Obrazy na stronie

fulness, actively operating upon
each other, may be regarded as the
two great instruments of the know-
ledge of ourselves. A practical
Christian finds by bitter, but salu
tary, experience, that if his vigi-
lance slackens, his prayers languish.
And in this place let it be recol
lected, that watchfulness over our
character supplies us with subjects
for devotion; and thus the increase
of our self-knowledge gives larger
materials for the exercises of the
closet. A man who marks diligent
ly his thoughts and conduct will find
matter for prayer in solitude or in
company; in the house or abroad;
in his labours and trade; in his bar
gains and projects; in pleasure and
in disappointment; and, truly, in all
the varying and endless objects of
human hope and anxiety. He who
really does find this, who exercises
the heavenly art of drawing spiritual
advantage from all circumstances,
who causes prayer and watchfulness
to give and receive each other's
strength, may well claim the dis-
tinction of being "a good soldier of
Jesus Christ." Ever alert against the
enemy, fearful of being discovered
asleep on his post, he is secure in
proportion to his activity and cau-
tion. The Son of God united watch
fulness and prayer as together form-
ing a powerful safeguard, when he
said to his slumbering disciples,
"Watch and pray, that ye enter
not into temptation." His Apostles
follow his great example when they
write, "Continue in prayer, and
watch in the same;" and,
unto prayer."

[ocr errors]


means we might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." In a mat ter of life and death (and such a matter is salvation), there appears to be no fair expectation of success, if we enter upon it with a kind of half earnestness. The duty of prayer has its difficulties; yet it is one en joined to be performed with all constancy. Religion in the soul of man needs to be repaired and brightened by devotion. We are strongly tempted to trifle over it, to delay it, even to omit it. Thence, among the many subjects of prayer, one seems to be, that we may be delivered from devotional sloth, procrastination, and omission. Indif ference in this matter grows by every indulgence. If we com menced our morning employments without having first commended our selves to God, we are not likely to be willing at night to finish the day on our knees. Neither is it proba ble, that during the day our thoughts have been much at home; that is, closely engaged in the examination of our heart and character, and in the conscientious arrangement of our worldly business. The morning negligence stamps all the day. The early evil has drawn after it a long train of ill consequences. Devo tional negligence, like a distemper seated in a vital organ, undermines and weakens the whole man.

[ocr errors]

How seriously, then, should we watch unto prayer" with all per severance!" Here alone is the point of safety. The Gospel uni formly imposes the necessity of be ing constant in working out our IV. The last lesson deducible salvation. "Hold that fast which from the text is this, That prayer thou hast, that no man take thy and watchfulness must be attended crown." "Let us run with patience The to with perseverance;-and St. Paul the race that is set before us.' says emphatically, "all perseve- Spirit said to the Church of Phirance;" as one of his fellow la- Jadelphia, Because thou hast kept bourers exhorts us to give all dili- the word of my patience, I will also gence" to mature our graces. This keep thee from the hour of temp impressive method of speaking im tation, which shall come upon all plies the necessity of managing the the world, to try them that dwell concerns of eternity with an entire upon the earth." Persevering con resolution to meet the difficulties in stancy in prayer and watchfulness our way to heaven," if by any is a state of preparation for all trials,

and especially for the final trial of all. Death is the dread of the impenitent, because he takes them by surprise, and plunges them into eternity in an unready condition. Christ spoke of the hour of affliction, or day of judgment, as coming upon the earth like "a snare," a thing unexpected, which should entangle and take captive unwatchful souls. Therefore," whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Doing a thing with might, is executing it with such an energy as promises success and perseverance. Prayer done with might, is done sincerely, with wholesome jealousy of our own extreme deceitfulness, and with humble, self-renouncing dependence on the grace of the Holy Ghost. Let no man idly determine to be devout in his own strength. The spirit of humility is the spirit of prayer. Conviction of our own mournful weakness and inconstancy will be no weak spur to devotion. To detect and lament our wants is one mean of seeking for their supply. He who thus discovers and mourns, will understand the necessity of causing his watchfulness to keep pace with his prayers. He will look forward with the conviction, that prayer must never be relinquished till the happy day arrive, when death shall free the soul from all sin; when He who died to deliver believers from eternal death, shall at length fulfil in them all the glorious promises of the Gospel. "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptation; and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed me." This is " the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls."

