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VILLAGE Sermons on true gospel principles have a peculiar recommendation to bring with them, on their very cover; in that it was not only the distinguishing character by which the day of Christ's coming was to be known; but also a blessedness was to For when John the follow, on them that received his word. Baptist sent messengers unto our most glorious Christ, with the question, "Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" Jesus answered and said unto them, "Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see. The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me." (Matt. xi. 2-6.) And in exact agreement with this account, we read in the life of Christ, while upon earth, that "He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people." (Matt. iv. 23.) So that these divine acts of grace and mercy, both of preaching and healing, carried with them the fullest testimony to his Almighty person and character. The prophet, ages before, had drawn the features of his portrait : and in Him we behold the original. "Behold, (saith the prophet) your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense: He will come and save you! Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing." (Isaiah xxxv. 4-6.)
But we must not stop here. For the same divine Scriptures, which so plainly speak of the Lord's coming, and describe the characters by which, when come, he was to be known, do as plainly shew how the Lord testifieth the same in the hearts and consciences of his people. The precious portion, which stands for a motto to this little work, in the title page, is, among many others, in proof. "Whithersoever Jesus entered, into villages or cities, or country;" such was his Almighty influence, that he inclined the hearts of his people to bring their sick before him; and, by the same power, prompted their hearts to believe that the mere touch of his garment would impart healing; and the
effect corresponded to the hope; for "as many as touched him were made whole." Observe the marked character of faith:
"As many as touched him." As many as the Lord touched their hearts to believe; to so many the Lord imparted grace to be healed. We have another beautiful illustration of the same kind. (Matt. v. 24-34.) A multitude thronged Christ; but a poor woman in faith touched Christ. We read nothing of them; but of her Jesus spake very blessedly. And elsewhere we read, that "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Acts xiii. 40.)
From such views of our most glorious Lord, which are given of him in the days of his flesh, methinks I would have every poor cottager, and such whose habitations are at a distance from church or chapel, and indeed in every place "where there is a famine of hearing the word of the Lord," (Amos viii. 11-13.) have these things always in remembrance, in this day of his power. The Lord is not confined to means; but in all places wheresoever any of his people are situated the Lord can and will adopt methods for the manifestation of himself to them. We behold him preaching on the mountain; Matt. v. 1. &c. -from a ship; Luke v. 1. &c.—in the fields; Luke vi. 1. &c.— in the garden; John xv. 1. &c. In short, all places are consecrated by his Almighty presence: "wherever two or three are met together in my name, (Jesus saith himself,) there am I in the midst of them!" (Matt. xyiii. 20.) Let it be supposed then, that two or three of a village, or two or three of a family, among the cottagers, remote from the great congregation, were occasionally to meet together as opportunity offered, when the labours of the day were over, and more especially on the Lord's day, that sweet day of rest; and after, by prayer and supplication, seeking a blessing on their little assembly, were to read a portion of the word of God, and then one of the Village Sermons, might we not hope, that as it was said of Christ, upon a memorable occasion of old, so it would be said now; "The power of the Lord was present to heal them?" (Luke v. 17.) Lord Jesus! condescend by these feeble means to make known the Almightiness of thy strength! As far as these Village Sermons are in conformity to thy holy word, and the sovereign purposes of thy holy will, own them in the hearts and consciences of thy people. Let that sacred Scripture be felt, and made known thereby, in which it is said, "Not by might, nor power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." (Zech. iv. 6.)
THE SERVANTS OF THE MOST HIGH GOD, KNOWN IN
ACTS. xvi. 17.
The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
HERE is a short, but a very correct, and comprehensive statement, in decribing the two features of character," between them that serve God, and them that serve him not." (Malachi iii. 18.) The servants of the most high God shew the way of salvation. Knowing the plague of their own hearts, they set forth the same to others. Having themselves tasted that the Lord is gracious, they proclaim, as Paul did, that "this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Tim. i. 15.) Having been taught of God, that "salvation is in no other; and that there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved," (Acts iv. 12.) they have determined for themselves, and uniformly to hold forth the same unto others, "not to know any thing among men, save Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Cor. ii. 2.) They prove themselves therefore "the servants of the most high God, in thus shewing the way of salvation." They have, as children, been taught of God, as the prophet predicted; and as Christ himself interpreted it: "every man therefore (said Jesus) that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." (Compare Isaiah liv. 13. with John vi. 45.) They are come to Christ, being taught who
Christ is, by the Father. And they have discovered, that He, and He alone is "the way, the truth, and the life, and no one cometh unto the Father, but by Him." (John xiv. 6.) And thus taught, and thus sent forth by the unction of the Holy Ghost, to shew the way of salvation; they do, as they are commanded by Him that sends them, say; "Thus saith the Lord: Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths; where is the good way, and walk therein, and find rest for your souls." (Jer. vi. 16. compared with Isaiah xxviii. 12. and Matt. xi. 28-30.)
But while such men manifest, that they are the servants of the most high God, in shewing the way of salvation; they possess no power of persuasion to lead men there. They simply act in this their high calling, as those directing posts, erected in roads, to shew the traveller his path; yet cannot compel the wayfaring man to walk therein. Or perhaps the servants of the most high God, who not only shew unto us the way of salvation, but are walking therein themselves, may more aptly resemble the star which guided the wise men unto Christ, which, it is said, "went before them until it came and stood over where the young child was." (Matt. ii. 9, 10.) But neither here, no more than in the former instance, was there any power to persuade to the belief in Christ. This is the sole prerogative of God. The servants of the most high God, who shew unto us the way of salvation, though they themselves may say, as Paul said, “I know whom I have believed," (2 Tim. i. 12.) yet cannot communicate that knowledge to others. The faithful spies, Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which searched the promised land and brought down the rich cluster of grapes, and the pomegranates, and the figs, to invite by such dainties the people to go up, and take possession of the country, had no influence on the minds of others: