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lectual treat, or to a fine ebulition of genius, and God Almighty has to say, and here is what we must consider and account for--God Almighty has to say to this stern messenger of woe, a messenger from whom you might have thought the cold and the careless would have instinctively shrunk—"Lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument.”
Now, we turn again to the illustration of the cases of Felix and Herod. We have already shown you that Herod went far beyond Felix, in that he “ did many things,” whereas we have no reason to think that the Roman governor attempted any reform whatsoever at the bidding of St. Paul ; but perhaps the contrast is yet stronger iu reference to the immediate effect which preaching produced, and the generality of men will be more struck at observing that Herod heard John gladly, whilst Felix trembled at the reason. ing of St. Paul. It was just the same with the Jews ; they heard Ezekiel gladly, he was “unto them a very lovely song." Now, what are we to say to this? Why, there was a power in the prophet, as there was in the Baptist, of exciting the torpid feelings of jaded voluptuaries ; and though from the nature of the case we might have expected he could excite only painful emotions, yet there may have been pleasure in the being excited at all, which would render the depraved people willing auditors of the unflinching preacher. We suppose that the exact parallel is of frequent occurrence in our own day. We do not believe, that if a minister be mighty in the setting forth the terrors of the Lord, so that he can make the retinue of judgment pass in almost visible procession, and describe with such vivid. ness the portion of his hearers, if they are found amongst the lost, that they shall seem to witness their deep anguish and to catch their own wild cry-we do not believe that if a minister who is thus powerful in delineating the wrath of the Almighty, were to take that wrath for his subject Sunday after Sunday, he would thin his church of those who have most cause to dread the wrath-we rather believe that it would be increasingly thronged by eager listeners, who, so far from being repelled by his known energy in making men tremble, would come for the very purpose of being made to tremble. There was a very distinguished French preacher, who composed a magnificent and overpowering sermon on the Last Judgment, the celebrity of which caused him frequently to deliver it; and whenever it was known that this sermon would be preached, the whole city was stirred, and men of all classes and of all vices rushed eagerly to the church. They went, knowing what they were to hear, and what effect they were to look for, even as the spectators of a tragedy, who are all in possession of the plot and the dialogue, and can tell you beforehand, where they may be expected to weep, and where to shake with fear. And, therefore, so far from supposing any inconsistency between the trembling of Felix and the gladness of Herod, or Ezekiel being to the Jews as one who could play upon an instrument, we can think that these latter feelings were but accompaniments of the trembling. Neither party was touched at the heart by the prophet's denunciations. For then Herod would not have felt gladness, but sorrow and contrition; and Ezekiel would not have been to the Jews as a very lovely song ; but there was an excitement to the animal feelings, and this was a pleasure, and men were glad of its repetition. I should have augured better for Herod had he not heard John gladly, and for the Jews had Ezekiel's oratory not been to them as the music of a very skilful player-had both parties shrunk from the intrepid reprover, in place of deriving a sort of gratification from his reproofs. There are none, for whose safety we have stronger apprehensions than those who, remaining unconverted, can attend with a measure of complacency the ministrations of the preacher, who is frequent and fervent in. denouncing vengeance against every act of unrighteousness. There is nothing to be said for their complacency, but that it just results from a passion for excitement, for which they seek indulgence and find gratification in the preacher's harangue, so that they literally draw a temporary pleasure from their own future misery, and convert their final doom into an engine for giving a passing impulse to their torpid sensibilities. I do pray you, therefore, to take heed how you ever confound the being interested in preaching with the being interested in the things preached ; and if as a preacher pours all his vehemence on the dread tidings of coming wrath, you are conscious to yourselves of an emotion of fear, and the very blood seems to curdle at the heart, do not conclude from this your felt terror that you are possessed of a . just awe of the judgments of God; and yet more, do not imagine, from the finding that you can come with pleasure, week after week, to hear discourses on the vengeance which will overtake the impenitent, that you must yourselves have sought shelter from the threatened visitation ; rather remember, that all your fear may be nothing more than the fear which a well-wrought fiction might easily produce, and that all your pleasure may be simply that which results from the excitement of the feelings. Yea, remember for your warning, that even when the preacher was a prophet who sketched with surpassing power the dreadfulness of lying exposed to God's wrath, and the audience were men who persisted in sins which could not fail to insure the visitation of that wrath-I beg you to remember, that the effects of the preaching are thus described by the Almighty-" Thou art unto the a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument : for they hear thy words, but they do them not."
