Page images
PDF
EPUB

ing. No: a person may, according to St. Paul's doctrine, * " profess to know God, and yet by works deny him,” as it is but too visible the greatest part of the professors of Christianity do at this day. Nor is it enough that "he that names the name of Christ," or has that name named upon him in baptism, “ departs from iniquity,” and is in all outward things unblameable. Even this will not entitle a man to this blessing, or prove that he is in possession of it. For we may have " a náme to live, when we are dead." And whatever a man may be in his outward deportment, however blameless, however exemplary, yet if he be not“ born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" if he have not the « Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," and if Christ be not " in him, dwelling in his heart by faith, he is a reprobate."| Neither will the most diligent and constant attendance upon the means of grace and ordinances of God, whether public or private, unite us sayingly to Christ, or afford sure proof of our being possessed of an interest in him. For, if St. Paul may be credited, a man may have a form of godliness, and may be destitute of the power, and if the faithful and true Witness may be depended upon, the only true worshippers are those that worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.” Nay, and as to good works, even works of mercy, done, to the bodies and souls of men, on which the greatest stress seems to be laid by most, yet even these themselves, however largely and earnestly inculcated in the holy Scriptures, are not, properly speaking, the means whereby we are ingrafted into Christ, nor are they of themselves sufficient evidences that we belong to him. though I give all my goods to feed the poor, (says the last mentioned apostle, ) and have not love, I am nothing," For “ in Christ Jesus, nothing availeth, but faith that worketh by love.''ff

6. This is properly the mean whereby we obtain this blessing, even faith working by love, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the glad tidings of salvation through him. For so he himself

“ God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life; he that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” These words of our Lord are echoed by John the Baptist, and confirmed, if they need any confirmation, by the testimony of all the apostles: • He that believeth on the Son,” saith the Baptist,

66 For

66 hath everTit. i. 16. + Rev. iii. 3. 1 2 Cor. xiii. 5. $ I Cor. xiii. 3.

|| Gal. 5. 6.

tells us,

mightest quench thy thirst for happiness, and wash away the filth of sin ;-if this great, amazing, and unfathomable love (I say) do not win thy heart, and melt thee in its holy flame into a vessel of honour, I testify to thee, it will suddenly be converted into fiery indignation, which will kindle upon and consume thy body and soul in its unquenchable flames !

Foolish man, what art thou doing? Despisest thou the riches of his glory, the paradise of his delights, the dignity of his crown, which he tenderly and earnestly invites thee to share ? Slightest thou his love ? His bleeding, agonizing, expiring love! -Has he not suffered enough ? Art thou resolved to crucify him afresh and put him to open shame? Sinner, forbear! Cease to revile and buffet that lovely person ! Cease to spit in that divine face which angels gaze upon with rapture! How canst thou bruise that sacred head! Ah! do not drive those rude nails still further! Why wilt thou give that guiltless heart another and a deeper wound ? Sinner, what evil hath he done? Wherein hath he injured thee? Injured thee! alas ! he hath loved thee even unto death, and quenched by his precious blood the flames of hell kindling about thy unholy soul? And dost thou thus requite his undeserved favour and boundless love? Wretched man, abstain! Join no more the murderers of thy Saviour! Bid adieu to their company! Let his love overcome thee! Throw down the weapons of thy rebellion ; fall at his dear feet, pierced by thy crimes, and distilling a sacred balm to heal thy wounded soul! And kiss the Son lest he be angry! Remember he has authority to execute judgment, to save or to destroy. “ He has the keys of death and of hell; he opens and no man shuts, shuts and no man opens.” If he once

in his wrath thou shalt not enter into his rest," thy die will be cast, and thy wretched fate determined for ever! Now is the accepted time! now is the day of salvation! Now knock at the door of cy, and say, Lord, Lord, open to me! And he will open to thee: he will pardon, accept, and bless thee, and even thou shalt ensure the things which belong to thy peace

before they are for ever hid from thine eyes !

66

swear

SERMON XI.

PREACHED

ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEATH OF

MRS. FOSTER,

AT THE CHAPEL IN CHERRY-STREET, BIRMINGHAM,

ON SUNDAY EVENING, AUGUST 29, 1790.

I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them who are

asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 1 Thess. iv. 13, 14.

