Project Canterbury






















Now therefore we are all here present before God to bear those things which are commanded thee of God. ACTS X: 33.

MY Christian Brethren, I feel that I can this morning appropriate the language of St Peter, when admonished by the devout Centurion Cornelius;--"Therefore came I unto you, without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for. I ask, therefore, for what intent ye have sent for me." I trust that you also can appropriate the words of Cornelius for himself and friends, and truly say to me in reply, in the language of the text. Now therefore we are all here present before God to hear those things which are commanded thee of God." It is then, only, that the solemn and dear relation of Pastor and people is on its right foundation, when the Pastor feels that he has obeyed the call of God in coming to those who send for him; and when those who send for him do it that they may hear from him, as God's Ambassador, those things which are commanded him of God.

I would that the words which I shall speak might be heard and uttered under the sole conviction that we are all here before God. Then would he who speaks, awe-struck by the presence, fear to preach any other Gospel than that which he has received; and yon who hear, would listen to what is spoken, as to a message sent from God. Though no visible Shechinal glory, flooding this house with light, manifest God's presence; [5/6] though we sit not in the silence of expectant awe, for an angel herald from Heaven, looking to catch the forecast radiance of his coming, and listening to hear the preluding music of his voice;--yet none the less are we here before God, to hear his word and will. God is here; for his people are here assembled in his name. He is here in the Almightiness of his power; here in the abundance of his grace; here in the fulness of his love. He is here with his precious promises, and burning threatenings; here to take the things of Christ and show them to the believing hearer's heart; here to make His Gospel "the savor of life unto life, or of death unto death," to all who hear. If we duly realise this solemn truth, we shall be preserved from perverting this day's services from their high and holy purpose. Miserable self would not dare be seen from the pulpit; mere idle curiosity would be banished from the pew;--if in the pulpit and the pew alike it were realized that we are here before God; and that from the one is to proceed, and by the other to be received, the things which are commanded of God.

In the brief time which is allowed me on this occasion, I can do little more than state those things which, as I believe, I am commanded to proclaim to you from God; and leave to future occasions their full proof and development.

I. Coming among you as the Minister of the Lord Jesus, I am unquestionably called upon to tell you in language, express and unequivocal, of man's polluted nature, and consequent condemnation.

The corruption of the heart of man, and his consequent condemnation is that fact which makes a Gospel necessary. It is the disease for which the Gospel provides the remedy. It is a radical disease. Man is "shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin." He is the [6/7] inheritor of an evil nature which is offensive to God; and in consequence of that evil nature, the perpetrator of sinful deeds, which bring him under the curse of God. In consequence of this inherited corruption, all the faculties of the soul are disordered, and fail of the true ends for which they were created. The mind strays wide of truth, and calls "evil good, and good evil;" the heart fixes itself on forbidden things, unsuited to give it real joy; the conscience is no longer the clear, unbroken echo of the voice of God within the soul; and the will, once free to choose the good and perform the right, has sold itself into bondage to the erring heart, the misguided mind and the darkened conscience. Proclaiming then the testimony of God, we must describe man in his natural state, "as alienated from the life of God," as in a state of "enmity to God;" as "dead in trespasses and sins." With the clear language of Scripture for our guide, and with all observation and experience as witnesses, we dare not speak of man as merely prone to sin; as liable to be finally condemned; as subject to forfeit a present privilege and be lost. The things which we are commanded to speak from God in reference to the condition of man by nature, are, that he is "condemned already;" that he is festering with the pollution and covered with the curse of sin; that he has violated a Holy Law, whose claims he cannot cancel, and subjected himself to a punishment whose execution he cannot stay. And those truths we proclaim, not forgetful of the fact that unrenewed human nature sometimes manifests amiable human virtues. But they are merely human. They are Godless in their origin, their direction and their end. They have no reference to God, as he truly is, holy, just and good. It is with them as with some poisonous plants, whose blossoms are more beautiful than those of [7/8] others which are endowed with medicinal and healing virtues. But of the fairest specimen of mere human virtue, it will be verified that "its root shall be as rotten ness, and its blossom shall go up as dust!" Tell us not then of man's soaring hopes, and high desires, and immortal yearnings, and indomitable will, and Heaven-directed conscience, as endowments which give dignity to his character in time, and by which he may achieve glory and honor and blessedness in Eternity. It is not our task to take the measure of human powers within the limits of those things upon which they may with propriety be exercised. But our province is to prove the utter powerlessness of man to change his relation to God, to renew his nature, to cast off the clinging curse which burns upon him, and to stand forth, in the eye of Angels and of men, a worthy inheritor of bliss and glory. If we could show man to be a mental and moral giant, it would still be the spectacle of a giant held in chains, and prostrate under disease; so manacled by punishment and enfeebled by sin, as to be, in reference to spiritual matters, altogether without power. He would be a giant with the fires of Etna burning at his heart, and the weight of Etna pressing on his breast. All man's convulsive efforts to extricate himself from the evil of his heart, and life, and the consequences present and prospective, with which they have surrounded him, will but show him his own weakness, and the strength of the chains that bind him, and of the walls that enclose him. The poor inheritor of an evil nature, the wilful perpetrator of sin, the conscious transgressor of a Holy Law, polluted and condemned man may hope to escape defilement and condemnation, only by going out of himself, and applying to one "able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by him."

[9] II. We are further commanded to proclaim the glad tidings, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save lost man from pollution and condemnation, and to bid all to come to him and be saved Standing in the place of man, he presented himself to God as an atonement for man's sin--an atonement with which God was completely satisfied. By this atonement, all the attributes of God were harmonized, and all the wants of man provided for. The truth of the Almighty remained inviolate. He had declared that by sinning man should die. Jesus Christ, by taking upon himself man's nature, satisfied the truth of God by dying in his stead, and by taking upon himself all the curse which was included in the fearful words, "Thou must die." God's justice, also, was satisfied in the death of Jesus, in behalf of man, inasmuch as the dignity of the Sufferer, and the intensity of his sufferings, joined to the merit which belonged to them from the fact that he was infinitely free from deserving them, presented a more signal demonstration that iniquity must be punished, than could have been presented by man's own sufferance of the curse. God's love and mercy rejoiced over the restoration of lost man to purity and bliss. Thus all God's attributes were satisfied and harmonized. So, also, were all man's wants supplied. He needed a satisfaction to God's truth and justice, and such, we have seen, the Savior furnished. He needed, as a Mediator, one who could treat on equal terms with God; and such was Jesus, the co-equal of the Father. He needed pardon, and through Christ it was extended to him. For although God's justice had been satisfied by the Savior; although, as a transaction between God and Christ, a full equivalent for man's punishment had been given; yet as it was a transaction between God and man, man's sins were freely pardoned by God. He needed a title to [9/10] heaven; and it was found for him in the infinite merits of the Redeemer. He needed, also, the renewal of his nature, and this was provided for by the Savior, in His gift of the renewing Spirit. After justification and renewal he needs forgiveness for the sin lingering in his heart, and for the commission of actual sin through the remaining infirmity of his nature. Behold Jesus, able to save unto the uttermost, all who come unto God by him He ever liveth, successfully to make intercession for us. The remedy is complete. Man's salvation is secure. Brethren, this is the great message, "the glad tidings" which we bring to you from God. Again and again shall we take you to the Cross of Christ, and listening to his dying words, exclaim, "Behold how he loved you!" I beseech you, Brethren, never to grow weary of this exhaustless theme! Heaven does not grow weary of it, for the song that there evermore ascends, and is ever the "new song" still, is to him "who loved us, and washed us in his blood." It were better to tire of the sun that daily shines upon us; it were better to weary of the life-giving air we breathe. Wo is unto me, if, I preach not Christ crucified! Wo is unto you, if you receive him not! Christ then, as our sacrifice for sin; Christ as our perfect righteousness Christ as our Prophet, Priest and King; Christ as our exemplar in life, our support in death, our portion in Eternity; Christ as chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely; Christ before whom Creation bends, acknowledging him as Lord; who has "on his head many crowns;" whom justified men adore as their Redeemer; whom a guilty world is tremblingly awaiting as its Judge; at whose name the glooms of defeated hell grow darker;

"Him would I extol,
Him first, Him last, Him midst, and without end!

