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God, he is still just even if he should withhold his mercy from us. Nay, it is impossible to mere flesh and blood, for the natural man cannot comprehend this sorrow and humiliation on account of sin, because he neither comprehends the holiness of God, nor the true nature of sin. Yet, brethren, this is repentance: God must "work in us." "Christ was anointed," remember, "to give repentance," as well as "remission of sins:" hereby shewing, that man cannot repent by his own natural ability. And herewith agrees the tenth article of our Church, which says, Man cannot by his own will “turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God." O, brethren, let me entreat you, therefore, to look up to God for help, praying to him in the language of our beautiful Litany, "That it may please him to give you true repentance," and for this end, "to endue you with the grace of his Holy Spirit, to amend your lives, according to his holy word."
Lastly, how did Ben-hadad act when he was accepted and forgiven all by the king of Israel? His grateful heart overflowed in language to this effect: "Ben-hadad said unto him, The cities, which my father took from thy father, I will restore; and thou shalt make streets for thee in Damascus, as my father anade in Samaria." He was ready, you observe, to do all he could in return for the unmerited, generous, and noble conduct of the king of Israel. He felt he could never repay him sufficiently for his goodness; but this was a specimen of his sense of the favour which he had received, and the clemency which had been manifested towards him. He was ready to restore all that he had unjustly taken from the king of Israel, and make compensation according to his ability. Now, dear brethren, this is a representation, an exact image of repentance in its effects on the soul: this is "repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of." The soul first believes the merciful disposition of God, and then ventures to approach him through the Mediator. True, the words of the Syrian shew his sense of his vileness and miserableness: but the moment the Spirit of God draws the soul (like the messengers that fetched Ben-hadad), and applies the blood of sprinkling to the conscience, it causes him to approach God no longer with a "peradventure he may save my soul," but boldly and confidently, because there is henceforth "no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." And now, being overpowered with the magnificence of the divine goodness, the soul's great inquiry is, day by day, "What shall I render to the Lord? Olet me restore what I have so iniquitously withheld. May thou be mine, O blessed Lord God, and may I be thine. O establish thy covenant with me, an everlasting covenant, even the sure mercies of David: and let me be at peace."
Thus, my Christian brethren, do we see from the history of Ben-hadad what repentance is. And now go and examine whether you have ever repented at all after this sort. To repentance, and to do works meet for repentance, the ministers of God are directed to exhort you, as much as to believe the Gospel. Every thing tends to this. While you are impenitent your all is at stake; you are upon the brink of ruin. Beseech the Almighty Spirit of God, therefore, to give you repentance unto life. Seek him in all the appointed means of grace. Implore Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, to give you his mercy; and when you have obtained his mercy, which is better than life, he will rejoice over you as one that was lost and is found; he will call you his dear son, and array you with the temper and disposition of a son, and at last admit you to the sight and enjoyment of his holy and unspeakable kingdom. Amen.
RFV. J. RUDge, d.d., f.R.S.
T SEPULCHRE'S CHURCH, SNOW HILL, OCTOBER 31, 1824.
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him. And he opened his mouth, and taught them.-MATT. v. 1, 2.
IN that divine sermon, which immediately follows the words of the text, we have an abridgment of all religion, and morality. In this repository, we find a golden key with which we can unlock the gates of Paradise. We find a garden of delights, in which we may gather those beautiful flowers, that will deck the hidden man of the heart. In this rich cabinet is contained the pearl of blessedness: and here is discovered the golden vessel, in which is deposited the celestial manna, that will feed and nourish the souls of believers unto everlasting life. In this most admirable discourse, we have the path, which leads to the heavenly mansions, most clearly pointed out; and the way which conducts to the Holy of holies, rendered acceptable to every one, who is pure in heart, and humble in spirit. Let it be our devout and hourly supplication, that, in this happy and blessed number, the Almighty God would grant, that each of us may finally be found, and "rejoice and be exceeding glad," for those Beatitudes, which shall be our "reward" in the kingdom of heaven.
