The Reproach of Christ
Contrasted with the Recompense of Reward.
PREACHED IN ST. JOHN'S CHAPEL, NEW-YORK,
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 1848,
Protestant Episcopal Church,
DIOCESE OF NEW-YORK.
BY WILLIAM LUPTON JOHNSON, D.D.,
RECTOR OF GRACE CHURCH, JAMAICA, L. I.
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST.
No. 20 JOHN-STREET.
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012
Our Beloved Diocesan,
BENJAMIN TREADWELL ONDERDONK, D. D.,
IN TOKEN OF AFFECTIONATE REVERENCE FOR HIM,
AS A PLEDGE OF ENDURING FIDELITY IN THESE FEARFUL AND
TROUBLOUS TIMES TO HIS AVOWED PRINCIPLES,
IN BEHALF OF
Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order,
THIS VIEW OF
THE CHARACTER OF MOSES AND HIS NOBLE PREFERENCE
OF THE REPROACH OF CHRIST,
IS TENDERED FOR HIS ACCEPTANCE,
By an Unworthy
BUT NOT AN UNMINDFUL OR UNGRATEFUL SON.
The Reproach of Christ contrasted with the Recompense of Reward
[ On account of its length part of this sermon was omitted in the delivery.]
* * * By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaohs daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of GOD, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of CHRIST greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.—Hebrews, xi 24, 25, 26.
WE are nowhere enjoined in Scripture to be indifferent to our reputation, even as it respects the opinion of the world. But, on the contrary, it is said, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches." [ Proverbs, xxii 1.] The holy apostle, Paul, exhorting Timothy to a faithful discharge of the ministerial duty, directs him to conduct himself with such prudence, and to lay up such treasures of wisdom, that none should dare to entertain a contemptible opinion of his character and attainments: "Let no man" (says he) "despise thy youth." [1 Timothy, iv. 12.] Next to the approbation of his GOD and his conscience, what can be more gratifying, even to the Christian, than the esteem of the wise and good, and the conviction that his character stands fair with the world? Though the Savior pronounces a woe upon those respecting whom all men shall speak well, as the Jews did of the false prophets, [ Luke vi. 26.] yet we are not to be insensible to the good opinion of others, [5/6] or careless in what estimation we are held in society. On the contrary, it is our duty, as Christians, to act in such a manner as to deserve a good character both among "the people of GOD" and the men of the world. We are commanded to "walk in wisdom toward them that are without," [ Coloss. iv. 5.]—to "walk honestly toward them that are without," [1 Thess. iv. 1.]—and a bishop or a presbyter is exhorted to "have a good report of them that are without." [1 Tim. iii. 7.] The desire of a good name is therefore approved of by our heavenly Father, and, properly governed and kept in due subordination to higher objects, is favorable to our usefulness, both in the world and in the Church of CHRIST. Indeed, reputation is one of the most valuable possessions of the present life; and no state can scarcely be conceived more wretched, than that of a man who is held in universal detestation, and who is conscious that he deserves it. Even when shame is suffered for righteousness sake—though in such a case the mind is supported and comforted under it—yet, like all other afflictions, it is by no means "joyous, but grievous." [ Heb. xii. 11.] He who has lost all sensibility with respect to his good name, must be callous to the nobler feelings of humanity, and cannot be far from the lowest stage of vice. The principles of honor and shame were designed by the All-Wise Creator for great and beneficent purposes; and he who does not feel their influence, must be presumed to have lost sight entirely of those purposes, [6/7] and to act contrary to the end of his being. If these principles were effaced from the human mind, what could restrain those who are destitute of religion from violating all rules of decorum, as they now violate the commands of GOD? What could prompt those whose views do not reach beyond this world, to perform those actions denominated good, great, benevolent, patriotic, and which produce such happy effects, in society? It is therefore obvious that GOD has so constituted us, that we should naturally desire praise, and shrink from disgrace; and that we cannot divest ourselves of these feelings, without doing violence to our nature, and becoming the most degraded of our species.
