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to shoot the arrows of the Almighty' at them, and to set the terrors of God in array against them,' Job vi. 4. St. Peter described to these murderers that great and notable day of the Lord,' ver. 21, so famous among their prophets, that day,' in which God would avenge the death of his Son, punish the greatest of all crimes with the greatest of all miseries, and execute that sentence which the Jews had denounced on themselves, His blood be on us and on our children,' Matt. xxvii. 25.
Athens and Rome? Yield to our fishermen and tentmakers. O how powerful is the sword of the Spirit in the hands of our apostles! See the executioners of Jesus Christ, yet foaming with rage and madness against him. See! they are as ready to shed the blood of the disciples, as they were to murder their Master. But the voice of St. Peter quells all their rage, turns the current of it, and causes those to bow to the yoke of Jesus Christ who had just before put him to death.
Allow, my brethren, that you cannot recollect the sermon of St. Peter without envy. ing those happy primitive Christians, who enjoyed the precious advantage of hearing such a preacher; or without saying to your selves, such exhortations would have found the way to our hearts, they would have aroused us from our security, touched our consciences, and produced effects which the modern way of preaching is incapable of producing.
St. Peter quoted a prophecy of Joel, which foretold that fatal day, and the prophecy was the more terrible, because one part of it was accomplished; because the remarkable events that were to precede it were actually come to pass; for the Spirit of God had begun to 'pour out' his miraculous influences' upon all flesh, young men had seen visions, and old men had dreamed dreams;' and the formidable preparations of approaching judgments were then before their eyes. Herod the Great had already pnt those to a cruel death But, my brethren, will you permit us to who had raised a sedition on account of his ask you one question? Would you choose to placing the Roman eagle on the gate of the hear the apostles, and ministers like the apos temple. Already Pilate had set up the Ro- tles? Would you attend their sermons? or, man standard in Jerusalem, had threatened to say all in one word, do you wish St. Peter all who opposed it with death, and had made was now in this pulpit? Think a little, before a dreadful havoc among them who refused to you answer this question. Compare the taste agree to his making an aqueduct in that city. of this auditory with the genius of the preachTwenty thousand Jews had been already mas- er; your delicacy with that liberty of speech sacred in Cesarea, thirteen thousand in Sey- with which he reproved the vices of his own thopolis, and fifty thousand in Alexandria. times. For our parts, we, who think we Cestius Gallus had already overwhelmed Ju- know you, we are persuaded, that no preacher dea with a formidable army.* Terrible har- would be less agreeable to you than St. Peter. bingers of that great and notable day of the Of all the sermons that could be addressed to Lord! Just grounds of fear and terror! The you, there could be none that would be reauditors of St. Peter, on hearing these pre-ceived less favourably than those which dictions, and on perceiving their fulfilment, 'were pricked in their heart, and said,' to all the members of the apostolical college, 'Men and brethren, What shall we do?'
Such was the power of the sermon of St. Peter over the souls of his hearers! Human eloquence has sometimes done wonders worthy of immortal memory. Some of the ancient orators have governed the souls of the most invincible hearers, and the life of Cicero affords us an example. Ligarius had the audacity to make war on Cesar. Cesar was determined to make the rash adventurer a victim to his revenge. The friends of Ligarius durst not interpose, and Ligarius was on the point, either of being justly punished for his offence, or of being sacrificed to the unjust ambition of his enemy. What force could control the power of Cesar? But Cesar had an adversary, whose power was superior to his own. This adversary pleads for Ligarius against Cesar, and Cesar, all invincible as he is, yields to the eloquence of Cicero. Cicero pleads, Cesar feels; in spite of himself, his wrath subsides, his hatred diminishes, his vengeance disappears. The fatal list of the crimes of Ligarius, which he is about to produce to the judges, falls from his hands, and be actually absolves him at the close of the eration, whom, when he entered the court, he meant to condemn. But yield, ye orators of
Joseph. Antiq. lib. xvii. cap. 6. p. 766. Oxon. 1720. bid. lib. xviii. p. 297. Le Bell. Jud. lib. ii. cap. 12. p. 1095.
should be composed on the plan of that which this apostle preached at Jerusalem.
