« السابقةمتابعة »
BY THE REV. JOSEPH SUTCLIFFE.
Saurin's Sermons, one hundred and sixty- | with the duties they owe to God; we see a meeight in number, are comprised in twelve vo-tropolis, in which it is estimated that not more lumes. I have read them with edification and than one adult out of fifteen attends any place delight. Actuated by these sentiments, I of divine worship. Ought not ministers so cirdoubted whether I could better employ my cumstanced, to take the alarm, and to weep leisure moments than in preparing an additional for the desolations of the sanctuary? If impiety volume, to those already before the English and effeminacy were, confessedly, the causes reader.
of the desolation of Greece and Rome, ought The three Discourses on the Delay of Con- we not to be peculiarly alarmed for our counversion, are a masterly performance, and in try? and while our brave warriors are defendgeneral, a model of pulpit eloquence. They ing it abroad, endeavour to heal at home the are not less distinguished by variety and evils which corrode the vitals? Ought we not strength of argument, than by pathos and unc- to adopt a mode of preaching like that which tion: and they rise in excellence as the reader first subdued the enemies of the cross. If our proceeds. Hence, I fully concur in opinion former mode of preaching has failed of effect; with Dupont, and the succeeding editors, who if the usual arguments from Scripture have no have given the first place to these Discourses: weight; ought we not to modify those argumy sole surprise is, that they were not trans- ments according to existing circumstances, lated before. Whether they were reserved to that, fighting the sinner on the ground of ornament a future volume, or whether the ad- reason, and maintaining the rights of God at dresses to the unregenerate were deemed too the bar of conscience, we may vanquish the severe and strong, I am unable to determine. infidelity of his heart The wound must be By a cloud of arguments derived from reason, opened before he will welcome the balm of from revelation, and from experience, our au- Calvary, and be enraptured with the glory and thor certainly displays the full effusions of his fulness of the gospel. Hence, I am fully of heart, and in language unfettered by the fear opinion that we ought to go back to the purest of man. The regular applications in the first models of preaching; that addressing the sinner and second Sermons, are executed in such a in the striking language of his own heart, we style of superior merit, that I lament the defi- may see our country reformed, and believers ciency of language to convey his sentiments adorned with virtue and grace. with adequate effect.
But, though our author be an eminent model On the subject of warm and animated ad- in addressing the unregenerate, he is by no dresses to wicked and unregenerate men, if I means explicit and full on the doctrines of the might be heard by those who fill the sanctuary, Spirit: his talents were consequently defective I would venture to say, that the general cha- in building up believers, and edifying the racter of English sermons is by far too mild church. It is true, he is orthodox and clear, and calm. On reading the late Dr. Enfield's as far as he goes: and he fully admits the English Preacher, and finding on this gentle- Scripture language on the doctrine of assuman's tablet of honour, names which constitute rance; but he restricts the grace to some highthe glory of our national church, I seem un- !y favoured souls, and seems to have no idea of willing to believe my senses, and ready to deny, its being the general privilege of the children that 'Tillotson, Atterbury, Butler, Chandler, of God. Hence this doctrine which especially Coneybeare, Seed, Sherlock, Waterland, and abounds in the New Testament, occupies only others, could have been so relaxed and un a diminutive place in his vast course of Serguarded as to have preached so many sermons mons. On this subject, indeed, he frankly conequally acceptable to the orthodox and the fesses his fears of enthusiasm; and, to do him Socinian reader. Those mild and affable re- justice, it seems the only thing he feared in commendations of virtue and religion; those the pulpit. gentle dissuasives from immorality and vice, But, however prepossessing and laudable this have been found, for a whole century, unpro- caution may appear in the discussion of mysductive of effect. Hence, all judicious men terious truths, it by no means associates the must admit the propriety of meeting the awful ideas we have of the divine compassion, and vices of the present age with remedies more the apprehensions which awakened persons efficient and strong:
entertain on account of their sins. Conscious Our increase of population, our vast extent of guilt on the one hand, and assured on the of commerce, and the consequent influx of other that the wages of sin is death, mere evanwealth and luxury, have, to an alarming de- gelical arguments are inadequate to allay their gree, biassed the national character towards fears, and assuage their griefs. Nothing will dissipation, irreligion, and vice. We see a do but a sense of pardon, sufficiently clear and crowd of families rapidly advanced to afflu- strong to counteract their sense of guilt. Noence, and dashing away in the circles of gay thing but the love of God shed abroad in the and giddy life; we see profane theatres, assem- heart, can disperse their grief and fear, Rom. bly-rooms, and watering-places, crowded with v. 5; Luke xxiv. 32; 1 John iv. 18. Nothing people devoted to pleasure, and unacquainted I but the Spirit of adoption can remove the spirit