Having thus endeavoured briefly to illustrate and apply the several divisions of the text, I would occupy the remainder of the discourse by a few detached remarks on the general subject. 1. What encou

ragement we have to maintain the duty and privilege of devotion from the combined command and pro mise of Jesus Christ; "Ask, and it shall be given you seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you!" Those who have seen much of this world, have frequently abundant reason to com plain of the insincerity of human promises. Every one has some sickening account to give of the way in which he has suffered by the unfaithfulness of mankind;ā true specimen of this world, a just estimate of its practical value. - How different to this are the promises of God in Christ Jesus! They are the emanations of truth itself. They are founded on an inviolable cove nant, eternal, unchangeable, consistent with themselves, and all tending to one great point, even the glory of God in the salvation of souls by the atonement of his Son. God, as revealed in this last dispen sation, fulfils all which was declared of him in a more obscure age; "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." The same unchangeableness is in his Son also; and, this premised, how emphatic are the words, "Ask, and it shall be given you!” As though Jesus had said, "I vouchsafe you something far better than a bare command. My words are not simply, ask-seek-knock ; but to each I subjoin a correspondent promise; it shall be given you

ye shall find-it shall be opened unto you. A mere prophet, a mere human teacher, might have enjoined supplication and earnestness of pursuit; but I fully apprise you of the heavenly consequences of submitting to my commands; I shew you the means and the end at the same time."

2. In worldly matters, it is usual, if we wish for any thing, directly to ask for it. If we ask, we shew that we want it. Subjects naturally apply to their prince, children to their parents, the indigent to the wealthy. Why? Because the rela tions between these several classes

of persons authorise the application, and, in the order of things, ensure success. By the act of petitioning, the superior is made acquainted with the wants of the inferior; and importunity increases with the need of the one and the ability of the other. Now apply this plain analogy to religion. A person is awakened to the realities of eternity; feels confused, ignorant, doubtful, fearful. In fact, he is in want. He discovers the reasonableness of prayer, its necessity; then its advantage, then the pleasure, and, finally, the answer. For what is prayer? It is the desire of the heart expressed in words. If a beggar wants relief, he clothes his wants with language. Does he need to be instructed, that if he wants bread he should ask for bread? Is it not simply his desire to have this? You say, you also would pray to God, but you want words. The point however is, Is God ever ready, willing, waiting, to be asked? Is he quite

indifferent to words, however illiterate? Does he regard the language, or the heart? No answer is wanted to these inquiries.

3. But we may make wrong petitions. Indeed we may. It was an unlawful request which was urged by the sons of Zebedee, who wanted the right and left hand places in the kingdom of Christ. A good prayer, like a good work, should be good in itself, spring from a pure motive, and be directed to a lawful end. Judge by the prayer of Jesus himself what you ought to implore. If God were to answer some prayers of ungodly men, how little do they consider the consequence! They petition, perhaps, for worldly prosperity, that is, for the very thing which has already injured themselves and ruined thousands of others. But here God often shews mercy by refusing to return an


Finally; let the subject which I have endeavoured in these two discourses to enforce, awaken us to the sonsideration of our own character,

as that character is formed by devotion and thence elevated above the hopes of the present world; or, on the other hand, as it is degraded by a life passing away with no habits of a devout nature, and accordingly spent in the service of a prince who is always waging war against "the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." Let us endeavour to gain and occupy the vantage ground of prayer, that in sustaining the conflict with the powers of darkness we may cast aside our fears; being conscious of meeting the enemy's attacks protected by a strength unspeakably superior to our own, and such as may properly encourage us to look forward to victory without presumption; a victory which, when finally obtained, will find us eager to ascribe the glory of the deliverance to our adorable Redeemer and Saviour, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

In your number for August, was a paper containing some remarks on my Sermons on the Liturgy. I did not happen to see it till quite the close of the month, or I should have sent you an immediate reply. For though it was my intention not to enter into any controversy on the subject; yet from the high respect I bear for the author of those remarks, and from the appearance of solidity which there is in the remarks themselves, I cannot forbear sending you some answer to them. And this is the more necessary, because he observes, that he had communicated his remarks to me before the publication of my Sermons." It is true he did so; and I exceedingly value his remarks, and wish to have them on all occasions: but they carried not the smallest conviction to my mind, because they were all founded on an erroneous conception of my argument, I did not enter into any controversy with him on the subject, but contented myself with asking him to supply

me with any other solution of the difficulties which he thought preferable to mine-(for it must be remembered, that he does not bring any objection to those Sermons in general, but only to my answer to some difficulties which occur in the Liturgy); but, if I understood him aright, he candidly confessed, that he knew of no answer more satisfactory.

Now, from the high veneration I bear for the wisdom and piety of your correspondent, I feel a backwardness to give any answer to him, except as to a person anonymous and unknown. It is in that shape only that he appears in your publication; and by speaking of him in that view, I shall be able to use a greater freedom of expression than I could easily indulge if I were considered as entering into a personal controversy with him.

Your correspondent's remarks, then, all proceed from not having perfectly discerned the true scope of my argument. I will therefore state it briefly, for the satisfaction of your readers.

