PREACHED AT THE
REV. HENRY WHITLOCK,
AS ASSISTANT MINISTER OF TRINITY CHURCH, NEW-HAVEN.
BY JOHN KEWLEY, M.D.
A SERMON, &c.
GALATIANS vi. 6.
Let him that is taught in the word, communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
FROM the very constitution of human nature, and the state of the world in which we live, we become necessarily dependent, in many things, one upon another. Hence it is evident, that man was not designed to pass his days in solitude, and wholly occupied with himself, but in society; and that it is his duty to exercise his powers, both of body and mind, in promoting the general good; neither is there one individual so independent, as never to stand in need of the services of others, nor one so free, as to be under no obligation to the performance of certain duties towards his fellow creatures. When these reciprocal duties and services are duly and faithfully performed by every member of a community according to his rank or station in it, the harmony, peace and happiness of that community is preserved [5/6] and promoted; but if these are neglected, murmurings, envyings, and discords will arise; the great objects of the association will be forgot and swallowed up in pursuits which wholly terminate in self.
Besides the general duties arising out of a state of society, there are others of a more special nature, arising out of those more close relations in which men stand towards each other by the dispositions of an all-wise Providence, and which are founded either in nature, civil regulation, or divine institution; such as the relation between parents and children, kindred, governors and governed, employers and employed, members of the one mystical body of Jesus Christ, ministers of the gospel and those to whom they are appointed to minister. The more appropriate duties incumbent on those who stand in the two last mentioned relations, viz, ministers of the gospel, and the members of the congregations committed to their charge, are those to which the words of our text more specially direct our attention, and which the present solemn occasion more particularly calls upon us to consider.
As it would require far more time to go into a full and complete investigation of all the duties incumbent on a minister of the gospel, that can possibly be allotted to a single discourse, I must confine myself chiefly to those implied in his character of a teacher of the word; and these, I should imagine, will be easily perceived and understood, after we have taken a view of the leading doctrines he is commanded to teach, and which may all be included under two general ones, viz, that of redemption, and that of salvation.
The doctrine of redemption is founded on that of the fall of man through the disobedience of our first parent; [6/7] a fall which involved in it the ruin of the whole human race; nor were any powers left to fallen man by the exercise of which he could atone for the offence committed, and reconcile himself to God; nay, even all power was gone whereby he might perform any future acts of obedience to the law of God, in that manner which the spotless purity of that law required, since of his own fallen nature he was only inclined to evil; indeed so complete and entire was the ruin which man thus brought upon himself, that human language is not sufficient to describe the miserable condition of man as considered merely in his fallen state, and independent of the great work of redemption: this grace however was provided, and promised to all men, as yet existing but in the person of their common father.
Redemption therefore implies a deliverance from the guilt and condemnation which the first offence brought down upon the human race: in power and in effect it was wrought from the moment it was proclaimed unto man lying under the sentence of condemnation for the breach of the covenant God was pleased to make with him at his creation, in that remarkable promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; and hence it is said that Christ is the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world. This redemption appears to be co-extensive in its application with that of the fall; the latter affected the whole human race while existing but in their first parent, and the former was promised to the whole human race still existing but in him. Yes, my brethren, God beholding the wretched state into which the first sin had cast all men, determined to extricate them from this most deplorable situation, and from the treasures of his infinite wisdom drew forth a plan for the [7/8] restoration, redemption and salvation of man, in which mercy and truth should meet together, and righteousness and peace should kiss each other. In the person of the Son of God these glorious attributes all united in behalf of guilty man, and interposed in such a manner as to prevent that execution of justice upon him which God was otherwise pledged to inflict. This interposition was that sacrifice which the Redeemer once in the fulness of time offered up of himself as a full and sufficient atonement, satisfaction and oblation for the sins of the whole world.
In the work of redemption man was entirely passive; he did not, nor could he contribute aught; all here is of grace—the grace of God in Christ hath here done all. The Son of God trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was no one with him.
But though we were passive in the work of redemption, we are required to be active, in the work of salvation. Jesus Christ the Redeemer, it is true, is also the Saviour of men; but here he requires our own concurrence and co-operation, which if we refuse, we shall eternally forfeit the benefit of redemption, and our latter state will be worse than the first.