of bondage, by a direct assurance that we are their reckonings with Heaven. Perhaps their
The soul's calm sunshine, and the heart-felt joy." pondent fruits of righteousness. Revelation Another defect of our author (if my opinion and reason here perfectly accord: Ask, and ye be correct,) is, that he sometimes aims at orashall receive; seek, and ye shall find. If ye torical strokes, and indulges in argument and being evil, knoro how to give good things to language not readily comprehended by the betyour children, how much more shall your Fa- ter instructed among the poor. This should ther, which is in heaven, give good things to caution others. True eloquence is the voice of them that ask him. Hence, SAURIN, on this nature, so rich in thought, so abundant in mosubject, was 'by far too contracted in restricting tives, and happy in expression, as to supersede this grace to a few highly favoured souls. redundant and meretricious ornament. It un
Farther still, it is not enough for a minister folds the treasures of knowledge, displays the to beat and overpower bis audience with argu- amiableness of virtue, and unveils the deforments; it is not enough that many of his hear- mity of vice, with the utmost simplicity and ers weep under the word, and form good reso It captivates the mind, and sways the lutions for the future; they must be encou- passions of an audience in addresses apparently raged to expect a blessing before they depart destitute of study or art: art, indeed, can never from the house of God. How is it that the attain it; it is the soul of a preacher speaking good impressions, made on our hearers, so ge- to the heart of his hearers. However, SAURIN nerally die away; that their devotion is but as ought to have an indulgence which scarcely the morning cloud? After making just de- any other can claiin. He addressed at the ductions for the weakness and inconstancy of Hague an audience of two thousand persons, men; after allowing for the defects which bu- composed of courtiers, of magistrates, of mersiness and company produce on the mind, the chants, and strangers, who were driven by pergrand cause is, the not exhorting them to look secution from every part of France. Hence for an instantaneous deliverance by faith. In it became him to speak with dignity approprimany parts of the Scriptures, and especially in ate to his situation. And if, in point of pure the Psalms, the supplicants came to the throne eloquence he was a single shade below Masof grace in the greatest trouble and distress, and sillon, he has far exceeded him as a divine. they went away rejoicing. Now, these Psalms With regard to the peculiar opinions of the I take to be exact celebrations of what God did religious denominations, this venerable minisby providence and grace for his worshippers. ter discovered superior knowledge, and admiHence we should exhort all penitents to expect rable moderation. Commissioned to preach the like deliverance, God being ready to shine the gospel to every creature, he magnifies the on all hearts the moment repentance has pre- love of God to man; and charges the sinner pared them for the reception of his grace. with being the sole cause of his own destruc
Some may here object that many well-dis- tion (Sermon, Hosea xiii. 9.) Though he asposed Christians, whose piety has been adorn- serts the perseverance of the saints, it is, nevered with benevolence, have never, on the sub- theless, with such restrictions as tend to avoid ject of assurance, been able to express them- disgusting persons of opposite sentiments. selves in the high and heavenly language of Against Antinomianism, so dangerous to salvainspired men; and that they have doubted, tion, he is tremendously severe: and it were whether the knowledge of salvation by the remis- to be wished that the supporters of these opision of sins, Luke i. 77, were attainable in this nions would profit by his arguments. It is life. Perhaps, on inquiry, those well-disposed much safer to direct our efforts, that our Christians, whose sincerity I revere, have sat hearers may resemble the God they worship, under a ministry, which scarcely went so far than trust to a mere code of religious opinions, on the doctrines of the spirit as SAURIN. Per- dissonant to a multitude of Scriptures. haps they have sought salvation, partly by May Heaven bless to the reader this additheir works, instead of seeking it solely by tional mite to the store of public knowledge, faith in the merits, or righteousness, of Jesus and make it advantageous to his best interests, Christ. Perhaps they have joined approaches and eternal joy! to the altars of God, with the amusements of
JOSEPH SUTCLIFFE. the age; and always been kept in arrears in Halifax, Nov. 21, 1805.
