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GALATIA S VI. lO. As we have therefore opportunity^ let us do good unto all men. When a preacher endeavours to set faithfully before his hearers, that religion has higher demands upon them than perhaps the most of them have been in the habit of allowing; that it is not a pliable and convenient system which will lie by while matters of more consequence are in the way ; but that it is no less than the light from heaven, a message from the Lord of Life, backed with all the weight which eternity can throw into the scale, and all the authority which God can give it ; — when it is^ his object, not to amuse his congregation with some ingenious or well-turned periods about vices which they may shun and virtues which they may practise while their hearts are far from God : but when he speaks to them as a dying man to dying men ; when he, with unsparing hand, would draw aside the curtain and let in the daylight of eternity upon the darkness of this world, its wisdom, its pursuits, its schemes, and its pleasures ; — when a preacher says what the Bible says, that all compromise is vain — that one thing is needful — that we cannot serve two masters — that we cannot be neutral — that we must choose God or the world, the way to
44 SERMO V. heaven or the way to hell ; and that if any man doubt which he has chosen, he has, without knowing it, made the wrong and fatal choice ; — when, in short, the doctrine delivered from the pulpit mainly is, that half measures and partial reformations are not what the Scripture calls
for; but a new creation, an entire change, the mind that was in Christ Jesus, death to the world, the kingdom of God within us, heaven opened in the soul ; — when this testimony is plainly borne, it is natural to suppose that it must set men thinking. For some time they may have supposed that they and the preacher are quite agreed, and think that he has only a new, or odd, or violent way of saying what they would express more calmly. But however, if he persevere in stating plain, uncompromising, scriptural truth, many will begin to observe that there is a decided difference of sentiment between them and the preacher ; that he means something, let it be erroneous or let it be true, which they cannot bring to square by any ingenuity with their own system; that he has something in his view which has not been in their view ; that he is every Sunday returning to the charge, and representing their accounts as unsettled with heaven, and that the things that are God*s are not rendered unto God. In this state some are apt to say, " What is all this about } What point is he driving at ? What steps are we to take ? What, after all, is it that he would have us dor ow let it be observed that there are two different frames of mind in which this kind of inquiry may be made. If it is asked in the temper and spirit of the newly-converted Paul, Lord, what wilt thou have tne to do ? or of the Philippian jailer, What must I do to be
SERMO V. 45 saved? to such an inquirer we have but one short answer to give: we have only to announce to him the glad tidings of great joy. Let the past life of such an one have been what it may; let his present sense of guilt
and misery be red like crimson ; let shame and confusion cover his face ; let clouds overhang his soul, and his heart be in heaviness within him : let him but ask this question in sincerity of heart, and the answer is — All things are forgiven to the penitent; all things are possible to him that believeth. Let him hear our Saviour's invitation: Come unto me^ all ye that labour and are heavy laden^ and I will give you rest It is not the cold and comfortless assurance, that if you now begin a new life, and if that life is spared, and if the good works you do in future outweigh your past iniquities, you may be forgiven and be saved. But the message is, Turn now to God, and all is pardoned. All things are now ready; there is no fiery ordeal to be passed, but the transition is immediate. You may put forth your hand this moment to the tree of life, and eat and live for ever. There is a short cut from that deep and miry road of toil and misery and danger, into the ways of pleasantness and paths of peace, into the sunshine of God's favour ; into the confines of never-ending day and of everlasting love. These are the glad tidings to the meek. This is the message which heals the broken-hearted. or need we fear to deliver it freely. For where this message really reaches, it converts the soul. God's goodness, where there are eyes to see it, melts the heart of stone ; and the blood of Christ not only expiates our guilt, but purges the enlightened conscience from the works of sin.
