Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

cured him. And this is the God whom I preach to you, and he is able to keep you from falling. Hence then your privilege to call upon God; (and nobody can have said it more experimentally than David,) “ Hold thon me up and I shall be safe.” What said Bradford when he saw a man taken to the gallows ?“There goes John Bradford, but for the grace of God!". Wonder, oh, heavens! the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us, and we shall be presented (if we are His people) “ faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy."

But, my hearers, you must expect trials and troubles. You must expect to be cast out as evil—“Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.” And we read in a striking passage these words :

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries : which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Now the church is surrounded by adversaries! Is there one enemy of the Church of God before me? Then listen to the word of God. It is to you an evident token of perdition, and if you die in that state you will be damned to all eternity. Bear with my plain speaking. I preach not to please men, “For if I yet pleased men I should not be the SERVANT OF CHRIST."

But look at the other side of the picture, “ BUT TO YOU OF SALVATION AND THAT OF GOD.

What did Paul say? How Paul exulted when he addrest the church of Corinth. “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries." And if there is no enemy there is no Gospel. If there is no opposition there is no truth.-" But unto you of salvation and that of God, “ for unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him “but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which ye saw in Hin "and now hear in me."

May the GREAT and GLORIOUS SUBJECT that in weakness I have endeavoured set before you, abide by you and in you-at your bedsides to night—and when you lie down upon your beds may the Holy Ghost whisper the reality of this great text into your hearts, that you may have the solemn question applied by power-Do I know anything of the blessedness of pardon ? Am I amongst the blessed ones that I heard the preacher speak of? There may be many here quite unable to get up so high as that, but if you really DESIRE to attain that blessedness, wait for it till it comes; wait for an Epiphany in your souls ; wait like Simeon ; and you cannot wait unless God gives you a waiting soul. But what says the promise ? “ He that waiteth on his Master SHALL be honoured.” May a great blessing follow the preaching of the word in this house of God. And now I will read the text.-" Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man"-(and the only man that is blessed, and the only blessedness—Think of death! think of eternity !-of the blessedness of dying in Jesus !)—-"unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. May God bless the Gospel for Christ's sake.

404

THE SPIES.

A Sermon
DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, JUNE 6, 1858, BY THE

[blocks in formation]

"And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, thr which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature."-Numbers xiii. 32.

" And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes. And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good sand."-Numbers xiv. 6. 7. The unbelief of the children of Israel, prompted them to send spies into Canaan. God had told then that it was a good land, and he had promised to drive out their enemies; they ought therefore to have marched forward with all confidence to possess the promised heritage. Instead of this, they send twelve princes to spy out the land, and “ alas, for human nature,” ten of these were faithless, and only two true to the Lord. Read over the narrative, and mark the ill effect of the lying message, and the holy boldness of the true spies.

Now I must take up my parable. The land of Canaan is a picture of religion; I do not think it was ever intended to be picture of heaven, for there are no Canaanites in heaven; certainly in heaven there are no sons of Anak, no giants to be driven out, no walled cities, and no kings with chariots of iron. Canaan is, however, a very excellent picture of religion. The children of Israel must stand this morning as the representatives of the great mass of mankind. The great mass of mankind never try for themselves what religion is; they neither search our sacred books, nor taste and try our religion. But this is what they do; they consider those who make a profession of religion as spies who have entered the land, and they look upon our character and our conduct as the message which we bring back to them. The ungodly man does not read his Bible in order to discover whether the religion of Christ is holy and beautiful; no, he reads the living Bible-Christ's church-and if the church is inconsistent he condemns the Bible, though the Bible is never to be accountable for the sins of those who profess to believe it. Ungodly men of course do not come and by repentance and faith make a trial of the love of Christ; they do not enter into covenant with the Lord Jesus, or else they would soon discover that it is a good land that floweth with milk and honey; but instead thereof they stand still, and they say, “Let be, let us see what these Christians make of it. Do they find it to be a happy thing? Does it succour them in their hour of trouble? Does it comfort them in the midst of their trials?” And if they find that our report is a gloomy or an unholy one, they turn aside, and they say, “ It is not a good land; we will not enter into it, for its difficulties are great, but its enjoyments are few."

