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truths: but public offences merit public reproofs, whatever shame may cover the guilty, or however eminent and elevated their post may be. We know not a sacred head, when we see the name of blasphemy written on it,' Rev. xiii. 1. But the ignominy of such reproof, say ye, will debase a man in the sight of the people, whom the people ought to respect, and will disturb the peace of society. But who is responsible for this disturbance, he who reproves viee, or he who commits it? And ought not he, who abandons himself to vice, rather to avoid the practice of it, than he who censures such a conduct, to cease to censure it? If any claim the power of imposing silence on us, on this article, let him produce his right, let him publish his pretensions; let him distribute among those, who have been chosen to ascend this pulpit, lists of the vices which we are forbidden to censure; let him signify the law, that commands the reproving of the offences of the poor, but forbids that of the crimes of the rich; that allows us to censure men without credit, but prohibits us to reprove people of reputation. 2. A pastor ought to have this precept before his eyes in his private visits. Let him not publish before a whole congregation a secret sin; but let him paint it in all its horrid colours with the same privacy with which it was committed. To do this is the principal design of those pastoral visits, which are made among this congregation, to invite the members of it to the Lord's Supper. There a minister of truth ought to trouble that false peace, which impunity nourishes in the souls of the guilty. There he ought to convince people, that the hiding of crimes from the eyes of men, cannot conceal them from the sight of God. There he ought to make men tremble at the idea of that eye, from the penetration of which neither the darkness of the night, nor the most impenetrable depths of the heart can conceal any thing.
Our ideas of a minister of Jesus Christ, are not formed on our fancies, but on the descriptions which God has given us in his word, and on the examples of the holy men who went before us in the church, whose glorious steps we wish (although, alas! so far inferior to these models,) whose glorious steps we wish to follow. See how these sacred men announced the truth: Hear Samuel to Saul: Wherefore didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord. Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold! to obey is better than sacrifice; and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry,' 1 Sam. xv. 19. 22. Behold Nathan before David. Thou art the man. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from thine house. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine
eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun,' 2 Sam. xii. 7-12. See Elijah before Ahab, who said to him, 'Art thou he that troubleth Israel? I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim,' 1 Kings xviii. 17, 18; and not to increase this list by quoting examples from the New Testament, see Jeremiah Never was a minister more gentle. Never was a heart more sensibly affected with grief than his at the bare idea of the calamities of Jerusalem. Yet were there ever more terrible descriptions of the judgments of God, than those which this prophet gave? When we need any fiery darts to wound certain sinners, it is he who must furnish them. He often speaks of nothing but sackcloth and ashes, lamentation and wo. He announces nothing but mortality, famine, and slavery. He represents the earth without form, and void,' returned, as. it were, to its primitive chaos; the heavens destitute of light; the mountains trembling; the hills moving lightly.' He cannot find a man; Carmel is a wilderness,' and the whole world a desolation. All the inhabitants of Jerusalem seem to him climbing up upon the rocks,' or running into thickets to hide themselves from the horsemen and the bowmen. When he strives to hold his peace, his heart maketh a noise in him,' Jer. vi. 22, 24. 26. 29. His whole imagination is filled with bloody images. He is distorted, if I may speak so, with the poison of that cup of vengeance, which was about to be presented to the whole earth. A minister announcing nothing but maledictions, seems a conspirator against the peace of a kingdom. Jeremiah was accused of holding a correspondence with the king of Babylon. It was pretended, that either hatred to his country, or a melancholy turn of mind, produced his sorrowful prophecies: nothing but punishment was talked of for him, and, at length, he was confined in a 'miry dungeon,' chap. xxxviii. 6. In that filthy dungeon the love of truth supported him.
