Obrazy na stronie

annals of the Church will tell, in the names viction as a certain verity. Before he perseof many a saint written in letters of blood.cuted the faith, now “he preaches the faith And yet St. Paul had probably heard Christ which once he destroyed.” What things mere himself preach, and his disciples. He cer- gain to him, these are as dross: he counted tainly had heard the testimony, the dying "all things but loss for the excellency of the words of St. Stephen. And while, in after- knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, counting days, many who had cried " To the lions with them but dung, so that he might win Christ, the Christians!” struck by their noble bearing and be found in him." Right views of the in the article of death, relented, pitied, be- Lord Jesus Christ, of his person, work, and lieved; after many such spectacles, Saul was grace, form the Christian character, and dehard and inflexible. What shall we say of cide for heaven. Christ in the heart is the the heart which can resist such evidences of hope of glory. That that sacred name should the truth? And yet such is the heart of man! be found reiterated no less than five hundred This resistance is ascribed to ignorance and times in only a small portion of the New unbelief. These terms, being negations, can- Testament, leads ug at once to the inference, not, properly speaking, be motives of actions. that true faith in him is essential to the very They imply, however, that the apostle was life, peace, and holiness of man. “What think left open to those false views of human na- ye

of Christ ?" therefore, becomes a question ture, of the world, and of happiness, which are of the most tremendous consequence. Upon natural to us. Prejudice had overlaid the text it the eternal destiny of a creature may be of the Old Testament with an incrustation of said to hang. And we observe also, that the false interpretation and superstitious tradi- apostle's faith was joined with and worked by tion, so that the divine word was scarcely dis- "love." If in nature to see beauty is necescernible. And when we speak of " unbeliefsarily to admire, in grace to believe in Christ in Christ Jesus, what moral darkness does that is to love him. To believe in Christ becomes word imply! What is the Bible to the man at once the inlet of affection. Let us contrast who beholds not the Lord Jesus, who is the this love with that which formerly occupied alpha and omega, who is the beginning and its place in the apostle's heart. If faith workthe end ? Ignorance and unbelief, therefore, eth by love, unbelief worketh by hatred. (such is our depraved nature) allow of men There is a natural benevolence in the heart; becoming, in a certain sense, sincere blas- but, constituted as the world is, in the absence phemers, honest persecutors, conscientious in- of Christian faith, the barrier which natural jurers! If, however, we learn a lesson of benevolence opposes to selfishness is soon human depravity, surely we learn also the broken down. Natural benevolence indeed necessity of not resting in educational notions lies dormant till it is awakened by the voice of apparent rectitude, without testing them of the Gospel. Philosophy, as well as superby the letter and spirit of God's word ; the stition, is found in the ranks of deadly oppoconviction of the need of divine teaching sition to Christ and his disciples. The apostle prompting the prayer, “ Open thou my eyes, speaks of " love in Christ Jesus," i. e. of that I may behold the wonders out of thy law." which he was the object, and his disciples for Such a prayer, it seems, had never ascended his sake, in opposition to his former character to God from the apostle's heart in his uncon- of persecutor and injurious. He had a zeal verted state; it was only in the hours of for God; but love was not one of its elebodily darkness with which he was smitten by ments. It has justly been remarked, “ Lore the light from heaven, that he first learnt his to God is wont to devote itself rather than its need of divine illumination, and it was said of neighbour, to sacrifice its own lust and pride him by the Lord himself, “ Behold! he pray- on the altar of Christ, rather than the liberty eth." But our mind does not rest here. We and good of another on the altar of vanity." are called to mark a conversion as decided in The love which the apostle now felt was its results, as it was wonderful in the cause Christian, divine ; it was not merely a revival which produced it. We behold Saul a be- of natural benevolence; for in the history of lierer in Christ, with a heart constrained by natural affection we have no such traces of the love of the Saviour; a humble-minded, love as we discern in the apostle. “What devout Christian. He believed in Christ Jesus. mean ye to weep and to break


