« PreviousContinue »
scripture reader has been allowed to lift the latch where another stranger would not be permitted to enter: the scripture reader has been allowed to speak with confidence where the minister would be heard, if listened to, with suspicion; has been sometimes permitted to draw out his Book, black as it is (for such is the name which has been given to the Bible), black as it is, to the inhabitants of the cabin; or, if awed by the authority of the priest, they tell him to put his book in his pocket, and that they cannot suffer him to read it, they will yet listen to him as he talks; and when the Irish accents, in their sweetness and richness, flow from his tongue, the ear is chained to listen to the message of mercy; and "the story of peace," as the Gospel is beautifully called in Irish, finds its way to many a poor sinner's heart.
Besides this instrumentality, that of preachers of the Gospel stationed in districts, or of itinerant labourers traversing the length and breadth of the land, has been eminently useful. Did time permit, or were it the object of the present address to enter into details, I might present many which we receive almost daily, in illustration of the suitability of the means to the establishment of that kingdom with which I have been endeavouring to occupy your attention. We cannot always speak of success; we must often speak of trials and disappointments: yet still this instrumentality in its varied character is finding its way, and already giving an indication that "He shall reign," and that "He must reign," whose right the kingdom is. Since coming among you on this occasion I have been urged from Ireland, by my fellow-labourers in the city of Dublin, to impress on the friends of that country here how much men and means are wanting for Ireland. We could find employment for many labourers if we could but receive from your liberality (and we are ready to throw in along with it our mite to support them), or could find the men who were willing to be employed in those labours. We have some of them already engaged in different parts of the country; but what are these among so many? I have been often challenged with what has been done for Ireland, and with the little degree of success which has attended it. All that has been done for Ireland! Have you ever calculated all that Britain has done for Ireland at the utmost; and then all that Britain ought to do, with respect to its duty to God and its duty to Ireland likewise? And will you again repeat the question? If you do, we can only candidly tell you that England never yet has done its duty to Ireland, and never will until she has sent an active and faithful missionary into every
large town, at all events (to say no more), of the sister island; and if this was done with diligence and promptness, the effect is incalculable, and would be undoubtedly great.
But the success has been great: the revival of religion that has taken place in Ireland has been most satisfactory and glorious. You are not to calculate the good done by one denomination, but by various denominations of the people of God, and in the stirring up and rousing of Christians of all denominations in Ireland. The means already employed have been eminently useful and eminently blessed. There is every encouragement to go forward: we sin against the God who has blessed our efforts already if we do not; and with all the discouragements and disadvantages, much land yet remains to be possessed. When we see the numbers that God has already brought to know the truth, and stirred up to usefulness in different denominations in the sister island, we see enough to lead us to thank God and take courage.
Will you bear with me (though yonder clock warns me to have done) whilst I venture to suggest to you that, while pleading with you for means, in connexion with the denominations which are united, though in no sectarian spirit, you are to remember that our episcopal friends have the wealth of government for their support; you are to remember that our presbyterian friends have the Regium Donum for their support, in sums of from fifty to one hundred pounds for every minister settled in the land; but that those who labour on the voluntary principle, and are the men on that account more particularly suited to meet the Roman Catholic on the principles he has lately adopted—they have no support but what they derive from British liberality. Is it too much, then, whilst you plead for the voluntary principle, that we call on you to give a noble demonstration of its efficacy under God to evangelize Ireland? I take up Ireland with its millions; I take up Ireland with its spiritual miseries and wants; I plead with Christian brethren and sisters, and I say she is your neighbour, she is your sister, she has lived for centuries under your government; you confess that you have wronged her: I plead for no political justice; I simply ask, give her the Gospel, give it in proportion to her wants, in proportion to the abundance that you enjoy. I throw the cause upon your liberality; and from what I have previously experienced when pleading the cause of Ireland, I am sure I throw it not on that liberality in vain.
