صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

this it is which makes his pain so heart-rending. And what says Paul, when he was accused of having conducted himself improperly in his office? It is a small thing that I am judged by a human tribunal. It is the Lord who judgeth me.' Our humility for our sins must of necessity have this character, in order that strength of resolution may go forth from it. If it be not of this kind, it is not of the spiritual kind. You have surprised yourself in incontinence, in vanity, in anger; you are ashamed before others; yea you are ashamed before your own conscience. Beloved brother, so long as you are not ashamed, that you have sinned against your Father in heaven, your sorrow is not a spiritual sorrow. You have trespassed against your fellow man, you have perhaps made his wife and child unhappy, you have even plunged him into the grave. You beat upon your breast, Woe is me I have made a family miserable! Man, thy pain is great and deserved; but it is not wholly spiritual; there yet cleaves to it such compassion as flows from mere natural sensibility. Against thee only have I sinned and done evil,' And again, 'Lord, be merciful to me and

cries David to the Lord." heal my soul; for against thee have I sinned!" This, and only this, is the pain which gives to our humility the character of true spiritual penitence.

And the grief for our sins before God should be poured out in a confession before him. This bare thought, flitting through the mind amid the bustle of life, 'I have again been led astray, and grieved my Lord and God,'-it is too transitory a thought, to be able to impart strength of resolve. We must step before the eye of Him who seeth in secret; and as our pain for transgression gains spirituality by means of our sorrow before Jehovah, so does it gain depth by our confession before him.-Why, why, my friends, has our Lord laid so great stress upon praying in the retired closet, and under the eye of him who seeth in secret? This is the reason; man does not, as a matter of fact, come near to God, while he thinks of him only transitorily, amid the intercourse of life. In solitude do we first dwell with ourselves; in solitude does God first dwell with us. The eye, when it suddenly comes from darkness into the light, requires some time to accustom itself to the brightness; so the heart of man requires some time, before it can so adjust its powers as to receive into itself the full radiance of the Divinity. When, in the closet, you

[blocks in formation]

first spread out all the faults of your heart before God, then for the first time does the sun of divine grace penetrate, with its mild rays, deeper and still deeper into your soul. Your humility for sin became spiritual, when you grieved before the eye, which seeth in secret; it becomes deep, when you express your grief before the same all-seeing Judge. Brethren, if the confession of our guilt before a man whom we have injured is pleasant, and gives great aid in self-reformation, how much more must this be the case with the confession of our guilt before God, our heavenly Father!

[ocr errors]

Thirdly. There is, indeed, a divine strength imparted to purposes of amendment by such confession; there is a divinely sanctifying power in it; but the fullness of power belongs only to that kind of humility before God, which is accompanied with faith. By faith is meant confidence in the divine word. Nothing but this faith makes our self-abasement genuine; nothing but this makes it cheerful. It makes, I say, our self-abasement genuine; for, my friends, how completely is every deed of ours enveloped in darkness, so long as we have not before us the pole-star of the divine word. Even pain for sin is thus enveloped; and history shows to us many a false kind of humility, which better deserves the name of self-torment. Whenever the word of God sheds not the true light into the soul, there a man grieves indeed, but to no purpose; and at another time the heart remains quietly at rest, when it ought to tremble. Thus, especially with many ingenuous spirits it is the greatest grief, when they come before God, that they cannot always be cheerful and serene. The tide of emotion alternates, ebbing and flowing. It is seen in the diaries of pious men, that with many the scverest trouble of life arises from the so frequent alternation of cheerfulness with despondency. Their self-accusations for this fault have absolutely no end. But how entirely different would it be with us, if in our humiliation the word of God were our leading-star. For where indeed has Paul or John, or the Lord himself made a happy state of feeling the first condition of a holy life? They have demanded faith and love; and this joy in the Lord, which the apostle also everywhere demands, it will follow of itself when faith and love have gone before.

This faith in the word of God gives a cheerfulness to our penitence and humility, and thus gives strength to the resolutions; for it makes us certain of forgiveness of sin and the aid of the Holy Spirit.