heart ?” he “He that hath the Son hath life.” “This is could exclaim; “I am ready not only to be life eternal, to know God, and Jesus Christ bound, but to die for the sake of the Lord whom he hath sent.” He that believeth not Jesus.” “And I will very gladly spend and shall be damned. We perceive at once what be spent for you; though the more abundan entire change of character this one idea antly I love you, the less I be loved." What implies. Once he resisted, with his whole can exceed this love? Is it not a reflection soul, the thought that Jesus of Nazareth was from the beams of Christ's love to his own the Messiah ; now he entertains the con- soul ? Such was the apostle's love to his Saviour and to his disciples. His faith worked | penitent woman at the feet of Christ illusby love; and as, without faith, love cannot trates this sentiment. Pardon, under no cirexist, so, without love, faith is a mere specu- cumstances, superinduces forgetfulness of sin. lation. Were it possible for all other virtues It was the humility which the knowledge of to exist without love, the soul of all, they Christ always imparts, which wrought the utwould be “sounding brass, tinkling cymbals.” terance of the apostle in the text, “Sinners, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom I am chief.” In truth, self-esteem is let him be anathema." " He that loveth not, unjust in man. God requires nothing at variknoweth not God, for God is love." We ance with truth, and yet he will have no flesh observe also, a spirit of profound humility glory in his presence. Right views of God was a feature in the apostle's character in his are very humbling. Of all beings, the angels converted state. The character of a Pharisee are at once the purest and the most lowly. was one of self-righteous complacency: he Hence we always find in the Bible that the holiconsidered himself the very favourite of Hea- est believer, the man who more than others enven ; and many a foolish saying of the Phari- joyed the presence of God, and witnessed the see is on record, implying a most overweening divine glory, was the most profoundly abased estimate of self-importance. Such was Saul. before God. Witness the expression of Isaiah How very far was he, therefore, from the spi- when he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, ritual sensations of a broken heart! But in and heard the seraphim, “Woe is me, because his converted state, humility is the atmosphere I am a man of unclean lips;" and that of Job, in which all his thoughts seem to breathe. I“ I have heard of thee by the hearing of the pass over the intimation of humility in the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I terms lie“ counted me faithful,” upon which abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Chrysostom observes," he appropriates not if Job, and Isaiah, and St. Paul, thus spoke of to himself the glory of God," quoting similar themselves, what is the estimate which we expressions of St. Paul's self-renunciation; shall form of our own characters ? and I pause at the very remarkable expres

II. But it is natural to ask,

by what

agency sion, Sinners, of whom I am chief." He was this conversion effected ? what influence pronounces himself the chief of sinners, be availed to overcome such prejudice and uncause, as Chrysostom explains it, “in refer- belief, and to implant the heavenly virtues of ence to that righteousness, which is God's faith and love? Humanly speaking, nothing workmanship, and which is really sought, even was less probable than the conversion of those who were apparently just according to Saul. The brethren were slow to believe the the law, are sinners. For all have sinned, fact. Was it moral suasion? Doubtless it and come short of the glory of God.” He was nothing contrary to reason. Was it hucontinues-"As that man who possesses

much man policy? ambition? worldly good ? St. wealth seems by himself indeed to be rich, but Paul himself resolves the question, “ the grace when compared with royal treasures to be of our Lord was exceeding abundant.” It very poor, and even the rery poorest; so also in was effected by the Holy Spirit acting upon this place, when men, and even the righteous, his soul in a very gracious manner, both as to are contrasted with angels, they are found to the freeness and extent of his operations. be sinners.” The effect produced on the “ The wind bloweth where it listeth, and ye Queen of Sheba's mind when she beheld all hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence the glory of Solomon, " there was no spirit it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every left in her," is a kindred feeling to this of the one that is born of the Spirit.'

