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Our Lord observes, that no man putteth new wine into old bottles. To preserve its quality and strength, new ones are required. This is a beautiful and striking illustration; and I thus apply it. To preserve the new wine of the Spirit, the old man of sin must be destroyed, and the old bottles of pride must be broken. They cannot exist together without the wine running out and the bottles perishing; therefore must a man be emptied of self, of the old man, with its affections and lusts, before the precious wine of divine grace be poured into his soul. Hath not Jehovah expressly declared, that "he will look to this man, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at his word*?" Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones t." Observe, further, my brethren, that none but the "poor in spirit," are embraced in the commission of Christ. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; to bind up the broken-hearted; to comfort them that mourn." And to whom do these expressions apply? Why, to none but those whose hearts are humbled by the conviction of sin, and by the consciousness of iniquity; whose very souls are pierced with anguish, for the corruptions of their nature, and the unworthiness of their conduct. They feel the logs and fetters of their sins, and have no other wish but to be emancipated from their burthen, and relieved from their yoke. These are the persons to whom the commission of Christ was sent; these only are the persons, to whom the promised rest will be given, and the promised comfort be conveyed,
Secondly, and the reason upon which this inference is founded is this, that none will accept of Christ and his benefits, unless they possess this indispensable qualification-poverty of spirit, No man can estimate fully the worth and excellence of Christ, nor see him as an all-precious Saviour, until he has been brought to a sense of his own vileness, and all attendance upon ordinances will be in vain, until this conviction has been produced. You may hear sermons, and make long prayers, but without any saving and improving efficacy. So long as we esteem ourselves "rich, and increased in goods, and in want of nothing," we shall not apply for any share in those riches with which he enricheth indeed his people. But the moment in which we are convinced that we are, like the church of Laodicea, "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," and dying sinners, in that moment will Christ appear sweet to the soul, and disperse the riches of his grace, be as a comforter to the wretched, as eyes to the blind, as covering to the naked, and as life to the dead. With what readiness, then, should we apply to Christ for "gold tried in the fire, that we may be rich;" for white raiment, even the beautiful robe of his righteousness, with which we may be clothed; for eye-salve, with which we may see; and for the bread and water of life, with which our hungry and thirsty souls may be strengthened and refreshed-" O, be zealous, then, and repent." How precious will the spiritual balm of Gilead be to the soul, which languisheth with weariness for the wound of sin, and for the malady of transgression And how acceptable will an able surety be to the poor insolvent debtor who is about to be dragged into the dark dungeon of endless despair. Yes, Christians, it behoves us to be "poor in spirit," and deeply humbled * Isaiah, lxvi. 1, 2. Isaiah, lvii. 15.
Isaiah, lxi. 1, 2.
because of our iniquities, before we can well appreciate our mighty surety and deliverer, and can seek with earnestness for the succours of his Spirit, and for the riches of his grace.
Thirdly, this heavenly temper of mind is indispensable in another respect, Without poverty of spirit we cannot enter into glory. Thus saith the text. "Blessed are the poor in spirit:" and why? "for their's is the kingdom of heaven." While we continue in our natural state, we are, like Nebuchadnezzar, the king, lifted up in spirit, and hardened in pride; full of our selfimportance, and swelling with vanity; the very gate of heaven appears too strait to admit of our entering in. We become giddy with our own imaginary elevation; and walking on the battlements of our conceited importance, deem ourselves to be as gods, to whom the multitude below must bow, and the people offer idolatrous homage and service. Such is man. It is, therefore, requisite, that this pride of the natural man should be brought low, and this vanity of the heart be humbled; that the being, who exacts this idolatry and plumes himself upon this magnitude of his own size and consequence, should be reduced to his proper level, and to those due proportions, according to which only an entrance by the narrow gate of heaven can be effected. And this can only be done by poverty of spirit. It is only by reducing the cable that it can pass through the eye of a needle: untwist the small parts and threads of which it is made, and the passage is easily effected. So of man, his natural pride is so great, and his natural size so disproportioned to the narrow gate through which he must pass, and which conducts into the celestial city, that his exclusion is indispensable. But untwist the cable of pride, and by poverty of spirit make the man poor in his own eyes, and reduce him to those dimensions consistent with that spirit, and then he will find, that an entrance into the kingdom of heaven will be abundantly manifested unto him. Thus from the cottage of poverty of spirit, he passes into the palace of glory in heaven. Verily, my brethren, "blessed are the poor in spirit."