Salvation, my brethren, consists in our being delivered from the power and dominion of sin, and in arriving at that state of holiness without which we cannot see the Lord. To this salvation we must arrive on earth, since unless we are thus saved during our abode in the kingdom of grace, we shall forever remain incapacitated for an inheritance in the kingdom of glory.
By redemption fallen man is delivered from the guilt and condemnation attendant on the first sin, and is placed under a covenant of grace and mercy in and through the blessed Redeemer. In order however to the attainment [8/9] of salvation, the Redeemer requires man to believe in him with such a faith as produces obedience to his laws; a faith which works by love and purifies the heart. But here, my brethren, an apparent difficulty presents itself; notwithstanding the work of our redemption, the infection of fallen nature still remains, so that man by nature alone is still prone to evil, and averse from good. Yea, "his condition," as saith the tenth article of our Church, "is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God;" wherefore, continues the article, "we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God in Christ preventing," or disposing us, "that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will." Such, then, is the depravity or infection of our nature, induced by the fall, that we can have no good will to do good works without the grace of God in Christ. This being acknowledged, the question whether the depravity of fallen nature be to be considered as total, or universal; whether man be very far gone or altogether gone by the fall from original righteousness, becomes a question more of words than of things; since both sides are ready to confess that whatever of good there may be in any of the children of men since the fall, whatever power any of them may possess to do works pleasing and acceptable to God, is not to be ascribed to fallen nature, but to the grace of God in Christ.
That man is depraved and corrupt in his natural estate, and unholy both in heart and life, is a certain and undeniable truth; nor doth the mere admission into a covenanted state of salvation remove these evils. The doctrine, it must be confessed, hath been often abused, and the [9/10] pride of the unrenewed heart revolts at so disagreeable a view of human nature; hence it is denied by many altogether, others call it in doubt, many exercise all their ingenuity in explaining it away, produce the most subtle arguments and display much seeming learning in opposition to it; but whoever pays a due attention to what passes within his own heart, whoever scrutinizes into the motives which too often prompt him to action, whoever brings his inclinations, passions and affections to trial by the holy, pure and perfect law of God, even as set forth in the covenant of grace which is the law of redemption and salvation, will be furnished with a sight which will invalidate the most learned authorities, convict the most specious syllogysms of folly, and overthrow the most subtle arguments; he will from his heart be convinced of the truth of what the Psalmist asserts in the 51st Psalm, and with him will be constrained to confess, saying, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." If, therefore, our natural depravity is not constantly producing evil fruits; if, not-withstanding its residence in us, we are ever able to produce good ones, we are not to attribute this to any good principle inherent in us by nature, and which has power to counteract our natural depravity, but to the grace of God in Christ, which has convinced us of the evil of sin, and given us power to avoid it. Yes, my brethren, it may, I conceive, be safely asserted, that were it not for the grace of God, our natural depravity, notwithstanding our redemption, would as surely effect our utter ruin, as the fall of our first parents would have effected that of the whole human race, had mercy not interposed and wrought redemption for us. Hence appears the necessity of our being saved from the power and dominion of sin; our natural depravity must be subdued and mortified, [10/11] evil habits must give place to good ones, our desires, passions and affections must be brought under captivity to the obedience of God, our hearts must be changed, that is, we must be renewed in the spirit of our minds by the spirit of the Lord, so that the tree being made good, the fruit may be good also. "For to this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil," and "his name was called Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins."
But it may be asked, if such be our natural impotence, how can we co-operate in the work of our salvation? Are not all exhortations to this work useless? Is it not absurd to teach men that they must do many things, and then immediately after to inform them they are utterly without power to do any thing? Is not this procedure something like insulting their impotence, and mocking at their misery? It would, my brethren, appear so, if we at the same time believed that no degree of grace whatever was bestowed upon them, to enable them to comply with what is required from them. This, however, we apprehend, is not the case; nay, the Holy Scripture informs us, that Christ "is the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world;" and, that "the grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching them that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present world." In consequence, therefore, of the work of redemption, we are restored to a state in which life and death are set before us, a power of choice is freely bestowed on us, we are graciously endowed with freedom to choose the former, but no violence is done unto us to prevent us from choosing the latter; the Holy Spirit graciously inclines, convinces and invites, but does not compel; we are bid to stretch [11/12] forth our hands like the man with the withered arm; power to make the attempt is at least bestowed, and the very attempt which we make will be blessed unto us; the use of the first grace will be followed by the gift of more grace, as it is written, "to him that hath, it shall be given." To these considerations we may also add, that being by grace brought into a covenanted state of salvation by our becoming members of the Church of Christ, which is his kingdom of grace, all the needful means of obtaining the divine assistance are placed within our reach, power is graciously given us to improve them, and the covenant is sure, which promiseth to the right use of them every needful measure of grace and spiritual strength to enable us to labor in the work of our salvation, and to make our Christian calling and election sure.
