« AnteriorContinuar »
ings may redound into your own bosom! Hereby your natural levity may be destroyed; your fondness for trifles cured ; your wrong tempers corrected; your evil habits weakened, until they are rooted out. And you will be prepared to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, in every future scene of life; only be very wary, if you visit or converse with those of the other sex, lest your affections be entangled, on one side or the other, and so you find a curse instead of a blessing.
9. Seeing then this is a duty to which we are called, rich and poor, young and old, male and female ; (and it would be well if parents would train up their children herein, as well as in saying their prayers and going to church ;) let the time past suffice, that almost all of us have neglected it, as by general consent. Oh what need has every one of us to say, “ Lord, forgive me my sins of omission!" Well, in the name of God, let us now from this day set about it with general consent. And I pray, let it never go out of your mind, that this is a duty which you cannot perform by proxy; unless in one only case ;-unless you are disabled by your own pain or weakness. In that only case, it suffices to send the relief which you would otherwise give. Begin, my dear brethren, begin now, else the impression which you now feel, will wear off; and, possibly, it may never return! What then will be the consequence? Instead of hearing that word, “Come, ye blessed ;-For I was sick, and ye visited me;" you must hear that awful sentence, “Depart ye cursed !-For I was sick, and ye visited me not !"
SERMON CIV.-The Reward of the Righteous.
Prcached before the Humane Society. “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," Matt. xxv, 34.
1. Reason alone will convince every fair inquirer, that God " is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” This alone teaches him to say, “Doubtless there is a reward for the righteous;" “there is a God that judgeth the earth.” But how little information do we receive from unassisted reason, touching the particulars contained in this general truth! As eye hath not seen, or ear heard, so neither could it naturally enter into our hearts to conceive the circumstances of that awful day, wherein God will judge the world. No information of this kind could be given, but from the great Judge himself. And what an amazing instance of condescension it is, that the Creator, the Governor, the Lord, the Judge of all, should deign to give us so clear and particular an account of that solemn transaction ! If the learned heathen acknowledged the sublimity of that account which Moses gives of the creation, what would he have said, if he had heard this account of the Son of man coming in his glory? Here, indeed, is no laboured pomp of words, no ornaments of language. This would not have suited either the speaker or the occasion. But what inexpressible dignity of thought ! see him “coming in the clouds of heaven; and all the angels with him !" See him “sitting on the throne of his glory, and all the nations gathered hefore him?" And shall he separate them, placing the good on his right
hand, and the wicked on his left ? “Then shall the King say.” -With what admirable propriety is the expression varied ! “The Son of man" comes down to judge the children of men. “ The King' distributes rewards and punishments to his obedient or rebellious subjects. “Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” 2. Prepared for you from the foundation of the world :"-But does
with the common supposition, that God created man merely to supply the vacant thrones of the rebel angels ? Does it not rather seem to imply, that he would have created man, though the angels bad never fallen? Inasmuch as he then prepared the kingdom for his human children, when he laid the foundation of the earth.
3. “Inherit the kingdom :”—as being“ heirs of God, and joint heirs” with his beloved Son. It is your right; seeing I have purchased “eternal redemption for all them that obey me:" and ye did obey me in the days of your flesh. Ye“ believed in the Father, and also in me.” Ye loved the Lord your God; and that love constrained you to love all mankind. Ye continued in the faith that wrought by lovė. Ye showed your faith' by your works. “For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink : I was a stranger and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and in prison, and ye came unto me."
4. But in what sense are we to understand the words that follow? “ Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and gave thee meat ? Or thirsty,
thee drink ?" They cannot be literally understood: they cannot answer in these very words; because it is not possible they should be ignorant, that God had really wrought by them. Is it not then manifest, that these words are to be taken in a figurative sense ? And can they imply any more, than that all which they have done will appear as nothing to them; will, as it were, vanish away, in view of what God their Saviour had done and suffered for them ?
5. But “the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me." What a declaration is this! Worthy to be had in everlasting remembrance. May the finger of the living God write it
all our hearts ! I would take occasion from hence, first, To make a few reflections on good works in general : secondly, To consider in particular that institution, for the promotion of which we are now assembled: and, in the third place, to make a short application.
