(August 1, 1779)
and the faith of Jesus."--Revelations xiv. 12.
as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?--
which all are to perish with the using, after the commandments and doctrines of men."--Colossians ii. 20, 22.
JOSEPH NOBLE, 20, GILTSPUR-STREET;
23, MARKET-PLACE, HULL.
THE following Sermon, published originally in the year 1779, has been submitted to me for my opinion of its merits. I have read it with great pleasure. The genuine piety and evangelical sentiments of the doctrinal parts must be in exact accordance with the feelings of all who have embraced the mercies of the Crucified Saviour, "for to those that believe he is precious." Neither do I think that there will be many who, in their consciences, can deny the existence of those corruptions which determined Mr. SLEE to quit the Establishment. The animadversions in this Sermon, on the Ordinance of Baptism, as used in the Church of England, will, of course, be approved or rejected, according to the views of the reader on this important rite: the opinion entertained by Mr. SLEE on this subject, have certainly caused many to separate themselves from the Established Church of the country, but if I were seeking for reasons for a separation, I do not say that I should fix on this particular point. On the whole, the Sermon is useful and edifying, and proves how a truly pious mind revolts at the enormities and secular corruptions of a depraved and worldly Church. Those clergymen who are immersed in the pursuits and pleasures of the world, will deride the scruples of conscience exhibited in this Sermon, or denounce them as sectarian: those who preach Christ crucified, and, in their own conduct, bring forth the fruits of that doctrine, will recognize many a sentiment that has doubtless frequently given them uneasiness, and shaken their attachment to that forced and unnatural alliance of Christ with Anti-Christ, which, though indeed, it never can be in union, is contemplated as such with great complacency by many who do not understand the nature of Christ's Spiritual Church.
[iv] I know of a certain knowledge that there are some clergymen at this present moment anxious to renounce the Establishment; some of them are my correspondents, but others, who are not my correspondents, are also ready for flight, and are waiting for an opportunity to escape from the Spiritual Babylon. That any should be found amongst those who are called "the Evangelical Clergy," zealous to uphold the Church of England in its present most corrupt form, that such persons should shut their eyes to its flagrant abuses, and not only tacitly approve them, but openly preach and publish in their favour, is at once a surprising and melancholy fact. But, in truth, it has now become in a manner fashionable to be styled "Evangelical," and as the high Church Party is sinking daily in power and esteem in the nation, artful persons have tact enough to observe that it is not quite so dangerous for a Clergyman to profess the Gospel as it was some seven or ten years ago. Hence, there are time-serving and worldly calculators even amongst the Evangelical Clergy, who having the form of godliness, deny the power thereof; and it is such and such only that dare openly to defend the scandals of the Church of England; for it is evident that no sincere Christian, whose integrity is unquestionable, can, without wounding his conscience, presume to stand up as an advocate for those abuses which make the Church of England the disgrace of the nation.
R. M. BEVERLEY,
A SERMON &c.
JOHN xiv. 15.
"IF YE LOVE ME, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS."
"GOD IS LOVE." (1 John iv. 8.) From this inexhaustible fountain, through the sacred channel of Emmanuel's mediation, are all the blessings of our salvation derived. And, "unto the place from whence the rivers" of sovereign mercy "come, thither they return," (Ecclesiastes i. 7.) in all pure affections and holy obedience to the commandments of Zion's King. To keep his commandments, we are here informed, is the only evidence of our having partaken of his grace. To give this evidence, whatever difficulties may lie in the way, the least of his saints are required. And, in the performance of it, whatever may be their inward weakness, and how formidable soever their external foes, yet are they not to be discouraged. "The bruised reed he will not break, and the smoaking flax he will not quench." (Matthew xii. 20.) For, when he sends trying dispensations to his dear children, he is pleased to favour them with grace to sustain the load. Yea, more, he takes them and all their concerns upon his Divine shoulders. "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms." (Deuteronomy xxxiii. 27.) He is pleased, from time to time, to smile upon them, and embraceth them with his mercy and goodness on every side. And thus, whilst the God of their salvation causes his face to shine upon them, unbosoms himself to them, and opens unto them the inexhaustible treasures of his grace; as their afflictions abound, their consolations do much more abound. For ever blessed be his glorious Name! he never leaves his people wholly comfortless.
