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CHAPTER XXVI.

BUNYAN's

FAVOURITE

SERMON.

HAVING seen the opinion of Lindale, Foster, Cobb, and the Judges, concerning the character and tendency of Bunyan's preaching, a characteristic specimen of it will enable us to judge for ourselves how far it was likely to injure the Church or the State. The following extracts are from his favourite Sermon, on the words, “ Beginning at Jerusalem.” I call it his favourite, because he says he preached it often, and but seldom without success. It is only common place at first; but it soon breathes and burns with all the energy and ingenuity of the author.

“ The Apostles, although they had a commission so large as to warrant them to go and preach the Gospel in all the world, were to begin this work at Jerusalem. I must touch upon

two things. 1. What Jerusalem now was. 2. What it was to preach the Gospel to them.

6 1. As to her descent, Jerusalem was from Abraham and the sons of Jacob, a people that God singled out from the rest of the nations, to set his love

upon

them. “ 2. As to her preference of exaltation, she was the place of God's worship, and had in and with her the special tokens and signs of God's favour and presence, above any other people in the world.

“3. As to her decays, she was now greatly backs?idden, and become the place where Truth was much defaced. Jeru. salem was now become the very sink of sin, and seat of hypocrisy, and gulf where true religion was drowned. In a word, she was now the shambles and slaughter-house of the saints. Yea, Christ, their Lord and Maker, could not escape (that people.) They rested not until they had driven Him out of the world, and they would have extinguished His name if they could, that men might not count him the Saviour of the world.

“ This is the city, and these are people ;-this is their char. acter, and these are their sins ! Nor can there be produced their parallel in all this world. Infinite was their wickedness, if you join to the matter of fact, the Light they sinned against, and the Patience they abused.

“ And now we come to the clause, · Beginning at Jerusalem :' that is, Christ would have Jerusalem get the first offer of the Gospel.

6 1. This cannot be so commanded, because they had any right of themselves : for their sins had divested them of all self-deservings.

“ 2. Nor yet, because they stood upon the advance ground with the worst sinners of the Nations. Jerusalem was worse than the very nations that God cast out before the Israelites. 2 Chron. 33.

“ 3. It must, therefore, follow, that the clause • Begin at Jerusalem,' was put into this commission, out of mere grace and compassion; even from the overflowings of rich Mercy.

“ From these words thus explained, , we gain this OBSERVATION,—that Jesus Christ would have mercy offered in the first place to the biggest sinners. Preach repentance and remis. sion of sins to the Jerusalem sinners first.

• One would a-thought, since they were the worst and greatest sinners, and those who had not only despised the per. son, doctrine, and miracles of Christ, but also had had their hands

up

to the elbows in His heart's blood, that He would have said, “Go into all the world, and preach repentance and remission ; and after that, offer the same to Jerusalem.' Yea, it had been infinite grace-if he had said so!

66 This was not the first time Jesus showed a desire that the worst of these worst should first come to him. Matt. xxi. 31; x. 5, 6; xxiii. 37. These, therefore, had the cream of the gospel, who had the first offer in His life-time.

“ The apostles did not overloook this clause, when their Lord was gone into heaven. They went first to Jersusalem, and abode there for a season, preaching Christ's gospel to nobody else. And their first sermon was to the worst of the Jerusalem sinners; even to the murderers of Jesus Christ. Peter said to them—without the least stick, or stop, or pause of spirit, as to whether he had best say so or not—Repent and be baptized every one of you. I shut out never a one of you: for I am commanded by my Lord to deal with you one by one, by the word of his salvation. Repent every one of you, for the re

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mission of sins; and you shall, every one of you, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. ”

Bunyan now supposes some of Peter's hearers unable to credit this in their own case, at once.

“1. OBJECTOR. But I was one of those that plotted to take away his life. May I be saved by him?

PETER. Every one of you! “ 2. OBJECTOR. But I was one of them that bare false witness against him. Is there grace for me?

6 Peter. For every one of you !

“ 3. But I was one of them that cried out, • Crucify, crucify Him,' and that desired Barabbas the murderer might live. What will become of me, think you ?

“ Peter. I am to preach remission of sins to every one of

you!

you!

“4. OBJECTOR. But I was one of them that did spit in his face, when he stood before his accusers, and one that mocked him when in anguish he hung bleeding on the tree! Is there room for me?

“ Peter. For every one of you !

“5. OBJECTOR. But I was one of them that in his extremity said, “ Give him gall and vinegar to drink.' Why may I not expect the same, when anguish and guilt are upon me?

“ Peter. Repent of these wickednesses; and here is remission of sins for every one of you !