But, notwithstanding this, the Christian is sometimes called to encounter the deepest humiliations of shame, and the most painful hostility of contempt. With that true refined merit which religion produces, and which makes him sensibly alive to the worth of a good character, he sometimes suffers the imputations and evils of the worst. By what epithets of ignominy were not the apostles and earliest Christians aspersed? Deprived of their possessions, banished, scourged, they had also to suffer the loss of their good name. Everywhere they were traduced as enthusiasts, hypocrites, and promoters of sedition. But they were called to these severe trials by their faithful Lord and Saviour, and they obeyed the call with an alacrity, which proved that they "counted it joy" [ James, i. 2.] to suffer reproach for His Name. With as [7/8] much sensibility, at least, as their persecutors to the good opinion of society, they manifested a heroic superiority to that consideration, when the cause of their Master required it. They desired to "live peaceably with all men," [ Romans, xii. 18.] and to "have a good report of them that were without;" but they refused worldly peace, and contemned worldly fame, when these advantages could not be possessed but at the expense of their faithfulness to GOD. As JESUS had "suffered" for them "without the gate," so they were ready to "go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach." [ Heb. xiii. 13.] There was no ignominy so black, there were no mockings so cruel, but they encountered them with a holy valor, and endured them with an invincible firmness, suitable to the irreproachable character and dignified relations which they sustained.
My brethren, the most sublime spectacle upon earth is the sight of a good man, sustaining affliction which he cannot avoid, resisting temptation from which he cannot escape, and nobly sacrificing his inclinations and his interests, where they are incompatible with the will of GOD. . . . Many bright examples of such heroism shine in the sacred page; and they are recorded for our instruction and encouragement, that we also, if called to the trial, may be able, through GOD's assisting grace, to "endure" calumny and reproach "as good soldiers of JESUS CHRIST." [ 2 Tim. ii. 3.] The instance presented in the text exhibits one of the noblest triumphs of religion. [8/9] Speaking of Moses, the apostle says, "When he was come to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of GOD, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of CHRIST greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward."
The fruits of Moses's faith in the wise estimation he made of dishonor with CHRIST, and the noble motive which influenced his choice, are here pointed out by the HOLY SPIRIT. Let us endeavor to improve and profit by the instructive lesson afforded us by this eminent servant of GOD.
I. The person here spoken of was the chosen instrument of redeeming Israel from cruel bondage, and of placing them in the elevated state of an independent nation. This, though not the greatest blessing which GOD had to confer on them, was yet necessary, in order to commit to them the sacred oracles, to establish among them a peculiar worship, and to prepare, through them, the way for the appearance of the Messiah. Many difficulties occurred to the mind of Moses in contemplating the magnitude of the work which he was required to perform. The ignorance of the Israelites, the power of Egypt's king, and the imminent dangers to which his own life would necessarily be exposed, filled his soul with alarm, shook his faith, and almost prevented his obedience to the Divine command. But, encouraged [9/10] by the promises, and strengthened by the grace of JEHOVAH, he at last greatly resolves; and, confiding in that power which can never fail, he commences the execution of his high and important commission.
The text particularly celebrates him for his contempt of riches, and for his high estimation of "the reproach Of CHRIST." He was not only submissive under it, he not only bore it with patience and magnanimity, but he gloried in it as "greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." . . . My brethren, if those who are enlightened to discover their true interests form such an estimation of things, if they value even the dishonors attendant upon the religion of CHRIST more than the most splendid worldly possessions,—what glorious views must they have of the honors and blessedness of that religion itself? If the "reproach" of CHRIST be such a treasure, what then must CHRIST HIMSELF be? Moses exposed himself to the contempt of Pharaoh and his court by the apparently strange choice which he made. Being the adopted child of Pharaoh's daughter, and instructed in all the learning and wisdom of the Egyptians, every prospect which could flatter the hope of ambition opened, smiling, to his view, and invited him to lay claim to high station, immense wealth, and great honors. Some suppose that he was designed for the throne itself, [ Josephus, lib. ii. c. 9.] and that, if he had not relinquished the privileges of his adoption, he would have swayed the sceptre over the most [10/11] powerful kingdom, at that time, on the face of the earth. At all events, from his accomplishments he could grace a Court, and from his attainments was capable of directing the councils of a mighty nation. All that pleasure could offer, riches procure, or royal favor confer, was within his reach. Voluntarily to resign such uncommon privileges, caused, no doubt, great wonder among the voluptuary courtiers. But when his object appeared to be the deliverance of his people from the strong chains of slavery, they must have laughed to scorn his apparent madness.