 And, O how ineffably delightful and reviving is it, to the truly gracious soul, to feel his tender mercies, and marvellous loving kindness!--Then, O then, the heart is pliant and flexible, like melted wax; and its language is, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." "If ye love me," says Christ, "keep my commandments." The gracious soul replies, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee; and being, by rich, free, and sovereign grace, one of those redeemed by thy most precious blood, and plucked as a brand out of the fire, I desire to be found amongst those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
The Text I have selected upon this occasion, are the words of King Jesus, our adorable Redeemer, which are a part of his divine, incomparable, and unparalleled Farewell Sermon to his beloved disciples. What a holy flame of love must have glowed in the hearts of this select company, when they were hanging upon their dear Redeemer's lips, and attending with great eagerness to the gracious accents, which sweetly dropped from the mouth of Him, "who spoke as never man spake!"--and that, at a period too, when he was going to leave, as to his bodily presence, this little tender flock of his.
The Lord Jesus, the glorious King, set upon the holy hill of Zion, foreseeing, I apprehend, (for known unto God are all things from eternity,) the various corruptions and innovations which would obtain, or take place in future times; embraceth this opportunity of inculcating a careful and useful observation of his loving commands upon his disciples, as the only evidence of love to his sacred person, as the distinguishing characteristic of true discipleship: that they being now peculiarly affected with an account of his departure, might come from under his divine discourse, like a sheet from the [6/7] press, with all the stamps and lively impressions of the truths they heard, and the commands enjoined them, deeply and indelibly engraven upon their hearts. And, doubtless, all those who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity, will keep all his commandments, according to the measure, not of gifts, but of grace received. For his "love constraineth us;" and love is a very powerful principle.
The words before us naturally resolve themselves into two branches:
I. A supposition, or hypothesis,--"If ye love me."
II. A loving command, or kind exhortation,-- "Keep my commandments."
Whilst we are further meditating upon these words, pronounced by the gracious King of Zion, may we, under the kind and powerful influences of his blessed Spirit, experience our too contracted hearts expanding abundantly in love to Christ; the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of whose amazing love to the children of Zion surpass their utmost knowledge; that we may be filled with all the fulness of God, and, having our hearts enlarged, may run the way of his commandments!
I. A supposition,--"If ye love me." We are not, I presume, to understand our Redeemer as questioning whether or not his Apostles loved him. This he well knew. But he speaks hypothetically here, in order to put them and others, who consider themselves as his disciples, upon self-examination; that being assured of this matter, they may be stimulated to observe his precepts.
In order to perceive how far we are interested in this matter, it will be necessary to consider, who they are that love the Redeemer, and in what respects he is loved by them, and appears lovely in their eyes.
FIRST, Concerning those who love the Redeemer. The Apostle declares, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." (1 Corinthians xvi. 21.) What awful words are these! and yet, however strange the assertion may appear to some, it is an undeniable truth, that there is not naturally a single spark of true love to Jesus Christ, in any, while in their natural state. For, in consequence of Adam's transgression, "in whom we all sinned," every one comes into this vale of tears, carnal, yea, wholly so. "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm li. 5.) So that "every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is evil, only evil, and that continually." Now "the carnal mind is enmity against God:" yea, enmity itself against the Lord, and against his Anointed. (Romans viii. 7.) An awful picture this, indeed! and yet, whosoever thou art, that readest or hearest these words, "Thou art, by nature, the very man."
