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soon as the days of their mourning a religious compact with him: but, it
for their father should be at an end. A sad addition this to the other sorrows of her widowed state!
Alarmed, therefore, for the safety of her favourite, she was obliged to part with him in haste, and never again behold him. Let the wretchedness which was thus introduced into this otherwise favoured family be a beacon to us, warning us, in our intercourse with all men, but more especially with our own household, to seek peace and ensure it.
would rather seem from the nature of the argument pursued by the apostle in the passage above alluded to, that the Almighty began his dispensation with this and other instances of his exercise of supremacy, in order that, when in after-times, he should reveal his greater purpose of casting off unbelieving Israel and admitting the believing Gentiles, the mouths of the former might be stopped and they might learn not to reply against that GOD, who, in his public and general dealing with his creatures, will “have mercy on whom He will have mercy.” This, then, being the will of the Almighty, how wonderfully did he ac
Lastly, let us learn from this subject to admire the wondrous ways of Providence. It was ordained even before the birth of Esau and Jacob, that the covenant of promise should be con-complish in the case before us, overtinued through the latter rather than the former. This appointment was intended to display the supreme power of Jehovah. "For, (says the Apostle to the Romans,) the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of GOD according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said, The elder shall serve the younger." In selecting the public agents and instruments, through whom he could convey or reveal his mercies to mankind, the Almighty exercised his supreme authority. By virtue of that authority, though Abraham had wished the covenant established with him to be continued through Ishmael, yet it was determined that Isaac, the child of promise, should be given, and in him should the divine engagement be fulfilled. By the same paramount authority then was it determined that Jacob, the youngest born of Isaac, should inherit the blessing. It might be that the Almighty foresaw that the character of Esau would be incompatible with the maintenance of
ruling the erroneous design of Isaac (who, though understanding the promise, mistook the person through whom it was to be accomplished) by means of the weakness and folly and criminality of Rebekah and Jacob. So does he in every instance make not only the wrath, but the guiltiness of men to praise him. We may trust in Him, therefore, my brethren, to the utmost letter of what he has promised. He both can and will make all things work together for the accomplishment of his purposes. Both we ourselves, and our fellow-men are subject to his control, and may be, unconsciously, nay, even reluctantly, performing his will. Safely then and confidently may we rely upon him, as individual sojourners upon earth who need the protection of an Almighty arm,-as members of a great community that can be effectually upheld only by the Power that "ruleth the nations;"and as Christians looking for the fulfilment of all those glorious promises which have been held forth to us in Jesus Christ.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. T. MORTIMER,
AT ST. LEONARd's church, shOREDITCH, ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 10, 1833.
Ephesians, vi. 19, 20.-" And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."
THE Apostle, having described the Christian's spiritual armour, and having reminded the Ephesians of their duty to pray with all prayer and supplication that they were to intercede for all the brethren, especially begs their prayers in the time of his danger -" And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."
Let us look at the Apostle here in a three-fold light. Let us first look at him as a prisoner, and ask how it came to pass. Let us then look at him as a minister, and see the work he had to perform; he had “to make known the mystery of the Gospel," he had to "speak it boldly." Let us then, in the third place, look to him as a petitioner to his Christian friends; he says to them," Brethren, pray for me." He did this under the teaching of the Holy Ghost; and he did it well; for no man's services will ever be worth a straw, unless they are the result of prayer. Nay, the prayers of an archangel will do little good for a people, unless the people learn to pray for their minister. It was the saying of an old Presbyterian minister, when some of his people said to him, "Sir, we cannot profit by you as we once could, and we have waited upon you to tell you so-" the old man burst into tears: he told them he did not doubt there were many in
firmities, many imperfections; "But O," says he, "I think I can tell you the reason-you don't bring your prayer books with you." "Our prayer books," said they," you are aware we don't use one." "No," says he, “you know what I mean, you used to pray once for me, and then you got good; and now you don't pray for me, and I cannot do you any good; all the good comes from my Master." Recollect that my dear people; the old man said a great truth, when he told them, that all good comes from the Master. We are only the servants; poor simple servants; all good comes from the Master: look to him; look on him.
Let us, first of all, direct your attention to THE APOSTLE, AS A PRISONER. He was "an ambassador in bonds." He was discharging the duty of an ambassador; but in a jail. If I were to go to court, and ask to see the French ambassador or the Russian ambassador, and were to see that such ambassador was chained to a soldier, was a prisoner in our court, I should be ready to say-Then we are not at peace with that court, depend upon it. An ambassador by the law of nations is a sacred person; and whenever war is declared, safe conduct is always granted to the ambassador back to his own court: his person, by the law of nations, is considered sacred. And when I see an ambassador from heaven, (for such was the blessed St. Paul) chained to a soldier, O, I say, this tells a tale in
deed. What does it tell? It tells me, that earth is not at peace with heaven, or it would not chain heaven's ambassador. When I see the church of the living GOD persecuted-when I see the faithful ministers of Christ martyred-when I see the blessed Apostle exercising his ministry in a jail-I say, it tells a tale: the very fact speaks volumes: I know immediately, that earth is not at peace with heaven. And yet there was in this something very lenient to what he was afterwards subject.
