صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

facts of a supernatural kind. A certain species of proof will be sufficient to demonstrate that Cesar existed: and that same species of proof shall be deemed insufficient to ascertain that Moses existed. What a strange disposition of mind! The truth of a fact, which does not in itself imply a contradiction, depends not on the nature of that fact, but on the proofs by which it is supported.

I am ready to admit, that stronger proof will be expected, in order to produce belief of extraordinary events, than is necessary to establish the truth of what happens every day; to produce belief, for instance, that a great scholar is humble, calls for stronger proof than that he is vain; to produce belief, that a friend is as faithful in adversity as he was in prosperity, than that he is less so. But what is evidence with respect to ordinary facts, is likewise so with respect to such as are extraordinary. What is evidence with respect to natural things, is likewise so with respect to such as are supernatural. Nothing more unreasonable can be conceived than the disposition expressed by the apostle Thomas. All the members of the apostolic college, unanimously assure him that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. They adduce this proof of it, that they had beheld him with their own eyes. No, says he, "except I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe," John xx. 25. Wherefore does that which would have been evidence to him on another occasion, cease to be so on this? It is because the matter in question is something supernatural. But the question is not, whether the resurrection of Jesus Christ be within the sphere of natural things, but whether it is founded on proofs sufficient to constitute satisfying evidence.

3. The proofs of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus produce not impressions sufficiently lively, because the necessary discrimination has not been employed in the selection of those proofs, on which some have pretended to establish it. This remark has a reference to certain of the learned, who imagined that they were rendering essential service to the church, when they multiplied proofs, with an indiscreet zeal, and produced every thing which they deemed favourable to the Christian religion. Fraud, fair dealing, all, all appeared equal in their eyes, provided it would contribute to this end. Wretched method! Why was it not confined to the propagators of falsehood; and why has it been so frequently adopted by the partisans of truth! I pretend not to determine whether there be much solidity in the idea of some who have alleged, that the reason why Jesus Christ so strictly prohibited the demons to publish that he was the Messiah, was an apprehension that a testimony borne to his mission by lying spirits, might render the truth of it suspected. But I am well assured that if any thing could have excited a suspicion in my mind unfavourable to the exaltation of the Son of God, it would have been that medley of proofs, solid and without foundation, which we find in the writings of certain ancient doctors of the church on this subject. No one will ever attain to a complete conviction of the exaltation

of Jesus Christ, so long as he neglects to discriminate the proofs on which the truth of it rests. The discovery of the slightest falsehood in those which we had believed to be true, will go far towards invalidating the proof of those which we had good reason to believe founded in truth.

4. The proofs of the exaltation of Jesus Christ produce not impressions sufficiently lively, because we are too deeply affected by our inability to resolve certain questions, which the enemies of religion are accustomed to put, on some circumstances relative to that event. The evangelists have recorded all those which are necessary to convince us of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their silence respecting circumstances of another kind, and our inability to satisfy the demands of those who insist upon them, present nothing to excite suspicion against the fidelity of their narration. They do not tell us, for example, what Jesus Christ did immediately after his resurrection, and before his appearing to the devout women, and to the apostles. They do not tell us what he did during the forty days which he passed upon the earth before his ascension. They do not tell us to whom those dead persons appeared, who came into the holy city to attest his resurrection, nor what became of them after their apparition. The Holy Spirit, perhaps, was not pleased to reveal such things to those inspired men. Perhaps they did not think proper to declare them, though they might have had perfect information on the subject. But is there any thing in this, to invalidate the proofs on which the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is founded? Is there any one ancient history, I say any one without exception, that goes into a certain detail of circumstances? Are we acquainted with all the circumstances of the life of Alexander, or of Darius? Does our ignorance respecting such and such particulars suggest a doubt whether those persons ever existed? Do we know all the circumstances attending the battle of Cannæ, and that of Pharsalia. Does our ignorance of these suggest a doubt whether such battles were actually fought? Is it fair to prescribe to the sacred authors rules which we readily dispense with in the case of profane authors?