How then, is any soul brought to love the Lord Jesus Christ? The Apostle solves the question at once. "We love him," says the beloved disciple, "because he first loved us." (1 John iv. 19.) He loved his chosen ones from everlasting, with a free and sovereign love; not on account of foreseen faith; holiness, or good works,--for these are the effects and not the cause of his love: He pitched his love on whom he pleased, and these he loved, because he would love them. (Deuteronomy vii. 7, 8.)--Before the foundation of the world, Jesus, our Lord and our God, was "rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth, and his delights were with the sons of men." And in the fulness of time, according to covenant transactions in the everlasting council of peace, "having made peace by the blood of his cross," and slain the law-enmity thereby; at the set time to favour his chosen, by his word and spirit, he slays the natural enmity of their minds, by manifesting his love to them, and shedding it abroad in their hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto them. (Romans v. 10.) He wins them over [8/9] to himself by the power of divine grace. He overcomes them, as one beautifully expresseth it, "by a sweet omnipotence and an omnipotent sweetness," and makes them willing to come unto him, in the day of his power. He draws and attracts them, magnet-like, in heart and affections, to his blessed self. Then the language of the heart is, "Draw me, O lovely Jesus, and we (the affections) will run after thee." This divine change taking place in the soul in regeneration, Christ, who before seemed to have no form, beauty, or comeliness why he should be desired, becomes now the supreme desire of his people's souls. "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks," so their souls pant after Christ, and his reviving and sweetly-refreshing waters of life, joy and consolation. Christ is "the chiefest among ten thousand," in their esteem, "and all-together lovely," and amiable in their eyes: yea, he is not only sweet and desirable unto them, but before all sweetnesses and desirablenesses [* Cant. v. 16. Hhicco mamettakkim: vecullo mahhamaddim. It is almost impossible to express the original construction, and strength of signification. The nouns are plural abstract ones, with the sign of comparison, and which I know not how to translate more accurately than in this manner:--The mouth of him is before sweetnesses: and all of him before desirablenesses.] whatever. Of such souls as these it may be truly said, "The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in their hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ." The Day-Spring from on high hath visited them, and they are made "light in the Lord." Hence it appears, that they who love the Redeemer, are such as are born again, called by divine grace, and captivated with his sacred excellencies.--They are the objects of his love, the purchase of his blood, and the workmanship of his spirit.--We come now,
 SECONDLY, To inquire in what point of view, and under what considerations, this glorious object of the saints' esteem is so lovely in their eyes. And,
1. They admire, love, and delight in his sacred person. Here they behold majesty, greatness, and splendour, in the closest conjunction, with the most attracting beauty and engaging sweetness. "And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John i. 14.)
2. Nor are they less entertained with his endearing relations, his fragrant and savoury names. They love and delight in him as the head and husband, father, friend, and brother of his people, whose sacred names are, "Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." (Isaiah ix. 6.)
3. Nor can they think lightly of him in those important offices which he sustains for them. They are sweetly delighted with him as their Surety and Saviour, their Prophet, Priest, and King--their Shepherd, Advocate, and Kinsman Redeemer. (Deuteronomy xviii. 15-19. Psalm cx.)
4. They consider him as exceedingly beautiful in the order and ordinances of his gospel. The reading and preaching of his word, singing praises, baptism, and the Lord's supper, being purely administered according to his commands, afford them a glorious prospect of their blessed Emmanuel. Upon him, in these ordinances, they wait with a single eye to the glory of God, and the profit and edification of their souls; nor are they disappointed. In all the order of his house he maketh his paths drop fatness. In the Lord's supper, more especially, "the King of saints is held in the galleries," and giveth occasion for each of his saints to say, "He brought me to the banqueting-house, and his banner over me was love." Then, O then it is, that "his love is better than wine,--that going down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak," [10/11] of their own vileness and of his goodness; while their hearts "rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. How amiable are thy tabernacles O Lord of Hosts! They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary." (Psalms xxvii. lxxxiv. 1. lxviii. 24.)
5. They love him in his people, and esteem his saints as the excellent of the earth, in whom is all their delight. (Psalm xvi. 8.) These they love, whether rich or poor, by whatsoever character or denomination they are distinguished amongst men; provided they appear to have received the grace of God in truth, bear the image and superscription of King Jesus, and manifest his life in their firm adherence to his cause and interest.
6. And if in these respects he is lovely and beloved now, how unspeakably amiable will he be, "when we shall see him as he is," on Mount Zion above,--bear a full resemblance of him--be arrayed in white robes, and bear palms in our hands, as a token of everlasting victory! There shall we tune our golden harps to the sublimest key; and, in concert with the blood-bought throng, sing that new song, which none can learn but those that are redeemed from the earth! When, oh! when shall we drop these mortal bodies, leave this vale of tears, go up and take possession of the kingdom, and enter into the joy of the Lord, in whose "presence is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore!"
Lift up, then, O ye disciples of the Lord, the gates of your hearts, and be ye lifted up, O ye everlasting doors of the soul, and this King of Glory, with all the beauteous train of gifts, graces, and inestimable blessings, shall enter in! You are not straightened in him, but in yourselves. Hear, therefore, and attend unto the voice of my Beloved that knocketh, saying, open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled [11/12] with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, "I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Cant. v. 2. Rev. iii. 20.)
Having laid before you a little of the loveliness of Jesus, in that point of view in which he is loved by his disciples, I may, with singular propriety, adopt the language of Sheba's Queen, when she had been entertained with the wisdom and glory of Israel's King: "Behold, the one half of his greatness, beauty, and loveliness, has not been told you: for he exceedeth, yea, infinitely transcendeth, all that ever hath, or ever can be said upon this soul-transporting subject." We now proceed,
II. To consider the import of this sacred injunction, which is built upon the hypothesis of love to Jesus Christ. "Keep my commandments."