But think what if I had ascended this pulpit to-day with a soldier chained to my arm? What if you all knew I was a prisoner for the sake of the Lord Jesus? Ah! I don't wonder that the disciples loved the blessed Apostles. Verily, there was something in what they suffered for the sake of the truth, far more honourable than ever the church has seen, in all her outward splendour and grandeur. There was something in that chain, which the blessed Apostle wore, which chained him to a Roman soldier, who at certain intervals was relieved by another-although a prisoner-there was something in that chain, I say, far more honourable than the choicest robe that ever this world saw; there was something more honourable in that chain, than in the costly robes of the Jewish high priest, when he went on the great day of atonement before the Lord. Yes, there was suffering, and suffering for Christ's sake: and suffering for Christ's sake, let me tell you, dear people, wherever it is found, is an honour. He suffered not as an evil doer, but he suffered as a well doer; he suffered for preaching the cross, and because he lived according to its preaching. And why, O why is it, that the world cannot bear the truth? I will tell you why. There are two
though by GoD's help we will tell you the truth to try you. There is but one way, the gospel says, to heaven.
But that is not all; it says, moreover, that way is through a crucified Saviour. It is not your own goodness; so that when you get to heaven, GOD knows you shall have nothing to boast about. It is not by your own power; so that when you get to heaven, you shall not have to say, My might and my power accomplished this. All his glory is taken away from man, and demanded entirely and exclusively to be attributed to GOD. I do not wonder men of the world do not like the preaching of the cross. Why? Because it casts down the idol of human excellence into the dust; it lays low all human merit; it puts us all-learned and illiterate, old and young, master and servant -one with another, on one common level; smites us down to the ground, and tells us we deserve to die; then holds out the hand of mercy and says, "Look unto me and be ye saved;' "neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other given among men whereby you can be saved."
Don't, then, expect, dear people, that the world will greatly love the truth. They never did, they never will, they never can. They never did, I say. Look at the history recorded in the Holy Scriptures, and tell me, if you can, where and what, was the period when he that was born after the flesh, ceased not to persecute him that was born after the Spirit? They never will: why? Because as long as man remains in an unconverted state, the evil tree must bring forth evil fruit. I have said they never can: why? For this obvious reason; our Lord explains the whole. He turns to his little company of disciples, and he says, "If ye were of the world the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
A most distinguished clergyman once said to a Christian lady of considerable rank, that he had found out a way of preaching the gospel without giving any offence at all: the reply of that lady was very excellent,
"Doctor," said she, "you ask my opinion, and I will give it you. I believe, that where the offence of the cross goes, the blessing goes with it." And so it does. Take away the of fence of the cross, and there is an end put to the powerful preaching of the cross. Man may be offended; he may be displeased: he may hate and abominate the truth; but, by GOD's help, the truth must be spoken, and by GoD's help I trust he will enable us to say, In his strength it shall be spoken. And may you evermore have a willing and obedient ear, and a tender and contrite heart.
But let us look, in the second place, at ST. PAUL AS A MINISTER. The attitude in which his ministry is here described is very striking. He calls himself an ambassador. The grand question when an ambassador comes is, not who he is; you do not ask whether he is the son of a peer or the son of a pauper; but we ask these two things;-Whom does he come from? and, What does he come about? We ask who sent him, and then the errand on which he is sent. And can there be any thing more solemn, my dear hearers, than the thought, that the great and mighty GoD, before whose solemn bar every soul of you shall one day stand, there to hear the sentence of eternal glory, or to receive the sentence of eternal fire, that that great GOD sends his ambassador to you? When I see a faithful minister of Christ, I don't ask who he is; I do not ask whether he is a rich man; one of noble blood, or whether he is the son of a pauper; no:-Who sent him? Is it clear that GoD sent the man? Does he preach according to the word of truth? Does he bring a message according to the gospel? Then I must give an account according to what he says. I do not often hear a sermon, but I had that pleasure this morning in my own pulpit. And when I saw the devoted and godly man preaching the word of life; when he reminded us of the great day of judgment; O, I could not help thinking, how little all earthly rank seems when a man is talking about the mysteries of eternity! I looked at him, and thought,-There is the son of an admiral; ah! but he is a Christian minister, and that is more than all;
and he is bringing us a message from GOD this morning, at which the mightiest heart might well tremble. Human dignity, and human rank, and birth, and blood, all seem so little when one hears a man talk of the coming of the great day of GOD, and bid us be ready for it.
