« السابقةمتابعة »
finite, the unchangeable, the reternal edundancy of merit which there is in that fountain to wash away every transgression, blot out every iniquity, and present the souls of his people without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, before the throne of God
But I must remark, and briefly too, thirdly, that THIS FOUNTAIN IS SAID TO BE OPEN. It is not, as formerly, exclusively belonging to the Levitical priesthood; it is open to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This was typified of old, by the laver being without cover. Yes, my brethren, this fountain is an open fountain-so open, that all sinners who will may have free access to it. It is for the very vilest: as it freely sprung from the very heart of God in Christ, so does it freely flow to all comers. Hear our Lord's own words: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out." "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "Whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely."
Such is the freeness of salvation, so open is that fountain to all who feel their need of its cleansing power, that no one who has ever come to it has been sent unblessed away. This is the very blessedness of the Gospel which we preach. This is the very end and object of our lifting up the cross of the Son of God. And this forms, as I think, the substance of the prophet's words, "In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness."
My brethren, if a man had once been the subject of a most inveterate disease, and had received a wondrous cure; if he had found, instead of weakness, strength; sleep, instead of restlessness; hunger after his necessary food, instead of loathing it; a real enjoyment of life where there had been none; would there be no thankfulness pervade his heart? Would there be no anxiety that others should partake of the same benefit? Again, if with returning health he should be led to see that the disease under which he had been labouring had been in itself a mortal one, and that, however insensible of it at the time, yet, there had been nothing before him but misery, and torture, and death; that he had been but tampering with himself, and that all those things which he had taken for remedies had but aggravated his disorder and his destruction; would it not make him still more anxiously desire to unfold, as far as in him lay, the remedy? And would not this be particularly laid upon his heart, if he saw all around him under the influence of the same disease, yet careless and insensible, and wholly indifferent to their state, putting themselves off with wretched palliatives, which did but increase, instead of remove their disorder? Would not this increase his desire to unfold the remedy? Could he tell them of a physician who never rejected any who came unto him; who never mistook one case, who never despaired of any, who never failed in one single instance, but was successful in all: the kindest, the tenderest, and best of physicians? See then, the case before us. We are living in the midst of a world that is full of this leprosy, this deadly plague, and yet men are insensible of their disease They go on with their palliatives, with their deceitful remedies, seeking their own cure, while all their attempts only hurry them on to their ruin.
Behold us in the midst of London. I trust we can say the place is dear to our hearts of this I am sure-we ought to say so; for it is the habitation of thousands of the saints of God: and yet how awful is the picture which Londer presents to us! When I think of its mercies, is there a more favoured spot
under heaven? When I think of its wickedness, is there a spot more vile? The responsibility of Sodom was as nothing compared with the responsibility of London. Where Sodom had one sermon, London has had its thousands. Where Sodom had its one saint, London has had its thousands, and its tens of thousands and yet, what is the state of London? How can I describe it? Shall I quote the pamphlet of a respected brother and fellow-minister in Jesus? Shall I speak of the 500,000 sabbath-breakers, who live in the total neglect of all religion, and who never enter a place of worship? Shall I speak of the 10,000 who wear out their wretched lives in low gambling?—Of the 20,000 who go about our streets begging, not one out of seventy of whom dares to have his case investigated. Shall I speak of the 30,000 who are living by theft and fraud, rising in the morning, not knowing where to get a single meal through the day? To say nothing of that system of robbery exercised by those who pay no man, and think it lawful? Shall I speak of the 23,000 who are annually picked up drunk in our streets, and among these a number of women? Shall I speak of the 100,000 gin-drinkers-not those who are occasionally so, for there is treble the number of this class, but those who are habitually so, constantly so, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year, till they die? Shall I speak of the 100,000 females who walk our streets in systematic and abandoned profligacy? Shall I say how the Sabbath is profaned? It was but last Lord's day that one who was with me counted no fewer than forty-eight shops which were open in one street between this chapel and Hampstead. What shall we say of our Sunday newspapers, assailing us wherever we go.