There are apostle's. Faith in Christ had taught him a diversities of operations, but the same Spirit. higher standard of duty than that by which | In how many various ways does divine Prohe had formerly concluded, " that touching vidence concur with the Spirit of his grace in the righteousness of the law he was blame- the conversion of a sinner? At one time less." He had beheld the divine perfections every event succeeds in the most natural in all their glory, and he was constrained to order. War arises between Syria and Israel ; pronounce himself the chief of sinners. “I a little maid is taken captive by Naaman's am chief,” not I was chief. He was a par- band ; she waits upon Naaman's wife; the doned sinner before God; but his pardon had infidel Naaman becomes a worshipper of the not been pronounced before men and angels. true God. A tumult arises in the streets of The pardon which is conveyed to the soul, Philippi; Paul and Silas are dragged before through faith, in God's ordinances, removes the magistrates, and thrust into prison; the indeed obligation to punishment, but does not jailer and his house are converted. In other take away the malignity of sin, or affect his cases, we have more or less disturbance of moral character as a sinner. The pardoned what would seem the natural course of Probeliever rather loathes himself the more on vidence. In the case just mentioned, the ocaccount of sin, because he is pardoned. The currence of the earthquake ; and, in St. Paul's own case, the light shining on his path above must do.” “Thou hast magnified thy word the brightness of the midday sun. In such above all thy name,” reveals to us the excircumstances, how variously also does the cellence of the divine word; and as we would Spirit act upon a sinner's heart! His work is escape the delusion of the enthusiast, as well not uniform. In the case of Lydia, we have as the ignorance of him who is not wise in an instance how God prepares the heart by that which is written, -as we would expect slow degrees for the reception of the Gospel the blessing of God, our duty is to search the of his Son. Right reason had led her to see Scriptures. And yet it is not to the word of the absurdity of idolatry, though it was the God's grace, but to grace itself, that we must national worship; and reflection had taught refer the change of the apostle's character. her the necessity of right principles in re- It has been said very justly, “the Gospel is a ligion. Hence she professed herself a Jewish mighty instrument, but it is only mighty when proselyte : we follow her in the stated attend-God uses it.” “The Lord opened the heart of ance on Sabbath worship. It pleased God, Lydia.” “He gave testimony to the word of by a special act of his providence, to send an his grace.” “All these worketh the self-same apostle to preach Christ unto her ; " and the Spirit.” St. Paul in another place informs us, Lord opened her heart, that she attended unto that God “revealed his Son in him.This the things which were spoken of Paul.” We is the special grace of the Holy Spirit, “ God have similar instances in Cornelius and the hath revealed them to us by his Spirit; for the Æthiopian eunuch, both as to the gradual pro- Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things cess of conversion and special interference of of God” (1 Cor. ii. 10). The fact that "Jesus Providence. We have an instance of a different Christ came into the world to save sinners,” kind in the same Church of Philippi, that of was taught St. Paul at once by the Spirit of the jailer, whose only preparation for con- grace. It was not the light, it was not the version was terror. He had lived without word of Christ-although it was not without God; and despairing on the outbreak of sud- it—but it was the Spirit of God who revealed den danger, he was about to resort to the in- Christ to the apostle's soul. Hence he disfidel's refuge from present fears in self-de-cerned spiritual things. He not only knew struction. One moment later, and his soul of them rationally, but he loved them spirithad been lost for ever. Very justly, there- ually. The scheme of redemption, in all its fore, has it been remarked, " that in one case ineffable wisdom, and justice, and love, was God terrifies the conscience, in another he discerned in the light of divine illumination. sweetly and gently acts upon the affections of The divine and human nature of the Saviour, the heart; in one his work is slow and gra- his atonement, mediation, and headship, in all dual, in another sudden; in one case the re- their relations, were verities which he becipient of his grace is a person so evidently lieved in his very heart; they were the prindisposed in his heart as to warrant our hope ciples of his new character. The effect of this of the Lord's favourable regard towards him, revelation of Christ in him was marked and in another he is a criminal of a high order of decisive. “When it pleased God, who sepaguilt, palpably devoid of all previous pre- rated me from my mother's womb, and called paration of heart, and such as to be rescued me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, to only by a miracle from the very verge of de- preach him among the heathen, immediately struction."'* It is to this latter class the con- Î conferred not with flesh and blood." He version of St. Paul belongs. It is to be ob- preached the faith which once he destroyed ; served, in all these cases, whether God has and nothing could make him swerve from the been acting ordinarily or extraordinarily in his path of duty. providence, the instrumentality of the word of What, then, is our duty ? For ourselves, in God has uniformly been employed. The Holy dependence on the promises, not trusting in Spirit nerer acts without the word of God and any outward means (for means of grace are the divine ordinances. The word of God is not grace itself), to seek that abundant grace the instrument of conversion. “Being born of the Holy Spirit, whereby faith in Christ again, by the word of God, which liveth and Jesus may grow_in us exceedingly, and our abideth for ever." St. Paul's case is not an love towards the Lord and towards each other exception. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou may abound; that we may be clothed with me?" was the word out of Christ's mouth which humility, and, among other evidences of it, pierced his soul, and laid him in the dust; acknowledge every good thing in us to be of and when he would know what the Lord would grace, according to the apostle's own declarahave him do, the answer was, “ Arise, and go tion, “ By the grace of God I am what I am." into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou For others, that God would give to his whole