Though we are merely by nature weak and impotent, yet grace is ever ready to assist us, and to bring us to the happy experience that our Lord perfects his strength in our weakness. Yes, if we are faithful to the grace already given, the Holy Spirit will ever be ready to help our infirmities, to strengthen us with might in the inner man, and to make us more than conquerors through him who loved us, and gave himself for us. If then, with these advantages, these gracious means, this power to use them aright, we fail in the work of salvation and perish eternally, we need not seek for any other cause of our failure than that mentioned by our Lord himself; that light is come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light, and that they will not come unto the light, lest their deeds should be reproved.
I have judged it expedient to be thus explicit and full upon the fundamental doctrines of our Holy Religion, viz. Redemption and Salvation, on the present occasion, when I have the happiness of seeing our venerable Bishop, [12/13] and several of my much respected reverend brethren, among the number of my auditors, not from an idea that I can offer any thing new to them on these subjects, but to remove, as far as it is proper for me to interest myself, any improper impressions which may be supposed to have been made on the minds of any of our brethren of the laity, that there is an essential difference of opinion on these important subjects among the clergy. Unanimity and harmony on all essential points of Christian doctrine are, I conceive, happily preserved among us. Slight shades of difference, should they even exist, the use of different terms to express the same things are nothing; they need prove no obstacles to the prevalence of Christian charity and Christian fellowship; the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace need not be injured, nor the essential interests of true religion be in the least retarded by them.
To preach the gospel is the general commission given to all the ministers of God's word. Now what is the gospel but glad tidings of redemption to a lost world, pardon of sins through the blood of the all-atoning sacrifice, liberty to the captive, the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound, health to the sick, life to the dead, mercy to the penitent, grace to the sincere and earnest seeker, salvation from sin, and an inheritance of eternal glory? These are the glad tidings the ministers of Christ are to sound in our ears—it is not, however, sufficient for them to tell us of these things, and to make use of arguments to convince us of their truth; they must also press the absolute necessity of our experiencing their power in the renovation of our hearts and lives. Little, my brethren, will it vail us to believe that we are redeemed from the guilt and condemnation brought upon man by the sin of our first parent, if we are content [13/14] to be led and governed by our depraved passions and affections. It is of no real advantage to us, that liberty is proclaimed to the captive, and that the prison doors are opened to those that are bound, if we still hug and cling to our chains, and refuse to emerge from the dungeon into which our sins have cast us—we shall derive no benefit from a remedy to which we refuse to apply. Mercy, grace and salvation are but as vain and empty sounds, if we remain in our impenitence, indulge our vicious propensities, and do not renounce all sin whatsoever. No, my brethren, the preaching of the gospel is not designed merely to fill our heads with just ideas, but to influence our hearts and every action if our lives.
By all the arguments contained in Holy Scripture, by setting the mirror of God's word before us, and by exhorting us to contemplate ourselves therein, the minister of God's word is to endeavor to lead us to a true knowledge of ourselves, to convince us of the evil of sin, of our own impotence to good without the aid of the Holy Spirit of grace, to excite us to repentance and a mortification of all our depraved appetites and affections, to stir us up to prayer, to pray for and with us, that the Holy Spirit may give success to all his ministrations, that they may effect the design for which they were appointed, viz. our conversion from all sin to all holiness both of heart and life. In health he is to be our spiritual director; his lips are to keep knowledge, and we must seek the truth from his mouth; in our Christian course he is to watch over us, and to exhort, reprove and rebuke us as occasion may require; in sickness he is to visit us, and like the skilful physician, from the treasures of God's word he is to draw forth such divine remedies, as may preserve our souls in life, health and vigor, though our bodies may be doomed to a quick return to that dust [14/15] from which they were first taken; in fine, there is no office however painful, humiliating or revolting to the natural feelings of man, which he must decline, when the glory of God and the salvation of souls may require it at his hands.