One wants to find something new in every sermon; and under pretence of satisfying his laudable desire of improvement in knowledge, would divert our attention from well-known vices, that deserved to be censured. Another desires to be pleased, and would have us adorn our discourses, not that we inay obtain an easier access to his heart; not that we may, by the innocent artifice of availing ourselves of his love of pleasure, oppose the love of pleasure itself; but that we may flatter a kind of concupiscence, which is content to sport with a religious exercise, till, when divine service ends, it can plunge into more sensual joy. Almost all require to be lulled asleep in sin: and, although nobody is so gross as to say, Flatter my wicked inclinations, stupify my conscience, praise my crimes, yet almost every body loves to have it so,' Jer. v. 31. A principle of, I know not what, refined security makes us desire to be censured to a certain degree, so that the slight emotions which we receive may serve for a presumption that we repent, and may produce an assurance, which we could not enjoy under an apology for our sins. We consent to the touching of the wound, but we refuse to suffer any one to probe it. Lenitives may be applied, but the fire and the knife must not go to the bottom of the putrefaction to make a sound cure.
Ah! how disagreeable to you would the
Bermons of the apostles have been! Realize them. Imagine one of those venerable men ascending this pulpit, after he had been in the public places of your resort, after he had been familiarly acquainted with your domestic economy, after he had seen through the flimsy veils that cover some criminal intrigues, after he had been informed of certain secrets which I dare not even hint, and of some barefaced crimes that are committed in the sight of the sun: would the venerable man, think you, gratify your taste for preaching? Would he submit to the laws that your profound wisdom tyrannically imposes on your preachers? Would he gratify your curiosity, think you, with nice discussions? Do you believe he would spend all his time and pains in conjuring you not to despair? Would he content himself, think you, with coolly informing you, in a vague and superficial manner, that you must be virtuous? Would he finish his sermon with a pathetic exhortation to you not to entertain the least doubt about your salvation?
Ah! my brethren, I think I hear the holy man, I think I hear the preacher animated with the same spirit, that made him boldly tell the murderers of Jesus Christ; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.' I think I see St. Peter, the man who was so extremely affected with the sinful state of his auditors; the preacher who exhibited the objects that he exposed in his sermon, in that point of view which was most likely to discover to his auditors the enormity of their actions: I think I see him tearing the miserable veils with which men conceal the turpitude of their crimes, after they have committed them.-I think I hear him enu
merating the various excesses of this nation, and saying, You! you are void of all sensibility, when we tell you of the miseries of the church, when we describe those bloody scenes, that are made up of dungeons, galleys, apostates, and martyrs. You! you have silently stood by, and suffered religion to be attacked; and have favoured the publication of those execrable books which plead for a system of impiety and atheism, and which are professedly written to render virtue contemptible, and the perfections of God doubt. ful. You! you have spent twenty, thirty, forty years, in a criminal neglect of religion, without once examining whether the doctrines of God, of heaven, and of hell, be fables or facts. I think I hear him exhort each of you to save himself from this untoward generation,' Acts ii. 40.
Let us throw ourselves at the feet of the
apostle, or rather, let us prostrate ourselves at the foot of the throne of that Jesus, whom we have insulted; and who, in spite of all the insults that we have offered him, still calls, and still invites us to repent. Let each of us say to him, as the convinced Saul said to him on the road to Damascus, 'Lord! what wilt thou have me to do?' Acts ix. 6. 0! may emotions of heart as rapid as words, and holy actions as rapid as emotions of heart; may all we are, and all we have, may all form one grand flow of repentance; and may 'the day of salvation, the day of the gladness of the heart, succeed that great and notable day of the Lord,' Isa. Ixix. 8. Cant. iii. 2. the distant prospect of which terrifies us, and the coming of which will involve the impenitent in hopeless destruction. May God him self form these dispositions within us! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
THE SUFFICIENCY OF REVELATION.
LUKE xvii. 27-31.
