Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

hath hardened our hearts. If we do not soon recover from this, we shall be “past feeling," and our consciences (as St. Paul speaks) will be " seared as with a hot iron."

18. I have now only to add a few important directions. The first great point is this: Suppose we have a tender conscience, how shall we preserve it? I believe there is only one possible way of doing this, which is, to obey it. Every act of disobedience tends to blind and deaden it; to put out its eyes, that it may not see the good and the acceptable will of God; and to deaden the heart, that it may not feel self condemnation, when we act in opposition to it. And on the contrary, every act of obedience gives to the conscience a sharper and stronger sight, and a quicker feeling of whatever offends the glorious majesty of God. Therefore, if you desire to have your conscience always quick to discern, and faithful to accuse or excuse you ; if

you
would

preserve it always sensible and tender; be sure to obey it at all events : continually listen to its admonitions, and steadily follow them. Whatever it directs you to do, according to the word of God, do; however grievous to flesh and blood. Whatever it forbids, if the prohibition be grounded on the word of God, see you do it not; however pleasing it may be to flesh and blood. The one or the other may frequently be the case.

What God forbids may be pleasing to our evil nature. There you are called to deny yourself, or you deny your Master. What he enjoins may be painful to nature: there take up your cross. So true is our Lord's word: “Except a man deny himself, and take up bis cross daily, he cannot be my disciple.”

19. I cannot conclude this discourse better, than with an extract from Dr. Annesley's sermon on “ Universal Conscientiousness."*

"Be persuaded to practice the following directions, and your conscience will continue right:

1. “ Take heed of every sin : count no sin small; and obey every command with your might. Watch against the first risings of sin, and beware of the borders of sin. Shun the very appearance of evil. Venture not upon temptations or occasions of sin.

2. "Consider yourself as living under God's eye: live as in the sensible presence of the jealous God. Remember, all things are naked

before him! You cannot deceive him ; for he is infinite wisdom : you cannot fly from him ; for he is every where : you cannot bribe him; for he is righteousness itself! Speak as knowing God hears you: walk, as knowing God besets you on every side. The Lord is with you, while you are with him : that is, you shall enjoy his favourable presence, while you live in his awful presence. 3. "Be serious and frequent in the examination of your

heart and life. There are some duties like those parts of the body, the want of which may be supplied by other parts ; but the want of these nothing can supply. Every evening review your carriage through the day; what you have done or thought, that was unbecoming your character : whether your heart has been instant upon religion, and indifferent to the world? Have a special care of two portions of time; namely, morning and evening: the morning to forethink what you have to do; and the evening, to examine, whether you have done what you ought ? * Dr. Annesley (my mother's father) was rector of the parish of Cripplegate.

and open

4 "Let every action have reference to your whole life, and not to a part only. Let all your subordinate ends be suitable to the great end of your living. 'Exercise yourself unto godliness. Be as diligent in religion, as thou wouldst have thy children that go to school be in learning. Let thy whole life be a preparation for heaven, like the preparation of wrestlers for the combat.

5. “ Do not venture on sin, because Christ hath purchased a pardon : that is a most horrible abuse of Christ. For this very reason there was no sacrifice under the law for any wilful sin ; lest people should , think they knew the price of sins, as those do who deal in popish indulgences.

6. “Be nothing in your own eyes : for what is it, alas, that we have to be proud of! Our very conception was sinful; our birth painful; our life toilsome; our death we know not what! But all this is nothing to the state of our soul. If we know this, what excuse have we for pride?

7. Consult duty; not events. We have nothing to do but to mind our duty. All speculations that tend not to holiness are among your superfluities : but forebodings of what may befall you in doing your duty, may be reckoned among your sins: and to venture upon sin to avoid danger, is to sink the ship for fear of pirates. Oh how quiet, as well as holy would our lives be, had we learned that single lesson, To be careful for nothing, but to do our duty, and leave all consequencess to God! What madness for silly dust to prescribe to infinite Wisdom! To let go our work, and meddle with God's! He hath managed the concerns of the world, and of every individual person in it, without giving cause of complaint to any, for above these five thousand years. And does he now need your counsel ? Nay, it is your business to mind your own duty.

8. “What advice you would give another, take yourself: the worst of men are apt enough to lay burdens on others, which if they would take on themselves, they would be rare Christians.