FIRST, By commandments, in this place, I presume we are not to understand the commandments of the ceremonial law. All these, which were typical of good things to his people, he was then about to abolish, and effectually did, when he died "the just for the unjust," and put an end to them all, "for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof."
Nor are the ten words, or commandments which God gave by Moses to the children of Israel, commonly called the moral law, only here intended. These are so holy, pure, and perfect, that none can keep them in this imperfect state, so as to obtain justification by them before God. "There is not a just man upon earth that doth good and sinneth not." And the awful language of this law to transgressors is, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The wages of sin is death." But believers are delivered from the law as a covenant of works, having fled, through divine grace to Christ, "who [12/13] is the end, the fulfilling end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." (Gal. iii. 10. Ezekiel xviii. 4. Romans vi. ult.) Yet still this law of God, which is holy, just, and good, is unto them, as administered by Jesus Christ, an everlasting rule of walk and conversation; in which they delight after the inward man. "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law." (Romans x. 4. iii. 23.) For, though they are delivered from the law, as a covenant of works, yet are they "not without law to God, but under the law to Christ;" (1 Corinthians ix. 21. Matthew xxviii. 20.) which is regarded by them from a principle of love to him, and with a view to his glory.
But by commandments here, we are more especially to understand the commandments of Christ, in a peculiar sense, not in opposition to moral precepts, nor to the exclusion of them, but in distinction from them. These are such commandments, ordinances, and institutions, as King Jesus gave to his disciples, to be kept by them, and all that came after them. For, as the Lawgiver in his church, he hath appointed and ordained special and peculiar ordinances, to be observed by her; such as the new commandment of loving one another, baptism, the Lord's supper, and the laws of government in his kingdom. Of these he speaks in his commission to his Apostles, in the following words: "Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Of these the Apostle says, "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous." For, in the language of Solomon, "his ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace."
SECONDLY, These commandments are to be kept, "Keep my commandments." This implies, that we are to hold them fast, to keep them doctrinally, [13/14] preserving them pure from all Antichristian innovations and corruptions whatever. The King of Zion foresaw how his followers, his pretended followers at least, would transgress his law, and change, or metamorphose his ordinances; and therefore he charges his disciples to preserve them as to the mode, subjects, and form of administration. And, whoever will be at the pains to compare the Scripture form and subjects of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, with those of some larger communities in the present day, will have reason to conclude, that excepting the name, there is very little likeness between them. Hence, in the very midnight of Antichristian darkness, the followers of the Lamb are distinguished from the followers of the beast, by this mark, "they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." (Revelations xiv. 12.)
Also, to keep the commandments includes an observance of them, or a practical subjection to them. This is the end of keeping them doctrinally, and without which that will be of no avail. All the disciples of Jesus are to shew their love to him, by following him in all his holy appointments and institutions. Nor are we to let any oppositions, persecutions, or secular considerations, deter us from our duty in this respect. "He that taketh not up his cross, and followeth not after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it." (Luke ix. 23, 24.) Those who now lay claim to the character of his disciples, and practically keep not his commandments, will find themselves dreadfully deceived, when they shall hear the Redeemer declare, with a frowning aspect, and a voice of thunder, "And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven.--And then will I [14/15] profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Luke vi. 46.) How different the character of Christ's true disciples. The saving and sanctifying power of his atonement they feel in the sweetness of gospel liberty, and this constrains them to love him and keep his commandments.
Having offered what appears to me to be the mind of the Lord, from these words, I shall now proceed to give you some account of my reasons for resigning my office in the Church of England; and then conclude with my last advice to you from this place.
FIRST, A conscientious regard to the laws and ordinances of my precious Redeemer, so expressly enjoined in the text, constrains me to resign the exercise of that sacred office in the Church of England, which I have for some time sustained amongst you. But as I would be sorry that any should think that I am offended at the "gold, silver, and precious stones," found therein, so I must beg leave to be explicit upon this subject.