The rich man said, I pray thee, father Abraham, that thou wouldest send Lazarus to my father's house; for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unte them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Mosu and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
'LET no man say when he is tempted, I am surest ideas of the Supreme Being, so opposite tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted to his law, so incompatible with the purity of with evil, neither tempteth he any man.' those eyes, which cannot look on iniquity, Thus speaks St. James in the first chapter of Hab. i. 13. that it seems impossible it should his general epistle, ver. 13. The apostle pro- enter the mind of man; or, if there were any poses in general to humble his readers under in the time of St. James who entertained such a sense of their sins, and in particular to op- an opinion, they must have been monsters, pose that monstrous error, which taxes God who were stifled in their birth, and who have with injustice by making him the author of no followers in these latter ages. sin. This seems at first view quite needless, Alas! my brethren, let us learn to know at least, in regard to us. God the author of ourselves. Although this notion seems re sin! Odious supposition! So contrary to our pugnant to our reason at first, yet it is but
too true, we secretly adopt it; we revolve it in our minds; and we even avail ourselves of it to excuse our corruption and ignorance. As the study of truth requires leisure and labour, man, naturally indolent in matters of religion, usually avoids both; and, being at the same time inclined to evade a charge of guilt, and to justify his conduct, seeks the cause of his disorder in heaven, taxes God himself, and accuses him of having thrown such an impenetrable veil over truth, that it cannot be discovered; and of having placed virtue on the top of an eminence, so lofty and so craggy, that it cannot be attained. It is, therefore, necessary to oppose that doctrine against modern infidels, which the apostles opposed against ancient heretics; to publish, and to establish, in our auditories, the maxim of St. James, Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.
To this important end we intend to direct our meditation to-day; and to this the Saviour of the world directed the parable, the conclusion of which we have just now read to you. Our Saviour describes a man in misery, who, by soliciting Abraham to employ a new mean for the conversion of his brethren, tacitly exculpates himself, and seems to tax Providence with having formerly used only imperfect and improper means for his conversion. Abraham reprimands his audacity, and attests the sufficiency of the ordinary means of grace. Thus speaks our evangelist; The rich man said, I pray thee, father Abraham, that thou wouldest send Lazarus to my father's house; for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.'
Before we enter into a particular discussion of the subject, we will make two general observations, which are the ground of the whole discourse. The passage we have read to you seems at first an unnatural association of heterogeneous ideas: a disembodied, wicked man, in flames! ver. 24; a conversation between a miserable man in hell, and Abraham amidst angels in glory! compassion in a damned soul, revolving in the horrors of bell! The combination of these ideas does not appear natural, and therefore they necessarily put us on inquiring, Is this a bare history? Is it the relation of an event that actually came to pass, but coloured with borrowed imagery, which Jesus Christ, according to his usual custom, employed to convey to his hearers some important truth?
We shall enter no further at present into a discussion of these articles than the subject before us requires. Whether the Lord narrate a real history, as some pretend, because Lazarus is named, and because a circumstantial detail agrees better with real facts than with fiction: or whether the whole be a para
ble, which seems not unlikely, especially if, as some critics affirm,* some ancient manu.. scripts introduce the passage with these words, JESUS SPAKE A PARABLE, SAYING, There was a certain rich man,' and so on: or whether, as in many other cases, it be a mixture of real history, coloured with parabolical simile: which of these opinions soever we embrace (and, by the way, it is not of any great consequence to determine which is the true one,) our text, it is certain, cannot be taken in a strict literal sense. It cannot be said, either that the rich man in hell conversed with Abraham in heaven,or that he discovered any tenderness for his brethren. No, there is no communication, my brethren, between glorified saints and the prisoners whom the vengeance of God confines in hell. The great gulf that is fixed between them, prevents their approach to one another, and deprives them of all converse together Moreover, death which separates us from all the living, and from all the objects of our pas sions, effaces them from our memories, and detaches them from our hearts. And although the benevolence of the glorified saints may incline them to interest themselves in the state of the militant church, yet the torments of the damned exclude all concern from their minds, except that of their own tormenting horrors.
Our next observation is on the answer of Abraham; 'If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead,' What a paradox! Who would not be affected and converted, on seeing one return from the other world to attest the truth of the gospel? Could the tyrants of our days see the places where Nero, Dioclesian, and Decius, expiated their cruelties to the primitive Christians, would they persist in their barbarities? Were that proud son, who wastes in so much luxury the wealth that his father accumulated by his extortions, to behold his parent in devouring fire, would he dare to abandon himself to his stupid pleasures, and to retain a patrimony which was acquired with a curse? This dif ficulty is the more considerable, because Jesus Christ speaks to Jews. The Jews were less acquainted with the state of souls after death than Christians are. It should seem, the rising of a person from the dead, by increasing their knowledge on that article, would have been a much stronger motive to piety than all their ordinary means of revelation.
My brethren, this is one of those undeniable truths which, although some particular exception may be made to them, are yet strictly verified in the ordinary course of things. The precise meaning of our Saviour, if I mistake not, may be included in two propositions, of which, the one regards infidels, and the other libertines.
