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You tell him of Canaan on the other side the Jordan-of the land that floweth with milk and honey-of the Lamb in the midst of the throne, and of all the glories which God hath prepared for them that love him; and you see his dull leaden eye light up with seraphic brightness, lie shakes off his heaviness, and he begins to sing,
« On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye,
Where my possessions lie.”
This makes him greatly rejoice; and if to that you add that possibly before he has passed the gates of death his Master may appear—if you tell him that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming in the clouls of heaven, and though we have not seen him yet believing in him we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, expecting the second advent- if he has grace to believe in that sublime doctrine, he will be ready to clap his hands upon his bed of weariness and cry, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly! come quickly!”
And in drawing to a close, I may notice, there is one more doctrine that will always cheer a Christian, and I think that this perhaps is the one chiefly intended here in the text. Look at the end of the 15th verse; “Reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation;" This perhaps will be one of the greatest cordials to a Christian in heaviness, that he is not kept by his own power, but by the power of God, and that he is not left in his · own keeping, but he is kept by the Most High. Ah! what should you and I do in
the day when darkness gathers round our faith, if we had to keep ourselves! I can never understand what an Arminian does, when he gets into sickness, sorrow, and affliction; from what well he draws his comfort, I know not; but I know whence I draw mine. It is this. “When flesh and heart faileth, God is the strength of my life, and my portion for ever.” “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." But take away that doctrine of the Saviour's keeping his people, and where is my hope? What is there in the gospel worth my preaching, or worth your receiving? I know that he hath said, “I give unto my sheep eternal life. and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” What, Lord, but suppose they should grow faint-that they should begin to murmur in their affliction, Shall they not perish then? No, they shall never perish. But suppose the pain should grow so hot that their faith should fail: shall they not perish then? No, “they shall not perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But suppose their sense should seem to wander, and some should try to prevert them from the faith: shall they not be perverted? No; “they shall never perish," But
suppose in some hour of their extremity hell and the world and their own fears should all beset them, and they should have no power to stand-no power whatever to resist the fierce onslaughts of the enemy, shall they not perish then? No, they are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed,” and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Ah! this is the doctrine, the cheering assurance "wherein we greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if needs be, we are in heaviness through vanifold temptations."
One word before I send you away. There are some of you here to whom this precious passage has not a word to say. Our heaviness, O worldling, “our heaviness is but for a season." Your heaviness is to come; and it shall be a heaviness intolerable, because hopelessly everlasting. Our temptations, though they be manifold, are but light afflictions and are but for a moment," and they "work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" but your joys that you now have are evanescent as a bubble, and they are passing away, and they are working out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of misery. I beseech you, look at this matter. Search and see whether all be right with your spirits—whether it be well for you to venture into an eternal state as you are; and may God give you grace, that you may feel your need of a Saviour, that you may seek Christ, lay hold upon him, and so may come into a gracious state, wherein ye shall greatly rejoice, even though for a season, if needs be, ye should be in heaviness through manifold temptations!
J Lecture DELIVERED ON Tuesday EVENING, OCTOBER 19tu, 1858, BEFORE THE St. Jude's,
WHITECHAPEL, Young Men's SOCIETY, BY TIIE REV. HUGH ALLEN, A.M., (Incumbent of St. Jude's, Whitechapel, and Lecturer of St. Olave's, Old Jewry).
The importance of the subject before us cannot be overstated ; a crowded meeting of the lay representatives of the different parishes and districts of London and its vast neighbourhood assembled yesterday at St. James's Hall to consider, and to commence action, upon this matter.
