sleep,” that is, fall into unconsciousness; “we should live together with Him;" that is, as the words plainly denote, at the same time and place with, and in the society of, our Lord Jesus Christ. But to speak of living together with One of whose presence you are not conscious, and with whom you have no intercourse, would be absurd. An unconscious human being may exist in your presence, may lie under your cognizance; and so may the remains of extinct species of animals : but is this kind of relation to Christ, think you, what the Apostle describes as the “salvation" which believers are “appointed to obtain ?” And, let it be remarked, not only does the literal interpretation of this word "sleep" vitiate the phraseology of the text, and reduce our “living together with Him” to an empty sound; but it perverts the scope of the passage. St. Paul's object was to console his brethren. (Verse 11.) He exhorts them to put on “ for an helmet the hope of salvation," and exhibits the privileges of believers with this view. If, however, the soul sleeps at death, there is not until the resurrection any distinction between the righteous and the wicked. The enemies of our Lord, though “appointed to wrath,” are on an exact equality with those appointed to salvation,-each equally living together with Christ in the separate state ; and the consolation which these pious and suffering Thessalonians were to administer to each other amounts to this,—that in a short time they would be alike incapable of pleasure and pain.

Some interpreters, indeed, admit that the word “sleep” is a figure to denote death, but do not perceive any reference to a separate state in the text. “Whether we wake or sleep,” they would paraphrase by, “Whether we are alive or dead at His second coming." But the words appear most naturally to express a continuous state of life, rather than a life suddenly and miraculously restored ; and we accordingly prefer the exposition already given. The sense thus rises as the Apostle proceeds :- At first he warns them against supposing that the living saints should have any advantage over the departed at Christ's return; and here, secondly, he prevents the fear that they should be separated from Christ until the resurrection, and assures them that they should live with Him on their departure hence.

unprofitableness. “We are not of the night, nor of darkness :" (verse 5. Comp. Rom. xiii. 11 and 12:) q. d., “God hath granted to us the advantage of Divine revelation. While we lived in ignorance of Him and of ourselves, it was not surprising that we were carnal and secure. But that state of things is at an end; the true light now shines upon us, and we are expected to conduct ourselves accordingly.” “Let us not sleep, as do others;” but, awaking to a sense of our privileges and responsibilities, let us maintain a constant struggle against the benumbing influence of worldly things, and the sensual tendencies of our nature : let us “awake, and keep awake.”

At the beginning and end of this section, “sleep” is put for death, in accordance with a common usage of the sacred writers. Thus Job, (chap. xiv. 12,) “ Till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.” Thus Nathan to David, (2 Sam. vii. 12,) “When thy days be fulfilled, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers ;'—and the writers of the Books of Kings and Chronicles repeatedly. Thus also, at a later period, the propbet Daniel, (chap. xii. 2,) “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” The New Testament adopts the image so often employed in the Old. “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.” (John xi. 11.) “Wlien he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts vii. 60.) “Many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” (1 Cor. xi. 30.) And in the immediate context,-"I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep," (iv. 13,—"them which sleep in Jesus,” (verse 14,)-" we which are alive shall not prevent them which are asleep.” (Verse 15.) The propriety and elegance of this figure are obvious. Their senses are sealed up; they are removed from all participation in the activities of life; their society is lost to us, but not for ever. Sleep is a temporary state ; and, to the believer in Divine Revelation, death is no more. When it is sought, however, to extend the meaning of this phrase to the whole man, a serious difficulty arises. That which, in its application to the body, is an elegant figure, ceases to be a figure at all, and becomes, as nearly as possible, a literal description, when applied to the immaterial part of our nature. And, except the express teaching of Scripture or the analogy of faith require it, we may not deal thus even with the metaphors of inspired writers.

But does the express teaching of Scripture require us thus to explain, or rather to confuse, this figure? Far from it. It is not even pretended that the sleep of the soul is anywhere expressly taught. All that is affirmed is, that the point is left unsettled ; and the main strength of the other side is accordingly spent in explaining away the Scriptures upon which we rely.

Again, we may inquire, Is there any great doctrine of our religion which cannot be maintained intact, except on the supposition of the sleep of the soul ? And, again, the answer must be, No. A late influential writer * argues, that a particular view of the day of judg

* A View of the Scripture Revelations concerning a Future State, 5th Ed., 1842,

« AnteriorContinuar »