9. “Do nothing on which you cannot pray for a blessing. Every action of a Christian that is good, is sanctified by the word and prayer. It becomes not a Christian to do any thing so trivial, that he cannot pray over it. And if he would but bestow serious ejaculation on every occurrent action, such a prayer would cut off all things sinful, and encourage all things lawful.

10.“ Think, and speak, and do what you are persuaded Christ himself would do in your case, were he on earth. It becomes a Christian rather to be an example, than to follow one. But by imitating Christ, you become an example to all, who was, and is, and ever will be, our absolute pattern. Oh Christians, how did Christ pray, and redeem time for prayer ! How did Christ preach, out of whose mouth proceeded no other but gracious words! What time did Christ spend in impertinent discourse! How did Christ go up and down, doing good to men, and what was pleasing to God! Beloved, I commend to you these four memorials : 1. Mind duty: 2. What is the duty of another in your case, is vour own: 3. Do not meddle with any thing, if you cannot say, The blessing of the Lord be upon it: 4. Above all, sooner forget your Christian nan ', than forget to eye Christ! Whatever treatment you meet with from the world, remember him and follow his steps, 'who did no

sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Who when he was reviled, reviled not again: but committed himself to him that judgeth rightcously.

SERMON CXI.-On Faith.

• Without faith it is impossible to please him," Heb. xi, 6.

[ocr errors]

1. But what is Faith? It is a divine “evidence and conviction of things not seen :" of things which are not seen now, whether they are visible or invisible in their own nature. Particularly, it is a divine evidence and conviction of God, and of the things of God. This is the most comprehensive definition of faith that ever was or can be given; as including every species of faith, from the lowest to the highest. And yet I do not remember any eminent writer, that has given a full and clear account of the several sorts of it, among all the verbose and tedious treatises which have been published upon the subject.

2. Something indeed of a similar kind has been written by that great and good man, Mr. Fletcher, in his 'Treatise on the various Dispensations of the Grace of God. Herein he observes, that there are four dispensations that are distinguished from each other, by the degree of light which God vouchsafes to them that are under each. A small degree of light is given to those that are under the heathen dispensation. These generally believed,“ that there was a God, and that he was a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” But a far more considerable degree of light was vouchsafed to the Jewish nation ; in as much as to them

were entrusted” the grand means of light, “the oracles of God.” Hence many of these had clear and exalted views of the nature and attributes of God; of their duty to God and man; yea, and of the great promise made to our first parents, and transmitted by them to their posterity, That “the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head.”

3. But above both the heathen and Jewish dispensation was that of John the Baptist. To him a still clearer light was given; and he was himself“ a burning and a shining light." To whom it was given, to "behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." Accordingly our Lord himself affirms, that“ of all which had been born of women,” there had not till that time arisen"

a greater than John the Baptist.” But nevertheless he informs us, "He that is least in the kingdom of God,” the Christian dispensation," is greater than he.” By one that is under the Christian dispensation, Mr. Fletcher means, one that has received the Spirit of adoption ; that has the Spirit of God witnessing“ with his spirit, that he is a child of God."

In order to explain this still farther, I will endeavour, by the help of God,

First, To point out the several sorts of faith: and, secondly, To draw some practical inferences.

I. In the first place, I will endeavour to point out the several sorts of faith. It would be easy, either to reduce these to a smaller number, or to divide them into a greater. But it does not appear that this would answer any valuable purpose.

1. The lowest sort of faith, if it be any faith at all, is that of a materialist: a man who, like the late lord Kames, believes there is nothing but matter in the universe. I say, if it be any faith at all; for, properly speaking, it is not. It is not“ an evidence or conviction of God,” for they do not belleve there is any : neither is it “a conviction of things not seen ;" for they deny the existence of such. Or if, for decency's sake, they allow there is a God, yet they suppose even him to be material. For one of their maxims is, Jupiter est quodcunque vides." “Whatever you see, is God.” Whatever you see! A visible, tangible god ! Excellent divinity! Exquisite nonsense!

2. The second sort of faith, if you allow a materialist to have any, is the faith of a deist. I mean, one who believes there is a God, distinct from matter ; but does not believe the Bible. Of these we may observe two sorts : one sort are mere beasts in human shape, wholly under the power of the basest passions, and having "a downright appetite to mix with mud.” Other deists are, in most respects, rational creatures, though unhappily prejudiced against Christianity. Most of these believe the being and attributes of God : they believe that God made and governs the world; and that the soul does not die with the body, but will remain for ever in a state of happiness or misery.

