Page images
PDF
EPUB

SERMON VI.

A Farewell Discourse,

DELIVERED BY THE RT. REV. DANIEL WILSON, A. M.

BISHOP OF CALCUTTA,

TO HIS PARISHIONERS, AT ST. MARY'S, ISLINGTON.

" But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying for the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.- Jude 20, 21.

There is nothing more important than | Lord Jesus Christ:" and having described to maintain a consistent, elevated tone of in fearful terms the character and miserapractical piety. This is important, not ble end of such profane abusers of the only because it is that kind of religion gospel in the verses preceding the text, that most glorifies God, edifies our neigh- we have the prediction of the apostle as bour, and brings comfort to our own to the appearance of such seducers minds, but because it is the only means But, beloved, remember ye the words of securing ourselves against the seduc- which were spoken before of the apostles tions of erroneous teachers of our being of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they preserved amidst the snares and tempta- told you there should be mockers in the tions of the world and of Satan—and of last time, who should walk after their introducing us into God's heavenly king- own ungodly lusts. These be they who dom. Nor is the difficulty less than the separate themselves, sensual, having not importance of maintaining this high tone the Spirit.” And then the apostle introof practical religion. Nothing is so diffi- duces his main exhortation in the words cult as to act up to a holy, wise, scriptural which I have read, and in which he apstandard of religion. To a Christian, pears to me to point out a remedy for all nothing is so difficult as to rise above the the evils he had been deploring, in an habits and feelings generally prevalent in elevated and unvaried tone of spiritual the day in which we live: in fact, like religion centred in the love of God. most other valuable attainments, it is This is our subject, in pursuing which difficult in proportion as it is important. we shall follow our apostle,

In this view, I have thought that the First, IN DIRECTING YOUR ATTENTION TO subject presented to us in the words of THE MAIN POINT IN WHICH A TRULY ELEmy text (which is precisely that which I VATED AND CONSISTENT PRACTICAL RELIhave intimated), would not be an inap-GION CONSISTS—THE LOVE OF GOD: “KEEP propriate one on the occasion of my tak- YOURSELVES IN THE LOVE of God." ing farewell of my beloved flock and Secondly, WE SHALL CONSIDER THE CHIEF parish.

The apostle is exhorting the primitive WHICH THE APOSTLE RECOMMENDS_FAITH converts to contend against the false AND PRAYER: “BUT YE, BELOVED, BUILDteachers who had “ crept in unawares, ING UP YOURSELVES ON YOUR MOST HOLY and turned the grace of God into lasci. FAITH, PRAYING IN THE Holy Ghost." viousness, and denied the only God and our And this will lead us, in the last place,

MEANS OF ATTAINING THIS MAIN POINT

TO CONSIDER THE INSPIRING ENCOURAGE- | nation of the Holy Spirit, he begins to MENT WHICH HE PRESENTS TO ANIMATE US | discover that the main point of his aposIN THE PURSUIT TO WHICH HE INVItes us, tasy consisted in his having an alienated, AND THAT IS ETERNAL LIFE: “LOOKING FOR estranged, and apostate heart; and by deTHE MERCY OF our Lord Jesus CHRIST grees he discerns what claims Almighty UNTO ETERNAL LIFE."

God has on his creatures' hearts-what And now may God be pleased to assist infinite perfections the Almighty possesus, that our minds may be calm and col- ses, which constitutes the just object of lected, that we may be preserved from his creature's love—what infinite benefits the great danger of looking for any bless- he has moreover bestowed, which increase ing from the occasion itself, from the ex- those original claims of the divine excel. citement of feeling in itself; this, that, lency. He perceives by degrees that he is or the other circumstance of itself. None bound to love God, because God is the best of these things, nor all of them, can im- of beings, because he has been to him the part any solid blessing; it is only when most munificent of benefactors. But espewe look through them, and above them, cially the love of God, in the gift of a to the God and Saviour of all, that we Saviour, to die for guilty man, fills the can hope for any blessing from this or penitent with admiration, and draws forth any other discourse addressed by a min- deep convictions of his guilt, in never havister of the gospel to such feeble creatures ing loved this God, who hath so loved the as men.