series of reflections, derived from three sources: SERMON LXXXI.
From man;- from the Scriptures; and from experience. We shall have recourse in order,
to religion, history, and experience, to make ON THE DELAY OF CONVERSION. us sensible of the dangerous consequences of
deferring the work. In the first place, we shall
endeavour to prove from our own constitution, Isaiah lv. 6.
that it is difficult, not to say impossible, to be Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye We shall secondly demonstrate that revela
converted after having wasted life in vice.-upon him while he is near.
tion perfectly accords with nature on this head; That is a singular oath, recorded in the tenth and that whatever the Bible has taught conchapter of the Revelation. St. John saw an cerning the efficacy of grace, the supernatural angel; an angel “clothed with a cloud; a rain- aids of the Spirit, and the extent of mercy, bow encircled his head, his countenance was as favour in no respect the delay of conversion. the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. He Thirdly, we shall endeavour to confirm the stood on the earth and the sea. He sware by him doctrines of reason and revelation, by daily obthat liveth for ever and ever, that there should servations on those who defer the change.be time no longer." By this oath, if we may These reflections would undoubtedly produce a credit some critics, the angel announces to better effect delivered in one discourse than dithe Jews, that their measure was full, that vided, and I would wish to dismiss the hearer their days of visitation were expired, and that convinced, persuaded, and overpowered with God was about to complete, by abandoning the mass of argument; but we must proportion them to the licentious armies of the emperor the discourse to the attention of the audience, Adrian, the vengeance he had already begun and to our own weakness. We design three by Titus and Vespasian.
discourses on this subject, and shall confine ourWe will not dispute this particular notion, selves to-day to the first head. but shall consider the oath in a more extended “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, view. This angel stands upon the earth and call ye upon him while he is near.” On this the sea; he speaks to all the inhabitants of the subject, to be discussed in order, shall our voice world: he lifts his voice to you, my brethren, resound for the present hour; if Providence and teaches one of the most terrific, but most permit us to ascend this pulpit once more, it important truths of religion and morality, that shall be resumed: if we ascend it the third the mercy of God, so infinitely diversified, has, time, we will still cry, “Seek ye the Lord notwithstanding, its restrictions and bounds. while he may be found, call ye upon him while It is infinite, for it embraces all mankind. It he is near. If a Christian minister ought to makes no distinction between “the Jew and be heard with attention, if deference ought to be the Greek, the Barbarian and the Scythian.” paid to his doctrine, may this command change It pardons insults the most notorious, crimes the face of this church! May the scales full the most provoking; and extricating the sinner from our eyes! and may the spiritually blind from the abyss of misery, opens to him the recover their sight! way to supreme felicity. But it is limited. Our mind, prevented by passion and preju. When the sinner becomes obstinate, when he dice, requires divine assistance in its ordinary long resists, when he defers conversion, God reflections; but now attacking the sinner in his shuts up the bowels of his compassion, and re-chief fort and last retreat, I do need thy invinjects the prayer of those who have hardened cible power, O my God, and I expect every aid themselves against his calls.
from thy support. From this awful principle, Isaiah deduces I. Our own constitution shall supply us tothe doctrine which constitutes the subject of day with arguments on the delay of conversion.