5. The proofs of the exaltation of Jesus Christ produce not impressions sufficiently lively, because we suffer ourselves to be intimidated more than we ought, by the comparison instituted between them and certain popular rumours, which have no better support than the caprice of the persons who propagate them. Unbelievers tell us that the multitude is credulous, that it is ever disposed to be practised upon by impostures, from the idea of the marvellous. They accumulate all those noted instances of credulity which ancient and modern history abundantly supply, for it costs very little trouble indeed, to make the collection ample. They avail themselves of those instances to invalidate the argument which we adduce from the unanimity of that testimony which evinces the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But let them show us, among what they call " popular rumours," let them show us among these any thing of the same

kind with those which we have produced: and then we shall feel ourselves called upon to defend, in another way, the doctrine in question. But under the pretext that mankind is credulous, obstinately to resist the force of proofs which have been admitted by judges the most rigid and acute, is wilfully to shut the eyes against the truth.

6. Finally, the proofs of the truth of the exaltation of our blessed Lord and Saviour, produce not impressions sufficiently lively, because they are not sufficiently known. The preceding particulars chiefly relate to the learned, and the philosophic part of mankind, of whom the number, undoubtedly, is on comparison very inconsiderable. This relates to the multitude, of which the far greater part of our audiences is composed. I am well aware that those proofs have been carried farther in the present age, than ever had been done, perhaps, since the days of the apostles. I have oftener than once, adored the conduct of divine Providence, in that the objections of unbelievers, of which it may likewise be affirmed, that they have been carried farther in the present age, than they had been since the times of the earliest antagonists of the Christian religion: I have oftener than once, I say, adored the conduct of divine Providence, in that those objections have furnished occasion to scrutinize the proofs of the facts, on which the truth of Christianity rests.

In proportion as events are more remote, the more difficult it becomes to ascertain them. If the spirit of superstition and blind credulity had continued to be the reigning folly of mankind, men would have neglected to study the proofs of the facts of which I have been speaking, and we should have had in later ages, much greater trouble in demonstrating the truth of them. But infidelity is the reigning folly of the age in which we live, and has, as it were, succeeded the spirit of superstition and blind credulity, the reigning folly of ages past. Now Providence has so ordered the course of things, that this very infidelity should prove the occasion of placing, in their clearest point of light, those illustrious proofs which we have of the facts, whereon the Christian religion is founded. But though they have been stated with so much clearness and precision, it is undoubtedly certain that they are not hitherto sufficiently known by the generality of professing Christians.

you will perceive, that the truth of the exaltation of the Saviour is founded upon proofs, which it is impossible for any reasonable man to resist. You will be, in some measure, as much convinced that he is raised up from the dead, and ascended into heaven, as if you had seen him with your own eyes bursting asunder the bars of the grave, and assuming his seat at the right hand of the Father: you will be in this first sense, quickened together with Christ, and raised up, and made to sit together in heavenly places with him."





EPHESIANS ii. 4-6.

God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved,) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

HAVING given a few preliminary advices relative to my subject, I went on to justify the accuracy of the apostle's idea, by showing, that the Christian is "quickened, raised up, seated in heavenly places, together with Christ."

I. By the reasons which persuade him of the certainty of the exaltation of Jesus Christ. I now proceed to justify St. Paul's idea by showing,

II. The Christian's participation in the glory of Jesus Christ, by the means with which he is furnished of knowing himself, and of attaining assurance that he is fulfilling the conditions under which he is enabled to promise himself an interest in that exaltation. I do not mean to insinuate, that this knowledge is of easy attainment. I maintain, on the contrary, that it is one of the most difficult which can be proposed to man. And without entering here into a detail of the reasons which evince the difficulty of it, it is sufficient for me to adduce a single one; it is the smallness of the number of those who know themselves. The judgments which men form of their own character, is an inexhaustible source of ridicule. The world is crowded with people totally blind, especially where they themselves are concerned.