NEGATIVELY, My reasons are not on account of her maintaining the following important doctrines:
1. The doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity. "In unity of this Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power and eternity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." (Article i.) This I firmly believe, being contained in the sacred Scriptures. "There are Three that bear record in heaven; the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these Three are One." (1 John v. 7.) Nor,
2. Because she asserts the true Divinity of the incarnate Word. The Son, which is the word of the Father, is one Christ; very God, and very Man." (Article ii.) Hear the language of unerring inspiration: "My Lord and my God. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. God was made manifest in the flesh. This is the true God and [15/16] eternal life." (John xx. 28. i. 14. iii. 16. 1 John v. 20.) Nor,
3. Because she maintains the Divinity of the Holy Ghost. "The Holy Ghost is very and eternal God." (Article v.) What saith the Scripture? "Why hath Satan filled thine heart, to lie to the Holy Ghost? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." Nor,
4. Because she embraceth the doctrine of eternal predestination, personal and immutable election to grace and glory. "Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation, those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour." (Article xvii.) And whatever some may think, "The godly consideration of predestination, and of our election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons." This, I apprehend, is fully supported by these Scriptures. "For whom God did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." What gigantic prowess can break this golden chain? Again, "God hath chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us, &c." But we are chosen to salvation through "sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth;" and, I add, in no other way. (Romans viii. 29, 30. Ephesians i. 4, 5. 2 Thessalonians ii. 13.) Nor,
5. Because she asserts the doctrine of original sin. "Original, or birth-sin, is the fault and corruption [16/17] of the nature of every man, who naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil." (Article ix.) All this is proved by the sacred Scriptures, "Behold," says the man after God's own heart, "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive, or warm me--And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Psalm li. 5. Ephesians ii. 3.) Nor,
6. Because she holds the impotence of free will. "The condition of man, after the fall of Adam, is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself, &c." (Article x.) This is also the doctrine of the Bible: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" We are "born (again) not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," his spirit and grace. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." (Jeremiah xiii. 23. John i. 13. James i. 18.) Nor,
7. Because she holds Christ's satisfaction. "Christ came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by the sacrifice of himself, once made, should take away the sins of the world: and sin, as St. John says, was not in him." (Article xv.) And thus speak the oracles of God: "He who knew no sin was made sin (a sin-bearer, or a sin-offering) for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. He gave himself a ransom for all." [* All his people, in all nations of the world, and all classes of men.] (2 Corinthians v. 21. 1 Timothy ii. 6.) Nor,
8. Because she embraces the heart-reviving doctrine of justification by Christ's imputed righteousness; the comfort of which is enjoyed by the precious faith of God's elect, God's free-grace gift, being applied by the Spirit of consolation, the glorifier of Jesus. "We are accounted righteous [17/18] before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works and deservings." (Article xi.) See Romans iv. throughout, where this doctrine is fully proved. Again, "This is his name, whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jeremiah xxiii. 6.) Nor,
9. Because she espouses the doctrine of effectual vocation by omnipotent grace. "Wherefore they that be endowed with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose, by his Spirit working in due season." (Article xvii.) (Psalm cx. 3.) "Thy people," says the Father to Christ, "shall be willing in the day of thy power. All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me," (John vi. 37.) or be made to believe in me, to the salvation of their souls. Nor,
10. Because she holds the sanctifying agency and constant in-dwelling of the Holy Ghost. Godly persons feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their minds to high and heavenly things. (Article xvii.) and this is fully expressed, and clearly maintained by the Apostle: "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his--The Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us." (Romans viii. 9. 2 Timothy i. 14.) Nor,
11. Because she regards good works. "Good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification,--do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch, that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit." (Article xiii.) This is the very doctrine of the Scriptures: Let those "who have believed in God, be careful to maintain good works. And let them also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful." (1 Titus iii. 8, 14.) Nor,
 12. Because she embraces the comfortable doctrine of the saints perseverance in grace to eternal glory. "Godly persons, by God's mercy, attain to everlasting felicity." (Article xvii.) The language of the Holy Ghost upon this subject is: "Who are kept, by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. (1 Peter i. 5.)--I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand, (John x. 28.)--I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." (Jeremiah xxxiii. 40.)
These precious truths recited, I call the gold, silver, and precious stones, I have found in the Church of England: and, I declare, it is not on account or these I resign my place therein.