There are some strong expressions in our Liturgy, which, as ininisters of the Establishment, we are bound both to give our assent to, and to use. These expressions have been a stumbling-block to multitudes of conscientious men. Many, who, but for these expressions, would gladly have ministered in the Established Church, have been necessitated to officiate among the dissenters: many, who have entered into the ministry in our Church, have been burthened in their consciences all their days: and not a few have actually left the Church of England, and gone over to the dissenters, because they could not conscientiously use these expressions any longer. Now, what has been my object in these Sermons? Has it been to hold up these expressions to admiration, like the great body of the Liturgy? No: it has been simply to inquire, whether a person, approving from his heart the doctrines and discipline CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 131.

of the Church of England, may not conscientiously subscribe and use the whole Liturgy, notwithstanding there are some few expressions, which, though he would rather that they were somewhat altered, he is compelled to use? In supporting the affirmative side of this question, this is my line of argument.-

The compilers of our Liturgy strove to accommodate themselves as much as possible to the language of the inspired writers.

The inspired writers often use a latitude of expression, not intending that their words should be pressed to the very utmost that they will bear; but that they should be construed according to the analogy of faith, and according to the obvious scope of the context.

We do not refuse our assent to the holy Scriptures, or decline using them, merely because there are some expressions, which, if construed in their most literal sense, would militate against the general doctrine contained in them; but we use those very expressions freely and cheerfully in that sense in which we believe they were intended to be used by the writers themselves.

This latitude, which we give to the holy Scriptures, we may conscientiously allow to the Liturgy; knowing, as we do, that the continued aim of the compilers of our Liturgy was to accord in every thing, not only with the sense and meaning of the inspired writers, but even with their words and expressions.

To confirm and elucidate this argument, I bring a variety of passages of Scripture, in which there is an evident latitude of expression, which must be interpreted, not by the words taken separately in a detached form, but by the scope of the context, and the analogy of faith.

And now, what has your correspondent done? He has taken these passages of Scripture, and endeavoured to shew that I have misinter

4 X

preted those passages by understanding them strictly, when the very scope of my argument was to shew that they should not be understood but with a certain latitude. To do justice to my argument, I ought to give the whole of it again. But, to prevent occupying your pages so unnecessarily, I must beg your readers to turn to my Sermons, and to read from p. 44 to p. 52 again.

In what view do I adduce 1 Cor. i. 4-7 and iii. 3, and Phil. i. 3—7 ? I quote them to shew, that St. Paul did in those places use a latitude of expression, respecting the whole churches at Corinth and Philippi, which were not strictly applicable to every individual in those churches. Your correspondent says, that they were applicable to every individual: but he forgot that the incestuous man, whom in that very Epistle St. Paul ordered to be expelled from the church, was in the church at the time; and, in the passages which I quote, the Apostle makes no particular exception. It is true, he designates the church of Corinth as "sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints;" but it is also true, that there were among them many very faulty members, and many exceedingly wicked members (see ch. ii. ver. 21, 30), of whom personally it could not be said "that they came behind in no gift:" yet the Apostle does not stop to make those distinctions, but leaves them to be gathered from the general tenor of his epistle: and, if we knew as much of the Philippian church as we do of the Corinthian, I think there can be no doubt, but that some exception would have been found, to whom the strong expression which I have quoted was not applicable in the unqualified sense to which it was applied to the collective body.

This, then, is all that I assert in those two passages, and all that was necessary to my argument.

Next let me notice what your correspondent urges against what I

have said on 1 Cor. xii. 13, 27. Here he falls into an unaccountable mistake. I quote the words to shew that the Apostle speaks of “ail as baptised by one Spirit into one body, and all as drinking into one Spirit,” when from that very Epistle it appeared that some belonging to that church had Nor drunk into one Spirit: and he, as though I had said the very reverse, asks triumphantly, "Does Mr. Simeon really think that all baptised persons, however insincere and hypocritical, have drunk into the Spirit of Christ? or are all these persons spiritually regenerated? I cannot believe that he is capable of such a misinterpretation: yet his argument implies it." I thank your correspondent for his good opinion of me, and am happy to tell him, that such an interpretation is the very reverse of what I have put upon it, and of what my argument implied: and that, if I had supposed that to be the meaning of the Apostle's words, instead of apologizing for too strong an expression in our Liturgy, and shewing that it should be understood, like that of the Apostle, in a qualified sense, I should have denied that it was in the least degree too strong, even when understood in the strictest and most literal sense.

Precisely the same answer must be given to your correspondent's observations on Gal. iii. 27. On this he asks, "Does Mr. S. imagine that all baptised persons are clothed with Christ's righteousness?" No: but I imagine, and am sure, that the expression" baptised into Christ," is precisely the same with that which I have adduced as parallel to it, the being "baptised unto Moses" (see the Greek): and I am sure that the Apostle says, as many as have been so baptised, have put on Christ." But what is my inference from bence? that every baptised person (Simon Magus, for instance) is either clothed with Christ's righteousness, or transformed into his image? No: but that the Apostle spoke in terms which must be understood accord

« PoprzedniaDalej »