Beloved brethren and friends, to put the parable as simply as I can, I am about to make out every Christian man and woman here to be a spy who has entered into the good land of religion, and who by his conduct and conversation brings either an evil or a good report of this good land, and either moves the world to murmur at and to despise religion, or else inspires it with a holy dread of goodness, and something of a longing after a portion therein.

But I shall begin with a word of caution. In the first place I shall notice that the men of the world are not to be excused for their folly in trusting to mere report from other persons. Then, secondly, I shall endeavour to describe the evil reporters, the evil spies, which are in the camp; thon we will mention some good spies, who bring a good report of the land; and, in conclusion, briog a few weighty reasons to bear upon Christian men, why they should act like Culeb und Joshua, and bring up a good report of the land,

'1. In the first place, then, TUE UNGODLY WORLD ARE NOT TO BE EXCrsed for that, which must nevertheless be admitted to be a very natural matter, namely, that INSTEAD OF INVESTIGATING RELIGION FOR THEMSELVES, THEY USUALLY TRUST TO

THE REPRESENTATION OF OTHERS

The worldly man looks at a Christian to see whether his religion be jouful. " By this,” says he, “shall I know whether there is that in religion which will make a man glad. If I see the professor of it with a joyous countenance, then I will believe it to be a good thing." But hark, sir! hast thou any right to put it to that test? Is not God to be counted true, even before we have proved him? And hath he not declared himself, “ Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile?" Dotlı not the Scripture itself declare that godliness is profitable, not only for this life, but for that which is to come-that it hath the blessing of two worlds, the blessing of this world below the sky and of that upper world above the stars? Would you not know from Scripture If you were to take the Bible and read it, that everywhere the Christian is commanded to rejoice, because it is comely for him? " Rejoice in the Lord ye righteous and shout for joy all ye that are upright in heart.” “ Rejoice evermore." "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice.” Remember you have no right to put the joyfulness of religion to any test short of your own experience, for you are bound to believe God on his naked word. It is not for you to stand still till yon can see it to be true. It is your duty to believe your Maker when he declares that the ways of religion are pleasantness and all her paths are peace.

Again, you say you will test the holiness of Christ's religion by the holiness of Christ's people. You have no right, I reply, to put the question to any such test as that. The proper test that you ought to use is to try it yourselves—to "taste and see that the Lord is good.” By tasting and seeing you will prove his goodness, and by the same process you must prove the holiness of his gospel. Your business is to seek Christ crucified for yourselves, not to take the representation of another man concerning the power of grace to subdue corruption and to sanctify the heart. Your business is yourselves to enter into its valleys and pluck its grapes; yourselves to climb its hills and see its inhabitants. Inasmuch as God has given you Bible, he intended you to read it, and not to be content with reading men, There is his Holy Spirit; you are not to be content with feelings that rise through the conversation of others, your only power to know true religion is, by having that Spirit operating upon your own heart, that you may yourself know what is the power of religion. You have no right to judge religion from anything extra or external from itself. And if you despise before you have tried it yourself, you must stand confessed in this world as a fool, and in the next world as a criminal. And yet this is so with most men. If you hear a man rail at the Bible, you can usually conclude that he never reads it. And you may be quite certain if you hear a man speak against religion, that he never knew what religion was. True religion, when once it takes possession of the heart, never allows a man to quarrel with it. That man will call Christ his best friend who knows Christ at all. We have found many who have despised the enjoyments of this world, but we never found one who turned from religion with disgust or with satiety, after having once enjoyed it. No, remember my hearers, if you take your religion from other people, and are led by the example of professors to discard religion, you are nevertheless guilty of your own blood. For God has not left you to the uncertain chart of men's characters, he has given you his own Word; a more sure word and testimony, whereunto you do well if ye take heed,

