Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

has revealed, and certain of the virtues which God demands, and let us see whether faith in the one will not be of necessity productive of the others. For example, it is a portion of the scriptural revelation that God is Omniscient and Omnipresent, that nothing can be hid from his scrutiny, but that he is ever at hand, a vigilant inspector, to note human actions, and register them for judgment. Can this be really believed, and yet the believer fail to be intensely earnest to approve himself in God's sight? Will he ever think himself in a solitude, ever act as alone and unobserved? Will not rather his faith produce a holy reverence, an awful fear of the Almighty, and make him walk circumspectly, because walking side by side with his Maker and his Judge: The Bible tells him, moreover, of an amazing scheme of rescue planned and executed by God on behalf of himself and his fellow-men, sets God before him, as giving his own Son, and that Son as giving himself to ignominy and death, that pardon might be placed within the reach of the sinful ; and dilates in the most moving terms on the unwearied loving-kindness of our heavenly Father, who willeth not the death of a sinner, bears with a thousand indignities and repulses, and presses eternal life on those who give him nothing but ingratitude and scorn. Can this be believed, and yet the believer not glow with intense love towards a gracious and benevolent God, who has done such surprising things for his good; yea, and toward his fellowmen, seeing that they are objects of the same mercy with himself, and therefore equally precious in the sight of his Creator? Oh, will not faith, genuine faith in the mighty truths of redemption make a man feel as an affectionate son towards God, and as an affectionate brother towards all men? And yet further, along with the revelation of this amazing scheme of mercy, the Bible sets forth conditions apart from which we can have no share in the blessings procured by Christ's death, imposing duties on the performance of which our future portion is made to depend, and annexing promises and threatenings, just as though we were to be judged by our own works, irrespective of the work of the Redeemer. It tells us of a heaven, and it tells us of a hell ; and dealing with us as accountable creatures, creatures therefore who are free to choose, and who are left to determine for themselves whether they will be eternally wretched or eternally happy, it conjures us by the joys of the one state and the terrors of the other, to live soberly, righteously and godly in the world. Who believes this ? The man who lives as though there were no heaven, as though there were no hell, doing the very things, obeying the very passions, neglecting the very duties which are respectively forbidden, or commended to all who hope to find mercy hereafter: Impossible! these things cannot be believed by the sensual man, or the covetous, or the proud, or the ambitious. Faith in these things must animate to efforts, to obedience, to selfdenial. He who is really a believer in the revealed truths as to man's everlasting state, and the indissoluble connection between conduct here and condition hereafter, will necessarily be one who struggles for mastery, and wages continual war with nature, the flesh, and the devil.

Time would fail us were we to go on enumerating all the graces of which faith is the parent, and the deeds which, by God's help it enables us to do. Humility, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance—is there one of these which does not spring naturally from faith in such doctrines as are recorded in Scripture? And is it not manifest that the degree in which it subsists will be proportioned to the strength of the principle of belief? And the resisting temptation, the overcoming evil, the subjugating unruly desires, the being resigned under affliction, the triumphing over death-who can fail to perceive that all these are the direct produce of faith? In other words, there is a most intimate and necessary connection between believing what the Bible reveals and doing what the Bible enjoins, or acquiring what the Bible promises. Do not say that we ascribe too much to faith because ascribing more than seems exemplified in many whom you reckon as believers. We speak of the necessary tendencies and consequences of a principle. It is in vain to oppose to these the inconsistencies of men in whom you assume the principles to be dominant. It may be that their faith is not genuine ; but not that the genuine faith is not what we have described. Now we have given you a brief summary of the statements in regard to the tendencies and consequences of faith. Will you any longer consider faith as a barren isolated act? Will you any longer marvel that in the distribution of heavenly honours faith should have a position of eminence and renown? A man who has faith, genuine faith, in the truths revealed to us in Scripture, will be a man continually possessed by a sense of God's presence-so that in the crowd, in the solitude, by day and by night he will equally feel under the eye of his Maker, be conscious that he is observed, and be vigilant accordingly over thought and action and word. He will, moreover, be one in whose breast glows a love the most ardent towards God and his fellow-men. Constrained by the mercies of redemption he will adore gratefully the Being who counted nothing too costly for his ransom, and view in all around the purchase of the same blood and the members of the same household. Neither is this all; the man of faith is the man of effort; the man who struggles with corrupt passions, who strives to be holy, and cultivates whatsoever things are lovely and of good report-who makes time subservient to eternity, and life the seed time of immortality. This it is to be a believer, this it is to have what cavillers would represent as the involuntary, the uninfluential, the worthless principle of faith. Who will match this principle? Conquerors and heroes, who have demolished kingdoms, here are men who have done more-men who, through faith, have vanquished themselves, the world, and the devil. Men of science who have penetrated abstruse truths, here ye are surpassed, here are men who through faith have become acquainted with the origin and centre of all truth, with God himself-that mystery which includes every other. Philosophers who have weighed the mountains and numbered the stars, confess yourselves outdone; these are men, who, through faith, have scanned the invisible world, trodden its golden streets, and looked on that firmament of which the Lord God Almighty is himself the sun. Moralists and sages, who have invented maxims and recom. mended virtues, withdraw from the scene ; here are men, who, through faith, have practised what you could only preach, and been what you could only imagine. Yes, conquerors, men of science, philosophers, moralists, we bid you all give place, we have finer warriors to show, and men of more illustrious learning, the cultivators of purer and loftier virtues, and these are they to whom St. Paul's description applies—"They who have obtained a good report through faith.”

