DILIGENCE IN THE
AN ADDRESS TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE PARISH OF KILMANY.
WREN one writes a letter to an intimate and a much-loved
friend, he never thinks of the graces of the composition. He unbosoms himself
in a style of perfect freeness and simplicity. He gives way to the kindly
affections of his heart; and though there may be many touches of tenderness in
his performance, it is not because he aims at touches of any kind, but because
all the tenderness that is written, is the genuine and the artless transcript
of all the tenderness that is felt. Now conceive for a moment, that he wrote
his letter under the consciousness that it was to be broadly exhibited before
the eye of the public, this would immediately operate as a heavy restraint upon
him. A man would much rather pour the expression of his friendship into the
private ear of him who was the object of it, t.han he would do. it under the
full stare of a numerous company. And I, my brethren, could my time have
allowed it, would much rather have written my earnest and longing aspiration
for the welfare of you all by a private letter to each individual, than by this
general Address, which necessarily exposes to the wide theatre of the public
all that I feel, and all that I utter on the subject of my affectionate regard
It were better then for the exercise to which I have now set myself, that I shut out all idea of the public; and never, within the whole recollection of my life, was I less disposed to foster that idea. It may be observed, that the blow of some great and calamitous visitation brings a kind of insensibility along with it. I ought not to lament my withdrawment from you as a calamity, but it has had all the effect of a calamity upon me. I am removed from those objects which habitually interested my heart, and, for a time, it refuses to be interested in other objects. I am placed at a distance from that scene to which 1 was most alive, and I feel a deadness to every other scene. The people who are now around me, carry an unquestionable kindness in their bosoms, and vie with one another in the expression of it. I can easily perceive that there exist abundantly among them all the constituents of a highly interesting neighbourhood, and it may look cold and ungrateful in me that I am not interested. But it takes a time before the heart can attune itself to the varieties of a new situation. It is ever recurring to the more familiar scenes of other days. The present ministers no enjoyment; and in looking to the past the painful circumstance is, that while the faney will not be kept from straying to that neighbourhood which exercises over it all the power of a much-loved home, the idea that it is borne no longer comes with dread reality upon the mind, and turns the whole to bitterness.
With a heart thus occupied, I do not feel that the admission of the public into our conference will be any great restraint upon me. I shall speak to you as if they were not present; and I do not conceive that they can take a great interest in what I say, because I have no time for the full and explicit statement of principles. I have this advantage with you that I do not have with others, that with you I can afford to be less explicit. I presume upon your recollections of what I have for some time been in the habit of addressing to you; and flatter myself that you may enter into a train of observation which to others may appear dark, and abrupt, and unconnected. In penning this short Address, I follow the impulse of my regard for you. You will receive it with indulgence, as a memorial from one who loves you; who is ever with you in heart, though not in person; who classes among the dearest of his recollections, the tranquil enjoyments he has had in your neighbourhood; who carries upon his memory the faithful image of its fields and of its families; and whose prayer for you all is, that you may so grow in the fruits of our common faith, as to be made meet for that unfading inheritance where sorrow and separation are alike unknown.
Were I to sit down for the purpose of drawing out a list of all the actions which may be called sinful, it would be long before I could complete the enumeration. Nay, I can conceive, that by adding one peculiarity after another, the variety may be so lengthened out as to make the attempt impossible. Lying, and stealing, and breaking the Sabbath, and speaking evil one of another, these are all so many sinful actions; but circumstances may be conceived which make one kind of lying different from another, and one kind of theft different from another, and one kind of evil speaking different from another, and in this way the number of sinful actions may be greatly swelled out; and should we attempt to take the amount, they may be like the host which no man could number, and every sinner realizing one of these varieties, may wear his own peculiar complexion, and have a something about him which marks him out, and signalizes him from all the other sinners by whom he is surrounded.
Yet, amid all this variety of visible aspect, there is one summary expression to which all sin may be reduced. There is one principle which, if it always existed in the heart, and were always acted upon in the life, would entirely destroy the existence of sin, and the very essence of sin lies in the want of this one principle. Sin is a want of conformity to the will of God; and were a desire to do the will of God at all times the overruling principle of the heart and conduct, there would be no sin. It is this want of homage to Him and to His authority, which gives to sin its essential character. The evil things coming out of the heart, which is the residence of this evil principle, may be exceedingly various, and may impart avery different complexion to different individuals. This complexion may be more or less displeasing to the outward eye. The evil speaker may look to us more hateful than the voluptuary, the man of cruelty than the man of profaneness, the breaker of his word than the breaker of the Sabbath. I believe it will generally be found, that the sin which inflicts the more Visible and immediate harm upon men, is, in the eye of men, the more hateful sin. There is a readiness to execrate falsehood, and calumny, and oppression; and, along with this readiness, there is an indulgence for the good-humoured failings of him who is a slave of luxury, and makes a god of his pleasure, and spends his days in all the thoughtlessness of one who walks in the counsel of his own heart, and in the sight of his own eyes provided that his love of society leads him to share with others the enjoyment of all these gratifications, and his wealth enables him, and his moral honesty inclines him, to defray the expense of them.
Behold, then, one frequent source of delusion. He whose sins are less hateful to the world than those of others, wraps up himself in a kind of security. I wrong no man. I have a heart that can be moved by the impulses of compassion. I carry in my bosom a lively sentiment of indignation at the tale of perfidy or violence; and surely I may feel a satisfaction which others have no title to feel, who are guilty of that from which my nature recoils with a generous abhorrence. He forgets all the while, that sin, in its essential character, may have as full and firm a possession of his heart, as of the mans with whom he is comparing himself; that there may be an entire disownal and forgetfullness of God; that not one particle of reverence, or of acknowledgment, may be given to the Being with whom he has to do; that whatever he maybe in the eye of his neighbour, in the eye of Him who seeth not as man seeth, he is guilty; that, walking just as he would have done though there had been no divine government whatever, he is a rebel to that government; and that, amid all the complacency of his own feelings, and all the applause and good liking of his acquaintances, he wears all the deformity of rebelliousness in the eye of every spiritual being, who looks at the state of his heart, and passes judgment upon him by those very principles which are to try him at that great day when the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open.
If this were kept in view, it would lead to a more enlightened estimate of the character of man, than man in the thoughtlessness and unconcern of his natural state ever forms. It would lead us to see, that, under all the hues and varieties of character, diversified as they are by constitutional taste, and the power of circumstances, there lurks one deep and universal disease, and that is the disease of a mind labouring under alienation from God, and without any practical sense of what is due to Him. You will all admit it to be true, that the heart of a man may be under the full operation of this deadly poison, while the man himself has a constitutional taste for the pleasures of social intercourse. You see nothing unlikely or impossible in this combination. Now I want you to go along with me, when I carry my assertion still further; and sure I am that experience bears me out when I say, that the heart of a man may be under the full operation of a dislike or indifference to God, while the man himself has a constitutional abhorrence at cruelty, a constitutional repugnance to fraud, a constitutional antipathy to what is uncourteous in manners or harsh and unfeeling in conversation, a constitutional gentleness of character; or, to sum up the whole in one clause, a man may be free from many things which give him a moral hatefulness in the eye of others, and he may have many things which throw a moral loveliness around him, and the soul be under the entire dominion of that carelessness about God, which gives to sin its essential character. And upon him, even upon him, graceful and engaging as he may be by the lustre of his many accomplishments, the saying of the Bible does not fail of being realized, that "the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"
And thus it is, that our great and ultimate aim in the reformation of a sinner, is the reformation of his heart. There may be many reformations short of this, and in which many are disposed to rest with a deceitful complacency. I can conceive, that the man who formerly stole may steal no more - not because he is now sanctified, and feels the obligation of religious principle; but because he is now translated into better circumstances, and, by the power of example, has contracted that tone of honourable feeling, which exists among the upper classes of society. Here, then, is a reformation of the conduct, while the heart, in respect of that which constitutes its exceeding sinfulness, is no better than before. The old leaven of ungodliness may overspread its every desire, and its every affection; and while the outer man has been washed of one of its visible deformities, the inner man may still persist in its unmindfulness of God; and the pollution of this greatest and vilest of all moral turpitude, may adhere to it as obstinately as ever.