By his conduct he must also have incurred the imputation of ingratitude. The King of Egypt had ratified the choice of his daughter, and adopted the Hebrew infant as his own child; had conferred upon him all the privileges of that new relation; and, perhaps, educated him as his intended successor. He was then distinguished by all those great favors which royal munificence could bestow; and how does he acknowledge his obligations to his benefactor? Not by leading the Egyptian armies to victory, as in times past, [ "Josephus says, that while Moses was nourished in the king's palace, he was appointed general of the army against the Ethiopians, and conquered them." Cited by Irenaeus. See Frag. ed. Grab., p. 472. St. Stephen, perhaps, referred to the same thing.—Acts, 7, 22.] or aggrandizing the Egyptian empire by the accession of conquered territory; but by opposing and impairing the royal power, and rescuing from its grasp a whole nation held in servitude. Surely, it would be thought, if [11/12] he had any sense of obligation for kindness, he would have been the friend of the king, and would have exerted his talents for the increase, and not the diminution, of his power.
Besides, this charge would appear more reasonable, and his guilt in this respect more flagrant, when his relation and obligations to the royal princess were considered. He was exposed, when an infant, to the dangers of a watery grave. He lay among the flags, in a feeble ark, ready to perish. Maternal solicitude might follow, but could not save him. . . . In this perilous situation, Pharaoh's daughter, directed by an over-ruling Providence, finds him—orders him to be brought to her—and, melted by his tears into the tenderest compassion, resolves to save his life, and adopt him as her own son. Would it not be said that a life, thus spared, should be employed in the service and obedience of her who had been the amiable instrument of its preservation? But, to refuse to be acknowledged as her son, to slight the favors which she had conferred, and to resist the royal will and pleasure contrary to her interest and desire—what could this be, according to the common sentiment of mankind, but the most reprehensible forgetfulness of the highest possible act of friendship, and as black an instance of ingratitude as the mind of man could imagine? Thus he was obliged to submit to the imputation of a crime the most odious conceivable to an ingenuous mind.
 But though he had to sustain the oppressive weight of reproach, it was the "reproach of CHRIST." [ So called, not only for the similitude between it and that which CHRIST afterward suffered, but because it was a type thereof.—Bp. Bull.] This made it glorious. It was at His command, and for the promotion of His cause, that he acted a part which seemed madness and folly to the lovers of pleasure and the worshippers of royal power. . . . My brethren, the dealings of GOD with His Church, under the Old Dispensation, generally had reference to the great things to be accomplished, and the benefits to be procured, by the coming of CHRIST in the flesh. Moses, instructed in the nature of the covenant of Redemption, and favored with a view of its inexpressible blessings, loses sight of all worldly honors, and is joyfully willing to be loaded with contempt, to be charged with the blackest ingratitude, to be despised as an enthusiast, and to be consigned over to ignominy even by those to whom he was united by the tenderest ties and the highest obligation. He acted according to the spirit of CHRIST'S declaration, when He said, "If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple." [ Luke xiv. 23, 27.] Moses disavowed the authority of the king, and the obligation to please his greatest earthly benefactor, when incompatible with the authority of GOD, [13/14] and the obligations he was under to HIM. If for this he must encounter reproach, he esteems reproach his glory; he welcomes it as his highest honor, and rejoices in it more than in all the "treasures of Egypt."
II. But what inducements could be sufficiently powerful to prevail on him to adopt such an extraordinary line of conduct? Notwithstanding that inherent desire which all men possess, of gaining the approbation of others; and that sensibility to a fair character, which is most awake in a pious mind—how could he voluntarily incur the highest degree of hatred and contempt, and esteem above all earthly price the reproach that was cast upon him?
The explanation, my brethren, is simple and beautiful, and deserving of our most serious consideration. There is, be sure, a secret in it; but that secret is with all that fear GOD. "He had respect," says the apostle, "to the recompense of the reward." This was the noble motive which influenced his choice.
"He had respect to it." His eye was fixed upon it, as the eyes of those who contend in a race are fixed upon the prize at the end of the course. This object, full in the view of his faith, maintained his heroic magnanimity amidst increasing difficulties, animated him to encounter the greatest dangers, and encouraged his perseverance amidst discouraging disappointments and unexpected delays. Had it not been for the Crown on [14/15] which his eye was fixed, he must have fainted in his arduous undertaking, and would not have had the honor of redeeming his nation from the iron yoke of the tyrant.