I. 1. And first, I would make a few reflections upon good works in general.
I am not insensible, that many, even serious people, are jealous of all that is spoken upon this subject: nay, and whenever the necessity of good works is strongly insisted on, take for granted that he who speaks in this manner, is but one remove from popery. But should we, for fear of this or of any other reproach, refrain from speaking "the truth as it is in Jesus?” Should we, on any consideration, “shun to declare the whole counsel of God ?” Nay, if a false prophet could utter that solemn word, how much more may the ministers of Christ; We cannot go beyond the word of the Lord, to speak either more or less !" Vol. II.
It is now
2. Is it not to be lamented, that any who fear God should desire us to do otherwise? And that by speaking otherwise themselves, they should occasion the way of truth to be evil spoken of? I mean, in particular, the way of salvation by faith; which, on this very account, is despised, nay, had in abomination by many sensible men. abore forty years since this grand scriptural doctrine, " by grace ye are saved through faith,” began to be openly declared, by a few clergymen of the church of England. And not long after, some who heard, but did not understand, attempted to preach the same doctrine; but miserably mangled it; wresting the Scripture, and making void the law through faith."
3. Some of these, in order to exalt the value of faith, have utterly depreciated good works. They speak of them as not only not necessary to salvation, but as greatly obstructive to it. They represent them as abundantly more dangerous than evil ones, to those who are seeking to save their souls. One cries aloud, more people go to hell by praying than by thieving.” Another screams out, away with your works! Have done with your works, or you cannot come to Christ!” And this unscriptural, irrational, heathenish declamation, is called, preaching the gospel!
4. But “shall not the Judge of all the earth” speak, as well as “ do right ?” Will not “ he be justified in his saying, and clear when he is judged ?" Assuredly he will. And upon his authority we must continue to declare, that whenever you do good to any for his sake; when you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty; when you assist the stranger, or clothe the naked; when you visit them that are sick or in prison; these are not splendid sins, as one marvellously calls them, but * sacrifices wherewith God is well pleased.”
5. Not that our Lord intended, we should confine our beneficence to the bodies of men. He undoubtedly designed that we should be equally abundant in works of spiritual mercy. He died " to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of all good works:" zealous above all, ta “save souls froin death," and thereby “ hide a multitude of sins.“ And this is unquestionably included in St. Paul's exhortation; “As we have time, let us do good unto all men:" good in every possible kind, as well as in every possible degree. But why does not our blessed Lord mention works of spiritual mercy? He could not do it with any propriety. It was not for him to say, “ I was in error, and ye convinced me; I was in sin, and ye brought me back to God.” And it needed not ; for in mentioning some he included all works of mercy,
6. But may I not add one thing more? (only he that heareth, let him understand :) good works are so far from being hinderances of our salvation; they are so far from being insignificant, from being of no account in Christianity, that supposing them to spring from a right principle, they are the perfection of religion. They are the highest part of that spiritual building, whereof Jesus Christ is the foundation. To those, who attentively consider the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, it will be undeniably plain that what St. Paul there describes as the highest of all Christian graces, is properly and directly the love of our neighbour. And to him who attentively considers the whole tenor both of the Old and New Testament, it will be equally plain, that works springing from this love are the highest part of ihe religion therein revealed. Of these our Lord himself says, " Hereby is my Fa ther glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit." Much fruit! Does not the very expression imply the excellency of what is so termed ? Is not the tree itself for the sake of the fruit ? By bearing fruit, and by this alone, it attains the highest perfection it is capable of, and answers the end for which it was planted. Who, what is he then, that is called a Christian, and can speak lightly of good works ?
II. 1. From these general reflections, I proceed to consider that institution in particular, for the promotion of which we are now assem bled. And in doing this, I shall, first, observe the rise of this institution: secondly, the success : and, thirdly, the excellency of it: after which you will give me leave to make a short application.
I. On the first head, the rise of this institution, I may be very brief, as a great part of you know it already.
1. One would wonder (as an ingenious writer observes) that such an institution as this, of so deep importance to mankind, should appear so late in the world. Have we any thing wrote upon the subject, earlier than the tract published at Rome, in the year 1637 ? And did not the proposal then sleep for many years? Were there any more than one or iwo attempts, and those not effectually pursued, till the year 1700? By what steps it has been since revived and carried into execution, we are now to inquire.