My brethren, of all this multitude, what is the proportion of those who have never been expostulated with, never reasoned with, never entreated; who have never conversed with one child of God, never heard one Gospel sermon? No one, I am aware, can answer the question; but this I fully believe, that were that proportion really known, it would cause our very hearts to ache. I doubt not the far greater proportion never had one person to speak to them, one person to lay before them fairly, broadly, and tenderly, their ruin, and, dying in their present state, their hopeless destruction. What shall we say of our Sunday travelling? What shall we say of the dinner parties of the great? Are they to be passed over because our attention is directed to the haunts of the poorer orders? No, for in proportion as a man's influence is great, so is he more reprehensible in God's sight, if he exercises that influence in opposition to his will. What then is to be done? Numbers will say, Erect more churches and chapels. Good advice, if the Gospel be preached in them. But to the statement to which I have before referred, namely, that there are 500,000 who do not enter into church or chapel, it may be added how many enter both churches and chapels where the Gospel is not preached; where every thing but the Gospel is preached: and how many are converted under a no-gospel ministry I leave you to judge. If there be any it is the exception, and not the rule; and an exception so rare, that we may call it a miracle in the divine economy, an infraction of the rule of God's administration of grace. But suppose there are more churches and chapels where the Gospel is faithfully preached, it ever remains a truth, that it is always the best part of the population who come to public worship. The worst part go nowhere. There is one of these agents (whose name I must not mention) who tells me there is not one-third of the poor in this neighbourhood who ever enter any place of wor: hip, HON, and REV. B. W. NOEL, A.M.
If this be so, we may erect churches and chapels; but then one asks, Will they come? I say they will not. The worst part will still be as they are, and stay away. What, then, is to be done? Some will say, Let the saints of God unite together, and according to the power and time they may have, give themselves up to the work of visiting, especially on the Lord's day. This has been done; and blessed be God, in many instances, well done; and the blessing of God is upon them. But yet the great evil is untouched. My dear brother hints, if every saint of God would undertake the supervisorship of only twelve families in his neighbourhood, and visit them once in the course of every month, much good might be done. I love the idea. I would still say, may God bless all such labours of love. I praise him that there are such societies, and that they are in active operation. I bless him for the District Visiting Society; I bless him for our Christian Instruction Society, for the Metropolitan City Mission long since established. They are dear to me, especially so; and my earnest prayer is, that God would bless them more abundantly, and make them increasing blessings in the midst of this dark and benighted population. But still I maintain, that not all these things do, or can, come up to the pressure of the evil; that they do, and can do, nothing like enough, even taken conjointly, to meet the exigences of the case. We want those who who will give up their whole time, who will give up their whole energies, who will give up their secular occupations, who will give up all that God hath given them in nature and grace, with the exception only of what they owe to their families, who will give up themselves to this work. We want those who will visit year by year, month by month, week by week, day by day, street by street, house by house, room by room. We want a system, so regular in its operation, that it shall be, in one sense, as mechanism, but, in another sense, under the high motive of the love of Jesus, constraining them by the power of the Holy Ghost dwelling in them, that it shall be the most free and willing service. It does seem to me, that the exigences of this case are met by this Society, and that it is really met by no other Society. Perhaps I had better read its objects, because there may be some here who may not be aware of them.
"Article 1, That the society shall be designated, The London City Mission.' 2, The object of this Society shall be to extend the knowledge of the Gospel, irrespective of peculiar tenets, in regard to church government, among the inhabitants of London and its vicinity (especially the poor), by domiciliary visits, for religious conversation and reading the Scriptures; by meetings for prayer and Christian instruction; by promoting the circulation of the Scriptures and religious tracts; by stimulating to a regular attendance on the preaching of the Gospel; by increasing scriptural education; by the formation of loan libraries, and by the adoption of such other means as the managers may judge important, in order to attain the designs of the Society. 3, For carrying these objects into effect, the Society shall employ and pay agents of suitable character and qualifications, who shall give themselves wholly to the work of the Society: they shall also avail themselves of the gratuitous services, as visitors, of private Christians, who may be competent. No person shall be recognised as a manager, agent, or visitor of this Society who is not of evangelical principles, and who does not afford evidence of personal piety. 4, To facilitate the proceedings of the Society, the city, and its environs shall be divided into districts, each of which shall be under the care of a superintendant, who shall meet the agent and the visitors of the district,
as occasion may require. 5, The general business of the Society shall be conducted by a board of managers, consisting of a treasurer, one or more secretaries, twelve superintendants of districts, and other individuals whose assistance they may deem valuable for the interests of the Society. 6, The general subscriptions and donations received for the Society, shall be expended on the paid agents, and on incidental charges. Contributions will be received, and exclusively applied to any object mentioned in the second article, which the donor may specify. 7, The managers shall report their proceedings annually to the contributors."