The Evangelist, St. Matthew, first a toll-gatherer, and afterwards a gatherer of strayed sheep to the flock and fold of the great "Shepherd and Bishop of souls," having presented us with the history of Christ's birth and lineage; having recorded the honours which were paid him by the wise men of the east, as well as the persecution, to which he was early exposed from Herod, who contemplated the babe "born in Bethlehem," as a rival to the throne of Judea ;—having informed us of his baptism by John, in Jordan, and of his temptation, by the devil, in the wilderness, with some subsequent transactions relating to this divine Teacher, proceeds to give us, in this, and in the two following chapters, a specimen of the sermons he preached, the doctrines he taught, and the morality which he enforced. The duties he enjoined, are weighty; and the rewards he promised, are glorious. Here we behold a Christian clothed with his white raiment of purity, and his scarlet robe of blessedness. Here we see mercy and truth meeting together, and mutually embracing each other: and here we behold the poor in spirit advanced to the honours and dignities of a kingdom; "their's is the kingdom of heaven!"
Introductory to a Course of Sermons on the Beatitudes.
† I beg to mention with candour, and to record with gratitude, my obligations to an Relient writer on the same subject, the REV. THOMAS WATSON, to whom I am indebted for many of the views and thoughts with which this, and every subsequent sermon, is enriched.-J. R.
But it is not my design, at the present moment, to make any part of this most admirable sermon the subject of consideration. I am anxious to avail myself of this opportunity to suggest some remarks on the character of the preacher, and on the occasion of the discourse; and I am not without the hope, that the view of both the one and the other, with which I now intend to present you, in the might, will, by the blessing of God, be rendered seasonable and profitable to the "multitudes" now assembled in this large and beautiful place of worship, where He is still present to hear and receive the pious vows and the ardent supplications of his servants, " as may be most expedient for them." May I go forth in thy might, O God, and be as a sower of good seed only! and may the fruits of religion ever appear in the hearts and lives of the hearers!
First, we will consider our Lord in his character as a PREACHER. Who was the personage whose powers of eloquence were exhibited, and whose matchless words of wisdom were uttered on this occasion? It was no meaner a person than God's chosen "servant whom he upheld; his elect, in whom his soul delighted;" on whom he put his Spirit, without measure, and anointed with the oil of gladness, above his fellows." It was the man," who thought it no robbery to be equal with God," whom Jehovah "gave for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;" whom he commissioned "to open the eyes of the blind; to bring out the prisoners from the prison; and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house." It was He, whose priesthood is eternal, whose doctrine "did drop as the rain; whose speech did distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass." In fine, it was a Preacher "who spake as never man spake, and who, in every respect, was perfectly qualified for his ministry. Let us advert to a few of the gifts with which he was accomplished for this holy office.
He was an all-wise, and a most enlightened and intelligent preacher. In confirmation of this character, we have his own infallible testimony. He thus declares: "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary*." Yes, my brethren, this divine Teacher well knew when and what to speak, for the instruction of his scholars. He perfectly understood what doctrine was most suited to his hearers-what was most effectual to pierce the hearts of hardened sinners, to humble the proud and haughty, to comfort the mourning soul, to revive the drooping spirit, to confirm the wavering mind, and establish the true believers in their holy faith. We shall cease to wonder at these accomplishments and gifts of our divine Lord, when we consider, that he was thoroughly acquainted with the cases of all who attended on his ministry, that he saw distinctly into the darkest recesses of every heart, that all desires were made known, and no secrets could be kept hid from him! What a superior advantage did he possess above any of his successors in the ministry of the New Testament! We hardly know the faces of many of the congregation committed to our charge; far less can we know their hearts. We can hardly draw the Gospel-bow at a venture, and when done we must beseech Unerring Wisdom to direct theatrow! We may sow the seed: the Spirit alone can apply the word, and give the magnificent increase! Again,
* Isaiah, 1. 4.