Church " the spirit of wisdom and revelation • Vide sermons by the Rev. E. B. Elliott, page 327; to whom the preacher acknowledges his obligations for several of the

in the knowledge of Christ," and make all foregoing observations in this division of the sermon.

men know by the Church the manifold wis

dom of God. It is a delightful thought, that be produced, a more marked specimen of it St. Paul's conversion may have been in answer could hardly have been shewn. What nobler to St. Stephen's dying prayer for his perse-example could have been given, both" to shew cutors. Were this holy exercise of inter-1 the mercy of God in pardoning sin through cession better understood by all Christians, as Jesus Christ, and to encourage sinners to reour Church in her liturgy understands the pent and believe ?"* For a sovereign to make privilege, might we not expect more marked a condemned rebel the object of his pity, and results in the world than we now witness ? not only to pardon him, but to give him a "Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen high commission in his own army, would be for thine inheritance, and the uttermost part a very inadequate description of the grace of the earth for thy possession." “ Ye that which was bestowed so abundantly upon the make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, apostle. and give him no rest, till he establish and till There is mercy, therefore, to the very chiefest he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" of sinners ; and as it is the longsuffering mercy (Is. Ixii. 6, 7).

of Jesus Christ, it is holy mercy. In Christ III. I proceed to consider briefly the last point mercy is as just as is the exercise of divine proposed for our consideration, The design of goodness towards unfallen angels. Cannot, God in effecting the conversion of the apostle. then, the Lord Jesus soften the heart of the It becomes a question of the utmost moment, fiercest persecutor ? cannot he convert and how far we may apply the conversion of St. forgive the greatest offender? why should we Paul to present edification and comfort ? Are not expect similar conversions ? The spiritual we to regard it as a monument of antiquity, application of the word of God, the revelation which illustrates the skill of the architect, and of Jesus Christ in the heart, is the ordinary astonishes us by its grandeur, without a hope grace of the Holy Spirit. Why may not the of witnessing similar achievements in our own Church expect the same manifestation of didays? Is there nothing left to us but to ad- vine compassion and almighty grace now as she mire and to despond ? does it not display the experienced at Damascus ? Let the Church divine character ? is there not something in it use the same spiritual weapons (and they are to comfort the Church in reference to infi- mighty through God), and the arm of the delity and persecution without, and in regard persecutor shall not wither up, but shall be to the penitence within her bosom? “Howbeit stretched forth in the defence of the ark which for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first he had ignorantly purposed to overthrow. (i. e: the chief of sinners) Jesus Christ might And how comforting to the penitent beshew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to liever is this history of the Saviour's comthem which should hereafter believe on him passion! It is hard indeed to convince the to life everlasting.” God might have effected impenitent of his need of pardon ; not less the conversion of the apostle without remark hard is it to assure the penitent of the depth or inference on record, as in the case of the of the Divine compassion, and the freeness of thief upon the cross, and therefore with some the grace of Christ. They who know the uncertainty how far the conversion of St. Paul woundings of a broken heart, know that no was to be regarded as a precedent in the di- human skill can reach their case. “ Has God vine economy; so that in looking upon such forgotten to be gracious ? My iniquity is a conversion, we could hardly have done more great," is their penitent confession. “ Take than ask with plaintive wonder, “ Who can thy burden, too heavy for thee to bear, to the tell if God will turn and repent, and turn cross of thy Saviour," would the apostle exaway from his fierce anger, that we perish hort; “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, not ?" There was design in bestowing su- and thou shalt be saved; for I obtained mercy perabundant grace upon Saul the perse- to shew forth the longsuffering of Jesus Christ. cutor; a design of the most gracious character The greatness of thy offence shall be no bar in regard to every period of the Church's to mercy ; yea, ratker in urging thy suit, let history. The design might have been simply this be thy plea, Be merciful to my iniquity, (and doubtless it was in the Divine counsel) to for it is great." enlighten the world by the doctrine which Paul Surely, then, we may thank God for this was commissioned to teach : and we thank instance of his unbounded mercy, and “gloGod in the collect," that by the preaching of rify God in the apostle;" and with equal grathe apostle St. Paul, God has caused the light titude ascribe unto the King eternal, imof the Gospel to shine throughout the world." | mortal, invisible, the only wise God, all But in this respect other instrumentality had honour and glory, for ever and ever. Amen. sufficed. A rule was to be established for the Divine procedure, founded on the conversion

