Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

man.

some time been felt, it is necessary that we should see human nature as it exists where the Gospel has never exerted its influence; we must see human nature as it exists in a perfectly unchristian state, and also as it exists in a perfectly Christian state. In short, we must see man as he exists in hell, and as he exists in heaven, before we can have a full conception of the greatness of the change which Christianity effects. Nevertheless, we need not go out of our own country, or beyond our own dwelling we need not go beyond our own individual experience, if Christianity has ever touched our vital part, if it has ever been introduced into the well-spring of our life, in order to see and feel, too, that the change which Christianity effects is, indeed, a very great and wonderful change.

1. It is an inward and spiritual change. It is not a change in man's looks, conduct, or dress. It is not a change in his opinions or belief merely. It is a soul change-a heart change. The outward change that may appear in a Christian man is not, strictly speaking, the change, but the fruit of it.

It is not in the eye, or the ear, or the tongue-it is not in the outward man that we are to look for this change. The kingdom of God is within

The man who is a perfect stranger to the saving power of Christianity may use his eyes, and ears, and tongue he may conduct himself, generally, just in the same way as the man who is most fully and totally under its influence,

The forms under which this change will manifest itself in the outward life may be imitated, but the change itself cannot be imitated. It is inimitable, because it is an inward and spiritual change--a change that is going on in a region into which the senses cannot penetratema change which no man can know but he who has experienced it.

The soul is ever true to its own character if we could but look into it we should see it as it is. It is only by means of the outward man that it is able to act the mimic--the hypocrite, and appear under a character which it does not possess. The soul the heart of man-is Christ's kingdom. It is there He rules and reigns.

2. It is a thorough change. It is not a partial change, affecting only a few of the faculties of the soul. It does not act merely on the reason, or the will, or the affections, or the imagination, the memory, or conscience, but its influence runs through the whole soul, purifying and regulating all its faculties and powers, and thus imparting to it a new life. There will be new thoughts, new feelings, new hopes, new fears, new joys, new sorrows; in short, the man becomes a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new."

The figurative language which the sacred writers employ in describing this change is very expressive of the thoroughness of it. It is described as a change from darkness to light-from death to life—from bondage to freedom from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God. It is a new birth-new creation.

3. It is progressive. Although the change is a thorough change affecting the whole man--it is not perfect at once. The new nature can attain to perfection only by degrees. The regenerated man does not be me a perfect Christian man at once, any more than a new-born infant becomes a perfect man at once. The infant arrives at perfect manhood by degrees—the child grows into the man.

The new birth which Christianity effects is the commencement of a new life, which, like all other life, arrives at perfection gradually. The child of God grows into the man of God.

The progressive nature of this Divine life in man is often referred to in Scripture. “The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” It is compared to a seed sown in the earth. “There is first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear.” There is

There is a continual growth in knowledge, faith, hope, and love.

The old nature is not subdued and expelled at once. There still remains the elements of the old nature, but they are not what they once were—the ruling principle of life. The old nature, with its sinful propensities, is kept under, subjected, crucified by the new nature, and its power to do that is an ever-increasing—an ever-growing power.-Phil. iii. 12-14; Eph. iv. 11–16.

II. THE CONDITIONS os WHICH THIS CHANGE IS EFFECTED.

The leaven has no power to change the nature and properties of the dough unless it is brought in contact with it; and its power effectually to impart its own nature to it will depend on the position which it occupies in relation to the whole mass it has to act upon. The leaven, if placed on the surface of the dough, would no doubt act upon it, but its action would be very limited and imperfect. If it is to infuse its nature thoroughly and uniformly through the whole mass, it must be hid in a central position, having an equal quantity of dough on either side—then its action will be general, uniform, and thorough.

Now, there is something similar to that in the condition on which Christianity acts upon the human heart. Christianity will not produce within us any change—will not impart to us its own nature and spirit, if we keep it at a distance from us—if we will shut it out of our hearts. If it is to work in us mightily and effectually, it must be received and retained. A full reception, and a faithful retention of Gospel truth are. the conditions on which this change is effected.