Secondly, Jesus Christ was a most powerful and affecting preacher: he spoke to the consciences, as well as to the ears, of men. "He taught them as one having authority; and not as the Scribes." He could set their sins before them in the clearest light, and show them their own hearts in a point of view very different from that in which they had ever before beheld them. This power the woman of Samaria had experienced, when she left her water-pot and invited her neighbours to visit him, saying, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did:" her conclusion was natural; " Is not this the Christ?" His eloquence was accompanied with zeal, which caused it to lay hold on the consciences of men, and to touch the tenderest strings of the human heart. Like an impetuous torrent he carried all before him he broke down the mounds and fences in which sin had entrenched itself. The force of his doctrine was irresistible. With his two-edged sword he could cut the heart of stone, and "pierce even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow." In short, "never man spake like this man," his enemies themselves being judges, and compelled, reluctantly, to make this admission. Such being the fact, the inference is irresistible, that,
Thirdly, He was a successful preacher, and a mighty converter of sinners from the evil of their ways. He who had " grace poured into his lips," could pour it into the hearts of his hearers, by which many, even 66 among the chief rulers, believed on him," as we read in the record of John; "nevertheless among the chief rulers, many believed on him." When he spoke, all was attention: when he blew the trumpet of the Gospel, even those who were most opposed to his doctrine, and questioned his claims, flocked to his standard. He had the hearts of all men in his power; when he opened them, none could obstruct the entrance of his Spirit, and the admission of his doctrine. A meek, a gentle reply could make an armed band of his enemies fall prostrate on the ground. A single look even could pierce the soul of a backslider, and reclaim an apostate disciple. Thus qualified, no wonder that the pleasure of the Lord prospered in his hand! I may likewise observe,
Fourthly, that Jesus Christ was a lawful and authorized preacher. He had his unction from the Holy One: and his Father, who sent him, bore witness to the validity of his commission. Although the fulness of the godhead dwelt in him bodily, yet, before he entered on his ministerial, as well as his mediatorial office, it behoved him to be sealed and solemnly inaugurated. Christ was "anointed to preach good tidings to the meek: he was sent to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion; to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." And if the great High Priest of our profession was anointed, and sent to preach the Gospel, surely his ministering servants, in imitation of their Master, ought to be regularly commissioned and set apart for their sacred office.
If so, then great is the arrogance of those self-created teachers, who, under the pretence of a commission to desert the anvil and the loom for the spiritual benefit of their brethren, usurp the sacred functions, and take upon themselves the work of the ministry without any warrantry from those, to whom the legitimate authority has been delegated by an apostolic Church. How could we
reasonably hope for a blessing on the labours of the priesthood, were we to insuit the Author of the only true and heavenly wisdom by selecting for his service those whom human science is conceived to have frowned upon and rejected? How could we expect that there should be “strength and beauty in the sanctuary," if it were to be thought of only as an asylum for all, who are regarded by their friends, as the "mere despair" of all generous discipline and instruction? St. Paul, in contemplating the awful importance of his ministry, exclaims, "Who is sufficient for these things?" They, therefore, can be but little conversant with the spirit and temper of St. Paul, who should return for answer to this solemn question, "We conclude them to be sufficient for these things who have shown but little symptoms of sufficiency for any other study or pursuit." "No man," says St. Austin, "ought to preach publicly in the church, unless properly called thereto." But for this opinion we have much greater authority than this respectable father of the church. The learned apostle of the Gentiles expressly says, "No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." As the supreme Head of the church gave prophets and apostles," whose accomplishments were miraculously conferred, so he also " gave pastors and teachers," who were consecrated, and initiated into their office, in a more common and ordinary way. And if the ordination of ministers was necessary in the days of the apostles, it cannot certainly be less so in our times, when those extraordinary gifts, which were then in the church, have ceased. What inspiration did in former times, education and learning must, in a much less perfect degree, do for the successors of the apostles, and the work of the ministry must now be performed by the ordinary energies of the human mind, trained and strengthened by regular discipline, and assisted by the blessing and Spirit of Almighty God.
In the body natural, God has appointed to every member its proper and peculiar office: the eye to see, the tongue to speak, the ear to hear, the hand to work, and the foot to walk: so in his church, or body spiritual, he has made a distinction between its members-the pastors, and the people. It is expressly to the elders, or ministers, that the apostle St. Peter gives the charge, "The elders, which are among you, I exhort.” "Feed the flock of God, which is among you." But where would be the flock if all were shepherds? For, with as much reason, as one man may take upon himself the office of a minister, all men might; then, where would be the distinction? and where would be that order in human society, of which the Almighty has furnished such striking and beautiful instances in all the works of his hand, and in all the operations of nature.
The universal Parent of all is a God of order, and to every member of his family has assigned his appropriate work and distinctive employment. To his servants who minister in his sanctuary he has given this charge, which peculiarly belongs to them, and to them alone. "Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine, meditate on these things; give thyself wholly to them." Surely the Apostle does not here speak to every man indifferently. He does not command the tradesman to leave the desk, nor the mechanic to throw by his tools-to abandon the occupations to which they have been bred and for which they are properly qualified, and " give themselves wholly to exhortation and doctrine." No: he speaks to Timothy, and, by him, to al † 1 Pet. v. 1, 2. 2 Tim. iv. 13, 15.
• Vid. Ezek. xxxiv. 2, &c.