What illusions do they practise upon them

Would you be thoroughly convinced of the exaltation of the Saviour of mankind, devote to the study, which I am recommending, a part, I do not say only of that time which you so liberally bestow on the world and its plea-selves, with respect to the body! How many sures, but a part of even that which you have are there whom Nature has sadly degraded in thrown away upon useless controversies, on the point of person: forms which you would say speculative questions, and the bold researches, were only blocked out, and of which, if I may with which most books, on the subject of reli- use the expression, God seems to have erected gion, are filled. Let the mind be deeply im- only the first scaffoldings, conceive of thempressed with that series of presumptions, of selves ideas directly opposite to the truth. arguments, of demonstrations, of which the Talk of the corporeal qualities of such and resurrection, and the other particulars of the such persons, and they will be among the first exaltation of the Son of God are susceptible. to make them an object of derision, and disDo all diligence to discern the whole evidence cover this to be too slim, that to be too gross; of those facts, without which, to use the apos- falling foul of the whole human race, and tle's expression, "your faith is vain, and our showing tenderness to no one but themselves. preaching also is vain," 1 Cor. xv. 14. Then If we are thus subject to blindness, where VOL. II.-24


things sensible, palpable, are concerned, how | possible, by means of an examination so curmuch greater must be the danger, where mat- sory, to attain a knowledge which costs the ters of a very different complexion address most eminent saints so much application? themselves to our self love. We practise illusion upon ourselves, on the different manner. A real Christian studies himself in a very score of our understanding. How many ig-pel in his hand, he searches into the most seWith the torch of the gosnorant, dull, stupid people betray a conceit cret recesses of conscience. He traces his acthat they are intelligent philosophers, profound tions up to their real principles. When he politicians; that they possess a judgment ac- has performed an act of virtue, he scrupulously curate, enlightened, uncommon; and are so powerfully prepossessed with the belief of this, some merely human respect, or whether it proexamines whether he had been actuated by that the combined universe could not drive ceeded from a sacred regard to the law of God. them out of it. Hence it comes to pass, that When he unhappily is overtaken, and falls into they are for ever taking the lead in society, sin, he carefully examines whether he was beexacting attention, courting admiration, pro- trayed into it by surprise, or whether, by the nouncing, deciding peremptorily, and seeming prevalence of corruption in his heart, and from to say at every turn, am not I a most extraor- the love of the world still exercising dominion dinary personage? But you have never had over him. When he abstains from certain the advantage of a course of education, or of vices, he examines whether it proceeded from regular study. No matter; talents supply every real self-government, or merely from want of deficiency. But no one presents incense to you, yourself only excepted. Still it signifies this question, what would I have done, had I means and opportunity; and he asks himself nothing: it is the wretched taste of the present been placed in such and such circumstances? age. But you are actually a laughing-stock Would I have preserved my innocence, with to mankind. No matter still: it has always Joseph, or lost it, as David did? Would I, been the lot of great men to be the object of with Peter, have denied Jesus Christ, or have envy and calumny. endured martyrdom in his cause, like Stephen?

We practise illusion upon ourselves in favour of our heart. Should you chance to be in a circle of slanderers, and bear your testimony against slander, the whole company will instantly take your side. The most criminal will endeavour to pass for the most innocent. They will tell you that it is the most odious, abominable, execrable of vices. They will tell you that the severest punishments ought to be adjudged against the offender, that he ought to be excluded from all human society. And the very persons who are themselves actuated by this detestable passion, who are themselves diffusing the baleful poison of their malignity, apprehend not that they are, in the slightest degree, chargeable with such a vice. Have you no knowledge, my brethren, of such a portrait? Have I been depicting to you manners which have no existence in real life? If there be any among you incapable of discovering himself under such similitudes as these, it is a demonstration of what I wished to prove, that it is a very difficult thing for a man to know himself.