6 6. OBJECTOR. But I railed on him-reviled him-hated him—and rejoiced to see him mocked at by others. Can there be hope for me ? “ PETER. There is for

every one of Bunyan then asks, “ Did not Peter, think ye, see a great deal in this clause of the commission that he should thus offer, so particularly, this grace to each particular man? But this is not all! These Jerusalem sinners must have this offer again and again ; every one of them must be offered grace over and over. Christ would not take their first rejection for a denial, nor their second repulse for a denial. Christ will not be put off thus: but will have grace offered once, twice, thrice, to them. What a pitch of grace is this ! Christ was minded to amaze the world.

“ Peter, too, to draw them the better under the net of the gospel, put himself, like a heavenly decoy (bird) among them, saying, “There is none other name whereby we must be saved.' “ Thus, you see, I have proved the doctrine. I shall now proceed to show you the reasons of the point, and then make some application. The reasons of the point are,

“ 1. Because the biggest sinners have most need of mercy, Reason

says, • He that has most need should be helped first :' I mean—when a helping hand is offered ; and God sent the Gospel to help the world. Now suppose, that as thou art walking at some pond side, thou shouldst espy in it four or five children in danger of drowning, and one in more danger than all the rest :- Judge which has most need to be helped out first. I know thou wilt say, ' he that is nearest drowning.' Why, this is the case here : the bigger sinner, the nearer drowning The Publicans were in the very mouth of Death. Death was a-swallowing them down ; and therefore the Lord Jesus offered them mercy first. He sat very loose to the (self) righteous, but stuck close to sinners, in calling men to repent

ance.

“ 2. Because when any of the biggest sinners receive offered mercy, it redounds most to the fame of Christ. He has put himself under the term, Physician; a doctor for curing all diseases. Now it is not by picking out thistles, nor by laying plaisters to the scratch of a pin, that doctors get to themselves a name at first. Every old woman can do this. But if they would have a name and a fame, and have it quickly, they must do some great and desperate cures. So Christ commands mercy to be proffered to the biggest sinners first, because by saving one of them, he makes all men marvel. He has also published his blessed Bills, (the Holy Scriptures,) with the very names of the persons upon whom his great cures were wrought. Here is one item :- Such a one made a monument of everlasting life, by my grace and redeeming blood, And such a one became an heir of glory by my perfect obedience. Item-I saved Peter, Magdalen, and many others.' Indeed, there is but very little said in God's Book, about the salvation of little sinners, because that would not answer the design (of the book) to bring glory to the name of the Son of God. Christ could have laid hold of an honester man (on Calvary): but he laid hold on a thief first, and took him away with him to glory. Nor can this one act of his be ever buried. It will be talked of till the end of the world, to his praise. •Men shall abundantly utter the memory of this great goodness, to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.' Psal. cxlv. 10.

“ 3. Because others, on hearing mercy offered to the biggest

ven.

sinners first, will be encouraged the more to come to Christ for life. He saved the thief, to encourage thieves to come to Him for mercy ; Magdalen, to encourage Magdalenes to come to Him for mercy ; Saul, to encourage Sauls to come to Him for mercy: for mercy is the only antidote against sinning. It will loose the heart that is frozen in sin. Yea, it will make the unwilling, willing to come to Him for life.

“4. Because by showing mercy to the worst first, Christ most weakens the kingdom of Satan. The biggest sinners are Satan's colonels and captains, that most stoutly make head against the Son of God. When Ishbosheth lost Abner, he did but sit on a tottering throne. So when Satan loseth his strong men, his kingdom is weak. Samson, when he would pull down the Philistines' temple, too khold of the two main pillars of it'; and breaking them, down came the house. So Christ came to destroy the works of the devil by converting grace, as well as by redeeming blood. It was by casting him out of strong possessions, and by recovering notorious sinners out of his clutches, that Christ saw him fall like lightning from hea

Why, some people are the devil's sin-breeders. Now, let the Lord Jesus cleanse first some of these sin-breeders, and there will be a nip given to those swarms of sins, in the town, house, or family. I speak from experience. I was one of those great sin-breeders. I infected all the youth of the town where I was born, with all manner of youthful vanities. The neighbours counted me so: my practice proved me so. Wherefore Jesus Christ, by taking me first, much allayed the contagion of sin all the town over. But what need to give you an instance of poor I ?-come to Manasseh. So long as he was a ringleading sinner-the great idolater—the chief of devilism, the whole land flowed with wickedness. But when God converted him, the whole land was reformed. Down went the groves, the idols, and altars of Baal--and up went true religion in its power and purity.

“5. Because the biggest sinners, when converted, are usually the best helps in the Church against temptation, and fittest to support the feeble minded. Hence, usually, you have some such (converts) in the first plantation of churches, or quickly upon it. Churches would do but sorrily, if Jesus Christ did not put among them such monuments and mirrors of mercy. The very sight of such a sinner in God's house, yea, the very thought of him, where a sight cannot be obtained, is ofttimes greatly for the help of the faith of the feeble. When the

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