3. The next sort of faith is the faith of heathens, with which I join that of Mohammedans. I cannot but prefer this before the faith of the deists; because though it embraces nearly the same objects, yet they are rather to be pitied than blamed for the narrowness of their faith. And their not believing the whole truth, is not owing to want of sincerity, but merely to want of light. When one asked Chicali, an old Indian chief, “Why do not you, red men, know as much as us, white men ?" he readily answered, “Because you have the great Word, and we have not !”

4. It cannot be doubted, but this plea will avail for millions of modern heathens. In as much as to them little is given, of them little will be required. As to the ancient heathens, millions of them likewise were savages. No more therefore will be expected of them, than the living up to the light they had. But many of them, especially in the civilized nations, we have great reason to hope, although they lived among heathens, yet were quite of another spirit; being taught of God, by his inward voice, all the essentials of true religion. Yea, and so was that Mohammedan, an Arabian, who, a century or two ago, wrote the life of Hai Ebn Yokdan. The story seems to be feigned; but it contains all the principles of pure religion and undefiled. 5. But, in general

, we may surely place the faith of a Jew above that of a heathen or Mohammedan. By Jewish faith I mean, the faith of those who lived between the giving of the law and the coming of Christ. These, that is, those that were serious and sincere among them, believed all that is written in the Old Testament. In particular, they believed that, in the fulness of time, the Messiah would appear, “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness."

6. It is not so easy to pass any judgment concerning the faith of our modern Jews. It is plain, “the veil is still upon their hearts," when Moses and the prophets are read. The god of this world still hardens their hearts, and still blinds their eyes, "Jest at any time the light of the glorious gospel" should break in upon them. So that we may say of this people, as the Holy Ghost said to their forefathers : “ The heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them,” Acts xxviii, 27. Yet it is not our part to pass sentence upon them, but to leave them to their own Master:

7. I need not dwell upon the faith of John the Baptist, any more than the dispensation which he was under; because these, as Mr. Fletcher well describes them, were peculiar to himself. Setting him aside, the faith of the Roman Catholics in general, seems to be above that of the ancient Jews. If most of these are volunteers in faith, believing more than God has revealed, it cannot be denied, that they believe all which God has revealed, as necessary to salvation. In this we rejoice on their behalf: we are glad that none of those new articles which they added at the council of Trent, to “the faith once delivered to the saints," does so materially contradict any of the ancient articles, as to render them of no effect.

8. The faith of the Protestants, in general, embraces only those truths as necessary to salvation, which are clearly revealed in the oracles of God. Whatever is plainly declared in the Old and New Testament, is the object of their faith. They believe neither more nor less, than what is manifestly contained in, and provable by the Holy Scriptures. The word of God is "a lantern to their feet, and a light in all their paths.” They dare not, on any pretence, go from it, to the right hand or to the left. The written word is the whole and sole rule of their faith, as well as practice. They believe whatsoever God has declared, and profess to do whatsoever he hath commanded.

This is the proper faith of Protestants: by this they will abide and no other.

9. Hitherto faith has been considered chiefly as an evidence and conviction of such or such truths. And this is the sense wherein it is taken at this day in every part of the Christian world. But in the mean time let it be carefully observed, (for eternity depends upon it,) that neither the faith of a Roman Catholic, nor that of a Protestant, if it contains no more than this, no more than the embracing such and such truths, will avail any more before God, than the faith of a Mohammedan or a heathen; yea, of a deist or materialist. For can this “faith save him ?” Can it save any man either from sin or from hell ? No more than it could save Judas Iscariot: no more than it could save the devil and his angels; all of whom are convinced, that every tittle of holy Scripture is true.

10. But what is the faith which is properly saving; which brings eternal salvation to all those that keep it to the end ? It is such a divine conviction of God, and the things of God, as, even in its infant state, enables every one that possesses it to “ fear God and work righteousness.” And whosoever in every nation believes thus far, the apostle declares, is

accepted of him.” He actually is, at that very moment, in a state of acceptance. But he is at present only a servant of God, not properly

Meantime let it be well observed, that "the wrath of God” do longer “abideth on him.”

11. Indeed nearly fifty years ago, when the preachers, commonly called Methodists, began to preach that grand scriptural doctrine, salVOL. II.

25

a son.

« AnteriorContinuar »