Now it appears to me, that these views, true in themselves, and deserving to be carried along with us through every inch of our religious progress, have often been practically misapplied. I can conceive an inquirer under the influence of these views, to fall into such a process of reflection as the following: "If the outer conduct be of no estimation in the sight of God, unless it stand connected with the actings of a holy principle in the heart, let us begin with the heart, and from the establishment of a holy principle there, purity of conduct will follow as an effect of course. Let us beware of laying an early stress upon the doings of the outer man, lest we and others should have our eye turned from the reformation of the inner man, as the main and almost the exclusive object of a Christians ambition. Let us be fearful how we urge such and such visible reformations, either upon ourselves or those around us, lest they be made to stand in the place of that grand renewing process, by which the soul, dead in trespasses and sins, is made alive unto God. Let us labour to impress the necessity of this process; and, seeing the utter inability of man to change his own heart, let us turn his eye from any exertions of his own, to that fulness which is in Christ Jesus, through whom alone he can obtain the forgiveness of all his sins, and such a measure of power resting upon him, as carries along with it all the purifying influences of a spiritual reformation. In the mean time, let us take care how we speak about good works. Let the very mention of them put us into the defensive attitude of coldness and suspicion; and, instead of giving our earnestness or our energy to them, let us press upon ourselves and others the exercises of that faith, by which alone we are made the workmanship of God, and created unto such good works as he hath ordained that we should walk in them."
Now there is a great deal of truth throughout the whole of this train of sentiment; but truth contemplated under such an aspect, and turned to such a purpose, as has the effect of putting an inquirer into a practical attitude, which appears to me to be unscriptural and wrong. I would not have him keep his hand for a single moment from the doing of that which is obviously right. I would not have him to refrain from grappling immediately, with every one sin which is within the reach of his exertions. I would not have him to incur the delay of one instant, in ceasing to do that which is evil; and I conceive that it is not till this is begun to, that he will learn to do that which is well. It ought not to restrain the energy of his immediate doing, that he is told how doings are of no account, unless they are the doings of one who has gone through a previous regeneration. This ought not to keep him from doing. It should only lead him to combine with the prescribed doing, an earnest aspiring after a cleaner heart, and a better spirit than he yet finds himself to have. It is very true, that a man may do an outwardly good thing, and rest in what he has done. But it is as true, that a man may do the outwardly good thing he is bidden do; and, instead of resting, may look forward with diligent striving, and earnest humble prayer, to some greater things than this. Now this last, my brethren, is the attitude I want to put you into. Let the thief give up his stealing at this moment. Let the drunkard give up his intemperance. Let the evil speaker give up his calumnies. Let the doer of all that is obviously wrong, break off his sins, and turn him to the doing of all that is obviously right. Let no one thing, not even the speculations of orthodoxy, be suffered to stand a barrier against your entrance into the field of immediate exertion. I raise the very first blow of my trumpet against the visible iniquities which I see to be in you; and if there be any one obviously right thing you have hitherto neglected, I will not consume one particle of time before I call upon you to do it.
It is quite in vain to say that all this is not called for, or that I am now spending my strength and your time, in combating an error which has no practical existence. You must be quite familiarized with the melancholy spectacle of a zealous professor mourning over the sinfulness of his heart, and at the same time putting forth his hand, without one sigh of remorse, to what is sinful in ordinary conduct. Have you never witnessed one, who could speak evil of his neighbour, and was at the same time trenched among what he thought the speculations of orthodoxy, and made the utter corruption of the soul of man one of these speculations? it is not enough to say, that he is a mere speculative Christian; for the very same thing may be detected in the practice of one, wt.o feels a real longing to be delivered from the power of that sin, which he grieves has such an entire dominion over him. And yet, strange to tell, there is many an obvious and every-day sin which is not watched against, which is not struggled against, and the commission of which gives no uneasiness whatever. The man is as it were so much occupied with the sinfulness of his heart, that he neither feels nor attends to the sinfulness of his conduct. He wants to go methodically to work. He wants to begin at the beginning, and he forms his estimate of what the beginning is upon the arrangements of human speculation.
It sounds very plausibly, that as out of the heart are the issues of life, the work of an inquiring Christian must begin there; but the mischief I complain of is, that in the first prosecution of this work, months or years may be consumed ere the purified fountain send forth its streams of the repentance he is aspiring after tell on the plain and palpable doings of his ordinary conduct. Hence, my brethren, the mortifying exhibition of great zeal, and much talk, and diligent canvassing and conversing about the abstract principles of the Christian faith - combined with what is visible in the Christian practice, being at a dead stand, and not one inch of sensible progress being made in any one thing which the eye can witness, or the hand can lay a tangible hold upon. The man is otherwise employed. He is busy with the first principles of the subject. He still goes on with his wonted peevishness within doors, and his wonted dishonesties without doors. He has not yet come to these matters. He is taken up with laying and labouring at the foundation. rfhe heart is the great subject of his anxiety; and in the busy exercise of mourning, and confessing, and praying, and studying the right management of his heart, he may take up months or years before he come to the deformities of his outward and ordinary conduct. I will venture to go farther, my brethren, and assert, that if this be the track he is on, it will be a great chance if he ever come to them at all. To the end of his days he may be a talking, and inquiring, and speculating, and, I doubt not, along with all this, a church-going and ordinance-loving Christian. But I am much afraid that he is, practically speaking, not in the way to the solid attainments of a Christian, whose light shines before men. All that meets the eye of daily observers may have undergone no change whatever, and the life of the poor man may be nothing better than the dream of a delusive and bewildering speculation.
Now, it is very true that, agreeably to the remarks with which I prefaced this argument, the great and ultimate aim of all reformation is to reform the heart, and to bring it into such a state of principle and desire, that God may be glorified in soul and spirit, as well as in body. This is the point that is ever to be sought after, and ever to be pressed forward to. Under a sense of his deficiences from this point, a true Christian will read diligently that he may learn the gospel method of arriving at it. He will pray diligently that the clean heart may be created, and the right spirit may be renewed within him. The earnestness of his attention to this matter will shut him up more and more unto the faith of that perfect sacrifice, which his short-comings from a holy and a heart-searching law will ever remind him of, as the firm and the only ground of his acceptance with God. The same honest reliance on the divine testimony, which leads him to close with the doctrine of the atonement, and to rejoice in it, will also lead him to close with the doctrine of sanctification, and diligently to aspire after it. Now, in the business of so aspiring after this object, it is not enough that he read diligently in the Word; it is not enough that he pray diligently for the Spirit. These are two ingredients in the business of seeking after his object, but they are not the only ones; and what I lament is, that a fear about the entire-ness of his orthodoxy leads many a zealous inquirer to look coldly and askance at another ingredient in this business. He should not only read diligently and pray diligently, but he should do diligently every one right thing that is within his reach, and that he finds himself to have strength for. Any one author who talks of the insignificance of doings, in such a way as practically to restrain an inquirer from vigorously and immediately entering upon the performance of them, misleads that inquirer from the scriptural method, by which we are directed to a greater measure of light and of holiness than we are yet in possession of. He detaches one essential ingredient from the business of seeking. He may set the spirit of his reader a-roaming over some field of airy speculation; but he works no such salutary effect upon his spirit, as evinces itself by any one visible or substantial reformation.