“Seek ye the Lord while he may It is clear that we carry in our own breast prinbe found, call ye upon him while he is near." ciples which render conversion difficult, and I Dispensing with minuteness of method, we may add, impossible, if deferred to a certain shall not stop to define the terms, “ Seek ye period. To comprehend this, form in your the Lord, and call ye upon him.” Whatever mind an adequate idea of conversion, and fully mistakes we may be liable to make on this adunit, that the soul, in order to possess this head, and however disposed we may be to con- state of grace, must acquire two essential disfound the appearance of conversion with con- positions; it must be illuminated; it must be version itself, errors of this kind, it must be sanctified. It must understand the truths of acknowledged, are not the most destructive. religion, and conform to its precepts. We propose to-day to probe the wound, to First. You cannot become regenerate unless penetrate to the source of our depravity, to you know the truths of religion. Not that we dissipate, if possible, the illusive charm which would preach the gospel to you as a discipline destroys so many of the Christian world, and having no object but the exercise of specuof which Satan too successfully avails himself lation. We neither wish to make the Chrisfor their seduction. This delusion, this charm, tian a philosopher, nor to encumber his mind I appeal to your consciences, consists of, Í with a thousand questions agitated in the know not what, confused ideas we have formed schools. Much less would we elevate salvaof the divine mercy, fluctuating purposes of tion above the comprehension of persons of conversion on the brink of futurity, and chi- common understanding; who, being incapable merical confidence of success whenever we of abstruse thought, would be cut off from the shall enter on the work.
divine favour, if this change required profound On the delay of conversion, we shall make a reflection, and refined investigation. It can
not, however, be disputed, that every man in the veins, and a cloud of darkness envelopes should be instructed according to his situation all the faculties. Hence the drowsiness of in life, and according to the capacity he has aged people: hence the difficulty of receiving received from heaven. In a word, a Christian new impressions; hence the return of ancient ought to be a Christian, not because he has objects; hence the obstinacy in their sentibeen educated in the principles of Christianity ments; hence the almost universal defect of transmitted by his fathers, but because those knowledge and comprehension; whereas peoprinciples came from God.
ple less advanced in age have usually an easy To have contrary dispositions, to follow a mind, a retentive memory, a happy concepreligion from obstinacy or prejudice, is equally tion, and a teachable temper. If we, there to renounce the dignity of a man, a Christian, fore, defer the acquisition of religious knowand a Protestant:- The dignity of a man, who, ledge till age has chilled the blood, obscurendowed with intelligence, should never de- ed the understanding, enfeebled the memory, cide on important subjects without consulting and confirmed prejudice and obstinacy, it is his understanding, given to guide and conduct almost impossible to be in a situation to acquire him:— The dignity of a Christian; for the gos- that information without which our religion pel revealsa God who may be known, John iv. can neither be agreeable to God, afford us solid 22; it requires us to “prove all things, and to consolation in affliction, nor motives sufficient hold fast that which is good,” i Thess. v. 21. against temptation. The dignity of a Protestant; for it is the If this reflection do not strike you with suffifoundation and distinguishing article of the cient force, follow man in the succeeding peReformation, that submission to human creeds riods of life. The love of pleasure predomiis a bondage unworthy of him whom the “Son nates in his early years, and the dissipations of has made free.” Inquiry, knowledge, and in the world allure him from the study of relivestigation, are the leading points of religion, gion. The sentiments of conscience are heard, and the first step, so to speak, by which we are however, notwithstanding the tumult of a to “seek the Lord.”