• Holden, quoted by Bloomfield. of St. Paul himself; and certainly if an impression of the longsuffering of Christ was to


pointing us to that invisible world, with which the “Understandest thou what thou readest?"-Acts, viii. 30.

present is not worthy to be compared. Who is be

that achieves this victory, but he that believeth that First SUNDAY AFTER Easter."

Jesus is the Sen of God, and believes therein that Of the Collect for this Sunday no original has

Jesus came to be the Saviour of the world, and to been found. It is one of that class which were “com

lead us from it to heaven and to God, who is fully to posed anew, and substituted in the place of those

be enjoyed there? But this faith needs to be confirmed which, containing either false or superstitious doc

with unquestionable evidence concerning the authority trines, were, on this account, rejected.” It was com

and office of the Lord Jesus. We are assured, there. posed in 1549; and was then used for “Tuesday in

fore, that he came with the credentials of an effectual Easter week:” in 1662 it was fixed for this Sunday. Saviour, which are water and blood." At our Sa"This Sunday was anciently called Low Sunday, be

viour's deatli, his side being pierced by the soldier's cause the Easter solemnities were continued to this spear, there immediately issued from the wound both day; constituting a feast of lower degree than the

water and blood : the first a significant emblem of the feast of Easter. Its appointed collect is particularly inward cleansing of our sinful nature, by the spiritual appropriate."*

washing of the Holy Ghost; the second describing the The Christian, rejoicing in the Redeemer's triumph, purification of sin's guilt by atoning blood. To this addresses his collect for the first time to God as “ Al

commissioned Saviour “ the Spirit beareth witness," mighty Father.The circumstances of the season

supporting his Gospel and his servants; and bis wilremind him of his privilege, and he approaches the

ness we may believe, for he cannot lie, being “truth” throne of grace, as a child restored to his father's

itself. That the Spirit is truth we know, because he love. It was to effect this reconciliation that divine is in heaven, and because there are others also, who love was so transcendently displayed ; the Father

cannot but be true, concurring in testimony with him; sparing not his Son Jesus Christ, but giving him as a

for “ there are three that bear record in heaven, the sacrifice for a lost world ; and the Son, dying for our

Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these sins, and rising again for our justification. That he

three are one." Here is a trinity of heavenly wirdied for our sin, we know to our joy. If we have

nesses, testifying to the world the authority of the sinned, and thereby experience heaviness of soul,