I have often and often attempted to press this lesson upon you, my brethren; and I bear you testimony, that while a resistance to practical preaching has been imputed to the zealous professors of orthodoxy, you listen with patience, and I trüst not without fruit - when, addressing you as if you had just begun to stir yourselves in the matter of your salvation, I ranked it among my preliminary instructions, that you should cease from the evil of your doings; that you should give up all that you know to be wrong in your ordinary conduct; that the thief should restrain himself from stealing, the liar from falsehood, the evil speaker from backbiting, the slothful labourer in the field from eye-service, the faithless housemaid in the family from all purloining and all idleness.
The subterfuges of hypocrisy are endless; and if it can find one in a system of theology, it will be as glad of it from that quarter as from any other. Some there are who deafen the impression of all these direct and immediate admonitions, by saying, that before all these doings are insisted on, we must lay well and labour well at the foundation of faith in Christ, without whom we can do nothing. The truth, that without Christ we can do nothing,is unquestionable; but it would take many a paragraph to expose its want of application to the use that is thus made of it. But to cut short this plea of indolence for delaying the painful work of surrendering all that is vicious in conduct; let me put it to your common sense, whether a thief would not, and could not, give up stealing for a week, if he has the reward of a fortune waiting him at the end of it; whether upon the same reward, an evil speaker could not, for the same time, impose a restraint upon his lips, and the slothful servant become a most pains-taking and diligent worker, and the liar maintain an undeviating truth throughout all his conversations? Each of these would find himself to have strength for these things, were the inducement of a certain temporal reward held out, or the dread of a certain temporal punishment were made to hang over him.
Now, for the temporal punishment, I substitute the call of, "Flee from the coming wrath." Let this call have the effect it should have, and the effect it actually does have, on many who are not warped by a misleading speculation, and it will make them stir up such strength as they possess, and give up, in deed, much of their actual misconduct. This effect it had in the days of John the Baptist. People on his call, gave up their violence and their extortions, and the evil of wany of their doings, and were thus put into what God in his wisdom counted a fit state of preparation for the Saviour. If there was any thing in the revelation of the Gospel calculated to supersede this call of, "Cease you from the evil of your doings," then I could understand the indifference, or the positive hostility, of zealous pretenders to the work of addressing practical exhortation to inquirers at the very outset of their progress.
But so far from being superseded by any thing that the Gospel lays before us, the Author and the first preachers of the Gospel just took up the lesson of John, and at the very commencement of their ministry did they urge it upon people to turn them from the evil of their doings. Repent and believe the Gospel, says our Saviour. Repent and turn unto God, and do works meet for repentance, says the Apostle Paul. And there must be something wrong, my brethren, if you resist me urging it upon you, to give up at this moment, even though it should be the first moment of your concern about salvation, to give up all that is obviously wrong; to turn you to all that is obviously right; to grapple with every sin you can lay your hand upon; and if it be true, in point of experience and common sense, that many a misdeed may be put away from you on the allurement of some temporal reward - then if you have faith in the reality of eternal things,, the hope of an escape from the coming wrath may and will tell immediately upon you, and we shall see among you a stir, and a diligence, and a doing, and a visible reformation. It is a great matter to chase away all mysticism from the path by which a sinner is led unto God; and it is to be lamented that many a speculation of many a respected divine, has the effect of throwing a darkening cloud of perplexity over the very entrance of this path.
I tell you a very plain thing, and, if it be true, it is surely of importance that you should know it, when I tell you, that if you are a servant, and are visited with a desire after salvation, then a faithful performance of your daily task is a step without which the object you aim at is unattainable. If you are a son, a more punctual fulfilment of your parents bidding is another step. If you are a neighbour, a more civil and obliging deportment to those around you is another step. If you are a dealer, the adoption of a just weight and a just measure is another step. There are some who, afraid of your attempting to get acceptance with God by the merit of your own doings, would not venture to urge all this at the outset, lest they should lead you to rest on a delusive ground of confidence. They would try to get a perfect and a clear understanding of the right ground of acceptance established, previous to the use of any such urgency; and then, upon this principle being well laid within you, they might take the liberty of telling you your duty. Their fearfulness upon this point forms a very striking contrast to the free, and unembarrassed, and energetic manner, in which the Bible, both of the Old and New Testament, calls on every man who comes within the reach of a hearing, to cease from all sin, and turn him to all righteousness. In following its example, let us be fearless of all consequences. It may not suit the artificial processes of some of our systems, nor fall in with the order of their well weighed and carefully arranged articles, to tell at the very outset of those obvious reformations which I am now pressing upon you. But sure I am that an apostle would have felt no difficulty on the subject; nor whatever the visible sin which deformed you, or whatever the visible act of obedience in which you were deficient, would he have been restrained from giving his immediate energy to the work of calling on you to abstain from the one and to do the other. The disciples of John could not have such a clear view of the ground of acceptance before God, as an enlightened disciple of the apostles. Yet the want of this clear view did not prevent them from being right subjects for Johns preparatory instructions. And what were these instructions? Soldiers were called on to give up their violence, and publicans their exactions, and rich men the confinement of their own wealth to their own gratification; and will any man hesitate for a moment to decide, whether those who turned away from the directions of the Forerunner, or those who followed them, were in the likeliest state for receiving light and improvement from the subsequent teaching of the Saviour?
But there is one difference between them and us. The whole of Christs teaching, as put down in the word of God, is already before us. Now what precise effect should this have upon the nature of an initiatory address to sinners? The right answer to this question will confirm, or it will demolish the whole of our preceding argument. The alone ground of acceptance is the righteousness of Christ imputed to all who believe. This truth deserves to be taken up, and urged immediately in the hearing of all who are within the reach of the preachers voice. Till this truth be received, here should be no rest to the sinner, there is no reconciliation with God, nor will he attain that consummation of holiness, without which there can be no meetness for the enjoyment of heaven. But some are readier to receive this truth than others. The reforming publicans and harlots of John were in a state of greater readiness to receive this truth, than either the Pharisees, or those publicans and harlots who, unmindful of John, still persisted in their iniquities.
And who will be in greater readiness to receive this truth in the present day? Will it be the obstinate and determined doers of all that is sinful, and that too in the face of a call, that they should do works meet for repentance? Or will it be those who, under the influence of this call, do what the disciples of John did before them, turn them from the evil of their manifest iniquities, and so give proof of their earnestness in the way of salvation? It is true that, along with such a call, we might now urge a truth which even John could not. But are we to suspend the call of doing works meet for repentance, till this truth he urged and established in the mind of the hearer? Surely if God thought it wise to ply sinners with a call to turn them from the evil of their ways, before he fully revealed to them the evangelical ground of their acceptance, we may count it scriptural and safe to ply them with this call at the same time that we state to them the evangelical ground of their acceptance.
It is true, that the statement may not be comprehended all at once. It may be years before it is listened to by the careless, before It is rested in by the desponding, before the comfort of it is at all felt or appropriated by the doubting and melancholy inquirer. Now what I contend for is, that during this interval of time, these people may and ought to be urged with the call of departing from their iniquities. This very call was brought to bear on the disciples of John, before the ground of their acceptance was fully made known to them; and it might be brought to bear on sinners now, even though it should be before the ground of their acceptance be fully understood by them.
The effect of this preparatory instruction in these days, was to fit Johns disciples for the subsequent revelation of Christ and His apostles. It is true, that we are in possession of that doctrine which they only had the prospect of. But it accords with experience, that this doctrine might be addressed without effect for years to men inquiring after salvation. The doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, might be announced in all its force, and in all its simplicity, to men who hold out against it; and you would surely say of them, that the way of the Lord had not been prepared to their minds, nor his paths made straight.