Here it may not be improper to make a few distinctions between those who are poor in spirit, and those of whom it may be said that they are poor-spirited. No two appellations can be more distinct the one from the other. The poorspirited are those who act below the dignity of a man, and unbecoming the character of a Christian; who would descend to any meanness, and scruple not at any atrocity, by which they could gratify their sordid passions, and attain their iniquitous ends; who, to realize some favourite scheme, and mark some nefarious purpose, would be the hypocrites of a sect, and the saints of a party; who, for some paltry gain, and for some worldly ambition, for the pomp of preferment, and the distinctions of rank, would sacrifice principle, and violate conscience, and be even as an Esau, to sell their birth-right, or as a Judas, to betray their master.
These are your true poor-spirited beings. But there are other shades of the character; but it is unnecessary to particularize them. In the usurious and avaricious speculator, in the fraudulent debtor, in the unjust steward, in the miserable miser, in all, in fact, whose gains are godless, is the character of the poor-spirited to be found in perfect truth and keeping.
But who are to be designated as the poor in spirit? Those only are poor, in the evangelical understanding of the term, who by our Lord are pronounced, "Blessed," and to whom the kingdom of heaven appertains.
Those, who are the truly poor in spirit, are such as have been brought to a humbling sense of their sins, who know their poverty by nature, and are therewith deeply affected; who, finding no goodness in themselves, fly to God for mercy, and place the whole hope of their salvation on the merits and righteousness of their Redeemer. They remember his word, that they are but “unprofitable servants;" and hence, all dependance upon self is renounced, and all pretensions to merit are cast off, as a refuge which will not serve, and as an anchor which will not save them in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment. Of those who thus thought, there are a noble army, and a glorious company of denizens of heaven. In the first rank appears the apostle Paul, who counted all his own righteousness, his attainments, his privileges, as dung, that he might win Christ. Of such was the penitent publican, when he cried out, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." In the same company may be numbered the Syrophenician woman, whose humble spirit made her content to enjoy only the privilege of a dog; and the Roman centurion, who looked upon himself as unworthy to receive Christ under his roof. To these might be added others (of whom the world was not worthy) who obtained a good report through faith, and having endured the cross, now wear the crown at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hence we learn in what a Christian's riches consist; viz., in poverty of spirit, which poverty entitles him to a kingdom. This is one of those paradoxes in Scripture which the men of this world do not, or will not, understand. One of those blocks on which the proud man stumbles, and one of those rocks at which the sensual man takes offence. That a man must pass through the valleys of humility before he can scale the ramparts of salvation; that he must be poor before he can be qualified to be rich and receive a kingdom; that he must become a fool in order to his becoming wise; that he must lose his life in order to save it. Why this is more monstrous than the Jewish stumbling-block and rock of offence; a doctrine which deserves to be met with the same ridicule, and to experience the same fate as its founder and abettors did. Yet, thanks be to God, the jeer of the infidel is no test for the truth of Christ.an doctrine; and, firm as the everlasting hills of the Lord, and immoveable as the rocks of the great and wide sea, is the fact, that they only are rich who see themselves to be poor.
