Papers of the Russo-Greek Committee
A SERMON, BY MICHAEL, LATE METROPOLITAN OF ST. PETERSBURG AND NOVGOROD.
[Translated into English by the Princess Sophia Mestchersky.]
"The Bishops officiate and preach in the Cathedrals on all principal Festivals, and some of them on other days also; and when they do not, their place is taken by the Archimandrite or other subordinate ecclesiastic. Their sermons, are, in general, simple homiletical compositions, though many of those published display specimens of energetic and pathetic writing, not unworthy of those who have learned eloquence in the School of St. John Chrysostom."Rev. Dr. Pinkerton
SINCE SALVATION IS BY FAITH, WHAT PLACE IS TO BE ASSIGNED TO GOOD WORKS?
EPHESIANS,.II 8, 9.
By Grace are ye saved, through Faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of Works, lest any man should boast. As Almighty God created the worlds, both visible and invisible, and by his powerful word, called into existence intelligent beings, both spiritual invisible angels, and visible corporeal men; for this end, moreover, that angels in heaven, and men in paradise upon earth, might glorify the name and wisdom of God, and, while they fulfilled his holy will, might observe his goodness and loving-kindness displayed in their creation, might enjoy his blessedness, and receive out of the fullness of his light, his glory and his perfectionsin a word, that they might live in happiness for ever: so it was with the same design that God, full of mercy, sent his own Word, his own Son, into the world, after men fell, that he might become incarnate, be born of a pure virgin, live a life of sorrow, suffer death, and rise again from the dead, to redeem the human race; that he might deliver it from punishment and eternal death, incurred by falling from that holy will of God, which men were commanded to obey; that he might restore man to the original state of glory and perfection which he enjoyed before his fall; in short, that he might again confer upon him spiritual and eternal life and blessedness. For this end, then, our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world; to save men from works of enmity, and bring them into his heavenly kingdom. This he hath, by his grace, accomplished: by his own death he hath vanquished the enemy and his power: he hath overcome hell, and abolished eternal death. By offering himself in sacrifice, be hath reconciled man to God, opened for him an entrance into his kingdom and glory, and rendered it again possible to have fellowship with God. All this he hath done, not on account of any merit in manfor man could merit nothing but death; but solely of the free grace of God. It was only, as the apostle Paul declares, that "God, who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith he hath loved us," in mercy alone sent his Son into the world, even when all "were dead in trespasses and sins; and hath quickened us together with Christ, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come might be shewn the exceeding riches of the Grace" of the Father. (Eph. ii. 4-7.) Salvation is solely by his meritssolely by his grace. According to the declaration of Paul, then, O Christians! we cannot be saved, otherwise than by faith, trusting in the merits of Christ alone-by fellowship in his death. Our salvation is "not of works, lest any man should boast," but solely by faith; "and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God:" consequently, our salvation lies wholly in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ saves us. "A man is not justified by the works of the law, but only by the faith of Jesus Christ."
But since we are saved by faith, what place do good works hold in reference to our salvation, and whence arises the necessity for them? This we shall endeavor to shew in the present discourse.
Man, the only intelligent creature of the visible world, now fallen from a state of purity into a state of corruption, having forsaken the holy will of God for his own wicked inclinations, became dead in his inner man, "dead in trespasses and sins;" and, as he was dead before Christ's coming into the world, so, even now that Christ is come, he remains dead until quickened by the Holy Spirit, and is therefore incapable of doing any thing good. All that carnal, unregenerate man attempts or performs, even if it appear good, yet, when judged according to the principle of the action, is not good. Nothing that he does is done from faith, but from "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life." He acts either from ambition or self-love, or to please the flesh, and not from faith; but "whatsoever is not of faith, is sin." The carnal man can do nothing but sin; consequently, it is not possible for him to merit salvation by his own works: "not of works" is human salvation, "lest any man should boast." A carnal man, that is, a dead man, not only cannot do what is good: he cannot even will it; he is entirely destitute of spiritual life; he sees not the great beauty of the kingdom of God; he hears not the pleasantness of the celestial harmony; he tastes not the sweetness of paradise; he feels not the excellence of Eden: he knows not true holiness; and hence he wishes not for such blessings. He is guided by sense, and attached only to delusive, pernicious pleasures; hence, the very desire of salvation must be excited in man by the power of God, and it can be excited by nothing else.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, being compassionate towards all in general, is compassionate towards each one in particular. As he visibly invited all to salvation, while he was himself in the world; so now he comes invisibly to eachcalls him by nameknocks at his heart by his own word, and invites him to accept of salvationreveals the bondage of sin under which our spiritual being groans, so as to excite some desire of deliverance. And, when this compassionate Samaritan perceives a desire to be saved, in the man lying half dead of the wounds which sin hath made, and gives him faith (which also is not of ourselves, but the gift of God), he enables him, by that faith, to appropriate the salvation to himself-enables him firmly to hope in the merits of Christ; which firm reliance on the merits of Christ, or faith in him, is the foundation on which our salvation rests. It is the gift of God, and is obtained from him by the hearing and hearty reception of his word: "for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. x. 17.) Being obtained in such a manner every thing essential to salvation is provided; and hence the Scripture says that faith saves us.
But this must on our part be productive. Every sinful man, whoever he may be, that is brought to his right mind by the sound of the word of God; roused out of the sleep of sin; leaving off (although for a time) his errors; hearing, while in this state, of Jesus Christ as a Saviour and a healer; every such man must from the heart desire his healing, and, desiring it, must believe on himmust believe that he is, in all respects, the Saviour he needsthat in him alone salvation is to be foundand that he shall assuredly receive all that the Saviour hath promised; and must be so persuaded of this, as no longer to doubt that all shall be fulfilled: for "faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen." Faith is the cordial trust, accompanied with a lively hope, that the promised blessings shall be received, as though we already saw and actually possessed the unseen things themselves. When God gives to a man such faith, that he can, without doubting, come to him, and repose upon him his confidence, then he must lay open to him all his wounds, all his weakness, all his sins; and seek, with weeping and supplication, and with undoubting faith, that he may be pardoned and cleansed. True living faith is accompanied with prayer, that he may obtain from him, who took upon himself the sins of the whole world, pardon of sin, and cleansing from pollution. This faith heals his wounds, and fetches inward strength from the Spirit of Christ; which moves him out of the state of sin and depravity, and brings into existence the inner man; quickens him from the state of death; and thus he is regenerated. Spiritual strength, obtained by prayer, and apprehended by faith, endues the inner man with power to live, to move, to act, and to perform good works. "In Him," through faith, "we live, and move, and have our being," (Acts xvii 28.) saith the apostle Paul; because faith receives from the Spirit strength, which it communicates to the inner man, for the production of spiritual works: namely, that we may, with all our heart, love our Creator, and do and submit to his holy will, and likewise do good to our neighbour. It is faith that gives the ability to bring forth the fruits of the Spiritpeace, joy, love, long-suffering, gentleness, continence, chastity, purity, &c. Now since faith yields good works since they are the effects of faiththen it is clear that they do not save us, but that we are saved by faith which produces them. Although, however, our good works do not save us, by themselves, because they cannot exist before faith, but are produced by it, still they have a relation to our redemption through Christ. Besides, they are so small, that they could not atone for our great sins. Faith alone saves us; but good works must be joined with it:but how?and wherefore?