Now we read of such a preparation set a-going in behalf of men, to whom this doctrine had not yet been revealed. Will this preparation be altogether ineffectual in behalf of men, by whom this doctrine is not yet understood? Surely it is quite evident, that in the days of John, men who, in obedience to his call, were struggling with their sins, were in a likelier way for receiving those larger measures of truth, which were afterward revealed, than they who, in the face of that call, were obstinately and presumptuously retaining them. Suffer us to avail ourselves of the same advantage now. You, my brethren, who, in obedience to the calls that have been sounded in your hearing, are struggling with your sins, are in a likelier way for receiving those larger measures of truth which are now revealed, than those of you who feel no earnestness, and are making no endeavours upon the subject. While, therefore, I announce to you, in the most distinct terms, that you will not be saved unless you are found in the righteousness of Christ, this will not restrain me at the very same time from doing what John did. You know how his disciples were prepared for the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, who guides unto all truth; and while I do not think that any one point of time is too early for offering Christ to you, in all the benefits of his sacrifice, in all the imputed merits of his perfect righteousness, in all the privileges which he has proclaimed and purchased for believers - all I contend for is, that neither is there any point of time too early for letting you know, that all sin must be abandoned; for calling on you to enter into the work of struggling with all sin immediately; for warning you, that while you persist in those sinful actions which you might give up, and would give up were a temporal inducement held out to you, I have no evidence of your receiving benefit from the word of salvation that I am sounding in your ears.
There is surely room for telling sinners more than one thing, in the course of the very earliest lesson that is laid before them. It is an exclusive deference to the onepoint, and the one principle, and the bringing of every thing else into a forced subordination upon it, which has enfeebled many an attempt to turn sinners to Christ from their iniquities. I can surely tell a man, that unless he is walking in a particular line he will not reach the object he is aiming at; and I can tell him at the same time, that neither will he reach it, unless he have his eyes open, and he look upon the object. On these two unquestionable truths, I bid him both walk and look at the same time, and at the same time he can do both. In the same manner I may tell a man, that unless he give up stealing, he shall not reach heaven; and I may also tell him, that unless he accept by faith Christ as his alone Saviour, he shall not reach heaven. On these two truths I found two practical directions; and I must be convinced, that the doing of the one hinders the doing of the other, ere I desist from that which the first teachers of Christianity did before me, - proclaim Christ, and within the compass of the same breathing, call on men to do works meet for repentance.
In the order of time, the practical instructions of John went before the full announcement of the doctrines of salvation. I do not think, however, that this order is authoritative upon us; but far less do I think, that our full possession of the doctrine of salvation confers any authority upon us for reversing the historical process of the New Testament. I bring all the truths which the teachers of these days addressed to the sinners among whom they laboured, to bear immediately pon you sinners now.
And while I call upon you to turn from the evil of your ways, I also warn you of the danger of putting away from you the offered Saviour, or refusing all your confidence in that name than which there is no other given under heaven whereby men can be saved. If by faith be meant the embracing of one doctrine, then I can understand how some might be alarmed lest an outset so practical should depose faith from the precedency which belongs to it. But if by faith be meant a reliance on the whole testimony of Scripture, then the precedency of faith is not at all broken in upon. If, on the call of "Flee from the coming wrath," I get you to struggle with your more palpable iniquities, I see in that very struggle the operation of a faith in the divine testimony about the realities of an invisible world ; and I have reason to bless God that he has wrought in you what I am sure no argument and no vehemence of mine could, without the power of His Spirit, ever have accomplished. Those of you who have thus evinced one exercise of faith, I look upon as more hopeful subjects for another exercise, than those of you who remain trenched in obstinacy and unconcern. And when I tell the former, that nothing will get them acceptance with God, but the mediation of Christ offered to all who come, it will be to them, and not to the latter, that I shall look for an earnest desire after the offered Saviour. When I tell them that they affront God by not receiving the record which He gives of His Son, it will be to them, and not to the others, that I shall look for a submissive and thankful acquiescence in the whole of His salvation; and thus passing with the docility of little children from one lesson of the Bible to another; these are the people who, working because God so bids them, will count that a man is not justified by the works of the law, because God so tells them; these are the people who, not offended by what Christ told them at the outset, that he who cometh unto Him must forsake all, will evince their willingness to forsake all, by turning from their iniquities, and coming unto Christ; these are the people who, while they do what they may with their hands, will think that while their heart is not directed to the love of God, they have done nothing; and counting it a faithful saying, that without Christ they can do nothing, they will take to Him as their Sanctifier as well as their Saviour, and having received Him as the Lord their righteousness, will ever repair to Him, and keep by Him as the Lord their strength.
While I urge upon you the doing of every obviously right thing, you will not conceive of me that I want you to rest in this doing. I trust that my introductory paragraphs may convince you how much of this doing may be gone through, and yet the mighty object of the obedience of the willing heart might be unreached and unaccomplished. Not to urge the doing, lest you should rest, would be to deviate from scriptural example. And again, to urge the doing, and leave you to rest, would be also to deviate from scriptural example. John the Baptist urged the doing of many things, and his faithful disciples set themselves to the performanceof what he bade them do. They entered immediately on the field of active and diligent service. But did they stop short? No; out of the very preaching of their master did they obtain a caution against resting; and the same submissive deference to his authority, in virtue of which they were set a-working, led them also, along with their working at the things which he set them to, to look forward to greater things than these. He told them expressly, that all his preaching was as nothing to the preaching of one who was to come after him. They were diligent with present things, but be assured that they combined with this diligence the attitude of looking forward to greater things. Is this the attitude of men who place their repose and their dependence upon the performances on hand? Was it not the attitude of men walking in the way revealed by a messenger from heaven, to the object which this messenger pointed out to them? I call on you to commence at this moment an immediate struggle with all sin, and an immediate striving after all righteousness; but I would not be completing even the lesson of John, and far less would I be bringing forward the counsel of God as made known to us in his subsequent revelation, were I to say any thing which led you to stop short at those visible reformations, which formed the great burden of Johns practical addresses to his countrymen; and therefore along with your doing, and most diligently doing all that is within your reach, I call on you to pray, and most fervently and faithfully to pray for that larger baptism of the Holy Ghost, by which your hearts may be cleansed from all their corruptions, and you be enabled to render unto God all the purity of a spiritual obedience.
I cannot expatiate within the limits of this short Address on the texts both of the Old and New Testament, which serve to establish, that the right attitude of a returning sinner is what I have sometimes called in your hearing, the compound attitude of service and expectation. But I shall repeat a few of these texts, that they may suggest what you have been in the habit of hearing from me upon this subject. "And Samuel spake to all the house of Israel, saying, if ye do return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only." "They will not frame their doings to turn unto the Lord." "Thus saith the Lord, keep ye judgment and do justice, for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it, that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil." "Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the poor that are cast out into thy house. When thou seest the naked, cover him, and hide not thyself from thine own flesh. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily, and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward." "He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me, and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him." "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath." "Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him." "Trust in the Lord, and do good."