It will be in vain for you to say at the day of judgment, "Such and such a man was inconsistent, therefore I despised religion," Your excuse will then be discovered to be idle, for you shall have to confess, that in other respects, you did not take Another man's opinion. In business, in the cares of this life, you were independeni enough; in your political opinious you did not pin your faith to any mau's coat; and, therefore, it shall be said of you at last, you had enough independence of mind to steer your own course, even against the example of others, in business, in politics, and such like things; you certainly had enough of mental vigour, if you had chosen to have done so, to have stood out against the inconsistency of professors, and to have searched for yourselves. If all Christ's church were inconsistent, so long as there is a Bible upon earth, you could have no excuse in the day of judgment; for Christ was not inconsistent, and you are not asked to follow Christ's followers--you' are asked to follow Christ himself. Until then you can find a flaw in his character, a mistake in his conduct, you have no right to fling the inconsistency of his followers in the teeth of Christ, nor to turn from him because his disciples forsake him and flee. To their own Master they stand or fall; they must bear their own burden, and you must bear yours too." Every man shall bear his own burden,” saith Scripture," for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, to give an account for the things which we have done in the body, whether they be good, or whether they be evil.” You will not be accountable for another man's sins, but for your own; and if another man by his sin has brought reproach upon Christ, still it shall be no excuse for you if you do not follow him wholly, in the midst of an evil generation.

II. With that, by way of caveat and guard, I shall now bring forth the BAD SPIES. I wish-that the men mentioned in the text, had been the only spies who have brought an evil report: it would have been a great mercy if the plague that killed then, had killed all the rest of the same sort; but alas! the breed, I am afraid, will never be extinct, and as long as the world endureth, there will be some professors who bring up an evil report of the land.

But now let me bring forth the evil spies. Remember, these spies are to be judged, not by what they say, but by whai they do; for to a worldling, words are nothing-acts are everything. The reports that we bring of our religion are not the reports of the pulpit, not the reports that we utter with our lips, but the report of our daily life, speaking in our own houses, and the every day business of life.

Well, first, I produce a man who brings up an evil report of the land, and you' will see at once that he does so, for he is of a dull and heavy spirit. If he preaches, he takes this text-" Through much tribulation we must inherit the kingdom.” Somehow or other, he never mentions God's people, without calling them God's tried children. As for joy in the Lord, he looks upon it with suspicion. “Lord, what a wretched land is this!" is the very height of poetry to him. He could sing that always. He is always in the valley, where the mists are hovering: he never climbs the mountain's brow, to stand above the tempests of this life. He was gloomy before he made a profession of religion-since then he has become more gloomy still. See him at home. Ask the children what they think of their father's religion; they think they could wish their father was anything except religious. “Father will not let us laugh,” they say; "he pulls the blinds down on the Sunday; he tries to make us as dark and miserable as he can on the Sabbath day; he thinks it his duty as a strict Sabbatarian, to make the Sabbath the greatest day of bordage out of the whole seven. Ask his wife what she thinks of religion: she says, “I do not know much about it myself, but I wish my husband were a little more cheerful.” “ Nay, but is it his religion that makes him miserable?" “I do not know what it is,” she says, “but I know when he is most miserable, he is generally most religious.” Hear him pray: when he is on his knees he gives a long list of his trials and troubles; but he never says at the end, “ More are they that are for us than all they that are against us.” He usually dwells upon the valley of Baca, and about crying so much that he makes it a well

. He never goes on to say, “ They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” No, it is just the black part of the story. If you want to see this brother in perfection, you must see him when he is talking to a young convert. The young man is full of joy and gladness, for be has found the Saviour, and, like a young fledgling that has just taken wing, he delights to fly about in the sunshine, and chirp merrily in the joy of his faith. " Ah!” says the old Christian, “the black ox has not trodden on your toes yet; you will have more troubles than you dream of.” Old Mr. Timorous was a friend of mine: did you ever hear what he said to Christian, when he met him on his journey? I will tell you the same. “ The lions! the lions! the lions!” he cries; he never says “ The lions are chained.” “ The giants! the giants! the giants!” he exclaims. He never saith, “He carrieth the lambs in his bosom, and gently leadeth those that are with young.” He takes always the dreary side of the question, bringing up an ill report of the land. And, do you know, some of these people are so proud of their ill report, that they form themselves into a little knot,