Every faithful minister of Christ is an ambassador. We come with a message; do not look at the messenger, but look at the message; do not look at the servant, but ask who is his master; do not look at our infirmities, and helplessness, but look at the greatness of that message which we have to deliver-the solemn responsibility we are under to discharge our duty to GOD. What we have to speak about is the gospel; and it is "That I may speak boldly." There is a necessity that I should speak boldly. The Apostle was in the power of the lion; so to speak, the paw of the lion Nero was just ready to fall upon him. He knew he was about to suffer martyrdom, for the Lord had taught him this; and he seems, by his making this request, to have been extremely anxious that to the last he might fulfil his ministry, and speak the word boldly.
What, then, we have got to preach is the gospel-the mystery of the gospel. We have to preach a great many things that we cannot understand ourselves-a great many mysteries. For instance, the mystery of the union of three persons in one adorable Godhead: the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ himself— "Very GOD and very man:" the mysteries connected with our election in Christ; with our justification through his blood, by which his righteousness is accounted ours, and we are looked upon as spotless and pure through his blood. But we are not to keep them back. I recollect an excellent sermon once preached by the present Primate, who was then the bishop of this diocese, in which he used these words: "Some may say" (he was pleading for schools) is it quite enough to teach the poor the common principles of good conduct and general propriety, and submission to their rulers; surely it cannot be necessary to trouble their heads with mysterious doctrines. So may
some say, but we have the express | know what it is to delight to speak command of GOD himself. We are to teach these things, not only to the rich, but to the poor; and we are to believe that the same GOD that makes them to be understood by the rich, will make them to be felt and understood by the poor." Yes, the mystery of the gospel we are to preach, and that to our dying day.
But let us, in the third place, notice, THE APOSTLE IN THE CHARACTER OF A PETITIONER. He says, Pray "for me that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.' He asks that he may have from God utterance; that is here eminently eloquence" that eloquence that might, under God's blessing, be the means of extensive good. Perhaps in the savage character of some with whom he had to do, there was much to damp his courage, to alarm his fears; but an ambassador should never appear intimidated; an ambassador never should be frightened; an ambassador should feel that, in the message he has to deliver, he is under a responsibility for its delivery, not for his personal safety.
the word; at other times it is hard work. But, to tell you the truth, we have got hearts just as bad as yours; we are often hindered in that work, in which we ought not to be hindered. We ought to be like angels-we ought to fly on our work, and love the work, and long to live in it, and be ready to die in it; and I hope we sometimes feel so. There are other times when we have no utterance; when we cannot speak as we would, when the people seem not to hear. O, pray that we may have utterance, and make known to you the mystery of GOD.
But further, they were to pray that he might have boldness. It was enough to alarm the Apostle when he did not know but that every sermon he preached might be his last. Yet what sermons they were! When the man was looking for martyrdom, and saw the sword suspended only by a thread over his head, and knew it was to fall upon him soon-O, then verily the people heard him; and they thought, He may never preach another sermon; he may be dead before to-morrow; he may be a martyred man: and he asks the people to pray GoD, that he might have boldness. I heard of a rich man who said a few months ago, concerning a Christian minister whom he often used to hear-when he came out of the church, a friend asked him"What do you think of the sermon?"
Yes, he asks, that they would pray GOD that he might have utterance, or eloquence. Should you not have liked to have seen the dear man; to have seen him with a soldier chained to him; to have seen him speaking" the word to some of Nero's soldiers? He asks that utterance might be given unto him. It is a great thing when GOD gives liberty of speech to his faithful ministers. No useful minister can be, unless the people will hear: a bold faithful minister is a blessing; but sometimes, when the people are unwilling to receive the word, or when the people do not receive it thankfully, as they ought to receive it or when they are captious and cavilling, instead of devotional-he has no utterance; he cannot speak as he would speak. My dear people, if you want to get good from your clergyman, pray, that when he stands up he may come in all the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of truth." Sometimes we |
I wonder," said he, " at the man's impudence.' And what suppose you made this to be called impudence? Because the darling sin of the man was shot at, with an arrow taken from this book. Yes, plain reproof, reproving actual sin excited the remark that I have just quoted. O, dear people, be willing to know the truth of your state; be willing to have faithful reprovers. Do not think we are hard when we reprove you; behold, we seek not yours but you: we wish to do your souls good; we wish to bring you to Christ at last, and to bring you to heaven. GOD grant that this may be the case, and we ask no more; for we have nothing more to ask, than that you all, with us, may at length enter into the life everlasting.