Having enlarged on the general duties of a minister of the Church of Christ as a teacher of the word of truth, I cannot attempt to specify or expatiate on those more peculiar ones which arise out of the ecclesiastical connection between an individual minister and the members of the congregation committed to his charge, nor is it necessary, since they would all be found naturally to arise out of those doctrines which have been already mentioned, and since they chiefly consist in the application of them to the cases of individuals as occasion may require. This application must be made with an enlightened and pure zeal, with prudence and fidelity, and in that order which Holy Scripture demands, and which the canons and constitutions of the church prescribe.
To complete the object in view in the present discourse, it only remains for me to address a few words to our respected brethren of the laity, respecting their duties, duties which are necessary on their part, in order to their improving the grace of the Christian ministry established among them.
Regular attendance on public worship, hearing the instructions of God's word, reading the Holy Scriptures, prayer, meditation, receiving the sacrament, and a devout and conscientious compliance with all the exterior institutions of our Holy Religion, are duties, from the observance of which no Christian can claim an exemption, who is placed by the Providence of God in such a situation as to have them within his power. This, my brethren, hath long been and still is your happy privilege. Be [15/16] careful therefore to improve the advantages ye possess. The sacred institutions of religion are the divinely appointed channels through which God ordinarily conveys all needful grace to man, and he who neglects to use the means, when in his power, cannot in reason expect to attain the end. Let it however be remembered, that no institutions, however sacred, convey grace to the soul merely in consequence of an observance of the outward act; he only receives benefit from them in whom there is no obstacle to obstruct the grace of God, and who with the requisite dispositions attends upon them. If ye then desire to profit by them, your intentions must be pure, and your hearts raised in prayer to the God of all grace and heavenly benediction; ye must resolve to carry the word of instruction into diligent practice; ye must beseech God to apply by his Holy Spirit his Word to your hearts, and render you by the energy of the same Holy Spirit strong in the performance of every Christian duty, and in the cultivation of every Christian temper; so shall ye find the divine institutions to be truly means of grace and spiritual strength, and the preaching of the gospel will prove to you a savor of life unto life, and not of death unto death.
It is only in general terms, my brethren, that time will allow me to address you; the more particular directions for your conduct in your religious course, such as the manner in which ye are to obtain the needful graces for your welfare on various occasions which may happen or be presented, the spirit of mind necessary to a profitable partaking of the Holy Sacrament; the principles of action whereby the performance of the moral duties may be so sanctified, as to elevate the virtues exercised to the dignity of fruits of the Spirit; the evidences of being in favor and friendship with God, and of being in a state of [16/17] progression in the way of everlasting salvation, are all of them subjects, on which I need not expatiate: they have been often made known to you by your worthy and beloved Rector, who for many years has faithfully and honorably labored among you, and has had the heartfelt pleasure of seeing the work of the Lord prosper in his hands—and our Reverend Brother, whom you have this day solemnly received and established as an help and support to him in his now declining years, will not, we are confident, be backward in declaring to you the whole counsel of God as it is revealed concerning you, nor in giving you such directions as are necessary to the advancement of your eternal interests. Be ye then faithful on your part, and you may promise yourselves that God will bless you, and still cause this his house to flourish, and to be filled with the true sons and daughters of his spiritual Israel.
There are some obligations laid upon you, my brethren, in respect to your minister, of a temporal nature, which delicacy and modesty may scarcely permit him to mention, much less to enforce; they are implied in our text, "let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." By your cheerful and unsolicited obedience to this injunction of the apostle, manifest your love for that gospel, which is ministered unto you by the servant which the Supreme Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, hath sent unto you. His time and talents have this day been specially and solemnly devoted to the important concerns of your souls, and it would be injurious to them, were he obliged to enter upon any engagements which might distract his attention from the great objects of his sacred office: No more, I conceive, is necessary to be said on [17/18] this head, since it is impossible you should be ignorant who it is that hath ordained, that they who preach the gospel, should live of the gospel.