The expression may also mean, that he had a high estimation of the "recompense of the reward." He believed that, whatever were the hardships he suffered, the perils he braved, or the reproach he bore for CHRIST, the remuneration promised would be ample and satisfactory, beyond his powers of conception; that his present darkness would be succeeded by heavenly light, his present dangers by perfect safety, and his present momentary disgrace by unfading honors.
These things he did not expect upon the uncertainty of conjecture, but he was assured that they were a glorious reality, and that they would be realized in his own enjoyment of them; because they were promised by HIM who cannot lie!
Not only is the motive which influenced and swayed this distinguished servant of GOD mentioned in the inspired Word, but it is mentioned with evident marks of the Divine approbation. Christians therefore may, Christians ought to be, influenced by the rewards of the Gospel. Else, why are they so emphatically proposed? Else, why does the Savior, on every occasion, present them to our view? He even declares that those acts, which are connected with a sweet satisfaction in the [15/16] very performance, shall not be forgotten. "Whosoever shall give to drink a cup of cold water only" to one of CHRIST'S "little ones;" shall in no wise "lose his reward." [ Matt. x. 42.] GOD has then seen fit to invite us to His service, to animate, our obedience, to encourage our constancy, by offering—not seldom, but frequently and uniformly—the best and highest rewards we can conceive; and he who excludes them from the number of his motives, or does not give them the high place which the Divine Wisdom has assigned them, pays a poor compliment to that Wisdom, and does little less than charge his Maker with folly.
Some infidels have employed their utmost efforts of ridicule and sophistry, to misrepresent and traduce the Gospel scheme as base and mercenary, because it holds up rewards and punishments as the sanctions of the divine law. Virtue, they say, must be entirely disinterested, separate not only from all low and sordid views, of temporal things, but from all views whatever, all prospect of advantage, and chosen for its own sake only: "a chimerical notion, and betraying the greatest ignorance both of men and things." For what but some egregious warmth of imagination could ever induce any man to conceive, that he might be capable of practising a nobler kind of virtue than Abel, or Enoch, or Noah, or Abraham, or even CHRIST HIMSELF, considered in His human nature? All these owed their brightest instances [16/17] of virtue to "faith"—to the respect they had to the "recompense of reward"—to the "joy that was set before them;" which is a just and rational principle, suited most-certainly, to the circumstances of this life. [Waterland.] "If having regard to the present advantages of virtue be consistent with loving virtue for its own sake, and as amiable in itself, and doth not render the embracing it a mercenary or slavish service—why should it be inconsistent with a liberal service to be assured that it shall make us happy forever? Or why should they be accounted greater friends or admirers of virtue, who consider its excellency only with regard to the narrow limits of this transitory life, than they who regard it as extending its beneficial influence to a nobler state of existence, and who believe that it shall flourish in unfading beauty and glory to eternity? [ Leland.]
The dignity and worth of the Christian's motive, such as animated and influenced Moses in his choice, will appear, when the nature of the proposed recompense is considered. What then does the Saviour promise to His followers in the world to come? Is it that they shall escape misery, be admitted into splendid mansions, and partake of pleasures for evermore? Is it that their external circumstances shall be such as the greatest goodness could meditate, the greatest wisdom contrive, and the greatest power procure? It is; but our LORD promises them much more, even blessings which render [17/18] their external circumstances a far inferior consideration, and which cannot but make them happy. Future blessedness is represented as the portion of those, and of those only, whose obedience here has sprung from proper principles, and whose affections have been supremely placed upon GOD. It is represented as a state of consummate holiness, into which "nothing shall enter that defileth;" [ Rev. xxi. 27] "where the spirits of the just shall be made perfect;" where they shall be admitted to the immediate vision of the Deity, and shall be transformed, as far as they are capable of it, into the Divine likeness. Can anything be conceived more worthy of Infinite Wisdom and Goodness? What