Faith in Christ is the foundation of our salvationit is the beginning of life: and good works must spring from it, to manifest this life: they must serve as marks that the inner man is alive by faith. Wherefore the apostle James saith, "Shew thy faith by thy works," (ch. ii. 18): as if he had said, "Since ye believe in Christsince ye consider yourselves redeemed by him, and think that ye have been made alive in your inner man, by faith, then shew your faith, by living through it to good works." It is the property of life to act. As a human being does not conceive himself, quicken himself, produce himself, but deriving his being from God through his parents, is born and receives his strength to move and act, and, being alive must act; so, in like manner, the spiritual, the inner man, cannot save himself, cannot regenerate himself, or give himself spiritual and eternal life; but receives it from above, even from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, through faith (as through his mother). Having spiritual fellowship with Christ by faith; being by him regenerated and restored to life; he must, of necessity, act and perform good and spiritual works; and that, in order to shew and testify that he lives by faith, and is regenerated by it. As under the Old-Testament dispensation, the circumcision of the flesh was only a sign of the righteousness of faith in the Messiahyet such a sign as could not be dispensed with, although the individual himself might be an unrighteous man; so now, under the New Testament, good works, although they do not justify us, must be performed, that they may serve as signs of the righteousness of faith. Faith, having justified and quickened us, must infallibly produce good works; not for justification, but to shew that faith exists in us: hence it is said, that "faith without works," that is, destitute of the appropriate signs, "is dead:" such faith cannot quicken the man.
But, further, true living faith, appropriating to itself justification through Christ, must produce good works, in testimony of our gratitude to the High and Lofty One, for the blessings he has showered upon us. As children love their parents according to the flesh, not in order that they may gain any thing from them, but rather to express their thankfulness for the love and care with which they have nourished them from their birth;so, in the spiritual birth, we must love God, yield ourselves to his holy will, and do works of righteousness; not to merit the Christian inheritance, the kingdom of God, but father to express our gratitude to him for the grace which has redeemed us. We must rest assured, that the kingdom of God is not the wages of an hireling, but the gift of Goda generous, gratuitous grant, flowing from the love of God, "of grace," for the sake of Christ. Our love, on the contrary, and other good works, are a debt, and not deserving of any recompence: "We have done that which was our duty to do," (Luke xvii. 10,) saith Christ. Do not think that you have performed much, and are worthy of a reward for your service: by no means: but "when ye have done all, say, We are unprofitable and useless servants."
Behold, then, Christians, what faith is, and what our works are! See, that our salvation is in Christ alone, depending upon his merit, and obtained, on our part, only by faith, which likewise is the gift of God! See, too, that faith must, without fail, bring along with it good works, and thus prove its own existence, and be an appropriate test of our gratitude to God for our redemption! Let us believe in our Lord Jesus Christ with a true and sincere heartbelieve that he is our life and our salvationbelieve that we are saved by his grace alone, through faith:then we shall do good, love Him with all our soul, make all our desires bow to his will, and, according to his commandment, love our neighbour as ourselves:-yield ourselves servants to him in all obedience, to testify to him that we are his grateful children, mindful of his great goodness manifested in our creation, but more especially in redeeming us through the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
FROM A SERMON BY AMBROSIUS, LATE METROPOLITAN OF ST. PETERSBURG AND NOVGOROD.
Translated into English by the Rev. Robert Pinkerton, D.D.
MATTHEW XIX. 16.
Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Let us beware, I say, of seeking the way of salvation with such an attachment to the perishable goods of this world, and with such a dependence upon our own good works and merits, as we observe in this self-praising youth. It is true, Jesus Christ, in his advice to him, does not exclude good works from the number of the means of salvation; for he said to him, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." And, indeed, this was the way to eternal life which God at first appointed for both angels and men. In their state of innocency, they all were, by their works, and they might have forever remained, well-pleasing to their Maker and Father. But as, through pride of their own powers and merits, the angels fell, so was the nature of the first man corrupted, by a desire to become as gods, knowing good and evil. From this root, weakened by falling into sin, still weaker branches sprang up in the posterity of man. For as the Scripture saith, "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt! for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." As sin increased, God, of his goodness, was pleased to increase those restraints which might preserve mortals from falling into it. But, as in a disordered stomach even the most wholesome food yields bad secretions, so also the corrupt nature of man has turned even the commandments of God into his greater condemnation. "The law entered," saith the apostle Paul, "that the offence might abound; and the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death." Moreover, viewing the law as a covenant, the justice of God required the perfect fulfillment of it. "Cursed is every one," saith God, "that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." "Whosoever shall keep the whole law," saith the holy apostle James, "and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." After this, what justification can feeble man expect from the law? By it, he is accursed and condemned. What merit can we find in our works? "If we say that we have no sin," saith the apostle John, "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." What merit can we discover, even where we might most reasonably look for it, in our very righteousness? for "all our righteousnesses," saith Isaiah, "are as filthy rags." Finally, supposing that we could fulfill the whole law, even this, before God, were no more than our duty, and would contain no merit. "When," saith the Saviour, "ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do." And thus, not by any good quality of ours-because, if we have any, we have received them of God; for "what hast thou, which thou didst not receive?" saith the apostle:not by any kind of personal merits-for what we have done right before God, it was our duty to perform; and "who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" saith the same apostle:not by any kind of good works of ours, that are all imperfectfor "who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from sin?" saith Solomon:never, I say, by any of these weak and imperfect means can we have any hope of reaching eternal life.
When the youth mentioned in the Gospel, commended himself to Jesus Christ as having kept all the commandments, the Saviour said unto him, "Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all thou hast, and distribute unto the poor." Now, even supposing that he had done this also, still he would have lacked what was needful to salvation: for Jesus Christ, in concluding, added another commandment, which only could complete the whole: "... and come, follow me!" This is the only way that leads us to salvation. "I am the door," said the Saviour; "by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved. I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." Hence it is evident, that our best works cannot promote our salvation, but when they are performed in following Christ, and are perfected by his grace. Our justification is by grace, and not by our good works; for, according to the apostle Paul, we are "justified freely by his grace." "If (saith the same apostle) I should desire to glory in the requirements and deeds of the law, I might boast above others: circumcised the eighth day, according to the law; as a real Jew, and not as foreigners who are circumcised when adults; of the stock of Israel; of the most distinguished tribe of Benjamin; an Hebrew of the Hebrews; and, as touching the law, a follower of the strictest sect of the Pharisees. My zeal for the honor of the law went so far, that I became a persecutor of the Christians;and, in short, touching the righteousness which is in the law, I was blameless. But all these privileges and merits I now confess to be nothing. The knowledge of Christ surpasses all these advantages; and I count them all but dung, that I may win Christ; for I seek justification, not by the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. I desire to be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." See Phil. iii. 410.
A SERMON BY AMBROSIUS, PRESENT ARCHBISHOP OF KAZAN.
PREACHED IN THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF TULA, ON GOOD-FRIDAY, 1814.
Translated into English by the Rev. Robert Pinkerton, D.D.
I CORINTHIANS I. 23.