1. It must be received. It is not enough that we have a printed copy of the Gospel in our possession—that we are well acquainted with the letter of Scripture. Thousands have the Bible in their possession-are to a considerable extent familiar with its contents—believe it to be divinely inspired-and vet their hearts have never been changed by it. The truth, in order that it might work in us effectually must not only be known—have a place in the understanding and memory—but it must be lodged deep in the heart, where alone it can exert a quickening and sanctifying influence.

Christianity has no power over that man whose heart is closed against it. It is only as the heart opens to receive Divine truth, that it will enter into it and purify and renovate it.

2. It must be retained. The leaven must be hid in the meal—allowed to remain there—not put there and then hastily taken away—if the meal is to be leavened. So Divine truth must not only be received, but also keptheld fast—if we would be made perfect. The Gospel does not come to us as a stranger, whom we are expected to receive and treat with civility for a while, and then bid him a long farewell. It comes to us as the bridegroom of our souls, whom we are to love and cherish as long as we live. It is not something which we are to receive to-day, and then cast away to-morrow. The work of reformation will cease, and the new life will die if it is not kept alive. This new life is not only given by Christ, but it is also sustained by Him. He is not only the source from whence it comes, but also the food on which it lives. He is to the renewed soul the bread of life and the water of life, which we must continually eat and : drink if we would live and thrive and become strong men. It is only as Christ dwells in us and we in Him, that we can spiritually live. The soul in a state of separation from Christ is like the branch that is severed from the tree, it must be quickly grafted back again, or it will soon die. “ Without me ye can do nothing." “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord."

This new life in its origin and progress is so constantly and thoroughly under the influence of Christ, so thoroughly dependent upon His truth, grace, and spirit, that it may be said that our life is hid in Christ, and His life manifested in ours. “ I live,” said Paul, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."

Friend-Have you experienced that inward spiritual change which it is the design of the Gospel to effect? Does Christ dwell in your heart by faith? Are you becoming, day by day, more and more conformed to His image? Let me beseech you to remember that bodily exercise will profit you little; that mere conformity to outward forms of religion, that a mere head-knowledge of the Gospel, can never transform your heart and impart to you true and spiritual life. Christ alone can give you eternal life, and it is only as He is received into your heart, and dwells there, that you can partake of His life. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me even he shall live by me." It is only as Christ dwells in us that our souls can be quickened and our hearts purified. It is only as Christ dwells in us and we dwell in Him, that we are able with open face to behold the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image from glory to glory.

Remember, also, that what is true of leaven as a symbol of that which is good, is also true of it as a symbol of that which is evil. " A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” The least tendency to that which is evil—a little error, if it is received, kept, cherished, hid in the heart—it will not remain there inactive-it will work there silently, yet surely and effectually.

Beware, then, of the least tendency to yield to the temptations of Satan and the evil suggestions of your own heart—to distrust Christmto forsake God. If it is not checked it will increase ; if it is not expelled, and that at once, it may soon so spread its pernicious influence through the whole soul as to prove its eternal ruin.

“ Let the word of Christ dwell in your hearts richly in all wisdom, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be filled with all the fulness of God.'

E. J. ROBERTS. Criggion, Nov. 4th, 1859.

THE CHARIOT OF ISRAEL AND THE HORSEMEN THEREOF. A Funeral Discourse for the Rev. J. A. James, delivered in Legge Street Chapel, Birmingham,

October 9, 1859, by the Rev. Peter Sibree. “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no

more.”—2 Kings ii. 12. Death is the lot of all men, for all have lect salvation, and that the future consinned. Only two individuals, Enoch dition of the heathen, and the infant and Elijah, of the human family, have race of Adam might not be one of hopeescaped. Our adorable Redeemer less and absolute despair. tasted death for every man, that all The translation of Elijah, and the might be left without excuse, who neg. testimony borne to the truth of it by

Elisha and the inspired historian, gives us enlarged views of the character and government of God, and goes to prove the reality of the fact of man's immortality: It also shows the possibility and certainty of his bodily resurrection. Flesh and blood, we know, cannot enter into the heavenly state, any more than can carnal and unrenewed men enter the kingdom of God. Yet in both cases it is still possible for the dead to be raised, and sinners to be converted.