is here base or mercenary? What! Shall I feel no interest respecting the perfection of my nature, by which I shall be qualified to glorify GOD, and enjoy the bliss of heaven? Shall I contemplate the beauty and excellence of holiness in The Supreme, and still feel no desire to be a partaker of that holiness? Shall a happiness, which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and which hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive," [ I Cor. ii. 9.] be exhibited to my view in every page of the Gospel—shall a happiness, large beyond finite thought, complete as GOD can make it, and co-extensive with His own duration, be proposed as the end of my faith—shall a salvation, which consists in redemption from the power, pollution, and death of sin; in the possession of every good which an immortal nature can enjoy; a salvation which Infinite [18/19] Wisdom and everlasting Love devised, and which nothing less than the sufferings of GOD the SON, in our nature could accomplish—shall this be offered and recommended to my acceptance, and shall not all my powers be roused into action, and impelled to their utmost exertion, for obtaining the invaluable prize? Can I at such a view forbear to exclaim with the Psalmist, "My soul thirsteth for GOD, for the living GOD: when shall I come and appear before GOD?" [ Psalm, xlii. 2.] "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." [Psalm, xvi. 11.] Go abroad, O Christian, in the brightness of mid-day; behold the sun pouring forth the lustre of his meridian rays, and imprinting beauty and gladness on every part of this green earth! It is but the emblem of the lustre in which the faithful servants of CHRIST shall hereafter shine; for "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament:" "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." [ Psalm, xvi. 11.] Go abroad at midnight; behold those golden orbs which roll so majestically in their appointed spheres, studding the firmament with gems of beauty! They are but emblems of the reward of the righteous; for "they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever." [ Dan. xii. 3.] This was the recompense to which Moses had respect. It was GOD HIMSELF as his "portion and exceeding great reward:" It was the perfection, the blessedness, the glory of Him who is the Supreme Good; with whom is the fountain [19/20] of life and happiness. He is recorded with praise for the wisdom of his choice. He is gone to "see the King in His beauty." [ Isaiah, xxxiii. 17.] And, from amidst the celestial choirs, he proclaims to every one who decides for GOD, that there is a pleasure awaiting him in heaven—a name far above all the names that ever sat upon the throne of Egypt—a name better than of sons and daughters—an "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled" [1 Peter, i. 4.]—a recompense transcending his merits as far as it shall surpass his highest conceptions of its perfection and bliss.
Is our eye, my brethren, fixed upon the immortal crown? Do we conceive the rewards of eternity so great, that for them we could despise riches, and honors, and thrones, as the dust beneath our feet? Moses welcomed reproach, and esteemed the deepest disgrace which could be cast upon him, a superior good to the treasures of a kingdom, when GOD demanded the sacrifice. In the light of Divine truth, honor and riches lost their lustre and their attractions; disgrace was stripped of its painful mortifications and its frightful gloom, and became invested with a heavenly radiance. We are not called to encounter similar trials; to relinquish immense riches, to submit to cruel mockings and bitter reproach; and, yet, how many are there who have the same rewards, which were presented to Moses, presented to them under a clearer and fuller revelation than he enjoyed, and who have never aspired after them! They [20/21] have not the riches of Egypt to tempt them, nor the splendors and voluptuousness of a court to delude them; and yet they forget the "recompense of the reward," purchased by the blood, and offered to them in the Gospel of GOD'S own Son. Immortal souls! ye are enchained to the earth, ye are taken captive at Satan's pleasure; ye are yet under the power, and enveloped in the darkness of sin, and lie in the grave of spiritual death; or else, the glories of eternity, revealed by the "light of the Gospel of CHRIST," would have "shined into your hearts," [2 Cor., iv. 6.] and caused you to awake to new life, to new pursuits, to new triumphs. Your life would have been the life of faith; your pursuits, heavenly; your triumphs over yourselves and the spiritual foes which seek your eternal ruin. "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and CHRIST shall give thee light!" [ Eph. v. 14.]