We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
AND thus, innocence is delivered up to death, and the work of guilty man's reconciliation with God is accomplishing! The Lamb, bearing the sins of the world, is slain upon the altar of the cross; and the Sacrifice which taketh away sin, offered up to the justice of heaven! The wrath of an angry Father pierces with arrows his only Son; and children of wrath are again reckoned among the number of the children of God! He who knew no sin is made to He sin for transgressors; and transgressors are redeemed from the curse of the law! Light everlasting is arising on the tomb, and those who sat in darkness see a great light! Jesus suffers, and dies! and he bears our sins upon himself, is bruised for our iniquities, and by his stripes we are healed!All-gracious! All-merciful! how unsearchable are thy judgments, and thy ways and counsels past finding out! O believing soul! this dying Jesus is thy righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Should conscience, harrowed up by the workings of sin, threaten thee with vindictive justice, behold the sacrifice which cleanseth the contrite spirit from dead works!behold Jesus, who, having nailed the handwriting of thy sins to his cross, took it away If the wicked world still strive to entangle thee in its nets; if the light of thy reason become dim, amidst the darkness which covers these sublunary regions; if thy soul be still subject to vanity, though not willingly; and if sin work in thy mortal bodybehold a true and heavenly Teacher! His lips though sealed in the silence of death on the cross, still proclaim the will of his eternal Father to his brethren in the midst of the Church. His law is perfect; his commandments are pure, enlightening the eyes; his testimony is sure, making wise the simple; he is the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world; and they that follow him shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. If thy desires, drawn away by sensual objects, cleave to the earth, and the ray of immortality in thee appear to be extinguished, behold the resurrection and the Life! With him, on thy death-bed, thou shalt triumph over death and corruption. Thus Jesus is made of God unto us, "the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
But not so to them that perish. He is to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness: for the world by wisdom knew not God. It exclaimed before Pilate, against Jesus, the power of God, and the wisdom of God, "Away with him! away with him! crucify him." It pointed at him upon the cross, saying, "Thou that destroyest the Temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself! If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross!" It denominated him, after his death, a cunning deceiver:"Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again." Thus did the world mock, torture, and kill the incarnate Truth upon the cross! And has it ceased to persecute him in our days? Oh no, beloved brethren! Jesus still continues to be to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness. The world cannot endure the doctrine of Jesus; and why? Because the Spirit of God is contrary to the spirit of the world, and the doctrines of Jesus are contrary to the. doctrines of the world.Let these, then, be the subject of our present discourse.
I. The SPIRIT OF THE WORLD is the spirit of error and darkness; but THE SPIRIT OF GOD is the spirit of truth and of light: and from the first moment of man's fall, these two have been at open war with each other. From the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacariah son of Barachias; and from the blood of Zacariah to the blood of the angel of the wilderness, John the Baptist; and from the blood of John, to the blood of Jesus upon the crosswhat do we behold?an uninterrupted series of martyrs to the truth, who were "afflicted and tormented. They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earthof whom the world was not worthy?" What were these men admidst a corrupt and wicked generation? A spectacle to angels and to men. They hungered and thirsted, and were mocked and buffeted, and had no certain dwelling-place, and were made as the filth of the world, the off-scouring of all things; despised by all, and spoken against by all.
But did not the world change at last, when the Sun shone upon it from on high; when it was illumined by the light of the knowledge of God from Golgotha; when kings and nations fell prostrate before the cross, and confesssed Jesus as their Sovereign Lord and Ruler? Oh no, beloved brethren! the world is still the same. Righteousness and its servants, men of truth, still drink of the same cup of affliction.
Who is respected in the world? He who possesses an elegant chariot, who dwells in gilded apartments, whose table is loaded with choice meats, who is clothed in purple and scarlet, within whose dwelling the mirthful voice of guests resounds from the fall of eve to the rising of the sun. It is all one to the world what idol it worships: he may be a robber, a disturber of the public peace, a severe master, an unjust judge, a governor who betrays the public good: this matters not. He is surrounded with the gifts of fortune; he is rich; he makes merry on every holiday; he is sought after by every one, and they all encompass and worship him. But the friend of virtue, the friend of Jesus, whose glory consists in doing the will of him who sent him into this world of trialsthe Father of Light and Truthoh, the world has no desire to look into his humble dwelling! He is unskilled to live in the world; for he lives upon that alone which justly belongs to him. He lives not in luxury; for he does not steal. He does not make merry; for he will not live at the expense of his neighbour. He does not grow rich; for he has no desire, by oppression and avarice, to ruin his brother. He does not foolishly spend his substance; because he accepteth not the wages of iniquity against the innocent. Here now is a man altogether opposed to the taste of the world! If the world, out of mercy, does not persecute him, at least it will not account him worthy of its attention. Who is great in its estimation? The world measures greatness by another measure than that which faith adopts. The greatness of the world is not the greatness of virtue, but the high-sounding deeds of men of high birth, the greatness of ranks and titles. What causeth the loud-sounding trumpet of fame to be blown before them? Battles won, in which rivers of blood have flowed, and many thousands have been sacrificed to the ambition of one man; cities desolated and reduced to ashes, which formerly exalted their proud heads to heaven; fields and meadows turned into deserts, whose fertility once resembled the plains of Eden; and kingdoms, by death, murder, and devastation, turned into wildernesses, which formerly flourished like the lilies of the field. The Caesars and Alexanders of the world may be compared to those inauspicious luminaries whose appearance proclaims universal misery; or to those destroying angels whose course was marked with desolation and death: yet the world immortalizes their names, and stamps their deeds with the seal of greatnessa greatness, however, which persecutes the faith, and at which the heart trembles and humanity shrinks!
But is the world not possessed of virtue also? Ah, beloved brethren! what arc the virtues which have not their seat in the heart; and rest not upon eternity, and upon a God rewarding according to their works? They are like reeds broken by the winddeceiving lights which burn no longer than the inflammable matter lasts which fed themedifices built of and upon sand, which fall into dust as soon as the wind of adversity blows upon them. Yet the world still speaks of its virtues! But what kind of virtue is preached among them? That you must be a faithful subject, devoted to your country:and why? because to such virtue, honors and rewards are attached: but should these not be conferred, then you may abandon the service of your country, and live for yourself. That it is necessary to love truth:and why? because those who love it are universally respected. That you must strictly adhere to your word, and restore that which you have borrowed:wherefore? because a man who does not keep his word forfeits the confidence of every one. That you must do good to others:and why? because you may need their good services at some future period, or because, at least, this will make your name to be praised. In a word, it is necessary to be, or at least' to appear to be, virtuous;and why? because our honour and interest require it. Such is the righteous man of the world! But now draw aside the gaudy veil with which he screens himself from the eyes of men. Oh! then you shall behold "the abomination of desolation, standing in the holy place!" Tear off the gilded ornaments of this shining idol, and you will perceive that his whole being consists of clay. Take self-interest out of the motives of his virtuous deeds, and you shall see in him nothing but wickedness. Give him an opportunity of avenging himself upon his enemy, and of preserving, at the same time, the appearance of an humble condescending man, and he will not let it pass. Show him a treasure which he may seize, and still preserve his name for being disinterested, and he will not refuse to put it into his coffers. Place him in circumstances in which he may gratify his passions, avoid the punishment of vice, and save appearances before the world, and he will not forget the obligations of an honest man. And is this the man whom faith blesses, and on whom God confers happinesswho shall at last be received into the eternal embraces of heaven? Yet these sons of the world dream of merit, and are elated with their virtues. Hearken to them! They profess to be wiser than all; though the wisest of them, according to the flesh, has long since confessed that he knows nothing. They are most honourable, though their honour is nothing but an empty name, and not that honour which springs from good works; they are most eminent, though their eminence consists only in ranks and titles, and not in distinguished actions: they are most virtuous, though their virtues are like nocturnal fires, which, as the day approaches, show nothing but smoke. What is the language of their mouths? A thanksgiving like this: "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are!" What is in their hearts? Self-congratulation, like this: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." They are idols, before whom self-gratification continually offers up her incense. They appropriate all to themselves; and there remains nothing for God. "Riches, they are mine," says the worldly man; "for they are the fruits of my labor. Ranks and titles, they are mine; for they are the reward of my merits. Fame, she is also mine; for she has been the constant companion of my actions, Talents, gifts, they are mine; for I am indebted to none for them. Virtues, they are mine; for they are the offspring of my good heart." Thus doth the spirit bless itself, which is enchanted with itself! Thus do the sons of the world refer all things to themselves!