world. In this way he comes back to his In considering, then, the importance of God and Father; and in proportion as his maintaining a high and scriptural tone of mind is rendered peaceable by the applipractical piety, let me, with our apostle, cation to his conscience of the atoning direct your attention,

blood of Christ, and a sense of the forFirst, to THE MAIN POINT IN WHICH giveness of his sins-in proportion as TAAT ELEVATED TONE AND STANDARD OF there is established something like a tranPRACTICAL PIETY CONSISTS—AND IT IS IN quil state of mind by the operations and THE ARDENT, UNDECAYING LOVE of God influence of redeeming grace, so the man IN THE HEART. “But YE, BELOVED, KEEP begins to love God, and in this begins the YOURSELVES IN THE LOVE OF God." Per- sum and substance of his religion. He severe, guard your hearts from decays in who loved every thing but God, now love's that main affection ; keep up a high and God above every thing, and every thing genuine flame of holy love to Almighty in subordination to God. 6 God is love,'" God continually and unfeignedly, in all is now the doctrine, and sum, and subits principles and all its affections and stance of the penitent's language-"God consequences, in your souls.

is love; and he that dwelleth in love Man was made to love God and to glo- dwelleth in God, and God in him.” rify him. Adam in paradise loved God This now becomes the object of his perfectly, and found in that love his hap- pursuit, his continual aim, the point to piness and his honour. When man fell, which his vigilance is directed, the topic he lost his love to God; and he began to of his vigilant thoughts and meditations. love, with an idolatrous attachment, car. He aims to have such a sense of God's nal and sensible objects, external nature, love to him, as may bind his soul to God the secular concerns of life, ambition, in return; leading him to serve him, to glory, fame, his family, his children, him- desire to please him, to delight in him as self. The sum of the moral law is, “ thou the source of felicity, to find all his hapshalt love the Lord thy God with all piness in him, to walk under a sense of thine heart, and all thy soul, and all thy his favour, to enjoy the light of his counstrength, and all thy mind;" and when tenance, to rejoice and solace himself in the penitent is brought back to God in God as his exceeding joy. He desires, true contrition and brokenness of heart, so far as he can fulfil his purpose of mind, and the mist and confusion hovering over to feel no pleasure but in communion with a fallen state are dissipated by the illumi-God, in the conviction of his presence

entering his soul, in the society of his holy | every thing else will go on right: but if people, and in every expression that be- love decline, if the heart be open to every comes him as being under infinite obliga- evil, if the understanding be ungarrisoned, tions to divine love. With these views as it were, and the love of God be absent he seeks to render a moral obedience to from the heart and affections, then the the ten commandments, the fulfilment of first seducer finds it an easy prey; and every relative duty, and the conscientious then, if those arise that creep in unawares discharge of all his various obligations. and turn the grace of our God into lascivi. Every thing, in short, that pleases God is ousness on the one hand, or deny our only a part and parcel of the love of God. “He Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ on that hath my commandments and keepeth the other, the heart has but little guard them, he it is that loveth me." This it has but little from the education of early is the love of God, that we keep his com- instruction, and the remains of conscience. mandments."

What an amazing blessing is a national Again; The avoidance of all that dis- church! It upholds all the doctrines of pleases God, the mortification of inward the gospel, and all the framework of and outward sense, the separation from Christianity, and does not leave us to the world which extinguishes the love of the moving sands of human passions. It God, so that “if any man love the world, is well if the man be kept in the way at the love of the Father is not in him”- all, by the sacraments and by the means separation, I say, from the world, in its of grace; but without the love of God he amusements, vanities, companions, max. has no inward guard. You will ever find ims, spirit-separation, I repeat it the that those who go away into any of the third time, from the world, the love of superstitious novelties, corruptions, fol. which constitutes of itself enmity to God lies, and extravagances of any particular -all this is included in the love of God. day, are those in whom the love of God This, in fact, as you have heard me de- is declining in the heart; and be it rememclare, brethren, from my lips I trust a bered that our own day is not different hundred and a hundred times, is the sum from others, and that what we observe is of all religion. That which was the sum merely the last edition of Satan's follies ; of natural religion before man fell, was for they have been continually published. the love of God; that which constitutes From the very first moment that the heaven is the love of God, and the whole authentic book of God came out into the of the gospel, as I shall presently have world, Satan's surreptitious editions have occasion to show, is a remedial dispensa- been ever attempting to palm themselves tion to bring us back to that which we upon the church. lost, the love of God. This prepares us Then it is in this way, brethren, that for that which nothing but the blood of we are to keep ourselves : “ Keep yourChrist and the power of the Holy Spirit selves in the love of God.” Let nothing can prepare, us for—the perfect love of else satisfy you; never let the world draw God in heaven.