We are not now called to suffer the terrible persecutions which the "followers of the Lamb," at different periods, have had to endure. These, in their extremest rigor, are but the tales of former times. But still these evils, to a certain degree, pursue Christianity in every age. All that will live godly in CHRIST JESUS shall suffer persecution." [ 2 Tim. iii. 12.] The world is very little altered. The opposition of men to the truth, though modified and softened by the conventional restraints of society, is strong and deep as ever; and occasion against the believer [21/22] is sought with equal earnestness, though not perhaps with equal openness. Be not deceived. Reproach has not yet lost its sting, ridicule yet points its cruel arrows, and religion is not yet free from their insidious attacks. . . "Whatever things are predicted," says Cyprian, "are in fulfilment; and, as the end draws nigh they have come to pass for the trial both of men and of the times. As the adversary rages more and more, error deceives; haughtiness lifts aloft; envy inflames; covetousness blinds; unholiness depraves; pride puffs up; quarrels embitter; and anger hurries men headlong." My brethren, the great characteristic of the Church of GOD is, that it shall be a persecuted religion; and her whole history bears witness that this is her appointed course,—her painful, yet glorious heritage. She has had to win her difficult way amidst enemies from within and without; now breasting the wild torrent of persecution, or of infidelity; and now contending with the more fearful peril of false doctrine, or of party spirit. Under every variety of form, in every shape and aspect which it was capable of assuming, the Church has had to encounter the unanimous hostility of the world. Every possible power of assault has been employed by her natural and inveterate enemy, to promote its sinister and most malignant purposes. To blot out her memorial from under heaven, the magistrate has employed his judicial power, the philosopher has brought forward the treasures of his school, the witling has profanely laughed, the populace has evinced its unbridled fury [22/23] and in high places "spiritual wickedness" has reared its crest and hissed forth its anathemas! And thus, to the very end, the struggle will go on between the world and the Church,—that great struggle, of which our Lord has said, "he that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth abroad." [ Matt. xii, 30.]
Until the period arrive when all things that offend shall be gathered out, it must be the lot of the faithful disciple, "through good report and through evil report," [ 2 Cor. vi. 8.] to contend for the prize that is set before him. And in those approaching trials, which have already cast before them their ominous shadow, he will assuredly be called upon to put forth all his energies, and wield every weapon entrusted to him by his Divine Master. A wicked world may lift the finger, and shake the head at him in defiance, and may tell him, if he will persist in his course, he shall suffer for it. Well, brethren, this may be our trial; but woe to us if we are not able to bear it. As it regards the principle, every Christian is a martyr, and he will find it rising in him, in proportion to the demand upon it. But let us not go out of our way to provoke persecution. Let it not be brought upon us by a storm of our own raising. "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely." [ Matt v. 11.] Let us do nothing then, that may justly expose us to the censure, displeasure, and consequent inconvenience, which must ever [23/24] spring from inconsistent conduct. Let us embody in our conversation the pure precepts of the Gospel, and by well doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. [ 1 Peter, ii, l5.] Let us seek to have our minds imbued with a spirit of religion that shall breathe forth, wherever we go the sincerity of our profession. And then, whether the opposition arise from heresy within the Church, or from infidelity without; whether it be manifested in the press, or appear in the eloquence of the orator; whether the rich combine, or the multitudes of the poor unite; from whatever quarter the opposition may come, happy are those who are found on the side of CHRIST, and bear His "reproach"—who love His Church, and in her victory anticipate their own.
Brethren of the priesthood of GOD—overseers of the flock of CHRIST—we are the ambassadors of Him, who is no more the sport of the wicked, and gives no longer His cheek to the smiter; though we may be called, as He was, to submit to that bitter contumely. But let us not be disheartened. We are engaged in a cause for the success of which the inviolable promise of JEHOVAH is given. "The weapons of our warfare" are mighty; and, in all our struggles with enemies without or enemies within, with the deceitfulness of our own hearts or the delusions of others, lo! our Master is with us even unto the end. From His throne in the heavens, He will be the strength of our weakness, and the glory of our shame. [24/25] Let us not shrink from the fearless assertion of the authority of our office; but, with our whole souls penetrated by a sense of its responsibility, let us go forth into the world, proclaiming the "truth as it is in JESUS," [ Eph. iv. 21.] careless alike whether men smile or frown; aiming to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. He who planted can also water, and give the increase; and in answer to our frequent and fervent prayers, in exact proportion as we give ourselves, body, soul, and spirit to do GOD'S work, and fulfil the office to which He has called, us, will His HOLY SPIRIT abide in us strengthening our faith, quickening, enlarging, and deepening all our religious affections; purging and refining from their earthly dross the low and imperfect, perhaps worldly views with which we first entered on our sacred calling, and enabling us, in the calm strength of faith and hope, so to feed the Church of CHRIST, not as being "lords over GOD'S heritage, but as examples to the flock." [ I Peter v. 3.]