1. An eminent French writer, Mons. Saurin, has given it as his opinion, that this is one of the most difficult texts in the New Testament. Accordingly he presents us with a long and learned exposition of it, in which he proceeds upon a very singular hypothesis. He supposes “that the desire which prevailed in the primitive Christians to see Christ when he should appear to judgment, made them lament those of their brethren who died, as cut off from that hope ; and that it was in reference to this, that the apostle assured them in this passage, that such would be entirely on a level with those of their brethren who should then be found alive.” This supposition seems to me as improbable as it is extraordinary. It is not at all likely that the Christians at Thessalonica, who had for some time sat under the ministry of an apostle, should either be so ignorant as to imagine that those of their brethren who died, were cut off from the hope of seeing Christ, when he should appear again, or, if they had imagined this, that they should have grieved particularly on that account.

2. Besides, this hypothesis, instead of solving any difficulty there may be in the text, or casting any peculiar light upon it, only tends to render it more obscure, and to involve the subject in greater difficulties. For one may naturally inquire (as a judicious and pious writer has justly observed) why the apostle does not directly tell them that there was no particular room for such lamentations on this account, as they themselves, and many succeeding generations, were to die before the coming of Christ.” To answer this objection, M. Saurin is driven to acknowledge, that “the apostle did not urge that, because he did not then exactly know whether Christ's appearance would be in that age, or at some much more remote distance of time.”

3. But though we should allow that the apostle's ignorance as to that point, might be very consistent with the knowledge of all that was necessary to the preaching of the gospel, and the full and proper execution of his office; yet we have no authority from bis own epistles, or from any accounts that antiquity has handed down concerning him, to suppose that he was ignorant respecting it. It is true, from the following words in the 15th verse, We who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, some have inferred that the apostle expected himself to be found alive at our Lord's second coming. But this inference they would hardly have drawn, had they observed how common it is with all the inspired writers to speak as if they included themselves, when in reality they did not intend it.

Thus Hosea says, There (viz. in Bethel) God spake with us. Surely, Hosea was not at Bethel, nay, was not in existence, when God spake with Jacob there. The Psalmist, speaking of the dividing of the Red Sea,* says, There did we rejoice in him. And yet he could not be present when the Red Sea was divided. In like manner, the apostle James, speaking of the tongue, says, Therewith curse we men. Certainly he did not curse men. Just so St. Paul did not mean to be understood strictly in these words, as if he asserted that he should be alive when Jesus should appear to judgment! but he speaks of those who should be found alive at that time.

4. That this is the true interpretation of the apostle's words, appears from hence, that in several of his epistles he plainly expresses his expectation of dying before the coming of Christ, (see Phil. i. 20. 1 Cor. vi. 14. 2 Cor. iv. 14. 2 Tim. iv. 6.) And in the ed epistle to this people, assures them that the “ day of the

* Psalm lxvi. 6.

Lord was not at hand, and would not come, except there came a falling away first, and the man of sin were revealed, the son of perdition,'* of whom he prophesies such things as were not likely at all to be fulfilled in that pure age of the church. Add to this, that what he said on this occasion, he said by the word of the Lord, that is, by an express revelation from him, and surely the Lord could not be mistaken, He knew his apostle would not be found alive at his second coming. *.5. The above-mentioned hypothesis, therefore, is not to be admitted. And there is no need of it. The text is easily explained without it. We have only to suppose, that the apostle had observed himself while at Thessalonica, or had been informed by Timothy, after he left that city, how tenderly many of his new converts had been affected by the departure of such as had been taken from them since they had embraced Christianity, and that he intended in these words, to suggest considerations, which, if believed and laid to heart, would be effectual, if not entirely to remove, yet greatly to moderate their sorrow. And at the same time, foreseeing what a temptation to excessive grief among the tender-hearted and benevolent followers of Jesus, the death of their brethren, especially of such as were peculiarly dear to them, would be in every age; he might also, in this admirable passage, consult the benefit of future ages, éven of as many as should read his excellent epistles to the end of time.

And, as the pious writer quoted above, justly observes, " Who can be sufficiently thankful for the strong consolation these divine words administer!” How many drooping hearts have been cheered by them in every age, while successively mourning over the pious dead! How often have we ourselves been driven to them, as to a sacred anchor, when our hearts have been overwhelmed within us ! And, if God continue us a few years longer, what repeated occasions may arise of our flying to them again !"

6. Let us fly to them at this time, my brethren, in our distress for the loss, sudden and unlooked-for, of one dear to many of you, snatched away in the bloom of youth, and in the pride of her years, from a mourning and disconsolate husband, (to whom I hope the severe stroke will be sanctified,) and from a rising progeny, who are yet too young to be sensible of the loss they have sustained, or to shed one tear on the mournful occasion! I doubt not, my brethren, but you will join with me in praying that their mother's God, the pa

* 2 Thess, ii, 2

« PreviousContinue »