But danger presses on us in every direction; and in the work of dividing the word of truth, many, and very many, are the obstacles which lie in the way of our doing it rightly. When a minister gives his strength to one particular lesson, it often carries in it the appearance of his neglecting all the rest, and throwing into the back-ground other lessons of equal importance. It might require the ministrations of many years to do away this appearance. Sure I am, that I despair of doing it away within the limits of this short Address to any but yourselves. You know all that I have urged upon the ground of your acceptance with God; upon the freeness of that offer which is by Christ Jesus; upon the honest invitations which everywhere abound in the Gospel, that all who will may take hold of it; upon the necessity of being found by God, not in your own righteousness, but in the righteousness which is of Christ; upon the helplessness of man, and how all the strugglings of his own unaided strength can never carry him to the length of a spiritual obedience; upon the darkness and enmity of his mind about the things of God, and how this can never be dissolved, till he who by nature stands afar off is brought near by the blood of the atonement, and he receives that repentance and that remission of sins, which Christ is exalted a Prince and a Saviour to dispense to all who believein Him.
These are offers and doctrines which might be addressed, and ought to be addressed, immediately to all.. But the call I have been urging upon you through the whole of this pamphlet, of " Cease ye from your manifest transgressions," should be addressed along with them. Now here lies the difficulty with many a sincere lover of the truth as it is in Jesus. He feels a backwardness in urging this call, lest it should somehow or other impair the freeness of the offer, or encroach upon the singleness of that which is stated to be our alone meritorious ground of acceptance before God. In reply to this, let it be well observed, that though the offer be at all times free, it is not at all times listened to; and though the only ground of acceptance be that righteousness of Christ which is unto all them and upon all them that believe, yet some are in likelier circumstances for being brought to this belief than others. There is one class of hearers who are in a greater state of readiness for being impressed by the Gospel than another, and I fear that all the use has not been made of this principle which Scripture and experience warrant us to do.
Every attempt to work man into a readiness for receiving the offer has been discouraged, as if it carried in it a reflection against the freeness of the offer itself. The obedient disciples of John were more prepared for the doctrines of grace, than the careless hearers of this prophet; but their obedience did not confer any claim of merit upon them, it only made them more disposed to receive the good tidings of that salvation which was altogether of grace. A despiser of ordinances is put into a likelier situation for receiving the free offer of the Gospel, by being prevailed upon to attend a church where this offer is urged upon his acceptance. His attendance does not impair the freeness of the offer. Yet where is the man so warped by a misleading speculation, as to deny that the doing of this previous to his union with Christ, and preparatory to that union, may be the very mean of the free offer being received.
Again, it is the lesson both of experience and of the Bible, that the young are likelier subjects for religious instruction than the old. The free offer may and ought to be addressed to both these classes; but generally speaking, it is in point of fact more productive of good when addressed to the first class than the second. And we do not say, that youth confers any meritorious title to salvation, nor do we make any reflection on the freeness of the offer, when we urge it upon the young, lest they should get old, and it have less chance of being laid before them with acceptance. We make no reflection upon the offer as to its character of freeness; but we proceed upon the obvious fact, that, free as it is - it is not so readily listened to or laid hold of by the second class of hearers as by the first.
And, lastly, when addressing sinners now, all of them might and ought to be plied with the free offer of salvation at the very outset. But if it be true, that those of them who wilfully persist in those misdoings, which they could give up on the inducement of a temporal reward, will not, in point of fact, be so impressed by the offer, or be so disposed to accept of it, as those who (on the call of - " Flee from the coming wrath ;" and on being told, that unless they repent they shall perish; and on being made to know, what our Saviour made inquirers know, at the very starting point of their progress as his disciples, that he who followeth after Him must forsake all,) have begun to break off their sins, and to put the evil of their doings away from them: then we are not stripping the offer of its attribute of perfect freeness, but we are only doing what God, in His wisdom, did two thousand years ago; we are, under him, preparing souls for the reception of this offer, when, along with the business of proposing it, which we cannot do too early, we bring the urgency of an immediate call to bear on the children of iniquity, that they should cease to do evil, and learn to do well.
The publicans and harlots entered into the kingdom of God before the Pharisees, and yet the latter were free from the outward transgressions of the former. Now, the fear which restrains many from lifting the immediate call of, - " Cease ye from your transgressions," is, lest it should put those who obey the call into the state of Pharisees; and there is a secret, though not avowed, impression in their minds, that it were better for their hearers to remain in the state of publicans and harlots, and in this state to have the offer of Christ and all His benefits set before them.
But mark well, that it was not the publicans and harlots who persisted in their iniquities, but they who counted John to be a prophet, and in obedience to his call were putting their iniquities away from them, who had the advantage of the Pharisees. None will surely say, that those of them who continued as they were, were put into a state of preparation for the Saviour by the preaching of John. Some will be afraid to say, that those of them who gave up their iniquities at the bidding of John were put into a state of preparation, lest it should encourage a pharisaical confidence in our own doings. But mark the distinction between these and the Pharisees: The Pharisees might be as free as the reforming publicans and harlots, of those visible transgressions which characterized them; but on this they rested their confidence, and put the offered Saviour away from them.
The publicans and harlots, so far from resting their confidence on the degree of reformation which they had accomplished, were prompted to this reformation by the hope of the coming Saviour. They connected with all their doings the expectation of greater things. They waited for the kingdom of God that was at hand; and the preaching of John, under the influence of which they had put away from them many of their misdeeds, could never lead them to stop short at this degree of amendment, when the very same John told them of one who was to come after him, in comparison of whom he and all his sermons were as nothing. The Saviour did come, and He said of those publicans and harlots who believed and repented at the preaching of John, that they entered the kingdom of heaven before the Pharisees. They had not earned that kingdom by their doings, but they were in a fitter and readier state for receiving the tidings of it. The Gospel came to them on the footing of a free and unmerited offer; and on this footing it should be proposed to all.
But it is not on this footing that it will be accepted by all. Not by men who, free from many glaring and visible iniquities, rest on the decency of their own character - not by men who, deformed by these iniquities, still wilfully and obstinately persist in them; but by men who, earnest in their inquiries after salvation, and who, made to know, as they ought to be at the very outset of their inquiries, that it is a salvation from sin as well as from punishment, have given up the practice of their outward iniquities, as the first fruit and evidence of their earnestness.
Let me, therefore, in addition to the lesson I have already urged upon you, warn you against a pharisaical confidence in your own doings. While, on the one hand, I tell you that none are truly seeking who have not begun to do; I, on the other hand, tell you, that none have truly found who have not taken up with Christ as the end of the law for righteousness. Let Jesus Christ, the same today, yesterday, and for ever, be the end of your conversation. Never take rest till you have found it in Him. You never will have a well-grounded comfort in your intercourse with God, till you have learned the way of going to the throne of His grace in fellowship with Christ as your appointed Mediator; you never will rejoice in hope of the coming glory, till your peace be made with God through Jesus Christ our Lord; you never will be sure of pardon till you rest in the forgiveness of your sins as coming to you through the redemption which is in His blood. And what is more, addressing you as people who have received a practical impulse to the obedience of the commandments, never forget, that, while the reformation of your first and earliest stages in the Christian life went no further than to the amendment of your more obvious and visible deficiences, this reformation, to be completed, must bring the soul and spirit, as well as the body, under a subserviency to the glory of God; and it never can be completed but by the shedding abroad of that Spirit which is daily poured on the daily prayers of believers: and 1 call upon you always to look up to God through the channel of Christs appointed mediatorship, that you may receive through this same channel a constant and ever increasing supply of the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
I call upon you to be up and doing; but I call upon you with the very same breath, not to rest satisfied with any dark, or doubtful, or confused notions about your way of acceptance with God; and let it be your earnest and never-ceasing object to be found in that way. While you have the commandments and keep them, look at the same time for the promised manifestations. To be indifferent whether you have a clear understanding of the righteousness of Christ, is the same as thinking it not worth your while to inquire into that which God thought it worth His while to give up His Son unto the death that He might accomplish. it is to affront God, by letting Him speak while you refuse to listen or attend to Him. Have a care, lest it be an insulting sentiment on your part, as to the worth of your polluted services; and that, sinful as they are, and defective as they are, they are good enough for God. Lean not on such a bruised reed; but let Christ in all the perfection of that righteousness, which is unto all them and upon ajl them that believe, be the alone rock of your confidence. Your feet will never get on a sure place till they be established on that foundation than which there is no other; and to delay a single moment in your attempts to reach it, and to find rest upon it, after it is so broadly announced to you, is to incur the aggravated guilt of those who neglect the great salvation, and who make God a liar, by suspending their belief of that record whch He hath given of His Son,
"And this is the record that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." Again I call upon you to be up and doing; and I call upon you to accept of Christ as your alone Saviour; but I call upon you at the same time, to look to the whole extent of His salvation. "You hath he quickened, having forgiven you all trespasses." There is the forgiveness of all that has been dead, and sinful, and alienated within you; but there is also a quickening, and a reforming, and a putting within you a near and a lively sense of God, so as that you may henceforth Serve Him with newness of heart, and walk before Him in all newness of life and of conversation. Your hearts will be enlarged, so as that you may run the way of all the commandments. 0 how it puts to flight all pharisaical confidence in the present exercises of obedience, when one casts an enlightened eye over the whole extent of the Christian race, and thinks of the mighty extent of those attainments which were exemplified by the disciples of the New Testament!