3. But, when a pastor is called to attend a dying person, he is more especially called to remember this precept of Solomon, Sell not the truth.' On this article, my brethren, I wish to know the most accessible paths to your hearts; or rather, on this article, my brethren, I wish to find the unknown art of uniting all your hearts, so that every one of our hearers might receive, at least, from the last periods of this discourse, some abiding impressions. In many dying people a begun work of conversion is to be finished. Others are to be comforted under the last and most dangerous attacks of the enemy of their sal vation, who terrifies them with the fear of death. In regard to others, we must endeavour to try whether our last efforts to reclaim them to God will be more successful then all our former endeavours. Can any reason be assigned to counterbalance the motives which urge us to speak plainly in these circumstances? A soul is ready to perish; the sentence is preparing; the irrevocable voice, Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire,' wit
presently sound; the gulfs of hell yawn; the devils attend to seize their prey. One single method remains to be tried: the last exhortations and efforts of a pastor. He cannot entertain the least hope of success, unless he unveil mysteries of iniquity, announce odious truths, attack prejudices, which the dy ing man continues to cherish, even though eternal torments are following close at their heels. Wo be to us if any human consideration stop us on these pressing occasions, and prevent our making the most of this, the last
It belongs to you, my brethren, to render this last act of our office to you practicable. It belongs to you to concur with your pastors in sending away company, that we may open our hearts to you, and that you may open yours to us. Those visiters, who, under pretence of collecting the last words of an expiring man, cramp, and interrupt him, who would prepare him to die, should repress their unseasonable zeal. If, when we require you to speak to us alone, on your death-bed, we are animated with any human motive; if we aim to penetrate into your family secrets; if we wish to share your estate; pardon traitors, assassins, and the worst of mur derers; but let national justice inflict all its rigours on those, who abuse the weakness of a dying man, and, in functions so holy, are animated with motives so profane. In all cases, except in this one, we are ready to oblige you. A minister, on this occasion, ought not only not to fall, he ought not to stumble. But how can you expect that, in the presence of a great number of witnesses, we should fully expatiate on some truths to a sinner? Would you advise us to tell an immodest woman of the excesses to which she had abandoned herself, in the presence of an easy, credulous husband? Would you have us, in the presence of a whole family, discover the shame of its head?
Here I finish this meditation. I love to close all my discourses with ideas of death.
Nothing is more proper to support those, who experience the difficulties that attend the path of virtue, than thinking that the period is at hand, which will terminate the path, and reward the pain. Nothing is more proper to arouse others, than thinking that the same period will quickly imbitter their wicked pleasures.
Let every person, of each order to which the text is addressed, take the pains of applying it to himself. May the meanness of flatterers; may the pious frauds of indiscreet zealots; may the fear of persecution, and the love of the present world, which makes such deep impressions on the minds of apostates and Nicodemites; may the partiality of judges; may the sinful circumspection of statesmen, may all the vices be banished from among us. Above all, we who are ministers of truth! let us never disguise truth; let us love truth: let us preach truth; let us preach it in this pulpit; let us preach it in our private visits; let us preach it by the bed-sides of the dying. In such a course we may safe ly apply to ourselves, in our own dying-beds, the words of those prophets and apostles, with whom we ought to concur in the work of the ministry, in the perfecting of the saints. 1 have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. I have kept back nothing, that was profitable. I have taught publicly, and from house to house. I am pure from the blood of all men. I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. O my God! I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy loving kindness, and thy truth, from the great congregation. Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord; let thy loving kindness and thy truth continually preserve them,' Eph. iv. 12; Acts xx. 33, 20. 26, &c. Amen.
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF JESUS CHRIST IN THE CHURCH.
ROMANS XIV. 7, 8.
None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For, whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or, whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's.
THESE words are general maxim, which St. Paul lays down for the decision of a particular controversy. We cannot well enter into the apostle's meaning, unless we understand the particular subject, which led him to express himself in this manner. Our first reflections, therefore, will tend to explain the subject; and afterward we will extend our
meditations to greater objects. We will attend to the text in that point of view, in which those Christians are most interested, who have repeatedly engaged to devote themselves wholly to Jesus Christ; to consecrate to him through life, and to commit to him at death, not only with submission, but also with joy, those souls, over which he has ac
quired the noblest right. Thus shall we verify, in the most pure and elevated of all senses, this saying of the apostle; none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For, whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or, whether we die, we die unto the Lord whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's.'
St Paul proposes in the text, and in some of the preceding and following verses, to establish the doctrine of toleration. By toleration, we mean, that disposition of a Christian, which on a principle of benevolence, inclines him to hold communion with a man, who through weakness of mind, mixes with the truths of religion some errors, that are not entirely incompatible with it; and with the New Testament worship some ceremonies, which are unsuitable to its elevation and simplicity, but which, however, do not destroy its essence.