46 SERMO V. These doctrines I grant may be abused ; and he that expects salvation without turning with all his heart to holiness and to God, does abuse them to his own destruction. But the truth is, that God's mercies in Christ Jesus, when really laid hold on, cannot be abused. They
must produce all righteousness as inevitably as the sun must illuminate the heavens. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit ; and this tree of God's own planting will ever have its fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. But there is another spirit in which it is sometimes said of a preacher, " What would he have us to do }" It is a way of throwing on him the charge, that instead of offering plain, sensible, and practical advice, he only puzzles his hearers with high-flown rhapsodies, and sets before them airy, spiritual notions, which have nothing tangible or palpable about them, so as to be reduced to practice or brought forth into real life. It is in fact as much as to say, "What, after all, is it that we do not do.^ We are living reputably; we are satisfied with ourselves ; we do not know where we are deficient : and here are vague and general insinuations that we are fundamentally in error ? Where, then, are we in error ? Let him bring forth his strong reasons, and shew in what we are deficient — what, in a word, we are to do." I answer, you have in a few years or months or days to prepare for eternity. Is a man at a loss to know what he is to do, or rather, does he think he has but a trifling matter on hand when he is just embarking on an endless voyage ? — ^when he is shortly to stand before God and account for every minute of his time ? — when for every idle word he is to give an account in the day of judgment i* — when, according to the works done in
SERMO V. 47 the body, he is to rise to life eternal, or to be cast into everlasting fire ? But to be more particular. You all profess to believe, and you are right in believing, that the Bible is the only
sure and infallible guide of souls to heaven. Have you then ever seriously read the Bible ? Have you ever sat down to it with the attention which you would pay to a letter on your own business, or a legal deed by which your property was to be secured or conveyed ? If not, here then is an important work for you to do. Search the Scriptures^ for in them ye think ye have eternal life. But hasty running over the Scripture will not do. Dwell on its most important parts. Compare yourselves with it; and ask yourselves how you answer to that unerring standard. It is said, for instance. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Are you poor in spirit ? Are you lowly in your own eyes } Would you sooner bear the grossest insult than sin against God in resenting it .^ If not, what do you read in Scripture but that yours is not the kingdom of heaven ; that the salvation promised in the Gospel is not yours ? Again, it is said, Blessed are tJie pure in hearty for they shall see God, Are you pure in heart } Do you hate the remains of corrupt affection and depraved nature that may still cleave to you against your will } Or do you freely indulge in loose thoughts, and abstain from loose practices from want merely of opportunity, and from the fear of man } Well, then, what warrant is there from the Sacred Word that you will ever see the face of God.? The Scripture says, Let the same mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus, Have you then that gentle, humble, calm, patient, happy, heavenly mind } If not, on what
48 SERMO V. are your hopes built ? for if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His ; that is, Christ is to him no Saviour ; he will die in his sins. This is a kind of self-examination which should
accompany the reading of the word. Here then is something for us to do. But supposing that you had found peace with God, and had experienced that blessed change of temper and of nature without which no man shall see the Lord ; this is not the conclusion, but the commencement of your Christian course. Suppose you heard of some wretched captive, who from his infancy had been immured in some dark solitary dungeon, and never had seen the cheerful ways of men or light of day, and that you were to take off his chains and throw open his prison-doors : and suppose he were to seem unwilling, and to say, "Why, what would you have me to do.^*' would not your answer naturally be, " Come out of this miserable dungeon, and you shall see. A new existence will burst upon you. You will see the light ; you will walk at liberty ; you will converse with your fellow-creatures : and then you will know what you have to do. Duties will call you, enjoyments will invite, which you never dreamed of in the days of your captivity.'* So it is in the natural bondage of the human soul. If from that land of Egypt and house of bondage one asks us, " What are all these calls of conscience and ministers about ? what is it that we are to do ?" — ^the answer is the same : Come forth, and you will see. Come out into the light of the Gospel, into the emancipation of God's children, and under the open canopy of eternity. Then cast your eyes around, and you will want no guide. You will see what there is to do : duties to God for which eternity is
SERMO V. 49 not too long; duties to yourself on which eternity depends ; duties to your fellow-creatures, important and interesting beyond all possible calculation. It is to these last that my text directs us: As wc
liave therefore opportunity ^ let us do good unto all men. It is to this that our Lord invites us when He says, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for tJiey are white already to harvest. Here it is unnecessary to tell you He was speaking, not of natural things, but of His spiritual vineyard ; of the souls which were planted there ; those precious vines which He was going to water with His own bloodIt was thus that He loved souls: for greater love can no man have than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. It is thus that, in proportion as we resemble the blessed Jesus, we shall love souls also ; that we, like Him, shall be ceaseless in our efforts to do good, to call sinners to repentance, to seek and to save that which was lost. It is an unchangeable law and constitution of our nature, that we cannot desire blessings for others which we do not really desire for ourselves. When we feel the value of our own souls, and not till then, we shall feel the value of the souls around us. When we love God, and not till then, we shall desire that every child of man should love Him. It is on this account that our Lord says to St. Peter: Whc7i thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? Feed viy sheep. Feed viy lambs. The man awakened to eternal things feels that the multitude around him are not mere mortal bodies, but immortal spirits. He sees them, as it were, all struggling upon a tempestuous ocean, in danger every moment of going down for ever ; and he feels, and he alone can feel, a due anxiety that E
50 SERMO V. they may weather the storm, and gain the haven of pure and never-ending blessedness.
It is wonderful with what force this desire of saving our fellow-creatures seizes, like a divine passion, upon the soul. or is this blessed work confined to those whose official duties call them outwardly to it Whoever fears God, rich or poor, male or female, old or young, may, by his life, his counsel, his conversation, be a preacher of righteousness. One instance I will mention ; that of a pious child, the daughter of a person of distinguished rank, bred with that tenderness which might least have prepared her for the rude shocks of strong pain and suffering with which God was pleased to afflict her. This child was visited by her heavenly Father with a disease which rendered it necessary for her leg to be amputated. When her mother announced to her (with what agony let us imagine if we can) that such was the opinion of her surgeons, after some tribute of tears to nature, this early child of grace replied that her mind was made up : " And who knows,'* she added, " if I am enabled to bear the operation with patience, whether it may not do some good to the surgeons, to see such a proof of the reality of religion, and of the support which the Lord can give to those who put their trust in Him ?". Here is true charity to the souls of men: here is strength ordained out of the mouth of babes and sucklings : here is the faith and patience of the saints : here is a lesson for young and old given by a young disciple in the' school of Christ. Oh, may we go and do likewise! May many here, of every rank and station, arise and give themselves to this glorious work ! May the kingdom of the Redeemer spread among us !
