« السابقةمتابعة »
land such mighty power over the mechanical, as now hath caught us and our rulers with its idolatry: for which ingratitude to his church, when the Lord's long-suffering is exhausted, we shall be visited with those terrible judgments whereby alone the Lord is able to make a sensual and outward people to understand his voice. All this I have taught you, and of all this I have often warned you, and shall have plentiful occasion to warn you of it again and often, until the Lord make bare his arm against the infidelity of this nation, as heretofore he hath done against the infidelity of our neighbours.
II. THE SELF-SUFFICIENT MORALIST. I do now proceed to Satan's second form of address, whereby he plucketh the seed of the true Gospel, and the elemental principle of true spiritual life, from the heart of another class of people, in the feigned character of an angel of light and minister of righteousness. And now, may the Lord give me grace to discover and declare the artifice of the tempter against this numerous class of formal professors, who yet believe themselves the only true Church of Christ! For there be multitudes who are alive to all the social duties, and most careful of them, who love the church, and think themselves believers in the Gospel, and yet will not receive the word of the kingdom, which if you preserve pure and unadulterated, in its essential characters and substantial fulness, they will certainly reject. These are the self-righteous; who, trusting to be justified by their own works, and regarding the Law as a rule of life to the natural man, and no sentence of death; do consider the Gospel as a gracious over
looking of, and atonement for, the unavoidable sins and frailties of human nature-a dispensation of mercy, added, as it were, to counteract the dispensation of righteousness, and so to balance the two parts of the Almighty's infinite being around the fulcrum of human weakness. This class which within the professing church is as frightfully numerous as the other class is without it, do reject the true doctrine of the Gospel, the sincere word of the kingdom, with as much scorn as they ; and withal they consider themselves in the light of the mediators and defenders of God's church, from the Infidels on the one hand, and these factious Enthusiasts and wild Methodists upon the other. And in the visible church there are multitudes of prophets who prophesy such lies, and propagate such errors to these deluded people. Woe be to these false prophets! woe be to them! for they build a wall with untempered mortar, they corrupt the Gospel of salvation, giving the people ashes for bread: and they shall assuredly be cut off, they and all that lean unto them.
These men Satan hath as ready at his nod as he hath the material worldlings; winding them to his purposes by their self-sufficient pride, as he windeth the others about by their utter darkness and incapacity of beholding truth. The Pharisees in our Lord's time were like to these; in outward observances, in obedience to the letter of the Law, in upholding the forms and ceremonies of Moses, as these do uphold the letter and form of their several communions; like, moreover, in despising a humble and crucified Saviour, his humble and crucified
followers. I class them with the former- who
as the Sadducees of our Lord's time, denying spirit, and resurrection, and a spiritual world-because they agree with them in not allowing the word to take root in their soul. It may seem harsh so to join together these outward professors with those outward deniers, but the truth of interpretation obligeth me. They cannot be taken along with the second, who hear the word gladly, for they will not even suffer it to be spoken to them, but do interdict it over all the bounds of their influence, and persecute mainly all who bear witness to it; and they cannot be taken along with the third class, who have it abiding in them, and believe and hold nothing else, but bring forth no fruit, by reason of the poisonous damps and exhalations, the scorching heats, and exhausting weeds, of worldly cares and pursuits. And as they are not of the honest and good class, who are fruitful, with whom can they be classed, but with those who at once reject the word, and will not hold it for a moment? And let no one wonder at this conjunction of Pharisee and Sadducee: for Satan is proud, as well as earthly; is devilish, as well as sensual; appeareth as an angel of light, as well as a fiend of destruction: wherefore marvel not that he hath two bands trooping under his banner, and yielding obedience to his high commands. In this first class, therefore, of hearers who understand not, I include all religionists who will not receive in simplicity this truth,—that they are in themselves an overflowing fountain of sin and unrighteousness, that the Law is their condemnation and death; and that they are not otherwise to be saved than by faith in the redemption of Christ Jesus, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which he bestows upon all who repent and believe the Gospel with that faith which is the gift of the Father. They are known by many characteristics, which it may be good to point out for the warning of those who now hear me.
The greater number are those who, holding the orthodox faith of the church, will not be instructed therein by the Spirit, but hold it in the letter, and ridicule as enthusiasts all who speak of the spiritual understanding thereof. These will do many things at the preacher's bidding, as did Herod; and oft make their delight in perfecting a form of duty, which they consider as the whole and complete duty of man; being content to take the Sacrament at this and one or two other seasons of the year; while they know nothing of the mystery of either sacrament, or of the word of God; which when a faithful minister standeth up to make them acquainted withal, they are offended and hate him! Now, what is the cure of such ? To preach unto them the whole truth of the spiritual Gospel; not to indulge them—(away with these indulgence-sellers ! they have always been the scandal of the church)--to preach to them the spiritual truth of the new birth, and the new man, and the new life; and ever anon to bring a back-stroke with the sword of the Law, in order to smite down another and another hydra-head of self-righteousness; then heal the wound with the balm of Gilead: and so proceed in the work of wounding and making alive, of crucifixion and resurrection, of death and life, which is the true progress of the Divine work; its emblem being a dead body rising from the grave, or, as the ancients had it, 'a phænix rising from its ashes, in which emblem was hidden a deep mystery of the truth. But I cannot away with those who would accommodate the Gospel to the ears of such, and sing ditties of entreaty in a sweet and winning strain, as if the Gospel came on bended knee to crave mercy of men; when they should lift up their voice to the pitch of thunder, in order to awaken those selfsufficient sleepers, whom I think the trump of the Archangel alone will awaken. These backsliding children of Israel are to be recalled, as the Prophets heretofore were wont to recal Israel, by accusation, upbraiding, entreaty, threatening, -a mingled strain, only proper to the ministers of God when declaring his counsel to a gainsaying people whom he hath long entreated with the outstretched arms of his love.
The law is good, as saith the Apostle, if a man use it lawfully; yea, it is holy and just and good, and most necessary to be had in remembrance of every disciple, and to be made known by every minister of Christ. Whether it be referred to as written on the stony tables for the use of Moses and the former church, as delivered from the Mount by the Lord, and by the Spirit extended in the writings of the holy Apostles, or written by nature with less or more distinctness on every heart; it is most necessary to be held up conspicuously in the sight of all men, as the hand-writing that is against us, the mene tekel upharsin before every man's eyes, which saith, “ Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting.” It is the sentence of death, which was necessary to be given forth from the court of heaven, ere man, vapour