« PreviousContinue »
mission, nor do away with the spiritual and heavenly state of things, of which their being among us is a token: it does not turn the church into the world, the new heaven and the new earth into the old heathen or Jewish condition; it still leaves on every Christian the full burden of his baptismal promises, and of those high and unspeakable privileges, which were sealed to him
at the holy font of regeneration. It still leaves him a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven; bound by solemn oath to renounce what God hates, to believe what he teaches, to keep what he commands.
Such is the view which our Lord's parable of the sheep-fold, compared with what we read elsewhere in the Bible and prayer-book, generally would lead us to take of our own condition, so far as it depends on the presence of an apostolical ministry among us. Whoever truly believes it, and lays it to heart, will find that it will make an extreme difference in all his notions and conduct on church matters.
I do not mean simply in keeping him from schism, and from any proceedings within the church in the spirit and temper of schism, that is, of self-confidence ; but I mean, particularly; in respect of those who really love the church, and wish to obey it; who desire and endeavor to walk conscientiously in all church duties and ordinances. If such persons will use themselves to consider this outward kingdom of God as a pledge of the inward, the ministry and sacraments as sure tokens of the Father and the Son dwelling in their hearts by the Holy Spirit ; surely that is a way of thinking, which will in an unspeakable way ennoble and purify all they do, both in the church and elsewhere; all their wishes, prayers, and performances.
Particularly in regard of devotional duties, and church services, it will not so much set men on any new practices, as it will put their old observancos on new and high ground. Thus in our dealings with Christ's ministers, more especially with his bishops, when any come near us, we shall be full of awe, considering them as
living and visible tokens of him, under whose cloud of glory, though we see it not, we live : we should receive them, as the Galatians are praised for receiving St. Paul, as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus."
In our thoughts on public matters, and what is called the union of the church of God with the state in which we live, we should look chiefly, not to the visible and immediate good done, but to the great duty which lies on the kingdoms of this world, to bow themselves down to the church and kingdom of our Lord, and to offer up all their power and glory, as a sacrifice, through her, to God.
In our use of the prayer-book we should remember, that this also coming down, as it does in a great measure, nearly from the day of pentecost, is, like the apostolical ministry, a sure token of God's wonderful pres. ence in our hearts; far more, therefore, than any other set of prayers and lessons, however good and edifying, could be.
Finally, this view, if we will steadily try to act on it, will guide aright, and lift on high, the whole course of our outward religion, both in word and deed. It will help to make us feel, after our measure, that Christ is not only the Savior of all men, once for all by his precious death on the cross, but also a Savior, a present and abiding Savior, to each of us at every moment, by his Spirit inhabiting our souls and bodies. It will make every day Sunday, and Sunday like one of the days of eternity. It will make every place a church, and the church a kind of heaven.
WHY THE WITNESS OF GOD IS REJECTED.
PREACHED ON TRINITY SUNDAY.
ST. JOHN iii. 16.
« Verily, verily, I say unto you, we speak that we do know, and testify
that we have seen, and ye receive not our witness."
These are the words of the eternal Son of God, describing the manner in which his witness, and the witness of his Holy Spirit, would be too generally treated in the world. That behavior, he says, would be boldly practised toward him, which men can least endure, when practised toward themselves. His positive declarations would be treated as falsehoods: his words of earnest advice and warning taken no more notice of, by many, than if they had never been spoken at all.
Now, men know what they feel when they are used in that way, even
by those who are as wise and as good as themselves. They cannot very soon forget or pass it over.
How then can they think, without trembling, of behaving in the same disrespectful way to the eternal Father, to the judge of quick and dead, to the Almighty Spirit, in whom they and all creatures live, and move, and have their being ?
They cannot suppose that God Almighty is, as it were, too high above us to care how we behave toward him. For he has warned us in so many words, “ Them that honor me, I will honor; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” That is, they who turn their thoughts, seriously and humbly, to the message of their God, brought from heaven by his Son Christ Jesus, and sealed afterward by the gift of his Holy Spirit ; those he will always bear in mind; they will find him a kind and merciful God; they will have his blessing both in this world and in the next. But on the other hand,
surely he scorneth the scorners :" they who will not remember him, will find themselves left without him in the world ; and how then can ever anything turn out well and happily to them ?
Neither can the scorners of the Almighty pretend, that the things which he teaches, and they refuse to hear, are such as do not nearly concern themselves. On the contrary, the witness of the Son of God, the gospel, of which he speaks in the text, contains in it all the particulars, on which depend the life, being, and happiness, of every one, both here and hereafter.
Can anything possibly concern you more than to know, that you have an immortal soul, a living spirit which never can die, and a body which will rise again after death, never more to return to corruption ? And farther, that God himself has prepared for this soul and body of yours a home of everlasting peace and joy :things more blessed than eye ever saw, or ear heard, or than ever entered into man's heart to conceive? These truths, by his gospel, our Savior brought to light. Before him, they might be darkly guessed at by a few good and wise men: now they are known for certain facts by every
child in a Christian country. Can you, dare you, pretend for a moment, that the certain knowledge of these things makes no difference to you? Can you, dare you say, you have any excuse for running after wild and low pleasures, in order to drown the cares and sorrows of the world, now that your Maker has made known to you a place of eternal comfort and recompense ? Can you, dare you plead, when vexed and disappointed, that you “ do well to be angry, even unto death,” now that your eyes are divinely opened, and you have it in your power, if you will, to look on, over a very few years, to a place where there will be no sorrow, nor crying,” and where “God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes ?"
But Jesus Christ brought also to light the doctrine of eternal death :—the chief evil, as well as the chief good. They who live within reach of his gospel are inexcusable if they do not know how grievously they and all mankind are fallen from that righteousness in which God created them; if they do not think much of the danger they are in, lest they lose their souls for ever and ever.
“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God.” Surely, however pain. ful it may be, it must be good for a man to know this. Having been once informed of it by our Savior, we cannot be as if we had never heard of it.
If, indeed, no more had been revealed to man, than that there is a portion in heaven provided for him by God Almighty, but that he, through sin, is in great danger of missing that happiness, and falling into a place where “their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched :"-if God had only made known to us our condition, without distinctly telling us how it may be bettered, something might have been said for spiritual doubtfulness and despondency, though nothing at all for wilful sin and disobedience. But, in his infinite and unspeakable mercy, he has told us much more than this: he has not only set life and death clearly before us, but has said distinctly, “choose life,” and has taught us how to do so effectually. This is, emphatically, the gospel of Christ: namely, the way, revealed by him from heaven, by which lost and undone sinners may return, if they will, to their heavenly Father; may put off their sin, and save their souls alive. All which our Lord has fully revealed to us, by instructing us in God Almighty's method of dealing with us by his Son and Spirit.
First, whereas all mankind were guilty, before God, of deadly sin-all had sinned, and come short of his glory; he has revealed to us, in his Son Christ Jesus, the only name by which it is possible for a sinner to obtain forgiveness of the past. The Son of man has been lifted up in our sight, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. The Son, which is the word, of God, begotten from everlasting