O brethren, let us take heed to ourselves. From one who has himself much need to be taught in the mysteries of his holy calling, suffer for a little "the word of exhortation." [ Heb. xiii. 22.] High and holy things are committed to our care; and therefore we must take great heed that our own heart be right, our belief sound and true, and our practice upright in the sight of men. We must constantly aim to unite zeal with prudence, fidelity with [25/26] tenderness, the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove. Personal holiness and consistency of faith and practice are more efficacious to win souls to CHRIST than the most eminent gifts. The world can view only the exterior of our actions, without being able to penetrate into their internal principles and secret springs; they can form no other judgment of the intentions of the heart than what mere outward appearances suggest. And the mere appearance of evil, let us bear in mind, may be construed into criminality, and give the same wound to the character as real guilt. The end of our ministry is the salvation of souls; and things indifferent and innocent are no longer such, when they interfere, were it but a hair's breadth, with the design for which CHRIST came upon earth, for which He laid down His life, for which He commissioned His apostles to preach and ordain a succession of teachers, for which and for which alone we are called out from among our brethren, and appointed stewards in the household of GOD. True, nothing can, in itself, be wrong in the clergy which is not also wrong in the lay members of the Church. Every member of the family of the baptized is a soldier of CHRIST, sworn to His banner, and sealed with His badge. But we, brethren, are the cross-bearers of His host, the sentinels of His camp. We must watch that others may sleep safely. We must endure hardness that they may escape temptation. If other things are unsavory, they are seasoned with salt; [26/27] "but if the salt have lost its savour," [ Luke, xiv. 34.] wherewith shall it be salted?
Like an ambassador sent to a hostile and rebellious power, we have to proclaim truths and enforce obligations to which our hearers are frequently indisposed to submit; and in the performance of such a duty we must be content to endure opposition, censure, and persecution. "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life, for CHRIST'S sake, shall find it." [ Matt. xiv. 25.] We live in a time pregnant with events of the highest interest both to the Church and the world; and opposed, as the Church Catholic must ever be, to any recognition, either in principle or feeling, of the maxim that the "voice of the people is the voice of GOD," it has doubtless been felt that She is a barrier on the side of law and order, which resists effectually the full expansion and expression of popular opinion. [ See Exeter visitation Sermons for 1845.]
This, I am firmly convinced, is the secret of the hostility to Church principles which has been so widely and openly manifested; an hostility not arising from a sincere, sober, conscientious conviction of their falsehood, but from an inward, perhaps, in some cases, an unconscious, sense of their controlling and restraining power; a feeling that, if true, they must be obeyed,—that they must often necessarily oppose and run counter to our self-love, our self-indulgence, our liberty of thought and [27/28] action, and reduce within very narrow limits our right of private judgment in things sacred.
By Church principles, I mean the authority of the Apostolic Succession, and the grace of the Holy Sacraments; doctrines which for fifteen hundred years commanded the unbroken, unanimous assent of the whole Christian world. These are the points to which parties, widely differing from each other, are now opposing themselves, in which all other differences are rapidly merging; the battle-ground on which, perchance the very existence of the Church, is to be fought for and determined. I rejoice that it is so; for well do I believe that these are the weapons given to us by CHRIST HIMSELF, and which no earthly power can either give or take away—the signs and credentials of our office and mission—the golden chain which connects the Church on earth with the Church in heaven, and
"Which, lengthening as the world rolls on,
From the Cross unto the Crown,"
enables us to speak, and rebuke, and exhort with all authority. [ "The time may come (says Jones of Nayland) when the very idea of a Divine authority, either in priests or kings, shall be as hateful among Christians, as Moses and Aaron were to Pharaoh and the magicians of Egypt." Has it come? GOD knows how soon the black cloud, which has been so long gathering over the world, may break, and pour down upon us; and how near we may be to times, in which he who will keep his conscience must expect to keep nothing else.]