Retain every part of this definition, for each is essential to the subject defined. I say that he who exercises toleration, acts on a principle of benevolence; for were he to act on a principle of indolence, or, of contempt for religion, his disposition of mind, far from being a virtue worthy of praise, would be a vice fit only for execration. To leration, I say, is to be exercised towards him only who errs through weakness of mind; for he, who persists in his error through arrogance, and for the sake of rending the church, deserves rigorous punishment. I say, farther, that he, who exercises toleration, does not confine himself to praying for him who is the object of it, and to endeavour to reclaim him, he proceeds farther, and holds communion with him; that is to say, he assists at the same religious exercises, and partakes of the Lord's Supper at the same table. Without this communion, can we consider him whom we pretend to tolerate, as a brother in the sense of St. Paul? I add finally, erroneous sentiments, which are tolerated, must be compatible with the great truths of religion; and observances, which are tolerated must not destroy the essence of evangelical worship, although they are incongruous with its simplicity and glory. How can I assist in a service, which, in my opinion, is an insult on the God whom I adore? How can I approach the table of the Lord, with a man who rejects all the mysteries which God exhibits there? and so of the rest. Retain, then, all the parts of this definition, and you will form a just notion of toleration.
This moderation, always necessary among Christians, was particularly so in the primitive ages of Christianity. The first churches were composed of two sorts of proselytes; some of them were born of Jewish parents, and had been educated in Judaism, others were converted from paganism; and both, generally speaking, after they had embraced Christianity, preserved some traces of the religions which they had renounced. Some of them retained scruples, from which just notions of Christian liberty, it should seem, might have freed them. They durst not eat some foods which God gave for the nourishment of mankind, I mean, the flesh of ani
mals, and they ate only herbs. They set apart certain days for devotional exercises: not from that wise motive, which ought to engage every rational man to take a portion of his life from the tumult of the world, in order to consecrate it to the service of his Creator; but from I know not what notion of pre-eminence, which they attributed to some days above others. Thus far all are agreed in regard to the design of St. Paul in the text.
Nor is there any difficulty in determining which of the two orders of Christians of whom we spoke, St. Paul considers as an object of toleration; whether that class, which came from the gentiles, or that, which came from the Jews. It is plain, the last was intended. Every body knows that the law of Moses ordained a great number of feasts under the penalty of the great anathema. It was very natural for the converted Jews to retain a fear of incurring that penalty, which followed the infraction of those laws, and to carry their veneration for those festivals too far.
There was one whole sect among the Jews, that abstained entirely from the flesh of animals; they were the Essenes. Josephus expressly affirms this; and Philo assures us, that their tables were free from every thing that had blood, and were served only with bread, salt, and hyssop. As the Essenes professed a severity of manners, which had some likeness to the morality of Jesus Christ, it is probable, many of them embraced Chris tianity, and in it interwove a part of the peculiarities of their own sect.
I do not think, however, that St. Paul had any particular view to the Essenes, at least, we are not obliged to suppose, that his views were confined to them. All the world know, that Jews have an aversion to blood. A Jew, exact in his religion, does not eat flesh, even to the present day, with Christians, lest the latter should not have taken sufficient care to discharge the blood. When, therefore, St. Paul describes converted Jews by their scrupulosity in regard to the eating of blood, he does not speak of what they did in their own families, but of what they prac tised, when they were invited to a convivial repast with people, who thought themselves free from the prohibition of eating blood, whether they were gentiles yet involved in the darkness of paganism, or gentile converts to Christianity. Thus far our subject is free from difficulty.
The difficulty lies in the connexion of the maxim in the text with the end, which St. Paul proposes in establishing it What relation is there between Christian toleration and this maxim? None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. How does it follow from this principle, whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or, whether we die, we die unto the Lord,' how does it follow from this principle, that we ought to tolerate those, who through the weakness of their minds, mix some errors with the grand truths of Christianity, and with the New Testament worship some ceremonies, which obscure its simplicity and debase its glory?
