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wisely said and kindly said, for he was now proving her and trying her, and putting that faith into the fire, that it might come forth a vessel meet for the Master's service, that it might be found unto praise and honor and glory, and so it was.
Now at this time when it seemed impossible to add any thing more, what does she say? what would some of you say? The Preacher would have acted just as foolish and unbelieving a part as the weakest of you. We should probably have said, or rather not perhaps have dared to have said, we should probably have gone away and said in our hearts, I will never apply there again—I was never so treated in all my experience before. I have heard of his goodness to others but now I can speak from experience of his cruelty to me. I will go to my poor sick child and we will mourn and we will die together, for Jesus of Nazareth has no pity, no tenderness. If we had said so, we should have talked the language of blasphemy as well as the language of falsehood; and yet I do not scruple to say it, that this supernatural faith was not half so much to the credit of the woman as to the credit of our Lord and Master, who all the while supported this soul which would otherwise have sunk in the water. For is there faith in the human heart? it is the gift of sovereign grace. There is not a single particle of it in the natural man. It is a spiritual gift; and it is a strong thing to say, yet it is the truth nevertheless, God Almighty gives the grace, and then rewards it as if it were our own. He gives us power to please him, to do his will, to bear up under all discouragements, and then he rewards it as if forsooth, it was our own, and while the good that is done has been of his own operation.
Now mark it well, the Saviour—1 speak it with reverence—the Saviour could hold out no longer, he could no
longer appear with a frown on his brpw. What is the reply that the woman makes 1 "Truth Lord," I contend not with thee. I am a poor Gentile, a dog, well aware that the Jews considered all other nations as dogs quite unworthy of their notice. "Truth Lord," I contend not with thee. Mark the ingenuity of faith. Never was there in the world any thing more ingenious. She actually turns round the very arguments which the Saviour brought against her to bear on his own mercy, and she carries the point, and that with Omnipotence itself. O, my brethren, look at the omnipotence of faith, "Truth Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their Master's table." As if she had said, I do not ask for any great thing which that chosen and favoured Israel may ask for. I am a poor woman in sorrow and in trouble. I only ask, that while the Israelites have the bread, I may be allowed the crumbs. Only give me one single crumb for my poor dying daughter and I ask no more. This woman puts us all to shame, clergy, people, and all. Her faith deserves to be mentioned through the whole world and it shall be so. It shall be told to her credit and to her honor when you and I and every one of us shall be sleeping in the dust.
But I come now To The Savioub. I have dwelt long upon the woman, her faith, and her sufferings. The First point that I have to notice concerning Christ is his silence where we should not have expected it. "He answered her not a word." When we are listening to the words of Christ, watching his sacred lips, hoping for some kind expression, how it cuts one to the heart not to hear a single word 1 It was so here—" He answered her not a word."
The Second point about your Lord and Master is, that he seems to plead that his commission had been exclusively to Israel: not that he intended it to be so always. Blessed be God, "He is a light to lighten the Gentiles as well as the glory of his people Israel." But he here pleads that "He is not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Mark how he speaks of that house. Heaven knows that he cared for them—and I would you all cared for them. "To the lost sheep of the house of Israel he was sent," and he pleads this his commission why he should do nothing.
But the Third point is, he appears to add insult and cruelty to all his indifference. His conduct appears to be insulting and cruel, but it only appears so. It appears so in two ways—to our ignorance and our pride. Our ignorance of God's dealings, of what is wise and what is best—and our pride, that does not like a rebuff, that does not like to be put back when we wish to approach and draw nigh.
But observe. Lastly, he suffers himself to be conquered by faith. Faith positively wins the day, even when it is contesting with Omnipotence. Do you doubt it? Take the words of your Saviour himself. "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee as thou wilt." It is added, " And her daughter was made whole from that very hour."
Now what does This Say To You? It says first, you may go to Christ for yourselves ; and it says, secondly, that you may go to Christ for your rclatives'and your friends. And if I knew the history of every family now before me to night, what should I learn ? The father in some cases would say, "O, Sir, I have brought my poor boy to hear you—I have often wept over him —I have often admonished him—he has already broken his poor mother's heart—I can do nothing for him—I have brought him here." Go, my friend, and take him to the Saviour.
He can do what I cannot. I have no power, I have told you so a thousand times, and if I live I will tell you so many times more. Others will tell me, some of one relative, and some of another. Go and take them to Christ. O, but you say Sir, we have done so often—we have done it. O, says the father, his poor mother prayed for him for years, and she died with his name on her lips, asking God to save her boy. And shall she pray in vain? No, my friends, she shall not.