But though I have trespassed, it may be the last time I shall be
permitted to address some of you-and before we part, therefore, the text has personal reference to you. In one way or other Christ "must reign" with respect to you. Have you ever felt the power of his grace in your hearts? Have you ever been converted by that Gospel which we wish you to send to the sister island? If not, that king shall reign; and the time will come when he will say, “Bring forth these mine enemies, and slay them before my face." May none of you be found among the number of those enemies; but may each from the heart be enabled by divine grace to-night, not only by our use of the means, but by our yielding to the Gospel ourselves, to say, "Here in this heart he shall reign-he must reign." God grant that he may reign for ever!
HEARERS JUDGED BY SERMONS.
REV. H. MELVILL, B.D.
"And if any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."-JOHN, xii. 47, 48.
THERE is one very striking point of difference between the divine and human administration of justice. With men it is a principle that punishment should follow rapidly upon crime, so that, if guilt have been proved, its penalty should be immediately exacted. But God, in his capacity of moral Governor of the universe defers punishment, so that the sin and its retribution are often separated by a long interval.
It might at first sight be thought, that our duty would have been to imitate as closely as possible the divine administration of justice, inasmuch as we must be confident, that the more we become like God the nearer we come to perfection. But on further consideration, it will appear that the difference to which we have referred is made unavoidable, by the difference between the divine nature and the human. God, as an omniscient and omnipotent Being, may keep an accurate account of what is done among his creatures, and may so restrain and overrule the wickedness of transgressors as to prevent forbearance from being injurious. But it is evident, that this cannot be said of earthly rulers. If they were to let crime go unvisited, intending at some future period to bring the culprit to account, they would have no power of ensuring that this their longsuffering might not do much injury to the community at large. They must either at once punish the offender, or leave him at liberty to go on injuring his fellow-men, without having any security of finally bringing him to account, or repairing the mischief he has been suffered to work. We do not see, even in regard of the divine administration of justice, that no apparent evil results from the present forbearance of the great moral Governor. We have the
testimony of the Bible itself, that this forbearance is wrested to an encouragement to sin. "Because," says the wise man, "the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." We can hardly doubt, that, if God's administration of justice were more nearly like our own, so that vengeance followed more quickly on sin, there would be far less on earth of that daring impiety which seems to assume that there will be no retribution and no punishment for sin. But then punishment is not the less sure because long deferred God can make even evil subservient to good, so that the general happiness of his empire shall be promoted by crimes, his patience of which has been wrested into encouragement. These are manifestly assertions, which could not be advanced in regard of human rulers ; an therefore we think it would be to frustrate all the ends of government, to attempt the imitation of the divine mode of administering justice.
But if we allow, that some evil, however it may be overruled, is produced by God's forbearance, we must be prepared to give reasons why the forbearance is exercised. And these are so obvious as scarcely to require to be stated. If vengeance followed immediately, or very quickly upon sin, there would be no room whatever for repentance, and God's dealings with our race would be reduced to a series of desolating judgments, with no season for contrition and amendment. And this state of things, though it might have been thoroughly consistent with justice, would have given no scope for other divine attributes, and therefore could not have been introduced with regard to a redeemed race. Law, strictly speaking, leaves no room for repentance, because repentance, however sincere, can make no amends for the violation of the statute; and therefore those who have law to administer cannot suspend its penalties, in hopes of a contrition, which, even if produced, will offer no satisfaction to the case that seeks satisfaction. But the case is altogether different with the Moral Governor of the universe in his dealings with mankind. God has not merely laws to administer, but provisions of grace to apply, even the rich provisions which have been made through the suretiship of a Mediator; and there is therefore a place for repentance, seeing that, if a sinner forsake his ways and turn to the Lord, he may obtain forgiveness, and nevertheless, through the satisfaction made by Christ, the law which he has violated will be maintained in its majesty and its dignity.
And yet, after all, the long-suffering of God is among the most