SERMO V. SI In all other hopes we may be deceived : engaged in this blessed employment, we must eventually prevail.
We may encounter momentary disappointment, but to promote God's glory and man's happiness is the cause of Heaven, and must be at length triumphant; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. BeJiold t/te days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and sliall execute judgment and justice in t/te earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name wliereby He slmllbe called, Tlie Lord our Righteousness, The Apostle's rule upon this subject is, As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men ; and further than this our directions cannot go. It is impossible, more particularly in public discourses, to enter into detail ; so much depends upon the nature of men's talents and the endless variety of their circumstances. But one principle upon this subject I would desire to leave impressed on your hearts. It is that the surest and best mode of securing our usefulness to others is to live to God ourselves. In the first place, this is the best means of obtaining that help from above, without which all our labour and anxieties are vain. Every good and every perfect gift descendeth from the Father of lights. If then we would wish to be the instruments of good to our families, our friends, our neighbours, what course so wise as to endeavour to please that all-powerful Being, who can turn the hearts of men as it seemeth best to His godly wisdom } The man who lives to God can pray to Him — pray on behalf of others as well as his own. And in this way how miich may the effectual fervent prayer of
52 SERMO V. a righteous man produce ! When a child of God enters into his closet, and shuts to his door, and prays to his Father
which is in secret; at such hallowed moments who can estimate the extent of those blessings which his petitions may draw down ? Or who can tell what showers may descend upon the place beneath when his supplications have pierced the clouds? As to the world at large, perhaps she owes her sunshine and her rain, her blooming springs and plenteous harvests to the prayer he makes. With respect to national mercies also, what is it that shortens the day of visitation upon any people but the prayers of the elect ? Or was it human wisdom or human power which has at sundry times delivered this country with so high a hand out of all her difficulties and dangers ? o : it was prayer. It was the supplication of believers offered up in faith to a prayer-hearing God. For their sakes alone is any country saved, or worth saving. For their sakes alone is there peace to Jerusalem, safety within her borders, plenteousness within her palaces, or salvation around her walls. In all the private relations of life, persuaded I am that in the last great day many will find that they have owed to the prayer of some relative, so secretly offered up that they knew not of it, their share in those eternal blessings which now await them. He then that would be a benefactor to others, should himself be a man of prayer. There is another way in which this principle applies. If we are saved ourselves, we shall be best fitted to benefit and save others. There is a virtue in holiness, in faith and love, by which the man who eminently possesses and constantly exhibits them, becomes quick and powerful in acting upon the minds of those around him. There is a meekness in the wisdom which is from
SERMO V. 53 above ; there is a secret charm in a calm and well-ordered soul, in a quiet and truly humble spirit, which wins upon our hearts, and inclines us to love and embrace a religion
which yields such peaceful fruits. Little as such a man may intend it, his light cannot be hid. It will so shine before men, that they will see his good works, and glorify his Father which is in heaven. But above all considerations, the man who loves God will love his brother also ; and where love is, there is the image of God, and in some sense the power of God also. The man who can feel towards sinners, who can converse with a brother when taken in a fault as if he pitied his infirmities and loved his soul ; he, and he alone, is furnished for the blessed work of saving the lost and converting sinners from the error of their ways. He alone dan be a labourer together with God ; for God is love. He alone acts like God ; for God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son to save it. He alone imitates the example of Christ; for He loved sinners, and gave Himself for them. In conclusion: I would not break off this train of thought, so important and so animating to every real Christian, without breathing a fervent aspiration to Heaven, that both I and all of you may be inclined, in the words of my text, as we have opportunity y to do good unto all men. May we seek this best of means for so high an end, even the entire sanctification of our own souls in love; that we may be enabled to offer up prayers which God will hear and answer; ceaseless prayers that we may be made instrumental in saving others, by becoming ourselves partakers of the full salvation of the Gospel. Happy 'and enviable state ! to dwell in love, and thereby to dwell in God, and God
54 SERMO V. in us ! Happy state ! to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbours as ourselves ! Happy stat< in this life to shed around that blessedness which we fe
within; to comfort those that mourn, and to heal tl broken heart; and when the day of eternity dawn having turned many to righteousness, to shine forth i those brighter heavens as the stars for ever and ever!
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