POSITIVELY, Because there appears to me to be much "wood, hay, and stubble," blended therewith, and "What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord." (Jeremiah xxiii. 29.) More particularly, among those things which are the reasons of my resignation, the following are the principal:
The constitution, or establishment of the Church of England. She is established by human laws--has a visible, human, secular head; her courts of discipline are of a civil nature, in which almost all things are performed by secular persons: [* We find fault, justly enough, with the Papists, about the Pope being visible head of the church; but, if churches must have a visible head, is not an ecclesiastical person more proper than a secular one? Learned Episcopalians can be very merry about Pope Joan being at the head of the Romish community; but is there not a similar absurdity in placing a woman at the head of the English community?] (Article xxxvii.) whereas, the churches in the New Testament were all constituted by voluntary consideration, according to the laws of Christ--owned no head upon earth--had all discipline transacted within themselves (2 Corinthians viii. 5. Ephesians [19/20] iv. 5. Matthew xxiii. 8, 10.)--and knew nothing of spiritual courts and their various officers.
2. The Church of England is of a National form, distributed by the magistrate into metropolitan, diocesan and parochial; comprehending all the impious, erroneous, and profane, within her community. On the contrary, the New Testament churches were all of them congregational, or independent, including those only who professing faith in the Lord Jesus, walked worthy of the gospel, and were in the ,judgment of charity saints, and brethren in the Lord. (Romans i. 1 Corinthians i. 2 Corinthians i, &c.)
3. The Clergy of the Church of England are not only, many of them, irregular in their lives, [* What an awful, worthless, profane character, is a swearing, drunken clergyman? And are there none such in the Church of England? How dare such persons attempt the instruction of others? "Thou, therefore, that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?"--But unto the wicked, God saith, "What hast thou to do to declare of my statutes, or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth?"] but most of them erroneous in their doctrines; and, instead of explaining the scriptures, and preaching the doctrines, they have subscribed and sworn to in the Articles, Pelagianism, Arianism, Arminianism, and Socinianism, or a little refined Heathenism, or dry Morality, are the only subjects with which many parishes are entertained. And what communion can be enjoyed with such?
4. The Ordinance of Baptism, as it is used in the Church of England, is wholly unscriptural. For, first, notwithstanding the rubric enjoins dipping, according to the Scriptures, yet sprinkling or pouring, is now universally practised. And, though in my ignorance I have done it, yet now I dare no longer declare in the presence of a heart-searching, lie-avenging God, that "I baptize, i. e. dip or immerse thee, &c." when I am only sprinkling, or pouring from a basin, a few drops of water upon the [20/21] face. Secondly: After the most accurate investigation of the New Testament, I can find neither command, precedent, nor certain consequence for baptizing infants. In that sacred book I find none but those who professed repentance for sin, and faith in Jesus Christ, were admitted to this holy ordinance. Thirdly: I cannot, in conscience, after the performance of this work, declare, That "the child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ's church;" nor declare unto God, that it hath pleased him "to regenerate this infant with his Holy Spirit:" all which implies that it confers grace, ex opere operato [* from the work done.]; a sentiment justly detested by all true Protestants.
That this is the real meaning of these words appears from the rubric, wherein we read, "It is certain by God's word, that children which are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved;" and in the Catechism the child is taught to say, "in baptism--I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven." [* Office for Baptism, and the Catechism.] For any thing I know, all infants, dying such, are saved; but it is not baptism that saveth, maketh children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven; but the grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. Fourthly: As to sponsors, or as they are profanely called God-fathers and God-mothers, to answer for the child, with all its appendages, [* Whoever seriously reflects upon the feasting, drinking, dancing, and other Bacchanalian merriments so common at many christenings, will be persuaded that this is not looked upon as a Divine Ordinance among the episcopal clergy and their people. Are the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and the Devil and his works, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh renounced--the Articles of the Christian faith believed, and God's holy will and commandments kept, by these christening guests? If so, by whom are the first indulged--the next disbelieved--and the last broken.] it has appeared to me an odd affair, [21/22] ever since I was, in any measure, acquainted with the Holy Scriptures. Not the least shadow of such a thing is to be found there.
5. The Ordinance of the Lord's Supper, as administered in this community, is liable to similar objections. For, 1. The persons admitted to the communion, are all the parish, who are required to communicate three times a year. [* Rub. end of the Communion Service.] And, it is notorious to all sober people, that the far greater part of these are incapable of discerning the Lord's body, and have neither part nor lot in this matter. And suppose a minister should deny the communion to a common drunkard, or a profane swearer, he would find himself in a perilous case. [* Are there not some churches, at which many receive the communion on Easter-day, who will be drunk on the same day, and perhaps quarrelling too, before they arrive at home.--Monstrum! horrendum!] 2. It appears to be a shameful profanation of this ordinance, to make it a test of obedience in civil things, and the receiving of it an indispensible qualification for holding places under the government. [* This abuse has been recently put away by an Act of Parliament.] 3. As it is an ordinance of such a public nature, it seems quite wrong to administer it in private to the sick, after the Popish manner, as if it were a viaticum, i.e. a passport for heaven. 4. As I embrace the doctrine of particular redemption, I cannot in conscience declare concerning every individual, that may be present at this ordinance, "the body of our Lord Jesus Christ--was given for thee, &c.--"The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was given for thee, &c." since many may come here, who are wholly destitute of true faith, as well as licentious in their lives.