[11] III. It might avail little to speak of Christ as a Savior, if we were not also commanded to show you how the Salvation which He has purchased and provided may be secured; how he who is condemned in the sight of God may become justified. "By faith are ye justified;" "by faith are ye saved," is the continually recurring testimony of God's word. Salvation is ever represented to us as a gift. Salvation is ever described as wholly free. Now it is by faith that it may be thus of grace and wholly free. We are told that it is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by God's mercy" that we are saved. It is of faith that it may be of mercy and not "by works of righteousness which we have done." Neither is it by an inward righteousness that we are accepted; "for all our righteousness is as filthy rags." It is then of faith that no man may boast. The office then of securing our justification is given to faith, as its instrument, not because it has any inherent power, or worth, or tendency to secure that blessing, but because, being a renunciation of self, and a trust in God, being a negation of all merit, or power, or holiness, it has been constituted the appropriate means by which pardon and life may come to us as a free and most unmerited gift from God. It is described as producing the results which belong to power, not because it has power of itself, but because it removes the obstacles--impenitence and unconsciousness of need--which had hitherto pre vented the exercise of the power of Christ. Faith is not the strength which saves, but it is the cry of helplessness to him who is mighty to save, and who never turns a deaf ear to those who cry to him. When the inquiring sinner obeys the direction "believe and be saved," what does he but remove an obstacle by which Christ becomes [11/12] to him "the power" and "the wisdom of God?" What does he by that act but accept from the Savior, his death instead of his own, for his own sin; the Savior's merit in the place of any merit of his own, and present these to the Father--well pleased to receive them because of His Covenant with Christ--as the only ground of his acquittal and acceptance "That we are justified by faith only" is then in the language of our Article, "a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort." [Art. XI.] It is an unspeakable comfort to know that our salvation does not depend upon--though it cannot be compassed without--our own obedience and righteousness;--but that it is to be obtained by a simple faith in the perfect righteousness of Christ, by which we are in the sight of God as he is; by which we receive salvation as a boon wholly unmerited and free.

IV. But not only are we commanded to tell yon how, as condemned, you may become justified, but also how, as polluted, you may obtain that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. We are bidden to declare in language, not to be misunderstood, the necessity of purity, in heart and life, on the part of all who name the name of Christ. For the faith which draws down over the else unshielded sinner, the perfect righteousness of Christ, by which he is justified, wins also into his heart the gift of the Spirit by which he is sanctified. Against all who would turn the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ into lasciviousness; who magnify faith that they may dispense with works; who are involved by the blinding artifices of Satan into the Antinomian delusion that the justified by faith cannot commit sin, or need not take earnest heed to overcome it; against such, words are put in our mouth, of solemn meaning and of hot anathema! We must ever call upon the children of God to [12/13] discharge every duty of their every relation, if they would prove themselves to be indeed God's children. As members of communities, of households, of the Church, if any duty or class of duties be carelessly, wantonly, habitually, neglected by you, we see not how you can claim to be the children of God. What claim can he have to sonship, who has not a reverential and filial regard to the Father's law and will? Obedience;--universal, immediate, unquestioning, hearty obedience--to all God's will must be insisted on, not only because commanded of God; but because such obedience is necessary to prove the soul to be in a state in which alone, justifying faith can be exercised; and because the performance of what soever things are pure and lovely, and of good report, is a needful exercise in progressively fashioning the soul into the perfect image of the Master. Thus holy habits are formed. Thus the soul is made to hunger and thirst after complete righteousness, thus is it quickened in love, faith, joy and peace in believing; for says David "By thy precepts thou hast quickened me!" Thus is the soul led into clearer views of the truth of God; and by the truth, the soul is evermore progressively sanctified. Obedience gives back to the faith from which it sprung, new and holier life; and faith thus strengthened, gives to obedience new and more glorious triumphs. So shall they reciprocally aid each other, until faith be lost in fruition, and obedience become perfect in heaven. "Holiness to the Lord," then, is the motto, circling the cross, which should be blazoned upon the banner of the Christian soldier, fighting his way to Zion. Nothing will answer as a substitute for it, by which we may purchase an entrance into heaven. A lacerated frame, and fastings, and watchings, will not extort it. Whole holocausts of bleeding victims would not propitiate God that he would bestow it. The World's wealth piled up heaven-high, could not buy it. [13/14] An Archangel's arm, nerved with imparted strength, to uphold or crush a world, could not throw back the gates of heaven, to admit a single unholy creature. Man must let that alone forever!