Now, we would hope that there has been enough in these remarks on the preliminaries and the consequences of faith in the statements of Scripture to prove with how little justice the common objections raised, that faith is made of too much importance in Scripture, that more weight is attached to it than from

its nature it ought ever to have. Believing and not believing-on these undoubtedly, everything is made to depend. He that believeth is to saved, and he that believeth not is to be damned. • Strange doctrine," say the adversaries of Christianity. Faith which is a matter of course if there be evidence enough, and which is nothing but credulity if there be not—faith is substituted for all that has any real excellence, or accepted in the stead of piety and virtue. But, we reply, the doctrine is not at all strange; we urge that our adversaries misrepresent faith ; we show that in order to a man's believing he must have certain dispositions, and those such as God might be expected to approve, and that as a consequence on his believing he will make certain sacrifices and perform certain duties, and thus give the best proof of his acknowledgment and reverence of the Moral Governor of the Universe. There is no strangeness then at all. Faith is precisely that condition of the soul which such a being as God might have been expected to approve; for having given the revelation contained in the Bible, to require faith in its disclosures is to require that the understanding submit itself, that pride be cut down, that the flesh be crucified with its affections and lusts, and that every energy be consecrated to his service—where then is the marvel if he have been pleased to ordain that it should be through faith that men should obtain a good report? Finally, to impress, if possible, the argument on every hearer, we will represent the nature and achievement of this principle of faith. We-you and I, live in the midst of allurements and temptations, what is without conspiring with what is within to bind us to earth, and to make us cleave to it as our home and our all, and whilst we are thus entangled and engrossed, there comes a revelation from the invisible God, a revelation of amazing wonder connected with his nature, and with his purpose towards ourselves—his guilty and depraved creatures : in this revelation you and I are bidden to believe, bidden on the express declaration that in return for our faith we shall be admitted into the presence which thought cannot measure. And is it an easy thing to believe! Easy! It is to lay aside prejudice, it is to become as little children, it is to submit implicitly to God's authority. Easy! it is to abandon what we love, to forego what we desire, to do what we dislike, to endure what we dread. Easy! it is to cut off the right hand, pluck out the right eye, wrestle with principalities and powers, despise death, and anticipate futurity. Easy! do it ye who count it so easy. Ye who make so light of believing—believe. Ye who represent faith as a mere nothing-have faith. You would invite us to some great and hard achievement, we would invite you to a greater and harder ; we match believing against your doing, we match it in difficulty, we match its results; there is nothing which you admire which we may not attempt in our own strength, but we must have the power of the Lord God Almighty ere we can believe in him whom he hath sent. Oh, I wonder not that so much virtue should be ascribed to faith, so much of honour put upon it! I wonder not if even angels, they to whom all is sight, look admiringly on believers as they dare and do in reliance on the word of their God. Look at what a spectacle is presented to those glorious beings! Here is a frail creature, with craving appetites and imperious desires, placed in a world teeming with objects which those appetites demand, and to which those desires instigate ; and there is brought in a message from a God whom he cannot see, telling him of a brighter world than that which he inhabits, and into which through the merits of the Mediator, he shall pass at death, if he believe in the record which has been given him as divine. He strains his gaze, but he cannot catch a glimpse of this glorious land ; the world around him is full of beauties on which he can look-melodies to which he can listen, delicacies which he can taste, flatteries which he can relish; but the other world, of which he is told, cannot appeal to his senses. It may have loveliness but he cannot behold it; it may have minstrelsy, but he cannot hear it; it may have glory, but he cannot feel it. Nevertheless, through faith, he prefers the invisible to the visible, and simply on the warrant of God's word renounces what solicits him through his bodily organs, denies his passions, withstands his desires, fastens all his hopes on a far off country which he cannot visit, to certify himself of its existence, and which can be reached only through death. What can give such honour unto God? Where can there be such confidence-such obedience? Angels may well gaze with admiration on the spectacle. They have always beheld God, they have always beheld the bright land, and to them, therefore, there has not been the trial of abandoning a proved and felt good, for one of which they had testimony, indeed, but no experience. Well, then, may they welcome believers with lofty gratulations. Other planets may send in crowds of heirs of immortality, beings to whom God has manifested himself in open vision, and who have lived like themselves in open intercourse with heaven ; but from this earth will be gathered those who shall most wake the song of wonder and of praise. According to the representation of the Book of Revelation, there shall be a circle nearer to the throne of God than that filled by cherubim and seraphim, and of the occupants of this—and God grant that we may be amongst them-of the occupants of this, a proclamation shall be heard through the length and breadth of the celestial courts—“These are they that obtained a good report through faith."