The translation of Elijah was sudden, and why may we not expect corresponding spiritual translations from the kingdom of darkness into that of His dear Son in the present day? Live we not under the dispensation of the Spirit ? and is it not this which the prophet wishes us to understand, rather than that Christ or Elijah are to appear in person before the general judgment ? « Behold, I send Elijah before you, be. fore the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple," &c.—Mal. iv. 5, and iii. 1.

In common with my brethren of almost every section of the church in this town, I am called upon, alas! too soon and unexpectedly, to improve the departure of our beloved father in Christ. And I feel myself required in a measure to do so from personal and peculiar considerations. Long before I was called by Mr. James to be his fellow-labourer in this town, now more than twenty years ago, from my honoured parents, and from Dr. Bogue, his tutor, now resting with him in glory, I learned the interesting fact, that to my revered father's ministry, while an apprentice at Poole, in Dorsetshire, he was brought to decision of mind, and first enjoyed light and liberty in the Gospel. And oh! how great the grace, when he who came to scoff remained to

I should not probably have noticed this, to me, pleasing information, had not some (whether garbled and apocryphal I cannot say) statements appeared in our newspapers respecting Mr. James's conversion ; but having only a short time ago, in a gratifying interview with him, received from his hands, in his study, nearly five pounds' worth of his books as a token of friendship, he then told me of that memorable day, when his anxious and trouble-smitten soul found peace in believing. He looked back on that period with adoring gratitude, and informed

me the words of the sermon on which my father at that time preached, “ He will be very gracious at the voice of thy cry; when He shall hear He will answer it.”—Isa. xxx. 18. From which words I also discoursed the day after Mr. James's death, and now again am called to exclaim with heartfelt sorrow, My father!

my

father !" &c. The subject is not inappropriate, for we may all, as well as the sons of the prophets in our colleges and universities, desire to catch his mantle, and be made partakers of a double portion of his spirit.

I. The continuance of good and great men on earth is a privilege and blessing greatly to be desired.

Elijah was a great and good man. Next to Moses, the servant and prophet of the Lord, a greater bad not appeared in Israel,--a type of John the Baptist, the greatest born of women, who went forth in the spirit and power of Elias to testify of the Redeemer that He is mighty to save! True greatness consists in the possession of eminent gifts and graces; but it was not miraculous gifts alone that distinguished this eminent servant of God, and raised him to his exalted position. It was not that he was so peculiarly favoured above other men, and fed by ravens at the brook Kedron—that he confounded the priests of Baal, by calling down fire from heaven at Carmel-was sustained by the widow's cruse of oil and barrel of meal in the time of famine-and divided the waters of Jordan with his mantle. It was not that he possessed these miraculous gifts alone, which a Balaam might have had without his grace. It is inoral and spiritual strength that gives vigour and force to character, and it is not difficult to trace a parallel between the prophet and our departed father in Christ, endowed as he was, amply with the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit.

He declined university honours, to which, perhaps, our students attach undue importance, though none richly deserved, from the soundness and consistency of his theology, to be associated with our masters in Israel as a teacher and doctor in divinity.