Learn that Jesus can do helpless sinners good, and that he will. Go then, first for yourselves, and then for your families and friends. Take every family burthen to your Lord and Master, let not one be left behind. Some could tell of their partners, others of their children, others of their brethren or their sisters. O, go and take them to the blessed Redeemer, and bear up under all discouragements; and although you do not now see an answer to your prayers, and although every thing seems against you, onward, onward with the prayer of faith, and the prayer of faith shall, by and by, be found never to have been offered in vain.
In conclusion, let ministers and people pray each for one another. There are many of your families before me, and were it proper I could say of such a one,—there is a youth that I have often prayed for—there is the father of a family that I have often brought before God that he may be converted. O, this would be a happy night, one of the happiest of my life, if some poor thoughtless prodigal, who never prayed for himself before, were to go out of the church door to-night, with the cry from his heart, "What shall I do to be saved."
My brethren, we do not meet in vain, we do not meet to amuse one another; we meet to edify one another, we meet to wait upon our God. And who can tell if the people now lift up their hearts, if every one of you that is called Christian, or that is a Christian, should now lift up his heart, that the God of heaven may now, even before we leave his sanctuary, pour out upon us some mighty blessing from above. Thus some may have to bless God that they ever entered the church
doors to-night; and thus while you are sleeping in your beds to-night, angels in heaven will be singing and rejoicing over some sinner brought to God. "Verily, I say unto you there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance."
DELIVERED BY THE REV. EDWARD RICE,
AT TRINITY CHURCH, TRINITY SQUARE, BLACKMAN STREET, FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE ST. ANN'S SOCIETY, FEB. 20, 1831.
1 Corinthians, xiii. 13.—" And now abideth faith, hope, charily; but the greatest of
these is charily."
Throughout the whole of this chapter, St. Paul has given us a peculiar specimen of energetic eloquence. Filled with that glow of Christian benevolence, which so eminently distinguished his crucified Master, he labours earnestly to breathe into his Corinthian converts a portion of his own warmth. He feels his heart expanding towards his fellow-creatures—he feels that universal love was the fundamental feature of that religion which he had been appointed to disseminate throughout the world; and he, therefore, inculcates the pre-eminence of charity in a strain of the clearest argument and the most persuasive eloquence, in the very commencement of which, he tells us, that he himself, though specially selected, and miraculously summoned to the Apostolic dignity—though eminently distinguished by the favour of his Redeemer, and entrusted with the secrets of immortality, yet was nothing; not only unworthy of the name of Christian, but even that of man, unless he possessed that excellent quality of charity towards all mankind.
At the close of the chapter, however, he reminds his readers, that there are two other features in the Christian character which must be associated with charity, though he concludes, by giving the preference to the latter. "And now abideth faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these is charity." I propose, therefore, to call your attention to each of these three qualifications, as separately and collectively adorning the character, the influence, and the conduct of the true disciple of Jesus Christ, confining myself, in conclusion, more particularly to the last topic.
First, then, of Faith. On this head there are unhappily at the present period, and have been more or less at all periods, various conflicting opinions. Our way, however, through these differences of opinion is plain and clear if we will but seek it. Faith, in its proper and original sense, is simply belief. Thus, the pagan has faith in the deities of his superstitious worship; and the follower of Mahomet has faith or belief in the divine mission of that prophet. The act, by which Abraham obtained the favour of God, was his believing the declaration which God made to him, in opposition to Sarah his wife, who disbelieved. St. James, in one of his epistles, speaking of the comparative merits of faith and works, asks, "Can faith save us':" evidently implying mere belief; and, accordingly, he proceeds to direct his readers to show their belief of the Christian covenant by their works.
This is the original meaning of the word faith; but, as applied to the Christian in most parts of the New Testament, and in the service of our church, it has obtained a more extended signification. So that it appears in itself not merely an act of believing in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but also, of embracing the offers of mercy made to us in the Gospel; and applying our understandings to ascertain the will of heaven, with a deep and heart-felt desire for performing that will to the best of our power. This is the faith which St. Paul speaks of as justifying a sinner; and this, doubtless, is the faith which is alluded to in the chapter under contemplation.
If, however, my brethren, you are really and sincerely anxious about the great business of your salvation—if you are humbly and heartily desirous of treading that path which the Scriptures point out to you as leading to heaven, you will not stop to cavil about the meaning of the word, or endanger your own salvation, and perhaps that of others, by discussions useless at the best, and generally injurious. Your Saviour has given you a rule, by which you may always discover, whether or not you have the true faith in you. "By their fruits," says he, "ye shall know them."