you off from this high ground; labour to Again; The elevated tone of a scrip-rise higher and higher in the scriptural tural piety centres here, that you keep love of God, in this principle, in its proper yourselves —" keep yourselves, beloved, effects, in all its experience, till it comes in the love of God.” Guard against those down to the ten commandments, and has declines which are perpetually coming its fruit in holy lives, righteous conduct, on; watch, lest the flame languish and upright demeanour, and a loving, gracious expire; guard it with a holy jealousy, as temper-temper and spirit formed by the the priests did the fire on the altar of old. love of God. There are many, beloved, Here is the great secret of maintaining a that go some length in religion, but do not scriptural, consistent, evangelical piety in come up to this point, nor do they aim at it. the heart and conduct. Our religion is There are, it is to be feared, too many that as our hearts are. If we really love God are content with the common run of reliabove all things, and walk in his love, I gious feeling and evangelical practice, but

66

never think of rising up to the real stand- examine their hearts, will find themselves ard of Scripture in the prevailing, supreme in this state. Young people, I ask you, love of God in the heart. Keep your have you ever thought in your lives, seriselves therefore, beloved, in the love of ously and practically, of proposing this God.” It is, indeed, God alone who can main point as the end of your religion ? keep the feet of his saints. The Chris- My prayer this morning is, to gain every tians are described in the beginning of heart that is within the hearing of this the epistles as “the preserved in Christ voice, to the love of God; and if there be Jesus.” It is God only that is able to any present destitute of it, however opkeep us from falling, and we are kept by posed, however they may resist, howhis power through faith unto salvation. ever prejudiced, however ignorant, here But still we are to keep ourselves. That is the object I have in view this morning, is the way that Scripture puts things. We to put them in the way of discerning what are to be diligent in the use of all the ap- is the main scope of practical religion, pointed means, to be active as reasonable and then of beginning to seek it. And I and accountable creatures. “ He that is have another design, which is, that all of born of God sinneth not; but he that is us who have any measure of this sacred begotten of God keepeth himself, and affection may have it kindled to a brighter that wicked one toucheth him not.” “ As flame; that we may be humbled in the the Father hath loved me,” says the Sa- dust under the petty measure of our habiviour, " so have I loved you: continue tual love to God; that we may be preparye in my love”—that is, keep yourselves ing and seeking more and more to know _"continue ye in my love. If ye keep ourselves. From henceforth to your my commandments, ye shall abide in my dying hour “ keep yourselves in the love love; even as I have kept my Father's of God.” commandments, and abide in his love." But you will naturally ask, Wliat are

Now, brethren, how far have we acted the appointed means?—what are the on this great principle during the course chief methods by which, in a world of of the ministry which is now terminating sin like ours, we can pursue this high in this particular part of our Lord's vine attainment ? yard? How far have I succeeded, and This is our Second point. The chief my brother ministers, in our public and MEANS OF ATTAINING THIS HIGH AND LOFTY private instructions, in bringing you up STANDARD OF PRACTICAL PIETY, and these to this point, of receiving and understands are faith and prayer—faith, as to the paring in what essential religion consists ? ticular doctrines of revelation on which I apprehend, take the world in general, the gospel rests-prayer, as to the strength they know not what the love of God and consolation of the Spirit which the means; nor what it is to have the heart gospel promises. Building up yourfilled with it; nor what is the standard selves in your most holy faith, praying Scripture proposes. They satisfy them- in the Holy Ghost.” selves with some mere carnal expression Religion in the heart of man is here of admiration of God's goodness-God compared to a building, the foundation of the moral governor and God the judge; which is faith in Christ. That is the but as to any distinct and practical idea of foundation of heavenly truth which faith the love of God in the operations of his embraces and builds upon as the foundagrace upon the heart; the holy flame of tion of that spiritual edifice laid in the contemplation of his divine excellences, human heart by regenerating and sanctithe memory of his mercies—the labour to fying grace. This faith is not a mere keep the heart by prayer, by meditation, by assent, a mere historical notion, a mere secret devotion, by the study of the Scrip- agreement with a national creed, a mere tures, as well as by the sacraments and not opposing certain practical truths, but the means of grace, they are totally igno- it is a spiritual, holy affection, wrought rant of it. Why, there are many before in the heart by the blessed Spirit. 6. Ho us, I cannot but fear, if they will honestly that hath received his testimony hath set