The service which I now yield, and is perhaps offered up in the spirit of bondage, must be offered up in the spirit of adoption. It must be the obedience of a child, who yields the willing homage of his affections to his reconciled father. It must be the obedience of the heart; and 0 how far is a, slavish performance of the bidden task, from the consent of the inner man to the law of that God whom he delights to honour! This love to Him, and delight in Him, occupy the foremost place in the list of the bidden requirements. If I love the creature more than the Creator, I trample on the authority of the first and greatest of the commandments and what an imposing exhibition of sobriety, and justice and almsgiving, and religious decency, may be presented in the character and doings of him whose conversation not in heaven; who minds earthly things; who loves his wealth more than God; who likes his ease and comfort on this side of time more than all his prospects on the other side of it; and who, therefore, though he may never have looked upon himself to be any thing else than a fair Christian, is looked upon by every spiritual being as a rebel to his God, with the principle of rebellion firmly seated in his most vital part, even in his heart turned in coldness and alienation away from Him.
But if God be looked upon by you as a Father with whom you are reconciled through the blood of sprinkling, it will not be so with you. Now, this is what He calls you to do. He gives you a warrant to choose Him as your God. He offers Himself to your acceptance, and beseeches all to whom the word of salvation is sent, to be reconciled to Him. It is indeed a wonderful change in the state of a heart, when, giving up its coldness and indifference to God, (and I call upon every careless and unawakened man to tell me, upon his honesty, whether this be not the actual state of his heart,) it surrenders itself to Him with the warm and the willing tribute of all its affections.
Now, there is not one power, within the compass of nature, that can bring about this change. It does not lie with man to give up the radical iniquity of an alienated heart; the Ethiopian may as soon change his skin, and the leopard his spots. But what cannot be done by him is done to him, when he accepts of the Gospel. The promises of Christ are abundantly performed upon all who trust in Him. Through Him is the dispensation of forgiveness, and with Him is the dispensation of the all-powerful and all-subduing Spirit. While, then, with the very first mention of His name, I call on you to cease your hand from doing evil, surely there is nothing in the call that can lead you to stop at any one point of obedience, when I, at the same time, tell you of the mighty change that must be accomplished, ere you are meet for the inheritance of the saints. You must be made the workmanship of God; you must be born again; you must be made to feel your dependence on the power of the renewing Spirit; and that power must come down upon you, and keep by you, and by His ever-needed supplies must form the habitual answer to your habitual and believing prayers.
I have now got upon ground on which many will refuse to go along with me. I can get their testimony to the spectacle of a reforming people, putting the visible iniquities of stealing, and lying, and evil speaking, and drunkenness, away from them; but from the moment we come to the only principle which confers any value on these visible expressions, even the willing homage of the heart to God, and to His law in all its spirituality and extent; and from the moment that we come to the only expedient by which such a principle can ever obtain an establishment within us, (and we challenge them to attempt the establishment of this principle in any other way,) even the operation of that Spirit which is given to those who accept of Christ as He is laid before us in the Gospel; then, and at that moment, are we looked upon as having entered within the borders of fanaticism; and, while they lavish their superficial admiration onthe flowers of virtue, do they refuse the patience of their attention to the root from which they spring, or to the nourishment which maintains them.
And here I cannot but record the effect of an actual though undesigned experiment, which I prosecuted for upwards of twelve years among you. For the greater part of that time, I could expatiate on the meanness of dishonesty, on the villany of falsehood, on the despicable arts of calumny, in a word, upon all those deformities of character, which awaken the natural indignation of the human heart against the pests and the disturbers of human society.
Now could I, upon the strength of these warm expostulations, have got the thief to give up his stealing, and the evil speaker his censoriousness, and the liar his deviations from truth, I should have felt all the repose of one who had gotten his ultimate object. It never occurred to me that all this might have been done, and yet every soul of every hearer have remained in full alienation from God; and that even could I have established in the bosom of one who stole, such a principle of abhorrence at the meanness of dishonesty, that he was prevailed upon to steal no more, he might still have retained a heart as completely unturned to God, and as totally unpossessed by a principle of love to Him, as before. In a word, though I might have made him a more upright and honourable man, I might have left him as destitute of the essence of religious principle as ever. But the interesting fact is, that during the whole of that period in which I made no attempt against the natural enmity of the mind to God, while I was inattentive to the way in which this enmity is dissolved, even by the free offer on the one hand, and the believing acceptance on the other, of the gospel salvation; while Christ, through whose blood the sinner, who by nature stands afar off, is brought near to the heavenly Lawgiver whom he has offended, was scarcely ever spoken of, or spoken of in such a way, as stripped Flim of all the importance of His character and His offices, even at this time I certainly did press the reformations of honour, and truth, and integrity among my people; but I never once heard of any such reformations having been effected amongst them.
If there was any thing at all brought about in this way, it was more than ever I got any account of. I am not sensible, that all the vehemence with which I urged the virtues and the proprieties of social life, had the weight of a feather on the moral habits of my parishioners. And it was not till I got impressed by the utter alienation of the heart in all its desires and affections from God; it was not till reconciliation to Him became the distinct and the prominent object of my ministerial exertions; it was not till I took the scriptural way of laying the method of reconciliation before them; it was not till the free offer of forgiveness through the blood, of Christ was urged upon their acceptance, and the Holy Spirit given through the channel of Christs mediatorship to all who ask Him, was set before them as the unceasing object of their dependence and their prayers; it was not, in one word, till the contemplations of my people were turned to these great and essential elements in the business of a soul providing for its interest with God, and the concerns of its eternity, that I ever heard of any of those subordinate reformations which I aforetime made the earnest and the zealous, but I am afraid at the same time, the ultimate object of my earlier ministrations.
Ye servants, whose scrupulous fidelity has now attracted the notice, and drawn forth in my hearing a delightful testimony from your masters, what mischief you would have done, had your zeal for doctrines and sacraments been accompanied by the sloth and the remissness, and what, in the prevailing tone of moral relaxation, is counted the allowable purloining of your earlier days! But a sense of your heavenly Masters eye has brought another influence to bear upon you; and while you are thus striving to adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things, you may, poor as you are, reclaim the great ones of the land to the acknowledgment of the faith. You have at least taught me, that to preach Christ is the only effective way of preaching morality in all its branches; and out of your humble cottages have I gathered a lesson, which I pray God I may be enabled to carry with all its simplicity into a wider theatre, and to bring with all the power of its subduing efficacy upon the vices of a more crowded population.