But how does faith address this exalted spirit of pride? "Thou knowest not," saith she, "that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Ambitious man! thou art in love with thine own perfections; but canst thou blindly be proud, when it is clear that thou livest entirely at the mercy of another? With all thy virtues, thou art a sinner. With all thy riches, thou art a beggar. Thou existest; but is not thy life the gift of the Sovereign of Heaven? He openeth his hand, and thou art filled with his goodness. He turneth away his face, and thou returnest to dust. Thou comest into life; and who leadeth thee by degrees to the age of maturityfrom the helplessness of infancy to the impetuosity of youthand from the impetuosity of youth to manhood? Is it not He, without whom thou canst not "add one cubit to thy stature;" and without whom thou canst not "make one hair of thy head white of black?" Art thou successful in thy pursuits? are thy magazines filled with goodsthy undertakings crowned with successthy fortune fixed upon stable pillars? and darest thou to view all this as the fruit of thy own exertions, thy wisdom, thy talents? Not so, O man! "The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord:" Psalm xxxvii. 23. "He bringeth low, and lifteth up:" 1 Sam. ii. 7. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above:" James i. 17. For "what hast thou," O man! "that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" 1 Cor. iv. 7. Therefore, from head to foot, whether in soul or body, from the mental faculties to the bodily senses, nothing belongeth to thee; they are all the bountiful gifts of an unseen hand:and why? that thou shouldst be, in all respects, not thine own, but God's. But where is this desire in thee, O man? Thou bearest upon thyself the image of the invisible God; and yet thou hast willingly, though a man, assimilated thyself to the beast. The light of truth has shone upon thee; and yet, of thine own choice, thou hast put a veil before thine eyes, that thou mightest walk in darkness. A ray of the glorious Trinity is kindled in thy soul-thy reason-that it might lead thee in all thy undertakings, and guide thee in the way of truth. But what use dost thou make of this luminary?only to enlighten thee while practising iniquities. Thou hast received a table of laws not made with hands, from an unseen Giver: an invisible finger has engraven its eternal laws upon thy conscience; according to which God will judge thee, and by which thy thoughts accuse, or else excuse, one another. Where then is this monitor? Thou hast sacrificed it before the idols of thy corrupt passions.
Thus Faith accuses the world of pride;and her accusations wound it. "And knowest thou not, O man! that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked?" Pride desires to appropriate everything to herself; but Faith divests her of all. Pride desires, for this purpose, to be adorned like an image, at which heaven and earth may wonder, and exclaim, "Behold the man!" But Faith overthrows this image, and turns it into dust and ashes.
But it is not pride alone which reigneth in the world: "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes," have also their dominion. The world must needs live according to the will of its own corrupt passions. Behold the springs of its operation! In the inclinations of the heart, behold its motives! For it has no other law than the law of its lusts. It owns no happiness, but the happiness of temporal enjoyment. "Soul thou hast much goods laid up for many years! take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." This is the world's rule, when fortune pours her gifts upon it. But when Heaven is less bountiful, when it shuts its liberal hand, then comes another of the world's rules: "Steal, deceive, oppress, sell thy conscience, and make merry while thou livest." Thus the child of this present time reasons:"Let all others suffer, provided only I am merry: let the oppressed water his bread and mingle his drink with weeping; it is all one to me: only let my cup of pleasure be full!" Yea; let those whom he oppresses be clothed in rags, provided he be dressed in the fashion! Let industrious poverty, in bloody sweat, till an ungrateful soil, and faint with hunger, provided his table be furnished with dainties! Let innocence pine in the dark dungeon!what time has he to think of that? He has to attend plays, assemblies, feasts, visits, gambling, and evening parties. Oh I what a multitude of important affairs! But hast thou then forgotten, O fool! that there is a Judge in the earth? Though the unexpected and awful fall of other sinners like thyself, from the height of fortune to the depths of ruin, should bring no danger to theethough the whole world should bow and serve theethough all circumstances should unite in furthering thy oppressionsthough rulers and the powers that be, like blinded men, should not behold thy wicked deeds, or, being themselves no better, should take part in thy injusticeyet, He that formed the eye, shall he not see thy wickedness? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear the cries and groans of those who demand his just aid against thee? and He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know to judge between the helpless and the strong, the oppressed and their oppressor? If indeed, thou art assured that all thy iniquities upon earth shall pass unpunished, then make merry, increase thy joys by adding new pleasures, hasten to riots and to feasts! But time flies on wings swifter than the quickest whirlwind: and that awful day approaches, when God alone shall be exalted, and all mankind shall be humbled; when the monarch and his slave shall stand together before the judgment-seat; and when works alone shall be put into the balance. "God hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world, and give to every man according to his works:" Acts xvii. 31. Rev. xxii. 12. Ah! what shall then become of thee? " Thou, Lord, art righteous in all thy judgments! The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity!"
II. Brethren! the holy apostle saith, "Love not the world, neither the things which are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him;" and, " The friendship of the world is enmity with God." Behold how the world opposeth God! The world makes its own laws for the regulation of its passions: but Faith commands to sacrifice these passions, for they are our domestic enemies"They that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." The world seeks an effeminate and easy life: Faith presents a man with a perpetual cross, as soon as he enters on the Christian race"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." The world roints out to her favourites a broad way, strewed with the flowers of sensual gratification, shaded with variety of amusements, and illuminated by the glare of corrupt passions: Faith points out to her votaries a narrow and sorrowful way"Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction." The world makes an idol of its possessions, and, displaying them, saith, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me!" Faith commands"Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." According to the principles of the world, we must love none but ourselves: according to the rules of faith, we must love God above all, and our neighbour as ourselves" Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thyself." "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Finally, the world refers all to the present: only on earth it seeks its happiness: riches are the idol to which all its desires are affixed: rank and titles are its greatness, without which it considers itself mean and despised; luxury, amusements, spectacles, feasts, and plays, compose its only happiness. Faith refers all to the future: her riches are riches in heaven"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." Her pleasures are eternal pleasures"I shall be satified," saith she, "when I awake with thy likeness" and when I am in possession of those blessings which "eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, even the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
Now it was this very contrariety between the principles of the world and the principles of Jesus which set the world against him. The world despised Jesus, because Jesus made all the principles of the world despicable. The world rose up against Jesus, because Jesus rose up against all the errors of the world. The world derided, tortured, and slew Jesus on the cross, because Jesus laid open, how insignificant are its glories, how detestable its pleasures, how murderous its dreams, how heavy that cross which the sons of this world are made to carry.