Our subject is stated thus, " Confession and the Confessional.” There are two kinds of confession brought before the public attention ; one is the confession appointed by God, and the other is the confession or the confessional appointed by man and by man only: the question is, which of the two should command the submission of Christians: are we to submit to the confessional of man, or rather adopt, practise, and submit to the confession appointed in the Holy Scriptures by God Himself ? We shall not apologise for, or palliate in any way the confessional, or man's confession, which is fixed, decreed and practised by the voluntary victims, the members of the church of Rome: for if it be unscriptural it is equally as wrong in the church of Rome as anywhere else. It is in that church equally as opposed to God's plan, to God's word, and Christ's appointment; and in this sense is equally to be condemned and opposed in the church of Rome as in any other denomination whatever. But then it is peculiarly objectionable in any Protestant Church, as its practice is utterly repugnant to the whole principle, scope and design of all Protestantism, which is man's deliverance in spiritual things from the thraldom and distinction of his fellow man, be he layman or clergyman, and that “ nothing is to be required of any man to be believed or to be done, as necessary for his salvation, except what can be clearly and fully proved in the warrant and express authority of Holy Scripture.” In Protestant communities, in Protestant churches, the practice is decidedly repugnant, and must not be submitted to, but calls for the most strenuous combination, in order that it be promptly and completely put down and crushed.
For the present, let us calmly and argumentatively investigate the claims of these two systems, and then we shall be better able to act in reference to our solemn duty upon this momentous question.
I. THE CONFESSION APPOINTED BY GOD.-Our Lord sets before us a simple and plain description of confession as appointed by God, and approved and sanctioned by Him, in Luke xviii. 13, 14: “And the publican standing afar off would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other."
First, there is self abasement, “ standing afar off,” and not "lifting up so much as his eyes unto heaven.".
Secondly, there is true conviction--and a right knowledge of the seat of his disease ; " he smote upon his breast.”. Some smite their head only, disturb their intellects only to learn religion catechetically, to debate about doctrines ; and such frequently make great noise, and loud professions of their attachment to certain Christian denominations. But this publican knew that his heart was diseased, and that if he be really converted, he must be humbled and set right in his heart, "for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness."
Thirdly, the confession is made to God only, "God be merciful.” And mind, there were at this moment many priests all about the temple, yet to none of them does he go to tell his case ; he goes only to God, he confesses only to God. “God,” he says, " be merciful to me;" so that his standing afar off, was not only on account of his humility, but also that he may be all alone with his God. Notice this in Christ's model case of confession.
Fourthly, he asks for pardon through an atonement. The morning and evening sacrifice was the usual time for prayer in the temple, the type of Christ's atonement was then being offered, and he says “God be merciful,” or be propitiated to me, "a sinner."
Fifthly, he pleads as a sinner, does not palliate the past, does not offer anything in the way of human merit at the present, but pleads as a poor condemned sinnner.
Lastly, Christ says that this penitent who confessed to God only, and did not confess through any priest, went down to his house justified, that is, fully pardoned and completely saved. This is the confession, the nature, the details, and the successful issue of that confession which is appointed by God, and sketched out by the elaborate description of Jesus Christ himself.
We may also allude to the leper who was cleansed by the Saviour, and was desired, after he was cleansed, to show himself to the priest; not to confess to the priest, nothing of the kind, but Christ first himself cleansed the leper, and then directed him to show himself to the priest, in order that there may be a public notification of the wonderful cure: that the miracle may be tested, not according to the fancy or caprice of the priest, but according to the most strict rules of symptoms, which had been furnished and specified by God Himself; the priest was to adjudge the man clean, or to adjudge him unclean ; the fact is, that the leper must have been healed before the priest could pronounce him healed ; it was not his pronouncing him whole, that made him whole ; but it was his being whole, that led to the decision that he was whole ; and then, as one restored to soundness, he was readmitted into the congregation of the visible church of the Jews.