And here it gives me pleasure to observe, that earnest as I have been for a plain and practical outset, the very first obedience of Johns disciples was connected with a belief in the announcementof a coming Saviour. This principle was present with them, and had its influence on the earliest movements of their repentance. Faith in Christ had at that time but an obscure dawning in their minds; but they did not wait for its full and its finished splendour, till they should begin the work of keeping the commandments. To this infant faith there corresponded a certain degree of obedience; and this obedience grew more enlightened, more spiritual, more allied with the purity of the heart, and the movements of the inner man, just as faith obtained its brighter and larger accessions in the course of the subsequent revelations. The disciple of John keeping himself free from extortion and adultery, was a very different man from the Pharisee, who was neither an extortioner nor an adulterer. The mind of the Pharisee rested on his present peformances; the mind of the disciple was filled with the expectation of a higher Teacher, and he looked forward to him, and was in the attitude of readiness to listen, and believe, and obey.
Many of them were transferred from the Forerunner to the Saviour, and they companied with him during his abode in the world, and were found with one accord in one place on the day of Pentecost, and shared in the influences of that Comforter, whom Christ promised to send down upon his disciples on earth, from the place to which he had ascended in heaven; and thus it is that the same men who started with the preaching of John at the work of putting their obvious and palpable transgressions away from them, were met afterwards at the distanceof years, living the life of faith in Christ, and growing in meetness for a spiritual inheritance, by growing in all the graces and accomplishments of spiritual obedience. There was a faith in Christ, which presided over the very first steps of their practical career; but it is worthy of being remarked, that they did not wait in indolence till this faith should receive its further augmentations.
Upon this faith, humble as it was at its commencement, their Teacher exacted a corresponding obedience; and this obedience, so far from being suspended till what was lacking in their faith should be perfected, was the very path which conducted them to larger manifestations. Now, is not faith a growing principle at this hour? Is not the faith of an incipient Christian different in its strength, and in the largeness of its contemplations, from the faith of him who, by reason of use, has had his senses well exercised to discern both the good and the evil? I am willing to concede it, for it accords with all my experience on the subject, that some anticipation, however faint, of the benefit to be derived from an offered Saviour; some apprehension, however indistinct, of the mercy of God, in Christ Jesus; some hope, inspired by the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, and which nothing but the preaching of that Gospel, in all its peculiarity will ever awaken in the mind, that these are the principles which preside over the very first movements of a sinner, casting away from him his transgressions, and returning unto God.
But let us not throw any impediment in the way of these first movements. Let us have a practical outset. Let us not be afraid of giving an immediate character of exertion to the very infancy of a Christians career. To wait in slavish adherence to system, till the principle of faith be deposited with all the tenacity of a settled assurance in the mind, or the brilliancy of a finished light be thrown around it, would be to act in the face of scriptural example. Let the Gospel be preached in all its freeness at the very outset; but let us never forget, that to every varying degree of faith in the mind of the hearer there goes an obedience along with it; that to forsake the evil of his ways can never be pressed too early upon his observance; that this, and every subsequent degree of obedience, is the prescribed path to clearer manifestations and that, to attempt the establishment of a perfect faith by the single work of expounding the truth, is to strike out a spark of our own kindling it is to do the thing in our own way - it is to throw aside the use of scriptural expedients; and to substitute the mere possession of a dogma, for that principle which, growing progressively within us, animates and sustains the whole course of a humble, and diligent, and assiduous, and pains-taking Christian.
Whence the fact, that the deriders and the enemies of evangelical truth set themselves forward as the exclusive advocates of morality? It is because many of its friends have not ventured to show so bold and so immediate a front on this subject as they ought to have done. They are positively afraid of placing morality on the foreground of their speculations. They do not like it to be so prominently brought forward at the commencement of their instructions. They have it, and in a purer and holier form too, than its more ostentatious advocates; but they have thrown a doctrinal barrier around it, which hides it from the general observation. Would it not be better to drag it from this concealment - to bring it out to more immediate view - to place it in large and visible characters on the very threshold of our subject; and if our Saviour told His countrymen, at the very outset of their discipleship, that they who follow after Him must forsake all - is there any thing to prevent us from warning, at the very outset of our ministrations, against all that is glaringly and obviously wrong?
Much should be done to chase away the very general delusion which exists among the people of this country, that the preachers of faith are not the preachers of morality. If there be any thing in the arrangements of a favourite system which are at all calculated to foster this delusion, these arrangements should just be broke in upon. Obedience should be written upon every signal; and departure from all iniquity should be made to float, in a right and legible inscription, upon all our standards.
I call on you, my brethren, to abound in those good deeds, by which, if done in the body, Christ will be magnified in your bodies. I call on you for a prompt vindication of the truth as it is in Jesus, by your example and your lives. Let me hear of your being the most equitable masters, and I the most faithful servants, and the most upright members of society, and the most watchful parents, and the most dutiful children. Never forget, that the object of the Saviour is to redeem you from all iniquity; and that every act of wilful indulgence, in any one species of iniquity, is a refusal to go along with him. Do maintain to the eye of byestanders the conspicuous front of a reforming, and conscientious, and ever-doing people. Meet the charge of those who are strangers to the power of the truth, by the noblest of all refutations - by the graces and accomplishments of a life given in faithful and entire dedication to the will of the Saviour. Let the remembrance of what He gave for you, ever stir you up to the sense of what you should give Him back again; and while others talk of good works, in such a way as to depose Christ from His pre-eminence, do you perform these good works through Christ, by the power of His grace working in you mightily.
And think not that you have attained, or are already perfect. Have your eye ever directed to the perfect righteousness of Christ, as the only ground of your acceptance with God, and as the only example you should never cease to aspire after. Rest not in any one measure of attainment. Think not that you should stop short till you are righteous, even as He is righteous. Take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be fitted for the contest; and prove that you are indeed born again by the anointing which you have received, being an anointing which rernaineth. May the very God of peace sanctify you wholly. May He shed abroad His love in your hearts. And may the Spirit which I call on you to pray for, in the faith of Him who is intrusted with the dispensation of it, impel you to all diligence, that you may be found of Him, at His coming, without spot, and blameless.
I shall conclude this very hurried and imperfect Address, with the last words of my last sermon to you. "It is not enough that you receive Christ for the single object of forgiveness, or as a priest who has wrought out an atonement for you; for Christ offers Himself in more capacities than this one, and you do not receive Him truly, unless you receive Him just as He offers Himself. Again, it is not enough that you receive Christ only as a priest and a prophet; for all that He teaches will be to you a dead letter, unless you are qualified to understand and to obey it; and if you think that you are qualified by nature, you, in fact, refuse His teaching, at the very time that you profess Him to be your teacher, for He says, "without me ye can do nothing." You must receive Him for strength, as well as for forgiveness and direction; or, in other words, you must submit to Him as your King, not merely to rule over you by His law, but to rule in you by His Spirit. You must live in constant dependence on the influences of His grace, and if you do so, you never will stop short at any one point of obedience, but, knowing that the grace of God is all-powerful, you will suffer no difficulties to stop your progress; you will suffer no paltry limit of what unaided human nature can do, to bound your ambition after the glories of a purer and a better character than any earthly principle can accomplish; you will enter a career, of which you at this moment see not the end; you will try an ascent, of which the lofty eminence is hid in the darkness of futurity; the chilling sentiment, that no higher obedience is expected of me than what I can yield, will have no influence upon you, for the, mighty stretch of attainment that you look forward to, is not what I can do, but what Christ can do in me; and, with the all-subduing instrument of His grace to help you through every difficulty, and to carry you in triumph over every opposition, you will press forward conquering and to conquer; and, while the world knoweth not the power of those great and animating hopes which sustain you, you will be making daily progress in a field of discipline and acquirement which they have never entered; and in patience and forgiveness, and gentleness and charity, and the love of God and the love of your neighbour, which is like unto the love of God, you will prove that a work of grace is going on in your hearts, even that work by which the image you lost at the fall is repaired and brought back again - the empire of sin within you is overthrown - the subjection of your hearts to what is visible and earthly is exchanged for the power of the unseen world over its every affection - and you are filled with such a faith, and such a love, and such a superiority to perishable things, as will shed a glory over the whole of your daily walk, and give to every one of your doings the high character of a candidate for eternity.