Ah, beloved brethren! behold we stand at the tomb of that crucified Lord Jesus! Shall we abandon him, and say to the world, 'Thou art our God, and beside thee we know no other?' No; we embrace the wounds out of which life flowed unto us. Shall our kisses be like unto that of the perfidious disciple who betrayed Jesus? When the world presents us with its glory, its pleasures, its dreams, shall we, in effect, say to it, "What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?" Ah! what can the world give us, that shall at all be compared to what we receive with Jesus? Does it offer us glory, and the respect of men? But what glory have we in Jesus? With him, our names are written in heaven; with him, we shall partake of that glory which he had with the Father before the world was; with him we shall reign for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end! Does the world offer rank and titles? But what title can be higher than that which we receive by JesusChildren of Godheirs of a kingdom, prepared for the elect from the foundation of the world? If the friends of earthly kings are accounted great, how much greater the friends of God! If the children of earthly kings are exalted, how much higher are the children of the Lord of heaven and earth! Treasures and riches, O Christian!has not Jesus promised thee treasures superior to the whole world? Thou shalt repose on the bosom of the Almighty in the eternal kingdom, and the glory of the Lord shall encompass thee: heavenly splendors shall crown thy head, and the treasures of eternity shall be displayed before thine eyes: then shall this globe, with all its glories, as they revolve beneath thee, appear less than an imperceptible point: then will the treasures of the world be thought more insignificant than the dust which is driven before the wind: then heaven shall be thineeternity shall be thineGod himself shall be thine!O what blessedness!
Lord Jesus! to whom shall we go? Thou alone hast the words of eternal life! Open thou our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things out of thy law! Ah, Saviour! on beholding the blessedness which thou hast prepared for us, we are ready to say, with thy disciple,' Though we should die with Thee, yet we will not leave Thee!' But our deceitful hearts betray us, and we are continually surrounded with the cares of life; we sink in the sea of vanity. Oh! stretch forth from the tomb thy all-powerful arm, and, as thou didst support thy sinking disciple Peter among the waves of Gennesaret, so sustain us in the midst of this stormy world, and draw us to thy Father; that after having suffered for a little while with thee on earth, we may with thee in heaven be eternally glorified! Amen!
A SERMON BY AMBROSIUS, PRESENT ARCHBISHOP OF KAZAN.
PREACHED IN THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF TULA, AUGUST 15, 1814, ON THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEATH OF THE VIRGIN MARY.
REVELATION XIV. 13.
And I heard a voice from Heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
[Translated into English by the Rev. Robert Pinkerton, D.D.]
ON this festal day we commemorate the death of the immaculate Virgin Mary.
[This is the only reference to the Virgin throughout the whole Sermon. And it may serve as an indication of the different spirit in which festivals of this class are celebrated in the Russian Church from that in which they are in the Roman. Such an opportunity for extolling 'the Glories of Mary,' and expatiating on her Assumption and Immaculate Conception, the divines of the latter Church could scarcely pass over in this manner. But the 'New Dogma' has received no more favor from the Orthodox Churches of the East than it has from those constituting our own Communion.Editor of Russo-Greek Comm.]
Her death we denominate falling asleep; because the death of the just on earth is the beginning of his rest in eternity; and his deathbed is like an evening couch, on which he shall rest until the everlasting morning of immortality, when the Sun of Righteousness shall no more go down upon him.
Yes, beloved brethren,"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours:" and "though the righteous be prevented with death, yet shall he be in rest: " Wisd. iv. 7. The present life is but the dawn of the great day of eternity; and our existence here on earth is the first step to our everlasting existence! This mortal, with which we are clothed, shall at last put on immortality; and this corruptible, with which we are burdened, shall put on incorruption. O man! thou art immortal! Raise thine eyes towards heaven! yonder is thy home! The earth is but the scene of thy pilgrimage! Encompass eternity with thy mental powers, if thou canst! Yonder is the place of thy habitation! Time is only the beginning of thy course towards an eternal country. The comforts of this life do not compose thy blessedness: they are only a kind of agreeable valley in the journey of life, in which, like a wearied traveller, thou tarriest for a while, that thou mayest with the greater speed hasten to thy native country. The thorns of life, with which thy way is beset, are not intended merely to wound thee in thy course; but to put thee in continual remembrance, that the place of thy rest is not in this world.
O man! thou art immortal!time flieth, and, in its flight, carries thee upon its wings, even against thy will, to the place of thy destination-to eternity! Years, days, and hours, like a mighty stream, flow perpetually, and bear thee down along with them; like a powerful river, carrying upon its surface the winged vessel to the deep oceanto eternity! We are all, beloved brethren, we are all destined for eternity! Let us then cast our eyes, for a few moments, on this eternity, and consider how comforting it is to the righteous man, and how terrible it is to the ungodly!
Eternity!a word incomprehensible by the finite mind of man. Only the Eternal Mind can comprehend its extent! I heap up age upon age, and thousands of years upon thousands of years, and reckon up the times and years of all that is under the sun; but all this is not eternity. This is an unfathomable ocean, whose shores the mortal eye cannot reach! this is an abyss, bottomless to the eye of all that is created! When the heavens shall become old, and shall be folded up like a garment;when the sun shall be darkened, like a coal that is extinguished;when the stars shall fall from the heavens, like the autumnal leaves from the trees;when all tribes and nations shall fall before the scythe of time, like the grass that is mown down by the husbandman;when the earth shall have passed away, and time, laden with years, shall fall before the throne of the Eternal who created it; yet these do not make up one drop of the fathomless deep of eternity! It is beginning without end; extent without limits; time without time; life without death! There, a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years. There, a moment is as eternity, and eternity as a moment. There rolls an age which shall remain the same, and its years shall have no end! Such is eternity, my beloved brethren! and down the river of time, into this boundless ocean, we are all hastening! Such is eternity! and into this endless existence we are all running, through the short paths of this life! Such is eternity! and into this land of immortality we must all enter by the gate of death! O gate of triumph for the sons of glory, through which they shall pass, that they may receive the crowns of endless bliss! O gate, awful for the sons of perdition, through which they shall also pass, but in order that they may drink, to the last drop, the cup of heavenly wrath! So, beloved brethren, the righteous enter this gate like conquering warriors, that they may triumph in their victories that they may rest for ever in the bosom of eternity, after the struggle with their enemieswith an adulterous and sinful world-with the flesh which warreth against the spiritwith their corrupt passions, which struggle within them all the days of their lives, and lead them "captives to the law of sin!" But the wicked enter this gate, like criminals condemned to death, like victims led to the slaughter; as enemies of God, preparing to stand before the bar of vindictive justice: or like the servant called to give an account to his lord, and unable to say one word in regard to his stewardship.
In order that we, beloved brethren, may have an idea of the triumph of the righteous, on his entering the gate of eternity, and of the terror of the wicked, led away by the hand of death to the place of his condemnation, let us for awhile approach their death-beds, and hearken to their last conversation.
