« PreviousContinue »
nor fault found in you. A shrewd man of the world, William Hutton, the Birmingham bookseller,—wrote of John Wesley, that his “unblemished manners give us a tolerable picture of apostolic purity; who believes, as if he were to be saved by faith, and who labours, as if he were to be saved by works.” May all his followers thus believe, work, and live!
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. iv. 8.)
BY THE REV. WILLIAM M. PUNSHON OF SHEFFIELD.
OF THE GOSPEL
" FOR I AM NOT ASHAMED ROMANS I. 16.
TAIRTY years had well nigh passed away since the death of Jesus. During that period the Apostles, by the baptism of Pentecost invested with power from on high, had been assiduous and successful preachers of the Gospel. The call of Cornelius, and the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Gentile hearers of the word, had silenced their prejudices, and convinced them of the breadth and generosity of the purposes of God. Availing themselves of the wider range of influence which was thus shown to be accessible, they had declared " to Jew and to Greek,” the unsearchable riches of Christ; and God had wrought with them mightily, confirming the word by miraculous signs, and by transforming wonders. There must be, however, a yet more signal triumph of the cross. The provinces of the Roman empire had been skirted with the tidings of redemption ;-Rome itself must be visited, impregnated, and ultimately subdued to Christ. In order to this, there seems to have been a remarkable manifestation of the wisdom of the counsels of Heaven. The Apostle Paul was marked by qualification, and designated in purpose, to be the chief advocate of the truth in the imperial city. Brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, trained in the most celebrated schools, well read in the literature of the day, and not insensible to its classic beauty, having had the experience of a considerable itinerancy, having the gift of tongues, and many other spiritual gifts rarer and more valuable, filled with indomitable courage, and, above all, mighty in the Scriptures, and a firm and loyal Christian-he was the very man to tell to Cæsar's seat, and before Cæsar's household, the grace of God in Christ. There seemed, however, in the way difficulties of no ordinary magnitude. From the time of his conversion until now, he had been followed by the inveterate malice of the adversary, whose usurped authority he was endeavouring to destroy. He had been, as he himself tells us, in sufferings and hunger, in perils frequent, in deaths oft. But the grace of God had sustained him; and, delivered out of them all, he went on in thankfulness and bravery. Now, however, in the moment of his extremity of peril, that grace is apparently withdrawn. He falls into the hands of his enemies, is bound with chains, impeached by his infuriated countrymen, and dragged degradingly from one tribunal to another. But mark the chain of events in their wonderful sequence and harmony. His peril was his most precious opportunity. Rescued by Lysias, the chief captain, from the clamours of the multitude, he lifted his fettered hands on the steps of the castle, and calmed that exasperated mob by his eloquent preaching of the Gospel. Brought up the next day before the council, and ordered authoritatively to answer for himself, his defence furnished him with an opportunity too glorious to be lost—for
an earnest preaching of the Gospel. Transferred to Cæsarea, and arraigned at the judgment-seat there, three heathen princes were moved to shuddering and to thoughtfulness, by his fearless preaching of the Gospel. Drafted on board ship, to a company of two hundred and seventysix seamen and passengers, specimens from every nationhemmed in from the chance of escape, and forced by their circumstances to attention, there was another preaching of the Gospel
And then in Rome itself-singularly favoured to dwell in his own hired house for two years he published to all comers the mystery of Godlinessno man forbidding him. How marvellous are the ways of God! The poor Apostle might have been unheeded and despised : the state prisoner, from the interest attached to his position claims and receives a hearing. If he had come under other auspices, or impelled by his own zeal, the
open door of utterance might not have been found; but, bound himself, he could reveal the true enfranchisement without let or hindrance. The very fact that he was within the jurisdiction of the higher court, freed him from the vexations and prohibitions of the lower. Neither Pagan priest nor Jewish scribe dared mutter opposition. He was out of their hands. He was Nero's prisoner now, or rather, as he himself expresses it, the prisoner of the Lord ;" his “bonds,” therefore “turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel,” and those circumstances, apparently so adverse, and surrounded by such invincible difficulty, became his very mightiest instrumentalities of triumph and of power. The epistle to the Romans seems to have been written by the Apostle as a sort of forerunner of his coming. There was a church there already—a little band converted probably on the day of Pentecost, and holding their steadfastness, in the absence of a minister, by mutual counsel and prayer. He con.
gratulates them on their loyalty and faith-assures them of his eagerness to visit the city of the Cæsars; and then -as if the thought had struck him that they might imagine that the truth which had purified licentious Corinth, and triumphed in classic Greece, might fail amidst imperial luxury and purple-he says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”
Brethren, the Gospel which won the confidence of that hero-heart, and fired the eloquence of that silver-tongue, is with us still-unshorn of its original beauty-unweakened of its original power-beating its strong and blessed lifebeats in the hearts of thousands, and going on to the conquest of the world. It is for us to inquire into the grounds of our confidence and glorying, that while we admire the Apostle's enthusiasm, it may excite and stimulate our own. We are not ashamed of the Gospel
I.-BECAUSE IT CONTAINS MOST BRILLIANT AND HARMONIOUS DEVELOPMENTS OF THE PERFECTIONS OF GOD.
The knowledge of God must necessarily be the most important of all knowledge. If there be such a Being, from whom we derive our existence, who has gifted us richly with endowment and advantage, by whose sustaining grace we are preserved, to whose judgment we are all amenable, and who shall seal our destiny for ever-if there be such a Being, his character must be all-important to us; to comprehend Him should be the one yearning of the mind, and to serve Him the one practice of the life. Now this knowledge of God must be matter of pure revelation. "Such knowledge is too wonderful for man; it is high ; he cannot attain unto it." His researches do not even conduct him to the notion of a God at all, much less can he descant upon His attributes, or realize His character. His reason, even in the metropolis of its enthronement,