"Christ is offered to all of you for forgiveness. The man who takes Him for this single object must be looking at Him with an eye half shut up on the revelation He makes of Himself. Look at Him with an open and a stedfast eye, and then I will call you a true believer; and sure I am, that if you do so, you cannot avoid seeing Him in the earnestness of His desire that you should give up all sin, and enter from this moment into all obedience. True, and most true, my brethren, that faith will save you; but it must be a whole faith in a whole Bible. True, and most true, that they who keep the commandments of Jesus shall enter into life; but you are not to shrink from any one of these commandments, or to say because they are so much above the power of humanity, that you must give up the task of attempting them. True, and most true, that he who trusteth to his obedience as a saviour, is shifting his confidence from the alone foundation it can rest upon. Christ is your Saviour; and when I call upon you to rejoice in that reconciliation which is through Him, I call upon you not to leave Him for a single moment, when you engage in the work of doing those things which if left undone, will exclude us from the kingdom of heaven. Take Him along with you into all your services. Let the sentiment ever be upon you, that what I am now doing I may do in my own strength to the satisfaction of man; but I must have the power of Christ resting upon the performance, if I wish to do it in the way that is acceptable to God.
Let this be your habitual sentiment, and then the supposed opposition between faith and works vanishes into nothing. The life of a believer is made up of good works; and faith is the animating and the power-working principle of every one of them. The Spirit of Christ actuates and sustains the whole course of your obedience. You walk not away from Him, but, in the language of the text, you "walk in him," (Col. ii. 6.); and as there is not one of your doings in which He does not feel a concern, and prescribe a duty for you, so there is not one of them in which His grace is not in readiness to put the right principle into your heart, and to bring it out into your conduct, and to make your walk accord with your profession, so as to let the world see upon you without, the power and the efficacy of the sentiment within; and thus, while Christ has the whole merit of your forgiveness; He has the whole merit of your sanctification also; and the humble and deeply felt consciousness of "nevertheless not me, but the grace of God that is in me," restores to Jesus Christ all the credit and all the glory which belong to Him, by making Him your only, and your perfect and your entire, and your altogether Saviour.
"Choose Him, then, my brethren, choose Him as the Captain of your salvation. Let Him enter into your hearts by faith, and let Him dwell continually there. Cultivate a daily intercourse and a growing acquaintance with Him. 0, you are in safe company, indeed, when your fellowship is with Him! The shield of His protecting mediatorship is ever between you and the justice of God; and out of His fulness there goeth a constant stream, to nourish, and to animate, and to strengthen every believer. Why should the shifting of human instruments so oppress and so discourage you, when He is your willing friend; when He is ever present, and is at all times in readiness; when He, the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever, is to be met with in every place; and while His disciples here, giving way to the power of sight, are sorrowful, and in great heaviness, because they are to move at a distance from one another, He, my brethren, He has His eye upon all neighbourhoods and all countries, and will at length gather His disciples into one eternal family?
With such a, Master, let us quit ourselves like men. With the magnificence of eternity before us, let time, with all its fluctuations, dwindle into its own littleness. If God is pleased to spare me, I trust I shall often meet with you in person, even on this side of the grave; but if not, let us often meet in prayer at the mercy-seat of God. While we occupy different places on earth, let our mutual intercessions for each other go to one place in heaven. Let the Saviour put our supplications into one censer; I and be assured, my brethren, that after the dear and the much-loved scenery of this peaceful vale has disappeared from my eye, the people who live in it shall retain a warm and an ever-during place in my memory ; - and this mortal body must be stretched on the bed of death, ere the heart which now animates it can resign its exercise of longing after you, and praying for you, that you may so receive Christ Jesus, and so walk in Him, and so hold fast the things you have gotten, and so prove that the labour I have had amongst you has not been in vain; that when the sound of the last trumpet awakens us, these eyes, which are now bathed in tears, may open upon a scene of eternal blessedness, and we, my brethren, whom the providence of God has withdrawn for a little while from, one another, may on that day be found side by side at the right hand of the everlasting throne."
SINCE the present edition of this work was putting to press, I have seen a review of it by the CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTOR, and the following are the immediate observations which the perusal of this review has suggested.
I meant no attack on any body of clergy, and I have made no attack upon them. The people whom addressed were the main object on which my attention rested; and any thing I have said in the style of animadversion, was chiefly, if not exclusively, with a reference to that perverseness which I think I have witnessed in the conceptions and habits of private Christians. I have alluded, no doubt, to a method of treatment on the part of some of the teachers of Christianity, and which I believe to be both inefficient and unscriptural. But have I at all asserted the extent to which this method prevails? Have I ventured to fasten an imputation upon any marked or general body of Christian ministers? It was no object of mine to set forth or to signalize my own peculiarity in this matter; and if I rightly understand who the men are whom the reviewer has in his eye when he speaks of the evangelical clergy, then does he represent me as dealing out my censures against those whom 1 honestly believe to he the instrumental cause of nearly all the vital and substantial Christianity in the land?
Again, is it not possible for a man to have an awakened and tender sense of the sinfulness of one sin, and to have a very slender and inadequate sense of the sinfulness of another? Might not the first circumstance beget in his mind an honest and a general desire to be delivered from sin; and might not the second circumatante account for the fact, that with this mourning for sin in the gross, he should put forth his hand without scruple to the commission of what is actually sinful?
I do not know a more familiar exhibition of this, than that of a man who would be visited with remorse were he to walk in the fields on a Sabbath day at the time of divine service, and the very same man indulging without remorse his propensity to throw ridicule or discredit on an absent character. His actual remorse on the commission of all that he feels to be sinful, might lead a man to mourn over sin in the general; but surely this general direction of his can have no such necessary influence, as the reviewer contends for, in the way of leading him to renounce what he does not feel to be sinful. But this is what he should be made to feel; and it may be done in two ways, - either in the didactic way, by a formal announcement that the deed in question is contrary to the law of God; or in the imperative way, by bidding him cease from the doing of it, - a way no lees effective and scriptural than the former, and brought to bear in the New Testament upon men at the earliest conceivable stage of their progress from sin unto righteousness.
I share most dsrdially in opinion with the reviewer, that he might extend his observations greatly beyond the length of the original pamphlet, were he to say all that might be said on the topics brought forward in it. I believe that it would require the compass of an extended volume, to meet every objection, and to turn the argument in every possible way. I did not anticipate all the notice that has been taken of this performance, and am fearful lest it should defeat the intended effect on the hearts of a plain people. With this feeling I close the discussion for the present; and my desire is, that in all I may afterwards say upon this subject, I may be preserved from that tone of controversy, which I feel to be hurtful to the practical influence of every truth, it accompanies; and which, I fear, may have in so far infected my former communication, as to make it more fitted to arouse the speculative tendencies of the mind; and provoke to an intellectual warfare, than to tell on the conscience and on the doings of an earnest inquirer.
Home | Biography | Literature | Letters | Interests | Links | Quotes | Photo-Wallet