and they cannot hear any preacher except his face be of an extreme length, and except he has studied the dictionary to find all the most lugubrious terms, and except he appear unto men to fast, just like the Pharisees of old. Now, I do not hesitate to say that these men are evil spies. Far be it from us to mask the great fact that religion does entail tribulation, and that a Christian, like everybody else, must expect in this world to have trouble, for man is born to it as the sparks fly upward; but it is as false as God is true, that religion makes men miserable. So sure as God is good, his religion is good; and as God is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works, religion is an atmosphere in which those tender mercies play, and the sea in which his lovingkindness swims. Oh, come, ye dreary professors, take away those storm-clouds, and wreathe a few rainbows on your brow. Come, now, anoint your head and wash your face, that you appear not unto men to fast; take those harps from the willows; down with them, and now try if your unaccustomed fingers cannot make them alive with melody. And if you will not do it, and cannot do it, permit me to bear my testimony. I can say, concerning Christ's religion, if I had to die like a dog, and had no hope whatever of immortality, if I wanted to lead a happy life, let me serve my God with all my heart; let me be a follower of Jesus, and walk in his footsteps; for never was there a truer word spoken than that of Solomon, “ Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” It is a land that floweth with milk and honey; there are clusters even on earth too heavy for one man to carry; there are fruits that have been found so rich that even angel lips have never been sweetened with more luscious wine; there are joys to be had here so fair that even cates ambrosial and the nectared wine of Paradise can scarce excel the sweets of satisfaction that are to be found in the earthly banquets of the Lord.

Perhaps, however, this poor man that I have just sent off is to be pitied. Not so the next one, for he is a rascal indeed. See him! he comes forward as Mr. Meekface, making a great profession of religion. How he mouths the hymns! When he stands up to pray, with what a spiritual kind of voice he prays. Nothing carnal about his voice! He is among the Christian people a great leader. He can preach sermons by the yard. He can dissect doctrines by the hour. There is not a metaphysical point in all our theology that he does not understand,

“ He can a hair divide,

Betwixt the west and north-west side." His understanding is, in his own opinion, infinite; and he makes very boastful pretensions to piety. Everybody says when they see him in his good frames in chapel or elsewhere, “What a dear good man he is!" You follow him to business. He will not swear, but he will lie. He won't out-and-out rob, but he will cheat. He will not curse a man to his face, but he will do worse-he will speak ill of him behind his back. You watch him! He, if he could find a drunkard in the street, would upbraid him, and talk to him so proudly against the sin of intoxication, but he himself very seldom knows his own way upstairs to bed; only that is in a quiet way, therefore nobody sees it, and he is thought to be a very reputable member of society. Don't you know any such people? I hope you do not; but I have met with them. There is a great stock of them still living; men that make grand professions, and their lives are as much opposed to their professions, as hell is opposed to heaven. Now what does the world say of religion when they see these people? They say at once, “Well, if this be religion, we had better have none of it.” Says the business man, " I could not do what So-and-so does; it is true I could not sing out of his hymn book, but I could not keep his cash book.” We have known many men say, “I could not make so long a prayer as So-and-so, and could not make out my invoices in the dishonest way he does." We have met with worldly men who are far more honest as tradesman and professional men than persons who make a profession of religion. And we have known on the other hand, men who have made the greatest profession, indulging in all kinds of evil. Horrible shall be that man's fate, who thus ruins other men's souls by bringing up a bad report of the land. But, oh! I beseech you, my hearers, if any of you have seen such professors, let the righteous stand out to-day, like Joshra and Caleb of old; let the Church stand before you and rend its garments, while it entreats you not to believe the lying and slanderous reports of such men. For, indeed, religion is holy; as Christ is holy, even so do his people desire to be holy. And the grace of God which bringeth salvation is pure and peaceful;

« ZurückWeiter »