 If then, my brethren, in bearing testimony to the truth, reproach come upon you, and peace cannot be maintained but at the expense of your fidelity to GOD, look to the past, and stir up your hearts in your holy warfare by the deeds of the saints at rest. Only "let patience have her perfect work." [ James, i. 4.] Let false and malicious misreport force you home to your principles, and induce a more unreserved committal of yourselves to the guardianship and benevolence of your GOD and Father. Arm yourselves with patience to suffer wrong, with fortitude to sustain contumely, with perseverance to follow the right although the despised path, with energy to bear up against all assaults, with rectitude to outlive all misrepresentations, with firmness to meet all consequences. Keep your eye fixed on "the recompense of the reward;" and let unbelieving men, who are ready always to doubt the sincerity of the Christian profession, "take knowledge of you," [ Acts, iv. 13.] that the season of trial, the hour of persecution, has been the precise period when Christian graces have shone most brightly, and the attractive power of a religious profession has been most extensively felt.
In "esteeming the reproach of CHRIST greater riches than the treasures in Egypt," the Leader of Israel has left us an example,—an example (says an eminent writer) "not merely of right decision, but of right decision [29/30] reached by right steps." [ Sermon on "the remunerating power of God," by Melville.] And it should be a preservative, not only to those who may be tempted so to engross themselves with business as to leave no time for religion, but to others who may be solicited to turn aside, be it ever so little, from rectitude and integrity. Christianity is a religion which extends itself to the minutest portions of conduct. It aids the ear in hearing the words and precepts of Christ. It sets before the eye the model and character of the Master, and represents what the disciple and follower is to be. It is a system, distinguished from other systems of morals by some virtues which they do not include, and by exhibiting as vices some feelings and sentiments which the moral systems of men have spoken of as virtues. It requireth "truth in the inward parts." [ Psalms, li. 6.] It can draw no distinction between that which is paltry and that which is criminal. The men of the world make a great outcry about morality; but they have yet to learn, that the morality of the Gospel is a more sensitive thing than the nicest principles of that which they call honor. It requires us to consult in every thing the glory of GOD; and therefore is as abhorrent from trick and evasion, as from robbery and detraction. If then men be placed in such circumstances, that they may gain their ends—if they will swerve a little from just and honorable conduct, we would require them to remember, that the GOD whom we profess to love and serve, is a GOD by whom actions are weighed, and whose balances are so nice, that they will [30/31] detect fraud in that which is mean, and expose as iniquitous all that is disreputable. And if a man feel a temptation pressing strongly upon him, (the least turning from that which is upright promising him advantages which he is loth to forego,) we would have him bring to bear upon himself the words of the text, and seek to strengthen himself in rectitude by thoughts of the Divine fulness and power. He is asked to separate himself from the world; from that which it calls paltry as well as from that which it denounces as actually unlawful; from having any, the remotest, connection with the family of the idolatrous Pharaoh. But he cannot obey without present loss, and therefore he hesitates on account of the "treasures in Egypt." But let him remember, that GOD has said, by his prophet, to those who made religion secondary to worldly objects, "ye looked for much, and lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it." [ Haggai, 1. 9.] He is the GOD, of whom Solomon declares, "By the fear of the LORD are riches, and honor, and life." [ Prov. xii. 3.] And therefore why be staggered by the question, "what shall I do for the treasures of Egypt?" when you are privileged (like Moses) to have "respect unto the recompense of the reward."
My brethren, in the satisfaction we derive from the applause of others, we should perceive the superior satisfaction which we would experience from the approbation of the unerring Judge. To this it should lead; this it should make us earnestly and habitually desire. His [31/32] favor is life, and "His loving kindness is better than life." [ Psalms, lxiii. 3.] Brethren, pray for us—the ministers of GOD—in these troublous times, that we may proclaim the truth of GOD with increased boldness. We are a spectacle to the world—we are living in times when the world looks black and lowering—pray that in the fast-coming storm we may be found "steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." [1 Cor. xv. 58.] We "know that our work is not in vain in the Lord," and we know that the Church of Christ shall stand, though "the earth be removed, and the mountains be cast into the midst of the sea." [ Psalms, xlvi. 2.] . . . Let us then seek that faith which influenced Moses in his choice; for this alone can enable us to "esteem the reproach of CHRIST greater riches than the treasures" of the world, and to "have respect unto the recompense of the reward."
May GOD grant to all of us such a faith and such a decision! To HIM therefore, the great Judge of men, according to the vileness of their principles and the wickedness of their practices, as well as the rewarder of those who love and obey Him,—to GOD the Father, GOD the Son, and GOD the Holy Ghost—THREE PERSONS AND ONE GOD,—be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore—AMEN.