thousand passions: they suggest that, in order The second disposition is sanctification. The to peace of conscience, he must either be relitruths proposed in Scripture for examination gious, or persuade himself that religion is altoand belief, are not presented to excite vain spe- gether a phantom. What does a man do in culations, or gratify curiosity. They are truths this situation. He becomes either incredulous designed to produce a divine influence on the or superstitious. He believes without examiheart and life. “He that saith, I know him, nation and discussion, that he has been eduand keepeth not his commandments, is a liar. cated in the bosom of truth; that the religion If you know these things, happy are you, if of his fathers is the only one which can be you do them. Pure religion and undefiled be- good; or rather, he regards religion only on fore God and the Father, is this, to visit the the side of those difficulties which infidels opfatherless and the widows in their affliction," pose, and employs all his strength of intellect 1 John ii. 4; John xiii. 17; James i. 27. When to augment those difficulties, and to evade we speak of Christian obedience, we do not their evidence. Thus he dismisses religion to mean some transient acts of devotion; we mean escape his conscience, and becomes an obstia submission proceeding from a source of ho- nate Atheist, to be calm in crimes. Thus he liness, which, however mixed with imperfec- wastes his youth, time flies, years accumulate, tion in its efforts, piety is always the predomi- notions become strong, impressions fixed in the nant disposition of the heart, and virtue tri- brain, and the brain gradually loses that supumphant over vice.
pleness of which we now spake. These two points being so established, that A period arrives in which these passions no one can justly dispute them, we may prove, seem to subside; and as they were the sole I am confident, from our own constitution, that cause of rendering that man superstitious or a conversion deferred ought always to be sus- incredulous, it seems that incredulity and su. pected; and that, by deferring the work, we perstition should vanish with the passions. Let risk the forfeiture of the grace.—Follow us in us profit by the circumstance; let us endeavour these arguments.
to dissipate the illusion; let us summons the This is true, first, with regard to the light man to go back to the first source of its errors; essential to conversion. Here, my brethren, let us talk; let us prove; let us reason; but all it were to have been wished, that each of you is unavailing care; as it commonly happens had studied the buman constitution; that you that the aged talk of former times, and recolhad attentively considered the mode in which loct the facts which struck them in their youth, the soul and body are united, the close ties while present occurrences leave no trace on the which subsist between the intelligence that memory, so the old ideas continually run in thinks within, and the body to which it is their mind. united. We are not pure spirit; the soul is a Let us farther remark, that the soul not only lodger in matter, and on the temperature of this loses with time the facility of discerning error matter depends the success of our researches from truth, but after having for a considerable after truth, and consequently after religion. time habituated itself to converse solely with
Now, my brethren, every season and every sensible objects, it is almost impossible to atperiod of life are not alike proper for disposing tach it to any other. See that man who has the body to the happy temperature, which for a course of years been employed in auditleaves the soul at liberty for reflection and ing accounts, in examining the nature of trade, thought. The powers of the brain fail with the prudence of his partners, the fidelity of his years, the senses become dull, the spirits eva- correspondents; propose to him, for instance, porate, the memory weakens, the blood chills the solution of a problem; desire him to inves
tigate the cause of a phenomenon, the founda- | truths before the world has engrossed its cation of a system, and you require an impossi- pacity. bility. The mind, however, of this man, who This truth is susceptible of a much clearer finds these subjects so difficult, and the mind demonstration, when we consider religion with of the philosopher who investigates them with regard to practice. And as the subject turns ease, are formed much in the same way. All on principles to which we usually pay but the difference between them is, that the latter slight attention, we are especially obliged to has accustomed himself to the contemplation request, if you would edify by this discourse, of mental objects, whereas the other has vo- that you would hear attentively. There are Juntarily debased himself to sordid pursuits, subjects less connected, which may be compredegraded his understanding, and enslaved it to hended, notwithstanding a momentary absence sensible objects. After having passed our life of the mind; but this requires an unremitting in this sort of business, without allowing time attention, as we lose the whole by neglecting for reflection, religion becomes an abyss; the the smallest part. clearest truth, mysterious; the slightest study, Remember, in the first place, what we have fatigue; and, when we would fix our thoughts, already hinted, that in order to true converthey are captivated with involuntary deviations. sion, it is not sufficient to evidence some par