Lord Jesus in his office and claims. Joined with these with deep contrition for our offences, we are not to

is a trinity of witnesses upon earth — the Spirit, and sorrow as men without hope : "Christ hath died, and

the water, and the blood ; and these three agree in the become the propitiation for our sins; and not for

same testimony to the Son with those that bear record ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

from heaven. Now, as we receive the witness of men Our joy, however, were incomplete had the Saviour in all judicatories and all nations, we cannot refuse to remained in his grave. Having died for our sins, he

receive the higher and more unquestionable testimony rose again for our justification. By rising from the

which God hath given to his Son." He that believeth dead, he shewed that in all things having been obe

on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." He dient, even to the law of death, he had effected com

has not only the outward evidence which others have, pletely conditional salvation for man. He therefore

but he has in his own heart a testimony for Jesus

Christ. justly claimed the promised recompense of reward

He that believeth not God hath made him claimed for mankind, through himself and for his own

a liar." He must cither believe that God did not send sake, not only pardon, but peace; not only freedom

his Son, after giving such manifold evidence that he from everlasting punishment, but a just and well

did, or that the religion which God hath sent, under founded title to an inheritance in heaven. Have we

the sanction of his Son's name, is a delusion and a

lic. The sum of God's record is this: that he has this hope? “What manner of persons ought we to be, in all holy conversation !" how earnestly should we

given us, in his Son, a right and title to eternal life; pray to God to "grant us so to put away the leaven of

the spring of which life is in his Son. He that is malice and wickedness, that we may always serve him

united to the Son is united to life; he that is not united in pureness of living and truth!” Leaven changes the

to the Son continues under the condemnation of the

law. character of any thing to which it is applied. The word is used sometimes in a good sense, as when our

The Gospel (John, xx. 19-23) exhibits an additional “ the kingdom of heaven is like unto

proof of Christ's resurrection, his appearunce to the disleaven :" sometimes in a bad sense; “ take heed and

ciples on the evening of the day of his resurrection. This beware of the leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees."

was the first day after the Jewish sabbath ; on the In the collect it is used in a bad sense : we therefore

evening of whichi day ten of the disciples, and some

more of their friends with them (Luke, xxiv. 13), were pray for grace " to put it away." As leaven agitates the meal, so malice agitates the heart, and works in it

assembled privately, with shut doors, for fear of the all manner of evil. The leaven of malice stirs up envy,

Jews, who would prosecute the disciples as criminals, wrath, and uncharitableness; causing us to offend

for keeping up the obnoxious belief of Christ's resuragainst our neighbour. The leaven of wickedness,

rection. Into their assembly, though the doors were

shut, Christ entered, with his body already begun to puffing us up with pride and all unseemliness, encouraging lofty imaginations, and delivering us over to

be glorified. His sudden and miraculous appearance the service of the devil, sets us in array against God.

creating some alarm amongst them, he quiets them by All this leaven must be put away, if we would serve

saying, “ Peace be unto you;" shewing them (to rethe Lord " in pureness of living and truth.We cannot

move all doubt of his identity) the marks of the wounds serve God and Mammon at the same time. The Gospel

in his hands and side. They believe and rejoice. Jesus cannot blend with worldliness. “ No man putteth a

solemnly repeats the salutation he had just before ut. piece of new cloth into an old garment." The heart

tered, and pronounces the commission upon which they must be new.

were to go forth to spread his Gospel over the whole In the Epistle (1 John, v, 4-12) are set before us

earth: As my Father bath sent me, even so send I some of the privileges of believers in Christ. First,

you." He then “ breathed on them;" shewing theni, their victory. He that is born of God makes a spiritual

by this sign, the spiritual power which they were to conquest over this world; he is furnished with a

receive from him for the work that lay before them, weapon by which he can repel and conquer the world ;

and added, “ Receive ye the Holy Ghost"-partially and this weapon is faith. It produces this effect by

now, as an earnest of the larger communication to be withdrawing us from the love of the world, and by remit, they are remitted unto them ; and whosesoever

made not many days hence. Whosesoever sins ye • James on the Collects.

sins ye retain, they are retained.” Whenever, duly

Lord says,


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