The solution lies in the connexion of the
text with the foregoing verses, and particularly with the fourth verse, Who art thou, that judgest another man's servant?' To judge in this place does not signify to discern, but to condemn. The word has this meaning in a hundred passages of the New Testament. I confine myself to one passage for example. If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged,' 1 Cor. xi. 31; that is to say, if we would condemn ourselves at the tribunal of repentance, after we have partaken unworthily of the Lord's Supper, we should not be condemned at the tribunal of divine justice. In like manner, 'Who art thou, that judgest another man's servant?' is as much as to say, who art thou that condemnest St. Paul meant to make the Christians of Rome understand, that it belonged only to the sovereign of the church to absolve or to condemn, as he saw fit. But who is the Supreme head of the church? Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ, who, with his Father, is over all, God blessed for ever,' Rom. ix. 5. Jesus Christ, by dying for the church, acquired this supremacy, and in virtue of it, all true Christians render him the homage of adoration. All this is clearly expressed by our apostle, and gives us an occasion to treat of one of the most abstruse points of Christian theology.
That Jesus Christ is the supreme head of the church, according to the doctrine of St. Paul, is expressed by the apostle in the most clear and explicit manner; for after he has said, in the words of the text, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's,' he adds immediately, for to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.'
That this Jesus, whose,' the apostle says, 'we are,' is God, the apostle does not permit us to doubt; for he confounds the expressions to eat to the Lord,' and to give God thanks;' to 'stand before the judgment seat of Christ,' and to give account of himself to God;' to be 'Lord both of the dead and living, ver. 6. 10. 12; and this majestic lan guage, which would be blasphemy in the mouth of a simple creature, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.' ver.
Finally, That Jesus Christ acquired that Supremacy by his sufferings and death, in virtue of which all true Christians render him the homage of adoration, the apostle establishes, if possible, still more clearly. This appears by the words just now cited, to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living, ver. 8. 11. To the same purpose the apostle speaks in the epistle to the Philippians, He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.' This is the sovereignty which Jesus Christ acquired by dying for the church.
But the most remarkable, and at the same time the most difficult article on this subject, is this. These texts, which seem to establish the divinity of Christ in a manner so clear, furnish the greatest objection that has ever been proposed against it. True, say the enemies of this doctrine, Jesus Christ is God, since the Scripture commands us to worship him. But his divinity is an acquired divinity; since that supremacy, which entitles him to adoration as God, is not an essential, but an acquired supremacy. Now, that this supremacy is acquired is indubitable, since the texts that have been eited, expressly declare, that it is a fruit of his sufferings and death. We have two arguments to offer in reply. 1. If it were demonstrated, that the supremacy established in the forecited texts was only acquired, and not essential, it would not therefore follow, that Jesus Christ had no other supremacy belonging to him in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We are commanded to worship Jesus Christ, not only because he died for us, but also because he is eternal and almighty, the author of all beings that exist and because he has all the perfections of Deity; as we can prove by other passages, not necessary to be repeated here.
2. Nothing hinders that the true God, who, as the true God, merits our adoration, should acquire every day new rights over us, in virtue of which we have new motives of rendering those homages to him, which we acknowledge he always infinitely merited. Always when God bestows a new blessing, he acquires a new right. What was Jacob's opinion, when he made this vow? If God will be with me, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God,' Gen. xxviii. 20, &c. Did the patriarch mean, that he had no other reason for regarding the Lord as his God than this favour, which he asked of him? No such thing. He meant, that to a great many reasons, which bound him to devote himself to God, the favour which he asked would add a new one. It would be easy to produce a long list of examples of this kind. At present the application of this one shall suffice. Jesus Christ who as supreme God has natural rights over us, has also acquired rights, because he has designed to clothe himself with our flesh, in which he died to redeem us. None of us his own, we are all his, not only because he is our Creator, but because he is also our Redeemer. He has a supremacy over us peculiar to himself, and distinct from that which he has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
To return then to our principal subject, from which this long digression has diverted us. This Jesus, who is the Supreme Head of the church; this Jesus, to whom all the members of the church are subject; willeth that we should tolerate, and he himself has tolerated, those, who, having in other cases an upright conscience, and a sincere intention of submitting their reason to all his decisions, and their hearts to all his commands, cannot clearly see, that Christian liberty in
cludes a freedom from the observation of certain feasts, and from the distinction of certain foods. If the sovereign of the church tolerate them, who err in this manner, by what right do you, who are only simple subjects, undertake to condemn them? Who art thou, that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and, whether we die, we die unto the Lord whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's. Let us not therefore judge one another any more. Let us, who are strong, bear the infirmities of the weak.' This is the design of St. Paul in the words of my text, in some of the preceding, and in some of the following verses. Can we proceed without remarking, or without lamenting, the blindness of those Christians, who, by their intolerance to their brethren, seem to have chosen for their model those members of the church of Rome, who violate the rights of toleration in the most cruel manner? We are not speaking of those sanguinary men, who aim at illuminating people's minds with the light of fires, and faggots, which they kindle against all, who reject their systems. Our tears, and our blood, have assuaged their rage, how can we then think to appease it by our exhortations? Let us not solicit the wrath of Heaven against these persecutors of the church; let us leave to the souls of them who were slain for the word of God, to cry, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? Rev. vi. 10.