Allow me, respected brethren of this congregation, to congratulate you on the happy event which hath this day taken place; I cannot but consider it as a circumstance which promises much good, that you have so harmoniously and unanimously provided for the continued enjoyment of your Christian privileges, before it hath pleased the Almighty in his Providence to deprive you of the counsel, advice and assistance of your present Rector. This, I repeat it, I consider as a token for good, and confidently trust, that it hath not been brought about merely by the exertions of human wisdom, but by the Spirit of the Lord; and if so, the land of your spiritual Zion shall surely yield her increase, and God, even your own God, shall give you his blessing.
You, my reverend and dear brother in the gospel of our common Lord and Master, will this day receive the congratulations of your brethren on your establishment in one of the most important and conspicuous stations belonging to the church in this diocese. Your literary talents, and your pious and regular conduct have been already evidenced. Be diligent in improving all your endowments to the glory of our divine Lord and Master; give yourself to reading; give yourself to prayer; look well unto your books, but look still more unto your God; strive to experience within your own heart, the effect of those salutary truths you teach the people. Remember that one day you will have to appear before God, to render to him an account of your ministrations. Keep these things impressed upon your mind, and you will fail in no duty required by your station; your ministry will be a ministry of spiritual life and power, and, under the grace [18/19] of God, you will both save yourself and those that hear you.
To conclude. Two aged and venerable servants of God, [The clergymen here referred to are the Right Reverend ABRAHAM JARVIS, D.D. and the Rev. BELA HUBBARD, D.D. These gentlemen went to England for orders, together; and were both ordained Deacons, by the Rt. Rev. Frederick Keppel, Bishop of Exeter, in the King's Chapel, city of London, on the 5th of February, 1764; and Priests, by the Rt. Rev. Charles Lyttleton, Bishop of Carlisle, in St. James' Church, Westminster, on the 19th of the same month; and on the 28th were licenced, by the Rt. Rev. Richard Osbaldeston, Bishop of London, to perform the office of Priest, in New-England, North-America. Mr. Jarvis took the pastoral charge of Christ's Church, Middletown, (Conn.) in August of the same year. On the demise of the Rt. Rev. Bishop Seabury, D.D. Doct. Jarvis was elected Bishop by the Clergy of the Diocese of Connecticut, in June, 1797; and was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Bishops White, Provoost, and Bass, in Trinity Church, New-Haven, on the 18th of October following. In the autumn of 1802, he removed to New-Haven, where he has since that time resided. Mr. Hubbard officiated at Guilford and Killingworth, (Conn.) until the year 1767, when he was appointed the Society's Missionary for New-Haven and West-Haven.] respected brethren of this congregation, still remain with you; together they went forth into the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts—for nigh half a century have they labored together in the same service—they have seen the seed of our Church, which when first planted in the land was but as a grain of mustard seed, grow up under their culture, and that of their fellow-laborers, into a flourishing tree, under whose boughs they now sit down in peace, to prepare for the celebration of the approaching year of their eternal jubilee. Like the ancient judges of Israel, they will not remain inactive, but, being unable to go forth into the heat of battle, they will still labor in the cause of God by their salutary counsel and advice. [19/20] Remember them with all affection for the work's sake which they have wrought, and are ready, as their strength will admit, still to work among you; like dutiful and loving children, esteem them as your fathers in the Lord; cherish their age, support their burdens, and succor their infirmities; give them the solid satisfaction of seeing the seed of God's word which they have sown, productive of a plentiful harvest, to be reaped by this their younger brother in the Lord. Give them your prayers, that when the hour of their departure shall arrive, they may find the presence of the Lord with them, to conduct them safely through the valley of the shadow of death to the abode of perfect blessedness; so that with good old Simeon they may then be enabled to say, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation;" and with St. Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge will give unto me in that day, and not to me only, but to all those who love his appearing."
Now may the God of grace so incline and conduct us by his Spirit of grace into the ways of truth and holiness, and enable us to persevere therein unto the end, that we may all be found meet to dwell together in the Redeemer's kingdom of everlasting glory, and become to each other a crown of rejoicing, through Jesus Christ our Lord. To whom, with the Father and ever blessed Spirit, three Persons, but one God, be all honor and glory, world without end. AMEN.