In a word, the final inconvenience which re- lial acts of love to God: the principle must be sults from deferring the study of religion, is a so profound and permanent, that this love, distraction and dissipation proceeding from the though mixed with some defects, shall ever be objects which prepossess the mind. The va- the predominant disposition of the heart. We rious scenes of life, presented to the eye, make should not apprehend that any of you would a strong impression on the soul; and the ideas dispute this assertion, if we should content ourwill obtrude even when we would wish to di- selves with pressing it in a vague and general vert the attention. Hence distinguished em- way; and if we had no design to draw conclu. ployments, eminent situations, and professions sions directly opposite to the notions of many, which require intense application, are not and to the practice of most. But at the close commonly the most compatible with salvation of this discourse, unable to evade the conseNot only because they rob us, while actually quences which follow the principle, we are employed, of the time we should devote to strongly persuaded you will renew the attack God, but because they pursue us in defiance of on the principle itself, and deny that to which our efforts. We come to the Lord's house with you have already assented. Hence we ought our bullocks, with our doves, with our specu- not to proceed before we are agreed what we lations, with our ships, with our bills of ex- ought to believe upon this head. We ask you, change, with our titles, with our equipage, as brethren, whether you believe it requisite to those profane Jews whom Jesus Christ once love God in order to salvation? We can scarcechased from the temple in Jerusalem. There ly think that any of our audience will answer is no need to be a philosopher to perceive the in the negative; at least we should fear to force of this truth; it requires no evidence but speak with much more confidence on this the history of your own life. How often, when point, and on the necessity of acquiring instrucretired to the closet to examine your conscience, tion in order to conversion, than to supersede have worldly speculations interrupted your the obligation of loving God, because it would duty! How often, when prostrated in the pre- derogate from the dignity of man, who is obsence of God, has this heart which you came liged to love his benefactor; from the dignity to offer him, robbed you of your devotion by of a Christian, educated under a covenant pursuing earthly objects! How often, when which denounces anathemas against those who engaged in sacrificing to the Lord a sacrifice love not the Lord Jesus; from the dignity of a of repentance, has a thousand flights of birds Protestant, who cannot be ignorant how all the come to annoy the sacred service! Evident divines of our communion have exclaimed proof of the truth we advance! Every day we against the doctrine of Rome on the subject of see new objects: these objects leave ideas; these penance. ideas recur; and the contracted soul, unable to Recollect, my brethren, that we are agreed attend to the ideas it already possesses, and to upon this point; recollect in the subsequent those it would acquire, becomes incapable of parts of this discourse, that, in order to converreligious investigation. Happy is the man de- sion, we must have a radical and habitual love scended from enlightened parents, and instructs to God. This principle being allowed, all that ed, like Timothy, in the Holy Scriptures from we have to say against the delay of conversion, his infancy! Having consecrated his early life becomes self-established. The whole question to the study of truth, he has only, in a dying is reduced to this; if in a dying hour, if at the and retired age, to collect the consolations of a extremity of life, if in a short and fleeting moreligion magnificent in its promises, and incon- ment, you can acquire this habit of divine love, testable in its proofs.
which we have all agreed is necessary to salvaHence we conclude, with regard to whatever tion; if it can be acquired in one moment, then is speculative in our salvation, that conversion we will preach no more against delay: you act becomes more difficult in proportion as it is de- with propriety. Put off, defer, procrastinate ferred. We conclude with regard to the light even to the last moment, and by an extraordiof faith, that we must " seek the Lord while nary precaution, never begin to seek the pleahe may be found, and call upon him while he sures of piety till you are abandoned by the is near."
We must study religion while aided | pleasures of the world, and satiated with its inby a collected mind, and an easy conception. | famous delights. But if time, if labour, are reWe must, while young, elevate the beart above quired to form this genuine source of love to sensible objects, and fill the soul with sacred | God, the nocessity of which we have already