But, ye intestine divisions! Thou spirit of faction! Ye theological wars! how long will ye be let loose among us? Is it possible that Christians, who bear the name of reformed, Christians united by the bond of their faith in the belief of the same doctrines, and, if I may be allowed to speak so, Christians united by the very efforts of their enemies to destroy them; can they violate, after all, those laws of toleration, which they have so often prescribed to others, and against the violation of which they have remonstrated with so much wisdom and success? Can they convoke ecclesiastical assemblies? Can they draw up canons? Can they denounce excommunications and anathemas against those, who retaining with themselves the leading truths of Christianity and of the reformation, think differently on points of simple speculation, on questions purely metaphysical, and, if I may speak the whole, on matters so abstruse, that they are alike indeterminable by them, who exclude members from the communion of Jesus Christ, and by those who are excluded? O ye sons of the reformation! how long will you counteract your own principles? how long will you take pleasure in increasing the number of those, who breathe only your destruction, and move only to destroy you? O ye subjects of the Sovereign of the church! how long will you encroach on the rights of your sovereign, dare to condemn those whom he absolves, and to reject those, whom his generous benevolence tolerates? Who art
thou that judgest another man's servant? for none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For, whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and, whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's.'
What we have said shall suffice for the subject, which occasioned the maxim in the text. The remaining time I devote to the consideration of the general sense of this maxim. It lays before us the condition, the engagements, the inclination, and the felicity of a Christian. What is the felicity of a Christian, what is his inclination, what are his engagements, what is his condition? They are not to be his own but to say, whether I live, or die, I am the Lord's.' The whole that we shall propose to you, is contained in these four articles.
I. The text lays before us the primitive condition of a Christian. It is a condition of dependance. None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.'
None of us liveth to himself, for whether we live, we live unto the Lord.' What do we possess, during our abode upon earth, which does not absolutely depend on him who placed us here? Our existence is not ours; our fortune is not ours; our reputation is not ours; our virtue is not ours; our reason is not ours; our health is not ours; our life is not ours.
Our existence is not ours. A few years ago we found ourselves in this world, constituting a very inconsiderable part of it. A few years ago the world itself was nothing. The will of God alone has made a being of this nothing, as he can make this being a nothing, whenever he pleases to do so.
Our fortune is not ours. The most optlent persons often see their riches make themselves wings, and fly away. Houses, the best established, disappear in an instant. We have seen a Job, who had possessed seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and servants with out number; we have seen the man who had been the greatest of all the men of the east, lying on on a dunghill, retaining nothing of his prosperity but a sorrowful remembrance, which aggravated the adversities that followed it.
Our reputation is not ours. One single frailty sometimes tarnishes a life of the most unsullied beauty. One moment's absence sometimes debases the glory of the most profound politician, of the most expert general, of a saint of the highest order. A very diminutive fault will serve to render contemp tible, yea, infamous, the man who committed it; and to make him tremble at the thought of appearing before men, who have no other advantage over him than that of having committed the same offence more fortunately; I mean, of having concealed the commission of it from the eyes of their fellow-creatures.
Our virtue is not ours. nity is often the cause why one, who openWant of opportu. ly professes Christianity, is not an apostate; another an adulterer; another a murderer.