But, my Brethren, we would not be understood to separate, or compare, or contrast saving faith and holy living, as if they were distinct. This is not done, we think, either by Scripture or by the scriptural standards of our Church, except, sometimes, in the way of argument, and then, as in the case of St. James, to show that they are, in fact, in separable. By both they are ever joined together as necessarily co-existent. The faith that does not produce holy living is not saving faith. The works which do not spring from saving faith, are not good and holy works. By good works, says our Article, "a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by its fruits." You discern of what kind a tree is, by the fruit which you find upon it. So holy works are fruits by which you may discern that the man who works them is a man of faith. For what is faith? the essence of it is trust in God's power, goodness and truth; self-renouncing trust; trust, despite all the suggested difficulties and doubts of nature and of reason. And what are good works? They are those acts of obedience in the heart and life, which the sinner, unable to perform in nature's strength, is enabled to do by trust in the promises which trust secures, for him, the all-sufficient aid of God. Trust then lies at the base of the faith by which he is justified, and of the good works by which, when justified, he gives evidence of his acceptance, and becomes the possessor of that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. We see then, that faith is just that principle which is, in itself, adapted, and which God has chosen, to secure a helpless sinner's outward justification, and, consequent thereupon, his inward righteousness. What then are [14/15] good works, but faith going out of the heart into action in the life? What is obedience, but faith projected forth into visible manifestation? Thus we see that good works cannot, and ought not to be dissevered from that living faith out of which they necessarily spring. We are not fearful of throwing discredit upon good works, or of diminishing the sense of their necessity, when we exhort all, with urgent earnestness, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved, and preach justification by faith only in his name; because in those very words we urge the exercise of a principle from which all good works take their rise. We are not fearful, on the other hand, of casting dishonor upon faith when we hold up the indispensable necessity and the rich reward of abounding in all good works, because in doing so, we enjoin that the performance of which involves an exercise of faith, in the power, and truth, and goodness of God. What God hath joined together, let no man--in doctrine or in practice--put asunder.

V. We are commanded also, to speak to you of the Church as the body of Christ, of the necessity of being placed in it by baptism, that the covenant privileges of salvation may be signed and sealed; of commemorating the dying love of Jesus in the Eucharist, as a standing pledge of the application of the blood of the Redeemer for the soul's redemption; as a means to the faithful and loving recipient of grace and spiritual life and joy. Did time permit, we would love to speak to you of the privileges and duties which belong to you as members of the Church of Christ; and to urge upon you the realization of the one, and the performance of the other. Reverently and fondly would we speak of the Church for whose purchase the Savior poured out his life blood, as the house of God, and the gate of heaven; the honored spouse [15/16] of Jesus Christ; the birth and home of souls renewed the nursery of heaven; the type of the upper temple. Who that loves the dear Redeemer, can fail to love the Church which he fills, and in which he lives? There the Word is preached; and Christ, living in the Word, is presented to the heart. There the Sacraments are ad ministered and Christ seen through, and beaming through them, vitalizes and warms the heart. May you ever find it, Brethren, not a theme for contention, but a blessed home for the soul, where contention dare not come. May it be to you a quiet enclosure, out of the world, where Brethren dwell together in unity, where the rude voices of debate are never heard; where you shall experience joy and peace in the Holy Ghost; where, from the toils and anxieties of life, you may love to escape, and come and lay your weary heads upon the bosom of the compassionate Redeemer and be at peace.