696

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

"THE RULER OF THE SEA AND STILLER OF

THE STORM.”

Sermon PREACHED IN THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST. THOMAS THE APOSTLE,

WINCHELSEA, SUSSEX, BY THE RECTOR,

THE REV. J. J. WEST, M.A.,
ON THURSDAY MORNING, JULY 15th, 1858.*

“Thou rulest the raging of the sea : when the waves thereof arise Thou stillest

them.”—Psalm. lxxxix. 9, From the pause which I have made in giving out that text, you may have observed, my hearers, that I was exercised about one,- this is often so ;may that which I have taken be for the glory of God, and the edification and comfort of His people. It contains, in few words, great and vast realities; the experimental child of God will understand this,-exercised sinners know something about these things,-every day, every hour, realizes more and more the fact that the pathway of the church is narrow, it is the way of trial and temptation. It is so everywhere, and whether I refer to those in the midst of the masses of the City of London, or the few here and there in this lonely place at Winchelsea, where we are, as it were, like sparrows alone on the housetop, the case and experience is the same. This text will be, I think, appreciated by my Thursday flock, when, generally speaking, I am preaching to those who are in earnest, who are seekers after truth, and who know what trials, and barrassings, and temptations mean; it sets before us that which suits the case of the poor, the tried, the exercised, the tempest-tossed, weather-beaten sinner. In the first hymn we sung we have in its five verses the reality set forth. “ The billows swell, the winds are high, Thy constant love, thy watchful care, Clouds overcast my wintry sky; Is all that saves me from despair. Out of the depths to THEE I call, My fears are great, my strength is 'Dangers of every shape and name, small.

Attend the followers of the Lamb, "O Lord, the pilot's part perform,

Who leave the world's deceitful shore,

But leave it to return no more. And guide and guard me through the

storm; Defend me from each threat'ning ill,

Though tempest-tossed, and half a

wreck, Control the waves, say, 'Peace, be still.'

My Saviour through the floods I seek; “ Amidst the roaring of the sea,

Let neither winds nor stormy main My soul still hangs her hope on thee; Force back my shattered bark again."

Could you feelingly sing that hymn ? Do you know it experimentally ? practically? It is a solemn thing to utter such words in the house of God without we feel and really know something about them! It is only those who realize the swelling billows, and the high and stormy winds, and the cloudy sky who can sing that hymn experimentally! I can imagine an accomplished lady, at a fashionable evening party, sitting down and singing from her song-book to please and amuse the company ; but here in this house it is a solemn thing to attempt the work of praise, it must be heart

• The Sermon was taken down at the time by a stranger in the congregation.

66

« ZurückWeiter »