First, The revelation that God addresses to us has evidence of its truth sufficient to convince every reasonable creature who will take the pains to examine it.
Secondly, God has founded the gospel exhortations to virtue on motives the most proper to procure obedience.
See Dr. Mill's Greek Testament.
mon to be.
From these two propositions it follows, that, whose minds are fruitful in doubts and fears, men have no right to require either a clearer and who, after you have made a thousand revelation, or stronger motives to obey it: laborious researches, tremble lest you should and that, were God to indulge the unjust pre- have taken the semblance of truth for truth tensions of sinners; were he even to con- itself.) As many as have sinned without descend to send persons from the dead, to at- law, shall also perish without law;' that is to test the truth of the gospel, and to address say, without being judged by any law, us by new motives, it is probable, not to say which they have not received, That sercertain, that the new prodigy would neither vant, which knew his Lord's will, and preeffect the conviction of unbelievers, nor the pared not himself, neither did according to conversion of libertines. My text is an apo- his will, shall be beaten with more stripes, logy for religion, and such I intend this ser- than he who knew it not. It shall be more An apology for Christianity tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for the against the difficulties of infidels, and an cities in which Jesus Christ himself preached apology for Christianity against the subter- his Gospel,' Luke xii. 47; Matt. xi. 22. If fuges of libertines. Let us endeavour to con- it were granted, then, that such a prodigy as vince both, that he, who resists Moses and the the appearance of one risen from the dead prophets, or rather, Jesus Christ, the apos- would strike a stupid infidel, God is not tles, and the gospel (for we preach to a Chris- obliged to raise one; because he will regu tian auditory,) would not yield to any evi- late his judgment, not only by the nature of dence that might arise from the testimony of that revelation which was addressed to him, a person raised from the dead. If the obscurity but also by that portion of capacity which of revelation under the Mosaical economy was given him to comprehend it. I would seems to render the proposition in the text impress this observation on those savage less evident in regard to the Jews, we will souls, who act as if they were commissioned endeavour to remove this difficulty at the to dispense the treasures of divine justice, close of this discourse. and who are as liberal of the judgments of God as he is of his eternal mercy. No, my brethren, these are not 'the saints who shall judge the world,' 1 Cor. vi. 2. these are the
I. We begin with unbelievers, and we reduce them to five classes. The first consists of stupid infidels; the next of negligent infidels; the third of witty infidels; the fourthwicked and slothful servants,' who accuse is made up of those who are interested in in- their master of reaping where he hath not fidelity; and the last we call philosophical in- sown,' Matt. xxv. 24. The blessed God, who fidels. We affirm that the proposition of is less inclined to punish than to pardon, will Jesus Christ in the text, that it would not be never impute to his creatures the errors of just, that, in general, it would be useless, to an invincible ignorance. Without this conevoke the dead to attest the truth of revela- sideration, I own, although I am confirmed tion, is true in regard to these five classes of in believing my religion by the clearest eviunbelievers. dence, yet my conscience would be racked with continual fears, and the innumerable experiences I have had of the imperfection of my knowledge would fill me with horror and terror, even while in the sincerest manner I should apply my utmost attention to my salvation.
1. We place the stupid infidel in the first rank. By a stupid infidel we mean a person, whose genius is so small, that he is incapable of entering into the easiest arguments, and of comprehending the plainest discussions; whose dark and disordered mind perplexes and enslaves reason; and whom God seems to have placed in society chiefly for the sake of rendering the capacities of others more conspicuous. Unbelievers of this kind attend to the mysteries of Christianity with an incapacity equal to that which they discover in the ordinary affairs of life, and they refuse to believe, because they are incapable of perceiving motives of credibility. Have these people, you will ask, no right to require a revelation more proportional to their capacities; and may God, agreeably to exact rules of justice and goodness, refer them to the present revelation? To this we have two things to answer.
First, There would be some ground for this pretence, were God to exact of dull capacities a faith as great as that which he requires of great, lively, and capable minds. But the scriptures attest a truth that perfeetly agrees with the perfections of God; that is, that the number of talents, which God gives to mankind, will regulate the account which he will require of them in that great day when he will come to judge the As many as have sinned without law,' Rom. ii. 12. (remember these maxims, you faint and trembling consciences; you
We affirm, in the second place, that the fundamental truths of religion lie within the reach of people of the meanest capacities, if they will take the pains to examine them. This is one of the bases of our reformation. Happy protestants! (by the way) were you always to act consistently with your own principles, if, either by an obstinate heresy, or by an orthodoxy too scholastic, you were not almost always falling into one of these two extremes, either into that of renouncing Christianity, by explaining away its fundamental truths; or, if I may venture to speak so, into that of sinking it, by overloading it with the embarrassing disputes of the schools.