But though this knowledge be extremely difficult, it is by no means impossible of attainment. The believer employs two methods, principally to arrive at it. 1. He studies his own heart. 2. He shrinks not from the inspection of the eyes of another.

1. First, the believer studies his own heart. Let it not appear matter of astonishment that the generality of mankind are so little acquainted with themselves. They are almost always from home; external objects engross all the powers of their mind; they never dive to the bottom of their own conscience. Does it deserve the name of searching the heart, if a man employs a rapid and superficial self-examination, by reading a few books of preparation, on the eve of a communion solemnity: if he devote a few moments attention to the maxims of a preacher, much more with a design to apply them to others, than to make them a test of his own conduct? How is it

ploys to arrive at the knowledge of his own 2. The second method which the believer emheart, is to permit others to unveil it to his eyes: this is done particularly, either by the public instructions of the faithful ministers of the gospel, or by the private admonitions of a judicious and sincere friend: two articles very much calculated to explain to us the reasons why most men attain such an imperfect knowledge of themselves.

dresses from the pulpit, in which the preacher It is with difficulty we can digest those adwhich it is impossible for us to acquire selfventures to go into certain details, without knowledge. We are fond of dwelling on generals. Our own portrait excites disgust, when the resemblance is too exact. circumstance well worthy of being remarked, It is a that what we admire the most in the sermons of the dead, is the very thing which gives most offence in the sermons of the living. When ago, those bold strictures in which the preachwe read, in discourses pronounced several ages proved the vices of the great as freely as those ers unmasked the hypocrites of their times, reof the little, attacked adultery, extortion, a tyrannical spirit, in the very presence of the offenders, we are ready to exclaim, What zeal! What courage! What firmness! But when a himself after such excellent models; when he preacher of our own days presumes to form would copy the example of Elijah, who said and thy father's house," 1 Kings xviii. 18, to Ahab, "I have not troubled Israel; but thou when he would follow the example of Nathan, who said to David, "Thou art the man," 2 Sam. xii. 7, or that of John Baptist, who said thy brother's wife," Mark vi. 18, then the cry to Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have is, What audacity! What presumption! It would be improper, my brethren, to extend any farther my remarks on this subject at present; but I may be permitted, at least, to borrow the words of Jesus Christ, addressed to his disciples; "I have yet many things to say

unto you, but ye cannot bear them now," John

vi. 12.

has united the compendious road of sensation to the more circuitous one of reasoning, for the preservation of our body. What is noxious to the body, makes itself known to us, not only by a process of reasoning, but by certain disagreeable sensations, which warn us to keep at a distance from it. Whatever contributes to its preservation, makes itself known by pleasurable sensations, and thereby engages us to make use of it.

If we are unable to digest public discourses of the description which we have been giving, much less are we disposed to bear with the private admonitions of a judicious and sincere friend, who is so faithful as to unveil to us our own heart. What a treasure is a friend, who keeps constantly in view, I do not say our honour only, our reputation, but more especially our duty, our conscience, our salvation! What a treasure is a man, who employs the influence which he may have over us, only for the purpose of undeceiving us when we are in an error; of bringing us back when we have gone astray; of assisting us to unravel and detect the pretences which the deceitfulness of the human heart uses to justify to itself its wanderings and weaknesses! What a treasure is a man, who has the honesty to say to us, according as circumstances may require: "Here it was your want of experience that misled you; there, it was the prejudice of a faulty education: on that occasion you was betrayed, through the seduction of those flatterers, in whose society you take so much delight: on this, it was the too favourable opinion which you had formed of yourselves, which would persuade you, that you are ever sincere in your conversation; ever upright in your intentions; ever steady in your fellowships!"

4th Proposition. We are assured not only by reason, that God may adopt this mode of proceeding, but Scripture and experience teach us, that he actually does so, in the case of certain Christians of a superior order.