6. In the churching of women, as it is called, there is no sufficient ground, in the lives of many, to consider them as the servants of the Lord, in a [22/23] solemn address to the Almighty: nor can I see how bearing a child can constitute a woman a proper subject for the Lord's Supper, as the rubric directs; [* Thanksgiving of Women, &c. and Rub. in ult. Credat Judaeus Apella. Non ergo--HOR.] since many who are serving divers lusts and pleasures, and remain strangers to God and the gospel of his son, both bear children, and, out of a piece of custom, come to return thanks.
7. In the burial of the dead, I cannot see that christian charity will admit believing ministers and people, with pure consciences, to call every man or woman, our dear brother or our dear sister; since it is notorious that many who have lived the most abandoned lives, die without any appearance of repentance. Nor can I think myself justified in saying any longer, of any individual, "we commit this body to the ground, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. We meekly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us from a death of sin unto a life of righteousness, that when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our brother doth;" since I am fully assured that there will be a resurrection of the wicked to eternal damnation, as well as the righteous to everlasting life: and, though I should suspend my judgment, as becometh us, upon the final state of the vilest sinner that dies without any evidence of repentance: yet it is certainly very daring presumption to tell the Almighty, that we have sure and certain hope of his being gone to glory.
There are many other grievances in the Church of England; the whole service book being only a translation of the old mass book, with the grosser errors expunged. [* "As for the service in the English Tongue, hath manifest reasons for it. And yet perchance seemeth to you a new service, and indeed is no other but the old. The self same words in English which were in Latin, saving a few things taken out, are found, that it had been a shame to have heard them in English, as all they can judge, which list to report." Edw. VI. to the Devon. Reb. in Fox's Martyr, Vol. II. p. 1189, col. 1. Edit, 1610.] That there is a wretched deficiency [23/24] in ecclesiastical discipline is generally acknowledged; [* Com. Serv. Address in the beginning of it.] pluralities, non-residences, and all their attending evils, are so common as to be no longer thought shameful. These, with many other things I forbear to mention, I shall leave to the consideration of those concerned in them. The things I have noticed have long been the burden of my soul. The example of some persons whom I highly venerated, for a considerable time, prevailed upon me to continue in my place; though, in performing some parts of my duty, I have, with a trembling heart, adopted the converted Syrian's prayer: "In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing." (2 Kings v. 18.) But when the case of Nadab and Abihu, who "offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not," (Leviticus x. 1, 2.) struck my mind, and that awful interrogation of the Almighty, "who hath required this at your hands?" (Isaiah i. 12.) reached my heart; I was made to tremble in the divine presence, and immediately to resolve upon my resignation. No human precedents, however venerable, will be sufficient to justify us, in what the Lord hath not commanded; for "every one of us shall give an account of himself to God." (Romans xiv. 12.) This being the real case, I am constrained to resign. And it is both with pleasure and concern, that I now say: "My soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers. The snare is broken, and I am escaped." As a clergyman of the Church of England, you will see my face no more, neither [24/25] in this place, nor elsewhere. Having given you my reasons for this resignation, I shall now,
SECONDLY, Take my last farewell of you. It affords me pleasure in this my departure from you, that I can say, "I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God," (Acts xx. 26, 27.) as far as I have been led into the knowledge of it. I have given you all warning from the mouth of the Lord; and, therefore, remember, that if any of you perish everlastingly, your blood will be upon your own heads. For I have preached the gospel to every creature that came within the sound of my voice; and, without courting the smiles, or dreading the frowns of any man, declaring the language of my Divine Master, "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark xvi. 16.) It would have given me pleasure to have seen these solemn truths more regarded; may they never rise in judgment against any. Remember, however, if you live and die in your sins, strangers to the great salvation of the gospel, you cannot escape the wrath and vengeance of the Almighty--"The wicked," all the wicked, not even the carnal, proud, self-righteous professors excepted, "shall be turned into hell, with all the people that forget God." (Psalm ix. 17.)