Depression of mind in itself can give us no power. A sorrowful disposition indeed always tends to dissolve the bands of our power. Hence men are afraid of it; as they know that a moral life is invested with strength. And this strength, beloved friends, you will certainly obtain, unless you have that kind of depression which is unattended with faith.-Hear ye not what our Psalmist says,—' but now I keep thy word? That the feeling of depression robbed him of his power, oh this was but too well known to the singer of Israel. Or have ye not heard his numberless complaints, as when he cried out, My heart trembles, my strength hath forsaken me, the light of my eyes hath fled.' But what does he say on the other side? Keep me by thy word, that I may live.' Beloved, the cup of humiliation is bitter, but the word of God therein makes it sweet; the cup of humiliation enervates, but the word of God therein neutralizes its weakening influence. This word of God is the word of forgiveness; it is the promise of the aid of that Spirit, in whose power even the imbecile can say, 'I am strong;' the word which makes all self-abasement and penitence a cheerful exercise. This word of God has already been proclaimed under the old dispensation. Already has David been able to sing in his strength, Happy is he whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sin is covered; happy is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity; and again,- Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not what benefits he has conferred upon thee; he forgiveth all thy sins and healeth all thine infirmities.' This is that word of God, which, since the word of reconciliation hath been established among us', sounds forth continually from the sacred temple, giving consolation to all who approach God with humility and in faith. And indeed it is of no avail for a man, barely, once for all to shut himself up to this command of God; he should abase himself for every particular transgression; his humility beginning with the tears of repentance, and ending with the tears of gratitude. Never is the Christian permitted, after truly humbling himself before God, to go away from the divine presence, without being assured of the forgiveness of even this his particular transgression; without cheerfulnes in his humility. Only the reconciled heart is a strong


Come then, all ye, in whose eye the tear hath started at the recollection of good purposes without good deeds; and good resolu

tions without results, come, learn the power which lies in christian self-abasement; an abasement before the eye of God and in the exercise of faith.



We have to day a solemn memento of death; we keep the feast in commemoration of the dead. We have this memento at the time when nature also proclaims the same truth to us. The heavens are invested in their gray attire; the fragrance and the music of living nature have died away; the whole creation has put on its funeral robe, and in this solemn vestment preaches to thee, as it were the word of God,-Man, thou must die!-Ah, you say I go only for a little while into a silent chamber, and when the lovely spring returns, I shall bloom out again. Child of the dust, what reason hast thou for this thy faith? I know what you will adduce as a reason; it is the emblems which nature exhibits in the butterfly, and in the swelling germ that rises up in sight from under a mantle of snow.— Have you ever stood by the death-bed of one you loved, when his altered countenance could scarcely be recognized, when the dim eye gleamed forth but faintly from its deep socket; when the emaciated hand was convulsively clenched, and there was heard the rattling at the breast; and had you then no other reason for your hope of immortality than was afforded by these symbols in nature ? -Oh then, what did such a reason avail you! Your hope faded away with the declining pulse of your dying friend! And when you yourself shall lie on your dying bed, with the drops of deathsweat on your brow, and friends around you, waiting for your last breath, you will need some stronger reason for your hope than you can draw from the emblems of nature.

1 For an Analysis of this Sermon, see Note I, at the close of the Sermons. * See Note K, at the close of the Sermons.


But I see your finger pointing to another place;-behold the Prince of life in the tomb at Golgotha; how he rises from the grave, how the burial garments fall from him, and himself ascends to his Father amid the glories of Heaven.-But what shall we say, when even in this assembly may be found men, who believe that he whom we adore as the Prince of life, did not rise up victoriously from death, but only from an oppressive swoon! Such men have arisen in the christian church,—and yet even a disciple of charity may say, they are not of us.'-From these men, however, I turn my attention to you, who have not ventured to doubt the truth of what is said in our apostle's creed, 'on the third day he rose from the dead ;'-you do not doubt this, but do you believe it also? Is this resurrection from the dead so certain to your minds, that you could lay down your life for it?

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Christian brethren, no one believes, with a truly living faith, in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, save one who has been raised with Christ to a new life. No one believes, that, as Inspiration says, the Father has in truth caused his holy Jesus to burst the bands of death, save one who himself has become a child of God. Wherefore let us reflect on this sentiment; " The testimony that we are the children of God is the surest pledge of eternal life." To this reflection are we led by the words of the apostle which we find recorded in the epistle to the Romans, Chap. viii. verses 15—17. "Ye have not received the spirit of a servant, that ye should live again in fear; but ye have received the spirit of a child, whereby we cry, Abba, dear Father! This same spirit giveth testimony to our spirits, that we are the children of God. If we are children, then are we heirs; heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ."

[ocr errors]

In reference to this expression let us consider, first, how the testimony is given that we are the children of God; secondly, why this testimony is a pledge of eternal life.—May the Spirit of God be our Teacher!

First, how is the testimony given, that we have been adopted as the children of God? The apostle places in contrast with each other the spirit of a servant, and the spirit of a child; the former trembles the latter prays.-Let us consider more closely the spirit, that trembles. Israel once received its law under the sound of thunder, amid darkness and tempest. These appearances in nature were necessary to give a people who were slaves to sense, a proper

« السابقةمتابعة »