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ritual domination of their fellow-men, whether Popes, Councils, Cardinals, Bishops, Parliaments, or Conferences. Christianity asks for no belief, it cares for no belief, but that arising from honest, individual conviction. Conviction is worth nothing, if there be not inquiry to precede it; and inquiry is worth nothing, it is not inquiry, if it be not free and unfettered. It is not "searching the Scriptures,” if we search with any favourite Catechism or the Athanasian Creed in our hands, and make it the object and end of our search, to reconcile the one with the other. It is not “proving all things,” to take without proof just that one thing which some Established Church or some Dissenting sect calls “the orthodox catholic faith,” declaring that if a man receive it not, he shall without doubt perish everlastingly. Let us, my brethren, hold firmly to our Protestant, our Christian freedom. Let us “stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and not be entangled in the yoke of bondage." It is a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear, and which Almighty God never required nor designed that we should bear. It is right for us to be diffident of our own judgments; to be cautious in our reasonings, slow in our conclusions, and modest in our assertions; for we are men, and fallible men. But if we are fallible, our brethren are fallible also ; and, for the very reason that we are diffident of our own judgments, we should be diffident of theirs also. We respect other men's Christian liberty; and we claim to have our own respected also. We ask no man to submit to our authority; and we will submit to no man's authority. We ask no man to call us masters ; and we will call no man master : we have no master on earth
one is our Master, even Christ.” And, lastly, Christianity is a religion of freedom, as it sets men free from sin, free from its power and its penalties.
We all know, my brethren, what it is to be “the servants of sin ;" for we have all sinned, and come short of the glory of God. We must all know, I should fear, what it is to do the things that we ought not to have done, and pay the penalty in a bitter after-reckoning of self-reproach—and to leave undone the things which we ought to have done, and then feel the grief and shame of the slothful and unprofitable servant. We all know what it is to be bound, as it were, hand and foot, in the fetters of sinful habit-to be carried impetuously along by the tide of sinful passion-breaking our better resolutions - disowning our higher principles --doing violence to our sense and knowledge of right-delighting perhaps, after the inward man, in the law of God, but finding another law in our members, that when we would do good, evil is present with us. I scarcely can be addressing any so pure and blameless, but that something of this has been their painful experience : I hope I am not speaking to any so insensible, but that it has been felt by them to be a painful experience. We were made to feel in this way. We were made to feel shame and misery in wrong-doing ; we were made to delight in the beauty of holiness. There is a law in our minds ordaining us to rectitude and love, as truly as there is another law in our members leading us into the captivity of sin. The pains of conscience are the sharpest, and its burdens the heaviest, that the nature of man can sustain. There is no slavery like the slavery that is within. There is no desolation like the desolation of a wasted heart, no voice of terror like the thunder of indignant conscience. We can bear all beside ; but heart and flesh fail us here. The spirit of a man may sustain his other infirmities, but a wounded spirit who can bear!
The great glory and excellence of the Christian dispensation are seen in its adaptation to the correction and removal of this evil. It is a moral remedy for a deep and wide-spread moral disease ; it is universal liberation from a universal spiritual thraldom. In Christ, we who some time were afar off, are again brought nigh to heaven and to God. Christ came to
shew us the Father ; to speak to us of the Parent's heart that yearns over the penitent prodigal—of the “house” where there “
are many mansions”—of the “joy” that is “in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” He came preaching peace to them that were afar off, and to them who were nigh; and through him we all have access by one spirit unto the Father. The gospel of Christ speaks peace to every anxious conscience, breathes a new life on every withered and blighted affection, gives rectitude and vigour to every virtuous principle. The bruised reed is not broken, the smoking flax is not quenched. “Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee" –“Go thy way, and sin no more”—this is its mild and gracious language to every repentant transgressor. There is a force in love, to touch even the coldest and the guiltiest, which surpasses all that was ever wielded by mere power. “ Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die ?” this is an appeal, which no heart surely can withstand, that is not seared into hopeless obduracy. Let us hear this voice while it yet speaks to us. Let us go to him, who said, “Come unto me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Let us place ourselves, once and for ever, under his guidance, who alone hath the words of eternal life. Let the sinner repent, return, and live. Let the penitent do works meet for repentance. Let all come to Christ, take him for their Lord and Master, and in the light of his lessons and example, and in the joy and power of his promises, walk forward to life cternal. Let us lay aside every weight-every sin that doth most easily beset us—every cherished corruption of heart and habit—and take up our cross, and follow the Son of God whithersoever he goeth. If we continue in his word, then are we his disciples indeed; and we know the truth, and “the truth shall make us free.” Amen.
THE SENTENCE OF DEATH NOT SPOKEN TO
“But we have the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust
in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead."
It has been said that
“The moment when our lives begin,
We all begin to die.” The hour of birth is the beginning of death. This is not a mere figure of speech, but the utterance of a profound truth -a truth which is, however, happily not the whole truth, or we were indeed of all men most miserable.
Of half our nature it is true. For what is more mortal than man's body? Even the child learns easily that all that is of this world passes away. But it is true of the lower elements of our compound being alone ; it can only be asserted of the body. In that it is plain that we share the nature of all outward things, and have the sentence of death in ourselves.
The grain of corn planted in the ground, springs up, first the blade. And as we watch it, bursting its husk and growing in beauty, we know that its life is only for a time. Even when the blade tenderly enfolds the young bud, which increases in living strength till it becomes the ear, and after that the full rich golden corn in the ear, waving in the winds of heaven and ripening in its fostering sunlight, we know that it must die ; for that which is formed of the dust, must return to the dust again. “But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body.”. However beautiful it is made by the smiling sunlight which shines upon it from on high, its fairness is only for a time. There is the mournful thought that it must pass entirely away.
So of the human body, and of the life which belongs to this world.
The infant frame with its hidden powers is a wondrous subject of contemplation. The soft and tender limbs, helpless in their weakness, contain the germs of all-conquering strength -all-achieving energies. The slumbering senses, which gradually awake, as from a sleep, are quickened by exercise, and take note of everything that passes before them. They observe and measure all surrounding things, and, acting with the vigorous arm, make man master of all, compelling all to serve his need, and making him in truth the lord of the creation.
But the eagle eye which nothing escapes, which pierces far into the depths of space, grows dim with age, and at last loses all its sight. The footstep planted firm in the pride of strength, falters with advancing years, till at length it moves no longer. The arm of might loses its vigour, the skilful hand forgets its cunning, and all at last crumble into dust. For they have the sentence of death in themselves.
The word used by the apostle in this clause of our text is not rendered so exactly by sentence as by answer. In ourselves we have the answer of death. It leads the thoughts, therefore, not so immediately to the decree of God by which it is appointed unto men once to die,+ as to the recognition of that law by ourselves. If we ask our own hearts, commune with our own souls, they confirm the truth proclaimed from heaven and repeated by earth,--they too give an answer of death.
* 1 Cor. xv. 38.
+ Heb. ix. 27.