Such, in brief, with many truths connected and dependant, of which we have not time to speak, are those things which we believe we are commanded of God to speak to you. from this place. But, my Brethren, this day's scene would be divested, to my heart, of that which gives it its tenderest interest, did I fail to remember that it will be my privilege and duty to proclaim these blessed truths, not only publicly, but from house to house; not only in season, as now, but out of season, by the way, and in the social circle. Let me, I pray you, in this hour of a responsibility, which, if it were realized, would paralyze the tongue into silence, and crush the soul into insensibility, let me refer to, and let me hereafter enjoy, those delightful pastoral privileges, which so kindly adjust the yoke of responsibility, that it is an easy yoke, and so help to lift the burden of labor, that it is a light burden. Ever regard me, I beseech you, as one ready and anxious to sympathize in all your joys, [16/17] and in all your sorrows, to praise God with you in the one, and pray to him for you in the other. If any heart is touched into penitence, or restless and uneasy in its alienation from its God and Savior, let me be there, to lift up Christ Crucified, to repeat his words of loving invitation to the weary and heavy laden, with sorrow or with sin; and to remind it that it is the broken and contrite heart that God will not despise. If any weep over blighted hope, and prostrate happiness, let me be there, to point them where hope is not, only because fruition has realized its longing dreams. If any mourn like Israel, be cause the cherished ones of their hearts are not, let me be there, to show them the rod of judgment budding with the flower of mercy, and to remind them that God takes away the lovely idols which hide him from their view, that he may better bless them with the vision and the love of his own adorable perfections. If any toss on the bed of sickness, or languish on that of death, and the world, seen no longer through the transforming medium of passion, and of interest, appears in its true character, as deceitful and unsatisfying, the exciter of a thirst it cannot quench, let me be there, to point to a forgiving God, a bleeding Savior, a sanctifying Spirit, a satisfying and eternal portion.

My Brethren, will not the peculiarity of my position this morning, justify the application of this subject to myself as well as to you? You behold the office of the minister of Christ--that of proclaiming the things which are commanded you of God. Feel, then, for him, and with him, how awful is his responsibility. Oh! what a prostrating thought it is to him who stands as God's ambassador, that, to many immortal souls, to whom he ministers, as they shall be brought under the influence of the partial error which distorts the soul, or of the complete truth, whose equal pressure moulds it into the [17/18] image of the Master, shall be their destiny--life or death! How startlingly does the denunciation of the Prophet ring upon his soul! "Wo unto the foolish Prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!" With the words of God which so lately were heard from that sacred desk, [Ez. XXXIII chap.] and with the solemn admonitions of our faithful and affectionate father in God, [Rt. Rev. Bp. Eastburn.] yet ringing in my ears, it seems to me that if the minister of Jesus, should, through abounding mercy, enter Heaven, and one of the people of his charge through his careless, imperfect, or erroneous presentation of his message, fail to reach it; Oh! it seems to me that the blood of that murdered soul would stain the white robe in which he would stand before the throne of God and of the Lamb. Brethren, cannot you do something to prevent the messenger of God from presenting other than the truth as it is in Jesus? Yes, you can! Not, however, by your judgments, or your criticism, your praises, or your censures. These are often but the yieldings, on the part of him who indulges them, to the bonds whereby the deep craft of Satan draws him away from the personal application of the truth, into carelessness and sin, whose end is death. To the minister who heeds them, and guides himself by them, instead of ever and singly looking to God for his messages, they are bonds no less; bonds which so tie up the arms of his power, as to prevent him from wielding the glittering and cleaving sword of the Spirit in all the fulness of its sweep and with the vigor of a cleaving stroke. But, Brethren, though not in this way, you may aid the minister of Christ, in his efforts to proclaim only the truth. From what do corruptions of the word of God arise, but from corruption of the heart through which it passes? The water of life flows pure from the fountain; but passing through the soil of an evil [18/19] nature, it bears with it the sediment, which poisons or defiles the soul. You may, then, by your prayers, call down such a blessing on the soul of him who ministers among you, as that the truth may pass through his spirit to your own, bearing with it less of the evil nature which would corrupt it; you may live so holily, blamelessly, peculiarly, devotedly, as God's people, as to present no obstacle to the reception, and the power of the truth, in the hearts of those about you. Yes, Brethren, you can surround me, in my going out and coming in, with an atmosphere of prayer, within whose charmed circle, the spirits of darkness cannot enter. Then shall I be enabled to proclaim to you, the things which are commanded of God. Then, inasmuch as it is not by power, nor by might, but by God's spirit that the truth is made the instrument of converting the souls of men, then shall this house continue, as, in times past, it has been, the House of God, and the Gate of Heaven, to many a wandering spirit!

Project Canterbury