A few words to the much-despised followers of a once crucified, but now exalted Jesus, shall close the subject, and therewith all my ministrations in the Church of England.
Ye sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. Ye who are princes in disguise, though, in the esteem of carnal men, accounted the offscouring of all! my soul is troubled for you, not knowing into whose hands you may now fall, whether into theirs, who will feed you with the sincere milk of the word, or into theirs, who will "care for none of these things." [25/26] Suffer, therefore, I beseech you, the word of exhortation, from one who can truly say with the Apostle, that he is less than the least of all saints, and the chief of sinners; but who, through free, rich, and sovereign grace, hath obtained mercy to be faithful.
1. Flee from sin, every sin, as from the face of a serpent; for, however sweet it may appear in the enjoyment, nevertheless, afterwards, it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. O what has God wrought for you, and in you according to the riches of his grace! What manner of persons, then, ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness?
2. Be ever coming unto Jesus, "in whom it hath pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell;" that you may receive out of his fulness "grace for grace;" abundance of grace, grace for every time of need, which is every moment. Let it be your constant study, under the influence of the divine Spirit, to live near unto him. Rest not in any duties whatsoever. "There is a way (of external duties that seemeth right unto a man, but (O how awful!) the end thereof are the ways of death." Content not yourselves with ordinances, without enjoying the spiritual and gracious presence of the God of ordinances. True believers have real fellowship and sensible communion with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ; at which golden seasons they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Be often viewing, by the eye of faith, our dear Lord groveling in Gethsemane, and bleeding on Mount Calvary, and your souls shall prosper.
3. Whatever it cost you, never part with those sacred truths you have received, "knowing of whom you received them," seeing they reveal the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. Never yield up your faith, nor part with a good conscience, at any rate. "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence, steadfast unto the [26/27] end." If you should be called to it, rather than part with it, take "joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and endearing substance." And never repine, though you be "poor in this world," whilst you are "rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom,"--and of such a glorious kingdom too!
4. Be much employed in prayer and reading the Holy Scripture. Pray for yourselves, for one another, and for me also. Pray frequently and fervently; "for the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Read the sacred scriptures with care and attention, accompanied with fervent prayer and ardent supplication. Inexhaustible treasures of divine wisdom are contained in them. "They are more to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey or the honey-comb." Here are the many "exceedingly great and precious promises," which in Christ, "are all yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God," and the comfort and everlasting salvation of his people.
5. Keep the commandments of your dear Redeemer. Inquire into the nature of his positive institutions, baptism, and the Lord's supper. Follow the word of God in this matter--judge impartially--and act faithfully.--Love one another with a pure heart fervently. True brotherly love is of a distinguishing, disinterested nature. None but the regenerated have the least spark of it; and whoever is a subject of it, "is passed from death unto life." Abound in it more and more, that the envious world may be constrained to say. "See how these Christians love one another!" Watch over one another with circumspection, sympathy, and tenderness. Forbear one another, and forgive one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Let each esteem another better than himself. Seek the peace and prosperity of the Lord's gospel Zion; for "they shall prosper that love her." And consider the [27/28] trials, temptations, tempers, and dispositions of one another, that ye may provoke one another unto love and good works.
6. And lastly, Be looking for and hastening unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe. This will bear you up while in the vale of adversity: for it is your Lord's will that you should be comforted in all your tribulations with this glorious event. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer, saith the FIRST and the LAST. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life," (Revelations ii. 10.) eternal life, in the kingdom of glory!
And thus, with this glorious prospect in view, and with the testimony of a good conscience, being sprinkled and purged by the blood of Jesus, I shall now bid you all--FAREWELL. May the Lord have mercy upon you, lead you into all the truth as it is in Jesus, and give us a happy meeting before his awful throne! Henceforward I am resolved, through divine grace, to go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ (or for Christ) greater riches than all the treasures and temporalities of the Church of England.--FARE YE WELL!
"Now unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to Him be glory and dominion, for ever and ever. AMEN."
J. NOBLE, PRINTER, HULL.
[Transcriber's note: Upon exiting the services of the Church of England the Rev. Isaac Slee became a Baptist Minister. See Memoirs of the late Rev. Isaac Slee: first a Presbyter of the English established church, and afterwards Pastor of the Baptist Church at Haworth, in the county of York, by C. Whitfeld and William Button. Halifax: Printed by Holden and Dowson; and sold by Mr. Button, Paternoster-row, London; and by the Booksellers in the country, 1801.]