66

ness."

to his seal that God is true." “With God; that corruption and alienation of the the heart man believeth unto righteous- heart which is enmity against the scrip

“For by grace are ye saved tural character and government of God; through faith, and that nct of your- the false estimate of virtue and religion selves:”—the faith is not of ourselves- prevalent in the world; the vain and in“it is the gift of God.” Unto you it is sufficient sparks and spangles, as it were, given on behalf of Christ to believe on of piety, of which the world glories and him. The doctrine thus received by an boasts, all this revelation lays open and obedient faith is laid straightway as the makes known as the disease. It comes foundation of the divine building in the as a faithful physician, and instead of soul. The whole revelation made by Al- skinning over the wound as the empiric mighty God to man in his word is that would do, and as all false religions do, which faith embraces, seizing, grasping, Christianity probes the corrupt sore, and then applying to its proper purpose. opens it to the very bottom, deepens it, There is the foundation of the spiritual and puts the patient to increased pain for building.

the moment; but it is in order to pour in But this faith more especially relates the heavenly balm, to begin an effectual to two great points of revealed religion and a permanent cure, to raise to health, the fall and the recovery of man. What to vigour, to peace, to joy, to soundness is your Bible? It contains the fall and in future life. The doctrine of the fall the recovery of man. What is the gos- may, indeed, be overstated, and so may pel? It contains the fall and the recovery every thing else. It may be so put, in of man. What are the great means by the heat of controversy, as to appear to which all the operations of God and the deny man's responsibility—the faint redesigns of benevolence are to be accom- mains of moral feeling which he posplished ? By the knowledge of the fall sesses—the duty of exciting him and urgand the recovery of man.

ing him to act as an accountable beingNatural religion is the love of God. I the capacities of restoration which still mean by natural religion, not the religion hang about him; but in its genuine scripthat man can practice in a fallen state, tural tenor, as laid down in the Holy but that which was adapted to man before Bible, and as laid down also in the artithe fall, and results from the primary cle of our own church upon original or quality of his nature—that essential rela- birth sin, it is essential to the entrance of tion between such a creature as man, and all truth. Till this is learned, nothing is such a glorious being as God in every learned; but the moment the penitent sinpossible circumstance in which their ner begins to discover his state by nature relation may vary. That is an intelligi- as a transgressor, not merely against his ble meaning ; Bishop Butler and all the fellow-creatures, not merely from the greatest writers use the expression, “na- miserable consequences of sin, not merely tural religion," in that sense. Then because he feels the lapse of rectitude, revealed religion is all the system, which and the disappointment of hope, but beI am now going to mention, of revealed cause he has sinned against God, because truth, all the particular scheme of re- his heart is apostate and in rebellion demption, which is the remedy for bring- against his Maker, and his Redeemer, ing man back from the fallen state into and his Lord, that moment the man is which he had lapsed, and for raising him prepared for the gospel. Tell him of the again partially in this world, and com- name of Jesus, hold up the light of the pletely in another, to the love of God for gospel to his now darkened and benighted which he was formed, and without which soul-because the vain, flowery vision, he can neither be happy here nor here- and the magical arts of Satan, have been after.

now extinguished—and the man feels the Man is ruined by sin; the wrath of Al- darkness in which he is groping; tell him mighty God in which he lies by nature; now, that the Son of God came down the evil nature of sin as committed against from heaven to o reconcile the world unto

VOL. I.-11

« PreviousContinue »