Here, then, as far as human eyes can see, seems the remedy we want. May that God, who alone can make it effectual, by his own power working in it, give it his own blessing! I confess to you, that when it was first placed before me I entertained many and serious doubts respecting it. I did not like the idea of a paid agency. But when I came to look into this objection, and weighed it in the balance of the sanctuary, I found it wanting. I began to see that God, in his word, lays down his will, broadly and expressly, that he who preaches the Gospel shall live of the Gospel; and that he thus consecrates the principle, that all who lay themselves out for him by his service, and give up their time, thought, body, and soul to him, shall receive of the things which perish in that proportion which a covenant Father seeth good to bestow on them. Moreover, I saw that foreign missionaries are supported, colonial justices are supported, home missionaries are supported, and then, why not these home missionaries? for what are our agents but home missionaries? Thus, I began to see that my objection involved an overstraining, an ultra principle, which could not be maintained. The remuneration, too, namely, an income of 40l. to 80%. per annum, did not seem sufficiently large to hold out any strong enticement to evil. It was little more than supplying the agent with the bare bread that perisheth.
The next doubt I had concerning it was, as to the difficulty of finding the agents. Will there be, I asked, a sufficient number of agents? What will be their quality? and who is to have the appointment and control of them? This difficulty was removed by observing the number of those who had already applied for the agency; by the extreme care manifested in the rules of the Society in their choice*, and actually exhibited in the rejection of forty-four applications out of fifty-seven. Neither could I fail of seeing, in the case of any church or congregation supporting any agent or agents, that in the choice of such an agent, the opinion of the minister of such church and congregation would naturally be looked up to in leading the committee to form a right selection. For instance: if an agent be supported by ourselves, which I humbly trust will soon be the case, to whom would the managers and conductors of this Society look for the approval of such an individual, but to him who ought to know the most of him, and to those in the congregation immediately connected with him, and who must be the best acquainted with his spiritual and moral character? He would not then come as a stranger, but as one known and approvea.
Another difficulty arose in my mind, from the fear I had, lest this Society shoula come into collision with other societies—the District Visiting Society, the Metropolitan City Mission, and the Christian Instruction Society. My dear friends. how careful Satan is on all occasions to place imaginary difficulties de
* See Rules.
fore us, while he keeps the real difficulty out of our sight. That the operation of this Society might, in some measure, alter the sphere of the operation of other societies, there can be but little doubt; but can they not work together? Is there not, alas! abundant room for all? May we not suppose, that with the same objects in view, there would be that feeling of tenderness, that love and consideration for each other, as not to enter upon another's field and work, in the midst of another's labours? Let other societies work where they now work, and let the London City Mission work round them. And, in many instances, may not other societies, by narrowing their field, work it more thoroughly, more extensively, more efficiently? If any society can visit regularly, systematically, street by street, house by house, room by room, the London City Mission will bid it God speed; their labours are not wanted; they will go elsewhere. But if it cannot-then let such society bless God for the London City Mission. My own opinion is, if visiting were more thoroughly performed, more good under the divine blessing would be done. Those fields which have hitherto produced but a scanty crop, might, through grace, be found to contain precious mines of costly gold. I confess, the more I look into the objects and operations of this Society, the more do I feel my heart drawn out in deep concern for its real spiritual good.
See, in this report, how much one agent has visited in the course of two months. In the first month he made four hundred and sixty-two visits, in another month he spent ninety-seven hours in making three hundred and ninety visits. Another agent writes, that in ten weeks he made nine hundred and thirty-four visits. Now, I would say, is it possible that any individuals, engaged from morning to night in trade, in profession, or otherwise, whatever desires God may have given them to lay themselves out for himself and his service, in visiting their fellow-sinners, is it possible, I repeat, that they could thus visit? My dear friends, my firm conviction is, they cannot. But I will not detain you longer: I would only say, if you have the blood of sprinkling of which I have been now speaking, upon your hearts and consciences, you will want no motive, no argument from me to stir you up and lead you forward to promote, as far as in you lies, the objects of this society. God distributeth to every man as he will. Some of you have money, and no time; some of you have time, and no money. O forget not neither your time nor your money are your own. Has God blessed you with the means? Consider the necessities of London-the London in which you dwell. Consider your responsibility consider that "to whom much is given, of the same shall much be required," that, surrounded as you are by countless blessings, and mercies innumerable, your responsibilities are of a deeper and more awful cast, than that of any people under the sun. O look on the years, in which God has favoured you with a preached Gospel; and, if in the riches of his sovereign grace he has made you taste its sweetness in your own hearts, O, how much more loudly does he speak to you that you are not your own, but bought with a price, and therefore called upon to glorify God in your bodies and spirits, which are his If, at the last day any should have to say-and I would humbly hope that many, through his rich grace, will have to say-" Bless the Lord for that society, for by it he brought my soul to himself;" should not we too have to bless God, that he ever laid such a society upon the hearts of others—that he ever laid it upon our own? I leave the matter now, between God and your own consciences! VOL. V.