Eminent men like Mr. James, combining in such delightful harmony the gifts and the graces of the Spirit, are the saviours and defenders of the church, their country, and the world. We can ill afford to lose the benefit of their

pray!

more

ness.

ministry and doctrine, their example epithets so significant of love and pracand their prayers. They are the salt of tical Christianity, John and James, that the earth, that preserve it from dissolu-' leads almost to the belief that there was tion—the stars in Christ's right hand, something prophetic in it as suggested that cheer us in sorrow and darkness- to his parents. He was, certainly, the and the refreshing dew sent to revive most perfect man and minister, on the us in this parched and barren wilder- whole, I ever knew. He has been a

messenger of mercy to millions, and one They are not perfect. Elias was a of the most glorious angels of the man of like passions with ourselves. churches, and as such he was received They are sent of God to be our teachers. and beloved by them. And is not the In a subordinate sense only are continuance of such ministers desirable, they the chariots of Israel, our bul. und is it wrong to express an ardent warks and saviours. They claim no wish that such might be retained a supernatural powers—assume no infal- little longer on earth? The Jews at libility. “I, even I am the Lord, and Mount Sinai received the law by the beside me there is none else--a jealous dispensation of angels (Acts vii. 53), and God. Look unto me and be ye saved.” have not we, for more than fifty years, -Isa. xlv. 21. Salvation is the appro- had the Gospel dispensed by one? Has, priate work of Deity. The ministers of a brighter star ever appeared of late in Jesus never get gave life to one dead our horizon ? one enriched with more sinner. The faith and hope they possess gifts, or a more persuasive eloquence, themselves, and call on us to exercise, and who knew how to garland the most are the gift of God, and no man can dry and uninteresting subjects with the keep alive his own soul. Hear the ex- richest and most appropriate imagery? postulations addressed to Job (ch. xl. 9), His denunciations against sin and sin. “ Canst thou compare thyself with the ners, though accompanied with thunAlmighty? Gird up thyself now like a ders and lightnings, had a pathos and man ; wilt thou disannul

my judgment? power to soften and melt the most obHast thou an arm like God?" Stretch durate heart. Those who have heard out that weak, withered, ulcerous arm sermons from such passages as theseof thine. Canst thou thunder like Him? “Is Ephraim my dear son, is he a Deck thyself with majesty and excel- pleasant child, how shall I give thee lency; array thyself with glory and up?" &c. and “0, Jerusalem, Jerusa-. beauty; cast abroad thy rage and lem! thou that killest the prophets," &c. wrath ; try thy powers on thy fellow- --felt his appeals to be irresistible. Like mortals ; look upon the proud and the preaching at Nazareth by the Son abase him; see if thou canst crush all of God, men marvelled at the gracious the baughty ones of the earth, and words that proceeded out of his mouth. bring them down. “ Then will I also The kind thoughts he cherished towards confess unto thee that thy own arm and all men, and the love of this seraphic thy right hand can save thee (v. 14); angel clothed his themes with eloquence, when thou canst establish the founda- and the compassion of his heart moved tions of the earth, and bind up the in- the tears and sympathies of others. We fluence of the stars." Let us tremble have lost the benefit of his instructions, to usurp the offices and titles of the his counsels and prayers. I am much great Immanuel, who is “called Jesus, mistaken if America is not greatly infor He shall save His people from their debted for her revival to his fervent sins.”—Matt. i. 21.

intercessions; and I feel persuaded None knew better the truth of this Ulster and Newcastle, and every county than our departed friend. He did not and town in England and Wales, had a merge the minister in the Mediator, nor share in his supplications. Neither shall attempt, by any priestly assumption, to we, in this forsaken and now impoveeclipse the glory of the Divine Saviour. rished town, remain unblessed. We He knew that the treasure was put into shall not cry in vain, " Where is the earthen vessels, that the excellency of Lord God of Elijah ?" Men of sterling the power might be of God and not of worth and commanding abilities, thanks men. He possessed qualifications cor- to a kind Providence, have been reresponding to his name. Such was his cently sent amongst us. We see already intelligence, benevolence, and moral the cloud of mercy moving towards us, strength, that the Angel shone forth and ready to break in blessings on our illustriously between those apostolic

heads. "Go on, go on praying for re

« AnteriorContinuar »