I compare those sensations of grace to the movements by which the prophets were animated, and which permitted them not the power of doubting whether or not it was the effect of the presence of God in their souls; movements which produced conviction that God intended to make use of their ministry, and constrained them in many cases to act in contradiction to their own inclinations. Never Nevertheless, we usually look upon this was mission more glorious than that of Jereprecious treasure not only with disdain, but miah. Never was mission more difficult and even with horror. It is sufficient to make us more burdensome. He was called to open his regard a man with an eye of suspicion, that he mouth in maledictions, levelled against his felhas discovered our weak side. It is sufficient low-citizens, and to be himself exposed as a for him to undertake to paint us in our true butt to the execrations of that people. Overcolours, to be perfectly odious to us. A real whelmed under the pressure of a ministry so Christian employs all the means with which distressful, he exclaims, "Wo is me, my mohe is furnished, to unveil his own heart to him-ther, that thou hast born me a man of strife, and a man of contention to the whole earth," chap. xv. 10. He does more. He forms the resolution of renouncing a ministry which has become the bitterness of his life: "The word of the Lord is made a reproach unto me, and a derision daily; then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name," chap. xx. 8, 9. But God lays hold of him, by invisible bonds, and which he finds it impossible to shake off: "the word of the Lord is made a reproach unto me, and a derision daily; then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name: but his word was in mine heart, as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay," ver. 9. “0 Lord, thou hast deceived" (enticed) "me, and I was deceived," (enticed:) "thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed,” ver. 7.

I am persuaded that many among you have experienced in your vocation, something similar to what the prophet experienced in his. I am persuaded that many of you have been attracted by those irresistible bands, and have felt that sacred flame kindle in your soul, which the Holy Spirit communicates to the regenerated, and which puts these words into the mouths of the disciples, who were travelling to Emmaus, "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?" Luke xxiv. 32.

self. By dint of study, he acquires the knowledge of himself. Having acquired this important knowledge, he seriously and resolutely sets about personal reformation; and he makes progress in it. He examines this new state into which divine grace has introduced him; and finding within himself the characters of Christianity, he lays hold of its promises. He becomes assured of its being in the class of those to whom they are made. And what is it to possess such assurance? It is to have an anticipated possession of all the blessings which are the object of it. It is to be already quickened, already raised up, already made to sit in heavenly places together with Jesus Christ.

III. Finally, the believer is quickened, he is raised up, he is made to sit together in heavenly places, by means of the foretastes which he enjoys of his participation in the exaltation of the Saviour of the world. Should any one accuse me, of myself running under this head, upon that rock of the marvellous, against which I cautioned my hearers, under a preceding branch of my discourse, I would request his attention to the following series of propositions, which I barely indicate in so many words.

1st Proposition. God possesses a sovereign empire over all perceptions of our souls; he is able to excite in them such as he pleases, either with the concurrence of external objects, or without that concurrence.

2d Proposition. In the order of nature, God

3d Proposition. It by no means involves a contradiction, to say, that if it was the will of God, in the order of nature, that the compendious road of sensation should supply the more circuitous one of reasoning, he may sometimes be pleased to conform to the same economy, in the order of grace.

Now, if you call upon me to go into a more particular detail on this subject, I will say to you, that however mysterious this operation of the grace of God may be; whatever difficulty may appear in exactly ascertaining the time of its communication, it is imparted to believers, in five situations chiefly. 1. When shutting the door of his closet, and excluding the world from his heart, the Christian enjoys communion with Deity. 2. When Providence calls him to undergo some severe trial. 3. When he has been enabled to make some noble and generous sacrifice. 4. When celebrating the sacred mysteries of redeeming love. 5. Finally, in the hour of conflict with the king of terrors. 1. When shutting the door of his closet, and excluding the world from his heart, he is admitted to communion and fellowship with Deity, in retirement and silence. There it is that a commerce is instituted, the charms of which I should to no purpose undertake to display, unless they were known to you by experience. There it is that the believer compensates to himself the time of which he has been constrained to defraud his God; and there it is, that God compensates to the believer, the delights of which the commerce of the world has deprived him. There it is that the believer pours out into the bosom of his Father and his God, the sorrow excited by the recollection of his offences, and that he sheds the tears of a repentance which love has enkindled, and expresses in terms such as these:

"My God, I know that love is thy predo:ninant character, and that it cannot be thy will I should perish: but I am ashamed of my own weakness; I am ashamed of the little progress I have made in religion, since the time thou hast been pleased to grant me a revelation of it. I am ashamed to reflect that such an accumulation of benefits as thou hast conferred upon me, should have still produced so slight an impression upon my heart."