How very different from those humble souls are the proud and haughty in spirit, who "sacrifice unto their own net, and burn incense to their own drag ;" who value themselves on account of their mental attainments, fancied goodness, and moral rectitude; who, like the proud Pharisee, vaunt of their own worth, and herald forth their own deeds; who thank God they are not as other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as the poor publican*. In every part of the conduct, and throughout every petition of the prayer, of this Pharisee, there is every thing to blame, seeing that he no where appears as a suppliant to ask for mercy, or as a penitent to sue for pardon, and never once acknowledges God kind as a benefactor, and merciful as a judge in pardoning sin and blotting out transgression. All respects self-his exclusive praise, his proud pretensions. What one of the fathers (Ambrose) said once of the story of Naboth, may with equal truth be observed of this Pharisee, that, though
Luke, xviii. See Josephus on the character of the Pharisees of his day, which corresponds with the Scripture description.
old as the days of our Lord, it is daily renewed in the practice of many in our generation, not confined to this or that sect or party, but to be found amongst all classes of professing Christians. The Pharisaical heart is but a too common one in the world. Those by whom it is possessed are pleased with their condition. They think that they possess sufficient merit in themselves, and scorn to be under any obligations to another. Their language to their Lord is. We will not have this man to reign over us, to dictate the measure of our obedience, and the degree of our faith! Christ tells them that they are blind, and freely offers them "eye-salve, that they may see;" but they will neither believe the one, nor accept of the other. He tells them that they are naked, and offers them his "white raiment" to cover them; but entertaining a different opinion, they consequently reject his friendly offer, and allsufficient robe of righteousness. Ah! my brethren, how dangerous this state of mind, and this false estimate of a self-righteous man! Would that the advice of a friend and the offers of a Saviour could induce him to think otherwise; to change the counsels of his proud heart, and to come to Christ in all due submission and obedience. For then would there be peace and salvation to his soul, and that perilous rock would be shunned, upon which so many of immortal beings have foundered; and those who have trusted in themselves that they were righteous, have been wrecked. A word more, and a word, I hope, to the wise-verbum est sapienti-be warned of your danger; flee this rock; come to Christ; seek salvation alone in him; whose righteousness hath withstood the shock of ages, will withstand the gates of hell; and in which, firm and secure, yours will be the blessing of God, and the possession of the heavenly kingdom promised to the poor in spirit. To Christ, the Lord our Righteousness, be everlasting praise. Amen.
THE SUBJECT MODE, AND CONSTANCY OF APOSTOLIC MINISTRATION.
REV. J. SHERMAN,
ORANGE STREET CHAPEL, MAY 15, 1836*.
"And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."-Acts, v. 42.
THIS chapter contains a brief account of the successful preaching of the apostles and primitive Christians in Jerusalem, and the persecutions which they endured for its sake. One verse describes it-miracles were performed by them, the people magnified them, and multitudes were added to them. That which would have taken an historian a page to dilate upon is in a few words given us by the inspired writers.
The high-priest and the Sanhedrim who had become jealous of their authority, and fearful of the mighty power which the apostles and primitive disciples would gain in Jerusalem if they suffered them to proceed, became quite alarmed at the consequences which might ensue; and therefore they determined to arrest them and to put them in prison. But their Lord and Master, who has power over bolts and bars, though they be made of the finest iron, and so secured as the wisdom and ingenuity of man might secure them, the Master sent one of his servants by night, and told him to loose all these bolts and bars and bring his servants out of prison. An angel went for this especial purpose, and said to the honourable prisoners, "Go stand in the gate of the temple, and speak unto the people all the words of this life." Obedient to the heavenly mandate, and fearless of human authority when they had their Master on their side, away they went and preached; they entered into the temple early in the morning and taught. Like the Philistines, who supposed that when they had Samson safe in Gaza they might sleep in security, but he during their sleep carried away the gates to an adjacent hill, and laid them there as trophies of his power; so these spiritual Philistines slept calmly and securely all that night. But in the morning, in the twenty-first verse we read, "the high-priest came and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel gathered together," and commanded to have thes men brought to them. How sad was their consternation when the officer returned, saying, "The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the sentinels who were placed at the door standing in their place; but when we opened the door, lo, the prisoners were escaped." And while they were telling their tale one came in breathless anxiety and haste, to say, "Lo, the men you shut up in the prison are standing in the temple at this moment, and are
• On behalf of the London City Mission.