And thus I leave the world, this vale of my pilgrimage,' saith the righteous.' The earthly tabernacle of my body is shaking, and is ready for its fall. Well! I shall the sooner take possession of my mansion which is eternal in the heavens. Death is at the door; but I knew that it was never far from me. I part with the world, and all its enchanting beauties. Oh! if in the prime of life I saw that the world is "vanity of vanities," much more clearly do I now see that the world is a shadow, a dream that passeth away! I have finished my course here on earth; I have now passed the way of thorns. The time of temptation is now at an end: the stumbling-blocks which the world laid before my heart exist no more for me; the unceasing war with my lusts and passions is now over: the middle wall of partition between me and heaven is tumbling down: the fetters of the flesh, with which I was burthened, are now falling off; and the prison, in which I have so long lingered, is breaking down. I hasten to the liberty of the sons of God. The everlasting doors are opening! Enter, O my soul, into my rest! The way of the cross, which thou hast so often watered with tears of grief, and on which the voice of groanings, which cannot be uttered, has so often been heard;the way of the cross, which thou hast everywhere found strewed with thorns;the way of the cross, for which the joyful sons of this world have so often mocked thee-this way of the cross has at last brought thee to the gates of heaven. I give up the world, and receive heaven: I leave my fellow men, my brethren, and I enter the habitations of angels: I leave my friends on earth, and go to my Jesus, the friend of mankind, in heaven. I leave the comforts of this life, which were sometimes mixed in my cup of suffering that my strength might not fail in my course, to be received into the bosom of ray eternal Father, and take my place among his elect: I leave temporal comforts, that I may be filled with the fulness of the household of God, and drink of the streams of bliss which flow for ever in the abodes of the just. But why art thou still cast down, O my soul! and why art thou disquieted within me? What! thou tremblest at the sight of thy fall;but thou art also sealed with the seal of holy repentance. Thou feelest terror, standing at the door of the righteous Judge;but thou art also redeemed with the blood of thy Jesus, for whose sake our heavenly Father bestoweth upon us all things. Thou faintest on entering the dark valley of death;but faith is thy light, with which thou shalt pass through the shadow of death. Oh, trust in God! He that spared not his own Son, for thy sake, how shall he not with him also freely give thee all things? He who blotted out the handwriting of thy sins, nailing it to his ignominious cross, how shall he not also shield thee from the arrows of divine justice, by his glorious cross?'
With these comfortable feelings the virtuous man lies down upon his death-bed, in order to take from it his flight to the eternal mansions. Great God! with what light is the countenance of a departing saint illuminated, amidst the thickest darkness of death! With what sweet feelings does the hope of eternity fill his soul, when, to the view of man, all hope of life is past! His faith receives new strength, and his love additional ardor.' Ye everlasting doors,' he sings, 'be ye opened to me! Sun of Righteousness, that shall never set, dart upon me the first ray of everlasting light, that the darkness of life may cease, in which I dimly beheld thee, as through a glass!-then shall I behold thee face to face. Lord Jesus, as thou didst teach me to trust in thee while upon earth, receive my spirit, that I may depart in peace and obtain rest! Now, now, O Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace! for mine eyes have beheld thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all thy people living upon earth, who in peace and patience wait for the fulfilment of thine unutterable promises.'Behold the manner in which the righteous man dies!
But not so, beloved brethrennot so do those depart who forget God! Whither is the view of the dying sinner directed?towards the world, in which he thought to have erected for himself an everlasting tabernacle of bliss!the world which he loved so passionately, and without which he could not be happy, no not for an hour! But, ah! the world vanishes from his eyesthe world hastens from his death-bedthe world forgets him! 'Deceitful world!' he exclaims, 'was it for this that I served thee so zealously, satisfied thee so unweariedly, strove to please thee so willingly? I embraced the chains which thou didst lay upon me, and divided my soul between thee and heaven; I sacrificed my conscience to thee, and loved thee more than God; and now thou leavest me, to fall into the hands of an offended God, against whom to please thee, I have so often sinned! O ungrateful world! soon, soon shalt thou forget me, like the hard-hearted householder, who feedeth his servants only in the days of their strength, that he may enrich himself by their labours; and leaveth them, in the midst of killing hunger, when their strength has failed!'
Should he turn his eyes upon his treasures, over which he stood a watchful guard all the days of his life, he sees that he must part with them.' O deceitful gold!' he exclaims,' in thee I placed my only bliss! Was it 'not thou that didst cost me so much labourso much injustice, with which, for thy sake, I have burthened my soul-so many tears, which, for thee, I have caused my neighbours to shedso much oppression and violence against the widow and the orphanthe ruin of so many families, whom for thy sake I have reduced to poverty, by unlawful gambling, unjust judgments, usury, and the abuse of powers committed to me for the good of my brethren? I was a judge, and for thy sake I pronounced unmerciful and unrighteous judgments. I was appointed a guardian of the laws, and I broke their sanctity as soon as thou glitteredst in mine eyes. I was ordained a leader of the people, to feed them with truth and righteousness; and for thy sake, I myself set them an example of bribery, being a receiver of the wages of unrighteousness:even to those who stood under me in office, I taught the ways of injustice, for the sake of lucre. The period of my rule was a scene of unjust plunder, unheard-of discords, and unlawful license. I was a householder, and for thee, O gold! I suffered my servants to perish through hunger. I was a father, and, to preserve thee, I suffered my children to grow up without education. Yes, I have done everything for thee; but the threatening looks of Death now teach me that I heaped up riches not knowing for whom I gathered them.cursed gold! for thee I have done all this; and, behold! now I leave thee, and know not to whom;perhaps to unthankful heirs, who, spending thee upon their vanities, luxurious tables, and wicked lusts, shall, in the midst of their mirth, laugh at my avariceperhaps to strangers, whose very name is to me unknown-perhaps to mine enemies, on whom I would not have bestowed a single mite. Yes! I leave theein grief I leave thee. And what do I carry with me into eternity?a conscience burthened with injustice, a soul loaded with cursescurses, the voice of which shall pierce me through eternitya heart nailed to thee, which, contrary to my will, Death tears from thee. O cursed gold! thou hast made me eternally miserable!'
Does he turn his eyes towards his titles and his honors?' Now, at last, my titles, of which I was so proud, vanish,' says he,' and the distinctions of which I boasted are extinguished at the brink of my grave! At last, my rank and titles, for which I have laboured so much, suffered so many vexations, cringed so low, must be laid aside! All the high-sounding names, with which vanity has adorned me, or which low flattery has trumpeted in my ears, leave me at the gates of eternity, and the name of sinner alone accompanies me thither. True, on my tomb earthly flattery will engrave my titles; but shall I be judged by these titles in eternity? Eloquent falsehoods will twine wreaths of praise over my grave; but will these praises be heard yonder, where naked truth shall judge me? A hand bought with gold will write my name in the annals of the world; but what is an earthly monument to me, when my name shall not be found written in the Book of Life, and I shall be sealed with the seal of condemnation? Alas! time was when I had a great titlethe title of a Child of God; but I have erased it by iniquity, and willingly have I borne the name of sinner. I had a distinguished callingthe calling of a Christian; but I have willingly rejected it. I was signed with the sign of the promise of eternal lifeinsignia, superior to all the dignities of the world; but I have erased these, for the shadows and dreams of a wicked life. Go, then, sinful soul, into the presence of Jesus, thy Judge! These great titles, instead of being signs of thy salvation, are, through thine own fault, become the cause of thy condemnation.
Again he turneth his eyes upon his body which he so much pampered and gratified:' O mouldering tabernacle,' exclaims he, 'which with such labour I have supported and preserved-thou returnest now into thy dust! Full tables, choice meats, and well-flavoured wines were all prepared for thee: for this purpose I contracted debts that cannot now be paid; I ruined the orphan and the stranger; I took from the helpless the last farthing; I robbed, oppressed, sold my conscience, all in order to feed, warm, pamper, and satisfy thee: and what do I now see?soon, very soon shalt thou become a breathless corpse, food for the worms, a handful of dust! O wretched tabernacle! was it for thee that I laboured so much?for thee that I transgressed?for thee, that I forgot my eternal mansion in the heavens?'