2. I cannot give you a clearer view of this, than by presenting you with a short extract from the introduction to the “ Plan and Reports of the Society," published two years ago.
“Many and indubitable are the instances of the possibility of restoring to life persons apparently struck with sudden death, whether by an apoplexy, convulsive fits, noxious vapours, strangling or drowning. Cases of this nature have occurred in every country. But they were considered and neglected, as extraordinary phenomena, from which no salutary consequence could be drawn.
3. “ At length, a few benevolent gentlemen in Holland conjectured, that some at least might have been saved, had proper means been used in time; and formed themselves into a society, in order to make a trial. Their attempts succeeded far beyond their expectations. Many were restored who must otherwise have perished. And they were, at length, enabled to extend their plan over the seven provinces.
“Their success instigated other countries to follow their example In the year 1768, the magistrates of health, at Milan and Venice, issued orders for the treatment of drowned persons. The city of Hamburgh appointed a similar ordinance to be read in all the churches. In the year 1769, the empress of Germany published an edict extending its directions and encouragements to every case that afforded a possibility of relief. In the year 1771, the magistrates of Paris founded an institution in favour of the drowned.
4. “In the year 1773, Dr. Cogan translated the memoirs of the society at Amsterdam, in order to inform our countrymen of the practicability of recovering persons apparently drowned and Mr. Hawes uniting with him, these gentlemen proposed a plan for a similar institution in these kingdoms. They were soon enabled to form a society for this excellent purpose.
The plan is this: “I. The society will publish, in the most extensive manner possible, the proper methods of treating persons in such circumstances.
“II. They will distribute a premium of two guineas among the first persons who attempt to recover any one taken out of the water as dead. And this reward will be given, even if the attempt is unsuccessful, provided it has been pursued two hours, according to the method laid down by the society.
“III. They will distribute a premium of four guineas, where the person is restored to life.
“IV. They will give one guinea to any that admits the body into his house without delay, and furnishes the necessary accommodations.
“V. A number of medical gentlemen living near the places where these disasters commonly happen, will give their assistance gratis."
II. Such was the rise of this admirable institution. With what success has it been attended, is the point which I purpose, in the next place, very briefly to consider.
And it must be allowed to be, not only far greater than those who despised it had imagined, but greater than the most sanguine expectations of the gentlemen who were immediately engaged in it.
In the short space, from its first establishment in May 1774, to the end of December, eight persons, seemingly dead, were restored to life.
In the year 1775, forty-seven were restored to life: thirty-two of them by the direct encouragement and assistance of the gentlemen of this society; and the rest, by medical gentlemen and others, in consequence of their method of treatment being generally known.
In the year 1776, forty-one persons were restored to life, by the assistance of this society. And eleven cases of those who had been restored elsewhere, were communicated to them.
So the number of lives preserved and restored, in two years and a half, since their first institution, amounts to one hundred and seven! Add to these, those that have been since restored, and out of two hundred and eighty-four persons, who were dead, to all appearance, no less than a hundred and fifty-seven have been restored to life! Such is the success, which has attended them in so short a time. Such a blessing has the gracious providence of God given to this infant undertaking.
III. 1. It remains only to show the excellency of it. And this may appear from one single consideration : This institution unites together in one, all the various acts of mercy. The several works of charity mentioned above are all contained in this. It comprises all corporeal (if I may so speak) and all spiritual benefits; all the instances of kindness which can be shown either to the bodies or souls of men. To show this beyond all contradiction, there needs no studied eloquence, no rhetorical colouring, but simply and nakedly to relate the thing as it is.
2. The thing attempted, and not only attempted, but actually performed, (so has the goodness of God prospered the labours of these lovers of mankind!) is no less, in a qualified sense, than restoring life to the dead. Is it any wonder then, that the generality of men should at first ridicule such an undertaking ? That they should imagine the persons, who aimed at any such thing, must be utterly out of their senses ? Indeed one of old said, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead ?" Cannot he, who bestowed life at first, just as well bestow it again ? But it may well be thought a thing incredible, that man should raise the dead. For no human power can create life. And what human power can restore