And there it is that God wipes the tear from the believer's eye, and heals up the wounds of the penitent, saying unto him, " I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins," Isa. xliii. 25. There it is that the believer avails himself of the tender access which God condescends to grant to those precious moments, and that conversing with him, " as a man speaketh unto his friend," Ex. xxxiii. 11, he asks him to bestow communications more endearing, more intimate: "Lord, I beseech thee to show me thy glory," ver. 8. “Lord, scatter that darkness which still veils thy perfections from my view; Lord, dispel those clouds which still intervene between me and the light of thy countenance." There it is that God takes pleasure to gratify desires so nobly directed: "Poor mortals, how unrefined, how debased is your taste! How much are you to be pitied, with that relish for the meagre delights of this world!" Is there any one that can stand a comparison with that which the believer enjoys in such blessed intercourse as this?

ing himself the glory of a triumph, but in reality from the fatal charm which betrays him into defeat. We have no encouragement to expect divine support to resist and overcome temptation, when we rashly throw ourselves in the way of it: "He that loveth danger," says the Wise Man, "shall perish therein." I speak of those trials, which the believer is called to encounter, either from some supernatural interpositions, or simply from the duty imposed by his Christian vocation. How often do they appear to him so rude, as to awaken despair of overcoming? How often, when abandoned for a moment to his frailty, he says within himself, "No, I shall never have the fortitude to bear up under that painful conflict: no, it will be impossible for me to survive the loss of that child, far dearer to me than life itself: no, I shall never be able to fulfil the duties of the station to which Providence is calling me. How can I give my heart to what I hate, and tear it away from what I love?" Christian, be of good courage. See that thy resolution be upright and sincere," to him that believeth all things are possible," Mark ix. 23.

There are resources of grace with which thou art yet unacquainted; but which thou shalt know by experience, if thou pray for them, and make it thy unremitting and sincere endeavour to walk worthy of such exalted expectations. God himself will descend into thy soul with rays of light, with fresh supplies of strength, with impressions so lively, of the promised recompense of reward, that thou shalt not feel the pains of conflict, and be sensible only to the pleasure of victory; that thou shalt raise the shout of victory, whilst thou art yet in the hottest of the battle.

3. I said that those transporting foretastes are communicated to the believer, after he has been enabled to offer up some noble and generous sacrifice. I can conceive no transports once to be compared with those which Abraham felt, on his descent from Mount Moriah. What conflicts must he have undergone from the awful moment that God demanded his Isaac! What a dreadful portion of time, I was going to say, what an eternity was the three days which passed between his departure from his habitation, and his arrival at the place where this tremendous sacrifice was to be offered up! What emotions must that question of Isaac have excited in a father's bosom; "behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" Gen. xxii. 7. Abraham comes off victorious in all these combats; Abraham binds his son with cords; he stretches him out on the wooden pile; he lifts up his hand to pierce the bosom of this innocent victim. God arrests his uplifted arm. Abraham has done his duty: he carries back his son with him; what a transport of delight!

But this is not all. Will God be outdone in generosity by Abraham? He crowns the obedience of his servant: he accumulates upon him new marks of favour; he promises himself to immolate his own Son for the man who could summon up the resolution to devote his son at God's command. This is, according to St. Paul, the sense of those mysterious words;

2. When Providence calls him to encounter some severe trial. I speak not here of trials to which appetite prompts a man to expose" by myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for himself, under the specious pretext of promis- because thou hast done this thing, and hast

« السابقةمتابعة »