Judge, therefore, yourselves by this infallible criterion, looking to your own minds, observe, what is the state of your feelings with regard to eter
nity, weigh well your outward actions, and, particularly, examine the motives that influence your conduct. Ask yourselves a few such questions as the following—Do I believe that one all-good, all-wise, and Almighty Being, created me and placed me in this world? That the same Being still protects me with a father's care, preserving me and guiding me in my progress through life? Do I believe that the only Son of this Almighty Being came down from heaven, and dwelt amongst men, and died upon the cross, as an atonement for my sin, as well as those of my fellow sinners? Do I believe that the Spirit of God hovers over me unceasingly, strengthing my weakness, comforting my despair, infusing into me good desires, and confirming me in holy resolutions? Am I truly grateful to this Father who protects me—this Son who died for me—and this Holy Spirit which sanctifies me? Am I determined to improve these inestimable advantages to the glory of God, and the salvation of my own soul? If your conscience returns you a favourable answer to these enquiries, you may rest assured that you have that faith in you which St. Paul laboured to excite, and which, if you persevere in the pursuit, will finally lead you to the kingdom of God. But, if there are any amongst you, who feel that you have not this substantial, this productive, this unquestionable faith within you, let me advise you to lose not an instant in applying yourselves to the acquisition of it. There will be a time when you will find that nothing in this world was equivalent to it—when your Saviour's words will appear to you too true, that if you should gain the whole world and lose your own soul it will profit you nothing. Hasten, then, to cultivate those pious affections which are comprized in the faith of Christ. Be earnest in this your day to learn the
things which pertain to your peace, remembering that the night ia fast coming upon each of you, when it will be too late to begin to work.
The Second grace, which the Apostle mentions is that of Hope; and he has very properly mentioned it after faith, as it arises from it, and depends entirely upon it. No sooner does the soul embrace and adopt, through faith, the great truths of the Gospel, than it feels itself expanded with hope, the blessed hope of life and immortality. Rescued from the shackles of infidelity, or the darkness of ignorance, it now breathes freely the delightful atmosphere of Christian confidence and Christian love. It now sees clearly its own nature, and its future destination. Eternity opens to its view, it sees the way that leadeth to it, and learns to tread that way, with humility indeed, and with fear, but yet with hope. Delightful indeed is the prospect of the Christian, and sweet the expectation that illumines his heart. No dreary anticipations, no dark and awful uncertainties, spread a gloom around him. He sees the goal in the distance before him, and he knows that he can reach that gaol because his God has told him so.
But we shall perceive more distinctly the full value of this hope, if we consider, for a moment, what this life would be without it. How could you endure the vain and restless bustle which surrounds you—the empty vanities which the cares of this world oblige you to pursue—the unsubstantial and unsatisfactory enjoyments with which your better judgment is often disgusted, unless you knew, that all these are but the noxious weeds that disfigure the path to a real and an eternal happiness i Or how would you bear the sufferings which so often oppress you, the pangs of disease, the anxieties of business, the failure of your dearest hopes, the ingratitude of
pretended friends, or the loss, the bitter loss, of real ones, unless you felt an inward and unspeakable comfort from the consideration, that these are but the troubles of a moment, that they are the affectionate chastenings of your heavenly Father, and that they will procure for you a crown of glory? It was the want of this cheering hope that rendered the life of many an enlightened heathen, before the times of the Gospel, a dreary and desolate wilderness. Their judgment was too enlarged, and their taste too refined, to allow of their participating in the low and senseless gratifications of their fellow mortals. They looked for enjoyments more worthy of the immortal spirit, but, alas, they could find none. They attempted to dive into futurity, but they could not. Before them all was dark and impenetrable; and around them was nothing that could clear the obscurity from the scene. Thus they lived in uncertainty, and they died without hope. Some of them, indeed, when sated with the follies, or harassed with the troubles of life, hesitated not to throw off an existence with which they felt themselves dissatisfied, which, in ignorance of their immortal destination, they did not conceive themselves bound to preserve after it had become disagreeable to them. Not knowing who it was that placed them at their post of life, they thought themselves justified in abandoning that post whenever it became tiresome or dangerous ; and they rushed, therefore, into eternity unbidden and uninvited, little imagining whither their desperation was carrying them. How thankful, my brethren, ought we to be, when we think of these things, for the life that we enjoy, and the hope that we are permitted to cherish. Ours is no desart journey, our God accompanies us, and points to us the road. Do we faint? he supports us. Do we fear? he re