But let us shorten this sorrowful scene, my brethren; and let us only notice how the sinner in his last moments, turns his eyes towards heaventowards eternity. 'The hour is now come,' says he, 'when I must leave the world and my treasure, and enter into eternity! Already my eyes become dim;already I feel the grasp of the cold hand of Death, that is come to lead me into the valley of darknessa land to me unknown. Yes; Faith offered me her lamp, to enlighten the horrid darkness of the tomb; but I extinguished this lamp, by unbelief. Grace stretched out her hand, to lead me into the regions of eternity; but I thrust her hand from me. My heavenly Father continually offered me His bosom; but I have preferred the embraces of sin. I go to the abodes of eternityOh, how gloomy is my path!Yonder is God! He is my vindictive Judge. Here is conscience!she is my accuser, not to be bribed. Yonder is the fire that never shall be quenched, the worm that never dieth! yonder is eternal gnashing of teeth-impenetrable darkness! Oh, these are all fit rewards for me a sinner' Thus he exclaims; and his eyes begin to stare-his countenance is covered with a ghastly palenesshis features become distorted-his lips are locked in silence; and his agonized soul breaks through the chinks of the dissolving tabernacle, to fall into the hands of the Living God, the punisher of unrighteousness.' Alas! where is he now?' exclaim his relations, who surround his death-bed.Where is he now, beloved brethren? He is in eternity; he is there, where his lot shall never be changedwhere the just sentence pronounced against him shall eternally remain, and never be revoked. Hence, beloved brethren, it is written, that "horrible is the end of the unrighteous generation;" "but though the righteous be prevented with death, yet shall he be in rest:" Wisd. iii. 19. iv. 7.
ADDRESS OF SERAPHIM, METROPOLITAN OF ST. PETERSBURG AND NOVGOROD, AT THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOSCOW BIBLE SOCIETY, MARCH 18, 1820.
[Translated into English by Rev. Robert Pinkerton, D.D.]
OF all the blessings which the mercy of God has bestowed upon us, there is none greater and more complete than his holy word. I shall not attempt to describe all the advantages which flow from it, for they are more than can be numbered or expressed; suffice it for me, with the apostle Paul, to declare, that it is the power of God unto salvation. But this divine word, so necessary to the children of men for their happiness, remained confined to the narrow precincts of Judea until the hypostatic word of the Father, Christ the Lord, having taken our nature upon himself, had finished the great work of our redemption; and until God the Father, having raised him from the dead, had said unto him, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee; ask of Me and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession." Then it was that Jesus, having conquered sin and death and hell, became king over all the earth and sent his disciples to preach unto every creature the word of truththe living and life-giving word which he received from the Fatherand without deeming it needful to array them with the symbols of any other power than that of the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit spake with their lips; and their words became like as a fire and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces. This same Holy Spirit wrought in them and by their hands mighty signs and wonders, captivating the minds and hearts of men to the obedience of the faith which they preached, so that nothing could withstand them. They put to shame the imaginary wisdom of philosophers, they laid open the deception and flattery of priests, they overawed and astonished tyrants; and having broken down their idols, overturned their altars, and demolished their unclean temples, they erected on their ruins the cross of Christ, before whom all nations shall bow. And, though they themselves ultimately became victims of their ardent zeal for God, and their heads fell beneath the sword of the executioner, yet their blood became a seal to the truth and the seed of believers.
At last the voice of the apostles ceased to be heardthose trumpets of the Holy Ghost sound no moretrue; but the Holy Catholic Church has preserved unto us the voices of the prophets and the sounds of the apostles; has preserved the divine word spoken by them, perfect and unadulterated, notwithstanding the efforts of their enemies, who strove to corrupt it, in order to support their heresies; has preserved it in defiance of the power of tyrants, who sought to destroy it by fire, thinking thereby to consume the faith itself. Let us render, my brethren, thanksgivings from the depths of our souls to an all-gracious Providence for preserving unto us these invaluable treasures of truth! And being in the possession of this treasure, let us watch over it as over the apple of our eye. O that the truth which is revealed by the Holy Ghost in the sacred volume may become the life of our life, and the light and food of our souls! and that the word of truth, the word of God, may be the only rule of our lives! But woe, woe unto those who disregard this truth of God, and unto such as hold it in unrighteousness! Because of disrespect to His holy word the Lord cut off the most ancient church in the world, the Jewish Church; on account of this disrespect and neglect the Lord removed the candlesticks out of their places in many of the churches of Asia and Africa, which once shone in the beauty of holiness, like the stars in the firmament; others of them he punished with spiritual famine, so that the prophecy of Amos was accomplished upon them: "They shall wander from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord and shall not find it." O, what a fearful punishment was this! For where the word of the Lord is not found there the Lord himself is absent, His gracious influences are unknown and there remains nothing but lies, deceptions, fables, spiritual death and the dominion of the prince of darkness!
In proportion, then, as we esteem the word of God to be holy and indispensable for ourselves, the sacred obligation rests upon us, not merely to know it and zealously to strive to obey it, but also to endeavor by every possible means to put it into the hands of others, that they may also learn to know and obey it. We are bound not only to nourish our own souls with this celestial bread, but likewise to impart it to such as are hungering after it; not merely to quench the thirst of our own souls with this living water which floweth into everlasting life, but to give it to others, that they likewise may quench their thirst. Love to God our Saviour demands this from us; to Him nothing can be more acceptable than that we care for the good of those for whom he shed his precious blood. Love to our neighbor demands this from us; for, in bestowing upon him the word of God, we afford him the most infallible means for obtaining the salvation of his soul.
It is with infinite regret, however, that we must confess that this highly important and sacred duty has been seldom rightly understood and felt by us in its full extent; the sacred writings, in time past, have been left in the hands of the clergy, as a matter with which they only had any concern; while among the other classes of society but very few either possessed or read them.
Out of this state of things a mighty evil aroseignorance of the Law of God; ignorance of that which is the only effectual barrier to the corrupt passions of men. No sooner was this thrown aside than men became ungovernable. In every direction the passions of men have raged with fury, filling cities and peaceful villages with falsehood, deceit, oppression, bribery, corruption and every species of wickedness. But when this iniquity began to abound and to threaten the existence of all social order and happiness, a gracious God was pleased to raise up the Bible Society, whose sole object is the increase and circulation of the Books of Holy Writ, with a view to re-establish and extend the pure knowledge of the Holy Law of God, which is the only right guide of our actions. By this marked intervention of Providence, God has placed a strong barrier to this evil, and laid a stable foundation for the building up of the true faith and genuine piety, even unto the ends of the earth.
Nor is this mere conjectureit is truth, supported by numerous present events, for the conductors of the Benevolent Bible Society, who, at its commencement, undertook the circulation of the sacred writings, first among their fellow countrymen, were soon after excited by the spirit of faith to extend their labors to the whole of mankind. And with what diligence and zeal did they begin the truly grand undertaking! Some of their members, leaving their place of nativity, their wives, children and friends. have crossed distant seas and rivers; others have traversed burning sands and deepening snows; have even settled among uncivilized and half-savage tribes, for the express purpose of learning their language and translating the Holy Scriptures into it, in order to bestow this precious light and treasure upon them.
Verily, it seems to me that the consummating vision of the beloved disciple of Christ is now realizing:' And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, to every nation and kindred and tongue and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God and give glory to Him.' For, in the present day the Bible Societies are actually promulgating the gospel of God in almost every nation, in the languages which they understand; and the inhabitants, especially the heathens, receive it with joy and veneration, as a gift sent down to them from heaven. Soon shall those heathen lands, which hitherto have been unfruitful deserts, blossom as the rose! soon, very soon, shall holy churches be established and their light begin to shine before the throne of God, where the lights of former churches have been extinguished! O, what a sublime spectacle, when the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God; and when, from the east to the west, songs of praise shall be heard in honor of the Conqueror, in honor of the Lamb that has redeemed us unto God, by his blood, out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation!