We say, then, that the fundamental points of Christianity lie within the reach of the narrowest capacities. The Christian religion teaches us, that God created the world. Does not this truth, which philosophy has established on so many abstract and metaphysical proofs, demonstrate itself to our minds, to our eyes, and to all our senses? Do not the innumerable objects of sense, which surround us, most emphatically announce the existence and the glory of the Creator? The Christian religion commands us to live holily. Does not this truth also demonstrate itself?
O day! which the Lord has made, let me for ever rejoice in thy light! O day of designs, resolutions, and promises, may I never forget thee! O day of consolation and grace, may a rich effusion of the peace of God on this auditory preserve thy memorial through a thousand generations!
comely only for the upright,' Ps. xxxiii. 1. | death-bed, and will enable your pastors to God, by our ministry, saith to thee, Thou open the gates of heaven to you, to commit wicked man! What hast thou to do to take your souls into the hands of the Redeemer, my covenant in thy mouth?' Ps. 1. 16. Why who ransomed it, and to say to you, Rememdoes that mouth now bless my name, and ber, on such a day your sins were effaced; then blaspheme it: now praise me, thy remember, on such a day Jesus Christ disCreator, and then defame my creatures: armed death; remember, on such a day the now publish my gospel, and then profane it? gate of heaven was opened to you. If, on the contrary, you live agreeably to the engagements into which you have entered to-day; what a day, what a day, my brethren, is this day! A day, in which you have performed the great work for which God formed you, and which is all that deserves the attention of an immortal soul. A day in which many impurities, many calumnies, many passionate actions, many perjuries, and many oaths, have been buried in everlasting silence. It is a day in which you have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; in which you have entered into fellowship with God; in which you have heard these triumphant shouts in the church, Grace, grace unto it,' Zech. iv. 7. A day in which you have been raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,' Eph. ii. 6. A day, the pleasing remembrance of which will follow you to your
Receive this peace, my dear brethren. I spread over you hands washed in the innocent blood of my Redeemer; and as our risen Lord Jesus Christ, when he appeared to his disciples, said to them, Peace, peace be unto you; so we, by his command, while we celebrate the memorable history of his resurrection, say to you, Peace, peace be unto you. As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God,' John xx. 19. 21; Gal vi. 16. To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
THE EFFUSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
ACTS ii. 37.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God,' Isa. xlix. 4. We must content ourselves with this thought, if our hearers have not been sanctified, they have been left without excuse; if God has not been glorified in their conver sion, he will be glorious in their destruction.
'SON of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation. They will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: yet thou shalt speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, and they shall know that there hath been a prophet among them,' Ezek. ii. 3. 5; iii. 7. 11. Thus God formerly forearmed Ezekiel against the greatest But how sad is this consolation! how mediscouragement that he was to meet with in lancholy is this encouragement! By conse his mission, I mean the unsuccessfulness of his crating our ministry to a particular society, ministry. For, my brethren, they are not on- we unite ourselves to the members of it by ly your ministers, who are disappointed in the tenderest ties, and whatever idea we the exercise of the ministry: the Isaiahs, have of the happiness which God reserves the Jeremiahs, the Ezekiels, are often as un- for us in a future state, we know not how to successful as we. In such melancholy cases, persuade ourselves that we can be perfectly we must endeavour to surmount the obstacles happy, when those Christians, whom we con which the obduracy of sinners opposes against sider as our brethren, and our children, are the dispensations of grace. We must shed plunged in a gulf of everlasting wo. If the tears of compassion over an ungrateful Jeru- angels of God rejoice over oue sinner that salem: and if, after we have used every pos- repenteth,' Luke xv. 10, what pleasure must sible mean, we find the corruption of our he feel, who has reason to hope that in this hearers invincible, we must be satisfied with valley of tears he has had the honour of the peace of a good conscience, we must opening the gate of heaven to a multitude of learn to say with the prophet, or rather with sinners, that he has saved himself, and them Jesus Christ, I have laboured in vain, I that heard him,' 1. Tim. iv. 16.