It is as well here to introduce the case of David, to whom Nathan the prophet preached such a faithful allegorical sermon ; and when David admitted the cogency of the case, and uttered the words, “ The man that hath done this thing shall surely die;" Nathan, still faithful as ever, rejoined, “Thou art the man,” after which, without hesitation, David frankly admitted, “I have sinned against the Lord.” In all this there is seen the faithful prophet and the royal penitent, but nothing at all is recorded here about his confessing to a priest, nor does his own language intimate any allusion of his intention to adopt any such course. We have, on the contrary, his own express statements of what he had done, as recorded in Psalm xxxii., “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity. I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." Also in Psalm li., “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness : according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” David exactly took the very same course which the publican in the New Testament is recorded to have taken, in the narrative of our Lord already so fully dwelt upon in all its details. Moreover, while our Lord said, in some of His cures, “Thy sins are forgiven thee;” the Jews at the same moment, thinking Him to be only a man, objected, “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins, but God only ?” Our Lord did not reply, and say, “Under my system, my ministers are to forgive sins ;” but he admitted the truth, that none could forgive sins but God, and that he forgave them as God. Thus, while he used this power, and expressed it in the words already referred to, His disciples never at any time used such words, when they perfrme d any miracles. And here we may strengthen our view of
the scriptural mode of confession already stated, by maintaining that the testimony of the entire of Scripture against auricular confession or confession to a priest, is unequivocal, plain, and clear. Besides, there is the negative evidence of the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles. There is no record of any such practice as confession to a priest in the whole of the New Testament. Not in the Acts of the Apostles, although there is recorded there a very detailed account of the practices of the principal apostles for a period over thirty years, is there one instance, nor even the slightest resemblance to one, of any such practices as the confessional being adopted in the primitive apostolic church. No mention is made of any such practice in the various epistles, although there is frequent meution of most of those things which constitute Christian teaching and devotion. Then there are three peculiar epistles, I mean those two to Timothy and one to Titus, from Paul ; in which, if such a practice had any existence, there would doubless be some notice taken of it in these three writings. Consider those to whom they were written, and he who wrote them; they were special ministers, with very large charges, one the whole island of Crete, and the other the principal city of Asia Minor, Ephesus. And while Paul most anxiously advises these two newlyappointed chief ministers in their important spheres, upon almost every detail of Christian doctrine and practice, yet he never, in the most remote manner, hints to them about any such thing as the confessional, or about anything like a confession to a priest; and yet, supposing the Romish or the Tractarian confession to be scriptural, surely, much instruction would be necessary to these new ministers with such fearful responsibilities. In the total absence then of any intimation from such an apostle as Paul, who also had such peculiar interest in these two men with such enormous ministerial labour and work, I cannot, you cannot, and every candid inquirer cannot come to any other conclusion than this, that the Romish system, or the Puseyite system, or any other system of confession of sins for absolution to any priest or minister of the Christian religion has no authority whatever from Christ or any of His apostles.
I may here further notice the practice of the New Testament Ministers, namely, their public preaching to large numbers of people, for instance, John the Baptist, about whom it is recorded in Matthew iii. 5, 6, " Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." Here is no auricular confession, but, the very reverse, public preaching, public general confession, and public baptism ; everything here is public, and nothing is private ; also, in the same manner, you read in Acts xix. 18, 19, " And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts, brought their books together, and burned them before all men. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." Here again there is nothing like auricular confession, but everything is public, before all the people. We must conclude then, that neither directly nor indirectly, neither in the Old Testament nor in the New, neither in the teaching and practice of Christ nor any of His apostles, in no way whatever is there any countenance given to the priestly confession ; and that the confession appointed and sanctioned by God in Holy Scripture, is just what we have here plainly laid down, and most particularly and fully set forth.
II. THE CONFESSIONAL, OR CONFESSION APPOINTED BY MAN.- Let us now examine the confessional, or the confessional appointed by man, and let us candidly consider its nature and the authority by which its advocates, Romanists and Puseyites, sustain it.
I. We notice the date. Auricular or private confession to a priest, which we term the confessional, received no countenance whatever from the early Fathers. St. Augustine taught a contrary doctrine, for he says,
“ What have I to do with man, that they should hear my confession, as though they could heal my disease ?” Also Chrysostom says: “Let the iniquity of thy offences be confessed in thy thoughts, let God only see thee confessing; therefore, I entreat and beseech thee, that thou wouldst continually