Brethren! though we are not likely to live till this desirable period, yet we can hasten its approach by uniting with the Bible Society, and diligently scattering abroad the seed of the divine word; in full confidence that the Lord will not leave it to perish, when it falls on good ground, but will cause it to grow, through the gracious influences of His Spirit.
O, eternal and hypostatic Word of the Father, rend from our hearts the murdering one of the evil one, and the captivating word of this world! and then shall Thy sacred word become vivifying and effectual unto our regeneration, sanctification and salvation. Amen.
FROM THE ADDRESS OF PHILARET, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW, AT THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOSCOW BIBLE SOCIETY, A. D., 1824.
[Translated into English by Rev. Robert Pinkerton, D. D.]
"The question respecting the moral benefits derived from a circulation of the Holy Scriptures, may be met by the observation, that it is reserved for posterity fully to answer it. The product of that seed which is sown in early spring can only be ascertained in autumn; and whoever plants the kernel of a fruit-tree must be content for years to go on, hoping that his labour and expense will ultimately produce appropriate fruit. He that scatters abroad the word of God, sows for eternity; and who can think it late, if the seed which is thus disseminated, and which falls in the soft and more genial soil of youth under the advantages of a better education, shall yield a richer harvest in the second than in the first generation?
"Should any one, however, after what has been said, still insist upon his right to be satisfied as to the actual effects produced by the exertions of the Moscow Bible Society, on those whose previous education and acquirements may have rendered them more susceptible of religious instruction, we have a right to ask in return, that he will consider calmly and impartially, on whom the obligation to furnish the required information lies. The question at issue is, Whether it is the duty of a Bible Society to give an account to those for whose benefit its exertions are made, of their salutary consequences? or whether it is fit that such as profit by these exertions should detail the effects produced by them? The case appears to be analogous with that of a society established in a country visited by a famine, for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants with provisions; the members of which accordingly exert themselves in collecting money and in forming depots, where such as are able to pay may receive bread at a moderate price, and where the poor are even furnished gratis. Such voluntary exertions of benevolent individuals in behalf of a famished country would (and with great reason) be hailed as a proof of more than ordinary philanthropy; and surely the most fastidious would never dream of blaming the society, if some of the natives should prefer living upon roots, rather than accept the bread offered to them;. or even if a few, reduced by famine and disease, should, from absolute loss of appetite, loathe the wholesome food administered to them. It appears far more reasonable that the Bible Society, after having made its report for ten successive years, might at length be permitted, for once, to demand of those for whom it labours, the rendering of some account, if not to the society, at least to their own consciences, of the benefits which they have derived from exertions made in their behalf. Observe the mode adopted by one of the most active distributors of the Holy Scriptures, in calling to account those among whom he labored. In an address to the Christians of his time, St. Chrysostom asks: 'Who is there, in this assembly, that is able to give a satisfactory answer to any question respecting the contents of a particular Psalm, or indeed any other portion of the Holy Scriptures? I must confess, I know of none. Nor yet is your ignorance in this respect so reprehensible, as your indifference to everything that is spiritually good, and your prediliction for whatever is evil and proceeds from the wicked one. If the question regarded some diabolical, carnal, seductive song, there would be found many among you perfectly acquainted with it, and even ready to repeat it with zest. But in what manner, I pray, can you justify such wickedness? Perhaps you may endeavor to do it, by alleging that you are no monks, but have the business of your families, your wives and your children, to attend to. This very excuse, however, serves only to condemn you the more; for it evidently proves that you imagine the reading of the Holy Scriptures to be useful only for monks, whereas I assert that it is far more necessary for you than for them; since, by your living in the midst of the world, and being exposed to its contamination by your intercourse with it, you more particularly stand in need of the means of salvation. It is truly a grievious thing not to read the Holy Scriptures; but it is still more so to regard them as wholly superfluous; for that is a doctrine truly satanical. Do you not remember that, according to the apostle Paul, whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning?' The same writer continues, in another place, 'It is disgraceful for persons, on quitting the church of God, to give themselves up to things wholly reprobated by it: far more becoming would it be for them, on their return home, to call together their wives and children, and direct their attention to the Holy Scriptures; so that, though absent, they also might profit by what had been read, at church.' In this manner did this zealous father of the Church call those Christians to a strict account who neglected to read the Bible; although, perhaps for themat least when compared with Christians of our dayssome shadow of excuse might be found in the difficulty of procuring manuscript Bibles, many centuries before the art of printing was invented. But how his holy indignation would have been roused, had he lived at a period when, notwithstanding the general dissemination of the Word of God, there are many Christians who will not even give themselves the trouble to take up the Bible and examine into its contents!
"O Thou Divine, enlivening and creating Word, who judgest the thoughts and intentions of the human heart! we will receive Thee gladly into our hearts, and to the best of our power, distribute Thy revealed Word amongst our brethren. Do Thou instruct us! Do Thou live and work in us all! Direct and sanctify our thoughts and feelings! and, when at the last great Day, Thou shalt pronounce the final judgment, condemn us not, for Thy mercy's sake!
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PUBLISHING FUND SINCE THE LAST ACKNOWLEDGMENT.
Rt. Rev. J. H. Hopkins, D.D., $5 00
"Three or four Russians," (£20) 135 65
George R. Clark, Esq., 10 00
Rev. William McVickar, 5 00
Rev. D. W. Short, 5 00
William Cornwall, Esq., 5 00
Wm. E. Buckley, M. D., 5 00
Rev. W. Brand, 1 00
Rev. Thos. Mills Martin, 5 00
Rev. Chas. R. Hale, 5 00
Rev. F. C. Ewer, 5 00
Rev. Edward W. Goddard, 5 00
St. James Church, Winsted, Ct., 5 00
H. A. Parker, Esq., 5 00
Rev. John Hall, 5 00
J. W. Davis, Esq., 5 00
Rev. Joseph M. Clark, 5 00
Rev. F. C. Brown, 3 00
Rev. Wm. C. Pope, 5 00
Rev. J. H. Anketel, 5 00
Rev. W. C. Hopkins, 5 00
Rev. Chas. Douglass, 5 00
Rev. J. L. Townsend, 4 50
Rev. Edwin A. Cullum, 1 00
R. B. Minturn, jr., Esq., 25 00
Rev. Edward S. Watson, 5 00
Rev. Wm. Tatlock, 5 00
Mrs. Lucy C. Phelps, 5 00
Rev. R. Jope, 5 00
John K. Lewis, Esq., 5 00
Rev. Archibald M. Morrisson,. 5 00
John Travers,Esq, 5 00
Rev. Chas. W. Rankin, 5 00
Rev. J. J. Robertson, D.D., 10 00
Rev. John McVickar, D.D., 5 00
B. R. Betts, Esq., 3 00
Rev. W. Child, 12 00
Amount of contributions,. $340 15
Balance on hand last reported, 114 11
From sales of copies of Papers, 60 58
Total,.. $514 84
Cost of 3,000 copies of Paper No. IV, and Proposals, (including $45 00 for postage stamps,)... $207 51,
Balance on hand,.. $307 33