Now, once more. Though in the main, Ezekiel's preaching was stern and alarming, it sometimes assumed a gentler character. In the very chapter which contains our text, hear the beautiful words—“As I live, saith the Lord of Hosts, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live : turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" And in the following chapters there are glorious and consolatory promises; descriptions of the restoration of Israel, and of the gathering of a universal church unto the Lord our Redeemer. Perhaps it ought in a measure to be ascribed to such portions of his preaching as these that Ezekiel was to the Jews as a very lovely song. We have, indeed, been anxious to warn you against what we think a very possible result of ministrations, whose direct influence it is to make men tremble, and which succeed in that object, because you are made to tremble, and because, so far from shrinking at a repetition of the process, you can come with eagerness to God's house and submit yourselves to the same energetic and overcoming influence, you may easily fancy that you have a just apprehension of God's wrath, and feel that you have duly prepared yourselves against a day, of whose terrors you can hear with something of pleasurable emotion. Therefore, we labour to show you that there may be a complacency and a gladness beneath the preaching of the word, when that preaching is a preaching of vengeance, which are wholly unconnected with any effort to escape from what is threatened, but which quite consist with the remaining exposed to it, from no shelter against its
fury, and with really no real dread of its coming. But if the preaching take a different turn, and there be interspersed with the descriptions of vengeance descriptions of the privileges and portions of the believer in Christ, how easily on insufficient grounds, they may take these privileges as their own! Here, in deed, it is that Ezekiel may have been to his hearers as “a very lovely song." If a man has but persuaded himself, without good reason, of his own conversion and security, every description of hell may give him pleasure, as showing him what he has escaped ; and every description of heaven, as showing him what joys he shall possess. There is nothing needed, but that a man work himself into the notion of his being a believer, and it may be a source of the greatest satisfaction itself to him to attend the ministrations of the word, and then this satisfaction will just help to confirm him in his delusion, seeming like a proof that he has a spiritual perception, and enjoys spiritual truths. Therefore it is a matter of prime moment, that we warn all our hearers against the inferring that they have undergone a moral change, from the finding that they have pleasure in listening to the gospel. If converted, they will listen with pleasure ; but they may listen with pleasure, and, nevertheless, be far from the kingdom of God. Herod heard John, and the Jews heard Ezekiel, gladly; yet the former had not put away Herodias, nor the latter their idols.
We have not space to go into all the producing causes of this false glad. ness ; but we have said enough to set those who feel interested in preaching, and who may be disposed to take the feeling as an evidence of conversion, on the careful examining whether or no they are not deceiving themselves, and whether their gladness ought not to be their sorrow. There is many an en. thusiastic lover of music, who mistakes for piety and religious emotion, the feelings of which he is conscious, as the sacred anthem comes pealing down the aisle of a cathedral, just because he feels an elevation of soul and a kindling of heart. As on a tide of melody poured forth from a choired orchestra there coines floating to him the psalmody of the sweet singer of Israel, he will imagine that he has really an affection towards spiritual things, and really aspires after heaven. Alas! alas ! though music may indeed be an auxiliary to devotion, it proves no devotion, that you can be thrilled and lifted out of yourselves by the power of music. It is altogether on your natural feelings or sensibilities, which may or may not be drawn out by religion, that the lofty strain tells with so subduing an effect; and even when you are most carried away and overcome by the varied notes, I see no reason whatsoever, why you might not return from the oratorio of the “Creation" and ascribe the universe to chance, or from that of the “Messiah” and be ready with the Jews to crucify the Christ. It is the same with preaching. The eloquence of Ezekiel was stern and severe; it was commonly employed on wrath and calamity, yet, “thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument.” You may, then, alternately tremblo and soar, and weep and exult, as the preacher discourses on the various truths of the Bible ; but you are not to take this as any necessary evidence that the truths themselves have power over your souls. You must judge of this power by what you are out of church, when there is not the stimulus of the sermon. You must read it in the sermon of your own lives, in subdued lusts, van. quished passions, undertaken duties. Do not form your opinion of yourself in church, when excitement may pass for piety, or the gladness of the hypocrite for that of the believer. Get your information in church, and then go home to apply it in deciding your condition. Oh, what may a minister become, when men have heard gladly, and yet remain unconverted ! Ye who are yet fast bound in the fetters of sin, persist in wickedness, and thus do your part towards wearing down those who have watched for your souls, as they that may give account, and the memory of what you now hear gladly, but vainly, may haunt you, when there is no place for repentance; and the minister niay rise before you as an accusing spirit, and what has been to you " as a very lovely song” justify your being sentenced to the weeping and griashing of teeth. May God avert this from us all, through Jesus Christ!
THE REDEEMER'S PRAYER.
DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, APRIL 18TH, 1858, BY THE
" Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast giren me: for thou lovedst me before the foundations of the world.”—John xvii. 24. WHEN the High Priest old entered into the most holy place, he kindled the incense in his censer, and waving it before him, he perfumed the air with its sweet fragrance, and veiled the mercy seat with the denseness of its smoke. Thus was it written concerning him, “He shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: and he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not.” Even so our Lord Jesus Christ, when he would once for all enter within the vail with his own blood to make an atonement for sin, did first offer strong crying and prayers. In this 17th chapter of John, we have, as it were, the smoking of the Saviour's pontifical censer. He prayed for the people for whom he was about to die, and ere he sprinkled them with his blood, he did sanctify them with his supplications. This prayer therefore stands pre-eminent in Holy Writ as the Lord's Prayer—the special and peculiar prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ; and "if,” as an old divine hath it, “it be lawful to prefer one Scripture above another, we may say, though all be gold, yet this is a pearl in the gold; though all be like the heavens, this is as the sun and stars." Or if one part of Scripture be more dear to the believer than any other, it must be this which contains his Master's last prayer before he entered through the rent vail of his own crucified body. How sweet it is to see that not himself, but his people, constituted the staple of his prayer! He did pray for himself-he said, “Father, glorify thou me!" but while he had one prayer for himself, he had many for his people. Continually did he pray for them—“Father, sanctify them!" Father, keep them!” “Father, make them one!” And then he concluded his supplication with, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” Melancthon well said there was never a more excellent, more holy, more fruitful, and more affectionate voice ever heard in heaven or in earth, than this prayer.
We shall first notice the style of the prayer ; secondly, the persons interested in it; and thirdly, the great petitions offered—the last head constituting the main part of our discourse.
I. First, notice THE STYLE OF THE PRAYER—it is singular: it is, “ Father, I will,“ Now, I cannot but conceive that there is something more in the expression, I will." than a mere wish. It seems to me, that when Jesus said "I will," although perhaps it might not be proper to say that he made a demand, yet we may say that he pleaded with authority, asking for that which he knew to be his own, and uttering an “I will" as potent as any fiat that ever sprang from the lips of the Almighty. “Father, I will." It is an unusual thing to find Jesus Christ saying to God, “I will." You know that before the mountains were brought forth, it was said of Christ, “in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, (God;" and we find whilst he was on earth, that he never mentioned his own will; that he expressly declared, “I came not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me." It is trne you do hear him when addressing men, saying “I will,” for he saith, " I will, be thou clean;" but in his prayers to his Father he prayed with all hun.ility;
“With sighs and groans he offered up,
His humble suit below." " I wil,” therefore, seems to be an exception to the rule; but we must remember that Christ was now in an exceptional condition. He had never been before where he was now. He was now come to the end of his work; he could say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do,” and therefore, looking forward to the time when the sacrifice would be complete and he should ascend on high, he sees that his work is done, and takes his own will back again and saith, “Father, I will."
Now, mark, that such a prayer as this would be totally unbecoming in our lips. We are never to say, “ Father, I will.” Our prayer is to be. “ Not my will, but thine be done." We are to mention our wishes, but our wills are to subside into the will of God. We are to feel that whilst it is ours to desire, it is God's to will. But how pleasant, I repeat, it is to find the Saviour pleading with such authority as this, for this puts the stamp of certainty upon his prayer. Whatsoever he has asked for in that chapter he shall have beyond a doubt. At other times, when he pleaded as a Mediator, in his humility he was eminently successful in his intercessions; how much more shall his prayer prevail now that he takes to himself his great power, and with authority cries, “ Father, I will." I love that opening to the prayer, it is a blessed guarantee of its fulfilment, rendering it so sure that we may now look upon Christ's prayer as a promise which shall be assuredly fulfilled.
II. Thus much concerning the style of the prayer; and now we NOTICE THE PERSONS FOR WHOM HE PRAYED, " Father, I will that they ulso, whom thou hast giren ine, be with me where I am.” This was not an universal prayer. It was a prayer including within it a certain class and portion of mankind, who are designatel as " those whom the Father had given him.” Now we are taught to believe that God the Father did, from before the foundation of the world, give unto his Son Jesus Christ a number whom no man can number, who were to be the reward of his death, the purchase of the travail of his soul, who were to be infallibly brought unto everlasting glory by the merits of his passion, and the power of his resurrection. These are the people here referred to. Sometimes in Scripture they are called the elect, because when the Father gave them to Christ he chose them out from among men. At other times they are called the beloved, because God's love was set upon them of old. They are called Israel; for like Israel of old, they are a chosen people, a royal generation. They are called God's inheritance, for they are especially dear to God's heart; and as a man careth for his inheritance and his portion, so the Lord careth especially for them.
Let me not be misunderstood. The people whom Christ liere prays for, are those whom God the Father out of his own free love and sovereign good pleasure ordained unto eternal life, and who, in order that his design might be accomplished, were given into the hands of Christ the Merliator, by him to be redeemed, sanctified, and perfected, and by him to be glorified everlastingly. These people, and none uthers, are the object of our Saviour's prayer. It is not for me to defend the doctrine; it is Scriptural, that is my only defence. It is not for me to vindicate God from any profane charge of partiality or injustice. If there be any wicked enough to impute this to him, let them settle the matter with their Maker. Let the thing